Dear Portland…

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Dear Portland,

I’ve left. I’m not sure if you’ve noticed yet, but yesterday morning I packed my bags -they are mostly full of books and vintage dresses- and caught the train to Vancouver, (BC not Washington). I don’t blame you for overlooking me. You’ve a lot going on at the moment: fancy new apartment blocks to build, coffee shops to open, a hundred thousand bearded indie bands to launch upon the unsuspecting public and most surprisingly of all, Division to divide and conquer, so it’s no longer the sketchy side of town we once avoided late at night. I’m impressed. I’m always impressed by your endeavours, Portland.

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I’m on the other side of the border now and it’s easier, as it always is, to cultivate perspective with various cities, (Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma), cushioning us one from the other, like well-meaning mutual friends. I still love you Portland. A little bit of my soul feels stuck to the intersection of Burnside and Grand; you know the spot where the shouty people congregate and the 7/11 eyeballs that pharmacy no one ever seems to enter or leave? I’ve spent so many evenings there, scarved and gloved, stamping the ground for circulation as I peered into the drizzle praying for the two round lights and the yellowing rectangle which preempt the arrival of a Trimet bus. I’ve seen the best bands of my life in your clubs and venues, drank, from your bars, the holy beer of American gods and brunched my way from NE to SE with hotcake stacks and sunny side eggs. Portland, you have been gracious to me. Your people have become my people. Your books, my pillars of cloud and fire. Your streets my avenues and open-handed boulevards, ushering me firmly into the next adventure.

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Portland, I have left you. I am ready to be elsewhere now. I am not angry. Neither am I disappointed. You were a good place to be for my beginning years but there is a sadness which settles over me, as pervasive as the Pacific rain, each time I try to imagine myself staying with you. In the years to come I will continue to return; annually or perhaps bi-annually. I will marvel at how you have managed to maintain your youth.”Still cycling,” I will exclaim, “still excited by electronic music, by piercings and independently published books, by brewing your own coffee and growing vegetables with your next door neighbours; still charmed by outdoors, organic living and four dollar movies with beer and graphically designed everything.” I will be pleased but not entirely surprised to find you, just as I left you, only more so.

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Do not judge me for leaving you, Portland. I have moved on to another city. It is older by far with brick houses and fewer bicycles. It suffers rain, on a composite level. This city is not without its problems and I know there will be fragile days to come when I will wish to return to you and imagine that everything was neater, easier, alivelier when we were together. This, I will come to realise, is the sort of lie offered to children who will not eat their vegetables. I have not forgotten a single song you taught me, though some of them might be better forgotten. I hope that you can be happy for me. I hope that you will be kind enough not to notice me older or more settled every time our paths cross on the pages of a book or a movie screen. I hope you will wonder where I have gone and, with time, come to permit me a sentence, a word, a single print exclamation mark in the story of how you managed to make it through.

Yours, with kind and distant regards,

Jan

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