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Providence Park before the last Timbers home game.

Providence Park before the last Timbers home game. The Timbers Army is already on their feet and cheering, as the teams warm up.

I was invited to my very first Portland Timbers game last weekend. The Timbers are a soccer club in Major League Soccer. There is a waiting list for Timbers season tickets, and most of the individual tickets are already sold out for the year. Because of this, getting invited to the game was a pretty big deal.

However, that’s not the reason I was thrilled to have a chance to attend. We all know the game is called futbol to everyone else in the world, soccer to those of us in the U.S. I bring that comparison up intentionally, because here we do something else that is common around the rest of the world, but rare in the U.S.: Portland hosts some ferociously enthusiastic soccer fans. They call themselves the Timbers Army. I had been invited, not merely to the game but to join the Army, and it was an opportunity to experience ultimate soccer fandom. The Timbers Army is kinda famous. I read about them in Sports Illustrated in 2009. Yeah, a story about the fans.

So we go, and we sit in the north section of the stadium where the Army has taken over. Thirty minutes before the start of the game, the Army section is already packed, people cheering, flags waving, and the rest of the stadium has barely begun to fill up. You can see this in the photo at the top: a clear line of delineation between regular fans and the Army.

Let me take a tiny step back from the scene for a second. My degrees from Brandeis are in cultural anthropology. Even before that, at College of the Redwoods in northern California, I had studied cultural anthropology, and over the years gained experience in conducting ethnographies. This is when you, an outsider, try so hard to understand a community that you actually join them. You do what they do, in their environment, in an attempt to gain their perspective. While I stood there in the stands at Providence Park, surrounded by roaring and chanting and drumming fans, I was constantly thinking of ethnography. The group is rich with things to study.

First of all, the chants got my attention. Listen here as they yell “When I root I root for the Timbers!”

You’ll also notice both hands go in the air, in a sort of genuflection. However, the position of the hands can be a little tricky. As a friend explained to me at one point, “You have to make sure you’re holding your beer in your right hand during this one, because you don’t want to be doing the Nazi salute.”

When I root, I root for the Timbers!

When I root, I root for the Timbers!

When the opposing team came onto the field, everyone pulled out their keys and shook them. The message: Go Home!

When the opposing team came onto the field, everyone pulled out their keys and shook them. The message: Go Home!

Down in front of the stands are the capos, like cheerleaders, who get the crowd hyped up, on their feet, and howling in unison for over 90 minutes without ceasing. Everyone around me knew every song by heart. There are particular songs sung at key points in the game, according to action on the field or minutes on the clock. Fans sing songs and cheers borrowed from futbol around the world, and the ensuing roar is nearly overwhelming. They do not. stop. yelling. Not for the entire game, and for some time after it is over and the teams leave the field. Fans immediately call out players faking injuries, rolling around on the ground. They see error in every single call by an official against a Timbers player, and justification in every single call against the opposing team. They see unwarranted aggression whenever the other team gains an advantage. They scream with approval when their own team does the same. Put it all together and the energy is outrageously fun. And loud.

There are so many rituals that I couldn’t keep track of them all. Key to so much of it are the scarves, worn by nearly every single person in the stands (I was able to borrow Tara’s and thus had my uniform). The scarves say Timbers Army on one side and No Pity on the other, and are held into the air in unison to send the appropriate message.  Some cheers require scarves to be flipped vertically, some call for spinning scarves, sometimes we only had to hold them up to display. The scarves also come in handy when a smoke bomb is released after a goal, and you need to cover your mouth and nose.

The tifo went up early in the game. On this night it was a call for domestic abuse awareness.

The tifo went up early in the game. On this night it was a call for domestic abuse awareness.

Flags and smoke in the air.

Flags and smoke in the air.

Another fun ritual after a goal is when Timber Joe saws a piece off a huge log. After cutting the slice, Timber Joe passes the wooden disc through the crowd so people can touch it. At the end of the game, players lift the discs while the crowd erupts.

Timber Jim cuts a slice each time the Timbers score.

Timber Joey cuts a slice each time the Timbers score.

Here, Jim hauls the wooden disc through the crowd so people can touch it.

Here, Joe hauls the wooden disc through the crowd so people can touch it.

