Earlier today, I was emailing with a friend, discussing comma usage. Part way through the conversation, I got out my portable soapbox. Seems I forgot to put it away.
While I was running an errand* this morning out in the old Vanport neighborhood, I had an incredibly long internal monolog. I got quite riled up. I don’t understand why people claim they don’t like history. What’s not to like? Sure, there may be some boring teachers out there, but perhaps we could arrive at the table engaged, or at least pretend to be. History isn’t about memorizing dates. Dates just help you remember the order of events. History is about stories.
I can hear my soapbox creaking under my weight, so I’m going to step off it.
A few months ago, I was reading a local newspaper and saw an article about a lecture hosted by The Dill Pickle Club. That’s a name that stands out. (In Spring 2013 they changed their name to Know Your City.) They are a non-profit whose goal is to help people understand Portland’s “past, present and future.” The first lecture was on the history of Old Town told through the perspective of two long time residents. (One speaker, dressed to the nines, mentioned that she had recently turned 90 and would love to be 70 again, “but look at me, I don’t look 90.” And she wasn’t kidding. She looked great.) The second lecture was for the launch of their 10-volume set on Oregon’s History – told through short comics.
The eighth volume was on the Vanport Flood. Despite Portland’s current liberal reputation, Oregon has a troubled past when it comes to race relations. Much of Portland was redlined, meaning no one would sell a home to a black family outside the small neighborhood of Albina. Vanport, Oregon, was built to house shipyard workers during WWII. More than 30,000 residents moved in by 1943, nearly half were African-American. Vanport had schools, a theater and a police station.
In 1948, the weight of spring floods were too much, a levee broke, flooding Vanport, killing 15, leaving the rest homeless.
I didn’t know any of this until I had read a comic book from The Dill Pickle Club. Today, there’s a raceway, a park and a freeway overpass.
I may have never noticed this mosaic while waiting for the train back home if I hadn’t read a few stories. Not dates. Stories.
* I should probably confess what my errand was.
I bought a soccer ball today. As you know, I ended my soccer career back in 1978, which was also the first and only time I’ve touched a soccer ball, the one that knocked me to the ground. At this point in my life I’ve decided it’s time to face my fears, so I bought a soccer ball. (My fear is team sports, not soccer balls. Baby steps.)
Right out of the store, I was dying to kick the ball around. I don’t know why, but I wanted to see how much a soccer ball might bounce. I wasn’t sure if it would be like a basketball.
It hit me on the chin, bouncing away, not stopping until it rolled under a car.
I decided to maybe just practice walking with it, like it was perfectly natural for me to walk around with a soccer ball, as though on my way to a pickup game with friends.
(Tonight the Timbers lost their second game in a row, this last one at home. When they weren’t sleeping through the first half, they didn’t look much better than me getting knocked on the chin in a parking lot.)