Monday, March 30, 2009

Vista Bridge

Vista Bridge, March '09


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I haven't done anything with the ongoing bridge project for a while, mostly due to it being winter (even if it's technically spring). I figured I was overdue, then, and I seem to recall there's at least one Gentle Reader out there who actually likes my bridge stuff, believe it or not.

So today's thrilling bridge adventure takes us, well, just over to the West Hills, and the sorta-famous Vista Bridge. Ok, so it's technically called the "Vista Avenue Viaduct", as it carries said avenue over SW Jefferson St., but I still count it as a bridge for somewhat anal and pedantic reasons I'll get to later on. Over time I've learned not to lead off with pedantic crap that nobody except me cares about.

vista bridge, march '09

This post has actually been in the works for a while. I dropped by last fall to do the bridge thing, and realized my camera battery was totally drained, so no photos. Then a few days back I stopped by to try the bridge thing again, took a few photos, but ended up with a drained battery again before I had all the shots I wanted. So I charged the thing back up and went back again. In short, many Bothans died to bring you these photos, so I hope you're happy.

Vista Bridge, March '09

Vista Bridge, March '09

vista bridge, march '09

Walking the bridge isn't a big deal, and I only mention it because that's part of the ongoing theme. The sidewalks are fine, and there are a couple of bays with benches if you're inclined to stop and enjoy the view. Parking can be a problem, in the unlikely event you're driving to the bridge in order to walk across it and back. And waiting for a gap in traffic so you can cross the street is very mildly annoying. I'm kind of grasping at straws here trying to find something bad to say. Maybe biking across could be sketchy, if it was a rainy night and there were a bunch of aggressive cokehead rich twits in enormous luxury SUVs speeding along while yapping on their mobile phones, too busy daytrading or sending somebody's job to China, to notice you there on your bike, especially if you're being a proper tragically hip Portland cyclist and you're wearing all black, you don't have any lights or reflectors on your bike, you aren't wearing a helmet, your trendy fixie bike has no brakes, and you're riding around town aimlessly after chugging a few PBR's. Under those circumstances, the bridge could be on the dangerous side.

Vista Bridge, March '09

Which sort of brings us to the one thing everyone in town knows about the Vista Bridge. The bridge's common nickname is the "Suicide Bridge" due to its supposed popularity with jumpers. Apparently the stats bear this out, and it isn't just an urban legend. I usually work the phrase "not dying" into the titles of bridge posts, but due to the Vista's reputation I figured it would be kind of crass this time around. Not that I'm above crass, mind you; it just seems like a shame to offend people and drive them away before they've read any of my semi-sparkling prose.

Before anybody goes off on a keep-Portland-weird, home-of-the-world-famous-Suicide-Bridge smugness thing, I ought to point out that most cities of a certain size have a suicide bridge; Seattle has the ginormous Aurora Avenue bridge, for example. If this humble blog had more of a travel budget, and I had more free time, it might be an interesting project to go around profiling the world's "suicide bridges". Although in practice that would probably get depressing rather quickly. And when you told people why you were visiting their fair city, they'd look at you funny and nervously edge away.

Actually I get that reaction a lot, even when I'm not pursuing a ghoulish-yet-dweeby project for the interwebs. Can't imagine why, though.

Vista Bridge, March '09

So I'm not really an expert on the relative merits of various Suicide Bridges, nor do I particularly care to be, but ours does seem as though it's more suited for people who are all gothic or pre-Raphaelite about the process, and who intend to jump for philosophical, aesthetic, ideological, or romantic reasons. People who want to end it all because their hedge fund cratered may want to explore other options.

Around the sightseeing bays, the bridge railing is covered in decorative metal spikes, made of iron and painted green to look like copper. Over the years many of these spikes have been bent over or even broken off. It's easy to imagine that this is the work of generations of distraught jumpers, although garden-variety vandalism is more likely (obviously combined with decades of deferred maintenance). Still, it's kind of an evocative sight.

