Archive for Portland Oregon

The Village Virus: When your thoughts are in a box, box up your things and leave

Posted in academic speak, blogging, narcissism, Queer life, social networking, writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 17, 2009 by katekanno

Wow. A two-week blog fail.

Preparations for moving, the two day trip abroad for a job interview, followed by two more days of clearing out and scouring our apartment left little time for reflection, much less blogging. But we are out, out of our apartment, out of Irvine, and now out of California.

After the surprise feelings of guilt over selling our car — it felt like we were hocking the thing to an orphanage — it was a little strange to feel nothing upon leaving our apartment. We did our final walk through, said our “goodbyes” and “thank yous” to each room, and left. That was that. Not a second thought or a tinge of sadness.

There are lots of things that might explain this non-reaction, namely, the disorganization and frenzied activity that always works to anesthetize any departure pains. When you spend days clearing your home of its character, and follow that by scouring all of the places you’d preferred not to look, even the most stubborn grime of nostalgia is bound to come loose.

But there was another far more important reason: Irvine was quite simply sucking the life out of us. Despite the sun, the quiet, the stacks of books, we both felt we were catching Sinclair Lewis’ “Village Virus,” the provincial coma whose only cure is to get the hell back to a city. And it wasn’t simply Orange County’s 10-mega-church-per-block zoning laws, the bookstores that that exclusively sold the Twilight series, or the legions of Humvee driving republicans, but the university itself, which had a taken cultural and class snobbery to a level all its own.

It was a place where subtle pronunciation wars over the names of critical theorists meant social death for the loser; it meant wearing knit caps in the middle of 80 degree afternoons; and the overuse – and very often misuse – of the word meta. It meant the hip denigration of the academically unhip identity politics by people who mostly, despite their pseudo support of LGBT rights, either just couldn’t see what was wrong with allowing Donnie McClurkin to bash gays at election rallies, or were too afraid to say anything.  As a non-academic,  I often felt  that I was regarded,  to borrow an excellent description from Neil Stephenson, like “a test subject on the wrong side of a one way mirror.”

In short: It was time for us to go.

I’ve been reflecting on this since being back in Portland. This city may have its share of hipsters, but the discussion, the books, the humanities themselves are open to everyone. No academic jargon or mannered diffidence required. Powell’s books is unionized, and the vegans at the vegan cafe are actually interested in labor history, rather than using their veganism as yet another tacit class distinction.

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