‘Portlandia’ or the Whitest Kids You Know

portland-841428_960_720What struck me most about my first visit to Portland wasn’t the nature of the cityscape, which was, to my impression, nothing special, but the nature of the human environment. There are cities that are worth visiting for the people and culture, there are cities that have beautiful architecture and natural settings, and there are cities that have features of both. Portland is most definitely a city of people, hence a casual visitor needs to put in a little bit of legwork, (and jaw flapping, if you will) to really grasp the depth of what Portland has to offer. Long known for being a mecca for hipsterdom, Portland is indeed well populated by these mustache donning, thrift store clothes wearing “individualistic” herd animals, convinced that by engaging in a subculture of rather conformed dynamics, they are in fact acting against the societal norm. Of course, hipster bashing has become as much a popular movement as is hipsterism itself, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the feeling of being surrounded by individuals that were practicing an elaborate form of masquerade. To be fair, many of the shops and restaurants in Portland are wonderful and, admittedly, unique in a compelling manner. If you are a brunch type person, then I recommend the vibrant Cuban-styled Pambiche on Glisan St. Anyways, where was I? Oh yes…Hipsters. Navigating the streets of Portland is a visual adventure, yet the targets of one’s eyes are not architectural wonders, but rather, fashionistas of a pale sort, that admittedly, are clothed in a more appealing manner than the vast majority of Western subcultures. If hipsterdom was limited to parading about in faux-raggy threads, and avoiding the clichéd opinionated thinking associated with the trend, then I could accept the hipster’s existence much more easily. I wish it were simple to separate the hipster from Portland and to enjoy each on its own merits, but they are intertwined enough that to do so is an exercise in futility. To accept Portland, even for a short time, one must accept its “weird”, and despite opinions to the contrary, this is, when all is said and done, a good thing. After all, isn’t it true that often we express dislike over things that hit uncomfortably close to home? For all my anti-hipster blustering, I am indeed far more hipster than I would rather admit. Yes, I can be pretentious, yes, I dislike much of what is considered mainstream. I even dress hipster –ish on occasion, though perhaps that is a plus. I must be one of those self-loathing hipster types, attempting to out-snob the snobby in my mind. No, hipsters and their subculture cousins are what makes Portland well, ‘Portlandia’, and as much as we make fun of it, I think most Americans that know of Portland wouldn’t really want it any other way. Portland has its dark sides, such as issues with gentrification and the lack of racial diversity, but overall its is a pretty place, green, close to Mount Hood, and at least until the hipster species dies off, represents a slice of American culture that is compelling and interesting in its own, ironic manner.

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