What happens when it rains in Portland

I once visited a successful scrapbook saleswoman in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, and now after spending more than a night there, I understand why she was successful.

It rains there nonstop. No wonder people want to be indoors doing something—anything—to distract themselves from the constant downpours.

It’s no surprise Portland and nearby Vancouver, Washington, have the highest rates of depression among the 150 largest cities in the country, according to WalletHub, an online clearinghouse for financial advice and quality-of-life studies. I’d be depressed, too, if the only time I saw the sun was between rain showers.

Portland’s rain is a tease like the instructions on a bottle of shampoo. After a particularly violent downpour, maybe one that includes hail big enough to hear pinging on your camper but not big enough to damage your pickup truck, for example, you’ll spy a bit of blue sky the size of the eye of a needle, and you’ll think maybe the water will part, and the Promised Land awaits. But no. The sky clouds up, and it rains. Again.

Hope, rinse, repeat.

It’s not that it isn’t lush there. It’s like a rain forest. If rain forests had pine trees and moss. Turns out, coniferous trees, ferns and moss are characteristic of temperate rain forests like the one Portland occupies.

Cheryl’s on 12th, a downtown breakfast joint, was a bright spot in an otherwise gray place when we visited there in May. I enjoyed the special of the day, Eggs Benedict piled high with real, fresh crab meat (because Portland, being a port city, has access to good seafood) alongside a piping hot coffee and, to ward off depression borne of another rainy day, a spicy Bloody Mary that was worth the extra buck for “spicy.” Another food highlight (because food is a great comforter when the weather is drippy) was Dar Essalam, a Moroccan place in nearby Wilsonville that served lamb and couscous like it was high art.

We also took in Portland Saturday Market, the largest continuously operated outdoor market in the United States. Some salesperson did a great job luring vendors out in a place where it surely must rain every other weekend. Under blocks of tents, we found all kinds of interesting and beautiful baubles, handmade by inventive and talented people who were drinking a lot of Starbucks and eating hot snacks prepared nearby, possibly because they were hungry but more likely just to keep their hands warm.

These artisans had obviously been keeping themselves industriously occupied during rainy days.

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