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Portland’s South Park Blocks Looking North With PSU In The Foreground. via

Not one to miss a chance to reflect positively, I strolled Portland’s upper west side from 11th and PSU to the Central Library.

It makes sense on the first Tuesday of each month. That’s when Willamette Writers, the largest writing organization in the state, holds its month meeting.

I head down early on those days to survey literary Portland, maybe catch a story.

Now the Central Library makes sense?

I walked downhill on 11th then crossed to catch the first of the literary benches that ring the library block.

There’s a couple arguing on Charles Dickens engraved bench. Looks like the best of times and the worst of times.

Two homeless youths sit on Mark Twain.

I took a lap around the block, nearly took a a pit stop in dark bar but pushed on to the Park Blocks.

Being a savvy traveler, even in Portland, means recognizing where you are, which means steering clear of where you shouldn’t be.

Maybe you’ve been around enough to now the signs, when to retreat, when to advance. Whether it’s NYC, Philadelphia, or North Bend Oregon, it’s always the same. Fail to recognize the signs of an ass-kicking and you might get yours kicked.

Or worse.

Does wonderful, weird, Portland have kick ass areas? I counted a few groups of less than civic appearing people on the tree-shaded Park Blocks. Walked right on by. No problem.

The biggest threat was a group of three d-bags practicing skateboard tricks on the sidewalk. One of them had to explain an Ollie to another. Where’s the danger? One rocket propelled skateboard to the ankle will ruin your day.

I hopped past safely.

More than any place in the city, the park blocks hold special meaning. My son had a tap dance recital on the Performing Arts Center stage. The remains of an important era gathered this year, probably for the last time, to say goodbye inside the Presbyterian Church. The Oregon History Center holds ageless treasures along with the twenty years I spent there.

The Portland Art Museum sits on the other side of Teddy Roosevelt. If it looks too small for a major museum, you need to explore. On the same side of the street and further south sits the Jeane Manor. A man from the museum lived there before buying the West Hills cliff-hanger where he died in the 80’s.

Portland State University crowns the south end of the Park Blocks. More than a diploma mill, PSU is the state’s largest college and biggest urban campus, and it graduated me.

This is baby boomer turf. From education to profession to donation, Portland baby boomers have traveled the Park Blocks for decades. It’s a well marked path.

In the fading light of a Tuesday night it has the sense of setting that carries all great stories. This is literary Portland.

If you have a Park Blocks story, leave it in comments.





About David Gillaspie
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