I walked into a bar on Burnside and found five dudes drinking PBR and playing Celtic music. This is the most Portland picture I have taken in my whole life.
I do a pretty good job of faking responsibility – I’m polite, I pay my bills, and I don't wear sweatpants in public. Patrick Bateman had a “mask of sanity” – I have a mask of adulthood. The one place that my perfectly constructed grownup disguise falters, however, is at airport security.
Most of you have never seen my belt, because it’s usually covered by my shirt. If you were with me when I went through airport security – where I have to take off my belt – you’d understand why I make sure my shirt covers it: It’s frayed, twisted, and falling apart after years of diligently holding my pants up. I could go to Macy’s and buy a new one, but I would hate literally every element of that activity and it’s considerably easier to just wear a shitty (but functional) belt that nobody ever sees.
Until I go to the airport.
I don’t have a wallet, either – my old one fell apart in my pocket something like two years ago – so when I empty my pockets into the tray I just pull out a stack of plastic cards, loose change, and two condoms for the Department of Homeland Security and everybody in line to see and silently judge. “Yes, as a matter of fact, that condom does expire next month. You can either laugh at what that implies about my social life, or be inspired that I still have some hope.”
I have friends who are vocal opponents of the TSA full body scanners – they go on Facebook around the holidays and remind everybody that it’s fully legal to opt out of the scan, which is an unconstitutional warrantless search. I totally agree with them in principle – the scanners are an intrusive, ineffective, overpriced boondoggle that should be removed immediately.
That said, I never opt out of the scan, because if you opt out a TSA agent takes you aside and runs his gloved hands briskly all over your legs, arms, torso, and inner thighs. It's a no win situation – I’m a big believer in standing up for my Constitutional rights, but I’m also a big believer in people not fucking touching me unless we’re planning on using one of the ancient condoms in my pocket.
The scan used to make me uncomfortable, knowing that some minimum wage earning TSA lackey was in a nearby booth looking at a digital image of my naked body, but I don’t really care anymore. That guy’s job is to look at naked dudes all day; my unimpressive physique is simply adding to his misery. My nudity is its own form of protest. Fuck the police.
You really can’t appreciate just how Portlandy Portland is until you move away. When you actually live in Portland you can acknowledge that it’s a pretty goofy place, but until you spend some time elsewhere it’s impossible to see the forest for the hipsters.
On this trip back I began to realize just how spot-on Portlandia really is. One evening I visited a friend of mine who works at an ad agency and lives with five other people in a beautiful house off Hawthorne where the monthly rent is like $14 and a beaver pelt. She’d recently moved back to Portland from LA, and we were discussing the differences.
“Last Tuesday I got sick and had to stay home from work,” she said as we ate organic ice cream with locally grown ingredients. “I left my room at like 10:30 AM and all my roommates were still here. I don’t even know if they have jobs.”
Later that evening we wound up at her house and I found myself chatting with one of her roommates. She was explaining to me about how she’d majored in philosophy before dropping out when I decided to get to the bottom of the mystery and asked her what she did for work. Her response to this question was basically identical to that of every other young Portlander I talked to during this trip:
She shrugged and said, “Oh, I do massage therapy work three days a week.”
Listen: If you ever need a massage, get yourself to Portland. This city is full of people who would gladly give you a massage on Monday, Thursday, Friday, or Saturday before 2:00 PM, provided you don’t have a problem with nose piercings.
July 19th marked two years to the day since I arrived in Los Angeles. This makes two July 19ths in a row that I’ve been in Portland for my anniversary of leaving Portland – but my experience this time couldn’t be more different than it was last year.
When I visited Portland last summer I was in a really, really bad place, both literally and figuratively. I had just signed a one year lease on a one-bedroom apartment in North Hollywood and was rapidly realizing that I’d made a huge mistake. It was too damn big and in a lousy neighborhood to boot – and, worst of all, it was full of cockroaches, which is arguably the only thing I hate more than people touching me.
The bad place I was in physically had put me in a bad place emotionally – I was isolated from all my old friends in Culver City, despondent about the state of my life, career, and my writing, and driving myself truly insane speculating about how many cockroaches were scuttling around my baseboards while I slept.
So coming home to Portland was incredible for me – I was surrounded by some of my oldest and best friends and loved ones, and in contrast to the dusty apocalyptic sprawl of North Hollywood, Portland had never been more beautiful. After ten days, leaving to go back to LA was almost impossible. I started tearing up as I went through security, which means the TSA guy running the scanner got to see me naked and crying at the same time. (Fuck the police.)
This year, my life is better in every conceivable way. I’m in a great, bug-free apartment, I’ve built an incredible network of good friends and creative collaborators in my neighborhood, and in spite of the fact that I’m currently unemployed my writing career is actually going better than ever before. Right now my only source of anxiety is that I don’t know when the good times are going to end.
It’s never going to be easy to leave Portland, or all the people here that I love, but every year it gets less difficult. And that, I think, might be the only piece of my adulthood that isn’t an elaborate facade.
Truman Capps is going to spend the rest of the day vacuuming cobwebs out of his blog.