Friday, May 27, 2011

Whose Your City?

I've been in Portland now for about six weeks and it has been an incredibly satisfying time. I just assumed there would be various mini-traumas of adjusting to life in a brand new city but it just feels like I'm finally home - home to that part of me that craved and Irish climate. I will always be a Texan at heart but Portland has shone like a bright star in every way. The climate has been a dream: usually about 30-40 degrees colder than Austin, cloudy most of the time, and just downright cold here in late May. I've never loved living anywhere as much as I do this tiny luxurious studio on the 22nd floor. I could be a weatherman up here as I see the storms rolling in from the coast followed by the bright patch followed by the storm..etc...and there could be no exaggeration of how the weather here has positively affected my mood. It is if I gave my soul the cold it needed so my self could start thriving again.

Living downtown is great in ways I'm sure the reader understands, and I've had fun applying for jobs and going on interviews. I came to Portland armed with three "facts" that people told me that I have found to be UNtrue: it is impossible to find a job here, people are unfriendly, and there is no diversity. All of these things have not been true for me AT ALL. I am seem to have a desirable skillset for the timing of the expanding of industrial jobs. People here are extremely friendly...a quiet sort of friendly. Not boisterous friendly like Texans on a DFW-HOU Southwest Airlines flight (those are usually a hootenanny), or practical and helpful like New Yorkers. But everyone I have met here is gracious & accomodting. Surprisingly, the teamsters I work with are the most helpful of the bunch. When I first started my dock job unloading truck trailers I was the only girl on the dock and saw a bunch of blank faces zipping around in the forklifts. This dock is a giant slab on slick concrete with dozens of lifts buzzing around at full speed in total chaos. It can be a very dangerous environment and we blaze in and out of the trailers at ridiculous speeds. We are supposed to do a certain number of bills per hour so we are all sort of racing to see who can do the most trailers on their shift. I am ridiculously slow - but I don't make mistakes or break stuff so they haven't given me the boot yet. I started out needing to ask questions about everything so I asked whatever crusty old teamster was nearest me and no matter how sour-pussed they seemed,  once they realized how grateful I was for their help, then every time we passed each other on our lifts there would be a wave or a smile. I was shocked. During training I was worried we "casuals" would be resented as taking away some of their shifts, but they were all in our position in the begining of their career, and I know how good it feels to show someboday how much you know. Unlike the traverse that I just did in Antarctica (where my teammates wanted to see me go down!), these guys are helping me to succeed. It has been astonishing to be a part of this brotherhood. I've only worked 4 shifts and sometimes it just seems like the job is too macho and dangerous and confusing, and then a couple of 20 year veterans will take time out of their tasking to really help me in a really committed and focussed way. And they are NOT flirting with me. At first I thought there is no way I can do this full time...but I see it is doable. And right when I started thinking I could do this full time I got a call to say I was hired for another teamster job at a different company. So now I have two jobs, and I'll see which one I like better at one is full time and the other I can do on the occasional evening.

I've been doing volunteer work with the homeless with my boyfriend and we are having a great time. I met him in Antarctica and he was the icing on the cake of me moving to Portland. He has been my rock of support since I've been here. I found this city so confusing when I got here...I don't know why but I never knew were NE or SE was and my usual sense of direction had abandoned me. My dependency on my tomtom and Ipad for driving almost needed a 12 step program...but I've weaned off trying to look at both when I drive and just aim towards the tall buildings and know I will get home somehow. I mean, for 25 years of my life I've been driving with a paper map. Now I wonder how I ever got anywhere without these amazing devices.

As for diversity, I don't know if the people who kept telling me it was "too white" here for them to live here were basing that on data they read or on personal observations, but I know more black folks here than I ever did in Austin. My building is very diverse, as is my workplace. I haven't seem many women dock workers but there are a lot of black and brown ones.

My new job, which starts next week, will have a start time of 6:00 am, so I'll get to miss rush hour. I'm ready for full time work, and the chance to go "on the board" and get that big union paycheck. My boyfriend recently commented "it's amazing that you are having such a good time here..." and I realized he was right. No homesickness of Austin (I actually feel relieved to not be living there anymore - I could never say the word "Austin" without the word "hate" in the same sentence!), no second thoughts, no feeling of the other shoe dropping or thinking I was just running away from something. I feel like I've come home. That I live in paradise. That I've found my city.