*A couple of months after submitting the above to Our Portland Story, I got word that the sign is indeed undergoing another facelift. The University of Oregon purchased the sign, but instead of it reading "University of Oregon," they compromised with the City of Portland to change it to just read "Oregon." What do I think about it all? I’m used to change and am happy with it saying "Oregon" because, after living here now for almost four years, I feel like an Oregonian, though I wasn’t born (made) in Oregon. The sign now will have even more meaning for me.
...going to Jantzen Beach for swimming lessons with Tye Steinbach as as the instructor in the summer.
...occasional visits to the Tik Tok drive-in on Sandy Blvd, where the servers delivered the food to your car and wore roller skates.
...going to Yaw's Restaurant, in the Hollywood District, for hamburgers and shakes.
...Saturday afternoon movies at the theater on Alberta Street.
...Raven Dairy where I would go with my grandmother so she could have fresh buttermilk and I could watch the donut machine.
...walking over the squares of glass in the sidewalks downtown.
...the Vernon Ice Cream store, in NE Portland, for the best ice cream.
...roller skating at Oaks Park and at another rink above Union Avenue, down near the Morrison Bridge.
...taking the downtown trolley to the library.
...boating with our parents on the Columbia River.
...watching the shoemaker making wooden shoes near the Multnomah Hotel on my way to a cello lesson.
Portlanders can thank their own enlightened cussedness for revealing and keeping the city’s treasures in its neighborhoods. Yes, neighborhoods, where discovery is a best friend. It’s what helped me and my wife fall in love all over again.
We were married toward the end of 1988 in a church under the Fremont Bridge. We were soon parents, buying a home and letting work and the domestic machine click along. Our separate peace was a slow evolution, lulling us into believing that routine meant stability. In the time our daughter went from Barney the Dinosaur to Borrowing the Car, a certain fearlessness in our affection began to ebb more than flow. The sensation was not unlike a made-for-TV-movie: we’d lost something, and we needed a way to reclaim it.
It took a little extra in the way of pillow talk, raised voices and silent tears, but we eventually arrived at a bilateral awesome idea: The Standing Saturday Coffee Date. As rain fell (because it was March), we committed to stumble on a new spot every Saturday morning. Large chains that use words like star and bucks in their signage were nonstarters. And as long as we were going to be sitting across from each other (or side-by-side if sinking into a secondhand sofa), we’d see if we could not talk about our daughter.
With so many walks and coffeehouses and bakeries and brewpubs in this city -- and people who cross and connect by a lot less than six degrees -- we soon felt like adulterers, indulged in an affair with Portland and ourselves. For the last four years, we’ve rolled out of bed to find new favorites in Kenton, Sellwood, Arbor Lodge, Lair Hill, Beaumont, St. Johns, Goose Hollow, Buckman, Ladds, Multnomah, and more. Thank you, Portland. Over Americanos or triple lattes, we’d inhale warm muffins and absorb the sidewalk ethos in all its weekend glory. We’d revel in the moment, notice things. Imagine that.
We found each locally owned retreat to be a locus of sorts -- revealing a big strand of DNA with its own twisting colors and building blocks that make Portland Portland. And through all that discovery -- our deep gratitude to talented baristas everywhere -- a magical transference occurred. We not only re-fell in love with our city and each other, but I also rediscovered my best friend.
I had lost my sister in the crowd when a young, white-uniformed sailor approached me and asked if I lived in Portland. Responding that I did, he started walking with me to my bus stop. He asked if he could accompany me home. On the bus, we were very shy with one another, as up to that time I had never dated and he hadn't either. He was probably just eighteen years old and was recently called to service.
As we arrived at my bus stop he came off with me and stood in front of our house for a long time, just viewing the city from our overlook above Oaks Park in Sellwood, when he suddenly grabbed me and planted the first kiss I ever had, and then ran down the street. I stood there watching him until he was out of sight, realizing I had a lot to look forward to in the coming years.
The Oregon Historical Society
Background: Government workers throw ration blanks & restrictive orders from Bedell Building, littering crowds. Alder St on V-J Day 1945.
Right: Crowds fill streets at V-J day celebrations. SW Broadway & Yamhill. 1945.
In 2001, with almost no publicity, the administration named the driveway at its headquarters “Woody Guthrie Circle,” and erected three stones inscribed with verses from two of his 26 songs inspired by the Columbia River, "Roll on Columbia" and Pastures of Plenty.” A large tapestry of Guthrie also hangs in the lobby of the BPA building at 905 NE 11th Avenue.
Much of the credit for the memorial goes to two BPA employees: folk singer Bill Murlin and retired employee Elmer Buehler. It was Buehler who drove Guthrie around the Columbia River region in 1941, later rescuing some of his recordings that the government intended to discard.
In contrast, a year before the 2001 dedication, Guthrie’s name was removed from the BPA’s substation in Hood River when ownership was transferred to the Hood River Electric Co-op. Hood River’s anti-Communist business leaders, who also removed Japanese-American names from the town’s honor roll during World War II, objected to the original designation in 1990.
In 2000, they pressured the Co-op board to rename it for Willard Johnson, its first manager. They acted with unintentional irony, having forgotten that Johnson himself had strongly supported the Guthrie name against the local opposition, declaring that the “world would be better off with a few more Woody Guthries in it.”
When all my assumptions broke into pieces—
sharp, slithery, and none-too-shiny—
Portland spoke through my ticklish in-step.
She pressed into the soles of my feet with
as I skirted puddles known and unknown.
Restless possibility swayed along my sides
while Portland steadied my stride—“It’s ok.”
Who knew that asphalt could be a tender touch?
That this patient, old-friend town of mine
would roll out padding and take me easy,
while the stuffing in my head blew ‘round.
I have been a resident of the Old Town Chinatown neighborhood for nearly two years. I am the first to admit I know very little about the deep and interesting history of Chinatown, but I know a bit about the diverse food. I quite often hear people say that Chinatown is disappearing, but we still have more than a half-dozen restaurants to choose from daily. Many only eat in Chinatown for lunch, but there is a notable amount that go for a morning or Sunday dim sum. I often suggest families go to House of Louie or, for someone looking specifically for dim sum, I direct them to Wong Kee. For friends and residents, I often do a cheer for Mandarin House (in the Old Town Skidmore area, 120 SW Ankeny, but upstairs). I suggest you order the beef pancake, a noodle dish, a soup or two, and whatever spicy meal you will want to have tomorrow. Though people rave about Golden Horse Seafood or Fong Chong, I am not impressed yet. For late night Chinese, you must go to Republic Café. Let's do lunch!
By Brian T. Wilson
Art and Community Advocate
In 1952, Portland's second television channel came to town bringing network TV to a market area that was approaching one million. The new channel announced a contest to the advertising creatives of the nation, a contest to do an ad that would put KGW on the marketing map. Back then, the standard way to create an ad was to picture the product and write "5 Reasons Why" the reader should buy it. Portland's Homer Groening, a recent graduate from Linfield College, was working in Portland at an ad agency as a copywriter. Homer entered the contest with the ad shown here. Homer's ad broke the rules. Not only did it show a nekked woman, but it expressed a negative in the headline.
Homer's ad won the local contest and then won again, nationally, selected by a panel of ad luminaries. The prize was a Hillman auto, large enough for the Groening family, including Homer, Margaret, and the kids, Maggie, Lisa, and Matt. Homer soon opened up his own ad agency, Homer Groening Advertising, and within a month had a major client, the Jantzen International Sports Club. Many other career successes followed for Homer, including pro photoshoots in Hawaii, promotions for the Benson and Portland's Pioneer Courthouse Square, and, later, movie-making.
