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Friday, January 20, 2006

Blind Spots and Secret Views Wednesday 18 January 2006

It was 10pm. I must have had six cups of coffee during the day, which is a lot of coffee. There was no real reason for that much consumption, other than sometimes it just happens. I was at SE 44th and Hawthorne, just getting out of a coffee shop. I was on foot, and the options were to either walk the mile back to my house, hop the #14, or do something else. I had all this caffeine in me, all this nervous energy. The need to unwind presented itself, and it wasn't raining, so I just started walking.

I went east on Hawthorne and took a turn south on 49th. I like this particular stretch of 49th because it's so narrow and the small houses are very close to each other. Towards the end of the street there's a big old willow that arches over the entire street, the spindly branches almost touching the pavement! So cool.

Through a secret alley I trudged until I hit Division. I pushed eastward and crossed 50th. Division and SE 50th is an interesting intersection. It's almost like they should put an arch over the street saying "Now Entering Un-Hip Southeast." No offense, but this is pretty much where all the cool things end. The buildings here are very nice and old, but haven't been yuppified--yet, so you get an old restaurant, pawn shop, a store that sells clothing for a buck, and other older establishments. It's nice to see this, especially since Hawthorne (at least in the 30's) is pretty much just a linear boutique these days.

The stretch of Division from 50th here on out is what I call a "blind spot". Think of it as driving a car. There are areas around the car that you know are there but just can't see when you're in it driving. In the cities we live in there are numerous blind spots--areas we know are there but never see because of whatever reason. For me the blind spots tend to cluster around major traffic arteries, which is the opposite than car drivers. It's because as a bicyclist I'm on "bike routes" that avoid major streets. If I'm riding to this area of SE, I'm either using Lincoln and skirting around the southside of Tabor, or on the other side of Division using Woodward. Since there's nothing on SE Division east of 50th that I ever go to, I never see it. But I know it's there.

Anyhoo, it's nice to go through these blind spots every once in awhile. You forget what's there, and then are pleasantly surprised when you reencounter it. Who knows, something new and interesting may have opened up since the last time?

I cut through Clinton Park behind Franklin High School. From atop the little hill above the ballfields below, I'm greeted with a good view of downtown and the towers of the Lloyd District. Sure, it's nothing like going up to Tabor, but this is almost cooler because it's so secret and unexpected. You won't have to worry about crowding here! If a few trees were chopped down, it'd be a much better view. But I'm not going to complain too much.

Now I head westward on Woodward. Since I'm on foot, I can use the steep pathway that Woodward becomes between 50th and 49th. From atop this little hill (in which I have now named Hidden Hill) I looked north and was puzzled about the sight of a giant ariel crane in the distance. What is up there? And then I figured out I was looking in the direction of Providence, so it must be construction work that hospitals always seem to be doing.

I jog past a weird looking housing complex and now I'm back on Clinton for a bit. I go one block south onto Taggart because at 39th there's a beautiful large brick house (plus two smaller ones) that is a historic landmark. It's interesting because there are so few brick houses in Portland. Since this is the land of big lumber, there never was a need to use much brick for building, unlike in the midwest.

I feel the caffeinated energy drain out of me so I know it's time to get back home. But as the days get nicer I know there will be more of these walks ahead...

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