When J-Ro Went to Portland….Part 3 (An Encounter With Colton McBride)

Colton McBride (Sept 2015) – The Undisputed Goth King of Portland

****UPDATE APRIL 2018**** Colton has been spotted frequently the last few days, last seen last night in Macon Illinois. For anyone searching for him, there is some info in the comments section of this blog post. I hope he and his family are reunited very soon.

[Friday morning was my first official day as a temporary Portlandian, and jet lag being the prize bitch that it was, had me up scary-early. Which, as I soon realised, was regular time for Americans. They’re flippin’ mad to be up at the crack of dawn and run screaming into the jaws of daily life, those Yanks. So this is the second half of the first day – I packed a lot into the first 24 hours.]

An Encounter With Colton McBride


When I was done chilling out in Southeast Grind, already full of thoughts and notions swimming around my head (see previous post), I got some bus info from a totally sound Southeast Grind regular called Vince (who I swear BLIND was in Portlandia but I haven’t had the nerve to ask him or the energy to check it out) and off I headed into Downtown Portland. At that point I still had some data on my phone because I’d bought a pre-package yoke for going to the U.S., so I was thanking the Gods for Google Maps. But as much as I used them to know the street names, I realised that I didn’t have anywhere in particular to be, so what was the point in using it? Wasn’t the point of travelling alone to use the freedom that comes with it to allow yourself to get lost and go a-wandering? Well, yes it was….but as much as I enjoyed the fun and frolics involved in running around a country I’ve never been in before, I was still my old anxious dread-filled self, so it helped to at least know where the bus stop was so I could make it back to base with minimum stress.

Eventually, when the bus stopped in an area that looked pretty Downtown-ish (lots of coffee shops and a University campus), I hopped off and tried not to look all gawky and overwhelmed like the hick tourist I was. Portland is a big place, but nowhere near as manic as Dublin or London in my experience. I was quite surprised not to be elbowed out of the way the second my foot stepped off the bus and onto the pavement. In fact, people everywhere were just plain…nice. Mannerly. Friendly, even. I knew I was in over my head. So I jumped in and started being nice back. I didn’t know myself after five minutes. Great for the soul, so it was.

I took a minute standing on the street corner (stepping out of the way and apologising profusely – you can take the girl out of Limerick etc) and tried to decide what direction I wanted to go in. As I was looking around I noticed this tall stringy fellow walking up towards the bus stop. Long-haired and gangly, he was the best Goth I’d seen in years. Head to toe in black leather, chains hanging off the studded belt loop, a face of terrifying white makeup with his features shaded in black, with black tear-tracks drawn down his face, he made a rather imposing figure. I suppose that would have been enough in itself to cause folks to step aside when they saw him coming, but the fact that he was carrying an old Victorian-dressed porcelain doll in one arm and rummaging through the contents of the bus stop bin with the other probably sealed the deal between him and the general public to each keep out of each other’s way. Apart from me, though. I thought he looked amazing.

I caught his glazed eye once or twice as he passed and he gave a small smile, but he seemed far away from whatever was going on in Downtown Portland. In among all the standard city ‘extras’ scattered around the scene, this guy was a breath of fresh air. Even in weird old Portland. Hipsters and cool kids were a dime a dozen, but this guy was a one-off. A true Goth from head to toe, with full Crow-style makeup peeking through his wispy dark hair, he cut quite a dramatic figure walking up the street. He made his way across SW 6th Avenue and up towards Broadway, and I watched him go, cursing myself for being so hesitant to talk to him. While it was fairly obvious that he was either on drugs or suffering from a mental illness (or both), I still wanted to at least take a picture of him as one of the beautifully strange people or things that make up Portland. I think I paused because of those things, and of course being Irish we are genetically predisposed to avoid approaching any strangers at all no matter what the situation. So I watched him walk on by.

THEN I gave myself a sharp mental kick up the hole. I was in PORTLAND, for feck sake. This guy literally crossed my path and I didn’t take the opportunity to take a pic and maybe chat to him? For shame. So I followed him up the street, watching as he picked up old Starbucks coffee cups and drank the dregs of what others had left behind, all the while holding and minding his doll like a precious newborn. It was a little heartbreaking to watch, and so puzzling. How did he put himself together the way that he did every day if he had no place to call home? The clothes, you could understand, maybe he lived in them constantly, but the makeup would have to be done and retouched in a bathroom somewhere on a regular basis. Fair play to him, I thought. At least he’s keeping it real.

