Marching Toward a National Book Award

It’s a nice day indeed when you get a library notice that your desired book is waiting for you on the hold shelf, and two hours later you learn the same book has been shortlisted for the National Book Award!

Would March: Book Three live up to the hype? I was pretty stirred up by the end of the second book. As I saw it at the time either Book Two would be the height of the story arc, or they could make Book Three even more interesting and exciting. At the time, that didn’t seem possible.

But it was!

If you’re not familiar with the series, the March trilogy is a set of graphic novels based on the first-person experiences of Representative John Lewis (Georgia) during the Civil Rights era. He’s born to sharecropper parents in Alabama, and when he attends seminary school in Nashville he starts working with others on lunch counter sit-ins. He soon meets Martin Luther King, Jr., and cinches his place in the inner circle of the civil rights movement. He ends up in several scary situations, he is beaten and screamed at, but he never gives up his faith in the power non-violence and the civil rights struggle.

I had never read a first-person account of the movement in long form, and I also wasn’t very familiar with John Lewis before reading this series. (He recently made headlines with his sit-in for gun control.) What the series really gave me was a sense of detail about certain events that I hadn’t had before.

John Lewis spoke at the March on Washington, for example. This sequence during Book Two revealed much conversation that happened about Lewis’ speech in the hours before he gave it, with various organizations and representatives wanting him to take out certain phrases. Through the series, Lewis’ association with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) changes, from being a key member to being slightly at odds with the direction the organization was going in. The March on Washington seems to be a pivotal point in this relationship.

Book Three was the longest of the series, and dense with information. As I was reading it just a few weeks before a really important election, the sequence about Fannie Lou Hamer really spoke to me. If you are not familiar, blacks were attempting to register to vote in Alabama and encountering roadblocks galore, from ‘tests’ to jailing and harassment. Sharecropper Fannie Lou Hamer testified on live television about her experiences trying to register to vote, and President Lyndon Baines Johnson was so threatened by what she might say that he invented a reason for a press conference so television stations would cut over to him. (Here’s her full testimony, much of which makes it into Book Three.)

To me, the LBJ episode says a lot about the importance of exercising one’s right to vote. People in this country have fought long and hard just to be able to vote! Don’t take the privilege lightly, friends.

Back to the book. Book Three starts honing in on activity in Selma, Alabama, and the serious voter suppression going on there. The climax of the book is a planned march from Selma to Montgomery, a symbolic march to present their case on the steps of the state capitol.

Perhaps you’ve seen the movie Selma, but the first outing doesn’t go too well. Participants have gathered from across the US, and they are met on the opposite side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge by a litany of cops and unsupportive citizens. It’s a bloodbath, and the nightly news broadcasts it across the US.

Perhaps you know what happens next, but Book Three is still a page-turner. This book in particular lends itself to a graphic novel treatment, and illustrator Nate Powell has done a fabulous job. Famous people depicted in the series may not be an exact likeness, but we know who they are—the action and emotion of the illustrative choices more than makes up for what I believe was a deliberate choice on the illustrator’s part. I really hope this does win the National Book Award.

In addition to learning a lot of details I didn’t already know about the civil rights movement, this book gave me a lot of hope. Reading it sparked my brain to meditate about voting, yes; but also how far we have come in the 50 years since the events in the book. We have societal woes today that are akin to those depicted in the series, but if there’s one big idea I took from the series, it’s that losing a battle doesn’t mean losing a war. Just keep marching on.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, history

Bookish is Back!

Hello, world…I’m back!

It was not my intention to go silent for a year. Things happened, I got busy. (I “only” read 17 books in 2015…can you believe?) Truth be told, I’m still busy—but things have been calming down for the year so here we are.

What could possibly have taken my attention away from Bookish?

Rain in the Forecast
Shortly after Atticus died last year I gained a new charge—at least part time. Rain was (and is) a bit of a wild child, but I started writing about our work together last summer on Rain in the Forecast. It has been about a year since we first started working on her social graces, but she has come a long way since last fall.

