Tuesday, December 12, 2006

(Lesser) Demolished Buildings of PDX.

There used to be an old garage or machine shop at the corner of SE Division & (lower) Grand Avenue. If you were driving by on the viaduct, where Grand & MLK become McLoughlin, you would only see an old rooftop, maybe. I think it was last winter but I was riding home from work and noticed the old building had chainlink fence around it, a minor construction tractor of some sort & a large dumpster standing by. This old building was getting torn down.

When I got home I looked the address up on Portland Maps &, yeah, the shop was old, like 1925 or so. I wanted to take photos but it was already dark (winter = dark by 5:30). I tried to remind myself to just bring my camera to work so I could snap a photo on the way home the next day or two but I kept forgetting. The demolition continued. The building was City property & was being cleared to make way for the eventual re-building of the Grand/MLK/McLoughlin viaduct in 2007. I remember it had a lot of brickwork & thick wooden beams. And let's be honest, it probably rested upon contaminated soil. The front doors of the building faced east, on to the original, pre-viaduct Grand Avenue - the one where the old Bridge Transfer Line trolley tracks still lie. Funny there, the viaduct put the building out of business, & the new viaduct put it out of its misery.

Waxing my way along here, my point is that buildings get demolished everyday, usually to little hooplah or even notice by anyone 'cept bizarros like me. On one of those last weekends of nice weather in September, I walked around parts of central eastside, taking snapshots. Included was this quirky little building at 2008 S.E. 11th.

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Yeah, you know the one? Right? The window had a sign painted on about the "Past & Present" shop or some such, & the door said "Psychic" on it. A fortune teller!

Part of my project that day had been to cross-reference the buildings I took pics of w/ Portland Maps - see when they were built, try to get a feel for the lay of the town back when. I swear this little shop-front was built in 1910 or close to it.

Why am swearing it was built in 1910? Because Portland Maps doesn't include the "original built" info for 2008 SE 11th anymore, because it be not there anymore...

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Further demolition revealed that the building had a full basement, which, honestly, surprised me a bit. And to be honest, it probably had terminal mold problems.

2008 SE 11th Avenue
We Hardly Knew Ye.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Venetian Grand Canal of Portland.

The 1905 Lewis & Clark Centennial Exposition (& American Pacific Exposition & Oriental Fair - the full name of the event), consistent w/ previous World's Fairs1, was comprised of two axis: exhibits & entertainments. The exhibits resided in large, ornate buildings in a Spanish style, & were hosted by various geo-political entities: Japan, Italy, California, Chehalem county. The "entertainments," by contrast, had a more amusement park feel, & were clustered together on a street, built up on pylons over Guilds Lake, called "the Trail."

All in all, there were over 30 amusements along the Trail. They ranged from "replicas" of exotic locales (Cairo, Siberia, Alaska, Japan) to the carnival (haunted castles, temples of mirth) to the sensational & bizarre (intelligent horses).

My favorite, however, was the Carnival of Venice, produced by the world-famous Bolossy Kiralfy. Kiralfy (and his brother Imre's) expertise was grandoise, spectacular productions, including Jules Vernes' A Trip to the Moon.2 Carnival of Venice was no exception, featuring a 300 member cast performing dance, song & skit on a 400-foot set complete w/ gondalas.

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The set & cast of Carnival of Venice.

If the set & size of the cast seems extravagent, keep in mind said cast included European ballerinas & members of the Metropolitan Opera Company.3 This production was not cheap. And, unfortunately, the Carnival of Venice, like the vast majority of the entertainments of the Trail, operated at a loss.4 The Carnival would have closed early if not for the charity of the Exposition's management company, which buoyed the production financially 'til the Expo's close in October.5


1 Although the 1905 Expo was not officially sanctioned such as to designate it a "World's Fair," it remained only event of that nature which occurred that year, making it the 1905 World's Fair by default if nothing else. Or at least that's the story I'm sticking to.
2 In his own words regarding Trip to the Moon, "It dealt with a young prince of the Kingdom of Nowhere. Tired of life on earth, he builds a cannon a mile long so that he can be shot up to the moon. Once there he falls in love with a lunar princess. The story was too farcical, but allowed for unusual ballets. The construction of the massive cannon was a dance production scene set in a foundry."
3 "Complete with serenading gondoliers and scheming lovers who drifted between audience and stage, Bolossy Kiralfy's 400-foot-long set recalled Venice's Grand Canal during the height of the legendary city's gay carnival season. The carnival's 300 members, including a large contingent of European ballerinas and a chorus drawn from the Metropolitan Opera Company, entertained fairgoers with dances, songs and skits." Abbott, Carl. The Great Extravaganza; Portland & the Lewis & Clark Exposition. Oregon Historical Society. Portland, Oregon. 1981. p. 48.
4 The exceptions being, possibly, the Siberia et al. stuff.
5 "Though vistors had to pass along The Trail to reach the federal buildings, they apparently saved thier money for 10cent vaudeville shows downtown or unmentionable pleasures in Chinatown. The elaborate Carnival of Venice, for one example, would have closed its doors and beached its gondolas without the quiet assistance from the Exposition management." Abbott, p. 64

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Please Help the Blind.

