Saturday, March 19, 2005

Displaced in Dis Place

(Here's an oldie but a goodie, at least by my standards)

Back in the winter of 1999, the love of my life who is my wife and I made like Lewis and Clark (that is, if they were a married couple and who knows? Maybe they were. It was a long journey after all) and migrated to the great state of Oregon. We settled in the sprawling megalopolis known as Beaverton, knowing full well it was a hop, skip and a jump away from Portland and I could use that geographical advantage to impress my friends…not that Beaverton doesn’t take one’s breath away in and of itself.

It took me a little time to adjust to my surroundings, to say the least since I was more than just a little homesick. Everything seemed so...foreign to me. What I really wanted to do was throw a temper tantrum and cry, “ I WANNA GO HOME!” loud as a bastard.

Therefore, in order to head that childish outburst off at the pass, I felt it might be a more mature solution to compose the following.


Dear Oregon,

I guess I just don’t fit in.

That’s nothing new. I’ve felt this way my entire life, in one form or another. One big legal alien. That’s me all over. Blame it on the stars and chalk it up to an atypical Aquarian trait.


In this particular case, that being my struggle to adapt to my newfound digs here in this off-world known as Oregon, USA, I honestly cannot blame myself. That’s quite a psychological breakthrough for me since I am basically a masochistic martyr at heart who really does want to be punished for his crimes. Perhaps there is some mental health in my future after all. So, it is with all due respect and whatever humility I can muster up to say that this time, it is just not my fault.

It’s y’all.

Let me get this out of the way right here and now so that we understand one another. I hereby accept any consequence resulting from what I am about to confess. The truth is going to set me free, though it’s guaranteed to piss all of you off.

Here it comes.


I’m from California.


Go ahead. Do your worst. Roll your eyes in disdain. Sigh in exasperation. Throw your hands in the air dramatically and utter the inevitable phase that pays, “THAT figures!” Now hock up the slimiest, chunkiest phelegmball you can and aim it for the bull’s-eye that is this letter. Try to aim for my name if you can. Hell, why don’t you release all that pent-up prejudicial rage that you feel toward your hated neighbor to the south and rip this whole thing up into so much confetti with your superior Pacific Northwestern upper body strength? I’ll just wait here until you’re done.

There. Feel better now? Good.

Now, sit the hell down, hazelnut breath. Let me tell YOU a few things.

There is something wrong with you people, I don’t mean just off-putting, I mean inherently. Quite simply, it’s your attitude. You wear a chip on your shoulder so blatantly that it’s almost a friggin’ fashion accessory-an out-of-date one at that and not enough to be retro just embarrassing. It’s a designer ‘tude with big gaudy “O” emblazoned on the front for all to see. You seemed to have acquired this attitude because you feel it’s necessary to help define the identity you so desperately desire. Observing this and trying to understand it all has led me to the conclusion that this attitude is just not real. It’s a put-on. It’s faux, y’know? But, you’ve maintained it for so long that you’re beginning to believe in it yourselves, much like an actor consumed by the character he’s created. The amusing thing is, you don’t seem to care very much for it either, thereby creating a mutant strain of attitude. You might call it “Attitudes in Collision”. In dissecting it all and placing everything under a microscope, I’ve discovered that its main property is, of all things, irony. Irony! The very lifeblood of the city of Portland alone! Why, how…ironic!

You guys have this territorial thing going on. So, you hate Californians, eh? Get in line! You don’t have the market covered just because you happen to border the Land of All Evil. How do you feel about Washingtonians? What about them Idahosers? Yeah, I’ve seen the sign at the state line. “Welcome To Oregon. You Won’t Be Staying Long, Right?” If the Statue of Liberty sat off the Oregon coast, she’d probably be waving boats away with her torch and the inscription on her base would read, “JUST KEEP MOVING”.

So many imponderables…so little time to decipher them all…and all of your liquor stores close early.

What the hell is with all the BENTO? I get it already. Bento is a Japanese box lunch. Everybody seems to be selling it. Bento here. Bento there. Bento everywhere. Coffee and Bento. Pizza and Bento. At McDonald’s, there a McBento Happy Meal. It has a Bento action figure. Have it super-sized and get a free side of Bento. Hey, Bento THIS.

Pop. That’s what you call a carbonated soft drink. Pop. Want some pop? Whatcha gonna do with that pop can? I’m gonna get me a bottle o’ pop. What is this- freaking’ Mayberry? Call it “sodie” if you have a mind to. Call everything a brand name. “Gimme a Coke.” “What kind?” “Root beer.” I don’t give a hot Pepsi what you do as long as you STOP THE POP! And say hello to Thelma Lou for me.

