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About A Certain Urban Nickname…

In Portland on October 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

I’ve never liked the name “Rose City.”

Portland, to me, has never been the “City of Roses.” That name reeks of airbrushed idealism, it seems forced and false. The idea of this place as some sort of fragrant garden, some sun-dappled manicured lawn redolent of blooms and buds seems hugely false. The region is fertile, yes, it is green, certainly, but it has never struck me as particularly rosy.

The everpresent evergreens seem a better symbol, as do the layered and enveloping clouds. This city isn’t suggestive of brightness and perfumed plants. This place is rain-soaked. It is green and awash more with the scents of coffee and hops than any ornamental plant. Roses are an ignored ideal. Portland deserves a sobriquet.

“Puddletown” is more accurate, but there are rainy cities everywhere. Such a name is not terribly unique. A better fit is “Bridgetown,” a name that brings to mind our wonderful and inspiring urban infrastructure. “Stumptown” speaks to the actual history of the place, and is a reminder that we stand in the middle of what once was a dense forest. Even “Rip City” works better than the floral monikers. It is full of nonsensical bravado, reminiscent of Drexler-era games of NBA Jam. But, it calls to mind something real, a time when the Trail Blazers were a force to be reckoned with.

All of these are good. All of them are better than the too-cheery names “Rose City” or “City of Roses.” All of them seem to have more of that very in-demand commodity; authenticity.

I hope that the roses fade, that “Stumptown” and “Bridgetown” gain primacy. A stand of evergreens or the spires of the St. Johns Bridge are more real and more inspiring symbols of our metropolis than any non-native flower will ever be.

We are Stumptown, Puddletown, Bridgetown, even Rip City. Roses, it seems, just happen to grow here.

  1. While I like Bridgetown (although the brewery might not like it to gain wide spread acceptance) I have a soft spot for "Rose City." That may come from growing up near Ladds Addition and it's numerous test rose gardens.

    While it may be a but forgotten by our generation, the rose gardens of Portland are still a bit of big deal. Some historical information: http://www.rosegardenstore.org/thegardens.cfm

  2. I never really thought about the rose thing until moving into a house with a rose bush. Now I actually notice them, and I swear to God, it's like there's an ordinance or something that everyone is a house build before 1950 has to have at least one rose bush.

  3. It's Rose City because roses grow so damn well there. Have you been to the Rose Garden (the real one) in June? It's great! I like that we're the "Rose City" – it's based on something concrete (roses grow really well there) but also means we should aspire to be the Rose City (best of all cities).

    And I love calling Portland Stumptown. It has the history and gives a grittier feel compared to Rose City.

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