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A sort-of-public place

Thursday night of last week, in the middle of a walk to do errands, I stopped here to read.



I know. Not much "there" there. It's in the parking lot for Eastport Plaza, which in one form or another has been a large shopping center since 1959. Eastport is large enough that there are three bus stops along its six-block length. It used to be an indoor mall. Briefly in the Eighties, it had a waterslide. That waterslide eventually closed due to lawsuits, because of injuries. I'm pretty sure I never went to that slide. I know I've gone to this plaza since spring 1999, when I drove into town from Hermiston for a weekend of movies that weren't going to reach theaters where I lived; since ’98, there was a movie theater behind the completely rebuilt Eastport. I went there for my last of six films that weekend, Boys Don't Cry, then hit the road for where I lived. And I've been to Eastport for other reasons ever since, on and off.

I didn't really notice that plaza until last week.

I'd dropped off a letter at the post office on Eastport's north side — somehow it took me years to comfirm that there was a post office there — and was going to stop at a Bank of America ATM in the same complex. I also was reading while walking, Agatha Christie's Poirot tale Death on the Nile. I wanted to take a break from that walk. That plaza gave me minimum requirements. There was shade from the evening sun; it was relatively quiet; I could sit on something more accommodating than a curb.

I briefly wondered if anyone ever uses that space — heck, if anyone had ever used it. I was there long enough to see that yes, other people came: a van pulled into a space near it, and two kids left the van and sat on another bench well away from me. (The adult looking after them — dad or guardian, I don't know — stayed in the van, the side hatch open.) Others walked through on their way elsewhere. So people other than landscape maintenance people reach this space. That was vaguely reassuring.

But it's not very inviting. I've seen places that are less hospitable, but so many other places make you glad to be in them, are exciting, are compelling. But that's not the goal here. It's awkwardly laid out: not all that close to any building in the plaza, large or small. An Izzy's buffet restaurant one way; a Bank of America another; a Ross Dress For Less in the same building as a fabric store, a military recruitment center, and a gym located in a former Albertson's slightly farther away. And also some fast food restaurants and the aforementioned Bank of America, near that end of the complex. (The south end includes a WalMart, a Dollar Tree, and a Starbucks.) But not all that close, it seems, to any of that. And technically, that's an active road right next to the little plaza; some car going out of control could damage it, or anyone there.

Nothing of the sort happened as I was there. Just the hot weather Portland has been weathering until the needed drizzle last night, ending two-and-a-half months of no rain in Portland at all. But that Thursday, that was still in the future. At best that night, we had a slight breeze to mitigate that heat. When the breeze stopped, I decided to go: reach the ATM as planned, and head home the approximately 30 blocks (short Portland blocks, I'll add). That little plaza stayed on my mind. I kind of wish I'd had my tablet with me, so I could've photographed it (and not use this Google Maps Street View image grab).

I used the space as I could. It'll probably never be more interesting or compelling than this.