Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

“Lunatic Speaks”

Where do we find meaning in poetry? In the language itself, of course, apart from any expository denotation we might garner from declarative statements found within the lines. Meaning erupts from the poem, the poetic line, the image—even from a given word—in a kaleidoscopic & vatic fashion—clear in the moment, but then vanishing from the prosy, declarative world like Emily Dickinson’s snake, whose “notice sudden is.”

Indeed, these eruptions of meaning are both about the language itself & about identity—about identity as the writer constructs her meaning on the page—that is, the computer screen, where words are pixelated & even potentially pixilated; about identity as the fictional construct of poet appears to us on the page; about identity as we in our fictional construct as reader enter the poem like Alice going down the rabbit hole into a linguistic world of distorted, & hence magnified identity & transmogrified meaning.

These eruptions are to be found in profusion in a powerful first book of poetry by Caroline Hagood titled Lunatic Speaks. Caroline is a poet I’ve followed with interest since I first got to know her thru her splendid (& sadly no longer extant) blog Culture Sandwich; but more importantly for our purposes here today, someone you really should become familiar with as a poet, because I truly anticipate wonderful things from her!

Lunatic Speaks—not “The Lunatic Speaks” or “A Lunatic Speaks”: even in the book’s title (& in the title poem) we find these linguistic transformations; the noun becomes adjectival, the verb, a noun. Lunatic Speaks is a thing in itself, a type of speech, but changed. What is “lunatic”? Someone or something ruled by the moon, in terms of etymology—as the writer is a nocturnal creature, not only in the sense of writing by night, but in dreams—because for Caroline Hagood, in dreams begins responsibilities to herself as creator, & to herself as keeper of her own soul:

All I can do is take night’s madness and put it in a blender,
let the choppers go at it, silver with rage and other panics,

until it rains the mind slop I drain into Tupperware daily:
baby doll heads flickering in the ether, wind tunnels,

smashed piggybanks, pigeon juice and ceiling wax,
tufts of rat fur and Chinese finger traps, the last unicorn

carved up and served to tourists”
             “My Inner David Lynch Movie”

I quote this at length because this passage reveals a good deal about Caroline Hagood’s poetic gifts & her poetics: visceral, not reluctant to turn savage, wishing to hurl the most disparate aspects of her experience into a vortex in order to re-shape them, even if it means mangling—as she writes in “The Day I Became a Computer,” “to rip open the aperture of words”—not hesitant to be “hysterically” funny with the full etymological oomph accorded to that adjective; in her quest for identity, not ashamed of frankly exploring the body, as in the “The Voyage In,” which in terms of narrative describes the poet (at her doctor’s request) examining her genitalia in a mirror:

What you see won’t share
the grammar of beauty,

but it will be more provocative
than the smell of the city breathing

& in the end, this “other nocturnal thing” captivates the viewer &, the poet tells us, “you will be mesmerized/so hopelessly in love,/you’ll half expect it to speak.”

Yes, in the world of Lunatic Speaks, the body is given a voice; a frank voice, as the body is by necessarily frank in itself; & this frankness “becomes” the poet (in more than one sense of the word), whether she’s stating, “I want to talk bowel movements,/walk straight up to the next well-bred woman I see,/ask her if she’s been regular lately,” or if she’s discussing first menstruation in “Becoming a Woman’—which, by the way, in typical Hagood fashion doesn’t occur at first menstruation, but is instead tied into a transmogrified penis envy tied to thinking of her father shaving; which is then tied into both notions of shaving as castration & the fact that when many boys begin shaving as a passage to manhood, they have no real need to do so other than some patriarchal urge:

To conquer rugged skin terrain like bathroom cowboys,
to later be able to plant and fell the trees of the world,
leaving behind only so much stubble.

This frankness informs Caroline’s strong surrealist streak as well, as when she explores “my own body, backstroking/through organs and blubber and miles of nerves.”

