He rocks the fat-frame nerd glasses and flies the flannel. He's got a mustache that any '70s porn star would envy. He'll only cook at home if he can score locally sourced ingredients; lives in a sleek contemporary condo crammed in among the leftist bookstores, cafes, vegan co-ops, and yoga studios in the heart of the gentrifying Inner Southeast; and owns his own coffee company. He collects Olympia beer memorabilia and Zig Zag rolling-paper paraphernalia! He listens to heavy metal on vinyl! He's ex of Puyallup and used to hitch his way down to Portland to skateboard when he was a kid!
Photo courtesy readymade.com
He is Duane Sorenson, owner of Portland's Stumptown Coffee, and dude couldn't be more of a caricature of his time and place if a thousand comedy writers sat in front of a thousand vintage typewriters and tried to create him.
Now Sorenson has been captured by The Wall Street Journal and preserved forever in the amber that is their Real Estate section, in a profile called "Heavy Metal Meets Toy Bunnies."
"His condo is on the top floor of a recently built four-story contemporary building with rusty-looking Core-Ten steel and angled aqua glass panels," wrote the WSJ. "At the base is an artisanal bakery, where Mr. Sorenson grabs a Stumptown black coffee when he's rushed, and an exercise place that touts itself as 'a yoga studio for everyone.' Bicycle racks take up three parking spots worth of space out front.
'I've only ever lived in this part of town,' said Mr. Sorenson on a recent night at home, as he prepared a dinner of braised short ribs rubbed with Stumptown's Holler Mountain Blend coffee, baguettes from the bakery below and bottles of Oregon's Cameron Pinot Noir."
This then is the new/old stereotype of the Pacific Northwest, the "ethos of being both woodsy and hip," according to the article. Tattoos (Sorenson has "Puyallup" inked across his knuckles, and that's just for starters), facial hair, a pair of Buddy Holly glasses, a quirky local obsession or two. That's all it takes--the complete culture of the area reduced to a Morse code of fashion, the scent of roasting coffee. and a bottle of Pinot Noir.
It's not Sorenson that bothers me here. Near as I can tell, he's just being himself; he's not wearing his Portland costume just for the cameras. But for the WSJ to use him as an archetype for codifying an entire area of the country (something the East Coast has done for as long as there has been anything west of it) is either incredibly insulting--like me insisting that Manhattan is entirely populated by skinny-jean-wearing Brooklyn boy-hipsters in tiny fedoras and girls slutting it up in age-inappropriate short-shorts and comically oversized sunglasses like they were perpetually on their way to a new Sex and the City cattle call--or just really fucking dead-on.
At this point, it really becomes a Heisenberg question: Is the coverage an accurate portrayal of the culture, or is the culture incontrovertibly altered by the coverage? Either way, the whole thing kinda makes me want to shave clean, get Lasik eye surgery, buy a suit, and drink nothing but Corona from now on. And since we're talking in stereotypes, it makes me wonder how long it'll be before it becomes cool to be an angry Norwegian senior citizen or an Indian program manager for Microsoft or an out-of-work Grays Harbor shipwright.
Well, WSJ, which one of those counts as the "ethos" of the PNW? Or will Olav Singh-Knudsen, the laid-off Boeing fabricator, have to start flashing his Navy tats and cooking up his own Starbucks-and-Douglas fir microbrew to get his picture in the paper?