“This Dude Here from Portland”

There’s this guy here in my hometown of South Bend, Indiana who’s not FROM Portland but who used to live there, apparently. From what I understand, he lived there from the time when he was 25 to when he was 35, moving back home, here, after that stint, and having lived here before that stint. In this way, you might say, “Portland” is erected as just as much a mythological, metaphysical sort of place, as it is an actual physical location, in our world. That is, he never seemed to make mention of any suburb or adjacent town he might have occupied or frequented, and “Portland” was apparently meant to signify the Oregon city, as a foregone conclusion, and not the one in Maine. As far as I know, the guy’s never lived anywhere in his life other than South Bend and Portland, ostensibly positioning the discussion as something along the lines of “To Portland or not to Portland… That is the question.”

Well, for one thing, I would hazard any bet that the guy has done a lot of drugs, based on his behavior and his music taste, as well as on this nauseating way of not acknowledging any locale in the spatial realm of the universe other than “Portland.” (I’m planning on getting to his music taste in a second, toward hopefully justifying the existence of this post on a music blog.) Just to name a couple other key traits demarcating this person, I’ll next point out that the guy has a mustache, and although I did see him with a girl one time, I’m pretty sure the guy’s gay. The girl he was with was ridiculously hot, this fragile little blond of about 24 or so, but he kept turning his attention to me, talking to me and making strong eye contact, only with what seemed like begrudging willingness turning his gaze and attention back to the girl. 

Out of respect, I’m going to withhold a couple of other anecdotes which are crowding my mind, but one more thing I’d like to mention is that the guy makes this bizarre practice of starting conversation while in the bathroom. I’m sorry, but I’m not fu**ing having a conversation in the bathroom, under any circumstances, let alone after a long, tiring, sweaty day of work. I’m sure there’s some reason why anyone should talk or look at another person while in the bathroom but sugar, I’ll be da**ed if it’s jumping the fu** out at me.

Over the course of the last year and a half, then, I’ve seen the guy around town a couple of times, observing him to seem a little more addled and dejected, each time. Things came to a head last night, you might say, when I saw him in Second Base overseeing a rather funereal atmosphere to his surroundings, to borrow a phrase from the brilliant Tobias Wolff and his gripping memoir. (Appropriately, Wolff was handling an experience tied to the Pacific Northwest, his family’s new home, where their house’s proprietor could come off a tad bit frosty, apparently.) Upon tension as thick as as brick, then, over background noise from a Sunday night football game, I strolled over to the juke box and played Reel Big Fish’s cover of Poison’s “Nothing but a Good Time” and “Self-Esteem” by The Offspring. I swear, that music da** near saved my life. In true pertinent form, then, the dude form Portland, who, mind you, didn’t seem overly defiant (granted I was trying not to make much eye contact with him), made it a point to bee-line it to the juke box and play his own music, apparently as a response to mine (seeing as, prior, he’d been willing to let the football game act as his aural backdrop). The first song he played was a reggae song, which I have to admit, was pretty good, but more than likely designed as a cultural seige of whatever satisfaction I’d gleaned from Reel Big Fish. The second selection was a sort of punk/post-rock expedition, apparently a reaction to my choice of “Self-Esteem” (which, let’s be honest, is pretty much comedy rock, although certainly fun), and I have to admit, this tune was pretty passable, as well, with a female lead singer, and Incubus’ guitar sound marrying Slint’s approach to structure and phrasing, roughly (with less of a bent toward epic than Slint). 

I’m not sure the dude form Portland fully grasps the concept of Freud’s “herd mentality.” That is, the music you put on in a public place should not be the music you put on in private. And don’t get me wrong, I love “Cowboy Dan” by Modest Mouse. Hearing it in a bar on a Sunday night, when you’ve just got done with a long-a** weekend working in a kitchen, doesn’t fu**ing cut it. I mean it’s just ridiculously depressing. Interestingly, as well, Modest Mouse is from the Pacific Northwest, which for one produces the troubling phenomenon of adhering to music apparently meant as a reaction to the exact place he’s purporting to champion, culturally or personally. But he was certainly a mythological figure, over there, in the corner, stone-still, thousand-yard stare of disapproval fixed onto the TV in front of him irremovably. “Cowboy Dan” billowed out of the pub’s speakers and, folks, we were on the journey to the end of the night. Next came The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” and, well, I think you can probably guess where things went from there. I went to another bar, got kicked out, hit the gas station for some mint Grizzly, and went home and posted a bunch of angry sh** on Facebook. But, I mean, I wasn’t that angry. You know how it is.