Perhaps seeing his dad succeed in this creative business prompted Homer's son, Matt Groening, to create "The Simpsons," television's longest running TV cartoon show. He used the family's names with "Bart" being an anagram of "brat." But Homer Groening was never the oafish Homer Simpson. He would never have said "Doh!" in his creative life.
St. Johns was a town that became part of Portland in 1915. Tourist information and neighborhood guides always mention that it still has a small-town feel. Maybe that's why I like it; I moved to Portland from a small Midwestern town. St. Johns is decidedly un-hip, which is another reason I like it. I also like dive bars, and St. Johns has its share. The Wishing Well, where they advertise "Chinese and American Food," is one of them.
Influences have so much to do with our makeup and I believe it all started when my father built, and my mother handled the business side of, a dance hall called Division Street Corral (later known as D-Street). It opened in December of 1948 and was an immediate success, featuring all types of western artists including Hank Thompson, Merle Travis, Ray Price and Johnny Cash. When rock and roll hit the music scene, my parents were forced to bring in acts like Bobby Darin, Roy Orbison, The Knickerbockers, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bobby Vee, and Bobby Vinton.
At the age of 18, I was signed on to a group called the New Oregon Singers and ended up traveling the world. I was also part of a quartet that was styled after a group called the Manhattan Transfer. And later, after many personal changes, I chose to answer an ad in the Oregonian for opera singers. I didn't know what an aria was at the time but auditioned with "Raindrops on Roses" and made it into the Portland Opera Chorus for two shows, unpaid. I continued to study voice and sing for the next 21 years and have just now retired. I don't know what is next for me but in this city, I feel anything is possible!
I don't believe it could have happened in any other city. It has always been a musical town.
On recent nature walks around the 160-acre wetland, I’ve seen five bald eagles perched in one tree off SE Sellwood Boulevard; another three young eagles playing follow-the-leader through the nearby trees; red-tailed hawks engaged in circus-like aerobatics with osprey ferrying still-wriggling carp back to their nest on East Island; peregrine falcons staffing a family of Anna’s hummingbirds in the parking lot at Sellwood Park; and a family of river otter playing in the mud. I’ve seen over fifty great blue herons standing thigh high in the wetlands, while flocks of green-winged teal, American wigeon, ring-necked ducks, common mergansers, and coots glide past.
Portland has a wealth of wildlife, spectacular views, and places for quiet contemplation, all literally in the heart of the city. The best part, though, is that there are large and small nature oases and ribbons of green lining streams and rivers throughout the Portland-Vancouver region. While other regions may boast a wealth of urban greenspaces, none can lay claim to the wonderful juxtaposition of urban nature nearby and fabulous rural landscape. Within a mere fifteen to twenty minutes of my NW Portland apartment, I can be kayaking on the Willamette, Columbia, or Columbia Slough; riding my bike or walking along the Springwater Trail or through a 5,000-acre forested park; birding intensely urban Oaks Bottom or serenely rural Sauvie Island.
Similarly, after my outing I can, once again within a few-minutes' walk, repair to any number of brewpubs for a Blue Heron ale, Hammerhead ale, or Lucky Lab stout or to one of a host of great restaurants.
In the mid 19th century, cast-iron was developed as a building material. The great cities of Europe and the Eastern United States had already been built, for the most part. It was at this time, however, that Portland was developing as a city. Some of the rarest architecture in the world developed in our city during the latter part of the 1800s.
The founding fathers of Portland invested in the city by building fabulous cast-iron structures in the period’s popular Italianate style. They used cast-iron for structural pieces and decorative embellishment for the building facades that were pre-fabricated in foundries and assembled at the building site.
The architectural heritage that our city’s founding fathers left behind has been grossly under-appreciated. We once boasted 180 such structures but, during the 20th century, most had undergone demolition leaving around 20 at present. Even so, Portland has the second largest collection of cast-iron buildings, second only to New York City’s Soho District.
A trip to Portland’s Skidmore/Old Town neighborhood reveals a glimpse of what once was. Although most of our cast-iron buildings are gone, many replaced by parking lots, one can imagine how stunning the sight must have been, the continuous, unbroken repetition of line, carving out arches and columns in building after building. The handsome Italianate facades, each one original in its own way, contributed to a unified civic design in Portland’s early history.
What is left of our cast-iron heritage is by no means safe from further destruction, but efforts to restore Old Town are being considered. Salvaged cast-iron columns, arches, and various embellishments are in storage waiting to be used in proposed projects. There are rare and wonderful opportunities to restore Portland’s cast-iron heritage in Skidmore/Old Town. What is needed is creativity, along with a healthy dose of imagination, followed by commitment.
Hawkins, William John. Portland’s Historic New Market Theatre. Copyright 1983 Portland, Published by William John Hawkins, III
Hawkins, William John. The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland. Binford & Mort/Portland copyright 1976
First I see a fresh zombie. You can tell he hasn't been dead long, and he's not used to it; his hoodie is pulled tight over his head and his eyes are bewildered. I want to comfort him but I know that he'll bite my head off, literally. So I keep walking up Alder.
I spot a zombie clown a mile away. I've got to get a picture of this; it's a zombie clown! There's a bullet hole in the middle of his head. I ask him what happened and he looks at me, sarcastic, and tells me that he couldn't do his job right and somebody shot him. I laugh a little and take another picture, but I start seeing a crazy gleam in his eyes. Nothing good can come from this.
The reporter is pissed off. She was in the ritzy part of downtown Portland, trying to cover an easy story about a guy choking on a gourmet po'boy, when a zombie bit into the back of her head! She tells me she's still going to finish the piece, damn it, and then she'll have a light snack of my brain. From the way she looks at me, I'm pretty sure this was her personality before she got zombified.
I snapped a picture of a young professional zombie crossing a busy street, away from the parade. I asked him why he wasn't walking with the others, and he looked at me funny. He told me he'd just finished a pulled pork sandwich from the food carts and, excuse him, he's late for work. But several steps later, he was feeling the thickness of an elderly woman's cranium.
I can't describe it. You have to see for yourself. I wanted to reach out and pop one of those pustules bubbling on her face. See if it oozed clear or purple and green. Her eyes shone out from within the sea of scarred flesh and she groaned. I got her picture right before she charged at me, causing the other Zombie Parade participants to circle in on me like they were seagulls and I was a piece of bread. I barely escaped that one.
The pretty young zombie with her hair pulled back had eyes that struck me. I had never yet seen a zombie beginning to mold. I asked her if I could take her picture but she never stopped walking and did not acknowledge me. Her soulless eyes haunt me more than anything else.
In 2005, artist Scott Wayne Indiana started the Horse Project when he tied his first pony to a horse ring in northwest Portland. For a few months, he continued parking horses at rings all over town, and then he started asking the public to join in. One enthusiast claims to have tethered upwards of 150 miniature mounts all over Portland.
The idea seems so idiosyncratic and a bit "odd", but endearingly so. It has that sense of sly playfulness and quiet "I do it because it makes me smile" that - to me - typifies Portland. We don't mind doing things folks in the mid-west would find down right weird - we revel in it.
These are rich remembrances instead of the haphazard cognitions that I usually have. They are extremely vivid and triggered by the sights and sounds of puddle city. These memories are quick vignettes from my first months in Portland, a time where everything was new to me. The Ideas would form suddenly and ingrain themselves instantly in my consciousness. I came to define these quick pulses of information as Portland Memories.
Whether the memory is walking over the Steel Bridge on a drizzly winter day watching the last vestiges of the sun sink beneath the West Hills, or talking to a drunk man who may or may not have had a gun in his pocket, or bringing my girlfriend home on the handlebars of my trusty bicycle, these memories are crystal clear gems, contrasting with my sometimes-foggy Existence.
