Brandon Washington – PDX People -Photo by – Josh McKenzie
The ratio of people we’ve interviewed for this column who spent most, if not all, of their life in Portland is few and far between. In fact, other than Brandon Washington there’s only one.
Brandon, however, has called Portland home since he was one-year-old, though he did live in Chicago for five years before coming back to Portland because “it was just too damn cold.”
Over the course of his life, Brandon has seen his city change in both dramatic and profound ways.
“I love Portland,” he says, “I love the way the city is built and the way it looks. It’s a really beautiful city.”
Yet, as some people go, so may a city; could that beauty be only skin deep?
“Portland is not without its problems,” he adds. “I’ve always had a problem with the lack of cultural diversity and gentrification. Those have been a huge problem for me.”
It’s been a problem for one big, obvious reason. “I don’t even live in Portland anymore! I was priced right out of my neighborhood,” he exclaims from his living room in Vancouver, Washington.
He pauses before coming to quite an unfortunate conclusion.
“It’s kind of sick to say it, but it’s happening everywhere. It is what it is, but what are we going to do about it?” he finishes with a resigned shrug.
Although Portland’s ingrained ills give him pause, Brandon still finds plenty to love in the Rose City, especially – get ready for the big surprise – in the summer.
“I love it in the summer,” he says as freezing rain falls outside.
“I love the people in the summer,” he goes on to emphasize, tacitly acknowledging something we all know: Portlanders shed their leaves and dig in their roots in the winter, but blossom in the summer.
Fortunately, whether indoors or out, summer or winter, Brandon enjoys a number of activities.
First, I point out his hat.
“Oh yeah,” he says with a laugh, “I’m a huge ‘Blazers fan. This is the second year I’ve gotten partial season passes.”
The topic of gentrification is bad enough, let alone a beloved home team crashing and burning after an unexpectedly great year, so I decide to merely smile and nod before moving on to his other hobbies.
“Getting out of the city is great, I like to do that once a month or so, maybe go to the coast or the mountain on a short little weekend trip,” he says. “But I also like to spend some quiet time at home. Where I work, I am talking to people all day, so it’s nice to come home and be able to relax.”
Talking to people all day is par for the course as an assistant manager at New Seasons Market. “I love the people I work with and supporting local farms is important,” he says.
Above all else, Brandon makes time for what he loves the most, and what he wants to do more of, and that’s to laugh. “They say kids smile and laugh four or five times more than adults and I want to get back to that,” he says… with a laugh.
Serving as the PDX People Laughter Ambassador, Brandon Washington’s smile lights the way, whether helping customers at New Seasons or cheering on an ailing home team. Portland could always use more of that warmth during these dark, frigid winter days. For that, we thank him.
William Bessette – PDX People Contributor
William Bessette is a journalist and freelance writer who has been covering politics, entertainment, culture and travel for over thirteen years. When he’s not profiling Portland-area restaurants and residents, you can find him reporting on national and international travel and eco-tourism through his travel brand, Floppy Hat Adventures.