But to our amazement, what she discovers within the viscera itself “is a little Blue Jay/building miniature cities and Andy Warhol/with a ukulele.” (“Andy Warhol with a Ukulele.”)

Lunatic Speaks is the language of a woman, as the woman’s own body follows lunar patterns, but also by virtue of the fact that this type of frank talk about both bodily & internal identity would have marked a woman as a “lunatic,” “the madwoman in the attic,” at earlier times in our culture. Even now, Caroline Hagood tells us, this ability to allow a woman her “full voice” (again, both in the sense of complete & in the sense of full volume) is an exceptional thing—it in fact, has to do with “the marriage of true minds,” as she examines in “The Truth About Marriage”:

It is breathing him in the night,
the body surprised at being seen,
the belly not sucked in, muscles unflexed,

private places hanging soft like a long braid.
It is showing him the screaming pieces you usually hide.
Marriage is a man who asks you to be louder.

So the body is the identity—the place where the voice & dreams reside, & the visceral truth of this is captured in Caroline’s visceral language. Even in the contemplatively erotic “Word Pornography,” in which the poet gazes passionately at her husband’s bare elbow as he sleeps. The bare elbow is “maybe even holy somehow,” but also:

        You so often sleep
In long sleeves—it’s cruel, really. We women
are insatiable, too, so this peek of meat

makes me both pervert and disciple.

The elbow, this synecdoche for the beloved husband, is holy & is meat, even like “the raw hamburger meat I used to sneak,/shake salt on, imagine to be what men tasted like,” as Caroline writes in the book’s remarkable opening poem, “Rewriting Red.”

The body, thru its physical transmogrifications, is also home to all future & past selves—&, as Caroline explores in “On Jury Duty and Motherhood” also the home of the other, as the child that could potentially grow there. But what does that mean for the poet?

I know that the beginnings of something big are in me

and continue to grow as I breathe, cross streets,
and talk softly to friends in diners—but it’s not a baby.
It’s a filing cabinet of images, a lens

on a world at once real and imagined.

There are so many wonderful moments in this collection—Caroline’s exploration of “the life
of objects” in “Spoon Lover,” her examination of a writer’s relationship with technology in “The Day I Became a Computer,” & the moments of identity between her current selves—poet, wife, office worker—& her girlhood, as well as with the older self she sees not only in the white hairs she discovers that she pulls out “bashfully at first, and then with startling violence,” but also in the way she forms identity with other female relatives, & especially her mother in “All About My Mother.”

Although this is her first book of poetry, Caroline Hagood has been widely published not only in literary journals, but also as a writer on film, literature & culture for Salon, The Guardian, Huffington Post, & The Economist. You can also read an interview from 2011 with Caroline here on Robert Frost’s BanjoLunatic Speaks was published thru FutureCycle Press, & is available thru Amazon & Barnes & Noble. I highly recommend this work. 

I want to close with some words from Caroline Hagood, because they sum up her poetry much more succinctly than I can. These are the final six lines of “Rewriting Red”:

The only way to rewrite red is to take it apart:
strip back the casing of the monster of history,
reduce it once again to its smallest pieces,
and then speak to them. Do not turn away
when the shucked mess gapes at you,
asks for its skin back. Speak.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Bridgetown Coda: The Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1

A while back it occurred to me that I’d been remiss in wrapping up the Bridgetown series with the St John’s Bridge. Of course it did make a neat ending: crossing the most beautiful of the Portland bridges on my birthday, on a truly splendid late summer day. But facts are facts: there are 11 bridges crossing the Willamette River in Portland, so stopping at 10 just won’t pass muster.

Having said that, it must be admitted that the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge is a bit of a special case. It’s owned by the railroad, & isn’t open to the public. It carries both Burlington Northern Santa Fe & Union Pacific freight trains, as well as Amtrak. So there is a chance I’ll be on the bridge someday if I ever happen to take the train up to Seattle.

At any rate, I’d decided that the bridge should be included in the series. Now came the question. How to get more photos of it? I’d taken a couple of decent photographs of the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge when I crossed the St John’s—in fact, the lead photo was taken then & is also a “repeat” here, as it was a Photo of the Week. But I ruled out crossing the St John’s Bridge again to get photos for a couple of reasons: first, the photos would be largely redundant; second, one time on that very high bridge was probably enough for me!

So I took to the internet to determine where I might go to get shots of the bridge, & I found that there’s a place called Harbor View City Park along the Willamette quite close to the railroad bridge. Off I went, camera in backpack, on the #44 bus headed north, for my destination. Now I should observe that, despite studying the maps (I thought) quite carefully, I hadn’t paid strict attention to how to access this park. Since the maps all showed that it was very close to N. Willamette Boulevard, I guessed that access wouldn’t be an issue.

You see where I’m going with this. In fact the park isn’t at all accessible from the part of Willamette Boulevard I was on, namely the area that runs at a 45 degree angle to the bridge! I now know I would have needed to either get off the bus at the University of Portland, or else backtracked, but I compounded the problem by heading in the opposite direction! I did get some shots, tho I was shooting directly into the afternoon sun—contre soleil may make for nice effects in the hands of a professional photographer, but it’s not recommended in the case of us amateurs.

In brief, the facts & figures on the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1 are: the bridge opened in 1908, originally as a swing-span bridge, which means that the movable section of the bridge swings out at a right angle to clear a channel for passing ships. At the time it was constructed, the swing span was the longest in the world. This was changed to a vertical lift in 1989, & the vertical lift span of the bridge is still one of the longest & highest in the world. The 5.1 in its name refers to the distance in miles from Portland’s Union Station (originally Hoyt Street Depot.) Thanks, Wikipedia, for those stats!

Next week, with a little luck, the new series I promised to start after the St John’s Bridge post should kick off—hope to see you then! 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

“sonnet that resembles a sonnet except when it doesn’t”

sonnet that resembles a sonnet except when it doesn’t

a Thai take-out menu, maize yellow,
and resembling ever so slightly a roadmap if you squint
and resembling more or less the full moon
assuming the full moon looked more like a stick of butter
and less like a barn owl’s implacable face

a 16 lb. Brunswick bowling ball, slate gray,
and in the abstract much like a flagstone breezeway
in Vermont, and if not that then a Mercator map,
assuming the bowling ball has fallen inside a black hole
where it changes into a clock radio with hands

where elephants go waltzing trunk to tail
where the Sunday funnies erupt into lilium longiflorum
where the full moon is feeling no pain
where mon semblable in a black sport coat speaks to his cell phone

A.K. Barkley
© 2012

Image links to its source
Elephant and flowers. State 2.  Wenzel Hollar (1607–1677) - Wiki Commons; public domain

Monday, September 24, 2012

Any Woman's Blues #24 – Danielia Cotton

Happy Monday, & welcome to a somewhat belated Monday Morning Blues—it is actually still morning here in Portland, at least as I begin typing this! It’s the final Monday of September (unbelievably enough), so it’s time for this month’s edition of Any Woman’s Blues.

Some may say that Danielia Cotton’s music belongs more in a discussion of soul, funk or rock than in a blues series—but the fact is, all of these genres spring from the blues an an ultimate source; & at various points in the past, no distinction was made between what we now call “soul” music & what we now think of as “blues”—the category “rhythm & blues” included Ray Charles & Ike & Tina Turner right alongside Howlin’ Wolf & John Lee Hooker.

& however one might quibble about genres in terms of Cotton’s music, there is one main point that can’t be disputed: this is powerful stuff indeed. Indeed, Cotton’s singing has been favorably compared with Tina Turner’s & Janis Joplin’s (two truly great artists who also formed a synthesis between blues, rock & “R&B.”) Cotton came from a musical family—her mother is jazz singer Wenonah Brooks, & jazz singers Jeannie Brooks & Carol Brooks-Meyners are her aunts. Danielia Cotton was given an acoustic guitar as a gift when she was 12 years old, & she took to the instrument quickly; she also began singing with her mother & aunts in a gospel group around this time. Her great vocal abilities won her a full scholarship to Bennington College, where she focused on theater, & she studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London during her senior year.

Music became her career, however; Cotton released a self-titled EP in 2004 thru Hip Shake Music, & then she released her debut full-length album, Small White Town in 2005 on the Thirty Tigers label. This was followed this up with Rare Girl on Adrenaline in 2008 & the Live Child EP in 2009 on Cottonwood. A new album, The Gun in Your Hand, is scheduled for a release next month.

In the context of her own band, Cotton plays rhythm guitar, & switches between a Gibson jumbo (acoustic) & a Fender Telecaster Thinline (semi-hollow Tele!) depending on the overall sound she’s seeking. I do notice she's playing a Rickenbacker on the cover of Small White Town.

Hope you enjoy this powerful music!

Image links to its source

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Photo of the Week 9/23/12

Healing Moon Mural
Mississippi Health Center/Albina Press Cafe
N. Albina Ave, Portland, Oregon
Saturday 9/22/12

Thursday, September 20, 2012

"that light"

that light

God how I yearned for you
after the floods
how you haunted me
breaking under the waves
night after night

the tears cried for you
knees aching on the hard stone floor
the beads said
cold under my fingers
light perpetual on your face
no consolation

but God is merciful
(tainted with irony, but merciful)
and you were my gift

brought back
in the long watches of the night
to walk through my door like Elijah
and I had set you a place

it would seem ungrateful to complain
with you under my hands
under me

in some sick way spared
consigned to my desperate kisses
corn bread
all my promises and praise

(when none of it
could hold a candle
to that light)

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2012

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
"Prophet Elijah in the Desert"[between 1464 and 1468] - Dieric Bouts
public domain 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Sea Musings"

Sea Musings
Indian Shores
July 2012


The umbrella man
lines up his double chairs,
punches his post into the sand,
and carefully sets each umbrella
in anticipation of that day's sea of sunbathers
reading their Kindles in a semblance of shade
to a deaf audience of careless waves.

At the shore’s edge
quarterback gull
facing his teammates
frantically calls the next play.
They appear unable to hear
above the roar of the crowd
of breaking waves.

Twenty-five umbrellas in a blue row
challenge the sea
with frantic futility.

Tall, thin lady in red hat
marches along the shore
to her own rhythm,
ignoring that of the sea,
though her pointed toes occasionally step in water.

They could be sisters,
but the slim runner passes her without acknowledgment
as she, in her black sack dress, stoops,
picks up an interesting shell with her plump fingers,
and drops it into her plastic bag.

No matter how much the beachcomber combs
to impress the bikini-ed ladies,
the wind and surf always have the last word.

Gull with broken wing,
frantic to fly,
flutters along the shore.
Playing children,
beach strollers, and shell hunters
watch helplessly,
each for a moment,
before moving on.

One can't help hearing
in the fractured song of seabirds
a running theme
of mortal foolishness.


Carmen Leone
© 2012

Image links to its source
Seagulls over the Waves: Wiki Commons - Seitei (Shotei) Watanabe 1851-1918 - public domain

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Photo of the Week 9/16/12

The Shop at the End of the Universe
(It had to be on a dead end street, right?)
SE Gladstone, Portland, OR
Saturday 9/15/12

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"epithalamion with scrabble tiles"

