I’m not sure to what degree I can trust a magazine called Monocle. But for what it’s worth, my hometown of Portland has landed on Monocle’s annual list of the world’s most livable cities, and it’s the only American city the London magazine has deemed worthy of its attention. Mind you, Portland is number 23 on the list, so America still doesn’t rank very high when it comes to Brits with monocles.

But what’s much more interesting than this supposed honor–we’ve been on plenty of lists, both good and bad–is the reaction of my fellow townfolk to it. Our local weekly posted about the Monocle article on its Facebook page, and here’s just a sampling of the comments:

Put a muzzle on it for feck sake! It’s getting ridiculous around here. Most nights I can’t even park on my own street. We need immigration control in Oregon!

Can we find who is the monstrous PR machine pushing Portland as the fucking mecca and stop them??!! Please! Can we do something to stop all the greedy developers and landlords?? I can’t fucking afford anything now. Kindly fuck off and give it a break with moving here already.

JUST STOP IT FOR FUCKS SAKE!!!! I already don’t even recognize streets from 15 years ago… STOP MOVING HERE!!!!

I get the sense that Portlanders are not crazy about change. Maybe we love our town so much, we want to freeze it in time and keep it just the way we imagine it is or was in the past.

But I’d like to send a completely different message out to all the interesting people of the universe. What you’ve heard is true! Portland is awesome. Come on over, you’ll love it! Help make this place into the dynamic, thriving metropolis it deserves to be. It’s wonderful now, but it has the potential to be so much more. Yeah, I know prices will rise in the process, but if things work the way they usually do, we should be able to make more money too. And I trust that all of you new residents will help expand and improve the art scene and the nightlife, as well. Stagnation is never good, not even when it’s cutesy Portlandia stagnation.

So like the anti-Tom McCall, I’m here to say “Don’t just visit, stay!” I did, over 20 years ago, and I haven’t regretted it. The first rule of Portland, as far as I’m concerned: tell everyone how fantastic Portland is.

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.

Ironically, right after I posted my gun conspiracy blog, we had our very own local school shooting here in the Portland metro area.  A high school freshman who was armed to the teeth entered Reynolds High School in Troutdale, OR, killed a fellow student and wounded a teacher and then, once he realized police were entering the school, shot himself.

What scared me just as much as the event itself was my reaction to it.  I held my breath in horror as I listened to the breaking news coming in on my radio at work.  But then, as I learned the extent of the shooting, I breathed a sigh of relief.  “Oh good.  Only two people dead.”  I caught my own reaction and was horrified all over again.  This is how used I’ve become to a world of spectacular acts of violence.  I expect to hear of 20, 30 dead–otherwise it’s not as big of a deal.  These are two individuals gone, one because of a random attack, the other seemingly because of mental illness.  Their families are grieving, the teenage boys won’t get a future, but hey, this was only a “small” shooting.

I can’t say that I really have good answers to any of the questions here.  Guns are a part of the problem, but only one part.  Clearly something inside of the kids leads them to feel that taking multiple lives is an acceptable response to the situation they’re in.  Something is broken there, but I don’t know how it can be fixed.  But regardless of what we think the solution is, the one thing I do know is that we cannot allow ourselves to get used to these shootings.  We can’t let them become a normal part of our daily life–although perhaps we already have.

So just as I decided to be whiny about it, I’ve been given a good reminder of why I should be grateful to live in Portland.  The entire Internet has been mocking the Idaho gubernatorial debate today, with its wacky Bible-quotin’ conspiracy-theory-spoutin’ candidates.  This brings back lovely memories, as I used to live in Idaho.  Only for a short time, but still, wow.

The Idaho of today seems at least slightly less homophobic, as one of the debaters opined that gay people love each other more than he does his motorcycle.  I can still remember the guy at my Boise school who told me that if he found out a person was gay, he would have no problem whatsoever with killing them (shudder).  Then there were the male students in my college class (a college class!) responding to a female professor’s lecture by saying that yes, in fact, women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.  While the boys were a bit more rude about it, the girls explained to me in a nice and polite way that they were going to submit to their husbands when they got married.  I think my jaw dropped to the ground and stayed there for the entire five years I lived in that state. 

In the end, it was too much for us.  We couldn’t handle Idaho.  Having just come from a stint in Holland and New York, the culture shock was too extreme to overcome.  We were singing on the day we packed up our U-Haul to leave.  And then it was time for our romance with Portland to begin.

I would like to add that there were a few wonderful and open-minded people I met in Idaho as well.  I feel for them–it’s not an easy life for those brave individuals.

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.

There were a few snow flurries this morning.  Nothing major.  The cold weather is here.  I can’t help wishing it would snow a little more, if only so I can experience the awesomeness that is our local snowpocalypse reporting.

Portland isn’t used to snow.  At all.  When a few inches fall, everything grinds to a halt.  Traffic slows to a crawl.  Not only do schools cancel classes–churches cancel Sunday services, which is baffling to my religious midwestern friends.  And our local news kicks into breaking news mode worthy of a terrorist attack.

