Portland is an awesome place

AP Photo/Don Ryan

Nikki Washington, left, got a tattoo and is learning to play the drums. Portland influence?

Spending the last several months in Portland has been such an amazing experience for me. I have had the privilege, or the misfortune depending on how you look at it, of living in a lot of cities and experiencing different cultures through my soccer career. As an overall experience I am enjoying Portland more than anywhere else I've lived.

Pretty quickly, I have branched out to really experience the community more than any other place I've been. I've found having an adventurous spirit much to my benefit. Lately, because I've integrated myself into the city on such a deep level in only a few short months, I'll catch myself doing something and think, "Wow, Nikki. That's so Portland."

I don't know how much you know about Portland, but everyone has a beard (or a stylish moustache), is extremely organic (co-ops and community gardens!), drives a Prius, is in a band and has multiple tattoos. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration. Except it's kind of not, but you get the idea. In case you were wondering, I am happy to report that I have no facial hair, I do still indulge in the occasional Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell and I drive a Volkswagen Jetta.

As part of my time away from the field and my continued acclimation to Portland, I've started taking drum lessons and I even got my first tattoo. To be fair, these are both things I've wanted to do now for quite a while, but there's no better place to make the leap than Portland. Learning to play the drums is amazing! I'm practically obsessed. I found a really cool drum teacher, Lisa Schonberg. She teaches out of a small vintage shop called Revival Drum Shop close to the northeast Alberta district in town. I have learned a lot in about 10 lessons. I've been studying paradiddles, rudiments, syncopations and a lot of other things that make me sound cool. Alex Morgan has offered up some of her garage space for me to store a drum set (if/when I get one), so we will have our own mini-garage band!

On top of playing soccer for the Thorns and learning an instrument, I got my first tattoo! I'd been talking to one of my best friends Casey Loyd (of FC Kansas City) about getting a tattoo for years and I finally just went ahead and did it. Allie Long, one of my teammates in Portland and I drove to a cool tattoo shop in southeast Portland and had it done. It hurt a lot, but only took a few minutes and I love it.

So, if you're keeping track. Soccer. Drums. Tattoo. Nikki, that's so Portland.

Last, but certainly not least, is the food! Portland has some of the coolest and most original restaurants I've seen. A lot of my Thorns teammates and I head to Northwest 23rd St. near Jeld-Wen Field where there is an endless selection of places to eat and not to mention ice cream at Salt n' Straw. What is Salt n' Straw, you ask? It's just the best ice cream you've ever had with some of the most unique flavors you could dream up (like pear with bleu cheese or smoked hefeweizen). It's amazing. I could fill the entire website talking about the food here, but I'll stop before I embarrass myself.

I love everything I've experienced off the field in Portland, but I must say, my job trumps it all. Playing in the National Women's Soccer League for the Portland Thorns has been more than I ever could have imagined. Our team gets along great, we work hard and on top of that … our fans are amazing! Our fans are like the biggest, sweetest and most beautiful cherry on top of a cone of ice cream from Salt n' Straw. They are simply the best out there. They're funny, loud, crazy and, most of all, loyal whether we win or lose. If a random bystander was to walk into the stadium after one of our games without looking at the scoreboard, they would never know if we won or lost because the support from the crowd is unwavering. We are 12 games through our 22-game regular season and so much has been said on and off the field and yet there is so much more to be done. I can't wait to keep working and see how everything will unfold. Between representing the Rose City in the NWSL, learning the drums, getting a tattoo and stuffing my face -- I am so Portland and so loving it!

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