Laird: What say we loosen up a little in 2012?

By John Laird, Columbian Editorial Page Editor

Published:

 

Sorry, but I’ve got bad news for the dwindling yet cacophonous group of Clark County introverts who are afflicted with PAS (Portland Aversion Syndrome): 2012 is shaping up as your worst year ever.

I know, it was painful enough last year, being constantly reminded that “the dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland.” But now we learn that the hilarious and funky comedy series “Portlandia” will launch its second season Jan. 6 on cable channel IFC. For PAS sufferers and other isolationists on this side of the river, that stupid TV show illuminates all the bizarre attitudes and grotesque lifestyles that conspire to “Keep Portland Weird.”

For the rest of us, “Portlandia” always brings a barrel of belly laughs.

If I had one wish for 2012, it would be that more folks in Clark County would loosen up a little, stop hatin’ on Portland and just confess that we live next to the best big city in America.

Yes, some of “those people” in Portland are a tad strange. Their collective demeanor is more relaxed. As “Portlandia” Executive Producer Lorne Michaels noted in a promotional video, “There’s something about an environment in which you feel safe that allows you to take bigger risks.” Risks? Yikes! We’ll have none of that over here, according to the people with PAS.

But if you’ll just give “Portlandia” a chance, it’ll grow on you. Remember how we all dismissed “The Office” the first time we watched it, but now it’s our favorite TV show? That’s what happens with “Portlandia.”

You learn valuable lessons watching this show, even marketing strategies such as this sales tip from “Portlandia” star Carrie Brownstein: “Put a bird on it, and you can charge twice as much.” You’ll discover fun recreational opportunities such as the Portland Adult Hide & Seek League, something you would never find in Hazel Dell. You’ll learn how to inquire about the pedigree of a chicken that’s listed on a restaurant menu. Over here, Salmon Creekers are cruelly oblivious to such sensitivities!

Status quo is strong here

Wouldn’t it be great if 2012 brought an acceleration of acceptance on both sides of the Columbia River, but particularly in our community? Such a dynamic shift would defy a long tradition. I suspect the first symptoms of PAS surfaced way back in 1917 with the opening of the first bridge, and reached epidemic proportions in 1958 when the second Interstate 5 span opened. Then, as Portland grew more weird, much of Vancouver and the rest of Clark County just naturally resisted.

But the macro-realities of globalization are at work here in our own mini-world. Portland is never going away, and bitter aversion only makes us unsociable, even among ourselves.

The message in “Portlandia” is therapeutic for all who are willing to learn: The best way to feel comfortable around people who are different is to allow ourselves to laugh at them, and let them laugh at us. For the first part of that equation, consider Brownstein’s description of the upcoming second season of “Portlandia,” in which “the characters are always on the tipping point of absurdity.” I can’t wait.

For the second part of that equation — allowing them to laugh at us — I recommend the viral short video “Vancouvria,” which croons that “the dream of the suburbs is alive in Vancouver.” This delightfully funny spoof can be found at http://www.youtube.com/Vancouvria online. You’ll chortle at the description of our community as a place where you can get groceries bagged in plastic, you never have to talk to your neighbor and you can drive in a bike lane without getting a ticket. Ours is an “alternate universe” where people go to avoid state income tax. It’s where traffic on the Interstate 5 Bridge warrants “a bigger bridge that Portland should pay for.” You’ll love how the suburbanite zombies march and chant in a Walmart parking lot.

“Vancouvria,” created by Portland filmmaker Brighton West, has racked up more than 75,000 views online. I suppose its popularity will only intensify the pain for PAS sufferers. And my expressed affection for Portland will no doubt elicit howls of protest from our Hounds of Whinerville. But, just before you fire off the hate mail, do me a favor. Put a bird on it. The kind that flies.