Eccentric America Meets Mainstream America In Portland, Oregon

by | Jul 5, 2010

Men’s Health named Portland, Oregon “America’s Most Patriotic City.”

The magazine came to its conclusion after factoring the number of registered voters who turned out for state and federal elections in 2004 and 2008, money spent on military veterans, percentage of residents who volunteer, and finally, sales of fireworks and U.S. flags.

Portland wins lots of media contests and has long been the darling of The New York Times, but this new designation from Men’s Health Magazine is surprising to me, for Portland is home to lots of free thinkers. Of course, free thinkers are the people who make America great, but they’re often marginalized in favor of another, simpler view of patriotic Americans.

Speaking of Portland’s free thinkers, I met Jeffrey Thomas at Meatapalooza on Wednesday and just days later a huge, flattering feature by D.K. Row appears in The Oregonian on Thomas.

Row is the paper’s art critic and he asks Thomas, a former art dealer, some great questions about the art of selling art.

Q: Can you remind us how tough it was to sell art back in the ’80s here in Portland?

A: Remember, this was a timber economy and in the 1980s, Oregon went through its first of many recessions. We went through three years of lapsed timber sales; this little business called Intel was just starting up, so we really had no tech industry. Interest rates for houses were 12.5%.

So it was a tough time to get interest in cultural activity. There was a lot of money in town but you did not show it. It was very old school WASP. Nobody showed their wealth; no one supported anything. There was this anti-philanthropic thing going on. You just didn’t show that you had money. That made for a tough environment to create cultural activity and awareness that would draw people here.

Q: And people think it’s tough now.

A: It was nothing like it was then. There was just no cultural awareness. It was a country club for a few families and everyone else was part of the working class. There were few galleries, and only a handful of people interested in them.

Today, Thomas is a producer and photographer’s rep for Polara Studio. His Polara bio says, “…in his mind every day is a birthday party, which sort of explains the applause and flowers that he constantly showers upon everyone around him.”

Thomas is @bonegypsy on Twitter.