There are still a number of neighborhoods that are completely new to me. I catch sight of the place The Ventures played, or the childhood home of Herbert Hoover, and I’m fascinated. That fountain sculpture in front of the Capitol Building? A hundred times more interesting than that gold statue. Even The Carousel – a landmark that is known to most people outside of Salem – even that holds quite a bit of charm to this outsider’s heart.
I didn’t grow up in Salem. But in the two years that I’ve lived here, I find something new to love every time I leave the house.
I spent 15 years in Portland previously, but the cost of living reached an untenable point where it was clear we needed to consider alternatives. As we began to look, Salem came up several times. My wife’s family was here, and the prices were in line with our income. We made the leap, and haven’t looked back. While she had a childhood connection, it was a completely new environment to me. Aside from an errant Stone Temple Pilots show I saw at The Armory as a kid, I knew nothing else of our state’s capitol.
While we were both given quizzical looks from our friends and even some Salem locals, I refused to buy into any of the negative hype. “Why?” Why anywhere? Just because Portland is in vogue doesn’t mean there aren’t other great places to live. I’m not looking to live in the town you see when I say, “I’m moving to Salem,” and your eyes roll. I’m looking for a community where I feel like I belong, where I have neighbors I can talk to and groceries that don’t cost my whole paycheck. I can get to know every one of my City Council Members, call the Mayor and ask how things are going, and buy everything I need from a local vendor, a person I can get to know.
Your town is what you make of it, and what you are willing to see when you look at what is around you. I could live in the small town, the backwards town, the place that is 46 miles from civilization. But I don’t like that town. I want to live in a place where my wife and I can afford a house, where I can get a radio show on a local station, where you can bike and walk almost anywhere, and where I can take my nieces and nephews to astounding parks.
I want to live in Salem, where I see welcoming, open, and friendly people, ready for someone to share their vision, and build the city we want to live in, together.
Austin grew up in Oregon, and for the last 20 years, has been writing and DJing at a number of places throughout the state. He now lives in Salem with his wife and their cat, and spends as much time as possible writing and listening to records. acronyminc.org