Portland is a Big Fucking Mess

I visited Portland today. I haven’t been there in a while. I drove through on the way to a vigil for a young black man I knew who was executed by the Vancouver police. We didn’t stop in the city on our way through and were there after dark anyway, so it didn’t really count as going to Portland. I think the last time I visited for real, where I was actually in the city, was when I went to a protest. Again though, dark and not really a visit. Great video footage though (after the first minute when I had to try and organize the camera while wearing a gas mask and gloves), available here.

The point of this ramble is that it’s been a very long while since I have actually been in Portland and good fucking god, what a damn mess it is. It looks like in a movie where the apocalypse is happening or has happened and everything has gone to shit. There is graffiti and trash everywhere. Poor Tom McCall must be rolling over in his grave.

What I really don’t understand is why people don’t pick up the damn garbage that’s everywhere. Further, why did they toss it on the ground in the first place? It’s like all these people from all over the place moved to the “Most Livable City” and then shit all over it so it’s like where they came from. It’s not the most livable city anymore. Being the most livable city was all a big marketing joke anyway. The second the city “leaders” decided to make the ad campaign to try and get people to move to Portland was the second it turned from being somewhat okay to being not livable at all. I left it 3 years ago because it was not livable. There were too many people and too much traffic and too many people with money shitting on people without money and way too much narcissism masking itself as progressivism and it sucked, but now? Now it’s all that and an ugly damn mess too.

Years ago right after I graduated from high school I moved to Connecticut to be a nanny. I lived in Stamford. While there, I met a boy from Westchester county in New York. He became my boyfriend and every second I wasn’t nannying I drove to Larchmont from Stamford to see him. The line between the state of Connecticut and the state of New York was stark: the Connecticut side was clean, the New York side was exactly like Portland is right now. I always found it shocking the difference between the two places. Clearly the good people of New York didn’t give enough of a shit to clean up after themselves and to keep from tossing trash out on the ground in the first place. All of those New Yorkers have now moved to Portland and brought their good habits with them. Thank you, Portland leaders, for trying to “grow” the city. You have done the state proud!

Since I was in Portland, I figured I would try and buy some jeans. My jeans have gradually been wearing out and I’m picky about how jeans feel when I wear them. My daughter Milla was with me and we decided we would brave it and go to Lloyd Center to see if I could find something I would be willing to wear that didn’t cost a half a million dollars. Boy howdy that mall looked like the apocalypse had hit. Most of the stores were gone. The doors were all gated. A few people milled around, but it was virtually empty.

I did mention to Milla that I hoped the idiots who spent a fortune destroying the old ice rink and replacing it with a big empty space–seriously that is what they did, reduced the ice rink size by half and replaced it with a big empty space of ugly linoleum–were losing money. I hate malls, but the ice rink was actually a fun place to go. They had ice skating lessons that were always full. It was a good place for families and they ruined it to put in a tiny ice rink and charge three times as much to skate there. Typical asshat capitalists.

ANYway. I digress. The point is that the mall there is failing completely. Of course, the only remaining businesses were the multinational disgusto crap stores that are everywhere the US has shit all over. I needed to use the restroom and it used to be that the Starbucks at one end was the only place to go. It was gone. Even that corporate behemoth decided it wasn’t worth it to stick around. The small businesses were all gone. Can we just raze the thing and plant a forest again, Stumptown?

We didn’t stay long. We couldn’t take it. I don’t need jeans that bad. The mall was still playing Christmas music (Wtf, people? It’s December 29. When do we get free from the fucking Christmas music that started four months ago?). The fluorescent lights were much too cold and bright. Driving away we filmed the streets lined with garbage. We drove by a Starbucks that had a light pole bent in half in the grassy strip next to the parking lot. At first I thought it was art, but no. It was a knocked over and bent in half light pole. How in the hell did that even happen?

When I got home I searched the Internet for Portland is a mess. I found a couple of articles talking about the paint on the federal buildings in downtown, but that is it. Has anyone there noticed that the city is a disaster?

