The idea first hit me back in January at the opening of the local African film festival where we saw “Grigris.” The film’s perspective was hyperlocal, i.e. at the neighborhood level.
Later I reflected that as a worldview, a hyperlocal focus makes a ton of sense. For one, it’s where we can make lasting, meaningful change without many or any hurdles. It’s also where human actions of compassion, caring, love, and creativity are both abundant and easy to detect.
So why not delve deeper into the hyperlocal right in front of my nose, I reasoned. To do this, I decided to systematically explore on foot 26 Portland area neighborhoods on my way to work each day.
Trimet’s Blue Line light rail consists of 47 stops. For this undertaking, I started at Rockwood/E 188th, and visited it and the next 25 stations (one per day), ultimately finishing at Washington Park.
This took me over 5 weeks. Each morning on my 1 ½ hour commute to a fulltime swing shift temporary assignment across town, I would detrain at a different stop along the way, and spend approximately two hours walking that unique neighborhood looking for interesting homes, gardens, trees, monuments, innovative businesses, inspiring community groups, and more.
Essentially, what I sought each day was inspiration; something positive. And I always found it.
Some neighborhoods I explored actually unconfirmed my long held stereotypes. Below are four examples of neighborhoods that taught me when I have an open, non-judgmental mind I’m virtually guaranteed to uncover something delightful.
- 172nd Ave: Nadaka Nature Park with an incredible urban garden future, and Chepe’s Pupuseria y Taqueria with inspiration direct from El Salvador. There was also Snowcap Community Charities, and the very busy Rockwood Library that has a variety of services including lunch for children ages 1 to 18 throughout the spring and summer.
- 162nd Ave: Rosewood Community Initiative which (from their website) “…is a neighborhood space where you can help the community as you improve yourself. Neighbors come here to interact with one another, work on projects and feel safe.”
- 102nd Ave: The food court of the Mall 205 has only one vendor left, a great mom & pop place: Ozzie’s Deli and Gyros. I had the Majadra which included lentils, bulgur, sautéed onions, olive oil, cucumber sauce, lettuce, and tomatoes. The other notable place in the neighborhood is the East Portland Community Center on SE 106th. The day I was there it was packed with people: seniors with Meals on Wheels, classes, swimmers, you name it.
- Convention Center: I was expecting a generic walk. And it was until I crossed over the freeway and popped into the Vacuum Cleaner Museum. Then I walked the delightful neighborhood around the Jupiter Hotel, Doug Fir Lounge, K-BOO Radio, Imago Theater, The Farm Café, and more quirky shops, things, and people to keep Mandy and I entertained for a hyperlocal future staycation weekend.
Those findings just scratch the surface of the many inspiring places I found by investigating 26 neighborhoods. My takeaway?
If I want to stay current on a neighborhood, I’ve got to walk it regularly. There are always many changes to notice and track. Also, I can’t wait to “finish” off the Blue Line with the remaining 21 neighborhoods left to explore. This is something I will pick up starting in June, and finish in August.
After that, I may examine other neighborhoods along other light rail lines, and also return to some of my favorites from time to time on the Blue Line.
In a broader sense, I’ve determined hyperlocal is an excellent perspective, very life-affirming, and perhaps the most positive stance to take in what are very frustrating times at levels “above” the hyperlocal like the city, state, nation, or world. Indeed, the Beatles were right when they sang, “the deeper you go, the higher you fly.”
Hyperlocal is deep. And that may be what makes it amazingly liberating.