Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Home of Her Own in Kenton

Living on the streets is dangerous.  We all know this.  People are subject to theft and assault and violence, subject to the weather--cold and rain and freezing and heat.  Men against men--survival and alcohol and other drugs.  And men and women against women.  Tent cities have blossomed all over the nation.  The problem of homelessness is overwhelming.

One of the things Portland has been a leader in trying to solve the problem of homelessness is to dedicate areas as villages.  Other major cities have followed our lead.  The dedicated or managed tent cities have come a long way from a spray of tents here and there to an acre or two of dedicated land to create a permanent space.  Dignity Village, created in 2000, has grown up a great deal from a tented area into into a village; a model space with rules and regulations, monitored by the citizens themselves.
Dignity Village 2009

And then we took the idea of a permanent home a step further.  Over the past two years we have refined our approach.  Mayor Ted Wheeler thought living in a tent wasn't a great viable means of living.  So we started building tiny homes so people could get out of the elements.  Port-a-potties and fresh water are supplied by the city.  So now there are choices in our town: shelters, tents, tiny houses.
Dignity Village today

Not long ago, we had dedicated land given by the city to house homeless women in my neighborhood. The village is named Kenton Women's Village.  It is a fenced-off area with wood stakes in the chain links for privacy.  Not yet knowing what this was, I would see women working out by the road, pulling weeds.  Turns out it is a year-long pilot project that has 14 tiny houses for single occupancy.  It is self-governed with Catholic Charities as overseers.  Homeless women are often not comfortable in shelters, feeling vulnerable to disruption and perhaps abuse.  This village gives them a door to lock and a sense of home.

Kenton Women's Village
I have been donating quilts to the village for the past few months.  Five or six total this year.  And last week I brought 12 Christmas Stockings filled with necessities like shampoo and deodorant and combs and candy.  Candy is a necessity, right?  I have been able to meet some of my neighbors.  It is a well-kept wonderful area that can grown in homeyness, just like Dignity Village.

I love the village idea, the tiny houses ideas.  One idea is to open our own yards to tiny houses if we have the space and desire to help in that way.  While we have added many more shelter beds throughout the city, it is the tents and tiny houses that bring the community into the lives of transient people.  They have a place to belong.  A home, a space to call their own.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Weird Portland Wednesday: Keeping it Clean

A clean house is a delightful house.  It is organized and walking into this house, you are notice immediately...yeah that's it.  Walking into this house you immediately notice it is a clean organized house! 
By the way, my house isn't a neat organized house.  Better than when my sons were young, but still.

So for me, a vacuum is just a vacuum, right?   As a kid, it was an annoyance.  As a teen it was a chore.  As an adult it is an annoying chore.  Dogs hate it.  Cats run from it. 
I never understood how Mrs. Cleaver could smile so much, all dressed up--with her pearls even--while she vacuumed away her troubles with the Beav and his gang.  Certainly my mother never wore her pearls while she vacuumed.  But alas, my mom was never June Cleaver.

Well lately I have come to understand just how interesting are vacuum cleaners!  First, vacuums have always been kinda cool, having those two "u's" together.  Not many words in the English language have two u's side-by-side.  But I have found out, thanks to Portland, they are much more than that in coolness.

Portland has a vacuum museum.  Yes, a vacuum museum (notice I have spelled "vacuum" many times because of the cool u-thing).  Downtown at the Stark's Vacuum Cleaner Sales and Service, over in the corner of the store, is the Stark's Vacuum Museum.  It used to have over 300 machines, but this number was reduced to 25 this year.  Plus it has three timelines of the progression of the vacuum.  

I thought this was pretty spiffy, if not strange, to have a museum dedicated to vacuums and then I found there are actually vacuum enthusiasts!  They had their annual convention--annual convention!--last June in Spokane, Washington. 
Imagine toting this around in your house. 
But I do like the handy clock :)
The Vacuum Cleaner Collection Club says on their website: "Most collectors have a fascination with vacuum cleaners from a very early age. We enjoy the mechanical workings and appreciate the design of many vintage vacuum cleaners."  So okay.

 No way have I become a vacuum cleaner
enthusiast, but love that Portland has one of the few museums around.  Simply to keep Portland weird.


