ELDER MUSIC: Beethoven
Off to Portland, Oregon Today

Finding a New Home (Again)

category_bug_journal2.gif Early tomorrow morning, I will board an airplane headed for Portland, Oregon. My goal, over the next three or four days is to find a new home.

Portland, Oregon is what most people think of as a home town; it is the place where I was born almost exactly 69 years ago although, if I had not filled out hundreds of forms in the intervening years requesting the name of my birthplace, I doubt I would attach undue importance to that fact.

Oh, there was family there, now diminished to one brother, but I was always willing to embrace any of the eight other cities I have lived in as home – until life, and I, moved on.

This latest, in Maine, has not worked out for me – one of the larger of my life's mistakes. This city (population 60,000 or so) is too small, too quiet for a woman whose spiritual sense of place will always be New York City, Greenwich Village in particular. I was priced out of it four years ago and, being nothing if not a practical sort, have found some contentment in the memories collected there over 40 years.

(Sometimes I take a mental walk about my New York neighborhood, taking pleasure in all the details of the buildings, businesses, shops and restaurants along with the historical facts I amassed during my time there.)

I don't regret my four years in Portland, Maine. It's been another kind of adventure, but it is time to make a more suitable life now and I am fortunate that even during the housing crisis, my apartment's location, condition and attractiveness made for a quick sale at a price, with careful budgeting, that allows me to make this move.

When I visited Portland, Oregon in 2007, I loved the liveliness in its downtown on a summer evening. It felt like a version of Manhattan. Walking the length of a city block or two, I passed dozens of people – something that doesn't happen walking for a mile or more here. The people and the laughter and the hubbub of conversation spilling out of restaurants and bars energized me.

In contemplating a move to Portland, Oregon over the past couple of years, I found myself drawn to the grandeur of its natural setting that I recall from childhood. The towering Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens visible from the city; the denseness of the forests; and the crashing of the Pacific Ocean surf just 90 miles away. (Maybe there is more to the idea of home as one's childhood place than I am giving credit to.)

As emotionally charged as the word “home” is with the ideas of comfort, settledness, refuge, the core of one's daily life, it is the practicalities that have consumed me as I have combed the real estate listings during recent weeks preparing for this move.

Like many elders, my circumstances - thanks to the banksters - are diminished a great deal from when I moved to Portland, Maine four years ago. There is no money this time for built-in bookshelves and new vinyl windows, should my selection need them. So I have concentrated on properties that will need little, if any, work that I can't do myself.

Portland, Oregon is primarily a city of single family homes and there are, in our distressed housing market, many attractive ones to choose from. Most, however, have humongously large yards touted in the listings as a plus. Puh-leeze. I don't intend to spend my remaining years mowing a lawn.

And, because my income is limited, any large repair job – a new roof or heating system, for example – would nearly impoverish me. So I settled on a condominium where such expenses are shared. This reduces the number of choices a great deal. Another consideration is my age and the health issues I may acquire in time, so I eliminated many two-floor apartments and those with a lot of steps to the front door.

Others had to be dropped from consideration because they are short sales – priced lower than the owner's mortgage balance. These, I am well assured, can take six or eight months to close, time I don't have and if I did, I feel uncomfortable benefiting from someone else's despair.

Further, I want to be able to walk to the store. Driving here in Portland, Maine for no more than a forgotten quart of milk or bulb of garlic irritates me every time it happens. And I must consider nearby public transportation should the day arrive when I need to turn in my car keys. Fortunately, Portland, Oregon's transportation system is, relative to its size, nearly as good as New York City's.

So, after hours that probably mount up to a couple of 24-hour days, I have whittled down my choices for this trip to 14 condominiums (condominia?). My real estate agent did drive-bys over the weekend to remove any that, as The Elder Storytelling Place contributor, Nancy Leitz put it to me in an email, are next door to Joe's Python Farm.

It is odd, today, as I look at the printouts of those 14 properties, to know that one will probably become my new home. None of them feels like a place of comfort and refuge right now but I have no doubt, as I always have in the past, that I will make it so.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dani Ferguson: Survivor Island


I am making this move vicariously with you.
I do so want to move to Portland, Oregon and live a retirement dream. No snow, transportation, people with whom to interact.
I'm riding on your wings.
Safe and happy landing Ronni.

