Portland, we've got a bone to pick with you.
Yeah, we're talking to you, buddy. None of this passive-aggressive "who, me?" conflict-dodging. Let's be honest: You're mad at us, and we're mad at you.
The other day, one of our editors was talking to a newcomer—freshly arrived in Portland from California. What did she think of our fair city? "Everybody is angry," she replied. "Portland isn't weird. Portland is mad."
That's indisputable. Maybe it's Twitter pumping outrage into our brain stems. Maybe it's the Proud Boys heading into the streets each month looking for a fight with Antifa. Or maybe we just never got over all the forest-fire smoke. But this city has its teeth set on edge. The mood is as foul as we can remember.
Seems like we could all use a kvetch.
In 1999, WW introduced Kvetch Fest, our seasonal airing of civic grievances. It's not a festival we annually observe; we pull it out of mothballs whenever we think Portland could use a bitch session and a good-natured chuckle at our own pettiness. This is the sixth occurrence—and, in a happy coincidence, the first to fall during Hanukkah. ("Kvetch," for those who don't know, is Yiddish for complaining. Don't even think about accusing us of cultural appropriation, you schmucks.)
This year, we asked a few of our favorite regular writers to tell us what's annoying them. We asked a few civilians, too—you'll find the guest kvetches scattered throughout the following pages. You can join the chorus by writing to email@example.com.
Let's clear the air.
The Hash Brown Shortage
It's easier to find hash oil than hash browns in this town. Portland prides itself on a beautiful brunch—or at least one pretty enough to post on Instagram—so maybe that's why every breakfast plate comes with an artfully arranged batch of roasted potatoes. Roasted potatoes are for dinner. Shredded hash browns are for sopping up runny eggs. Yes, they are a pain in the ass to cook and take up space on your griddle. But they are glorious. I know only one joint in Portland that consistently serves hash browns like you'll find at any decent Waffle House. I'm not telling you where it is. You can't have my hash browns. AARON MESH.
What a racket. I don't mind an extra deposit to secure an apartment that will take my fluffy friend and her mild dander problem. That's basically insurance for the landlord, and I'll vacuum extra vigilantly to get it back. But pet rent is just a surcharge with a new, serious-sounding name, tacked on because landlords know people with pets are desperate and willing to pay. Adding 50 bucks each month or my feline has to go feral? That's basically blackmail. Next thing you know, some glass tower on the Central Eastside is going to start charging "child rent" for each kid. Actually, that's reasonable. Both cats and children pee everywhere—but children are louder. AARON MESH.
NBA writer Dane Delgado put it best: "Real Blazers fans aren't worried because real Blazers fans are already dead inside." But let's be real: If the Portland Trail Blazers suddenly became a league-dominating juggernaut, most of y'all wouldn't know what to do with yourselves. A sense of myopic self-pity has ingrained itself so deeply into the fan base, I'm pretty sure the city would spend the championship parade waiting for the float carrying the team to fall into a sinkhole. Sure, plenty of bad shit has happened—destiny-altering injuries, failed draft picks, fourth-quarter collapses, Rudy Fernandez—but the fans who run to Twitter to performatively bemoan every loss as some kind of cosmic futility should remember that many franchises would kill to have just one championship, let alone several finals runs, a world-beating backcourt of Dame and CJ, and the right to put Rasheed Wallace on T-shirts and claim him as their own. MATTHEW SINGER.
The Superfund Sham
The Portland Harbor Superfund site is a tiresome fiction. In 2000, the feds designated the downtown bed of the Willamette River an environmental disaster and ordered the responsible parties to clean it up. Eighteen years have passed and, aside from some law firms and consultants who've made handsome livings running out the clock, nothing has happened. The pretense of regulation may be worse than no regulation at all. NIGEL JAQUISS.
Streetcar Tracks in the Bike Lane
Almost nothing annoys me when I'm on a bike. In fact, my ride to work is my outlet for obliterating the stresses of balancing work and family. Should some worry come to mind, I just pedal a little harder—at least until I hit the streetcar tracks of the Pearl District. They're a terror.
