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What a crying shame.
I know what Portland used to look like, I’ve either visited or lived there since 1961. Decades ago, I courted my future wife Marie by driving us up to Portland from the University of Oregon in Eugene, where we were students. I drove up because Portland was a big city, a place to gawk, window shop, and eat at fancy restaurants.
Forty-some years later, we lived downtown next to the Willamette River. We took an hour walk every morning: first, a stroll north on the Riverwalk with other walkers, then farther north and over to the Pearl where the swells live, then down past Powell’s bookstore, then farther down past the Museum and into Safeway, where we’d often pick up something for dinner, and finally across town to our condo. That morning walk we took every day in Portland probably wasn’t quite as good as that first morning walk that Adam took in his brand new green world — but close. I loved those walks.
That was then.
Portland is now a dirty place, almost devoid of window-shoppers and families visiting the big city. Macy’s on Courthouse Square packed up and left a few years ago, its handsome terra cotta facade now cowering behind sheets of plywood. At least thirty percent of the stores in the downtown core have closed, most of them since the George Floyd episode. In a recent poll, over sixty percent of even the downtown business owners said the city core was no longer safe.
The remaining open stores sometimes leave messages that, in effect, say, “I’m one of you. Please don’t break my windows. Don’t hurt me.” Here’s one such store (see right) owned by some poor schmuck of an optician who painted his window to cow-tow to the vandals. (I shouldn’t have called him a schmuck. He’s just a guy who wanted to protect his property and livelihood and was willing to bend over a bit to do it.)
The Apple store’s facade (see below) of huge windows tell us that they never anticipated roving vandals out every night looking for things to burn and break. In May of 2020, the store was looted and heavily vandalized. Apple had to completely rebuild a significant portion of the costly storefront. They then got serious about protecting their store. It’s now behind two barriers. The other day, I think I saw a little arrow pointing to a small opening where you might enter to talk to an employee, perhaps even buy an iPhone — if you have a reservation.
The vandals, frustrated by Apple’s two barriers that prevent them from breaking the windows, recently tried to burn down the store by setting a fire in a construction site adjacent to the store.
The nearby Nike store was broken into and looted. Here’s what Nike’s once handsome entryway now looks like.
It’s hard to tell just what to make of these roving gangs. Almost all are white, young, and male. They holler leftist slogans and taunt the police. They break windows and set fires. Sometimes they leave behind the anarchist’s symbol scrawled on the side of a building. They are decidedly not what the Left wants them to be: “white nationalists.” They are kids of the left.
Actually, the nightly roving gangs may call themselves BLM, Antifa, or anarchists to lend some significance to their nightly smash and grabs, but I have little doubt that they are merely your run-of-the-mill sociopaths, the jerks and losers of our society, emboldened to break and burn by Ted Wheeler, Portland’s left-wing mayor who lacks a backbone, and the city council members who seem to think that breaking windows is just another form of protesting. (In the past few weeks, the mayor has belatedly concluded that the destruction of the city might not be a good idea. This after more than a year of almost nightly destruction. At one point Portland was plagued by fires, broken windows, and looting for one hundred straight nights.) Even if arrested, the sociopaths know that they’ll be released within hours or the next morning.
Being a church won’t even save you; here’s a guy replacing the window of the First Christian Church (note the pathetic BLM sign in the window). That will get you nowhere with sociopathic vandals whose only goals are chaos and destruction.
Starbucks ’ windows have an almost magnetic attraction to Portland’s sociopaths. Below is a familiar sight: a large window of a Starbucks that is being replaced at a cost of a thousand dollars or so. Throwing a stone in the middle of the night at a thousand-dollar window is an easy and cheap way for a kid who lives in his mama’s basement to make himself feel important.
Graffiti is now defacing a once pristine city. It’s especially thick around the homeless camps on the sides of the freeway, I5, that goes through Portland. But the vandals have also tagged a number of buildings within the downtown core. The Portland Historical Society building, its windows broken, was graffitied with “No More History.”
There’s nothing like graffiti to make people uncomfortable. For one thing, it tells visitors that the city big shots have lost control and now they won’t even try to clean up the city.
The homeless camps have been cleared out in the central core, but all around Portland, in alcoves and niches, down city streets outside the core, on the sides of the freeway that cuts through Portland, homeless men and women make their camps — and of course, leave piles of trash behind. Some streets just outside the core have tents from corner to corner, as you see here.
There are places along the freeway that trash, including feces and toilet paper, of course, literally flows down the sides of the banks on either side of I5. And the concrete barrier along the freeway, which was once clear, is now filled with ugly graffiti.
My wife tells me that her women friends have told her that they never go downtown anymore. It doesn’t look safe. The city is now a place to avoid.
A city used to be a special place. When I was a kid living near the LA Coliseum, my dad would drive the family downtown at Christmas so that we could shop and look at the Christmas animations in the Bullocks and May Company department store windows. We would top off our visit by eating at Clifton’s Cafeteria, whose interior was filled with trees and a rock grotto. Later, as a young man, I and a few buddies would occasionally go to a burlesque house on Main Street — I think it was called the Follies — to hoot and holler. Despite being in a dicey section of LA with a few bums looking for handouts, it was still a relatively clean and safe place to be. Cities were places of delight and wonder. Now too many are places of despair and fear.
Portland is now down and out, like one of its drifters. It’s going to be a long and difficult slog for Portland to get up off its back, clean itself up, do the hard things that need to be done, and return to respectability. I’m not sure that is possible as long as the city is under a Democratic administration.
What a crying shame. I knew Portland when.Published in