CSA Season
When you have a bundle of vegetables to use or lose each week for 23 weeks, making meals becomes an important part of your week. This is the third year I’ve split a CSA share with Steven. Each week we get our veggies from Zenger Farm  and split them up. We both eat very well, but it means that cooking takes a high prominence in our daily lives.

In order to maximize value from the CSA, I’m currently reading Eat It Up: 150 Recipes to Use Every Bit and Enjoy Every Bite of the Food You Eat. In the past I’ve written about great food reads, so I may write about this one later.

Oregon Standoff/Bundy Trial
Over the last several weeks I’ve been following the Oregon standoff trial really closely. A few weeks ago I even took a day off of work to go watch the trial in person! I could probably write a lengthy blog post about the trial alone. (And another blog post about the verdict…)

One amusing element that arose out of this whole wacky trial was Bundy Court Sketches. Scott Klatt even self-published a book called The Migration: Snack or Die compiled of his sketches about the refuge takeover and trial.

Yoga
I’ve been going to yoga class from one to three times a week for the last few years. Over the last year it has become more of a challenge because my time has been more stretched overall and because I’ve had more flare-ups of an old injury this year. Turns out that yoga may have been causing that! So I’ve been adjusting as needed.

In February I took two workshops with Dana Falsetti and Jessamyn Stanley, who have become renowned for their radical idea that one needn’t be wafer thin to be a badass yogi. Jessamyn will be releasing her first book, Yoga for Every Body, next spring!

Friday Reads
It’s a simple concept: take a photo of the book you’re reading on Friday and post it on social media. Inspired by Missoulian Chris LaTray, and my own desire to read more books this year than last, I’ve been posting Friday Reads photos on Instagram for a couple of months. I’ve already read one more book this year than last, and we still have a couple months left!

That’s more or less what has been taking up my time! Now that it’s winter I’m hoping to produce more work for Bookish. There might even be a new project or two in the works—more to come as time allows.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, dogs

Missoula: Krakauer’s Book is Talk of the Town

MissoulaBook

The reputation of Jon Krakauer’s Missoula preceded the book’s actual appearance in my hands. I had heard about the UM rape scandal when news outlets outside Missoula picked up the story. I had even heard about the book and hoped to read it. It wasn’t until late May when I received an email from an acquaintance that I started realizing just what a big deal this book was to my many friends and acquaintances in Montana.

The email was pretty innocuous, and it was sent to me in error. My acquaintance had been facilitating a copy of the book around her circle of friends, and she accidentally added me to the recipient list. We exchanged a couple more emails and she informed me that the book was “a big Montana topic right now.”

When I finally got my hands on a copy, another Missoula-area acquaintance expressed interest in knowing my thoughts once finished. Once reading, I started Googling names and uncovering the proliferation of public dialogue that happened over the previous few years.

One thing’s certain: this is an emotional book. Early chapters detail the incidents that set later action into motion, and they’re moving. We walk through each victim’s relationship to the police—deciding whether or not to even report the incident, and what happens if/when they do. We get to see how a community’s perception of a verdict may not reflect a full understanding of how the case was decided. Krakauer details how the academic discipline process is different than our larger criminal justice system, why that’s important and how it led to vastly different outcomes in some rape cases. After a court verdict that provides a climax to the book, further analysis is provided, including commentary from the US Department of Justice.

Intense!

When I started reading, I felt hesitant because I didn’t want to think ill of Missoula. I still have friends there and still feel like it’s a home away from home. Having now read the book, I think I more fully realize the impact of the book on the community.

• It’s not pleasant to have a mirror held up to your community, especially by someone perceived as an outsider. (See also: Portlandia)

• It’s not pleasant to receive national attention for a negative thing. (See also: Mulugeta Seraw)

• It’s not pleasant to accept your hometown heroes are maybe just as human as everyone else. (See also: Portland Jailblazers)

Embarrassment aside, the book is entirely valid—not just for Missoula, but for other college towns, and hell, everywhere in the United States. What other crimes do we, as a society, tend to disbelieve when the victim reports the offense? So much that the majority of rapes, attempted rapes, and sexual assaults are never reported? Of the multiple rape victims I know, one victim chose to report it, and later described her reporting process as “a nightmare.”

