And so I did what any self-respecting, insecure Oregonian who’d drunk too much of the California Kool-Aid would do. While Chris fell right into place with most of the other non-natives who all seemed to have a Portland-praising form of Tourette’s, I quickly developed a “me versus Oregon” stance.
Right after I moved, a bicyclist saw my California plates and yelled, “Go back to Cali!” I imagined clotheslining him with my car door. I was openly annoyed by the pushy bikers, the Waldorf school zealots, and the people who think everyone else should be enamored of their dog or baby. Everyone around me seemed content with just making it through the day—which is understandable, because it takes a lot of energy to eat three square meals when you have so many food “intolerances.”
“You’re not going to leave, are you?” a friend asked me one day after I waxed vitriolic about how I couldn’t stand the slow, chatty checkers at New Seasons.
“Of course not,” I said. “It’s not that I dislike Portland.”
I really don’t. Even I know how stupid my complaints sound—slow but happy grocery checkers do not a hellhole make. And yes, the anarchist clowns and vegan strip clubs and the Rose City Rollers are all charming. But to me, it’s Eugene all over again. In other words, you don’t need fame and fortune if you live in Portland, because wearing fairy wings while you ride a unicycle means you’re plenty awesome enough. Or maybe I’m just mad that the people in the fairy wings have absolutely no interest in what I learned Out There.
By now you’re probably all wondering why I don’t just direct my Honda back to my beloved La-La Land, never to be seen again in this frontier valley.
Allow me to step down from my high horse for a second. Here’s what I’m coming to realize: I don’t want to leave because Portland is the frontier. And the reason that many of us move back here from places like Los Angeles or New York City is that we want to be a part of that. Since the city is still shaping itself, it’s a lot easier to form one’s identity here. Los Angeles? Already shaped—and if you’re the square peg, that city’s round hole won’t change for you. New York City? Same thing. Tulsa, Oklahoma, where my fiancé is from? They vote down change every chance they get.
Portland, on the other hand, is still growing up. After moving here, it’s become apparent: So am I.