I am an Oregonian. I say that with no small amount of pride because I love the Northwest in general and Portland specifically. That city is my soul mate. It’s inhabited by such a variety of humanoids that it sometimes smacks of the bar scene from Star Wars.
I love every one of those freaky bastards!
But, here’s the terrible tragedy in my love affair with Portland.
The weather kind of sucks ass.
You see, emotionally I wear Gortex and fleece. My psyche and humor reside in a dark and rainy place.
By stark contrast however, physically, I am a giant weather pussy. Shorts and a t-shirt or death. I eschew the very thought of socks and shoes.
The thing about Portland is that while the people and it’s environs can look dark and, often, grim, in reality they are exceptionally sunny of disposition. Which flies in the face of the stereotype that Northerners are all Kafka-esque, alcoholic Nihilists who suffer from seasonal affective disorder.
Nay, these are a friendly, helpful, welcoming and honest tribe who read a lot and compost even more.
And I, just like Oscar Wilde, have been exiled from my home land. Except that he was an amazing writer. And he was exiled for sodomy and gross indecency. I guess I could cop to the gross indecency but you can keep your sodomy thank you very much.
Lest I sound ungrateful, I do live in a very beautiful place. The sun shines pretty much every day and 70-75 degrees with a pleasant breeze of 0 MPH out of the North is de rigueur. (Along with throwing out the occasional snooty French term to prove you are wealthy and well-travelled.)
But, you are not going to see the chunky human soup here that you will see in Portland.
A clown wearing a kilt and combat boots while weeding the community garden? What of it?
A woman who looks remarkably like Betty Paige whilst sporting a Betty Paige tat across her back with an ironic and Escher sort of vibe? All women (and many transvestites) in Portland look like Betty Paige.
Here are a few other delightful and singular quirks about my beloved City of Roses.
The men’s top knot – Here’s your situation. You are running late to bartend at the new badminton/karaoke/tequila bar you work at called “Flick”. But, your exceptionally long tresses that brush your vintage rockabilly belt buckle are in the way.
A) Cut them off to free you of the burden?
B) Twist them up into a head bun ala Black Swan?
Obviously, you are going to go with option B. Cut off your hair??? Not even possible! What are you, high? And, if so, quit bogarting.
Facial follicles – Just when you think there is only so much one can do with face hair, you walk down Burnside Avenue and a whole new world is opened up to you. Big mustaches, done that. Retro mutton chops, yawn. The Amish beard, or “face mullet”, well, that’s still kind of cool…to the Amish anyway. Is that a dude with The Rachel on his face walking into The Doug Fir Lounge? Why, yes. It certainly is. Bold move, my man! Well played!
Which brings us to vintage comfort foods. Portland loves it’s eclectic food combinations and genre-specific trends. Like a Yoo-Hoo and Hamburger Helper tapas bar. I don’t know if it exists, but it should.
Allow me to illustrate the depths of the emotional investment Portlanders (Portlandians? Portlandists? The Portlandic?) feel for their food. The following is a real-life tragic tale that recently occurred one evening at a fine establishment on SE Division Avenue during dinner.
The young adorable nerd (adora-nerd?) looked solemnly through his horn-rimmed glasses and toyed with one of his lip studs.
“I have some terrible news about our menu tonight.”
We sat back and girded ourselves for some horrific story of severed fingers or a devastating kitchen fire.
“Our waffle maker is broken.”
I actually believe I saw a small tear forming on the inside of his left eye.
“And what’s even worse,” he continued, “our back up waffle maker also isn’t working.”
They have a back up waffle maker?
“So, I’m so sorry but any items on the menu that have a waffle involved will now be replaced with johnnycakes instead. I’m so sorry.”
We all look at each other and murmur our understanding of the situation to our forlorn little hipster as he slinks away.
“Wow, he was really upset about that. Should someone go see how he is holding up? Maybe we should buy him a card.”
So, in closing, I leave you with a quote from my 11-year-old son upon our return from a recent visit to PDX.
“You know what I like best about Portland, Mom? I like that no one cares what other people think about them. I think that’s why everyone is so happy and friendly.”
Could not have said it better myself.