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a pleasant place to live, my neighborhood

“Nowadays when a person lives somewhere, in a neighborhood, the place is not certified for him. More than likely he will live there sadly and the emptiness which is inside him will expand until it evacuates the entire neighborhood. But if he sees a movie which shows his very neighborhood, it becomes possible for him to live, for a time at least, as a person who is Somewhere and not Anywhere.” ― Walker PercyThe Moviegoer

“I came from a real tough neighborhood. I put my hand in some cement and felt another hand.” –Rodney Dangerfield

“I’ve had times where one of my roommates was moving out of the house in college, and because we were the only black people in that neighborhood, the cops got called, and we had guns drawn on us. Came in the house, without knocking, guns drawn on my teammates and roommates. So I have experienced this.” —Colin Kaepernick

NW Portland is my neighborhood. More precisely, it is NW 21st. It is white, mostly. I have lived within two or three blocks of NW 21st for much of my life. Not much has changed during that time. Some businesses made money and others departed, but the structures have remained.

It is sometimes called the Alphabet District. The streets, forming a grid, are named in alphabetical order. Davis, Everett, Flanders, Glisan, Hoyt, Irving, and so on.

Matt Groening, a Portland native and the creator of The Simpsons, named some of his characters after the streets, Ned Flanders, the bully Kearney, Reverend Lovejoy, for example.

One could place NW 21st in a desert, and travelers would call it a small town with NW 21st as its main street. “Artisan” is a favorite descriptive word. Ken’s Artisan Bakery offers bread that can rival anything the French have to offer. Ken was trained in France. Across the street is the Artisan of Hair. Down the street a short distance is Dick’s Kitchen that serves “Dork Burgers” and burgers made from elk, venison, and buffalo, depending on the day. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

the flâneuse & random images around portland

“The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque.'” — Susan Sontag, On Photography

“I love walking in London,” said Mrs. Dalloway. —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway 

As the images of flâneurs on this page and the language about them suggest, the flâneur is male, well dressed, a man with money who can while the hours wandering the streets. He is by himself; he may eat his lunch alone.

Does that mean a woman—une flâneuse—does not, can not, exist? Do women go for a good walk alone? Do they have sufficient income to permit the time to wander? Don’t they stay at home and watch after the kids?

Lauren Elkin, the cultural critic, has written a book Flaneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London that was recently designated by the New York Times as a Notable Book for 2017. For her the flâneuse is a “determined, resourceful individual keenly attuned to the creative potential of the city and the liberating possibilities of a good walk.” (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

She does not recognize gender as a defining characteristic of a flâneur. It is an “individual” who takes a good walk. The dictionary defines a “flâneuse” as “a woman who is or who behaves like a flaneur.”

But wait, there’s more!

around downtown portland during a late november afternoon

Going away from home for a long time makes the homecoming sweet if the home is worth coming home to.

I relish the return. I was away from home for three months, I was missing my kitchen and the gadgets there and the meals I like to make, I was thinking of my favorite places to eat in Portland that I had not visited for some months, I was looking forward to conversations with family and friends in words heard and spoken and not written. The return is always sweet.

I must relearn how to live in the apartment. I must stop myself from speaking French to a server or a bus driver. I need to go shopping for food and resupply the pantry and that is always fun. The yoga classes must start and I must begin again the routine at the gym.

And, too, I want to wander the streets of Portland and remember. I was out and about the other day in the late November afternoon, capturing random moments that happened to draw my attention.

Portland, a foodie town, boasts hundreds of food carts. SW 9th and Alder might be considered the hub, the granddaddy of locations. Around one city block and extending along another it is the largest of the food cart pods. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.) But wait, there’s more!

cassis–a day at bloomsbury-on-méditerranée

Qu’a vist Paris, se noun a vist Cassis, pou dire: n’ai rèn vist. [“One may have seen Paris, but if one hasn’t seen Cassis, one hasn’t seen anything.”] –Frédéric Mistral, Nobel Prize laureate

Cassis was a lovely fishing village, once. Virginia Woolf and her sister Vanessa Bell, both members of the Bloomsbury Group, would travel there each summer when they would rent a cottage called La Bergère in the grounds of Château de Fontcreuse.

After her first time in Cassis in 1925 Virginia Woolf wrote: “Nobody shall say of me that I have not known perfect happiness.”

Because of Cassis’s special quality of light, painters in the 1920s such as Dufy, Signac and even Winston Churchill would unpack their easels in Cassis.

Expanding the time frame during the the 19th and 20th centuries many painters made their way to Cassis, many of them painting scenes in and around Cassis between 1850 and 1950. Au cours des 19ème et 20ème siècle Cassis a vu passer de grands maîtres de la peinture–Derain, Picabia, Signac, Camoin, Verdilhan, Monticelli, Cazille, Guindon.

A larger list of artists, some well-known and others not, would include: Emile Othon Friesz (1879-1949), Paul Guigou (1834-1871), Ernest Georges Chauvier de Leon (1835-1907), Adolphe Joseph Monticelli (1824-1886), Jean-Baptiste Olive (1848-1936), Félix Ziem (1821-1911), Joseph Ravaisou (1865-1925), René Seyssaud (1867-1952), Francis Picabia (1879-1953), Louis Mathieu Verdilhan (1875-1928), Charles Camoin (1879-1965), Auguste Pegurier (1856-1936), Georges Brague (1882-1963), André Derain (1880-1954), Paul Signac (1863-1935), Pierre Ambrogiani (1906-1985), Maurice Vlaminck (1876-1958), Moiese Kisling (1891-1953), Raoul Dufy (1877-1953), François Nardi (1861-1936), Rudolf Kundera (1911-2005). But wait, there’s more!