Friday, June 13, 2008

ode to Alberta Street

Brought together in 1978.

Each had something to give . . .

Space, growth , locality and shelter.

From the other beauty, pride and appreciation.

Small gardens were grown. Replaced by larger ones.

And brick by brick the home grew.

Its original structure became altered. A kitchen. A den.

It reached out towards the east.

And later, the tower towards the sky.

Open brick work now graces the street.

And the Goddess of the grapes protects the north.

What one doesn’t see crawling amongst the garden


One can only imagine nestled in the spaces 


And brought together by basic needs

Now completes beauties desires.

The home of Muir and David.

One cornerstone in a neighborhood warm.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Its a living enity

      The cache of deliberate community describes the Alberta Street Neighborhood. Its has become a place where one wants to be seen. People want to become associated with it and be part of it. Like a college campus. But then all of Portland has these niches. There is the Hawthorne area and Belmont. Once these places became to expensive for home buyers and shopkeepers, the growth went to Irvington and Piedmont. Then Alberta and now into St. Johns. People have the tendency to purchase where they can afford. The rest just falls into place.    

      As the bemused grandparent of the ASN, Muir Price still feels like a kid. However she can't help but allow pride and yes smugness to ensue as she presides over her estate. Especially when younger people look at her home with envy. But it wasn't always like this the street filled with 30 somethings, baby strollers, and business opened into the night. There was a time when she felt that there was a more violent and threating element to the area. Her home was broken into several times and the neighborhood boys burnt down an unattached garage. Luckily no one was home during these instances. As her friend Gail mentioned earlier, ASN was the "Wild West". 
     Muir moved into the area while she was in her early twenties. David and she were a young couple. He had family about one mile south while she was from the east coast. Working as a mail carrier this was an area that she could afford to buy into. With the house and the ability to purchase the empty lot next to it, there were great possibilities. When associates at work ask where she was planning to buy, she was asked "isn't it kinda dark out there?" Being a bit naive she didn't quite get what they were getting at. Once she understood what they were implying, she would request that they "spell it out to her". That of course made them feel uncomfortable. Her response to them would then be "yes, and I like lots of variety. Besides it keeps the bigots out."
 Additions have been made to their home, both out towards the back of the lot and a second story–complete with a tower. 
The garden space is in a constant flux. 

      As fun items are found or made they become incorporated into the landscape as the Goddess of the grapevine was. And with Portland' s downtown bus mall renovation a legally acquired Portland Street lamp will be wired into place. 
     When I asked Muir what her denifiation of home is she said that it entailed beauty. She cares what her home looks like and enjoys being there to appreciate the work that both she and David have accomplished.
   She hopes that the ASN can hold itself together and fend off the national chains. She feels that the "Arts" definition of the street has become a nonentity and that the area should become known for its restaurants. Above all the Alberta Street Neighborhood has become a very pleasant community. One where hopefully you can leave your car behind.   

Monday, June 2, 2008

the art of conversation

     Is it lost? Has the use of the cell phone and your choice of favorites on your speed dial isolated you from the ability to converse with those on the outskirts of your realm? David Price poses this question to you. Look around–down the street, in the supermarket. How many people are connected to their personal device and by doing so exclude the possibilty of interacting with those surrounding them. With you. How often have you missed an opportunity to exchange brief and perhaps interesting dialogue with the clerk at check out? Ever think about asking how they are. A chance to brighten up their day perhaps. Learn any juicy tidbits from the corner coffee house this morning? Or better yet, met a new person that was extremly interesting? Missed a chance because you were plugged into your device that delivered the same five people day in and day out.  Pity. You could become part of something really big. Community.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fink Shui