In the Old Town Ambulations post, I made reference to an illustration a 1889 issue of West Shore which described Portland's north end as follows:
A ten-year-old boy lies sprawled on a curb dead drunk. From an open window a prostitute solicits. Three Chinese pose proudly in thier gambling establishment. Through all of this a Portland policement passes, tapping his way with a white cane, and bearing a sign which reads, "Please help the blind."7
With a twinkle in my eye, I found a book containing said illustration.2

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The man standing at the very right edge is being solicited by aforementioned prostitute at an open window (you can glimpse the edge of the window). The little girl being run down in the street by a carriage is pretty horrible. Can't quite figure out what's supposed to be going on in & front of the building on the left. Whatever it is, the "___ Bank" is clearly up to no good.


1 Portland; A Historical Sketch and Guide. O'Donnell, Terence, and Vaughn, Thomas. Oregon Historical Society, Portland, Oregon. 1976. p. 35
2 The Shaping of a City; Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1885-1915. MacColl, E. Kimbark. Georgian Press Company, Portland, Oregon. 1976. p. 193.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Willamette Meteor.

In autumn of 1902, nearabouts modernday West Linn, William Dale was visited by his nieghbor & fellow miner, a Welshman by the name Ellis Hughs. The day before he had come across a strange rock, partially buried, about 3/4ths of a mile from his property, Hughs confideded. The pair went to have a gander at it & the curious cavities burrowed into it, some voluminous enough to contain a child. At some point Dale hit it w/ a rock, & gave it out a ringing sound. At this sound, both knew it to be an iron meteorite of prestigious size.

15 & a half tons, to be exact. The size of a VW beetle.

A dilemma, however. The meteorite rested the land of the Oregon Iron & Steel Co. Hughs & Dale camoflaged the meteor in brush & branches & went home to conspire a means of claiming the meteor as thier own. The plan of least resistance was to innocently (& completely non-suspicious) purchase the land from Oregon Iron, then "discover" the meteor afterwards. In need of capital, Dale departed to eastern Oregon, to sell property he owned.

Dale never returned.

Months past by. Mrs. Hughs spurred her husband to action. Lacking the raw capital to obtain the meteor's plot of earth, Hughs resolved to physically relocate the space rock to his property & then, again, "discover" it afterwards.

In August of 1903, in absolute secrecy, with his teenage son, his old horse, & nothing else except hand tools, Hughs dug around the meteor, levered it out of its resting place & onto a flatbed cart constructed completely from logs, w/ wheels fashioned from tree trunk sections. Harnessing his horse to a capstan (a post driven into the ground, fastened to a steel cable), the horse walked in circles, winding the cable around the post and (slowly) pulling the cart (& its payload) forward.

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Hughs, the Willamette Meteor, & its wooden cart.

Hughs had only 100-feet of cable (all he could afford, perhaps), so every 100 feet the capstan had to be dug up & re-set 100-feet ahead w/ all necessary clearing of brush & such so the horse, cable & cart had room to move.

3 months later, the meteor was on Hugh's property. He fashioned a shed around it, declared he had discovered it where it stood, & charged curious folk 25 cents per gander. One of these gawkers was counsel for Oregon Iron & Steel, & he quickly deduced the original location of the meteor.1 The attorney offered Hughs $50 for the meteor. Hughs chased him off. Oregon Iron took Hughs to court.

The court ruled in favor of Oregon Iron & Steel, despite creative arguments by Hughs.2 Hughs appealed, but on July 17, 1905, the state Supreme court upheld the earlier ruling. Oregon Iron exhibited the meteor at the Lewis & Clark Expo, & at its unveiling, Governor Chamberlain declared the Willamette Meteorite, North America's largest, would forever call Oregon its home.

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Willamette Meteor on display.

W/ the close of the Exposition, however, the meteor was sold to William Dodge for $20,600, who subsequently donated it to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where it remains to this day.

A replica can be found at the corner of 14th & Willamette Falls Drive in West Linn.3


1 When Hughs' conspiracy was made public, his secrey turned out to be so complete his neighbors claimed to have no idea such titanic labors had occured. His coverup of evidence was apparently no so secretive, however. The Oregon Iron & Steel attorney traced the obvious trail from Hughs' propertry back to the original pit from which the meteor had been removed (and apparently not covered up) on OS&I land.
2 Including the assertion that the meteor may have not originally landed at the site in the first place, but perhaps had been moved there by glaciers, or even native americans. He was correct on the first point: geologists agree the meteor was, in fact, transported to its West Linn resting place by the Missoula Flood.
See the Platial entry.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Old Town Ambulations

Whilst sorting through the sub-basements of the cavernous Reviewiera offices I came across a weathered and beaten 1976 copy of O'Donnell & Vaughan's Portland; A Historical Sketch and Guide1.

