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Bringing Home the Freshest Kill
Recently a woman here in Portland ridiculed me for living near Gresham, a suburb that Portland’s indie-alpha culture finds repugnant.
“Why do you live there? she asked. “Is it because of the close proximity to all the great cuisine and culture?”
Or something. She thought she was being smarmy-yet-cute. But unbeknownst to her, the former greatly diminishes the latter.
So I told her:
The Ham of Gresh is made of stern stuff, it is the most purely triplicate articulation of the Godhead anywhere.
Like you, I am a mere commoner of Southeast Portland. But unlike you, I live scant blocks from the hamlet of Gresh.
I like misunderstood places.
I like coal piles.
I like coyotes, I like scorched engine oil.
I like places where the snow gets dirty.
I like unpopular places.
I like the face-smacking winds of the Columbia River Gorge. I like Kevlar-bottom boats I can smash around the Sandy River with. I like places where ultimate fighting trumps roller derby as the key fringe sport of interest.
I like places that force themselves on the landscape.
I like blight.
I like whatever urban planners hate.
I like vacant lots.
I like wide-open places.
I like places where elk hunters outnumber pansexual dilettantes 100-1.
I like places with grease, gunfire and burning tires.
“Ugly” cities are beautiful.
Omaha. Tacoma. Gary. Rockford. Green Bay. Boise. Cleveland. Detroit.
All — beautiful.
Many people think of these places as “armpits” or “hellholes.” Either aesthetically. Or culturally. Or both.
However, these same people are failing to realize the aesthetic genius in “Negative Space.”
—Places that force themselves on the landscape;
—Places where the snow gets dirty; and
—Places that hold a challenging aesthetic appeal.
Negative Space exists in:
—Places with vacant lots;
—Abandoned places, or, conversely, overcrowded places;
—Polluted places. Back alleys;
—Places choked in smog; and
—Wide open places.
To further belabor the point, Negative Space is home in:
—Isolated places, desolate places. Unforgiving places, unsympathetic places;
—Places that smell like gasoline, places that smell like oil. Places with grease, gunfire and burning tires; and
—Places that are too small, places that are too big.
And to really beat a dead horse, I’ll posit that Negative Space thrives in:
—Places where signs are broken, places where lights are out and places where car alarms blare;
—Places that are grey, ashen and overcast; and
—Places that are too cold….places that are too hot.
If you’ve been dumped by a loved one, a drunken binge in Beloit is just what the doctor ordered. Let everyone else have their scenic splendor. Their Eugenes, Olympias, Boulders and Missoulas. These are beautiful places in their own right, but they’re places that hold an easy beauty…an easy emotion.
Places that earn your affection — the ones that don’t overpower you with aesthetic grandeur — ultimately end up being the better friend. The friend with more depth, more layers, more complexity. The friend with more soul.
Let the comforting smog of SacTown caress your damaged psyche.
The Beiruit-ish looking ghettos of Milwaukee will be your shoulder to cry on.
Darkness on the edge of Omaha = your guiding light.
And that weedy, abandoned parking lot in Vancouver, Washington (the non-Canadian Vancouver, “the boring Vancouver”) can be your personal savior…
…if you would just let it.