A Letter to Portland

Dear Portland,

Nearly five years ago, when I set out westward for the longest solo road trip I’d yet undertaken, I had no idea what I would find when I arrived. No idea whether I would land the job I came all this way to interview for (I didn’t), where I would stay, or what I would find when I arrived. It was less an act of courage and boldness than one of desperation. After having applied at every opening I could find in my tiny Midwestern hometown and received one acceptance only to have my hopes crushed quite thoroughly just a week after starting, it was too much to take. Portland offered refuge and possibility, community, and potential, in comparison to a little town that just didn’t seem to want me.

Portland, Oregon, home to the quirky and incorrigible, the proudly weird alternative to normal (so-called) society. Marion and I were talking about this the other day… you don’t feel bad here, to just be, and people don’t cast judgmental glances at you for failing to meet the standard of so-called ‘normal,’ as they might elsewhere. You can walk down the street on stilts in a clown costume (and people do) and no one will cast you a second glance.

I hope you will allow me to regale you with genuine adoration and deep sympathy for the particular challenges and thrills you embody. Your neighborhoods hug the slopes of ancient mountains and you are a short drive from the impressive expanse of the nearby Pacific Ocean. Your personality toes the line between silliness, absurdity and creativity… the very same realms I prefer to inhabit as often as I can. It feel it in every last sip of your much-better-than-midwest coffee, your delicious and plentiful restaurants and food carts, your magnificent cocktails and home-tested craft beers, and your numerous music stores, marijuana dispensaries and sex-positive vegan strip clubs. It hasn’t been easy to get established here, and it hasn’t been perfect by any measure, but what is? But now, nearly five years later, I’m in so many ways a completely different person, and I feel exactly the same way about this city.

I feel like a writer in a city of writers, a creative in a city of creativity, an activist in a city of activists, and a seeker in a city of seekers. Dear Portland, I found others like myself here,  others like my wife Marion, who craved a new life and new lifestyle, steeped in drama and music and good food and a marked rejection of so-capitalistic self-seriousness.

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I found Marion, and married her, and now Marion and I have just welcomed our first child to the world, born right here in Portland. I can’t really describe all the joy and fatigue, late nights and early mornings, satisfaction and exhaustion that I feel about having this new person in the world, and helping him grow up in it. He seems a product of the happiness and struggle it took on my part to build this life I’m living, and now to see it embodied in the eyes of this tiny child who looks so much like me.

When Tobias first arrived and I first laid eyes on him, it was so clear that he was perfect. He was everything that I’d imagined and dreamed of, and more. A dark whispy patch of copious brown hair, tiny little hands, dark and soulful eyes, and a contagious smile. He has been with us nearly three months now and I am seeing more and more of the person that he will be – silly, smart, loving music, playfully dancing, and totally into books and new people. I’ve never seen a child so happy to find himself the center of attention in a crowded room.

me with toby

I’m so happy here in this unique, beautiful town and to now be lucky enough to have this opportunity to build a family to share that happiness with. Thank you for accepting me, Portland, and for serving as the ideal home for the beginning of something so new, and so exciting, and so full of promise and joy.

love, Justin

A Letter to Portland

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