The tour of Old Town is dynamite - offering of gems of a trashy past amongst the raw ingots of architectural wisdom. At the time of this writing, my preferred Portland history reading is Percy Maddux's City on the Willamette; the Story of Portland, Oregon (1952), which is entirely & clearly drawn upon the rather spectacular accounts of the local newspapers as source material.2 In a similar vein, the '76 Portland book, although perhaps not as rambling and anecdotal (its locational and historio-architectural in focus, to draw a contrast), is admirable in its acknowledgement of Portland's seedier past.

Of course, the difficult channel here, is often the "seedier," even "criminal," past of Portland tends to lean towards what could be described as the more "popular" elements of our polis' history. Heck, I'll confess the discovery of brothels of yore as more entertaining than the Rose Festival. How about this tidbit? In 1874 five women from the Temperance League were arrested for disturbing the peace by singing hymns in Portland saloons? Okay, perhaps that fact, alone, is rather drab. But, what if I stipulate the follwing? In 1874, there was one saloon for every 40 souls in town. Mmm-hmm. You'll tell all your friends that, won't you?

I gave the walking tour of Old Town an honest shot. However, Saturday Market was in full swing, & being aware of the history of the New Market block, Skidmore Fountain, etcetera, I sorta skipped that part. Coming up the waterfront, I noticed that the 223 S.W. Front street building turned out to be in my guide.

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223 S.W. Front

Dan Haneckow has covered this building3 in far more detail than I could ever hope, but let's see what the '76 guide has to say.
This well-restored little building is a stunning example of the Italianate cast iron fronts of the 1870's. The iron, manufactured by a local foundry whose plaque is on the building's lower right corner, is used in the columns, pilasters and spandrel details. The ground floor fascade, ornate as a boudoir screen which it somehow resembles, is in contrast to the rather reserved second story, but at the top the froth comes back from in the chimneys cum finials and the ornamented pediment.

Such an elegant little building surely had elegent tenants, perhaps a perfumery on the ground floor an din the flat above a lady frown old and respectable who kept a canary and a pug. In fact, the ground floor was a drugstore, trusses in the window, while above was no lady with a boa but rather an accountant.4
This sort of "you'd think this is what this building is for, but you're wrong" rubic is an amusingly typical (& charming) aspect of the '76 guide's tone. Next up, the Blagen block just north of Saturday market.

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The Blagen Block. 78 NW Couch St.

Sayeth the guide...
About the best remaing example of a Portland "commercial palace." Its construction is typical: wooden beams and joists, brick walls surfaced with cement plaster, an ensemble of cast iron ornament bolted to the walls. Finally, the whole painted in shades of gray and white. The principal cast iron elements in the Blagen Block are the ground floor colonnade plus a number of lions and ladies which at intervals ornament the whole fascade, the ladies with thier spiked crowns copies perhaps of the the Liberty erected two years before in New York's harbor. The fascade in generalis a grand exercise in fenestration, each story with its own order of arches, the whole composition topped by a parapet and two overhanging pediments beneath which shelter the buildings name and date. To visualize Old Town in its heydey, imagine long street vistas walled on either side by Blagen Blocks.5
This certainly is a compelling image: blocks upon blocks of Blagens. T'would truely be a little Brussels or some such, wouldn't it? Aye, what's this one 'round the corner, then? Still, a nice building, but lacking any historical people history, y'know?

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Merchants Hotel. 123 NW 2nd.

Merchants Hotel, hm? Nice enough looking place.
The Merchants Hotel has led a lively life. Starting out as a hotel in 1885, it remained one for nearly 100 years, but along the way accommodated other activies as well: a dance hall, a cracker factory, a billiards room, a bar plus several apartments for single ladies with friends in the fleet. After World War I the building became a Japanese business complex: several professional offices, a Japanese grocer, the editorial offices of Japanese Oregon Weekly. In 1968 Mr. William Naito, the present owner, restored the building and it is now used for a range of interesting and useful activities. How nice that a building with a lively past now has a lively present.

