Greetings from Portland!

July 28th, 2020

.

.

Lownsdale Square, Portland, Oregon; July 26, 2020

 

.

___

.

…..Portland is a great city in which to live.  The neighborhoods are alive and colorful and, of course, hipster-chic.  The Willamette River runs through a thriving downtown, with ten architecturally unique bridges connecting its east and west sides.  The south and north shores of the Columbia River border Oregon and Washington, and are a short drive from downtown.

…..The ocean is an hour to the west, Mt. Hood is an hour to the east, and the Columbia River Gorge – which features spectacular hiking and adventure – is all of thirty minutes from town, a little over an hour by bike.  Seattle is three hours by car or train to the north, and, on clear days, along the route are dramatic views of Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier.  Two hours beyond Seattle and you are in a different country and in another world class city, Vancouver, B.C.

…..Yes, it rains here actually quite a lot, but the trees are green and plentiful, the birds sing, the air is usually clean, and – at least prior to the pandemic – the city is blessed with a thriving restaurant, arts and culture scene.  Jazz fans are happy here too – lots of great events throughout the year and the PDX Jazz Festival in February is truly one of the finest jazz gatherings in the country.

…..When I moved here in 1978, Portland was really interesting, but in a different way than today.  Housing was more affordable so the city was more economically and racially diverse.   Logging was the major industry, its culture grittier and more blue collar.  In place of today’s nouveau cuisine prepared by world-class chefs, greasy eastside corner taverns poured Heidelberg and Rainier, and served up burgers topped off with fried eggs and ham.  In my travel over the years, oftentimes when people learned that I live in Portland they will say something to the effect of, “Oh, I hear Portland has become such a cool place!”  That’s true, but at least for me, Portland has always been a cool and special place.

…..And it’s cool and special for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that the people who live in this city are passionate. Political. Opinionated.  Independent. Activist.  It has been that way for a long while.  In 1964, Senator Wayne Morse famously repudiated the U.S. strategy in Vietnam, naming it an illegal war and calling for its end well before it was popular to do so. In 1971, Oregon was the first state to create a bottle return law.  It was the first to enact a right for “Death with Dignity.”  Oregonians vote – safely and usually eagerly – by mail.  Marijuana is legally sold in countless storefronts all over the state.

…..Unfortunately, like many states Oregon also has a very complex and shameful history with race.  In 1844 an Exclusion Law barred Black people from living in Oregon – a violation of which could result in 39 lashes every six months until the occupant left.  Black people who were not already in the area (there were only about 50 here at the time) were not allowed to enter or reside in the Oregon Territory.  In the 1920’s, it is estimated that Oregon had 35,000 Ku Klux Klan members  – the largest contingent west of the Mississippi River – and in the 1950’s, when the Black population of Portland was less than 1%, “urban renewal” displaced many residents of Black North Portland neighborhoods to make way for the interstate freeway and the Memorial Coliseum sports arena.  With this renewal, entire communities were destroyed (including a vigorous and historic jazz scene along North Williams Avenue).

…..A more contemporary example– though hardly unique to Portland – are the consequences of gentrification, an economic shift that has disproportionately displaced Black families from their neighborhoods and institutions.  North Portland, once known for its barbecue restaurants and lively bars and lounges, its thriving churches and, yes, troubled streets, is now mostly hipster-white and uber-expensive.

…..So, Portland residents carry this distant past and more contemporary baggage, are conflicted by it, and tend to react to issues of unfairness and ethnic intolerance with activism, outrage and sometimes even courage.  A recent occurrence was in 2017, when, while on the local commuter train, a white man fatally stabbed two white men when confronted for shouting racist and anti-Muslim slurs at two teenage Black girls.  The city was deeply impacted, and the wounds from that incident are not entirely healed.  The two murdered men reflect much of what contemporary Portland believes is the right thing to do – stand up to hate, especially for those most vulnerable.  Their actions are revered and their souls deeply cherished.  That their lives were taken in what is perceived to be a climate that has allowed hate speech to grow has made it that much more painful for the community, and made Portlanders that much more bedrock in their belief that under no circumstances is hate ever to be tolerated.

