Coast Road Trip: Sans Pics

A perspicacious reader asked why I haven’t posted any pics from the road trip. I’m working on moving toward a new kind of blog, more like the one I started, back in December of 2007, which contained no pics, just short bursts of writing pleasure. I had in mind the kind of posts the venerable E. B. White wrote in the early New Yorker.

“From 1925 to 1976 he crafted more than eighteen hundred pieces for the magazine and established, in the words of editor William Shawn, “a new literary form.” That form was the magazine’s Comment essay—a personal essay that was, in White’s hands, light in style yet often weighty in substance. As White noted in a 1969 Paris Review interview, > I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.

“Eighty-Five from the Archive: E. B. White,” by Erin Overbey, The New Yorker, June 7, 2010.

Not that I ever achieved anything everyone might call, “not lousy.” In any case, I drifted away, or off, and into a kind of academic stream, where I imagined I might augment my adjunct work at the time. And I tried to bring some attention to the books I was working on, both reading and writing. Then I began to work-in more slant, though never totally “false,” and found the proverbial bottom of the barrel when I started putting up some poetry. And I recently considered retiring The Coming of the Toads, leaving it to sink to the bottom of the archive abyss of the Internet, where some future crab scuttling along might find a few morsels to criticize.

E. B. White’s idea of the short, personal essay (note the importance of that comma) has been replaced in many blogs by the personal pic essay, with and without words, the latter like Beckett’s short play, “Act Without Words.” And I suspect more reading is done on phones these days than when I started The Coming of the Toads on a desktop computer back in ’07, and the phone and other smaller size formats encourage changes in aspect ratios of screen, pics, and writing. And thinking about that, I decided to remove this blog’s header pic, begin writing with a minimum of pics altogether, returning to the short, personal note or comment type essay. I even thought of a new tagline for the title space: The Coming of the Toads: No links, No likes, No comments. I know that sounds a bit anti-social, but what I’m aiming for is clarity, simplicity – a clean, well-lighted blog.

Besides, I don’t get many comments or likes, and many that I do get appear to be from spam and bots, and I lost all the pics I took on our recent trip, mistakenly thinking I had backed up my phone photos to Google Photos when I had not, in the meantime deleting all the photos from my phone, then crashing my Instagram account trying to retrieve what I had at least saved there. Seems poetic justice for an anti-social attitude.

Having at this point already exceeded my target word limit, not to mention having probably lost my target audience, those interested in hearing more about the Road Trip, I give you this portfolio of road trip pics, all taken by my sister Barbara and Susan as I was trying on the lighthouse keeper’s uniform jacket at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, north of Newport, trying to strike poses I imagined a lighthouse keeper might have aimed at were he the subject of a live, on the job photo shoot:

Note: Comments On for this post. Have fun!

Winter Solstice Walk

Cold. Wet and damp. Dark. Slippery walk in Mt Tabor Park, where the trees appear ready for the winter solstice.


The reservoirs, built with new Portland Cement techniques in the early 1900’s, until recently, held the city’s drinking water. A new, enormous underground tank was built and the reservoirs disconnected. What to do with them now has occupied the community and city planners for the last few years. I’m in favor of building a wave pool, though there’s been no discussion of that idea I’m aware of.


The Oregon Myrtle and Washington Hawthorne are lovely in winter. In California, the myrtle is know as California Bay Laurel. The leaf is like a bay leaf in shape, color, and texture.


A slow walk focusing on the big and small. To the east, Mt Hood dominates the view. Throughout the park, the popcorn bush is popping its white kernels.


Someone built a labyrinth of branches in the grassy opening to the west-side creek valley. Portlanders love to sit out. In the yard at the west-side entrance to the park, two colorful chairs sit empty.


SE Portland Triathlon Photo Essay

For the first leg of my triathlon event yesterday, I boarded Line 15 and rode down to the river, disembarking at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge. I sat in the last seat of the bus, in the left corner, with this week’s New Yorker fiction issue. I had read on the bus stop the Langston Hughes story, written around 1960 but only recently discovered. More about that in a subsequent post.

