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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 2, 2006 1:44 AM. The previous post in this blog was It's that time. The next post in this blog is Score one for the bloggers. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Friday, June 2, 2006

Stranger in a strange land

Some unusual circumstances led to the kids' and my roaming around First Thursday in the Pearl District for an hour last evening. Heaven help me, I'm an old geezer, but I don't get any of it down there. Big, cold nothing. Cheap wine, the obligatory brie, mostly crummy art, the smell of burning money, beautiful people and their beautiful dogs striving to pose for magazines that don't exist. And overwhelming, dead seriousness about the whole thing -- all these earnest looks like something important is going on.

There's more happening at the Beavers game.

Overheard from a female member of a group of middle-aged adults that passed us on the street: "Where would children play here?" Indeed.

Comments (33)

Yes but, in the Pearl one can enjoy the image of Manhattan Swank at half the cost and window reflections satisfy any need for an audience.

Oregon is for Dreamers, you know.


I remember a comment made by a dinner guest last year at some event. The young "creative class" man and his wife, bemoaned the fact that Portland did not have the "Art" or "Landmarks" of New York, and if we could only change it it would make him feel more at home and Portland more sophisticated. I argued that the "Art" of Portland was the natural beauty at our door step. No manmade art could rival Mt. Hood as our "landmark" ,and the green and natural aspects as pointed out by Mike Hauck's book "Nature in the City" were rivaled any features that could be concocted. That is the irony of the multi-million Tanner Park, which probably costs more to maintain artificialy in the Pearl, than the City is investing in maintaining Oaks Bottom Wetlands or the wonderful networks of Sloughs, Smith-Bybee Lakes, we have which are a quick bike, walk, or MAX ride away.

Take some comfort in the fact that without too many children no neighborhood is too stable. Give it 5-10 years and it will re-cycle it self out of trendiness. Go thru the neighborhood about 900PM and besides a couple of bars it is dead compared to someplace like 28th.

My guess is it will become some kind of preferred housing for government employees since those are the largest employers in development-dollar central (the area betwixt 405 and the Willamette.)

If you ever wind up down there again, check out the "poor peoples' section" (as I call it) at the Everett Station Lofts, Backspace, Compound Gallery, etc. It's the most crowded part of First Thursday, but it's also mostly free of pretentious people who want to pretend they live in NYC. And the art is cheap enough that you can afford to buy it (usually $50-200 for most things). Plus a lot of it is way better than the expensive stuff.

Once I found that little corner of First Thursday, I finally decided it's actually worth going to.

I second the last comment. There are areas in NW that still feel like First Thursday circa 1996. I'm not a pretentious guy, and yet I always manage to have a good time down there. Where? Depends on the month. But as NoOneInParticular noted, there are plenty of good spots near Backspace and Compound Gallery, near lower Burnside.

Hmm. Are those of you who are disgusted by the Pearl absolutely certain that the people you see there are less genuine, or more pretentious, than you are? I mean, how do you know? Don't these superficial judgments seem a little weird to you when you think about them? Couldn't the judgments have something to do with your own (very human) feelings of envy, sense of insecurity, distress over getting old, feelings of nostalgia for the "old ways," different sense of style, or some other reason for feeling alienated from a place and time?

I'm honestly not trying to pick a fight here, I just wonder what's behind the facile characterizations of people based on where you encounter them or what they're wearing. Have any of you ever been seen in an expensive restaurant, on a golf course, at a fancy party, at a gathering of wealthy lawyers, maybe? Or, God forbid, have you ever been spotted in Manhattan? Or are you always in a culturally unassailable "regular guy" mode: drinking beer, rooting for the Beavers, mowing the lawn and coaching your kids' softball games?

Some people may go to great lengths to appear sophisticated, sure. And you may encounter some of these people in the Pearl. But I also encounter people practicing another kind of phoniness--which has to do with advertising how darn "authentic" they are. And in this town, one mark of "old Portland authenticity" seems to be condemning the Pearl and the people who live there.

"the facile characterizations of people"

Yes, we are making assumptions based on the price of the units and sizes that most of the area residents are well-off (to afford them) and no kids (based on the size and lack of kid-friendly facilities.) Is there something I am missing besides assuming most people there are residents?

I think the ongoing issue is more the subsidization of the area thru tax abatements and building things like the Armory Theater to enhance property values when most of the people there are already well-off.

The way things are now, most family-friendly parts of town are not benefactors of the city's largesse and pay for it now and later thru decreased money for schools for their children. I'll attribute this to the myopia of a lot of our local politicians.

