14 July 2016

[PDX] There's A Hip Name For Portland East of I-205, or, We're Doomed, Midlanders

Come to Outer East Portland, says I to acquaintances. We have dive bars!.

Would it be that I were not so blithe then, this news wouldn't intimidate me so, now.

A few years back, I figured I'd be a bit puckish and poke fun at Willamette Week's then-worldly-yet-parochial "Best of Portland". 2008, it was. You can read it here: http://zehnkatzen.blogspot.com/2008/07/pdxmedia-wws-best-of-portland-if-you.html. Oh, I was in rare form. Amongst the witty observations I made then:
WW adds to the disrespect; you see, as far as the "Best of Portland"goes, the wittily-named "districts" that the publication uses to give character to town only go as far east as I-205. That's right, Midlanders, take it on the chin again; as far as WW goes, you aren't really cool enough to even be in Portland. Even though you are in Portland – at least out as far as 164th Avenue north of Stark, and 174th Avenue south of it.
In green: Outer East Portlandia, hereinafter
known as the Region of Thud.
Well, in the time since 2008, Portland became Portlandia, rents zoomed up eight million percent, and a fear and loathing about how Portland's growing and what kind of people will be entitled to the right to be Portlandian has grown and flowered to levels we couldn't even envision then … hell, in 2008, a person making minimum wage could still afford an apartment in the grottier sections of inner SE. Those grottier sections of inner SE are largely gone now; condominium design bordering on the brutalist now dominate the stretch of Division west of SE 52nd Avenue, and what were once vices confined to the tonier parts of town have now become habits. And the people whose fortunes are meaner than that have slowly been priced out and have moved east … to Outer East Portland, David Douglasland, Parkrose, these areas that still have some of the feeling that most of Portland east of the Willamette had before 2008.

The area I live in … trans I-205 … has become the most ethnically and economically diverse of the city.  It's also fairly populous: statistics posit that approximately 21% of Portland's estimated 2016 population of about 609,000 live between the freeway and Gresham. That's about 130,000 people, and if that were a city of its own (an approach which has been explored more than once) it would be larger than Gresham but smaller than Salem … Oregon's 4th largest city.

So, a couple of weeks back, I held in my hands the issue of Willamette Week that finally turned its attention to my side of town. And I had a sick feeling over it. Because it was one of those bits of reporting that delighted in how authentic, interesting, and funky a previously-unregarded area was. Two attractive young people featured as the iconic explorers from the west side of the freeway, hip, young and ready for any urban adventure.

The reportage is sobering, studded by such verbiage as:
The long-maligned 80ish blocks between I-205 and Gresham are home to many, many strip malls, but the area may also be beginning its own renaissance—think of it as our Oakland.
Think of it as our Oakland.

Oakland is across the bay from San Francisco, as you geography students will remember, and we all know what happened in San Fran, don't we?

I don't see any of this ending well.

And that hip, new nickname for an area of Portland people west of 82nd used to think of a Gresham? What the kids today call us? Well, we have a variety of names for our area of town: the David Douglas community, Midland, some Democrats, inspired by Jefferson Smith, call us Bedrock. But none of those names obtain amongst the fashionable, no, … they call us …

The Numbers.

The name makes little obvious sense. I remember first seeing the coinage on Facebook in the group Damn Portlanders about two months ago. Someone mentioned that the lived on Division, out in the numbers. I didn't know what that meant then, but I do now, but the inspiration for the rubric defies sense to a degree. We have as many named streets as numbered streets, and we have about as many numbered streets as other areas of town. It's like some fashionable-person cabal threw darts at a board with words on, got numbers and said "yeah, that's enigmatic enough. That's what we'll call it". For Outer East Portland, it's like getting the Black Spot: we're next. The first wave, the slummers, have already trickled out this way. The WW spread features a well meaning paragraph promising insights, reading:
East Portland is the future. It's younger, it's more diverse, and it's about to become a lot more central to what we talk about when we talk about Portland. Here's your primer.
Naturally 'your primer' to the future turns out to be a list of what to go see, do, and eat, and where to have a good time. So much for insight.

They may call my area of town … which had many fine names but they couldn't leave well enough alone … The Numbers, but I'll be thinking of it as the Region of Thud. Discordians will know what I mean. The sense of attendant doom is similar.

My own acidic view of those days, which has unexpectedly presented me with a petard upon which I've rather hung my younger (and current) self, possesses this penultimate note:
Indeed. Certainly there must be a similarly-witty name for this area east of I-205, where, apparently, Willamette Week reporters fear to tread.
Well, not only do they no longer fear to tread out here, they've answered my sarcasm with the utmost of ironies; a sincere and fashionable rebranding. Vanity of vanities. And to the rest of my Midlander bretheren I have only this to add:

Buckle up, Midlanders. It's gonna be a rough ride.

They've seen us.

They certainly have our Numbers.

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