José Ignacio: Puerto Tranquilo

 

calle tranquilo en José Ignacio

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step… or a long bus ride.  Our summer vacation began in early February (summer in Argentina) with a ferry ride across the Paraná, from Buenos Aires to la Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay.

Off the dock in Colonia, we hopped on a double-decker cruising bus.  Sure beats traveling on a recycled school bus ready for its next incarnation.  I flashbacked to the early 80s, traveling steep snaky dirt roads in the Guatemalan highlands.  When I came back to my senses on the luxe bus, there were no baskets of fresh fruit, veggies and squawking chickens on the roof, and no pesky goat lookin’ for whatever tastes good in your backpack.  Goats are equal opportunity consumers as well as consummate recyclers… not to mention smelly and noisy, but they do have cute kids.  Don’t forget to cross yourself if an overloaded, swaying truck appears around the next corner.  And if a tire suddenly blows, the culturally correct response is laughter and wild clapping of hands.  Take it easy folks, thanks to la Pachmama we’re still alive and kickin’.

If you were traveling in Central American in the early 80s, nobody laughed when jackbooted paramilitary squads pulled your bus over at a checkpoint.  Everyone had to line up and show their papers… men over here, women over there.  What always struck me — and it happened many times — was just how young those helmeted soldier-boys were.  Sixteen?  Seventeen?  Every single one armed to the teeth, most notably with an AK47.  A gift from the CIA, no doubt, or some international gunrunner with military connections.  The CIA was oh so helpful to groups of armed men fighting to protect their countries from the bonds of our “sphere of influence.”  You know I’m kidding, right?  So close to our own backyard.  These soldier boys were always wowed by my California driver’s license.  They wanted to hear about the beaches, the surfing, California girls.  Most of the time time they forgot to ask me what I was doing in a war zone.  Too many Beach Boys songs, I guess.

no goat ride-along… just a chicken

But I digress.  We rode our cushy bus from Colonia to Punta del Este, that wannabe mini Miami 209 miles (337 km) north of Colonia.  Our expat friends picked us up in a rental car.  Their car had been stolen, then impounded by customs, and was awaiting trial for its owners being Uruguay residents and property owners driving a car with Argentine plates.  Bad enough having your car stolen, then having to go to court to get it back, knowing the fines and lawyer’s fees will be more than what it’s worth.  Don’t you just love South American bureaucracy?  Full-on medieval.  Lots of hands out every step of the way.  Kind of like an inescapable codependent fling.  An interminable nightmare.  I recently found out that Argentine judges can hold prisoners in jail indefinitely until it pleases them to set a trial date.  There is no right to a speedy trial by a jury of your peers.  And if you do go to trial, like Cristina Kirchner, Argentine ex-president, accused of skimming in the 8 digits, you can be let out on indefinite bond, especially if no one will come forward to testify against you.  She was re-elected to a congressional seat last year, and no doubt will be running for president again in 2019.  Being out of the limelight is just too tiresome for most politicians.  Everybody wants to keep their hand in the cookie jar.

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Geez, I’m trying to get politics off my mind and back to summer vacation.  I guess that means I need some more time off.  Yesterday I was fantasizing about Zihuatanejo, my favorite Mexican beach town.  Three times in one lifetime isn’t nearly enuf for this dreamer.

 

I think I need a supersize dose of that good ‘ol Zen mindfulness.  Like, y’know, being in the Here and Now.  Ommmm…  Listen up, brothers and sisters.  The Argentine peso is in free fall these last few weeks, and the government is in a state of paralysis. The only scheme they’ve come up with is to beg the IMF for a $30 billion bailout that everyone knows will be impossible to pay back.  On the morning news I heard that Argentine is now considered a deindustrialized country.  What the F#*%?  Not enough money to retool factories, let alone build new ones.  Not enough guita to lift the marginalized out of poverty and homelessness.  Since Macri was elected (2015) the percentage of Argentines living in poverty has jumped to 30%.  The government figures are lower: up to 25.7% in 2018. [Indec.gob.ar]  Politicians always accuse the government of rounding down.  Your guess is as good as mine.  According to Indec, Buenos Aires has the lowest level of poverty in the nation: 9% per capita, 5.6% by household.  In my barrio on the fringe of town poverty per capita is 25.5%, 17.4% per household.  Foreign investment slowed to a grinding halt in May, then went retrograde.  Argentine capital booked a flight offshore… like it hasn’t already been there for years.  Bye-bye!

