21 September 2017

[pdx] Arnold Drake World, Magic Paper Flower Man

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I've written before about Arnold Drake World, the man who does the exquisite paper flowers, lilies and roses, and does his Zen meditations in the Powell's Burnside Coffee Room, time and oft when we too camp out there. Last Saturday we saw him there and he had clearly added another trick to his already-impressive repertoire. Here's him:


Note the little white thing underneath his hands. that's one of those long folds of paper he usually has doing a ballet in the air between his hands before he transmutes it into a part of one of his creations. And that's impressive enough; if I looked up dexterity in the dictionary and didn't see his picture next to the definition, I'd be disappointed.

But he's doing more than that this time. He's got a bit of the old-school prestige going on here. He was totally levitating that piece of paper, hands flashing above and below, one side to the other. Performing, as usual, for nobody, and everybody.

If you don't admire that man's style, man, I gotta check your pulse. You can't be alive and not be moved.

[OR_liff] Greetings From Downtown Salem, 1958

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I stumbled on this on a page from the Worldwide Elevation Map Finder page for Salem, after being turned on to the image by another friend I have on Facebook, which means this is probably from someone's Flickr but I was unable to determine whose. So, if youse whose stumble by here and find it and let me know, I'll link credit for the scan or take it down as you prefer, but I really wanted to share it.

This is downtown Salem, looking east on State Street from its intersection with Commercial, and I'm guessing that, given the angle on the shot, the photographer is probably on the southwest corner (in the shadow of the 11-story building today called the Capital Center). The vintage of the cars suggest this was taken in around 1958.


What really made my heart sing with remembrance was that curbing there, in the very street, enforcing a left-hand curb-lane turn from westbound State to southbound Commercial. I've never been in another city, not even in Oregon that did that. Just Salem. It's was Salem's way of saying You're gonna make a curb-lane turn, pal, or how're ya fixed for a spare tire right now? Those concrete snakes lay on the curb through about the mid-80s, I think.

Much nostalgia for those of you who remember those old, old Salem commercial names. 

20 September 2017

[art] The Mural Of Surreal Toys

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There is a building I've just heard of here in the anytime-now-to-be-formerly industrial central east side of Portland called Kidd's Toy Museum. It's at the corner of SE Grand Ave and Main Street, and, accessable from Grand just south of Main is a small pocket-parking lot, and in that lot, if you're looking quite quickly, you'll see this:


It's rather beautiful, isn't it? It's like Dali by way of Maurice Sendak via Picasso's 'blue' period. The icy blue monotone makes it all a rather sere dream scene, and seeing as the Kidd's Toy Museum bills itself on Google as exhibiting toys through the first third of the 20th century, it has the feel of a forlorn, yet happy dream. My wife was looking sharp, else we wouldn't have seen it at all, and really wanted the picture, and that much I owed it to her; after all, she'd been sherpaing me around the outer southeast in Sellwood. It was the least I could do.



19 September 2017

[pdx] Signs of the Sellwood Bridge

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There's a bit of information there, on the top of the Sellwood Bridge.

There are signs in the city that we no longer celebrate our history in Bridgetown; it's a struggle documented in the war over housing prices, rents, what gets torn down and what gets built. Portland, thankfully, still looks a lot the way it used to between the new stuff and the strange stuff (I'm looking at you, Burnside Bridgehead - but that's for another time).

At the east end of the Sellwood Bridge, as is true is most public works, there is a brass plaque recording the date, the when, the how, the who. Centered is the list of 2016 county commissioners, five in number, headed by a Kafoury (that's a Portland political verity: if you missed this Kafoury, there's gonna be another one along in about five minutes):


... but, at the bottom there, inset into the parapet? That's the original, now-92-year-old dedication plaque from the original Sellwood Bridge. Portland is conflicted right now about her history, but at least we remember there is one. There is hope in that.

There's a cosmic humor to me in this sign:


... because as everyone in Oregon knows, you have to go LEFT to get to Portland and RIGHT to get to LakeO.

And this is how we tell cyclists that Riverview Cemetery is right across the street, at the west end of the bridge.


Of course, you can take the scenic route, which may take up to 5 minutes. Plan accordingly.

And, in every city that has bridges like this, there are people who care about those who find their way onto them in times of crisis. One is sometimes not as alone as they think.