Reports suggest that the Missoula Police Department, at least, has been making improvements to their process since the Department of Justice got involved. Negative attention can create positive change, and this speaks to the power of investigatory journalism such as early work by Gwen Florio at The Missoulian. Without her pieces, the story may never have been picked up nationally, and this book may never have been written.

AmigoKittyMissoula

Amigo Kitty still loves you, Missoula, and I do too. But we also love progress, and think that this book may have done Missoula a bigger favor than perhaps the community realizes.

Leave a comment

Filed under books

RIP Atticus Finch Andrews (October 21, 2001-May 29, 2015)

He was seven days away from completing a glorious victory lap around the sun, but sadly Atticus Finch Andrews died Friday, May 29, 2015. You may remember him from Doggy Cancer, Bad Juju, and Constructive Wallowing.

Atticus was never much of a reader, but books were important in his life. Besides giving him a name, books were ultimately responsible for his living in Canada and many of his outdoors adventures.

Atticus had the kind of life that left no room for regrets at the end. He was a great dog, and he will be missed for years to come!

4 Comments

Filed under books, dogs

Inspiration and Giant Jellyfish at Press Publish

Some WordPress Bling

On Saturday I had the immense fortune of attending Press Publish, an event organized by the staff at Automattic.

“What is Automattic?” you ask, because you didn’t click the link. In short, Automattic is the company that runs WordPress.com. (News flash: you’re looking at a WordPress.com site right now!)

Basking in the morning sun while walking to MAX, I quietly lamented that I’d be spending my day inside, sedentary, and largely unengaged.

Boy, was I mistaken.

The schedule was packed, ensuring there was something for everyone. Between hopping from room to room every 15-30 minutes, taking a breather in the Happiness Lounge, and marveling at the delectable food, my expectations were blown out of the water. I came away feeling energized, particularly excited to get back to the blog I run for work.

Here are a few of the reasons Press Publish was so great.

Interesting People

As a shirker of social events and “networking opportunities,” I didn’t expect to talk to anyone during the day beyond asking for basic assistance. This notion began melting when Ananda Leeke started her presentation with a round of group yoga breath and a moment without digital devices. A yoga practitioner myself, Ananda won my heart over instantly with this simple start. Toward the end of her presentation, she tossed out the following thought in response to an audience question:

The immense popularity of Facebook means that many people around me are currently learning the down side of the internet for the first time—the stuff I learned (the hard way!) back in around 1997. Ananda’s statement summed up my philosophy in a succinct way.

Meeting the Automattic Staff

At Portland WordPress meetups, I had heard that Automattic’s staff members live all over the place, and there were several Portlanders in the bunch. Press Publish gave me a chance to meet them.

Turns out, they’re really fabulous!

Press Publish gave attendees an opportunity to mix with staff from Portland and beyond, who were presenting material, providing individualized assistance in the Happiness Lounge, setting attendees up with their conference packets, and more. They invited people to contact them via Twitter or directly at their work email.

Deepening Knowledge

You can only retain so much new knowledge at a time. If you attend a class for a piece of software you’ve never used before, the knowledge you come away with will be at a more basic level than if you were to take the exact same class after you’ve been using the product for a couple of years. This is why I sometimes take classes that are below my skill level—so I can listen for details I didn’t know before, or just as a refresher on the basics.

At Press Publish I deliberately attended a couple of sessions about things I had experience doing, but I deepened my knowledge by going. In Sheri Bigelow’s class that walked through the WordPress dashboard, I learned the importance of setting a featured image even if it’s not used by your theme. (The only trouble: I frequently embed images via other sites, and featured images need to be on the server.) Watching a presentation about podcasting basics, I confirmed that I was using well-regarded plugins, and even one of the recommended microphones.

Problem Solving

In addition to my personal WordPress.com use, part of my job involves running a self-hosted WordPress site. Our site started experiencing a very curious issue a couple of years ago. After consulting many sources and unsuccessfully trying fixes over many months, I was again at a dead end.

