Monday, April 19, 2010

Up on the Roof: The Passing of an Era

When this old world starts getting me down,
And people are just too much for me to face—

I climb way up to the top of the stairs

And all my cares just drift right into space ...The Drifters
, 1963

Our house was built in 1938, a quarter-century before the Drifters sang the song that people my age crooned to themselves when they were feeling low and didn't want to. Not so long ago by some measures. 11 years before I was born. Built in the End-of-the-Depression, Pre-War optimism, as Stumptown became Portland. Today, the cedar shakes of 1938 and the asphalt shingles of who-knows-when were ripped off and hauled away. A new roof takes their place. At the turn of the next Century, some other couple will watch the work of of the early 21st Century be replaced by whatever the 22nd Century brings to 22nd Avenue.

Photos by Nancy Flynn

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Waddling to the Grocery: Spring in Northeast Portland

Spring in Portland is truly a beautiful time of the year and yesterday was a nice spring day. The sun was out, then some clouds blew in, then the sun, then some more clouds and an April shower, then it warmed up and I decided to waddle on over to the grocery to pick up supplies for dinner. The pink dogwoods on our street are at their prime.

And speaking of pink, check out this stretch Hummer that disgorged a gaggle of people at Peninsula Park just as I waddled by. Go here and scroll down half a page to get the details! A wedding party was arriving to have pictures taken. If they'd waited a couple weeks the roses would have been blooming, but I'm sure the photographers these days can throw a few thousand blooms into the background with Photoshop...

It seems to me that the economy around Portland may be picking up a bit. I waddled by a bunch of construction, remodels, landscaping, and various other projects that seem to indicate that money is flowing again. I know we're helping out. New roof starts this coming week.
I waddled past this building that had recently been painted. Now, I've been known to paint around things, but this painter sprayed right over the ivy on the side of the garage. I suspect it will leave a nice pattern after the ivy dies...

To make a decent 4 mile + waddle, I headed to the Arbor Lodge New Seasons instead of our local one. I suppose I could have stretched out the route ahead of the store visit which would have saved carrying food on half the waddle, but I didn't. Next time I will. Waddling to Arbor Lodge requires crossing I-5, and bridges creep me out these days, particularly if they don't have any structure above my head. Vertigo! I don't like to be at the top of cliffs or mountains, but it's only in the past few years that bridges have bothered me. Molly must share that as I remember when she was a little girl she was scared out of her wits on the top of Whiteface Mountain.

Over by New Seasons, I spied this sign. In my opinion, this sign should be posted all over Portland. We have a very active biking community in Portland. For the most part, bikers consider themselves saviors of the earth. They have a great deal of disdain for car-drivers, and little regard for walkers. Bikers become incensed if, for some reason, you don't see them while driving and cut them off. However, do they stop for pedestrians as they are supposed to? 99.9% DO NOT. Sanctimonious cyclers...blergh! They are perfectly happy to run over walkers or zoom around you. Or ride on the sidewalk and fly past without so much as an "On your left..." My prediction? Pedestrian Rage directed at bikers!

Stumptown, like many other cities, is now taking storm water runoff seriously, particularly since the EPA started doing their job, fining the bejesus out of recalcitrant municipalities. These days, when impervious surfaces like parking lots are constructed, so are bioswales. Parking lots slope to these small areas that are filled with native plants. Rather than directing the water (and the stuff from the parking lot that's in it, like oil, coolant, spit, and so on) to storm sewers, and then into rivers, the water percolates into the soil and is used by plants. Yay bioswales!

Children were out all over Rip City (that's another moniker for Stumptown) playing in the outdoors! Yes, playing outside. Unplugged. I saw swinging on swings, hopscotching, rope jumping, tag playing, and bike riding. I saw one young girl steer her bike into an alley and stop as her older brother, making an old-time siren noise pulled up behind her, got off his bike, walked up to her and said, "License, please." She dug into her pocket and produced an imaginary card as he wrote an equally imaginary ticket.

Lots of other things were in bloom. I waddled past tulips, daffodils, azaleas, early rhododendrons, dogwoods, cherry trees, and all manner of other flowers. Grass is stunningly green and will stay so until irrigation season starts and some of us accept the brown that comes with living in the land of seasonal drought. But speaking of season(ing), the rosemary is in bloom all over town.

So, I waddled on home. I did my good deeds for the day. I picked up a nail off the pavement in the middle of 21st Street, saving someone from a flat tire. I helped out neighbor jump-start his 1972 Lincoln. That required pushing that hunk of Detroit Iron, no small feat! Then I pushed my Cleveland Flab around 4.1 miles.

Easter Sunday on Whidbey Island

Easter weekend found us visiting our great friends, Leslie and Duri, on Whidbey Island. They moved to the "rain shadow" a couple of years ago from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and Greenville, South Carolina. As far as I can tell, they love it and are still recovering from years of suppressive heat. The weather over the weekend started with a dramatic touch--wind, rain, rain, wind, wind, canceled ferry, rain, wind, and some wind-blown rain. But the weather cleared and the Olympics put on a show.

