Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Lotus Cafe Mural

Continuing the theme from the previous post, here's another long-gone Portland mural. This time around it's the one on the back of the Lotus Cafe building, which was demolished in 2018 to make way for yet another generic steel-and-glass (and thus non-mural-able) hotel tower, a late entry in the city's inexplicable late-2010s hotel bubble. The cafe itself closed in 2016 after 92 often-sketchy years in business. It was, believe it or not, a popular and trendy dance club when I was in college in the late 80s and early 90s, despite its location amid government office blocks, far from any other nightlife options. Eventually the place settled down to being a kinda-mundane after-work happy hour spot, popular among people who had settled down into kinda-mundane office jobs nearby, present company included. In fact the photos in this post were taken from my office at the time, looking down at the doomed mural a few days before the rest of the Lotus building came down. Most likely I had fresh coffee with me and had to set it down to take these photos, and it's reasonably likely that I then forgot my coffee and walked back to my cubicle without it. At that point, still needing caffeine, I probably would have made a second, successful coffee run to the break room. Eventually I would have remembered my misplaced coffee and retrieved it, and (if it hadn't been forgotten overnight) possibly checked whether it was still drinkable. Because, after all, it was quite a long walk from my desk to the break room and back, and it's not as if coffee turns into worthless decaf as it gets cold. And this is the point where I sigh loudly and admit I sometimes miss working in an office with other people in it, in case you were wondering how year 2 of the pandemic is going these days.

Google Maps now labels the former Lotus site as the "SW 3rd and Salmon Tower", with an image that appears to be a CGI architectural rendering, not a photo. Somewhat embarrassingly, I do not actually know whether the depicted building currently exists outside of AutoCAD (or whatever architects use these days). I'm sure I've walked past the site sometime within the last six months, and I like to think I would have noticed a brand new 20-story hotel, but I have no recollection of seeing one. So it's possible they haven't gotten around to building it yet, and maybe they never will. On the other hand, the building in that rendering is remarkably boring even by circa-2021 standards, so it's also possible the building is there and I've even seen it in person, but it sort of fades into the background immediately without really registering. I am, in fact, so bored just looking at it that I can't muster any enthusiasm to go for a quick 15 minute walk and double check, though I absolutely agree that would be the responsible thing to do. If it's there, most likely it would just fade into the background again without being noticed, and I would come home still not knowing whether it exists, having been rained on for my trouble, and I'm annoyed just thinking about it.

The old Lotus merited a few pages in Jeff Dwyer's Ghost Hunter's Guide to Portland and the Oregon Coast published in 2015 right around the pop-cultural peaks of both national Portland-mania and of ghost-hunting reality shows. As the story goes, the building's cellar was home to some sort of angry male evil spirit, still nursing a grudge over whatever happened to him back in the Shanghai tunnel era. I have to admit I'm not really a ghost expert, so I have no idea what happens when you tear down an old haunted building and replace it with an utterly sterile new one. Does that free the ghosts or drive them away somehow? Or does a new building just make them even angrier, like the thing in Poltergeist where greedy developers only moved the headstones? I kind of suspect the latter, but again this is not really my bailiwick. So, as always, feel free to chime in down in the comments if you can field this one.

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