Friday, January 13, 2012

Our Kind of Town


The second season of Portlandia has arrived. Too bad the IFC (International Film Channel) is carried by so few cable or satellite companies that the world can't share a good laugh every week about the contradictory nature of this special place called Portland, Oregon. But wait...this just in. There are at least three Portlands that I know of and possibly more.
Most of the country sees the politically correct, greener than green, foody food cart capital of the world. And it's there all right in all it's wonderful, paradoxical, deliciousness. But its only a small part of the real city on the Willamette River. There are four quadrants of the city Northwest Northeast, Southwest and Southeast, as well as NoPo (north Portland). The river divides more than just these sections, it functions the way railroad tracks often do in other cities. The demographics and socioeconomic realities of these areas are similar to any city in any state. The wealthy live near and in the foothills, the working class lives in the flatlands, and the poorest of the poor live, most often in areas of pollution or industrial decay. Throw in a bit of redevelopment or "gentrification" and you've got it covered.
So while the outside world laughs and imagines what it might be like to relocate to Portland, very little of the other city reaches their media. Case in point, we've had about half a dozen violent incidents on public transportation in the last two weeks. There are some very angry folks out there if yo happen to not hear what they are saying to you, or, as in one case, you suggest they pay their bus fare instead of trying to get over with an expired bus transfer. Many of these attacks are 3 on 1 or adult on minor, or minor on adult. Sure some are the result of the continuing Meth epidemic in the Northwest, but I suspect that a good deal more involve the economic state of the country. Are they racially charged? Afraid so. Hard to be specific, but both the media and the legal system are being very careful right now. Either way, it's a boiling pot that won't make any episode of Portlandia or Grimm or any other regularly filmed TV series or movie made in Stumptown.
Similarly, this is the week that the news of American Marines in Afghanistan defiling the bodies of their enemy by urinating on them and then having that tape show up on You Tube. In fact many of these incidents end up there, at least for a short time. Bitter pill to swallow. But something is happening hear and while it isn't exactly clear, it does make it much more difficult to laugh at yourself.

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