Portland, How Did We Get Here?


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When I was a kid (see above), Portland held no cultural currency. The “Northwest,” to most people, basically just meant Seattle. I distinctly remember the phrase my family tossed out to explain where we lived to people we met when we traveled: “Oregon? It’s between California and Seattle.”

These days, everyone I meet on the road has a story about Portland, even—often especially—if they’ve never been there. I got a tattoo in Los Angeles last week and the artist practically teared up recounting to me a lost weekend he recently spent in Portland. “I found some really great gutter punks,” he recalled softly. Hundreds of the flight seat buddies, hairdressers, chatty tellers, and otherwise conversational humans I’ve crossed paths with over the years have shared with me some variant. Or, simply, with the vague confidence of secondhand knowledge, have asserted to me that it “seems so nice” out in Portland.

(Meanwhile, everyone in the country called it “Ory-GON” until, like, five years ago.)

I don’t say this because I’m trying to garner cred as a local (there’s nothing less credible, to a lifelong Portlander, than bragging about one’s origins, anyway) but because it’s genuinely incredible how rapidly this city’s cachet has skyrocketed. Sometimes, as an intellectual exercise, I try to remember when it happened. Was it Stumptown coffee? Was it the Dandy Warohls? Which fawning New York Times profile of a Portland farm-to-table organic restaurant catalyzed us into the mainstream?

‘Cause we’re definitely mainstream: a show like Portlandia could only exist in a nation that has an awareness of, or obsession with, Portland. Of course, part of the genius of Portlandia is that the show doesn’t just trade in Portland-specific stereotype sketches; rather, it’s made the (very smart) decision to build a fictionalized universe of characters, with a social physics that is both a riff on the real Portland and its own invention. Still, it couldn’t have made it past the boardroom if Portland, and what it represents, wasn’t already surfing the crest of American cultural consciousness.

Portlandia‘s Portland is sweeter, dreamier, and infinitely more hospitable than the actual city (for one, it never rains in the show). In a sense, it’s what people imagine it to be, rather than what it actually is. Which is the crux of its success, and totally indicative of the national idea of Portland, I believe. A major reason for Portland’s success, why out-of-towners navigate the city limits in gaping awe, perpetually commenting on its residents’ ease of life, why Portlandia charms so many, is because of this:

People like the idea of a place that is still OK!

The Portland of Portlandia—and, to an only slightly diminished extent, the real Portland—is young America’s Shangri-La. Regardless of whether or not they have, or ever plan to, visit Portland, the city has come to represent a life unencumbered by harsh political reality, economic duress, or career hustling. For Angelenos who dream of torching their cars, New Yorkers who are tired of city living’s various indignities, Portland is an escape. Portland reassures.

Portland is more than just “where young people go to retire;” it seems to be an entire generation’s backup plan. One could move to Portland, start making jewelry or manning a farm stand, and life would be easier. Of course, most people don’t relocate, but still: the thought of a clean, pleasant, eco-conscious enclave in this increasingly demoralizing world keeps people sane.

In fact, I might argue a mathematical relationship between Portland’s moment as a media darling-cum-cultural symbol and the darkening of a general socio-political, environmental mood in the country. Encountering overzealous vegetable picklers, buying the wrong artisanal knot, or forgetting your grocery bag seem like the most gentle of ordeals compared to economic upheaval and riot cops.

Of course, that’s a little insane, too. And Portlandia makes us laugh, because it both debunks this myth and lovingly perpetuates it.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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