The Merchants' Second Avenue fascade is pleasing enough with its cast iron pilasters and entryway in cream and white and gilt, but it is around the corner on Davis that the building presents its most impressive face--note quite a "palace" but nonetheless a fine three-storied screen of pilasters and arches. Midway in this fascade, an alley leads to a small courtyard: brickwalls, a fountain, ferns and in one corner, giving the court its character, arches silhoutted against a transformed shaft.6
First of all, the guide is absolutely correct in saying the Davis side is the more impressive - which is also the side I notedly did not take a picture of. Yeesh. Bonehead. But it is here at the Merchants we get a taste of Portland's "North End" & "Bowery" days, the salicious sort of stuff which tickles the Frank Miller in us all. Tell us more, oh 30-year-old walking tour book!
In 1889 the elegant West Shore magazine, a local publication, ran a full-page illustration of a "north end" Portland street. A ten-year-old boy lies sprawled on a curb dead drunk. From an open window a prostitute solicits. Three Chinese pose proudly in thier gambling establishment. Through all of this a Portland policement passes, tapping his way with a white cane, and bearing a sign which reads, "Please help the blind."7
Holy sparkle horses!! I'm rendered speechless! Let's move along!

Something sacred to cleanse the soul's palate, perhaps.

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Bishop's House. 219-223 SW Stark St.

In 1878 the Roman Catholics in Portland built a cathedral at the corner of Third and Stark, adding a year late this structure to house meeting rooms and other facilities. When the cathedral moves northwest towards the Irish in 1890's the building was sold to be occupied over the years by a succession of colorful tenants--a Chinese tong, a speakeasy, the A.I.A. In 1965 William Roberts, who has done several handsome restorations in the city, gave the decrepit old building a new and useful lease on life.

Aside from several churches, it the most gothic of any building in town, angular and pitched, well furnished with corbels, tracery and crockets, ecclesiatical as a miter which it in a way suggests. The best of the building is its third story triptych, two lancets bracketing a splendid arch of tracery and glass. What, one wonders, goes on behind this? What goes on is one of the most interesting interiors in town: a room 17 feet high, 24 feet square, giant baronial fireplaces to either side and a the end of this wall of mullioned glass, framing in its three intervals cityscape and hills. And to cap it all there was once a musicians' gallery. What a room it must have been: the flaming grates and candlelight, singers in the gallery, the lights of the town through the mullioned glass, and presiding in scarlet over scene, the legendary spellbinder, Archbishop Blanchet.8
The Bishop's House has drawn my gaze since I first laid eyes on it in high school on my way to the (previous location of) 2nd Avenue Records. I recall it literally stopping me in my steps. What was it & what was it doing there? And, as the guide correctly asks, what does goe on on that top floor??

Finished w/ this silly walking around nonsense, to Paddy's we ambulated for pints & a snapshot of the passing Council Crest 511.

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The building closest to the left is Bally's Fitness. The middle building is 122 SW Yamhill (I think - why don't I write this crap down?) & was built in 1885, or 1886. So was the taller building next to it (820 SW 2nd - again, I think). A pint of Harp for $5.00 is highway robbery.


1 Check it out on Amazon.com
2 'Tis a rambling book, as well. For a taste, consider this quote from the book jacket: "There was never a dull moment--runaways, parades, expositions, Chinese riots, tong wars." Makes my Portland blood boil w/ grindhosue pride, that does!
3 223 SW Front St., according to Dan Haneckow
4 Portland; A Historical Sketch and Guide. O'Donnell, Terence, and Vaughn, Thomas. Oregon Historical Society, Portland, Oregon. 1976. p. 108-109.
5 ibid. p. 96-97. [underlined] emphasis mine.
6 ibid. p. 98. [underlined] emphasis mine. Having visited eastern cities (esp. Buffalo) whose primes matched Portland's (c.1890s-1900s), I marvel at times at how, even though Portland has been certainly blessed w/ a certain vision & generally judicious foresight & planning - a terribly large credit as to the city's current beauty is just plain dumb luck. How fortunate, for example, Naito purchased & simply kept all these great old buildings downtown, when he, or someone else of different temperment, could have simply demolished them all. Brrr.
7 ibid. p. 35.
8 ibid. p. 105-106. Archbishop Blanchet, pictured below.
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Hailing from Quebec. First Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Oregon City, later the Archdiocese of Portland. Would not approve of my popular historical tastes...

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Schooner on the Willamette.

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Just north of the Marquam. This schooner was in port for the Piratefest up at Cathedral Park in St. John's, and appeared to be earning some extra $$ by taking some peds on a pleasure cruise (she came about and headed back down the river sortly after passing under the Marquam).

I'm sure the shades of Larry Sullivan, Jim Turk and Bunco Kelly1 will gaze upon it forelornly when it passes Ankeny street...

1 Infamous crimpers and shanghaiers. Turk is said to have shanghaied his own son.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Lafayette & Brooklyn-Gideon Footbridges.

The Lafayette footbridge was built, I think, by Union Pacific or Southern Pacific Railroad (depending on how old it is), since there is a lack of records or clues, at least on the infobahn, to provide a date of construction. Admittedly, given its apparent vintage, I would like to believe that simply no one thought it worthwhile to note the construction, seeing as, after all, its only a footbridge over some train tracks.