The more Portland Memories I make, though, the more vague they become. The stuff of these specific memories now comprises my normal daily interactions. These wonderfully crafted snippets have become my existence. Everyday is filled with a thrilling adventure, a comical interaction, or a breathtaking vista of downtown Portland. Some would call this mundane, but I for one think it is amazing.
Yes, the bridges, and in particular for me, that beautiful black behemoth, the Steel. Im not sure what I love about this bridge. Its closeness to the river it crosses, its industrial architecture, its seemingly massive presence. Perhaps, because to walk it is to know it. I've crossed its lower deck many times but one dark, quiet night stands out.
2 am. The Willamette is still. Cold and thick. Black as coffee. So close it could reach out and touch me and take me to the depths forever. Reality check! Im on the Steel Bridge and quite safe. I walk on slowly, so as to savor the magic of this night. Halfway across and a powerful freight engine crawls onto the bridge from the eastside industrial yards, its headlamp a bright beacon in the blackness that surrounds me. As it creeps on past I can sense every machination of its forward movement, hear the muted crescendo of steel on steel as it pulls a rhythmic parade behind it. It belongs here and the Steel comes alive with the rumble of its presence. Now the train sounds from the west side city and, wishing only to stay and know more, I walk on, knowing that I'll be back to experience this bridge and everything that is a part of it. The river, the trains, and Portland.
Yeah, there is something about the bridges.
I cannot write a Portland paean as yet, due to my deep sand- and fog-soaked roots. I’m encouraged, though, by the all-weather cyclists and the civic-mindedness of progressive Portlanders. Although there is that nourishment an artist draws from the pavement where she took her first steps, I've pledged to be a liaison between the two cities, Portland and San Francisco, as I ease my way into my future in one or the other. Even so, I have declared, very politely or under my breath, that Portland lacks the edge that I need from a city. But a few weeks ago, I found the edge while riding the Tri-Met #75, and felt relief...maybe even a little love.
Having been passed over a third time for a standby flight to San Francisco, I left the airport, taking the light rail for the first time back into town. There I transferred to the #75 bus at the Hollywood terminal. Travel frustrations combined with cold, wet weather had drained my patience. Finally, a break: there was a bus seat for me, further subduing certain words only recently allowed in my vocabulary.
I had stepped onto Noah's ark, it seemed. At least two of every Portland character was there. There were fifteen-year-old punks with ten-inch spiked Mohawks, dressed in fine torn black everything and, well, more spikes. There was the throng of loud, guileless teenage girls, scary to some, but delightfully inquisitive about the do-ing of the Mohawk style as they passed the boys. A squeaky clean family of four had to take separate seats. Dad was wearing a “Teachers for Obama” shirt and was reading to his son on one bench toward the back, while mom and daughter chatted about their mutual adoration of dried mango with a jovial woman who'd just returned from shopping at Trader Joe's and who was sharing her snacks with the front rows.
I was seated in the middle of the bus beside another rider who may have also taken the seat for its good view. He was calm, folded easily into the seat, watching it all with wonder, as I was. To my right was a girl with a soft sculpture puppet she'd designed and a new admirer beside her. As they chatted, she animated the puppet as if it were participating in the conversation. Wow, puppets to the right with moms, mango and Mohawks to the left—okay, I’m a little enamored. But in front of me was a hefty guy in reflector garb. He seethed as he heard the punks voice their pro-Obama political opinions, muttering to himself "I hate that..." with a sort of Yosemite Sam hrrrumph. Curmudgeonly compelling as he was, I was a little nervous that ol’ Sam might just be that perfect candidate to go postal.
I thought to myself, “It’s my first #75 ride and I’m shot, ahhhh, what luck.” Fortunately, the bus was too crowded for him to brandish any weapons or scissors at the Mohawks like I know he was fantasizing. I know he was. I located my exit.
I got off the ark at Division to walk the rest of the way home. As I walked, I envisioned, in vivid detail, what might have happened following my departure, and all flavored by my freshly Portland-spiced imagination. Oftentimes, I imagine the worst just in case it happens. On the #75 that day, it was easy to imagine the worst, but, in the end, I'm sure it was the best of character that was revealed.
"Hey let's go watch some jazz!"
Suit. Tie. Evening dress. $20 cover. Dinner. Drinks. Dessert. Not even one song recognizable to the audience. Just something to do on Tues. with the Mr. or Mrs.
YOU ARE AWAKE now and the Evolutionary Jass Band is playing (though not on a stage, they don't do that). Jef Brown plays, occasionally lying on his back, conjuring up sounds that remind you of Trane, McLean, and Pharoah Sanders. Jesse Munro Johnson blows his lungs out running through the entire "cool" to "corner" circuit. Marisa and Michael ground everyone, whilst Bob takes off leading the band from classical to minimalist rock and back. Jazz is now alive because of EJB and every performance is what the two-bit suited hacks need to set their bar to. Grab your sneakers, leave your tie at home and go see them before you go back to sleep.
I happened upon this particular free box one bright June day. The donor's confusion of tambourines with cymbals pales next to the whimsical brilliance of using pot lids as percussion instruments. Perched downtown, the free box glimmered an unabashed invitation for someone to claim its bounty and make a righteous Portland noise.
As an artist, I have changed my color palette innumerable times since moving here. Portland's palette is saturated and thick, full of dark intense pinks and reds, textured browns, and silky, fluid grays. The yellows are bold and full of light and the purples are rich and heavy. The blues and greens are my favorite, glossy and sappy, dripping with Portland's winter rains. With colors like that surrounding me daily, how could I not be in love with Portland?
We all live together in Portland, but none of us is from Portland. We love the certain je ne sais quoi that pulled us to this city. It is this indefinable feeling that we are all here for, are committed to seeking out, and keeping alive.
These days I live in Portland. I came to Oregon once before about four years ago in fall. I'd been living in a small Canadian village for most of that year. We'd be up early each day, clambering for gear in the dark - hungover mostly - hardly uttering a word, so ingrained was the routine that any conversation would have been obsolete. We'd snowboard all day - great long unending days - and we'd be talking non-stop about nothing but The Mountain.
Then one day The Mountain closed. It was the end of Spring and soon it was the end of Summer. I was tired and out of pocket, and the beat up old van we'd taken to Alaska was good for nothing now but scrap metal. We'd landed in Vancouver once more by default. It seemed a shame to end things there, where skyscrapers instead of mountains reached into the sky, and no deer or bear would be found. So, we hopped onto a Greyhound and headed south. Then, all of the sudden Portland came into the frame and the sky was new. Cozy but energized somehow with a sea breeze and wet forest smell. The sun angled down gently, with just enough light to make everything seem fake somehow, and yet more real. Shadows so long I felt young again, like a child surrounded by big things.
Portland had been an entirely unplanned leg of our journey and our temporary visas were done - it seemed like - just as soon they begun. Before I knew it I arrived back home in Sydney. It was as if the sun never really set in Portland, it just kind of rode the curve of the earth. The street lights flickering on before the day was done.
Then, on a busy Tuesday walking the somewhat quieter route on Sydney's busy streets some years later the buses rattled past as I hugged the walls of China Town. I felt my phone vibrating: "I'm calling from the --- in Kentucky... " the accent was strong and seemed put on "...you've won a Green Card sir and we haven't heard a word from you!" Buses pulling in and out and rushing past "I'm sorry? The line's bad, there's a lot of noise here. I didn't catch where you're calling from?" "You should have received a letter from us?" "I wasn't sure if it was real." "Yes Sir this is real! Welcome to the United States..." Another bus and then the line was dead. Then months of paperwork and medical exams and questioning. From that messy phone call to the goodbyes and itineraries and more and more paperwork, and taxis, life was in fast motion. Like ants busily surviving, I was in miniature running through a universe I could not see.
