27 March 2020

Plague Year Diary: A Deserted City of Books

And, as we came west from the freeway overpass, what trip downtown would be complete without a stop at Powell's?

No stop here today, or for a while yet. Alas.

And so it goes.

Plague Year Diary: West Burnside Looking East

Another angle on Burnside coming from the other direction: West Burnside, heading east, at about 14th Avenue, crossing the overpass over I-405 (the Stadium Freeway).

On the right, in the distance, is the legendary Big Pink, the US Bancorp Tower. This is the first that I realized that that large black monolith is the building we call Yard PDX, and is on the east side of the river. Before that, that was just horizon. Portland, bulking up.

Closer, on the right just beyond the end of the overpass, is McMenamin's famous Crystal Ballroom concert hall. Closed, for the duration.

Ahead: plenty of room for you and your car.

Plague Year Diary: Crossing The Burnside Bridge

A couple of shots now of the bridge that connects the east and west sides of Portland at its heart, the Burnside Bridge.

Clear sailing on a following breeze. Traffic is not an issue. This was in the middle of Tuesday afternoon this week.

After cresting the bridge and starting the downhill slope into downtown, one can look ahead and see the almost-empty West Burnside Street, ahead, under the trees. It is usually a throng of traffic not to be trifled with.

It is not so, today.

Plague Year Diary: 20th and East Burnside Looking West

One of the places we went was down Burnside Street. Those of you have been following along for any length of time know that Burnside is an important street in the Portland layout: it splits town north from south: NW and NE Portland are north of Burnside and west and east of the river: respectively are placed SW and SE Portland.

This is 20th and East Burnside, looking west, on a weekday afternoon that would otherwise be quite busy.

But everyone's gone to the Moon.

24 March 2020

Plague Year Diary 7: Broadway and Burnside - or - It Turns Out This Town Is More Than Big Enough For The Two Of Us

After the apocalyptic feel of the previous photos I found I could top even that. And, as one will recall, I mentioned that no cars challenged me to get the hell out of the middle of the street in the middle of the afternoon on one of the busiest streets in the state of Oregon.

Let me prove this to you. After taking those two photos, I did a one-eighty and looked north, toward the intersection of West Burnside and Broadway. This is a big, wide intersection, not only because two very arterial streets cross, but also because of the vicissitudes of the way the plats north of and south of Burnside collide, the two streets don't precisely line up, creating a big, distended open square where Broadway, Burnside and Ankeny all come together. And it is nearly impossible, therefore, to render a scene like this:

All those cars are parked. There is not one car moving. In the middle of Oregon's largest city, where some 650,000 people live, at the intersection of two of its most important streets.

Yeah. The earth has shifted underneath us all.

Plague Year Diary 6: The Quietest Broadway I've Ever Seen

Moving on with selected scenes from today, I give you what may be one of the busiest streets in Oregon: Southwest Broadway, downtown Portland, the largest city in Oregon and the 25th-largest in the United States of America.

This, remember, was the middle of the afternoon, on a Tuesday in March, 2020, and in on a planet without a COVID-19 world tour in progress, this street would be very busy indeed. I can easily count the number of moving cars in this shot on less than two hands.

Out on the heavy east side of town, I can debate with myself whether or not this is an abnormally-light traffic load. I can't have this discussion with myself downtown, though. This is not natural. And it's kind of starting to settle in on the mind just how shut-down my hometown is now.

Also, if I suggested that I stand in the middle of Southwest Broadway to take a picture of the street, in the middle of the day, one might consider me a daredevil on the order and intelligence of Super Dave Osborne.

Yet, that's what I did just here:

As a matter of fact, I was standing, mid-block, in the middle of Southwest Broadway, between Oak and Harvey Milk Streets (that's the legendary Benson Hotel there on the immediate right, with the Federal Protective Service cruiser parked in front) for well over two or three minutes. No cars challenged me to GTF out of the way. I was in no physical danger at all.

No cars challenged me. Not one.

Plague Year Diary 5: The Emptiness of East Burnside

We went out today to get a look at our world. It's gotten kind of eerie.

This and the next two or three postings will give you a look at how little activity we saw. Now, out here, in Outer East Portlandia, as I've said before, it's a little hard to call. The amount of traffic out here tends to vary and I keep a vampire's hours and weekends, so I normally see a light traffic flow. Also, though, as also noted, my impression of my flip-side surroundings has been that of a lighter throng.

This picture is of East Burnside St looking west from about 60th Avenue.

Another thing I'd like to note is that these pictures were taken mid-afternoon, on a Tuesday, at about the time Portland's now-legendary rush hour starts.

