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Either / Oregon

April 9, 2016

I took a quick research trip out to Portland this week to interview Lance Bangs and check out some of his Elephant 6 footage and photos. He lived in Athens throughout the ’90s and traveled on a few tours with Elephant 6 bands. Few people were even paying attention to that scene as it was happening, and Lance is one of even fewer who thought to document any of it. I had reached out to Lance just to get his thoughts and memories (which also proved quite helpful on their own), so getting the chance to pore through his archives was a pretty nice bonus.

I’m a cynical person by nature, but this visit to Portland was very uplifting in terms of my general outlook on humanity. From my over-the-top gracious AirBnB host to the cute, attentive waitress who called me “darling,” everyone was so god damned nice, and in a way that differs from the Southern niceness I’m finally starting to acclimate to in Georgia. Whereas Southern niceness seems to come mostly from manners and norms (and can by extension sometimes run a little passive-aggressive or outright duplicitous), the Portlandian variety seems to have a little bit more empathy and compassion baked into it.

There’s an awful lot I liked about the city. I walked about four miles through the commercial corridor in Southeast Portland, and of the literally hundreds of stores and restaurants I passed, I don’t think I saw more than a handful of chains of any kind (a Jiffy Lube, a couple banks, an American Apparel and a 7-11 were all I noticed). It gave the city a much richer texture. That plus the cleanliness, an abundance of trees and green spaces, and the aforementioned neighborliness made me feel a little like I was on Sesame Street. The area I stayed in felt particularly neighborly, replete with barbecues and folks stopping to chat as they walked their dogs. Stuff like city-wide composting programs compounded that sense of community

Most generous of all was Lance. He was a great interview, open and thoughtful, and he was incredibly kind to share his archives with me, but he also crammed about a month’s worth of hospitality into the 48 hours I spent there, from showing me around downtown to taking me on a hike up Mt. Tabor with his family. I really can’t say enough good things about the guy. In addition to what it all means for the book, it’s been valuable to me on a very personal level. I haven’t been at my emotional best lately, but I return to Athens feeling a little rejuvenated. Part of that is Portland itself, but regardless of where I had spent that time, I’d come away from it feeling better because of the staggering generosity Lance provided.

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