Jack Ohman

California, Here I Come: Sacramento v. San Francisco v. Portland

In this month's Sacramento Magazine is a list of the 35 reasons that Sacramento is better than San Francisco. Having spent a lot of time in San Francisco, and now being employed in Sacramento, I am still not terribly qualified to ratify the thesis, but my experience here thus far has been very pleasant.

Having come from Portland after almost 30 years, I can give you a much better comparison and contrast between Oregon and California. For example, Portland, Oregon has just the one palm tree.

It's out on 82nd Avenue (an area similar to Folsom), and I have no idea how it got there. I saw it on a bike ride. 

Surrounded by evergreens, it had the appearance of Paris Hilton forced to shop at REI.

In Oregon, everyone discusses California constantly, as in, "We don't want to be like California," or "What will California think of us?"

In California, no one gives a flying flip about Oregon. At all.

"Dude, it's like a northern county, like Siskiyou or something, right? Up by Alaska?"

(Interestingly, Alaska is a very real concept in Oregon. Lots of people from Alaska. People who knew Palin personally. I knew the guy who designed the Alaska Airlines logo. He was a jerk).

I love Oregon, and it has many lovely qualities. Being discussed by Californians is not one of those qualities.

In Oregon, people are always discussing vacation plans for California, particularly on Spring Break. Try booking a flight from Portland to Palm Springs the last week in March and let me know how that goes for you. Bet you would have a place to put your carry-on on Southwest flying back to Portland. Like, the whole right side of the aircraft. The view side where you can see Crater Lake.

"Man, I can hardly wait to go to Portland for Spring Break," is a sentence that has never been uttered in the history of the English language.

Like wreckage from a plane crash at sea, you will see some tiny fragment of Oregon in California floating by from time to time, a Ducks t-shirt or hoodie, usually. The only Oregon plate I've seen down here is my own. And I've been looking for them.

Occasionally, in the past few months, I have heard Sacramento described as the Portland of California. In some respects, it's pretty accurate. There is a thriving cycling culture here (although the vast majority of cyclists I have seen in downtown Sacramento have been riding down the wrong side of the street with no helmet or lights), and there is a similar vibe in Midtown to Portland. In other ways, it is most decidedly non-Portland. There are more congressmen in the Sacramento metro area than there are in the state of Oregon.

For example, Sacramento can't seem to let itself have a parking lot with food carts that aren't ready to roll at a moment's notice, like scrambling F-16s.

Food carts have become an integral part of the Portland brand, and local restauranteurs here are mostly opposed to them. Portland's food carts are so specific that I can't understand why a restaurant would be threatened by them:

--"Vegan Elephant Ears On A Stick"

--"Asian Fusion Pork Oreo Gelato"

--"Quinoa 'n' Bacon Pasta Hut"

--"El Mundo del Kale"

In addition, Portland now has a somewhat disturbing superiority complex ("Let's Build The First Green LEED Technology all-Titanium Gay Bike Path!"),and it was very much the reverse case in 1983 when I first got there. I was asked repeatedly why, in fact, I came out there to Oregon. The tone was along the lines of, "Are you in the Federal Witness Protection Program?"

I was in Detroit, ok?

Seattle plays San Francisco to Portland's Sacramento mentality, and I recall coming back from bustling Seattle on the train into Portland one night, and it felt like I was rolling into a Twilight Zone episode model railroad city that had been wiped out by anthrax.

I will say that one thing I am constantly asked here by Sacramentans:

"Is Portland really like Portlandia?"


I wouldn't know. I lived in Beaverton.

Try living with that city name, Sacramento. You'll feel better about yourself in no time.