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Monday, August 15, 2011

The chance you take, the choice you make

Thirty-three years ago today, a scrawny guy in a Volkswagen Beetle with Jersey plates drove into Portland with all his possessions in the back seat and the trunk. He was coming to town on a one-year mission, after which he was planning to move to Los Angeles and become a corporate and tax lawyer there. He wound up liking Portland so much that he never left. His beach boy dreams were replaced by life under a volcano.

We took a shot at writing the story of that first year here, and it's an older guy's pleasure to read those reminiscences. But let's take a look around at today. One of our very favorite songwriters asks in one of his best songs, "Do you ever run into that guy who used to be you?" What would we say to the guy in the photo if we met him in 2011 Portland?

Easy -- the same songwriter sets it all out, here. Just click on the arrow in the purple circle.

Comments (16)

The question is how much longer are you going to stay, Jack. I got here in June of 1977 (shortly before the Blazers won their only championship). Flew in on a United flight from Boston via Chicago. Spent my first night in a fleabag hotel on NE 82nd. The rest is history.

The city I once loved is gone. Very gone. And I know that at some point I will be moving on. Probably when I get the old age lay-off from my employer. I want something of a package as it is all I will get outside of the 401K I've been paying into.

I am so not who I was when I got here. And it had to be that way and I am good with it.

Jack and LA - I landed timewise between the two of you, in August, '77, to spend a year as a Jesuit Volunteer in the Old Town area, a far grittier place back then. I lived in NW Portland, which still had a lot of facilities for the elderly and the mentally ill - I remember one early morning being awakened by the yelling of a woman wandering the streets stark naked. The gentrification that occurred back then - NW Portland and Hawthorne a bit later - seemed so much more organic. People invested their own money, and even the upgrades had some creativity to them. Now, development seems so scripted, almost "big-box" like, even when the money is going to local developers. I do wonder - is it just me getting cranky and old about the changes I see, or have we really lost our way as a community?

"Ahh, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now" ?

Umpire...we have lost our way as a community, but it may not be too late.

In Aug '77 I was in-transit from the 7th Marines (Camp Pendleton) to Marine Security Guard School, at Headquaters Marine Corps (Wash DC.) On graduation day, Embassy Marines are given their orders and immediately depart for their respective embassy or consulate posting.

At the time, we had 121 embassies and 117 consulates around the world. No one knew where they would be posted until graduation.

When the Company 1stSgt told me I was to be posted in Tel Aviv, I asked what country that was. When informed that it was Israel, I asked "Didn't they just have a war there?" The 1stSgt laughed and said "Yes they did son, good thing you qualified expert."

As it turned out, it was the greatest adventure of my life. And, I had no idea that one morning 10 months later, I would spot a cute blond in Herzliya Pituach. We've been together ever since.

umpire.... my first abode was a beat-up rental house (shared by 4) on the corner of NE 73 and Oregon. Once we both got jobs in NW, the cross town bus ride was horrific so we moved into a one bedroom (2 of us) on the corner of 24th and Quimby. Getting someone to rent to 2 out of towners with not much financial history was a challenge too. NW Portland was redlined for bank loans back in the mid to late 70s. CNF and the hospital had plans to take over the area as commercial. You could buy a small very beat up Victorian house in that hood for around $35K in those days. Bigger and nicer would run you maybe $60k. But it was a sketchy area. Well except for Bill Walton gracing us with his presence (at Jack Scott's place) during season. And that just brought the drunks out to yell late at night after losses.

And I did some work for a guy rehabbing a house in the hood once as barter payment for his using his truck to pick some stuff up for us.

Those were the days....

...or have we really lost our way as a community?

In my view, we have had to deal with too much negativity brought on by our city policies, horrendous changes by negative infill, congestion, and the umpteen meetings, school property issues,Hayden Island folks trying to save that land, Mt. Tabor folks trying to save those reservoirs, the list is very long. So much energy is spent on reacting that very little down time is left to focus on other good directions for our community.

So my answer is no, we have not lost our way as a community, however, our elected officials have lost their way, and have let us down as they have not been invested in making our living here better. As a result,we have to exert once again even more energy to replace them at the coming elections.

LucsAdvo said:The city I once loved is gone. Very gone...

I am afraid that sentiment is widespread.

We can only hold down the fort so to speak at this point to prevent more negative change. That will mean seeing to it that these same types that would continue the "agenda" do not get elected.

I drove here in the Summer of '74 -- and heard Governor Tom (at least I recall it) admonish me to not forget to go back home. After landing in Beaverton's Satellite Motel that seemed like a good idea. I planned to stay a few years and head back to Boston and the Route 128 technology center. But I also fell in love with Portland. And KINK radio. The local TV stations which rotated amongst themselves a monthly call-in program to talk to the station general manager. And the Skyline Drive-in. Portland seems a people-centric little town.

