Portland is a sanctuary city with no Latinos living in it.

That’s a simple statement, but it sums up everything about the city’s culture – it’s all about signaling.

And it’s the kind of signaling that’s an inversion of a regular business sign. A sign in front of a fruit stand advertises that they have a certain fruit because they have that fruit want you to come in and buy that fruit. The signaling the people of Portland do is pointed towards what they lack – virtue, taste, uniqueness, and quality.

Virtue signaling is always a sure sign that virtue is not present (after all, virtue is demonstrated, not “signaled”), but the signaling for the other qualities’ absence, though perhaps more subtle, occurs in the same way. You know virtue-signaling points toward a lack of virtue because that virtue is actually absent in the world of action. You likewise know the people can’t cook when their food tastes bad.

Portland pretends it is a safe harbor for immigrants while harboring none. The city is frankly too expensive for Mexican immigrants to live there. Instead, they congregate in central California and the ghettos of the state’s southern cities, where it is cheap to live, easy to move to, and easy to get government assistance. Effectively, Portland calls itself a sanctuary while erecting an economic wall around itself. This is pleasant for the mostly white residents, who get to feel superior without having to deal with the difficulties of a large immigrant population who speak a different language and share few values with the host.

But it’s like that with everything there.

The food is awful. It’s partly awful because there are no Mexicans there. After all, Mexicans know how to cook food (especially their own food) in the traditional way. There are few foods that beat a taco made with fresh, real ingredients, but Portland seems unable to find anyone who can cook this simple food.

In fact, that is the problem – Portland, if we are to personify it, hates that which is simple and good.

I ate a hamburger there with my sister (who lives there, hence why I visited). It was tiny. The special bun tasted off. The fries tasted weird – apparently they cook with truffle oil. The whole thing left me feeling unsatisfied and with a strange taste lingering in my mouth, and all for about twenty dollars. But why? Why did you screw up a hamburger by rebelling against that which makes hamburgers enjoyable to eat?

That leads me to the next signal: LOOK HOW UNIQUE WE ARE. All the food sacrifices quality for the illusion of uniqueness. Hamburgers are not unique. You take ground beef, grill it, put some vegetables on it, put some bread on the outside, then pair it with cut up potatoes cooked in fat. Adding in spurious ingredients or shrinking the portion size does not make your food and your restaurant unique.

Real local uniqueness comes from local foods, not variations of common dishes. Central California has tri-tip, Philadelphia has steak sandwiches, Texas has brisket. Portland has basic foods that are fussied-up with flavors that don’t belong – hence why nobody else bothers with them. A better option is go the Heart Attack Grill (it’s in vegas – go figure) route: Deliver the most hamburgery hamburger possible.

My sister bought me some donuts in Portland, including one that had a pipette full of Cointreau sticking out of it. The others were better in that there were slightly less pretentious. Raspberry icing isn’t that bad, but a simple glaze is simply better on a donut. It’s like getting a salad with dandelion petals on it – why would you do this to a simple dish? The thing is, you see people all over the city carting around these boxes of Voodoo Donuts – its an institution!

I waited in line for twenty minutes for ice cream. Apparently this was the best ice cream around, but it tasted the same as a grocery store brand – they just put extra bits of stuff in it. Everyone is pretending that things are better than they are, that things are more unique than they are, and that things are worth the trouble of waiting for.

The greater culture is the same. It’s California hippy culture without the farm; it’s west-coast punk but done by middle-class millennials. The open-air market is full of the same garbage at every other swap meet in America. The music is the same music. The buildings are the same brutalist eyesores that dominate all American cities.

I went to a super-sized used bookstore with my sister. That was actually pretty cool, but I couldn’t help but feel that the portion I cared about (fantasy is mostly what I search out) was still just stuffed with the same traditionally published novels that all bookstores have – just older versions of them. It was a fine bookstore, really quite nice, but people there treated it as something super special. It’s just another store full of oldpub books when you get down to it.

The show Portlandia is eerily accurate and less hyperbolic than you might think. Portland is kind of a microcosm of the weird left in America: it doesn’t remember where it came from, it has no idea where it is going, and it thinks it’s very, very special and very, very good (morally AND aesthetically) because of its superficial qualities.

That being said, I don’t hate Portland. It’s just a city with a way above average portion of weirdos.

I’ll take Vegas any day.

Me and some WoW buddies outside the Heart Attack Grill in Vegas

One Comment

  1. Wow! I have to laugh at your opinion of Portland. I have lived here for 36 years. I agree with some of your statements but the Portland Metro area is far larger and more diverse than what you experienced on a short visit.

    Because the area has a large farm community there are Mexican and Latino farm workers working here for decades along with Latinos in other occupations here as well. I was born in California so I know the numbers are far smaller than California which was a Spanish and Mexican territory for several hundred years. The outer suburbs have larger Latino communities.

    There indeed are some terrible restaurants here but there are also some excellent restaurants. Unfortunately you went to the ones with overly pretentious, odd and high priced food. I don’t like them either.

    There are a variety of people here and Portlandia certainly does not reflect myself or the people I know. Many of us locals don’t like the show very much. Most people I know are nothing like Portlandia, but I live in a suburb near Intel and Nike.

    Sorry to her you had such a negative experience here. Portland is not the greatest, but it is in many ways better than it was when I first arrived 36 years ago. The city has a long legacy of prejudice which has improved. There are some local groups who are actually making some very worthwhile and sincere progress. But also, there is a lot of “virtue signaling”. That is probably true in every large city to some degree.

    I agree with your statements but not all of us here are cut from the same cloth. There are some good, sincere and talented folks here. My husband certainly has done great service at the local university for his students from all backgrounds, and tries to be inclusive and supportive. They keep in touch over the years sharing their progress in their field along with family photos.

    Portland certainly has changed over the years I have been here with a huge influx of outsiders that have greatly altered the city culture.

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