Vista Bridge, March '09

Vista Bridge, March '09

Vista Bridge, March '09

vista bridge, march '09

I'm not sure why it's so popular. (And it really is, at least according to this 1997 DHS study.) It's not that being over land instead of water makes the outcome more certain, really; above a certain height, water is not appreciably softer than land. Maybe it's that one ends up on a busy street instead of in a river, and one is afraid of drowning or something. Or maybe it gets more attention this way; if one took the plunge and nobody noticed, that would kind of defeat the point, wouldn't it? There's an added bonus here, in that one stands a good chance of plummeting onto a test-driven BMW from the nearby dealership. Which certainly makes a statement, of a sort. That's the problem with BMW's -- I'm sure they're excellent cars in a strictly technical sense, but you become the enemy of all things good in the universe if you even consider buying one, and you're practically begging goth-emo failed-poet types to fling themselves through your windshield.

Speaking as a software engineer, which I rarely do, the one thing I do kind of like about the whole suicide thing is that "Vista Bridge == Suicide Bridge" implies "Vista == Suicide", which makes perfect sense if you've ever used Windows Vista. Microsoft even has something they call Vista Bridge, which is some sort of stopgap widget to make Vista and .NET play evilly together.

So can we stop talking about the suicide angle now? Please? Awesome, thanks.

vista bridge, march '09

vista bridge, march '09

vista bridge, march '09

vista bridge, march '09

vista bridge, march '09

vista bridge, march '09

Now let's get pedantic! I think I've mentioned the bridge vs. viaduct issue before, where the difference is whether the structure crosses water or not. If you look down off the bridge, you don't see any water, and you go, oh, wait, I'm on a viaduct. Or maybe you don't. The bridge also has "viaduct" in the official name, so it would seem like it's a settled matter, and I'm being uncharacteristically imprecise in insisting on "bridge". But really I'm not, and there really is water down there somewhere. This is the spot where Jefferson St. becomes Canyon Road (named for obvious reasons), and in this part of the world there's no such thing as a dry canyon. Buried somewhere beneath the roadbed is half-remembered Tanner Creek, which skulks out of the canyon it once carved, turns north, flows directly under PGE Park, and eventually empties into the Willamette somewhere around the old Centennial Mills building. It flows the entire distance deep underground and mostly forgotten. (A post on Platial shows streetcars tumbling into a sinkhole at 18th & Alder that was caused by Tanner Creek -- which was already flowing in a pipe way back in 1904.)

Back when the Pearl District was just a gleam in greedy developers' eyes, there was some discussion about daylighting the lower reaches of Tanner Creek, at least for the stretch where it flows through Tanner Springs Park. As it turned out, the land was too polluted to dig into safely, so daylighting was regretfully dropped.

As I see it, it's not the creek's fault that people shoved it into a culvert. And as modern, eco-pious West Coast types, we really ought to give a nod to the genuine natural landscape now and then. That's my argument, and I'm stickin' to it.

vista bridge, march '09

I haven't found a great deal of history about the bridge, but there was a previous bridge here before the current one. The current bridge replaced the earlier Ford St. Bridge, which I understand was a notoriously rickety wooden structure. There's some debate about the origin of the "Ford" in Ford St., some arguing that it honors Henry Ford and the Model T. Others argue the name predates the automobile, and some speculate it refers to fording Tanner Creek. Both of those arguments make way too much sense to actually be true; I suspect the name honors some unremembered minor pioneer or inconsequential real estate baron, this being the West Hills and all. There's an intersection right at the south end of the bridge, and the side street on the west side of Vista is "SW Ford St. Drive", which I guess is a remnant of the old road. Ford St. Drive is gravel most of its length, and it winds around for a surprising distance before dead-ending into a barbed-wire fence near where US 26 goes into the tunnel, at what looks like some kind of utility co. facility -- although that may just be what They want you to think.

vista bridge, march '09

Couple of historical images to pass along: An artist's rendering of what the then-proposed bridge would look like; and an old photo of streetcars on the bridge.

vista bridge, march '09

Other items from around the interwebs:
vista bridge, march '09 Vista Bridge, March '09

