I remember one evening about 15 years ago when I first started back in walking. I was walking different loop routes through my neighborhood for exercise. On that evening Portlandia was in high form. As I walked I started hearing music coming from a number of the garages I past. It seemed every block had a garage with music. At first I thought it was a radio turned on while someone was working on something in the garage. Back then people listened to radios. But then I came to realized it was a group practicing their music. I would hear rock-n-roll coming out of one garage and chamber music from another and jazz from another and country-western from another and so on. The neighborhood was very much alive with garage bands practicing their art. Not long after that evening I switched to walking with a group in downtown and was not out walking my neighborhood any longer.
This last fall I started having knee problems and could not keep up with my downtown group. I started walking in my neighborhood again, now at a slower pace. It dawned on me one evening that the music coming from the garages was gone. I realized my neighborhood had changed. I think all of Portland has changed now. When it was the height of Portland Creative Renaissance you had live music coming from the garages and groups playing all over town. You had small theatrical companies practicing and performing in every large or small space that had small rents. You had company’s, like Icebreaker and others, moving their design departments to Portland because the creative talent was here. They have left now. But now, even before the lock-down, the neighborhoods in Portland have gone quite. Now the neighborhoods are respectable and expensive. And the dream of Portlandia, a dream of live music coming from a garage on every block, has slowly slipped silently into the past.
For some in Portland I am sure they are seeing this virus lock down as the best of times. One of the slogan for Portland is, “it is where slackers go to retire.” I think we also have the largest population of millennials who after high school or college moved into the extra room in their parents basement to play video game and only come out when it is time to eat. Perhaps I should include those who moved back into their old bedrooms or have taken up residents on their parent’s couch. For slackers and millennial basement dwellers being ordered by the governor of the state to stay home and do nothing must be a dream come true. Nobody telling them to go out and find a job as the unemployment numbers are skyrocketing. Nobody telling them they should do something with their lives. They are now heroes of staying home and saving lives. They have been training their whole lives for this moment and now they are standing, in a horizontal position, strong with other slackers and millennial basement dwellers and doing nothing. I am sure someday, when this lock down has past, this group will write songs, if they ever get that ambitious, about this golden times. Time where society praised them for their ability to follow lock down and stay home and do nothing.
It means different things to different people. For some it is a big bronze statue that looks down at you as you enter the Portland Building, a building that is constantly under repair. For others it is a wonderful or annoying TV satire show about Portland’s quirks. For me it means almost the same as folks think the “Keep Portland Weird” slogan means. The difference is those folks moved here after Portland had develop its weirdness and did not experience what made it weird. Both refer to a vibe or spirit that Portland has developed. The vibe began back in the Portland Cultural Creative Renaissance. This was back in a time when artist and crafty entrepreneurs flooded into the old run down, cheap rent warehouses that is now what we call the Pearl district. Those early creative settlers formed a community that did not conform to the old manufacturing, resource extracting Downtown Portland that lay just on the other side Burnside. This community wanted to be creative, innovative, unconventional, entrepreneurial, where being different was OK and not a 9 to 5 corporate group but wanted to work with corporate but on their terms and be their own boss. They set out to build their own businesses and their own creative economy. From this came humanist attitudes, tolerance, understanding and lots of fearless energy that only youth and maturing hippies could bring. The suit and tie was out – unless it was worn with colorful boxers and high top logging boots. You could do your thing just as long as you don’t get in the way of my thing. And it was all fueled by a lot of coffee and later micro brew beer. This community has moved on from the Pearl and all the new high rise condos.
Today there are some little pockets of Portlandia and those early creatives settlers still around Portland. Others finally got their homestead out in the woods by Alsea. Some I hate to say got old and are in nursing homes (I’m headed that way). The Creative Renaissance is over but some of that vibe still lives on in Portland.
For this site I hope to be able to find some of lingering remains of the old Creative Renaissance that is still around and show you where to find them. I am also hoping to show visitors how that period of time has left a lasting impression on Portland and how some of Portlandia still lives on in the everyday. I also want to explore what happened to bring Portlandia into being and what is causing it to dissolve away in the Oregon rain. But first I have to wait for virus lock down to end so I can leave my house to look for all of that.