Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bridges & Roses & Trains & an Aerial Tram

MAX Green Line train crossing the Steel Bridge

A reflective Rose City Wednesday—no adventures or outings to recount. Not that the past week was devoid of outings & even adventures in my modest understanding of the word, but rather that I’m taking this opportunity to commemorate a point in time. As of Sunday, I’ve lived in Portland for a year.

Fountain & Roses - Peninsula Park

As those of you who know me are aware, the move—tho a deep adventure in the strict sense of the word—wasn’t an adventure in the sense the word is often taken nowadays: something that’s fun. No, the move came from a certain necessity, as a long-term relationship sadly came to a close, & a future I’d never really anticipated suddenly became my reality.

Fence Art SE Francis St

Looking back on my first weekend here (August 5th was a Friday in 2011), everything that happened seemed a bit surreal—events in a dream, taking “dream” to be neither positive nor negative, but simply indicative of disorientation, presenting situations in which even the expected becomes novel & deracinating.

Shops on N Mississippi Ave
But I’ve adapted. While friends generously opened their home to me as a temporary living space, I was able to find a place of my own in just under four months—which was a pleasant surprise, since I’m on a fixed income & was seeking subsidized housing. The waiting lists are long, but I was fortunate to find a wonderful place in North Portland just a couple of blocks from the thriving Mississippi Avenue scene—& coincidentally, also a couple of blocks away from a major bus line, which is crucial to me as someone who relies solely on walking & public transit to get around. During the better weather, the Overlook Park MAX station is also a reasonable walking distance.  

Portland Aerial Tram seen from SW Moody

My somewhat complicated medical needs are being addressed here; each Friday I make my trek by train & streetcar & aerial tram to Multnomah Pavillion at Oregon Health & Science University. I’ve not had as much success finding guitar students as I hoped, but fortunately I’m eligible for some assistance programs that make that much less critical. & I have had the chance to play out four times in the course of a year, all at the wonderful Bare Bones Café as part of their First Friday art & music series. 

Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms in June

Portland is a beautiful & livable city: I love the public transit here, & I love the profusion of flowers & greenery; I love the many & diverse bridges & the walks by the Willamette. A friend who recently moved here noted that Portland reminds her of Charlottesville, Virginia, where we both went to graduate school. At first the remark surprised me, but yes, there is something of the college town in its funkiness & the quaintness & character of the various neighborhoods. But still, it has most of the big city amenities, & some of them in profusion: a major foodie scene, for instance, as well as a thriving music scene.

Downtown skyline from the Broadway Bridge

This is home now. It’s not what I expected, & there’s still much I need to do. The daily challenges are never put to rest—they are the very stuff of life. But this is the place where I’ll be meeting them. 

Iconic Portland Sign from the Burnside Bridge

By the way, poetry lovers: stay tuned tomorrow as we introduce a new Poet in Residence to Robert Frost’s Banjo. I’m happy to let you know that poet Mairi Graham-Shaw will be joining the regular contributors here! Her poems will be appearing every other Thursday, starting tomorrow!


  1. I love that first shot of the train on the Steel Bridge. You seem to be settling in well in your new home.

    1. Thanks so much, Roy. Yes, getting settled! The Steel Bridge lends itself to the dramatic shot!

  2. Great photos. The city does seem to be quite liveable. There was an article in the Austin, TX paper recently about a guy who is closing up his recording studio here & moving with his family to Portland. I hope he's able to find the music scene there although he is going for another type of job.

    I can hardly believe it's been a year. I'm glad you found a good place to live, as you said, it was a difficult move.

    1. Hi Cheryl: It's very livable--a good size, great amenities, & the people are really quite friendly--more of a smaller town feel in that sense, despite the ~600K residents.

  3. My goodness, is it really a year. It is a year which, thanks to your writing and your photos, I have come to know the city of Portland much better.

    1. Thanks so much, Alan. I certainly have learned much about Great Britain from you!

  4. "The daily challenges are never put to rest—they are the very stuff of life. But this is the place where I’ll be meeting them."


    And thank you for bringing this city to life here on your blog.

  5. I tried to leave a message yesterday, but for some reason it didn't work. I'm back today to see if I have better luck. I wanted to tell you that although I have lived here for 18 years, your photos and commentary provide me with a fresh perspective on this lovely city.

  6. I don't remember seeing the Peninsula Park shot before - it reminds me of a park in England, in Blackpool (a seaside town - as you probably know. It's very difficult to judge what is well-known abroad of one's own country and what is not).

    Same about the pupil recruiting. I think it can take a long time to get established in a place before one reaches a "tipping point" and the pupils begin to roll in. It certainly did for me when I started teaching here.


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