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Random Thoughts on our Fair City: Portland

A series of random thoughts about what makes Portland great and what threatens that greatness. Written originally as a response to some Zoo Bomb detractor it became a thing itself. I hope it sparks thoughtful reflection and quality conversation.

A sample: Beware of those who promise quick, easy, or painless economic recovery for they are selling you a bill of goods that you do not want. Beware of those who complain about the social backwater of Oregon because they threaten to reshape your community rather than to celebrate its beauty. Beware of people who proclaim affinity with Portland and point to their bumper sticker to prove it after they bitch everything that would make Portland better. Portland is a beautiful and socially progressive and evolving place; beware of those who were not drawn here by that beauty and by that social community because they cannot see or appreciate the only true value and beauty that Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally, has to offer.
I love being arrogant and snobby. I love to look down my nose at people because as any snobby person I believe that I am superior to others and I take pride in my superiority and express that pride by demonstrating my low opinion of others and thereby elevate my own individual standing and status. It is a celebration of me and those who listen to me pay homage to me and celebrate my superiority.

I am not rich so I don't look down on people because I have greater wealth. I am not beautiful and nobody celebrates my beauty. I am not brilliant and I don't celebrate my intelligence. I don't have an SUV's so I won't run you down in your puny little whatever. I am an Oregon Native, a real Oregon native, not some transplant that decided to stick a bumper sticker on my car to advertise my personal sacrifice to endure the wet Oregon winters.

As a true Oregonian and a prideful snob; I look down on those who come to Oregon for the wrong reasons. Among these reasons are; economic prosperity, the dot com boom, most livable reputation, cheep living, the pearl district and a host of other "trendy" reasons people give to their friends for slumming it in Oregon. I look down on these people because I have lived here all my life and I know something about Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally, that these "transplant natives" will never understand. Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally, is a tapestry of beautiful individualism and unique opportunities. These intangible things are celebrated in little ways that have traditionally come together to create a beautiful tapestry that makes Oregon interesting, engaging, friendly and fun.

I look down on people who come here to Portland and Oregon and complain about the weather. I look down on people who come here and complain about the quirky people and their strange little rituals. I look down on people who come here and lament that there is no good Chinese food available at 4:00 a.m. I look down on them because these complaints threaten the beautiful tapestry and that tapestry is significantly under the gun as our civic leaders and media personalities target cultural minorities as the boogie men and suggest that these people limit our city and state's economic prosperity.

It is senseless and anti-intellectual statement to suggest that Portland would be great if it only didn't rain so much. Portland wouldn't be great if it didn't rain so much it would be Los Angeles and it would suck because everybody would move here. Likewise, the fact that Portland doesn't have Chineese food at 4:00 a.m. means that there is not the demand for it and that is a good thing because there are not hoards of people milling about looking for food, chineese or otherwise, at 4:00 a.m. Zoo Bombers exist in Portland because this is their environment. Zoo Bombers are a visable expression of the beauty of Portland and if it were not for Zoo Bombers expressing their life and joy and sharing that enthusiasm among their community the tapestry of Portland would be diminished.

As a life long resident of Portland I can say unequivocally that Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally, are possessed of a beautiful personality. That personality is a combination of many different elements and it is historic. Few Portland residents are aware, but Oregon natives know that all Oregon beaches are state highways or that plans for the Mt. Hood Highway abandoned due to neighborhood resistance, or that Water Front could have been a Freeway. All of these things would not have happened but for the will of Oregonians who shared a vision and an appreciation for the beautiful tapestry they create together.

I have felt, over these many years and more so now than ever, that shared vision is being diluted by the influence of strangers who demand Chinese food at 4:00 a.m., and wish that everything in Portland were just like it was somewhere else. I don't understand why these people ever left their beautiful cities if it was so much better somewhere else. I love Portland and I have only left for short times but I never tried to change the places that I visited but simply rejoiced in the confirmation that Portland was a much better place to live and rejoiced in my good fortune at having lived here all my life.

Now a days (a quaint patois, not from Oregon), I meet people from everywhere else and I am always curious about how they came and what their motivation was for coming to Portland. I sympathize with their longing for their home towns; "yes", I say, "I have been to Santa Clara, it's beautiful there; so warm and wonderful. I can't imagine a single reason for leaving such a beautiful and inviting place". When I am told that person came here for the dot com boom and subsequent bust then I understand their bad attitude about Portland; they came for the wrong reason and I am unsympathetic. I meet others who talk with thick east coast accents or the hard edged clip of San Diego who say; "yeah, I heard there was an interesting community here and I came to hook-up but I discovered that I love the easy access to the environment and the rain keeps everything clean, green and beautiful". I think to myself; "this person isn't a transplant from somewhere else but an Oregonian who found their way home, like some crazy pacific salmon".

