Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Under The Boardwalk

I've been working steadily all last week and this, so I haven't been posting much. I'm only sneaking this in because I'm at work at 10:30pm, preparing my lecture notes for my Oceanography class that kicks off at Portland Community College next Monday.

For the record, PCC, you don't fucking pay me enough.

Anyway, I wanted to post these pictures for the pure delight in the strange antiquity of them. They are taken under a section of this massive wall, built along the east bank of the Willamette River in downtown Portland.This section of the battered watercourse had been used as a sort of open-source dump, slash pile, housing development, industrial park, dock, fishing pier and concrete washout. Here's a panoramic view of the Willamette circa 1908.My worksite is along the left-hand edge in the picture above. You can see that st the time the riverbank sloped gently up to the east and was crowded with little shops, grainaries, docks and wharves and the other typical sorts of river-town commerce you'd expect in an Edwardian Portland. Sometime not long after the panoramic picture was taken this section of the river was walled off. The original banks were buried under tens of feet of fill, and the outer edge of the newly made land was armored by, in part, this 24-foot high cast-in place concrete wall.

The really incredible thing is that the entire monstrosity was cast on timber piles. These old tree-trunks remain, for the most part, still standing, still bearing the inmmense weight of the wall above them.But part of the soil at the base of the wall has washed away, and you can now shinny down the bank and peer into an opening into a world that had not seen daylight for a hundred years.

The twilight forest of pilings is a little spooky, and as I looked in a sudden shiver ran up my back, as if the ghosts of the old riverbank had just brushed across my shoulders.

The cool thing is, if you enlarge the picture above, you'll see the old timber sheeting that runs completely under the retaining wall. I have no idea if this was their idea of "forms" for the original casting or whether these were timbers from a pier deck that was used to support the casting back in the day.

The lumber itself is incredible, straight-grain cedar of the sort you'd pay the heavens and the earth to use in high-end furniture today, used at the turn of the last century as throwaway materials, dimension lumber meant to be buried and never seen again.


rangeragainstwar said...

One of my interests is vintage and primo acoustic guitars. Have you ever heard of Tunnel 13 guitars.?
Or Brazilian rosewood guitars made from wood that has recently been harvested from stumps of previously cut timber,b/c the stuff is so valuable and hard to come by these days. Some makers use all recycled woods or partly so for high end instruments.
In RVN i saw 600 year old teak wood bridges that were torn down to build modern steel junk. We built better bridges for mil purposes and the NVA used them to atk with armor. Ba Ria comes to mind.
Anyway, i'm a real fan of old woods.
You should read guitar mags as this is a fav topic these days.

Lisa said...

What fascinating photos, and how odd it is to peer into this revelation of past efforts gone awry.

It is beautiful wood, and a story as old as man: One doesn't appreciate what one has until it's gone. No more old growth forests here in the East.

I didn't know you taught; I hope the students are appreciative, and that you enjoy the experience, as well.

FDChief said...

Jim: I didn't know any of this. Pretty amazing, really. There's a fella out here, former UDT-type who makes a living salvage-diving in old logging ponds for the big trees that just sank waiting to be cut. Incredible stuff - 6 to 14 foot diameter old growth redwood, cedar, hemlock and douglas-fir. The value of the wood is so great that it pays all his pricey dive tackle and makes a good profit.

Lisa: ours are a sad remnant of what we had. The big companies cut and ran, as they did in the SE and upper Midwest.

I have an odd love-hate relationship with teaching. The good students are better than good, and they make the entire labor a blessing. The worst are impossible, and make me want to bang their heads against the wall.

Lisa said...

"The good students are better than good" -- exactly what I remember. And you are a blessing to them.

Their appreciation and rapport compensates for all the gomers :)

FDChief said...

Lisa: Only to a point.

Perfect example: got a letter last week from a student I had in '06. I don't remember the woman but she must have been a decent student or at least made an effort because she included a printout of an e-mail I sent her over a month after the end of the grading period advising her to turn in a late project (as I was holding her grade up waiting for her) or she'd take a "D".

She says she was burdened by work and worry, dithered arond, missed the LATE deadline and took the D.

Now, after sitting on it for 4 years she wants me to change the grade to a "no-psss" so she can graduate Portland State cum laude.

Normally I'd be receptive to this, but...

1. I gave her a chance to get the work done in '06, something the other students didn't get.

2. She wasn't interested enough then to follow up in any way, either by actually doing the work, chasing me down, going to the community college, whatever.

3. Now that she's in trouble she wants me to undo the choices she made four years ago so everything will be all better.

If I don't make the change I feel like a petty tyrant insisting on adherence to the rules over something that is really an abstract moral issue. If I make the change I feel like I let myself and my other students down and send this woman the message that any bad decision can be undone by begging for a do-over.

Ugh. THAT's one of the things I hate about teaching circa 2010. I failed several courses back in my own undergrad days through my own fault - I never dreamt of begging the instructor or professor to give me a mulligan. Was I foolish, or just old-fashioned?

Lisa said...

"I failed several courses back in my own undergrad days through my own fault - I never dreamt of begging the instructor or professor to give me a mulligan. Was I foolish, or just old-fashioned?"

You and I were in the same boat. We were neither of the choices you give; we were ethical. We took our lumps.

The idea of imposing 4 years later is beyond the pale. I'm shaking my head. Whether she wants a cum laude or a bottom of the barrel C-- graduation matters not; she failed your course and failed to avail herself of your generosity in a timely manner.

Her grade stands. Case closed