"SO MANY PEOPLE moved to Portland for the quality of life and the progressive politics," Chelsea Cain wrote in her Portland-set thriller Heartsick. "They bought bicycles and big old wooden houses and espresso makers, and then, after the first dreary winter, they moved back to LA."
NONE OF YOU SEEM TO BE MOVING BACK TO LA.
But winter is coming.
This wondrous, sun-dappled time of laughter and love and song? It's about to end. In its place will come rain—cold rain, hard rain, drizzling rain, freezing rain, the kind of rain that you can't even see, that just looks kind of like floating mist, but that will soak you in 10 seconds flat. And with this rain will come the clouds, rolling in over the West Hills like hopeless gray ghosts until they hang over this dead city like a ragged death shroud. Heavy and dark as lead, the clouds will blacken the rain-slick concrete, casting dread upon all who scurry beneath them, draining our memories of sun, of sky, of warmth. Then will come the stinking slime of mold and mildew, creeping into the crevices of all that you own, all that you wear, all that you are.
The rains will come and the sky will sink, and ice drafts will slice through Portland's big old wooden houses, caressing their rotting, reeking Craftsman bones. You will try to remember what it was to be dry. You will fail. You will try to use a towel to wipe the clamminess from your skin—only to find that in Portland, in winter, towels never dry. Your mouth will grow sour and rank, your eyes dull and dim. Soon you will be as we all are: sallow-skinned and sunken-skulled, snot-slathered and trembling, from the moment you wake until the hour you drink yourself into twitching slumber.
You will dream of Portland's summer, and you will glimpse that sweet, soft sunlight—and then that vision will curdle as you awaken with a curse on your lips, your foul words fading in the soulless light of a sunless sky. You will pull your moist blankets closer, and then you will hear it:
It will be quiet, at first, but soon it will be all that you hear, all that you see, all that you know: the rain.
I was a fool, you will think, staring into your black-tarnished mirror, pondering alternate uses for the rust-edged razor you grasp in your clawed hand.
But you will not know the half of it. Because when it snows in Portland—even if it's only like a quarter-inch—Portlanders will go fucking crazy, and the city will shut down, and the wild white eyes of FOX 12 Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen will spin back in his head as he shrieks in tongues, screaming and convulsing, the Dark Lord of a lawless city ruled by fear. The first single snowflake will fall—and you will hear, outside your rattling window, the screech of metal and the snap of bone. A second snowflake falls. Flames lick the blackened steel of a seven-car pileup.
You cannot speak the words, for your jaw is clenched. But you hear them. They are yours, spoken long ago. They hang in the freezing damp:
Let's move to Portland.
More Newcomers' Guide Articles:
Welcome to Portland!
Rain! Rain! Rain! Rain!
A Portlander's Pronunciation Guide
A Newcomers' Guide to Making Friends
Portland Free Stuff
Getting Around Town
Finding a Place to Live
How to Apologize for Moving to Portland
Bicycle Death Traps
Portland History 101
Portland Myth Bustin'!
Portland Tourist Traps