Monday, April 25, 2016

Moving Away

I haven't posted in a very long time, but recently I looked back on this blog to see the record of my thoughts from 2011-2014. I was often naive or immature, but there was an honesty and youthfulness to my written voice and it has been fun to relive the memories. I had lost interest in adding content and have moved far away from Los Angeles for my graduation education. This all combines to make for a formal conclusion of sorts. Perhaps I'll come back to this blog at some point in the future. For now I will miss the irreplaceable.


Monday, August 18, 2014

Overview Effect (understanding Los Angeles by being away from it): Portland

When I woke up, I grabbed my camera because I was very aware I was somewhere new.

I was now riding through Oregon and it was what I had imagined. Riding through national forests and the fertile Willamette Valley, I reached the principal population center of the state, Portland.  
In urban studies/planning circles, the city has a legendary almost mythic status as a place that early on (1970s) went forward with policies that are still progressive, things such as urban growth boundaries, waterfront parks, freeway revolts, light rail and modern streetcars, loft/condo/gallery districts, etc. Coupled with this is the contemporary artisanal/niche/craft culture the city represents, satirized on IFC's Portlandia. Eager to see for myself what Portland is like, I was very pleased that on the way up, the train stops in central Portland for 45 minutes and for an 1 hour on the trip south (the two stops have been compressed into one narrative here), allowing me just enough time to quickly loop around the compact central area of the city and gain brief perspective and hastily formed opinions. Upon leaving the train and station, I noted how warm and sunny the day was in contrast to the usual image of a rainy and overcast place.
Portland's demographics were what I expected (72% white, according to the census, making it the whitest big city in the US). The compact size of the city and its close-in metro area (15 miles from the city center, one is in minimally disturbed land rather than suburbs), made this metropolitan area of over 2 million people seem more intimate. My personal self-guided loop tour was the briefest of interfaces with the city but I tried to note any nuances and details I could. One was the way the city is certainly a riverside city.
Another was the presence of New Urbanist developments. 

Mass transportation and bicycles were very present and visible,

 Way-finding, user-friendly.
 "Bubblers": constant fresh-tasting public drinking fountains/bird baths.
 Coffee and craft beer al fresco culture on Simpsons street names.
A relict Chinatown because it is expected.
 And I did find elements of the culture often satirized.