Friday, June 01, 2007

photo friday: northern edition


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If you dropped by here yesterday (and don't feel bad if you didn't; nobody else did either), you might recall that I hopped the Yellow Line north to the Kenton neighborhood to play "weird guy wandering around with a camera" for a bit. Don't worry, we're done with roses for the moment. Here are a few other neighborhood attractions, starting with the, uh, famous Paul Bunyan statue. They just don't make roadside kitsch like this anymore, monumental in size but brightly colored, and with a big goofy grin. This makes him kind of hard to work with, camera-wise. You can either just take the stock photo above, or you can try to get a little creative:


But here's the best angle available, in which we learn exactly why Mr. Bunyan sports that goofy grin:


Perhaps you were wondering about the absent Blue Ox. This particular Bunyan never had one, even before they moved him to the current location (officially known as "Paul Bunyan Plaza") when MAX went in. Here's a 2002 Trib story about the move. The story notes:
Across Denver Avenue, a sculptor will install small statues in the shape of hooves representing Paul’s pal, Babe the Blue Ox. They will serve as seats.

So here are those hooves, which sit across Denver Ave. from Bunyan. We didn't get the full ox, and probably not for budgetary reasons, either. No self-respecting artist in this modern era would be caught dead building something that would go with the Bunyan statue. And doing just the hooves gives you a great opportunity to spout art jargon, too, stuff like "subverting the dominant paradigm". Which I suppose the hooves do, in a way.


TriMet's public art info for the Yellow Line says the mini-park with the hooves is called "N. Denver Plaza", not to be confused with Paul Bunyan Plaza across the street. So now you know.

Next stop, a few blocks to the east at the corner of Fenwick & Interstate, is what TriMet calls Fenwick Pocket Park, featuring a few salvaged architectural elements from the old Portland Union Stockyards building that used to be around here somewhere. Kenton started out as a company town, which explains the distinctive architecture in the business district along Denver Avenue. No, I don't have any photos of the business district. I ought to have taken some, but I was a bit overly narrowly-focused yesterday and just sort of didn't.

Suffice it to say that the business district still has a lot of its blue-collar, "old Portland" character... for now. Like downtown St. Johns, it's just too cute and too close in to avoid the gentrifiers for much longer. Like St. Johns, the process has already started. If you're curious, you may want to go have a look now. You'll be able to say you saw the place before it was all upscale coffee chains, swanky martini bars, and doggie day spas, like the rest of 21st century Portland.

When the city brings in artists to build monuments to your neighborhood's vanished working-class glory, you can be absolutely sure that you won't be a working-class neighborhood for too much longer. At least not if the city can help it.



detail, fenwick pocket park>


The bovine theme continues at the Kenton MAX station:


Cow, Kenton MAX Station

A couple of blocks west of Bunyan is Kenton Park, which has your usual collection of sports fields, playgrounds, etc., nice enough but nothing to go out of your way to see. I understand the city's thinking about siting a skate park here. From the neighborhood association's board minutes: Tom reports that Dreamland will be sure to design a facility so that kids will be drawn to it and not to other areas of Downtown Kenton. It will be a small enough facility that it will not attract kids from all over the city.".

Which is an interesting and rather defensive way to put it. You could probably write a whole book about how and why communities decide to provide certain sports or recreational facilities and not others. Nearly every neighborhood park in the city provides a baseball diamond or two, and these get used maybe once in a blue moon. Meanwhile, we've heard for years about the Portland area's critical shortage of soccer fields. You'd think it wouldn't be too hard to convert a few baseball diamonds around town into soccer fields, but apparently it isn't quite that simple.

Conventional wisdom seems to go something like this: If you build basketball courts, you attract inner city gangs. If you build soccer fields, you get Hispanic folks, and skate parks pull in the teenagers, and we all know teenagers are nothing but trouble. Baseball fields, however, attract only wholesome, Midwestern, field-of-dreams types. Yes, even the screaming Little League dads are 100% pure and wholesome; what could be more American than erupting in a violent psychotic rage over whether the last pitch was a ball or a strike? Just thinking about that makes me want some apple pie. So even if your baseball field just sits there empty 99% of the time, it still elevates the neighborhood's moral character simply by existing. Or that's the theory, anyway.

Society's been willing to make a few concessions to the city's skateboarders in recent years. I suppose the thinking is that, unlike being an ethnic minority, being a teenager is something one grows out of eventually. If kids' anarchic impulses can just be channeled constructively for a few years, they may yet become productive, respectable, taxpaying members of society. Sure, older generations think it's a weird activity, and wonder why kids do it if nobody's even keeping score and don't have a coach screaming at them from the sidelines. But hey, teenagers are mysterious and inscrutable like that.

Kenton Park

Kenton Park

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