Next thing I knew, I was in a dingy customs booth at PDX International Airport. In the chaos of a hundred excitable immigrants I opened a book expecting a long wait when a tall blond woman with perfect teeth handed me my files and said "Welcome To America". I can't say with any real conviction what I'm doing here now, but it feels good to be back with an open-ended visa. Today, when I was at a Clinton Street cafe lost in that book, the sun rose and the dappled light crawled through an open window and onto the pages. I looked out of the shadows and into the street and realized I was sitting on the other side of the world again.
For the next four or five years, I watched this hole turn into a huge construction site. As time went on, I anticipated the finished product: the Lloyd Center Shopping Mall.
I still have fond memories of the fragrance of the mall. The smell of caramel apples from Morrow's Nut House, the smell of French fries and milk shakes from J.J. Newberry, and the best smell of all was the fresh popped popcorn at Woolworth's. It was an open-air mall, so when you came into the stores from the outdoors, it smelled wonderful!
To this day, every time I smell these fragrances, I think of my childhood.
Another thing, though, is that Portland has queerness. Yes, I said it, and I feel I can, being queer myself. Well, half queer, Bi in fact, though I do not like labels. Portland is the place to be, whoever you are, and be loved for it or at least accepted. Portland has community, a Heart and Soul. Portland cares, even when we're wet. Portland simply functions and does it well. In my opinion, if you don't like Portland, get the Hell out!
It was the late 1980s and Portland still had that gritty feeling, before they scrubbed the artist lofts and drug users clean from Downtown and called it the Pearl District. I used to feel like I needed a shower after extended trips to the city center, the air of Podunk regionalism clinging to my clothes. But not this night. It was a clear cold winter evening, the wet streets glistening reflected light from the surrounding buildings. My friend Seth and I had left a late night showing of some art film at the Guild Theatre and as we crossed the near-empty parking lot, we noticed a man standing outside in the crisp night with a movie camera pointed at the stunning Jackson Building Clock Tower.
“What are you doing,” I naively asked.
“Shooting pick up shots for Gus Van Sant’s new movie, My Own Private Idaho.” Starstruck, Seth and I said in unison, “Wow! Gus Van Sant, we are big fans.” And indeed we were, the previous year having waited for hours at one of Portland's art film venues, the Koin Center Theatre, to see his previous movie, Drugstore Cowboy.
Fumbling, Seth asked the cinematographer if we could someday meet Gus Van Sant, since we were such big fans. “Sure,” he said and knocked on the window of the dark car next to him. “Gus is right here.”
Never leaving his place in the back seat, we chatted with Gus Van Sant for several minutes. “We would love it if you came up to Lewis and Clark, where we go to college, to talk to the film production program we started.”
“Yeah, no problem,” Gus said. “I’d be happy to. Give me a call, I’m
in the book.” We raced back to school, flipped open the first phonebook we could find and sure enough, Gus Van Sant had a listed number.
It was the first time I'd ever watched a film and then attended one of the main actor's music concerts, all in the same theater. The location was the Mission Theater, part of the McMenamin's empire, the movie was Old Joy, and the actor/musician was Will Oldham (AKA Palace Music AKA Palace Brothers AKA Bonnie "Prince" Billy).
Old Joy appealed to me for a couple of reasons. Not only am I an enormous fan of the "road film," but I especially like those dealing with issues of failing friendships, social awkwardness, and the stagnation of life and energy caused by increased responsibility. The soundtrack (courtesy of Yo La Tengo) perfectly accompanied the urban city and primeval rainforest settings. Much of the first half of the film was shot on location in Portland, tickling my more vainglorious side. Unfortunately, there were quite a few geographic inconsistencies during this Portland segment, e.g., crossing west over the Burnside Bridge and ending up in front of the Bagdad Theater on the east side of the Willamette River. A particularly memorable scene was an extended visit to the Bagby Hot Springs (located near Estacada along the western slopes of the Cascades), where Will Oldham's character utters this gem, "Sorrow is nothing but worn out joy."
The concert followed the film a few hours later in the day, time passed easily at Powell's Books down the street. Human Bell opened up nicely, followed by Will Oldham and his mostly-extraneous band. He has a voice that is inhumanly tender, yet at the same time dangerously razor-edged, a rusty blade caressing softest skin, such intensity and depth of emotion, yet threatening to crumble into nothingness at each breath. "Worn out joy" would be an apt description of the man's lyrics, the words forcing a slight smile to play upon my lips as my heart filled with sadness. Will Oldham is hard to watch in person. He's constantly fidgeting, picking up scraps of paper, putting his hands in his pockets, tapping band mates on the shoulder, wiping his forehead with a hanky, cuffing his pant legs, adjusting his microphone, standing on one leg like a seagull, then crossing his legs and shivering like a preschooler holding his piss in. His body was pure chaos, but his voice always seemed to be aimed directly and solidly at the microphone, a disconcerting juxtaposition of sensory inputs that never failed to keep my attention. It was a wonderful show and, paired with the film, a great experience.
My thanks, Will.
One establishment that piqued our curiosity about Portland was Voodoo Doughnut. While we contemplated moving here from the rolling plains of Nebraska, we stumbled across their web site. Voodoo Doughnut illustrated our idea of Portland...quirky, creative, and comfortable in its own skin. We learned that the founders didn't have any previous doughnut-making experience, but they weren't afraid to try something totally outside of their knowledge and trust their own creativity. Beyond creating quirky doughnuts like the Cap'n Crunch Berry and the Bacon Maple Bar, they perform legal weddings under a classy Isaac Hayes velvet painting. Keepin' Portland weird, FTW! Subsequently, after moving to Portland, Voodoo Doughnut was one of our first stops and it was everything we hoped it would be.
SAN DIMAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RULES!
from seeing the vibrant multiplicity of new shows. As a result, my eye
seems sharper than normal, and my mind, more aware. I gain inspiration from
those works that incited my wonderment and receive courage from the kitsch,
the groundbreaking, and all the art in between.
Each First Thursday is the day that heals the wrongs of the previous
month. Its fresh extrospection shows us that contemporary art should
have high hopes and high standards. My curiosity grows, anticipating the
historical perspective of what I have witnessed. What, I eagerly ask, will
decide the canon of the now in the future?
I see her as a mixture of different forms. She appears to be our own local version of The Statue of Liberty, the Spirit of Brooklyn (the statue at the New York Public Library, Brooklyn), and the mythological King Neptune, all in one. With one of her bronzed and toned hands, she reaches down to take us all along for the journey of discovery; the journey that makes people everywhere long to come to Portland, the new magnet of creativity.
Her spear may be pointing downward to ward off any unsavory characters, like those insular, local people who want Portland to just stay back somewhere in the era of "Come to Oregon often, but don't move here," to paraphrase a quote from the late and great Oregon governor, Tom McCall. If he were here now, I'm sure he would change his point of view. Portland is "the city" to be in at this moment in time. No longer is Portland just that nice green place where it rains. Portland is a place where anything is possible and anything great might happen just by being here and becoming involved in a moment of her magic.
This year has had its challenges and next year will have its own. The things we can count on grow fewer all the time, but it doesn't have to be that way. I am reminded of this when I visit one of my neighborhood brewpubs. There are some places where time allows us to relax and enjoy the ancient art of community–where conversations in the company of strangers prevail; not work, not home, but a neutral landscape where we can all meet on common ground.
For now, this moment, sharing a collective pint in a small brewpub, nestled amidst the conversations and elaborations of strangers’ tales; this is the way in which I am spending the brief moments of this evening's "my time."
