Category: Portland


So a bit back Jessica shared a picture of this dry cleaning place in my city on Google+, with the comment, “It is also an act of kindness to take a picture like this.”

I saw a similar picture a year or two ago my friend Mark’s Facebook page, with the comment, “Signs of the times.” I read it as resigned gallows humor. I read it as a rather smart marketing strategy: yeah, we’re in a recession, in one of the worst job markets in the country. People don’t need things like dry cleaning. Until they do. They get the job, they stick with you for life; they tell their friends. It seemed a little desperate; it seemed like good business acumen. The sort of thing my Depression survivor grandfathers would have nodded their heads at appreciatively.

Yesterday I bought a short-term bus pass. In Portland you can buy about a million different looking things that will get you on a bus or train or streetcar. I don’t envy that the bus driver’s job is to learn to differentiate between these kinds of things to know if you have paid the proper fare to be on the thing you are on that day, on top of driving around a giant thing around in a way that doesn’t kill any passengers or errant cyclists.

There are two kinds of short term bus passes. One looks like a lottery scratch ticket — you scratch off your authorized days. The other looks exactly like a daily ticket.

Passes, you show to the driver. Tickets, you put into the feeder as you board.

Yesterday, I bought one of the kind of passes that look just like daily tickets.

Today, leaving work, I searched frantically for my pass and realized that I had. Oh shit. Jesus. Fed. My. Two-week bus pass to the ticket reader. On my way to work. That. Day. Oh shit. Oh Jesus.

It was OK. There have been times in my life when a stupid decision like this would have cost me dearly, the long walk home plus the overdraft fee for the transaction. But it was OK. The bus had just shown up and I was just annoyed that I was going to have to cross the street to the convenience store to get proper change. Fine.

A guy deboarded and saw me frantically patting myself down. He gave me his transfer.

After I got on the bus another guy saw that I was still searching every pocket in hopes I hadn’t flushed $40 down the toilet, frantic. He handed me his transfer, which by then I didn’t need.

It can be hard to explain why I don’t leave Portland when living here has not always worked well for me. The thing is I can take this sort of kindness for granted. I can put a vicious cynical spin on it.

I have that luxury.

And that’s why.

(The title of this post was taken from Aaron Cometbus’ short story, “Portland,” which is no closer to approximating the Portland I live in than the television show about Portland, but I like it better, because I started out as a bad mood myself, and I hate birds.)

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In college I wrote a paper that talked about The Rocky Horror Picture Show live-screen acting phenomenon as part of a larger discussion about what makes a movie a “cult movie.” This was partly because while I’d wanted to write about exploitation movies, it turned out to be way harder to locate research materials on that topic in time for my deadline than to find academic writing about Rocky Horror, of which there is an actual fuckton at your local university library.

I got very smart about the topic: the way the movie aped all the different genres of midnight movies before becoming the midnight movie. I interviewed a guy who’d played Meat Loaf’s character in a live production in the south. And my brain is still full of annoying Rocky Horror trivia, like, “Did you know the Portland Rocky Horror is the longest continuously running Rocky Horror in the country?” (It’s actually a very close second, but we need our dubious distinctions.)

At 30, I was probably the world’s most precocious Rocky Horror virgin.

I’d seen bits and pieces of the movie on television, but I refused to watch the whole thing until I could see it live, because that, as far as I could tell, was how it was done. But I missed the boat. I grew up in an isolated community in southern Idaho, and Boise doesn’t have a consistent live RHPS performance (I think it might happen at Halloween sometimes). Then I went off to school in Corvallis, where I had a car, and no curfew, and lots of friends, and we talked about getting a posse together to go to Portland and see it, but didn’t ever do it.

And even though, for three years, I’ve lived a short walk away from the Clinton Street Theater, I’ve generally had other entertainment priorities, like getting in endless and pointless comment wars in various corners of the Internet, finally reading some Jane Austen so I don’t get kicked out of being a girl (or get my English degree revoked), and complaining about Burning Man people. So I went uninitiated despite ongoing vocal curiosity about the whole business, until this weekend, when my boyfriend decided it was time for me to lose my Rocky Horror virginity.

Once, when I was in college, I sat and tittered uncontrollably while one of my male housemates listed the funniest, most disgusting euphemisms for semen he could think of. These included “man mustard” and “baby batter.” I still find both those expressions hilarious for the total ick factor. My freshman year roommate used to fake loud orgasms in the background every time I talked on the phone to my parents (or my boss). I was annoyed by this, but not very, and returned the favor from time to time. The same roommate and I liked to get dressed up in the weirdest, tackiest outfits we could put together, and too much makeup, and go to the $2 movie theater to heckle the films loudly. The point being, there was a time when I would have thought dressing up in a shiny bikini and fishnets and yelling “Cum Dumpster!” and “Slut!” at a movie screen the height of Saturday-night fun.

But those days are over, and I don’t think I miss the person I was then very much. She’s been replaced by someone who probably isn’t any more likeable — someone who, if she goes seven hours without eating, alternates between nodding off and fantasizing about biting people in their faces then starts growling incoherently about burritos. The latter prompted my gentleman friend to whisk me across the street to Dot’s and put a burrito and a beer in front of me, and that is the story of how every teenager in Portland did not get murdered last Saturday night.

I generally support the notion that you’ve never too old for a happy childhood or a miserable, awkward, fumbling adolescence. That there are some adolescent shenanigans that never go out of style, like fooling around in a graveyard or in a booth at The Original Hotcake House at 3 a.m., or stealing a bunch of pears you don’t need and writing a book about it. (See, I didn’t just read academic studies of Rocky Horror in school.) My own 30th birthday was prom themed! But some things just don’t work in an adult context, like reading The Catcher in the Rye or pulling all-nighters or, apparently, Rocky Horror.

A couple of weeks ago Mike and I were having dinner on Hawthorne and he said Portland isn’t so much where young people go to retire as it is the place you go when you figure out that once you grow up, you can eat all the candy you want. There were, of course, as he said this, several dozen people in pirate costumes running what appeared to be a pirate marathon. He said, “I’m not quite done with that thought. But I’m almost done with it, and I’m ready to move on to another thought, but I don’t know what yet.”

Puberty takes so long to complete these days that I’d half hoped to see a bunch of grim, pathetic lifers Saturday. Instead, I’m pretty sure I’m technically old enough to have given birth to a couple members of the cast, and that’s Fine. It’s weirdly relieving. It’s nice that some things still just belong to the young, and that I’m not young, and that I missed out on some stuff, and I won’t be able to properly experience that stuff ever.

Anyway, I’ve also never seen Star Wars, so you should probably go ahead and freak out and trash me in the comments.