Monday, November 26, 2007

So Much To Get Used To

Right from our first minute inside Canada, we had some new experiences: namely, kilometres to go instead of miles to go, and Celsius instead of Fahrenheit.

As a child participant in FEMA (the Failed Experiment with Metric Assimilation) of the late 70s, and as someone who has studied abroad, I probably know metric better than most Americans but less well than people in almost any other country. My particular weakness is with mass and weights (aka grams, kilos, etc). All I know is that pot is usually spoken of in US terms (ounces and pounds), whereas coke is always referred to in grams and kilos. Funny that.

Anyway, it's something we have to get used to. Very few signs around here helpfully put both measures on when flashing the temperature or posting a distance sign.

Flashing back a week and a half, we finally arrived in Portland, and really started to see the clear differences between the American West and the Pacific Northwest. The main difference? RAIN.

October through March is a pretty damn gray season in the northwest, and you'd better be able to cope. Apparently coffee helps, because if you thought there were rather a lot of Starbucks et al where you live, you ain't seen nothing yet. Coffee shops or stands are as numerous here as slot machines are in Vegas.

Also missing from the northwest is any trace of the "cowboy" mentality. There's still a lot of wood about, but not a lot of furniture-made-of-sticks or moose lampshades. I'm sure there are parts of Oregon that still honour the west -- after all, the Oregon Trail ends here -- but not Portland.

Portland is a cool town, another real gem of America. It has a lot of history and old buildings, but there's a firm and funky vibe, a youth culture and arts scene that reminds me of Austin Texas. Imagine a wet, caffeinated Bohemian scene and you've just about got it.

In that spirit, we visited (and Portland proudly offers) the World's Smallest Public Park (thanks to Farrell for the reminder!), caught a showing of Blade Runner: The Final Cut at the extra-cool Cinema21 (reminded me a lot of a cross between the Enzian and an old-time movie house: we sat in the balcony! Check out their pics at the link!), ate at the historic Jake's Grill (the former lobby of the Governor Hotel, as seen in My Own Private Idaho), and covered a lot of ground on foot. Oh and we visited an Apple Store. Duh. :)

We will have a picture gallery up later right here right now. Don't forget we are three hours behind most of you now.