Odyssey, Day 11: Leaving Portland

©2022 Michael Raven

Nothing personal, Portland folks, but I am not sad to be leaving this city. There’s nothing specific, I just found the whole affair underwhelming.

It doesn’t help that, even far past the city limits, on my way to the airport, I saw lots and lots and lots of trash on the ground — no matter where I went.

And, sadly, this was also what I saw almost my whole visit no matter where I was. And it was one of the cleaner arrangements.

While I don’t begrudge the homeless encampments, I do question a place such as Portland, which has such a reputation for liberal ideals and a love of wilderness — how this could continue the way it has without someone intervening outside of the context of talking about it or performing the occasional sweep (which doesn’t solve anything). The levels of trash, even in the extended suburbs is appalling. Along the Red Line, there is trash up in the hills, along the freeway, along the tracks, in the encampments (some were so trash filled, I had a hard time understanding why the residents in the encampments didn’t at least pile it off in a corner off to the side).

Although I show people camping in the streets, it wasn’t the homelessness that appalled me — people are having troubles everywhere that are outside of their control because of any number of reasons (which I won’t get into, as I tend to avoid socio-political commentary here), it was the complete disrespect for the city itself with how dirty and littered it was wherever I turned that amazed me.

Minneapolis is not a city of angels, but the vast majority of us use trash cans where we can, and we have highway crews dedicated to cleaning up the highways. Plus, we have volunteer organizations that “adopt” street and roads to keep them clean. I saw no signs proclaiming such things (although I didn’t look too hard because, if there were signs, the groups weren’t doing the cleanup).

Now, this post isn’t a post shitting on Portland — I can see where it would be a great city in other eras, under other conditions, with different world events playing out. But it was still jarring to see so much… visible disaster — both social and environmental — in a city that makes claims to having differing values than I witnessed. It seemed more talk than walk, and that was surprising to me. Maybe it shouldn’t have been. I’m regularly surprised by today’s world, so I guess this shouldn’t have surprised me if I had thought about it.

Would I return? Sure. Once the world gets its shit together a little better, I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea and might even enjoy myself a bit more if things weren’t in the condition they are in currently. I’d definitely consider staying at the same hotel — it was fantastic for the price.

Am I looking forward to going home? It’s hard to get excited about sub-zero temperatures, work, and getting back into The Routine that I was so anxious to escape. I miss the family somewhat, but I don’t miss the somewhat constant sense of drama that went along with it.

I filled out a healthy chunk of my newly purchased notebook last night and I still have a ton of thinking about what kinds of things I’ve learned while I was away. It wasn’t what I thought I would learn, that’s about all I’m certain about learning. It might be even hard going back to The Routine after all I’ve had to think about. I learned a lot of things, from dining preferences to needing to get back to walking long distances on a daily or near-daily basis, from sleeping patterns to news consumption, from how to deal with pain (emotional as well as physical) to managing stress, from writing habits to shopping habits. There was even a bit of spiritual stuff going on there (quite a bit more than I’ve written about, to be honest).

I need to make some of the changes I experienced permanent changes. I don’t want to go back to where I was before I left for the trip. I didn’t like it there. I want to kill The Routine. But I’m not 100% certain how to go about all of that. While my trip wasn’t what I expected, getting away from the repeated patterns of living has, in fact, been a pivotal moment for me. I’m just uncertain what that moment means still — it’s one of those things that will require a ton of reflection in order to understand everything — from emotions to feelings to thinking to habits.

I should go grab something to eat so I don’t discover I’m starving on the plane. It’s early, but probably not too early anymore.

Stay weird, folks. Stay weird.

One thought on “Odyssey, Day 11: Leaving Portland

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