My guess would be post-WWII. An old zine I have confirms its presence in the early 1990s. So that "pinpoints" construction from the 1940s to the 1980s. Regardless, its old, and the wooden planks that make up its floorboards squeak and shake and flex a bit.

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Lafayette bridge - looking west.

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Lafayette footbridge viewed from the south.

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Lafayette pedestrian bridge - looking east.

I feel it worth mentioning that this bridge doesn't actually have a name. "Lafayette footbridge" or "Lafayette ped[estrian] bridge" refer only to the fact that it abuts S.E. Lafayette street. I don't think the Marquis de Lafayette ever set foot in Portland, Oregon, much less the Brooklyn train yards.

The Brooklyn-Gideon Footbridge, by contrast, is clearly a more recent effort (although also officially unnamed). In fact, I swear some online maps still show an actual street RR crossing here, a supposition supported by the dead-ending and concrete blocking-off of Brooklyn Street.

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Brooklyn-Gideon footbridge, viewed from the east.

Since the Brooklyn-Gideon Bridge doesn't span the Brooklyn Yards proper the way the Lafayette bridge does, hanging out at Brokklyn-Gideon will bear witness to many more people using the tracks as a shortcut through or around the mess that is the confluence of Powell, the train tracks, 99E, Milwaukie, Division, and SE 11th & 12th Avenues. Train-hopping can also be observed from here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Portland Fire of 1873.

(August 2, 1873)

Burning for 24 hours, the Portland Fire of August 1873 reduced 22 blocks worth of downtown to ashes, including parts of then-Chinatown and many brick buildings housing a storefront business and apartments above or behind it. All 5 companies of Portland's volunteer firemen worked round the clock, and were aided by companies from Salem, who arrived by train, and Vancouver, who arrived by river.

Oregon Historical Society collection
Front Street looking west between Madison &
Jefferson at the First Congregational Church.

8 months earlier, in December 1872, a Chinese laundry was, most likely, set ablaze by anti-Chinese arsonists, and conflagrated, destroying a few blocks surrounding Morrison & Front. This yet to be rebuilt zone substituted as a containment device in the August 1873 Fire.

Although the elegant St. Charles Hotel was heroically spared from the flames, the volunteer firefighters proved generally disorganized, lacking the leadership of a professional fire chief. Attempts to improve Portland's fire-fighting capacities after the December 1872 fire had only resulted in a bigger, louder, 4,000 pound fire bell.

Oregon Historical Society colletion
The area affected by the fire. You can see that "old town" just south of Bursnide was spared.

Given the scale of the fire's destruction and that most of the businesses destroyed were either partially insured or not insured at all, losses amounted to a then-staggering $925,000. Portland recovered but the fire served to push the town's center away from the waterfront and further inland to the west.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Burnside, "THE SKID-ROAD."

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Portland waterfront near the Burnside Bridge, c.1925

From a WPA "Guide to Portland," of all things.

The wide thoroughfare North of Ankeny Street is "THE SKID-ROAD," known as a meeting place for itinerant workers from all over the country. In former days Burnside Street separated the rough North End "bowery" district from the more genteel parts of town, but now it is the southern boundary of a cheap mercantile district of lounging rooms for itinerants and numerous cheap hotels and flop houses. These are gradually being pinched out to make room for factories and wholesale warehouses. In 1905 Mayor Harry Lane, later United States Senator, clamped down on the women denizens, and scattered them to all parts of the city. Since then the city has had no restricted red light district.
Portland had a "restricted red light district?" No surprised, really. After all, what western U.S. town was not without its, uh, adult entertainments?

Portland, you dirty girl, you.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

d.d. tinzeroes vs. the Transformers

I spill a lot of ink discussing 1986's Transformers: The Movie, in my first piece over at Reviewiera.

I always found the above image inexplicably disturbing. Actaully, "disturbing" is too strong a feeling. Just a sorta weird, "soemthing's off here," "whut da?" feeling.

Like, here's this gigantic, multiple-ton alien artificial life creation from an artificial metal planet1, dangling a Terran biological life form (a salmon? a trout? it’s a sizable fish by human standards, I think, if scale is ever consistent in Transformers) like a fly on a string. What's a human in his eyes? An intelligent guinea pig? Even giving the Autobots the benefit of being, at least, are benevolent, this still has a strange, sinister, overlordy tinge to it.