"I think the ongoing issue is more the subsidization of the area thru tax abatements"

To the extent the Pearl is addressed on this blog with regard to a specific issue, you identify the issue correctly. But the Pearl often comes in for a vaguer condemnation, as it did on this post, for its phoniness or shallowness or pretentiousness or something like that. I quote: "Big, cold nothing. Cheap wine, the obligatory brie, mostly crummy art, the smell of burning money, beautiful people and their beautiful dogs striving to pose for magazines that don't exist."

What I'm suggesting is that this kind of reverse cultural snobbery, which is pretty common in Portland and certainly on this blog, is silly and provincial. Are the Pearl haters, when they make comments like that, just saying that people who have enough money to live in or visit the Pearl are phony? Or are they implying that "real Portlanders" don't live in condos and lofts and go to gallery openings? Are these supportable assertions?

The snobbery itself may not be all that big a deal, but it seems to inform and distort a lot of the supposedly factual and policy-oriented discussions that happen on this blog. Sten, creative class, smart growth, city planning, Pearl District, phony hipsters, decline of the Trailblazers, young people, Californians, empty-nesters--they all get mixed together in a strange concoction that smells like the sour grape breath of old, frustrated men.

Goodbye, Richard.

Gosh, at 38 I'd hate to think I was an "old, frustrated man," but the fact is, I lament what I see as the disappearance of "Old PDX"- the PDX I grew up in.
Nostalgiac? Certainly.
Although I disagree with Jack on a number of things, I'm with him on his rant about the Pearl.
People can call it reverse cultural snobbery if they want to. But, to me, a number of developments including, but not limited to the Pearl, reflect a trend towards the homogenous such that a lot of things and places here in town that made PDX cool in the first place have been glossed over with a generic veneer for the purpose of meeting some type of tourist brochure image.
Call me provincial (a compliment)but I'll take a cold Henry's (vintage, pre-brewery sale), a Beavers game and a trip to Tom Peterson's anytime.

Jack:

Why did you ban Richard? That seemed a little harsh for a mere dissention...

I thought his or her talking about how my breath smells was offensive. And that's the last I want to discuss it.

Morty- Are you nostalgic for the 'old' Pearl? Was there much to visit other than loading docks?

Also, I'm not really sure how you conclude that Portland is becoming more homogenous. I understand the Pearl isn't for everyone, but neither is Clinton/Division, Multnomah Villiage, Irvington, St. Johns, 'felony flats', etc. Go to any of those neighborhoods and you're going to get a vastly different vibe. Maybe some are more intimidating than others, but I've come to like our choices.

I love that Portland affords the opportunity to go from white table cloths to dive bar in seconds flat. Rich folks at lunch carts... working class folks enjoying free wine and cheese at a gallery. If you're not afraid to leave the house, Portland's high and low-brow pursuits can be equally entertaining. And you'll find there are others out there who were unsure at first too. It's not so bad after all...

Maybe all the serious earnest looks come from the realization that they paid $300 sq. ft. or more, plus monthly association dues, for the privilege of living in a little box stacked on a bunch of other little boxes. BTW, I found Richard's comments crossed the line and had the tone of an ad hominem attack on Jack as opposed to mere dissension. Further, if Richard thinks this blog is so lame then why does he want to be in here anyway? My sense is that Jack's comments were so spot on that they hit where it hurt and Richard reacted accordingly.

Not that I have a vote on the matter, but...

I vote that brown-nosers get the same treatment as trolls. Seriously. Neither add anything to the conversation.

"generic veneer for the purpose of meeting some type of tourist brochure image"

There must be some mistake- that perfectly describes Ashland.

It's a silly assumption that the dressed up wine-drinkers aren't from the burbs. First thursday has turned into a dress-up event for the Beavertrons and LO set.

I have no doubt that many commute in to pretend.

Nostalgiac for the old Pearl?
Well, yes actually...
Did you ever check out the ecthings on the concrete suppport pillars under the old Lovejoy Street on/off ramp to the Broadway Bridge?
They were quite a sight.
There were also some cool music venues years ago,
like the Blue Gallery (run by the late Tim Brooks)and the Long Goodbye over in that part of town that were great places to hang out precisely because they were in the midst of all the warehouses and loading docks.
The point is well taken that one can visit
various parts of town and get a completely different vibe. High-brow/low brow can certainly co-exist and keep things entertaining, I don't have a problem with that. My concern is the sense that I'll be priced out of my own neighborhood
soon enough to make room for more fanciness and condo/apt towers/rowhouses that look the same.

I'll be priced out of my own neighborhood

Probably out of the whole central city.

Wow, Richard really interesting. I like how you really get into the psychology behind the region. Hmm, gave me fodder for thought anyways, thanks.

