22 June 2024

I Can Feel The Heat, Like A Spanish Dancer ...

4155Well, not a Spanish dancer, strictly speaking. And not just one.

One of the delights of the Multnomah County Fair a few weeks back was the stage; there was something going on there nearly all of the time and all you had to do was wander on by and take a few minutes and take it all in.

These dancers were full of furious energy, and it was colorful and beautiful.

I've got a few more of the '24 Multnomah County Fair to share. They'll make appearances.

20 June 2024

The Lower Level of Oregon City

4154This is a view of the first city of Oregon, Oregon City, from the balcony of the city elevator. The date is March, 2014.

Oregon City began as a town on a fairly narrow shelf between the Willamette River, just downstream from the great falls, and a cliff. It's a unique geography that constrains the feeling one gets in town, and how that town grew, and provided for one of the more unusual municipal structures in America.

 The unusual municipal structure is that Oregon City Elevator. It's free, it's a dedicated public street, it's a gorgeous design (sort of Art Deco mininalist), and its fun to ride and decorated with much history.

And it gives you a view most people go to the trouble to used a drone for.

For all its history and longevity, Oregon City is a modest place. It's got a population of about 37,000 as of 2020, a modest footprint of about 11 square miles, and a small town feel that's terribly convenient to the big town. And the feeling one gets walking in downtown OC is a cozy, charming feeling.

In the distance, over the Willamette River, one can see the Abernathy Bridge, where I-205 crosses the river. This view looks generally north.

19 June 2024

Remembering the Santiam Wildfire By Watching Mt Hood Go Away

4153Another picture that grabbed my attention as I strolled through my photo archives.

Dateline? Early September, 2020. The Beachie Creek Fire, and others up the North Santiam Canyon had combined into the Santiam wildfire which would dominate local events for about two months. The fire wasn't considered contained until the beginning of December 2020.

The mantle of smoke spread up north from the mid-Willamette and eventually covered the Portland Metro area. We were headed up to Vancouver to do a thing, and the smoke was intruding into the area at that time. I got many pictures of the sky.

But it's this one, with Wy'east over the Columbia River, shot from the Glenn Jackson Bridge, that stays with me.

It was the last clear air day before what was to be weeks of air the quality of which I had not seen in my lifetime and so far - the fates willing - I don't see again.

We can't be sure about that, though, the way things are going.

The Mural at the Back of the Elsinore

4152I was taking a stroll through my photo archives (have I really been taking amateur pictures for that long?) and I found this photo I took in Salem back in 2017 while me and spouse were on a visit there:

This is the back (east) side of the building containing Salem's Elsinore Theater. The view is from the corner of Church and Ferry Streets SE, on the edge of downtown Salem; to get this viewpoint, go west of Bellevue St SE from 12th St SE, then follow the curves through Pringle Parkway until you get to the light at Church Street. Look to the right. The facade of the Elisnore faces High St SE, one block west of here.

If you've ever seen the front of the Elsinore or been inside you know why it's Salem's palace of fine arts and live performance. Back in the day, though, it was a movie house, and kind of worked as a pair with its counterpart on State Street, around the corner, the Capitol Theater.

The Capitol Theater closed decades back and was eventually razed.

The Elsinore, however was where I saw Star Wars back in '77, Star Trek: The Motion Picture in '78, and a number of popular and Disney films during my teen years. As it moved into the 80s it got reinvented as a live performance space and stands as the grand dame of the Salem arts scene. But even before this, this mural happened.

The icons are from the golden age of motion pictures. And it went up sometime in the late 70s; I remember viewing it quite often, as I lived in east Salem and used Cherriots to bus to school at Sprague (Salem Public Schools let you attend the high school of your preference at the time, and I grew to know the State and Fairview and South Commercial routes like they were a personal vehicle) and when I was inbound on the State and Fairview route, it usually went through the Ferry and Church intersection.

So this mural has been up for more than 50 years, and it still looks lovingly tended to, which is one of the neatest things I can think of right now.

Up, Up, and Away

4151This is the plane in the previous photo, just lifting off from runway 10L-28R, headed, for the moment, into the west, bound for parts known only to the pilot, the crew, the passengers, the tower, and airport administration ... but not us. We're just spectators.

On a whim, I drew a box around the plane in GIMP and saturated all the color, bringing a little bit of artistic interpretation into the photo. 

Flying aircraft seem to be in their own bubble.

PDX: British Airways At Take Off

4150The plane taxiing in front of the PDX control tower/parking garage/terminal is a British Airways jet, which was a pleasant surprise - we didn't know BA had flights into PDX.

The life of an international airport, at a glance, in a frame.

The Patron Saint of PDX?

4149Recently my spouse and me were driving along Marine Drive alongside PDX, like we do, and we pulled aside to watch a jet taxi and take off, which we don't get to do a lot, and I noticed that someone had committed a devotion of an indeterminate sort on the fence post at one of the gates.

It left me bemused. But what confused me the most? Was it that someone did this at all, in a place you weren't likely to stop and see, or that she vaguely resembles Demi Moore?

The world will never know.

17 June 2024

Tsuru Island - Gresham's Japanese Garden, Part 3

4148Last missive, I posted a look out the portal window of the gazebo in the middle of Tsuru Island. This is what it looks like if you step out and take it all in:

I do really feel peace as I look at this. Japanese culture has a reputation for encouraging nourishing introspection and reflection. Its art and mingling with nature do that for me unlike few other things do.

One of the centerpiece features of the garden is a dry streambed that runs through the thing entire.