They borrow a lot from European futbol fans, including the tifo, which is a big visual display of support from the people in the seats. It’s often done with cards, with flags, and as you see here, with an enormous banner. People have drums and trumpets (I was waiting for vuvuzelas, and surprised not to hear any). The flags are waving constantly, also seen in the photo. People brought in green and white paper streamers, and thousands of people gratefully took programs and brochures at the door, and began tearing them into pieces. I saw all around me hats upturned in laps, filled with torn paper, and pockets being jammed with paper, and it took a long time but YES, you guessed it: confetti filled the air at the first goal. In minutes, people swept up much of the paper in the stands and filled their hats again, awaiting the next goal.

Oh, yes, and there was a soccer game too. Portland is in red, against Salt Lake City in white.DSC_0440DSC_0443

Timbers lined up for defense of a penalty kick

Timbers lined up for defense of a penalty kick

Ball is in the air (a white smudge above the A in Alaska) and Timbers goalie has his eye on it.

Ball is in the air (a white smudge above the A in Alaska) and Timbers goalkeeper has his eye on it.

The game was tied in the end: an odd end for me, since I’m used to games that require a winner. The Timbers failed to make the most of an extraordinary advantage, when the Salt Lake City team was down one player (11 vs. 10) for much of the game, and down two players (11 vs. 9) for several minutes at the end. We only managed two goals (not counting the beautiful one at the beginning of the game, which didn’t count due to a penalty). It wasn’t for lack of trying, as the marquee pronounced 26 attempts in the second half of the game alone.

Twenty-six attempts vs. seven

Twenty-six attempts vs. seven

One final ritual was when wives of the players brought their children out to them for the closing ceremonies.

Ned Grabavoy and his little ones.

Ned Grabavoy and his little ones.

Nat Borchers claps while holding his boy.

Nat Borchers claps while holding his boy.

Ok, if your interest is piqued, you’ve got to see the following video from The Daily. It’s only 4 minutes and does a great job of showing the fanaticism I’m trying to describe. Well done.

"Keep it badder, PDX." Artful graffiti on Alberta Street. PDX is the airport identifier for Portland International Airport, and has been adopted as one of the many nicknames of the city.

“Keep it badder, PDX.” Artful graffiti on Alberta Street. PDX is the airport identifier for Portland International Airport, and has been adopted as one of the many nicknames of the city.

For some Middle School reason, I think using the word “art” as a verb is hilarious. As in, “Don’t interrupt, I’m arting.”

One of my inexplicable Crystal diversions is that I like to catalogue wall art. Many cities have murals and many cities have spectacular graffiti, and I am crazy about it. I am even won over by 3-D wall art, like parts of airplanes or cars built to look like they are jutting out, mosaic tiles that lift from the wall, and religious icons set into walls. I am impressed with this living art:

The living wall of a business on Alberta Street.

The living wall of a business on Alberta Street.

Last week I talked a friend into driving me around to look for wall murals to photograph. This morning, Andrew at Have Bag, Will Travel posted wall art and it was the push I needed to get my photos out to you all.

There is a street in Portland called Alberta Street, that has been building its reputation for 100 years. From the 1920s, Alberta Street was known as a place where inexpensive housing could be found, as well as bus and streetcar service to transport workers into the city. This reputation attracted many immigrants, and it also became the site of a massive relocation in the aftermath of a devastating flood in 1948 that wiped out a large Black American community. In the 1950s and again in the 1970s, public works projects leveled impoverished areas close to the city center and forced the people to relocate. Many of them crammed into the Alberta neighborhoods.

The people in this area have cultural influences that include German, African, Chinese, and Mexican.

The residents in this area have cultural influences that include German, African, Chinese, and Mexican.

One thing I particularly enjoy here is the variety of artists' styles.

One thing I particularly enjoy here is the variety of artists’ styles.

Crowding and poverty resulted in unrest. I was not in the area during the 1980s and 90s, but the reputation north Portland garnered for itself decades ago is still spread as fact by well-meaning neighbors in other parts of the city, in their attempts to help me learn the area. It was famous for gangs, drugs, and violence. At the same time, the Alberta residents put their collective feet down and said, “No more!” Always leaning heavily on the arts, a concerted effort of neighborhood improvements began, and was ultimately successful.

Inspirational as well as attractive.

Inspirational as well as attractive.

This one is tiny: perhaps 2 1/2 feet tall. It includes a micro-mural of Haystack Rock, on the Oregon Coast.

This one is tiny: perhaps 2 1/2 feet tall. It includes a micro-mural of Haystack Rock, on the Oregon Coast, shown in a recent post.

The artists are not only talented, but also engaged and aware of their impact on the community, which probably explains why so many sign their work.

The artists are not only talented, but also engaged and aware of their impact on the community, which probably explains why so many sign their work.

