It's only about 28 miles from my house in rural south Salem to Silverton. But it seemed like light years yesterday, as we traveled from Oregon's stodgy conservative capital to a charming progressive small town.
Amazingly, Laurel and I had never been to the Oregon Garden, which opened ten years ago. With my sister and brother-in-law visiting from California, we were finally drawn to check out Silverton's prime attraction.
Because Silverton's Stu Rasmussen is the first openly transgender mayor in the United States, and he's gotten a lot of attention since being elected last November.
Including the possibility of starring in a reality show.
We'd headed to downtown Silverton after quickly touring the Oregon Garden by tram (snap review: Impressive! Beautiful! I want to return when we have more time to walk around and admire the amazing variety of plantings).
Having wandered through an antique store and an art gallery it was time for a caffeine pick-me-up. So after chatting with some locals who were ensconced at a table outside a Water Street coffee house, we went inside to fuel up with food and drink.
And were thrilled to see Stu saunter down the sidewalk and join the group. (He's impossible to miss, believe me.)
I felt like we were blessed with a celebrity sighting -- like when Laurel and I visit my daughter in Hollywood and see a movie or TV star in a restaurant.
Leaving, we conversed some more with the locals. First visit to the town in many, many years, and it took me about two seconds to realize that I really like Silverton's style.
Everybody we encountered was warm, open, out-going, and more than a little quirky. A wonderful counterpoint to Salem's much more guarded atmosphere. Part of the difference is due to small town/big town, but that isn't the entire explanation.
When I told the group that my wife and I were from Salem, one of the locals said, "That's a great place to be away from." I heartily agreed, expounding on my it's a nothing at the center of everything theory.
I want Salem to be able to elect a transgender mayor. I want Salem to be as diverse, artsy, progressive, and green as Silverton. I want Salemites to be as welcoming, humorous, and eccentric with visitors.
(One of the locals told us to be sure not to miss Silverton's Chinatown, which reportedly consisted of two doorways in the next block, one or both of which I believe led to a Chinese restaurant.)
Here's what a resident had to say about why he loves Silverton. After one visit, me too.