There's research behind this complaint: Streetcar tracks have been fatal for cyclists across the country and, for decades, a major cause of accidents for Portland cyclists. One national study showed the left turn across tracks was the most dangerous—and so it is for me. The left turn out of the Pearl onto the Broadway Bridge across bumpy asphalt and streetcar tracks is the scourge of my commute. Go bye, streetcar! RACHEL MONAHAN.
The Food Cart Exodus
I hate the fact that food carts are disappearing in large numbers and the city seems to have no plan to preserve them. In Singapore, where real estate is a lot more expensive than in Portland (and the food is even better), the government long ago realized noodle chefs and satay men couldn't compete with investment banks for space. So they set aside large "hawker centers," where a universe of tiny food and drink vendors operate in the middle of the city. Let's get all those planners to do something useful for our stomachs. NIGEL JAQUISS.
The "White Fragility" Billboard
It's time we talk about this "Portland…Is Your White Fragility Showing?" billboard that popped up on Southeast Belmont Street and 26th Avenue last April. The billboard was mounted by an anonymous racial-justice group called Portland Equity in Action to bring attention the deaths of Larnell Bruce Jr., who was killed by white supremacists in Gresham, and Terrell Johnson, who was killed by police on Southeast Portland MAX tracks. According to PEA's website, the billboards were intended to "disrupt the rampant complacency in this city regarding issues of white supremacy." One problem: I didn't know that's what the campaign was about until I went home and Googled it. Reducing the deaths of Bruce and Johnson to "white fragility"—an academic term that describes how white people become sad when they learn about racism—isn't any better than explaining racism as "economic anxiety." Bruce didn't die of white fragility. He died because two pieces of shit didn't see his life as having any value. That seems pretty easy to put on a billboard. CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
Restroom Keys at Restaurants
Nothing makes me lose my appetite faster than going to wash my hands before a meal and having to contend with a restroom key attached to a spoon—or a scuffed-up piece of wood, or half of a French press, or whatever cumbersome germ trap the manager decided to affix it to. And for what? To make sure everyone who uses your precious toilet purchased a pizza slice? I've worked in the service industry, and can say with certainty paying customers are no cleaner or more courteous than the general public. If making sure only people who pay can piss in your commode is your hill to die on, at least have a restroom code—four digits, max. The only thing worse than having to memorize a five-digit restroom code is the disgusting key. CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
There's Still No MAX Train to Vancouver
It's madness. It takes, I dunno, like three days to drive home if you live anywhere north of downtown Portland, and that's because every resident of Vancouver is sitting alone in a car, listening to a Ducks football replay on the radio. The answer to the problem is staring us in the face: a MAX line to Vancouver.
As a lifelong son of Clark County who doesn't drive, I have long been deeply annoyed by this absence. Of course, it goes without saying that my Clark County people are suspicious of taxes and of scruffy-looking people arriving via train, but they have to recognize the traffic situation is untenable, and an honest-to-God train line is an elegant solution that basically every other suburb in the Portland metro area has already done with no harmful side effects.
It's getting so congested that some people have been talking about a ferry—a ferry, for pity's sake—connecting Vancouver and Portland. Like in a James Garner movie about riverboat gambling! This solution sounds like a colossal waste of time for commuters and a plainly absurd exercise in sending a boat chugging along for a distance of less than a mile. Just build a new bridge and put some train tracks on it! CORBIN SMITH.
Silly Bicycle Helmets
Grown adult human beings pedal around this town wearing helmets covered with stegosaurus plates, or rows of spikes, or devil horns. Do you really want to have your head crushed while wearing a helmet painted like a watermelon? Because I'm telling you now: If that's what you're wearing when your time comes, there will be jokes.
How dare I be mean about bike safety? Cool it, pal—I feel the same about people who put those festive red noses and antlers on their cars. Imagine a witness being interviewed by the police and saying, in a somber tone, "That's correct, officer, the Rudolph car was trying to turn left across traffic when it got T-boned by the semi and burst into flames." CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
Every social media app is terrible and should be flung directly into the sea. But most of them feel like well-meaning experiments that just went awry. Mark Zuckerberg wasn't trying to destroy democracy, any more than Dr. Frankenstein wanted to freeze to death in the Arctic looking for a murderous corpse. Sometimes things just don't work out.
