Monday, January 24, 2011

Music Video Monday: Portlandia

The Independent Film Channel debuted a new series, Portlandia, starring Saturday Night Live cast member Fred Armisen. A friend of mine in San Francisco saw this video and asked me if it was true about Portland. I had seen the clip before and laughed out loud. Like all satire, the funny comes from being an exaggeration of basic truths. However, this music video doesn't really exaggerate Portland by much. This city is pretty much as Fred says. My favourite line in the song is: "Portland exists in an alternative universe, where Gore won and Bush never happened!"

Last week, The Oregonian newspaper actually featured a lengthy front page article on this show and even our invisible mayor weighed in on the show. While Portland loves any and every opportunity to be a film locale for television shows (such as Leverage) and movies (Extraordinary Measures was the last major film that featured Portland), there is a worry that this show, Portlandia, will inspire even more young people to move here without a job. The most recent unemmployment numbers came out and its still hovering around 10%. The line in the song that causes the most worry for the City Government is "Portland is where young people go to retire." There are supposedly a lot of "trust fund babies" living in Portland, but that's okay because they are unlikely competing for the few jobs that other people are applying to. If one is independently wealthy and does not need a job to sustain oneself, then Portland is a great place to live.

So, if you are one of those people thinking about moving to Portland, I beg you to reconsider. I was one of those who made the move in 2006 and to my disappointment, it is very difficult to find a good paying job here. This is a city of low wages (for many people, except those who work in city government). Had I stayed in Atlanta and looked for a better job in Atlanta, I might have saved myself a lot of financial grief. Portland has a reputation for being a difficult place to make good money. I don't know why that is. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would not have made the move. The financial burden is simply not worth it.

The city is great, though. The vibe of this place is surreal. The city's official population is around 500,000 while the metro area has 1.8 million people, if I'm not mistaken. Despite being a city, it still feels like a small town. You never know who you're going to run into when you're out and about. I love that aspect of the city. There's a community spirit. While Portland has earned a reputation for being a liberal, politically correct, activist, politically aware, vegan / vegetarian-friendly, "people's republic", there is still a large population of ignorant rednecks, who live in the outer neighbourhoods of the city limits. Since moving out to these parts, I have noticed a HUGE cultural difference between the inner neighbourhoods of Portland versus the outer ones. Remember, not every Portland resident is a Jon Stewart-watching, vegetarian, environmentalist who rides a bicycle to work everyday. This city is also known for giving America Tonya Harding, the trailer trash who managed to skate her way to the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer after her husband and his goons clubbed rival Nancy Kerrigan in her knees during a national championships. There are plenty of low class types like her in this city, like those who throw chunks of ice at pedestrians from their trucks.

Is the "Dream of the 90s" still alive in Portland? Well, the 90s were not as unique a decade as the 80s, 70s, 60s, 50s, or even 40s. Its hard to pinpoint a specific style or music sound that epitomizes the decade. It was an individualistic decade and really, there isn't much that sets the 90s apart from the 2000s. If by the 90s we mean the individualistic style that emerged and mix of musical genres (grunge, hip hop, rap, and pop), then I suppose that yes, the dream of the 90s truly is alive and well in Portland. Please, come visit. But don't stay.

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