Friday, November 28, 2008

At 13th & Holman

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ne holman & 13th

So here's a tiny city park the city just calls NE Holman & 13th. The one feature of the place is the yellow-orange semi-groovy blobby thing pictured here. It looks like art, or what passed for art in the 70's, but apparently it's a play structure instead. From space (see above Google Map), it can be awfully tough to tell the difference sometimes. From space it looked like it might be some kind of neglected sculpture or something, so I dropped by to take a look.

I realize I'm not the intended audience for the thing, and possibly it might be fun (and maybe even safe) for an especially imaginative (and well supervised) child -- but if you ask me it looks pretty crappy, as far as play structures go. There's a road caution sign nearby indicating this is a playground, with the usual see-saw graphic. If I was a small child, I'd see that sign, and then see the actual playground, and feel cheated: The government promised me a see-saw, dammit, and instead all they gave me was this pastel checkered whatzit. But then, I was a cynic from an early age.

Taken as Art, on the other hand, the thing is perfectly fine, I guess. I do like the cheery color scheme, at least.

ne holman & 13th

According to the local neighborhood association, there's a plan, or at least a hope, to revamp the little space here. I'm not so sure about bringing in the City Repair Project people, though. They usually build stuff out of mud, no, seriously, they do, and it tends to be kind of blobby and hobbitty in a semi-groovy 70's Whole-Earth-Catalog sort of way. So anything they did here would likely not be much of a change. Probably less brightly colored, but I'm not sure that would be a step up, really.

I just can't get into this idea that everything ought to be built out of mud, I mean, "cob". I always heard stories from my grandmother about growing up in a sod house in Oklahoma (which wasn't even a state yet, and was called "Indian Territory" at the time). People will probably tell you that a sod house is green and sustainable and all that, and she definitely was "living off the grid" at the time, if involuntarily so. When I was little, she had a single-wide trailer in one of those over-55 mobile home parks, with electricity courtesy of the nearby Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Green or not, you could tell she thought this was a real improvement.

I'm not trying to be an ignorant know-nothing about this, I'm really not. It could very well be true that grubby little mud hovels, I mean, "cob houses", will save the world someday. It's just that people should understand there was a reason everyone stopped living in soil-based dwellings. Just sayin'.

ne holman & 13th

The neighborhood may be fortunate that this object is allegedly a play structure rather than Art. A play structure you can just rip out and replace as needed, while Art has to go through a lengthy and expensive de-accessioning process. There are hearings to hold, and interested parties to appease, and I gather it's all very complicated. Buying a new play structure would also be much easier, and cheaper, than buying a new sculpture, for similar reasons. This would remain true even if the "sculpture" and the "play structure" were otherwise identical objects. Because, well, that's just how it is.

This probably says something about our societal priorities, but I'm not sure what that might be.

ne holman & 13th

It wouldn't be a post about a small and obscure city park without getting pedantic about who owns it, or what it's really called, or something along those lines. As far as ownership goes, it seems the Portland Development Commission actually owns the land here. So if it ever comes time to redo the place, the neighborhood just might get a shiny new condo tower instead of a better playground for the kiddies. Gaah!

And naming? I don't think the place has a proper name, other than the street intersection. You can't call it Holman Park (although the 2002 Parks Levy mistakenly did so), because a different place already has that name. It's an equally obscure chunk of land up in the West Hills that's usually counted as part of Forest Park. So now you know.

ne holman & 13th

And that's not the only Holman Park -- there's a notorious state park by that name just west of Salem, which was closed a few years ago due to persistent "lewd behavior" issues. Seems there was trouble with guys cruising the public restrooms, as if this was 1950. Or Idaho, which is essentially the same thing. Seriously, this still happens? In Oregon, in the 21st century? Who knew?

None of the mugshots seem to be of Republican state legislators, but I suspect the park was really popular among them. It just stands to reason, based on everything I know about Republicans.

ne holman & 13th

Updated 10/13/09: We have -- not linkage exactly, but a photo credit in this Examiner piece about further efforts to freshen up this benighted little spot. Scoring the occasional photo credit is one of the little fringe benefits you get from blogging about stuff nobody else on earth, or at least in town, is remotely interested in. Hey, at least there is an upside to all this...

Updated 8/31/10: We also have linkage from the "It Happened on Dekum Street" group on Facebook.

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