The Portland of Yore, Right Here on Foster

The sun’s strong pronouncement last week, with its furor carrying into the weekend, brought out the best in Portland. Sunlit backyards, sidewalk sales, parks, and barroom patios reminded us of all that we love about the City. And if it wasn’t the sun, the Willy Week also reminded us of what exactly we should be loving about Portland—27 things, to be exact.

It isn’t the ’27 things’ they listed that caught our attention, though. Nor would it normally register for us, as the weeklies always have a list about something magically fantastical and self-congratulatory to share about Portland’s place in the world, or, shall we say, center of the world. But it was in the opening paragraphs, just barely getting through the number one reason to love Portland, that something grabbed us; something clicked. And maybe it’s why Foster is to us what we hope it may be to some of you.

Before we go further on that, though…a little background…

IMG_1098While the Portland creep so impressively devours everything in its path, both eastward and south, whole neighborhoods are being gobbled up and digested into neat little packages of condos, Little Big Burgers (or whatever Micah Camden’s newest endeavor may be), and some new incarnation of SE Asian-street-food restaurants. In its wake? Casualties, such as Langano Lounge, Chopsticks II (August closing date), and the slew of food cart pods that temporarily set up shop on soon-to-be-devoloped lots along Division Street. Seemingly overnight, whole neighborhoods have transformed across Portland.

But what was it that caught our attention in last week’s Willamette Week?

It was subtle (so let’s temper the anticipation), but it still resonated. In describing how “Portland is to America what America is to the world,” Matthew Korfhage implies that the city he knew growing up has nearly vanished. Or what he does remember, at least, is slowly becoming a distant memory—except on Foster. And that there is why we’ve rambled on so much, making this more of a love letter (read on, you’ll see) than a blog post.

IMG_4275To quote Korfhage: “That love-in-the-ruins Portland now endures only in memory—and, somehow, also on Sandy and Foster.” And maybe that’s where the love affair starts—though, honestly, cheap housing and a slew of decent bars is really what did the trick. But that’s also what made the now-gobbled-up-and-neatly-packaged neighborhoods of inner-NE, SE, and N Portland so appealing, too, before the aforementioned gobbling; they were affordable, just safe enough, and interesting to a point where fun could be had but not so much that the masses took over.

Now much of that charm is gone (for better or for worse), though fragments apparently still exist. At least to Korfhage…and a handful of others that have found refuge on Foster, seeking out the last remnants of a semi-affordable, semi-working-class with a touch of artsy-DIY-snobbery-punk aesthetic, and close-in neighborhood. Because maybe that’s what Foster is, a vestige, fighting its own aspirations as well as those of others; equal parts urban decay, historical relic, up-and-coming, sun-baked in the summer, dreary in the winter, and stubbornly unique, grimy and “Portland weird” without too much pretense (at least not yet).

So while there is plenty to love about Portland, as the Willy Week points out, there is definitely something to be proud of on Foster. Enjoy it while it you can.

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