Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Steamy Polaroid Memory

The steam paddle wheeler Portland, that is currently moored by the seawall at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, was used for many, many years as a tug. Now it serves the community as a really wonderful maritime museum, but it wasn't too very long ago it was a river work horse. The ships that load at O Dock (the grain dock by the Steel bridge, AKA LDC or Globe) need to be turned around in the wide section of the river between Alber's Mill and Irving Dock. They need to have the "pointy end" turned so it will be aimed down river when the ship goes under its own steam. 

One day in the 1980s my brother gave me a Polaroid camera for my birthday. I happened to have it with me one day when I was working at LDC (as it was called then). The ship was being moved by tugs, including the tug Portland. It occurred to me that this tug might not be used very much longer, so I went to various places in the elevator and snapped away. These pictures I thought were lost in the river of time, like so many other things, but the other day my dear daughter brought over some albums for me to scan and—hurray!—my old Polaroids!

They aren't much to look at really, very low tech to begin with, and after 20 years or so, they are ever cloudier. But there is something kind of dreamy about them, especially from my nostalgic point of view. Oh, by the way, the title of an earlier blog, "Nostalgia Will Save the World" is something I have been meaning to address. It needs a few blogs of its own, so ensha'alla, I will get to it someday.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Grave Matters

Few places around here are as wrongly named the Lone Fir Cemetery, a beautiful park-like area with nearly every kind of tree known to Portland—including dozens of firs. They could have even named it the Four Sequoias. One fellow a hundred or so years past had the foresight to have a Sequoia seedling planted on each edge of his final resting place. Today they make a lovely shelter from wind and rain while passing through the boneyard.
Four Sequoias

My wife and I were visiting our final resting place today—a fine, crisp sunny day, more like Spring than early February. Almost twenty years ago, as a weird sort of splurge, we bought two plots in the Lone Fir after finding that they still had a few left. Today it would be impossible, it's a full house. Back in the  1960s I used to walk straight through the Lone Fir on my way to Washington High. I always enjoyed reading the epitaphs, but it would be years before I realized the fascinating history of the place and its inhabitants. 

The McCleay Crypt (one of my finest snapshots, if I say so myself)
I was delighted that we were given plots about twenty yards from the prestigious McCleay crypt, a gothic edifice spooky enough to inspire a few chills. But recently it came to my attention that we were even closer in proximity to the Portland's number 1 shanghai boss, the sailor's boarding house master James Turk. There he lies thirty feet from us, along with his first wife Kate, and his beloved mother. You will be able to read about Mr. Turk in great detail in my upcoming book. He was on of the ruthless men who made Portland infamous as Shanghaiing Capital of the World. Besides this he was a brawler. He was arrested so many times for beating people with his fists that when the Oregonian reported on it, they usually did so beneath the headline "Turk Again". He wasn't the only family member in the papers fairly regularly, his wife Kate was in and out of the police court for her tendency to drink too much, argue loudly, and beat people with her fists as well. She, at least, had the excuse that she was Irish.

A shanghaiers's final resting place

There are many other interesting people interred in this lovely place. A good place to start is at the 

a. McCleay crypt
b. Blalock's future abode
c. The Turks