I think I’m going to ban myself from blogging late at night (sadly, I was not drunk). And also from polls. There’s so much I was thinking about last night that I really do want to write about and really do care about, and yet that poll was the result of weeks’ worth of conversation and private rumination and there was ha, ha, no way to distill it in a way that I think would really be appropriate for this partcular venue. I CAN’T PROMISE I WON’T KEEP TRYING, HOWEVER.
Last night I played kickball at the park near my house. It was cloudy out but clear; my league’s first game last week was actually rained out. I still occasionally find myself explaining that I’m not in third grade, that kickball is a thing adults in some American cities — including mine — do voluntarily in the summer. And that, I don’t know, I’ve lived near this particular park for two years and, while I walk across it several times a week on my way to other places, I rather rarely actually visit it, either to recreate or just sprawl out on a blanket and read. I sit on the porch and watch the people in it; I’ve occasionally crawled across the street with friends and whiskey after last call, to continue drinking and talking without disturbing my housemates. When I first got the cats, they would sit on the footboard of my bed and watch people play basketball in the court across the street.
As critical as the park is to my life and my happiness about the same, it began to feel wrong not to spend more time in the park itself, and these days I need external excuses and schedules and structured activities more than I’d like to need them, and an organized kickball league felt like a good enough step in that direction. Afterward, we went out for beers on Hawthorne.
No one on my team is a Portland native (only two of us even grew up in the Northwest); several have been here less than a year. (Of course, in Portland, one becomes native after about a year; where I grew up, one still introduced onself sheepishly as a “newcomer” after 10.) None of them are people I’d be likely to run into over the course of my (rather damn busy) social life. Which is precisely the other reason I joined. It feels symmetrical, appropriate, if also very strange, to make myself meet new people who are new to town just as several of my close friends have left or are planning to leave.
These days people talk about Portland as a city with a particular sparkle, a city people choose for the city itself rather than the opportunities it offers; this almost seems to be the consensus, used to both praise and disparage the place. But it’s not that long ago — when I lived in Corvallis, for instance, and socialized with mostly Portland natives — that I remember people talking about Portland as a place that people went not because they so badly wanted to be there, but because it was a Nice Enough Place and they doubted they could hack it anywhere else. I’ve oscillated between both views in my time here. Now that I have fewer reasons than ever even to stay planted in the Northwest, I get a little tired imagining what it would take to make a life work anywhere else.
(Which is probably to say that I am not actually tired of Portland, but I am, I think, tired of anyone’s opinions about Portland, be they dazzled or disillusioned. Yes, that means YOU, trigger-happy Internet commenter! THIS APPLIES TO NATIVES, TRANSPLANTS, AND NEW YORK TIMES REPORTERS ALIKE. YOU ALL CAN SUCK IT.)
Yet it’s only in the last year or two that I’ve really begun to plant myself here: gardening, playing sports (however loosely we define that, I AM SORE HOWEVER) (I’m a pussy) in the nearby park, researching the historical attractions in my neighborhood, taking long walks around Mt Tabor (which I’d never even visited before last year?!!?) and sort of doing everything I haven’t done in the last five years here.
Summer might not come this year, and while I’m surface-irritated about that and typically-for-me depressed by the cloud cover and torrential rain, I’m also weirdly optimistic and enthusiastic about all of this, like — by virtue of being completely different for me than any before it — this summer could be radically better than any before it. It’s a trick my mind has played on me before, I’m pretty sure. Nonetheless.