In January Bill Gates met with Argentine president Mauricio Macri at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.  Gates (founder of Microsoft and second richest man in the world) told Macri he’s ready to invest in Argentina as soon as Macri lets Milagro Sala out of jail.  Sounds like a no-brainer to me, but …. apparently Macri is not the brightest star when it comes to economics and/or human rights.

Bill Gates with Angela Merkel and Mauricio Macri in Davos, January 2018

Milagro Sala is an Argentine political, social and indigenous leader.  She is the head of Tupac Amaru, a neighborhood organization which has constructed thousands of homes in the province of Jujuy (pronounced who-whó-ee).  She is a leader of the Central de Trabajadores Argentinos (CTA), a workers’ union.  The right to form unions and to go on strike is written into the Argentine constitution.  Not so in the U.S., where teachers recently went on “walkouts” in a number of states where striking is illegal.  Milagro has been fighting the expropriation of native lands in Jujuy  by both Argentine and international corporations.  She’s currently still under house arrest.  Luckily she has a few angels watching over her.

Milagro Sala with Papa Francisco.  [photo © http://www.cronista.com]

Argentina’s heading down that ol’ lonesome road into economic crisis yet again.  Many working class Argentines are having to choose between buying food or paying rent.  Utilities doubled in the last 12 months.  Public transport (bus and subte) has nearly doubled… from 6 pesos to 11 [about 40 cents].  Projected inflation for this year (2018) is 27.4%. [Invenónmica.com.ar]  Rumor has it there are food shortages in southern Patagonia because truckers can’t break even on account of diesel prices.  Truck drivers are having a “paro” tomorrow: a one day work stoppage.  They would like to have their wages kept up with inflation… good luck!  I was watching a progressive tv channel last week which was unexplicably off the air the next night.  Now it’s back on with a different, less contentious host.  I hope this train stops before we get to the Venezuela station.  Is there a rest stop somewhere on this highway of the damned?

Friends, we’re not in Kansas anymore.   We saddled up our horses and rode to a verdant oasis called José Ignacio, on the coast of Uruguay.  Take a deep breath and forget all about the gloomy news.  Catch a glimpse of this beautiful hideaway at the end of the trail, where we spent 10 glorious days in February.  Our expat friends from California have been living in this part of the continent since their kids were little — the kids are in college now.  As fun-loving freeloaders we offered to be guest chefs and house-sitters; we even brought recipes we promised to cook.  Because of our friends’ wheels-in-the-hoosegow problem, and on account of their participation in Carnaval, we became dog, cat and houseplant sitters as well as chefs-du-jour.  The beach was a five minute stroll down a dirt road, across a two-lane highway, over the dunes and onto a glorious, empty beach.

Daisy, quantifiably cute terrier and Santos’ new best friend and lap-warmer, loved to walk the beach with us.

Our friends’ house, a rambling 2-story brick structure, faces west to a protected wetlands and south to the beach.

There’s a wide shady galería for kicking back.  We had our toast and tea there every morning.

Quite a sweet spot.  All around us were fields of marsh grasses and thickets of blackberries, hydrangeas, cattails and other pretty flowers I don’t know by name.

Santos spotted a baby frog… precious!!

After posing for photos it jumped back into the cattails.

Walking around the neighborhood we came across an old Chevy pickup,

and quite a few homes made from recycled containers.

How cool is that?  Let’s hope they have plenty of insulation.

