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The Bagel Summit
Some of you may have heard an impromptu NYC reunion on our Selling of Oregon show a few weeks ago. It started with a call from Dante, who moved to Portland from New York City a few years ago... and loves his new home. Then Janet called in — another recent New York transplant — and their experiences were so different that we thought we'd let them talk to each other. Here's an audio excerpt from the show:
After the show we put Janet and Dante in touch, and they ended up going out for bagels. Of course, even in a city with very few bagelries, these two New Yorkers managed to disagree about which one is best. Janet says Kornblatt's; Dante thinks it's Kettleman's. (They went to Kornblatt's.)
I've asked them both for a description of the meet-up. Dante replied first, but Janet has promised her own version. Here's Dante:
I will let Janet express her thoughts on our conversation in her own words but I think the core of it came down to a difference in what we desired from Portland along with having led very different lives in New York. She mentioned to me that her family has had a well-known business in Manhattan for a long time and that she had recently earned a doctorate at Columbia University while living on the upper west side. My family consists of civil servants from the south Bronx which is where I spent my last 5 years in NYC on patrol as a police officer.
I do not know how familiar you are with New York City and I hope this is not arrogant but I am sure that either you or some of your co-workers have at least heard of these places by their reputation and are aware how different they are. Possible as a result Janet looks upon the urban lifestyle more favorably than I do and I think misses what she no longer has whereas I came to the northwest to learn a different way to live from people whom I have found to be in general happier and more satisfied.
What we agreed upon:
1. We love how easy it is to get involved in the local issues of Portland. Both of us have great experiences contacting public officials, local media, and have been impressed with neighborhood activism.
2. New York City is the best place on Earth to go out to eat. My two cents in regard to this is that it is easier to find local, organic, vegan food here and that between that and the Oregon outdoor culture I find Portlanders to be more fit then the majority back home (where the fit are just those who can afford expensive gym memberships). Those famous bagels and slices of pizza while delicious aren’t good for you; they’re just the least expensive lunch.
3. The economy here is tough. I know this is not news and we debated the obvious causes along with possible if not difficult solutions. This is one area where I felt a comparison to the east coast is inappropriate at least some of the time due to such vast environmental and historical differences. I support the philosophy of slow sustainable growth that is embraced here but it’s not easy. I come from a place of incredible history but most of it is gone, paved over, and blocked out by highways and skyscrapers that with all their positives gave us more traffic, noise, and litter than anywhere else in the country.
4. We love Powell’s.
5. People will really go out of their way for you here. Conventional wisdom is that the east coast is rude but honest and the west coast is polite but fake. I don’t know about all that on my first trip here I rented a bicycle to explore the city. When I went to go put it on the bus (something I can’t do back home) I could not figure out how to operate the bike rack despite the driver’s instruction. The driver came out the bus and did it for me. By the time we started to drive away 3-4 minutes had past yet the dozen passengers that had to wait and the driver were still nice to me. Had something similar taken place in NYC my life would have been jeopardy (only half kidding, my father was a bus driver with some crazy stories).
6. The level of homelessness here is disturbing. In NYC and perhaps most places with some exception almost all people who are homeless have mental health issues and/or difficulty with drugs. If this is true here as well than it is not as true. I have encountered people who appeared to me to be most likely homeless but also sound as if they too earned a doctorate at Columbia University. I have also been told by many of my friends here that a small percentage of the Oregon population “choose” to be homeless. My friends and I are intelligent, caring, and mostly liberal people but this is outside of my life experience and I have yet to begin to understand it.
We disagreed when I told her I found it to be safer, cheaper, and friendlier here in Portland. I think I got her to admit it’s cleaner as well but she wishes her garbage was picked up more often. I would like to say that I understand the fear of newcomers and tourists and the changes they could bring. The underlying cause of almost every problem in NYC is over population and that city still seems to do everything it can to encourage growth by any means possible often to it detriment. I have faith that this area will find the right balance.
I'll post Janet's take on the Bagel Summit when she sends it.