Category Archives: family

Top 9 Signs I’m a Conservative in Liberal Portland

Portland, Oregon is a notoriously liberal city, in culture, policy, attitude, pretty much you name it.  It’s also my hometown.  I’ve lived here most of my life and I’ve owned and operated a small business here for the last 13 years.  I’ve also been raised as a conservative, by a traditional, nuclear family.  I was taught to know the history of the United States of America, to recognize all of it’s unmatched successes in providing freedom and opportunity, and to truthfully admit that making any fundamental changes to any of it would be grossly counter-productive.  I mean, in baseball you don’t break up a team that wins 100 games each and every year do you?  However, all of this makes me a square peg trying to live in the round hole that is Portland.  In my normal, day-to-day activity, there is no one else around me who shares my views on culture and politics.  All of my liberal friends are typical in that they’re very good at telling me what they don’t have and who’s fault it is.  So, I smile (at best) when I hear such things and remember that I’m a loner and a novelty to those who have learned what I’m about.  But being in this minority is something I wouldn’t change.  It’s provided great perspective and enhanced my convictions.

So, below are the top 9 reasons I’m the square peg in Portland.  9 is a weird number for a list, but then Portland is a weird city.

#9:  I volunteer one hour a week at a local grade school.  So many around me lament, every year, how our public schools are starving for funds.  No one seems to do anything about it other than say that I should be paying more taxes.  They can’t be bothered themselves, but they’re certainly capable of wanting to be generous with other people’s money.

#8:  I don’t participate in political protests.  However, I did attend two different anti-war rallies several years ago.  I wanted first hand experience.  I saw President Bush burned in effigy.  The lesbian couple directly in front of me knelt down to tell who I assumed was their little girl that her President was a murderer and that she should be frightened of him.  But then I also saw a clever young man walking around without a shirt, holding an unmarked bucket asking for cash donations to help end the war.  Pockets and purses were reached for and I had to laugh.  It is indeed true what they say about fools and their money.

#7:  I understand the fundamentals of business and economics.  There is money that comes in, and there is money that goes out.  I know which one of those figures needs to be greater.  The city of Portland, many of its residents, and our current federal government for that matter, needs to figure that out.

#6:  I work too much to always be hanging out in coffee shops.  It’s no secret that 40% of America pays no income tax.  I’m part of the unlucky 60%.  And the same Portlanders that I see every day sitting in the same shops reading their books seem uneasy when they realize that they’ve become familiar to me.  They remember that I saw them in the same spot yesterday, and likely the day before.  That’s when eye contact becomes less and less frequent.

Portland, as seen from the Rose Garden.

Beautiful and liberal, Portland, Oregon

#5:  I’m news savvy and skeptical of the media that delivers it to me.  Finding in-depth conversation on current events is difficult, and I even work in a very social atmosphere.  When I search, most folks tell me about something they heard from a friend or saw on Jon Stewart.  But regardless, I can count on hearing things like it’s Bush’s fault, Texas sucks, and rich people are screwing up the works.  (Note:  In this context, “rich” is a term used to describe anyone who makes more money than the person using that term.)

#4:  I’m not an artist.  This is not by choice, however.  I was just born without artistic talent.  But everyone else in Portland seems to be and none of them can seem to understand why the photo they took or the sculpture they made or the painting they painted isn’t selling for the $200 they’re asking.  The concepts of disposable income during a recession, and prioritizing when funds are not unlimited, seems to be lost on them.

#3:  I did not vote for Barack Obama.  When I walked into my establishment that November night of 2008, I was quite literally the only person who couldn’t muster a high five or celebratory hug.  I was a buzz kill.

#2:  I did vote for George Bush.  One day after the 2004 election I saw a group of three that I’d never seen before enter the front door of my business.  They found someone they knew, who knew me, and that person pointed directly at me.  When they made their way over, one of them asked me, “are you that guy who voted for Bush?!”.  As if an entire voting block consisted of just me.  Which I guess is possible in this town.

#1:  I was born into a loving family and my parents are still together.  It’s flat out flabbergasting how everyone around me either never knew their dad, or have parents who hate each other, or have siblings in prison, or who were horribly abused by their fathers, or just plain don’t want to have anything to do with their families.  But all of those people have street cred, that’s for sure!

