Friday, August 21, 2009

Portland GMT 1992

Portland again.

It seems I've come back here once or twice a year for the past 4 or 5 years. Somehow it feels like being transported back in time. A City on the cusp of the future. Much like Vancouver in the pre and post Expo years. But somehow Portland seems to be doing it right. There is not that feel of reactionary, mad dash development which Vancouver went through prior to Expo and is once again going through for the Olympics now. Things feel thought out here, like there is a long term plan. The flow of traffic through town, the incorporation of transit, the development and preservation of the buildings.

But that's not why I come. For me, it is a town that takes me back in time psychologically. There are times when I'm walking through town when I feel my hands tingling and a flutter of excitement/anxiety. Like I personally am on the cusp of going back in time. I flash back to different times in my life. Harder times, but times of great fun and joy. I move back to a time before I had acquired a condo in the suburbs, a brand new car, a government sponsored pension plan, and a financial planner who actually calls me to discuss the markets twists and turns.

When I see the funky old apartment buildings with their array of creative window coverings and Sally Ann furnishings, I go back to a time when that was my life.

A time when I started hanging out with a group of discontent soles and decided to be discontent with them. It's not that I wasn't discontent already, it was just they were discontent in a much cooler fashion. Ultimately we formed a writing group so we could express out discontent selves to the world. In the end we wrote nothing of significance, drank ourselves into oblivion, and had a hell of good time while doing so.

It was a time when we would take the bus into town and walk the street looking for something to do; something that would grab us. More often than not we ended up seeing the latest unheard band in some shitty little club. Unheard they were and unheard most of them remained. I have a box full of telephone poll posters to prove it.

It was a time when every beer you drank was the most important one you would ever have, because you really couldn't afford any of them.

I remember walking through a parkade with my boyfriend to pick his rusted out car, far too sober after a long night out, and us both having the same revelation "while money might not buy you happiness, being broke sure as hell sucked". In better times, we would have had to leave the car behind.

And there was the time my friend from Ireland, who was really quite mad, convinced me to quit my job and go to San Francisco for a week or two. I didn't have any money saved after my last pay cheque or a job to go back to, but the job I had sucked and it seemed a good idea at the time. And it was. We crashed on the floor of somebody's acquaintance, found a couple of bars that had cheap booze within walking distance and spent every last cent we had. Even when we ran out of money we still kept the fun going. The acquaintance and her friends seemed to feed us on a semi regular basis (never aware of the situation we had put ourselves in); and somehow we managed to continue drinking at our favorite bar on William Saroyan Street, with nothing but pocket change to offer. I vaguely remember asking if there were free refills on Irish coffees and walking away with a fresh round. Swear to god, it was best bar ever! In the end we didn't even have enough money to get us to and from the airport at either end, but somehow we managed to make it home; and get on with life.

Jobs followed inevitably, each with a progressive level of responsibility and attendant pay increase. It just got harder and harder to blow it all off. In the years since those times I have travelled to over 25 countries, and run into money trouble in far more exotic locations than San Francisco. But there is something about that time in my life that I look back on with envy. Like I've lost something. And once or twice a year, I come to Portland to touch base with that spirit.

No, life isn't all that bad,it really is quite good; it just isn't the same somehow. And I suppose that's how it should be.