In regards to driving, I have only one question: When are ever going to learn? Here’s a tip: MERGE is an action verb. Want another? Try looking up the words FLOW OF TRAFFIC in a search engine. That seems to be the only engine you’re able to operate effectively. I have a theory that everyone else can drive, but every third car contains a native Oregonian and, alas, there lies the problem. You can’t help it. Driving is just not indigenous to your culture.

No matter. It isn’t as if anyone can find where they’re going anyway. No one will give you coherent directions because they just make it up as they go along. The engineers who designed the roads here must have been a vicious pack of angry crazed alcoholics taking their drunken rage out against the world. We are all but rats in their endless maze and there is no such thing as a short cut in Oregon. If you’re lucky enough to reach your destination, you won’t be able get in for you will discover that every potential entrance is an exit and vice versa. You want to keep us all out, even it is only a parking lot.

Your solution to this rant ‘n rave of mine will be all too predictable.

“Well, why don’t yew jus’ go on back whar yew come from?”

First off, I know full and well that no one up here talks like that and, even if they did, they’d be from out-of-state, which to you means out-of-mind. Secondly, I can’t jus’ pick up ‘n git. It’s not that simple, Simon and it’s not of your goddamn business why. I’m here and here is where I’m going to stay, at least for the time being.

Besides, as much as I love California and always will, the area I am from is certainly not the land of Milk and Honey. In the Big Book of American Cities, my hometown of Stockton, California would be classified as nothing more than a giant speed bump. One of its claims to fame is the yearly Asparagus Festival. Ah, there’s nothing like a celebration that somehow involves foul-smelling urine. I have friends in Stockton that I care for very much and will visit whenever possible. But, I really wish they would all move because believe me, I don’t feel homesick for the town itself. I do not pine for its peat dirt or long for its dense, blinding fog. Do I miss hearing gunshots in the middle of the night? Well, gee, I’m not THAT unsentimental. Who wouldn’t? I have roots in Stockton to be sure, but they’re not unlike those of a bleached blonde badly in need of a dye job.

There are definite advantages to living here in this state of confusion. The lack of a sales tax and the abundance of great beer are both tremendous luxuries, though I’d really rather pump my own gas, thank you very much. Considering my place of origin, the change of scenery alone is damn near worth all of the hassle I’ve had to endure.

Aha! Did you notice or were you too busy sneering? I just said something positive. So, you see, it’s in me. Is in you? This is a period of adjustment for all of us.

With the influx of new arrivals here on a daily basis, I can understand your trepidation and sometimes, believe it or not, even your disdain. Really I do. Have you seen the latest bunch of muttonheads around lately? I’m talking about those clowns who walk down the street reading books, oblivious to any form of traffic or the world around them like they’re the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s FAHRENHEIT 451. Talk about moving targets. Why don’t you read your way toward the front of MY car?

So, what do you say we make some sort of a pact here, here? I’ll give in a little if you do the same. Let’s have a truce and maybe within it all, we can both practice a little tolerance. I don’t expect to meet you halfway but...MERGE, DAMN YOUR EYES! MERGE!

C’mon, give me that much at least. You owe me.

After all, in this whole diatribe, not once did I ever mention the rain.


Your new pal,



It’s been almost three years now and the dust has finally settled. We’re still here. Recently, I made a trip down to Stockton and found that as soon as I got there, I couldn’t wait to leave, regardless of the great time I spent with old friends. All of the reasons why I left were crystal clear in a very short amount of time.

When I returned to Oregon, I drove back to Beaverton from the airport and found myself actually smiling when I saw the skyline of Portland by night. To my left was the snowcapped wonder of Mt. Hood, looking like the logo for Paramount Pictures. Below was the murky Willamette River, lit by that big spotlight known as the full moon in an uncharacteristically clear sky above and garnished with sparkling stars. What a welcome this was. That’s when it hit me.

I was home. This is where I live now. To quote an old Teamster friend of mine, I was proud to be here. Suddenly I grew anxious and really wanted to get back to my wife who was waiting for me in Beaverton. I missed her and wanted to tell her how much I loved her. I also wanted to let her know that for one of the very rare moments in my life, I felt like I belonged somewhere and this is where it was.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t that easy. The freeway slowed to an annoyingly hesitant crawl. Something was holding up traffic. It wasn’t long before I discovered that it was, once again, a classic case of a slow driver in the fast lane.

Probably some stupid goddamn Oregonian.

Some things are never going to change.

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