Cue the Automattic staff available for one-on-one assistance inside the Happiness Lounge. Carolyn Sonnek listened to my sob story and gave me new hope! Since the new things to try involve a site outage, I haven’t tried it quite yet—but I feel confident that I got solid advice from someone who knows the product and who I know I can reach out to if the problem remains unresolved.

I also got to give advice as well as receive it. At the end of Carolyn’s presentation about WordPress Stats and Jetpack, I asked a question and after the session, a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked for my help. During that conversation, I got to draw upon knowledge of a detail I had learned just that morning, about how Facebook decides what information to pull from a WordPress post.

View this post on Instagram

Giant Jellyfish Chandelier in Gevurtz #presspublish

A post shared by heather andrews (@bookishheather) on

If all that wasn’t enough, I got to take a photo of a chandelier that looked like a giant jellyfish!

Press Publish is an excellent event for someone creating content and publishing work online. If you get a chance to attend one of these conferences, either in person in Phoenix or through the free live stream, do it. You never know what delightful surprises may be in store!

2 Comments

Filed under WordPress

Not the Cup of Hemlock You’re Expecting

Beware the Clydes of March!

How many authors can guarantee live music at their book events?

Apparently Clyde Curley can. He appeared on March 12th at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland to promote his latest Detective Toussaint mystery, A Cup of Hemlock. (I wrote about the first novel, Raggedy Man, in 2013.)

Clyde lived in Portland many years ago, and he belonged to a contradance band called Jigsaw. When he moved to Bellingham, Washington, his former colleagues continued playing together…and have now provided music for two of Clyde’s book events in Portland. They don’t need a fancy setup, just a trio of folding chairs will do.

IMG_9635

George Penk is on the left, Heather Pinney is on the right, and is that Dan Compton in the middle?

Musical bookends made for a particularly enjoyable book reading that evening, with Clyde Curley’s talk providing the literary substance in the middle. Clyde talked about how his career as a high school teacher and philosophies about teaching influenced A Cup of Hemlock, read two longer excerpts, and answered questions from readers.

IMG_9634

After that, book signing!

A few former students from Portland and Albany turned out, as well as musician friends. One former student brought a green pen for Clyde to sign his book with, as that was his signature color for grading papers and making corrections.

Okay, I’ll admit it…that student was me! I adopted Clyde’s use of green pen when editing and am always scoping out the best sources for green Precise Pilot pens or green cartridges for Pelikan pens. My reasons for doing so are not exactly the same as his, but it’s just one of the many ways that Clyde positively impacted me as a student in my final year of high school ca. 1995-1996.

I had finished the book a few days before the reading at Annie Bloom’s. A Cup of Hemlock is shorter, but more mysterious than Raggedy Man, as there are multiple plausible murderers until fairly late in the game.

As for the titular cup of hemlock? No spoilers here, but despite the poster of The Death of Socrates on the murder victim’s wall…the cup is not quite what you’ll be expecting.

They’re flying off the shelves! Buy A Cup of Hemlock or Raggedy Man at Annie Bloom’s Books in Portland, OR, Village Books in Bellingham, WA, or directly from Clyde Curley.

Leave a comment

Filed under books

A Summer of Food: Thinking About CSAs, SNAP, and Cooking

It started out so innocently.

Steven and I decided to split a CSA farm share from Zenger Farm back in March. We’re both vegetarians and had been interested in trying a CSA but previously didn’t have anyone to split it with, so it seemed like a good opportunity for both of us. There are plenty of CSAs in the Portland area, but Zenger Farm is just a couple of miles from my house and I was well aware of their great work.

Little did I know how much I would be thinking about, obtaining, processing, and consuming food over the next several months!

Zenger Farm’s Farm Share Program

Zenger Farm is located in a part of Portland with many economically disadvantaged neighbors. Often deemed “felony flats,” the neighborhood and its citizens struggle economically. There are many recent immigrant communities and more recently, the people who have been gentrified out of north and northeast Portland have been filtering in.

