See why this particular “tiny church” was the perfect venue for this special evening of cabaret entertainment …

Earlier in November, accordionist Kathy Fors, Barbara Bernstein on violin, singer Lisa Berksom Platt string bass player Jamie Leopold, as “Padam Padam” bring an evening of French cabaret music to the Oaks Pioneer Church.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although music frequently accompanies weddings and other social events held at historic Oaks Pioneer Church in Sellwood – built in 1851, and now perched on a grassy hillside within view of the Willamette River – it’s never been the venue for a concert.

“I’ve been told it’s been their dream to host live music here,” said composer, and musician with the group “Padam Padam”, Barbara Bernstein, “it’s never happened until tonight.”

Bernstein, nationally known as a radio documentary producer and locally as a talk show radio host, told us she lives just around the corner and has walked three different dogs of hers past the church and down to the trail below. “I always thought this would be a really sweet place to play.”

Barbara Bernstein says each member of the group adds to the diversity of the music they perform.

Group has Inner SE Portland ties
Although the group has performed together for only about three years, it has gained a national reputation. And three of the four current members of Padam Padam are, or have been, East Portland residents.

The group’s accordionist, Kathy Fors, lives the Brooklyn neighborhood. The utility player, Jamie Leopold, featured on keyboard, string bass and guitar, grew up in Buckman, and now lives in Irvington. “Our vocalist, Lisa Berksom Platt, lives in the West Hills,” quipped Bernstein, “but we forgive her for that!”

While Barbara Bernstein plays, Lisa Berksom Platt sings the song for which their group is named, “Padam Padam”.

Performing songs of passion, with passion
“Padam, Padam”, which roughly translated means “the sound of the clock in the little French salon”, is the title of a sad, haunting song written and performed by a famous French cabaret singer who performed from the 1930s to 1960s, Edith Piaf.

“It’s one of our main songs,” Bernstein explained. “It’s fitting for us, because we perform songs of passion, in a European cabaret style. We mix in tangos, Mexican and klezmer music with our original songs.”

Picking up her guitar, Barbara Bernstein and Lisa Berksom Platt sing one of Bernstein’s original songs.

Essence from another universe
The group agreed that on “bad days”, playing music feels like a mechanical job. “But when we’re playing together, especially with a good group like this, it’s like we merge into a single soul,” rhapsodized Bernstein. “It’s like you’re channeling the music from someplace else; someplace special.”

But it’s not magic, she continued – there is lot of work involved, and the group puts in quite a bit of rehearsal time and “wood-shedding”. “But when things are working; the harmonies are right, and you’re locked in rhythmically and in phrasing, it feels like it’s an essence from another universe that’s landed here.”

Indeed, at the Oaks Pioneer Church, November 7 must have been one of those “good nights” – the music of Padam Padam was harmonious and soulful, and enchanted the audience well into the evening hours.

Hear some of their music, and learn more about the group, by visiting their web site by CLICKING HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

For many days this past month, we were drinking water out of the ground – not from Bull Run. Learn what students in this class learned about keeping our water safe and wholesome …

“Groundwater 101” classmates start the session by guessing how much of various sources of water are used by drinking – by humans around the world.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The fact it was a cold, foggy Saturday morning didn’t dampen the spirits of a classroom full of folks eager to explore the mysteries and intricacies of Portland’s groundwater system.

“The class is called ‘Groundwater 101’,” explained Briggy Thomas, Education Program Manager at Portland Water Bureau (PWB). “It’s sponsored by the Portland Water Bureau and the Columbia Slough Watershed Council. We teach groundwater basics, including local geology, hydrogeology, what role groundwater plays in Portland’s drinking water system, and what we are doing to protect this important resource.”

PWB Educational Program Manager Briggy Thomas reveals the results of the water survey.

Groundwater used this month
Highlighting the importance of this resource was that, for nearly two weeks this month – including the November 15 class date – the drinking water for the entire Portland metro area was being pumped out of the Columbia South Shore Well Field.

“We had to use the groundwater supply for longer than usual,” the class professor, PWB groundwater specialist, Randy Albright, told us before he began his program. “The heavy rains caused a ‘turbidity event’ in the Bull Run Reservoir. Because we have an unfiltered drinking water system, we use our backup source until the water clears.”

Albright added that this groundwater also provides seasonal argumentation during the dry summer months. “It is the water supply right underneath our feet. It’s important that people know that what we choose to do on the surface of the land can affect our drinking water below us.”

