Sunday, October 19, 2008

Your full emotional spectrum in one drive

I know - two posts in one day. But the other post was so very very crappy, we'll just pretend it doesn't exist. Have you driven up Powell blvd recently? (No need to answer, People Who Don't Live In Portland. This is a rhetorical question for you.) We had not in quite some time, but today took it from 39th to the I-205 entrance at 82nd. Anything you have ever felt - happiness, appreciation for beauty, sadness, depression, befuddlement, total confusion, ire, rage, amusement - you will feel again in those 43 blocks. I am not kidding - it's a roller coaster for the brain.

Okay, you pretty much have to start out happy. I may have lied about the full spectrum being on Powell itself. Unless you super love Safeway or restaurants with weird names (see befuddlement below). And for most people, they get happiness once they hit amusement. But let's assume you start out happy because you're going somewhere you want to be going (like to REI to get a cycling-specific balaclava).

What is with those weird parking areas on the south side of the street? What is up with that? They're so completely awful! In fact, they're so awful that you almost don't notice you're on a tree-lined boulevard complete with planted medians.

Someone told me once that those odd parking islands were created to encourage shoppers and build Powell up as a shopping district. The idea was that you'd increase commerce if people had a place to park and it would be better for the neighborhood if shoppers weren't parked in front of houses just off Powell. Here are the problems with this set up, if that is indeed true: 1) all the "shopping" is on the other side of the street. And from the large cement retaining walls behind the little parking areas, I think that's how it was intended. 2) Powell is a four lane highway with few protected cross-walks. 3) Most of the commercial buildings on the north side of the street have their own little parking lots.

Appreciation for Beauty
You almost don't notice the trees on Powell, but at a certain point (maybe around 70th?) the blue sky is filled with riotous yellow leaves. So long as you look up, your heart swells.

This really goes with the depression. It just makes you sad to know that once upon a time someone had great hopes for Powell. They planted trees, they zoned light commercial, they probably even encouraged the development of local neighborhood and business associations. And for what? It's dirty and dingy. Everyone seems resigned to life behind a cement retaining wall, the neighborhood hiding from the expected noise the busy little shopping district was meant to generate.

There are always some kind of traffic shenanigans going on along Powell. Pedestrians run out into traffic like common squirrels; drivers make sudden, violent and thoroughly unheralded left turns; cars with no functioning brake lights cause others to stop short; the list goes on. We did not actually suffer rage ourselves; but some of the drivers stuck behind the two cars waiting for the police to come after their rear-ender in the center lane seemed to be pretty full of rage. Although we didn't feel it, we did at least see it, and that's something, right?

We did feel ire, though. After we made it past the minor accident slowdown, the woman ahead of us decided to stop a full car-length back from the line. While that didn't make a difference to us, it did effect someone behind us because they couldn't quite get passed the accident detritus until the light changed, which slowed things down further. That's so irritating - just rude.

I love this restaurant name: Dream Cafe & More. I tried to accurately represent the relative sizes of the fonts, like the "& More" is being whispered. There was a pumpkin patch with lots of hay bales and some bouncy castles to draw in kids. There was a sign that read:
Corn Stock
For Sale
Pete asks, "Do you think they mean 'corn stalks'?" I like the possibility that spelling was not the author's problem. S/he wanted people to invest in his/her corn. S/he had a supply of corn s/he wanted to sell. S/he did not have any suped up models of corn on hand.

Depression, Again
Pete pointed out a girl walking along with two nasty, dirty, swarthy looking men. She was several inches taller, very slender and pretty, wearing a tight pink hoodie, a short very cream-colored skirt and shimmery tights. It was the skirt Pete pointed out. "Do you think that's an ice-skater's skirt?" That is exactly what it looked like. It fell to just below her butt (or where a butt would be if she had one), was kind of pleated/ruffle-y full, and had some kind of gold trim along the bottom. Pete says, "Prostitute, do you think?" I said, "I dunno. I mean, she looked pretty healthy." (Most of the hookers we see around 82nd look like they're hooking to feed a pretty nasty drug habit - all pock-marked and lurching.) "And," I continued, "she wasn't, like, trying to be sexy at all. She wasn't wearing a ton of visible make-up. Her hair was pretty boring. It looked like she was just walking along with two dudes. My guess? Russian. Tall, slender, elegant, mixing sportswear with what could be nightclub-wear but is really more misappropriated sportswear. I bet those guys were relatives." But it's pretty depressing to see a pretty girl walking along the street and because she's with two kind of gnarly guys, assume she's a hooker.

Total Confusion
And then we crossed 90th. And we saw this. Guess what it is? It's just sitting there on the north side on Powell, at 92nd. Next to the I-205 on-ramp, almost under an overpass. Go on: guess!

The Columbia School of English. Yeah, I have no idea why. Do you think they built that building for themselves? It reminds me of that episode of South Park where the Persians want to take over the local lesbian bar and Mrs. Garrison freaks out because they'll do up the whole place in columns and gold curtain rods.

See above


Dale said...

I love Powell Blvd, in a way. We're close to it. It has all kind of unexpectedness to it, and it jumps (like Foster) straight from authentic Old Portland to authentic New Portland without ever touching Inauthentic Yuppie Portland, which I think is an admirable accomplishment. (And I like the Chinese section.)

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