I’ve been in Portland long enough that I can safely say I’ve figured out where the red lines are. If you live here, you know what I mean. If you don’t live here, chances are your town has its own borders that nice girls and boys are not supposed to cross.
People say things like, “Harold drives a Ford and lives out by Clackamas Town Center, if you know what I mean.” I have to restrain my sarcasto-reflex to stop myself from responding with, “No, actually, I don’t know what you mean. Unless you’re trying to say that Harold is poor and kind of trashy so that you’ll look better by comparison? But surely that’s not what you’re saying, because gee, that doesn’t reflect well on you.”
This quadrant-ism is so freakishly prevalent that when trying to pick a happy hour location with a coworker yesterday, she laid out her requirements like so: “I won’t go over the hill on the weekends, and I won’t go past 82nd.” This was her way of saying that she is wealthy and hip enough to live downtown, and urbane enough to avoid the suburbs like the plague.
In case any of you are thinking of moving here, I have drawn a map to help you quickly get up to speed on where all the “right” kinds of people live:
As you can see, the city is neatly divided into four parts for convenient segregation of the haves from the have-nots. All political correctness aside, here is how it was explained to me when I moved here: Southwest is downtown (tall buildings, people with smartphones.) Northwest is yuppietown (coffee shops, people with smartphones and skinny jeans). Northeast is the ethnic ghetto, and Southeast is the white ghetto.
If you can swing it, it’s best to live on the west side, but if you absolutely must live on the east side, the rules are as follows: Live above Holgate (preferably above Foster) and west of Powell. Live below 60th, but preferably below 39th. If you live on the West side, your best bet is the alphabet district if you’re inclined to hipsterism (delineated by the hipster glasses, above) or the Pearl if you’re inclined to use a hair straightener. You should probably work downtown in a tall building (see drawing of briefcase), but if you can’t manage that, you can serve $10 drinks at a Northwest bar until you’re30. After 30, people will start wondering if you should move to the East side.
The problem is this: Limiting yourself geographically is also limiting experientially. The same people who refuse to leave the 20-block radius around their condos are the same people you’ll find extolling the virtues of world travel and blathering on about how their trust-fund funded trip to Europe changed their lives by broadening their horizons. As someone who has lived in both Marin County and Oregon’s Illinois Valley, I can tell you that you don’t have to leave the country to have your mind blown by cultural differences.
So what’s the give? Once they’re back in the States these worldly folks are suddenly no longer interested in traversing outside their comfort zones, or meeting people with different backgrounds than their own? Why have the same people who bore me with 12,000 pictures of the natives in Nepal, complete with narrative about the mind-expanding qualities of learning about different cultures, decided that they will only socialize with their own kind when they’re on their home turf?
And – if you live here, what are the neighborhood stereotypes you know of? Longtimers: Have they changed?