The Fight For Portland: What Came Before and What Comes After

PretentiousPDX has worn many facades in our short history. What originally started as an inside joke has morphed into something larger than I had ever anticipated. As we prepare to enter a new chapter here at PretentiousPDX, it seems appropriate to look back on the last three-odd years of our history.

For those of you who are just tuning in (and perhaps wondering where the “Pretentious” part of our name came from), it started in 2012 when I press-ganged my friend Jenna into lending her name to “Yume And Jenna Are Cooler Than You,” where we planned to skewer hipster culture and congratulate ourselves on how cool we were. (Jenna and I still do the latter, but usually not in such a public forum.) YAJACTY quickly morphed into PretentiousPDX (the latter moniker was a bit wordy for a blog, but I still think it’d be a pretty sweet name for a Tumblr account), thanks to my love of alliteration and a desire to focus my attention more locally.

It was a simpler, less-pretentious time. Actually, that's a lie. We were always pretty pretentious.

It was a simpler, less-pretentious time. Actually, that’s a lie. We were always pretty pretentious.

For the next year, I went to shows, lampooned shitty pop music (one time I forced myself to listen to every Nickleback song ever made, all in the name of my craft), and generally tried to enjoy life as a twenty-something blogger in Portland. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook Pages all became A Thing.

Eventually, one of those articles led to a gig as the Live Music Blogger for 94/7 FM – KNRK, and for the next sixteen months, I ate, drank and slept Live Music. I was at shows two, three, sometimes four nights a week – I practically lived at Crystal Ballroom and Doug Fir, some months. Blogging began to take its toll – I lost touch with many of my friends, and the thought of a getting a full night’s sleep began to seem like a crazy pipe dream.

During that same time, I started writing periodically for Thought Catalog – my first taste of widespread exposure. As my tenure at 94/7 began to wind down, I started to doing freelance work for websites such as Localeur and BeFunky, and I started turning my attention back to Portland – local startups, the bar and restaurant scene, etc.

And then came GENTRIFICATION. Portland’s changing demographics were a topic that I had always contemplated writing about, but never followed-through on, largely because I felt ill-equipped to comment on the underlying policies that create it and largely because I was so damn busy. (When you’re writing concert reviews at 2 A.M., you don’t have a lot of time for think pieces.) But after Willamette Week incited much controversy with their article, “I’m Sorry You Hate My Apartment, I Think It’s Nice,” it seemed like an appropriate time to join the conversation. I may not know policy, I figured, but I had actually lived through some of what was being discussed.

When I published my article, I had some hope that it would garner some attention – maybe a few retweets or shares on Facebook – but I had no idea it would engender the response it did. Within the first week, that article got over 10,000 hits, and I was given the opportunity to write a follow-up piece for The Portland Mercury that ended up becoming the cover story of their “The Fight For Portland” issue.

Anyone who says that print media is dead has never seen their name in the paper.

Anyone who says that print media is dead has never seen their name in the paper.

The response to these two articles has been overwhelmingly positive… but it’s also been just plain overwhelming, too. Overnight, I’ve become the accidental poster-child for the Gentrification Discussion in Portland. In poured the comments, the retweets and the likes – coupled with emails and meeting requests. Many people shared their own experiences and reflections on gentrification, and praised both myself and the Mercury for our attempt to make the conversation more productive. People weighed in with their own suggestions for shaping the conversation, and many more have continued to ask me: “What’s next for Portland? Where do we go from here?”

In all honesty, I’m not sure that I know the answers to those two questions, but I find myself asking the same questions when I think about PretentiousPDX. Invariably, whenever anyone congratulates me on writing for the Merc, the next thing they ask is, “So what are you going to write about next? Are you going to write for the Mercury again?” And the answer, truthfully, is that I don’t know.

While it’s true that I never really had any aspirations to participate in civic discourse, I’m also aware of the fact that I’ve potentially been given both the platform and a rare opportunity to talk about some of the things that matter most to Portlanders and Oregonians, and that’s a privilege that I don’t take lightly.

In the next few days, PretentiousPDX will return to our regularly scheduled programming. We’ll go back to talking about music and bars and restaurants, we’ll resume speaking in the third person, and we’ll readopt the pretentious veneer that (hopefully) you’ve grown to know and love. But know that behind the scenes,  I’m working on it. I’ve paid attention to your comments, I’m trying to study the issues, and I hope that I’ll be able to contribute intelligently to that conversation in the future. If you’d like to contribute your thoughts or suggestions to this discussion, I encourage you to share them in the comments below or to email me directly:

Stay sharp, Portland.

3 thoughts on “The Fight For Portland: What Came Before and What Comes After

  1. I really miss Portland. I moved there (yes, I know. Don’t hate me.) in 2010, hoping to learn all I could from the booming belly dance scene. But it was tough to find and keep a good job, and going out was expensive. Renting a place became overwhelmingly expensive. So, I had to leave behind all I’d loved there: belly dance, shamanism, meditation, friends who were all more diverse than the folks in my small hometown. I miss Portland for the opportunity that I saw there, but there’s really no way I could go back. Not at the current rental prices, and not now that my partner and I have two kids. The cost of childcare alone outpaces the cost of rent.

  2. P.S. I’m new to your blog. I enjoy your writing. Thanks for producing this content!

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