Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Yesterday was the free neighborhood barbecue in the vacant lot on 15th. Ally and headed over there around 2:30 and there were already a handful of people there. The pig was being carved and smelling delicious. Sandy was down at the greeting station giving people nametags and asking them to sign a waiver before entering the lot. After making ourselves plates of food, Ally and I went over to the nest to look for Kenny again, but he was not around. We then walked around the neighborhood and mentioned to a few people that there was a free barbecue around the corner, but most people looked at us like we were really strange. We also went by Earl's barbershop and the one further down the street but they were both closed. So we were unable to recruit anyone, but by the time we got back to the lot there was already a much bigger crowd. It was fun seeing the lot in this new view, as more representative of a community space. It was a good turn out!

Monday, May 26, 2008


Friday afternoon Jodi, Ally, and I went to the Nest to meet up with Kenny, a local of the neighborhood for over 20 years. He has seen all the changes to the neighborhood and offered some very interesting insight.
When we first walked in the bar around 3 on Friday, there were a couple of people inside and the bartender said hello. We asked her if Kenny had been in yet and she said not yet, then asked, "is he mowing your lawn?" This is one of Kenny's many jobs- taking care of people's yards in the area. We then told her that we were students and explained what we were doing and she told us he should be in any time for his "shift beer." He also works at The Nest, cleaning it up 4 mornings a week and then shows up for his beer almost like clockwork right around three. And sure enough in he walked.
So we began talking to him and he told us that he was on a very tight schedule, as he was already late for some yard maintenance. He works on 17 yards in the neighborhood in addition to working at the Nest. He used to work for the Forest Service and traveled all over the region, but now it sounds like he doesn't venture out of NE Portland very often. He told us that he has a car but hasn't driven it in over a year as he would rather put gas in his lawn mower.
Regarding the current status of the neighborhood, he said it is just like it used to be. It was once a flourishing business front street as it is now. Then it became all run down and businesses were pushed out. Kenny explained that he saw this happening, and the cops highlighting drugs and shootings in the neighborhood to make it look like something it really wasn't. But they had this power. And then the neighborhood was re-established once again. Kenny seemed to see all this for what it is- just a part of life. His perspective was very interesting and real. He is just living his life.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

what does this neighborhood need?

"all kinds of stuff"

when jodi and i went out to explore the locals feelings of what the neighborhood needs we found an array of responses, some of which overlapped with our classmates. we first approached a man in a suit and a couples of officers (with a bit of hesitation and nerves) who were investigating a 10-year old homicide case. the 2 officers were part of the gang team and suggested that they did a lot of work in this neighborhood. we then asked a few guys in chefs coats smoking on a break what they were up to. they worked for a catering company and were talking to a guy cleaning up some graffiti off the door. a variety of responses of what they thought included,
a parking garage
food carts
less graffiti
less thefts

another woman we met up with at a coffee shop mentioned some things many others reported back... more utilitarian things, a hardware store. she also said it could use more trees and less "stupid boutiques"

Sunday, May 4, 2008

you never know what you might find

Saturday morning Jodi and I met up to try again in our exploration of the residential aspects of the neighborhood. And it proved much easier for us to make contacts on the weekend.
After speaking with Lance about the giant lego on his porch, we headed over to 19th street to look for more. We noticed some interesting things in the window of a house and above the porch a sign that says "Studio Maquette." We knocked on the door and met Happy and Maquette who bought the house about a year ago. They have a little gallery in the front room that opens up on last thursday's and they also put on vaudeville shows around town (for more info go to RoseCityVaudeville.com). We were told that the signs in the window are there for Happy because that is his name. And the other sign which I first read as Art the me? is actually Art Theme?. Happy and Maquette were very friendly and mentioned some other shows and performances of interest which I have included here. They also are the owners of the double-decker bus we see driving around and let us go inside. The location of their home offers much diversity as next door is a boarding house and across the street some funky new lofts.
Maquette and Happy told us that they have put on free shows for the neighborhood to help bring people together. They seemed very motivated and successful in community building.

