27 September 2018

They Call It The Fair-Haired Dumbell. No, Really.

Portland is in the midst of a building-boom, of course, economics being what it is here in terminal-stage capitalism, of properly Erisian proportion. It's only natural that someone or something in the collective psyche would snap.

Here's what happened with it did.

Back in the days of Mayor Sam Adams, someone got the brilliant idea to turn E Burnside and Couch from NE 14th to the Burnside Bridge into a one-way couplet; Burnside going east, Couch going west. Not only did it ruin a great visual approach to downtown on East Burnside, but it also improved property values (like any other corner of Portland really needed it; pretty soon, you'll be renting the air).

This caused a change in geography in what we sometimes still call the "Burnside Bridgehead", that area where the east end of the Burnside Bridge comes back to earth. The sole corner used to be Burnside and Martin Luther King Jr Blvd. Now, Couch was changed to go one-half block west, s-curve south, then join Burnside to channel the westbound flow onto the bridge. The architecture, such as it was, was swept aside. An open space was created, and that's the way it stood for more than a couple years.

Well, bring us up from 2014 to the present day. Ladies and gentlemen not of Portland, allow me to introduce you to what is actually called "The Fair-Haired Dumbbell"

Looking SE from NE Couch St and Couch Ct, a street belonging only to bicycles

When built, a local alt-weekly exulted Finally, architecture we can argue about. Across the river, on SW 5th, The Portland Building breathed an almost-audible sigh of relief knowing that there was finally a building in town that would attract more opprobrium.

Looking SW from the corner of MLK and Couch
The building looks as though what you'd get if you engaged Willy Wonka as an architect.  Your eyes do not deceive you; non of the sides are plumb. It's all angles. The windows are of various sizes and in seemingly random array.

It's apparently an attempt to redefine the concept of 'building' as 'a structure you walk into and do things in'.

The middle of the Dumbbell, showing the connecting walkways.

As can be seen in the above picture, strictly speaking, the Dumbbell isn't just one building, it's two smaller ones connected by a sort of stacked set of skybridges. Just as you figure you have it figured, you find you figured wrong.

Looking NW from the corner of East Burnside and MLK Jr. Blvd.

There's another thing that one might have surmised in looking at this building; it is stranded on a smaller-than modestly-sized Portland block, surrounded with some of the heaviest street traffic in Portland, with minimal parking. That street parking you see on MLK is all the parking there is next to the building proper. There is a parking garage in that Death-Star-looking edifice behind it and on the left, and while I didn't peep the prices, I understand easy financing is available for well-qualified parkers, if you follow me here.

Looking NE, from the Burnside Bridge
And what a paint-job there, hey? Positively painfully Portland psychidelic.

The Fair-Haired Dummbell is one of a kind; if Portlandia put a bird on this one, it'd have to be a cuckoo. But it casts a kind of a spell, you see; one begins to enjoy it despite every instinct in one that insists that this is quite possibly a crime against architecture suitable for prosecution at the International Court of Justice.

Now, I've loved buildings and I've hated them. I have alternatively loved and hated them. But never before have I simultaneously loved and hated a building. The Fair-Haired Dumbbell is both joyously antic and fun and also rage-inducing ... and I hold these emotions concurrently. 

That alt-weekly was right. This is architecture we can argue about.

I just don't know if they meant you can argue with yourself about it.

24 September 2018

The Old Joyce Hotel Sign

The Wife™ has declared this photo to be Portland AF:

Well, it certainly is old Portland AF.

What this is is the sign for the old Joyce Hotel, over the corner of SW 11th Avenue and Harvey Milk Street (formerly Stark). And there is something evocative to the thing, the old flophouse sign, still there and still intact but for the stress of the years on the paint job, up against one of those classic downtown Portland street lamps, which I adore beyond sane reason.

It profoundly emotionally moved her, which is a thing that I'll be even amateur photographers like myself as well as pros are surprised; you never know which one of your compositions will grab someone by the heart.

And so that goes.

23 September 2018

The Daily Paint By Number Presents: The Next Two Projects

Good news for this artist's journey: a new source for more PBN projects has been identified, thanks for avid scouting work by The Wife™.

Art Media, of course, is no more, for a few years now. But, in the space it once occupied on SE 82nd Avenue at King Road, the Portland branch of Hobbytown USA has moved in. It is sweet! Portland area hobby lovers of things such as RC hobbies, model building, model railroads and things of that nature ought to get to know it if they've not already. It's well-stocked and friendly.

They've also got stacks and stacks of PBNs, a great many of them the Dimensions Paintworks brand, which I've, over the course of merely one project, have come to love. I've acquired two more to do, after I'm done with Nicky Boehme's Taste of Italy. 

One is another Nicky Boehme design, titled Balloon Glow. Ethereal, atmospheric, and entrancing.

The second one is a design by Fabrice de Villeneuve, Flower Shoppe, and it's down-to-earth, warm, and friendly.

Another interesting difference about Flower Shoppe is that it's 11x14 and only requires 12 colors. I didn't know until this point that Paintworks came in anything other than 20x16 and 18 colors, but this smaller one presents the same elevated challenge that the other did.

The projects call for two other painterly techniques that will make me up my game: "feathering", the technique of using short choppy strokes to cause a visual blend, and stippling. Also there seems to be the necessity of using a wash.

Paintworks continues to be the PBN that teaches as well as keeps the hands busy, engaging the mind on a more sophisticated level than other producers. I look foreword to these next two challenges.

The Advent of SW Harvey Milk Street

Southwest Stark Street is no more, kinda sorta, for a five-year transition period.

