Posted on July 6th, 2021

The Soft Core of the Earth – Overrated Places VI

I’ve been to Portland, Oregon, more times than any other city in the country (visiting my hometown aside; New Orleans is a close runner-up). I first visited during August of 2001, very shortly after I moved to Boulder, Colorado (for the first time). In fact, I’d only been in Colorado a couple weeks and had just secured a job there, but my best friend was just a few weeks behind me moving to Oregon and I was excited to go check it out once he arrived. I asked my boss if I could postpone my start date and he said, “No.” So, I quit.

That wasn’t the original sign of a poor commitment to careerism, but the first after completing college. Needless to say, I didn’t care then, and I don’t care now. Anyways, back to the story. I drove out to the West Coast in one sitting, a 17-hour drive if I remember correctly, and I arrived at the squalor my friend was living in with another buddy from high school. They were dirt poor and didn’t have much; there were two camping chairs for “furniture” and a big cardboard box turned upside down for a “table.” They lived in one of the seedier neighborhoods of Portland – before it got uber-gentrified and all the monied bourgeoisie liberals started relocating there – and crime was pretty common around his domicile. In fact, over the course of his first three years in Portland, he had three cars stolen. Two were from stolen from that parking lot, which we’ll get to momentarily, but the second of three was stolen on the side of a highway. He bought a pickup truck for $50 and it broke down a few miles away from the “dealership” on the side of the road, so he left it there and hitched a ride home. Once his roommate was able to, they went back to try and jump it or figure out what was wrong, but it had been stolen. The first to get yanked was an old beat-up VW hippy bus. I don’t think that one ever turned up again either. The third was a fairly decent SUV with all of his laundry in it. This guy isn’t the type to do a load every week, and since they neither had a unit in their apartment nor on the premises, it backed up even more. Apparently, and not surprisingly, when his truck was stolen it had 90% of his clothes in it. Fortunately, they found it. But when they did, a few days later, there were only two types of things missing: his CD wallets and his Tupperware containers. The CDs and clothes were still there. Either they were some thoughtful thieves or that just tells you a lot about his taste in clothes and music. Eventually, he got his act together, saved some money, and moved into a nicer part of town; then he didn’t have many more problems as a victim of crime…

Yeah, some idiots tried to destroy this iconic sign during the protests and riots of 2020. (Image retrieved from https://unsplash.com/photos/RLTxWld28ls, courtesy of Trang Nguyen)

I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen the old IFC show, Portlandia, but the very first episode (and really, most of the early ones) are spot on about what that place is like. In that series debut they sing a song about Portland where the chorus line is, “The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland.” Leading up to the song the actors, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, are chatting about his recent trip there comparing it to contemporary Portland as being the state of the nation, and Generation X, in the 90s. A place where people are “content to be unambitious,” the “city where young people go to retire.” It was all true back then, it’s only gotten worse.

The city and its residents are everything bad about the Left, woke culture run amok. Everyone is aggrieved and offended by everything. If you don’t cop to your trespasses and your contributions to oppression, capitalism, and the rainbow of schisms, well, you’ll be publicly flogged. The city’s people are the worst of the worst of the worst these days. Sad but true. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have some redeeming qualities, though. Obviously, the city is beautiful, there is abundant outdoor recreation, short drives to the ocean and mountain, a great music scene and art, an unbelievably diverse food culture, and if you don’t mind some gray and wet winters, the climate is pretty nice (occasional bursts of sweltering hot summers aside – but that’s the fault of climate change and all of us energy guzzlers). There are even some really cool people there, you just have to filter your way through the baby-wearers, little dog carriers, trustafarians (trust fund kids who LARP homelessness), crybabies, and “causeheads” (slight tangent: if you don’t know that phrase, pick up the movie PCU with David Spade and Jeremy Piven. It was released in the early 90s and was a flop in the theaters but amassed a quick cult following through frequent airings on Comedy Central starting a year or two after its release. In a nutshell, the movie centers on the overly politically correct nature of a liberal arts campus during the course of one day on campus; a perfect day-in-the-life movie, a la Dazed & Confused. I watched it with a much younger friend recently who lives in Portland, and she was shocked how old the movie is because of how relevant it is today).