1 Cybertron: Presumably a "real" planet once, transformed by the Quintessons into a factory planet millions of years ago. They built a race called "Trans-organics", part-animal, part-machine, to serve them. Eventually the Trans-organics came to be beyond Quintesson control, and were placed in suspended animation in Cybertron's core (ladies and gentlemen, welcome to: "things I learned from the third season of Transformers!). The creation of the first versions of the Transformers soon followed, although they could not transform yet. Soon they were programmed to have intelligence, and perhaps unintentionally, feelings. Autobots and Decepticons are descended from the two basic classes of robot the Quintessons' built: industrial/commercial (Autobot) and military (Decepticon). Guardian robots, a third class, were produced to protect the Quintessons from their other creations. Eventually, a proto-Autobot known as A-3 built a device (the Matrix?), hidden inside his slave brand (the proto-Autobot insignia), that disabled the Guardians, and at last the Transformers (Autobot & Decepticon) rose up. The Quintessons fled into space to construct a new home world, Quintessa, and another slave-race of transforming robots, the Sharkticons, to serve them. They would remain uninvolved in Cybertronian affairs until Hot Rod & co. crash landed on Quintessa at the time of Transformers: The Movie.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Venture Brothers

The first episode of the Venture Brothers I ever lay witness to was one Sunday night at the Jolly Inn, back when Jeff Bastard used to wage-slave there and when C. Collision still used to get intoxicated. Being a public house of the lower order, the television was always on. Invariably, the channel was frozen on Adult Swim, w/ closed captions. This was the medium of my first Venture Bros. exposure. Despite closed captioning, my usual distrust of all things Adult Swim was tempered by visual images so bizarre my interested was thoroughly piqued.

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I experienced a second episode when aforementioned Collision and I grabbed a 6er on the way home from the more upstanding Basement Pub after it closed (it closes at 1:30, giving the intelligent inebriate one full hour before beer-thirty to procure after-hours entertainments). Upon viewing the opening credits with sound, it only took few stanzas into the theme for me to declare, "this is J. G. Thirlwell!"

J.G. Thirlwell, of course, is a musical fave of mine since shadowy past days of high school. At the time I was an insufferably devoted NIN/Minstry fanboy and was looking for more of the same ilk. Thirlwell's work, all under the various Foetus monikers, was not the same ilk (nor, as it turned out, was PWEI, which also remains my other musical fave). I dabbled in several Foetus albums, but I recall the Sink album, consisting of old singles and various instrumental pieces, being the first to really get under my skin.

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Around my senior year of high school Thirlwell's first and only album for Sony came out: a Foetus disc entitled Gash. That album rocked. It rocked even more when I became a sexually frustrated college freshman, the de facto soundtrack to my year of dorm life. This fit all the better when Thirlwell interviewed and said Gash was about a breakup.

I believe I may have never seen another episode of the Venture Brothers on television, but Collision was way into the show, and would pass along tidbits when the fancy struck him. We both pined for the dvd release. Collision later related to me that investigations had revealed none other than Ben Endlund was also involved in the Venture Brothers as a writer as co-creator Jackson Publick's college roomate.

Ben Endlund is the artistic and writing genius behind the Tick comic book, which I had read in the even more mist-enshrouded and spooky days of middle school, and, of course, watched the still rather bizarre, surreal, what-the-hell-is-this-doing-on-TV-anyways Tick animated series on Fox when I was in high school.

When Venture Bros., Season One finally hit dvd last month, I didn't notice. I was busy setting myself up for heartbreak by falling for Dirk Nowitzski and Josh Howard. But when that was over, I was ecstatic to find out that a TV series I'd seen one actual episode of (the muted one doesn't count), scored by one youth hero, written by another, well then, dammit, I'm going to the viddy rental store!

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13 episodes of bliss.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Oaks Tavern.

(1905 – 1920s?)

The Oaks Tavern, located at the northwest tip of the Oaks amusement park, was a feature attraction of the park when it opened in 1905, serving Weinhard's beer for five cents a bottle along with a fine dining experience, a view of the Willamette and live music.

In as little as a year, however, the temperance crusade began to move against the Tavern. In 1906 an attempt was made to designate Sellwood a dry neighborhood. The measure failed in an county election that June, but in the wake of defeat it was reveled that the Oaks' Superintendent of Construction had paid for Oaks and OWP employees to stay overnight in a Sellwood hotel, the address of which they used to register as Sellwood resident voters. Certain prominent Sellwood landowners further colluded by swearing (falsely) to the veracity of the employees' resident status. Despite a grand jury indictment booze remained king at the Oaks.

In the following year however drunkards from the Oaks managed to accomplish what democracy could not. In the remaining months of 1906 an off-duty police officer threatened an employee with his revolver, and in another incident a inebriate attempted board a moving trolley and predictably miscalculated his leap, resulting his skull being crushed beneath the steel wheels. In 1907 management declared the Oaks dry.

The Oaks attempted to lift this ban in 1908 and again in 1909, although the City refused to grant new liquor licenses. It might seem that the third try was the charm in 1910 but the reality was that new owner John Cordray's local celebrity had more to do with the Oaks' new designation as "Portland's adult playground." But the looming national nightmare of Prohibition was clearly on the horizon and in 1914 the Oaks' went dry once more. By 1916 Prohibition was law in Oregon.

