30 April 2014

[pdx] Photos on Sunday: Underwater at Powell's Books

Sunday was for Powell's. I will never doubt how lucky I am to be a Portlander.

Those of you who are, as I am, luckier than most, know something of the nabe it's in. It's as urban as Oregon gets. Vistas of city as far as you can stretch; from the parking garage entry on NW 11th Avenue …

… to the increasingly Manhattan-y views afforded by the streets. This is looking north up NW 11th Avenue:

… a view that, to my perception, reminds me of my idea of what the Upper East Side of Manhattan looks like. These used to be working blocks; Blitz Weinhard used to call this area home. Blitz is gone, most of its brands being made from 2002-2012 out in Hood River by Full Sail Brewing, but since then, brewed … oh, who cares, really?

If you aren't drinking, Widmer, you aren't drinking true Oregon beer, son. That discussion ends here. 

But it is what it is, and it is what we have it, and what we have now at NW 11th and Couch is this:

Which, admittedly, makes for a pretty nifty building shot. So, no complaints about that.

Looking south on this selfsame block of NW 11th you see some authentic Portland.

Up ahead, on the right, is an old building which holds one of Portland's more popular nightspots, the Fez ballroom. Kind of a Crystal Ballroom before the McMenamins got a hold of it. Goth, punk, all sorts of things there. Top floors. Just ahead of that, on the farther right, is one of the last SRO hotels in this part of town: the Joyce Hotel. The kind of place that's still for the down'n'outers and the folks on their last pins.

That whole area of town, between Burnside and Stark, going from about SW 10th Avenue west to where Burnside and Stark met, was a paradox. Some of the seediest territory you ever wanted to avoid but still somehow so compelling you couldn't stay out. Some of the biggest gay clubs in Portland were there; the Club Portland, at SW 12th and Burnside, was legendary, and I'm betting the renovating of that building into the McMenamins' Crystal Hotel was nothing short of harrowing … I imagine it was like Forrest Gump's box 'o' choklits, except that not only did you not know what you were gonna git, you didn't want to see it.

Strange, isn't it, that the most intimidating things are the things that are the most brimming with life and energy and vivre? I think the key is to remember that most of life is really unknown, so, thusly, there's no point in being frightened by the unknown.

Farther ahead the street grid bends, as you see by the angle of that high-rise in the far distance. That's another reason why this corner of town is nifty. This is where the street grid angles. I've always liked travelling down streets that go through changes like that; not only are the street junctions interesting as hell, I've always gotten a kick out of the idea that when I turn, a whole lot of geography has to follow.

A cab unloading a passenger selling boxes of books to Powell's. An Oregonian like me looks at this and sees New York in it somehow. Must have been all those Odd Couple episodes I watched as a kid. Past, as always, is prologue.

Anything promising a dryer Powell's works for me. Hell, anything that promises decades more of Powell's works for me.

Specifically, they're remodelling. If you've been down there any time within the last couple of months, you've seen it. The old entry at 10th and West Burnside has been completely closed and its advanced stage of remodelling is obvious from the street. That corner of the block, the south east quarter, is the oldest part of Powell's. We shouldn't be surprised if it was leaking from the roof, though the idea of leaks in that hallowed place is an atrocity.

And inside, some of the lights in the ceiling are temporary …

… giving one the sense that one is in a submarine … a frigg'n awesome submarine …

… that happens to be the size of a building and full of books and books and books.

Going down, yo.

No comments: