Bet you think this will be the world’s shortest blog post, given that title. Hah! Dream on, overly proud Portlanders. This Salem resident is about to show you what you’re missing if you don’t live in Oregon’s capital.
[Blog fact check: our address has “Salem” in it, but my wife and I live five miles outside the city limits. Nonetheless, we’re Salemites through and through, as evidenced by our bland dispositions.]
That’s because there’s not much interesting to do or see downtown. But the plus side is that if for some crazy reason you actually find yourself in central Salem you’ll have no problem parking, since you’ll pretty much have the place to yourself.
I took this photo outside of one of downtown’s two Starbucks. Surprisingly, I captured a distant fellow human. Also surprisingly, on this block there were quite a few cars. They probably belonged to patrons of Starbucks, just about the only places where I found signs of life on my two block walking tour.
Outside the other Starbucks I snapped an image of the excitement that surrounds the Salem Center mall on a Sunday. If you don’t see signs of such, you’re seeing correctly. But if you get turned on by easy-to-find free unlimited on-street parking, downtown Salem is orgasmic.
Also if you like going out of business sales. The Mervyn’s store, part of Salem Center, was having an “everything goes” sale today. Maybe that’s where these shoppers had just come from. They looked happy, which made me think they were from out of town.
I say this because Salem either attracts depressed people or, once they get here, the town fosters a chronic condition of seeming moribundity. Sort of like Salem’s Lot, but without the thrills.
Last night we hosted the monthly meeting of our Salon discussion group (most of the members live in Salem, so sitting in a living room and talking for three hours is wild compared to what we generally experience socially).
Irmgard, had recently come back from two months in Europe. She told us something amazing: in Vienna and other cities people are eating and drinking wine in restaurants at midnight! Not surprisingly, Irmgard said that she was having trouble adjusting to “life” (such as it is) back in Salem.
We also heard from the couple I wrote about in “Salem escapees head for Portland’s Sellwood area.” Lynda and Mark used to live in Salem until they came to their senses. They’ve continued to be part of our discussion group.
I suspect they enjoy comparing the “lives” (such as they are) of us Salemites with their current Portland experience, in the same way as a recently-released prisoner drives past the penitentiary and thinks to himself, “Man, it sure feels good to be out of there.”
At one point my wife commented that LifeSource Natural Foods is one of the good things in Salem. Lynda couldn’t resist blurting out that close by their Sellwood condo there are three, count ‘em, three, major natural food stores to choose from.
I put fingers in my ears and chanted “can’t hear you, can’t hear you, can’t hear you” (that’s what I do when I risk hearing news of the wonderful world outside, to avoid becoming even more depressed), but her words still came through, damn it.
Recently Laurel and I drove up to Lynda and Mark’s for a respite from Salem. They took us to a Greek restaurant in Sellwood. It was a real culture shock. As soon as we walked in the door we heard a strange unfamiliar sound.
Loud laughter. And animated conversation. I guess this must be what Vienna is like. People congregating and having a good time. Having driven up from sleepy Salem, for us it was plain weird.
It didn’t take long for us to begin to enjoy ourselves, though. I felt like the shelter dog from the Salem Humane Society that Laurel took to this year’s Dog Parade. Wide-eyed, tail wagging, happy to be out of the confines of the kennel.
Well, back at home now we try to look on the bright side of Salem. Which is, um…give me a moment to think…oh, yeah, I remember: lots of free downtown parking spaces!
Got to be something more…come on, Brian, think…keep thinking…didn’t you read something this morning?...
Yes. Got it. A quotation from Tai-hui in D.T. Suzuki’s The Zen Koan as a Means of Attaining Enlightenment.
The main thing is to shut off all your sense-organs and make your consciousness like a block of wood.
Ah, excellent. This is exactly how Salem makes me feel. Wooden. Enlightenment must be near.