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.