They have a great place on a number of acres, not far from Coupeville. It's in the woods and the birds were showing the bees what life is all about. Spring was in the air, if you get my drift. The place was buzzing with hummingbirds and humming with bees.

Easter Sunday dawned clear and beautiful, although still a bit windy and not hot. But, what better to do on a cool, beautiful Easter Sunday than go for a walk on the beach? Beaches up there have lots of rocks, which set a certain member of our group to collecting, and collecting to the point that we could have used some helper springs in the rear end of the car.

There's not a lot of public beach up there, so we headed for a few parks. I liked this scene--sort of like walking towards the beginning of civilization, or at least occupancy...

People on Whidbey seem to be into building little forts or huts on the beach using driftwood along with flotsam and jetsam that washes up. There were some pretty cool huts, bordering on art installations, I thought.

Whidbey also has, in my opinion, a lot of washed-up trees with root wads attached. Some are pretty new, while it's clear that some have been there for a long time. I guess they are a result of some very active erosion that is trying to move one side of the island to the other. The side on the Strait of Ιωάννης Φωκάς (that was translated to Juan de Fuca, who was actually a Greek navigator working for the Spanish, but the Strait was named by some British fur trader a couple centuries later. Go figure.) seems windier and less protected, so the soil, preferring to be lapped at gently instead of being pummeled by waves, is trying to get alee, as Rex Parker would say. Duri says Fuca means "blows." I might believe him, but then how would a Slovak know what the Spanish translation of Greek means in English? Anyway, we found this root wad which worked as a fine picture frame!

We headed back to the hacienda (or αγρόκτημα, keeping with the whole Spanish and Greek thing) for a traditional Veľkonočné večera, or Slovakian Easter dinner of ham, beets and horseradish, a custard-sort-of-cheese, and hard-boiled eggs. Duri had to call his mom back in the old country to get the recipe for the custard-sort-of-cheese. The call was worth it. Leslie cooked up some asparagus which Duri allowed on the table, but not without a certain disdain. "Slovaks run from anything green," was his pronouncement.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Friday Morning and Afternoon in Port Townsend: The Little Ferry That Couldn't or Didn't Want To

Dolly-girl and me decided to give Stumptown the pass for the weekend and headed north to see a coupla pals-o-ours who used to live in South Carolina and Florida and now are settled in on the south end of an island up north. We tossed our valises in a rented roadster and headed out. I've been out of town talking to people who needed talking with about some cases I've been working, so I decided a night on another town with Dolly-girl on my arm would do the trick. Port Townsend, here we come.

We checked into the Palace Hotel which turns out to be one of those new-fangled old places. In this particular case, the Palace turns out to have been a place where a passing sailor may have gone to make a port call, follow? Me and Dolly-girl checked into the corner room on the second floor and you could tell it wasn't just any corner room. "Well, shiver my timber, I think we'er in the Madam's quarters." That got me a shot through the wave and a "Don't get any ideas, Jack!" I didn't.

The weather was windy and wild, but we got to looking around the next day. Port Townsend seems like a place that might have been a place where trouble found a home in the summertime. Dolly-girl read in a broadsheet that there were 2 shopping districts so that the Ladies of the Day didn't have to rub elbows with the Ladies of the Night, if you get my drift. Down near the Palace, there's still painting on buildings telling you what might have been.

Turns out there's a fort nearby. Seems like it's raison d'etre was keeping an eye on the Straits of Juan de Fuca which is Portuguese for the "Straits of Juan de Fuca." I guess they closed the fort down after they'd spent about 100 years looking for people invading through the straits and never saw any. But, the fort had a museum and the museum had some pretty cool stuff about back around the time I was riding in a baby buggy.

They had an exhibit about Civil Defense back in the days when tempers were hot but the war was cold. I remember seeing boxes of Survival Crackers stacked up in my school. I always wondered if there was anything in those boxes, and sure enough, there was. Of course, looking at it made me wonder what there would have been to survive for. I'm thinking there wasn't no smoked salmon in those packs. Dolly-girl found a role model--the person who would have passed out the crackers.

There were Geiger Counters too. You could use them to tell when it was safe to come out of the Fallout Shelter to what wasn't left on the face of the earth after the big ones went off. Looking back 50 years it seems like sort of flawed thinking, if you ask me.

We'd booked a ride on the 2:15 ferry over to the island. When we showed up, the chiquita selling tickets told us to "Keep your receipt in case the ferry don't go," and pointed to the sign. It was blowing up a storm, and sure enough, come time to get on board, they gave us the heave-ho and directions on how to get to the place where we could catch another ferry to another ferry to the island we were going to. We did that and finally ended up driving past "The Little Ferry That Couldn't" on our way to our island get-away.

But all's well that ends well as somebody told me once. We got there, safe and sound, and set our brake at as pretty a spot on an island in a sound that you could find.