Zenger staff have found opportunities to help their neighbors—first, they helped start the Lents International Farmers Market in 2007. When the organization obtained more land in Furey Field, they started a CSA program—and that program was one of the first in the state to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly called food stamps), to pay for shares.

What does this mean? It means that Zenger Farm is helping their neighbors by opening doors to quality food. SNAP benefits generally average about $4 per person per day, which prices many recipients out of being able to afford actual nutritious food, in sufficient quantities. Instead, to stretch those dollars SNAP recipients will buy the cheapest foods, which are frequently high in sugar and fat, and low in nutritive value.

Speaking of money, here’s the economic breakdown of the farm shares. Each regular share costs $650 for the season, and feeds between two and four people. (Steven I split it in half but it is still a LOT of food.) My portion was $325, divided by 23 weeks is $14.13 per week. There are roughly 13 items in each week’s share, meaning each item you receive is averaging out to $1.08. Okay, so that’s a little pricey for, say, a bulb of garlic, but not for many of the other items—say, the Bob’s Red Mill product we get each week(!), the big stalk of Brussels sprouts, or the beautiful squashes currently sitting in my fridge.

SNAP shares cost slightly less and some scholarships are available. The Lents farmers market also matches the first $10 spent at the market each week by SNAP recipients, stretching their dollars even further!

Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/day

GoodandCheapCookbook

NPR published an article in August that piqued my interest: “Cheap Eats: Cookbook Shows How to Eat Well on a Food Stamp Budget.” This article, and the cookbook being covered, made me think more about the SNAP aspect of the farm share program.

Leanne Brown created Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day for her master’s thesis at NYU. Essentially the guide, which is being distributed for free via PDF, is a tool SNAP recipients can use to create healthier meals and still keep within their budget. She also builds flexibility into the recipes so if one thing isn’t in season or on sale, you can experiment with something that is. She indicates price per serving on each recipe, based on average ingredient prices she recorded in neighborhood markets in less prosperous neighborhoods of New York City.

I’ve tried a few of the recipes and plan to try more. What interested me in trying this collection myself was that they use a lot of basic ingredients, they are vegetarian or can be easily adapted to be, and the photography made all of it look fabulous. I was also curious about the reality of the SNAP figure of $4 per person per day. All the recipes have been great, and so far I’ve only found one to be disappointing in terms of portion size—which I think is due to supermarket eggplants being larger than our farm share eggplants.

Expanding My Horizons

Leading up to our weekly pickups at the Lents farmers market, I scrutinized the previous year’s information on the Zenger Farm Shares blog. The anticipation was killing me! Then June came and we started our weekly visits. The season began with a lot of kale and radishes. After just a few weeks I said I was a little kaled out, but I’ve since grown to look forward to our greens, whether they be kale, chard, collards, or raddichio.

I’ve eaten plenty of new veggies, and I’ve spent oodles of time making new recipes. At the moment my freezer holds homemade tomato sauce, three kinds(!) of pesto, potato leek soup, zucchini, herbed butter, and roasted peppers. This summer I’ve made chiles rellenos, zucchini tots, kale pie (above, for lunch with sugar snap peas and french breakfast radishes), eggplant pizza, beet brownies(!) and so much more. In the kitchen, I improvised a bundt pan for a cake, I deep fried things, learned what parboiling is and why you might want to do it, and learned how to store kale so you don’t have to eat it the same day. And more. It’s amazing, all the new territory I’ve covered in just a few months.

In fact, at the beginning of the season I decided to keep track of all the new vegetables and new recipes I’d be trying. I imagined a sort of Iron Chef scenario: okay, I’ve got onions, carrots, and a rutabega—GO! It wasn’t quite like that, but the “New Things Tried Because of Zenger Farm CSA” list has grown quite a lot. (And as I write this, I have a fridge full of veggies because of back-to-back pickups last week, and still one pickup left before the season is over…so that list will be growing.)

