Waking up from the Dream of the 90s
Portland is in its most recent Age of Gentrification. Hipsters from around the world are moving from all over to run up rental pricing, tear down the 900 square foot pyramid roofed houses from the turn of the 20th Century in favor of 4,000 square foot “craftsman style” homes, and in general they are changing Portland from the place poor people made cool into a place where poor people can’t live because trust fund babies think that poor is cool.
I blame Portlandia in part. In my world travels the people who knew where Portland was were young, hip, Netflix consumers who knew Portland through the lens of “Put a Bird on It” and “Portland’s Allergy Pride Parade.” The main problem I had with Portlandia was that it was a little to close to home… the “You go, no you go” sketch wasn’t funny, it was just my commute.
But a funny thing happened from Season One to Season Five… Portland isn’t Portlandia anymore. Portland has become large boxes on Division, $1,100 studios with only barely room for a bed and a bike and no parking for an Outback. It’s become a city with a homeless crisis. It’s become, well… another city.
I can’t say I really noticed it happening. I did notice the international tourists wandering around Old Town in groups being lectured by a hairy tour guide this last summer. I noticed property prices going up. I noticed more beer tasting groups on pedal powered trucks and boats. I noticed SantaCon has an entry fee and a DJ….
But what really got me was when I was channel surfing and I came across a first season episode of Portlandia. They were in Mint, well bar 820, but we always called in Mint. She had gotten a magical cocktail from a mixologist and then he moved to L.A. and when they went to find him it turned out he was just a bartender….
And I suddenly realized that that Portland is gone. Sure I love the craft cocktails, but it’s not some funky bar under the I-405 concrete bridges near Widmer. The cocktails are everywhere and the food is everywhere. The lines are everywhere too. I’ve gotten older and the bartenders and servers are still in their 20s and they think they invented the Old Fashioned.
Life changes around you all the time, otherwise it isn’t life. But it has changed very quickly in Portland, and it’s in part because there was a TV show that celebrated a style of Portland that had been around for a couple of decades.
The funny thing is that Portlandia is now nostalgia, not documentary. I remember enjoying watching Portlandia because it was quirky and funny because it was true. It was kind of like nostalgia in realtime when it came out five years ago.
Now I watch it because it reminds me of enjoying watching Portlandia. It’s become nostalgia for nostalgia.