Illustration by Ryan Alexander-Tanner

I THINK symbols lose their original meaning the more they're proliferated. Like, somewhere out there are probably people who are actually very into whatever the fuck it is Che Guevara was all woopty-woop about. I'm sure they're shocked/appalled/shock-and-y'alled about the appearance of their dude Ernesto on Hummer tire covers and hedge fund managers' weekend T-shirts. His face used to mean something, probably.

I don't really know what it used to mean though, because by the time I became aware of Che Guevara, his face meant "I AM THE WORST GUY AT THIS PARTY" way more than it meant "MARXISM!" A Che T-shirt just means you owned a Michael Franti album at one point in your life.

That pissed-off "Don't Tread on Me" snake on the Gadsden flag used to be a super-rad relic of American nut/ovary flexing. It was patriotic, but it wasn't syrupy, like if Uncle Sam had a brother who was really into Southern metal... Uncle Tugboat. Now that iconic snake is a Tea Party fuckpile.

It's a bummer when those meanings become obscured, it's annoying to see people drape themselves in images in lieu of personality, but I don't really have a stake in Che or snakes. I do have a stake in the carpet in the Portland Airport though. (OH SHIT THIS TURNED OUT TO BE ABOUT THE CARPET IN THE PDX AIRPORT, FUCK YOU, KARMEL.)

Most of the yous who are reading this are fortunate enough to experience Portland as a resident of Portland. I have the consistent dissatisfaction of being an expat, forced south to toil away in Hollywood's comedy mines. I return often, though. My wonderful family remains in Portland, my closest friends are in Portland, and my beautiful, hyper-intelligent girlfriend, so capable and funny and brilliant that she seems like a character plucked out of American folklore (SHE PUNCHED THE GRAND CANYON INTO THE GROUND SO THERE'D BE SOMETHING SO WIDE THAT EVEN SHE COULDN'T JUMP ACROSS IT, THEN SHE JUMPED ACROSS IT) is presently in Portland. Everything I love is in Portland, and when I set foot on that carpet, I feel refreshed. I feel flooded with meaning. I know it means I'll soon be walking down familiar streets.

I don't understand why people are so annoyed by the proliferation of THIS image. I don't understand the caterwauling. Portland is a city with such a singular feeling, and coming and going has an impact. Your life changed, your circumstances changed as you came home and left home... people died, relationships ended, you weren't a kid anymore, you weren't in your 20s anymore, but that carpet was still there AND I REALIZE HOW MUCH MEANING I'M BESTOWING UPON A CARPET, BUT SYMBOLS HAVE MEANING, AND IF PEOPLE WANNA WEAR SOCKS WITH THAT SYMBOL, WHY THE FUCK DO YOU CARE? The fuck you gotta be such a killjoy?

When I see that carpet I think about coming home to meet my nephew, I think about coming home to bury my aunt, I think about making my dad laugh and hugging my mother for the first time in months. When I see the carpet I think about hopping into an idling car, steered faithfully by my girlfriend. Seeing that carpet on someone's T-shirt doesn't ruin it for me.