Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I’ve always been familiar with the history of the area and some key figures in its settlement, including Lewis and Clark, the famous 19th century explorers. In southwestern Washington and part of the Oregon Coast, there is Lewis and Clark National Park. We’re going to tell you all about this little known National Park and give you some great ways to experience it all.
For years, my former boss at South Florida Gay News would rave about Portland, Oregon. He loved the free-spirited nature of the community as well as the abundance of outdoor activities available outside the city. After years of seeing Norm and other friends post breathtaking photos on social media, I thought it was time to give Portland a try.
When I first arrived, I got the feeling that I was in a smaller version of Seattle, but as I spent time in Portland, I quickly discovered that it had a life of its own. I did however speak to some locals and they told me the city has been going through a bit of an identity crisis as of late as they try to compete with Seattle’s economic boom, mostly driven by Amazon and other tech firms. But, why try to be Seattle? Just be Portland.
The entire downtown area is pretty much walkable, with many of the city’s main attractions located within a few miles of each other. What was obvious from the start were the abundance of rainbow flags scattered throughout the city. I think it’s safe to say that Portland may have the highest concentration of rainbow flags per capita than any city I have visited thus far.
My first stop in Portland was The Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. Being of Jewish decent, I found it fascinating that this particular attraction would be located in Portland. I wasn’t aware of the city’s extensive Jewish community. The museum explores the legacy of the Jewish experience in Oregon and teaches the universal lessons of the Holocaust. The museum features rotating exhibitions that showcase Jewish contributions to world culture, issues of Jewish identity, and the forces of prejudice. They also offer an extensive program of films, lectures, and concerts throughout the year, which cover a wide range of topics relating to Jewish art, culture, and heritage.
A little over an hour by air from New York City is Portland, Maine, a charming and picturesque port city with a concentrated population of over 60,000 residents. Flying in you might be dazzled—if it’s summer—by the sapphire blue water and emerald green vegetation. Once you land and make your way to the historic center you will marvel at the lovely examples of architecture that survived four terrible fires and a couple of terrible battles, which earned the city its seal of a phoenix rising from the ashes, and its motto “Resurgam” or “Rise again.” Indeed, Portland is a survivor and has reinvented itself numerous times. Located on a peninsula in Casco Bay on the Gulf of Maine and the Atlantic Ocean, it was originally inhabited by Indians, and then settled by white men as a site of trading and fishing. It grew into a bustling port and commercial center, reached by both rail and by sea, once icebreakers were invented for Canadian exports. Today, the prettiest—and certainly the most touristy—part of town is arguably the Old Port, which is still a commercial center, selling everything from nautical mementos to souvenirs to fresh local fish; and the vibrant and pleasant Arts District, which follows Congress Street through the city center. Only a couple of laneways and cobblestone streets down near the piers speak of the city’s rough-and-tumble past, and even they do so delightfully. Finance, petroleum, and tourism form the backbone of the city’s economy now, and the tourism is especially welcoming of LGBT travelers and hipsters. I visited for Pride, on June 10-19, and was thoroughly charmed by the city and its people, as well as this great event, which had plenty on for lesbians, including spoken word poet Andrea Gibson and DJ Mary Mac. I mingled with the local lesbians, two of whom have transplanted themselves here because they were charmed by the place too! Kim Chesterfield, who works with the local Pride organization, came to Maine in 1992 to work at a summer camp. “I fell in love with my first partner and with Portland… I just never left,” she says.