When garages were filled with music

I remember one evening about 15 years ago when I first started back in walking. I was walking different loop routes through my neighborhood for exercise. On that evening Portlandia was in high form. As I walked I started hearing music coming from a number of the garages I past. It seemed every block had a garage with music. At first I thought it was a radio turned on while someone was working on something in the garage. Back then people listened to radios. But then I came to realized it was a group practicing their music. I would hear rock-n-roll coming out of one garage and chamber music from another and jazz from another and country-western from another and so on. The neighborhood was very much alive with garage bands practicing their art. Not long after that evening I switched to walking with a group in downtown and was not out walking my neighborhood any longer.

This last fall I started having knee problems and could not keep up with my downtown group. I started walking in my neighborhood again, now at a slower pace. It dawned on me one evening that the music coming from the garages was gone. I realized my neighborhood had changed. I think all of Portland has changed now. When it was the height of Portland Creative Renaissance you had live music coming from the garages and groups playing all over town. You had small theatrical companies practicing and performing in every large or small space that had small rents. You had company’s, like Icebreaker and others, moving their design departments to Portland because the creative talent was here. They have left now. But now, even before the lock-down, the neighborhoods in Portland have gone quite. Now the neighborhoods are respectable and expensive. And the dream of Portlandia, a dream of live music coming from a garage on every block, has slowly slipped silently into the past.

What is Portlandia?

It means different things to different people. For some it is a big bronze statue that looks down at you as you enter the Portland Building, a building that is constantly under repair. For others it is a wonderful or annoying TV satire show about Portland’s quirks. For me it means almost the same as folks think the “Keep Portland Weird” slogan means. The difference is those folks moved here after Portland had develop its weirdness and did not experience what made it weird. Both refer to a vibe or spirit that Portland has developed. The vibe began back in the Portland Cultural Creative Renaissance. This was back in a time when artist and crafty entrepreneurs flooded into the old run down, cheap rent warehouses that is now what we call the Pearl district. Those early creative settlers formed a community that did not conform to the old manufacturing, resource extracting Downtown Portland that lay just on the other side Burnside. This community wanted to be creative, innovative, unconventional, entrepreneurial, where being different was OK and not a 9 to 5 corporate group but wanted to work with corporate but on their terms and be their own boss. They set out to build their own businesses and their own creative economy. From this came humanist attitudes, tolerance, understanding and lots of fearless energy that only youth and maturing hippies could bring. The suit and tie was out – unless it was worn with colorful boxers and high top logging boots. You could do your thing just as long as you don’t get in the way of my thing. And it was all fueled by a lot of coffee and later micro brew beer. This community has moved on from the Pearl and all the new high rise condos.

Today there are some little pockets of Portlandia and those early creatives settlers still around Portland. Others finally got their homestead out in the woods by Alsea. Some I hate to say got old and are in nursing homes (I’m headed that way). The Creative Renaissance is over but some of that vibe still lives on in Portland.

For this site I hope to be able to find some of lingering remains of the old Creative Renaissance that is still around and show you where to find them. I am also hoping to show visitors how that period of time has left a lasting impression on Portland and how some of Portlandia still lives on in the everyday. I also want to explore what happened to bring Portlandia into being and what is causing it to dissolve away in the Oregon rain. But first I have to wait for virus lock down to end so I can leave my house to look for all of that.

Green Anchor bit of Portlandia

One part of starting this website was to find what was left of Portlandia and share it with visitors. Sadly most of it is gone now. But one last bits of it can be found a Green Anchor. They have taken an old ship yard and found a way around the city’s codes and ordnance to be able to offer small rustic spaces for rent that artist and green entrepreneurs can afford. When you walk through the yard it looks confusing, messy and where you say “what the heck is going on here.” Reel creativity often is messy.

I love to walk through this place to see what changes have occurred. I always find new tinny home being built, vans and buses being converted for living in, new sculptures sitting out and always a surprise of something way different that was not there before. I don’t know how long this bit of Portlandia can survive before the rapid rise in property prices forces them out but for now it holds on.


Stumbling over Portlandia

This is what is fun about Portland, you head off to do visit one thing and even after 25 years of being here you find new cool places. This happen to me the other day. I had headed over to photograph Peninsula Park Rose Garden now that the roses are in bloom. I got that done shooting sooner then planned and figure I had time to pop over to Kenton to photo big Paul Bunyan, another selfie landmark. I had to park my car a block away and started walking over and came across a place I did not know about. The sign on the build was about bamboo. I thought was weird because normal Portland is not a bamboo kind of town. So the door was open and I thought I would just poke my head in to see what was going on. It turn out to be everything you didn’t know existed about bamboo. It ranged from bamboo pole to use for something to a four story tree house built out of bamboo. So I thought ya this is part of Portlandia.

So I continue on over and to Paul Bunyan and get my photos and I am heading back to my car by way of another street. I walk past another business that had been locate up a block and now at this new location. I new they did salvage lumber and again the door was open. Ya, they had a few old 2X4s but then I started to find they had so much more. In the lumber yard area they had slabs of wood now. So not only doing reuse of timber from old building but also working with folks who have lost trees to bark beadle or fire. That wood becomes a source for wood workers and designers for furniture and home décor. Plus they now have a showroom for ideas of how to use materials and making some of their own furniture. Reuse of material is definitely Portlandia thing.

So in Portland you can head out for something you know and come across entrepreneur who take weird ideas and make them into successful business.