Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dim prospects

Ally, Sara and I were finally able to meet up with Kenny from the nest. We talked with him for about an hour and told him about the project that we were working on. It sounds like he really doesn't want to be personally photographed or documented. I'm not really sure what we are going to do. He said on Friday that he might go to the BBQ on the lot this last Sunday. I'm anxious to see Ally and Sara today to see if they have any ideas.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

a giant red lego

On the first day that we went out into the neighborhood, Ali, Sara and I came across a house that had a gigantic red lego on it's front porch. Needless to say we were all intrigued but the house looked as though no one was home. We took some pictures and moved on. Our assignment for this last week was to go out and find an object on display and to find out about it. Both Sara and I turned to each other and wanted to go track down the red lego. We went again to the house, and again no one was home.

Apparently the third time is a charm because we went again on Saturday and finally got to hear the story about the red lego. The owner of the lego is Lance who has lived in the neighborhood for about 10 years, give or take. He received the lego as a birthday gift about 4 years ago. It came from a Nike fashion show and ended up at the rebuilding center. Some friends of his were there and the lego was on display as a prize in a contest. They had to guess the weight of the lego and then they could take it home. That day was also Lance's birthday, he was turning 42 so his friends guessed that the lego would be 42 pounds. They won the lego and dropped it off on Lance's porch, rang the doorbell, and ran away before he got to the door. This was four years ago and no their it sits.

Lance said that it works really well as a landmark when he is giving directions to someone who has never been to his house before. We were not the first people to just come up on the porch and ask about it. He also said that he has overheard people discussing the lego on the #72 bus.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Stuffed up

I unfortunately had to miss class on Wednesday because I was ill. I was really looking forward to going out into the neighborhood again and I'm anxious to hear about what happened in our next class. Stupid cold!!!

Friday, April 18, 2008

We went out again and spoke to several business owners about what they are doing and their experience within the Alberta neighborhood. There was a man named Mark who was running a real estate company on the North side of Alberta between 16th and 17th. He said that he owned the whole block. It sounds like he bought a good deal of that property in 1995(?) and referred to it as a 'crack alley' back then. It sounds like he bought the property because it was really cheap and had no idea that Alberta was going to become one of the hottest neighborhoods in the country.

We spoke to another woman who stuck me, I can't remember her name but she was the owner of a dress shop named Tumbleweeds. We asked her to talk about her business and experiences within the neighborhood, and I think Graham was trying to be as non-controversial in his prompting as possible, but she immediately got on a soap box about gentrification. It seems that she has a lot of guilt about this issue as she was getting flustered and red in the face.

Later I was recounting the experience of the day to my roomate and we got into a discussion about the big "G" word. Here is what

gentrification means:


1.the buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper- or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses.

2. an instance of gentrifying; the condition of being gentrified.

It comes from the word 'gentry' which means a couple of different things. Well-born or well bred, belonging to a certain class, the class below nobility, land owning etc.,

Ultimately it is an issue of class, not of race. It's about rich people coming in and forcing poor people out and it's happening all over the city to all sorts of people. I think that because of this country's long tradition of racism and slavery that the issue of gentrification becomes most obvious when the rich people happen to be white and the poor people happen to be black.

I'm not trying to say that the race issue at hand in the area that we are working in should be disregarded, I just see the issue of gentrification as a little more complicated than black and white.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The First Day

We went out into the neighborhood today for the first time and it was a pretty interesting experience. We met a couple of guys from the City of Portland who were about to begin work on the road to repair a sewer pipe. They were really nice and eager to talk about their work which was surprising to me. I'm generally pretty nervous about having to start up conversations with people that I don't know but I think that this class will help me get over that.

The neighborhood that we are working in is very familiar to me. It's the first neighborhood that I moved into when I moved to Portland almost 8 years ago. Just in the time that I've lived around that area I've seen it change drastically. The the other two girls that I was walking around with were both fairly unfamiliar with the location and we were talking about the differences in perspective. I have all of these memories and anecdotes that are attached to various houses and businesses and it was hard for me to remove myself from that and to see it through investigative eyes. Despite all of this I am eager to go out again next week.