The TV’s on in the next room and the kids are watching America’s Got Talent (?!) Suddenly, I overhear them say “Our next stop is Portland, Oregon!”
“Portland is known for the great outdoors,” says the show, “but we found out, it’s also known for its love of all things weird.” As the _Oregonian_ (Portland’s newspaper) remarked, the episode was drenched in “a thick layer of ‘Keep Portland Weird’ schtick.” “ALL RIGHT ALREADY WITH THE WEIRD,” they wrote. But, really, what followed was a succession of acts each one weirder than the last: The Magic Bizarre, a creepy magic show in fantasy garb and masks where the guy took an accidental header off the stage, an air guitar band, a heavy metal cellist (she was actually from san francisco, to be fair), a zombie dance troupe. Last came 75 year old Sally Cohn, with a gray helmet of hair and a walker, who hand whistled, and then hawked her autobiography from the stage.
She was just a fair to middling hand whistler (the judges objected to the licking involved), but everyone loved Sally and her book. The show’s host forked over the $12 to buy a copy right on stage. “Be careful what pages you read,” she barked, “let’s just say it’s not ALL about hand whistling, heh heh heh.” Pause. “It’s my coming out story! And I’m proud of who I am!” The crowd roars its approval. “I love you!” shouts Howie Mandel. She gets a pass to stage 2 in Las Vegas.
By this point Iwas in the room watching. I said to the kids, “are you beginning to see how Oregon is kind of strange, maybe, compared to the rest of the country?” “Uh, yeah,” they said, still somewhat mystified, i think, by the idea of a 75 year old lesbian.
Schtick or not, Oregon is odd. It is undoubtedly odd. People wear their difference proudly here.
And that is why we love it. It’s why we all fit in.