Thursday, October 28, 2010

Riddle wrapped in an enigma

Part of the entertainment of blogs and blogging is the mystery of them.

Here's a good example. "D.D. Tinzeroes" the blog seems to have had a lifespan of about three years, from 2006 to 2009.

The blogger, who seems to be a Portland urbanite, possibly a grad student, raconteur, historian, and great consumer of pop culture both present and past, appears to have begun the blog with the idea of documenting some sort of map he was making of old Portland streetcar lines.The map itself and everything connected with the project has disappeared; if you follow the various links you get the dreaded 404 Error - Page Not Found. The blogger seems to have been involved in the "Platial", something called a "social mapping site" that nose-dived early this year. So all Tinzeroe's hard work, all his trolley line maps, are gone into that aetherial void space where lost Internet stuff goes when the website dies. The only remainder are the short blog posts that picket Tinzeroe's site in 2006 and 2007.

The thing is, the trolley line posts are really pretty fucking brilliant. The author finds old city maps as well as historical photos of the trolleys and their surroundings. And Tinzeroes is a good enough historian to know that history is just people living before the reader, so he makes sure to bring the human interest.Like here, where he memorializes a completely forgotten tragedy that struck four families on April 27, 1897 (he wrongly reports the accident date as the 28th, which was the date it appeared in the New York Times) when a trolley on the Mount Tabor line derailed crossing the trestle that bridged the Hawthorne Springs slough - in itself a fascinatingly forgotten piece of Portland, the wetlands and watercourses that drained the then-boggy inner East Portland lowlands - and fell into the water, killing three people; one W. W. Blanchard, described as a "laborer",
Newton Hanson, an eighteen-year-old who may have been either in high school or also working as a "laborer" and an unfortunate woman identified only as "(a)n unknown young lady". Tinzeroes says that a fourth was so badly injured that he, or she, died in hospital later, but I cannot trace the source of this.There must have been a Blanchard or two, perhaps a Missus Blanchard, a set of Hanson parents, a beau of the unknown young lady, or perhaps a sister...all of them grieved for their beloveds, drowned in a ridiculous trolley crash; April 27th must have been the most terrible day in history to them. Tinzeroe's momento mori brings these people, their families and friends, their lovers and loves, back to life for a brief moment. I'd say that's not a bad sort of gift to give.Or this gem of a little post, about the Portland Heights line and its timber trestle that ran from downtown Portland to the Vista Heights neighborhood along what was then Chapman Street. Chapman has disappeared, either subsumed in SW 18th or dug out to create the Vista Ridge tunnels in the late Sixties and then developed for the narrow, off-camber streets now typical of the flanks of the Heights.Look at this tremendously Victorian creation, vigorously free of guardrails, safety barriers, or, indeed, any sort of fall or crash protection at all.Which gives you pause when you read that a car crashed two days after the structure was opened in February, 1890, while on July 11th, "Car No. 13 broke loose from the cable at the powerhouse & rolled down 18th to Jefferson where it overturned. Car No. 18 then did the exact same thing & slammed into the overturned Car 13!"

Hmm. Maybe I'll walk.

The blog is full of this stuff, along with the random old building, idiosyncratic restaraunt reviews, historical trivia, personal maundering and marginalia that makes blogs so entertaining.Or at least to me. But to the blogger of "D.D. Tinzeroes", eventually, not so much.

The great days of the blog, the times when bandwidth fairly sang with trolleys and other Portland history, are over by 2008; suddenly the blog becomes almost exclusively about local 'zines and comics, random observations by the blogger, and review of science fiction and kaiju films. By 2009 things are getting sparse, and the final post, in May of this year, is a rather wan reflection of the time when "D.D. Tinzeroes" bestrode the narrow world of Portland historical blogging like a colossus; a snapshot of the urinals at Oaks Park, "near the roller rink".And that, it seems, is that.

Who was the man that knew so much about trolleys? Why did he start blogging? Why did he just stop caring about them? What is he doing now with the curiousity and knowledge that we get a glimpse of on his apparently-defunct blog?

We will probably never know. The result of his hard work and interest in the old rail line of Portland were his maps in Platial, which are as vanished as Lineal A.

Meanwhile his blog remains, idle in cyberspace, waiting like a left-behind book on an empty park bench for the passerby to stop and read, yet of its author- how he came to it, why he took it where he did, why he abandoned it - it is a mystery. It tells us nothing.

And never will.


Lisa said...

Thank you for sharing this romantic bit of blog history. I wonder about this medium, so evanescent, yet sometimes conveying so much.

We are like people stepping on and off a subway platform. For some the trains on time; for most of us non-professionals, not. The gift of the trolleys was left for you to uncover in your cybersleuthing, and you resurrected it, for a moment, for us.

FDChief said...

Yes, this post was pure self-gratification. I've always loved this odd little blog and wanted to share it, for no reason other than my own vanity. Glad you liked it, anyway.

What it did make me want to do is find out more about all those vanished East Portland waterways. I had no idea - the area today is dense urban infill - where the heck did all the water GO?

And BTW the new icon picture is a knockout. Totally gorgeous, and you can say I said so.

Lisa said...


You are not vain, but generous, IMHO.

Much of the new development in Tally is on infill. I guess we do this when a site is desirable, filling it up 'til we've lost the thing that originally made it pretty.

You're very sweet (the pix was on Thomas Wolfe's front porch in Ashville this Aug. -- ironically, I was staying in a hotel across the parking lot from it, and seeing as he was no longer using it ...)

FDChief said...

Oh, trust me, I know about fill - in the soils engineering business we kill more wetland species before 9 in the morning that most people do a lifetime, actually.

But the thing about this area is that the fill is so OLD (old for Portland, anyway, where our history starts in the mid-1850s). The area changed so quickly, from little sloughs and marshes to a sort of marsh-wiggle type of community, with trestles and small houses intermingled with the withered wet lowlands in less than a generation, and before another generation had passed it was all rectangular streets and little brick houses for you and me.

To put this in perspective, though, when I lived in Philadelphia there was a good-sized row of houses up in the NE part of the city near the Schuylkil River that were settling badly; the local soil guys investigated and discovered that the row was sitting on an old canyon of a tributary stream that had been filled beginning in the 1700s - we're talking old wooden wagon beds, broken pewter plates, dead horses (their bones, anyway) name it. Horrible stuff, and hundreds of feet deep.

Not sweet, merely honestly raptured. "All that's best, of dark and light, meets in her aspect and her eyes..."

Lisa said...

What an interesting statement about the soils engineering business. So you guys needs bid au revoir to many little critters in the course of your works. Interesting how this comports with your compassion and love for what went before. I'm glad you are such an impassioned documentarian ... I always enjoy when you construct a past era, and the inhabitants therein.

The story of the Philly Schuylkil River houses is shocking. A lesson for us all: Be careful you are building on sound ground!

(Thank you for making me smile :) You know I'm your ardent admirer.)

Anonymous said...

It's one of my favorite blogs, and it appears that it's back: