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Portland Welcome Mat: How To Walk Around Downtown Portland


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One of the great things about sponsoring foreign exchange students after your own kids have been out of college for years is rolling out the welcome mat.


The Portland welcome mat. And dragging everyone possible along the Portland Trail.


My wagon train always starts with Saturday Market and the sort of stuff skilled craftsmen make. It’s fun explaining how people move from a stall store to brick and mortar businesses and their work showing in fine cabinets with lighting accents making it look better than it ever did beside the Willamette.


Actually my wagon train starts on the southeast corner of the top floor in the parking garage on NW 2nd and Davis where everyone walks down with a view. Helicopters land and take off on the roof.


Nothing like choppers departing a rooftop in an urban setting to get that Die Hard feeling.


I could have spent the day in Bridgeport Village, or a nice walk around Progress Ridge, but that isn’t Portland.


Where’s the blocks of food carts and coaches and homeless out there?


Or we could have trolled Hawthorne or Clinton or Division on the east side, but that’s not Portland, at least not the Portland that mixes institutional solidarity like VooDoo Donuts beside the temporary citizens of Burnside.




I’m sure other cities have nice walk around places giving the civic vibe of, “tell others about us and come back soon.”


SW Ankeny in the top pic serves as a role model for Destination Portland down the road. Instead of it famed location between the mountains and the beach, people will come to NW 23rd if the main street in alphabet neighborhood ever decides to block through traffic one day a week and let the restaurants move closer to the street where people cruise.


Call it Bourbon Street-ification from Davis to Thurman. Maybe once a month, then once a week, until it’s so successful it turns into an outdoor mall.


But downtown is still the King of Portland. That’s where the big faces jump out, big car sounds flash by, in a backdrop of Northwest urban life similar yet singular from other population centers.




Downtown Portland has an empty feeling from certain angles, like anything near a surface parking lot. That’s Big Pink in the distance below.


What used to occupy this quarter block of Portland real estate? Was is significant to Oregon history? Did a curator from the Oregon History Center get inside for a look before the wrecking ball hit?


By most accounts Portland is an evolving city with architectural preservation people and commercial developers racing toward a shared future where one will be happier than the other.


There is still a chance in Portland that both might win.




Live in one place long enough and the memories float over decades. When my wife and I were dating we took walks under the Lovejoy ramp from NW 21st where I lived to Waterfront Park.


We’d cut over and cruise Ankeny on the way back to watch Elvis movies later in the afternoon. One of the secrets of a long relationship that doesn’t go in the can out of boredom is starting out right.


Dating Tip For Starters: Make time to watch a few Elvis movies together. If the other person complains, you’ve got the wrong one. They may be Mr or Miss Right Now, but don’t plan on long term if they don’t get Elvis and you do.


If neither of you gets Elvis you’ll be doomed to repetition and disappointment. One of you needs to be able to explain how bikini beach girls show up on a deserted beach when Elvis sings.


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About David Gillaspie
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