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Oh the Places You Will Go

Mom and Me
Leaving home to come south to Southern California is always a deal...sometimes a big deal; sometimes not.  But it is always a deal.  Packing (oh what will I need?).  Getting the car ready (do I need to get that oil changed before I go?).  Wash the car?  For sure it needs to be vacuumed out to rid the floors of all the Oregon leaves and stuff that cling to my shoes from the rain.  Get the pup ready (do I have enough doggie snacks for the road?).  Getting the cooler ready (will this be enough Diet Pepsi?).  Roadtrip shopping (do I have enough snacks for the road?)  Fabric and/or patterns, things to do while south.  See, it's a deal.

And when it is time to head home again, it is always a deal as well.  Setting up the apartment to look lived in while gone.  Emptying the refrigerator (last time I accidentally left some stuff...gross!).  Trying not to freak out the pup.  Did I stop the mail?  Did I call the people I want to see on my way north?  And why did they raise the rates on our Portland cable bundle?  (That has nothing to do with anything but I was thinking about that.)

While south, I get to see my mom every day.  Some days are better than others--not unlike packing up ready to come or go.  Some days she is more pleasant than others.  Some days she laughs and smiles more than others.  Some days she is in less pain than others.  Some days she is less bored than others.  Overall I like seeing her every day, as well as my other friends who are residents there.

While here I also often get to see old high school friends.  We have lunch or dinner, talk for hours.  We get to catch up.  I like those days.  Sometimes I go with a friend to see classic movies on the big screen.  Breakfast at Tiffany's.  Roman Holiday.  The Maltese Falcon.  Great old films to watch on the big screen.

And I get to spend time with my sister and her family.  Nice sweet clever manic laughing eye-rolling days.  We often take a little trip to the beach together, sister-mine and I.  This time we went to Ventura for the night.  Our hotel had glorious Birds of Paradise right outside our windows, so fresh and perfect they were ready to suddenly take off if you moved too quickly.  There were other wonderful plants all over, plants that smelled sweet and waved in the wind.  The orange flowered plant was plentiful around the buildings, so gorgeous in deep orange.  No one could tell us what they were, but we just liked them.

A thick fog hung over everything when we arrived, so very little sightseeing was had the first afternoon and evening. We drove to the harbor and walked along the sand.  There were some beautiful moss-green rocks near the south jetty.  We thought we were in Ireland for a second, so green they were.  On the other side of the jetty there was a (closed) lifeguard station up on a little knoll facing what we thought was away from the water.  But it actually faced toward a little alcove or calm place behind the jetty that would be wonderful for kids to play in the ocean.  We ate dinner at the Harbor.

The next day we woke up to gorgeous clear sunny skies.  After we checked out of the hotel, we took a tour of the little downtown area..The Mission San Buenaventura is gorgeous.  We decided to park and check out a used book store.  

Parking was rare but I found a space only a block away that was facing a building that appeared to be build sometime in the 20s.  As we got out of the car, we noticed the building was named the Earl Stanley Gardner Building; the birthplace of Perry Mason.  Whoa!  What a find!  If we hadn't decided to stop to check out that little used bookstore, we never would have known that this landmark existed.  

Apparently Gardner had his law office in the building and modeled his characters and offices after his own.  The building itself was being renovated but I stepped into the main floor.  I later found the building was originally a bank building with offices upstairs.  The building is still being used, as offices are on the second and third floors.  Someone even has their office in Gardner's old office space.  Such a cool find.

So tomorrow I hit the road.  It is time to leave these adventures, and Perry, behind in order to find new adventures on the road.  I have most everything packed and ready to go.  Last dinner with my sister and brother-in-law.  Last dishes washed.  Last recycle goods hauled out.  And of course, the pup know something is up and is leery of my every move.'s a deal.

peace and love and magic carpet rides~~~

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Weird Portland Wednesday: Biking Portland's Way

Like many cities across the nation, Portland is a bike-friendly little town.  We take pride in earning the title of "platinum” level bicycle friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists.  They only name one large city this highest honor a year.  We have also been named the number one bike-friendly city by Bicycling magazine for many years running.

