There’s something about Portland, a determined happiness from sunflowers towering over front doors to graffiti in view of Hawthorne Bridge encouraging drivers, “Smile!” and “Laugh!” Perhaps the determined upbeat nature offsets the frequent (daily) rains, or perhaps it stems from the nature of the west coast.
I can’t help but feel like Portlanders, especially those in the Hawthorne District, live in a state of release. Where in Minneapolis, or Chicago, or Madison, or anywhere else I’ve been, people dye their hair blue and don neon-colored striped socks and gloves as an act of assumption: they take on a new identity, a political stance, they do it to make a visual declaration. You can feel it in the aura, the slight defensiveness, the anger of too many grandmas with ideas formed in petticoat sales about how a young person should dress.
But in Portland, as a girl with blue hair bikes past and waves to her green-haired girlfriend, something in the exchange and in the body language suggests that what prompted the hair dye and socks involved letting something go, stripping off an identity, and finding beneath it a person who really just needed green or blue hair. I yearn for that kind of release, to strip my identity, and to decide, for sure, if maybe I should just go grey, choose hot pink or actually wear that snakeskin print skirt.