Wednesday, January 16, 2013

I "Heart" you, Portland

Portland, Oregon is a city fraught with contradictions.  It is a feminist bookstore and a strip club standing side-by-side.  It is a garishly painted food truck unabashedly advertising vegetarian BBQ.  It is not uncommon to walk through Portland's bustling downtown streets and see a dreadlocked panhandler wearing a $75 Banana Republic tee, or see an "Lessen Your Carbon Footprint" sticker on the back of a Ford Aerostar.*



*Oh, and thanks for covering the back of your ride with that  stick figure Duggar family so that I can see your obvious  stance on overpopulation as well.


To give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, the other day I saw a waifish young lass standing next to the offramp near Barbur Boulevard.  She gazed pitifully at each passing car and held aloft a cardboard sign reading:  "STARVING.  ANYTHING HELPS.  VEGAN FOOD ONLY, PLEASE." 
Now, color me omnivorous, but I think history has proven that if a human being truly is hungry enough then anything can be considered "food" be it grub worms, tree bark, or a partially-frozen Uruguayan soccer player.  But, as I was feeling all benevolent and shit, I pulled over and handed her the scone from my Starbucks bag.*


*Which I told her was vegan. . .it totally wasn't.  Oh, please!  This is ME we're talking about!


But while the liberals and the hipsters and their neverending phalanx of Schwinn fixies blocking the streets may do make me want to kick puppies, I love this city with every last fiber of my being.  Portland is like a crazy uncle who lives under the stairs or your tweaky little brother who enjoys setting fires to fuel his hate rage.  You just know it ain't quite right, but by God, you'll  go to the death defending it because it's FAMILY.

But, while I can bare utter the word "Portland" without a fanfare of trumpets and puffy pink glitter hearts bursting around me, there is one very crucial issue upon which P-Town and I do not see eye-to-eye.  Fashion.

Clothing was not always   of such great import to me, much to the overwhelming dismay of my mother and sister.  As a  child, I was a great proponent of the "whatever's clean" method of wardrobe selection; something that brought my perpetually fashion-conscious sister, Holly, to tears.*


*Literally.  My mom tells tales of mornings Holly would  cling to her leg sobbing "Mommy, PLEASE don't let Jenny go out wearing that!!!" She was five.  I shit you not.


When I was married, my Machiavellian ex-husband took a rather sadistic pleasure in dressing me like a lesbian gardener and as I found his attentions endearing at the time, it never occurred to me to question why I was wearing hiking boots and Mennonite dresses with a glaring lack of irony.*


*In answer to your question, yes, I was drinking a great deal of vodka at this time. . .oh, so very much vodka.


Portland is a city for people who live in Seattle orNorthern California and find themselves looking around one day thinking, "You know, this is nice.  Pretty trees, and good coffee, but there's just WAY too much personal grooming going on around here." Suffice to say, now that I am single and sober I am a proud fashionista, and as such, find myself appalled on a semi-regular basis  by the ensembles thrown together by my fellow Portlandians.  A tutu and a wizard's cap?  Porquoi?  And the animal hats with the long earflaps?  Oh, Honey. . .no.  

About two weeks ago, my friend Curtis was planning to visit from Central California, and being the fabulous man-whore that he is, sent me myriad pictures of the clothing he was packing for the trip along with texts asking for accessory input


CURTIS:  The navy pea coat or the ivory duster?

ME:  Which ever one is warmer.  It's colder than a stepmother's tit up here right now and the wind chill will cut you like a prisonyard shiv.

CURTIS:  Well, then. . .this should be fun.  So, what are the hot colors up there this season?

ME:  Dude, seriously?  It's Portland.  Our colors are Gore-Tex and flannel.  Trust me, if you're wearing socks they'll accuse you of being "all fancy and shit".


While I've often pondered how a citizenry so culturally rich and diverse can continue to dress like color-blind Somali refugees, all was made manifest to me on my last foray to the mall.  It was then that it occurred to me.  Portlandians are too goddamned friendly (present company excepted) and to be honest, it can be a little offputting in a retail employee.


PERKY SALESGIRL:  Ohmigod, I LOVE your hair. Seriously.  I could just rip it right off of you!

ME: Oh, umm. . .thanks?

PERKY:  And your skirt is totes adorb!  Where did you get it?*

*Want to stab.  Want to stab so hard.  Stabstabstab...

ME:  Here, actually.  I got the skirt here.

PERKY:  OK, I should totally have known that.  But I'm new.  Well, not NEW new; I used to work at the Lloyd Center store but there was this, like, totally sketchy guy at Zumiez who was all 'you're hot' and I was all 'Euw, whatever' because, like, HELLO!  I would SO never date a guy who worked at Zumiez and he used to like totally stalk me out by Jamba Juice and my friends were all 'you should report him to security' and I was all. . .

ME:  May I have a dressing room, please?