Now, this angle takes in a stretch from 60th to about 50th, about 1/2 a mile. That ziggurat in the distance is Big Pink (the US Bancorp Tower) which is, if you aren't familiar with PDX and I haven't mentioned it (and I'd be surprised if I didn't) is a 42-floor tower and the second-tallest building in Oregon at 536 feet. And beyond that is Portland's West Hills. There are 20 city blocks to the mile in PDX, so that should give you some idea of the depth of field.

I count only three cars along this half-to-three-quarter-mile stretch of East Burn. In the middle of the afternoon, in traffic-choked Portland.

It gets lonelier. Stay tuned.

23 March 2020

Plague Year Diary 4: Executive Order 20-12

The hammer fell just after 11AM.

A quick first-pass read by your interlocutor:

Governor Kate Brown's Executive Order, #20-12, clarifies and solidifies what's allowed and what's not allowed. Just about everything having to do with entertainment is closed, no restaurant dining areas for sit-in, all social and fraternal clubs, tattoo parlors, spas and beauty salons, indoor and outdoor malls. No public gatherings of any size. Any retail business that cannot implement and enforce a strong social distancing policy are to close immediately. Offices who can need to implement telework, those who can't must implement strong social distancing policies. If one must commute into an office, one must follow social distancing best-practices, maintaining 6 feet of separation from everyone else.

Gas stations and grocery stores, places where one must get necessities, and restaurants offering take-out, seem to be allowed to operate, and all patrons need to observe social distancing as much as they can.

There is a link to the Governor's Executive Order at the Oregon Coronavirus State Resources page:

This is a link directly to the press release posted at 11:30 AM approx.
This is a link directly to the PDF of the Executive Order.

Violaton of the Executive Order is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of up to 30 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,250, or both.

Updated: Here's a graphic posted to Facebook by the Governor's office which makes it nice and neat.

Plague Year Diary 3: NE 122nd Ave, Tonkin, And The Closed Church

Good day, everyone. In this third day of the Plague Year missive series we wait in front of our keyboard with bated breath. Today, you see, is the day that everyone expects Governor Brown to bring the hammer down; in about an hour from the time I type these words, an Oregonized version of the so-called "Shelter In Place" is to be announced for the entire 90,000 + square miles that comprise the State of Oregon. The interdiction along the west coast of the United States of America will be complete.

From today, if you don't work in a job considered essential, your business will be expected to close, I understand; if you work in an office, your employer will be expected to enable you to telecommute if at all possible. Saving this, you're going to be out of work for the duration of the order. Criminal penalties will pertain; Class C misdemeanor at the very least.

Today, the drive home was down 122nd Avenue, my own street. I don't know what I should expect to expect; the melodramatic in me keeps being surprised I'm not driving down wide open, roaringly quiescent streets out of a cross between Twin Peaks and The Omega Man. But this was NE 122nd Avenue at Stark, facing south, at about 7:20 AM, today:

Yesterday, I posted a picture of NE 82nd Avenue devoid of all but the most minimal traffice, but being it was Sunday morning it was a hard thing to argue that it was especial. This, however? This is about 7:30 on a Monday morning, and I can tell you from deep experience that this is, while not a desert, markedly, remarkably quiet. The landmark Tonkin sign holding court with very few in attendance.

Nearer my house, on SE 117th and Market, there is the Gethsemane Lutheran Church, which is a modern design structure that looks for all the world like a pyramid from the corner. I've written of it before. Today on the sign, which has supported a number of messages over the years, this:

This is the sort of message that, a year after the apocalypse, stands in disarray as I drive past in Olivia, using judiciously what gas I can find, and a stray air current I caused makes the N in UNTIL, up to that point ajar, finally give way and fall to the plinth below, shattering with a gentle, brittle tinkling of whatever material it's made of.

And so it goes.

22 March 2020

Plague Year Diary 2: NE 82nd Avenue and The Gateway WinCo

Out and about this chilly morning in Portland, but not going directly home. We have a little adventure in mind.

Specifically, to put fuel into Olivia the VW and to the Gateway WinCo store, to acquire but a single package of backup toilet paper. Which sounds kind of wrong in absolute terms, but that's what it is.

Just one package.

From my workplace I use an alternative way. NE Sandy Blvd to 82nd, then south on 82nd to Burnside. There's a Chevron there and we've been stopping regularly there for over 15 years now. It's got the best prices along that stretch of 82nd and the lowest prices near Chez ZehnKatzen. We've made several neat acquaintances amongst the staff there over the years. Good people.

