I miss downtown Portland.  I used to go there every couple of days, for work or for socializing or just my own entertainment, but haven’t been there in a while for the obvious reasons–I’m working from home full-time now, and haven’t been going out to do anything beyond the bare minimum since the lockdown started.

I miss my favorite places–our own, much smaller version of Broadway, the huge Powell’s bookstore, the Central Library, my favorite hangout Case Study Coffee, and of course, all those bridges.

Don’t get me wrong, my neighborhood is very nice.  But being in the suburbs all day long can…drive you a little nuts.

It’s been a few weeks since the last time I drove through downtown, so I have no idea what it looks like right now.  From what I hear, it’s been bruised and battered a bit.  First the pandemic closed down businesses, and then it got hit a second time by the social unrest.  Some fires were set and some windows were broken, and there is quite a lot of plywood up.

But that’s okay.  Change and turmoil happens to everyone and everything, and that includes cities.  Portland is still my city and our city, and we will clean it up and open it back up someday.  Except that, hopefully, we will not bring it back to what “normal” used to be–we will make it even better, a more beautiful and more caring and more creative place than it was before.

See you soon, PDX.

Downtown Pics BroadwayDowntown Pics SunnyDowntown Pics Wells Fargo

 

An endless blue summer sky stretches over me. The only sound I hear is the birds chirping in the trees. Hardly a blade of grass is stirring on this quiet, peaceful day.

It’s…kind of terrifying, actually.

There are many days when I wonder how, exactly, I ended up in the suburbs. It must have been the lure of homeownership–and granted, that was a great investment. But I had always imagined myself in a red brick apartment building somewhere, suspended above hot concrete, preferably staring down at the world from a fire escape. As it turns out, the flow of life deposited me in a very different place than I had expected.

However, even on this stale summer’s day, something is stirring. Something is moving, like insects eating away at the insides of an old tree. A transformation is happening in my neighborhood. My town is growing, and we’re filling up.

Back in the 1970s, Oregon established an urban growth boundary requirement for its cities. It’s a strict zoning regulation–urban development is not allowed beyond the boundary. The Portland metro area can’t sprawl. This means there is rolling farmland right past our city limits. It also means that my suburb is running out of room, and so there are high-density three and four story condo developments cropping up in every nook and cranny.

A lot of Portland residents dislike this sort of growth. Some of my neighbors are worried about too many people, problems with too much traffic and too much noise. I’m secretly loving it. I like that there are more pedestrians walking the streets, bigger crowds at my train stop. The area is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse as well. I will miss the meadows I used to see from the train window, but let’s face it, I’m excited about the cafes and bars that will take their place. My house is going up in value, and I’m already eyeing the condos for when I’m ready to make the jump–I’m not into having a yard anyway.

Most days, the only sounds I hear are still the birds and those damned sprinklers. But more and more often, as I close my eyes and listen, I hear other sounds–honking horns, loud voices, motorcycles–drifting in my direction. Things are never going to be the same–and that’s wonderful.

Dear Portland…our relationship has been difficult lately.

There was the time when we went for a gallery walk on First Thursday and none of the art galleries were open, because it turns out you shut everything down super early.  The same thing happened when my friends and I decided to go out on a Wednesday evening.  The night was still young, but you were a ghost town.  As my mother so aptly put it, “Portlanders go to bed with the chickens…except that here, the chickens are wearing hand-knitted sweaters.”  Portland, you’re a city.  Part of the deal is that you’re supposed to entertain me after it gets dark.

And do I even have to bring up Cover Oregon?  You had such big plans–our health insurance exchange was going to be the most ambitious in the country.  Obviously, it did not work out that way.  It’s embarrassing when Kentucky does a better job at socialist health care than we do.  And now, the FBI might be investigating Cover Oregon to see where all that money went.  Portland, please leave corruption to the big boys like Chicago.  You are inept at it.

But in spite of it all, I still love you.  Even though you try way too hard to impress me with your weirdness–were the bearded men in tutus really necessary?  Even though you’re not very wealthy, not very good at sports or business.  Every time I think about walking away into the arms of New York City, I end up staying.  You’re just so damn pretty and intelligent.  And like you, I’m a failing dreamer.  Yeah, we’re stuck with each other.  I’m even willing to forgive you for that Unipiper guy.

Like any long-time lover in a worn relationship, all I ask for anymore are the simple things.  Please, would you give me sunny weather for my week off?  I know late May is when you bring back the rain, but will you make an exception for me?  I won’t complain when it rains in June, I promise.  I’ll post pictures of you on my Facebook and talk about how beautiful you are.  I know how much you like being flattered.

P.S. —  I’m also planning to see an art exhibit this Sunday.  I’m sure it will be empty and closed.

xoxo, Karolina

So this is what it’s like when your favorite city becomes a minefield, every place you go a reminder of what you’ve lost.  The park trails you used to hike.  The scones you would eat in the morning.  The police horses sneaking nibbles of grass through the fence, the cormorants over the cold river.  The streets which were white that last time you got snowed in together.

I will forever love my rainy little town, but right now every moment in it brings a tiny explosion of pain.  In time, I will be stronger again, and Portland will turn back from a minefield into a city.