Thursday, March 10, 2016

Au Revoir, Stump Town

After wasting 15 months of my life, I'm over Portland completely and utterly. No more Portlandia inspired daydreams for me. The last time I strolled across Burnside Bridge at sunset, it was not gauzy lighting and curious Hipsters on bikes. It was dirty, loud and dangerous, like I might be pitched into the beige cesspool of the Willamette the minute some aging infrastructure failed.

There were all sorts of red flags that I shouldn't try to live there, but I had my Carrie Brownstein blinkers on. My first mad attempt should have curbed all my future Oregonian ambitions.

I met a room renter on Craigslist in October 2013 and moved into her 3-bedroom, 2-bath condo the day I met her. Two weeks into our cohabitation, she lost her job thanks to the Government Shutdown and receded into her bedroom for two weeks of Zoloft-inspired texting to her online boyfriend. She emerged long enough to tell me -- without any warning -- that I had 48 hours to move.

Portland invented flakiness and shucking personal responsibility. Now throw in some real Great Recession angst and you've got a recipe for a thoughtless upper middle class ignoring a growing sea of working poor.

The second foray up to the Portland area was more promising. In January 2015, I had a temp job waiting for me and got into a rental share with a nice, level-headed lady who also had a 3-bedroom  this time in Vancouver, Washington, the suburban tumor that clings to the top of Portland like a plastic cowboy hat. All was well for the first two months. Then the elderly bat-shit crazy landlady below us decided on a Vicodan-induced whim that we had to move. This was my first no-cause eviction. I now know they happen all the time in the Portland area, which is second only to San Francisco in pitching tenants to the curb ... for no reason at all. (Really it's about money, rents are sky rocketing in the Cleveland of the Pacific Northwest).

I found housing in Portland to be depressingly like Seattle: slumlords were getting $750 for motel rooms with kitchenettes. First, last plus vague $400 "non-refundable" deposits. That's $1900 for a shed.

I scrambled to find housing, spent a while living with a mean dude who was a quart-of-vodka-a-day alcoholic and finally settled on the last room I rented for $600 a month: a 10 x 10 square foot in the basement of a 75-year-old tract home owned by an Asian Hipster chick who was the definition of Pretentious New Ager. One of her six day jobs was re-aligning chakras. Seriously.

I took a job as a landscape laborer when my first temp job abruptly ended (they didn't want to spring for healthcare). I was 15 years too old for this dead-end job and Vancouver in June was 20 degrees too hot for that kind of work.

I interviewed for technical writing jobs at places like Intel where I was told over and over, "it was down to you and one other person." Stable, good-paying employment in Portland was like the summit of Mt. Hood -- pretty to look at and eternally out of reach.

Everyone had assured me that Portland and its surroundings were chocked full of Liberals. People who were avid recyclers, organic gardeners, Unitarian Universalists and believers in book sharing. I'd say this was true about 25-percent of the time. The rest of the time? It was Sacramento with trees and angrier NIMBYs.

For a town of 75,000, Vancouver had a lot of skinheads. And in retrospect, Portland is the only place I've ever been where someone in a coffee shop can say totally straight faced: "I'm a vegan and a white supremacists".

Black Pussy. Yes, there's a band in Portland that call themselves this. Read the drama here.
Overall, I found Portlanders to be insular and pretentious on a level Seattleites can only dream of. They're certain they're doing the right thing (their "thing") and they're certain everyone else is not.

Childishness isn't just endorsed in Portland, it's a valid lifestyle. People don't go to parties to drink and hear bands. No, no. They go to "art parties" to "engage in new mix medias". Think: birdhouses out of Popsicle sticks in the second grade. There must be 20 or so groups in Portland just for people who play board games. Not kids, not junior-high students, but adults in their 20s and 30s lining up outside bars to play Clue or Risk. (When I was a kid, the only time we played board games was when the cable was out).

Forays into yesterday's fads like 80s culture is fine, once in a while, but devoting all your free time to a past you likely were never a participant in, is just weird. 

Get your own fucking style, poseur.

At least people who were into swing dancing in the 1990s understood it would only be trendy for about 15 minutes and then we'd all move on from the Squirrel Nut Zippers.

I suppose I have too close a perspective on Portland and its Hipsters because I lived with two of them for nine months. But one of them was a trust-fund cunt who had a day job as a Pilates instructor despite the fact she couldn't get sober long enough to teach P.E. to fifth graders and the other was the High Priestess of channeling money out of rich, naive housewives from Lake Oswego.

They talked about organic farming, helping the poor, seeing other people's point of view, blah, blah, blah. But scratch the surface and they were as typically bigoted and selfish as the yuppie Realtor in the Prius next to you in traffic. Everyone is liberal minded until it's an inconvenience and then they're not.

Thank Gawd I'm too poor to be that self involved.

1 comment:

David Beveridge said...

The essential problem is . . . you moved to Portland when it was already dead.

As a native, there were only a few other cities in the world (of those that I've been to) that I could imagine living in long-term; starting around 2012--it all wen to Hell. And you and I seem to have landed on the same term for this New Portland: the Cleveland of the Pacific Northwest.

And it's going to get a lot worse: the whole thing that made it work was being a low-cost working class town where you could work enough to pay the bills and spend your spare time in art and lifestyle (hence, the moniker of being a European City in America); cheap rents meant a good restaurant and pub on every block and partial employment for all.

With the death of affordable rent and leases, so goes the lifestyle . . . *and* the ability to have a top-notch quality restaurant survive by breaking even on affordable menu prices. The next cycle of leases coming up will see these rates skyrocket, and all those local joints--the last bastion of what we once were--will die.

Oh, and here's a new flash: you know why we, in the land of Beervana, were the #1 consumers of PBR? Because we were broke and having a PBR was making a statement that you couldn't afford a real beer; because times are hard, and you made no apologies. It was absolutely un-ironic.