Again, I note the perspective problem about working third-shifts and weekends: during times when the landscape's supposed to be unnaturally vacant, it's awful hard to discern any real difference. People, even in a big town like Portland, aren't really out during those hours. And while East 82nd Avenue is one of of the principle cross-town routes on the east side of Portland, even it has its lull during the flip-side hours.

I do fancy, though, I discern a difference. Herewith, a view south down NE 82nd at the crest of the hill alongside Madison High School:

I remember some quiet mornings on 82nd, but this is a bit unusual. That overpass is only a s'kosh less a mile away, it's the one that carries Halsey Street over 82nd and just north of the MAX station there. That's a lot of street, even at 7:15ish on a Sunday morning, not to have one thing moving, no activity of any kind.

I was able to take this from behind Olivia's wheel, stopping the car, without needing to worry about someone coming up on me from behind. That's how little traffic.

The lack of traffic was even more noticeable here, at NE 82nd and Holladay:

The nearest signal there is Glisan. Next in the distance is Burnside; after that, Stark/Washington. This is about three-quarters of a mile; only one car in all that space.

The filling of the Beetle was pleasant enough. The thing you have to be ready for about having a vintage VW Beetle is that people will chat you up about it; Beetles are friendly cars, and people are very affectionate toward them. There was a 20ish fellow helping about at the pumps there, and he couldn't stop admiring it. I like having a car that leaves people smiling.

That was the easy part. I was ready-steeling myself for the next stop: the WinCo on NE 102nd Ave, in downtown Gateway. I had seen the lines on TV and, because of the emergency, the hours are now 8 AM-Midnight.

24 Hour Savings have been reduced to 16 Hour Savings for the duration, and when I got there, there was indeed a line:

I made haste to the end of this line, which added a few more shoppers before I joined. Attired as I was in my regular street clothes, including tattered suit jacket and Birthday Hat, it was a little uncomfortable - it was in the thirties still, but I managed to hack out the 30-minute wait to get in the store.

I don't know if it's part of the stress on the general zeitgeist but something had gotten under the hood of this one man. He was about six-three, black man, dark pants, peacoat, who wandered up and down the traffic lane there alongside the store, and alternated between being upset and doing a peculiar little dance and chant.

When I'd gotten there he seemed to be mad at the building and kept berating it for "sucking the dick of EMPIRE!". He transitioned from this to doing a little bouncing dance on the balls of his feet and spreading his arms out in a symmetrical robot-like wave, and his chant went into a repetition which went something like

Work it!
Work that BODY!
Work it OUT!
Or figure it OUT!

He then made some sort of reference to working it out like Batman, then folding in a reference to Superman, then going back to accusing the building to sucking the dick of empire again. We in the line collectively warily watched him and we all kept our 6 feet of personal space, and there seemed also to be this unspoken understanding that as long as he kept in the traffic lane and his distance thereon we were all the coolest of cool, and he could do his bit and we could enjoy the entertainment, such as it was.

I was, it will be doubtless a relief to all, able to score some toilet tissue. The offerings were restocked, but not with much. I was hoping for our usual brand but there was only MD and Angel Soft and the cushy stuff to be had, and the pickings were still quite slim; only a fraction of the paper aisle had been restocked. Between the lean toilet roll offerings and the equally-lean paper towel offerings there was still a great deal of clear shelf space. We can only be so choosy these days and, alas, this household will have to get off Scott-free for just a little while.

Also a 40-lb bag of cat litter; the Itty Bitty Kitty Committee needs its toilet needs seen to, too.

Thence to home.

And so it goes.

21 March 2020

Plague Year Diary 1: Interstate 205

The news has indeed come to a pretty pass, hasn't it?

As of this writing, the economy has all but wholly deactivated. Locally, it was like a clacking fall of clunking dominoes. I remember it really begun to happen for me a week and a half ago.

Me and The Brown Eyed Girl were in the Gresham branch of the mighty Multnomah County Library, enjoying what would become, though we didn't know it then, the last visit to our power source for the foreseeable future. I was plugged in to the net, as 'ere I am any more, and I learnt that the NBA was suspending the season.

Dominoes,  I thought. I know I can't be the only one. I couldn't have been that deep an insight. But the business juggernaut that is major league sports in America doesn't just fool around and ghost on you. The only thing that I don't think neither I nor many foresaw was how deep things would go. Between now and then, in rough approximate order, large gatherings about the state of Oregon were declared verboten; first 250, then 25. Then the governor had clubs and bars and restaurants closed (takeout being gratefully available). Then the Library closed (until further notice). Then Powell's.