…..It is not surprising, then, that in this moment Portland is a city ripe for activism.  Its determination to fight the good fight in the face of hatred and systemic racism – which white protesters have a sensitive and obvious role in – has led the community to this current place of protest, which naked political cynicism and its most desperate actor willfully exploit.

…..I have not taken part in any of the protests.  At 66 and in the middle of a pandemic, I have decided to (mostly) stay indoors and away from crowds, choosing instead to help make a place for creative voices to be heard within this humble platform.  But while doing so I have watched with great interest and support for those seeking systemic change and justice for George Floyd and the many other victims of racist, criminal hatred.

…..What has been mostly reported in reputable national media about the 60 day history of these protests in Portland is true.  There was some vandalism when the protests began.  As the crowds grew the vandalism mostly ceased and the demonstrations – attended by thousands each night – were peaceful.  As time went on, the crowds grew smaller (approximately 100 or so prior to July 4), and it was reported that some vandalism returned.  At that time, Trump called in the Feds to presumably protect the Federal properties downtown, which none of the state’s political leaders requested.  Unsurprisingly, unpopular actions by an unpopular president provoked a response by some protesters, and the resistance has grown, mostly in the form of the defacing of government property, water bottles and other objects thrown and slung at the Feds and local officers, fireworks launched at the building, trash fires, etc.  The government response to this activity has been to shoot “non-lethal weapons,” pepper spray and tear gas at protesters, and in a few reported cases, unidentified federal employees abducted protesters and transported them in unmarked vehicles to the Justice Center.  Unsurprisingly, this pisses people off, and residents are pushing back by returning to the protests in large numbers.  Injuries – some quite serious – have been reported by both sides.

…..There are certainly questions for everyone’s actions.  Nobody is blameless here.   Protesters have the right to peaceably assemble without retribution from the government they pay taxes to.   As importantly, protesters need to lawfully assemble, and to respect government property and the rights of businesses in the neighborhood to operate unimpeded.  Most significantly, the lessons learned from and the work required as a result of George Floyd’s murder can’t shrink under the political spotlight of this new shiny object our reality TV president is flashing to distract attention from his pandemic-era failings. Protesters should protest, but  with care to not distract from the original message.  By doing so they are abetting Trump’s desire to divide the country prior to November’s election – right and moderate from left, sure, but also left (progressive whites) from left (Black Lives Matter).  Give the guy one thing, he knows how to foment chaos.

…..Meanwhile, many in Portland protest vehemently with nary a practical solution in sight, and everyone else watches and waits and scurries to the morning news.  As if it were a reality show, we eagerly ask; What happened last night?

…..In the latest episode, aided by the president’s provocations and the protesters’ response to it, the madness is growing beyond this wonderful, complex, wounded city.  Unless we Portlanders can peacefully resolve our concerns, Trump will find traction, and this reality show will likely soon be coming to a city near you.

.

___

.

 

The fencing in front of the Mark Hatfield Courthouse; July 26, 2020

.

.

 

.

…..On the morning of Sunday, July 26, I took a short drive downtown to see the space in which the protests are taking place.  While a quiet Sunday morning is hardly the same experience as the protests, I was able to get a sense of the energy.

…..What I found is pretty much what I expected, and what I have heard from reliable sources — evidence of disorder and graffiti art — mostly within a block or two in either direction of the Hatfield Courthouse.  The building is surrounded by metal fencing, with flowers and miscellaneous notes and messages clinging to it. There was also a tent village in Lownsdale Square directly across the street, and to a lesser degree in Chapman Square in the next block. The Multnomah County Justice Center across the street from Lownsdale has its windows and entrance boarded up, and a relatively small amount of graffiti on the building itself.  If you walk two blocks in either direction of Hatfield Courthouse, the vandalism is sparse, although there is little doubt the protest activity is impacting business in the area.

…..It seems as if much of the graffiti is “new,” likely since Trump sent the Feds in, and is mostly directed at supporting BLM, while also railing against the Feds and the local police.   Few messages seem directed at Trump, the mayor, or any other specific individuals.

…..In addition to tents, Lownsdale Square has a community market of sorts, as well as a few folks offering food to those in need.  The air is pungent, thick, gritty, but the scene was very calm.

…..Here are some pictures from the scene in the Park, and around the area of the protests.

.

.

The Mark Hatfield Courthouse

.

.

 

.

.

 

.

.

