Just Another Point of View: Sometimes you're the 'real deal,' sometimes you're just the sidekick
It occurred to me the other day, as I was pondering the big issues in life (a practice Im much more inclined to indulge in now that Im a card-carrying member of The Crankiest Generation), that many of our more normal cities are often accompanied by what I cant help but label as sidekick cities.
Think about it. On one hand youve got Portland, made up of several hundred thousand more or less regular Oregon citizens. And then, just across a couple of really big but overcrowded bridges, youve got Vancouver. Vancouver, of course, is the sidekick.
How do I know that? Well, its quirky, for one thing. Everybody knows a good share of the residents of Vancouver cross that river twice a day because they dont want to pay high Portland housing prices, high Portland taxes, etc. And lest you think Im making up the part about being quirky, dont forget that Vancouver voters have repeatedly turned out in large numbers to reject anything resembling mass transit. Its almost as if theyre saying, Sure, we know our commute is the most ridiculous one in the Portland area, but we LIKE it!
Lets stop a minute and review the main character-sidekick relationship. Some examples for us to reflect on might include: John Wayne and Gabby Hayes; the Lone Ranger and Tonto; Quick Draw McGraw and Baba Looey; Marshall Matt Dillon and Chester (later followed, of course, by Festus); Sherlock Holmes and Watson; Batman and Robin; Andy Taylor and Barney Fife; Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. Theres an almost endless list of possibilities.
The thing is, main characters and their sidekicks have to get along at least reasonably well. They might have that colorful repartee going on (Gabby Hayes slapping his dusty leg with his hat, Chester limping around giving Mr. Dillon heck but ultimately giving in to the wishes of the leader).
So, to recap my opening point, youve got Portland, played by John Wayne and, starring as Vancouver, the slightly wacky sidekick who slurs his words a little because he refuses to wear his false teeth: Gabby Hayes.
Of course, there are other communities that come to mind in this character-sidekick arrangement. Right next to handsome and clever Eugene is the funny-talking but charming (in its own wacky way) Springfield. Coos Bay has North Bend. Minneapolis has St. Paul. San Francisco has Oakland.
Its not just limited to cities, of course. The Oregonian used to have as its sidekick the Portland Journal, which I always thought of as the one with a sense of humor, a little more penchant for fun, maybe even the kind of employees youd actually want to hang out with. Then, of course, the geniuses behind the scenes pulled the plug on the Journal, leaving the Big O to lumber on, without a sidekick and (therefore) not enough charm to impress the ladies or the readers, for that matter.
But I digress. What were we talking about, anyway?
I should have admitted right up front that my usual inclination is to lean toward the sidekick. Its a tendency I inherited from my dad, a chronic rooter for the underdog. He always cheered for the Brooklyn Dodgers over the Yankees. In fact, our family grew to pretty much dislike any of the perennial winners (Packers, Lakers, Patriots, etc.).
Once in a while, of course, a sidekick character rises up to be his own main character. Look up spin-off TV shows and youll see all kinds of examples: Frazier appears from Cheers; Archie Bunker gives birth to George Jefferson; Happy Days begets Mork and Mindy; and Oprah gives the world Suze Orman, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Nate Berkus and God knows what else.
Does that mean Philomath could some day dwarf its next-door neighbor, Corvallis? Probably not. Still, you never really know. Garrison Keillor has almost succeeded in turning Minneapolis into St. Pauls sidekick.
And lets face it, Vancouver (the American one, that is) could grow to a point where its twice the size of Portland, and STILL it will be the quirkier of the two.
Mikel Kelly used to work for a bunch of different newspapers. Now hes retired and almost a complete drain on society.