[EagleCreekFire] The Smoke Before It Got Here

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Another photograph from last Friday.

After concluding our visit to the Sellwood Bridge, we came back into town via SE Milwaukie Avenue, SE Powell Blvd, and SE McLoughlin. The Columbia Gorge, as well as the Eagle Creek Fire (which was still burning and threatening Hood River at the time) is, as maps have shown, just east of the urbanized Portland Metropolitan Area. We'd enjoyed a day of clear, vibrant blue sky and clear air, but there comes the change.


That gray pall on the eastern horizon there was the smoke from that not-so-distant fire, waiting to pay a return visit.

Which it did, the next day, as the record duly shows.

[pdx] Sellwood Bridge: We Love Our River

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The river traffic was fairly bustling this day in 2017.

There's a line out of Ursula K. LeGuin's The Lathe of Heaven, after Dr. Haber begins toying with reality via George Orr's dreams. He's in his new office suite, overlooking Portland and the river, and Heather Lelache has just witnessed, with knowledge, Orr's dream rewrite the reality of a 21st-century, overbuilt, overpolluted Portland into the Portland that's more like it was back in the 70s, and Haber relates how he, in the new reality, came out to Oregon, and the thing that stuck with me from that scene was the line:

The ecosystem out here was still fairly intact.

And that came to mind as I looked out and saw the blue sky and the water of what was once one of the most polluted rivers in America, the Willamette, a river that's all Oregon's, and that we are as proud of to have as we are proud to be able to pronounce it correctly.


The Willamette is a pulchritudinous river along her entire length from Eugene through Salem to Portland, but it attains a certain mightiness north of Willamette Falls. Not only that, it's influenced by ocean tides ... there's a gentle tidal bore that causes the river to go up and down from the mouth all the way up to the falls at Oregon City.

I was skeptical, then me and my wife spent an lazy afternoon watching the water rise off Sellwood Riverfront Park. Then I was just boggled. Still am.


There wasn't just pentiful fun craft frolicking on the river, but there was some serious work going on under the bridge as well. This crew seemed to be doing some sort of maintenance on the bridge pier:


Men with hard hats on the barge, marine industrial equipment of every description, but it was the bubbling coming up near the top of the picture that intrigued me the most.

Wondered what they were doing down there. Still do.


Meanwhile, Maria kept everything snug and in place. What a cute little boat she is, too.


We love our river.


We're positively ... ah, Chipper about it.

18 September 2017

[pdx] The View Of Downtown Portland From The Sellwood Bridge

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The tyranny of choice is a thing to contend with.

The idea of that is that having too much good stuff to choose from is as paralyzing as having too little. A multiplicity of options only stymies you because you have so many choices to make and you want every one to count, so you dither, dither, dither. Eventually you get as much done in as much time as having nothing at all to choose from.

I took what I considered to be a great many photos from the Sellwood Bridge last Saturday, the aim being to get some sort of idea as to what it's been like now that a year and a half had passed since the bridge dedication. Doomed mission from the start. So I've identified a couple-three themes and will post some themed sets over the next couple of days, giving you, my notional reader, and myself, something to come back to.

By now it should be obvious that one of my obsessions is The Iconic Skyline Photo of Downtown Portland, Oregon. Its something that, by its definition, can never be completely satisfied, especially with the speed at which Portland continues to mutate and change. While the top of the Sellwood isn't the most ideal viewpoint, is still is a superb one, as the view down the Willamette River is unobstructed and the natural geography provides incomparable opportunities for framing and atmosphere.


From the top of the Sellwood to that tall monolith with the vertical stripes ... the Wells Fargo Tower ... the straightline distance is about three and a half miles. By road, around five. For a city of national stature, Portland is compact, but for an Oregon city, here, where sprawl is a cardinal sin, it's glandular to a great many of us. This, to me, is a very long way.

The above shot I chose precisely because of the intervening objects. The rail-line and the Springwater Corridor Trail, leading into town ... the road to Oaks Amusement Park, just along side ... the welter of wires and supporting poles and trellises, all are still dominated by the green of the trees. Even that massive pile of construction has trouble competing, from this angle.


