Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oh Portland....anticipated feelings related to Portlandia

Which I've yet to see. I have my own feelings on Portland, which having lived in the Pacific Northwest for seven years at this point I've visited quite a bit. Basically, I lived in Olympia Washington for three and a half years and have (amazingly) lived in Seattle for the last three and a half, and I chose not to go to Portland because I'd done the same thing in Olympia. And not just in Olympia but in Florida, and in visiting Austin Texas, and in traveling through little counter culture enclaves all throughout the U.S. I was immersed in the same indie-rock, health conscious, small is beautiful hipsterism that typifies Portland the city as it actually is.

After a while, the co-ops, the organics, the back to nature, all of it, becomes less novel and cool. I was enraptured when I got to Olympia, to a place that was like the fulfillment of all my anti-globalist dreams. After living there for three and a half years, the shine had certainly gone away. Instead of more, I wanted a return to an actual city that wasn't trying so very hard to be the most counter cultural, responsible, force that it could possibly be, and amazingly the city I chose was Seattle.

Very close to Olympia, a half day's drive from Portland, Seattle still has its obvious and requisite share of Portland's counter culture vibe, but unlike in Portland, and also Olympia, folks in Seattle don't (as a whole, in my experience) see intentional living as a pure end in itself but also do other, useful, things that contribute to both the economy and to society as a whole.

Portland, you could say, is struggling economically right now, having terrible unemployment, because it's an economy based on bed and breakfasts, cool cafes, sustainable bicycle manufacturing, and other niche businesses, that doesn't really have anything central to generate the money required to make all of it work. You can retire from corporate America and open up your own business in Portland as much as the next person, chase your dream, but if there's no money going around for people to buy your cool artwork or eat your gourmet food you're pretty much fucked.

So Portland, I like you, you're neat, you have Powells and those other cool stores near there, and that other stuff...downtown, busses and shit....but I'll reserve judgment until you open up the equivalent of Boeing or Microsoft.

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