If you are not aware then please believe me; there is a huge threat to the beautiful tapestry of Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally. That threat is the propagation of the notion that it has to look like or be something other than what it is, if it is to grow economically. There is an effort under foot, anyone with a pulse should know this, to make Portland feel backward culturally and underdeveloped as a city. An effort to sweep the "human garbage": the homeless, protestors, alternative community (the "altcom"), and other social minorities, off the streets. The effort is to tear the image of Portland down, to suggest that Porland doesn't measure up nationally, that these minority communities make Portland look bad all because it doesn't look or feel or behave like some nebulas icon of 21st century success. These same people promote the notion that Portland must take some drastic and immediate action or it will be left behind or possibly fall back into some stone age hell. Beware because these are ploys, artful tactics, used by slick salesmen to promote economic products; Baseball teams, Arial trams, Pearl districts, casinos, and doughnut shops.

They are lying to you because it is simply not the case that anything of value is passing Portland by. Take it from a native Oregonian, generally, and a life long resident of Portland, specifically; Portland has always been great without those things and it has always been great for its acceptance of all its citizens especially its free-range citizens. Portland Family Entertainment did not improve Portland by bringing big league baseball to Portland but improved Portland by opening up Civic Stadium and communalizing the entertainment there. The Pearl district did not improve Portland but Portland made the Pearl district successful because it allows a community of yuppie centric snobs to live in a great city in an urban environment reminiscent of those 70's rodent cages called Habitrails that yuppies find pleasing.

Don't misunderstand my message. I am not anti-yuppie or anti-anyone, I am an Oregonian and, therefore, I respect your right to be who you want to be and I expect the same in return. I want to be an Oregonian snob. Unfortunately, that is not reciprocated by most of the transplants, "Oregon Residents", that I meet who are more than willing to tell me what is wrong with Oregonians and what is wrong with Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally. And, all that I have to say is; "you're here for the wrong reasons."

By the way; Oregon has always grown economically on a gentle upward curve as opposed to Seattle which looks like an EKG of a heart attack patient in the throws of an attack. The Portland skyline reflects this gentle economic growth by the buildings that represent all building styles from 1880 forward; there has never been a real boom and bust cycle in Oregon that caused a huge building boom or an outright end to building for any period of time. Our first real economic boom and bust cycle started with the dot com, hopefully, we will learn our lesson, take our meds and avoid the bi-polar economic roller coaster. Economic boom and bust cycles change and threaten the health of this community and the friendly personality of Portland. Big growth attracts speculators and carpet baggers. Real Oregonians are known for resisting the siren song of quick financial gains and short term economic fixes. That is why Oregon has no major military installation within its boarders; Oregonians never campaigned to go on the Federal dole like West Virginia or a host of other states which is a reflection of the independent nature of the Oregon ethos.

Beware of those who promise quick, easy, or painless economic recovery for they are selling you a bill of goods that you do not want. Beware of those who complain about the social backwater of Oregon because they threaten to reshape your community rather than to celebrate its beauty. Beware of people who proclaim affinity with Portland and point to their bumper sticker to prove it after they bitch everything that would make Portland better. Portland is a beautiful and socially progressive and evolving place; beware of those who were not drawn here by that beauty and by that social community because they cannot see or appreciate the only true value and beauty that Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally, has to offer.

Zoo Bomb contributes to Portland's intellectual, community, and social beauty. If you can't appreciate that then I look down my nose at you and suggest that you might be happier going back to wherever it is from hence you came. If you are not careful, I may even fart in your general direction but other than that I have no time for you.
Native? 10.Sep.2003 09:59


I get really upset by those who say that they are "natives" and that others could not possibly understand what they do. A native? More like a xenophobe. Just because you haven't gone anywhere doesn't mean you have an unsurpassed knowledge of where you live.

native my a** 10.Sep.2003 10:38

native-my-a** guy

so "natives" don't like it when newcomers want to make their new home more like their old one? i'm sure the native americans felt the same way.

and why can't i get chinese food at 4 am, anyway?

that said, i like oregon, and portland, as they are as well. but i don't go around getting all high-and-mighty about it.

Some natives make newcomers feel bad 10.Sep.2003 10:49


I have had people ask when Im going back to where I came from just because of my car plates. Folks, some enlightened public radical radio types, groan just because I mention I'm new and from a different state. Do they know me - not at all!! How dare anyone make such shallow judgements on a person because they moved.

Are they fucking perfect?? Probably not...so where do "native" Portlanders get off passing judgement..

This is a good transplant
This transplant sucks

How outrageous!
How homogeneous!