Randy Albright, PWB groundwater specialist, explains that the water being used at this city-sponsored class came right out of the ground beneath their feet.

Safeguarding our water
During the class, attendees learned that water is drawn from 25 wells in four aquifers spread over an eleven square mile area that includes lands in Portland, Gresham and Fairview.

More importantly, Albright told the class why they shouldn’t dump used or leftover toxic chemicals – like weed killers, pesticides, paint, thinners, strippers, wood preservatives, furniture polish, cleaners, or motor oil – onto the ground or into the storm drains. “It percolates into the ground, and finds its way into our groundwater.”

Because potential pollutants “percolate” down through the soil, Albright warns against dumping toxic chemicals and motor oil on the ground or into storm drains.

In addition to the information provided in the NECA-IBEW Electrical Center classroom, the group took a “field trip” to the wellfield, located almost directly across the street.

By the end of the session, those who took the class agreed they understood the water in the ground below their feet in a whole new light.

To learn more about protecting Portland’s groundwater system, see the City’s web site by CLICKING HERE.

If you are interested in learning more free classes and field trips presented by the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, CLICK HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

If you haven’t visited this unique gift store – in which all items are handcrafted by local artists – discover, here, five reasons why you might want to add them to your shopping route this holiday season …

Christine Claringbold, executive director of Trillium Artisans, shows off one of her one-of-a-kind bowls – made from recycled vinyl phonograph records – that she sells at her web site. CLICK HERE to visit her online store, Eye Pop Art.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It’s always a pleasure to revisit Trillium Artisans – a unique gift store in the Lents Neighborhood.

“We have really cool stuff here,” Trillium’s executive director, Christine Claringbold, told us. “Every item has an interesting story behind it. Nothing is mass-produced; all items contain at least 50% recycled material.”

Artists learn business skills, not crafts
Trillium is a nonprofit organization that supports local craftspeople, Claringbold said. “We support low-income artisans by helping them build small businesses of their own.”

In addition to offering a storefront, she said the organization also provides classes and seminars at the building. But instead of teaching arts-and-crafts, the visiting instructors show members how to start, build, and operate businesses. “Accountants, lawyers and Internet experts help us learn how to increase our incomes, and not make costly business mistakes,” Claringbold added.

East Portland artists Lee Meredith, Amanda Siska, Kori Giudici and Megan Klepp show their hand-made gift items they offer for sale at Trillium Artisans and online at their web sites. Learn about them below …

Unique art by unique artisans
When we visited the storefront a few days ago, we met four of the 40+ artisans associated with Trillium, including:

  • Lee Meredith – Also known as “Leethal” (her company’s name), said she’s a knit designer obsessed with yarn, thrift store scrounging, and color. She unravels tossed sweaters, uses custom, natural dyes on the reclaimed yarn, and puts together kits with knitting patterns. CLICK HERE to visit her online store.
  • Amanda Siska – She calls here company Bread and Badger. Siska engraves glass with a dental drill, and says it’s her way of bringing fun, iconic imagery into everyone’s home. CLICK HERE to visit her online store.
  • Kori Giudici – The story is that she started Flipside after a she received many compliments and inquiries about a hat she made as a birthday gift. Check them out; CLICK HERE to visit her online store.
  • Megan Klepp – This artisan said her company, Ta-Dah, creates art from scrap, recycled, and found objects – especially those made of glass. In the photo above, she holds a marble-encrusted bowling ball. CLICK HERE to visit her online store.

You’ll see why many folks plan a trip to Trillium Artisans on SE Foster Road, just west of SE 92nd Avenue, to find that “something special” for folks on their gift list.

All kinds of art
“When you visit our store, you’ll see jewelry made from vinyl records, purses made from old neckties, magnets made from bottle caps, and scarves made from old sweaters,” Claringbold beamed.

One thing is for sure – we observed, from looking around the store, that the gift you purchased here will always be unique and original.

Trillium Artisans is located at 9119 SE Foster Road – this is on the north side, just west of SE 92nd Avenue. For more information, go to their web site by CLICKING HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

If you own birds or small animals – and want to ‘buy local’ this year – discover why this outer East Portland manufacturer has developed dedicated fans who love their products …

Pam Domine, general manager and Jon Reinmann, production manager at Lents-based “Quality Cage Company” and their crew turn customers into fans by making safer, stronger homes for small animals and birds.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
These days, it seems like few products are actually made in the United States – much less in Oregon – and especially in Portland.