Santos and Beth on the front porch

Did we land in paradise or what?  We ate outside every night on the outdoor dining deck.  We threw down plenty of grilled steaks, chicken, chorizos and morcilla, all grilled on the parrilla – an Argentine wood-fired barbecue.  We fixed pasta with fresh shrimp sauteed in garlic and jalapeños.  And what’s not to love about grilled veggies, especially peppers, onions, eggplant, corn, tomatoes, squash — if it’s fresh, edible and you can put it on the fire, it will be delicious.

In the evenings we would watch the sunset until the stars came out, drinking Malbec and talking with our friends.  Around 10 pm we would head to the kitchen and start fixin’ supper.  Argentines eat late, European-style.  Beth made roasted artichoke-parmeggiano appetizers that were amazing.

The sunrises and sunsets were spectacular, especially the view from the second story deck.  Big pink sunset taken by yours truly from that magical spot.

Our friends let us use their amazing beach chairs that shapeshifted into backpacks, with big pockets and cupholders for beach blanket bingo, drinks, munchies, book, fishing gear, stray kittens… whatever you might need for a few hours of beachcombing, swimming or splashing around, reading a good book, dreaming in the sand.  The only thing these folding chairs don’t do is transport you to the beach and make daiquiris.  But that’s okay, we improvised.

Santos went for a swim and found the edge of terra firma just a few yards out.  The sand beneath his feet was just gone… Upa!  No wonder they call it Playa Brava.  There were only a few other people on the beach during the week.  By a few I mean 4 or 5, seriously.  On the weekends we saw more people, but we never came close to feeling crowded.  It was mid February and summer was winding down.  School would be starting back up at the end of the month.  The days were still hot but the wind kicked up mid-afternoon.  In California we call them sundowners…  a late afternoon breeze that calms down after sunset.  Porteños are such urbanites, when they go to the beach they all go to the same beach and it looks like the French Riviera… masses of people all clustered together under little umbrellas.  But José Ignacio was tranquilo. Muy tranqui. 

Almost every day we made a run to the fresh fish place, a few klics down the road.  It’s just past the little unspoiled (as of yet) beach town of José Ignacio, at the next cruce de caminos, near the Laguna Garzón bridge.

The ladies who work there are delightful, and all the fish is that day’s catch.  They close when they sell out.

The first day these girls shelled a kilo of shrimp for us in record time, smiling.  Another day we bought all kinds of fish and crustaceans to make cioppino… delicious!  I made fish tacos with my favorite yogurt-lime-chile sauce.  Cooking is truly a creative pastime.  Why not do it with joy?

Kite-surfing at Laguna Garzón.  It’s a mile-long lagoon protected from the ocean by dunes.

 

Santos and Beth at the fish place.

Our wonderful hosts let us use their bicis whenever they weren’t home; we biked into town almost every day. There’s a bike path most of the way.  José Ignacio is so tranqui.  There are two beaches in José Ignacio: Playa Mansa and Playa Brava.  Playa Brava (rough, turbulent), where Santos almost went to Davy Jones, is on the south side of the point, facing the prevailing winds.  It can be pretty breezy in the afternoons.  Playa Mansa (mansa = gentle) faces east, and is protected by the point, kinda like Avila Beach near San Luis Obispo, my ‘ol stomping grounds. 

Playa Mansa

El Faro, the lighthouse, is right on the point between Playa Brava and Playa Mansa.  José Ignacio is small – about 6 blocks by 7 blocks.  Population 290.  There are lots of cute little beach houses on the point…. many are vacation rentals.

Our friends tell us the whole town shuts down in winter, including the shops.  Population zero.  They go back to Montevideo or Buenos Aires, or California.  When it’s winter here, it’s summer in the states.  If I could afford two places I’d definitely go for the endless summer.

Below is the beach on the other side of the lighthouse: Playa Brava.  You can see at a glance  that the water is rough and tempestuous.  People walk along this beach, but they swim and sun on Playa Mansa.

La Farola is a lovely restaurant with even lovelier views… ¿qué no?  Everything in José Ignacio is just a couple of blocks from the beach.

