Thursday, March 7, 2013

Living with Mr. Goodbar - an unhealthy love story

Typical Oregon Day

I got home to Oregon on Sunday, and do you know what was there? The sun.

Yes, my husband and my son were there too, but the surprising member of the 'Welcome back from the Grand Canyon party' was the big guy in the sky. Sun. Sunshine. Warmth and all its perks: scents of spring, daffodils, crocuses and daphne all in bloom. And frogs. The frogs were ribbiting away in the pond, so that was cool too, because I absolutely love the sound of frogs. Tree frogs, bird song and thunder, my three favorite sounds on planet earth. And I thought, okay, this is good. I can deal with this. It's not desert. It's not stone. Still, it has its charm.

But, of course, within 24 hours the big guy was gone.

In his place was regular old Western Oregon. Rain. Gray. People with their shoulders hunched toward their sternums. Chiropractors must make a killing in this state. All these people bent into commas.

At the Grand Canyon - no one hunched.

It could be zero degrees out. Hell, it was minus 13 degrees one morning, and still people walked with their backbones perpendicular to the ground. Why? Because it's dry. Dry makes all the difference. Forty degrees and rain in Oregon makes my bones feel like they've been hollowed out and filled with Slurpee.

And I'm not the only one. Today I spent the day in Portland. My dad was not feeling great so I took him to the doctor's office, and it ended up being a long sit-around-the-doctor-office kind of day, and every once in a while I would leave the office and step outside and be surprised and disgusted by just how cold and ugly the weather was. And as I looked at the faces of the people walking by, all of them in various stages of hunkering, I could see they were just as surprised and disgusted as me. Not one of them smiled. Not even a little. And I thought...

Living in western Oregon is like living in an abusive relationship. 

We fall in love with the beauty of the place—the mountains, the valleys, the green green hills, the coast, the desert, and the food - God the food. The fish, the berries, the beer, the wine. But turn your back for ten minutes - just ten minutes and bam - here comes another Pacific front slapping us along side the head with its big gray sky, and its cold pelting rain. Its ice cold breath blowing right through our wool and fleece.

We've been fleeced, that's it. Come June when we are all still wearing long underwear and wool socks, remember that. This is not a healthy relationship. This is Mr. Goodbar. While everyone else in the country is wearing shorts and playing softball we are in our bookstores holding our tripple-shot Lattes with those fingerless gloves.

It's not normal. And it's not good.

Trust me. I used to think it was normal. In fact I used to get bummed out when that sun broke through and lit the sky so bright I would have to run to Rite Aid to buy a new pair of sunglasses, cause who knows where I put my last pair—it was so long ago....

That's how you know you really have dived off the deep end—when those soggy Oregon clouds become your friend. I think it's called Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages begin to have sympathy, sometimes even love for their captors. That's us. Oregonians. Bound at the hip to our soggy world, we say oh - it's okay. You get used to it. It's not that bad. In fact, I kind of like it.....

Next time your see an 'I ❤ Oregon' bumper sticker, think Patty Hearst.....

-Naseem Rakha 3/6/13


  1. I've noticed the same thing. The dryness of the Grand Canyon does change your perception of both hot and cold. I day hiked to Plateau Point in February when it was 0F on the rim, and I didn't feel as cold as a typical 20F winter day in NJ. I camped at Phantom Ranch in June when it was 115F, and felt less uncomfortable than on hot and humid 95F summer afternoon in NJ. Of course, part of that is the dryness, part is being prepared for the canyon's temps, and part of it is just being in the canyon, whose magnificence discounts many discomforts.

  2. Well, I still (mostly) think Oregon is worth the bother. Believe me, when you have spent your entire adult life in a crime-ridden, trashy, sub-tropical place you will love Oregon, rain or no. :)