But, for more than 30 years, a manufacturer located in the Lents Neighborhood has been quietly making a name for itself by making first-rate cages for small animals and birds: Quality Cage Company. Every product they make – from raw materials to finished product – is manufactured by local employees in outer East Portland; and these are shipped worldwide.

Makes superior products locally
Not long ago, we met a customer, Corey O’Connor, who said he drove an hour to pick up some Superior Rabbit Homes from the firm. “Some cages for sale in pet stores are dangerous, right out of the box; they have dangerous sharp edges that cut both people and animals,” O’Connor asserted. “Like many other 4-H families, we’ve got kids caring for rabbits. I don’t worry about the kids getting stabbed or cut by sharp edges with a Quality Cage.”

Makes pet homes, not cages
Instead of cutting corners to make products cheaper, the company has strived to manufacture first-rate products. “Whether it’s a rat, hamster – or a chinchilla – our customers are looking for safer, stronger, multi-level homes for their pets,” said the company’s general manager, Pam Domine. “We use designs and manufacturing techniques that promote a long, healthy life for the family’s pets.”

Because of their attention to detail, Quality Cage Company has become the nation’s #1 manufacturer of chinchilla homes and accessories. The design allows it to be folded nearly flat for shipping, and yet expand into a sturdy “Chinchilla Mansion” after being delivered to the customer’s home.

This rabbit show – many entrants are involved in 4-H clubs from Eugene north to Centralia – was held in the company’s warehouse on November 15.

Company hosts rabbit shows
With fewer counties and other municipalities supporting groups like 4-H, young rabbit breeding enthusiasts found they were no longer welcome at county fairs – and couldn’t afford to rent facilities in which to hold their shows.

To help them out, Quality Cage Company closes down for regular business, clears out their heated, well-lit warehouse, and welcomes breeders to hold their rabbit shows.

“It’s great that Quality Cage helps out by providing space for shows like this,” Vern Palmblad, an American Rabbit Breeder’s Association judge for 30 years, said while judging a Triple-Crown Mini Rex (a type of rabbit) show at the company. “It shows they really know and care about rabbit breeders. The young people can learn so much by attending a show like this one.”

The company maintains a factory showroom at 5942 SE 111th Ave. – one long block north of SE Foster Road. You can reach them at (503) 762-2607 or

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Take a photo with Santa (and share your secret wish list with him), become a ‘toy tester’, enjoy stories and games at Eastport Plaza for free – and have the opportunity to support five good causes at the same time …

Officer Phillip Kent, Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division; Major Curt Loberger, US Marine Corps; Santa; Jillian Glazer, Trillium Family Services; Barbara Sloan, Salvation Army; and Dean Johnston, Portland Fire & Rescue Toy and Joy Makers spend a few minutes with Santa.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the first time since the old Eastport Plaza Mall building was torn down, Santa and Mrs. Claus are coming back to spend a full month at the shopping center’s new Christmas attraction, called “Santa’s Place”.

Eastport Plaza’s Dianne Gill introduces Santa’s Place to the community.

A whole holiday experience
“Santa’s Place is where kids can experience the joy of Christmas through music and activities,” said the shopping center’s general manager, Dianne Gill, at the preview on November 24.

Santa’s throne, completely refurbished for this event, is the original chair built for Eastport Plaza when it first opened in 1960, Gill pointed out. At Santa’s Place, visitors will find:

  • Christmas crafts;
  • Coloring contest;
  • Holiday movies & popcorn;
  • A kid’s holiday library and story-telling room;
  • A Santa’s Workshop toy-testing area; and
  • Santa’ throne room and Mrs. Claus.

A nexus for community charities
“We’ve created Santa’s Place as a way to help build community here in East Portland,” Gill said. “The economy is making it more difficult for many people to enjoy the holidays this year. Admission to Santa’s Place is free, but for those who can, we ask folks who can to give a donation, drop off canned or packaged food – or new, unwrapped toys – to share with families who are facing hard economic times.”

Donations will stay in East Portland, Gill added, and will be distributed by five community partners.

Aid organizations say need is greater than ever
“This year, we’re seeing a lot more need in the community,” said Dean Johnson, chair of Portland Fire & Rescue’s Toy & Joy Makers – one of five charities supported by the month-long event.

Dean Johnson, of Portland Fire & Rescue’s Toy & Joy Makers.

“We really appreciate the support of the community – especially in light of the unfortunate circumstances at our Toy And Joy building over the last few weeks,” Johnson added. “With your support – by bringing one or more new, unwrapped toys to Santa’s Place – you’ll help this holiday season be a bit brighter for many youngsters.”

