"I didn’t know a magazine story lineup could make me cry.”
I had just forwarded an email to Portland Monthly’s editorial team: a preliminary runsheet (as we say in the biz) from Houstonia, the city magazine in Texas owned by our parent company. It delivered, as that response suggests, all the feels.
Hurricane Harvey had smashed into Texas just a few days before. Catherine Matusow, Houstonia’s editor in chief, kept me updated. After delivering coverage online straight through the worst of it, the Houstonia editors went all in on an issue of stories delving deep into the heroism, heartbreak, and self-examination the storm inspired in America’s fourth-largest city. (Be honest: pre-hurricane, did you know how big Houston is?)
Houston is about as different from Portland as you can get without a passport. Vast. Unplanned. Semitropical. Oil rich. Hyperdiverse: Chinatown (also heavily Vietnamese) goes on for miles. Texan: Houstonia recently published a story headlined “Is This the World’s Fanciest Gun Store?” I visited the Bayou City in May and, aside from this one amazing tiki bar and some glorious Vietnamese-style crawfish boil, I found it ... odd.
But of late, cities’ similarities seem more salient than their differences. Our company runs monthly magazines in four towns, and late summer roughed them all up. Houston faced Harvey. Our colleagues at Sarasota Magazine rode out Irma. The Northwest didn’t have hurricanes, thankfully, but Seattle Metropolitan covered man-made disaster: an imploding mayor. In Portland, we choked on the Eagle Creek fire, which we climb inside here.
Each trauma, natural and civic, foregrounded some of the best of urban life: the Houston neighborhood where, as Houstonia’s Katharine Shilcutt reported, residents “took to the streets in canoes, inflatable rafts, even air boats ... rescuing neighbors all day long”; the veteran Seattle city council member, on the verge of retirement, who agreed to become mayor for 71 days. Citizens stepped up. (In Houston, our colleagues are chipping in with the website houstoniahelps.org, tracking local nonprofits’ needs.) In Oregon, responders to Eagle Creek were overwhelmed by the public’s desire to help.
Do we need to mention that these can be trying times in urban America? It’s true. But it’s also true—as a season of crisis reminded us—that when we look back, there’s a chance we’ll be able to say that cities helped save us.
Editor in Chief