Last Friday my wife and I, along with two south Salem neighbors, ventured up I-5 to experience the 2012 version of Northwest Natural's Portland-area Street of Dreams.
We enjoyed ourselves, but after gawking at seven houses in the $950,000 to $1,300,000 price range I felt like every admission ticket should come with a warning:
Visitors to the Street of Dreams are hereby warned that after viewing these houses, you will find your own home disgusting and unlivable. Everything you like about your current home will seem shabby and horribly out of date.
Unless you're a 1%'er, what you lust for in the new houses will be beyond your means, so you will die frustrated, feeling that your life has been lived in a rundown shanty compared to what could have been. Enjoy the Street of Dreams. Then, expect to feel depressed when you walk in your own front door.
The difference between Salem and Portland is made clear by the cities' respective Street of Dreams. This year Salem dreamed of affordable homes that were mostly in the $300,000 range, or less. My wife and I didn't bother to go. Average isn't very interesting, even if brand new.
But the 2012 Portland Street of Dreams had us Wow'ing at almost every room of the seven houses. As Susan Nielsen said in her Oregonian column:
This year's Street of Dreams in West Linn isn't just the usual builders' showcase of luxury suburban mansions. It's also a time machine taking you back to the housing market of 2007, when houses were pure money and a nicer one was always right around the corner.
The majority of us don't live in that housing market anymore. In most parts of Oregon and for most income brackets, it doesn't exist. But you can visit it for fun, or for old time's sake. It smells of new bark dust and new wealth, each house standing as a shrine to a time of wanting more, buying more and trading up.
True. However, my daughter lives in the Hollywood area, where a million dollars doesn't buy you anywhere near the luxury it does in Portland.
In recompense for all the trouble she caused me when she was a teenager (including deciding to attend college at the University of Arizona so I could pay out of state tuition for four years), I like to send her links like this one, which shows House #3, our favorite, "The Oregon Dream." 4,776 square feet. 5 bedrooms plus bonus, 3 1/2 baths. $1,075,000.
Eat your bigger-home-lusting heart out, dear daughter! Be sure to watch the video, so you'll be as unhappy with your southern California home as we are with our south Salem home after touring the Street of Dreams.
Not surprisingly, my wife and I tended to ooh and ah over different features of the houses. Living as we do in an early 70's home, when people apparently owned far fewer clothes than they do now, Laurel longs for a walk-in closet that's even half the size of what is standard in high-end houses these days.
She also loved the gigantic walk-in showers.
Sometimes Laurel bathes our 65 pound dog in our shower, which isn't much bigger than a phone booth (if you remember what those looked like). They barely fit. But if we lived in one of the Tour of Homes houses, we could get a full-grown water buffalo for a pet and keep it clean. No problem.
I, on the other hand, now don't see how it is possible for me to live contentedly without a covered "patio" area that is much more like a living room stuck outdoors than an old-fashioned patio.
What I need, desperately, are cushy leather couches, gas-powered fire pit and grill, big screen TV, a large water feature that looks like it was transplanted from an old growth forest, a hidden speaker system, built in mini-kitchen, and Zen'ish decor to aid in my contemplation of life's natural simple pleasures as I sip from my $80 bottle of wine while enjoying an Oregon rain storm from the comfort of my warm and dry outdoor pleasure palace.
So my wife and I both have unrealistic, yet utterly real, lusts for some home makeovers.
Sadly for our VISA balance, and fortunately for Laurel, houses in the 2012 Street of Dreams also featured more practical items -- such as a tile'ish floor covering for our kitchen and a low-backed couch that I didn't even know we needed, yet obviously we do, if my wife says so.
Disappointingly frequently Laurel reached for the Street of Dreams program I was carrying and wrote down I want! notes next to the description of the house we were in. I tried to find the program after we got home so I could bury it in the garbage can where she wouldn't find it, but it had disappeared.
Likely Laurel has it squirreled away in her Home Improvement file, which contains a seemingly endless list of ideas to make our lives more perfectly contented once X, Y, or Z becomes a part of our house.
Thank you (not entirely ironically) Portland Street of Dreams for making that file thicker.
As for me, rumors abound that the iPhone 5 will be released in a month. Now that definitely will make my life hugely happier since I have an ancient outdated iPhone 4, at least until the iPhone 6 comes along. And we can actually afford new iPhones.
Note: the Portland Street of Dreams continues through August 26, 2012. So if you're feeling unduly satisfied with your life and live in the area, head over to West Linn.