This takes us up to last Tuesday. The weekend, which for me runs Tuesday-Wednesday these days, was long and languid and didn't involve going out anywhere (where was there? Our two main jams had been silenced), except the grocery store, where we got what we needed but saw the cleared shelves of pasta, the legendarily denuded shelves that stocked toilet tissue, the bins in the WinCo bulk aisles devoid of even the merest speck of flour and not one solitary dry bean.

We rewarded our fortitude by feasting on Chinese from Rainbow Dragon at 130th and Stark, for three reasons: one, it helps keep a beloved place in business during this bizarre time; two, it sticks a finger in the eye of people who apparently, we've heard, think that coronavirus is transmitted by Chinese peoplle; and, three, in my world you don't actually need reasons to eat Chinese food.

As of today we stand on the brink of a statewide order to stay the fuck home unless you have a good reason to be out in the open. Me, at this point, still have a job to go to. At this point, we'll leave it at this: I work in the transportation industry, and right now that's all you're getting out of me. My company has seen layoffs and we are operating at an absolute minimum of staff; it's also helps to be at the head of the seniority list in a union shop. But I, unlike many, still have a job to go to ... at least for now.

Which kind of brings me to the pictures I'm illustrating with. I work near the Portland International Airport. One of my favored commute routes, for many years, ecompasses I-205 from Exit 23B - Killingsworth Street - to Exit 21 - Glisan Street. The slick new electronic signs which are meant to give you estimated transit times to important junctions ahead no longer have their colorful displays. Up the hill and around the east side of the hill we call Rocky Butte, the signs read as pictured:


The other direction has a simpler message:

This is meant to encourage not only safe driving (always commendable) but also to instill, if even a minor way, the new gospel of social distancing which is meant to keep us all far enough apart so as not to give each other the gift of novel coronavirus. 

It does not appear to be wholly effective as there is talk of Oregonizing the so-called 'shelter in place' strategy. How that will be implemented remains to be seen, but they say we should know something by Monday.

The freeway seems empty but that's not wholly unexpected for Saturday. The only difficulty with working 3rd shift and weekends is that it kind of always looks like this.

But the tension in the air? You can almost see it, these days.

So it goes.

17 March 2020

Storm Clouds over Foster Road, December 2019.

Looking through my personal photo stock for picture approximating the mood. This was taken outside Speedboat Coffee on SE Foster Road, looking west. The looming upper cloud boundary and the way the dark velvet sky gradated into the light twilight blue made the whole scene click together in a memorable way.

16 March 2020

Wy'east March Cloudcap

From snow a day ago to balmy weather now. The end of the world's at least got sunny weather and good views?

Today, Wy'east put on his cap.

Another Olivia-enabled picture. The field in foreground, as usual, thoughtfully provided by Rossi Farms. Long may they grow.

15 March 2020

Wy'east Sunrise, On Foot

A few weeks back, I was still Olivia-less, and was legging it one morning to the Parkrose-Sumner Transit Center, and stopped on the grassy slope overlooking Killingsworth St and saw this.

The reason I snapped it should be self-evident.

Delicious sunrise colors, yes?

Parkrose Sunrise

Here's the sunrise that presented itself to me this morning. The view here is down NE Sandy Blvd from about NE 115th.

Most notable is the big macho bank of clouds behind Larch Mountain there, forcing the rays up and making them illuminate the clouds above them.

This is a view from Killingsworth just west of I-205; the blocky industrial forms there on the left is the Owens-Illinois glass plant. Delicious warm reds and oranges belie the fact it was quite cold this morning, the day after the snow storm.

March, 2020 and Snow in Portland

You just can't scrute the Gods of Cascadian weather these days.

Going into the weekend we heard of a chance (as uttered by our properly-reticent Portland weather people, who know when not to take a chance on such things) of snow. Global warming notwithstanding, it does rarely happen in Oregon and the Northwest; I even remember a freak April snow when I was but a neat thing in Silverton.

But that was then and this is now, and we all figured that a chance, around here, was as good as nothing. And then, on Saturday morning, this:

Say hello to Olivia, who's back in service, gadding me about as I need. Yes, it feels as good as I figured it would.

Here's NE 122nd near Sacramento:

... and here's Gethsemane Lutheran Church, near the Chez, corner 117th and SE Market. Mod design on it. Looks like a pyramid from this angle, which is a strange Christian aesthetic, but there's no accounting for interpretive style.

This makes for a true change in regime, climate-wise. Because when I was a kid, snow happened in the mountains and everywhere else but the Willamette Valley. Winters were gray. But now, just about every winter for the last several, there's been a chance of snow that's manifested itself in a storm (sometimes, remarkably so).