Pacific Northwest People


You know, being stuck in Korea it’s easy to lose touch with what’s going on back home.  I worry about all that I’ve missed out on and if I am so yesterday that I won’t fit in anywhere.  Not that I ever really fit in there – just kind of floated on the edges of fringe but was never really fringe, and on the edges of local, but not really local, (though 26 years in Washington, only 5 of them outside of Seattle makes me more local than most) and…but I did feel really versatile and familiar and comfortable there.

Just this weekend I heard about Portlandia for the first time.  So I’m a year late – I mean, I AM in another country and all.  OMG!  Total riot!  For those of you who haven’t heard about it, I posted a couple little clips for you below:

Now, I’m from Seattle and not Portland, but everyone in this video could have been from Seattle.  Portland is the Seattle that Seattle-ites wish they could be,

(hyper recycling, hyper cycling, hyper well-read, hyper-organic, hyper-cooperative, hyper p.c., etc.) and Seattle is (was?)/has the world recognition Portland wishes it could have had, though maybe that’s not esoteric enough and it would rather have the kind of counter-culture renown that the Olympia, Austin, and Atlanta of old had, because everyone knows grunge is over and Starbucks is over…but mostly the differences between Seattle and Portland people are really minor.


One thing that cracked me up was one youtube respondent’s complaint that the people spoofing Portland were all from the Midwest.

Well – the thing is a lot of the hipsters the spoofers are spoofing are also from the midwest!  It’s not just the dream of the 90’s – it’s the dream of the midwest!  Too funny.

The spoofs are so real they hurt.  I think every character in this show has been in my life. (at a safe distance)  Love this show and can’t wait ’til the new batch comes out next year.

Anyway, Pacific Northwest – I love you in spite of your hipster pretensions – and I know that for the most part you mean well and try to walk your talk – and it’s unfortunate you talk too damn much and are so insecure, but I love you anyway…

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9 thoughts on “Pacific Northwest People

  1. seattle here, and I just discovered it too…. to funny. I think the opining song is my favorite part.

  2. I KNOW! That song is awesome. I’m assuming Carrie Weinstein wrote it?

    btw, did you know she is from Seattle? Her band Sleater Kinney was pretty good back in the day, but I think they were Portland based, even though their name is a street in Olympia.

    Just proves my point that how interchangeable the cities are to PNW people.

    Are you an adoptee by any chance?

  3. Agreed, it’s hilarious. Someone sent Jack the link to Put a Bird on It and we realized we’d actually been to that exact twee hipster store a few months ago, after having (alas, tasteless and cold) lunch from the (alas, badly run) twee hipster food carts in a twee hipster neighborhood.

    I often make fun of Seattle for its deluded sense that it’s on the national map. When given the East Coast bias of media, etc., there’s no real national cultural presence even of San Francisco, let alone Seattle. And I totally agree that Portland doesn’t bother trying, which is one reason it’s so lovable. So insular and cozy. Also so much more a caricature of itself.

    Visiting is heaven–roses and dogwoods and lilacs, fir trees, snowy mountains, no traffic–and growing up there was heaven. But at this point moving there vs. Seattle is not a no-brainer, at least for us. if you’re not a twee hipster or suburban parent, and especially if you are a person of color, I imagine living there as an adult could be stultifying.

  4. What does twee mean?

    I disagree about Seattle – it’s just 15 years old is all, and young people no longer know who Kurt Cobain is…so it’s dying. My national presence of S.F. is still Haight Ashbury hippies – probably all cashing in their social security checks right now. Every Korean who can figure out what I’m saying when I say Seattle – which sounds almost like a Korean word – which I don’t know what it means and haven’t bothered to try and figure out how to spell or look up – all they talk about is Starbucks. People go to VISIT and all they talk about is visiting the first Starbucks. And I’m like, wtf? Why would anyone want to visit that??? So Seattle’s on the map, but not because they’re more hip than every place else in the world…

    Portland is definitely an idyllic white place. Metro Portland has some interesting pockets with people of color. But you’re right – it’s not such a nice place for them – they live in a different world. So I guess I would agree that Seattle is a little more complex and interesting in that way.

    I need to send you a real email – we gotta stop meeting like this!

  5. Twee is a kind of indie pop music mostly from the 90s that’s really sunshiny and cute; it can also mean sweet or cute with an innocent, naive or child-like aesthetic, like Beat Happening’s music/record covers. A lot of times when people use “twee” like above it means overly or sickeningly cute.

