Month: November 2015

Urban critters: here, there, every where

Earlier this week near my home I saw a coyote leap out in front of me from its hiding place. We both did a “whoa, what was that” jump. It dashed back to the shadows, on a bluff above a nature reserve near the Willamette River, where they are known to congregate in numbers and howl. So, in honor of the urban wildlife I see in the Oregon, here are two random and not really connected shots. In Alaska, the critters might be moose, eagles, and perhaps a bear if you’re lucky. Here, you settle for lesser critters in our pantheon of majestic animals we idolize.

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

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Roger Gollub: doctor, leader, mensch

A year after the utterly senseless killing of the best man I have ever known, Dr. Roger Gollub, I decided to pay tribute to him around Westchester Lagoon, in Anchorage. I put these signs up on a cold November Saturday, in 2009. It is where Roger often went for walks with his dog, Sophie, and it is where we spent some memorable moments walking and talking about nothing in particular at all. I cannot claim to have known him that well. But I still miss him, and so do hundreds and hundreds of his former patients, coworkers, family members, and friends. Thanks for everything, mensch!

A final burst of color as the storms brew darkly

Today was one of those days when the weather prediction for showers not only proved 100 percent accurate, it forgot to include the hail. But in the Northwest in November, you can stay indoors, or just get wet and enjoy this transition period from fall to winter. Most of the leaves in Forest Park, in my home town of Portland, Oregon, have fallen. They covered the forest floor in a mosaic of brown, yellow, and red. It was too wet for me to try to use my tripod. So I just held my FujiPro camera as steady as I could and clicked the shutter. I got a couple of OK shots. It was fun to see the colors and the many smiling people outdoors enjoying the rain, hail, rain again, and breaks of calm.

Slovak and Czech heritage in the Midwest

During my recent trip to Ohio and Michigan I stumbled accidentally on two meeting halls that served the needs of Czech and Slovak immigrants in the industrial Midwest, where many central and eastern European immigrants settled in the late 1800s and early 1900s. So-called fraternal organizations were common for Czech and Slovak immigrants in American cities in this era. Outside of churches or synagogues, this was where ethnic identity was allowed to flourish, celebrating the music and dance of the Old World in the New World. I found these two buildings very functional, and sturdy in a Midwest urban way.

However, hard times have fallen on Detroit, and the Detroit Slovak Home is a ghost, whose ethnic enclave has fled to the suburbs and all that remains is another abandoned building on Detroit’s east side, not far from the old Packard Plant. It was among many ethnic houses in Detroit, serving Polish, Lithuanian, German, Ukrainian, and Russian communities. The Bohemian National Home, or Sokol, Greater Cleveland’s Czech Cultural Center, in the Broadway neighborhood above the steel factory, still lives on to promote Czech culture. It too is in a lower-income neighborhood now that is experiencing economic decline.

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

Random fall candids in Portland

The leaves are now falling en masse and the glory that is autumn is drawing to a close. I took a couple of shots over the past few weeks and decided to post them without any particular message, other than I enjoy sharing the season’s colors. I took two of these shots with a GoPro and one with my FujiPro, in really bad lighting without a tripod. But I still like the outcome.

Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.

Abandoned, east Detroit

Since coming back from Detroit in late September, I have reached out to five Portland area universities if they or their student groups might like a multimedia show on the realities facing Detroit. So far, I have not had any bites. I do not think the topic is of much interest to Portland area residents, as Detroit is nearly 2,000 miles away, and the realities facing a city with tens of thousands of abandoned properties and continued problems with public safety, poverty, and economic revitalization just do not register here. The Rust Belt and its many ills I think matter very little beyond the region that is experiencing continued economic decline for decades. But, I will keep working on this.

It still startles me how little people know and care about the pockets of distress in the United States, even though we still share the same country. This is not true all the time and everywhere, but for those pockets of intense decline and multi-generation poverty, it is as if we write them off as failed mini-states, doomed forever to failure. There seems to be an unwritten decision that just says, you are no longer worth it. And, for many in east Detroit, that looks a bit like what you see here.

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)