The reporters are out in force, braving the snowflakes, wrapped in arctic explorer coats, snow pants, hats and goggles.  They measure the snow with rulers, apparently never having been told that snowdrifts get blown around by the wind and so this probably isn’t the most accurate way to measure accumulation.  Winter drama ensues.  Cars slide off roads.  Kids make tiny snowmen.  Trains stop running–I have no idea how our train system would even function if it had to run anywhere but on the West Coast.  One of my favorite TV moments ever involved a female journalist walking up to a man who was shoveling snow off the sidewalk and praising him for the “heroic work” he was doing.  The guy, who just happened to be from Chicago, almost died laughing.

So yeah, it’s all…kind of embarrassing, actually.  But it’s still more entertaining than run of the mill reality television.  Bring on the deadly snow!

They’re always around.  When we’re going to get our pastries or our drinks, they’re there.  When we’re out on our Sunday morning stroll, their clothing is scattered on the sidewalks.  A constant presence, even though I only give them a quick glance and rarely say anything to them beyond “Sorry”.

On the weekends, I visit my boyfriend in the Pearl District, one of the pricier neighborhoods in Portland.  It’s the kind of place where you will find boutiques for little dogs and co-op organic grocery stores.  And it’s where you will also find a large population of homeless people.  There are encampments under the bridge and makeshift beds in the grass next to empty gravel lots.  Even when the homeless remain out of view, you can see that much of the neighborhood itself has been constructed to repel them.  Benches are made to be uncomfortable on purpose.  One of the trendy apartment buildings has what I can only describe as a moat of water around it.  The police try to clear out the sleepers, and residents are battling against an entire tent city which is planning to move in next door to them.

I can understand that.  It’s scary walking past the camps.  Many of the people are angry and mentally ill and unpredictable.  They should be receiving care for their illness, but they won’t be, because in an age of government shutdowns, there are no resources for that sort of thing.

The world I currently live in tells me that this is all as it should be, that the homeless and the poor made bad decisions and are now dealing with the consequences.  The people living in the glass homes above are smart, and the people living in the streets below are stupid and lazy.  In fact, the wisdom of our age is that it’s any attempt to fix the causes of homelessness that is the true evil–those horrible do-gooders!–and not poverty and homelessness itself.

As with most of us here, the extent of my involvement is that I’ve occasionally given money, so I can’t pretend to offer some great solution.  What I can say is that I’m unable to look around and believe that this is the good and natural way for human society to work, and that any change to it will ruin this perfect system.  Perhaps I have not yet become adult enough, even in my middle age, to accept things as they are.

We had two big storms come through this weekend with lots of wind and rain.  The storms were actually remnants of typhoon Pabuk which had skirted Japan last week, and together they made for the rainiest September ever measured in Portland.  I’m happy to say that the damage was limited to a few toppled trees and some areas in the city which lost power.  In the Northwest, even record-breaking weather is relatively mild, unless you’re afraid of getting soggy.

Yep, weather events in this country continue to break all kinds of records.  I’m glad to hear that all this climate change stuff is complete nonsense and that I’m just imagining it all.  There has been a United Nations report issued which tells us that scientists are “extremely confident” man-made activity is causing the climate to warm up.  But after all, the United Nations is just a global conspiracy, and all those scientists have been bribed to be a part of it.

More than anything else, it’s a relief to know that Rush Limbaugh can “dispel” all the global warming evidence with his religious beliefs, as he said on his show.  Or…it would be a relief, if I knew exactly what Rush’s religious beliefs were.  I’m pretty sure the man worships the Golden Calf, so that’s not reassuring at all.  I suspect that Rush’s beliefs probably heat up the Earth even more.

Well, September isn’t quite over yet for a few hours, and here it sounds like it’s raining again.  Or am I imagining the rain?  What does reality have to do with it, anyway? 

 

I’m torn about the rodeo clown thing.  On the one hand, I’m offended and disgusted by what the clown did, and even more disgusted by the audience of morons cheering him on.  But I still don’t want his right to be a blithering idiot taken away, and here’s why:

Because one day Paul Ryan might be President.  And as President Ryan goes on his merry way privatizing Medicare and outlawing abortion, there will no doubt be a late-night burlesque show taking place somewhere in Portland, in which Paul Ryan (or someone wearing a mask) will dance seductively in lingerie and a garter belt, simulate sex with the Koch brothers, and then get bent over and spanked with a dildo, as is our way here in PDX.  And if Paul Ryan ever becomes President, then goddammit, I really, really want to be able to see that show.

I want to be able to mock the future Republican President just as relentlessly as I did back when W was in power.  My concern is that I’m going to have to deal with a bunch of right-wingers whining that “Well, you wouldn’t let us do this with your President!”

The most satisfying revenge against stupid people, including stupid racists, is not to censor them–it’s to give them a proper spanking when it’s their turn.