Friday, November 27, 2009

Pettygrove Park

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Downtown Portland's Pettygrove Park often gets overlooked. It's in the middle of the 60's urban renewal maze that is the South Auditorium district, and it's bordered by pedestrian trails rather than streets on all sides, so you aren't likely to run across it if you don't already know it's there. It would be bordered by 2nd & 3rd Avenues, and Montgomery & Mill Streets, if any of them existed. It also doesn't help that most of the other city parks in the area come with big flashy fountains, and Pettygrove doesn't. Instead it has a cluster of grass-covered earthen mounds and a bunch of trees, and at one corner a bronze sculpture in the center of a quiet pool.

I have less of an excuse for overlooking the place, since I walk right through it on my way to and from work. And yet I've never done a post about the place. I've posted individual photos from the park here, here, and here, plus photos of the Dreamer sculpture in the park's SE corner, and a small fountain in front of an adjacent building. But that's all.

So to remedy that, here's a slideshow about the place, with the photos of it that I've uploaded over time. They aren't exactly comprehensive and mostly focus on the art (which I'm rather fond of). I seem to have never posted any photos of the mounds, which is too bad. I'm not sure what their function is here, but they do break the space up and make the park seem a lot larger than it actually is. And to me they look a lot like ancient Celtic or Kurgan burial mounds or barrows. In one of those photo posts I made a crack about either hobbits or barrow-wights living here, come to think of it. Or possibly there's an enormous hoard of Scythian gold buried somewhere around here. Or leprechauns, or a few very small dragons.

Two sides of the park are bordered by condo towers, one completed this year, another converted from a 60's high rise apartment tower. They've had mixed success moving the condos, such that the new tower is being rented out as apartments for now, at least until the real estate market improves. You'd think that it would occur to the developers to spin the neighboring park as a magical land of mystery and magic (of the upscale variety, of course) to make the place stand out in the market, but that doesn't seem to have occurred to anyone except me. In fact, it's possible the entire real estate crisis could have been avoided if only everyone had come to me for advice, for a reasonable consulting fee. Since nobody ever did that, my claim can't be easily refuted, which is convenient.

In any case, there is an amusing reality-based aspect to the place. The two sides of the park that aren't bordered by condo towers face the offices of a large health insurance company. They have signs posted outside their buildings letting everyone know it's a smoke-free campus, which I guess makes sense being a health insurer and all. But since this is a public park and not part of the campus, it effectively serves as the corporate smokers' lounge. And as such it's very, very popular. So every morning I get to walk through a bunch of sullen (and often kind of chunky) chainsmoking office drones, all of them (it seems) griping nonstop about their miserable lives and careers.

So next time your insurance claim gets denied, just know that the faceless bureaucrats who did it subsist on nothing but Snackwells, Virginia Slims, cheap gin, and Prozac. They're far less healthy than you are, and simply can't understand what you've got to complain about: "You think you're sick, huh? Let me tell you about my gout, and my dang bunions..."


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