Place Where You Live:

Portland, Oregon

The stores are closed, but in this neighborhood I’m never more than a few doors away from a tube of cadmium yellow or a guitar string. My young neighbors are pleased to have something to share. The prospects for a spare egg are dicier: the spirit is willing, but the pantry is weak. The custom is to buy a three-dollar burrito the size of your head down at the corner, and it will hold you all day. Jobs are scarce, old-style anyway; but coffee is both fuel and currency, and folks on either side of the counter at the coffee-house swap places and pass off the apron like a baton.

We’re tucked inside an Urban Growth Boundary which defines us a couple ways, including literally, and we’re snug as puppies in a basket. Around here, we love our open spaces so much we’ve agreed not to live in them, mostly, and so open they remain, safe from our affection. It does mean we’ve had to tighten up, here within the boundary, and rely on each other. The young people are still coming in despite the slim hope of employment, with faith that they will survive, and somehow they do. A few snag a real job, some stitch together a few lesser gigs, and the rest sift through an underground railroad of sofas all over town. Loose consortiums cover the rent. It’s almost like joining a band, which is not (yet) mandatory: everyone has the sense they are collaborating on a little project called Civilization, and that it will sustain them. They can live without many things, including, I suspect, laundry soap, but not without each other’s support. It’s a fine faith and it works no less mysteriously than the old economy based on endless growth and consumption.

I’m just an old-timer with clean clothes and some means, but no cadmium yellow, at the moment, and there’s no door on this block I can’t thump on. I’m honored to help keep this economy going. I’m the universal donor, after all: I have a pickup truck.