PERKY:  Ohmigod, TOTALLY!  Let me get one for you.  If you need anything, like AT ALL, my name's Perky and I am SO there for you. 'Kay?

ME:  Umm. . .'kay.


Now, I'm all about quality customer service, but sweet Baby Jeebus in a Hot Pocket, if I wanted to shop with a friend I'd have brought one with me.  I was pondering this at great length (and taking advantage of the fact that I was in a small quiet room without my short people) when a brisk knock snapped me from my reverie.


PERKY:  Hey, friend.  It's Perky.  You've been in there for, like, a REALLY long time now.  Are you OK?  Is everything all right?


I immediately thought of replying with "Just trying to stop the bleeding" or "Hey, can I borrow your little security tag remover?  My pliers are jammed"  but I bit back my vitriol and thanked Perky for her concern.

Walking back to my car that afternoon, shopping bags in tow, I looked around at the people in the parking lot.  All shapes, all sizes, all manner of jacked-up clothing. . .but all smiling.  All greeting one another in passing.  All stepping forward to hold the door for a stranger.  And THAT is what I love about this city  Regardless of your age, race, political affiliation, or wardrobe, everyone here is so freaking nice to each other just because they CAN be.  And that is why Portland will always be more than  just my hometown, it will be a part of my soul.

But, seriously?  We need to have a talk about those shoes.

xoxo,
Jen















































12 comments:

jennielynn said...

I'm looking forward to visiting the Ashland area with my daughter this summer. I wonder if it will be as interesting as Portland.

Angela said...

"Just trying to stop the bleeding," made me spit my coffee back into my mug so I wouldn't choke to death laughing. I'm totally going to use that the next time I'm struggling to free myself from the sausage casing inner workings of yet another fat-holding-in-paneled dress as a concerned salesperson attempts to peer over the top of the dressing room door.

phenomenallass said...

Aw, Jen. You make me want to visit Portland and worry that I would die of culture shock all at the same time. You've got a gift!
(I totally would've lied about the vegan scone, too. Starving beggars shouldn't be so choosey!)

Fyre said...

I'll match your Vegan ramper: there is a hippy-dippy do-gooder here in StJ that prefers to do "volunteer" work for the community instead of holding a paid job. She will also post on the StJ FB page "asking" for food for herself and her friends. Of course, it comes with the stipulation that it must be "organic only".

And I am totally existing in an alternate Portland. Instead of perky, I get the entitled hipsters who won't deign to acknowledge me (especially in restaurants). And, while I am one of the "friendlies" in your post, when I hold the door open for people or randomly say hi, they look at me like I'm going to mug them or pickpocket them or something. I am NOT, however, perky. It just isn't in my genetic makeup.

SPOILER ALERT: I can explain the "fashion" up here. Long ago, an urban myth circulated that mirrors are only decorative. Hence, no one looks in a mirror before leaving home. It explains a lot...

Killer Cupcake said...

First of all, where in Central CA is Curtis from?

Second of all, having lived for over 20 years on the north coast of CA, O can testify that I've never been to any portion of the northwest that made me feel like I was in a land where fashion takes precedence. Good God, y'all... tie-dye? Burkenstocks? Clothing made out of HEMP? *shudder* I lived in Crescent City for 21 years and for those entire 21 years, people asked me constantly where I was from. I like to think that's because I actually know how to dress myself.

I feel your pain. Northern CA is my home, my family... but fashion-forward? Oh HELLLLL no.

//madlove

Killer Cupcake said...

First of all, where in Central CA is Curtis from?

Second of all, having lived for over 20 years on the north coast of CA, O can testify that I've never been to any portion of the northwest that made me feel like I was in a land where fashion takes precedence. Good God, y'all... tie-dye? Burkenstocks? Clothing made out of HEMP? *shudder* I lived in Crescent City for 21 years and for those entire 21 years, people asked me constantly where I was from. I like to think that's because I actually know how to dress myself.

I feel your pain. Northern CA is my home, my family... but fashion-forward? Oh HELLLLL no.

//madlove

Bobbie said...

Get out of my HEAD!!

Mistyslaws said...

I'm totally wearing my lesbian gardener shoes when I come to visit. Imma fit right in! :p

Jamie said...

SO not suprised Curtis asked about the hot colors up there this season...I'm fairly certain he's horrified by what I'm wearing every time we go out in public.

Erica Burns said...

ha! sounds a lot like Maine!and they have their very own Portland! someday you should visit your doppleganger.

Winopants said...

How do you know that the youth of a society have become entitled? When even the homeless have "dietary restrictions." Dude.

Brett Minor said...

I work in both a homeless shelter and a soup kitchen and you would be amazed at the number of "starving" people who come in and say, "I don't like that. What else ya got?"

It's not an all you can eat buffet. We were doing something nice and giving you free food. I am not going to be sorry because it's not good enough for you. I eat it while I am working there. I know it's good stuff.