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Portlandia 1 - The Waterfront

One of my most-used tags is "Portland Is Pretty Awesome" because I am constantly writing about this hometown of mine--but usually only as the context of my life. [personal profile] ravurian, in response to the question-a-day meme that's going around, yesterday wrote about his five favorite places in the London area, and it inspired me to take a similar look at Stumptown.

Portland is--well, it's an odd place. And it has gotten stranger and more wonderful in recent years. It would take a discourse on urban planning, transportation policy, history, and climate to explain it, but

I can't help thinking that a Goldilocks combination is the only way to explain Portland's boom. The weather is milder than Minneapolis, the geography is flatter than Seattle, the city is smaller in population and land-area than many other top cycling cities, it's been a fairly cheap place to live, a fairly safe place to ride, a progressive green bubble...one thing builds on another. It's Just Right.

(--a comment I left on BikePortland in response to an article last summer pondering the causes of Portland's biking boom.)

So, over the next few days I'll review (and hopefully photograph) five places I love around here, in no particular order.



The Eastbank Esplanade runs along the east side of the Willamette River downtown, and Waterfront Park runs along the west. They're connected by the Steel Bridge at the north end and the Hawthorne at the South, and that rectangle defines a wonderful and popular three-mile walk or ride, almost entirely car-free, along which lie:
  • The very best views of downtown, from across the water
    Fog Lifting over downtown Portland as viewed from across the river</a>

  • A floating walkway that rises and falls seasonally with the river and bobs up and down (delightfully or nauseatingly, depending on your stomach) when a large boat wake hits it
    a red bicycle on the Eastbank floating walkway on a rainy day in Portland

    Father & Son Bikes

  • My favorite bridge, the Steel. It's the world's only vertical lift bridge whose two decks lift separately--and it's also one of the most multi-modal bridges in the world (the lower span is for the railroad and has its own pedestrian and bike lane, and the upper span carries car, bus, and light rail traffic)
    Steel Bridge Portland Oregon
    96. Tackle

  • This charming statue of Vera Katz, the three-term mayor who oversaw the construction of the Esplanade:
    Bronze Vera and Helen at 4:00 a.m.

  • On really nice days, views like this:
    Mt Hood from Waterfront Park

  • These trees in April:
    Pink cherry blossoms in Waterfront Park
    (under these trees is also the Japanese-American Historical Plaza, which I've never photographed because it makes me cry, every time, but here is a professional photo of my favorite haiku in the garden.)

  • Also, barge traffic and serial bridge-lifts (two vertical and two drawbridge), the bikiest bridge in the US, Saturday Market if you like that sort of thing, and, if it's not pouring rain, you can get a contact high from the marijuana smoke in Waterfront Park, and there's the White Stag sign and most of Portland's oldest buildings, and

    ...seriously, it's a really nice walk.



    Next time: Klickitat Street, I think.

    Crossposted from Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments.

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
cattraine
Jan. 6th, 2014 05:06 pm (UTC)
I have only been to Portland a few times, but I love Powell's and the Hawthorne neighborhood.
emeraldsedai
Jan. 6th, 2014 10:45 pm (UTC)
Powell's is one of those instances where "what visitors must see" and "what makes actually living here good" converge.

The Hawthorne district--where I lived for several years--has given way to newer "cool old" neighborhoods, a pattern which, as I understand it, is happening in all major cities. Hawthorne, like NW 23rd before it, became the victim of its own success, and got too expensive for the young creative crowd. So they shifted to unsavory and cheap neighborhoods in formerly-untouchable parts of town.

Now those parts of town are seeing infill condos, upscale shops, and rising house prices on the adjoining streets. There's a sweet spot in the process, where the smell of a neighborhood like that is just tipping from pot-smoke to pancakes, and it's that's when you can tell what's really happening in the culture and the economy--what's next, what's new, what the under-30 crowd is thinking and feeling.
decemberleaf
Jan. 7th, 2014 11:48 am (UTC)
Especially noted: that excellent statue of Vera Katz!

ALL the pictures, actually.
emeraldsedai
Jan. 8th, 2014 12:24 am (UTC)
:D

That statue is so life-sized and so life-like that it always surprises me. Especially on a bike, going by at a fair clip, Vera catches the corner of my eye as a real person sitting there, and I do a double-take every time.
layne67
Jan. 8th, 2014 08:44 am (UTC)
That floating walkway ( and everything else ) is awesome!

