Washington my home, wherever I may roam
This is my land, my native land, wherever I may roam.
~ State song of Washington
I was born and raised in Vancouver, Washington. There are a lot of acerbic jokes (Vancouver, not B.C.; Washington, not D.C.).
Let us take a brief historical journey: Vancouver, Washington, was originally Fort Vancouver of the Hudson Bay Company. [predating Vancouver, B.C. – in fact Lewis and Clark found it an ideal site for a future settlement].
It was divided between British and American interests over the years. John McLoughlin was a key figure. His house is mere blocks from my friend’s place in Oregon City. But, even back then it was floated that it might be its own nation.
Then Oregon Trail, yada yada, Portland, Oregon, Sasquatch and such. The Russians were also involved off and on and the Spanish gave up a long time before that, focusing on California down the coast and New Spain at large [this is not an essay, my timelines are all off].
And of course, the indigenous Chinook and Klickitat peoples among many, many other tribes. If you’re ever in Seattle or Victoria, I have some museums that are musts. When we were kids, we’d go on trips and see Chief Lelooska of the Cowlitz tribe near Kelso/Longview and the Lewis River [curiously not named after Meriwether Lewis, as I grew up in Clark County, and Lewis county – both explorers among the ubiqitous placenames and highway markers].
If you are near the East Coast, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian had a decent exhibition of Northwestern indigenous tribes. I also recall a statue of Lewis and Clark and Sacajawea in Charlottesville, Virginia when I was a tourist and it blew my mind, though I knew the history. I knew they were from the East, but they are near demi-gods growing up in Oregon and Washington – though I can’t imagine those in the east have seen that one sign where they peed that one time or the reconstructed fort where they managed not to die.
Captain George Vancouver would, of course, as I mentioned give his name to Vancouver, British, Columbia, as well as my hometown (the first Vancouver! – did I mention that?). Portland, Oregon would become a thing. It would give us the verb of ‘to Shanghai’ – as in to impress drunks into ship duty via underground secret passages down the Willamette [will-AH-mit]. Seattle would give us the term Skid Row relating to the timber being strewn down the muddy roads to the water. I still have memories of the local paper mill in Camas near Portland [you could smell it next town (Vancouver, WA) on a bad day].
This is the short of it, each sentence could grow like moss in the Hoh Valley if you lichen that sort of pun. But, it is Cascadia. It is not California. It is not even the Pacific Northwest. It is the Northwest period, full stop – unless Alaska wants to take that title.
It is not Washington state. It is Washington, D.C. Yet; as much as I love Stumptown, my childhood haunt and our entertainment, I’ll give Portland, Maine a nod (the name was stolen from them). Sorry about that guys. Not sorry about the documentary that is Portlandia, though [and it is more documentary than comedy – it’s funny in how true it is! When they are referencing streets they are talking about real places that I grew up with – real locations – I can understand how others don’t find it as funny as I do if you didn’t grow up near Portland, Oregon].
Even British Columbia has its own identity within Canada. I remember growing up in Washington and going up there often. My dad happens to have grown up in the same town as Glenn Beck [not at the same time, just a fun fact – shout out to the Tulip Festival!], around an hour from Canada. Yet, when I went with my family to visit D.C. and the east coast of the United States of America, I felt like a foreigner. I felt more at home in Victoria or the ‘big’ Vancouver of Canada than out east in my own country of the USA. I’d rather be in Mount Vernon, Washington.
We still all spoke English, but it wasn’t the same culture. They are so parochial out there in the former Colonies. So … uptight. Generalizing. Not everyone is like that, but I felt out of place even though I mastered the subways of D.C. within a week. I still felt somehow superior to their airs of self-importance though. I just think we were more chill in the Northwest. I glossed over Bellingham and Eugene, where all the hippies went to retire.
Grunge could have never happened anywhere but the Northwest, – and yes I’ve done the Aberdeen thing. I didn’t grow up that far away, it’s just that Aberdeen and Hoquiam are depressing as hell off the beaten track, as are many places in the Northwest but guess what? Oh, my, god.
– Timber is never coming back, and we figured that out a while ago (nudge, nudge West Virginia and the Rust Belt). Here’s where I could go into economic data points if Cascadia were serious. It’s fun to imagine. You all know the big companies. That’s taking it too seriously – Microsoft, Nike, Costco, Starbucks and all the others I doubt would go along.
I won’t go into Powell’s Bookstore in Portland or Pike Place Market in Seattle or Gastown in Vancouver, BC. They are all tourist spots, and honestly, since I’m from the Portland area, I screwed over Seattle and the big Vancouver. It’s not like I don’t know, I just can’t remember always – I hope I did them right. They’re all worth it. I would happily go into union with California should it secede, but i must insist on Cascadian sovereignty.
Drop me into any of these places in the Northwest, I will feel at home – although Canada is tricky [‘friendly’ is not in any Border Security’s lexicon]. Point being we are not like the rest of North America, not even California. We are not generic West/Left Coast, either [except politically left]. It’s also important to emphasize the ecoregion.
Sure, as a kid we went down the I-5 to Disneyland or on to San Diego. I live in Arizona now for reasons that are another whole article on Arizona; but driving back from Tucson to Portland to visit extended family you can always tell when you hit Cascadia driving north up California [sidenote, become two states at least]:-
It hits upon Jefferson State [northern tip of California and southern tip of Oregon, generally as pretty as it is creepy Libertarian], but the gray rolls just a certain way west of the mountains at a certain point through the valleys of evergreen. The pines smell more stringently refreshing, the sun glinting through the lush hills, and the rain pelts you with its own embrace to say you are back home – in Cascadia, at about Grant’s Pass or Ashland roughly. It depends, but while political boundaries can be arbitrary it is striking how once you hit Oregon you’re also hitting the west of the Cascade mountain range to the east and Pacific Ocean to the west and the climate changes dramatically, or, it can, in the valleys.
Here, finally, winding up through Lane County of Eugene (the University of Oregon Ducks), and then passing on the same I-5 we’ve been on since California, we pass the farmland and forests and you eventually approach the suburbs of the southern extremis of the Portland metro area and the ‘treacherous traffic of the Terwilliger curves’ onto a grand bridge (your first, coming from the south into Portland) as the canopy of green reveals the Portland skyline for the first time, the Willamette, the bridges, KOIN center tower, and if the mountain is out, Mt. Hood.
Granted, all my early life I just crossed in from the north on one of two bridges from Washington (we have a lot of bridges – it rains a bit – and it’s a bit wet with rivers and such). But whether Portland or Seattle or Vancouver, BC or many places in between you can read all day at a coffeeshop, give a nod like only a Cascadian can – eschewing the tourist umbrella. Stomp in the puddles, enjoy cheap hydroelectric power. Have real fresh salmon. And yes, make fun of Californians when we’re not making fun of the Timbers, Sounders or Whitecaps, depending on your respective city [MLS – soccer – even has something called the Cascadia Cup for our internal rivalries].
I’ve left out a lot here. But whenever I go back, I can’t explain it – the connection to the land. We’re different. I still count myself as an expat, with my Cascadian flags and membership card. I followed my parents down to Tucson, but I’m working my self back ever so slowly. I like being close to my folks, but Washington is my home, wherever I may roam. And Oregon and British Columbia too.
I have links and propaganda should anyone be interested in Cascadia and the movement. I can answer any questions, I think. I think it’s more a state of mind, for now. Anyone can join. Any race, sexual orientation, all of that. I thought maybe just Portland, Seattle and Canada would have made that clear, but yes, this is a Left separatist movement. And because it is a left movement it is very aware how unlikely it is to happen.