projects and writings of Tracy Burkholder
I’ve lived in Portland for over twenty years and feel deeply rooted here. My sense of history about this place, however, is also only twenty years old and looks mostly like a brief series of before and after photos. Before: the struggling art galleries, auto repair shops and empty fields west of Old Town, scented by the yeast of the Weinhard Brewery. After: the Pearl District lined with high-end condos and specialty boutiques. Before: a handful of poets crowded into Cafe Lena for a reading. After: Dozens of reading series, small presses and literary events in every corner of the city. Before: protests in a downtown park in support of the Earth Liberation Front. After: protests in a downtown park against the 1%.
This week, I decided to expand that extremely limited sense of history by trying out the PDX Social History Guide mobile app provided by a very cool organization called Know Your City. While the navigation of both the app and the full site is pretty clunky, it was really fun to walk the city on a brisk winter day and learn some interesting facts about places I’ve passed hundreds of times and a city I’ve been a citizen of for two decades.
One of the best things about taking this tour was the excuse it gave me to wander slowly through the city, to look up, take pictures and not care that I looked like a dumb-witted tourist. I’ve only just scratched the surface of all the history lessons I still need, but I see how if you move a little slower and look a little longer, the city unfolds in a whole new way.