We were staying very close to Alberta Street, which is kind of similar to South Congress here in Austin. Lots of cool little shops, more coffee shops than makes any amount of sense in that much space. While we have “First Thursdays” here in Austin, Portland has “Last Thursdays”, a nearly identical event held on Alberta Street. It was close enough to walk, so we did, and got ourselves some coffee and a pastry. I could help but be amused by the “Keep Portland Weird” stickers on people’s cars, and the absolutely astonishing number of bike racks and bicycles. Looking around, it seemed as if car parking was both scarce and expensive.
Several of the housemates had gone to Tryon Life Community Farms for a tour and talk being held there. Tryon is a sustainability minded community nestled in the woods of Portland, and they have several earthen buildings on site. They host workshops frequently, and generally are a loud, but well-spoken voice for sustainability in the area. Their outdoor kitchen featured a really awesome dragon bench I now regret not photographing. They had a barn that was being retrofitted with slip-straw, and the progress looked good. In their barn, we heard an actually incredibly fascinating talk by the head of City Repair Portland on the green movement, and how to implement real solutions, even against the will of local governments. He brought to attention a great many things that have subconsciously bothered me about cities, but I had never really put words to and clearly identified. Honestly, that talk was probably one of the most important single events that happened to us on the trip. It left me with a new lens through which to observe city planning, and for that I’m intensely grateful.
After our expedition to Tryon, we headed back to the house, where there was a small party on the porch shucking freshly harvested beans. We of course joined in. There’s a peculiar satisfaction in participating in a task so incredibly old as shucking beans. It connects you to your ancient self. Now, we have invented mechanical bean shuckers, but this co-op did not have one. I’m not even advocating necessarily forgoing mechanization on any of these processes. Still, perhaps we all should have to do things the harder, manual way at least a couple times in our lives so as to appreciate the immense convenience afforded us by modern mechanization.