A new ramen house I will definitely return to with Tara.

A new ramen house I will definitely return to with Tara.

Today, as often happens in diverse neighborhoods all over this country, the hard work of community activists has paid off, and the wealthy weekend explorers from downtown have “discovered” Alberta. The street hosts organic groceries and free-range chicken, gourmet ice cream, and a 100% gluten-free bakery. The cultural diversity of the local entrepreneurs overlaid with new trendy shops draws an entirely new crowd and – I assume – new growing pains as property values soar and gentrification claws its way in.

The character, the activism, and the arts from the complicated and heroic history shine through on Alberta Street today. It is one of the best places in Portland to park your car, get out into the air and join the community.

{Credit to Alberta Main Street for the historical facts.}

{My collection of Portland wall art on Flickr.}

We talked for a long time to these enthusiastic young men who had raised their own money through donations from passers-by, and then took it upon themselves to paint over unattractive graffiti. There must be no better affirmation of community action than when young men make it their own project.

We talked for a long time to these enthusiastic young men who had raised their own money through donations from passers-by, and then took it upon themselves to paint over unattractive graffiti. There must be no better affirmation of community action than when young men make it their own project.

Here someone has salvaged an old Coke advertisement.

Here someone has salvaged an old Coke advertisement.

We share the same sun.

We share the same sun.

I get a total charge out of this one. The artwork makes me think of Mayan writing on columns. I can't tell if it was intentional, but each column is stacked "on top" of the recycling bins.

I get a total charge out of this one. The artwork makes me think of Mayan writing on columns. I can’t tell if it was intentional, but each column is stacked “on top” of the recycling bins.

Rose City is another Portland nickname. This is an example of when graffiti can no longer be called an eyesore.

Rose City is another Portland nickname. This is an example of when spray-painted graffiti can no longer be called an eyesore.

California Condor shows off his lovely profile for us at the Oregon Zoo.

California Condor shows off his lovely profile for us at the Oregon Zoo.

My landlady wants us out of the house so she can sell it. We actually had this conversation a year ago, but I begged her to let us stay another year so Tara could graduate from high school first. Graduation is in one month and that means no more stalling: we have to go.

The Blue House, as I like to call it after its distinctive colour, went live on RMLS Friday, and my phone has been going bananas ever since, with realtors wanting to bring their clients through. The real estate market in Portland is astonishing, considering we are only a few years away from record foreclosures and joblessness and plummeting home values. These days, twenty people show up at once to view a house, offers come in at $30 thousand in cash over the asking price, and places sell in 24 hours. It is a piranha frenzy out here. I remember being confronted with this kind of competition when I looked for homes to buy near Berkeley, California in 2003. But that was before any of us knew what was coming. This time we should know better than to encourage a housing bubble. But we are humans, so we do not learn.

Tara and I have been asked to scoot out of here when people want to look around, and to be particularly absent last weekend. I worked 10 hours of mandatory overtime on Saturday and was off work at 4 pm. By 4:15 pm, there were people standing in our front yard. Waiting. We left to catch a movie and then a birthday party for a friend.

Sunday we needed something that would take more time. Our first stop was to Oswego Mortgage who is helping me with a VA loan so I can purchase my own home, so I stopped by the office (on SUNDAY! That’s how busy they are; it’s 7 days a week at the mortgage company) to sign eighty bazillion pieces of paper. Yes folks, I have been searching since November, and finally found a house. If Old Mother Hubbard kept homes in a cupboard, her cupboard in Portland is bare. And that’s why house-hunters are behaving like piranhas. I found a *beautiful* place. Negotiations are still underway and I don’t close till the middle of June, so I’m not sure yet if it will be ours in the end, but I will definitely leave updates here. The property is like paradise, and I am only slightly exaggerating. Just you wait. 🙂

“Whatchyoo lookin’ at, Huh?”

The bears were fun to watch. One played in a water trough for awhile, one rolled around on the ground playing with a branch, and a third napped in the background.

The bears were fun to watch. One played in a water trough for awhile, one rolled around on the ground playing with a branch, and a third napped in the background.

After signing documents we went straight to the zoo. I haven’t been to the Oregon Zoo for about 10 years, so it was high time. I could only remember the bats and the polar bears. The bats were again one of my favourite exhibits. Portland has a pretty nice zoo, and there is a lot of construction going on. Some of the structures are the original buildings from when it was constructed in 1959, and some, though newer, are still not to the standards that modern zoo-attendees want to see.

