I’ve decided: Taverns are meant to be walked to.
Friday night, I went to a local public house to see some friends play music. Rather than drive or even ride my bike, I decided to walk. I highly recommend this. Thirty-seven blocks is a bit further than I would usually walk to get someplace, but then I travel a similar distance when I’m on a Walk for Fitness. On the way to the Jade Lounge, the sun was still up. Families cavorted in a park; bikers rode by; dogs barked at passersby. This particular route revealed a classic urban disparity: Walking down Yamhill near Sunnyside Park, I passed three down-on-their luck gentlemen trading stories and some kind of paper-bagged hooch on the steps of an abandoned entryway.
“Heeelllloooo,” one crooned as I passed. I made a mental note to take a different route on the way home and, turning a corner, was suddenly swept up in the hipster-mania of Belmont. Outfits. Facial hair. Shoes. Rushing past me to see and be seen. I was invisible, which suited me just fine.
A few blocks away, I entered Laurelhurst, one of Southeast Portland’s oldest and most expensive neighborhoods. The streets break from the regular grid layout, providing curved borders for immaculate lawns and landscaping that augment hulking early 20th-century estates. A crew of workers remained at 7 p.m., diligently mowing and clipping.
But the magic of walking to the bar isn’t the trip there—it’s the trip home. In contrast to the earlier bustle of the city, the street was dark and peaceful when I quit the Jade. This time I decided to go straight down Ankeny to 42nd. As I passed Laurelhurst Park, I heard voices and figured there were enough people for it to be safe for a lone pedestrian like myself. It appeared that a “movie in the park” night was breaking up; parents carried blankets, picnic baskets and drowsy children toward the edges of the park. I enjoyed the towering firs and cedars as I passed through.
Across all the thoroughfares and back in the neighborhood grid, I enjoyed the relative quiet, punctuated by an occasional car or bicycle passing.
On one block there were even crickets! This made me look forward even more to living in Wallowa County; I imagined looking up and seeing all the stars, not just the brightest hundred (or, in this case, clouds).
I was propelled from house to house by different scents … bark dust … jasmine in front of this house … roses here. I admired the well-lit porches, with strings of small lights, and not-so-well lit ones, with glaring “safety” lights.
Because I was walking, I had plenty of time to study the features of the homes and gardens I passed. I’d never noticed, for example, the amazing porch that wrapped all the way around a house on the bike lane because on my bike I’m always watching for traffic. And in my car I never take this street at all.
While driving home is more dangerous in many ways but maintains your own private comfort bubble, walking does open you up to the possibility of being accosted by other people. I came across only a few dog-walkers, a couple teenagers who were totally oblivious to anyone else, and a young man who asked if I had any “green weed.” This sent me in a reverie: Why green? Is there blue weed? Pink? I’m out of the weed loop these days …
When I finally got home, my head had cleared and I was ready for bed. I think we need a new national agenda: Taverns within walking distance for everyone!