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July 4th, 2012 WW Staff | Cover Story
 

Teenage Wasteland

An all-ages guide to what Portland kids do while parents work and sleep.

tw_intro_3835ILLUSTRATION: Angie Wang
     
Tags: all-ages
Portland is a paradise with cool bands, no cover and cheap drinks—if you can get past the bouncer’s flashlight.

It’s not so kind to the underage.

Cops are on the lookout for packs of kids brawling in Laurelhurst Park. The Gresham MAX station blares classical music to deter loiterers. The city might ban skateboards from some streets.

Portland is one big post-college party, but most places either keep bankers’ hours or lock kids out. Oregon clubs can’t just let in kids with a big black X on each hand. Our coffee shops have fancy roasters and exotic beans, not laid-back baristas who happily watch teens nurse a cheap cup. It’s tough for kids to even catch a $2 flick, since second-run movies screen at theater pubs.

The key to the city of Portland is a plastic card. It’s marked with numbers and letters, including an activation code: If you were born on or before this date in 1991, doors glide open with a wave. Otherwise, you’re left out on the stoop.

Summer is especially cruel. There’s no school and the sputtering economy makes landing a part-time job rough. It’s a lot of long days and sticky nights spent looking for something to do.

This issue is about what underage Portlanders do for fun until the curse of youth is lifted.

They’re smoking hookahs in shady clubs lit by lasers and soundtracked by dubstep, with eyes twitching from all the mochas. They’re rocking out at the shows they’re allowed to see, then heading to a diner to watch drunks vomit in their omelets. All the while, they’re trying to avoid being hassled.

Almost everything here was written by college-age interns and freelance contributors still in high school. If they are not still underage, they’re young enough to remember it well—and to show us the city they know.

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