This Tuesday was a perfect October day in Portland for a bike ride. So I hauled out my battered Bridgestone, cleaned up the gears and lubed the chain with 3-in-1 and a rag, filled a water bottle and took off. Only a few clouds dotted the sky, and I enjoyed the contrast of intermittent shade as they drifted west to east, although especially those moments when the sun re-emerged and bathed me in a warm, autumn-golden light. Bike rides like that in Portland in October can trigger a flavor of euphoria in me, always fleeting, but somehow—dare I say it—“transcendental.”
Five miles later, I disembarked from my two-wheeled steed, feeling a little rubbery in the knees for being out of shape. I visited a friend, whom I gifted with some pinenuts from a recent harvest in Nevada, dropped into the natural foods co-op where I ran into an old friend, purchased a slab of tempeh and a can of local cider (which is treating my palate quite nicely at this moment), and then started heading back.
I decided, as I have often done over the last few months in Portland—from which I’ve been away for most of the last five years—to walk my bike up Southeast Division Street, from the 20’s to the 40’s (in Avenues). This particular zone has changed a lot during my absence. I had lived in the neighborhood for many years previously, when it was a somewhat gritty strip of small businesses and bars, for the most part unpretentious, though a patisserie, a fancy candy shop, and a few upper-crust restaurants had always been anchored there as long as I had known it.
Nowadays, the street is newly dominated by many three-to-four story, box-shaped apartments and condominiums, lending a canyon-like atmosphere to some stretches. Shops, services and eateries inhabit the ground floors with residential units stacked above, often with balconies looking down on the scene below.