Friday, June 28, 2013

New Year Sabbatical: There Goes the Neighborhood

The Sabbatical Continues!

Five Years Ago in The Infinite Art Tournament!

Today's entry comes from June 30, 2008.  It is a bland little post about my neighborhood, and I remember it fondly as just about the only post in the six-year history of this enterprise to generate a something that might be called a "flame war." Since the other guy invoked the word "Nazi," the generally accepted rules of internet discourse hold that I won the argument at that point. 

The Monday Quiz XIV, back in February [2008], carried a special bonus prize. The winner was entitled to assign a blog post topic. Mrs.5000 -- hail, victor! -- took the first E.P., so here is the topic she chose.

The Seven Wonders of the Castle5000 Environs

1. Laurelhurst Park! Designed in 1912 by Frederick Law Olmstead's firm, Laurelhurst Park is like some idealized golden-tinged movie version of what a city park might be. Strangely, it's real. Many years ago, visiting from Kansas, I had an odd vision that Laurelhurst Park was the source of all the green in the world. Although I now live three blocks away, it is not technically true that the Park is my private running track. It's just that it might as well be.

2013 Update: Laurelhurst Park is Still There.  For some reason I do not run it it very much these days, but prefer a nearby cemetery instead.

2. The Famous Building! The Belmont Condomiums, a few corners from Castle5000, has been featured in glowing suck-up articles in most of your leading architectural and metrosexual journals, including Dwell and Metropolitan Home. It features a fauncy restaurant on the ground floor to which Mrs.5000 can take her more sophisticated friends on occasion, while I stay home and enjoy the simple but hearty fare to which I became accustomed in the long years of my bachelorhood.

2013 Update: The famous building is Still There.  It has been rained on for a few seasons, and no longer particularly stands out in my own mental map of the neighborhood.   But, perhaps for some it still remains an emblem of the crushing forces of totalitarianism and dehumanization.  Its restaurant space has turned over at least once, and I am not 100% confident of what's in there right now.

3. Joan D'Arc! In the middle of an oddly out-of-context roundabout is an oddly out-of-context statue of the "Maid of Orleans," Joan of Arc. Why a salute to France's 15th Century populist woman warrior and religious nut, here in the City of Roses? Well, having braved the traffic to take her photograph, I found a little placard explaining that Joan is our local World War I monument. Which is cool, but isn't an important aspect of a monument that people need to know what it commemorates?

Whatevs. Joan is a most excellent citizen of the neighborhood, and I enjoy her somewhat random quality.

2013 Update: Joan is Still There. 

4. Dixie Mattress! In the very middle of a moderately properous neighborhood strip, in an area where property values have multiplied fourfold over the last fifteen years, this mysterious commercial (or perhaps industrial) building is an enigma. One can see a few mattresses inside, yes, but also miscellaneous junk and a thick layer of dust. Yellowing, handwritten notes on the doors give numbers to call "in case of emergency." There is no sign that anyone makes mattresses here, or even meth. No one seems to go into the building at all.  

[2008 Update: Since I wrote this, an article in the 'Gonian has taught us that an occasional mattress is still repaired in Dixie Mattress by its, uh, loveably irrascable owners. Hello, Pulitzer!]

2013 Update: Dixie Mattress No Longer Exists, having gone under back in aught-ten.  The Dixie Mattress co-owner who scoffed at the idea of cashing out in the 2008 Oregonian article may have felt a little sheepish selling her property two years later, when it had almost certainly lost a painful percentage of its value.  But she was hardly the only one to feel that particular pain.  

5. The Kitchiest Statue Ever Erected! A tribute to emergency services personel who died fighting a large fire in an East Coast city in the early 2000s. Their service and sacrifice is commemorated by this portrayal of a bare-chested man who thrusts forth a lantern with his left hand, barely missing a eagle that is just then taking wing. An American flag is caught in its talons. You would think this eagle would startle the guy, but he don't seem to notice it.