Santos liked the municipal center.

We took a break under a palm tree – it was a hot day.

Another day we had coffee at Almacen El Palmar.

El Palmar has live music off and on all afternoon and into the evening.  There’s a mike, a guitarist, percussion… even a singer.  The canopied dining room lets the breeze in but not the sun.

Time for a cappuccino and croissant, or house empanadas?  You got it.

Are we hungry yet?  They have local cheese, too.

No wonder Mark Zuckerberg has a house in José Ignacio…. or so I’m told.  No one will bother him here.  This is a very laid-back beach; it’s a safe place.  Muy tranquilo.  We discovered a great farm stand selling fresh organic fruits and vegetables: La Granja Orgánica José Ignacio.

What a great place! I brought back the shopping bag.  Their emblem is the Southern Cross.

la Cruz del Sur

We parked our bicis at the farmstand or the café, so we could walk about.  The lighthouse is open daily but we didn’t feel like paying to climb circular stairs.  El Faro is  mighty pretty though, and lends a charming touch to the scenery — as well as keeping boats from breaking up on the rocks.  José Ignacio also has a general store with a veggie counter, a butcher, homemade empanadas and pizzas to go, and just about all the groceries you could want.  It’s a small store, so if they don’t have it, do you really need it?

This is the other restaurant I mentioned, La Huella, (the footprint) on Playa Mansa.

Here it is at night.  We checked out the menu while beachcombing one afternoon.  A beautiful spot, right on the edge of Playa Mansa.

One night we went to meet friends of our friends at a big party beach on the south side of Punta del Este.  There was loud annoying pop music coming from a beach bar, all rhythm, all repetitive, no lyrical content, with only the vaguest attempt at melody—yikes!  Nothing like bad disco music to put me into a foul mood.  Rock’n’Roll, Blues, Country, Classical, Tango, Flamenco… a thousand times yes.  But disco?  Yeeech.  After the sun went down we froze.  It was windy.  The only thing we had to stave off the cold was vino tinto in a box, and I can’t drink much of that without getting a headache.  The conversation reminded me of when I subbed for a class of 6th grade boys, the constant idiotic chatter and crude jokes.  We didn’t even have a fire to warm up our circle of 10.  I closed my eyes and wished I was elsewhere, dancing tango… my happy zone.

We hung out with the same group of people a week later at Carnaval in Punta del Este.  I guess the ice had melted… it was a lovely warm evening.  We had fun.  One of the party had arranged for a long table right on the sidewalk at a pizza place.  The table was inside a clear plastic tent-like structure, so there was nothing between us and the parade.  We could see and be seen, but protected from the wind.  I didn’t bother taking pictures ’cause I just wanted to enjoy the moment… the dancing, the outfits, the drumming.  It was amazing!  A sight not to be missed.  Maybe one of these days I’ll get to N’Orleans, or Rio.  We enjoyed Carnaval.  It was a memorable last night in Uruguay.

Trump showed up for the dancing girls.

The very next morning we left Punta on the bus to Colonia.  As homesick as we were for Buenos Aires and our favorite milongas, we still had a few hours to kill before boarding the ferry.  We wandered around the historic district, walked out to the point and the lighthouse, and finally settled in for light refreshments at one of our favorite waterfront bistros.

I love this view.

Santos kicked back.

We watched a boat sail in to the marina on a gentle breeze.

Over and out from la Colonia del Sacramento!

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Here’s Looking at Portland

Portlandevening2*

PORTLAND IS ALL ABOUT THE RIVER… broad and busy by day, stunningly elegant by night.

view of the the South Waterfront from further south

view of the the South Waterfront, taken from the Sellwood Bridge

Portland is a sprawling city of 600,000 bisected by the Willamette River, divided into quadrants, spanned by a dozen bridges, and bounded on its northern shore by the Columbia River and the state of Washington.

yacht harbor on a gorgeous day, taken from the waterfront bike trail

downtown yacht harbor, at the end of Montgomery St.