But NextDoor? That's the one app that looks designed out of pure malice. And it feels particularly insidious in Portland. Why? In Portland, every third post is someone expressing fear for their life because someone poor breathed in their direction, and they are pretty sure they've been exposed to Spanish measles. You should just call the app "Oh no, I just saw a homeless person!" NextDoor is a cauldron of middle-class paranoia. If Portlanders had to pay a dollar every time they logged into NextDoor, we could build apartments for everyone. AARON MESH.
Social media outrage directed at restaurants is one of Portland's most popular pastimes—and an all-you-can-eat buffet of embarrassment. Portlanders have gotten mad because cooks who aren't Mexican sold burritos, children beat up a piñata that looked like Trump at a restaurant opening, and Jewish restaurant owners didn't kick someone wearing a German air force T-shirt out of their establishment fast enough.
Sometimes the anger is justified. But then again: This summer, people started protesting and harassing an Egyptian food cart because the owner had been arrested for attacking a customer after allegedly calling her a racial epithet. Except they protested the wrong food cart. They mixed up the names of two Egyptian food carts. This is a tremendous way to protest racism.
What is it about Portland that makes restaurants such an easy target? I think it's mostly because this city is full of liberal white people who rely on social media clout for subsistence and feed themselves by yelling at other white people for being bigots. CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
Who could possibly give a shit that we have to share the road with e-scooters? Who looks at somebody experiencing joy and feels the urge to smash their ride? I don't care if scooters pile up on the sidewalks, or if riders aren't wearing helmets. I'm not 10 million years old and constipated, that's why.
It's much more alarming to learn that in Portland during the four-month experiment with scooters, people lit them on fire, dropped them off buildings and threw them into the river. How little self-control must you have to feel a need to toss scooters into trees? It's making me suspicious of my fellow citizens. How many of you are one beer away from ripping apart my bicycle? CRYSTAL CONTRERAS.
You Can't Smoke Weed at the Movies
Being stoned at the movie theater: You like it, I like it, everyone likes it. The only problem is logistical: Staying properly lit for a two-hour, 30-minute Marvel movie is kind of hard! You could do edibles, but those candies are unreliable as hell. You're not trying to be straight for half of Ant-Man, then way too stoned for the second half. You could vape in the theater, but you're not a monster and, more importantly, you don't want to get caught.
It's time for movie theaters to offer patios where you can step out halfway through a movie, take a fatty rip off a J, and step back inside the theater, where you can buy some popcorn and kick back with your good pal Rocket Raccoon. The fact that this isn't legal (editor's note: It definitely isn't legal) is just another reason Portland's progressive reputation is fake as hell. CORBIN SMITH.
Knute Buehler's Goatee
Now that the governor's race is over, I can finally say this: Nothing drove me so crazy this year as Republican nominee Knute Buehler and his ever-changing facial hair. Every time I turned on a Blazers game, there was Knute in some commercial, chatting with small-business owners about putting hobos in jail or something, and his goatee was in a different place. Sometimes it changed color and location from shot to shot. No continuity whatsoever. The GOP spent some $20 million and couldn't get him a consistent shave. It was like being asked to vote for an Etch-a-Sketch character. We would have a new governor if he'd just grown a nice beard like a normal person. AARON MESH.
Bus Riders Who Don't Preload Their HOP Cards
It drives me crazy when passengers get on the bus without loaded HOP cards, tap their cards on the scanner, get that little bwah-bwah noise, realize they forgot to load their cards earlier, say "Oh, sorry," stand near the entrance of the bus while everyone is trying to get on, add a measly $5 to their card, so they can find themselves in this pickle again at the soonest possible moment, retap the card while everyone waits for them, get a ding, and sheepishly thank the bus driver, as if this weren't the third time they've done this in the past week. Don't they know ample auto-load options are available on the website and the app? Are they really so hard up they can't just auto-deposit 10 bucks when they're running low? It drives me especially crazy because: I am the person who does this, all the time, more than anyone in the world, and I know my vile irresponsibility is driving everyone I meet to madness. It's me. I am the kvetch. CORBIN SMITH.