I crossed over the road to where he had just finished rifling through the old coffee cups, and, taking a deep breath, approached him softly. I told him I thought he looked fantastic, and asked if he would mind if I took his picture.

A more gentle soul you never would meet. He was genuinely surprised at being approached for any reason, not to mind one to get his picture. He asked if I had a dollar; I gave him five and told him to consider it a fee for letting me take his picture. We chatted for a bit, he thought I was Scottish (that happened a lot here) but said that since he could understand what I was saying, I probably wasn’t. Then he told me I had lovely pointy ears like a pixie, bless him. He was pretty excited about getting his pic taken and ending up on the internet, and I found out his name was Colton McBride. Pretty cool-sounding name. He told me to please put his pic up on Facebook (he wasn’t on it himself) so “other people like us can see”. I don’t know which ‘other’ he was referring to, either raising awareness of the many different faces of the homeless community, or those who dress to express like he does, but he made a good point. We had great fun deciding how to take the pic, he stood against the stone wall and struck a pose, saying “You don’t want one of me smiling, it looks better when I look scary.” He wasn’t wrong.

Colton McBride - The Undisputed Goth King of Portland

Colton McBride – The Undisputed Goth King of Portland

He was such a gentle soul, I didn’t feel right prying into why he had the doll or how he had come to be homeless, if indeed he was. I just felt that saying ‘thank you’ and wishing him all the best was the right thing to do. He seemed happy enough, in whatever world his mind was in, to head off to find somewhere to eat with his five dollars. I hope. With that, Colton McBride went off towards Downtown Portland, where with any luck, the discarded coffee cups would be more full for people like him.

About JayRow

Singer, songwriter, student radio broadcaster, teacher, commitment-phobe, depressive, loudmouth, Facebook obsessive, blogging addict, celebrity hassler, professional stalker, pipe dreamer, ambitious young thing!
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  1. Jen!! Far too many feels for an early Sunday morning. Amazing article! I’m so envious of your adventure, it sounds out of this world.

    • Aww thanks so much missus! I’m delighted you enjoyed it – this trip has been fantastic! I hope I’m giving people a bit of a glimpse into Portland life 😎

  2. Pingback: When J-Ro Went To Portland…Part 4 (In which Bigfoot escapes me) | The House of J-Ro

  3. Just had lunch with him at In-n-Out in Chandler….same look and was amazingly nice.

    • No way! Ah that’s great, I’m delighted he’s still going strong – I hope things get better for him in time. I love how the internet makes the world so small that I could get news like this! Thanks for letting me know 🙂

  4. Colton McBride was my best childhood friend. I was thinking back on old memories and decided to google his name, not really expecting to find anything. Your post was the first thing I saw. Very small world indeed! Thanks for taking the time to see him and writing about it!

    • Oh wow! So good to meet someone who knew him 😊 Said it before & I’ll say it again – this kind of thing is why I love internetting 😎

  5. Many American kids are forced to grow up on Adderall or Ritalin and this is the clinical outcome. We appreciate your caring encounter. Thank you so much for this posting. Although Mensa, Colton is a missing person in our family and we are so happy to read that he is alive. FYI- His baby daughter is safe with our family incase he is reading this. We will always love you Colton and we understand. Please come home.

    • He was just in assumption Illinois today. County officers are taking him as close to Decatur Illinois as they can. They left around 730 p.m. I bought him food and my co worker got him a drink. He was very healthy and very happy and in good spirits. He is a great young man.

      • The county cop dropped him off in Macon, IL at the car was about a hour ago. I am desperately trying to reach his family so we can get him back home.

      • I think a member of his family left a comment here before so I’ve replied to their comment with what you’ve said, hopefully this info will reach them! Thanks so much everyone xxx

    • I don’t know if you’ve seen the comment thread below about Colton, but someone has just said “The county cop dropped him off in Macon, IL at the car was about a hour ago. I am desperately trying to reach his family so we can get him back home.” Hopefully this is of some help to the family?

      • I havent seen the comment but the county officer went back to Casey’s and he is at the car wash in Macon Illinois. The officer told him to stay there and sleep in there out of the wind tonight. Colton told the officer he knows people in Decatur Illinois. He had told me earlier that he met some people in dcetaur that had given him a ride to taylorville prior to being in assumption and they were his friends now. I hope he makes it back to his family.

  6. April 2018 today he was in Illinois. I had the chance to meet him at my work and got him some food. He is a very intelligent person.

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