Portland Isn’t a Dumpster Fire. It’s Watching a Sunset Together.

From the outside, it absolutely looks a mess. But I don’t live on the outside.

What are the barometers by which you measure the rehabilitation of a city after experiencing this level of collective trauma?

Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse, Portland has been cracking open and regrowing herself like some kind of mossy mollusk for the whole 17 years I’ve lived here. Before the world closed down, Portland already had a reputation. And I get it—from the outside, it absolutely looks a mess, but from the inside, it looks much different.

From the inside, Portland is roses in bloom, perfuming whole city blocks. It’s pillowy gray clouds dragging ethereal white streaks across sapphire blue skies. It’s infinite shades of evergreen. It’s a party in every park as soon as the rain dries up. It’s still hundreds of us watching sunsets together on Mount Tabor.

From the outside, someone might think Portland looks like a dumpster on fire, but I don’t live on the outside.

And from the inside, this is a city overflowing with potential. It’s not bereft of people of color; our cultures are thriving. It is not a hospitality desert, it is a community of labor sympathizers. It’s not a swarming hive of violent activism, it’s a home worth fighting for.

Hotels can come and go, offices can become obsolete, structures—literal and figurative—can shift and break under the weight of changing values, but the ideal of Portland is forever, and even in its reconstruction phase, it belongs to all of us.

This is evidenced by my guest Rachel Saslow’s reporting in this week’s cover story, “Is Portland Back?” Rachel will join me to unpack the barometers by which we might measure reconstruction efforts so far.

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