The river, which animates us. The Willamette has been through a great many changes, from when Tom McCall got the state to clean her up to hassles about sewage and CSOs, and more, and now the peculiar absurdity we call South Waterfront, still crane-enabled after all this time.

But still, we put our best face towards the Willamette when we can. We are a river town.

There's a little sandbar there in the river. It has a name. Toe Island. Just pointing that out.


Beyond the western margin of Ross Island, that's the Lloyd District, 2017. I count six high-rises here. Four of them didn't exist as recently as 15 years ago.

And boats. You can't keep us off our river.


And here, a wide-angle panorama. Downtown, crane busy puttins something else up. There's a city amidst those woods, but you wouldn't be completely knowing of this if someone didn't tell you. On the top of the hill in the upper left, that's Marquam Hill, and that's the main hospital complex of OHSU, and, if I haven't mentioned it before, we Portlanders love calling it Pill Hill, because wouldn't you expect us to?

In the foreground, the houseboats of the Macadam Bay Club. It must be of some absurd comfort, knowing that a flooded basement is the way things are supposed to be.

[pdx] The Sellwood Bridge, A Little More Than A Year On

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Back about a year and a half ago, me and The Wife™ were just two of thousands who watched the new Sellwood Bridge being dedicated. The bridge, completed in February of 2016, replaced an old structure that had spanned the Willamette between Sellwood and the southern end of SW Macadam Avenue since the year 1925. It was renowned as the single most dangerous bridge to be on; traffic weight limits were much reduced and not even TriMet ran across it any more.

This last weekend, we went out to see how the new span was doing. I've got more pictures to come; but not enough time to extemporize for the moment. For now, though, this beauty shot of a bridge whose new aspect has grown on me significantly.


Sellwood Bridge, big, bright, and bold.

More to come.

17 September 2017

[EagleCreekFire] A Day Of Looking Directly Into The Sun

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This was Portland, Oregon, green city famous for the environment, under the shroud of the smoke from a not-so-distant fire.

The following digital photos are unretouched, f-stop: IDGAF, aperture: The thing that lets light in the camera:


Now, these photos were grabbed on our way down to our weekly bout of Powell's I like to call "Book Church". The above was taken while we were on our way across the Burnside Bridge and had just got on the east end. The long-wave light poking through the dome of the sky enough to illuminate the clouds beyond add a certain poignancy to the whole thing, I think.


The above photo was taken on SE Stark Street approaching the I-205 access. That hill in the distance is our famous Mount Tabor. That bright spot in the upper right of the frame is something called the Sun. Which you could look right at without discomfort.

This next shot is East Burnside approaching the signal at 55th:



... and this is NE Couch St at 12th Avenue:



... and this is how mild and gentle the Sun was. I could stare it down and frame a shot and the Sun just glowered through the smoke, indifferently.


The building the Sun's about to dip behind is that bizarre housing-related object at the east end of the Burnside Bridge called Yard PDX. Reminds me of a giant stainless-steel bowtie. We're about at NE 8th and Couch at this point.


What you're looking at here is the west end of the Burnside Bridge, along what remains of what we charmingly call 'skid row'; even that's getting pushed out of the area. Shi-shi high rises are being built into what was once the Grove Hotel; even the perennial homeless camp we called R2D2 has left the building. But there's enough strife to be, as we called back in the day, a 'sitchiayshun' in front of the Portland Rescue Mission there.

The world smelled again like a campfire. At this writing, the rain has moved in, and the sky resembles your typical northwestern Oregon sky in mid-September: gray, full of torn clouds that may or may not rain on you.

And so it goes.

16 September 2017

[EagleCreekFire] The Smoke Returns To The Rose City

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What a difference a day makes. I'm glad I got those pictures yesterday. Here's a comparison:

Downtown from the top of the Sellwood Bridge, yesterday afternoon:



Downtown from the KGW-TV Olympic Mills Skycam, captured just a few minutes ago:


The weather is forecast to turn to rain tomorrow evening. It can't come soon enough for us.

[pdx] The Jade District: JAMS at 82nd and Division

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Referred to in the last missive, the JAMS building at 82nd and Division, in the Jade, is a event venue and community center that caters to the community groups and people that constitute the population of the Jade District, which is quite diverse and features a great number of people of eastern Asian heritage. Judging by the signs on the businesses in that area, it's principally Vietnamese, Chines, Thai, Laotian, and Pacific Islander.

