I don’t want to say too much about this, because I could go on forever, and a lot of this is like a systemic problem of every major American city, and I don’t want to offend anyone, and so on. . . .
But here are a few things that are driving me insane about this doughy, white-bread, cheesedick city I am in (which I consider myself to be a short-term visitor of, and not a resident). The city, by the way, begins with a “P” and is in the otherwise cool state of Oregon. I’ll let you figure it out!!
I haven’t seen a non-white person in over a month.
It’s true! I also haven’t seen anyone over the age of 35 (or under the age of 16) in about as long. I don’t see old people. I don’t see children. I don’t see anyone who isn’t a capital-W capital-P “White Person.” Everywhere I go, someone is dressed like Pinocchio (yes), or wearing a brand new denim jacket, or arguing about non-GMO foods, or proudly displaying a “VEGAN” tattoo while chain-smoking and holding a Rainier tallboy. As I have mentioned previously, most of these people are harmless. Generally they are obnoxious and annoying, and vain and superficial, and wrapped up in their own idea of coolness— which, hey, whatever. But some of them are all those things, and are also huge dicks. They are usually not from this city, though—they are from the Midwest.
Everyone is soft and unchallenged.
Unless you hate gourmet cupcakes and artisanal cheese and small-batch craft beer (uh oh, that’s me), you never really have to feel uncomfortable here. At worst, some meth head downtown will hallucinate that you are their dead uncle or something, and they’ll start screaming at you. But you just keep on walking. I’ve watched hundreds of people do this. Otherwise everyone here just drinks coffee and beer, and eats at overhyped food trucks and fad restaurants that the New York Times wrote a blurb about two years ago. If you were to eavesdrop on any conversation here (or, worse, be cursed with a hyper-sensitivity to the people around you to the point where you can’t not hear them (uh oh, that’s me)), you will hear people talking about their favorite brunch spots, or some dumb bar that has “a sick happy hour, dude.” People are always describing other times they’ve been drunk. Every single day of my life I hear a human being talk about a cocktail they had that was “so insane.” C’mon, man. Who are you kidding with that shit. It’s a fucking beverage.
Boutique-ification and the ubiquity of sterile, inhuman, slippery, frictionless environments.
This is affecting every city I can think of, but maybe this is the city where it was born. Everything is a boutique here. Everything is cute and safe and was designed by some asshole graphic designer who wears argyle socks and wood-framed glasses. My friend Natalie bought me lunch the other day (because “You seem bummed out, dude” ((thanx Natalie)), and Lord have mercy was this restaurant the worst place I’ve ever been. It was so try-hard. I mean, Natalie thought so too, so I’m not being mean. I got a “quinoa burger” on a “plant-based” bun, and I’ll tell you what, that patty did not want to be on that bun. It slipped around between the bread like a greased up hockey puck.
When I went to throw my trash away, this is what I had to deal with:
Oh my GOD shut up with this stuff. “Pint glass happy place” made me roll my eyes so hard I heard my eyeballs scrape against the inside of my skull. Everything is like this. Instead of using one or two time-tested, bullshit-and-jargon-free words, everything in this city has to use a fucking paragraph of worthless cuddly baby-talk just to tell you how to throw your garbage away. I’m surprised this sign didn’t also teach me how to tie my shoes or wipe my ass.
I feel like I am that patty, and the city is the bun. I am slipping around here because there is nothing to hang on to. I walk past these artisanal ice cream joints (which have a line around the block from sunup to sundown (seriously)), and these fancy bars and restaurants and so on, and inside I see totally frictionless environments that I can’t imagine any warm-blooded non-reptilian human feeling comfortable occupying. I would honestly rather hang out in a funeral home or a Chuck E. Cheese parking lot than drink a $12 beer in one of these places. There is just something off about them. It all looks so clean and modular—like they built the whole place seconds before you walked past the window. Now take a pub or a family-owned restaurant in Chicago, for instance, and it feels like a place where, for decades, humans have gotten comfortable, and have had conversations and experienced things, and so on. It feels, uh, like a real place. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to sit at a table that is one molded piece of plastic, or on weird, hip, backless chairs tucked beneath a “repurposed” chessboard.
When people come to visit me, they ask me what I do here, and I have no idea what to tell them.
I walk around at night. That’s about all I do when I leave my house. I don’t even go grocery shopping unless it’s nighttime, because that means there are less of those lizard-y schlubs walking around my neighborhood. I don’t go to any bars, I don’t go to any restaurants, I don’t go downtown. I honestly have no idea what you’re supposed to do here. Everyone seems to eat and drink and then go hang out in a basement with the same people they’ve been hanging out with since 9th grade. I swear I’m not being mean here—that’s actually what it’s like. The entire economy seems to be based on comforting people, and little else. You might be surprised to know that there’s a police department, and hospitals, and schools, and so on. This is actually a place where people live and work, but for the most part all of this is behind the scenes, and you don’t often encounter it. The city just kind of comes across like Disneyland for people who have pins for all their favorite bands on their jackets.
There are very few personality types here.
Almost every dude you meet here is exactly the same. I don’t know any of them for this reason. Though, hell, I guess you’d only need to know one of them to get the whole experience, because then you’d pretty much know everyone in the whole city. Also, everyone you talk to seems to have this arcane knowledge of every piece of media they’ve consumed. You mention a band you like, and someone will say something like: “The bassist had a side-project in the mid-70s, and he put out this incredible EP . . . I think there were only a few hundred copies pressed, and they were Japan exclusives, but if you can track down a copy, it’s some of the most insane stuff you’ve ever heard.” It’s almost like everyone reads the same Wikipedia articles, or something. Often conversations will terminate with: “His early work is so good . . . it’s like this French impressionist, film noir-feeling stuff . . . really surreal.” “Yeah, I’ve seen it.” “It’s good.” “Yeah, it is.”
It feels like living in a toothless boring limbo.
No one I know loves it here. It’s just “OK.” This city does not in any way elicit any strong emotions in anyone I know. They’ll shrug and say, Well, where else would I go? Man, that’s a weird way to feel about the place where you spend all your time! I myself find that I can’t really get a lock on anything here. It’s hard for me to feel anything at all. This place has no teeth. It has no balls. It has no grit, and nothing to chew on. It is a colorless, odorless dollop of protoplasm.
Couples dress alike and it’s terrifying to watch them make out.
This might actually be the worst one! Everywhere you go, you are bound to see a few couples wearing the exact same clothes. Often they have the same haircuts too! And the same glasses! And shoes! Holy lord!! And because it seems like everyone is always on a god darn date, you’ll see them making out all over the place: in parks, in restaurants, in bars, at bus stops. You can see how this would be absolutely horrifying if the people who are making out look exactly like each other! Do they really just want to fuck themselves?? Also, why does it seem like these couple are always wearing striped shirts and denim jackets. . . ? Why is that a thing???
My friend Stevie said to me the other day: “This place would be great if no one lived here.” I have felt this same thing many many times. Whenever I go out walking at night, not encountering a single other human (the city shuts down at 8 p.m.), I’ll always think, “This is great! What a beautiful place!!!” But then the sun comes up, and uh oh, it’s filled with cheese-eating marshmallow people again.
The river is nice. The weather is nice. There are seasons. It snows. There are flowers, mostly roses, all over the place. There is very little crime. The state of Oregon is progressive and really does take care of its people. You’re surrounded in every direction by beautiful forests. Looming in the distance is an inactive volcano that you can drive to in about an hour. The ocean is only an hour away too.
. . . it’s just too bad about everything else!!!!