The Port of Portland, located about 80 miles upriver from the Pacific Ocean, is the largest freshwater port in the U.S.A. Portland ships out more wheat than any other U.S. port, and is the second largest port for wheat in the world.

The northernmost bridge of Portland is so Gotham City:

St. John's Bridge, photo by Ben

St. John’s Bridge, photo by Ben

Each bridge has its own flavor and story… all impressively heavy metal, functional, and even inspiring.

Hawthorne Bridge and boats

Hawthorne Bridge and yacht harbor on a gorgeous May day

the cute version

the cute version

Under construction is yet another bridge which will facilitate multiple forms of public transport across the Willamette: Max Light Rail, Tri-Met buses, the Portland streetcar, pedestrians and bicycles: NO CARS ALLOWED! Popular Science magazine awarded Portland the title Greenest City in America in 2008.

TriMet bridge

TriMet bridge: completion expected in 2015

Portland is famous for its outdoorsy, tree-hugging, bicycle-riding, homemade beer brewing and coffee slurping liberals. There are more than 60 breweries here. In 2010, CNBC named Portland the Best City for Happy Hour in the U.S.

for those of you who go for the brew

for those of you who go for the brew

Ever seen the TV show Portlandia? It satirizes the city as “a hub of liberal politics, organic food, alternative lifestyles and anti-establishment attitudes.” [Wikipedia] What other city can happily negotiate such a dysfunctional but workable dynamic between guns, gays and greens? Perhaps that explains the weltanschauung behind the Keep Portland Weird movement.

images

Ben sums up Portland in 2 words: pedestrians vs. cyclists. He thinks walkers and hikers don’t like bicyclists ’cause they damage the environment… I mean, seeing a bike tire track in the mud of your favorite hiking trail would make anybody flip and run for their gun… wouldn’t you? …ja ja… and naturally bicyclists wish pedestrians would just get the hell outta the way!! But the real issue has, perhaps, more to do with primal fear: fear, that is, of being turned to toast under 2000 lbs. of steel and rubber. I found an intriguing apropos discussion on the City of Portland website, just for a reality check:

4 types of cyclists orange2

The intrepid few “Strong & Fearless” identify primarily as bicyclists, and ride everywhere without fear (or almost everywhere), under any and all road and weather conditions. Truly courageous or merely suicidal?

he's multi-tasking

a multi-tasking cyclist

The “Enthused & Confident” — like Ben — ride daily to work or school, for the pure joyful adrenalin rush of riding. (Also to save bucks and shrink their carbon pawprint). Who wouldn’t want to ride Portland’s beautiful bike lanes and bike boulevards?  There’s even bike lane stoplights and, lucky for me, no bike path traffic cameras! Not yet, anyway. Is it a crime to cross on the red when there’s no traffic in any direction?

OK, but... what if I can't find  the speedometer on my bike?

OK, but… what if my bike doesn’t have a speedometer?

As Portland has been particularly supportive of urban bicycling, it now ranks amongst the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Approximately 8% of commuters bike to work, the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and about 10 times the national average. [Wikipedia]

Main Map-v3

“The Interested but Concerned” group covers the vast majority of Portland cyclists. “They like riding a bicycle… they would like to ride more. But, they are AFRAID to ride. They don’t like cars speeding down their streets. They get nervous when a driver runs a red light, or guns their car around them, passing by too closely and too fast.” (City of Portland Bicycle Plan 2030) Sounds like me. I KNOW I’m taking my life into my hands every time I get on my bike. Duh!

weird cyclist

“No Way No How!” is the anthem of group four. Besides primal fear and equally primordial  laziness (aversion to exertion), not to mention the over-abundance of Pacific Northwest Stormy Mondays, they may be unknowing victims of an acute case of nostalgia for the gas-guzzling, chrome-dazzling Twentieth Century; back in the day when petroleum was plentiful, and joy riding in a true-blue Made in the U.S.A. cruiser was a sign of status and All-American Attitude. On a lucky day you may still catch sight of one around town:

'63 Lincoln

’63 Lincoln… yea, baby!

