Last night I attended my first 2 Degrees Portland event. 2 Degrees, another program of the Creative Portland Corporation (which also sponsors this website) describes itself as "a sort of 21st century welcome wagon" for those of you who aren't Portlanders yet.
Its purpose is to set up a network of creative professionals who can welcome newcomers, help them get established, and sustain their enthusiasm for living and working in our city. The name reflects the fact that, in our closely-knit community, people are generally connected by fewer than "six degrees of separation." In many cases, it's just two: you get to know one new person, and they'll introduce you to dozens more.
A lot of newcomers to Portland — including several people I met last night — are surprised at how welcoming people are here. They expect us to be cold Puritanical individualists — the opposite of our warm, hospitable friends in the south.
Well, there may be some truth to that stereotype in certain parts of Maine. But Portland really is different. I find that living in a small, close-knit city removes some of the social anxiety that comes with introducing yourself to people for the first time — there's not much pretension here, for one thing, and it's also easy to find something you have in common (the "two degrees" idea, again). Plus, a lot of Portlanders are naturally excited when new people move here and bring new creative outlets and businesses along with them: they make Portland a more interesting, diverse place for the rest of us to live in.
My buddy Chelsea recently took over the 2 Degrees program, and she was in fine form at last night's event, introducing us to each other and making sure that everyone felt welcome. She would love to hear from you, by the way. Her skill with introducing people of similar interests is matched only by her enthusiasm for Maine. Send her a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, or fill out this form on the 2 Degrees website, or you can Facebook-stalk the growing 2 Degrees community at http://www.facebook.com/2degreesportland.