Feeding the Mouth That Bites You

By Midge Pierce

As Portopia’s snowglobe turned into swampland last month, head colds, Nyquil and dehumidifiers settled in along with mildew that covered cars as pungent as 5th grade boys’ sneakers.

My bigly, humidified hair took hold. “Fie on you February,” it bristled.

Tax forms piled up like unrequited sneezes because I left Uncle Sam a hefty refund by filing in the gloom of last mid-winter. Eating was not an option given a tendency to gorge on Toblerones and potato skins washed down with Doug Fir’s Ginger Ninjas. Leaving home was out of the question since I’d been known to wander neighborhoods looking longingly at houses with something other than sludge for yards.  TGIMarch.

Oh, February had its moments. This year’s flu vaccine was effective enough to ward off the worst. Oregon had a Colorado Blue sky day. The Oregonian’s new health insert carried a riff on Caveman brains vs. Sheldon Cooper and the Festival of Lights (a wetland version of the desert’s Burning Man) provided a bonafide Second Line procession of LED-soaked parasols sashaying to the beat of Portopia’s record-breaking precipitation.

Parades are fun. Marches make a statement. Anyone who has spent a nanosecond in New Orleans knows that a march that looks like a happy parade is a Second Line that signals both a wake and a new beginning.

Lord knows Portopia needs it. With every fraying pink hat and step taken with worn out soles, we inflate our misery and the Steve Bannon-in-Chief’s enemy list. It’s like feeding the mouth that bites us.

Frankly, I thought my protest days were over back in the 70s, which for me is when the 60s happened or that my silver hair would make a difference. All it does is frizz.

Locally, PC-gilded jargon of social justice and equanimity bubbled over as PDX addressed growth, houselessness, and the impact of PERS. In desperation to make sense of it all, I find myself looking for the enemy of my enemy who might be a friend.

Perhaps it’s someone who recognizes that a teacher’s union that guts education for an 8 percent guaranteed PERS increase is no pal of Oregon. Private citizens haven’t seen those kind of returns since partying like it was 1999. That year, if you remember, stocks soared to double digits.

If you don’t remember, you must be a millennial flooding our marsh seeking affordable housing. Sure, tear down everything in sight until what brought you here is buried beneath ugly batten board buildings you can’t afford anyway.

Or, say you’re a landlord fat from 50% rent increases – your greed costs an elderly couple a hard-earned $4500 to evict the tenant who trashed the bungalow the couple rented out to pay for the nursing home. Anyone who has ever shared a wall knows not all renters are created considerately. Plus, moms and pops can’t rent property they can’t afford.

Of course the housing crisis must be addressed. Rent stabilizations tied to costs of living seem reasonable. So does taxing sales of luxury items like 48-inch TV screens to subsidize housing and education. It beats alternatives like wringing annually higher property taxes from those on fixed incomes or young couples struggling to keep roofs overhead.

It’s great to welcome the new and help the unhoused. But in Portopia, those who’ve invested lives and savings are considered wicked regressives, while developers are the chosen who inherit the Earth. Property shaming doesn’t lower rents. It’s microaggression that makes us no better than those we detest.

My pen poisons and my gray tangles over. I need new Bics and a flat iron. If only taxes were attached to sales of such nonessentials, we could fund education and encourage recycling.