I used to say about Boulder, Colorado that it was a place where people try to be weird for the sake of being weird. I think in Portland many people are authentically weird, which is admittedly endearing. My friend and his wife now live in Beaverton, the first suburb southwest of Portland. It’s only about a 20–25-minute drive depending on where you’re going, and you can get there on their light rail system, “the Max,” quite easily, too. But as all suburban life goes, it leaves you wanting. So, while it’s easy to bitch about all the horrible aspects of life in Portland (PDX from now on), to do so when you live in a ‘burb kind of denies you the right – the whole not throwing stones thing. In fact, as much as I like to trash PDX, “the Beav” has earned its smack talk, too. The place that I affectionately refer to as “East of the Coast,” and whose unofficial motto I dis-affectionately claim is, “It ain’t great,” really has all the little brother trappings of a stone’s throw away suburb from a big city. In the spirit of Portlandia I also call it Beavertonkia – this is based off a license plate bracket I used to see all the time: the Beaverton Kia dealer didn’t do a good job of proofreading their brackets they had made and decided to still use them, slapping them on every car they sold, even though the two words were run together as one. If PDX is the place where it’s cool to be weird, then Beavertonkia is the place where those who can’t cut it being weird move to with their tails tucked between their legs.

I claim I lived in “Portland” (really, I was in the Beav) for a few spells. I spent two summers there, about two months each during 2012 and 2013, and then for about seven months between 2015-2016 while I was trying to get my life in order (again). One friend told me that if I didn’t reside somewhere for at least a year then I didn’t really “live” there. I disagree. Maybe those two summers don’t count because I just pressed pause on my normal, day-to-day life, but that larger chunk saw me giving up a lease, loading up a huge storage unit, and packing my car with the bare essentials. I moved, buddy. During those runs, as well as the other 15-20 times I’ve visited, I spent a lot of time in PDX, so I think I’ve earned the right to trash it. In terms of all the places I’ve lived, and despite what my statements about it would seem, it stands near the top of the favorites, though that may be because those at the bottom were so miserable, at least they were at the time I was living there. In actuality, no place I’ve lived has been that bad upon reflection, but most of them I have no desire to live in again, and only a few of them I would actually want to visit again, PDX being one. Though, that has a lot to do with the number of friends I have there, so if some move away or I start to lose touch with others, then it might fall to the bottom as well. For now, we’ll just leave it at the fact that I think there is a lot wrong with the place – mostly because of the people, but there is a lot that is salvageable, too. I hope…

I have another friend in PDX who works for the parks department (in fact, the gal I watched PCU with, mentioned above). She started out as a lowly scrub and is starting to work her way up. Some of her early duties were picking up the parks and around other public spaces – for a city that claims to be so progressive and environmentally conscious, they sure do litter a lot. This has a lot to do with the massive problem regarding homelessness – part housing prices, part city policies, part culture, part who the f*^k knows – but she was cleaning up after one of the protests during the summer of 2020 and had a pig’s blood thrown on her, trash dumped on her, had to cover up tattoos and wear a wig because people were stalking city employees, and was repeatedly cussed at and chastised for “working for the man” as she cleaned up the areas where these people socialized, protested, rioted, and lived – and trashed. She was getting trashed for picking up theirs. That’s Portland for you: a clusterf*^k off idiots and a$$holes who have a whole lot to say and not a whole lot of action to back it up. The kind of people who would just assume tell you what they think and what you should do but have no intent of hearing your position. The type of people who are talking heads spewing talking points from the woke bible without any ability to critically think for themselves. And then you have the beautiful parts. That city is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde if there ever was one, and I hope it can be saved from its current inhabitants…

Marco Esquandoles
Tellin’ You How it is Since the Beginning

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