Maybe all of this is just complaining.  After all, Portland is a beautiful city.  I don’t envision me ever leaving it.  But how a stereotypically normal, everyday, traditional American kid like me can be so alien in his home city will forever perplex me.  But hell, it sure keeps me on my toes.

You Were Abused, too??

Abuse, much to my surprise, seems to be everywhere.  At one point a few years ago I was employer to 5 people, a third of my staff, who confided to me that an immediate family member had sexually or physically abused them when they were young.  I was suddenly a confidant in a position of authority, and as I heard each of these confessions privately, unexpectedly, one at a time, I felt dumbfounded.  Then, sadness, with a sense of undefined responsibility.  I also gave repeated thanks for my own good fortune.

What was I supposed to do with this information?  I’m good at lending an ear, and giving a hug, but then what?  Those things won’t erase the scars these people are carrying.  They won’t unfetter them of the burden of shame and allow them to soar off into the future.  I think the worst part of gaining the confidence of these poor victims who I’d grown to like so much, was also the best part as it related to me, personally.  That is that the concept of being victimized by a family member is totally and completely alien to me.  I simply couldn’t relate and therefore couldn’t offer any sound advice.  I felt helpless then, and I feel helpless now, as I know that there are more unlucky souls like them all around me.

The broken or dysfunctional family is in my estimation one of the gravest threats to our fine country.  How can future generations be given the foundation they need when so many of their parents didn’t receive such a thing?  It is much easier to let down your own children when you yourself were let down by the people charged with giving you unconditional, safe, love.

As I contemplate this topic, I don’t feel as if I’ll ever know how to handle such a thing.  Which is frustrating, because it’s so easy to spot bad propagating bad.  It’s all around me every day, frankly.  I feel sad to think of what these people who confided this horror to me might be like, what they might be accomplishing, if it weren’t for the ugly, evil acts of their brothers, fathers, or step fathers.  We will never know.

All I do know is that the only course of action I feel as though I can take to address this terrible phenomenon is to thank God every day that I was born into such a miracle of a family and wish that others might be as fortunate as I am.  Maybe doing so will lead to a snowball effect of some kind.  Others who share my blessing should join in.

For more information on adults abused as children please click here.

Write It Down

Writing, in whatever capacity, is spawned by many things.  With me it was personal discourse.  You know when you catch yourself in mid-dialogue in your own head, and realize that the back and forth has actually made perfect sense?  (Janet Conner clearly did, before she wrote Writing Down Your Soul.)   If so, you probably also know that such a moment is often fleeting.  One’s own personal truth is sometimes a real slippery thing to try and capture.  Especially the kind that is sparked by complex or confused issues.  I live and work in the underworld, which is to say that I own and operate a bar, (used to be two, but I dummied up) so issues and instances that provide confusion are as abundant as Oregon rain.  There have been many, many times in these moments of clarity when I’ve asked myself, “should I be writing this down?”.  The very existence of this blog means the answer turned out to be yes.

By any measure, I’m a very lucky man.  I was born in a great country, to a loving, traditional family who taught me well.  I’m able bodied, educated, was never abused, and have no significant emotional issues.  I appreciate my good health, because I learned first hand about poor health.  And all of these things, along with many others, make me an extreme minority in this underworld.  The majority is made up of staff and many, many patrons who simply aren’t as lucky as I.  There are broken homes, abuse, drug use, unfamiliarity with common decency.  There’s ignorance and misplaced anger.  Bars tend to attract those that need answers.  Sadly, they’re likely to find numbness and more questions.

Along with my business partner, I am the boss.  I am also the face of the establishment.  In the almost 13 years I’ve been there, my story has become known.  This tenure, and my fair dealings, have reinforced my leadership qualifications and allowed me to gain the trust of many.  I also keep my eyes open, always, because this existence is about as far from boring as any.

So I’m involved.  In the business, of course, but also in much of the personal chaotic goings on of employees and customers.  Some of this involvement is of my choosing.  Some certainly is not.  But either way, I am charged with providing advice, direction, support, discipline, and a kind of shelter to those who are experiencing a myriad of personal dramas that I was only able to dodge by blind luck.

I can’t avoid this.  I wouldn’t if I could.  It comes with the territory.   But the toll it takes is real.  It’s exhausting.  And it brings forth many questions of my own.  Often, that question is “how is this possible?” or  “what should I do this time?”.  As I talk to myself in search of the answers to these questions I know will never come, I decided I better write some of that discussion down.

What follows in this space will be this discussion, and more.