All rise... and run

I attended an event yesterday afternoon at the Pioneer Courthouse in downtown Portland. The event was beautiful, but the scene outside was downright ugly.

The once-bustling transit mall was more devoid of people than I've ever seen it on a weekday. And several of the people who were present made you wish you weren't.

On my way in, at 1:30 in the afternoon, there was a man lying on the sidewalk on the southeast corner of Sixth and Morrison, writhing and screaming next to a suitcase that I presume held his belongings. It seemed like he was going through withdrawal of some kind, but whatever his problem was, it was excruciatingly painful. Across the street, along Sixth in front of the Square, a shirtless guy was hollering at the top of his lungs about something. You couldn't make any sense of it, but who would want to?  I stepped lively as I entered the building, where the federal marshals were looking understandably wary.

On the way out of the courthouse a couple of hours later, I encountered three different screamers, one on either side of Morrison on the east side of Sixth and another one back over by the Square. And these were not the old-fashioned preacher guys, like Ron Roman, who used to be out there telling you Jesus was coming. These men were shouting incoherently. They were obviously not well. The whole scene just smelled like danger.

I dodged the two crazy guys that I had to pass, and briskly walked over to the entry way of the Nines Hotel to wait for my Lyft in that relatively safe spot. I saw one small group of tourists coming out of the hotel, and I had to wonder what the heck they were doing there. You have to watch yourself everywhere you go in this world, but the area around the courthouse seemed especially sketchy, even on a bright spring afternoon.

I couldn't get over how few normal people there were around there. It felt so different from at any time in the past that I can remember. And not a cop to be seen, not even a Tri-Met supervisor. I won't be back down that way again any time soon unless I absolutely have to be.


  1. I’ve noticed that the more distant one is from Pioneer Square, the better chance exists to encounter normal people.
    When I mentioned this to a friend he responded that the word “normal” is now viewed as an indication of white supremacy.

    1. Idk about that?
      East of 205, particularly along the max, from Halsey to Division is pretty shady (in places/‘checkerboardy’…don’t land on a black grim reaper square!)…

      There were tents along one of the overpasses by SW 12th? , Montgomery dr. & Broadway Dr…how does downtown tide of disaster break on the rocks of the hill & 405 & no further (or farther?) & stay out of some of Portland’s most expensive neighborhoods for the most part still being right there/adjacent (as the crow flies anyway?)

      Then there’s Milwaukie & along the springwater trail no-man’s land for enforcement tent city that doesn’t feel super sketchy in all places daylight hours, but a lot of it is (& has been for some time?) kind of a sh*thole, but a ways from downtown & creeping into the edges of happy valley?

      LO is super close to Milwaukie as the crow flies & both in Clack co. But uhh…I doubt they mind there’s a river there separating them from some of the seedier parts of Milwaukie and a railroad bridge that’s active, but basically impassible for even the most daring of pedestrians?

  2. That area ‘used’ to be the center of all activity in downtown Portland. The only things that you had to fear were the guys selling nickel bags, the street preachers, and the few dudes who ran shell games. I seriously don’t know if it’s even possible to get back to a semblance of normalcy at this point.

    1. The center of downtown noonday activity was once “meet you under the clock” on the ground floor at M&F.

  3. As someone who works in that area and walks through there daily (and even occasionally patronizes the food trucks in the square), it sounds like you were there on a particularly bad day. And, you have to counterbalance that with the impeccably dressed, quiet, and polite Jehovah's Witnesses outside Nordstroms. I am not of their faith, but I always try to say hello and thank them for being there-- they just add a feeling of civility by their presence.

  4. It wouldn't hurt if just a couple cops decided to get off their fat asses and walk a beat instead of guarding the Starbucks across the street from their Police Station. At least to protect our few guests when the weather's nice. Just a suggestion.

  5. On the bright side - ample parking in the smart park that used to be full to the brim!

    1. +1?
      I go to the grocery store at not busy hours and take the electric bike in with me or only lock it under the window daylight hours with a good lock, crippled missing the battery & seat/looking unappealing & have an older car that’s 1 color that’s either empty or looks like someone’s sleeping/living in it?

      A friend asked if I wanted to go on a hike in forest park or Tryon.
      Yea, right!
      ‘Not unless you & I wanna come back to a busted window?’
      Too many friends have had bad experiences there & read about too many.

      Champoeg, Silver Falls & McIver, maybe, I countered with, despite the mild inconvenience of driving there? (Mountains still too cold and snowy, coast too far).

      There was a park ranger at one of those daylight hours on a weekday. Saw someone with a busted window, but looks like they (the car) had acquired that wound/mark previously & the car looked well-kept otherwise & was probably waiting on parts/glass.

      Not that there isn’t more rural crime…there definitely is…

      Grateful not to park cars on the street, visible from the street & behind a gate the majority of the time they are stored in our car-centric country where you basically need one or access to one to do much…

    2. I’ll add that I have yet to take an Uber or Lyft tho?
      Public transit certain routes and daylight hours if I got the time, electric bike, bike, folding bike or e-bike that folds into a nice suitcase shape & fits in someone’s back seat or secure storage locker in s building/hotel lobby behind the desk or the like?

      With the bike or car utility trailer , theft is such a major concern making it look appealing snd 2 air tags (one that they find easy as a decoy and think they got it)…good luck recovering either a bike or un-plated <14’ long utility trailer (or even car in a timely fashion), especially if they chop it up or take it to Mexico (whole or in pieces) if you happen to live in CA, AZ or TX (I suppose NM, too, but their grand theft auto #s seem a lot lower…fewer people or major towns close to the continental divide hilly more impassable border?).

      The air tag isn’t so much to prevent theft or even that I think it facility easy recovery but mostly just some closure so I’d know what happened to it or maybe have a shot at recovering it, much as it’s nice to have buffalo bill silence or the lambs night vision goggles or Rambo-like vigilante fantasizes of what one might do to bike or car trailer thieves if caught in the act?

      All my cars are too old/semi classic or diesel to have w catalytic convert or new large tempting precious valuable one that’s easily accessed or tempting, so that’s nice/don’t worry about that what little mileage I drive them…

      Kias and Hyundais get stolen often; blend in with the crowd/common & crime or opportunity; no chip keys.
      NRA and pro gun stickers are like a target; guns are valuable and appeal to criminals.
      Chip key cars the thieves steal your key, program one these days if they’re that cleaver or bring an engine computer and key already matched out of another car they probably broke into snd swap it in if they can/that’ll work and they can do it quick enough?

      Wild times.

      At least you can still go on a day hike sometime or we’re not *yet* going to the bread line/grocery store with guns fighting over the last loaf of bread…
      …could be worse?

  6. You're not really giving the gibberish their due. You trying talking coherently with only a few healthy brain cells remaining...

  7. I work next to the square. It isn’t dangerous in my experience. I’ve worked downtown for over 20 years and have never viewed the area as dangerous. However, downtown is in very bad shape. The decriminalization of hard drugs is visible and upsetting and the dumbest law I’ve ever seen put into action. I watch people smoke something from a little tin foil sheet on a regular basis as casually as another might drink a coffee.


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