I THINK I HATE Portland. Having just typed that, there's no way I mean it, but RIGHT NOW THAT IS THE TRUTH THAT LIVES IN MY HEART. It's my immediate knee-jerk reaction—like in that pure, unstepped-on figurative sense. If a doctor thwacked me intently on my Portland bone, I would spastically blurt, "NAW, NOT FEELING IT."
It's not even the litany of complaints people register about the rapidly changing city, either. I don't really care that people are moving to Portland from California. I care about gentrification in the same way that I care about global warming, which is to say I'm concerned about it on the internet, but do very little to combat it in my everyday life. (In fact, if the amount of money I've spent on dinners on Mississippi, Alberta, and Williams this year is to be believed, I'm fully supporting gentrification.)
Those problems are real and they're a bummer (to put it mildly), but they're such a familiar rogues' gallery of issues that it's almost impossible to consider them a threat. It's like the Joker popping up in a Batman comic; it's more comforting than menacing. (This is a very easy thing to say as an economically secure person who moved to California for work, but from conversation and observation, I know a bunch of you feel the same.)
I think I hate Portland because of how I use Portland. I've turned it into an ideal. I've made it my port (WHOA-HO-HO!!!!!!) in the storm, except it's one of those pirate ports where I get black-out drunk and surly (or happy, but just very large emotionally), or sometimes just a little drunk and blissed out (or depressed, you know).
I act entitled to Portland, because I've contributed maybe two paragraphs to the city's long, loopy cultural history. I don't know why I do it, but I suspect it's because every time I visit the city I'm reminded of how I used to be when I was still there, which is also how I used to be when I was still, like, 25 years old. I'm reminded of being a big, fat Jewish Santa Claus made out of potential—just talking shit and having sandwiches named after me. I'm reminded of a time when the star by which I set my navigation was a beautiful, twinkling light in the impossible distance, and not a big hot-as-fuck sun singeing my hair and beef jerkying the fuck out of my skin.
I think it was John Grisham who wrote, "You can't go home again." You also can't go back to age 25 again, and maybe that's what Michael Crichton meant when he said, "You can't go home again." The fact is I'm 30 and living in Los Angeles, and I have a really great fucking life. Hopefully I can quit treating Portland like a malfunctioning time machine and start enjoying it the way it's meant to be enjoyed—as Disneyland for people who bought a mandolin once. Until then, I think it was Marilyn vos Savant who said it best: "You can't go home again." @IanKarmel