Canby, Oregon is a quiet, but growing, town.
Just this past year it has gotten large enough to require a second middle school. It’s a place where folks know each other at the grocery store and we all eagerly anticipate the sense of community we get in gathering at the gazebo in Wait Park for “Slice of Summer” concerts, 3 on 3 Basketball, Cutsforth’s Cruise In (classic cars!), and General Canby Days (4th of July).
This once farming town is turning into a bedroom community of Portland. So for big city excitment we hope on the freeway which runs five miles to the west and head to Stump Town.
Portland is a quirky, fun place. I’ve been in a number of large cities, Los Angeles, San Diego, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, but as big cities goes, Portland is by far my favorite.
Portland is the home of the world’s largest used book store, Powell’s City of Books. Originally several buildings, the whole city block has been connected so one can wander from one color coded room to another, discovering treasures pleasing to any literary soul.
There is public art everywhere. Former Mayor Bud Clark (previously a tavern owner) posed for a poster promoting public art:
My favorite work of public art is Portlandia. The trident-bearing figure, wedged into the tight space of the large buildings, reaches below her perch, offering assistance to the mortals below.
Being confronted by sculptures and other artwork at every turn isn't the only quirky thing about Portland. For one thing, there seems less litter than any other city I’ve seen.
A river runs through it, two actually, so there are bridges everywhere. Once a year they close many of them so folks can bicycle across them.
The politics are definitely quirky. But that would take several posts to fully address.
It has the largest forest within the city limits of any American city (Forest Park).
It is the only major city in the United States with a volcano in its limits (Mt. Tabor).
I like the quirky people. The mixture of people types and attitudes is unique.
Brenda, myself, and our two sons went in to Portland on Saturday. It was an interesting time for all of us. Well, interesting for all of us much of the time, one part the boys found boring (more on that in a bit).
Brenda is taking classes, working her way to a career in substance abuse counseling. Currently, a history class requires she visit a certain number of museums and tours on local history.
So we went to The Oregon Historical Society. The main exhibit is "The Way We Worked", a series of photographs from the industrial revolution to the present (a special section on Portland). The vanished public-private World War community of Vanport, the building of military vessels, Roosevelt’s influence on putting folks to work was shown, on and on a great and fun exhibit, except for the boys who found it boring (in recounting the day Jeremiah made sure we understood that it was bo-o-ring!). They found the pioneer and indigenous people exhibits upstairs slightly more tolerable.
After the museum visit headed north, making our way to Chinatown for dinner. Passing Powell’s on the way we say college students shouting and laughing and waving signs. I could make out the word “Free” on it readily enough, but was straining to read the rest. A momentary pause in the mad waiving of a sign held by a bearded, dread-lock bearing revealed its message.
Now that is quirky.
So we found a parking spot, paid the 25 cents for the meter, went back for our hugs. I got four.
We managed to talk Isaac into trying some sesame chicken (he isn’t that adventurous), and I had the squid in garlic sauce (I like all sorts of things).
We then went to Hobo’s Restaurant, across the street from the rescue mission, and waited for the tour.
The high point of the night was The Portland Underground.
From 1850 to 1941 Portland was the Shanghai Capitol of the world.
A series of tunnels led from taverns all over the north end of town to the docks. An average of 1,500 men per year, and up to 3,000 per year at its peak, were drugged, held in unlit cells beneath the city, and sold to ship captains bound for asia.
Men would be out for a night of carousin’, fightin’, spittin’ an’ cussin’. They’d be drinking in a crowded bar, lined up, occasionally using the urinal trough running along the floor beside the bar.
When it was crowded enough, drunk enough, the bartender would reach under the counter and press a button, and a buzzer would sound in the tunnels below.
The crimpers would come, thump the floor with a pole, and the bartender reached under the counter and pulled the rope. The latch released, three, four, up to five men dropped away into darkness. Relieved of its load, the trap door swung back up, the latch clicked.
The drunken men were beaten, thrown into dark cells. Their shoes were removed. The passageways' boardwalks were covered with broken glass. The walls were draped with ropes stringing tin cans, a simple escape warning system.
Some went down voluntarily, to opium dens, but they did not leave voluntarily.
They were drugged and carried to waiting ships. The sea captains paid about $50 for each man who woke from his drugged sleep when the ship was already at sea. And if the food got low, they ate long pork.
Portland is a great city. I love it. But like all human things, it is not ideal.
The sparkling city I love to visit has its dark secrets. So do so many other institutions.
What secrets lie within the hearts of all of us? What secrets surround us as we sit in church?
Recognize we are fallen. Accept who we are and face it directly. Repent. Pray about it.
Draw near to God. He will draw near to you.