Darkest Hillsboro

November 15, 2007

Due to complications of schedule, it was necessary for me to accompany Mr. Pencil yesterday to Hillsboro, where he needed to go into work and give a presentation about something important and technical. It’s not really possible for me to hang around in the giant, tomblike buildings of the Very Large Corporation He Works For quietly sucking wireless and getting work done, so I had him drop me off at a coffee shop I knew of. The only coffee shop out there, as far as I know. The only free wireless around there, as far as I know. I know of this place because of that year-and-a-quarter I somehow magically deactivated various parts of my psyche and also worked for the selfsame very large corporation.

Yesterday was a pearl-grey, blowsy, hard-scrabble, mid-November chiller. It was simply inauspicious. David dropped me off at the coffee shop, which is peculiarly located, alone, amidst lonely, hulking light industrial complexes.

Things went kind of badly from the start. Perhaps I was testy from the beginning. Ordering a hot chocolate took inordinately long. The wireless connection didn’t really work. I could get to Google, but almost everything else just timed out. I needed to get work done. Four children were chasing each other and shrieking.

Frowning and stiffly grumpified, I was finally starting to work on something offline when I looked up and saw the place had cleared out. I stared around and realized I could see the hours printed on the door, albeit backwards because I was looking at the glass door from the inside. Then I saw that they closed at 3:30. Oh, crap. I looked at the time. 3:27. Shit.

Outside, still grey, still hard, still ugly. Mr. Pencil wouldn’t be done for another 45 minutes at best. So I packed up my crap and started trekking. Trying to walk all the way to where he worked was futile: it is probably a good 4 miles away, and I was carrying: a laptop, a 3-ring binder, a textbook, a few other books, an umbrella, a satsuma mandarin, bitterness, various cables and bits and iPods and wallets and phones and you get the picture. And you have to understand: there was nowhere, nowhere to go. Isolated. Marooned.

Stomping up Evergreen Boulevard in Darkest Hillsboro is no treat. Each building takes about seven minutes to pass because they are so enormous. Parking lots mostly empty. A lot of cars on the four-lane road, not a human in sight. Ten minutes spent passing an immense isolated field of dead thistle, dead tree, and blackberry bramble. Leaves blown against verges. Rusted fire hydrants. I began to wonder when, if ever, anyone else had last walked here.

Alternating buildings, then tattered remnant of farmland, with huddled Canada Geese. Grim, well-kept landscaping.

And then this sadness began to seep in. I walk every day near my house, proudly and happily, running little local errands or just wandering around. But here, I realized, slowly, I felt embarrassed. As if homeless, as if shameful. I started to worry that one of the people in the millions of cars that passed would recognize me. This feeling intensified when the sidewalk ended west of the immense “SolarWorld” complex and I had to walk in a careful mince-step at the edge of the shoulder in a 55mph zone.

By the time Mr. Pencil picked me up, I felt like I’d been scarred for life.


  1. autumn says:

    and this is why, when i was married to someone who worked for that selfsame Very Large Corporation, i loathed my surroundings with a fiery burning passion. it is a suburb in the most malignant sense of the term. bloated, bilious, and brimming with bleating suburban offspring; none of whom have the manners god gave a warthog.

    my most earnest sympathies.

  2. tODD says:

    Wow, who knew the suburbs were such a foil for literate, humorous self-expression?

    Our church is out in the suburbs, and we often MAX/walk out there, which frequently leads to thoughts like yours above. It’s really funny how the suburbs look on foot, and it’s clear that no one thought much about it when things were designed. Sidewalks end suddenly, trash collects in roadside ditches, and it’s really annoying to walk anywhere, even within a single shopping center. Not that you’d notice from a car.

    Seriously, though, try walking from one big box store, through the football field/parking lot, across the street, across another parking lot/landing strip, and to another big box store. So much time to walk through so much nothing. And then you can eat at a fast food restaurant, where that nothing gets deep fried and served with a side of ennui sauce, perfectly internalizing the whole experience.

  3. Alan says:

    Been there. My last trip to Hillsboro put me at the Larksburg Landing. I became oh too frequent of a traveler on Evergreen. Easily to find youself somewhere, but nowhere in the blink of a signal light.

  4. Cork Lizard says:

    Funny, while I was visiting, Fran had to taker her car to have the emissions tested so we drove out past Beaverton with Pearl. We drove back through what Fran thought would be countryside. Mile after mile of light industrial and span new condos and big houses. They were both appalled as the last time they were there (about two years ago) it was all just farmland and orchards. It was a quiet and somber ride. Depressing and we weren’t even walking…

Related Posts

Scipio the Computer has deemed that these might be similar in content!
Wonderful games with Caslon