Saturday, September 24, 2022


Here are a few photos of Kerf, a pair of huge concrete rings at the SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek MAX station. It was (or they were?) created by artist Thomas Sayre for TriMet's Orange Line, and the Orange Line public art guide describes them briefly:

Two landmark sculptures, “earth-cast” on site, represent the influence of wheels on the area, from a 19th-century sawmill on Johnson Creek to the wheels of the MAX train.

By "earth-cast", they mean casting concrete onsite, in a Kerf-shaped hole in the ground, without the use of the usual wooden forms. This technique gives the concrete a sort of rough natural look, and it was the subject of Earthcaster, a 2016 documentary from North Carolina Public Broadcasting about Sayre and his work, including the creation of Kerf here.

But what if there's more to it than that? This spot is a major transit hub, with a lot of TriMet buses, the Springwater trail, US 99E (McLoughlin Blvd.), and even the Union Pacific line that Amtrak uses on its way to and from California. (It doesn't actually stop here, but in theory it could someday.) So it seems only logical to round things out with a couple of stargates, like in that one movie.

So in theory you could step through one of the Kerves here and pop out of Ring of Time or the Carwash Fountain, both along the downtown transit mall, or Big Pipe Portal on Swan Island, or possibly Arch with Oaks out in Beaverton. Sounds pretty amazing, if you ask me. The only problem being that this system isn't actually open to the general public right now, and TriMet officially denies all knowledge of any such thing being in the works. Maybe they're still quietly working out bugs in the system, or trying to bring down operating costs. Or maybe they're done with that part and are slogging thru federal bureaucracy now, trying to determine whether a stargate is considered an airport, a highway, or a railroad for regulatory purposes; whether each stargate needs a US Customs office, if there's no way to prevent international arrivals, that sort of thing.

International arrivals are certainly possible, by the way. A quick scan of the interwebs led me to a Chinese company in Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province that offers to crank out any kind of oversized custom art you need on an industrial scale, including large stainless steel rings that look unmistakably stargate-like.

But I have no idea if those -- or the varied local examples I listed earlier, for that matter -- are even compatible with Kerf. I don't know much of anything about stargate networking, but if it's anything like train networking, it's bound to be a lot more complicated than any layperson would expect. So if it turns out the two here can only talk to other Sayre stargates, I don't think there are any other local ones in Portland , but the internet says there are others in Raleigh and Lenoir, NC (saving a 3 hour drive between the two cities), plus one in Aurora, CO. And the latter one could be a problem due to its altitude (~5400') and the resulting air pressure difference. If you punch in "send me to Colorado" and as soon as the portal opens you're sucked through like it's a broken airliner window, that's going to lead to some bad yelp reviews, at minimum.