Big City Nights? Or Small City Life?


When it comes to favoring life in big cities or small towns, I  prefer neither.

Growing up in a small town I came to disdain its limitations-lack of activities (especially not involving the consumption of massive amounts of beer), no big concerts, no grand museum exhibits, no imagination, no cool little shops or places to discover exotic goods and foods from around the globe.

No there was little opportunity in Quincy,  It was in the sticks of Illinois, surrounded by corn fields and dairy farms.  At least a good 2 hour drive separated it from anything resembling a big city.

As for big cities, my family is originally from Chicago; we visited every holiday.  I looked forward to seeing the skyline and the trembling of limbs and spirit from stimulus overload.  How to decide what to inspect first.  Museums?  Restaurants? Concerts?  Parks?  Navy Pier?  Sears Tower?  Music?   My cousins always had some new song or movie or food to share.

But I loathed the traffic, the honking, and smelly fumes.  The people hustled down sidewalks and crosswalks.  Everyone avoided eye contact.  There was no sense of containment.  I was certain I would fly apart at any moment.

Then there was the disdain for all things not Chicago and the constant bitching about everything.  It was as if they thought their criticizing gave them a certain cachet as a person who was learned or worldly.  To my ears it came across as petty sniping.

It took me years to find the place that had the best of both and little of the downsides.  For me that place is Portland, OR.

Portland has that big city feel-hustle and energy, with the right amount of small town quaintness-small neighborhoods, much of downtown closes by 6.  The traffic often sucks, especially as one drives into downtown and the highway lanes collapse from 4 lands to 2 lanes .  But on the plus side other drives usually let you merge-if not they are probably from California.

There are big name artists, Blues Fest on the river front, beer fests, and big time athletics.  There are quirky shops  and quirkier people who work them.  One can find great foods from around the World and a sense that life is different here.  A person can march to their own piper and not be shamed, ridiculed, and mocked.  Well they can be but in this city there is no need to conform.  In this city people who are odd or different and hear an other tune, are celebrated, venerated and envied.

One of the few draw backs-one I am guilty of-is Seattle envy.  Many in Portland look to the Emerald City with the idea of why can’t Portland be more like Seattle.  Of course usually we look at the positives and gloss over the negatives.  And with the opening of IKEA in Portland and the Sonics leaving Seattle, I suspect there is a little less envy these days.

Though for my part I have a fair amount of envy of any person living in Portland.  I feel so out of place here in my hometown.  I feel like I am living in a prison, or in more terrifying moments not living at all.  Then there are the surreal, trippy moments of regression.  It is as if I am moving back in time and along the way I pick up old habits and old girlfriends.

Slowly but relentlessly the habits of my youth have taken me up again- chewing tobacco, smoking, sleeping with married or otherwise relationship bound, women.  They only good habit I have reacquainted myself with is reading.  It isn’t that I stopped reading. rather reading has taken a larger role in my life.

I have taken to staying in my house reading. attempting to write, wandering in a frustrated stupor at not having an idea how to continue, where to begin, or how to develop characters, setting and conflict. (In real life I abhor conflict.  I am filled with anxiety watching conflict, or humiliating scenes on TV).

Putting a positive spin on events and situations, is an activity I am good at, but I am having a hard time spinning positives out of this situation.  I have taken to doing activities I like-reading, collecting coins and stamps-and focusing my attention there.  It has helped some what to shake me out of the negative thought spiral.  Yet I long to return to Portland.  I have been lucky to find a place in the world which just feels right being there.

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