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Another Portland Blog

Monday, September 22, 2008


And now a rambling, over-dramatic, late night post about pirates, St Johns and this crumbling nation of ours

One thing I find myself compelled to do this time of year is to hit all of the cultural festivals around Portland. Every weekend from August into October there always seems to be one going on. Last weekend was the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest. In the coming weeks there'll be the Polish and Greek festivals on the east side of town.

This past weekend there was the pirate festival at Cathedral Park and, despite not being able to convince anyone to go with me, I headed across the river on Saturday night anyway. Maybe it was out of a sense of duty. After all, I've got to enjoy as much of Portland's quirky hipster hangouts and passe internet memes turned weekend-long events as possible before gentrification drives all of Portland's creative-types up north to Vancouver.

Or do I?

That's the big fear I've been living with since I gave up an opportunity to move out of state a few years ago: that the city I gave up a proper career path for is going to turn into a boring and overpriced hellhole before my very eyes. But now with the current downturn on Wall Street, the mortgage mess and a national economy on the brink of collapse, what does it all mean for this microcosmic corner of the country?

Let's say the nightmares come true and the US falls headlong into a Depression: what does that mean for everything those in my socio-economic range in this city have been bitching about for the last five years? The high rents, the ever increasing cost of living and the fact that you can't get a microbrew for under $4 in a Portland tavern anymore?

My uneducated guess: the price of a pint at the Green Dragon will soar to $250, a bar of gold and Mad Max's Interceptor while the value of a Victorian two blocks off Hawthorne will drop to somewhere around Detroit levels. Not that it will matter. No one will be able to afford to heat a place like that in the middle of December 2011 but, at the very least, we'll all have a lot of time to run around in the cultural garb of our choice, be it Polish, German, Greek, pirate or otherwise.

Can you imagine what under 30 year-olds, myself included, would do if presented with a full-blown Dust Bowl, bread lines, Cinderella Man, sell the furniture or burn it to keep warm, John Steinbeck, gotta flee to California for a job that pays a quarter a day, Depression? We're talking about a generation of over-indulged consumers that can't live without text messaging and Xbox Live, let alone with the possibility that not even a New Deal 2.0 could save us all.

Still, maybe I'm a reckless optimistic-yet-simultaneous pessimist about all of this. There's the ever increasing feeling that time for the Portland I grew up with is quickly running out and I should have thrown in the towel three years ago. I should have learned a lesson from the elves and their decision to ditch Middle Earth. I'm just now realizing this: The Lord of the Rings was all about gentrification, wasn't it? Those prissy elves were priced out their homes by those damn hobbits and humans! Aaragon, you yuppie bastard!

But enough about all of that. Let's talk about full-grown adults that dress up like 17th century rape-crazed and rum-soaked criminals.

So I got all the way down there and marched down the stone steps underneath the bridge's archways. I took a look at a backstage area where a guy in pantaloons was practicing his sword moves with a stick and I decided the $15 entrance fee wasn't worth it. The crowd had died down and the sun was starting to set but people in Jack Sparrow costumes were still trickling in.

I eaves-dropped on pirate couples debating whether or not to head back to their cars for their 21st-century coats. One girl was dressed in an elaborate outfit straight out of a box of Padmé Amidala's cast-offs. As she passed me, her face was covered in green paint and she was wearing a ball gown. What I think might have been sticks of incense were jutting out of her hair.

It might have been for the best that I headed to the St. Johns Pub for a reuban instead. There were a few pooped-out pirates hanging around so I think I met my annual quota for buccaneer-related social gatherings. Have you ever had a look at the theater there? It's small but the dome and the couches are a nice touch.

Around that time I got a call to meet up at Roadside Attraction, where the patio was packed with people sucking down cigarettes, gin and the last, cooling waves of the summer of 2008. The mood was light but a doom and fear stew was slapping itself together in the back of my skull. A disquieting calm before a storm with a Pixies record playing in the background....God I hope not.

I tell you what Saturday night felt like: after a week like last week it felt like the last ten pages of The Great Gatsby but with hipsters and pirate costumes instead of highballs, mansions and a reckless bootlegger master of ceremonies. We were all a long way from Long Island but, to me, it looked like the grubby Portland-equivalent of ol' Jay Gatsby's long dead dream.

For the love of God people, vote Democratic in November. Otherwise, Skeletor and Caribou Barbie will throw the rock that finally smashes this country's little green dock light. Yeah, it's a reference to the book and I'm feeling both cheesy and blubbery enough to break out a quote here:

" He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter--- tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms father...And one fine morning--- So we beat on..." etc, etc, boat against the past and the currents and all that stuff you were forced to read in high school English class.

Smoke 'em while you got 'em. If I'm quoting Fitzgerald then it means I should probably get to bed.

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