Pontiac Bonneville - 1965?

’64 Pontiac Bonneville

el Jefe chillin' in the back seat

el Jefe chillin’ in the back seat

You don’t have to be a cute mutt in a cool car to be in my blog, either:

Charlie & me

Charlie & me

But wait… we’re not done with the bridges yet! A block from our apartment in the Pearl District is the Broadway Bridge:

Broadway Bridge

riverfront walk near the Broadway Bridge

Portland’s urban growth boundary, adopted in 1979, separates urban areas (where high-density development is encouraged and focused) from traditional farm land (where restrictions on non-agricultural development are very strict). This was quite atypical in an era when automobile use led many areas to neglect their core cities in favor of development along interstates, in suburbs, and bedroom communities. Former industrial areas reeking of urban decay were “redeveloped” into prosperous new neighborhoods… like the Pearl District. The city has grown inward and upward, as opposed to sprawling outward. Impresionante, Portland! California, are you listening? 

Burlington RR Bridge

the Burlington Bridge: a railroad bridge with a vertical lift

the Steel Bridge

the Steel Bridge: bike & pedestrian path AND train tracks on the bottom, cars on top

Almost 200 years of industry (shipping, logging, manufacturing) went into making Portland the city it is today. This heritage is breathtakingly visible in the older parts of the city and all along the riverfront, especially around the industrial waterfront and deepwater port. Heat-forged iron and steel trusses and beams hold up bridges and docks. Old brick buildings and warehouses were reborn as shops, bistros, cafés, apartments and lofts, galleries and urban “outfitters.”

below the bridge

the poetry of steel, under the bridge

Portland is so modern and yet its history continues to underwrite its modernity. I really like this contrast, in which each flip side of the coin does not disavow its alter-ego. Past and present are connected in a wabi-sabi “…beauty that treasures the passage of time, and with it the lonely sense of impermanence it evokes.” [Diane Durston: Wabi Sabi, The Art of Everyday Life, 2006]

Morrison Bridge on a grey afternoon

Morrison Bridge on a still, grey afternoon

big train comin' thru the Steel Bridge, photo by Ben

big train comin’ thru the Steel Bridge, photo by Ben

lkjhasdf

random tango dancer in Biker Babe jacket checking out the income-producing side of the river

Portland has an impressive and beautiful downtown, lined by scores of trees, parks and greenspace, and the ultra-beautiful Japanese gardens:

Japanese Gardens

Portland Japanese Gardens

The International Rose Garden has a stunning amphitheater. We walked up there yesterday, in a light rain:

amphiteatro2*

We haven’t seen the Chinese gardens yet, but I’ve heard they’re stunning!

Portland Chinese Gardens

Portland Classical Chinese Garden

Portland is a fabulous and colorful city, well known for being cool, hip, fashionably eco-sustainable-everything, and ultra walkable (a walkscore of 98 in the Pearl District), with a kid-friendly, tech-friendly urban vibe.

Streetcars rock Portland!

Streetcars rock Portland!

Portlanders are friendly, multicultural, awake and aware of what’s goin’ on in their world and their town. Artists, hipsters, locavores, LGBTs, tree-huggers, tango dancers, Power-to-the-People progressives, retired hippies, fanatics of every stripe, wealthy young entrepreneurs and tekkie types…. and cool habitats for humanity from A – Z. The growth of high-tech startups and related businesses have earned Portland the nickname Silicon Forest. Powell’s Books, whose three stories above ground take up an entire city block, claims to be the largest independent new and used bookstore in the world. Portland is also the karaoke capital of the U.S.!

