Indicators of a genuine Oregonian

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer January 09, 2013 02:38 pm

The night after Thanksgiving I went to see a band at Terminal Gravity. One of the musicians lifted his shirt to show off his tattoo. It was a likeness of the Portland White Stag lighted sign with a Sasquatch climbing up the side. Doesn’t get anymore “Oregon” than that.

Since returning to the state of my youth I observe certain items in people’s home that denote a true Oregonian. A look in the cheese drawer invariably reveals a two-pound block of Tillamook. It’s like that scene in “Repo Man” where the mentor explains that in every repossessed car there is a tree-shaped air freshener.

Another sure sign of a loyal Oregonian, native or transplant, is a Pendleton blanket draped over the back of a sofa or used as a bedspread.

Eastern Oregonians are keenly aware that there are two Oregons, despite a ubiquitous appreciation for cheese and blankets. Used to traveling to Portland from Colorado and Maryland for so many years, I still catch myself saying, “I’m going to Oregon” when I mean I’m going to Portland.

Watching the newest Bond movie at a Portland theater, James’s family estate’s caretaker tells him all of the family guns were sold to a collector in Idaho. Only my scout and I laughed, keenly aware of the Snake River divide.

Two years ago a couple of “Saturday Night Live” veterans started a show called “Portlandia,” which put the fine point on the cultural diversity between rural Oregon and the metropolis where the Willamette and Columbia rivers meet.

I spent a week visiting family shortly after I was introduced to the avant garde comedy. With that show as a reference, I fairly sputtered just getting coffee at the local Stumptown outlet or going into a Seven-11. Girls with tights, knee highs and leg warmers matched with tall boots and mini skirts made me gawk like the hillbilly I have become. It’s nothing like the “hippie farmer” look we sport in the county where Carhartts and Boggs are proper dress for most any occasion.

A few years ago I invested in a pair of Western riding boots and a pair of clogs. If the weather is too wet or snowy, of course I have the mountaineering boots in the back of the car along with a spare North Face waterproof coat.

I watch the Portland women walk by as I eat dinner with Mom and Dad in amazement. Through my risotto and roasted pork I mumble, “What would the commissioners say if I walked in on a Monday morning dressed like that?”

To be fair, one of my Portland friends, who does not dress like she just crawled out of a trash bin, accused me of looking like a retro ski bunny with my Eddie Bauer black cords from Second Best, silk turtleneck from the Soroptimist Thrift Store, the liner to my ski coat, and my five-year-old clogs. I sighed. “It’s cold where I live.”

But seriously? A trip to the local club in my parents’ neighborhood made me want to exclaim, “Portland! Where fashion went to die!” Women in gold satin tights over short shorts, and heels and oh my, a complete assault on my senses — but perhaps it’s true? I’m nothing but a retro ski bunny from Wallowa County with a two-pound block of Tillamook in the cheese drawer and a king size Pendleton on my bed?