It makes me think of rivers and river valleys and the journey rivers take and valleys and the reality that I live in one of the world's perfect valleys and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

16 June 2024

Tsuru Island - Gresham's Japanese Garden, Part 2

4147Another stop by Tsuru Island. A couple of little cozy bits.

Reviewing these pictures brings a sort of peace, and tells me one thing about Tsuru Island ... it's not about how big it is, but how sincere. As Japanese gardens go, it's modest, but it's meaningful. Remembering it is a nourishing thing to do.

To view things in a Western way, as I'm prone to do, it punches above its weight.

There's a gazebo at the center, and in a future entry I'll share a picture of the whole, but for the moment, this part means a great deal to me emotionally:


And here's something that's just ineffably charming. It stands and speaks for itself. It's adjacent to the gazebo.

One Less Sign of the Time at Polar King

4146The Polar King is dead; long live the Polar King. Well, maybe that's a little melodramatic. 

There is a magnificent diner at the corner of Cleveland and Powell, just east of downtown Gresham, called Polar King. It was founded in 1952 and still slings classic diner faves including scrumptious burgers and sandwiches, big breakfasts, and divine lunches and dinners. For that entire time, the 'King has been remarkable for its retro archiecture and signage which has little changed since the time of its founding.


It scans most handsomely in the the night.

That standup which contains a mascot went up at the same time as the rest of the building, and it's remarkable. The mascot wears a crown, sports a red apron, and maintains a tall soft-serve treat in its paw. It's blue, and might be a bear, but it could also be a large mouse, is made of painted plywood, and has held court over the corner of E Powell Blvd and SE Cleveland Ave for the past 70 years.

As of this month, though, it's been retired. As reported by KOIN, the figure has been donated to the Gresham Historical society who is now studying how to best preserve and display the mascot, which has seen significant deterioration during its time in the crows' nest. 

That splendid lighting and signage will remain, of course, so the charm isn't gone, and the food is still excellent. 

As for the rest, sic transit gloria mundi, I guess. 

So it goes.

02 June 2024

Tsuru Island-Gresham's Japanese Garden, Part One

4145I was about two months ago years old when I found out about Gresham's Japanese Garden. The fact that it exists at all is because of a strong volunteer base and a lot of local affection.

It's a delightful thing we're going through in this household; we are discovering Gresham, parts of which are closer to us than parts of Portland we've frequented over the course of decades, and from our point of view, it's gone through a lot of changes - from the bland, banal edge-city that we used to dismiss it as, to a warm and charming place full of unexpected depths and surprises. 

Tsuru Island is one of those unexpected surprises, at least to us. It's located in a corner of Main City Park, which is directly across the street from downtown Gresham, occupying about twenty-two acres in the southwest quarter of the intersection of Powell Boulevard and Main Avenue (it's not Main Street because it runs north-south and streets in the Gresham grid follow the N-S Avenue classification that the greater Portland area employs). To get there, one just goes south into the park; it's on the left just before the bridge over Johnson Creek.

The access to Gresham's Japanese Garden - Tsuru Island - from Main City Park

The access is a bridge from the south end of the main parks' parking area. Tsuru Island is an island because early in the 20th Century, Johnson Creek, which runs along the south part of Main City Park, was altered by having a meander straightened. The result was a semi-circular swale on the north side of Johnson Creek, which isn't submerged in water all of the time, but creates a small knoll of land which may as well be an island. 

And, coincidentally, a lovely little bit of land that is isolatable in the way that provides a feeling of seclusion in the middle of the fourth-largest city in Oregon.

The swale separating Tsuru Island from the rest of Man City Park. In the middle distance, Johnson Creek passes under a bridge providing access to the southern part of Main City Park.

Once over that magnificently-charming bridge, one finds themselves in a place replete with deft landscaping, charming flora, and in general a place that does encourages a contemplative, or at least quieter, frame of mind.

And this is why, personally, I love Japanese gardens.

The pond with Japanese red maple overlooking it is one of the first things one sees as one crosses over to the island

Immediately after crossing onto the island one comes upon a small, shallow pond surmounted by a Japanese red maple. According to the lore of the history of this place, that maple came from the property of a local who came to the conclusion that the maple had grown too large for the place that contain it so it was donated. What I learned about the history of this garden speaks of a proud history of volunteerism and donation and care from people who care about heritage and the history of Japanese people in east Multnomah County.

The history is recounted in thumbnail on the Garden's official page thusly:

In the early 1970’s, a group of local farmers and members of the Japanese-American Citizens League (JACL) Gresham-Troutdale chapter created a Japanese garden with peace, tranquility, and longevity as its theme. They named it Tsuru Island. Tsuru (Su Do) means “crane” in Japanese.

Despite such inspired beginning, though, after that initial period of birth and growth, the Island went though a period of neglect, until about 2010, when Tomiko Takeuchi - who was, at the time, a board member with the Gresham Sister City Association - and Jim Card, a local landscaper, decided to step in and organize a comeback. The results speak for themselves, with an active volunteer history over the past decade-plus, including expansion to a nearby plaza where interested people can purchase an inscribed paving brick, and a building that's now an event center.

On this small Island, there are curving paths you can get lost in the foliage on ...

... and what Japanese garden would be complete without a Zen garden? Tsuru Island has one.

This is merely the first go at showing of pictures from our visit. I have more pictures, and there'll be more visits, because one of the charms of Japanese gardens is that they really change, if only in subtle ways, from season to season.

The fact that it's so accessible and free of charge to enter are just bonuses really.