Dreaming of Portland

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I miss you.

For the month or two at a time that I’ve spent at home in the past year (probably adding up to about half the year, more or less), I’ve been happy. (So has my cat.) Sure, in these staccato bursts of time, I’ve watched you change. I’ve watched fortress-like condominiums pop up along my sleepy Division Street. I’ve eaten your eight dollar ice cream cones and dodged your new fleet of luxury SUVs with their eerily absent-minded drivers. I’ve seen the poverty that’s always been part of you thrown into sharp contrast as money and people are moved around. I’ve walked across town and biked across town and waited for buses that don’t come. I see your flaws more clearly than ever, but I miss you more than ever when you’re not around.

I’m writing this from Oakland, which is going headlong down a similar path, has been for longer. I wonder how we can learn from its mistakes and do it better. Can we create family wage jobs for all sorts of skill sets, not just white collar ones? Can the recent huge new influx of money and talent be leveraged to lift everyone up, connecting communities, disrupting the sense of entitlement that so often comes when the tides of money and power and population shift?

I’m not that hopeful, but we can sure try.

I set out to write this post with purely commercial motivations. I wanted to tell you about the books and maps and guide books about Portland that I sell. So here you go! My challenge to you is: Use these materials as tools for positive change. Ride around the outskirts and suburbs. Get to know the rest of the state. Take a long walk to explore a new part of town, and talk to the people you meet along the way. Chat about housing prices with locals you meet over beers before you inadvertently contribute to soaring costs by paying too much. Do the things that are still cheap and help them stay things. If you’re moving here because you like the bikey vibe, don’t bring your car dammit (trust me, you don’t need it as much as you think you do). Learn some of the history of how Portland’s magic came about. Keep it weird.

Portland, I miss you. But I want us all to do it better. We all have choices; let’s use them well.