Shorpy. Why I love it and why you should love it, too.

I can thank Shawn Levy, the Oregonian movie critic, for introducing me to Shorpy. It’s a website where Dave cleans up old photos in the public domain and posts them. Why do you care? Because old photos are awesome and full of fun detail you can spend hours examining. Take a look at these two:

Clackers, 1920

Office Xmas Party 1925

The Kodachromes are particularly fabulous:

Young America: 1959

But the best part about this site is the reader comments. “What is that object back there on the wall?” someone will ask. Then, some knowledgeable antique dealer will pipe up that the object is a westinghouse wind up clock with hidden flask or whatever. In fact, I enjoy the comments so much that when I go to the site, I bypass the posted pictures and head straight for “recent comments” where I click through and see what people have been chattering about. Often times when streetscapes from the past are published someone will take the time to find the same location on Google’s Street View. Sometimes someone else will pipe up that they live right around the corner.

The only thing I don’t like about the site is that things aren’t very searchable and Dave can be a bit cantankerous, but aside from those two things Shorpy has provided me with hours of delight.

I rock the bike commute challenge.

Every September, the BTA sponsors the Bike Commute Challenge. Last year my workplace participated, to my delight. We have three (of a total full-time staff of nine) employees who are pretty regular bike commuters. My goal was to not miss a day.

I was successful. Here are my stats:

21 trips

100% commute rate

184.0 miles

9016 Calories Burned

CO2 Saved (lbs) 180

I’d like to point out that of the three bike commuters, I live the farthest away. So doubly good job me.

My goal for the rest of the year: Bike to and from work on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Books read in September

My Life in France. Julia Child
How Julia Child became Julia Child. I floundered a bit after college and it was at that point I began to seek out stories of how people found their life’s work. At the same time, I began to look for examples of people who were not “wunderkids” but instead took awhile to achieve great success. Julia Child’s story fits both of these categories. Born the same year as my grandmother she was a very old maid when she married. The writing of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” took many years and spanned several countries. Her zest for life is apparent on every page, as is her love for cooking, her husband Paul and France. After reading this books I can safely say that if more of us were like Julia Child the world would be a better place.

Miracle at St. Anna. James McBride
Read in preparation for the release of the movie–which did not get good reviews and so I haven’t seen it–this is another fast paced story by McBride. When Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood had their words over black soldiers serving in World War II last year, did you long for a fictional account of four black soldiers serving in Italy? This is your book. It was well written and one of those books I ignored chores for.

The Monsters of Templeton. Lauren Groff
My favorite kind of book. Fiction that takes place in a transparently real place. A mystery. Alternating narrators from different periods in history. Some slightly supernatural elements. Delightful characters. Picking up this book was a joy. Write more books Lauren Groff. Please. I will read them.

Started but did not finish
Eat Fat Lose Fat. Mary Enig & Sally Fallon
I’ve taken a solemn vow to stop reading “lose weight” books. However, I checked this out because Sally Fallon wrote Nourishing Traditions which outlines the food philosophy I am learning more about: naturally raised meats, soaked whole grains, traditional fats, organic fruit and vegetables. However, reading Nourishing Traditions is a bit overwhelming. This books is a more gradual introduction to the philosophy, it is just disguised as a weight loss book. Good recipes, too.

Washington D.C. Off the Beaten Path. William B. Whitman
This is a great book for people like me who have visited Washington DC, and maybe want to see something beyond the usual.

Washington Schlepped Here. Christopher Buckley
I started my research for the trip with this book, but set it aside as a “for later, if ever” read because it is chock full of not-really-true information. It probably would be funny for people who are more familiar with Washington DC.

Things I’ve Learned From Women Who Dumped Me. Ed: Ben Karlin
The stories I read in this book were good, but the book arrived at a time I was awash in books and got shunted aside.

Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love and the Search for Home. Kim Sunee
Do you ever read memoirs where you think, “What, exactly is this person’s problem?” This was that kind of book for me. Because I could not connect with her level of pain I set this book down.

Washington DC for Dummies. Tom Price
A nice basic “how to do DC” kind of book.

Did not even start.
Yoga Therapy for Overcoming Insomnia. Peter Van Houten and Gyandev Rich McCord.
This book also became lost in a tidal wave of books that arrived at the library. It looked quite good, though and I may check it out again.

Letters written in September

I wrote to “No one” a lot this month–getting adjusted to school. Sara, my faithful correspondent started school and ran out of time for real letters, but kept my mailbox full of postcards. That was fun.

1 September. Debra Gwartney (wrote a column about Kung Fu Panda)
2 September. Sara
3 September. Sara
4 September. Postcard Deborah
5 September. Postcard Sara
6 September. Sara
**Letter back Jan
**2 Postcards Sara
7 September. No one
8 September. Sara
** Letter Back Sara
**4 postcards Sara
9 September. Sara
10 September. Mom–postcard
11 September. Sara
12 September. Sara
13 September. No one
14 September. No one
15 September. Sara
**Letter back Sara
16 September. Sara
17 September. No one
18 September. Jenna
19 September. LEX Dorothy
20 September. No one
**Letter back LEX Diane (food)
21 September. No one
22 September. LEX Diane (movies)
** Postcard Sara
23 September. No one
24 September. Jan
25 September. Sara
** Letter back LEX Gerry
** 2 postcards, Sara
26 September. Leath!
27 September. Jan
28 September. Sara
29 September. Sara
30 September. Mom, Kelly

17 ways to live happily…clothing.

