The rain and cloudy days, and glorious summers without so much intense heat. The bridges, bikes, trees, parks, easy-to-use light rail system and the easy-going attitude of the locals.
It all works for Channing Frye, the Suns big man who grew up in Phoenix but found a true offseason home among the timbers and along the shores of the Willamette River in Portland, Ore. It's where he is Tuesday to play one of his former teams, the Trail Blazers. It's where he'll go when the 2010-2011 season ends and it will be home when his NBA career is over.
"I think it's the people, the community. Everything is just very nonchalant. People are real. The community is just beautiful, I think the people really take care of their city and I think everything that I like is there," Frye said. "I get made fun of a lot... but I think it's the best place to live in the summertime."
At least a few of Frye's teammates aren't big fans of Portland and they razz Frye about being happy to be home when the Suns go north. Truth is, Frye can do without winters in Oregon. They're cold, drizzly, gloomy and once in a while icy and snowy.
But Portland is where the heart is. Frye signed with the Blazers before the 2007-08 season and played in Portland for only two campaigns. He started only 21 of 141 games played for the Blazers, averaged 9 minutes a game in four playoff games in 2009 and wasn't close to being the three-point marksman he is now for the Suns (11-9).
"A lot of bench, and just a lot of growing. I think I had a lot of growing up to do," Frye said of his time in Portland, which ended when he signed with the Suns in July 2009. He credited the Blazers with helping with his development as a player.
Where the professional part of his life wasn't complete in Portland, the personal side made up for it. Frye met his wife while a Blazer and pledges that his kids will grow up there.
He got a place along the river just south of Tom McCall Waterfront Park, a large expanse of land popular with cyclists, walkers, runners and droves of people during city festivals. The home is almost the mid-point between the Rose Garden, where the Blazers play, and suburban Tualatin, where the team practices.
As Portlander, Frye finds the restaurants and local entertainment to his liking, too. Even if he didn't know a single thing about the city before he arrived there.
"Nothing's a hassle in Portland. Never any traffic, really. Going in the river, it's clean, and I think (the city's) got nice cultural diversity," he said. "I thought the city was full of hippies and oats, and now I'm one of those hippies and oat-eaters."
Frye didn't just blend in. He sought to make a difference. He organizes an annual kickball tournament in town every year for charity.
"I never get booed there, which is nice," Frye said. "I embraced the city. I really loved my time there, would have loved to stay, but I needed to play and the chance to flourish as a player, and Phoenix gave me the opportunity so I took advantage of it."
Frye dropped a career high 29 points on the Indiana Pacers last Friday, hitting five three-pointers. He had two steals and three blocked shots in a memorable performance. The Suns would take even half that production if it meant Frye would be another weapon the Blazers (9-11) have to account for on the perimeter Tuesday night.
"It's important that we get penetration and look for pick-and-rolls and transition," Suns guard Steve Nash said, "and he's able to space the floor and gives us not only someone who can shoot the ball from the outside, but can keep the middle open."
The Suns, unfortunately for Frye, are done playing in Portland for the regular season after Tuesday. But Frye looks forward to fishing and wakeboarding in the river when he returns home, whenever that is next year.
"It helps that my wife is from there, has friends that end up being my best friends," Frye said, noting that Portland isn't for everyone. "You've got to have an open mind... you've just got to want to be kind of normal for about 24 hours. Walk around the city, ride the MAX (light rail) and just go out and enjoy yourself and not look for glitz and glamour all the time."