The 82nd Avenue front to the JAMS center.

The side of the building that fronts to SE 82nd Avenue still features the old neon and exterior from when it was Banner Furniture, and part of the old painted-on logo of the furniture spot can be seen there on the left, which is the south wall.

As Michael Long said, this was once a Piggly-Wiggly. The artchtecture of the building looks like one of those old-school grocery stores, sure enough.

Another feature of this sideof the building is the big windows. Behind the windows on this side, the old furniture showroom has been made into an event hall. Not only do they have the posters with artistic maps of the growth of Portland in the upper tier, there's whimsical collage posters with current businesses of the area combined with vintage photos.


The building extends to the west, with a wing that stretches nearly to SE 80th Avenue, containing community rooms and office space.


The address of the building, 8114, can be seen on the roofline there just before the building angles and the words "Discount FURNITURE". The neon, as shown on APANO's page for JAMS (see link above) still functions.

The building, as the use-statement illustrates, is a station-point. APANO leases it at the present time, and it's not seen as the final answer to the needs of having a permanent community center in the 82nd Avenue/Jade District area. It's a waypoint.





[map art] JAMS: The Growth Of Portland Artistically Mapped At 82nd And Division

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On the SW corner of SE 82nd and Division is a building that's been there a long, long time. For a great many hears it was the SE Portland home of Banner Furniture (which is now merely a single location out in Hillsboro), and before that, it was SE Portland's Piggly Wiggly outlet (according to the indispensable Michael Long) - I would have guessed a Safeway, since Piggly Wigglys never got down to Silverton or Salem (as far as I knew) when I was a kid and the old Safeway on East Main had a similar design and footprint).



Currently it serves as a community event venue and center called JAMS (Jade/APANO Multicultural Space), which is currently being leased by APANO, and is one of the current and evolving features of the core of area along SE 82nd between E Burnside and SE Powell which has been dubbed the Jade District. A great number of east Asian-owned businesses and culture have come out this way to join those that were already there (the Canton Grill, the late Legin (once the Lung Fung East - the pagoda-styled building razed to allow PCC-Southeast to expand) and the FuBonn shopping complex, amongst others) to form a burgeoning outer-east Portland cultural community that is evolving by the day, it seems.

JAMS bills itself as a temporary step between here and there; the building while in good repair, is clearly venerable and ripe for up-development. Until then, it's the community center that this area needs, and while it's there, it's using the old front windows, facing SE 82nd, to good effect.

There are large posters there, and one series that has caught my eye in the past few months, in the top tier of the windows facing 82nd, is a series of posters that appear to show the territorial growth of Portland since 1845.

Here's the one for 1845:


... and Portland in 1875 ...


... and Portland in 1915 ...


... by now you're noticing three things. First, the information is minimal; the visual profile of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers are clearly recognizable, the city's apparent extent limned by a thick red line, the interior of the shape filled with a vigorous, energetic, rough cross-hatching that looks like it was made on scratchboard. Secondly, the presentation is not complex, it's simple as it is direct. And, thirdly, it's rather inaccurate. The city area seems outsized and shifted to the north and west of where it should be.

So, it's a map ... but it's as much art as map. It's beginning to give me a gut-level, subjective idea of how Portland grew and despite - or perhaps because - of the informational subjectivity, it's incredibly engaging.

Now, 1945:


... 1975 ...

... and, appropriately instead of any particular year in that decade, we have the 1980s. Not only was this a 'fuzzy' time when old Portland began to change into new Portland, I can't really think of one exemplar year that would do justice to the whole decade. It was so chaotic it so many ways politically, economically, socially, and artistically.

The map does have a particularly valuable insight, in that the uniform red boundary line elsewhere in the map expands to a region on the east, and the caption 'unincorporated East-County' seems to appear as an explanation. That's an excellent way of noting that culturally and economically, even though the area between 82nd/I-205 and Gresham was part of Portland in every way but governmentally; that area was still Multnomah County. During the 1980s, of course, that era swiftly closed out, as the unincorporated land between Gresham and Portland was divvied up between the two in a rapid series of annexations which left the only unincorporated areas of Multnomah County those northwest of Linnton and that east of Troutdale and Gresham by the turn of the 2000s.