How do we find our way in Portland? There are maps, street signs, helpful strangers—and for the wandering life, there is art. Portland makes public art part of the spirit-way-finding-fabric of the city. At the corner of SW 5th and Columbia—the intersection of two one-way streets—there is a blank façade of red granite begging for an image and a message. I wrote a little poem to put there for kin and strangers:
Friend, it’s time to turn the corner
and find where you began.
Begin again with all you lost but never forgot.
Remember when you tasted rain?
Rise up where one-way thinking intersects surprise.
The polished granite shows feathery compression patterns from the metamorphic forces that made the stone. So, along with the poem, we decided to cut into the stone images of Oregon sword ferns, those tough survivors of the old earth. Portland artist Anne Storrs gathered ferns, drew them obsessively, and printed the strongest images onto acetate to tape to the granite wall. Then she stood back to consider if they looked alive. Portland designer John Laursen took the words, sized them to fit the granite grid, then taped these words to the wall and stood back to consider. At last, the sandblaster has come to pummel the granite with garnet sand, and cut the words and ferns into this Portland wall for good. Deft graffiti.
Portland is a greenhouse of creativity and generosity, so we were wowed, but not shocked, when eleven teams of writers, and more than thirty local sponsors, joined Indigo Editing & Publications in a new approach to shattering writer's block, the Sledgehammer writing contest. Participants met at a northwest coffee shop—one pajama-clad man who had not heard about the contest happened in for a bagel and left on a mission of the imagination—and then took off on a scavenger hunt to Southwest, Southeast, and North Portland, collecting writing prompts and scrawling ideas in notebooks, of both the electronic and paper kinds. Thirty-six hours later eight stories, themselves seemingly breathless, their words bubbling off the page with adrenaline, had been submitted. The new Portland catchphrase: sleep is for suckers. A Portlander who truly understands clocking writer's block, Jan Underwood, the 2005 winner of the international 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, selected one Sledgehammer winner, and the two of them made one more stop on the Portland scavenger hunt: reading onstage at Wordstock.
Mom bought her scooter last year in a fit of frustration over high gas prices. The Honda's one-gallon gas tank takes her 100 miles. She mostly rides it to Jazzercise, coffee shops and the grocery store. Beefy men on Harleys wave to her, which makes her feel like she's part of a "secret society" of two-wheelers (even if she's too nervous to let go of the handlebars to wave back). I live in Washington, D.C., now, but the last time I visited home, she taught me how to ride. I drove in wobbly, slow circles around our cul-de-sac, screaming and giggling the whole way.
If she thinks you don't see her, she'll give the cutest little "toot-toot" on her horn. Watch out: That's my mom on the road.
As I walked to the market, with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat, I turned to my friend and said, "Only in Portland." Inspired by Jerry Bosco and Ben Milligan, founders of the Architectural Heritage Center, Portlanders seem to have a great passion for historic preservation. Appreciation for craftsmanship and the importance of recycling abounds. Where else can you find places like Rejuvenation, The Rebuilding Center, and Hippo Hardware? Only in Portland.
"When you strip away the rhetoric, preservation is simply having the good sense to hold on to things that are well designed, that link us with our past in a meaningful way, and that have plenty of good use left in them."
- Richard Moe, President
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Wild Creatures Come to the City
On a brisk morning walk, several months ago on Forest Park’s wide Holman Lane, a friend and I disturbed a napping coyote in grassy Holman Meadow. Kate and I were engrossed in conversation while walking up the gentle grade when a lone coyote sauntered out of the high grass onto the trail. She stretched with a yawn, looked over her shoulder beyond her tail, then turned around, seeming to have acknowledged us, and nonchalantly strolled up the trail. She was not more than twenty-five feet ahead of us. Surprised, Kate and I stopped and looked at each other. Then simultaneously we wondered aloud if either could remember reports of coyotes sleeping in the meadow. After a few more steps, our bold coyote stepped a bit more quickly and disappeared around a bend in the trail.
There are numerous stories like this about wild coyotes coming into the city; stories that circulate around our neighborhood, tucked into the edge of Forest Park in Portland’s Northwest hills. And I love it that there are many more. Forest Park, often bragged about by Portlanders as the largest undeveloped park within a city’s limits, has miles of trails and no swing sets or playground. To call it a park is confusing to children for whom the word “park” means swings and slides. It’s really a forest in the city.
Sometimes the forest releases its wild creatures to the surrounding neighborhoods. Neighbors often hear a concert of yipping and barking at night or see coyotes in the day or night. Several months can go by with no sightings of the wily creatures, then hand-scribbled signs on telephone poles that “Kitty is missing” start appearing and it’s obvious that coyotes are back in the area. One neighbor, whose yard backs up to the boundary of the park, gets bushy-tailed visitors sunning themselves like household pet dogs just outside his windows. Another neighbor gets coyotes coming into his yard to sniff around an animal sculpture. One sunny day, I looked out my front door to see a furry animal lounging in a sunny spot on the street pavement at the Aspen trailhead. After a double-take, it wasn’t a neighbor’s dog after all. Occasional cars would drive slowly past while the coyote would languorously raise his head only to lay it back down, undisturbed, as he continued soaking up the rays. Another time, as I rode my bike down the hill early in the morning, a coyote trotted up the hill, presumably after a night of kitty hunting, back into Forest Park, maybe to nap in the high grasses of Holman Meadow.
When I walk through the oldest part of town, from Second Avenue down to Front (most Portlanders will call it nothing else), I see old buildings, but what I look for is a lost city; the first Portland. That city, with its riverfront downtown, cast-iron facades, Italianate mansions, Chinatown, and crowded mast-filled harbor has almost entirely vanished.
The first Portland was as unique as it was isolated. The Willamette was its lifeline to the rest of the world. As its 1880s apogee coincided with the height of cast-iron’s popularity as a building material, its blocks of ornate facades bespoke ambition, refinement and prosperity when Seattle was a rapidly expanding maze of kindling. On the West Coast, only San Francisco had more cast-iron architecture--that is, until April 18th 1906.
By the 1890s, that riverfront city was already on the wane. Downtown moved inland as streetcars pushed the city outward and architecture changed. A century of demolition, freeway construction, bridge approaches and a seawall along the river erased most of the original downtown.
Old Portland’s residents are even more elusive than its remnants. It is easy enough to track down idealized biographies of founders and notables, but what of the thousands of others who shared its streets and dreams? There is little left to tell us about who they were.
Or is there? Their city, with a streetcar line on First, with its breweries and no less than three beer gardens; a city that fostered the activism of proto-suffragette Abigail Scott Duniway and a strong do-it-yourself ethic (even most of the cast-iron was manufactured locally); a city with bookstores, coffee and, at one point, a mania for bike riding, might seem familiar.
When I walk through what little remains of the first Portland, I try to reconstruct it in my mind. It is not easy. The past is an alien place. Then it strikes me, maybe there is more to old Portland than cast-iron buildings that survives.
For an instant I can almost see a lost city.
Caption: This small building, at 233 SW Front Street, is one of the remaining 20 or so examples of Portland's iron-cast architecture that originally dominated its riverfront downtown. Depending on the source, it was built in 1870 or 1885. Next to it is Portland's oldest commercial building, albeit heavily modernized, the Hallock & McMillan building, built prior to the Civil War in 1857.
As I tire of the rain and gloom of winter, I begin to dream of fleeing to lands of reviving sunshine. Unconsciously, I search for the trillium on daily walks in Forest Park. This Lily of the Forest is a wildflower that thrives in soil enriched by decaying trees and the luxuriant mist of our temperate rain forest, bringing joy to all those open to receiving renewal from nature. The trillium’s three petals, the trilogy of many religions, symbolize rebirth.