"If i dictate their reasons for moving here are worthy, and righteous, then, well, ok...they can stay."


Oregon's population has ALWAYS been less than half "native" 10.Sep.2003 14:27

checks the numbers

Since the census starting tracking data, there has been no point in Oregon's history (as a state, after it was stolen from the real Natives), when more than half the population was born here. Oregon has, in other words, always been a state with lots of newcomers.

But let's get real here: The roots of the history of those born here don't go back far, either, when compared to the East Coast, or even parts of the Midwest. And there's no comparison when it comes to Europe or most of the rest of the world. The Pacific Northwest is really one of the last places that was colonized by white people, so being "native" here doesn't mean much.

That being said, the Californication of Oregon is also a real thing for those who were born here, and has had some unpleasant consequences, no doubt. Some of us who have moved here recently (in the last three years in my case) like it better here than any other part of the U.S. From my own travels across the U.S. and to Europe and Mexico, I can also add that this place feels less "settled" than other areas where colonizers live. That is, it is easy to feel how recently white people moved here, and also to see how little of a claim they have on it, too.

I understand your concerns and feelings, Ross, but you should get a little perspective! Also, your arguments could also be used by racist anti-immigration right-wingers, so be careful of that slippery slope.

Empty, but charming 10.Sep.2003 16:48

native A

I am a native Oregonian, and a native american, and I enjoyed most of this little piece.

my take on oregon 10.Sep.2003 18:02

who knows

I got here by bicycle, a ride of the better part of 2000 miles. The only thing I can complain about is that Portland is already TOO MUCH LIKE
every other goddam American city. I was looking for something different. For me, it's not different ENOUGH from what I ran away from. Me,
I'm ready to leave this country altogether at this point. Sour grapes, you might say. Maybe so. Still, I can't help it. That's how I feel.

So much acid and bile 11.Sep.2003 01:26


Sorry to have touched the defensive buttons for so many by this little self-reflective piece. The opening statement was intended to highlight the absurdity of snobs and denigrate the posturing of snobbery. The follow up was intended to highlight the corporate pressures that are changing the social climate of Portland. No where was there anything approaching an outright attack on transplants but rather an attack on the cultural pressures that come to Portland, specifically, and Oregon, generally, to exploit and privatize and denigrate what many consider a beautiful region and social climate, thereby, diminishing it. Apparently, this is lost on all except those who share the culture. Thanks, to each of you who have done much to validate the piece.

Special thanks also to "A native Oregonian, and Native American" who appreciated the "little piece" for what it is. By taking no offence to either the content or the semantic use of the word "native" they shared the example of the culture examined.

To those who can't appreciate the social culture and unique nature of the region and object to others who cherish the beautiful tapestry the old statements applies; where ever you go, there you are... baggage in hand. Drop the baggage, forget the 4:00 a.m. Chineese, bomb the zoo, be an Oregonian. It's an open invitation to share the best part of where you have chosen to live. By the way the old residents hate it when you piss in the living room... just a cautionary note... think about it.

Native Portlander 08.May.2004 00:35


As a native Portland resident ( born 1960, there must be at possibly 3 of us in existance ) I am one of the few who remember Governor Tom Mccall - a brillant visionary whose thoughts still ring through.
Yes, I have venom for all who have moved here in the past 20 and especially the past 6 years decrying that they can't find chinese food at 4 am. Move elsewhere. As I will if I could retire.
Before Vera Katz and her yuppification of the "pearl district" - ( used to be just a skanky downtown industrial area and where the blessed blue collar post office still exists amongst all the upper yuppie scum ) Before anyone, certainly NOT a native Portlander "wanted" a national baseball team ( laughs ) before the 80's when all the Californicators moved here and raised the cost of housing and taxes, before there needed to be an urban growth boundary, before anyone noticed the police were corrupt, before the Blazers really sucked and actually won the NBA title in 1976, before, before, before ....

I AM a Portland snob and damn proud of it. But to tell you the truth, it has changed and morphed like any other american city that has attracted outsiders seeking jobs, and/or our beautiful environment. I do not embrace those people. I hate them and can spot them like the dogs they are. We ain't in Kansas anymore, and this place is where I have to live for now cause I actually have a job, but it is no longer my home. Just ask any native from Greeley or Albuquerque or Flagstaff or Eugene. Short sighted now? Sure. And I'm driving right behind you. Watch out

Got an idea ..... 08.May.2004 00:44


As above, one of the few "native Portland" residents, why don't we hire Tonya Harding as one of the state patrol guards? Only let the natives come back in, and knee cap or hub cap the potential out of state movers?

Sounds like an ideal solution. Give Tanya a real jobs with with bennies and keep out the exploiting scum.