I miss the old Bridgeport Brew Pub. I used to take visitors there precisely because the interior was so unpretentious. Same with the White Eagle.

Now they both feel like they were remodeled by Walt Disney, or TGI Fridays: it practically screams "this is what an OLD BEER JOINT used to look like" kids!

Something I was reading lately (sadly, I don't remember what) referred to the Pearl as "the west coast's largest yuppie ghetto". Ironically, I think it may have been one of the famous urban planners from Vancouver, BC, who is renowned for helping to make it a dense, liveable (and pluralistic) city.

Up here in Seattle the mayor LOVES the Pearl, and seems to want to remake a lot of residential downtown on that model.

Density is cool as a concept, but it is definitely a valid concern that most of these pro-density urban redevelopments are not family friendly and are too narrowly focused.

I have taken bike groups on tours through out the downtown area on both sides of the river. The groups in the past always liked the old NW district before it became Pearlized.

They loved the service businesses with their wide open doors where you could see a car being painted, a welder welding away, an artist painting, a photographer setting up a set, a workmen galvinizing a bench, a garage band setting up the drums, a lighting store employee refurbishing an old fixture. The diversity was immense.

The same groups don't totally dislike the Pearl, on the whole, but they fondly remember the past; and recognize the difference and what has been lost-and more than what has been gained.

Lee:They loved the service businesses with their wide open doors where you could see a car being painted, a welder welding away, an artist painting, a photographer setting up a set, a workmen galvinizing a bench, a garage band setting up the drums, a lighting store employee refurbishing an old fixture. The diversity was immense.
JK: A good example of Portland driving out family wage jobs in favor of tax subsidized yuppie singles housing. Really dumb move financially, but it looks pretty to the planners sense of beauty. Portland's "yuppie theme park" (coined by Liz Callison)

Proposed new PDC motto: "We don't need those stinkn family wage jobs anyway."

Thanks
JK

If you don't like the "big cold nothing" of the Pearl, then don't go. That's what's great about the metro area - whether it's the Pearl, Beaverton, Lake Oswego, Sellwood, or whatever... there's something for everybody.

I like Liz' phrase "yuppie theme park" and have borrowed it often. Speaking of Liz, lastnight I met her at Sushiville in the Pearl. On the way back to the car (parked near the former location of Dog Day Afternoon on NW Raleigh), I saw a scared cat with a stubbed tail running up the street. (seems like I saw somewhere that someone was looking for such a cat). I don't begrudge the beautiful dogs their right to strut their stuff, but if we aren't also seeing the scared cats, we're missing the big picture. The beautiful people are OK, but faux superiority and ignoring the free ride they're getting isn't.

JK- We're losing family wage jobs here and everywhere else because of the centralization of the workforce... Aside from our jobs moving overseas, national/corporate brands have exploded here (and everywhere), replacing locally-based garages, restaurants, hardware stores, manufacturing plants, repairmen, on and on. Of course you know this.

In case you haven't noticed, the market has become more volatile than it has in decades. Our consumer behavior, our markets, our world is changing faster than the economy can keep up. This year's blue chips are next year's bailout target.

And frankly, I'm tired of the sneering hatred toward unmarried and/or childless people, like we're sub-citizen undesirables... You know, it's bad enough that our tax code is designed to encourage as many children as possible. Sure, burden our system more AND pay less taxes. I hear the same sh*t in the mass media, a willingness to invalidate the opinions, even the existence, of childless and unmarried people. Hello, theocracy! Hello fascism!

"a willingness to invalidate the opinions, even the existence, of childless and unmarried people."

Amen to that TK. It's ironic, since the 2000 Census figures show Portland to be one of the most single cities in the country. The non-secular world does the same thing, the "Focus on Family" crowd- when the apostle Paul wrote (I forget which epistle) that married people work to please their spouses while single people do the work of the Lord.

TKrueg: JK- We're losing family wage jobs here and everywhere else because of the centralization of the workforce...
JK: That does not explain why Oregon is consistently one of the highest unemployment states. My statement helps explain it.

Thanks
JK

Y'all ever hear of Jamison Square Park, or Waterfront Park, or the second park they're building in the Pearl, with a creek, or...

"""Y'all ever hear of Jamison Square Park, or Waterfront Park, or the second park they're building in the Pearl, with a creek, or..."""

You ever heard of waived Parks system development fees for developers?

How about South Waterfront cannibilizing the Park's budget out of millions because of Urban Renewal-TIF failure, fast and loose numbers gaming and dysfunction at the PDC?

Heya Stevie... the three parks in/near The Pearl are REAL while your wacky, wanton wonkiness is a bit... yawn!


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