This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on July 4, 2006 7:11 PM. The previous post in this blog was Play it again, Sam. The next post in this blog is A few real businesses left in Portland? We'll fix that.... Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Irvington clay

Here where the Irvington and Alameda neghborhoods of Portland meet, our native soil is clay. For the gardeners of the neighborhood, it's less than ideal, and so we do our best to break it up by adding all sorts of rich black soil, peat moss, and compost to our flower and vegetable beds. But when all that stuff breaks down, the clay is still there, soaking up water and acting dense. You can win out over it only for a while.

Right now there is on display one of the largest exhibits of Irvington clay you'll ever see, at the playground of the Madeleine School at NE 24th and Klickitat. This was a big expanse of blacktop for many decades (you can see it pretty clearly in this older satellite image), but now the macadam has been torn out to make way for an artificial-grass soccer field and some other amenities.

It looks as though they're trying to make the surface of the whole lot perfectly level, and that creates some interesting angles with the surrounding sidewalks, since the rights of way on that block most definitely have a slope:

As the neighorhood grouchy old coot opposed to change, I'm staying neutral on this one. There's a lot to like about it, but also some things to worry about. And as an old blacktop schoolyard man from wayback, I'm going to miss the familiar sight of Catholic school kids wrecking their uniforms doing unauthorized baseball slides and taking unanticipated tumbles on the hard surface. Long before there was Astroturf, there was stickball.

Anyway, if you ever wanted to write an ode to Irvington clay, now's the time to drop by for inspiration.

Comments (1)

Proper stickball, however, is best played with a "borrowed" broom handle for the bat...boy, did I used to get into trouble.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 5, 2006 12:12 AM

Yeah, amazing what you could do with a little hand saw. We used to wrap some tape around the handle for a better grip. Nothing better than a good, stout stickball stick. That and a "spaldeen" and your day was set.

The version we played did not include running bases. All safe hits were either singles or homers. We chalked a box on the wall, and the hitter stood in front of it. If the ball hit within the box and you didn't swing at it, it was a strike. And chalk on the ball was proof that it had indeed hit there.

Not too many stickball-suitable lots left in Portland. We should get a game going while there's still time.

Posted by: Jack Bog at July 5, 2006 12:31 AM

Very interesting story. `Inspiring accounts portraying individual fortays with some historical moments one the side.

Posted by: ws at July 5, 2006 10:07 AM

We chalked a box on the wall, and the hitter stood in front of it.

We had a permanent "box" painted on the wall at the back of the A&P. When we'd get kicked out of there, we took to the street in front of my house, and parked cars --or sewer grates-- made for great bases.

We need a stickball tournament. I'll bring the bat...with tape, of course.

Posted by: Frank Dufay at July 5, 2006 05:33 PM

[Posted as indicated; restored later.]

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