Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The devil over my shoulder wishes we had never moved to Portland

One of the positive side effects of Portlanders' Funhouse MirrorTM perception of their city is the phenomenon that, no matter how awesome the quality of life here may be, Portlanders will find a cause to band together around, to MAKE IT EVEN AWESOMER.  Today was an idyllic day: a cool 72 degrees, a slight breeze, sunshine, and the ten-day forecast holding out the promise of cool days all the way to September.  (Since August is maintained to be "the most hellishly hot ZOMG NIGHTMARE NIGHTMARE NIGHTMARE" month, this could suggest that our horrifyingly horrible six days of 90-degree weather might have come to an end.) I walked the dogs over to Lovejoy Fountain.  Lovejoy Fountain is part of a supercool pedestrian mall which goes on for several blocks of downtown and includes several fountains.  Now, Lovejoy isn't in a grassy park like the Ira Keller fountain.  There are several trees, but also (ominous chords) concrete.

Walking through the area1, I saw the usual mix of lunch-breaking downtown workers-- it was 2:45 pm, but, hell, they don't call PDX the "City Different" for nothing. Wait: they call Santa Fe the "City Different".  Ah, well, if we can steal "weird" from Austin, we can certainly steal "Different" from Santa Fe.  GO GO GO PDX, what I like to call the "city that never sleeps," "that toddlin' town," "the Big Easy".

Where was I? Oh, yeah, "I saw the usual mix of lunchbreaking downtown workers, kids playing in the fountain, nannys nannying, dogs dogs dogs, and a sign affixed to the Lovejoy Fountain sign that read, 'This used to be Lovejoy Fountain.'" Right, okay, except the sign wasn't, you know, part of the usual mix. It also wasn't the only sign.  Giant pieces of-- well, it looked liked butcher paper to me, because I'm a teacher.  Why do they still call it butcher paper, anyway? They should call it "teacher paper". But, I digress!  Giant pieces of teacher paper proclaimed the fountain to be "a waterfall,"  the waters below to be "a lake," and the concrete wall behind to be "a mountain".

It was very curious! I walked the dogs around the "waterfall," and by the "lake," but did not try to climb the "mountain". Mainly because its vertical ascent approached 90 degrees.

Then I saw a youthful Portlander with (ominous chord) teacher paper. The teacher paper read, "This is a field," and he was carefully placing it on a square-shaped concrete bench.  I maneuvered the dogs over to his vicinity and said something clever like, "What's up with the signs?"2

"Oh!" he replied. "We are trying to raise awareness that there is no grass in this park." I looked around. I had been laboring under the mistaken understanding that I was already aware of that. "Well," he went on,"no nature. Unfortunately, there's not a field here. Unfortunately, there's not a mountain. So we just have to imagine them. We're trying to get the city to consider putting some green space here. We have a petition. We brought our own grass." He gestured over at his friend, who sat forlornly on two squares of turf with a clipboard.  He looked at me with Beagle Eyes. My beagles looked up at me with Beagle Eyes.

And the old cynical Barry, the devil over my shoulder, says, of course, you have a petition. It's Portland.  I'm sure there was a petition when the clock on Jackson Tower stopped functioning and, now that it hasn't functioned for awhile, I'm sure there'd be a petition if it ever started working again.  Coming from a town where, like, one-tenth of one-percent of the electorate votes in city elections, it's just weird to see people so engaged.

An unidentified male sits on grass by Lovejoy Fountain. Unfortunately,
he had to bring his own grass. Please help us right this wrong!
Lovejoy is okay with me as it is. I like Lovejoy. Also, I wasn't convinced that the fact that there was no mountain in downtown Portland was "unfortunate".3  But the angel over my other shoulder won out, and I signed the petition.  Engaged Portlanders may be. Weird they may be. (Sorry, Austin, we stole the slogan, but we deserve it.) But Portlanders are also earnest, and how can you say no to Beagle Eyes?

It will become clear, momentarily, why I refer to Lovejoy as an area and not a park.

I also did not ask his name, his friend's name, or if they had an organization I could credit in this narrative. I'm just going to do what I usually do when I totally forget social niceties and pretend I have Asperger's.

3 Because, walkin' heah!

UPDATE: "Youthful Portlander" identified. Also, here.

1 comment:

  1. I wish I could bring the "green space" group to Amarillo; I would love to show them how fortunate and wise they are.

    Exaggerated as their efforts were, you did the right thing, Barry. As a Texas panhandle transplant, you knew there were bigger natural plights than a few tufts of grass in a park. Yet Newbie or no, you made the right call. When in Portland . . . sign the petition/fight for the cause/search for the berries/celebrate the bridge/tackle the staircases/wander the forest . . . (you get the idea).

    And why not? Afterall, you escaped your own a.k.a. Lovejoy, of sorts. The panhandle's only "waterfalls", in comparison, are most often broken sprinkler heads spouting wasted water skyward in a fashion less like fountains and more like geysers. Our "lakes" are accidental playa puddles we revere with "mountainous" concrete sidewalks. And could the mere term "green space" even be defined by the average Amarilloan?

    Fields, on the other hand, we have; dirty, dusty fields abundant with the desert plant whose mere name says it all: Yucca. (Couple the terms "field" and "football" to an Amarilloan, however, and the concept of "green space" will magically be grasped.)

    This spring, Civic Amarillo - in what could be considered a metaphoric and metaphysical petition to planet earth - gathered several well-meaning elementary students from many a rowdy air-conditioned classroom. Small shovels in hand, the children replaced the 400 dead city trees which fell victim to the extreme 2011 Texas draught. Beautiful little baby trees in their grounded bulb sacks "greened" up Amarillo's "spaces" all throughout April and May.

    Then the hailstorm of May 28th beat the little treelets into skeletal, stick-like submission. Apparently Mother Nature responds as well to petitions as the Amarillo City Commission: just stifle that enthusiasm and come in out of the heat already. Such displays of hope are considered by the panhandle powers-that-be as nothing but fanciful notions from hippie peaceniks and other happy, functional, literate people. In this Texas desert, we are to be conservative about politics, not water.

    Such conditions might be enough to quell even a naive Portlander's zeal. But I doubt it.

    So gather your petitions for green space, Portlanders (while ye may)! Even if you are 1700 miles to the northwest of those who really need to hear you. Embrace your place where Mother Nature smiles on you even if the sunshine is shy. Encourage her. Fight for her. Have her back. Support her, for while she is patient and long-suffering her vengeful fury can be a hell scorned.

    Take it from a Texan who is leaving as fast as she can.

    For the many reasons Portland is fortunate, Barry, adopting you and Montana tops them all.

    Missing you, PDX!!

    Lisa Freeman


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Upside Down on Mars by Barry J. Cochran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.