This was originally published on The Stranger's sister blog, The Portland Mercury.
It’s been a rough few days, but things are finally starting to look up.
Last Friday, my 20-year-old heater stopped working, under duress from a historic snowstorm that ripped through Portland. On Monday morning, I woke up shivering, confused as to why my electric space heater had shut off overnight—and then I realized my power was out. The power returned Tuesday evening, and I sent a triumphant text to my coworkers. “I’ll be back online tomorrow,” I typed, followed by the smiling sunglasses emoji. But “online tomorrow” I was not! Because while my electricity was back, my internet access was still gone, and it could take a full week to restore. Suddenly, I wasn’t feeling very “sunglasses emoji” at all.
Now, I’m typing this article while sitting on my editor Steve’s side porch, a heat lamp by my side, using his WiFi for who knows how long. We lost our office space last year (and our print paper, and most of our editorial staff) thanks to the pandemic, and have been working from home since then. But my home is not workable, and I’m hesitant to go sit in a coffee shop for hours on end because of COVID-19, so porch WiFi it is.
But enough of my sob story—there are sob stories all over this city, some much graver than mine. I’m not here to focus on the negative, though, because I just got the best news I’ve heard in months: Gucci has opened its first-ever store in downtown Portland!!!
That’s right, that downtown Portland, Oregon: the dying neighborhood in a dying city in a dying democracy. And yes, that Gucci: the Italian luxury fashion brand that sells handbags which cost more than I make in a month at the Mercury. Fuck yeah, bitches, we got a Gucci!!!
According to a press release sent Wednesday, Gucci’s new 6,500 square-foot Portland location is inside Pioneer Place, and the vibe of the store “is one of discretion, where understated drama is created by the surprising and unexpected combination of material.” How cool does that sound?! It’s kind of like when the understated drama of a year-long pandemic is disrupted by a surprising and unexpected combination of not having internet for a week and having to throw out all the food in your fridge and freezer because it’s been spoiled in a power outage.
“Artisan painted floors handcrafted in Italy with optical patterns are harmoniously integrated with the herringbone wood flooring,” the press release continues. “Juxtaposition of this sort, where opposites forge a new connection, is repeated throughout: technical, mechanical display units contrast with the softness of the rich fabrics that adorn the rooms; round tables offset rectangular ones; varnished, iron wall finishes complement the sage green velvet upholstery.”
I totally get what they’re going for with those juxtapositions, and I’m here for it! In fact, right now on my editor’s porch, the biting cold of working outside is juxtaposed against the fleeting warmth of the heat lamp. The harsh sound of rain hitting the glass awning contrasts with the softness of the rich fabric that adorns Steve’s outdoor picnic table, which itself is set off against the technical, mechanical display units of the tangle of extension cords which allow me to charge my laptop.
If I squint my eyes and ignore the numbness in my fingers, it’s almost like being at that brand new Gucci store, which opened Wednesday when hundreds of thousands of Portlanders were still without power.
So, wherever you are at this moment—whether you’re sitting in your car because it’s the only place where you can charge your phone, or you’re waiting for a delayed TriMet bus to shuttle you to your essential job interacting with members of the public during a pandemic, or you’re contemplating whether it’s worth it to try and dumpster dive at Fred Meyer when the cops might arrest you for it—please take a moment to feel gratitude for this important milestone. Portland might not have a reliable electrical grid or enough shelter beds for our houseless neighbors, but God dammit, we got our first Gucci.