An Umbrella Reversal

I have famously gone on record as being anti-umbrella. Living in the Pacific Northwest, using an umbrella is frowned upon by the locals. It’s just not “cool.” One of the surest ways Portlanders can identify people from out of town is when they’re walking in the rain carrying an umbrella. We even have a term we use for these folks.

We call them “Californians.”

Tara was confused by this umbrella revulsion when she first moved out here. “Without an umbrella, you get wet,” she said.

“That we do!” I replied. “It’s like a badge of honor.”

At that point, she just shook her head at me sadly and walked away. Into the rain. Carrying an umbrella (and in the process proving that she is the smart one in this relationship, I suppose – or at least the one with dry hair).

Despite this well-known statue in Pioneer Square, no self-respecting Portlander carries an umbrella.
Despite this well-known statue in Pioneer Square, no self-respecting Portlander carries an umbrella.

I never really felt the need for an umbrella, having become quite nimble at making mad dashes across the parking lot whenever the heavens opened up. For years, I didn’t even own an umbrella. But that all changed two weeks ago, when I picked one up in a gift shop in Long Beach, Washington.

And I’ve actually been using it, too.

Why the sudden change of heart after so many years of denial? I blame the roughest winter we’ve had in my 20+ years of living here. It’s been raining, which of course is nothing new in the PNW, but the amount and intensity of the rain has been staggering. We’ve already had over 10″ of rain in February alone, blowing past our average monthly rainfall (just over 3″) in the first few days. It’s actually now officially the wettest February in Portland history. After a wet January, and a wet December, and a wet November, and…well…you get the picture.

And when it hasn’t been raining, it’s been snowing. Lots of that, too. The winter of ’16-’17 is one for the ages, no doubt.

So I finally broke down and bought that umbrella. I had to. I like to walk 3-4 miles a day, and too often found myself stuck inside because of yet another torrential downpour. Or soaked, because I stubbornly clung to my no-umbrella policy and insisted on braving the elements. And then one day recently I went out walking during lunch and came back to the office drenched. I had to peel off my shoes and socks and aim a portable heater in my direction while suffering through wet jeans the rest of the afternoon. It was in that moment that I finally saw the light. Now, I’m carrying around an umbrella. I still feel a little weird doing so, but I am also experiencing another sensation – dryness – and that’s kind of a novelty to me.

Just don’t call me a Californian.

This weekend has been damn near perfect.

Friday, we ventured out for a night on the town. Our first stop was a great little tapas place called Navarre for dinner. Unfortunately, when we were seated and began looking over the menu, we discovered that most of our favorite dishes were no longer on there. RIP, crab cakes. So we were faced with a dilemma: should we stay and order a bunch of things we didn’t really feel like eating, or bolt instead for greener pastures? In the end, we chose Option B. I mumbled some excuse about “a family emergency” to our server as we hastily beat a retreat. Awkward moment, but we don’t get out as often as we used to, and I really wanted to enjoy it! We ended up at Eastburn instead, where I had a fantastic steelhead filet over barley risotto, and Tara enjoyed a wild boar ragu. Leaving, in this case, was the best thing we could do.

We then headed over to Mississippi Studios for a Neil Young tribute. Three local bands were performing three of Neil’s albums in their entirety (“Comes A Time,” “Harvest,” and “Rust Never Sleeps”). The music was great and the cocktails were stellar. We didn’t get home until well past midnight, but it was a lot of fun.

Saturday we had a rare break in the weather, so I left the umbrella at home and we drove out to Lyle, in the Columbia Gorge, for a 4-mile hike along the Klickitat River. We stopped in Stevenson for a drink and a quick bite to eat before heading home. Gorgeous views and, though the trail was mostly snow-covered, it was pretty easy to navigate.

Today we are meeting my parents for lunch at Rusty Grape Vineyards. They do a mean wood-fired pizza and, of course, there will be wine.

Have a great week!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

12 thoughts on “An Umbrella Reversal

  1. I did extensive experimentation from from ages 5 to 9 in the effectiveness of using umbrellas as parachutes. They do not break the fall or soften a landing. The only thing that breaks is your ankle. I theorized that jumping from a one story house did not give the umbrella enough drop time effectiveness or velocity to enable the umbrella to perform its full potential. The two story building experiment failed as well and it seems height does not enhance performance as a parachute.

    Each attempt resulted in merciless and brutal beatings by mother with the huge wooden salad spoon. Imagine were we would be(or not be) if the parents of Orville and Wilbur Wright discouraged them by beatings with the huge wooden salad spoon ? The only thing that would have flown is them flying out of the house to avoid the beatings.


  2. Mark, having lived 20 years in Florida (where rain is pretty much a daily occurrence) I feel the same about getting wet because it’s gonna happen. However, the people here in Philadelphia become paralyzed whenever it rains. They literally change their daily plans if it rains and stay at home. And if they have to go to work, they talk about how horrible the rain is all day long. They act as though they’re made of marzipan and going to melt if they get wet.

    I actually love the rain and will sometimes go walking in it (without and umbrella).

    “We then headed over to Mississippi Studios for a Neil Young tribute.”

    Oh, how fun! I am a huge Neil Young fan since the 1970’s!

    Hope you had a great Sunday. That pizza sounded delicious!’

    Have a super week, my friend!


    1. I had no idea Philadelphians were afraid of a little rain. Are you telling me that nobody goes out for cheesesteaks if there’s a little moisture in the air?

      I love the rain, too. Good thing, ’cause boy, I’d be an unhappy camper otherwise…


  3. I do own an umbrella and occasionally use it, but I’ve had the same one since the 80’s so I’m not exactly wearing it out.

    This endless February rain is getting old, but at least I don’t have to be out in it as much anymore. Perks of retirement I guess. But still, I think we deserve some sun now…


  4. You need to get one of those invisible umbrellas which just blow away the rain via a series of fans before it can land on your head. To the rest of the world, it would just appear you were using a walking stick, albeit incorrectly.


  5. I’ve never been an umbie fan. Just a hassle to open and close, and they tend to turn inside out in the strong winds here. Then there’s the issue of what to do with the damn thing once you get to your destination. I stick with hooded jackets.


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