The warming sunlight falls with equal indifference on the evergreens and stray placid people walking or biking along Terwilliger into downtown, just as it does on the squalid scenes there. About ten people were picketing in front of City Hall with BLM signs. Maybe it was the weather, but I thought I’d give them a honk on the horn. They cheered.
The intersection of Fourth and Washington (not yet renamed) is one of our worst. A massive, ugly building that used to function as a small indoor mall has been abandoned and fenced off there since before downtown’s demise. The fence is down in several places, and scattered homeless are in various states of recline on the steps inside. The homeless presence here, centered in front of another abandoned building next to a perpetually besieged convenience store, has been continual for years, but today there are more of them. I parked and walked to the store, to get a closer look, and this happened:
I bought a drink from the weary man of indeterminate ethnicity behind the counter and headed back out. Coming upon the intersection from the other direction and filming surreptitiously I was “made” by a tall skinny negro in a feral afro. “You recording nigga?” I heard from over my shoulder. I pretended not to hear and kept walking to my bike. Casting a glance back I could see him watching me. Imagining myself bolting down Fourth with the whole band chasing me like zombies, I got the key into the ignition while I put on helmet and gloves.
I cast another glance back and he’s got his phone out, coming across Washington toward me.
“Get his license.” A female voice, thick-tongued and garbled by drug use, called out. I pulled away.
I spent less than a half an hour downtown. The numbers of homeless there have increased after having eased up somewhat recently. But the condition of those on the street is noticeably worse. There are levels to homelessness, from the truly helpless to the functioning vagabond, and everyone on the street looked to be of the helpless or homeless criminal class–like my filming friend. The latter supplies the drugs to the former, I’d wager.
Southwest Portland remains relatively normal compared to downtown. Relatively: