Blog Entry 1 Nov 29 2009
This blog will give you ideas and inspiration, I hope, to get out and explore. I'll write about my weekly urban wanderings and include some history, architecture, geology, and a lot more opinion than seemed prudent in my published books.
For now, some random thoughts on this past year of walks...
This year, in between writing 2 books (one on Lake Oswego and another on Portland's public stairways) I led about 25 walks for Metro, the City of Portland and the Multnomah County Library system. They ranged from about 6 people on a 95 degree Sunday afternoon in old Orenco to 200 on a golden fall Saturday exploring Beverly Cleary's Hollywood/Grant Park neighborhoods. We explored college campuses, neighborhoods on the National Register of Historic Places, old streetcar lines, still thriving with small local businesses, a sewage treatment facility, urban streams, parks and rivers. And more.
Walking with groups has its own dynamic--it's a social thing and the area walked through is a backdrop for socializing. Walking is great for that. Try walking with your teenager or partner. Conversation flows with your footsteps in a way that face to face, across the restaurant table talk just often can't replicate. And there's a never-ending parade of architecture and gardening styles to critique, admire and inspire.
But if you really want to see and hear a neighborhood,walk alone. You'll chat more with the leaf blowing crews (who despite their noisy equipment, have almost always the good manners to turn it off when a pedestrian approaches), the garden putterers, the fellow walkers, the people waiting at a bus stop or using a public staircase, and the old people who always have more time to visit than the rest of us.
Some parts of town are friendlier than others. Portland is a hip town, in an "I'm not trying; just can't help it" kind of way. In some neighborhoods (and I won't name names; but they're in SE) you won't get a lot of friendly eye contact and passing pleasantries. Or maybe you will if you're under 30 and wearing items from Goodwill. I am over 30, way over it, and perhaps look a bit too eager for these folks.
Some of the friendliest vibes I've gotten in my years of walking around the region are in Forest Grove, Oregon City, Piedmont and Concordia.
I just finished a book on exploring Portland's many urban staircases. There are 200 or so and I climbed them all in the space of a few weeks. Saw lots of cats, one rat, many dogs, countless IPods, stunning views, sweaty grimaces from people running up and down staircases repeatedly, mushroooms growing on risers, not much trash, lots of leaf litter which made some stairs feel like they'd been waxed, evidence of significant use (moss only on the sides of stairs) and no-use (a lush moss carpet on the treads).
More next week.