I have seen the first bud pushing through the earth to unravel its white flower against an understory of three green, heart-shaped leaves as early as February 27, and almost never later than March 10th. Neighbors in Willamette Heights, a community abutting Forest Park, raise their Trillium Flag in proud defiance of the still soggy spring immediately on report of the first trillium sighting. The season of the trillium lasts two months, with late arrivals thrusting upwards as the first blooms turn mauve, and then, dying, a deep purple. Generally, all the trillium have disappeared by May 1st.
Occasionally, I see someone picking a trillium and cannot help but blurt out: “Don’t you know that if you pick a trillium, it won’t grow again for seven years?” I am not actually sure this is botanically true, but the scold in me can’t let this insult to nature pass unchallenged. Its wanton picking reflects the selfishness in all of us that wants to expropriate beauty, to own it for ourselves.
The natural world is full of splendor, free and bountiful, but we can neither possess nor recklessly harvest such magnificence without destroying our environment and a sustainable future for our children.
"Where's the peewee," he'll ask my coworkers on his way into the store. While I organize and restock the finest in Chinese plastic and gearation, he appears, shuffling in my direction without aid from the two canes he carries in one hand.
"What's new?" I always ask, and he always says, "Oh, an African critter with horns 'n' a beard."
Some days we go through the cards in his wallet: lifetime memberships to the Association of US Model Railroad Enthusiasts, the NRA, the American Handball Association. Some days he has a handball with him and challenges me to a game at the court, threatening a trouncing, bouncing the ball and catching it with his spry old hand. There are stories of his children and their children, especially his granddaughter who stands six foot eight and his son who's a psychiatrist in Switzerland. Sometimes he needs to sit and, on occasion, his leg slightly out of joint, he asks me to yank on his foot to set it back--which I do, knelt before him like a shoe salesman-cum-physical therapist.
He shares tales of the horses he had down in Klamath Falls, his favorite an Appaloosa, and shows up the next day wearing his old gear: a knee-length sheepskin coat, a dusty and crooked black felt hat with a wide brim, and his spurs jangling in a grocery sack.
He speaks of the seen and the unseen, of his out-of-body service in the Navy during WWII, of his being Chairman of Jesus Christ's Spiritual Mafia. And sometimes he brings me artwork.
"Here ya go," he says, laying it down like a bartender sets a napkin. "You can keep it if ya want. Keep it."
Last October, I landed a sweet part-time gig at the Pumpkin Patch, pretending to be a farmer. I drove a little diesel John Deere tractor, towing around the "cow train." The infamous cow train is actually twenty Holstein-pattern-painted, 55-gallon drums, each welded to a two-wheeled axle, and all hitched together, filled with really giddy children, driving "safely" through hordes of pumpkin-hauling tourists.
All went well the first two days.
The last day, after eating lunch with my boss while he explained that the cow train is his biggest liability in the entire operation, all hell broke loose. This particular ride started out the same as always with me hollering "Y'all heifer a good time?" "Hold on to your butters," and "Let's moove out." After the tractor lurched forward under the strain of a full train, we zigzagged through crowds with me yelling "Cow Train, mooooove over." The kids laughed and asked to go faster. Of course I obliged, and we hit the bumps extra fast, clipping the edge of the haunted corn maze. Then I spotted some unsuspecting folks in the crowd and cut the wheel sharp to get the cow train cars to follow the tractor in a loop. This maneuver was usually pretty simple: the cows would follow one another and the riders would get a kick out of me and the tractor approaching the caboose. Only, that particular time, one of the tourists that we rounded up within the circling cow train cars must have been daydreaming.
Long story short, in front of hundreds of onlookers, the last two cows trampled the poor fellow. He was unhurt but udderly embarrassed.
There's an independent spirit here and a diversity that is so beautiful. At first it scared and intimidated me. Now it strengthens me. Stereotypically, in living here I have grown a snooty opinion of coffee, of microbrews, of the underdog, a disdain for umbrella use and an even bigger appetite for books. But I've also found me. And as silly as it may sound, I attribute that to Portland. Learning to live, learn and love here completed and awakened me. There's a song called "Objects of My Affection," by Peter, Bjorn and John, that has become my Portland song.
The chorus goes:
"And the question is, was I more alive then than I am now?
I happily have to disagree;
I laugh more often now, I cry more often now,
I am more me."
So here is the twist....
Since I have arrived, I have lived outdoors in downtown Portland, sleeping under an overpass between a stone pillar and a cobweb-embellished wrought iron fence. With the exception of one self-published zine, and my humble job, I never have money because Portland provides what little needs I have, thus far. She also has been my muse with my shared words and provided me a vast canvas illustrated through a montage of serendipitous acts, experiencing up close and personal the river rats, laughing beavers, dragon boats, zoo bombers with beer-scented sleeping bags, drug addicts, perverts, gratuitous goose poop, angry raccoons, folk singers, fire dancers, cross dressers, spongy narcolepsy, cranky security guards, mean drunks, despondent body odors, aggressive panhandlers, petitioners, bongo-wielding hippies, street poets, tweakers, secondhand smoke, food poisoning, Bigfoot, rain & roses, and the small commas of thoughtlessness that follow my dreams each morning I wake up in her embrace. The white noise of the 405 reminding me of an early tide and a late kiss blown from a ghost in a tranquility I call Portland.
The newest addition to the Children’s Garden is a 16’x4’ mural painted by a volunteer muralist and youth garden volunteers. The mural’s vibrant colors depict children planting seeds and nurturing the garden. Art created by the children is an important aspect in the garden because it maintains the space as theirs. They tend the space just as they tend the seedlings and they grow together.
I hear myself, believing.
Despite this unexpected invitation to trip down memory lane, my first inclination was to continue walking down 10th Avenue, to avoid eye contact with this impersonator of my idol. It was late, I was tired, and I guess too cheap to give the obligatory monetary tip. Besides, I had a streetcar to catch. But suddenly I stopped, an undeniable warmth washing over me. I know I smiled. Even though my pulsating friend on the corner was not the real King, I thought he should be rewarded for making this old man happy for a short time. I reached in my wallet and pulled out a dollar and retraced my steps to where "Elvis" was still singing. I tossed the dollar into his hat on the ground and got a "high five" from "my man," and then I headed for the streetcar.
One thing I love about Portland is, you never know who might be right around the corner. Maybe Marilyn Monroe, Frankenstein or Count Dracula.
I can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.
If you've spent more than a month in Portland and you haven't been to at least three breakfast joints, then you really need to reevaluate what you're doing with your life. While living off NW 23rd, I found myself regularly ending up at the Stepping Stone Cafe, simply because it was two blocks closer than Besaws. Their ever-changing ceiling decor consists of action figures on strings that shake, rattle and roll in lockstep with the door and random pullings from the staff. These dangling figures keep me entertained and kick more ass than your favorite summer action flick.
The Cattitude Dance Ensemble is the performance arm of the Clackamas Community Cat Club. The troupe was established in the winter of 2006 as representative of our love of felines and as a response to cat injustices that we have seen in our community. We, as Cattitude, feel that we can make an impact on cat owners, cat allies, and even cat skeptics, with our dance performances.
As a dance troupe, we attempt to work with as many dance styles as possible. In the past, we have performed jazz dance, ballet, modern, and even studied a little fire dance. Cattitude has now performed in Portland, Seattle, and across the Midwest, bringing our form of cuddly cat art to the masses. In the works for the future is the CBA, or Cat-Based Art festival, slated to occur in the fall of ‘09.
