To borrow a phrase, Portland is one wretched hive of scum and villainy.
Step out the front door, and there's no telling what you might encounter. A dude with a sword angrily chopping a palm tree. A family fistfighting over a hot dog. A suspicious man on the MAX wearing plastic wrap and brandishing a pistol.
The best you can do is try to be prepared.
Thankfully, PDX Alerts has its fingers on the pulse of all this chaos, and knows how to type. Managed by a group of public safety professionals who say they prefer to remain anonymous, the 5-year-old Twitter account began as an outlet for self-described "scanner nerds" to relay information coming over various emergency dispatches. But it's become a local favorite—with more than 35,000 followers—for its partly unintentional portrayal of Portland as a kind of post-apocalyptic slapstick dystopia, where wheelchair brawls break out in front of the Paul Bunyan Statue and police wrangle pirates out of trees.
Most reports are standard TV news fodder: shootings, bridge-jumpers, missing children, domestic disputes, the occasional guy on a street corner wielding a machete. Others are so preposterous they stretch believability—warnings of a homeless man eating stolen brisket directly next to the smoker he yanked it from; a "non-consensual exorcism" at a home in North Portland; an "'out of control' 10-year-old throwing salsa at people" at the Cha Cha Cha on Hawthorne. But the scribes behind the account swear nothing is embellished, at least on their end.
"The public is notoriously inaccurate about what is actually happening," says one administrator, who asked to remain anonymous. "Anyone who questions the validity of the reports can buy a scanner and spend hours each day listening and paying attention to the calls that come out across the net, and they are bound to hear some oddball calls."
And remember: If you hear something, tweet something.