We have 350 miles of bikeways, with more than 50 more miles funded to be installed in the next few years.  This includes 77 miles of Neighborhood Greenways, 188 miles of bike lanes, and 85 miles of bike paths.  Over 7% of commuters bike to work; the national average for a large city is .5%.  We rock at this bike thing.
But remember, we are also a weird city.  So you would obviously find bikers looking like this:  

Not so unusual, right?  Everyone has protection from Storm Troopers in their city...which is pretty weird in itself, since Portland was called "Little Beirut".  According to the website, Free Republic, the nickname "Little Beirut" has stuck to Portland since it was first coined by the staff of President Herbert Bush after loud protests during his visits to Oregon in the early 1990s, and the reputation remained strong as President GW Bush returned a decade later. 

"I think it's a catchy nickname, but it's kind of misleading in the amalgamation of constituencies that are opposing him," said Tom Hastings, a Portland State University professor and longtime peace activist.  The Oregon protests against Bush and his father have been aimed at legitimate issues and have drawn broad support regardless of age, race, religion or political party, he said.  But confrontations with a few noisy, chanting protesters who challenge police lines typically draw widespread television coverage that paints a distorted picture about the tens of thousands of people who have marched or demonstrated peacefully against administration policies over the years, Hastings said.  It is the sheer numbers of those demonstrators that lends weight to criticism of those policies, he said.

Over 100 schools are served by Portland’s Safe Routes to School Program.  This means that there are services like education programs operating at schools to teach kids about traffic safety and how to be safe pedestrians and bicyclists when actively going to school.  So you might even see this:

And face it.  Who doesn't see mothers of several children biking their kids to school?

And who doesn't see this type of running in their city.  Oh one unless you are hanging in Portland!  We are all about using alternative transportation.

So we like to bike here in Stumptown.  We just like to bike it our way.

Keeping it weird in Portland!


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Just a Small Piece, Please. And While You're at It, Put a Bird on It.

Every region has their own specific flavors.  Southerners love grits (nosugarforpetessake!).  Pittsburgh has it's perogies.  California has...well about everything.  Oregon has marionberries.  

Sweet-tart succulent glorious marionberries.
They are a large round blackberry that's a cross between the chehalem and olallieberry breeds. It's known as the "Cabernet of blackberries."  Because it is a soft berry, growers rarely ship it out of the area; so, if you want some you have to get yourself to Oregon.  

Wikipedia says, "It is an indigenous berry bred by Oregon State University in collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture breeding prorgram, the marionberry is the most common blackberry in the state—and more than half Oregon's blackberry crop are marionberries. In fact, despite the fact that Oregon produces between 28 and 33 million pounds of marionberries annually, most of the harvest never make it across state lines—even frozen."

 The first time I had a piece of marionberry pie was after a weekend camping and craw-fishing on Timothy Lake with our friends and neighbors.  We picked and picked and picked those berries and then our neighbor baked and baked and baked us some pie.  I was in love.  Then I discovered that Tillamook Creamery (along the Oregon Coast--a cool day trip through the cheese factory!) created Marionberry Pie Ice Cream.  To. Die. For.

So here's the deal: you want some Marionberry for yourself?  Then follow-through with that planned "someday" visit to Portland and we will gladly give you a taste...because it's only grown in Oregon. That's right, Baby!

Friday, March 03, 2017

I always tried to be good

Every time she asked me to talk about my time living there, I could only describe grey wet coldness.  I had nothing else.  I couldn’t breathe with that heavy house sitting on my chest and would start to cry.  I didn’t know why.  She never pushed me, but let it pass.  When I left the counseling session, I would try to put it out of my mind and get on with my life.  Focus...focus.  And then the next week she would ask me about living in that town once again. 

One evening, I watched my elder son yelling at his brother and watched my younger son submit to that onslaught of words.  I suddenly knew why that house was sitting on my chest—and so 10 years after, I woke up the memory that my former husband used to hit me.  It came flowing back like a broken dam.  Every detail, every bruise.  Every moment.  My former husband abused me.  And when he stopped hitting me, he started hitting the walls.  And yelling at me.  Telling me over and over I was a pile of shit, nothing.

How could I forget these seven years of my life?   

I always wondered how I could talk about abuse with such conviction.  I thought I was just empathetic to women who were abused.  Once in a Sociology class as an undergraduate, a student made a comment about how some women “asked for it,” and the professor failed to correct that impression.  I stood up and almost shouted, “There is no way a woman wants to be beaten.  There is no way she thinks, ‘Oh please smash my face.’  There is no way she begs for degradation and pain and horror.  There is just no way.”  I had no idea how that conviction came to me; I assumed I just knew; it just felt true.  The class sat stunned for a moment until the professor replied to the previous student, ignoring my outburst, “But it does seem that way sometimes, doesn’t it?”

