Where Young People Go to Retire

Portlandia, your comedy is uneven and I don’t even get IFC but you have a special place in my heart. Mainly because last year you filmed in our neighborhood twice and this year I actually got to see Fred Armisen! Okay, so we were driving slowly down the street in commuter traffic and we couldn’t stop, but by golly, I saw him and the film crew. We were driving slow enough that I could see the film crew and see that he standing in front of some store on Grand. I was able to say, “Hey look, a film crew. Omigod, it’s Fred Armisen!” as we kept on moving.

Portlandia sometimes has a way of nailing the way this city thinks and acts. A lot of it is absurd. But when it’s right, there is no way of denying it. I think a lot of the humor lies in the fact that if you feel like a Portlander, you may be offended and quick to say, that’s not what it’s like here! But if you don’t feel native, it can stick a little close to home. Absurdity mixed with a steep WTF sauce and a dash of realism.

Recently, one of the local freebie papers, The Portland Tribune, put out an article on the front page titled, “(P)retirement’s New Frontier.” Click the link if you dare. It brought up a lot of emotions and thoughts that I wasn’t expecting. Basically, the article talks about how the imagined “Creative class” that the city government thought would bring economic growth to the city just ain’t happening. A study by Portland State University goes on to show that the young’uns aren’t moving to Portland to make money or to advance their career or to create businesses; they’re moving here to fuel a lifestyle of leisure.  Living in Portland is a great place to support a lifestyle that isn’t powered by wanting, needing and buying. That’s not to say that everyone in Portland feels that way but it’s not a sentiment that is foreign or shared by others who feel the same.

Now, a small part of me wants to make all sorts of snarky comments about these layabouts that all start with “Pshaw! These kids today! No work ethics or morals! And they are on my lawn!” All while shaking my cane at them! Why is it so disdainful to want to enjoy the simple life?  On the other hand, a huge part of me can totally identify. I have no dreams or desires of climbing the career ladder to the top. I’ve had a taste of that and it was absolutely unsatisfying, mentally and physically. I don’t relish the thought of 50-60 hour work weeks ever again. I enjoy going home at night and spending time with the Husband and the Boy and having the time and energy to enjoy their company. I like doing my craft projects (poorly) and feeling that I have the energy and interest to do them.  I like being able to do stuff and explore because I’m not obligated to work on the weekends or afterhours. On the other hand, when you choose to be underemployed, your cash only goes so far. You don’t get to go on fabulous vacations or buy expensive things.

But being without also causes you to appreciate your things more and to be more thoughtful on the way that you spend. I still have every intention of getting us back to Europe one day soon but knowing that we will have to save and save to make it possible and it may be years to come before another visit of that scale ever happens will make me appreciate that trip a thousand times more.

Anyways, I was at a conference a few years ago, I was talking to a man that lived in Boston. When I told him I lived in Portland, he said to me, “Portland is a terrible place to visit but I would love to live there.”  I didn’t quite understand what he meant but then he explained.  “When you think about Portland, there aren’t too many tourist attractions that come to mind. But the lifestyle.  Aw man, the lifestyle! That’s what it’s all about.  You could have a good life in Portland.” True that, my friends, true that.

Off to Cannon Beach

I have to admit, one of my favorite places on this earth is the Oregon coast. I say Oregon coast because really, I have never been to any other coast.

The first time I saw the ocean, it was right when we first moved to Oregon. We decided to do a day trip out to Florence, Ore, since it was easiest ocean-side beach to get to from Eugene. Not knowing anything about the weather, the climate and the drive, we bundled up the Boy, who was still a baby, and made our way to the sunny, sunny beach. I remember how I could see the ocean peaking over the dunes as we turned down the street leading to the beach and my heart just exploded into pieces. I can’t explain my experience in words but seeing the ocean exceeded my expectations tenfold.

What I can explain is how damn cold it was. If you grow up away from the ocean, like, oh say, MOST of the country and you only have images of people frolicking on the warm beaches of Florida, California and Hawaii, you are gonna be disappointed when you visit the beaches of Pacific Northwest. It is cold, cold and cold and often windy. And sometimes the fog is so deep that you can’t see anything beyond ten feet around you.  And the water is frigid!  When you first put your feet in the water, it’s like an electrifying shot of cold that shocks you to your core and leaves you speechless. And I loved it, loved it, loved it! We spent many happy summer days in Florence. We watched the Boy grow from a tiny baby who was mildly annoyed with the grains of sand stuck to his hands to a toddler who would run headfirst into the water if allowed. So many happy memories made there.

And then we moved to Portland. No time to visit Florence again (too far). Our closest stretch of coast is in Seaside, OR. It’s a little different from Florence. For one, it has an actual boardwalk full of restaurants, tourist shops and ice cream shops. There are throngs of people and tourists.  The quiet solitude that we loved in Florence was missing. We could set up a blanket in Florence and not have anyone around for quite a ways. While I will never hate going to the coast, something was different. We would drive all the way to the coast, and spend maybe an hour or two and then turn right back around and drive home.  Something was different. Something was off.

Fast forward to last month. My mother was in town. We are so lucky and grateful that she’s able to visit us. She also had never been to the ocean until we moved here and had only been to Florence in the middle of winter.  For this visit, we decided that one of her days with us would be spent at the coast. We had heard about Cannon Beach but had never ventured there. After checking a map, we saw that it was pretty much equidistant to Seaside from Portland. We decided to take the highway less traveled (for us, that is) and journey to Cannon Beach. I was hoping to see something new.  It was phenomenal! We stayed there, parked on the beach for most of the day. The Boy played in the water, we attempted a sand castle but mainly we sat and talked and watch the slow waves roll in.  I even made my mother dip her feet in the water. She had the audacity to try and tell me that seeing the ocean was good enough and I was like, aw hell naw! You don’t go to the ocean without standing in the damn water! I made her stand there and experience the majestic water, not once but twice! I even made her take a leisure stroll with me. Glorious! All of it, glorious!

I bought a tiny souvenir bottle and filled it with sand for my mom but surprisingly I took very few pictures. I’ll post some later tonight. I’m really sorry that I have been preoccupied and I’ve neglected to post anything in a while. I’m working on it…