On the bus, an ad caught my attention, a woman in a red dress, orange hair, the copy: “Be More Brilliant.” The ad was up front, behind the driver’s seat, and I was too far away to read the smaller print. Note though that the imperative doesn’t suggest you are not brilliant. If you are not brilliant at all, you can’t be more brilliant. But why be “more brilliant”? Don’t I attract enough moths already? I thought of the two books I recently put out. Maybe my writing should be more brilliant. I took some pics from the bus of the south side of Belmont.

The afternoon was still overcast, and I felt a few drops of rain as I began the second leg of my triathlon, walking down the ramp from the bridge to the Eastbank Esplanade, a more brilliant name for the shared sidewalk with bike path that runs along the industrial, east side of the Willamette River.

I walked south along the river, a little under a mile, to Susan’s work, where I started the third leg of my triathlon, a short drive to Em’s place to visit the girls.

I didn’t get any pics while driving, driving a car these days multi-tasking enough as it is. The few pics I’d taken of the south side of Belmont, from the bus, came out blurry, not too brilliant. I tried to get a few murals, and a couple of the old buildings, the ones the developers, none too brilliantly some have been arguing, are in a hurry to tear down. We passed a typical east side tavern. I realized I have my shutter delay set too long. I had to anticipate where the bus would be when the shutter finally clicked. At the river I saw the lean-to boat setup again, and tried to get a contrast pic of the east side boat in the foreground with the west side yachts in the background. I paused at the OMSI sign to repeat Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ a few times, feeling even less brilliant as I moved on. I never tire of the sign of Theory, and took yet another pic of it. The blue building was brilliant in the soft afternoon overcast light.

At Em’s, I snapped a pic of her copies of “Penina’s Letters” and “Coconut Oil,” sitting on the shelf next to her cookbooks, and I wondered if my covers were brilliant enough, or brilliant at all. I think so. But to some, brilliant might suggest shiny, and I went with a matte finish.

In Em’s yard, I took some pics of a flowering tree and a tricycle rained in rose petals. It’s almost dragonfly season here, and I thought how nature always seems sufficiently brilliant, yet also always seems to be becoming more brilliant. Nature is superlative, while we can only ever be comparative, until we remember that we are also part of nature, where we are most brilliant.

Optotype

Line 15 currently detours across the Hawthorne Bridge due to a temporary weight restriction on the Morrison Bridge, which is under repair. I hopped off the bus at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge, passed the Salmon Street Springs Fountain, and walked south along the Willamette to the eye clinic, just over a mile upriver. I saw some strange markings on the sidewalk, as if math really is fun. A gaggle of signs befouled the views, whispering orders, dangers, and cautions. I noticed there were no warning signs near the mooring bollards, and wondered how many people walking along ogling the view have tripped over them. Rarely do I have to yield to slower traffic.

Just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, I noticed an interesting, kind of improvised, lean-to-dock moored just off the west bank between the bridge and the park beach, downriver from the yacht harbor. The boat and dock set-up reminded me of Anais Nin’s “Houseboat,” and of Penelope Fitzgerald’s “Offshore.” And the usual gaggle of geese casually befouled the park beach area. I don’t mind the geese, though the city has been taking precautions to minimize the goose poop problem. But I was wearing the new Fila walking shoes Susan recently scored for me, and I wasn’t sure the goose path was how I wanted to break them in. Portland is called the City of Roses. You would think the roses wouldn’t mind the geese.

Modern accommodations for travel, appurtenances for getting around – what a mess! Just north of the Ross Island Bridge, workers were just about finished dismantling the Project Pabst Festival. It was a little early to be thinking of a cold PBR Tall Boy. I walked along “River Place,” above the small harbor, and passed by the “River Walk Cafe,” enjoying the cliches, and at the corner of Meade and Moody thought, how about “Mead Place,” or the “Moody Walk Cafe”?

A rowing crew rounded the pilings of the Marquam Bridge (a concrete brouhaha that spans and expands the definition of bridge), the submarine moored behind them on the east bank, below OMSI and the Portland Opera. The Pabst Horse trotted off on a trailer. The Portland Aerial Tram (constructed at a cost of $57 million), juxtaposed with the old Ross Island Bridge, reminded me of the 20th Century: “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”.