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Jonas Does Portland: Homesick On The East Coast

by Jonas Barnes

Portland is the city I’ve always called home—I was born here, I slept in the doorway of a seafood restaurant as a homeless baby, I was babysat by Courtney Love when she was just an exotic dancer named "Love" and my comedy show, SMUT, is still alive and kicking under the wise comedic eye of Portland mainstay, Belinda Carroll. Portland, to me, will always be my home, no matter how many years I spend outside its zip codes. As I sit here, four years removed from the Portland life, I am homesick. I live in NYC now, performing comedy full time and often referring comics here to Portland—explaining its wonders, like a child describing Christmas morning. If I’m being honest with myself, I really treat the entire west coast that way, with PDX having a special place in my heart.

When I get the question, "What is there to do in Portland?" my eyes light up like a Vegas casino. I can’t wait to tell folks about the nightlife and sexual freedoms that Portand offers. I’m salivating, as I tell them how good the weed is—they never believe me. My pupils turn into something straight out of anime as I tell them how fun Stripparaoke at Devils Point is. I always name-drop my favorite dancers (and friends) in the city, such as Brody Grody and Miss Prys—reminding my NYC referrals not to be stingy with their dollars when they get to the rail. My stomach growls in contempt, as I dare mention Pok-Pok and Pine State Biscuits, knowing I won’t be able to taste them anytime soon.

Then, after all that, I finally get to the comedy. Portland has a wonderful comedy scene, that I will always support, refer people to and love in my heart. It is, however, a far different beast than the grime of NYC, that my new friends here are used to.

Some of my fondest Portland comedy memories have taken place in many of the hallowed halls of Portland’s smutty sanctuaries. Before moving, the last show I produced, Comics Under The Influence, was held at The Star Theater (sister venue to Dante’s). The idea behind the show was simple: do a set, take five shots in five minutes then, come back and do a hammered set. The headliner for the night was Portland native and world-famous madman, "Danger" Ehren McGehey. Danger took way more than five shots and did his final set damn near nude, because he didn’t know where his pants were. It was insanity, just like I thought it would be, and after the life I’d lived, a fitting farewell to me as a comedy producer in Portland. But, that was only the final stop on my journey, as I’d done shows at swinger clubs, during orgies, on hallucinogenic drugs, while exotic dancers surrounded me and more.

Portland, to me, isn’t the overly offended den of pussification that people see it as sometimes—it’s quite the opposite, really. Portland is a den of wonderful, indulgent sin. And, seeing the faces of my friends in NYC when they come back is always a treat. They knew not what they were getting into—even though I had warned them. They had no idea how much the restraints truly were off in this wonderful city.

All of these things (and more) make me miss the west coast. I say "west coast," because I’ll always miss the drives to Seaside—filled with torrential downpours that lead to a bukkake of tourism and sand. I’ll miss the travels up and down the California coast—stopping in each new county to sample what they have to offer. I’ll miss hopping the border to Washington and making the trip up to Seattle.

Most of all, however, I’ll always miss Portland. I’ll always miss the waterfront. I’ll always miss the bridges. I’ll never miss the traffic. But, I will miss the stages. I’ll miss the dancers. I’ll miss the clubs. I’ll miss the music. I’ll miss the culture. I’ll miss the unadulterated fun that the city has always offered. I’ll always miss the smallest huge city I’ve ever called home. I’ll miss the weirdness and the freaks that are always accepted with open arms.

New York City can keep Wall Street; I’ll take Burnside any day of the week.