Ah… I’m in my favorite Portland coffee shop, The Fine Grind. No more hair bands on the stereo. Gillian Welch is singing “Elvis Presley Blues” here.

Yes, folks, I’ve been in Portland for three days, and I have a favorite neighborhood coffee shop. Heck, I even have a neighborhood, a backyard, neighbors that I’ve met, housemates, and, for this week, a cat. I’m still doing a lot of touristy activities, like tours, museums, and getting lost on the bus (a required tourist activity, I think, for any big city), but I think I’m getting a taste of what it would be like to live in Portland. Right now, it tastes like a tomato, cheese, and avocado sandwich, washed down with a vanilla latté and Gillian Welch. Aaaaaah…

How did I get this lucky? I answered an ad on Craig’s List. I looked through the “sublets and temporary” section of the Portland Craig’s List, and I found a lady who wanted to rent out her attic bedroom while she was on a week-long business trip. She had a two fuzzy photos, which she admitted were taken before the room was redecorated and redone, and I couldn’t come see the place before renting, as I was in another state at the time. I was to send a $50 deposit by PayPal, and when I arrived in Portland three days later, to simply let myself in, as nobody ever locks the doors at this house.

I was nervous as I drove closer to Oregon. It seemed quite possible that the house, at the address she’d given me, wouldn’t exist at all, or the doors would be locked and the housemates behind them would have no idea who I was and no interest in letting me stay with them, and so I’d be without a place to sleep and out $50. I printed off Google Maps directions to the nearest Super 8 motel for a plan B, and tried to convince myself that gambling was fun.

A slightly worse worst-case scenario had also occurred to me. I didn’t know these people. If I were a serial killer, it might occur to me to use Craig’s List to lure people far from their homes and anyone who might miss them, into my house. Heck, in Colorado, if someone walks into your house without an invitation, and you feel threatened, you have a legal right to kill them. Really. It’s a controversial law, usually called “the make-my-day law,” but it’s on the books. I don’t know whether Oregon has a similar law. After I’m dead and buried in the back yard, how could I prove I was invited? And how would that help me?

I vented all of these fears on the phone with my dear friend Rachel while I was driving across Idaho, ever closer to Portland. (Ah, the miracles of cell phones, national call plans, and hands-free headsets! Hooray!) “I think it will be fine,” said Rachel. “In fact, I have a problem with people who see demons behind every door, especially when traveling.” She pointed out that it was by far most likely that these are nice, normal people who trust the world and would like to make a bit of extra money instead of leaving a comfy room vacant.

I knew that was most likely, but I was still quite nervous when I found the house at 9:30pm in the pouring rain. It did exist, the doors were unlocked, and to rattle my nerves more, nobody appeared to be home. My greatest fear was that I was walking into the wrong unlocked house, and some poor, terrified neighbor would be completely in her rights to shoot me. I carefully peeked around every door, as if I did expect demons to wait there. I felt a bit better when I got to the attic room: It looked a lot like the Craig’s List photos. I was in the right place.

Just then, two of my four housemates returned home from the grocery store. They were expecting me, and were gracious and welcoming. It’s been a beautiful setup ever since: I have a very quiet, comfortable, homey room in a cute, 100-year-old house, with use of a kitchen, living room, full bathroom, lovely back yard with an apple tree, and comfortable front porch, all for $35 a day. My four roommates are interesting, artistic people about my age. Having just moved here (one couple from Minneapolis, the other from the Washington, D.C. area), they tell me about all of the sights and tastes and interesting quirks they’ve discovered about Portland—and about this cute coffee shop a few blocks away, which has free wireless internet and acoustic folk music on the stereo.

I am so glad I took my chances with the demons. I realize the lady I rented the room from, along with her housemates, is more trusting than I was, to let this strange drifter into their home. I hope they’re as happy as I am with how the gamble turned out.

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