Monday, February 18, 2008

local observations

Getting There (or here - depending on your point of view):

It's always interesting arriving at O'Hare and going off to look for the connection to Portland. There you are among crowds of people heading off to all sorts of exotic, perhaps even sophisticated destinations - New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris, Rome, Prague, Reykjavik,Vienna, Berlin, Beijing,Tokyo - perhaps even Lhasa via Delhi. Everyone tends to dress for their destination. Walking along the broad concourses of the alphabet terminals, maybe even getting to ride the underground people mover looking at the neon light show while listening to Brian Eno's 'Music For Airports', you can imagine being free to go anywhere. Where's the gate to the past you may wonder but I think it's not there to be found. Having stopped at a bathroom where the seat wrapping revolves to a fresh section the minute you finish peeing, buying some candy, rejecting the souvenir Cubs cap, buying a sandwich packaged to go, it's time to get serious about finding the gate that matches your ticket.

Without even checking your boarding pass you know you've arrived at the right place the minute you see all the backpacks with people slumping under the weight. For some reason backpacks, running shoes, baseball caps and birkenstocks are the fashion items of choice for those returning to Oregon. Sigh.. It's a nice city, perhaps even the most Canadian city in the US, but it's a little boring.

Lost Causes (or civic beautification):

We have this great driveway to our place up behind the university hospitals and heading back and forth from shopping trips and various adventures we've seen some strange things. Among the strangest has been observing the fruitless activity of a group calling themselves 'The Friends of Terwilliger' (a wide street that runs below the crest but still about 400 feet above downtown Portland). For some background, I should mention that Forest Park is (perhaps) the largest city park in the country and part of the reason for that is that it's mostly mountainous and largely inacccesible to developers.. although there are some huge houses built mostly on stilts overlooking the city. The 'Friends' have it in mind to remove the English ivy from the park so native plants can return. Now anyone familiar with this kind of ivy will understand that once it gains a little bit of land it will grow forever and wherever it wants. It even grows up trees, for crying out loud. So there you have these hosers spending their weekends pulling the shit up and stuffing it in sacks. We wonder if they're searching for the 'Boss Ivy', the singular plant that when defeated, all the rest will wither and die.. 'Yo, Fred! You'll never guess what I found behind that bush! Bring the magic sword!'

Do Gooders (or please go away):

A few years ago there was a story in the local news about a man who'd been living in Forest Park with his young daughter for the previous 5 years. He actually had a job and the child was in grade school (since he could afford a post office box in a good neighbourhood). He just couldn't afford a house or apartment so opted for a nice little isolated cave and regular trips for books and food. He had a little generator for lights and music and there was a fresh stream nearby.

All was well until somebody got curious and followed him home one day. Then the police came and the social workers took the little girl away to foster care and I've been wondering every now and then what happened to them since?

Great Views (and fascinating company):

One Saturday morning on our way grocery shopping we noticed that someone had set up a rose-bedecked bower in a part of the park that overlooks the city with Mt. Hood in the background. Not everyone can afford the cost of today's scenic countryclub weddings and the young couple had made a nice choice for the event as well as the pictures. But the ceremony wasn't yet and seated on a bench nearby was a gentleman who'd obviously spent the night tucked away out of sight.

I never have a camera close when I see the things that leave the most enduring images in my mind. There are things a camera simply can't capture because they grab everything and doing so, miss the essence. I have a title for this picture never taken and it's: If I build it, will she come?


  1. A wonderful story of various happenings. That English ivy maybe is the last remnant of the British Empire that never be conquered?

    O’Hare, Chicagee sounds like a wonderful spot, a place where you no doubt wander in enjoyment as your evocative posting suggests.

    I like the story about the caveman in Oakland. Maybe I thought there might be some Snake oil salesmen as well, selling bottles of oil for all tired limbs and feet, or gum drop sellers amongst all of those interesting folk and goings on.

    As one Calamity Jane was known to say in Act 1?

    Beads that sparkle like a prism
    Snake oil for yer rheumatism
    Calico and gingham for the gals:
    Gum drops just a trifle soggy
    And a genuine string of artificial pearls!
    Here’s a hat from Cincinnati

    Great drawings to go with your posting!

    Best wishes

  2. enjoying your heartwarming stories over morning coffee.... they'd make great children's books, along with your inspired drawings. i'm off to Ottawa for a visit with friends in a few days... i'll be remembering your description of O,hare when i'm in the airports.

  3. Susan, these vignettes and drawings are really terrific. Have you found a way to share them with the citizens of Portland?

    I love the ivy story.

    As for airports, I once left downtown Athens to the airport with one goal in mind: "To fly to the cheapest international destination that departs at 1:00 pm."

    Spent the next month in Istanbul.

  4. Hi Lindsay - Maybe there was a gang of Englishmen sneaking around planting it everywhere. You could be right.

    G-Fid - O'Hare is a good one but used to be better before Homeland Security/TSA. Hope you have a good trip.

    Gary - I'm not sure the local citizens would enjoy my musings but I'm glad you did.

    So what happened? You loved Istanbul (I would) or couldn't find another 1pm flight home?

  5. A package came in the mail today! I blogged about it.

    Now I'm wondering what happened to that father and daughter, too. Sad story. Probably cheaper to keep her in foster care and pay the shrink bills later than to help her and her father get into an apartment. Ain't dat America?

    Great drawings.

  6. You captured the experience that is O'Hare perfectly! I used to spend copious amounts of time there and it was just like being there again!

  7. Dcup pointed me to your post and she is correct. So descriptive and a smooth easy read. PS I loved your Eddie Haskell comment.

  8. Scarlet - That was one of those stories that came and went so you never really know what happened but can only extrapolate from what you already do understand.

    Glad you loke the scarf :-)

    dcup - Thanks for the kudos. I tried to capture the experience in as few words as possible and I'm glad it worked.

    mathman - I've been having fun with the quick (for me) drawings and after those are satisfactory the words just, as you say, flow.

    and I always wondered if Ediie Haskell actually had a mother.

  9. This was excellent.

    I love Oregon, but you're right it's a little dull, and dreary, but the Forests, Crikey.

  10. fairlane - Glad you liked it. The ivy pickers and the guy at the wedding scene were especially fun to draw but I was damned if I was going to try drawing every leaf in the forest - waay too many.

  11. What a great post! It seemed that for awhile I had spent what seemed like most of my life at O'Hare Airport, or Midway Airport, which isn't as interesting, but it's all about the people. In fact, I did a post about Midway Airport on my old blog.

    Now I'm going to be wondering what happened to that poor little girl who was separated from her dad. Sigh...I know people mean well, but sometimes trying to fix something just makes it worse. I'd rather have my child live in a cave than some of the foster homes out there.

    Oh...and pulling those English Ivy vines, what a riot. Good luck with that,eh?

  12. Hi ME - I'm glad you enjoyed it. The whole idea of illustrating various bits and pieces I remembered was still pretty new in Feb. and I thought afterward I could have done it better.

    I was talking to some people I work with just a month or so ago but nobody remembered what happened to the child. We all assumed foster care too.