Perhaps if I had had the opportunity to visit pre covid. If I had visited before the economic devastation and the weeks of riots and demonstrations had ravaged the city, things would have appeared different.
What we found as we drove through the streets was a city looking as if it was emerging from war. Scores of empty storefronts, blocks of buildings with windows boarded up, a homeless problem that, even city leaders admitted, had reached crisis levels. Tent cities have been created under roadways and vacant lots. The tents of the homeless lined entire city blocks. The inhabitants of the tents, dirty and bedraggled, wander the streets, sometimes converging in groups on corners. Windows of bars and restaurants were covered with paper, closed, some perhaps permanently. Small parks and squares are barricaded, fenced off and graffiti scarred. I heard on the news one local official say that it would take as long, if not more, than 2 years for the city to recover. To me this assessment seemed overly optimistic. The city had a desolate, almost desperate air.
Like many west coast cities it had a provincial feel. Perhaps, being developed so late they haven't had an opportunity to mature, perhaps they do not care to. They are content to be what they are, not striving for more. Unlike my home town of Chicago, which, despite occasional missteps, looks forward to the future, while respecting the past. Bold, arrogant, aggressive yet well mannered and genteel all at once.
For a city so rich in moisture Portland lacks the lushness it could possess. It's streets bare of greenery. It seems to disregard it's past. Historical structures are intermixed with bland, unimaginative concrete structures. Form follows function, except the form is missing altogether. I found myself wondering what was sacrificed, what had been lost forever for so little gained.
Perhaps it is me. Maybe my life in one of the world's great metropolises has made me demand more. I am certain there are those that are content in Portland as I am content in Chicago. Perhaps, even at it's best, Portland is just not for me.