Hoyt Street townhouses

Hoyt Street townhouses

What do I like most about Portland? My liveable downtown neighborhood, the Pearl.

pedestrian path

pedestrian path in the Pearl

Jamison Square reminds me of ___ Gardens in Paris

Jamison Square reminds me of the Luxembourg Gardens

kid-friendly waterfall/pond at Jamison Square

kid-friendly Jamison Square fountain

our friendly neighborhood Lovejoy Bakery

our friendly neighborhood Lovejoy Bakery

looking down on the bakery from our apartment on a sunny day

looking down on the bakery from our apartment on a sunny day

I also love the ubiquitious cafés with outdoor seating, reminding me of Buenos Aires and European cities. Here’s our favorite, authentic (all the staff imported from Italy), delicious trattoria, Piazza Italia, right around the corner from Jamison Square.

Piazza Italia

Piazza Italia

Downtown Portland’s numerous cafés remind me of Buenos Aires, Rome, Barcelona, Paris… they make you feel like the streets in your hood are an extension of your living room! Sustainable living abounds, complete with rooftop gardens, terraces, wind turbines, solar power, etc. What do I mean by sustainable etc? I know, I had to look it up too. See my notes at end.*

another lovely pedestrian path in the Pearl

another pretty pedestrian path in the Pearl

Portland has many different faces: cool steel under grey skies…

;jhasdf

reflecting pool

convention center

convention center

parks, pedestrian and bicycle trails all along the river…

waterfrontpark**

springtime waterfront

waterfront in spring

juxtaposition of old and new in the Pearl District

juxtaposition of old and new

colorful streetcars

green & yellow streetcar

blue streetcar

blue streetcar

old and new cottages on the south waterfront

old and new cottages on the south waterfront, a stone’s throw from the river

A perfect example of wabi-sabi: isn’t the one on the left so timelessly beautiful? (Maybe needs a little work on the interior…)

houseboats & sailboat on the Willamette

houseboats & sailboat on the Willamette

Ben says he likes the culture of Portland. Portlanders are quite courteous, both on and off the dance floor. They respect walkers and cyclists… they stop for you even when they don’t have to. Portlanders find value in music, dance, food, the arts… and in people connecting with each other. The pace of life is slower. Huge ships in port are constantly loading and unloading, while at the same time fishermen troll the river in small boats. Portlanders work to continually improve their quality of life; they don’t just care about the environment; they make it HAPPEN.

Sauvie Island - my favorite idyllic getaway only 10 miles upriver

Sauvie Island – my favorite idyllic getaway only 10 miles upriver

Sauvie Island rules & regs: but no one's watching

Sauvie Island rules & regs: overzealous verbiage to be sure

Portlanders also care about what goes into their food, i.e., Portland is NOT a fast-food paradise. Human beings are essentially the same everywhere (our DNA is identical, right?) but the culture here has developed favorably for a healthy, sustainable environment, and people-friendly transportation systems.

The climate is, well… I’ve written pages making fun of the climate. Seriously, I like it hot, humid and tropical! Sadly, today is yet another drizzly grey day here in Portlandia. Seems like there’s only one season here. The trees change but not the weather. But if it keeps the unwashed hordes from discovering and moving to this idyllic Pacific Northwest homeland… it’s okay.

wabi-sabi doorknobs

wabi-sabi doorknobs in a recycled building materials shop

That’s all for now, friends… stay tuned for my next post: the Portland Tango scene. You’re gonna like it!

*What do I mean by environmentally sustainable design? It’s the philosophy of designing physical objects, the built environment, and services to comply with the principles of social, economic, and ecological sustainability. McLennan, J. F. (2004), The Philosophy of Sustainable Design. More references: (1) Anastas, P. L. and Zimmerman, J. B. (2003). Through the 12 principles of green engineering. Environmental Science and Technology. March 1. 95-101A. (2) Fan Shu-Yang, Bill Freedman, and Raymond Cote (2004). Principles and practice of ecological design. Environmental Reviews. 12: 97–112. (3) Holm, Ivar (2006). Ideas and Beliefs in Architecture and Industrial design: How attitudes, orientations, and underlying assumptions shape the built environment. Oslo School of Architecture and Design. You gotta appreciate research and researchers! They help dummies like you and me make sense of the world we live in!

Ciao from Portland!

Ciao from Portland!