     "My yard is my yard," states Gail Booker, to whom the title "Queen of the neighborhood" was graciously bestowed upon her by her cohorts across the alley. Not so much that she "reins" over Alberta street, but that she has lived in the same home for 37 years. That is what Alberta street is. Home. A place that one wants to keep until one dies. Gail is still very attached to the area despite the changes that she has both experienced and seen. She knows that this is a solid place to be. A  place that one can root themselves to. A foundation. 
     Prior to 1996 Gail taught ceramics.Her business was located in the block where the Guardino Gallery now resides. She kept her doors locked. Students and visitors would knock to gain access during business hours. During one of her classes two young men gained access. Using a fire extinguisher, they emptied its contents and demanded the cash box. Gail remembers what a mess it was to clean up. She laughs since she hadn't collected any monies. The cash box was empty. 
     Gone are the gun shots. Only the bullet hole remains. As does the revelry that comes with after hours. A drunk is a drunk though she feels that with more venues for drinking the ratio is higher. Gone to is the ability to find a restaurant that has "home cooking"; let alone the ability to navigate down the busy sidewalks to try and find one. Pedestrian right of way has been lost to the eateries sidewalk tables and shops displaying their wares outside. Customers lounge about with their dogs. Feet and legs are everywhere. Now when a pie is desired, Gail picks up a Marie Callendars and bakes it in the oven at home. 
     Pedestrians aren't the only ones feeling the congestion. Driving down Alberta Street has become a bit of a nuisance. Tri-Met has incorporated the bus stops with the shoulder of the roadway diminishing the separation of automobile and sidewalk. Bicyclist are abundant. There is no clear path for the cyclist. On a busy weekend–or any for that matter–the two lane roadway becomes a maze of pedestrians, dogs, bikes and autos. All vying for their portion of the path. Gail is afraid that someone is going to be hit and hurt. A lot of the bicyclist she sees are without proper visibility devices–reflectors, headlamps. The riders should be licensed.  She avoids Alberta Street proper. 
     Her involvement with Alberta Street is non–stop. Currently she is the Chair on the Green Team. The group is working on a project to get a canvas bag to each of the homes that make up the neighborhood. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

hello neighbor

     While I was working over at Blue Sky this weekend, I became aware of another public art project. It is being done by kids from the SEI Academy with the help of Julie Keefe and CALDERA, a nonprofit arts organization. On June 6th the opening will be held at the Mississippi Ballroom from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. More information can be found at  They ask that you say "hello" to the next person that you pass on the  street.

red tricycle

     I not quite sure, but every time that I have passed this small red tricycle it has always caught my eye. A krypton lock keeps the tricycle static. There are home made–label maker letters applied to the seat of the tricycle. They spell out someones web address along with the worn faded telephone number. Before  looking up the web site, my cohort and I walked eastward on Alberta Street asking people if anyone knew of the trike and if there was a purpose for its condition. Knowledge of the trike was unknown. I went to the web site hoping to gain more information but found only a photographers portfolio of past work. When the telephone number was dialed, an assistant answered sounding dismayed that I was requesting information on the trike and not wanting to book the photographer. I gave my information in hopes of learning more, but as of this posting there has been no word. This ingenious calling card–left to sub come to the elements–remains exposed but unaccounted.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

what does my neighborhood need?

Last Wednesdays excursion was a great romp that left one feeling a sense of belonging. Our assignment was to say "hello" and ask what might Alberta Street need. Truly a "Mr. Rodgers" kinda day. Being as I hadn't been back to Guardino Gallery (, I began my walkabout stopping into shops as I traveled. First stop was Garnish, ( I said hello to Michelle and she showed a bit more of what the dress shop specializes in– custom finishes. Once you choose the the basic piece: top, skirt or dress; you then get choices of embellishments to customize your garment. Everything from ribbons to buttons from classic to quirky. Michelle herself is a newcomer to Alberta Street. She has been the manager of Garnish for one month. Heralding from Grin River Farms, she has traded in her farm boots for heels and a lot more glamor. Asking what Alberta Street might need, she thought that more recycling and trash receptacles along the street would be nice.
Next I stopped at bolt (, as I always love looking for great fabric. The shop had great craft ideas and lots of cool cottons. Then guess who I saw–Sandy. And of course she beat me to the punch line. After asking the question the response was for more green spaces and parks. Well I found a great "day of the dead" pattern for a caftan and out I went. As I passed Earl's Barber Shop- we both waved at each other. What a great guy.
Once at the Gallery, I said hello to Donna. She has a great space and offers layaway for her clients. Nice. She bought the building in 1996 opening the gallery one year later. It was like the "Wild West" in the initial stages. Bars on business windows, broken windows and no one out after dark. Then slowly things began to change. Young people began to move into the area buying homes. Pride of ownership. At one point there was a three block radius where it was considered "no–mans land". For the first five years that she was open, she dealt with broken windows and "Yuppie go home". I got the feel of a "grassroots– make things happen" way of thinking. There was no corporate or governmental push for a better neighborhood. It was all self–initiated by the people living in the area. Invested interest. Donna said that it was great to see people begin to walk on the street during dusk and into the night. Getting pressed for time, I forgot to ask her what the street needed! I hopped on board a bus making my way back towards our meeting place. As I asked a few people along the way, other independent services seem to be high on the list.