Check us out online at www.myspace.com/cattitudedanceensemble
Sure it’s dark, cold and wet in winter, but the grass stays green and bulbs coming up are our New Year’s gifts. Once in a while we have a beautiful big snow, which the young daffodils don’t mind as much as drivers. Shorts show up during the February thaw and then we dash among “sunbreaks,” coax gardens, walk dogs, run, and ride bikes through the dazzling green canvas splashed with ever-more colors of spring. In February, crocuses and daffodils reward us for our patience, followed shortly by tulips and azaleas, and it isn’t even April yet.
They say it always rains at Rose Festival in early June, and mostly they are right...except when the sun shines all month long and we wonder why that myth lives on. July, August, September, we call “Portland Perfection.” Bluest sky, sun and breezes every day, no humidity, no rain and next to no bugs. And then it starts again.
I was painting at the intersection of SE Alder and 6th Ave one day. That corner has good history–the Eastside Funeral Directors headquarters and mortuary is now the Volunteers of America building; the Odd Fellows IOOF Orient Lodge #17 is occupied by a going-out-of-business-but- legendary The Office Supply Co.; the Melody Ballroom and Rivers of Life Church, on the northeast corner, was a Woodsmen of America structure. Only the US Bank parking lot lacks interest, although the backsides of the buildings behind it are interestingly wonky. As I painted on that corner, a Hispanic man, about my height, approached me, smiling broadly.
“Do you speak English?” he asked. “Yes,” I said, slightly puzzled.
“Is this the U. S. of A.? I ask you, are we in the U. S. of A.?” He was a bit insistent and also a bit flirtatious. I was a bit wary.
“Last time I looked, it was Portland, Oregon, which is indeed in the U. S. of A.”
“Never, never, never,” he said, pulling himself up to his full height, “have I seen a painter on a corner in the U. S. of A.” And he beamed at me. I couldn't help but beam back. Then he hit me up for a buck for a bus ticket.
When I said I had no money with me, he wasn’t at all upset. We chatted about the weather and painting outside and that particular street corner and its buildings. As he walked away, he turned and said something in a language I don’t speak. I suddenly felt uneducated. But in the middle of his fluency of words, I recognized “Picasso” and knew he was doing some kind of artistic comparison, probably in a complimentary way. I raised my hands helplessly and said, “I speak only English.”
He laughed and said, “Have a beautiful day, profesora,” and went on his way down the street, toward SE Morrison, where I hope he got his buck for the bus. That’s the kind of encounter that makes me love painting on the streets of Portland, Oregon, in the U S of A.
As a native Oregonian steeped in the individualism, self-reliance and thrift of the earliest settlers, I have inherited the independent ethos representative of our regional character. Portland’s early development of textile and apparel industries was initiated through the pioneering spirit of innovation and the responsible use of natural resources. These fundamental values remain a profound influence in our city’s vibrant and diverse creative culture, extending into the sustainability movement, which promotes locally produced products and supports the uniqueness inherent to the natural capital of handcrafted industries.
My relationship with fibers and fabrics reaches back into my earliest childhood memories. It began with finger knitting and hand-stitchery. I was surrounded by women well-versed in the arts of knitting, crocheting, tatting, embroidery and sewing; it was a taken-for-granted feature of my formative years and I absorbed much at my grandmother’s knee. It was she who taught me to sew and instilled in me the importance of being precise. She had an eye for detail and a love of excellence. Her words, "Take the time to do your best work–if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well," live in me and have influenced my creative life in innumerable ways.
The nearly inexhaustible supply of fabric resources available in Portland has sustained my life-long interest in apparel design and construction. This extensive experience, coupled with the do-your-own-thing spirit of Portland, led to my work in a new art medium of fabric mosaics. My intuitive understanding of the relationships among color, texture and design, combined with my passion for detail and devotion to technical mastery, makes fabric mosaic the natural medium for my artistic expressions.
Living in the fabric store capital of the world has been good for me; it is both source and supplier of my inspiration.
It was in the financial slump of 2001 and we were sitting outside at the Brasserie Montmartre (now defunct or in perpetual renewal depending on who you talk to), three unemployed women, three glasses of wine and one big plan.
We had just lost our jobs along with thousands of other Oregonians. The Salvation Army Greenhouse, an agency providing services for homeless kids, was dying off in pieces and one of the first to go was the school where the three of us taught the G.E.D. Now Greenhouse School was closed and it was a palpable loss, both for our students and us. Could we mold what we were grieving and what we had learned into a new form? Could we raise a phoenix from those ashes? And just how many glasses of wine would that take?
Turns out it took a lot. Beth Burns, Pippa Arend and I spent that summer trying to understand what had taken place for us on the corner of 8th and Oak, over a combined 12 years of working with homeless youth. We were trying to figure out what could and should go forward into a new program and what needed to be left in the past. We came up with a few things:
- Everyone deserves dignity and respect.
- Relationships--not programs--foster change.
- We all have intellectual, emotional and physical needs. We want to meet those daily needs.
- No one should go hungry.
- Everyone has the right to a toothbrush.
- Events don’t define people, attitudes do. Attitudes can change.
Back to the table in front of the Brasserie Montmartre. The conversation may have gone something like this:
Beth: Ok, we can run a kick-ass day program, but we need somewhere to do it.
Joy: Where would we be if we could be anywhere we wanted?
Practically in one voice: There! (Pointing katty-corner to the long abandoned Cornelius Hotel, AKA Johnny Sole, AKA Rich’s Cigar Shop in previous incarnations.)
Beth: But the building’s for sale, we only want one floor, need to rent, and no one has been in it since it flooded two years ago.
Pippa: I’ll call. Maybe they’ll be willing to rent.
Did we have a business plan? Did we know the statistics connected with new ventures? Did we have financial partners? Were we even aware of the financial climate of the times? Well, sure, on the last one; we’d just been laid off, remember? What we did have was a vision, heart, and each other. And we were in Portland. Apparently it was enough.
Portland has been gracious to p:ear, which has now been in existence for seven years meeting the intellectual, emotional and physical needs of Portland's homeless and transitional kids. I believe p:ear couldn’t have come into existence in any other city. p:ear has recently moved from its original location at 801 SW Alder to 338 NW 6th. To meet the need.
Portland cultivates one of the most electric skateboarding scenes on the West Coast. Sure, water pours down from the sky for months straight—but the winter is, perhaps, when Portland’s at its realest. All those out-of-town couch crashers go home to their sunny cities and we have the place to ourselves for cloudy-day sessions and big ramp jams in sweaty, dusty garages. These indoor constructions are scattered like secret jewels across the east side. If you know someone who knows someone, you’re in.
Then the spring shines down on us in the form of bright March days, when the dogwoods push out their flowered canopy and we jump in our cars to go find the parks. Beaverton, Tigard, Gabriel, Pier, Glen Haven—massive concrete masterpieces built by real northwest skateboarders.
Eventually, summer’s in full swing, and the days are long and hot—and so much to do. Downtown ledges, gaps, and wallride spots in the shadow of skyscrapers. Abandoned warehouses sheltering DIY concrete transition. Weird, skateable industrial stuff like fullpipes and funnels. Secret pools. And of course, Burnside—where there’s always something doing. Someone ripping, and someone drunkenly yelling in the background. A dog barking. A group of sweat-drenched dudes headed off to dunk in the river.
Finally, autumn hits—brilliant, coolish days when the kids go back to school and leave the parks empty. Yeah, some of the best shredding of the year happens in the fall. Ah, Portland. If you’re a skateboarder, this is the place.
