Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Great Artist Migration of 2000

The prompt for Sunday Scribblings this week is to tell the story of how you came to live where you live.

Jim and I left California during the Great Artist Migration of 2000. Our U-Haul labored over the mountain passes as a dusting of snow fell and our dogs whined. We held our breath, hoping the truck would make it over the mountains. We fought exhaustion. We carried our paintings, our futons, our art school debt, leaving behind families and jobs to begin a new life. We fled a scourge of 22-year-old millionaires with laptop computers and big brains who’d overrun our neighborhoods and apartments. The city that awaited us would welcome our kind. We hoped...

I don’t know how many creative folks fled San Francisco prices at the height of the dot-com boom, but it felt like an exodus at the time. Neighborhoods like the Mission district were being taken over by insta-rich techies, and art studios were closing their doors every day, unable to pay the rent their landlords eagerly doubled. I didn’t get this “start-up” phenomenon. Order your groceries on-line and get free delivery? How was there profit in that? I thought there must be some secret. It turned out the secret was: there WAS no profit! Oodles of those big-brained 22-year-olds found themselves jobless, evicted from the same apartments we artists had been evicted from to make way for them. But we were already gone by then, and our tire tracks had melted with the snow.

We’d headed for Oregon with the idea we’d fall in love with one or the other of the university towns, Eugene or Corvallis, but we hadn’t, so we kept driving. As we rounded a bend in the highway and had our first glimpse of Portland we both gasped, and as soon as we found a motel we called a realtor. We bought the second house she showed us the next day.

When it comes to cities, there IS such a thing as love at first sight! Portland is a snug small city nestled between river and hills with a vast wilderness park rolling to the north and the white silhouettes of two great mountains standing sentinel. The neighborhoods were built in the 20s and every house is charming, even the dilapidated ones. The politics are liberal. Roses and rhododendrons grow like weeds. There’s great coffee and great beer, and a bookstore that takes up a whole city block. There were swing lessons at the art museum for Valentine’s Day, and shops selling clothes made by local designers, and food from every corner of the world. There were pubs in old grade schools and movie theaters with pizza and sofas, there were bike trails and hiking trails and bridges. There was a market where hundreds of artists made an honest living sitting in the sun, wind, or rain, selling their jewels and their knitting, their glass and mosaics, their bath salts and paintings and mobiles and T-shirts. And best of all, there were cottages to be had for a song, tucked among lilacs and stands of firs, where artists could afford to put down some roots and own a little piece of world.

40 comments:

jen lemen said...

seriously! i always feel a little bit nervous when friends come to visit from portland. all my best places to take them are just tiny tastes of all the kinds of things they have in abundance. consider yourself blessed!

Anonymous said...

oh oh oh

I have half a mind to pack our things and haul on out to Portland based on that beautiful, soul-stirring description. Oh my.

Of course, it seems unlikely as we are still settling into the house we just built-- but OH-- it sounds like heaven on earth.

~bluepoppy

Cate said...

Portland is lucky to have you, someone who appreciates everything that it has to offer. My best friend lives there, too--if only I could overcome my fear of flying!

Thank you for sharing your story!

NuttersNotes said...

I've only been there once....downtown I believe for a business meeting. I remember restaraunts on a bay. Nice. And I didn't even see the heaven you describe. And they took you in?...even though you are from California?

kelly rae said...

love this laini! and you describe the charm of our city beautifully. i think i'll go and write my own scribbling!

andrea said...

The grandfather I never really knew eventually put down roots in Portland. I remember visiting him for only the second (and last) time in my life when he'd retired to Aloha and I was heading down the coast with my ex-boyfriend and a friend who lived in San Francisco. I was 19 but looked about 15 so the minute I left (after a really uncomfortable hour) he phoned my uncle to tell him I'd run away from home, carried off by these two rogue men.

