“If I hear myself on NPR, I’ll shoot you!”
Angel says this to me with a smile on her face so I’m sure she’s just kidding. Well, I’m like 60% sure she’s just kidding. I don’t think she actually owns a gun, but after my first several hours poking around the Hollywood district of Portland, it doesn’t seem so far-fetched that someone who lives there would get a little violent under the right (which I guess is to say wrong?) circumstances.
By chance, the first woman I spoke to, Ally, was perfectly friendly. She didn’t have time for an interview, as she was busy re-finishing a wooden chest out in her driveway, yellow latex gloves sticky with some dripping amber fluid. She recommended I talk to her neighbor across the street, who does work rescuing dogs with the ASPCA. I thanked Ally and tottered off across the road.
Sadly, her neighbor does not have the same fondness for independent radio that she does for dogs. After ringing the doorbell, I spotted her on the other side of her living room window, hair straight and dripping wet, mouthing silently “Do I know you?”
“No,” I mouthed back, “but your neighbor Ally told me I should come talk to you about your work with the ASPCA.” She didn’t get it. Reluctantly, she disappeared into another part of the house and emerged into her backyard. She yelled at me to come stand on the other side of her tall fence, just the top of her head peeking over. I explained the project and she waved me away brusquely.
Undeterred, I approached another house, and then another. At each I was summarily dismissed by a stern female voice from beyond a closed screen door.
“I’m a very private person,” one woman told me. “Go away.”
It would be churlish of me to attempt to grade the Hollywoods I’ve visited on my trip. Obviously there’s no objective, qualitative way to measure the myriad good, bad and in-between features of these unique places. That said, the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland, an otherwise thriving modern city, was about as exciting as a burlap sack full of other burlap sacks.
Now in defense of the gorgeous Hollywood Theatre, with its bright, aging façade, and the Hollywood Star, the neighborhood newsletter, I couldn’t get anyone from either of those great organizations to talk to me. They were all busy and/or prickly. So I’ll be speaking to them on the phone sometime soon to get a more rounded view of the place they call home.
The truth is, though, that these Hollywoodites were not a trusting group, by and large. I know these are strange times we live in, but I am not a threatening guy. My glasses are purple, OK? They are purple. Who doesn’t want to talk to a guy with purple glasses? Now we know.