The Twice Portlander

I thought of that title driving home from the bar. Oh, that’s bad. It’s bad, right? Well you can’t prove anything so we’re just going to ignore that first sentence. Pretend it’s fiction.

It’s so bad.

No, I mean to say that I thought of the title coming home from my friend’s birthday party over in Montavilla, a part of town I’ve only recently begun to explore.

That’s not right either.

I mean, it’s right but it’s not what I meant to say. You know the feeling. The sentiment is there, but the words, the words fail you. They’re not supposed to fail me, a writer. But, yet they often do.

What I meant to say is this: I got to know one Portland when I first moved to the erstwhile City of Roses. It was the Portland featured in Portland Monthly and best-of lists from the Oregonian. The polished side, the hold-it-up-to-the-light side that other cities were shown.

Hey there, San Francisco, check out our low rent1snort.
New York, it’s pretty good Thai, right?
Seattle, don’t you wish you had one of these?
Columbus, eat my fuckin’ donuts.

You get the point. For years I city I knew was one way. Coming in from the suburbs2And fuck your city limits, Ashcreek is the fuckin’ burbs yo for a Friday date night. Let’s try one brewery a week. I heard about a great Italian place in Sellwood3not gunna lie that one hurt a bit to write. So there’s this ice cream place with olive oil and goat cheese ice cream… It’s a good picture. No, seriously. I don’t want to knock it. For the ‘straight’ couple from the burbs, it’s good. It’s better than Marin BrewCo, again, or the Thai place down at the Landing for the upteenth time. And fuck me if I couldn’t get enough of Bridgeport before it closes up for good.

I just knew it one way.

Portland has marked a lot of change for me. When I first moved to the sleepy little hipster town on the Willamette, I was married to a woman, comfortably out but not realizing that I was sliding back into the closet one new brewery, one bike ride, one 5K run, one day at a time.

Just stepping back into the comfortable dark and telling myself that I liked it.

So yeah, a lot’s changed. My marriage ended. I gayed things up a little. Slept around, did the town, figuratively and literally. Sashayed my bi little ass all over the Pearl District. Spent a little more time in Buckman and Tabor. Lounged by the pond in Laurelhurst. Branched out to all points east. Drank in Montavilla, ate German food in Lents. Bought a house in Boise. Realized that even after ten years since moving here, the city ran deeper than I had really wanted to admit.

Things are like that.

When I was young, when I was in school, when I was in Marin County and dating men and women openly for the first time, I knew myself just one way. I got to know that me well too. Funny. Witty. A little bit San Francisco, a lot bit Portland. Still doggedly a little Sonoma County. I recently began to wear my places on my skin. A rooster for Petaluma, the rose for Portland. Opened up a bit more, focused more on sexuality as that were some sort of fucking totem, and became fully who I thought I was. I don’t want to knock it.

Just stepping into the comfortable lie that I was complete and telling myself that was the work of my days.

I’m leaving Portland again. This will be the second time I’ve left my beloved adopted home, and much like the first, I will be moving for work, I will be bereft of friends and I will be exploring roads unknown. This time, those roads will not be the left-hand drive of Singapore, the two bridges out of a town and thousand flights from Changi, but the same road, just in a different place.

I-5 still, just south.

Yes, it’s bittersweet, even more so than the last time. I have a much more realized social circle, closer friends and loves and chosen family. Last time I had a plan of return. And it hurts more because this time around, I’m doing it alone, not only divorced, but feeling somewhat like a thief in the night, leaving during this pandemic towards terra incognita, coming from re-discovered lands of self and love and sex and friendship and all the experiences of the last few years. Redefining myself, step by step. Like Portland, I knew myself one way, and then I knew myself another. Now we’re heading towards points south, into a new boundary of the map, towards unexplored places.

And yes, you could be forgiven for rolling your eyes right now. A year and change ago, I signed off with “let’s go” and then wrote nary a word for you to read. Well, I lived my life a little. Sank myself into my book. Threw parties and fell in love with my chosen family. Built a fence in Kenton and watched my best friends move into a house of their own, and then…

… and then I lost my way a little. Which was very weird for someone who thought they knew themselves so well.

Well, much like my beloved Rose City, I only got to know myself one way.

Now I’m in Sacramento, a city I know very little of. I’ve driven through it a hundred times, usually en route to or returning from Lake Tahoe to all points west, towards my home in the Bay. I know it’s the capital of California. I know it’s a political town, by necessity. I know it’s a fairly queer town, by Wikipedia of all places. I also know that it’s a fucking hot town by the last 72 hours. I don’t even get to say that I know this place one way. But I will. I often say that I will never stop exploring and I mean it. I never will. But I know California, I know this state, this home of mine, and I know it in a lot of ways. This time, leaving Portland isn’t an adventure into jungle and history and wicked regimes but a journey within, getting to know myself a little bit better, a little bit more completely.

So it goes with life as it does with afdw – we’re starting a new chapter. If the previous chapter was all about the work of gathering one’s self after a sudden stop, then this is the logical next step yes? To draw the next edge of the map.

Don’t look at me like that. I’m going, already.

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