Notice that I haven’t yet mentioned using any of the Bob’s Red Mill products? After seeing a YouTube video where a woman talked about saving her Bob’s products for winter…that’s what I decided to do too, mostly. In addition to having a mighty full freezer and refrigerator, I have very little cabinet space because of all the half-packages of Bob’s items: wheat flour, pinto beans, black beans, quinoa, orzo, popcorn, and more.

Participating in a farm share this summer required adjusting my schedule to accommodate obtaining, planning for, and using my food each week. I learned and thought more about food insecurity in the United States. I strengthened my culinary skills. I ate better food, and more of it, and I have reserves for winter. It may have started out innocently, but participating in the Zenger farm share program this year now threatens to be a life-changing experience.

View more photos of the food obtained, grown, and consumed this summer.

—–
UPDATE (November 24, 2014): MSN recently published an article highlighting Thanksgiving recipes that cost less than $1 per serving.

Leave a comment

Filed under books, cooking

A Guide to Charitable Giving: Guest Blog Post for Ready for Zero

Ready for Zero, a website that helps users pay off their debt, published a guest blog post by yours truly earlier today. In “A Guide to Charitable Giving While in Debt (Hint: It’s Not Always About Money),” I outline the many ways people paying off debt may still catch the habit of charitable giving. Give it a read!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Zine Round-Up: African American Vegetarianism and Eco-Friendly Feminine Hygiene

photo copy

Multnomah County Library is one of the two library systems I currently use the most. Recently I found myself at the Holgate branch, one of the two branches within two miles of my house, and the bins of zines near the front entrance caught my eye. Multnomah County Library is possibly the only major city library with a sizeable zine collection (at least I’m not finding any others…chime in below if you know of others!). The collection is spread across six libraries, and they’re even patrons of mine—the library collection includes Beyond the Gate (which seems to be a fairly popular circulating title!) and another zine I contributed to a few years ago.

Naturally it was difficult to leave the library without something to take home and read, so I quickly snapped up eight titles. Two of them really stood out for me.

Real Talk Vol. 1: African American Communities and Vegetarianism
This zine encourages African Americans to work toward vegetarianism. The author begins by outlining the life expectancy rates of African Americans compared to their caucasian counterparts, and discusses some misconceptions about the history of traditional or “soul food.” She offers up some personal history, but the facts do most of the work, including a price comparison per pound of various sources of protein. The zine is sparsely illustrated, so the author can pack in as much information (and recipes!) as possible.

I’m not African American, but I have been vegetarian since 1994, and this zine seemed like an earnest effort by the author. (Unfortunately, the author did not include his or her name on the work.)

Green Blooded: An Introduction to Eco-Friendly Feminine Hygiene
Discovering the invention of menstrual cups in 2005 was an important turning point in my life—embarrassingly so. Riding a bike while wearing a pad wasn’t the most comfortable thing, so I’d just consider my bike off limits for a few days each month. Before late 2010, I believed that people just didn’t know about menstrual cups, or just didn’t talk about them. Imagine then, how amazed I was when Mooncups were a frequent conversation topic among my MPub classmates in BC! (Sadness: since moving back to the US, I find that it’s still a semi-taboo topic here…)

In Green Blooded, Cathy Leamy has written a short but entertaining piece about the variety of feminine hygiene products that you probably don’t know about. They’re far more eco-friendly than the things you can get at the grocery store, and way more pocketbook friendly. The illustrations are educational, fun, and at least once, a little gross. But the publication has great potential to reach people that may be otherwise missed…and for that reason, I’m quite excited about having discovered this zine.
(Order Green Blooded here!)

Speaking of Mooncups, it turns out that the best menstrual cup company is virtually unheard of in my country, because another company holds the registration to that name in the US (and with it, they make an inferior product and have abysmal customer service). Now I am a happier user of a Mooncup, ordered and delivered for a reasonable price from the UK. Here’s a great rap battle video they released last year:

Have you read any good zines lately? Let us know what they are in the comments!

Leave a comment

Filed under zines

Portland: A Victim of Its Own Popularity

Edited to add: “Rewriting Portlandia” by Carl Alviani

Oh Portland, my Portland. Land of my birth.