I always thought Portland would be where I'd want to live if I lived in an American city. Seattle has some of that charm but it's too big and the highway system there scares the crap out of me, coming as I do from the land of prehistoric infrastructure.

susanlavonne said...

Got room in your garage??!
You could make a mint in real estate...you sure sold me :-)

And what a wonderful way to wind up there.

Bohemian Girl said...

i come from where you come from but i didn't leave. i stayed, hung out with all of the 22 year old millionaires and then nurtured them when they became poor again.

sad sad days.

so girlie. carsten and i were talking about moving to Portland last night.

wierd. would Portland have us?

lovely story.

Brad said...

L

We are in Hillsboro - stix-ville, compared to PTLNDia.

Too true - the connections you can make in NW Oregon: spiritual, metaphysical, grammatical, artistical (sounds like, our testicle...).

Anyway, good go.

bg

deirdre said...

Laini, what a great adventure. My own drive through Portland involved bringing my sisters' children home from Washington in her old truck that I hoped would make the trip. Somewhere in the back of my scared, tired brain I thought Portland would be worth a leisurely look. You've convinced me I need to come back without carsick children.

AscenderRisesAbove said...

An interesting read - thanks for sharing; I remember the migration well...
still here in the Bay Area

tinker said...

It would take something at least as drastically life-changing as the dotcom driven artist exodus for me to uproot myself, but your description of Portland's charms is enchanting. If push came to shove, I would definitely look into the area, based on your description alone! I've been to Portland, um, let's just say many (many!) years ago and I do remember it was lovely, but I was too young then to fully appreciate it as a potential home.
Your lifestory continues to amaze me with your breathtaking leaps and bounds , your triple axle twirls, and perfect landings! Here in S. Calif., I'm holding up a card that reads "10.00" for your life-skating performances! (I certainly hope Eastern Europe doesn't throw the competition!)

Living Part Deux said...

Just the very act of piling everything into a trailer and driving until your heart told you you were home is incredible. I've been to Portland on business, but always had to lengthen my stay to walk and wander. The calmness of the town (it doesn't "feel" like a city) invites introspective wandering. Lovely, lovely story.

Mardougrrl said...

Oh, Laini...I wanted to move to Portland SOOOO badly when I discovered we'd have to leave CA! :(

And this makes me want it all the more.

Really, I am pea green with envy right now.

(and wonderful post, but you knew that!)

Jennifer said...

I live so near Portland and yet I have spent so little time exploring your city. We usually head to the OR coast or to Seattle (another great city!) but experiencing Portland is on my to do list! Coffee shops, bookstores, art... BLISS!

chest of drawers said...

I am in love with Portland too and I think a lot of artists ended up there because I´ve noticed that so many creative bloggers come from your city.
I love the idea of packing up and driving until your heart says stop.

Amber said...

Now, I hear that Portland is being called the "Silicon Forrest". As a matter of fact, we have the opportunity to transfer up to Hillsboro (yes, the hubs is a compuet geek). So many things about it sound like a place I would love. And we have family up in those parts, and when we go to see them I ALWAYS feel so at peace in all the green. It speaks to me there. If I thought I could handle the rain, I would push fo rthe move.
Maybe someday. Who knows?
Did you guys go through Ashland on your journey? I would have thought you would have liked it. Very artsy.

:)

Amber said...

Ah, that is "computer geek". Geesh. Time for bed!

:)

Deb R said...

I've never been to that part of the country and you make me really really want to see it!

GreenishLady said...

Oh, Laini, this totally whets my appetite. My plans for my trip next month include Portland, but now I'm even more excited about that prospect. Thank you for the "insider view" Lovely!

Susannah said...

To be honest i never knew Portland *existed* until i started blogging, being english n all LOL. sounds like it would be a home from home for me... now, where's the number for british airways? :-)
Sx

paris parfait said...

It must have been a wrench to leave San Francisco (being unable to afford the real estate was the reason I left). Your description of finding the joys of Portland and making a life there is so terrific. I know a few people who moved to Portland, but no one has described it quite so beautifully. Well done!

