When I was growing up in the Portland suburbs, the city was pretty much like it is now: a bunch of hyperliterate nerds wearing flannel and Doc Martens, riding their bicycles to go read in coffeeshops because it was too freaking cold/rainy/depressing to do anything else. The city is still largely the same: when I visited for Christmas, I ate lunch in a cafe across from the city’s public library, and there were more people there than at Macy’s. After that I went to Powell’s, the city’s Jurassic Park-sized independent bookstore, which had a checkout line an hour-long. So yeah, it would be fair to say Portlanders like to read.
The new IFC television series Portlandia gets the city’s reading addiction right, and a recent promo even mentioned Mother Jones. In the clip below, two Portlanders start checking each other’s literary chops. It starts off easy, with the softball question: “Did you read that thing in the New Yorker last month about golf being an analogy for marriage?” Then it starts to get tougher, name-dropping McSweeney’s and Mother Jones. “Did you read that thing in Mother Jones about eco-chairs and eco-ways to sit?”
I’m glad the show’s writers associate Mother Jones with environmental coverage, because we do make it a priority. But eco-ways to sit? Okay, okay, we get it, you think we’re a bunch of hippies. Well, I’ll have you know I went to Starbucks this morning, and I felt only the briefest flash of guilt when I realized I’d forgotten my reusable ceramic travel cup. But then again, I am typing this blog post on a biodegradable corn-plastic computer powered by the sun during the day and gases from organic compost at night.
After the Mother Jones mention, the “did you read?” questions fly fast and heavy. Spin? Wall Street Journal? BoingBoing? Oh yeah? What about Willamette Week? SF Weekly? The Seattle Stranger? It’s well worth 113 seconds. Portlandia starts January 21, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to watch it. I might be busy reading.