Here’s the thing I have never been able to understand. Why is it when things are falling apart don’t people still give a shit enough to pick up the trash? Why do they just toss it on the ground? Why don’t they care enough to clean stuff up? Doesn’t anyone care? The good progressives of the city can’t be bothered to fucking clean up after themselves? (Don’t assume that because I’m snarky about the good progressives that I’m right wing at all–I’m not. I just can’t abide by the holier than thou nonsense authoritarianism of those who consider themselves “progressive.”) Are they scared that the Covid will get them if they pick up the shit lying around everywhere? Wear a damn mask and pick up your trash already. Better yet, don’t throw it on the ground in the first place. It’s not that hard.

Today I told Milla that there is a whole segment of the state that wants to secede and become a part of Idaho. Instead of having half the state secede and join Idaho, I told her, why not just let Portland become its own little state? I don’t think the rest of us should become a bunch of federal building takeover nutjobs (which is what I think the Idaho secessionists would like), but maybe we can put a bit of Oregon back in Oregon and leave the Brooklyn-Los Angeles-Seattle-San Francisco wannabe Portland to itself. They’re well on their way.

I don’t have any more to say about this or any clever tie up for the end. It’s a sad state of affairs what Portland has become, but it’s not surprising. The city has long catered to a certain class of people, courted capitalism light, and patted itself on the back for its perceived good deeds all the while ignoring incredibly rising housing costs, cutting services to the poor, trampling on black and brown people, and gentrifying the hell out of everything. Covid and protests and fires have only ripped the skin off and revealed the ugly innards for all to see. There was a reason I couldn’t stand living there. I’m just grateful I was able to leave.


Christmas time is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun for all that children call their favorite time of year.

This season has never felt more disconnected from reality, more cheerless, more completely banal and overrun by greed and irreverence by the corporate class than ever before. I think perhaps it has been a long time coming, this feeling I have of disembodiment from the entire holiday as expressed in America.

It began with the surreal experience of Christmas trees and decorations in August in Costco. It soon spread to other stores, more virulent than the Covid seems to be. The Covid was of course the excuse for such blatant merchandising, but my memory is not that short, despite what retailers would have me believe. The stuff came out early the last few years as well. Yet in the last few years, they seemed to have had the ability to hold off their gratification long enough for Halloween to pass before hauling out the muzak in October. This year, I heard Christmas music in a store before Halloween. It made me leave.

This inability to delay gratification has infused every aspect of our culture. It’s the toddlerification of every corner of our lives. It goes beyond pushing Christmas out three months early and is part of the “We just want to keep you safe!” bullshit mantra that has become completely normalized. When you leave a restaurant or store, the salespeople call out, “Stay safe!” because with the Covid, you know, we aren’t safe, and therefore it needs to be shouted at us from every floor, wall, countertop, toilet, and person walking by.

The toddlerification is taken even further by the babysitters out there who want to tattle to the police state about bloody everything, like someone “Wasn’t wearing a mask!” (or that a black person walked by wearing a grey t-shirt so come and kill him now!) A young man I knew was shot by the police in Vancouver, executed with 34 shots by the “officers” who were doing their “duty.” I usually avoid mainstream news like the plague because so much of it is so unimaginative and pandering, I just can’t take it. However, because Kevin had been murdered, I was reading the Oregonlive website, our state’s version of news. I got sucked in and clicked the link to Dear Prudence or whatever her name is (she’s prudent so she can answer questions any 8 year old could figure out). The headline was My Children won’t Vaccinate. Should I Kidnap the Child and Take him to the Doctor Myself? Yes. Everyone knows better than everyone else how to live their lives and they are damn well going to point it out to them, and if they don’t live their lives as the good neighbor thinks they should then the good neighbor will get in there and live it for them (because their life is perfect and they want to make yours perfect too!), so please. Kidnap your grandchild and get his damn shots because you know best (or maybe not since you raised a person who wouldn’t get the vaccinations you so crave?).

