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.
#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.