And La P√Ętisserie and their salt water aquarium with that funny little fish who enjoyed swimming into the stream of air bubbles. And Jazz de Opus downstairs. Old Town was edgy and comforting at the same time.

Maybe we're just old and unwilling to turn the reins over to the new young pups....

Oh, and Victoria Fuller on KPTV news.

Old Zeb ... if only..... life and the city were so simple as then... outside of the year in law school in Beantown (and I was a student not a working stiff in Boston), Portland was the first city I ever lived in. It was vibrant and almost magical, not blighted like so many smaller East Coast cities... well Old Town was blighted but I never felt totally unsafe like I did in parts of Boston. There was no gridlock and not rush hour back in the 70s. The economy was not great in the late 70s but we all knew we were going to find a way to make it if we kept plugging. I would not want to be a 22 year old moving here in June of 2011 (I was 22 in June of 1977).

I admit I came here for the following reasons.... Another Roadside Attraction (I really wanted to hunt edible (not druggie) mushrooms and forage in the woods) and Portland Town Council (it seemed that this was a progressive city for gay folks to come and live and not be dogged by blue laws or whatever) and to escape from the tyranny of my ridiculously crazy parents.

I'd always meant to move to SF (starting as a teen), but the year in Boston convinced me that smaller was a better idea.

I don't think this city is fixable. We've gone far too astray from the days when grass roots activists could get Margaret Strachan and Bud Clark elected to City Council. The fix is in everywhere. Elections are bought and sold. The media is far worse than it was during Margaret's initial election (before she forced the run-off and surprised everyone).

And most people who are here may not have long term plans to put roots down and make any one place their home.

I did want to make this place home as did any number of my friends (of all ilk) who showed up here in the late 70s and early 80s. We used to talk about our vision around the dinner table. Now we talk about our anger and sadness at how wrong it's gone.

All of this still begs the question, what can be done by those of us who care who have day jobs and have become increasingly cynical as one bad deal after another is done.

I came in January 1980, after the usual 2-year post-college hiatus in California. I landed in the aftermath of a major ice storm. First month here, someone cut loose with gunfire a in a Salem bar, for the usual reason (love lost) - but he used an automatic weapon. Eight weeks later, Mt. St. Helens started some subterrainian activities.

I knew pretty quick I was no longer in California. Yet, here I am.

Moved out from the midwest in 1972. If you've spent any time there, you know why.
I lived on Tillamook, off Williams Ave., for a couple of years and felt perfectly safe wandering the hood after dark.

I've lived in NE,NW, Sandy River, Oregon City, West Linn, and finally settled in SW. Paid $37K for the first place, on Vermont. Sold it at $150k and got a place with a view of the Coast Range.

Sak's Front Avenue: Paul Delay Blues and Robert Cray, every week. Last Hurrah: varied quality. Euphoria: Name bands in the mix. Louis La Bamba: eclectic. Good times, back in the day. No gunplay.

Heh . . . Seattle from Madison WI by VW bug in '74, road gigs in Stumptown by '75 (the T Room), then permanent relocation in '80 following a flame (still with her after 31 years). Now living outside the Tri-Met area (just), but still enjoying the Oregon scene and scenery. Thanks for the memories.

I remember that night in Portland when the surprised media came to Margaret Strachan's door, and she said something like - They had the money, I had the people.

I am trying to be optimistic here that people will once again prevail.

clinamen - I was at Margaret's house that night when the media showed up (I was part of her campaign but only because she shamed me into it in the beginning). And we gave them a rousing version of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyZeGOsR9IA If anyone has the tape it's KGW, since Pete Schulberg's comments led to the serenade. Her opponents really had name recognition (Steve Kafoury and Earl the Pearl) but no one was spending big bucks on campaigns back then. Yeah, we spray painted the yard signs in an old warehouse in the industrial district and we went door to door all over the city. But even with the kind of grass roots support that came out of the old NW neighborhood association (how I first met Margaret), it today's world, it just wouldn't get anyone a win.

I no longer believe the people can prevail clinamen. And I used to be on the front lines of a number of campaigns. (Strachan and Bud Clark and some ballot initiative movements). I just have lost my belief in the political process in this city.

"I no longer believe the people can prevail ..."

Nor do I. I worked on Liz Callison's campaign when she ran for Metro Council in 1998 garnering about 42% of the vote.

In later years she made a couple of attempts for a Portland City Council seat, but by that time a smear machine was in effect.

I came to Portland in late 1979 thinking it was a truly progressive planning mecca. These days I am sometimes truly sorry I have spent so much of my adult life here. Recently returned from a conference in DC and am realizing that clear thinking is more prevalent elsewhere.

Depressing. Is it a great place for kids to grow up? Some of them see through it and leave as soon as they can.

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