Your Hand Built Portland Dreams

So the 3rd edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show happens in Portland, Oregon this weekend. Needless to say there will be a lot of dudes with facial hair, woolen garments, and probably Brooks leather saddles, hanging out at the pubs in between events. I guess frame building is a dream deferred of mine. Portland has kind of “blown up” since I left, not that it wasn’t known in 2002 as a cycling mecca, just that since then, hipsters and the internet conspire to make cyclo-cross, riding fixed gears, and wearing natural fiber knickers (aka man capris) the thing to do. I moved to Germany, then to DC, and then to New York. I gave up on Ecotopia. I didn’t want to have a car. Because the dirty little secret the Northwest always had, I felt, was that unless you like getting rained on 8+ months of the year, it’s nice to have a car to drive to Bend, Oregon and go sun at the desert mountain. Don’t get me wrong. I am sure there are plenty of anarchists still in Portland without motorized vehicles, soaking wet, with moldy underwear, and sweet tattoos, drinking fair trade coffee at The Fresh Pot on Mississippi. They however do not have access to a 24 hour subway system. Nor can they take Metro North anywhere up the Hudson. You cannot even take a train from Portland to Hood River. The bus runs like once a day. It’s not tenable.

Ancillary to the NAHBS show there is an art gallery showing called Teams of Portland. By far my favorite of the “teams” is the Team Super Relax Concept where apparently they merge crazy Japanese graphics with the ultra-relaxed “don’t be a dick” Portland style. In cities everywhere across the world there are many road cyclists who are dicks, this being one of Portland’s answers. An artist friend of mine in New York, Jess, moved out to Oregon last year. It was sad to see her go but I imagine she too is living the slightly damp moldy dream.

The last time I was in Portland was a year and a half ago, in the Fall, it had just started to rain. And boy did it rain. It rained like a foot. The rivers were flooding. Amtrak wasn’t running. All I wanted to do was climb rocks in the desert and truth be told that is all I still want to do. I ended up stranded in Hood River because Jared’s old Subaru’s windshield wiper had self-destructed and the Greyhound was like 4 hours late. I called Becca, as I was worried I wouldn’t get to see her. We went out to dinner with Christopher and Lesley. Becca’s former next door neighbor ran a new popular blog called Bike Portland [typically, as every single person there has a blog, I am sure of it] . You see, it’s a blog about Portland and bicycles. And maybe that’s where the idealism, on one hand utterly cloying, is at least earnest. Sure people drive cars. But no one wants to. Everyone in Portland wants to ride bikes everywhere, all the time. So yes. The idealism is real. In New York you will just get run over by a taxi. Plain and simple. And no one cares. That’s the thing I’ve learned living here. No one cares. So yes, maybe the hard dense city life has made me a bit more cynical. I left my idealism back there in the Northwest. It’s fine I suppose, ultimately it’s where it belongs.

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