Portlandia Begins Tonight

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Tonight, welcome to my world: Portlandia. I've lived in the real-life analogue of Portlandia for eleven years, and it's a place of dreams -- dreams of sleeping late, of opening a yarn store, of becoming a freegan, of getting rid of your car and becoming a bike commuter who only wears natural fibers while working quarter-time at a gluten-free bagel shop. It's a city where young people have come to get away from being in a city. As Fred Armisen (now famously) says in the first episode of Portlandia, "It's where young people go to retire."

Tonight on IFC (Independent Film Channel) at 10:30pm, you can see the first episode of Portlandia -- and see how us Portland residents have been living all this time, right under your noses. Yes, we put birds on things and call them art -- and we sell that art at stores devoted to selling handcrafted bird art. Yes, many of us don't seem to have proper jobs, and we often have four or five roommates -- and yes, most of them work at a co-op that sells bulk alfalfa on the cheap. Yes, we organize "sports" leagues that happen entirely indoors, because it's frickin' raining most of the time. Yes, we wear hoodies and jeans and layered shirts without irony -- because it's frickin' raining most of the time! And yes, this is completely nuts, and it's about time somebody noticed. FOR EXAMPLE:

Portlandia is a spectacular example of laughing with, not at. In Portland, the general consensus is that this show is hilarious and correct -- and this makes sense given that Brownstein is from Portland and Armisen (of Saturday night Live fame) hangs out here a lot. There was a screening of the premiere episode last week at a local brewpub theater (yes, we have lots of those -- drink a beer, eat pizza, and watch movies or TV on the big screen), and it was a smashing success. Carrie Brownstein's new band played at a sandwich shop/bar by the waterfront later on. Both Brownstein and Armisen have appeared on our local NPR affiliate, OPB. The message from Portland (and I, as a professional blogger somehow making a living in Portland, feel qualified to say this) is: welcome, and please buy some books from our many local bookstores, or some of our fine locally-made beers or spirits, or at least something with a bird on it.

The only fear we have as Portlanders is that our secret is finally, officially, out. There really is a weird paradise on the west coast, where public transit is excellent, bike lanes are everything, there's no sales tax, you're not allowed to pump your own gas (!), the library system is awesome (they'll mail books to you), and on and on. Now, it's true we have some of the highest unemployment in the country -- but that's partly because y'all have been moving here so much!

I grew up primarily in southwest Florida. Portland is about as far away from Florida as you can get, while still being in a major U.S. city: Seattle is the other option. In the past calendar year, eight friends of mine, all former Floridians, have moved to Portland. Eight. Of the few who haven't yet moved here, I know several who are thinking about it and perhaps secretly scheming -- constantly asking how much my mortgage is and getting really sad because it's half what their rent is in L.A. (I even know of one secret scheme to move here. That's how weird Portland is -- people SECRETLY MOVE HERE without announcing it. It's like moving to Brigadoon -- if you don't come, it might disappear. If you come, you might disappear.)

So tonight, if you have cable, please check out Portlandia. It's funny because it's true. If you don't have cable, come on, don't you have friends with jobs at health food stores? Go to their houses. Bring beer. MORE:

Secret tip: the second episode (airing next week) includes an extensive appearance by Kyle MacLachlan, who plays Portland's mayor. And Portland's real mayor, Sam Adams (yes, that really is his name), plays MacLachlan's assistant. It's getting real, people. Grab your favorite microbrew, put on your knit cap, and tune in. For more, check out the official site (with lots of clips) or check out some web-only clips on Hulu. See also: The Late Movies: Portlandia for early sketches, many of which make appearances (rewritten and shot much better) on the show.

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January 21, 2011 - 9:23am
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