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.