Extra Kvetch! We asked some of our favorite Portlanders to share what ticks them off. They had a lot to unload:
"The damn noise pollution caused by people moving from cities where honking is a thing. It's contagious and likely unstoppable." — Zia McCabe, Dandy Warhols
"Portland is a city that can look at a huge amount of homeless people and think, 'I should build a dog hotel.'"— Corina Lucas, comedian
"I hate when people say they're from Portland, but really they're from like Vancouver or Gresham or the westside. That's not Portland. Half a million people live out there. You can't just say you're from Portland, you're from Beaverton. It's a big enough city, be proud of it. And everybody smokes American Spirits, I hate that. I run out of cigarettes and I'm like, 'Hey, can I bum a cigarette?' And they hand me a crusty-ass American Spirit that takes 15 minutes to smoke." — Dee Casey, manager at Laundry PDX
"My biggest P-town peeve is that there doesn't seem to be a height restriction on the ugly-ass, janky condos that seem to reproduce like genetically defective rabbits around here. Are these developers paying someone off? Do they have to be the cheapest, nastiest-looking ones?" — Courtney Taylor-Taylor, Dandy Warhols
"I'm looking forward to the pothole-filling ninjas this winter. I spilled coffee on my lap yesterday after a bump on Albina and got a heart hard-on imagining the rogue hole-fillers after a good season of frozen street spoliation." — Matt Brown, Bunk Sandwiches
"People in Portland love to be as uncomfortable as humanly possible. Every restaurant is the size of a fucking storage unit. And for some reason, we all have to sit together, at long, weird picnic tables, linking arms and trying like hell not to relax your legs too much, lest you suddenly make three-point contact with your neighbor. If there even are chairs, they're made out of recycled bicycle parts or oil drums or whatever else they found in the alley. If you're charging $17.98 for a hummus plate, you can afford individual tables. I've seen them shits at IKEA for 50 bucks apiece." — Becky Braunstein, comedian
"Seriously, whose bright idea was it to have street names printed on only one side of our street signs? Was it a financial decision? Because I'd be happy to help raise money to finish the job. I can't tell you the number of almost-accidents I've witnessed stemming from indecisive drivers searching in haste for nonexistent street names." — The Unipiper
"All my life, Portland has been talking about how important all-ages music is. Meanwhile, aside from some rare and short-lived exceptions to the rule, we've always decided to sell alcohol instead of having places for the next generation of music to cut their collective teeth alongside the last. Maybe it's a vast conspiracy against the kids by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission. More likely, it's because Portlanders don't like music as much as we like drinking, and we won't admit it because we all want to seem smarter than that." — Bim Ditson, musician
"Why are you outside jogging in the rain? Why are you jogging in 40-degree weather? Knock it off!" — Shain Brenden, comedian
"Californians, we don't hate you for being Californians—we hate that you're acting like Californians. It's not enough that you're driving property values up to the point we can't afford rent, and traffic is insane at 1 pm, but I can bet at any gathering you'll point out the streets you pronounce incorrectly, giggle and say, 'I thought it was Wil-la-MEHT-tay!' If you're particularly boring, you'll ask if I've been 'keeping it weird.'" — Belinda Carroll, comedian and Portland Dyke March organizer
"I hate how every bar and restaurant uses those old-timey vintage light bulbs—like the one place Portland isn't going to be progressive is when you'd like to see the $13 drink you ordered. We get it, the '20s were a fine decade. Move on." — Jake Silberman, comedian
"I have a real problem with the woman in North Portland who hands out fliers on the dangers of climate change and encourages me to ride my bike to the grocery store—while also trying to organize unvaccinated child play groups and tells me I did my kids a disservice by getting them shots. I understand people picking and choosing their science when it comes to certain topics, but please get your kids vaccinated. Tussin can't cure pertussis, and your crystals can't either." — Leigh Feldman, event promoter
"I often see drivers stop at an intersection with a two-way stop sign and they have the right away. For a few minutes, there is this interchange of 'you first' or 'no, please, after you' while cars on the entire intersection come to a complete stop—a waste of precious few minutes of travel time." — Zari Santner, former director of Portland Parks & Recreation