In his right hand, strangely, the man clutches the neck of a really big snake. Yep. A really big snake. Or maybe he's just happy to see you.

2013 Update: The Kitchiest Statue Ever Erected is still there. I've noticed that small children seem to think that it's really cool. I try not to judge them.

6. The Belmont Branch! One of the smallest branches of the Multnomah County Library in sheer size, it is one of the largest in terms of volume of books reserved and checked out. Only some of that is due to me. But really, it's an amazing thing. From right here on the internet, I can put a hold on almost any piece of cultural production that comes to mind. A few days later, I walk two blocks and pick it up. What's not to love? Nothing's not to love! This is a branch library that gets its own love letters!

2013 Update: The Belmont Branch is still there, although for a while it wasn't there on Mondays. The Library and I are kind of frenemies right now, after it implemented the worst website redesign in the history of time. But someday there will be another new website redesign, and I will still be here, waiting.

7. The Castle5000 Raspberry Patch. Descended through several generations from the stock planted by Grandpa5000 many years ago, the Castle5000 patch is the envy of all who behold its produce. The right hand patch produces around a quart of berries a day in July and early August. The left hand patch is new this year; since raspberries are biennial, it won't add to the crop until Summer 2009. Mmm... Raspberries....

2013 Update: The Castle5000 Raspberry Patch is still there.  It has been an early year for raspberries, so I've been stuffing myself with them for a week already.  The "new" canes have never quite caught up to the original, as the neighbors' hops tend to jump the fence and bully them a little, but they are certainly worth their square footage and upkeep.


Laura said...

I don't mind the library website redesign. While it is quite ugly, it also makes it easier to find what you're looking for. And it feels bigger and modern.

So what was so flame-worthy about this post? The commentary on the kitschy-as-hell statue?

Michael5000 said...

What's flameworthy about the library website, beyond its bizarre buttugliness, is that is corrals you into a general keyword search, which is the least useful kind of search available for most purposes (we can agree to disagree about this part, if you like). Exacerbating this, the home screen obfuscates that it is actually offering a search function, and just asks you to tell it what you want: for a kid, or a limited English speaker, that's just an invitation to type "I need help with my homework" or "I want a book about cars" and get a profoundly useless answer. A mitigating factor is that a (slightly spammed) version of the old catalog was left active, thank god, and I've been able to bookmark around the carnage. But I am actively pissed off about it.

(To be fair, the new page is probably designed to work well with touchscreen devices. But I don't use touchscreen devices. I think touching a screen is... icky.)

The flameworthy part of the classic version of this post was #2, The Famous Building. A local guy who hated it and who had read just enough history of architecture to get himself in trouble took objection to my not making enough fun of it.

Laura said...

Fair enough. I just typed "how to make apple cider" and got the most ludicrous results. I guess it's really only helpful if you know the name of the book you're looking for, which is obviously not the only way people search.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that lack of sarcastic commentary about the Famous Building would've caused a M5000 PR scandal... =)

lamanyana said...

To be fair, a search for "I need help with my homework" does actually direct folks to the library's homework resources pretty well -

Michael5000 said...

Hey, it does! Which may be a change; I think I tested that question right after the implementation, and wasn't getting those resources. But, touché.

Have to point out, though, that the weakness of the keyword function in general is revealed by that search too. It shows you homework and GED resources under services on the right, but under materials on the left the only hit is "The Complete Stax/Volt Soul Singles, 1968-1971," which is a pretty great hit but not such a great answer to the prompt.

Rebel said...

The Joan of Arc statue hasn't felt right since they cleaned it up. It used to be green and comforting. Now it's all brash.

Rebel said...

also - I can't decide if I'm more surprised that Dixie is gone or that it lasted as long as it did

Michael5000 said...

Well, Joan was a brash girl. I felt like you for a bit, but I've long since come to enjoy her shiny splendor.

As for Dixie Mattress, I thought every week it remained Dixie Mattress was a goofy little miracle of economic improbability. "Mattress repair"??? And on a high-density commercial strip? How that could not be a front for something....