Good luck, Ronni. I pray that you will find the right place for you that while it may not be perfect, will in time be as comfortable and as loved as New York has been for you. Frankly, the way you describe it makes me want to move there!

I feel your sense of anticipation all the way to the suburbs of Montreal.

Portland, here you come.

Looking forward to reading all about your chosen home.

Great to know that Portland has excellent public transportation. That's number one for us too, as we get older.

Bus stop is 5 minute walk from our house, takes us anywhere we want to go.

Having a car now is a good thing, but we know we will someday have to turn in our keys.

Enjoy choosing your new spot, Ronni.

Sounds like a plan, Ronni, a good plan. Hope you find exactly what you're seeking in Portland. Good luck. Dee

The Universe respects bold action. You'd be surprised how fast things change for the better once you make up your mind.

Good luck, Ronni, not that you really need it, the universe is with you and so are we.

Reading your plans is like watching a friend open a pretty package and anticipating the lovey gift that must be inside. Your move sounds wonderful.
Color me green. Like liloldme and Guitar Grandma I would love to settle there too.

So brave, to be launching off like this. I know you'll make home, even if the "home" we carry around in our heads is a bit illusory.

As la peregrina stated, the universe is with you. As of now the stars seem to be in your favor. I truly believe that it is meant for you to find the near perfect home in Portland, Oregon. (No home is perfect, of course.)

Like all of your friends, I am wishing you well. I wish for you a safe and successful journey. I also wish I could go along for the ride.

My small condo in Portland is in St. John's because that's where my daughter and grandchildren live. I love the area, which is just now turning around, but, alas, the public transit, while it exists in St. John's, is complicated, more bus than rail.
I adore my second city of Portland, OR.

We are pulling for you, Ronni...that your new home will exert a compelling pull, one that you'll know when you feel it. I love that about searching for a new home; it announces itself directly to the heart in a way that defies words or logic. It's been twenty years since I've had the experience, but I know it's coming, so I'm watching your process carefully and practicing the moves vicariously. I'm so grateful that you're sharing this with us. "Energized" is a good condition for us older folk.

As I have said before i rarely comment but do come and visit most every day! Today I had to wish you well. in your search. While we live in California we visit Portland often and love it! We always stay in downtown and find it just as you describe. I know you will find some place wonderful. Have a safe and productive journey.

I'm generally very good about getting a "vibe" of a place when I visit a new city. Traveling to 3-4 new places a year for work I've had my share of just wanting to get in and get out as quickly as possible. I was in Portland, OR last July for a board meeting for 4 days and instantly felt at home and comfortable. (Honestly, I feel that way every time I'm in California too!) I must be meant for the West Coast...

Best of luck looking for your new home.


I am getting a vicarious thrill. I love that you are moving, and to such a great place.

Good luck with finding the right place. All the things you wrote about Portland are why I also like it so much. The Gorge is another huge plus that gives a person easy access to the drier side of the Cascades. Every time I am up there, I think what a vital, youthful city it is.

Being a native New Yorker, who has lived in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and traveled all over the country as a "gypsy" I certainly understand your changing physical, financial, and emotional needs in your "home." New York (Upper West Side) is starting to get to us more and more. The noise, the crowds, the dirt, the expense, etc. But we have to be here for work. Soon, I expect I'll be facing what you've gone through. Thanks for sharing all your experiences.


As soon as you land at PDX, stop at Powell's airport branch in the front of the airport and pick up this month's Portland Monthly magazine. It has every neighborhood in Portland broken down by transit access, crime rates, and grocery store access, among other things, as well as a general descriptive "feel."

I just bought a copy at Fred Meyer (yup, Freddy's is still around) yesterday and spent the evening pouring over the stats until I feel asleep. (Love Portland and want to move there eventually myself).

Anyway, this is super-useful information coming along at the exact perfect time for you. Who says print is dead?

Ronni: Love reading of this adventure. But I want to bring this, that you wrote this morning, to your attention: "And I must consider nearby public transportation should the day arrive when I need to turn in my car keys." I'll bet that within a month or two in Portland, you'll think that line is as funny as it would be if someone wrote it moving to Manhattan. You'll wonder why anyone would want a car for anything but the longest excursions. Besides, it's too lonely in the car; more fun on the the lightrail.
Maybe I'll see you at the Waterfront Blues Festival this summer in Portland, dancing zydeco!

