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"Keep it badder, PDX." Artful graffiti on Alberta Street. PDX is the airport identifier for Portland International Airport, and has been adopted as one of the many nicknames of the city.

“Keep it badder, PDX.” Artful graffiti on Alberta Street. PDX is the airport identifier for Portland International Airport, and has been adopted as one of the many nicknames of the city.

For some Middle School reason, I think using the word “art” as a verb is hilarious. As in, “Don’t interrupt, I’m arting.”

One of my inexplicable Crystal diversions is that I like to catalogue wall art. Many cities have murals and many cities have spectacular graffiti, and I am crazy about it. I am even won over by 3-D wall art, like parts of airplanes or cars built to look like they are jutting out, mosaic tiles that lift from the wall, and religious icons set into walls. I am impressed with this living art:

The living wall of a business on Alberta Street.

The living wall of a business on Alberta Street.

Last week I talked a friend into driving me around to look for wall murals to photograph. This morning, Andrew at Have Bag, Will Travel posted wall art and it was the push I needed to get my photos out to you all.

There is a street in Portland called Alberta Street, that has been building its reputation for 100 years. From the 1920s, Alberta Street was known as a place where inexpensive housing could be found, as well as bus and streetcar service to transport workers into the city. This reputation attracted many immigrants, and it also became the site of a massive relocation in the aftermath of a devastating flood in 1948 that wiped out a large Black American community. In the 1950s and again in the 1970s, public works projects leveled impoverished areas close to the city center and forced the people to relocate. Many of them crammed into the Alberta neighborhoods.

The people in this area have cultural influences that include German, African, Chinese, and Mexican.

The residents in this area have cultural influences that include German, African, Chinese, and Mexican.

One thing I particularly enjoy here is the variety of artists' styles.

One thing I particularly enjoy here is the variety of artists’ styles.

Crowding and poverty resulted in unrest. I was not in the area during the 1980s and 90s, but the reputation north Portland garnered for itself decades ago is still spread as fact by well-meaning neighbors in other parts of the city, in their attempts to help me learn the area. It was famous for gangs, drugs, and violence. At the same time, the Alberta residents put their collective feet down and said, “No more!” Always leaning heavily on the arts, a concerted effort of neighborhood improvements began, and was ultimately successful.

Inspirational as well as attractive.

Inspirational as well as attractive.

This one is tiny: perhaps 2 1/2 feet tall. It includes a micro-mural of Haystack Rock, on the Oregon Coast.

This one is tiny: perhaps 2 1/2 feet tall. It includes a micro-mural of Haystack Rock, on the Oregon Coast, shown in a recent post.

The artists are not only talented, but also engaged and aware of their impact on the community, which probably explains why so many sign their work.

The artists are not only talented, but also engaged and aware of their impact on the community, which probably explains why so many sign their work.

A new ramen house I will definitely return to with Tara.

A new ramen house I will definitely return to with Tara.

Today, as often happens in diverse neighborhoods all over this country, the hard work of community activists has paid off, and the wealthy weekend explorers from downtown have “discovered” Alberta. The street hosts organic groceries and free-range chicken, gourmet ice cream, and a 100% gluten-free bakery. The cultural diversity of the local entrepreneurs overlaid with new trendy shops draws an entirely new crowd and – I assume – new growing pains as property values soar and gentrification claws its way in.

The character, the activism, and the arts from the complicated and heroic history shine through on Alberta Street today. It is one of the best places in Portland to park your car, get out into the air and join the community.

{Credit to Alberta Main Street for the historical facts.}

{My collection of Portland wall art on Flickr.}

We talked for a long time to these enthusiastic young men who had raised their own money through donations from passers-by, and then took it upon themselves to paint over unattractive graffiti. There must be no better affirmation of community action than when young men make it their own project.

We talked for a long time to these enthusiastic young men who had raised their own money through donations from passers-by, and then took it upon themselves to paint over unattractive graffiti. There must be no better affirmation of community action than when young men make it their own project.

Here someone has salvaged an old Coke advertisement.

Here someone has salvaged an old Coke advertisement.

We share the same sun.

We share the same sun.

I get a total charge out of this one. The artwork makes me think of Mayan writing on columns. I can't tell if it was intentional, but each column is stacked "on top" of the recycling bins.

I get a total charge out of this one. The artwork makes me think of Mayan writing on columns. I can’t tell if it was intentional, but each column is stacked “on top” of the recycling bins.

Rose City is another Portland nickname. This is an example of when graffiti can no longer be called an eyesore.

Rose City is another Portland nickname. This is an example of when spray-painted graffiti can no longer be called an eyesore.