Horse Trough Fountain

Horse Trough Fountain, 31st & Thurman


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It's been a while, and I'm trying to remember how these photo-expedition posts work again, so I thought I'd start small. Partly because it's easy that way, and partly for extreme contrast with the previous glitzy Vegas-o-licious post. So today's adventure takes us up to NW 31st & Thurman, home to Portland's very own Horse Trough Fountain, one of the more obscure corners of the city Water Bureau's aqueous empire. That last link is the only mention of this fountain anywhere on the interwebs, at least that I can find. Until now, obviously. This is quite a dearth of info. You'd think there'd at least be a historical marker nearby explaining what the fountain is and how it got here, but I didn't see one. That's sort of a shame, but it also makes this post easier to write.

The Water Bureau's list of fountains doesn't include it, I guess because people can drink out of it. That makes it a big drinking fountain, instead of a small "real" fountain, apparently. There are also facilities for horses and dogs. If a fountain provides water for horses and dogs but not people, like the Thompson and Skidmore fountains, it counts as real. If people can drink out of it but nobody does, and it also includes allegorical nekkidness, like the Shemanski Fountain, it's real too. If it's full of chlorine, and you can run around and wade in it, but not drink it, it's real, like the Keller Fountain. Whatever the criteria are, the Horse Trough apparently doesn't meet them. Well, that or they just forgot about it. I can see how that could happen.

If this location looks a bit familiar, it's because I was here a few months ago taking photos of the Thurman Street Bridge just across the street. The fountain might have been intended for the use of horses pulling the city's old horse-drawn streetcars, way back in the early 20th century. The bridge did carry streetcars at one point, so it's a working hypothesis, at least, and I can't find any sources that prove me wrong.

I don't remember noticing the fountain the last time I was here, even though I was right there across the street from it. Part of that, I'm sure, is that it's just not very big or imposing. And my powers of observation aren't always the greatest, especially when I'm in a hurry, which I was. But it's also true that I wasn't doing fountains at the time, so it just sort of didn't register. This time I stopped and took a few photos, but it felt like people were looking at me funny and wondering why I was taking photos of their little neighborhood drinking fountain. I don't know if that impression was true or not, but I eventually quit and went away. So anyway, enjoy, or whatever.

Horse Trough Fountain, 31st & Thurman

Horse Trough Fountain, 31st & Thurman

Horse Trough Fountain, 31st & Thurman

Horse Trough Fountain, 31st & Thurman

Las Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Vegas Strip at Night

Friday, March 20, 2009

croci

crocus, march '09

When I posted these photos, back in March 2009, I did so without any text explaining where these crocuses were at. And I don't remember anymore either. My guess is that it's probably O'Bryant Square, but I could be wrong.

Also, according to pretty much every site on the interwebs -- including Wikipedia's crocus article -- either "croci" or "crocuses" is acceptable as the plural form of crocus. So now you know.

crocus, march '09

crocus, march '09

crocus, march '09

crocus, march '09

crocus, march '09

crocus, march '09

crocus, march '09

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

various lions

MGM Grand

First off, here are a few more Vegas photos, this time from the MGM Grand Las Vegas. The MGM Grand is, supposedly, the world's second-largest hotel, second only to some sort of mega-resort in Malaysia. And the lion out in front is the largest bronze sculpture in the western hemisphere, or at least that's what the plaque next to it said. These are just two of the many curious facts one can pick up around Las Vegas to impress one's friends back home in good ole Mudville and make them all say "gee whiz". Who says Vegas isn't educational?

MGM Grand

MGM Grand

MGM Grand




Inside the MGM Grand there's an exhibit featuring real live lions, right there in the casino. I thought I'd read somewhere that they're descended from one of the old MGM movie logo lions, but I haven't bothered to go check. I did take a couple of photos, though, and here they are:

Lions, MGM Grand

Lions, MGM Grand

Lions, MGM Grand




And a few cat photos, since it's just not the interwebs without cat photos. Not technically lion photos, but he's quite certain he's king of the jungle, and who am I to argue?

cat, march '09

cat, march '09

cat, march '09

cat, march '09