Construction has totally disrupted viewing of the elephants, but the elephants may appreciate being separated from the people. The elephants at the Oregon Zoo are a big attraction, since they are a healthy family group. Their current home was state of the art, revolutionary design in 1959 – a new idea in zoos to allow elephants to mingle together and sleep unchained. As a result, Portland became host to the continent’s first successful pachyderm nursery. Go figure. Six of the elephants here were born at the Oregon Zoo, including little Lily, born in November. We also host Packy, born in 1962, he was the first elephant born in the United States for 44 years, and the first to live past the age of 1 for 80 years. The new enclosure will provide them more space and a pond.

This is our actual view of the Asian Elephants, while barriers keep us safely at a distance during construction of Elephant Lands.

This is our actual view of the Asian Elephants, while barriers keep us safely at a distance during construction of Elephant Lands.

Luckily my camera has a zoom lens and I could get a better look at them. Here, one elephant appears to have open-mouthed delight as it scratches an itchy thigh on that log.

Luckily my camera has a zoom lens and I could get a better look at them. Here, one elephant appears to have open-mouthed delight as it scratches an itchy thigh on that log.

Ambitious zoo construction plans also include a much more homey primate area, which they certainly need. It is hard to view such expressive faces behind bars, even though I know a pretty cage is still a cage.

The Oregon Zoo partners with other organizations to promote strong populations of other animals, such as the California Condor (the lovely face at the top of this post) and Oregon Painted Turtles.

Baby turtles identified with nail polish on their shells.

Baby turtles identified with nail polish on their shells.

DeBrazza's Monkey gazes out at me from behind bars.

DeBrazza’s Monkey gazes out at me from behind bars.

These spirited Cotton-top Tamarins were leaping around and entertaining us.

These spirited Cotton-top Tamarins were leaping around and entertaining us.

It was difficult to get a good shot through the thick and scratched Plexiglas, but this one turned out ok.

It was difficult to get a good shot through the thick and scratched Plexiglas, but this one of an otter licking its paw turned out ok.

This is a different otter, who was swimming along the length of the pond, delighting the children who stood with their faces pressed again the glass. When one of the otters flashed past, the children would shriek and squeal!

This is a different otter, who was swimming along the length of the pond, delighting the children who stood with their faces pressed again the glass. When one of the otters flashed past, the children would shriek and squeal!

A Northern Shoveler trying to find a nap spot away from the eager crowds.

A Northern Shoveler trying to find a nap spot away from the eager crowds.

Look at the face of the Malayan Sun Bear! This one was in a playful mood.

Look at the face of the Malayan Sun Bear! This one was in a playful mood.

Northern Sulawesi Babirusa, or pigs with bloody great tusks.

Northern Sulawesi Babirusa, or pigs with bloody great tusks.

We stopped for a late lunch at the Africa Cafe, built with a view of the aviary so we watched the birds fly around while we ate.

We stopped for a late lunch at the Africa Cafe, built with a view of the aviary so we watched the birds fly around while we ate.

One of the lovelies inside the aviary.

One of the lovelies inside the aviary.

This photo makes either the giraffe look small or the birds look enormous. Answer: these birds are enormous!

This photo makes either the giraffe look small or the birds look enormous. Answer: these birds are enormous!

Tara pretending to be a baby eagle. A cranky baby eagle.

Tara pretending to be a baby eagle. A cranky baby eagle.

Polar bears enjoying the shade and the cool water of what turned out to be a very warm day.

Polar bears enjoying the shade and the cool water of what turned out to be a very warm day.

An Egyptian fruit bat. Gosh they are so beautiful I just want to cuddle. I love bats.

An Egyptian fruit bat. Gosh they are so beautiful I just want to cuddle. I love bats.

Straw-coloured fruit bat seems to be cackling with glee. Perhaps he is particularly big fan of bananas for lunch.

Straw-coloured fruit bat seems to be cackling with glee. Perhaps he is particularly enthusiastic about having bananas for lunch.

Our plan worked, and before we knew it, the sun was dropping toward the horizon and our home was again empty so that we could return. It was a Sunday well spent, and I may even have to thank the landlady for how our weekend turned out.

The tea house

The Tower of Cosmic Reflection tea house

Right in the middle of Chinatown (but of course), Portland boasts the lovely Lan Su Chinese Garden. There is bounty for the senses in this carefully arranged space. Occupying the land of one city block, it doesn’t look like much from the outside, and that makes the experience even more remarkable when you step inside.

This is a view of the gardens from the street outside.

This is a view of the gardens from the street outside.

This authentic Chinese garden is so well designed that it is restorative simply to be there.

This authentic Chinese garden is so well designed that it is restorative simply to be there.

A boat rests in a clump of vegetation, and shelters fish in its shadows.

A boat rests in a clump of vegetation, and shelters fish in its shadows.

Portland’s sister city is Suzhou, famous for its gardens. Sounds from the word Portland and Suzhou were taken to form the name Lan (orchid) Su (arise/awaken), so the name of the garden can be poetically interpreted as Garden of Awakening Orchids. It was completed in 2000 by professional artisans from Suzhou in only 10 months, using materials that came primarily from China (including all that rock – wow!).

It’s surprising how much of the city outside disappears once inside the garden.

From the scholar's courtyard I could see camellias and tall buildings.

From the scholar’s courtyard I could see camellias and tall buildings.

The drip tiles display five bats representing the five blessings of long life, fortune, health, a love of virtue, and a painless passing.

The drip tiles display five bats representing the five blessings of long life, fortune, health, a love of virtue, and a painless passing.

We arrived just as a tour was beginning, so we followed the group on stone-paved paths beneath covered walkways  and through courtyards and buildings. When the tour was over we continued to wander wherever our fancy took us.

After some time the sky darkened and the rain fell harder, and we stepped into the tea house. We were able to select from a large menu of teas which was brought to us in a tea service. After we were shown how to properly use the tea service, we were left to enjoy it. Tara ordered a moon cake, and we shared that. The sweetened bean paste reminded me of the bean paste desserts I had in Japan.

The inscription above the moon door reads "Listen to the Fragrance," encouraging us to use our senses in new ways.

The inscription above the moon door reads “Listen to the Fragrance,” encouraging us to use our senses in new ways.

The stone tiles are particularly remarkable throughout the garden. The pattern changes to suit each section.

The stone tiles are particularly remarkable throughout the garden. The pattern changes to suit each section.

Tara practiced calligraphy with water on a stone.

Tara practiced calligraphy with water on a stone.

A skyscraper towers above the Hall of Brocade Clouds.

A skyscraper towers above the Hall of Brocade Clouds.

Sunbeam casts winter shadows.

Sunbeam casts winter shadows.

Attention to detail is rich in every part of the garden, including the insides of the buildings, constructed to represent the types of structures found in the actual garden of a wealthy family.

Attention to detail is rich in every part of the garden, including the insides of the buildings, constructed to represent the types of structures found in the actual garden of a wealthy family.

Our tea service.

Our tea service.

This musician played for everyone in the tea house.

This musician played for everyone in the tea house.

It was a good way to share the day with with my child, and I’m so glad I have a teenager who was actually excited to come here and couldn’t wait to eat a bean cake. Tara is so very different than who I was at age 17, and I am in awe of that wonderful person.

Tara poses with the lion at the entrance to the garden.

Tara poses with the lion at the entrance to the garden.

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Portland lights sparkle off the Willametter River at the end of 2014.

I stood in the middle of the Hawthorne Bridge last night and took lots of blurry photos. I don’t know if it was the vibrating bridge that shook a little more each time a car pounded past me, or the dry cold air blasting into my face that had me in tears the entire time. No, seriously, ha ha. Tears streaming down my face from the cold wind in my eyes. Almost funny enough to keep me from being annoyed.

When I arrived in my fancy Jeep, the two dashboard screens read: 27 degrees. My first thought was, “oh, that’s chilly!” My second thought was, “and that’s about…60 degrees warmer than my buddies in Burlington!” That morning on facebook, one of my forecaster friends (remember I was a forecaster in my past life?) had posted a National Weather Service temperature map of Vermont, showing 30 degrees below zero in Burlington and 50 below out in the Northeast Kingdom.

(I mumbled my sincere thanks to the Universe for not having to live through Vermont winters anymore.)

I parked under the I-5 overpass where it meets the Hawthorne Bridge on the East side of the river and returned an enthusiastic “Hi,” and “I’m doing great!” in answer to the homeless man walking briskly past in Carhartt overalls, asking how I was that evening. He seemed very cheerful despite the weather. I walked past two dozen tents and another dozen sleeping bags under the bridge before I came to the ramp that led me up top. Under the I-5 overpass is a good place to sleep. It’s large and sheltered and dry and clean. 27 degrees while taking nighttime photos is one thing, 27 degrees and trying to sleep in a tent is a different thing. A woman sat outside her tent in a hat and fingerless gloves, with a cigarette and the blue screen of her phone lighting up her face.

When I was done collecting all those blurry and colorful photos for you, I returned to where I had parked and took the Jeep farther under the overpass till I could find the right street to pull me to the surface of the city. It feels underground there, where the multiple bridges across the river intersect with the huge I-5 bridge and beneath all of it are restaurants, and warehouses, and parking lots and office space. And tents, and tents, and tents, all along the streets beside the river.

I waited for a passing train beside a pretty sweet spot on a concrete slab bound on four sides and just big enough for two tents covered in tarps, two outside sleeping bags, and a large tricycle with a basket on the front. The spot was directly at the base of a staircase leading to the bridge, so the space didn’t feel so trapped. There were three young men and a young woman talking and laughing beside the tents, and hopping around in the cold, slapping their hands together. Everything about their spot seemed perfect except for the train, about 12 feet away, shrieking and rumbling along the tracks. The red flashing lights and warning bell: “clang, clang, clang” the whole time. Really loud. They must be going deaf if they live there.

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The Willamette River, Morrison Bridge with the blue and green lights, Moda Center (home of the Trail Blazers) in red, and the identical towers of the Oregon Convention Center on the right.

I guess what struck me – what I’m trying to say here – is that I saw people living their lives. I wasn’t squashed as much as usual beneath the burden of privilege next to a person at a bad place in their life. I felt instantly guilty at first, when I climbed back into the car and it was still warm from the heater, but the feeling didn’t last long. Mostly I looked at all the tent-dwellers and felt interested in their lives. I’m sure that must be terribly arrogant, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like, for one rare night, I was able to see the humanity and the community and the emotions of a group of people who are usually closed to me. I saw that the unusual cold was drawing some of them together like shared events do, and making some of them more animated than usual. And I felt lucky to be a part of this city, with all its citizens.

Tara hams it up for the first part of the shoot at Laurelhurst Park

Tara hams it up for the first part of the shoot at Laurelhurst Park

Snowberries at the park

Snowberries at the park

Tara and I found a photographer with some great photo ideas for senior photos. We spent one Saturday at several locations, and ended up in a place so well-suited for photos that we stayed until there was almost no light at all. It was a super productive day and I am grateful for whatever photography luck gods were helping us out when we found Cambrae. I am dying to see her finished photos!

Snake mural. You can see T on the right side in the sun.

Snake mural. You can see T on the right side in the sun.

I brought my camera along and found limitless reasons to click the shutter. We started at Laurelhurst Park, a beautiful park in town that has hosted many key memories from our years in Portland, from an Easter egg hunt our first year here, to sledding the year it snowed two feet at Christmas. Then Cambrae suggested a stop at a huge mural of a black snake on a white building. Our favourite was the old burnt out building downtown that is covered in graffiti.

As the sun went down, we both tried to capture what we could of the setting, the fabulous clouds, and the many-coloured walls, and the senior.

Cambrae and Tara in the background.

Cambrae and Tara in the background.

A little senior sass! People comment about the "failed artist" and "the locals" on the wall. The words were merely what was there when we arrived, and not specifically chosen to mean anything in the photo, but it's still pretty funny. :)

A little senior sass! People comment about the “failed artist” and “the locals” on the wall. The words were merely what was there when we arrived, and not specifically chosen to mean anything in the photo, but it’s still pretty funny. 🙂

I wandered around and entertained myself by taking photos of all the tremendously interesting stuff in the building.

I wandered around and entertained myself by taking photos of all the tremendously interesting stuff in the building.

He almost blends right in. Then when you see him, he's obvious.

He almost blends right in. Then when you see him, he’s obvious.

Sunset was especially good that night with those clouds.

Sunset was especially good that night with those clouds.

Reflections made everything more exciting.

Reflections made everything more exciting.

Iron bars provide stability for the walls till someone can raze the place.

Iron bars provide stability for the walls till someone can raze the place.

An artist did a little work while we were there.

Another artist did a little work while we were there.

T brought pointe shoes to make some shot more dynamic!

T brought pointe shoes to make some shots more dynamic!

The photographer and her subject.

The photographer and her subject.

Apartments and a restaurant at water's edge.

Apartments and a restaurant at water’s edge.

I purchased a 2-hour Friday Escape cruise on the Portland Spirit for Tara and me, and then she wasn’t able to make it. Tara had to go to an overnight training camp for Outdoor School counselors. She’ll be gone this coming week, serving as a camp counselor for Portland Public School 6th graders. Outdoor School is one of my favourite Portland traditions: 6th graders across the entire school system spend a week of school at camp. They eat there, sleep there, everything! The curriculum is all science-related, so kids learn about watersheds, and ecosystems, and soils. The high school counselors are used not only as temporary teachers, taking small groups onto the trails and the river beaches and teaching hands-on science, but also to help with things like making sure kids eat, and sleep, stay focused on learning, and don’t get too sad. For some kids, this is their first time away from family, first time sleeping in a place other than a house, and first time living in the woods. It can be very upsetting. Tara loves all of it: the teaching (her specialty is soils), the comforting, the excitement, enthusiasm, the songs around campfires at night.

Anyway….

I had 5 days to find a new date. I called about 10 girlfriends, and half of them couldn’t get care for their kids and the other half had stuff planned already. Two friends would be at weddings that same day, go figure. By the end of the week I was getting a little desperate. Thursday I was writing a Craigslist ad in my mind: “Come hang out with me on the river! No druggies, no lonely college boys, no creepy people.” Luckily, I received a phone call Thursday night.

“Hey, Crystal, I’m in town for a couple days. I’m hoping we can find time to get together,” said my Uncle Mike. Yay! I’m saved from the creepy people! Mike is my mom’s twin brother and I don’t see him enough.

It was a beautiful day and we talked non-stop out on the deck. The Portland Spirit has indoor seating, served a meal, had a live band, and the whole gamut. Mike and I hit the prow and found no reason to move for the next two hours, but the music from the band was piped out to us at least.

Perhaps because of the light, or the non-stop conversation, I am not happy with most of the photos I took. No biggie. The point was to hang out with Uncle Mike. After we docked, Mike and walked around downtown and stumbled onto a new Irish Pub. The weather was still amazing, so we found a table on the sidewalk and kept talking while they brought us food and drinks. The gathering darkness forced us to wrap it up.

This is actually the only photo I really like from the whole cruise. A new bridge is under construction, and this scene was part of the construction equipment.

This may be the only photo I like from the whole cruise, maybe the one at the top too. A new bridge is under construction, and this scene was part of the construction equipment.

I find sailboats romantic

I find sailboats romantic

An uncommon perspective of Portland downtown.

An uncommon perspective of Portland downtown.

In no time, we were south of the city in some rural-looking areas. This is Waverly Golf Course and the club house.

In no time, we were south of the city in some rural-looking areas. This is Waverly Golf Course and the club house.

Two of Portland's 12 bridges spanning the Willamette River and the Columbia River.

Two of Portland’s 12 bridges spanning the Willamette River and the Columbia River. Actually, on the left edge of the photo, you can see a third bridge.

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, and the famous submarine out front - part of the museum. Scenes from A Hunt For Red October were filmed in that tiny capsule.

Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, and the famous submarine out front – part of the museum. Scenes from A Hunt For Red October were filmed in that tiny capsule.

The finish line is the row of red floats beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

The finish line is the row of red floats almost beneath the Hawthorne Bridge.

Tara and I took her friend to the Dragon Boat Festival today. They wanted to go and cheer on another friend who would be on one of the Dragon Boat teams racing, the youth team of the Bridge City Paddling Club. Dragon boating is a team paddling sport that originated in China over 2000 years ago and transformed into an international sport in Hong Kong in 1976.

The Dragon Boat Festival is held in September, and presented by Dragon Sports USA. The boat races are the main event, in which typically 4 dragon boats race side by side for 500 meters in a straight line. Teams include 18 or 20 paddlers, 1 caller and 1 tiller. The teams make it a very fun event, by getting totally fired up in team spirit with temporary tattoos and haircolor to match their team colors, team mottos, and team banners. There was a man walking around selling dragon-boat themed socks.

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team - all breast cancer survivors!

Paddlers of the Pink Phoenix team – all breast cancer survivors!

The spectators gather at the finish line, since the boats are small and sit close to the water, making them hard to see at a distance. We can see the black specks on the water when they first line up, but can’t hear the starting horn. Soon enough, the specks grow larger as the boats get closer, paddlers going so fast that water flies everywhere. The caller is allowed to use their own voice or a drum to keep the paddling time, and the tiller keeps them on course.

These boats were different than the others I’ve seen, and have dragon heads about the size of a human head. Still, I love the dragon theme of the boats, with carved heads and tails, and scales painted along the sides.

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Boats drawing closer, passing in front of our famous Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Teams blast across the finish line.

Teams blast across the finish line.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details.

