Tuesday, August 11, 2009

#2 Urban Fauna

At first glance, the fairhaired woman is attractive. On approach, the hollow eyes become apparent, and the missing teeth when she bursts into strained laughter. She sits crosslegged on the grass with two companions—a scrawny man with a hardmile face, also on haunches, and a darkhaired woman, supine, resting on her elbows. Close by is a shopping cart, partially covered with a tarp, and some tattered, nondescript paraphernalia.

We are somewhere in the upper end of the urban park system that runs like a string of green beads, north and south, through downtown Portland. To the east is the US Custom House, a compact Renaissance inspired building with a stone piano nobile, and 3 roman brick stories above. Old Glory flutters on a pole, high above the roof. Across the park to the west is a row of semichic shops, terminating in Urban Fauna.

Members of the trio laugh wildly, mostly at their own remarks. They sway, and gesture with broad sweeps of their arms. Their voices rise and sway with their gestures.

On a nearby bench, a portly man with at least three days of white stubble snuggles against a tall backpack, sound asleep. Another, drawn by these affordable accommodations, stirs and shifts the motley bundle that is his pillow--then resumes his rest. A middleaged man lumbers by a second time, grinning gamely. It is time to move on.

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