But the street blades honoring the late San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk are up now. And for the next five years, the street will wear both names on the signposts. This is how we transition street names here in Portland.

The proposal by the businesses along the street supporting it and detailed at The Harvey Milk Street Project  was to have the thirteen blocks of SW Stark Street renamed only, in honor of Harvey Milk who, in his highly visible position as a legislator in one of America's pre-eminent large cities was amongst the first openly gay people ever elected to such prominence, was assassinated in 1978. Also, for a period stretching roughly from the mid 1980s to the mid-2000's, that area stretching along Stark from approximately 11th Avenue to 13th Avenue was the hypocenter of Portland's gay culture.

The list of nightclub names still doubtlessly rings legendarily in the hearts and minds of Portlanders gay community: Club Portland, the Fish Grotto, Boxxes, the Red Cap Garage, Scandals, The Roxy. Of those, only The Roxy and Scandals remain, however tenaciously, against the advance of gentrification and the McMenaminization of everything between SW 12th and 14th along West Burnside.

This was where gay Portland came to hang out and play, a place that was thiers.

The building in the picture above is the Joyce Hotel. Its first floor, there on the corner, was home to the Fish Grotto.

The Fish Grotto is no more, having closed in 2014. The space next to it, which now holds a totes adorbs little alley-mall style boutique collection called Union Way, once held Boxxes and Red Cap Garage. Boxxes moved to the upper floor of the building on the SE corner of Burnside and SW 11th before it winked out.

The old sign for the Fish Grotto still remains, as does the board that once supported the sign for a latter-day subdivision of the Fish Grotto called the Sand Bar. Now it, as well as the Joyce Hotel itself, one of Portland's last great flophouses, stands in stasis on the corner of SW 11th and then-Stark, now-Harvey Milk Street, a ghost of Old Portland in solid, tangible form.

The corner of Harvey Milk and 12th still has remnants of the Portland what was. Note in the picture following the Peterson's Grocery on the corner. That's been a corner shop there for a very long time; up until the Peterson's near the library on Yamhill was evicted, it was Georgia's Grocery. 

The other two survivors, Scandals and The Roxy, are the market's neighbors. In the picture above, if you look for the al fresco parasols; that's Scandals.

Over Scandals, there's a true antique. I'm glad they left the sign up that declared that this was once Georgia's Laundromat.

And ... The Roxy. What a splendid pageant that place is. We adore it. Funky as well, pictures all over the walls, you go in there and all of a sudden you feel like you're in 1987. And the food? All bad for you, and when I say bad for you, I mean if you don't eat once here before you die, that would be bad for you.

Burgers, nachos, bad for your arteries but oh, so good for your soul.

We will always love The Roxy. How it hangs on in this area of ascending property values I don't know, but I hope it stays just this way for a very long time.

13 September 2018

The Daily Paint By Number: The Italian Fruit Stand Is Painting, And We Branch Out.

The progress on Taste of Italy so far has accelerated since my health has improved after getting over my cellulitis infection.

I have resumed getting around mostly. There's still some healing left to do. Art should help. Here's where we are:

There were two kinds of solid-colored area to fill in. One was solid black, which was filled in with black; the other, a gray area, which was filled with a mixture of colors 7 and 15, which resulted in the charcoal-gray that now sprawls across the picture.

I like the sense of space the foreground defines there. This took about an hour and a half to totally complete. This is one detailed project! 

The fruit stall was my rite of passage into this work. I'm pretty sure I've got the skill to finish the rest of it, providing the paint holds out. I'm still a bit intimidated by the instructions that mention in case the paint runs out. I'm sure ordering more paint for this would be an ordeal, so I'm going to be mindful of this. 

So far, so good.

Depression-Era Local Currency With That Silvertonian Flair

When I was but a neat thing, and a kid in then-bucolic Silverton, Oregon, I remember there was a sporting goods shop on North Water Street between Main and Oak, on the west side of the street, called Chuck's Sport Shop.

The building is still there, of course. There's some sort of bistro or cafe there now. Lovely place. Lots of wood.

I remember going in there with my dad, I think he was after some sort of fishing gear, and I remember seeing, under the glass top of the front counter, these things that looked like money. Silverton Scrip, they were called. And I kinda fell in love with them. They were nicely designed; centering on a portrait oval of Silver Creek's South Falls, which is kind of an iconic thing to Silverton, they're still the most attractive currency I ever saw.

Latterly, on FB, a similarly-historically-inclined friend, Michael Long I think, put up an example of Depression-era 'scrip' from Multnomah County. I'm not 100% clear on the concept, but I have the basics; since you couldn't depend on your bank to be open or to even exist in the near-term, but commerce still had to happen, localities would issue their own temporary currency, or 'scrip', backed by some local source of credit. In Multnomah County, it was backed by the County Treasury. In Silverton, it was backed by what were called "Marion County School Warrants".

But I digress. Dig these.

Like I said, isn't that lovely? Thanks be to the Oregon State Library online, who knows how to do the historical job. It was issued by the local American Legion Post, which was apparently seen as a trustworthy authority, and had a limited duration of effectiveness.

This, indeed, is a 25-cent bill. While everyone could find a printer, minting coin was apparently something not everyone could do. There were other denominations ... I believe I saw a $1 scrip once.

The obverse side is a real treat:

... because you can have scrip and you can have scrip (up in Wallowa County they stamped 'em out on buckskin, I've found) but your scrip isn't really Oregonized unless you can have a Homer Davenport cartoon on it.

That's Silvertonian flair. And if we ever have to have a local currency, I say, go with this design. Silver Falls is the crown jewel of the Oregon State Park system. You could easily do worse!