Last night my wife and I watched the first episode of IFC's Portlandia with more than a little city-envy. Portland is just way hipper, greener, progressive, and energetic than our sleepy Salem.
I can't begin to imagine what a comparable Salemandia TV series would be like. All I know is that it'd be boring.
Comparatively, I have to admit. Meaning, Salem has the geographical misfortune of being located between two of the most interesting cities in the United States, Portland and Eugene.
So the yawn with which we Salemites describe our town is a relative evaluation, not absolute. Case in point: I just got back from a vegan potluck gathering, which shows that some people in Salem are as culinarily cutting edge as Portlanders are.
At the potluck I talked with a youngish (late twenties?) girl about Portlandia and what it's like for someone her age to live here. She said, "Recently I lived in Grants Pass for six months, so that colors how I look at Salem. I'm much happier here, though admittedly it's nothing like Portland or Eugene."
She then made an interesting point which I hadn't thought of before during my thirty-three years of Salem living.
"I like Salem because it forces me to be more creative than I'd be in a more with-it city. If I want to be with fellow vegans, I need to organize a group, or otherwise reach out. In Portland there's lots of alternative lifestyle options right at hand; here, often you have to fashion them yourself."
I then told her, mistakenly it turns out, that since the first episode of Portlandia showed a newly arrived girl about her age being stripped of a nose ring and earrings (too San Francisco'ish), she'd have to give up her own piercings and earrings if she moved to Portland.
However, upon a second watching of that scene, I realized that the girl's piercing got the Portland hipster OK, so I was only half right.
My other favorite scene in the Portlandia premiere (which had some decided cinematic rough spots) was at the restaurant where an excruciatingly ecologically conscious couple is grilling their server about how humanely the chicken they're thinking of ordering was raised.
I used to be a member of an India-based, guru-centered meditation system which was strictly vegetarian. So much so, we weren't supposed to eat cheese made with animal rennet.
I didn't think it was a big deal if I ate some specks of cow hoof, or whatever rennet is made of, but sometimes I'd be at a restaurant with fellow disciples who considered this to be horrible karma.
So they'd grill the hapless waiter or waitress while I looked on in embarrassed quasi-horror. "Does the cheese on your pizza contain animal rennet? What brand is it? Please go and check, we can't eat anything that isn't purely vegetarian."
Thus I found the Portlandia restaurant scene entirely believable, up to a point. (I never knew anybody who took a drive to check out a cheese source, but the group I was part of did put a lot of effort into analyzing the vegetarian vs. animal rennet ingredients of every major cheese producer in the United States.)
My favorite line in the show was, "Portland is the city where young people go to retire."
Being retired myself, though old, I'm entirely on board with the Portlandia lifestyle of getting up at eleven and, maybe, working a few hours a week at a coffee shop. Only difference is, I don't work at a coffee house; I drink the brew and blog there.
Otherwise, aside from a lack of piercings and failure to ever attend Clown School, I could easily be a happy resident of Portlandia.
(The Portland Oregonian asked readers to write their own reviews of the show. I looked over some of them. Here's one I liked from "Valdez":)
I think this show is HILARIOUS! I thought it was a fairly spot on parody of the city that I live in and love so much. Come on, you guys don't know the various characters in this show?
The bike nazi guy that I saw in the previews/web exclusives is my best bud at work -- a guy that while riding his bike will scream at cars and kick them if they get too close or invade his "space." My wife has a friend that went to CLOWN SCHOOL. And all the hot chicks really do wear glasses!
My wife and I used to drive out to Corbett to buy chickens from our own personal chicken farmer, taking great solace in the well-being and "happy lives" the chickens led - before we ate them! ha ha ha
This show cracks me up. The "put a bird on it" stuff is SO true, too! I posted the advance Hulu exclusive on Facebook and ALL of my friends thought it was hilarious. Good job Fred and Carrie! Thanks for exposing Portland's funny idiosyncrasies in a fun and hip way. LOVE THE MUSIC, choices, too!!!