igiveashitaboutsalemI’ve always loved Portland more than Salem. I know that statement is going to make some readers nod in agreement and others want to put this paper down in disgust. I wish you wouldn’t; I promise this isn’t a “Portland is better than Salem” article.

I do love Portland and it breaks my heart what’s going on there. It really hit me attending a show at The Know on Alberta Street recently. It took me almost an hour to get from the Terwilliger curves to Alberta Street. On a Thursday. At 7pm. People from all over are flocking to the city and developers are cashing in tearing down iconic Portland businesses and music venues to make room for skinny-stacked condos and boutique ice cream shops. As I was hanging out in front of The Know, group after group of people walked by wearing khaki shorts, Hawaiian shirts, fanny packs, and cameras – tourists! On Alberta Street! So weird. But not in the old Portland way.

My plan was – once my kids were out of the house, I would relocate to Portland. I have many friends there and as I said, Portland has always had my heart. But I’m realizing that would be like running into a burning building. Sure sure, I can still visit – it’s only an hour away and I will. But, I don’t see the wheels of gentrification slowing any time soon, so moving there would be a huge risk and a probable disappointment.

Which brings me around to what I really want to talk about: Salem. All of this has made me reevaluate. Salem is also growing: New venues; new bookers; new people and a new, more progressive lineup in city government has me hopeful. I personally think Salem stands to benefit from what’s going on up and down the West Coast. People want our cooler temperatures, our clean water and our eccentric culture. But I also know that many are realizing exactly what I did; Portland is a gamble – too expensive, job scarcity and skyrocketing rents. I personally know several folks who are planning to move to Salem to be right in the middle of all the Northwest has to offer. And I think that is a winning situation for us.

I do not want Salem to be another Portland. I want us to find our own identity and work towards making this a vibrant, dynamic and happening city that will attract artsy, progressive and community minded folks. That’s not to say we don’t already have those virtues; but I think we can do more. Go out and support the arts, and since I write about music, go out and support live music. And don’t just go see your buddy’s band. We’ve got people booking touring acts from as far away as Australia. Go support them! I want touring bands to go back home and talk about what a great experience they had in Salem. That we were supportive, curious, friendly and open to new experiences.

I know that there are some who like Salem just the way it is. But, it’s going to change, and we have an opportunity to be more than we’ve ever been. What are your suggestions? Let’s start a conversation. See this article at our new website http://salemweeklynews.com and give us your opinion.