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.

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