Where I'm From

This photo was taken by Steven Frank, the president of Portland-based Panic software. It is representative of the whole Portland attitude that has been branded and buzzed to death in the last fifteen years. When I found it, I felt a really great feeling, like homesickness without the anxiety. The spirit of my home town, Portland, Oregon

The Portland of my youth is something I can't shake. It was this immensely cool place, so cool, in fact, that 10 years after leaving, I still haven't found anywhere with quite the same attitude, not even Austin, Texas, I'm afraid.

I have tried and tried to write about the things that happened there, the things I remember from my teens and college days. I simply can't make a coherent pattern of it all. But when I tell the stories out loud, as I did this morning in over cheese burgers in St. George, Utah (which has to be one of the least hip places on earth), I realize that people are captivated. I might as well be explaining what it is like in Dar es Salaam. It is as if places like this are only possible in McSweeny's.

Increasingly you'll notice that lots of hipsters have been moving to Portland, as if it is the last place a person can live, which is, in and of itself an ironic expression: I can't live in the crushing poseurism of some place like San Francisco or Hollywood or Boston or New York, so I will live here, where it is almost-but-not-quite cool. That will be cool, the quintessence of cool. Because your cool is has been played out.

Portland has always been like that — not interested in anything that anyone has already decided on or made a play for.

And that is how I grew up.