Monday, October 12, 2009
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Yes, o Gentle Reader(s), it's time for yet another milestone. This time we're visiting P9, at the 15800 block of SE Stark St, on the south side of the street. Similar to milestone P6, there isn't a cross street right at this point, and the stone is on a long block between 157th and 160th. The Stark Street Mile Markers blog gives the exact address as 15802, but it seems to be a bit west of there, more of a 15780, if we're going to be really anal about these things, which we are. It's next to a garage building on the west end of the U-shaped Victoria Gardens apartment complex. There's a Trimet stop a few steps west of the milestone, stop ID 5450, served by eastbound bus #20. So it's between the bus stop and the first curb cut for the apartments, which should narrow it down to a stretch of maybe 15 feet or so.
I should point out, however, that this isn't a very nice part of town. Where "nice" is what everyone says when they really mean "affluent". It's a little west of Rockwood proper, but the same basic demographics are at work here. I mean, nobody's going to drive by and randomly shoot you or anything while you're looking at the milestone, probably. I'm just mentioning this just so you know not to expect picture-postcard Portland around these parts.
The main danger, actually, is having your car towed if you park at the apartment complex while checking out the milestone. East Multnomah County is ground zero for predatory tow truck companies, and I understand the company listed on the sign here is especially notorious. Turn your back for just a moment and your car's gone, and it's all 100% legal. So heed the sign and just park on a side street or something instead.
You know how our elected officials like to prattle on about how ultra-Euro-fancy Portland supposedly is? Generally that's just marketing talk, intended to attract tourists and upscale condo buyers. But increasingly we resemble Paris in at least one respect, in that we're developing our own ring of les banlieues. Like Paris (and probably a lot of other European cities), poor people and minorities are increasingly squeezed out of the central city, by housing prices and government policy, and they typically end up in a belt of inner-ring suburbs, areas that tourists and local residents alike have no reason to visit. Except for the occasional milestone, I mean. When the mayor goes on yet another of his fact-finding trips across the Atlantic, there are parts of town he isn't interested in seeing, and his hosts aren't interested in showing him, and nobody brings it up, and everyone's happier that way. So it's out of sight, out of mind, problem solved.
I'm not exactly accusing the city of doing this deliberately. They may be cynical enough, but I'm not sure they're clever enough. It's that we go to a lot of trouble to have a nice central city like the Europeans do (or we imagine they do), and as a result we get the same (possibly unintended) side effects that they've got. I mean, Rockwood is no Clichy-sous-Bois, and we don't have packs of rioters going around torching cars or anything like that. I'm just saying there are certain interesting parallels, and the equivalent situation in Paris hasn't exactly turned out well, has it?