Statue named Portlandia looks down on this post.

Ah. The big city. There’s no place like it, amirite?!

I’m currently working on a theory that seeks to explain the vast breadth of experiences found in the big city right down to the smallest nooks and crannies. I think I’ve found a model that does just that.

We decided to leave our house. We piled into the car. Seven turns and six miles later we were at Powell’s Books. We left our car in a truly frightening multi-level parking garage and made our way inside. An elevator whisked us up to the third floor. I shuffled over to the farthest corner and stood in front of books about architecture. I pretended to be interested. Suddenly, invading my space, someone crowded in. Yes, I was attempting to physically exist in the sole location in the Cosmos where they wanted to be. I was bad.

Ever see a driver’s education training video? Things would leap right at you to test your reflexes. The big city is like that, only on steroids.

Before we go on, what is a city? My favorite definition goes something like this: a geographical location of high population density where residents have no direct means of control over resources necessary to their own survival.

In other words, if you live in the big city, you’re a sucker, and in more ways than one. What do you think will happen when the Big One hits? It won’t be the utopian vision imagined by Stephen King in The Stand. You won’t be living on unlimited shelves of delicious canned goods in stores forever. Brace yourself for the fastest transition to an agrarian lifestyle in history, assuming you survive the initial shock to your system.


Representation of The Big City.

The model I’ve selected to explain the big city is a lottery ball machine. Balls (representing people) are dropped into a shared area (the big city) and agitated to a frenzied state until they are repeatedly forced into random contact, again and again.

As an example, consider an ordinary intersection. You waited patiently and now have the green light. That means it’s your turn to go, right? WRONG! It might look clear, but that’s an evil deception. If you attempt to move, that’s when the lottery machine kicks in. Bicyclists shoot out from sidewalks like bullets from a gun. Pedestrians jump in front of your car. The MAX train is timed to shut down the intersection at the same time it would have been your turn.


Portland, January, 2017. Lottery balls filling every nook and cranny.

I live in Portland, but I’m fairly certain this theory applies to other big cities, too.

Ever see the hit TV show Portlandia and think to yourself, “Self, I’d really like to live there?” If this is you, stop reading immediately, go find a rubber chicken, and repeatedly use it to strike yourself in the face.

Don’t worry. I’m more than willing to wait.

Still, think Portland is Portlandia? Carrie Brownstein has moved to Los Angeles. (Source.) Fred Armisen has fled the ritzy Pearl District and also lives in Los Angeles. (Source.) I wonder what they know that you don’t?

Another fun aspect localized to Portland: The city has resisted increases in traffic capacity for decades. During that same time the population has quadrupled. Result? “Portland traffic congestion no longer bound by ‘rush hour,’ ODOT reports.” That’s right. Traffic jams are now available 24/7 for absolutely no reason at all. Consider them Portland’s version of flash mobs.

Hopefully, you now know what it’s like to live in the big city and, perhaps, why I don’t play the lotto. I’m like the DOW Scrubbing Bubbles of residential pain. I live here so you don’t have to. And, ironically, since this is the big city, I don’t have to walk more than two blocks to find the nearest lottery machine.