Thursday, September 22, 2011

I’m Hip?

The Avalon Theater
Back when I was emailing friends to let them know about my move to Portland, I got this response back from a good San Francisco buddy named Pete (whose band the Enablers you can check out here); Pete said (in part): “Lovely city. Don't drown in the hipster quotient, though, all right?”  My response was “Heck, I'll be eligible for the senior discount in just over a month—not too worried about the hipster quotient!”

Of course, that month has come & gone, & I’ve now been in Portland for just over 6 weeks.  Yesterday I went out for a tour of the Belmont neighborhood, also in Portland’s southeast quadrant.  I have applications in on the waiting lists for a couple of subsidized housing places in that general neck of the woods, & I’ll also be giving my first Portland performance there on Friday, October 7th at the Bare Bones Café

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by on 10/7/11!
The thing that struck me—that also struck me a couple of weeks ago when I went out to explore Alberta Street & other parts of northeast & north Portland—I really am drawn to the “hip/funky” neighborhoods.  What can I say?  & at my age too! 

Now I should be clear: I really am not looking to become a hipster!  No piercings, no skinny black jeans, dyed hair, & no tattoos—never did get one, tho I considered it at various times.  At this point, I can’t think of any statement or image I really want indelibly inked on my person, & I also realize that—given age & the inevitable state of disrepair that comes with that, I can’t say my person as it is now configured is really a suitable canvas for body art.   As far as the rest goes
—hey, I've dressed/presented myself to the world in a similar way for years, & I'm not about to change now!  There is nothing quite so ridiculous as a middle-aged (or older) man who tries to disguise himself with the outward appurtenances of youth.

Just your usual neighborhood record shop/cocktail lounge
But that doesn't mean that I don't have a young feeling at least in a part of my heart—soul—being—whatever you want to call it.  & there’s something vibrant to me about these areas—the shops, the cafés, folks out on the streets.  I’ve always felt like, if I’m going to live in a city, I want a city experience—I want things a little bit gritty & funky, because it does something for my soul.  Who knows?  I might even start writing poems again or something!

The thing is tho: at my age, what does it mean that I would want this?  Shouldn’t I be looking for a suburban home to suit my late middle age?  Fact is: that’s just not in the cards, if for no other reason than because of financial realities.  I accept that.  From here on out, life is going to be a case of making do.  It will involve living in subsidized housing—which is often (but not always) in so-called “transitional neighborhoods,” or it may include living in shared space
—something I certainly associate with a younger time of life.  I really feel ok with this.  In fact, it’s an exciting prospect! Because the other thing is this: my life has probably come to this pass because of the way I've lived it—the decisions I've made, the way I've interacted with the world, the mistakes I've made & maybe even some of the things I did wisely.

Always a welcome sign: no lack of java on this street!

Anyway, not sure if these thoughts are coherent or interesting to anyone but me, but at least there’s a great song for your enjoyment.  Speaking of hip: no one could possibly be much more truly hip than the late, great Blossom Dearie, who tells us all about it in this great song.  As you may know, the song was written by Dave Frishberg, for my money about the best songwriter going, as well as a talented jazz pianist, & no slouch as a vocalist either, especially on his own songs.  & he’s a fellow Portlander!



  1. "From here on out, life is going to be a case of making do."

    A lot of us can, or perhaps should, read our futures in that sentence.

    Always got a kick out of Blossom Dearie and her most unusual voice.

  2. From the pictures it looks liked a great neighborhood. Good luck!

  3. Good people make good neighbourhoods, John. Your presence can only add more value to what looks like an 'okay' place.

  4. Hi Jacqueline, Roy & Martin

    Jacqueline: I guess the thing is we can either embrace the reality of that or fight it! Yes, I love Blossom Dearie's singing.

    Roy: Great neighborhood indeed! Thanks!

    Martin: What a kind thing to say! Thank you.

  5. Part of being hip is going with the flow. If being in certain neighborhoods makes you feel inspired or happier, then go with it. No need to dress funny for your age :) I've never really thought of self-proclaimed hipsters as being hip anyway, maybe because they're trying too hard.

    I like your reflections. They're honest and straightforward.

  6. Hi HKatz: That's a great definition of real hipness, I think! No worries about me getting all decked out--won't happen. I agree that a lot of the hipsters are trying pretty hard :)


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