It was the summer of 1980 and I was visiting a college friend who was working on John Anderson’s campaign. All I remember about Portland, Oregon was that the place was covered with ash because Mount St. Helen’s had just errupted. That, and the rose garden. That’s it.
Okay, so here I am back in Portland 30+ years later and let me say, it’s a weird place. A very odd rendezvous of hipster-cool and professional homelessness. Everyone in this city seems to be under 30, and they’re either annoyingly hip or lying in a bedroll in the bushes. There is very little in between.
Tonight at dinner I watched a “homeless” couple arrive at their street corner, unroll the bedroll, put out the dog like a prop, then unfurl a sign which read: “Hoping For A Cheeseburger.” After about an hour and a half, the lady in the party disappeared, only to return with a bag of sandwiches. They then picked up the dog and the bedroll and repaired to a shady spot beneath a tree, where they enjoyed their dinner break. There was something so perfunctory about the whole business, as if this was their job, which I guess in a manner of speaking it was. It was a complete 180 from the previous evening, where we enjoyed cocktails at a rooftop bar so hopelessly hip and cool, there was an actual stampede of black-clad 20-somethings trying to grab a seat when the doors opened at 4 pm.
I’m sorry if you live here and I’ve offended you. I just find this city incredibly strange. I don’t think I’d want to live here. But I will say this: we’ve had gorgeous weather, enjoyed the art museum, and ate a lot of really excellent meals. The city is clean and the public transit is efficient. So there’s a lot going for it.
A booth at the Saturday Market:
A homeless camp at the entrance to Chinatown:
At the Japanese Garden:
How uncool of me to act the tourist and take pictures from Portland’s hippest rooftop bar! Oh well, sue me: