Illustration by Ryan Alexander-Tanner

THE CITY YOU LOVE is already dead. The symbolic light of Portland is a signal from a star that burnt out long before you saw it. This can happen. This is what happens. This is the only thing that happens. Produce Row closes, and then Slabtown closes, and they've got their sights set on Chopsticks II. And soon every wall that soaked up your raucous laughter and breakup lunches will be painted over. The table that held all 15 shots you powered through on your 21st birthday will be torn from its anchoring and tossed unceremoniously into a dumpster. A condo will stand astride the footprint of the restaurant where you proposed. A bully—full of people from fucking Tucson or Boston or wherever—who's not so much uncaring as just not thinking about that ground's indisputable meaning.

They are tearing down an actual wonderland and replacing it with Disneyland. But these are the symptoms, not the disease. Portland is a victim of its own wonderfulness, and now we face the challenge of maintaining the feeling that brought us here in the first place, that kept us here or keeps us coming back. We have to actively not be San Francisco, a city that had its cultural pockets rolled by its own financial success. They say the condos will keep the rent down, bringing it from, "It's hilarious that you think I can afford that," to, "Look, it's still pretty funny that you think I can afford that."

Maybe that's true, but it's also a lot harder to cram six roommates into a condo. It's a lot harder to hang up several sheets and turn a condo living room into a bedroom. They check your credit when you try to get a condo. A condo party feels so inherently and fundamentally different from a house party. But, you know, here we are, and we can't not be here. "This fucking sucks," isn't a solution, or even a useful thought.

The city you love isn't really what you love. The light of Portland isn't cast by the neon glow of a sign that's been flickering since your grandfather was getting carded. Sorry for what I'm about to say, because I know exactly how it sounds even as I'm writing it: You are the light of Portland. You are the common thread in every memory this city has given you. You drank those shots, and stumbled into those walls, inebriated by alcohol or feeling. Places have meaning, and it's a churning sort of awful that these places are being torn apart, brick by brick, by the invisible hand.

But know this: You can have a meaningful moment at the Old Spaghetti Factory if the conditions are right. Now also know this: You won't need to. This city isn't weird, the people are, and even though you're being pushed away from the Willamette River by America's bulging fetishization of the Rose City, you aren't being pushed out of Portland. You are Portland.