.

.

 

.

.

.

 

.

.

 

.

.

 

.

.

 

.

.

 

.

.

 

.

.

 

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Share this:

2 comments on “Greetings from Portland!”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

Painting of Clifford Brown by Warren Goodson
The 43 poets who contribute to the Summer Collection of jazz poetry communicate their heartfelt passion for the artistry and inspiration found in jazz music, and help readers, in the words of Art Blakey, “wash away the dust of everyday life” – a special gift to share during this restless summer of discontent…and hope.

Interview

photo courtesy John Bolger Collection
Philip Clark, author of Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time, discusses the enigmatic and extraordinary pianist, composer, and band leader, whose most notable achievements came during a time of major societal and cultural change, and often in the face of critics who at times found his music too technical and bombastic.

Publisher’s Notes

Grant Park, Portland, Sep 16, 2020
On a challenging summer in Portland, the passing of Stanley Crouch, and upcoming opportunities for writers

Great Encounters

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
“Great Encounters” are book excerpts that chronicle famous encounters among twentieth-century cultural icons. In this edition, Will Friedwald, author of Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole, writes about the 1940 Lionel Hampton/King Cole Trio RCA Victor recording sessions.

Interview

photo of James Baldwin by Allan Warren
In our interview with Nicholas Buccola, author of The Fire is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America, the author tells the story of the historic 1965 Cambridge Union debate between Baldwin, the leading literary voice of the civil rights movement, and Buckley, a staunch opponent of the movement and founder in 1955 of the leading conservative publication, National Review. The evening’s debate topic? “The American dream is at the expense of the American Negro.”

Poetry

Mood Indigo by Matthew Hinds
An invitation was extended recently for poets to submit work that reflects this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season. 14 poets contribute to the first volume of collected poetry.

Poetry

photo by Russell duPont
The second volume of poetry reflecting this time of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season features the work of 23 poets

Poetry

Dreams of Freedom, by Vakseen
Thirty-three poets contribute to the third volume of "Poetry reflecting the era of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season"

Short Fiction

photo FDR Presidential Library & Museum
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #54 — “A Failed Artist’s Paradise” by Nathaniel Neil Whelan

Features

Red Meditation by James Brewer
Creative artists and citizens of note respond to the question, "During this time of social distancing and isolation at home, what are examples of the music you are listening to, the books you are reading, and/or the television or films you are viewing?”

Interview

Ornette Coleman 1966/photo courtesy Mosaic Images
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Ornette Coleman: The Territory And The Adventure author Maria Golia discusses her compelling and rewarding book about the artist whose philosophy and the astounding, adventurous music he created served to continually challenge the skeptical status quo, and made him a guiding light of the artistic avant-garde throughout a career spanning seven decades.

Short Fiction

Image by Martin Briones from Pixabay
“Balboa," a short story by Matt Sweeney, was a short-listed entry in our recently concluded 54th Short Fiction Contest

Photography

photo by Veryl Oakland
In this edition of photographs and stories from Veryl Oakland’s book Jazz in Available Light, Dexter Gordon, Art Farmer and Johnny Griffin are featured

Poetry

Frits De Jong / CC0
“Nocturne in a Whirling Fan” — a poem by Joel Glickman

Humor

painting of Louis Armstrong by Vakseen
In Dig Wayne's "Iconolast," Louis Armstrong is responsible for saving the lives of every man, woman and child on the ball bearing line at the Radio Flyer wagon factory...

Poetry

photo by John Vachon/Library of Congress
“Climate Change” — Ten poems in sequence by John Stupp

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Dave Brubeck: A Life in Time – the author Philip Clark writes about the origins of the book, and his interest in shining a light on how Brubeck, “thoughtful and sensitive as he was, had been changed as a musician and as a man by the troubled times through which he lived and during which he produced such optimistic, life-enhancing art.”

Interview

NBC Radio-photo by Ray Lee Jackson / Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, acclaimed biographer James Kaplan (Frank: The Voice and Sinatra: The Chairman) talks about his book, Irving Berlin: New York Genius, and Berlin's unparalleled musical career and business success, his intense sense of family and patriotism during a complex and evolving time, and the artist's permanent cultural significance.