[Please help me in welcoming a new poet in residence to Robert Frost's Banjo, Mr. A.K. Barkley, also of Portland, whose acquaintance I made recently. Mr Barkley will join with Barbie Angell, Carmen Leone, & Mairi Graham-Shaw; please stay tuned, however, for possible changes in the posting schedule]

epithalamion with scrabble tiles

a unicycle shining burnished on burnside ave
black sun, solarized photo
and this autumn the constellations should take their rest at long last
on pillows of ice

not to forget this weekend’s italian wedding soup
frothing mophead hydrangeas
which isn’t to mention the clarinets violet green cadenzas’
viz. urban sweet pea vines

a place in the southwest where they serve the best coffee
you have ringtones, facebook etc.
and here come extraterrestrial trolley bells
conjugating by rote the future imperfect

a somnambulist of course finds himself in the garden of love
secluded connubial brass floor lamp
this fantastical stamp collection in which his soul finds rest
like a friday traffic jam

and who could be rehearsing stroh violin in this midday heat
sandra, your eyeglasses’ slategray epiphanies,
memories glistening like silverware strewn across the gray willamette
like blue herons’ architectural reflections

a red deck of playing cards, a traffic light gone to seed
17 maneki-nekos beckoning
and blue bicycles canter over that very same rose garden
as seedpods whirlybird across september

A.K. Barkley
© 2012

Image links to its source: 
"...Pourvu que j'aie un pneu-vélo Continental. Garanti un an. Usines à Clichy (Seine). "If I only had a Continental bicycle tire." Advertising poster for Continental tires showing a hobo on a unicycle with his dog running beside. , ca. 1900." Wiki Commons, public domain

Friday, September 14, 2012

Bach on the Banjo: Cello Suite no 3. – Sarabande

Happy Banjo Friday!

I began my recent obsession with baroque & other classical forms of music played on the banjo with a video of Robby Faverey performing the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite no. 1 on a cello banjo. I’ve since learned a couple of things about Faverey: he did indeed build his own cello banjo; & he tunes it a minor third below cello tuning: A E B F#. This puts his instrument essentially at a mid-point between cello & bass range, & certainly enhances the sonorousness of its tone.

But Faverey’s playing is itself marvelous; a classical guitarist who is also an accomplished lutenist, he studied at Amsterdam’s Sweelinck Conservatory, & has also studied both sitar & sarod. After reading about the Stedman bania, housed in the Museum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden & thought to be the oldest example of a American banjo (dating from about 1770 in Suriname, which is also his own home), Faverey became intrigued by this instrument as well. After building some gourd banjos, he experimented with using the drum head of a floor tom (!) & was able to contruct the large cello banjo he plays today.

I love this sound! Hope you enjoy it too!

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons: The Face of Bach / Elias Gottlob Haussmann, Version of 1748; public domain

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Running into Life"

[In which poet Barbie Angell finds out that Life plays poker, & quite well, too—enjoy!]

Running into Life

Life smacked me in the face
while I was looking the other way
and he said I should be watching
where I walked.

I should be careful what I say
and the silly games I play
‘cause the ones who never listen
always talk.

I said he didn’t make much sense
and that I’d build myself a fence
so he’d have to the the hell
out of my yard.

He smiled, then he laughed
and he said I was a blast,
then got serious and said,
“Let’s play some cards.”

I thought it was a joke.
I nervously lit a smoke,
then invited him to have
a cup of tea.

But I guess he was no joker
‘cause he dealt a hand of poker
and he said the stakes were going
to be me.

If I win, the world is mine.
There’s no hunger and no crime
and I’ll finally make a living
with my words.

But if I lose then I won’t write
and I’ll never sleep at nite
and whatever my pen bleeds
will be absurd.

When I looked at what he dealt
I couldn’t hide the way I felt
‘cause I figured he could never
beat my straight.

Life didn’t bat an eye
but he sighed a peaceful sigh
and I wondered just how tight he was
with Fate.

Then he said, “Well it’s been fun
but I’m afraid that you are done.”
and I said, “You know it does no good
to bluff.”

He said, “You just don’t understand,
your life cannot be planned.”
And to prove it he laid down
a royal flush.

Then he smiled just a little
and said that every life’s a riddle
and the answer is to follow
where it goes.

Every road has many turns,
it's not where they lead but what you’ve learned,
and when you succeed it’s only you
who knows.