Avoid new clothes.
Clothes cost a lot of money. And really, how many times do you wear that item before you are done with it? I don’t really like to spend very much money on clothing, but I also don’t like cheaply constructed clothing. The solution: your local thrift or consignment store. By doing all your shopping at either of those two places you will save a bundle. It may not be the latest, latest fashion, but really, do you keep up with fashion that much? I thought not. You just want clean, presentable, comfortable clothes that don’t scream 1976. My exceptions: underwear, bras and shoes

A poem.

George Bilgere
from The Good Kiss
The University of Akron Press, 2002.

My mother stands in this black
And white arrangement of shadows
In the sunny backyard of her marriage,
Struggling to pin the white ghosts
Of her family on the line.
I watch from my blanket on the grass
As my mother’s blouses lift and billow,
Bursting with the day.
My father’s white work shirts
Wave their empty sleeves at me,
And my own little shirts and pants
Flap and exult like flags
In the immaculate light.

It is mid-century, and the future lies
Just beyond the white borders
Of this snapshot; soon that wind
Will get the better of her
And her marriage.
Soon the future I live in will break
Through those borders and make
A photograph of her-but

For now the shirts and blouses
Are joyous with her in the yard
As she stands with a wooden clothespin
In her mouth, struggling to keep
The bed sheets from blowing away.

This was the featured poem in The Writer’s Almanac, which is a happy part of my day. It could be a happy part of your day too; if you subscribe, they will send it by email every day. Anyway, one of the reasons I enjoy hanging laundry out to dry is that I feel a connection to the millions upon billions of women who have been hanging laundry to dry both in the past and today. I don’t get that so much with the dryer.


From the Writers Almanac 9/19/08

“It was on this day in 1846 that the poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning eloped to Italy. In January of 1845, Robert Browning sent a letter to Elizabeth Barrett. He had just read her book Poems (1844) and he said: “I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett. … I do, as I say, love these books with all my heart — and I love you too.” They started writing letters, and they met four months later. Barrett was 40 years old, an invalid; her father didn’t let her leave the house, and she only saw a few people outside her immediate family. Browning was 34, worldly, and athletic. They fell in love. Between Browning’s first letter and their elopement, they exchanged 574 letters. Barrett’s father didn’t believe that any of his children should get married, so after a secret wedding a week earlier, the couple fled to Italy and lived happily there.”

Yet another reason that writing letters is a good way to spend your time–romantic elopement with a worldly and athletic man.

17 ways to live happily…

Live on the dull edge of technology.

Do you need to be a complete Luddite to live happily on your salary? Nope. But if you resist buying each gizmo and gadget when it comes on the market, you will save yourself a lot of money. Better yet, make friends with someone who is always on the cutting edge of technology, and gives you their castoffs. Flat screen TV? HD DVD? Don’t buy one right now. Wait a few years to see if that technology is still going strong. When I was in elementary school scooters became really popular. Both my brother and I really wanted one but our parents told us to wait a year or two because they thought it was a fad. We were sure that scooters were here to say, but it turned out that no one even rode a scooter a year or so later.

Watching a block in N. Portland.

This block in North Portland near the Prescott Street Max stop looks due for some changes. I think there is a mixed use building on tap. When I moved to North Portland one of the houses on this block became a favorite of mine. So I noticed one day when it was boarded up. Eventually I noticed all of the houses on the block were boarded up. I’ll report back now and then when things start to happen. But here is where we are right now.

The house I like is on the left in this picture. The urban agriculture me dreamed of having a large garden in the empty lot taking up most of this picture. The side view of the house showing broken windows already in the upper stories. Those hoodlums have never seen It’s a Wonderful Life.

Doesn’t it look like a grand old lady of a house?
It’s next door neighbor, a nice little Victorian. It looks like my bike crept into that shot.
Another house I am fond of, though I would take off the vinyl siding.
This one has a good porch for sittin‘.

Looking down the block face as we continue our counter-clockwise journey.
There is still some nice decorative shingling on this house’s upper story.
The back side of the apartments on the corner.
Front side of the apartments. They are the most run down of all the houses.
A lovely cottage.
Another nice cottage.
This is the house I can see as I ride North on Interstate. It took me a long time to realize all the houses on the block were boarded up, not just my favorite, because this one has bars on the windows and they did not cover it with the more obvious plywood.
I also didn’t notice because this Liquor Store is not boarded up. But it is indeed closed. Notice the Max transmission tower visible right above the “R” on the sign…
And here it is, taking a chunk out of the Liquor Store. I’ve always wondered how much Tri-Met had to pay to cut into the building like that.
A close up view.
The very 1960s white brick front of the liquor store.
And thus completes our walk around the block. We shall keep an eye and see what develops.
On one hand, I love old houses, and hate to see any of them torn down, even the most decrepit. On the other, if a cute tiny little house hadn’t been torn down a few miles north on Interstate, I wouldn’t be living in my lovely home. Interstate is an area where the city planners are hoping to increase density without bringing in so many cars. It worked for our house. Hopefully this block will have something fabulous.