I'm not sure when the Oaks' Tavern was demolished. I can't believe that the building was that structurally long-lived in the first place. The Willamette flooded to varying degrees regularly and lack of patronage due to Prohibition would probably see the Tavern torn down prior to the second world war, if not the first.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Silas Christofferson Flies from Roof of Multnomah Hotel.

(June 11, 1912)

Christofferson prepares for takeoff on ramp atop the Multnomah Hotel.

Silas Christofferson flew from the roof of Portland's Multnomah Hotel across the Willamette and Columbia rivers to Pearson Field in Vancouver in his 40-horsepower-engine biplane in 12 minutes.

Christofferson's biplane takes off from roof of the Multnomah Hotel.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Willamette Shore Trolley.

A few colleagues and I sessioned upon the Willamette Shore Trolley a weekend past ago.

The 1932 J.G. Brill Co. "Broadway" Trolley Car (No. 813) is maintained and operated by the historical hobbyists over at the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society, and the trolley fares (10bucks round trip, 6 one way) are a primary revenue stream for the Society.

The trolley has a schedule of sorts, although since this is most definitely a tourist and enthusasist's mode of transportation, the Conductors & Motormen are not adverse to running late. The trolley itself is comfy and airy, and rocks, sways, swings, creaks, squeaks, and rattles as it rolls down the old Red Electric tracks from SW Moody & Bancroft to downtown Lake Oswego. One fellow remarked the trolley was rocking him to sleep with its rhythmic swifting and swaying, which is notable if only because there are none of the bumps associated with riding a bus and a fraction of the noise.

The trolley itselfs sort of a queer-looking thing. My colleagues noted it was a blocky and ackward looking vehicle. I have to agree insofar as its definitely resembles little the what we think of as a "traditional" trolley, by which we're really thinking of just about anything built between, say, 1890 and about 1915 or so. It is these trolleys which grace the fronts of ready-made rice boxes and sit in family Italian restaurants.

photo hosted by flickr.

This later-day Broadway car, however, resembles something I'd expect to see in a Miyazaki film. It’s a strange breed that mixes something distinctively old (a trolley) with a lot of features I'd frankly expect to find on a 1950s autobus. Bizarre!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lewis & Clark Centennial and American Pacific Exposition and Oriental Fair, Issue 0.

June 1, 1905 - October 15, 1905.

Image hosting by Platial
Photo from Oregon Historical Society collection.

After hemming and hawing quite a bit I've finally just started plopping locations from the 1905 Lewis & Clark Centennial Expo into a new map over on Platial. Hopefully some additional photos and text end up here at the Tinzeroes mothership, but we shall see.

The 1905 Expo is a big reason I liked Platial in the first place. Guilds Lake, where the Expo was held, is what we call today "Northwest Industrial Portland" and I still remember the first time I saw a photo of the Expo and exclaimed "where was that?" So, here we go...

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My Name is Grahf... the Seeker of Power.

If I could pick a memory most fond out of the four years I went steady with my Sony Playstation, I would have to go with Square's 1998 sci-fi psycho giant robot RPG Xenogears. I played all 30 hours of this game twice: the first in 1999-2000, the second in 2002.

Xenogears is the only game that makes me consider the possibility firing up the ol' Playstation, complete with fire-engine red SD Ultraman stencil. Then I remember better things to do with my spare time. Still… the temptation.... lingers…

Regardless of whether I will ever fire it up again, I think Xenogears was and is (given what I gather to be a recent retro movement in the gaming world in regards to RPGs) a fantastic science fiction RPG.

image from RPGCORNER.
Fei, Billy, & Bart take on two double-tailed blue coyotes.

The story of Xenogears and the world in which it takes place in ("Ignas") can be described as the unique flavor one might get when by taking substantial, Japanese-seasoned portions of wuxia tradition, Frank Herbert's Dune, television's groundbreaking Neon Genesis Evangelion, and a mishmash of other assorted skiffy tropes and devices, put them in a blender together, and hit frappe.

This all comes at your pretty fast and gets the first act off to an interesting start. Things don't get really interesting, for me, at least, until protagonist Fei is in the Aveh desert and a strange Gear (a giant robot) flys up and lands on top of a natural stone pillar.

The cloaked and masked pilot emerges and stands on the shoulder of the Gear and speaketh...

Okay. This is cool. Some nice operatic music goin' in the background. I'm diggin' it. Then he drops this gem:

Whoa! What does that mean? What's going on here? The very second Xenogears drops this "slayer of god" (a phrase actually used a little later on, if I recall) concept into the soup, it essentially drives the rest of the story to the very end.

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Red Electrics.