The first time he hit me, we were recently married.  My pregnancy was starting to show; I was decorating the baby’s room.  Afterwards I sat shocked in the rocking chair, holding the baby’s Winnie-the-Pooh.  Rocking.  Crying.  Rocking.  He was mad and his fist came out of nowhere.  I figured it was because he didn’t know any better.  We weren’t grown up yet. We were 18.

We moved north to Oregon.  We were dirt poor.  As his frustration over the poverty increased, and his availability of alcohol increased, the abuse increased.  And then one day, he stopped hitting me.  He started hitting the walls.  We had big fist holes in the walls of the house.  I found this even more frightening because he made sure I knew that wall could be me, was me...but He had more control than that.  He was superior with that control.  He was my captor.  While we lived in that town, I had little contact with people outside the house.  Oh I babysat a little boy every day and I talked to the woman next door, but I was extremely isolated.  We couldn’t afford to even allow me to call home very often.

When I went into labor with my first son, it was a tough birth.  I was in labor for 72 hours.  I woke him up to tell him, only to find a fist in my face.  He was very angry that I had awakened him so early.  I remembered this when I went into labor with my second son at 3 am and quietly got up to have my labor in the other room.  His sister was arriving that morning, so I quietly got our son up and drove to the bus station to get her.  It happened to be my elder son’s birthday, so I continued to bake the cake and get the little party ready for him.  I then asked to be taken to the hospital.  I tried to be good.

I always tried to be good.

When we moved farther north to where I now live, he stopped smashing the walls except on occasion.  But he upped his psychological abuse.  He rarely came home nights and when he did, he constantly reminded me how ugly I was, how fat I was, how stupid I was, how no one would want me, not even him so I should be grateful he stayed.  Yelling.  Always yelling.

I never told anyone.  When I would tentatively approached the subject with my parents, my father would say clich├ęs like, “Smile, things could get worse,” (so I smiled and sure enough, they did) and “Every marriage has its ups and downs.”  I never continued.  I never told.

When things would be calm, I knew the onslaught was due soon; there was a building tension that made me crazy.   So I would do something or say something that I knew would trigger his abuse, just to get it over with.  Yeah...I guess I “asked for it.”  It was the only control I felt I had over my life.  I remember standing in the bathroom, the boys asleep, Him gone, sobbing, beating my head against the wall.  Literally beating my head against the wall.

Until I said, “Enough.”

One Saturday I sat at the kitchen table and wrote a list of my abilities and what I wanted to do.  I was now 24; my sons were 3 and 5.  I remembered I had once been a free spirit who felt she could accomplish anything.  I remembered I once was someone who was strong and pretty and street-smart.  Naive maybe, but alive.  Always alive.

I still wanted to do the right thing.  I asked Him to decide what he wanted to do.  He was never home nights, only came home to change clothes and go back out again.  I asked him to decide if he wanted to be married or single.  He stayed out the next night and returned in the morning to announce he wanted to stay married.  I asked him why.  I thought it was a reasonable question.  He started screaming that it should be good enough that he wanted to stay.  The following night he failed to come home, so I simply told him to move out; I had decided.

I was in control over my own life again.

I went on with my life.  I got a job through C.E.D.A.* in special education with Portland Public Schools.  I then went on to college.  I was a graduate student when I started counseling for an immediate problem and then continued for the next three years.  And during those sessions, ten years after the divorce, I woke up to these memories.  All because I saw my elder son had learned how to talk to me and his brother from watching his father long ago.  And my younger son had learned how to respond by watching me long ago.  I had to wake up these memories so I could stop this cycle.

It took me many years to move beyond the consequences of abuse.  Every time I would get involved with someone and that relationship would start to move to “serious,” I would see a car drive past: the man would be sitting straight and angry at the steering wheel and the woman would be far against the passenger door, staring out the window with the look of sadness and fear on her face.  I always sabotaged the relationship at that point.  In the late 90s I knew I wanted to take the risk to live again, to take the risk to love again.

And I have :)

* C.E.D.A.--The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act of 1973--was a program to train workers and provide them with jobs in the public service.  It was an extension of and modeled after the WPA, Works Progress Administration program, from the 1930s.