On Friday I went to see Mike’s band play at a bar in Old Town called the Ash Street Saloon. When I got there, a pop punk trio was up onstage – two heavily tattooed, almost certainly lesbian girls clawing away at electric guitars and a more ordinary looking male drummer who seemed almost shocked and confused about where he was and what he was doing.
The girls were screaming out a brash cover of Joan Jett’s cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ ‘Crimson and Clover.’ The crowd – a dozen or so classic punk types with mohawks, tattoos, and sleeveless leather jackets, along with one guy in black skinny jeans, tuxedo top, and a bowler hat – were listlessly swaying and flailing their arms to the music in an oh-so-cool fashion. Voodoo Doughnut was right around the corner, and some of the punks were munching on bacon maple bars.
I realize now that in a few days, when I tell people I’m from Portland, Oregon, they’re going to think that every night of my life was exactly like this.
I’ve lived in Oregon for my entire life – save for an embarrassing six year stint in Washington which we will not discuss – and all of a sudden I’ve been getting my head around the idea that for the first time ever I’m going to be living in a place where everyone around me doesn’t know who John Kitzhaber is or why this picture is laughable and makes no damn sense.
A couple of days ago I was talking on the phone to someone from LA who had never been to Oregon. We were making small talk:
“The A/C at my office went out this week, and it’s been super hot down here so we’re all dying.” She sighed.
“God, that probably sucks. Yeah, it’s been really hot in Portland all week too – I guess it’s just hot all up and down the West Coast.” I replied.
“Really?” She asked, before saying, in all seriousness: “It’s hot in Portland? I figured it’d be cool and rainy up there or something.”
And I caught myself laughing. Because pretty much everybody I talk to on a regular basis knows that Oregon is three-quarters desert, and all of them have experienced one of those terrible midsummer weeks where it’s 300 degrees in the shade and there’s more pollen in the air than air – although I knew that lots of people thought that Oregon was just trees, rain, and assisted suicide, this was my first time meeting one.
Nothing better cements the idea that you’re leaving home than the acute understanding that your home is a place that most other people have, at best, a cursory knowledge of. Most Angelinos probably know about as much about Oregon as they do about New Hampshire, and I don’t know about you, but I’d forgotten that New Hampshire existed until I wrote this sentence. Is Oregon equally forgettable?
Oregon, home of the Oregon State Fair. The checkout room. Alexander coming to school dressed as Chewbacca. Duck football. The Prom Night Disaster. Writers. The state solo contest. Getting home from LA last September and seeing my new roommates sprint out of the house to group hug me. Speech and debate championships. Cape Lookout with The Ex Girlfriend. Spanish. Yelling at the dog. Girlfriend Is Better, not. The Oregon Daily Emerald. Cleaning up dog piss. Thinking I had meningitis. Fred Meyer. My funeral party. Mice. Thinking I had appendicitis. J331. Getting lost in Beaverton. These experiences and about a billion others made up my life in Oregon, a place that I’m leaving behind in approximately twelve hours.
Mom came in as I was writing this and we had the sort of tearful, emotionally charged hug that happens when a gigantic mama’s boy is about to leave home.
“Sad, or excited?” I asked her.
“Yes.” She said.
“Yeah, me too.”
I’m sad because I’m leaving a state that scientists agree is better than all other states anywhere else – especially Idaho. I’m sad because I hate pumping my own gas. I’m sad because I’ll miss Burgerville. I’m sad because I’m leaving behind a raft of friends, family, bandmates, artists, musicians, writers, Airsoft sharpshooters, gingers, Jewish people, architects, and future presidents, among others.
If you believe nothing else I’ve ever written in my life, at least believe this: I would rather be with you people than the finest people on Earth.
I’m excited because everything that’s ever inspired or interested me in my life is common to the point of being boring in Los Angeles. I’ve wanted to write stories since I was four. I’ve wanted to write movies since I saw Fargo in eighth grade. And now I’m moving to a city built on stories and movies. Also, Christina Hendricks lives there.
If ever I’ve said a scornful thing about people who graduate from college and live in their hometown for years despite dreaming about something bigger, I apologize – this shit is hard for me on an emotional, logistical, and physical level, and I’m a white upper middle class 22 year old man with no family to support. Venturing into the world to make a name for yourself looks glamorous on paper and in Star Wars, but in reality it’s an unpleasant, awkward, and at times heartbreaking experience to start that journey.
I’m not going through all this because I’m especially tough or courageous or any more ambitious than the next person. I’m doing it because with the exception of methamphetamines or an unprotected sex tour of Sub-Saharan Africa, I’d much rather regret doing something than not doing something, and this is the one time in my life when I really have the opportunity to completely fuck this thing up and only wind up hurting myself. (I don’t plan on having that happen.)
It’s difficult to come up with an appropriately climactic ending for this, but the fact is that tonight really isn’t the end of anything, nor is it the beginning of anything else. It’s just another Sunday in America, and I look forward to talking to all of you on Wednesday.
Truman Capps directs you here.