Keep Portland Normal: reflections on a changed hometown


The other day, I saw a “Keep Portland Normal” bumper sticker (a response to the Austin-inspired “Keep Portland Weird” bumper stickers that have been floating around town for at least a decade) and it got me thinking about how much our little hovel has changed since I was a child.

I was born and raised in what was once seen as little more than a somewhat bleak stopover between Seattle and San Francisco. The Portland of my youth was known for two things: rain and Clyde “the Glide” Drexler. It was never mentioned in national media and the biggest superstar in town was Mayor Bud Clark.

I left town and headed overseas in the early ‘00s, just after college, just as Portland’s reputation as a hip ecotopia was starting to spread across the country. By the time the decade was up, I was regularly running into people in some of the remotest parts of the planet who not only knew about Portland, but also planned to visit—or move—some day.

I’d like to spend my five minutes talking about how Portland has changed over the years, how its spike in popularity has both positively and negatively impacted the city and reflect on returning home to a—in many ways—very different hometown.

Margot Bigg


Margot Bigg is a Portland-born-and raised writer who has spent the last decade living in France, England and India. Her work has appeared in publications ranging from Rolling Stone to The Oregonian. She’s also the author of Moon Living Abroad in India and Moon Taj Mahal, Delhi & Jaipur as well as a co-author of Fodor’s Essential India. She holds an MA in European Studies and spends as much time as she can traveling overseas.