NextDoor, that social networking app for your neighborhood, is a veritable trove of babysitters telling everyone else how to live their lives. “I went to the park and so-and-so wasn’t wearing a mask! How DARE they!?!?! (Of course, multiple punctuation marks is de rigueur to emphasize just how upset they are.) Multiple good neighbors will chime in their tsk, tsks. Periodically someone rational will point out that masks alone outside don’t really do anything or that the research actually shows that masks don’t do much of a damn thing and even include a link saying as much and good god, all hell breaks loose on these people. It’s like the zombies found a live body to feed upon.

But sometimes, sometimes I just can’t help myself. I’m only signed up for the “Crime and Safety” emails on NextDoor that are theoretically set up to let us know that someone has been robbing the neighborhood so keep the gates locked, etc. It does happen around here and my daughter has been known to leave her bike out now and then, so I signed up to get an email when someone posts in this section.

Unfortunately though, not everyone who uses NextDoor understands that they are supposed to post in the section to which their topic relates. Either that or they think that posts about murdering the other creatures we share our lives with is Crime and Safety? I don’t know. In any case, periodically there will be a post about how, hands wringing, something else exists so what should be done?!? “There are hornets in the yard. How do I kill them?” “There are gophers in the yard. How do I kill them?” “An ant walked across my counter. How do I kill it?” Then the whole neighborhood chimes in about how to murder the rest of the planet and I just can’t help myself. I have to be that one person who dares to say to leave them alone.

A couple of weeks ago we were suffering torrential rains. The crazy, warm atmosphere caused the skies to pour gallons on us. Someone posted in Crime and Safety that rats were coming on her deck. What should she do about it? The answers were pretty typical. Cruel and brutal, all were some form of murdering of the rats. I love rats and it made me sick so I got sucked in and said to leave them alone, and that they would leave when the rains ended. I’m still getting responses from people letting me know how stupid I am and why these rats should have been murdered. Interestingly, every answer people give applies to humans too, so I like to point that out. Do you see your hypocrisy here, people? Too many dirty people complaining there are too many dirty rats. I’m being the toddler who stirs the pot and I do know it. Really I just avoid the damn thing because it just pisses me off.

I wrote this and then sat on it for a few days because something interrupted me. In the meantime I actually just deactivated myself on NextDoor. I couldn’t take it anymore and I haven’t missed it.

This wasn’t going to be a ranty post about this culture. It was going to be my realization that this Christmas season feels false and surreal. That feeling hasn’t left. I can’t decide if I feel like it’s dreary January 5 weeks after the holiday because the country pushed the “celebration” out three months early, or if my discontent has simply been a long time coming because every year feels like so much less than what I wanted it to for so long. I suspect it’s a combination of both. In either case, I’m not in it. I’m outside of it. Seeing trees on people’s cars just seems sad to me. Death culture kills and uses that death as part of its celebrations. I can hear them now, those who would tell me to focus on the rebirth aspect and the connection with family. But can’t I do that without using a pretend holiday I feel no connection to and which has become a symbol of all I find abhorrent? Perhaps.

I feel like humanity is in a tunnel. We can stay where we are in the middle of this tunnel and keep doing what we have been doing and likely end up destroying ourselves and the planet in the process. Or we can move on and make different choices, ones that aren’t mired in greed, death, and destruction. I feel like we are on a precipice and a large number of people want us to stay here, but they don’t realize that the place on which we perch is a cliff and we could so easily topple off.

So keep up the charade. Go kill a tree. Cover it with trinkets. Play the same songs you have heard 8000 times. Hang lights on your dwelling. Get some paper made from other dead trees. Wrap it around another trinket. Take the paper off the trinket and throw the paper away. Add the trinket to the other pile of trinkets you already have. Keep playing the songs.

Maybe we could just do this all year long. Maybe, except for the tree in the living room, we already do.