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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 5, 2004 12:30 AM. The previous post in this blog was What are you waiting for?. The next post in this blog is Yum. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Sunday, September 5, 2004

A family date

The girls and I headed down to the South Park Blocks in Portland the other day to catch a little of "OBT (Oregon Ballet Theater) Exposed." This is the annual event at which the local ballet troupe rehearses under a tent in the park and invites anyone and everyone to come watch.

I'm not a big fan of the ballet -- at least not how it's been done in these parts in recent years -- but it's funny how having two daughters can change one's program.

Anyhow, we caught the show, which was actually neat for a couple of hours, and then strolled around downtown. I hardly recognize downtown Portland any more. It's gotten a lot more glass-and-steel-ish, a lot more like it's trying so desperately to be a big city. Virtually all the funky places are gone. And there are fewer people walking around, too.

There's a lot of money being thrown around, but I'm not sure too much of it is being well spent. Down by Portland State, it's become a jungle of butt-ugly condo towers. Every comfortable, cheery, character-filled spot that used to grace that neighborhood has been snuffed out, replaced by a huge, cold edifice. The new Safeway is part of a apartment tower. Where the Safeway used to be (for many years, the very funkiest place in the Rose City), a big hole in the ground awaits another highrise of some sort. To the geniuses on the City Council, this is wonderful. To me, it's nauseating. You think people are going to move here to live like that? Maybe for a while, but not for long.

Nevertheless, there were a few bright spots on our walk. Lunch at Geraldi's on Fourth Avenue was its usual filling, doughy, Italian feast. We picked up a great cup of coffee at Peet's. And the hotel staffers out on the sidewalk were very friendly.

But the hands-down highlight was an older man driving around by himself in a brightly painted, multi-color station wagon with his window rolled down and the radio turned up. On closer inspection, he was wearing a red clown nose and had blackened out his upper side teeth, leaving only the front two exposed. Whenever he saw kids, he would quickly pop up a hand puppet of a monkey in the driver's window and have it lip-sync the music. "If you don't know me by n-o-o-o-o-o-owww," the monkey was singing as he cruised by us.

Well, the kids went nuts laughing. A monkey singing in a car window! And the guy was getting such a kick out of the kids' reactions, he was cackling even louder than they were. It was impossible not to join in. Even the people in the cars behind, who were being held up by this little act, were laughing.

There was no name painted on the vehicle. He wasn't selling anything. No handout inviting you to go buy something. There was a ladder on the roof; it looked like a painter's ladder. He just gave the kids the show and drove away.

Whoever you are, buddy, thanks. That was fun.

UPDATE, 9/7, 12:34 a.m.: Apparently, that was none other than former Portland mayoral candidate Extremo the Clown!

Comments (9)

That Safeway was "funky". The fruit there was often near-death, and the clientele often smelled of the previous evening's revelry. I, for one, am glad that it's gone, because it was an eyesore and a magnet for trouble.

Geraldi's is a magnet for my money, because it's so good once it hits your lips...

I remember hitting* the Safeway when I was at PSU. When did it get torn down? And is there a replacement grocery stor for folks who actually (the point of Jack's post) LIVE downtown?

* - Shopping, not robbing.

The new, antiseptic, trying-to-look-like-a-Zupan's Safeway is right across the street from where the old one was. I'm sure it's a nicer store, and the old one was maybe too funky. But my point is, every gritty place in that area is gone. There's no place for real people in that area any more.

" There's no place for real people in that area any more."
That bites (as the kids say).

I spent more than a few college hours in the "Mandarin Cove" (same block as the old Safeway, a 'hole-in-the-wall' in the West side). It sucks that it's gone. It was 'earthy', by PDX-yuppy standards. But it was great, by neighborhood standards. It's loss is a loss for the city.

I'm not sure who to be mad with. Developers are too easy, and City Hall folks are overbooked. Portland is over-reaching in it's desires. There's not much money here, and thinking that it can be a 'cosmopolitan' city are unrealistic.

Hopefully PDX stops it's unrealistic reach...before it's grasp comes up empty. Because it will be sad to see PDX turn to dust.

Dagnabbit. The last FIVE TIMES I've tried to patronize Geraldi's, they've been closed. Arrrgh.

Don't ask me what I'd do for a chicken parmigana sub from Geraldi's. You don't want to know.

Just because the Safeway is a new construction, doesn't mean there aren't still the same number of freaks or trouble makers that shop there. Try shopping there at 1am and see what you find. It's all about location.

Hey Jack!

I do know that guy, although not necessarily personally. We see him downtown doing his little show often, and if you ever see him painting a window, stop and say Hi! He is a kick! His website is

I also miss the old 10th and Jeff Safeway. I haven't been in the new one, but I just can't imagine the entertainment being quite so fun in the new place. It's just to normal.

Portland is indeed a magical town, though I do have a short list of things that I consider to be in short supply in Portland. Most of the things on that list are sandwiches.

The chicken parm from Geraldi's is the only one I've found in Portland that reminds me of the ones from back east. One of these days I'm going to work up the nerve to ask them to mod it into a Fat Tony, like they do at Montague Street Bagels in Brooklyn: chicken cutlets, mozz, and bacon on a garlic buttered hero.

As for cheesesteaks, I'm perpetually amazed that people in Portland appear to be able to subsist without eating three or four a week. Other than the cart at Pioneer Square, I haven't yet found a good one. The guy who runs the cart special orders his bread, and actually has the steak shipped out from Philly. It's the real deal.

Anyway, time for a late lunch...when I'm back maybe I'll poke at Jack for his idealism.

The Mandrin Cove isn't on the same block as the old Safeway....Am I dreaming?

I'd never let my kids approach a clown with a monkey....isn't that sad?


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