Barbie Angell
© 2009-the present

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Texas Blues #5 – So Lonesome – Ramblin’ Thomas

It’s Monday morning, so I expect some of you have the blues! & here’s some Monday Morning Blues on Robert Frost’s Banjo to help you sing them away.

Today’s post is a continuation of the rather ambling & meandering Texas Blues series—we’re still very much in the acoustic portion of the proceedings, & still very much in the 1920s. Today’s featured artist, Ramblin’ Thomas, in fact recorded one of my all time favorite blues: his version of “Poor Boy Blues,” which he waxed for Paramount in 1928.

But I’ve already written about his “Poor Boy Blues”—& other versions of that song (or concept) in the Poor Boy Blues series. Not wishing to re-invent the wheel, this is what I had to say about Thomas in my brief biography in that earlier post:

Ramblin’ Thomas was born Willard Thomas in Logansport, Louisiana in 1902.  Not a lot is known of his biography, tho the fact that his younger brother, Jesse “Babyface” Thomas was “re-discovered” in the 1970s (& lived until 1995) did fill in some gaps about his life.  We know that Ramblin’ Thomas moved to the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas sometime in the late 1920s, & that his considerable travels also brought him to Chicago & other points in the midwest.  He recorded 16 of his existing 20 sides in Chicago in 1928 during two separate sessions for Paramount—the first was in February, the second in November.  The fact that Paramount brought him back for a second session suggests that they considered his material to be commercially viable.  He also recorded four songs for Victor in Dallas in 1932.

Since I’d already written about his recording of “Poor Boy Blues,” I decided I choose another song for this series, & I decided on “So Lonesome,” a song I’ve played around with myself. It’s a much more straightforward piece, as it follows more closely what we think of as the standard 12-bar blues structure.  Still, it displays the characteristic sparseness of Thomas’ playing—lots of single string notes, minimal chording, & virtually no accompaniment while he’s actually singing. It is, of course, a slide guitar piece played in the “Vestapol” tuning—typically either open D or open E—tho this recording is in the key of F, achieved presumably with a capo (tuning all the way up to F in “Vestapol” tuning would not only be hard on the strings but on the guitar neck itself.)  “So Lonesome” was recorded at the same February 1928 Paramount session as “Poor Boy Blues,” & was an “A side” backed with “Lock & Key Blues.”


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Photo of the Week 9/9/12

Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, with Mount Hood in the Background
from St John's Bridge, Portland, Oregon
Sunday 9/2/12

Friday, September 7, 2012

“Russian Rag”

A happy Banjo Friday, friends!

It appears that my fascination with classical music on the banjo is ongoing, tho this week’s entry is a bit of a twist on that theme. “Russian Rag” was composed in 1918 by one George Linus Cobb an an “interpolation” of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp minor, Op.3, No.2. The piece was originally conceived as a piano composition, but it’s received various treatments over the years—none, I would venture to say, more fun than this banjo trio by the Old 78s.

The Old 78s is the duo of Curly Miller & Carole Anne Rose , often in combination with various collaborators, including Clarke Buehling, who plays cello banjo on this piece, as well as Ray & Melanie Palmer.  According to the band’s website (link above):

Curly Miller and Carole Anne Rose play "Extreme" pumped-up rowdy Old Time fiddle and clawhammer banjo, Hillbilly Fiddle Rags, Classic Banjo duets, Celtic, World, and historic music, featuring the duo's unique combination of talents.

Great fun! Hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

“the easy out”

the easy out

and just when
you thought you'd failed

lay in the ashes
of your own apparent ruins
putting embers out
on the pads of your fingers
and searching for
the easy out

redemption comes swelling

courses through
like the tide over sand
swells through your body

leaves you
now truly destroyed

on the brink of strength

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2012


Image links to source
Caspar David Friedrich, Monk By the Sea – 1809: Wiki Commons, public domain

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The St John’s Bridge: Glorious Acrophobia

OK, here’s the truth: I do actually experience a bit of acrophobia—an odd confession, perhaps, from someone who’s set himself the goal of walking all of Portland’s bridges! But I’m happy to say that I’ve reached that goal; today brings the Bridgetown series to its conclusion.