In the 1990s, city planners took the pulse of residents. After talking to our outdoorsy, environmentally minded citizens, city officials decided that we treasure our natural areas so highly we needed to actively combat urban sprawl. Transportation planning was directed for the next few decades. We had a top-notch public transit system and major steps were taken to support alternative transportation and multi-modalism. At this point, we were essentially attempting to stem the tide of “all the Californians” that had been moving to Oregon. (Governor Tom McCall perhaps said it best.)

In the 2000s, young college graduates from around the country heard the rents were cheap and you didn’t need to have a car. Former hippie havens in Portland gave way to hipster fare. Portland got a reputation for bikes, beer, and coffee.

In 2011, Portlandia premiered. Suddenly even more eyes were upon us. The people parodied in Portlandia are apparently too cool to watch themselves, but their friends around the country can’t help but be curious. (Yes, bike moves are really a thing, although their depiction is naturally exaggerated by Fred and Carrie.) And as one of the more thriving housing markets around the country, newbies looking for a house and residents who aren’t moving have created low housing inventory for Portland.

Displacement arguably started long ago, when Jim and Patty’s Coffee People was pushed out by Starbucks. When walking along Hawthorne meant smelling patchouli or incense as you passed open shop doors, instead of the smell of Aveda products.

Earlier this year I learned the auto shop repairing my vehicle would be moving to the outer limits of the metro area. Situated around the corner from Portland’s soon-to-be newest bridge, the owner had gotten an offer he could not refuse, considering the rising land values. It was centrally located for decades, a great plus for accessing via transit when your vehicle is in the shop.

More recently, The Oregonian ran a series about demolition in Portland (“Ten Years of Portland Home Demolitions in One GIF,” “Shortage of Lots in the Suburbs Drives Builders to Demolish and Build in the City“), exploring the problems home builders are having getting land in the suburbs. This ultimately leads them to buy perfectly good houses to demolish and either a build expensive luxury home in their place, or two or three “normal” homes on the same footprint.

Not too long after seeing the series about demolition in Portland, I read “Forced to Move when Rental Home Sold for Development, Division Street Residents Mourn Changes to Neighborhood.”

And then a more major announcement: one of the more heavily visited food cart pods, Cartopia, will be closing soon for redevelopment. And a recent battle over a historic house purchased by Google executive Kevin Rose, who planned to knock it down (thankfully that had a relatively happy ending).

It’s official: redevelopment is impacting the things people love about Portland. The beautiful houses (with yards well suited for gardening), the unique counterculture of the city, a particularly popular food cart pod.

One could potentially perceive these trends two ways:

First, Portland has been working toward urban density for close to two decades now. Eventually the infill phase turns into building upward. When I lived in Vancouver BC, I saw the net result of this type of directive—the sky thick with high-rises, but snowy mountains just across the waterway. Only problem? When you’re paying $1200 per month to live in a basement, you probably don’t have access to an easy way to get out of the city and into those pristine natural areas.

Second, just like the Amish who are starting to be pushed out by Amish Country tourism, Portland is starting to be a victim of its own popularity. Our mythos of quirk keeps attracting people, snowballing into problems for the people and features who made it so popular. This has happened elsewhere: in SoHo, where struggling artists found cheap spaces to work/live until the culture attracted corporate entities who priced the artists out of their own neighborhood; San Francisco, where tech workers have exorbitantly inflated housing prices and potentially started a class-war; and of course in our own NE Portland.

It’s quite disheartening.

What’s next in this process? Disbursement. Portlanders may eventually get pushed out, fed up with the dizzying pace of change. Our lives may take us to smaller towns in Oregon, or perhaps farther afield. And ideas we picked up in Portland will go with us.

Angela may move back to her hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina, and move herself and her three daughters around town by bike. Randy may move to Chicago to advance his career as an engineer and still dress like a pirate when he’s not at the office. Nickey may move to Minneapolis for a kick-ass job in media, and still sew her own clothes.

Angela, Randy, and Nickey will bring a little bit of Portland with them, inspiring their new neighbors, until people won’t move to Portland because they can get all those great things in their own town.

3 Comments

Filed under history