Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

The Port of Portlandia Carpet

Portlanders are known for their love of donuts with bacon. Now we will be renowned for our love of the unmistakable and soon-to-be-replaced carpet at Portland International Airport.

Airport Carpet Fingernails,jpegAn iconic airport carpet may not seem far-fetched in a community that likes to know the name of the chicken it eats for dinner or shuns food carts that don’t offer compostable plates and forks.

The carpeting at PDX has been featured in innumerable selfies, or perhaps more accurately, footsies. People love to snap a shot of their feet on the carpet before they take off or after they land. No question, the carpet is unique and cool. Soon, it will be ripped off the floor, chopped into pieces and sold in chunks through an online store.

The distinctive turquoise carpet with what one observer called an Atari-like geometric design was installed in 1987. It was sufficiently funky to become part of Portland’s “Keep it Weird” personality. Presumably, it will be replaced with a more modern carpet, which might look like vanilla carpets in airports everywhere else and displace a tangible reminder that someone is unequivocally in Portland. (Actually, the new carpet is not vanilla, but 13 acres of mood-swinging green with a design intended to capture the runways, the terminal and surrounding area. As Liam Neeson would say, “Good luck.”)

New PDX carpetThe Portlandia-inspired public wake for the carpet is already underway. Portlanders have inked tattoos and painted their fingernails in the carpet’s design. Commemorative selfies often involve people sprawled on the carpet with an adoring facial expression.

Before long, there is sure to be a donut with the carpet’s geometric design and Keen sandals in the distinctive turquoise background color. In the future, your Portland-ness may be measured by how many carpet remnants you own and what you have made out of them. It is not hard to imagine front rooms throughout Portland with PDX carpet area rugs.

Way back when, people identified with a town through a magnificent public building, signature sculpture or great university. Despite historic Portland City Hall and the tram connecting the South Waterfront area with Pill Hill, many Portlanders seem to identify more with ubiquitous recycling bins for public trash, Powell’s Bookstore and the PDX carpet.

Anyone who has remodeled their house knows there is nostalgia for departing relics (except for that noisy dishwasher.) Soon, we get used to new flooring, paint colors and light fixtures. As time goes on, it gets harder to remember what was there before the newer stuff. That’s likely to happen with the PDX carpet, unless there is an activist movement dedicated to remembering the carpet that was.

Carpet artLet’s convince the Port of Portland to slice off a few chunks, frame them stylishly and display them proudly in all the concourses. There already is one artistic rendition of the carpet in Concourse D. The carpet on the ground will be new; the carpet on the wall will be an homage to the old. Everybody should be happy.

They would be even happier, of course, if Port officials displayed some of the remnants on top of the new carpet, so travelers leaving or returning to Portland can still document on Instagram they are standing on Portland’s native fabric. Given sentimental feelings about the outgoing carpet, the Port may want to preserve quite a few slices.

This is the kind of idea just off beat enough to show up in a Portlandia skit, which might even give the carpet its own name. And if it’s good enough for Portlandia, it should be good enough for the Port of Portlandia.




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