There's a great little unsigned editorial in today's Oregonian replicated on the newspaper's blog with Bob Caldwell's byline, that you might have an opinion about. It's focused, using the somewhat desperate example of Wayne's World, on "Generation Y-Bother Getting My Own Place." But rather than focusing on what Caldwell describes as a "striking new social norm," I think, it speaks volumes about where Portland is as a city, currently.
[Meanwhile, for clarity: I'm assuming Caldwell wrote this piece, because it's signed on the O's blog. But I could be wrong. Still. Being from the generation that doesn't bother, I'm not going to worry too much about it. Y should I?!]
I came to Portland having graduated college in Brighton, England: a town rather like Portland, with a progressive bent but few well-paying jobs. I moved back to my parents' house in South London and worked a graduate job at a bank to pay off my credit cards and bank overdrafts, and build some capital. Then I quit to work for a photographer, and ultimately, got a postgraduate journalism certificate and a job at a financial trade paper. I still have $20,000 in student loans, but fortunately, in England, you have to be earning a certain amount before you have to start paying them off. So last year, for example, I had to write a check for $850, and call it square. They charge 2% interest. Who cares.
My wife was able to get a job here in Portland, and when we eventually got together and were looking at whether to live in Portland or London, Portland seemed an obvious choice, if only for economic reasons, and because I didn't fancy sharing my parents' attic with her to avoid joining generation debt.
I can't speak for wifey, but I came here because Portland seemed like one of the last places in America or the UK where it might be possible to live the kind of life my parents had lived in their 20s, independent and excited, without having to depend on them, or on a credit card, for financial support.
But Portland is changing. They're not planning the new I-5 bridge for nothing. This is a city, I think, with massive economic potential. And that means the young'ns are going to get priced out. There's going to be more competition for the same jobs. Portland's "laid back" character will be nothing but a facade masking a ruthless tussle for the limited opportunities on offer. Just like New York.
If you need a metaphor for what I'm suggesting, just look at mayor-elect Sam Adams. He may be gay. Hell, he may even be "nice." He rides a bike! He was Oregon raised, for crying out loud. But mark my words: The guy is ambitious as all hell. And if you're in his way, he'll close you down. Just ask convenience store owner, Doug Peterson.
I don't expect people like Caldwell to care, of course. After all, the worst he'll be facing over at the O is a buyout settlement when the paper eventually decides it can't afford to employ him any longer, and he'll probably have enough to retire to the coast. But for us young, ambitious Portlanders, those of us who came here to get started, rather than to live in our parents' basements (or attics) any longer, it rather sticks in the craw to have some old hack attack a whole generation based on a stereotype from 1992.
I was 13 in 1992, Bob. And people like me are about ready to drink your milkshake...whether you like it or not.
Get the best of the Mercury each week in your inbox!