In 1913 the Portland Eugene & Eastern Railroad electrified the majority of its steam locomotive passenger line, the only major passenger line in the nation to do so. Service out of Portland's Union Depot (today: Union Station) commenced January 17, 1914. The following year PE&E changed its named to Southern Pacific.

pic from TRI-MET. image hosted by photobucket. click to enlarge
A Red Electric.

Red Electrics were built by Pullman, with steel frames and exteriors, giving them a modern-yet-alien industrial look. The inside was trimmed in mahogany, and comfortable seats were upholstered in green. The unique and eye-catching trifecta of circular windows were a safety feature engineered by Southern Pacific, providing more structural protection to the motorman in case of crash. These exclusive-to-the-Northwest quasi-proto-Streamliners ran from Union Depot down 4th street to Jefferson St., where the line split in two.

The Eastside Local continued south on the west bank of the Willamette River, running on tracks used today by the Willamette Shore Trolley, to Lake Oswego.

City of Lake Oswego Public Library collection.
Eastside Local at Oswego stop.

From Oswego the line curved southwest through Tualatin, Sherwood, and Newberg, until it rejoined its sibling Westside Local in St. Joseph, 3 miles north of McMinnville.

City of Lake Oswego Public Library collection.
The Eastside Local along the Willamette.

Between Portland & Oswego, directly across from where the Waverly Country Club is today, is Elk Rock. The Eastside Local, already clinging to the edge of the Willamette's steep banks (using, among others, the six hundred eightysix foot long Riverwood Trestle, still standing today), would circumnavigate Elk Rock by use of the Elk Rock trestle (built in 1888), which curved around the west edge of the rock, high above the river.

photo from Tri-Met.
The old Elk Rock trestle.

The Eastside had to slow to a mere 10mph while traipsing the trestle. Rocks & gravel were shaken lose by the passing trains' vibrations, falling and bouncing off the steel tops of the Red Electrics. With this in mind, Southern Pacific discontinued the trestle by digging a 1,396-foot long tunnel through Elk Rock in 1921.

photo from Tri-Met.
North entrance to Elk Rock Tunnel.

This tunnel make a soft "S" curve, resulting in absolute darkness at the midpoint.

Bill Volkmer collection.
South entrance to Elk Rock tunnel, on the night of the last run of the Red Electrics.

The Westside Local headed over the immediate southwest hills, cutting a route mirroring today's Barbur Blvd., through Burlingame & Hillsdale en route to Beaverton and on to Hillsboro and Forest Grove. From there it headed south to St. Joseph to re-merge with the Eastside Local.

Bill Volkmer collection.
The Westside Local departing Portland.

In 1917 Southern Pacific electrified the line from St. Joseph down to Corvallis. This expansion brought the total mileage of electrified track to a total of 180 ELECTRIC miles. The line continued to from Corvallis to California un-electrified.

Jim Sporseen collection

The Red Electrics continued service in this fashion, peaking in 1920, when sixty-four (64) Red Electric trains operated per day. Unfortunately, by this time road conditions in the Pacific Northwest had improved markedly and the automobile was beginning to cut into passenger railway profits, and service on the line began to shrink until October 5, 1929, when the Red Electric passenger line was discontinued.

Southern Pacific continued to use the tracks for frieght until 1984.

Jim Sporseen collection

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bones of the City.

Torn Up Trolley Tracks
(S.W. 5th & Taylor)

I work downtown & the City's been digging up the street on Taylor starting at 4th and going up to 5th.

An unexpected (but not really surprising) side effect of my obsession with research on Portland's trolley past is I've perused enough old route maps to know where the tracks once were. So when the City began digging at 4th and Taylor and clearly moving thier way to 5th, I knew there was a good chance they'd run into buried tracks at 5th.

Sure enough, a few days later I emerged at 5:00pm to find a pile of rusted, twisted, pieces of steel (and/or iron) resting on the curb.

image hosted by flickr.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Dead or Alive.
(1999, dir. Miike)

If Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Segal were more bad-ass and better actors and harder working and had generated individually massive oeuvres of direct-to-video/dvd crime/cop/mafia flicks and then, finally, for the first time ever, they were in a film TOGETHER and that film is directed by a somewhat cockamamie exploitation on-the-cheap director who realizes the combination of these two grindhouse cinema titans in one film verily DEMANDS that caution & logic be thrown to the wind (at times) since the collision of these two demigodly freight trains dictates this head-to-head conflict be larger than life.

Sho. Badass.

This hypothetical film has never been made.

But if you substitute the imaginary badass version Van Damme & Segal for real-life Japanese grindhouse badasses Sho Aikawa and Riki Takeuchi, and put them in their first filmic outing together (directed by weirdo Takashi Miike), you get Dead or Alive.

Riki. Badass.

As sayeth Riki: "Here comes the fast part."

Sho, one-armed and with a bazooka in the final showdown. Oh, its on!!!!

Read the Midnite Eye article.