People from “the real America,” as Jack Donaghy calls it, may think Portlanders are strange. They may think that we do things that only poor people (or people from poor countries) do:
Yes, that was me, knitting my own socks and mittens (from thrifted yarn, no less!). I’m not poor (and I’m not from the 1890s), I’m from Portland.
Yes, that was me trundling my bike off the MAX and riding up next to you at a stop light in the rain. No, I’m not riding my bike and taking public transportation because I’m poor. I’m from Portland.
Why, yes, I did find this shirt in a free basket on the street corner, take it home, wash it and wear it. No, I’m not poor, I’m from Portland.
Yes, I’m drinking a PBR. No, I’m not poor, I’m from Portland.
Yes, I did grow and can this food myself. Yes, I know that you can buy pre-canned food at the grocery store. Yes, I realize that growing and canning your own takes more time. Yes, I realize there’s a grocery store right down the street. No, I’m not poor, I’m from Portland.
Can you think of any more?
Unlike these putative midwesterners, I don’t think that’s how modern poor people actually live. Rather, I think that the above behaviors are how comfortable bourgeois bohemians (like myself) like to imagine that simple peasant folk live. The above behaviors are our attempts to build our own little Walden experience in the midst of urban PDX.
Here’s a blog post that describes how poor people actually live: http://gothdoggy.com/2011/10/06/how-to-live-like-a-poor-person/ .
Here are some blogs that I consulted when corroborating my thesis that “rich” (middle-class) people in “cool” (liberal) cities on the West (best) coast live like poor people, but not like actual poor people. Rather they (we) live like an idealized conception of poor people from, well, the 1890s. I found these by googling “hipsters live like poor people.”
If the choices are modern American, real poor person, or hipster pretending to be a 1890s peasant, I’ll take 1890s peasant every day of the week.