I spent a solid month in Oregon in January of 2002. My Uncle Gary was living in Portland, OR at the time, and when winter break afforded me a month off from school, I took him up on his offer to stay at his place and check out the city.
To keep myself busy, I landed a job working the graveyard shift at a Plaid Pantry, a chain of convenience stores that are common in Portland. This gig provided some interesting moments.
One of the store's regulars claimed to be a CIA agent on a secret assignment. He kept his association under wraps by wearing a black cap with "CIA" blatantly embroidered on the front. Occasionally I would inquire, and he would respond by quoting scripture for the rest of our interaction.
A fellow employee at the store cast me as a supervillain in the indie film he was producing. He talked about his plans for the project incessantly, but it resulted in exactly zero minutes of filming between the time I was cast and my departure at the end of the month.
On another occasion, I hit my head on a sprinkler while stocking a freezer, passed out, and woke up on the frozen floor after an unknown amount of time.
Odd late-night convenience store encounters aside, my biggest take-away from Portland was that everyone there is incredibly friendly. On my way home after an overnight shift, I stood leaning against the bus stop with my headphones on and an exhausted expression on my face. A twenty-something hispanic thug approached me and asked me if I had a lighter. I pulled one out of my pocket and held it out for him. That was met with a confused look. I took off my headphones.
"What's that for?" he asked.
"Didn't you ask me for a light?" I replied, keeping the lighter outstretched to him.
"Nah, man. I was asking if you were all right."
This threw me for a loop. The people in Portland were so nice, even a street thug was concerned for my emotional well-being. What a city.
I didn't get to explore Portland as much as I had hoped, as I mostly slept during the day to accommodate the overnight schedule. I did get to a show at Portland's arm of ComedySportz, a nation-wide short form improv company. The improv was solid, but the stage that was literally held together with duct tape.
Overall I really liked Portland. Beyond the friendly strangers, it also featured great weather (forty degrees was the low when I was there - not bad for January) and the city is dotted with rose bushes and charm.