When the boats turned, the light was finally right, and I could get a shot of the dragon boat details. Unfortunately, rather far away for my zoom capability, but you can still sort of see it. (click any image for a larger version)

After the race in which the Bridge City team with their friend took second place (Yay!), the kids played around a little, we hung out at the fabulous Saturday Market, and then they went off to a birthday party. Ah the life of a teenager.

Friends in the water

Friends in the water

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

This handsome fellow strutted so intentionally in front of the camera, that I knew he was asking to have his photo published.

Seeing the different style of boats used in these races reminded me that I began a post last year and never finished it. Those were the Dragon Boat races held during the Portland Rose Festival. I decided to include some of that information to show you the other boats. That time we had gone in support of a friend on a Wilson High School team.

Portland has been racing dragon boats in the Rose Festival for 25 years. We partner with our sister city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan in this endeavor, and the race is hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA). PKSCA owns eight Taiwan-style dragon boats; each boat accommodates 16 paddlers, 1 tiller, 1 caller, and 1 flag catcher required for each race heat.

These are photos from 2013:

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Tara last year, with her friend from the Wilson team

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The stunning costumes of the the dancers Comparsa Orgullo Morelense Cemiac. Tara pointed out that the historic traditions illuminated are Aztec.

The stunning costumes of the the dancers Comparsa Orgullo Morelense Cemiac. Tara pointed out that the historic traditions illuminated are Aztec.

The 82nd Avenue of Roses parade is the first sanctioned event of the Portland Rose Festival season. Roses are very big around here.

I live about five blocks away from 82nd Ave, so when I heard the drums from my house, I made a last minute decision. Quick-changed out of my jammies (come on, don’t judge, it’s the weekend!), grabbed my camera, and hustled over to 82nd Street by 10am. I missed the beginning, but arrived in time to catch some good stuff.

The banner “Orgullo Morelense Cemiac” was one of the first I saw. I had never heard of these dancers until Saturday. I had to look them up. They are American citizens with roots in Morelos, Mexico, performing the Chinelo traditional dance popular in that region. I read in one Oregonian piece that the leader had one costume made to honor his new home in Oregon. I wonder if that’s the one you see above, on the right. (click the image to enlarge it)

Elaborate costume with stylized upturned beard.

Elaborate costume with stylized upturned beard.

This little girl was next to me and was having the time of her life with her grandpa by her side. "Papa! This is the best parade EVER!" she squealed at one point.

This little girl was next to me and was having the time of her life with her grandpa by her side. “Papa! This is the best parade EVER!” she squealed at one point.

We are simpler and more “small-town” out this far from the city center. I was also standing at the very end of the parade, so you see there weren’t many spectators. It was the kind of parade that makes you feel like you’re in a neighborhood. Which I am.

Some comic relief

Some comic relief

"Miss Tall Portland!" I simply LOVE that there is a Miss Tall Portland.

I simply LOVE that there is a Miss Tall Portland from the Portland Skyliners Club.

Must have a Chinese dragon at a parade! They handled those sticks with a lot of skill.

Must have a Chinese dragon at a parade! They handled those sticks with skill.

Yes, our mounted police are in danger from budget cuts.

Yes, our mounted police are in danger from budget cuts.

While our Timbers Army may be famous, we've got rabid fans of other team too: like those who love the Blazers and the Winterhawks - our ice hockey team.

While our Timbers Army may be famous, we’ve got rabid fans of other teams too: like those who love the Blazers and the Winterhawks – our ice hockey team.

More comedy from the County Corner. There are all manner of the dead and mysterious marching with this hearse.

The light side of being County Coroner. There are all manner of mysterious beings marching with this hearse.

Like these two. Eeek.

Like these two. Eeek.

I adore the hot rods! The Nova is my very most favourite muscle car.

I adore the hot rods! The Nova is my very most favourite muscle car.

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Hey! This guy is my neighbor. What a fun idea for a paint job.

Hey! This guy is my neighbor. What a fun idea for a paint job.

 

Fingers of ice fan out

Fingers of ice fan out

As you may have heard on the news, Portland had a wintry weekend. We had 5-8 inches of snow in my part of town, followed by a half-inch of freezing rain. Then everything froze and stayed that way. It’s remarkable since we aren’t used to winter weather. But so many communities have had unusual winter weather this year.

In between freezing rain storms, the sun came out briefly. I went outside to photograph the ice.

frozen and sparkling

frozen and sparkling

The trees in the front yard, weighed down with ice. You can see many broken branches on top of the snow.

The trees in the front yard, weighed down with ice. You can see many broken branches on top of the snow.

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