Vintage or really used?

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

July 28, 2008

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Categories: The Balancing Act

When I was first introduced to Portland, my friend Kate had a sign on her car “boycotting” “overpriced thrift stores on Hawthorne.” This was 2001. The reason was that residents and businesses on Hawthorne Blvd. were boycotting a potential McDonald’s. They did not want a McDonald’s to be built on their street lest it ruin the ambiance. So, Kate printed a sign that read “Stop Overpriced Thrift Stores on Hawthorne” in small retaliation against the NIMBYism which she witnessed.

Now that I’ve lived in Portland for five years, I find myself getting really tired of these quaint ways of describing things like using the word vintage to describe a once decrepit bungalow or reclaimed wood to describe a torn up old fence. It’s like this city is so full of euphemisms it fails to recognize the hypocrisy of those terms. I’m tempted to say that it fails to allow people to see the bad in the city, but many are quick to judge or point out when someone is “wrong”. A short visit to the Cesar Chavez city council meeting in November made it clear that there were at least two sides to the issue and both sides were loudly voicing their opinions.

When I was attending Michigan State University for the second time, one of my professors had us read a piece on multiculturalism. He pitted two articles against each other for the days readings and we discussed them in class. So, one article argued for multiculturalism to be taught in schools because that was one way to incorporate diversity into education. The other article condemned multiculturalism as a mode of thought that only wanted to teach the good about any one culture and refused to recognize the bad, such as genocide one culture may have inflicted on another.

It feels like Portland practices the latter form of multiculturalism. The residents (many of whom are transplants like myself) want to celebrate all that is good and great about Portland without recognition to the bad that happens. Sure, sell that property as vintage and give it an overpriced sticker for rent but don’t ask what happened to the previous tenants who paid $500 less a month for it before the owner decided to renovate. Then we call it development instead of gentrification. That mind set is really used and not at all vintage.

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