Laini Taylor said...

Anyone who's curious about Portland needs to check out Kelly's Sunday Scribbling. She has great photos, and more great description of her own migration:

http://kellyraeroberts.blogspot.com/2006/04/sunday-scribblings-why-i-live-where-i.html

justjohanna said...

loved your description of portland. makes me want to go visit too! but it also makes me want work even harder to make our little community here in socal more like that. it's fun to see it happening, though i imagine would be really wonderful if it were already as fabulous as portland sounds.

M said...

I so want to come to Portland now! It sounds dreamy! I'm so happy you both found a place to be creative and be accepted and be so happy!

Kim G. said...

Thanks for painting a beautiful picture of our lovely city! (And not mentioning the rain!)

Brandi said...

Laini, your blog is just one of my favorite blogs, seriously. Not only do I find great artwork here but you always have some great story to tell. It is just so fun. I am not much of a writer myself so I really admire those who can express their thoughts this way. Anyway, thanks for sharing your great stories and insightful information. Brandi

Rozanne said...

I feel exactly the same way about PDX! I'd originally thought we'd move to Eugene, but it just didn't speak to us. Too small and just somehow lacking in that je ne sais crois that PDX has.

We've been living in PDX for 4.5 years now and we love it more and more every day. It is especially lovely at this time of year with all the out-of-control flora!

la vie en rose said...

pizza and sofas at the movie theater!?!?!?!?! i'm so jealous. portland sounds like a phenomenal city. i wanna come for a visit...

C. Delia said...

Everyone else already said it--this post is so wonderful! Reading this topic on everyone's blogs has made me feel a bit delusional for "where I live". But, Portland...oh, so so so lovely. Thank you for the tour...

Rampian said...

I think you've made everybody fall in love with Portland! I was even looking up Portland's Craigslist, looking at real estate prices that were half those in Berkeley. If only I could transport my friends and family with me!

megg said...

sigh. as always you have made me long to come and visit!! (You didn't mention the place that sells pancakes - we're going there right?!?!) xo

Little Swing Fairy said...

You make Portland sound like a mecca...and I HAVE always wanted to visit you. Vist me in the lowlands I will visit you in your littl piece of heaven.. ;-)

Lori

Jamie said...

What a beautiful place you've found. I've heard what a special place Portland is, and I believe the rumours are true. I'm glad you've found a creative home.

albina said...

Roses growing like weeds, ah, to be do lucky… I drove the coast of Oregon, but sort of zoomed through Portland, now I wished I were not in such a mad dash to the border…It sounds like a great place to live, thanks for the story.

Kristine said...

I remember the migration... so sad. Yet I am glad you found a place that pleases you as much as Portland!

Marilyn said...

What a fantastic description of one of my favorite places! :) Laini, it was fabulous to meet you in person...you are brimming with life and passion and ideas. It's so lucky for all of us that you've joined the blogosphere and are sharing elements of those parts of yourself with us here.

Caroline said...

I'm left wondering how to sing the song of a cottage.

beautifully written and sorry I didn't get to write anything but it would have gone like this:

I'm living where I am now becuase we tried to sell and no-one bought...

;-)

Earth Monkey said...

hi laini ~ what a great beautifully written journey. i cannot even imagine the venture of living in a motel and buying property like that. what a courageous journey. i am such a dreamer... dreaming to live elsewhere one of these days. LA has lost it's lustre - that is if it ever really had it for me being that I have grown up here. it is so great that you fell in love with where you live. i know i take plenty for granted and in reading this i do feel lucky to some degree for what I have... but still hopeful that i can fall in love someday with where i live. Portland is beautiful. I have been there once and visited a tiny shopping area that i fell in love with. I cannot recall the name of the street, though. The northwest is great... coffee houses that are REALLY coffee houses and pubs that are REALLY pubs. Thanks for sharing your story!

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