Does this picture look depressing to you?
I didn’t think so. It’s my hometown of Portland, Ore., which has been declared the Unhappiest City in America by BusinessWeek magazine. Why, I never.
But at one level, I kind of get it.
It’s the rain.
I left Portland for Texas 25 years ago. I’ll admit to being “depressed” by the rain. BusinessWeek notes that Portland averages 222 cloudy days annually. Those clouds often produce rain, or drizzle, to be more accurate. I’ve been saying during my entire time in Texas that it rains for four days in Portland before you even notice it. Once you do, then it just exacerbates your depression — once you’ve identified its cause. I actually used to complain to my dad about the rain. His answer? “Talk to God.”
But it’s really quite a beautiful city. Mount Hood looms 55 miles to the east. The West Hills serve as a forested barrier on the other side of the Willamette River. They have rehabilitated several old neighborhoods. The city contains the largest stand of virgin forest of any community in the country. Portland has the most efficient mass transit system in the nation. And the city’s downtown district is a thing of beauty. It’s an urban model that other communities need to emulate; pay attention here, Amarillo’s civic and political leadership.
The BusinessWeek list has plenty of the usual suspects: Detroit, Cleveland, Las Vegas (yeah, losing all that dough at the slots can depress the most ebullient personality) and New Orleans (Hurricane Katrina — need I say more?).
But clearly the most depressing city I’ve ever seen is in Texas. Have you been to Port Arthur? I call it Beirut on the Bayou. Sure, it is full of great people. But the city fathers have given up on downtown revitalization — and it shows.
Perhaps the editors of BusinessWeek placed too much of their depression quotient on the weather that shrouds Portland so many days of the year. Yeah, it sucks. But the folks there have recognized it and created a lively place to live, work and play.
And if that’s the case, Amarillo — with its 330 or so days of sunshine annually — ought to be declared America’s cheeriest place. But I think most of us right about now want some rain, and lots of it!