Make no mistake: The St John’s Bridge is a high structure; its navigational clearance is 205 feet, just 15 feet lower than the Golden Gate Bridge & seven feet lower than the George Washington Bridge (to give some context.) So walking across you are well over 200 feet above the Willamette River!

The view north from the St John's Bridge

I made my trek out to St John’s on Sunday: a gorgeous day here in Portland—clear blue skies, temperatures holding in the mid to upper 70s, & only a gentle breeze blowing. It’s easy to get to the bridge from the east side—several buses will take you within a few blocks of it, & you’ll find yourself in the delightfully funky St John’s neighborhood. St John’s is far to the north in Portland, & was an independent, incorporated city founded in 1847; St John’s was annexed by Portland in 1915, tho some Portland residents I know claim that St John’s isn’t “really Portland.” I find this an odd assertion, since it is literally untrue, & also since I think St John’s is delightfully funky, & I’m quite happy to think of it as part of the city I live in.

The bridge itself is really majestic. The St John’s Bridge opened in 1931; the construction had started in 1929, just before the Stock Market Crash, & the fact that the bridge made a number of construction jobs available was a big boon at the beginning of the Depression. Per Wikipedia:

At the time of its completion, the bridge had:

  •     the highest clearance in the nation,
  •     the longest prefabricated steel cable rope strands,
  •     the tallest steel frame piers of reinforced concrete,
  •     the first application of aviation clearance lights to the towers, and
  •     longest suspension span west of Detroit, Michigan.

The St. John’s Bridge carries the Route 30 bypass from St John’s to the east to Linnton & beyond on the west side. The most striking feature of the bridge would be the Gothic cathedral-like towers, which actually lend their name to the nearby Cathedral Park.

The Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, with downtown Portland in the distance to the right

I have to say that I was very aware of the height of this bridge, especially when crossing the north side, which I did first. Maybe by the time I returned on the south sidewalk I was more inured to the height, but I found that much easier going. The sidewalks are ample, & while there’s some bike traffic on the sidewalks, there is a bike lane provided & many cyclists use this. I should note that there is no barrier between the sidewalk & the vehicle traffic.

My one regret about the outing is that I didn’t head down to Cathedral Park, where I could have gotten some shots of the bridge’s under structure; & also I didn’t get a shot of its span, which I believe I could have down from some vantage point in St John’s. I’d meant to go back there yesterday to remedy these oversights, but life—as is its wont—decided to intrude.  You can see a panoramic shot on Wikipedia here.

The Portland bridges are such an amazing component of this wonderful city, & I’m so glad I made a point of walking them all, even if my legs felt a little wobbly a couple of times! As far as ongoing bridge visits are concerned, I’ve made repeat crossings of the Steel Bridge (lower level), the Broadway & the Hawthorne—these are each easy & pleasant walks, & I’m sure I’ll also make use of the Burnside & Morrison Bridges when the opportunity arises. The downtown bridges really are pedestrian friendly & not intimidating. As for the Sellwood, Ross Island & even the glorious St John’s, I suspect my crossings were one time events.

Either next week or the following Wednesday I’ll be starting a new Rose City Wednesday series. Hope to see you then!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012



First the man bit an English muffin.
Then the girl said how nice it would be if we all had a custom wall-mirror.
Then there was fog
and a shot
and a lot of people running into the picture and out again
and someone was dead
and no one knew who did it,
but everyone thought it was the man with the motive.
Except us.
But we didn’t count.
We were out of the picture.
And it didn’t matter anyway
because a big strawberry shortcake showed up next
and I went to the bathroom.

Carmen Leone
© 2009-the present

Image is 1893 ad from a Chicago newspaper for "Kirk's Soap". From Wiki Commons, public domain

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Photo of the Week 9/2/12

Canada Goose on the Willamette
Eastbank Esplanade, Portland, Oregon
Tuesday 8/28/12