23 June 2014

[pdx] Photos On Sunday: SE 122nd And Division - Distressed Neighborhood Central

They call my area of town 'distressed'.

It sounds like a sort of concern, and I'm sure it's well-intentioned. I'm wiling to give it that much of the benefit of the doubt. I'm a pretty big fool, however, I'm not that big of a fool, and I've noticed that the dubbing of a Portland neighborhood as being distressed is usually something of a prelude to it being shined and polished up and made 'livable', but, somehow, not affordable to the people that, at one time, had been the heart and soul of the neighborhood.

So, 122nd and Division - heart of an area evolving the name Midway, called by some of us Democrats Bedrock, and thought of by many Portlanders west of 82nd Avenue as Gresham, is 'distressed'.

There is 'concern'. And, while it's true that the area east of I-205 tends to get less of the public weal than the more fashionable areas of town, it seems when the attention is finally paid, it always seems to end in tears for the people who have always been out here. We do notice, with some satisfaction, that the densities called for in the 1996 Outer Southeast Community plan are being toned down a bit, with an eye toward leaving the single-family-home character of areas around SE 122nd Avenue and SE 136th Avenue alone, though the damage has already been done along SE 136th, which is having to grow up fast in the wake of the death of Morgan Maynard-Cook last February.

Look at all that distress
Areas like Powellhurst-Gilbert, Hazelwood, and Mill Park are studies in contrasts.  Highly-travelled neighborhood collectors with the uncurbed character of country roads serve thickly-populated residential areas. Intersections have beautifully-designed corners with modern curb-cuts that lead to no sidewalks at all. Infill housing sets cheek-by-jowl with homes that have existed for 40 or 50 years, if not more, all laced through by thronging boulevards such as SE Divsion Street and SE Stark Street, lined with businesses ranging from the swanky to the shabby. But, mere blocks off any of these arterials, and it's as quiet and prim as any upscale westside back street.

It is also very diverse in my area of town. Several businesses catering to the Latino population operate near SE Stark and 122nd and SE Market and 122nd. The tienda next to the 7-Eleven at 122nd and Market is a glory to visit, and if you want pan dulce, my friend, this is your place. The Mingala Halal market in the shopping center at Division has every packaged noodle soup you could ever want (and some you'd not be entirely sure about but you just have to try, to say you've done it).

I see people who dress differently than me and speak differently than me and I'm in love with this. This is Oregon; if I wanted to be surrounded by white people and never challenged by a single thing, it's not hard to go to a place to find People Like Me. But who needs that? Besides, our travel budget rarely supports a jaunt outside the city limits these days. Home is like travelling around the world without having to leave my back yard.

The skies are just as blue out here, the trees, just as green. Maybe they're using some definition of the word distressed that makes sense to someone who sees a ton of money to be made amongst the aging apartment complexes, scattered vacant lots, and wide pounded boulevards of Outer East Portlandia.

Oh, I don't refuse to see that this area of town has its problems, and a misguided city planning policy 
has exacerbated them to a degree. But where some fret, I find a certain sort of ragged beauty. Sure, a few places could use a bit of spruce. But to be condescending in concern is to continue to treat this area as Portland's red-headed stepkid, which has been the problem all along.

This area is just as much Portland as the fashionable parts are.

This is the idea that Those Who Wish To Reinvent Us must proceed from. No Portland City Commissioner comes from anywhere east of César E Chávez Blvd, and sometimes, though I like most of them very much, boy, does it show sometimes.

Yes, it's another snap of Mt Hood as seen through telephone
poles. Deal, people, deal.

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