in my recent travels, I had opportunities to compare the amenities and appearance of several of them.
First, I’m spoiled. I’ve lived in the South for some time. Even in poorer neighborhoods (other than a few dreadful places in otherwise lovely cities), the Southern culture does retain its cordial and polite charm. That’s true for White and Black citizens. People almost invariably hold doors for seniors and women, say please, thank you, and you’re welcome, and generally act with decent public behavior. I’ve been wished a Blessed Day on more occasions that I can recall.
We do have our homeless, but they generally don’t seem to be a major nuisance in public.
Not so Portland, OR.
There, you regularly see the markers of disorder, whether caused by homeless, or just delinquent individuals. Tents pitched on public sidewalks, people stumbling around impaired at all hours, massive amounts of tagging and graffiti (not generally an artistic endeavor, and everywhere, litter.
On public transit, people sit by themselves, ignoring other passengers. I’ve used city buses and trains for years in multiple cities, and have been accustomed to a more amiable willingness to chat with strangers.
Not in Portland. People on city buses and trains sit isolated, not making eye contact, and trying to avoid notice. That’s true for all ages and races. In other venues, they display the normal willingness to interact. It’s the public places that inhibit their lives. It’s the possibility of triggering the attention of a looney that keeps them frozen in place.
Portlanders are proud of their city. They talk of its beautiful scenery, the cultural offerings, and a generally healthy lifestyle. That they can do that while surrounded by bums in the street, and people yelling angrily at imaginary people, speaks volumes about their readiness to avoid talking about the pachyderm in the room. It’s like seeing a whole city filled with families of alcoholics. The one subject on everyone’s mind is a verboten one.
individually, the citizens went out of their way to assist me in getting around. They were gentle and charming and delightful.
But I left feeling as though I needed to turn back and offer assistance in seeking an escape to a safer place to live. For now, however, there is no sheltered housing for the employed and mentally healthy to go to to avoid abuse from their sick city.
Back in the early 2000’s I was sent to Portland on a job. Beautiful city, wonderful roses and gardens, air clean along with the city. They offered me a job, big raise and willing to move me and my 2 dogs, 6 cats and 13 horses. Something underlying in the atmosphere and people made me said no. Kept upping their offer and kept saying no. So very, very happy I said no. I would have been working downtown and as my thoughts and politics don’t mesh well with what has bubbled to the surface makes me thank the lord above that I did not take that job.
The very same thing happened to me as regards Southern California. Sometimes, we have failures to remember with gratitude.
Twice we were close to making a decision to uproot and move to Seattle. The first time just after my husband graduated from college. The second time, when I was recruited for a firm (Fox Software – the name alone almost got me) that was shortly after acquired by Microsoft. We would have had to move there.
Now, I realize that, on one hand, we missed out on some of the wild tech bubble. But, on the other hand, we avoided bringing our kids to a truly dysfunctional cultural community.
So, for me, it was a Win-Win.