This post is part III in a series. To read part II click here.
Yes, I love driving but exploration comes from physically being in a place. Walking gets you there.
When we reached Portland we were scheduled to participate in a Seder. It was the first evening of Passover. As people inside the house were preparing and organizing the table, Gabe, my mom’s cousin showed me a bit of the outdoors surrounding the property. For a real estate investor, which he is, many issues considering his daughter’s purchase of the house were a cause for frustration. It was interesting to hear these issues as part of my ongoing education in urban design and planning. It is also fascinating to notice how family affairs intersect and influence decisions that otherwise are mostly a matter of business making.
Apart from being a family visit, we were on a four day Canadian Easter weekend. This meant two days driving (from and back to Vancouver, BC) and two days enjoying the city (Portland, OR). I was curious to get a feel of the downtown which is said to be successful thanks to a pedestrian friendly street grid. Being there with my own small family made the exploration more casual and entertaining than formally academic or professional. With Inbal, our seven and a half year old daughter, we had many opportunities for having fun that professionally could be a good sign for a successful urban setting.
It is eight years since our last visit to Portland. In its old and in its new location, Powell’s bookstore is a treasure for the love of reading. I am a great fan of electronic word consumption (a fancy term for avoiding the specific mention of amazon.whatever). But I have a feeling we still need that magic of rubbing shoulders with others, smiling at each other occasionally, asking questions and just physically experiencing the social aspect of intellectual wealth. There was even a middle aged employee I believe I’ve seen in the shop in both of our visits.
When we returned to our hosts’ home and mentioned our lunch at Virginia Cafe’, they were surprised to hear it was still there. Although it is not an obscure little place, the finding did give us a sense of being urban explorers. It was another designer I knew that told me once about her revelation when taking a child of friends for a walk in the city. She started by trying to interest him with design details of buildings, various aspects of planting and so on. Then after a very short walk the young guy pointed to a water meter in one of the yards. Apparently he was fascinated by it and spent a considerable time in watching it and asking questions. Kids don’t need our effort. Our attention is the best care we can provide.
And a city is also a vast playground. It’s always great to have dedicated features to attract and amuse us. Then we can also walk up and down stairs, pass through the occasional yard and let our feet and senses guide us.