hen I was growing up in Durham, North Carolina—a
city that’s experienced its fair share of growing pains—I
saw a lot of tobacco billboards proclaiming “You’ve
come a long way, baby.” Thirty years later, that billboard is one
of the first things I think of when winding down Highway 22 and
spinning into Salem, Oregon on a summer Saturday morning.
I’m meeting a girlfriend for my first fling at the Salem Saturday
Market. It’s fifty-two degrees and will be rising to ninety by the
afternoon, but that won’t matter because by the time it’s actually
hot (by Oregon standards, at least, not North Carolina ones) we’ll
be sipping a glass of cool Oregon chardonnay downtown at The
Wild Pear and musing over our backseat full of produce from the
When my husband and I first visited Oregon and first laid eyes
on the capitol city of the state that was to become our home in
less than a year, we knew what to expect. “It’s industrial,” we
were told by friends—who hadn’t lived in Oregon for thirty years
and had never lived in Salem—as if that spoke for itself. Well,
industrial is cool nowadays, and Salem has come a long way.
Salem is industrial the way that Oregon is rainy. Both statements
are true, but unless you live here you don’t know that there’s a
whole lot more to it.
My friend parks us a block from the market. A steep, grassy
bank grazing the front bumper reveals gnarled roots of the large
by Mara Lubans-Othic