I am in my 35th NW winter in Portland. Some years I complain: "Matt Zaffino, I curse you and your 'Light showers' or 'Partly cloudy with a slight chance of rain'!" Or denial strikes: "True Oregonians don't need an umbrella. Rain is a lifestyle like coffee and laundry." This year I appreciate the rain. It means a chance to hike Miss K in Tryon Creek and breathe in the rich earthy scent of the forest floor. Rain is what feeds this place. Portland is the space I call home.
But my best memories of Portland are of snow. Where else can a police officer come up to you saying,"What are you doing?"
"Umm ... riding down this hill on a couch we found attached to snowboards."
Cop says,"Can I watch?!" and he takes a picture with his cell phone.
Portland has a touch of magic and irreverence that has captured me and kept me here permanently.
I had bought a Bicycles Allowed Full Lane sticker at Citybikes, so I was riding around asserting my rights and feeling proud. But I had had a few drinks while watching the Obama-McCain debate at Roots, so what she said didn't quite catch.
"What does that mean?"
"Riding on the street," she says. At the intersection on Stark, she came off the sidewalk and pulled up next to me. "It's much better. We're allowed the lane, after all."
I decide not to tell her about all the good times I've had on Grand. About the car of blondes that yelled at me to "Use the bike lane!" (There is no bike lane.) Or about the father in the family van that tailed me for blocks until the 84 onramp, where he felt it appropriate to honk and flip me off. Or about the man with Oklahoma plates on his Ford Club Wagon that, late one Friday night, nearly sideswiped me. We were the only two people on the road for blocks. I was prepared to bash his windows in with my U-lock but he sped away.
Instead I just give her the thumbs-up. Be the change, right?
Everyone I meet in my journeys through the Portland beer scene wants to be a brewer—until they see what it's actually like for a day in a brewery. It's hours of cleaning, lifting, more cleaning, more lifting, and then finishing up with a lot of cleaning. Before the water is even boiled, a brewer must decide what's going into their beer. It takes creativity in recipe formulation, as well as knowledge and experience, to know what these ingredients will be like in the finished product, usually weeks away.
It is this mixture of hard work, creativity, and experience that exemplifies the formula for Portland's successful beer scene.
I have lived in Portland my entire life, and even though my favorite places in the city have changed over the course of my thirteen years, there is one location that has a special spot reserved in my heart: Powell’s Books. The only place in the city that can keep me captivated for hours, even days, at a time. Walking into Powell’s is an adventure fit for any avid reader. You never know what you might find! That limited edition Harry Potter book you couldn’t even find on eBay; the next book in a series you have been anticipating for months; a used text book you didn’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars for a new copy of; anything in the literary world you can imagine will be waiting for you on the vast plains of Powell’s. You just need to look for it. Powell’s was the first place I discovered Maus by Art Spiegelman, one of the most innovative books I’ve ever read. Not only that, but Powell’s was the very first place I realized I aspired to be a Portland hipster, flaunting my Macbook in local coffee shops while I write my uber creative blog. Powell’s Books represents The City of Roses very nicely, old yet hip, calm but often crazy, hilarious and sometimes sad, and most of all, warm and welcoming.
In lovely summer weather or winter drizzle, I come to the garden twice or three times a week. I sit in the teahouse, sip tea, and watch the garden change. And as their slogan says, it is a different garden every time I visit. In fall, the Japanese maple near the teahouse turns to a deep carmine; in winter, the persimmons hang tenuously on a bare tree near the water; in summer, a flush of orchids dots the grounds; in spring, the wisteria cascade like tiny grapes over their lovingly manicured vines.
Some days I capture the garden with photos, some days sketches. This woodblock I created to explore my fascination with the plants and architecture of the garden. Though I consider this garden to be mine personally, created for me, y'all are welcome to visit too.
To us, Portland is not a city. It is our moment in time. A juncture in life where we were able to unravel ourselves, meet lovely people, see beautiful places, and make future plans.
We realized our mutual desire there: To live a more sustainable life, and show others that they can do it, too. In Portland, there are many elements of sustainability already in motion, and tons of people to make it happen.
Although we love the thought of living our lives in the Pacific Northwest, we realize that we can make a bigger difference on the opposite end of the country, in rural north Georgia. We have plans to build an earthen home, live off the grid, and start an organic farm.
Our dream is just beginning. Follow along at ourfarmadventure.com
As for me, I’m not a native Oregonian, and after a couple of years of hiking, climbing and playing in the woods (which culminated in a recent elopement on Mt. Hood), I still can’t remember the distinguishing needle patterns of our various evergreens. But, it doesn’t matter, because whenever we’re in the forest, I can count on my loving groom to be my ever-present and stalwart guide.
You seek solitude. Your Russian family plants flowers on his grave every week. You have nowhere else to sleep or deal drugs. You want to see the city's pioneers; want to walk where Portlanders unceremoniously erected an administrative building over the remains of local Chinese workers; want to stare at the girl's grave, just twelve years old, 1890s, want to wonder: how did she die?
Maybe you're like me. Maybe you come here for solace, for a silent audience to witness your ephemeral acts of environmental art making. Maybe, like me, you come here for the sounds: chatter of squirrels, traffic on Stark Street, planes overhead, fingers of wind in trees. Maybe you're here because you've never before seen a thousand black crows taking flight at once. Do they collide?
1. Forest Park after a good rain
2. Voodoo Doughnuts
3. The International Rose Test Garden
4. Salmon Street Fountain
5. Music Millennium
While our marketing gold mine never came to be (probably for good reason), these places continue to sit with me well into my young adult years as the most distinctive sensory spots that make Portland feel like home. They're part of the charm of a city that thrives on individuality and creativity, where buildings blend seamlessly into parks and the greater landscape. So I guess I'm ok with the fact that my house will never smell like PDX, because it just means I have to get out and experience the city firsthand instead.
And that's nothing to turn your nose up at.
Lawrence Halprin designed that quiet woodland place, Pettygrove Park, as well as Ira's Fountain, and the Lovejoy Fountain. Ira's Fountain, on the block in front of the Keller Auditorium, is the best known of the three, but they are all beautiful, and they are all designed to be used. When you visit Ira' s Fountain, be sure to walk behind the waterfall, and if you've ever read Tolkien, you'll wonder if Lawrence read him, too.
One morning, I found this dumpy diner for breakfast, which was a hobby of mine, to find fabulous dumpy diners. At the time, I was slowly creeping my way through an old copy of The Brothers Karamazov that I had found in my father’s bookshelf. It was taking me forever to read, but I still remember how much I loved it. After I ordered my food, the pretty waitress at this dumpy diner got a look at the cover of my book. “Dostoevsky,” she said. “I just read that book last week.” She said it as lightly as you would tell someone that you have the exact same unremarkable backpack. She said this to me and then she went back into the kitchen.
I don’t remember much else about that breakfast (I don't even remember what the tattoos on her arms were all about), but I remember that -- before paying the bill -- I had decided I wasn’t leaving Portland.
and Jackson pigeon Pollock splatter patterned brushwork. Driving over them an East West adventure. Driving over them at night; the Steel Bridge a medieval fortress of black towers. Portland bridges ruminate at night over a river dark and shimmering with city lights.
To float on the Tualatin River, slow and meandering, awash in the golden sunlight of a late fall afternoon, is heavenly. Nestled as it is in the suburban neighborhoods of Washington and Clackamas counties, you might hardly know the river is there, so close but feeling so far away. A flicker, a kingfisher, a heron…the splash of a fish or the slap of a beaver, these are wondrous sounds and sights--for those lucky enough to experience them. The smooth surface of the water creates a dance floor for dandelion fluff. If the wind’s been blowing, piles of leaves gather and slow your paddling. Once a recreational destination, way back before the interstate highway system, and recovering from decades of abuse by us humans, the Tualatin River is now a flat-water-paddlers place to go.