02 September 2010

[liff] The Tom Peterson Watch Takes Seattle, Part 2: We Reach Union Station

Continued from here.

We now have reached the MAX Green Line station, and we must change modes.

I see a lot of carping, but you know, when you use it ... it just makes so much sense. And it works so well. It's a quick walk from the MAX stop in front of the Greyhound depot over to the front door of Union Station. And our planning is on point - we arrive about 250 feet from the front door of Union Station with a bit more than an hour to spare.

The Greyhound buses congregate between that funky barrier ... and I regard it with some wistfulness, as I know we'll be back there, in about 30 hours' time.

The Wife™ insisted I get a photo of this:

... which is one of the seemingly endless condo projects going up in NW Portland, because she thought the porta-johns up there on the corner of the top floor was funny.

I guess you'd call that toilet humor?

Correction 10-Sep-2010 0929: in the comments, commenter Ben mentioned that that's not a new condo tower but something much more estimable: the Housing Authority of Portland's Resource Access Center, which you may find out about at http://www.hapdx.org/resourceaccesscenter/. Thanks for the correction and the great info, Ben!

Just across NW Irving Street from the station property itself is a big nifty looking bit of public art, which seems to speak to the fact that everything in these few blocks of NW Portland have to do with timing, in one way or the other.

I thought it a sundial at first, but the big clock-face is actually the backrest to a chair-like affair, that allows you to sig back and look right through a big circular hole in that screen-like affair, right at the clock in the Union Station tower. So that's rather witty, actually.

Having certain things around, you tend to take them for granted. We all adore the Benson Bubblers, and all the public fountains installed since the originals echoing their look and feel. It reminded me how good they are - and how rare it is to expect to see them in any American city - when me and The Wife™ espied what was obviously a dad taking a picture of his wife and daughters all taking a drink in unison. I caught them (apparently them not realizing I was doing so) just after they broke formation.

As I intimated elsehwere, there is ineffable hilarity in observing the observers observing something, and this was no exception.

But, when it comes to public fountains, PDX rocks. And always will.

Now, at this point I always go for that "postcard" picture. Here's this one's:

Perfect, yes? Yes. And, of course, rights are up for sale ... Man, I tell you, I should have been a photographer.

For pay, I mean.

As long as I have Tom Peterson along for the ride, let's see how he feels about it:

Judging from the beatific smile, we can only assume that Tom is pleased too. But then, Tom is always upbeat.

It was getting close to departure time and as we arranged our tickets, I noticed that there was much activity at the front doors ... a flock of hacks pertaining.

Black and yellow, red and white. No black and white though. Now, perhaps Union Station's biggest reason for being is, indeed, the historic architecture, which pretty much wraps you up in charming, city-to-city train times, almost from before you enter. I enjoyed the sign:

... but not as much as I enjoyed the interior, with its dark, cool, cavernousness. This must be a fine place to work when it's hot. And all the old-fashioned details, the arches in the architecture, the old-style signs. It is a very seductive atmosphere leading us jaded moderns to charming if predictable thoughts of what it must have been like before interstates and suchlike.

Now this is the point where my meagre photography skills (and my equally-meagre camera) do not quite measure up to the demands of the environment. The pictures are a little blurry because of the low light levels and the need to hold that camera still, but they'll always remind me of a very pleasant hour ... well, except for the line to the train, which I didn't like much. But Union Station is a treasure, and we're lucky to have it, because this is one of those buildings that they got right the first time.

Something that I found curious was there were only three gates to the trains - but they weren't gates 1, 2, and 3; they were gates 6, 7, and  8. Judging by the interior structure, gates 1-5 used to be in the wing that goes around the far side of the gift shop, which forms a passthrough to the restrooms and (I was surprised to find) business suites as you go down through that segment of the building.

We walked to the train through gate 6, and people leaving the trains came in through gates 7 and 8. Lots of bikes - was pleased to find out how far you can get with a train and a bike here in Cascadia.

What really made me smile, though, was the neon signs along the sides. Beautiful, bright, old-fashioned signs that pointed the way, and charmed me to the soles of my feet.

Now that is old-fashioned class. As is the ticketing counter, with its arrivals/departure board, maintained, as it is clear, in the old fashioned way.

Aw, yeah, people in transit. Wish we had more trains.

Is this how railfannage begins?

From here, we boarded our train into the great beyond ... which is detailed in the next chapter.

To be continued.

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Unknown said...

Good to see you in my neighborhood! However, that building you reference is not more condominiums, but instead an ambitious project by the Central City Concern and Housing Access Project.

(link: http://www.hapdx.org/resourceaccesscenter/)

Samuel John Klein said...

Thanks for the correction there, Ben ... that looks like something Old Town PDX really needs and will do well for having.