The sequence ends in 2016.


This is Portland as we have it today, with six major freeways slicing it into six easy pieces. The freeway meanders reduced to pixel-like steps, the area of "Portland" spilling over into what's actually Vancouver, the informational inaccuracy is at once aggressive on the left brain but informative to the right. Portland always has been a state of mind, now more than ever, and whysoever the art was designed this way, it's very engaging on a mind and soul level.

15 September 2017

[Wy'East] The Second Mount-Hood-From-Rossi-Farms Picture This Week. And A Sunrise

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Today I was bound for home a little earlier than usual due to forces beyond my comprehension. The conditions weren't good for a stunning picture of Mount Hood but there she was ... visible. It's been a long time since there were two opportunities in a week, what with the atmosphere being what it's been, so that alone was worth pulling over.


This is NE Shaver Street just east of NE 122nd Avenue, and that's the sunrise, and the red color is undoubtedly because in the direction just out-of-frame on the left is the general location of the Eagle Ridge Fire, and there's still a great deal of smoke in the air that way even if it isn't evident from Portland's newly-clearer sky.

The mountain itself is just visible over the sheds and barns in the middle of the right half of the picture.


... and there it is, mighty Wy'east, in a robe of muted red and indigo. I love clear shots, but there's something to find in every picture, and the mood this casts is why I took it. Deep and resonant.

I did have a little fun in GIMP with this I did a sloppy lasso-select and the way the un-altered areas along the treeline stick out reminds me of a collage, taking two different exposures and pasting them together. The effect is a little chaotic and rather antic.


Just as I was taking these pictures, the sun was rising out of the turbulent, distant weather created by the Eagle Creek fire. The quality of the light was almost that of late afternoon or early evening than it was sunrise.

And, it's a reminder that the fire, even though it's not threatening us here in Portland and isn't polluting our air as much as it had been (it still is) and the Level-1 evac alert has been lifted for Troutdale, it's still a thing to be contended with, I-84 is still closed through the Gorge, and areas of Hood River County are now under Level-1 and Level-2 evacuation alerts ... some of which were closer to built areas of the City of Hood River than the Troutdale evacuation zone was to me here in the Hazelwood-Powellhurst area.

On a lighter note, the Canon S-100's 'Vivid Color' setting always is good for some great eye-candy. As please observe:



13 September 2017

[WyEast] The First View Of Mount Hood We've Had For Quite A While

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It's nice to have an old friend back, even if she's hard to see because of the morning air. But here she is.


The mist in the far distance may or may not be influenced by the Eagle Creek fire - which we must remind, is still burning as of this time - or the cooler morning. Possibly both.

The bright sun diffusing into all that mist made the peak visible but not stand-out-visible. Running this above though the auto-equalize filter in the GIMP made it stand out but made the  buildings and landscape in the foreground as though it were a photographic negative, somewhat surreal. No matter. The profile of my favorite mountain is as beautiful as ever.


Welcome back to 122nd, Wy'east.

[map] A Comparison Graphic: Salem, Oregon 1956 vs Salem, Oregon 2017

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As a way of exploring GIMP and telling a story I've always wanted to (and indeed, fascinates me) I created a graphic giving one an idea of how much the capital city of Oregon, Salem, has grown territorially over the past sixty years. My sources are the city limits as defined by Google maps (close enough for my level of work) and the city limits as shown in the inset of the 1956 State official map I showed off a few entries back.

Here's what I came up with.


I am as impatient a cartographer as I am an any other mode of artist, so this was totally eyeballed. But GIMP allows me fine enough control that I was able to pretty much nail the aspects.

What I'd like to do is figure out how to realistically estimate areas of irregularly-sized objects. I can get the modern square-mileage of any town easily enough; the historical data is much more obscure. The magic beans for that, I not yet have and not know how to find.

I think a poster containing nothing but silhouettes of Oregon cities, arranged adjacent to each other and at the same scale for gut-level comparison of territorial sizes, would be devilishly interesting. I know I've always wanted to see such a thing. I'd stare at it for hours.

NB: After posting this I realized there was a considerable swath of territory that I had included in the incorporated area which was on the southwest side of the city, east of the southward bend in the river and west of the actual city boundary, at the western edge of Minto-Brown Island Park. This error has been corrected.