Head for the Hills; The West Hills That Is...

West Slope home, Portland Oregon

Read this same article "Head for the Hills" here, published here by Salem-news.com


Did you ever fall asleep in one place and wake up in another? No, I don't mean like when you had a hangover and blacked out. That 's what it seemed like when I moved from the Section 8 ghetto of East Multnomah county to the West Slope-Beaverton part of town. “Where in the hell am I? I thought. How can the culture and ambiance of the neighborhood be so radically different “just a few miles up the road?”

I had lived in the East County-Gresham area for many years and watched the neighborhoods slowly change. When light rail came to Gresham they said it would bring crime to the neighborhood. But the crime is not in the train, the crime is in the people, and how do you stop people from migrating?

The Native American Indians tried to stem the flow of white people into their lands. An effort in futility. As long as the “grass looks greener” on the other side of the fence, the fence will be trampled.

Portland has diversified tremendously in the past 25-30 years. There are enclaves of Hispanics, enclaves of Samoans, and Jamaicans, Asians, Russians and Muslims. Unfortunately many of those migrating to the greener side of the grass are hard working but remain low income. They are seeking the income level of the inhabitants of the West Hills, seeking the education that they think brings bigger paychecks, seeking to move up in the social strata...seeking, seeking. But they will never be white people, with the advantages and white privilege that go along with being white. The West Hills is an enclave too, an enclave of the white and well educated, an enclave of affluence if you will. I moved just a few miles up the road, but into an entirely new world. Can I compare?

The West Hills people are voracious consumers. They drive new and expensive cars. At least two and sometimes three cars are parked in their driveway, all burning gasoline at over $4.00 per gallon. “Fill it up please,” they say to the attendant as they present a credit card in payment. And each car is insured. West side people can always afford car insurance and car insurance is expensive. That's why many of the downtown marble faced office towers are insurance company buildings. Insurance companies advertise heavily. We all know and love “Flo” from Progressive and the Gecko from the other guys. We all hope we are “in good hands.” Expensive, but the West Hills people don't mind. I see a lot of Cooper Mini”s driving in this neighborhood too. What's up with those midget things? And all of the expensive convertibles, the BMW's, The Mercedes, the Lexus and the bright red Corvettes are driven by paunchy, bald headed old white men. I'm not lying. Next time you see an expensive rag-top in the West Hills, look at the driver.

There are literally thousands of expensive cars for sale on Canyon Road. I counted 500 cars for sale at just one luxury dealership before I gave up the count. More dealers on both sides of the street. Seems like Canyon Road was made just for the purveying of luxury wheels. A kind of whore house selling shiny cars. I boggled at the thought that each vehicle had four, count 'em, four tires. That's thousands of rubber tires. Voracious consumers indeed. Could all that rubber be better used to make condoms? There are no used car lots that advertise “buy here pay here” and sell only beaters. If its a beater you want you'll have to go to 82nd street in East Portland.

I get my exercise every day by walking about two miles through the residential neighborhoods and parks near where I live. On recycle day, I see the red recycle bins out to be picked up. They are full of beer and wine and booze bottles. The West Hills people obviously consume a lot of alcohol. They drink bottles of expensive wine, ten dollars a bottle and up. Expensive whiskey like Makers Mark and Crown Royal and micro-brew beers, like India Pale Ale, and Black Butte Porter. These are the bottles I see set out to the curb. West Side people are also conscientious recyclers.

West side people all have pet dogs, expensive dogs, like full sized Poodles and Great Danes. As I sit at the bus stop, (I don't drive) I notice expensive cars pull up in front of the doggie daycare. Out hops the dog owner and Fido is taken care of for the day. Can't let doggie stay alone in the house. He might pee on the $2000.00 sofa...again. (Had to garage sale the last one he peed on.)

Dog owners here always have their expensive pets on a leash, and they always pick up the poop with a little plastic bag. The leash keeps the poopers in tow. Just can't pay upwards of $500.00 for Fido and let him run loose.

And the city parks are so well maintained, crews of Mexican park employees working hard to keep the grass trimmed, and the playground area clean. The swimming pool is kept clean and sparkling. The benches and picnic tables are clean, newly painted and nothing has been carved into the wood like “Joe loves Mary,” or “Don loves Theresa.”

I think the West Siders are lulled into a false sense of security for as I continue my morning walks I see expensive convertibles parked at the curb, with the top down. I see garage doors wide open revealing the lawn mowers and rakes and tool benches with tools. Open doors can be an invitation to disaster.

The half million dollar and up homes are all built on extra big lots, big front yards and huge back yards with covered decks and European style brick patio areas. I never see a lawn sprinkler and a hose left out in the yard. All the yards have automatic sprinkler systems that pop up early in the morning and water the grass, leaving the water droplets to sparkle in the rising sun.

I did not “run a way” from what I refer to as the ghetto, or “escape” to the West side. I have always been happy with the area and the people that immigrated there. Although I am Caucasian I married a black woman many years ago and have a beautiful black son and two beautiful black Granddaughters. The building I lived in sold and several of my family moved to Seattle. Offered an opportunity to move to the West Hills and into a house with a woman I was attracted to, made me count my good fortune and I happily moved “a few miles up the road.”

On the East side many of the cars are rattle traps, with a door and a fender different colors from the rest of the car, purchased at the “ buy here pay here” car lot from a smiling dark skinned guy with a gold tooth and a funny accent. There is no other car in their driveway. The other car is a bicycle. As they pull into the gas station, pockets are searched to come up with enough change for a gallon of gas. “Fill it up please,” is a phrase seldom heard there. The gas card was long ago maxed out.

Beware when driving on the East side. Hundreds of cars driving around don't have car insurance. It is just too damned expensive, and many licenses are suspended. So the driver can't even get insurance.

And should you see an expensive convertible with the top down driven by a paunchy old white guy, he's just passing through. If he left his expensive convertible with the top down parked at the curb in this part of town the seats would be ripped out along with the stereo and speakers. He'd come back to an empty shell. An open garage door would be an invitation to grab a few things and head to the pawn shop.

The East side ghetto people drink a lot too, but they drink Old English 800, Micky's and Steel Reserve for beer and their wine comes in a box or it's MD 20-20. MD is the Mogen David brand, but on the East side it's called “Mad Dog.” Wine boxes can't be put in the re-cycle bin, and beer cans are pretty much left right where they were emptied. If the West side people are conscientious re-cyclers, the East sides idea of re-cycling is to leave the empty for the next broke person coming down the street with a plastic bag.

Most folks on the East side don't own their own home, but live in crowded apartments along the rail line or on the main thoroughfares so they don't have to worry about watering their lawns. Either the manager does the watering or the lawns dry up. Mostly they just dry up. Watering the lawn is expensive in the summer and apartment house owners hate to spend money. Just ask any tenant.

Another thing I've noticed. The East side has a lot of streets with speed “Bumps.” Here on the West side they are called speed “Humps.” Hmm..Speed Bumps, speed Humps. Sounds like a “quickie” to me. Maybe the vice squad should investigate!

Don DuPay

September 29, 2012