    I must say I’m tired of the word hipster and I don’t even know really what it means. I’ve heard it applied to all kinds of people. I used to use it all the time which is funny since I like a lot of the same movies, bars, books, art, music, and clothes as some so-called “hipsters”!! haha.. Anyway, I think it’s a catty way for people to look down on people they don’t know, who are part of some sort of subculture or don’t fit in with the mainstream. I think it’s admirable and more fun to try to build a city and life with character, ethics, and style. The shitty part is the pretension. Olympia is SO BAD on that front, way, way worse than Seattle. It’s off the charts.

    I kinda want to move to portland – I totally dream of the 90s!!! – but yeah, it’s way too white/segragated.

  6. Thanks for the twee definition!

    I don’t typically use the word hipster (I think I picked it up from you!) but when I do I’m usually meaning style without substance, but more accurately those who portray themselves as substantive but are actually really shallow. So maybe being hip and being a hipster is (respectively)analogous to being current and being trendy in my mind…it’s the way in which people approach life and whether or not they really grow as people. I also find the counter-culture groups often very dismissive of anyone who doesn’t wear the correct identity emblems, and that’s really unfortunate, and a hipster would be dismissive whereas a hip person wouldn’t.

    I also think that being hip is (not always, but mostly) a function of privilege, though I too am exhilarated by the stirring of imagination and dreams that displaying ones vision can elicit. It’s really fun to reinvent oneself or craft ones image.

    Although I’d love to be a walking billboard displaying my politics, knowledge, aesthetics, etc. I wonder who has the time to devote so much energy to those urban tribe identity pursuits? I’ll try to do enough so I can find kindred spirits, but in many ways I long for a community where that’s just not necessary. Kind of like MLK’s I have a dream speech, I wish we judged more on character than a crafted image.

  7. I wasn’t talking about you though, just the way I feel the word “hipster” is overused in general and people usually just use it to apply to people they don’t know who dress a certain way, without actually finding out for themselves whether or not those people are pretentious, exclusive, or without substance. (Which is not really how you personally use the word) Also, I don’t think being hip is a function of privilege, since usually, what is really “hip” is almost always started by poor youth! (and later ends up being appropriated and commodified) Being able to purchase hipness once it’s been appropriated and commodified is a function of privilege. But being stylish/inventive/up on your culture isn’t necessarily.

    I was just reading an interesting article about the differences between the concept “trendy” in Britain/US and Japan. In the US, to be “trendy” means you like whatever is currently popular without it really reflecting your own values or taste. It has a negative connotation. But in Japan, the word “trendy” (kokoi) means informed, discerning, willing to seek out things that are overlooked (according to the article’s author). Maybe it’s the opposite of US complacency, homogeneity, consuming whatever’s well-packaged and well-hyped.

    Anyway, it doesn’t really matter, I’m just tired of hearing people use the word “hipster” often and seemingly indiscriminately when I know it’s a subtle insult (that could probably include me and some of my friends).

  8. “Maybe it’s the opposite of US complacency, homogeneity, consuming whatever’s well-packaged and well-hyped.”

    I wish Korea was more like Japan on many days – but here it’s all about hype and homogeneity…

    I hear you about the overuse of “hipster” Popular put-downs are almost always indiscriminate. But there’s great joy in proving assumptions wrong, too. I’m horrible at assumptions, but I love to be proven wrong.

    Speaking of the Japanese…
    I learned that Japanese people are also born with “mongolian spots.” (the bluish birthmarks that look like bruises on the behind that fade over time) Supposedly most Japanese have Korean blood in them. I was told it was only a pure blood Korean thing, but both you kids had a little of it even though you’re half. My adoptive mom wasn’t told at all – she’d thought they had beaten me when I arrived. (I can’t imagine an oversight like this – just another indication of what a shoddy operation international adoption was back then)

  9. According to Wikipedia, “mongolian spots” are also common to other East Asians, Native Americans, Polynesians, and East Africans! Interesting. Also, I doubt there’s 1. really any such thing as “pure blood” anything 2. any physical characteristic that only exists in one ethnic group. I can’t believe that no one told your mom about the spots.. oh wait, yes I can.

    Also, Mark and I were googling Portland last night and it turns out its the 5th whitest city in the country! Ha.

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