Put a bird on it!

In my last post I talked about reading the Wildwood Chronicles as a way to get a feel for Portland – the place, the people and the culture. Another great research tool that I should have spent more time with, and which inevitably came up in conversation when we told people that we were moving to Portland, is the satirical comedy sketch series filmed in and around Portland. It goes by the name of Portlandia

FredCarrie2

Portland has a reputation for…well…hipness – a reputation that I was even aware of back in New Zealand. When Olive and Edie were very little I began my foray into the world of crafting and the common denominator connecting many blogs I read, magazine articles I flipped through, and handmade objects I drooled over on Etsy, was…Portland. A quick rummage around the internet offers many reasons as to why Portland has the hip tag – hipsters like bikes apparently (which must make my husband the hippest guy around!) and Portland is known as a big cycling city; hipsters also apparently like good food and Portland is known as a foodie town; hipsters enjoy indie music and lo and behold there is a big indie music scene in Portland; hipsters like to be on the outside of traditional culture and in Portland they find that “alternative modes of thinking and doing” are welcomed. (Thanks to this site for the quote and many more musings on the origins of Portland’s hipness.)

bicycle rights

Conceived by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, a couple of very hip writers, actors and musicians, Portlandia pokes fun at all the hipness through a range of characters like hip cyclist guy above; Toni and Candace, the rude owners of a feminist bookstore; stereotypical couple Lance played by Brownstein and Nina played by Armisen – she’s very girly, he’s very strong and tough; and by many situations involving Armisen and Brownstein as themselves. Their onscreen relationship was inspired by two very famous television pals – Bert and Ernie.

Lance and Nina
Lance and Nina

Carrie and Fred are often seen with the Mayor of Portland, hilariously played by Kyle MacLachlan, working on ways to preserve Portland’s hip culture. Mayor is worried that Seattle is going to steal Portland’s thunder as a hipper, greener, cooler place to live and so he enlists Carrie and Fred’s help as Portland ambassadors. (You’ll find a range of well-known guest stars appearing on Portlandia…people like Roseanne Barr, Selma Blair, Tim Robbins, Heather Graham, Kirsten Dunst…and of course Colin Meloy who wrote The Wildwood Chronicles. These guest stars are all a bit hip wouldn’t you say?!)

In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, was seen as the Mayor's assistant.
In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, appeared on screen as the Mayor’s assistant.

Full disclosure…I have watched a grand total of two episodes of Portlandia but as I’ve been writing this today I have sat through many more youTube clips….and I have laughed a lot. In one of the very first episodes we are introduced to characters Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman…what do they do you ask? Well…they put birds on things!

Put a bird on it has become something of a slogan for Portlandia…and you’ll even find an entry for it in Urban Dictionary. I found this great Salon article which goes a long way towards explaining Portlandia…its cultural impact and its, for want of a better word, philosophy. It was written in response to the put a bird on it phenomenon and is well worth a read.

You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!
You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!

So I can highly recommend Portlandia…New Zealand friends I’m keen to know if you’ve seen it over there…you can find it on Netflix or youTube. I believe they are working on the 6th season of the show and it was nominated for an Emmy in the recent awards.

As for me, I’m pretty pleased to discover that, as defined by Portlandia, I must be hip. Below is a picture of my collection of Moleskin notebooks…actually there are more…I just couldn’t find them all…I suspect the sketch below the picture was written with me in my mind…

IMG_4974

Here’s to being hip!

Wildwood

Once we’d made the decision to move to Portland I set about doing some research. I flicked through some city guides and cycling guides, but the bulk of my research into our new home consisted of reading the Wildwood Chronicles – a children’s fantasy series which is set in Portland.

Wildwood-series

The Wildwood Chronicles are written and illustrated by a husband and wife team who live in Portland. Colin Meloy is the lead vocalist of Portland indie folk band The Decemberists and his wife, Carson Ellis, is an award winning children’s book illustrator. It’s got elements of fairy tale, Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Tolkien and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth; talking animals; evil industrialist tycoons and, to me anyway, a very strong plug for the power and benefits of meditation. Truth be told the reviews of this series are very mixed – it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of book. I’d seen it back in the library at John Kerr elementary  – what attracted me to it is the illustrations – but I doubt I would have made time for it had it not been set in Portland. Having said that, I did enjoy all three of the chronicles. Possibly much of that was to do with the fact that I was reading about an environment that was soon to be my home. I read the books whilst still in Bend…they got me quite excited about the move!

In one of those lovely twists of fate, we have ended up living not far from Forest Park, the Wildwood which is the key setting of the stories. The Wildwood area is also home to Pittock Mansion, an historic home that was built in 1914 for one of Portland’s founding families. Pittock Mansion features in the Wildwood Chronicles – it is the seat of Government for South Wood. (In the Wildwood Chronicles, Forest Park is divided into North Wood which is pastoral and rural, whereas the South is industrialized and urban.)

Today we took a wee stroll through some of the Wildwood trails and had a quick look at the exterior of Pittock Mansion.

Heading into Wildwood...
Heading into Wildwood.
We are loving the abundance of trees in our neck of the woods!
We are loving the abundance of trees in our neck of the woods!
Pittock Mansion. We plan to return closer to Christmas...apparently the decorations are quite spectacular.
Pittock Mansion. We plan to return closer to Christmas…apparently the decorations are quite spectacular.
Carson Ellis' rendition of Pittock Mansion juxtaposed with the real thing.
Carson Ellis’ rendition of Pittock Mansion juxtaposed with the real thing.

We are loving all the trees in Portland. We’ve nicknamed our house the tree house as that’s pretty much all you see from any of our windows, and luckily, we have a lot of them!

Our backyard...only one word for it...trees!
Our backyard…only one word for it…trees!

Much of our time since arriving in Portland has been focussed on the new house and the new school, but we did find some time last weekend to get away to the coast. One of the attractions of Portland – apart from all the trees – is it’s proximity to the sea, something us island dwellers sorely missed whilst in VA where it was a good three hour drive to get to the closest beach.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Had such a great day there we have booked to go back for a weekend in October.
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Had such a great day there we have booked to go back for a weekend in October.
Only these two would be crazy enough to get into the water!
Only these two would be crazy enough to get into the water!
There is always time for handstand practice.
There is always time for handstand practice.
The sea! Such a beautiful sight.
The sea! Such a beautiful sight.
And I even managed to get in a photo for once!
And I even managed to get in a photo for  once!

So twenty four days after arriving in Portland we are doing well. The girls and I even survived a whole week by ourselves when Richard was taking in the delights of Cincinnati and Boston last week.

I hope to be back soon with more about our new home. We hope that all our friends and family are well and happy and that you enjoy the beginnings of our Portlandia adventure!