All best luck and happiness in your chosen new home. A line I like to quote about my own prairie country youth applies to your comment about the "sense of place" one has for one's place of origin. It's from Walter Kittridge in "Hole in the Sky": The long horizons of that country are imprinted in my synapses like a genetic heritage."

Hurray!! Ronni, you are on the right track now.

A condo in Portland sounds perfect. Like you said if some major work needs to be done, it's shared by all the owners.

When I moved from my house to a condo I knew the minute I moved in it was right for me.

There is more of a potential to meet your neighbors then if you lived in a private home.

And no stairs, boy is that important!

I have a very strong feeling that this move will bring you much happiness.

As you spirit flies West, Ronni, know that it will land as you do safe and well in a new home.
Changing times for all of us. Your comments about public transit I've taken to heart as out here on the edge of the Atlantic there is regrettably none apart from the kindness of strangers.
Somehow I can't imagine hitching a ride in my eighties.


Your post is of the highest quality prose. I feel like I'm making the move with you. You should write a novel.


Good luck.


I agree with John (above) but probably not a novel but a memoir. You write in a fashion that draws us into your world and life experiences.

I had to giggle at the line about
"next door to Joe's Python Farm."

I can't wait to hear all about your new adventure.

Yay! Have fun!!! Visit Powell's for me. ;^)

I am so excited for you, good luck with your purchase. I feel like I'm going with you. Portland is wonderful, so many things to do and see and is so lively and still a homey kind of place.
Sending you my good thoughts for the trip and your life to come. Can hardly wait for your blogs.

i add my good wishes for you, ronni! i've been watching your process and admire your courage and attention to detail. i, too, am considering moving on but my feet are cooler because i'm older than you and dare not say by how much or i'll really chicken out.
you are being carried on eagle's wings and borne on the breath of dawn and i'll be anxious to hear more of your story. bless you, ronni.

Hey Ronni,
Good luck with your move.

Like I think I suggested the last time. How about renting for a short time to get to know the area before you buy a condominum?



That can seem like a good solution and if I were still working, I'd do it. But I'm cutting this move so close to the bone financially that I can't afford to lose the money I'd spend on rent and storage.

Plus, the thought of packing, unpacking, then packing and unpacking again, even partially, exhausts me. I packed everything myself in New York; this time I'm hiring a helper for a couple of days because I have a lot less time to do it and less energy and stamina than four years ago.

Too bad I didn't have a terrific son like you. My mistake ;-)

Home is where the heart is ... or, according to my favorite saying,
Home is where you hang your hat.

Good luck, Mazeltof, Break a Leg (in the theater usage, of course), Buena Suerte ...
PS Welcome (back) to the West Coast!

How exciting! I wish you the very best in finding a welcoming home in a neighborhood you enjoy.

I am happy in my new elder house share with my friend Louise. I just broke 4 metatarsal bones in my left foot and am especially appreciative of Louise and other friends who are helping me.

I look forward to hearing about what place you choose, as do all your other fans.

We loved it there. What more can I say. Keep us posted, please.

Good luck, Ronni.

Ronni, how fascinating to read about your methodical way of finding a home. Having never bought a home in my life, it is like getting a glimpse of another world. Like all the other friends and readers of your blog, I wish that you not only find a new home, but a life filed with people, music, concerts, cafes and other events. This Portland sounds just the sort of place such things could happen.

Yes, yes, write a memoir...after you are settled into the one of those 14 condos where you will, in time, feel the right moment to begin doing so.

I loved my year living in Portland; it is a special special city.

Good luck with your move, Ronni.

After investing money in custom bookshelves that never fit the next place or were too heavy to move, I purchased ISS tension pole shelves. Excellent decision. See ISSdesigns.com

I did not buy their expensive shelves; I double up on cheaper, thinner boards from Home Depot.

I can put them up and myself, and I have reconfigured the look of the shelves at least twice in the past five years. And I can carry them out of the apartment without movers, if I ever have to do so.

I see there is now a blog devoted to several choices. http://www.poleshelving.com/about/

Can't wait to learn more about this exciting move for you.

I hope you'll be happy, Ronni. It seems like yesterday when I read about you moving to the first Portland. I admire your ability to make changes when need be.

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