Sellwood neighborhood residents: notwithstanding the title of this post, you don’t need to lock your doors and keep a baseball bat near at hand. The Salem escapees I’m referring to are utterly gentle souls, Mark and Lynda. They’re friends of ours who recently bought a Sellwood condo on the Willamette River.
I ran into Mark yesterday at Salem’s one and only decent natural food store, LifeSource. Mark said that they had started moving into the condo on Saturday and should be finished this coming weekend. So they’re short-timers. Just a few days left on their Salem sentence.
That’s the way Salemites tend to talk when a fellow captive succeeds in escaping our sleepy, boring, moribund capital city. “You’re getting out! That’s great. I’m happy for you. You’re going to enjoy _____ [name of new location] so much more.”
It reminds me of an old-fashioned gang movie where a bunch of losers are sitting on some tenement steps in a rundown urban wasteland. They’ve got nowhere to go, nothing to do. Drink some beer, raise some hell, get in a fight with another gang. That’s it. There’s no hope, no jobs, no future for them.
Mario walks down the sidewalk and stops to talk. “Hey, guys, I got the scholarship. I’m going to college, man. I’m getting out of this hellhole. And I’m not looking back.” His soon-to-be forgotten comrades say, “Way to go, Mario. You gotta make it for all of us. We’ll still be here shooting the same shit when you graduate. Come back and tell us what it’s like in the real world.”
I’m happy for Mark and Linda. They’re going to have to commute to their jobs in Salem, but when they get home to Sellwood they’ll be in a city that’s alive, not dead. Mark shamelessly poured it on during our chat by the deli food. By the end of our conversation I felt like shooting myself (a familiar feeling if you live in Salem).
“Our condo looks right out on the river. We see boats, wildlife, paddlers. I can get on my bike and ride the Eastbank Esplanade all the way to the Pearl District. There’s a Starbucks within walking distance. We’re close to the New Seasons Market.”
On and on Mark went, contrasting his upcoming Portland rebirth with my continuing Salem zombie existence, but I couldn’t blame him. He’d just about finished serving his time and was looking forward to life on the outside, where people walk briskly because they’ve got somewhere to go.
As I’ve observed before, “Salem is a boring town. I like to say that Salem is the amorphous undistinguished center between four interesting one-hour-away compass points. North is Portland. South is Eugene. West is the Pacific Ocean. East is the Cascades. And in between all these wonders? Blahville USA.”
I wish I could come up with another way to put it than how I said it before, but I don’t have the energy. Might as well repeat myself. I live in Salem, Groundhog Day capital of the world.