YOU’RE NOBODY IN THIS TOWN…'TIL EVERYBODY IN THIS TOWN THINKS YOU’RE A BASTARD
The Willamette Week today reminds me why sometimes I truly despite Portland.
For those of you not from here, the Willamette Week is probably our leading arts weekly. This week, it has a cover devoted to Elliott Smith. It’s a nice, tastefully designed photo cover—and it makes sense, he was from here, he was important to people here.
But the actual material inside takes a horribly wrong turn. It gets too hung up on the geography of it all.
Not the personal testimonials. There is a good section of quotes from friends and colleagues about the man. Some of them are raw with grief and anger, but it’s only been a very short time. It’s understandable.
It’s the editorials that rub me the wrong way. There are two essays, and a map guide of Elliot-related places in the town, that typify the worst of the Portland arts mentality. Essentially, they dehumanize the man and recast him as the living, breathing embodiment of the city. Particularly in the underlying suggestion that had he stayed here, had he not left for New York City and Los Angeles and run down the dream of success, that this would have never happened. How dare you attempt to see beyond the bridges and the rain and the change and pocket lint that they will pay you in local clubs! Don’t you know that you’re ours?!?!
To me it felt like a socially mediocre high school student standing up at the funeral of a nerd and saying, “Well, when I hung out with him, it made me feel cool by comparison.” Are you oblivious to the fact that none of this is about you?
It’s one thing to do it in life. The Willamette Week’s Dave Walker actually chastised the local art crew for doing the same thing to Gus Van Sant, criticizing him if he ever dares to venture outside our borders. But this…this is just a pathetic tribute to an artist that touched a lot of lives. To reduce Elliott Smith’s significance to the fact that he mentioned street names and puddles is just…well, sad. But the wrong kind.
Elliott Smith, 1969-2003
Current Soundtrack: Super Furry Animals, Phantom Power