Book Excerpt

In the introduction to Maria Golia’s Ornette Coleman: The Territory and the Adventure – excerpted here in its entirety – the author takes the reader through the four phases of the brilliant musician’s career her book focuses on.

Art

Art by Charles Ingham
"Charles Ingham's Jazz Narratives" connect time, place, and subject in a way that ultimately allows the viewer a unique way of experiencing jazz history. This edition's narratives are "Nat King Cole: The Shadow of the Word," "Slain in Cold Blood" and "Local 767: The Black Musicians’ Union"

Interview

Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection
Richard Crawford’s Summertime: George Gershwin’s Life in Music is a rich, detailed and rewarding musical biography that describes Gershwin's work throughout every stage of his career. In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview, Crawford discusses his book and the man he has described as a “fresh voice of the Jazz Age” who “challenged Americans to rethink their assumptions about composition and performance, nationalism, cultural hierarchy, and the racial divide.”

Jazz History Quiz #140

photo by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Although he had success as a bandleader in the 1930’s, he is best known for being manager of Harlem’s Minton’s Playhouse (where Thelonious Monk was the pianist) during the birth of bebop. Who was he?

Interview

photo unattributed/ Public domain
In a Jerry Jazz Musician interview with The Letters of Cole Porter co-author Dominic McHugh, he explains that “several of the big biographical tropes that we associate with Porter are either modified or contested by the letters,” and that “when you put together these letters, and add our quite extensive commentary between the letters, it creates a different picture of him.” Mr. McHugh discusses his book, and what the letters reveal about the life – in-and-out of music – of Cole Porter.

Interview

photo by Fred Price
Bob Hecht and Grover Sales host a previously unpublished 1985 interview with the late, great jazz saxophonist Lee Konitz, who talks about Miles, Kenton, Ornette, Tristano, and the art of improvisation...

Pressed for All Time

A&M Records/photo by Carol Friedman
In this edition, producer John Snyder recalls Sun Ra, and his 1990 Purple Night recording session

Interview

photo by Bouna Ndaiye
Interview with Gerald Horne, author of Jazz and Justice: Racism and the Political Economy of the Music

Poetry

The winter collection of poetry offers readers a look at the culture of jazz music through the imaginative writings of its 32 contributors. Within these 41 poems, writers express their deep connection to the music – and those who play it – in their own inventive and often philosophical language that communicates much, but especially love, sentiment, struggle, loss, and joy.

Spring Poetry Collection

A Collection of Jazz Poetry – Spring, 2020 Edition There are many good and often powerful poems within this collection, one that has the potential for changing the shape of a reader’s universe during an impossibly trying time, particularly if the reader has a love of music. 33 poets from all over the globe contribute 47 poems. Expect to read of love, loss, memoir, worship, freedom, heartbreak and hope – all collected here, in the heart of this unsettling spring. (Featuring the art of Martel Chapman)

“What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?”

"What are 4 or 5 of your all-time favorite Blue Note albums?"
Dianne Reeves, Nate Chinen, Gary Giddins, Michael Cuscuna, Eliane Elias and Ashley Kahn are among the 12 writers, musicians, and music executives who list and write about their favorite Blue Note albums

In the Previous Issue

Interviews with three outstanding, acclaimed writers and scholars who discuss their books on Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, and Cole Porter, and their subjects’ lives in and out of music. These interviews – which each include photos and several full-length songs – provide readers easy access to an entertaining and enlightening learning experience about these three giants of American popular music.

In an Earlier Issue

photo by Carol Friedman
“The Jazz Photography Issue” features an interview with today’s most eminent jazz portrait photographer Carol Friedman, news from Michael Cuscuna about newly released Francis Wolff photos, as well as archived interviews with William Gottlieb, Herman Leonard, Lee Tanner, a piece on Milt Hinton, a new edition of photos from Veryl Oakland, and much more…

Coming Soon

photo of Erroll Garner by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
The historian and most eminent jazz writer of his generation Dan Morgenstern joins pianist Christian Sands -- the Creative Ambassador of the Erroll Garner Jazz Project -- in a conversation about Garner's historic legacy. Also…an autumn collection of poetry; Will Friedwald, author of Straighten Up and Fly Right: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole is interviewed about the legendary pianist and vocalist; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction, poetry, and lots more in the works...

Contributing writers

Site Archive