There used to be this show called Portlandia on TV which I thought was delightful. Was that Portlandia your Portland?
emeraldsedai
Jan. 8th, 2014 08:49 am (UTC)
The very same. Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein (the producer/writer/stars) are from here and they found a great over-the-top parody style that's oddly close to reality.

As far as I know, it's still on. Very short seasons of six episodes. Returning for Season 4 in February.
layne67
Jan. 8th, 2014 09:09 am (UTC)
I'm glad to hear that the show is still on!
helenajust
Jan. 8th, 2014 07:01 pm (UTC)
Rather an unoriginal comment, but Portland does sound a nice place to live! I prefer not to live in a city, but if one has to do so, it looks pretty good.
emeraldsedai
Jan. 8th, 2014 08:43 pm (UTC)
I think one of the most important differences among people is the preference for living environment: urban, suburban, or rural. I suspect that there's a genetic component--that we evolved variously as needing space or needing dense community, and that each stream serves a purpose in species survival.

I can only say that I've always been urban by preference, that it never entered my mind to live anywhere but as close to the heart of a city as I could afford, and that almost all of my major life choices, such as housing, family status, transportation options, and career, have been more or less directly bound up in my strong preference for an urban life.

Do you feel that your strong preference for a non-city life has had a similar power over your other life choices?
helenajust
Jan. 8th, 2014 10:21 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I had a consistent preference, as you did. I didn't feel strongly that I had to be either urban or rural. For a while I was quite happy living in a city. But I've always needed my own space and quiet time, so I suppose that's an indicator. I am quite sociable, and enjoy being with people, but not constantly, and on my own terms. I love reading and literature, and I'm fascinated by archaeology and history, so it's not that I want the world to be empty. But I don't like other people's noise.

Now I think of it, however, I realise that my idea of beauty has always been the natural world - mountains, sea, trees, the stars, birds, etc. - and if I see beauty in an urban environment it's usually nature fighting back! So for me, living in the country is ideal. I want creature comforts, the benefits of civilisation, but I need to be able to stretch my eyes, see a long way to hills, the river, etc., and hear birdsong rather than traffic. England is so small that I can do that but still be 10 minutes drive from a doctor, etc..

Looking back, I lived so much in the books I was reading that I tended to be in more than one world at a time anyway. I was very happy with lots of interaction at university and then at work, and loved going to the theatre and dinner parties. But I felt I needed to recharge my batteries by getting to the country at the weekend, and eventually I became more and more reluctant to return to the city. The turning point came when I did a particular project which took me away from the city for almost as year to a much smaller place with beautiful country nearby. When that project ended and I went back, I realised that I really didn't want to.

So the need to be living full-time on the country (as opposed to just at weekends) grew on me gradually. I realise now that I never really felt at home in the city.

There were other factors, of course, but I do feel that I am now where I should be!
emeraldsedai
Jan. 8th, 2014 10:54 pm (UTC)
After I posted my comment I got to thinking about the relationship between introversion and the urban/rural preference, and have tentatively concluded that there's no correlation. :D

It's hard to imagine anyone finding wild nature other than beautiful. Now you've got me thinking about why I don't feel the lack of it in my urban environment--and remember, I don't own a car and there's really no other way to get to nature in the United States. I think it must be because Portland is pretty green (in both senses) and I'm outdoors a lot, and (very importantly) never stuck in traffic.

Now, if they could just solve the light pollution problem so I could see the stars at night...that, I'm aware of a longing for.

helenajust
Jan. 8th, 2014 11:11 pm (UTC)
I seem to remember there being a lot of trees in your neighbourhood, and thinking that the view from your porch was very pleasant. Portland does seem to have the best of both worlds, in many ways. I think English cities tend to be much denser, too, because the country is so small. There's room for you to spread out in a way we can't.

Stars are important. And the moon! But it's increasingly difficult to see them in England, too, even in relatively small places, because of the light pollution.
emeraldsedai
Jan. 8th, 2014 11:30 pm (UTC)
One thing I think our two localities have in common: the cloud cover is often a bigger problem for stargazing than the light pollution.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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