I am home sick today writing my Portland update. I have been holed up in my living room for three days now, watching CNN and tales of sexual assault trickle down my Facebook feed. I feel raw and angry. My only solace is that women are feeling unburdened and less alone by sharing these traumatic memories with the world.
It makes me sad that Trump’s disgusting comments about sexually assaulting women was the catalyst to open up this national dialogue. Violent male sexuality has been a constant in my life and nearly every woman’s life that I know. And it’s sad that a man who is now running for PRESIDENT (the highest office in the land) is the one who is making this a much-needed conversation. Ugh. It’s the definition of toxic male masculinity. If women were the only ones voting, Hilary Clinton would win in a landslide. If men were the only ones voting Trump would win.
Rachel wrote in her last update about watching this election from Korea; she describes the strange disconnect and isolation that occurs while living so far away from your home. On the other hand, social media keeps these conversations close; families are splitting down party lines in a way that, at least from my perspective, seems unprecedented.
But I don’t really want to dwell on that. I am lucky enough to live in Oregon where Clinton would win regardless of what gender was voting. If I wasn’t living here, I think I might be too demoralized to date the opposite sex. These recent revelations about Trump’s sexual assaults have brought up bad memories for me and so many women. Along with the bad memories come anger, sadness and potential despair. And I don’t want to despair.
So all things considered, Oregon is a great place to live right now.
On another note, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means for me to have lived here for so long – the connections, the friendships, the advantages and disadvantages. For instance, I went out to dinner a few weeks ago with some girlfriends to an Indian restaurant. I know someone that works there and he gave me my meal for free. A week or so later I met up with one of those same friends at a local bar for her birthday. I came down the steps outside with my glass of red wine explaining that my debit card wouldn’t work in the ATM but that I knew one of the owners so he told the bartender to give me cash-back out of the register.
My friend said, “Last time I was with you, you got your food for free! You know people everywhere!”
I laughed and told her that actually, I had to leave her birthday celebration early because another friend of mine had offered me a free spot in a community class that he was teaching later that night. “I can’t ever move away from Portland because my quality of life would really suffer!” I joked.
But maybe I wasn’t really joking.
A few days later I posted a video on Facebook of the elephants at the Oregon Zoo smashing some huge pumpkins. A friend who works at the zoo replied that the zoo was going to present the elephants with pumpkins again, and that she had been the one in charge of buying them. When I asked her when they’d be feeding the pumpkins to the elephants, she offered me some free passes to the zoo for that day. (Which was awesome!) And then a few days later a friend gave me some free tickets to her one-woman show at a local theatre.
When I started taking these into account, I realized that yes, my quality of life is a lot better because I live in Portland. There are so many perks. On the other hand, it’s impossible not to wonder: what if? What would have happened to my career, my writing, my health – had I moved to New York, stayed in San Francisco, decided to attend George Mason University in Virginia.
As Rachel wrote in her update, sometimes we look at others we left behind or who have gone ahead to other cities, other countries… and we think maybe we made the wrong choice. But like Rachel, these doubts are fleeting, as immersed as I am in Portland and Oregon.
Locally, we are preparing for a huge storm tonight in Portland. The wind is whipping around outside. The huge maple tree in my backyard is swinging up and down wildly. A tornado has already hit the coast, which is unheard of in Oregon. Tornados don’t happen here; our mild climate and lack of extreme weather is one of the main reasons why people move here. Tornados and hurricanes occur when warm wet air hits cold dry air. To me, warm air this late in the fall seems indicative of global warming. These new weather patterns concern me; I’ve noticed over the years more and more how windy and rainy and humid and stormy our falls and springs have become. The collision of the warm and the cold season never used to cause such violent cataclysms. I worry that with people moving around so much, (most often to help their economic situation,) that we have lost our deep knowledge of the places we inhabit. Is anyone else noticing the change in weather patterns, or is it just me and the other lifelong Oregonians?
According to the articles I’ve read, the Pacific Northwest, relatively speaking, will be less impacted by global warming than other places in the country. However, being a refuge in a country that is changing and growing more dangerous, is a mixed blessing.
On one hand, I’m rewarded as a real estate agent by all the newcomers (by some accounts over one hundred people are moving to the Portland area each day.) On the other hand, the place I love and celebrate and have always called home, is changing irrevocably. The other day I was driving down SE 11th avenue, where they are cranes, and bulldozers and men with hard hats, where they’ve been constructing huge buildings for the last year or so, where there used to be an empty lot with goats roaming around in it and I thought for a moment: where am I?
I crossed the Burnside bridge headed back east a week before that and I was momentarily totally disoriented. The tall, black apartment building at the base of the bridge has changed the skyline so dramatically, I felt for a moment like a foreigner in my own city.
This is why I frequent familiar places. Friends suggest a new bar and I go grudgingly, worried that the other customers will incite a deep misanthropy in me, a feeling that I try to avoid. The urge to stick to old places, often runs along class lines. My friends with working class roots want to meet at the Kenton club, Beulahland and Holman’s.
Friends with money don’t mind so much going to a newer, hipper place. As for myself, I just want to go somewhere that’s half empty. I don’t like waiting in line.
The lights are flickering now and I am afraid the power is going to go out. I guess I should get in the shower now before we run out of hot water.