Monday, February 4, 2008

Good Old George (Intro)

I needed to go down to Chinatown today to pick up some things and meet up with an old buddy I used to sail with on his boat. My wife, Beth, and I always came down here to walk around. Unfortunately, my wife was at work, but I had the day off. No clients scheduled today, so I could actually relax for a change. I was excited to finally wear my “vacation” shoes, a pair of Sperry Top-Siders. These shoes were the “Captain of Cool” as far as sailing shoes went. The fresh soles reminded me how often I actually get to relax, not much.


Sam said...

Blog back – Chinatown – more than you ever expected. When I received, in the mail, the directions and the magic circle, I decided that I needed to put my shoes on, and retrace the steps and see what story I could find.

Parked in front of the parking lot on NW Davis between 4th and 5th avenues where the Hoyt Hotel used to be. Looked west, and was able to determine that one of three buildings housed Ford’s. Commented to Janis, as we walked towards the restaurant, which was closed since it was Sunday, whether it was the Ford’s from SW Portland. It was. Originally located in Canyonville, it had moved to SW Portland in the Burlingame district, and had operated there for decades, until it was closed, and the son of the original owners opened the new location in 2004.

Walked slowly along NW 5th avenue, until I stopped to show Janis, the PDC, the quasi-public organization responsible for developing areas that are ‘run-down’ through the powers of loans, and stronger tools. Walked along NW Everett looking for the next location on the journey, the Herb Shop. Found it over on NW Davis and 4th. Again, it was closed because it was Sunday morning, but the jars of herbs were stacked on the shelves in the back. Reminded Janis, that although this area was now considered Chinatown, that the original Chinatown in Portland, was in the area around 2nd and Washington, just down the area from what became the central business area for a time until it all moved ‘up-town’ and away from the riverbank.

The Vinyl store, also was closed, but let Janis know about how, when I first moved to Portland, that I used to hang out at a used record store in the Sunnyside area, called Byrd’s Suite Records, and asked her if she knew who it was named after. She didn’t, Charlie Byrd, jazz musician. For many years a resident along SE Hawthorne Blvd near the Fred Meyer store on 39th.

From the Vinyl store we looked mightily for any street people who were behaving loudly, but they were quiet. It was around 10 am, and they were still occupied with getting breakfast at the various social service agencies in NW Portland. Coming towards the area where Saturday market perches, it was odd to walk through the space on a sunny February morning, and not have the crowds and booths. Noted the numbers painted on the bricks. Pointed out the New Market Theatre where Fred Merrill performed his trick bicycling act on the stage after arriving in Portland circa 1882 from the Bay Area. He was up here to challenge “The World’s Champion Trick Bicyclist” a match that didn’t occur because the champion took it on the lam after watching Fred’s act. For at least 10 years Fred sold bicycles to the citizens of Portland, claiming that he had sold 52,000 bicycles during his business years.

We looked at the remnants of the cast iron facings of the buildings that had been torn down, and I let Janis know the famous story of Henry Weinhardt offering to fill the Skidmore fountain with flowing beer, and the city fathers declining his kind offer.

We continued on, without seeing any police presence, cars or horses. Kells, also was unfortunately closed, and I commented on how neither of us had been to that location, and how we needed to add it to our ‘to-do’ list, just not on St Patrick’s day.

On our way back to the car, we detoured through the lobby of the Multnomah Hotel – nee Embassy Suites. I had worked in the building in the 1970’s, for a year, and wanted to give her an image of the space. The lobby was full, a wedding planners convention was happening, and the glowing faces of participants, and sales people, as well as the music from a piano being tinkled by a professional made the journey a little speedier than if it had been emptier.

We came back to the car and pondered for a few minutes, the wheel of chapters of George’s odyssey through his shoes. And suspected, as I should have known, we all have stories that are worth telling, even when they seem the most mundane, there are kernels of a bigger story worth keeping and passing on.

Dan said...

Thank you for your interest! Sorry about all the places that were closed. I appreciate your interest greatly.

Anonymous said...

Well, I didn't really expect the business's to be open on Sunday, nor did I expect to meet the same sights that George met.

As a storyteller, I accepted the challenge that my shoes would bring different things to light.

I was also, kind of disappointed that none of the other students was able to get any kind of longer feedback than they did. I had almost thought that I might have time to walk in one of the other students projects shoes. But I don't think so at this time.

Interesting idea this whole project was, and too bad your class was not able to generate more interest from people outside of the class.