Newly painted wall in Tara's room

I finished painting my daughter’s room. Dark grey. I protested, not a little. She stood firm (ooh, I raised an independent girl. A fact which bites me in the butt sometimes). It wasn’t until I got all the way around with the first coat, and could see it more or less in a complete state, that I realized it looks nice. Tara said, “I like how you called it ‘my cave’ Mom, because it is! It’s my cave!”

Grey. What a color.

I want to know her desperately. And, she shares a lot, but she is also very private. I think it is the time when I will begin to be left out of a significant portion of her life inside her head. I don’t want to let her get that far away from me. I think she is such an incredible person who is so different from me and so interesting and amazing, I just want the inside scoop forever. But now she has a cave, and it’s her space. Not mine.

no more spider egg sacs

This morning is brilliant! brilliant! Sunshine is just now creeping in the form of golden glow across the treetops, and putting Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood into mauve silhouette. Gorgeous. Not a cloud anywhere. People who complain about the weather in Portland have obviously never lived in Eureka (where one finds the true meaning of fog and rain). The weather here is excellent (in this person’s opinion). Oh, and duh! I will never have to shovel the driveway before work. yeah!

Yesterday I painted my girl’s new room.

We’re living with The Uncles – my Uncle and his partner (who told me he prefers “uncle” to “aunt” which others call him – ha! 🙂 ). Anyway, bless their generous hearts, have welcomed us into their basement apartment while my partner and I are yet unemployed and we need someplace to live. We pay rent, which is a bit discounted for our area, and we get loads of bennies like fresh farm eggs every day – as many as we can eat, and free wireless Internet. My daughter is delighted to live here, and spends nearly every daylight hour trying to catch chickens, having battles of wills with the attack geese, feeding roses to the goats, feeding carrots to the blind horse ( whom she named Marmalade), climbing through the forest somewhere, and playing with the dogs.

I firmly believe that children need chores. And no, they aren’t entitled to get PAID for it. No one else in the household gets paid for their work. Allowances should be given only when parents are inclined to do so (i.e. the grownups are in control, not the kids). They need to work to contribute to family life because that is simply reality. The only way to get everything done that needs to get done is for everyone to pitch in. Shielding our children from this is denying them opportunities to learn about real life, and preventing them from learning about cooperation, and WHY people work: it isn’t because it’s what we most want to do…for most people it’s what we MUST do. Anyway, she works her little butt off here, and loves it. She weeds and weeds the vast landscaping, she collects eggs, waters plants. Yesterday she astonished me by dusting all the knick knacks in The Uncles’ spare bedroom – just because – and cleaning out the hen house for fun. It’s like she got into work mode and found the joy in making a place look better. I am really pleased.

There have been, however, some serious drawbacks about being here, and I guess my spiritual growth right now includes getting better at being social, loving my family no matter what, and being patient. I need to see their loving generosity in its true form, and stop wishing for things on my terms. Our fantasy right now is dreaming about the day when we can ski-daddle.

So, anyway, paint. The basement apartment has one bedroom. The Uncles felt that my girl could sleep upstairs in their spare bedroom. But I resisted because I can’t feel like a family if I sent my little one off to someone else’s house each night. My partner suggested that the laundry room was large enough to be a bedroom. They agreed.

The Uncles are packrats. Never throw anything away ever. The laundry room was packed full right up to the door, with a path wide enough to get the washer and dryer doors open. As I was cleaning out the room, I found phone books back for years and years. WHY would anyone keep their phone books? Approximately 37 packs of playing cards, all the original packing for most things they’ve purchased (the empty boxes for their cell phones, boxes for their satellite dish, box for one of the vacuum cleaners, boxes for kitchen appliances…). I worked for a full week moving their things (note my successful attempt at not calling it anything else!) into different storage rooms around the house.

Then I cleaned up all the dead bugs and crawly spiders and spider egg sacs and globs of webs (shuddddder…), and scrubbed and scrubbed till it was back to bare, ugly concrete wall. I applied a layer of primer, and two layers of laytex paint over that (and didn’t spend 2 cents on any paint supplies…found brushes, rollers – three sizes, cans of paint in many colours, stir sticks, can openers, spackle, etc etc. already in the house – go figure).

Yesterday all the base paint was dry, and I put up an eggshell blue background, took a Harry Potter break (that’s when my daughter and I stop whatever we’re doing and snuggle and read another chapter together) so the blue could dry, then painted daisies. Big, bright, sunny flowers around the walls. It’s actually a place that a kid might want to sleep now. We’ll give it a couple days to air out, then start putting her stuff in.

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