(yes, this is a Portlandia reference)
Riverside in the 90’s a mystical land. An unsettling amount of isolation paired with hillbillies and grungy gen x-ers turned the unassuming suburb into a slightly eclectic mix, Gen-x rebels and nuclear families
Standing above the hills of masterful, Mt. Rubidoux, the rest of the world seemed more interesting, more cool, and more artistic. Many teenagers yearned to leave their track homes for New York, San Francisco, and Seattle.
I plotted to live in New York. Imagining a life filled with art, breaking into random song on the sidewalk, and plenty of gay guys attributed to high aspirations.
The 2000’s happened, I ended up moving to New York. I struggled for years, cleaning kitchens and washing dishes. Eventually I worked the quintessential admin job with a health insurance plan and my own apt in Harlem.
By my thirties, New York didn’t have the seem appeal. There was a boredom in the air. In fact, many big cities suffered the same plight. High rents, Whole Foods and fancy gyms were turning campy paradises into the suburban conformity we attempted to escape from.
While the major cities of the world were being taken over by 1%centers and their offspring, I plotted to leave Manhattan. But where could I go? Sure, the dream of the 90’s was alive in Portland, but I wanted something a bit off the beaten path.
During the Thanksgiving holiday, I strolled around downtown Riverside. It smelled like the 90’s, when I was a teenager heading from coffee shop to an indie flick festival at the Fox theatre.
Nostalgia built, as high winds blew rare objects into my eyes. My tootsies touched the fine cobble stone pavement. I walked toward Back to the Grind, the local indie coffee shop.
A blue grass band joyfully played for coffee drinkers. The music mesmerized, as did the artsy air. Enough with high rents and fashionable haunts, I am a child of the 90’s and Riverside. I liked my sidewalks like my men, grungy.
With cheap rents, and a sizable artistic community, I decided the dream of the 90’s was really alive in Riverside, possibly. How would I magically move back? I had a life established, New York City.
On the plane back to New York, I imagined a life of reading books and writing. I need to get paid for this grand fete. Grad school? Yes, grad school for MFA in creative writing. I shall converse with scholarly minds, while making a career out of reading books, writing, and teaching others about literature’s grandeur.
“Professor Anthony,” the gushy feeling overcame me, as the plane flew over Midwestern corn fields. Landing at Kennedy, I felt a bit more optimistic about life than pre-vacation.
Two weeks later, I returned to Riverside for the Christmas holiday. Writing samples, a thesis, statement of purposes, letters of recommendation, where due a few days after New Years.
Grabbing my lap top, I headed for Augie’s coffee shop. Gulping down a lavender latte, I prepared my portfolio. My brain went from 1980’s East Village to the Sultan Sea’s desolation. I couldn’t write or focus.
Everything distracted me. The barista’s hip t-shirt. Foam rising from my cappuccino, curiosity about the book being read at an adjacent table. I didn’t cry from frustration, just banged my head against the blond wood table.
My weeks at home were spent frantically organizing my portfolio. The blank canvass effect stressed and alluded me on certain days. Other days, I oozed inspiration, and was quite productive.
The deadline loomed, I wanted to have everything done before heading back to New York. Then distraction, lots of distraction continually dared to detour academic ambitions.
The new Star Wars flick, dinner with friends and cozy evenings by the fireplace, helped lift creative brain cells into oblivion. Relentlessly, I did everything I could to finish my college applications and writing portfolio.
On unseasonably cold morning, I had to fly back to New York. My portfolio was finished. Polishing my personal and purpose statements became grealy important.
After a full day day of travel, distraction once again became an enemy. Returning to Manhattan, I had mere hours to finish my portfolio. Pressed on time, I opened the empty doors to darkened apartment. Dashing toward the fridge, I only had whisky to hold me over.
Unrelenting, I switched on the lap top. Terribly hungry, I could only think of pizza. How I missed pizza. Rather than working on college application madness, I ended up stuffing my face with brick oven pizza and white wine.
The wine made me quite sleepy, but I still had to finish the entirety of my portfolio and application. Nearly falling asleep, I imagined an existence of sunshine, books, coffee shops, and my own car to ride around in. Motivation quickly returned.
Lifting myself from bed, I did not surrender to the wall of sleep. Everything was sent to the university. Happily, I passed out in bed. Dozing off, I would soon learn the answer to the following question. “Is the dream of the 90’s really alive in Riverside?”
- Special thanks to everyone who sent recommendation letters, proofread and encouraged me along the way.