Cuz you know, real Portlanders wear raincoats.
Cuz you know, real Portlanders wear raincoats.
My first encounter with Portland, Oregon was probably on the pages of a Ramona Quimby storybook. I can’t remember any earlier reason I would have heard of the city, and even when my parents read to me about rainy Sundays and Klickitat Street I’m sure it never occurred to me that this fictional world was built up amidst a real place, a place I would live 20 years later. I’m sure as I progressed through grade school and learned more about the geography of our country, I would have heard about the city, but I can’t remember feeling any strong connection with the place until years later.
The next phase of interest would be an obvious college-era fascination with indie-music. Enough of my favorite musicians hailed from Portland that I became envious and somewhat enticed by the “scene.” Still, it wasn’t until the autumn after college that I finally visited, and the most prevalent cultural landmark on my mind was still, “Can we find a Ramona Quimby statue?” I was on my first journey out west, to California (another story entirely) and my mom had accompanied me for the drive. Since I had never been north of San Francisco we decided to take a slightly longer route from Wisconsin through the Northwest, stopping in Seattle and Portland before driving down to California. It was a Sunday in September when I first entered Portland, and thanks to the better writing habits of my youth I have a small record from that day:
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Mount! Saint! Helens! Today we checked it out on our way to Oregon. We didn’t actually get very close to the volcano but we did see it from the visitors center which was just about as close as I care to get to a volcanic mountain. Actually it would have been cool to hike around it but it was already getting late in the afternoon and we still had to get in to Portland.
Portland, as it turns out, is gorgeous. I think I might love it. When we drove in today we could see Mt. Hood to the east and the Willamette River twisting in and out. The city seems real laid back, or at least it did until mom and I arrived and nearly got ourselves killed on I-5 before driving the wrong way on a one way street and getting lost on our way to the hotel. Tomorrow will begin the Quest for the Quimbys as I will now take to calling it. At the very least we’re going to hunt down Klickitat Street…
(From Pacific For Now, slightly abridged.)
I didn’t remember that short 3-day visit had made such an impression on me, probably because once my mom flew back home and I drove the rest of the way to California my life was launched on a trajectory preoccupied with a variety of other adventures and life lessons. Although I do remember in my first few days in California when I was looking for a job, a neighbor mentioned that their son ran a video editing company in Portland, and if I were there I might work for him. The neighbor said this light-heartedly, because obviously I was not in Portland, I was in California, but I remember feeling a little pang in my heart, like, maybe I did want to be there. But California had the momentum of so many years of dreaming. I had my heart set on California since I was probably 12 years old. It was in California that I would be happy! (Oh, but again, that is another story for another day.)
My time in California lasted about nine months, and then I moved back to Wisconsin. Shortly after I was back in my home state, a new drivers’ license design was unveiled, and I openly declared my opinion that it was hideous. My driver’s license didn’t expire for another 3 years, and I boldly announced, “Well, in three years I’ll be gone again, so I won’t need to get this atrocious new license.” It was a challenge to myself. It was a deadline. I was restless and searching, but I was also happy to be safely resting in the familiar comforts of home, and after about a year back in Wisconsin, certainly after two, I was feeling quite settled. The allure of the West had waned; California’s glow had dulled just enough that I could see the folly of placing my hope in a place.
Still, the reckless declaration I’d tossed about – “In three years I’ll be gone!” – would be fulfilled. Not at all in the way I imagined, but here I am, writing from Portland. More to come.
Next: Internetworking, or, how I let a random Myspace click get in my head like a pussy-willow stuffed down my ear canal.
I need to write in this. I just need to write, period. But I may’s well write here! So, I’m going to. And so that there are no excuses, I’m going to give myself a writing prompt. One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten in the last 6 months is, “Why did you come to Portland?” It’s not a simple answer, as anyone who’s heard me fumble through it could attest to. So I’m going to explore it, here, in manageable chunks of prose. Installments. Of the Portland Story. Check back for updates. Soon. Consider this the introduction.
Check out Luke’s comics at www.selfish-steam.com. Let’s all pester Olga and Meheriet to get their drawings online too! 🙂 comararderie
Mine was vegan, haha. (I’m not.)
A few months back, when I started telling people I was moving to Portland, the most common question I would get, understandably, was, “Why Portland?” Well, there were a number of different reasons, but one thing I had in my head was that Portland would be a good place to be making comics. Why? I guess I knew some vague things about the scene, but couldn’t have really made a case for it. Well today that changed. Today Laura showed me around downtown and I can now give you some specific examples of why Portland rules. We started at the public library where I got my library card and admired the Beverly Cleary Children’s Library and checked out the graphic novel and zine sections. From there we walked to Powell’s which is the greatest bookstore in the U.S, I’m sure. I bought a copy of Beverly Cleary’s autobiography, Girl From Yamhill, because let’s face it, she’s still one of my favorite authors of all times. And she grew up in North Portland! (That’s where I live.) (Actually, when we were at the library, Laura showed me a flier for a Beverly Cleary walking tour that will take us all around the neighborhoods where the books take place. So excited!) After Powell’s we walked over to the IPRC (Independent Publishing Resource Center) and got a tour. They have a great zine library and workrooms for type-setting and printing and binding, and really it just reminded me that I wish I knew more about printmaking. But they also offer workshops so maybe there is hope for me yet! We then stopped in Jackpot Records but I behaved myself and didn’t buy anything. Then we went to Reading Frenzy and Floating World (independent press emporium and comic book shop respectively) and again I managed somehow to keep my wallet in my bag, but oh do I have a list started. Anyway, Portland rules, and if you are interested at all in comics or zines, you really ought to be here. There, I sold it. Thanks for showing me around, Laura!
And with that, I’m off to a weekend in the Redwoods and the California coast. Back Monday!