20 January 2014

[pdx] … And A Transit Bridge Runs Through It: An Editorial Comment

TriMet has, this week, released the list of the finalists for the name they'll be sticking on the new landmark Portland-Milwaukie Transit Bridge. They are:

  1. Wy'East
  2. Duniway
  3. Cascadia Crossing
  4. Tillicum Crossing
The four names stand pretty large in the history of the  Salish lands and the history of the American Pacific Northwest. Wy'East is, of course, the name the original locals gave Mount Hood. Duniway is for Abigail Scott Duniway, the suffragette (who already stands tall with a legacy of a park and a school), tillicum is Chinuk wawa for us folks, our people, our tribe, and Cascadia is the emerging name for our regional identity latterly.

A few problems come to mind with these names. All of them are fairly unoffensive, The first two still manage some inspiration, the last two sound like suburban shopping malls. Very historical, very important, very expected.

The real sad part, personally, for me, is who didn't even make the short list:

Kirk Reeves. To most Portlanders, he should need no introduction, but to those who arrived late in the game, here's a Working Kirk primer for you. Kirk Reeves, the white-suited man at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge (and betimes other places, busking for a living, making bad comedy shows on local access, appearing as himself every OryCon, and basically making the world better by just being. Kirk Reeves, whose struggle with keeping the wolves at bay grew to be so wearing that he gave in, just a few months over a year ago.

TriMet has published the list of suggestions. I haven't the inclination to count myself, but a subjective peruse of the 202-page list of suggestions seems to indicate a sheer preponderance of Kirk (in some variant spellings). Joseph Rose at Soylent News™remarks that a page count comes up with Kirk's name on about 11 pages of the document; by contrast, Duniway got about four, and Wy'East, two.

So, clearly, this wasn't a popularity contest. 

It does make TriMet seem a little out-of-touch with its constituency though. Wouldn't be the first time that has happened over the last few years, we bittersweetly note, not at all.

It has been pointed out to me that perhaps a sort of wide-screen personality could really only support the idea of a bridge name. As far as that goes, Wy'East or Duniway goes just fine with me. And, as T.A. Barnhart pointed out to me, Kirk's name would fit perhaps a little better as a park name or a place where performers could come out to play. I'd picture that as a Oregonized sort of Speaker's Corner, something we really could rock, in a Portland way. Picture people debating in one part, someone playing a public tune in another, and not one of our local over-promoted, over priced you-have-to-pay-to-get-into-Tom McCall-Waterfront-Park dos, either. 

A people's space? Working Kirk Reeves People's Park? I could get behind that.

But, in the meantime, if TriMet wasn't interested in what the people really wanted, why did it bother to ask at all? If there was no possibility of Kirk's name going on the bridge, at least it could have thrown us a bone by putting it on the short list.

And, in my opinion? I think Kirk was big-screen enough for his name to go on that bridge.

I wonder, would his story have turned out any differently if he'd have known how much affection the community had for him?

I know people might disagree with that, and I'm down with it.

You can download the pdf list here, if you wanna.

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