The Remarkable Gay Writer and Activist behind Portland’s New Slogan

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Portland has a new slogan–"Portland, Maine. Yes. Life's good here."–with an awesome backstory.  The new slogan was announced by city leaders this Tuesday, to mostly positive reviews, the Portland Press Herald reports:

City and business leaders introduced Portland's new slogan Tuesday, saying its simplicity and versatility open up many marketing opportunities.

The new slogan got less favorable reviews from a local marketing firm. And the upbeat line about Portland's quality of life got skewered by droves of Facebook users.

The slogan – "Portland, Maine. Yes. Life's good here." – was inspired by a writer who lived in Portland, and is part of a branding effort the city expects to roll out over this summer. That effort includes a promotional video, which also debuted Tuesday, and other yet-to-be-developed strategies for promoting the city.

PrestonThe writer whose words were adapted for the new slogan was John Preston, a gay man who died of AIDS complications in 1994.  A pioneering author of gay fiction and nonfiction, Preston had lived in San Francisco, New York, Minneapolis and other cities before settling in Portland in 1979.  As Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz wrote this week, Preston penned an essay the year before he died called "Portland, Maine: Life's Good Here":

The title stems from a question Preston was asked repeatedly by his friends in New York City, who couldn't for the life of them figure out what he was doing in a city of 60,000 that looked from the Big Apple like the middle of nowhere.

"Are you ready to come back yet?" his friends would ask.

"No," Preston would reply. "Life's good here."

"I always call it the toy city, because it's so small, but it is a city," he wrote. "It has all the urban accoutrements that keep it from being just a place where a lot of people happen to live — someplace like Manchester, New Hampshire, for example, which has more people but none of the cultured air of Portland."

During his time in Portland, Preston advocated for LGBT rights measures, and was a major force behind the city's Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Ordinance in 1992.  He probably couldn't have imagined that same-sex couples would be able to wed in Maine less than two decades after his death, and that Portland would be among the first communities to issue marriage licenses at 12:01 a.m. on December 29.

(image arsenal pulp press)


  1. Victor says

    Hey Jacob Combs, if he died in 1994 and gays got the right to marry in 2012, that is not “less than a decade” since his death. Dumbass.

  2. Dev says

    Hey Victor, hostile, much? It was a mistake but the rest of the story is great. Thanks for posting.

  3. TampaZeke says

    Having grown up is a town of less than 6 thousand people that didn’t seem tiny or like a village it’s very strange to hear people talking of a city of 60,000 as a “town” or quaint village.

  4. hugo says

    John Preston was an amazing writer.

    His porn was truly hot and his essays and autobiographical writings revealed a great human being who could translate his thoughts into engrossing prose.

    He’s up there in the long list of great artists that we lost to AIDS, way before their time should have been up.

  5. Memory of Things Past says

    John Preston edited Flesh and the Word, An Anthology of Erotic Writing in 1992. A very literate collection of gay erotica. I don’t know how difficult it would be to find it after twenty years.

    I find writing more arousing than pictures.

  6. Jacob Combs says

    Corrected that typo. Thanks, Victor, for pointing it out. And thanks, Dev, for pointing out the obvious :)

  7. says

    That’s pretty cool. A beautiful tribute to a writer’s work, and a raising of the bar for the people of Portland to strive to live up to the sentiment.

  8. Kevin-in-Honolulu says

    What a nice story! John’s work was wonderful, and to know his legacy lives on in a new way is remarkable.

    You can have New York – I’ll take South Paris (Maine).

  9. Chris says

    Love John Preston’s writing and miss him terribly. So sad to realize that he, like so many others, died just before protease inhibitors became available.

  10. Hank says

    I’m a little troubled that you don’t mention, or perhaps don’t know what John Preston wrote, but just repeat the euphemistic meme from the Portland Press, “writer of gay fiction and nonfiction.” A gay blog should do better. I’m sure Preston wouldn’t want to be closeted that way , just so he could be touted as a local notable for the age of gay marriage. He wrote S/M erotica. “Mister Benson” and “The Love of a Master” were probably more influential in shaping the gay leather scene of the 70s and 80s than any other books. Now if the Portland historical society, or the tourist information center starts selling copies, I will be really impressed.