the art car

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

neighborhood distinguished

wednesday 4/30
windows and yards as exhibition areas. residents as curators. this was our task today- to go out seeking something interesting or out of the ordinary that is on display in residential yards/windows/porches. we were then to find out its significance. harrell began by bringing us to the yard sculptures that ultimately got him his house...

jodi and i went off in search of a giant lego we saw in a previous excursion. We found the lego but nobody was home, so we were unable to find out any more details about it's significance. we found some other interesting things as well, but nobody seemed to be home. so we will try again later.

Monday, April 28, 2008

rain or shine

wednesday 4/23 was a stormy windy day and we ventured out to explore something specific in the neighborhood and find out about it from some potentially different perspectives. In our curious nature, we headed for the mysterious Arthur Cole Candy Co. to see what we could find out. It was pretty quiet outside the building and there was no answer when we knocked on the door of the warehouse. Across the street a barbershop (that has been in the neighborhood for about 10 years) suggested we knock on the large garage doors. So we tried again and this time the door opened. I'm not sure if this was just a coincidence or if they were actually responding to us but we nonetheless made contact. We spoke with Walt, the son of Arthur Cole, who told us that they were a distributor of wholesale goods. It was a little disappointing as I had hoped to see the exciting inner-workings of a candy factory, but Walt was very nice and had some interesting things to say about the community. Basically he mentioned the same changes that most speak of in the neighborhood, but added that the good thing now is the measure of security with the improvements in the last few years. His company has been in business since 1948 and has been working from this 14th & Alberta location for about 20 years.

Saturday 4/26
I returned to Alberta yesterday afternoon and it was a beautiful day. There were quite a few people out wandering around, in and out of shops and restaurants, sitting on patios and enjoying the sunshine. I was actually surprised that it was not busier out as it was a weekend day and sunny. Compared to our normal Wednesday excursions (which have mostly been on gray drizzly days) there were definitely more people on the streets. I imagine the weekends bring a lot more business to the neighborhood but this will be something to further look into.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


on this wednesday morning we split up into pairs and walked up the street with intent to meet some local business owners or employees willing to talk with our class about their experience in the neighborhood. It was nice that most of the local shops seemed more than happy to welcome us and speak with us. Erica, the owner of Garnish, told us of the Alberta Business Association which covers issues such as street maintenance and safety. She was very enthusiastic about the community and had the attitude of "the more the merrier."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

2 minutes with a book

ever tried to get as much as you could from a book in only two minutes?
This is what we did in class yesterday and it created a very interesting take on how I look at books. All the books were very different and were meant to have some connection to a means of documenting somewhere, someone, something. With some of the books I found myself so fascinated I didn't want to give it up after two minutes had passed and with others I didn't have time to become very intrigued. The content and imagery also brought out a range of reactions in me.
I think it would be fun to try this in a bookstore. Allow a certain amount of time, 30 minutes, an hour? and spend 2 minutes with every book you pick up- no more and no less. Try it.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

crime mapper

I decided to look at some crime statistics for this neighborhood and found that larceny and burglary are the most common crimes committed in the area (within the previous 12 months).
A key for this grid:
orange triangle-arson
red triangle-homicide
blue triangle-larceny
orange square-assault
grey circle-robbery/vehicle theft
green circle-burglary

More detailed information can be found at portlandmaps.com. Just type in a location and click on the crime link.

Monday, April 7, 2008

be curious

Day 1-researching the NE 15th & Alberta neighborhood

Today brought out a new kind of exploring in the task of approaching complete strangers in order to begin to delve into and document the neighborhood. It goes to show how easy it really can be to learn something new. Jodi, Ally, and I spoke to some City of Portland crew members who were working on a sewer line. They told us of a field day that happens once a year when anyone can go out with a crew for the day. This would allow citizens to get a closer look at the inner workings of city crews. If interested, the number to call is (503) 823 1700.