Captain Barbara Sloan, of Salvation Army Metro Portland.

Salvation Army Metro Portland’s Captain Barbara Sloan said, “The number of people who are asking for assistance is up by 50%, and 15% of them have never asked us for help in the past.”

In addition to Santa’s Place, the Salvation Army’s “Angel Trees” are also located in US Bank, Rent-a-Center, Wherehouse Music, and Century 21 Cinema at Eastport Plaza. “People pick an angel decoration off the tree, and donate money at the checkout stand. We use this money to buy toys for kids who really need them.”

Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division’s Officer Philip Kent.

Visitors will find Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division barrels at Santa’s Place and other stores in the shopping center. “Last year, we set a record for the number of families we served,” reported Officer Philip Kent, “This year, we’re serving at least 25% more families every month, and our donations are down by 15%. We appreciate any help feeding Portland’s families in need.”

Jillian Glasier, from Trillium Family Services.

Jillian Glasier, from Trillium Family Services, told how, locally, donations benefit the Parry Center children with mental and behavioral health problems. “This time of year, it can be really hard for kids who are in our residential programs, away from their homes, families and friends. We appreciate the support we’ll get from Santa’s Place – and that we’ll be able to bring the children here for their own very special time – and a visit with Santa.”

Major Curt Loberger US Marine Corps added that the effort will aid their Toys-for-Tots program. “We’ve done this for many years – and we distribute toys in the areas where we collect them,” he said.

Bring your camera
In addition to the children’s activities, Gill said, they’re running a coloring contest, and a drawing for adults to win a dinner for four.

“The best part is that it’s all free,” Gill said. “Be sure to bring your camera, and take photos of your kids with Santa.”

Santa’s Place is open Mondays thru Saturdays from now through December 24 mornings from 11AM to 3 PM and evenings from 4 PM – 7 PM. Please note: children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian; please plan to stay and enjoy the experience with your youngsters.

Eastport Plaza is located at 4000 SE 82nd Avenue of Roses. Call (503) 771-3817 for more information or see for more information.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

We don’t have the official word, but see why witnesses and neighbors say this horrendous collision is just one of many – and, why those involved were lucky to walk away from this wreck …

Portland Police Bureau Officer Michael Gallagher inspects the Toyota Highlander, now parked in a neighbor’s yard, after it blew through a stop sign and smashed into another car.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The night before Thanksgiving Day, folks in Pleasant Valley expected a quiet evening as they got ready for the festive occasion the next day.

The peace was shattered, for folks living near the intersection of SE Flavel Street and SE 112th Avenue, about 10:00 pm on November 26, by a grinding crash that startled – but didn’t surprise – neighbors.

Here’s how a Cadillac STS sedan looks in the showroom …

… and here’s the victim’s model just after being hit by an SUV.

Vehicles spin and fly down street
From what we were told, we gathered that a Toyota Highlander SUV with three youthful occupants was traveling at a fairly high rate of speed, on residential Southeast Flavel Street, approaching the intersection with SE 112th Avenue.

The SUV did not stop for the stop sign, we were told. As it entered the intersection it collided with a northbound Cadillac STS sedan.

The momentum of the spinning Highlander, after it hit the Caddy, mowed down the steel street signpost, then bent over a steel cyclone fence pole embedded in concrete, and came to rest next to a tree – only feet from a house on the southwest corner of the intersection.

The Cadillac ground to a stop – its front end shredded –a quarter of a block west of the intersection. The driver, a 45-year-old man, looked dazed as he stood and spoke with paramedics and police officers.

-4 The Highlander came to a stop – after it smacked into this tree.

Debris from the wreck littered a block of this Pleasant Valley neighborhood street.

Says driver was ‘acting stupid’
Young people – and at least one parent – were huddled at the back of an ambulance. Paramedics were called, because airbags were deployed on both vehicles. Occupants of both vehicles complained of chest pains and other minor injuries. But no one was transported to the hospital by ambulance.

At the scene, a young man, standing with his father, looked wobbly and shaken. He told us he had been riding in the Highlander’s back seat. “She was just acting stupid” when collision occurred, he said, apparently referring to the driver. “I feel scared; I hurt a little and am shook up; I’m surprised I can walk.” He said he was wearing his seatbelt added, “I am sure glad that I was.”

A frequent-collision zone
While police and firefighters inspected the crash zone, just west of the intersection, neighbors told us they are concerned because they say accidents frequently occur at this intersection.

“There needs to be a yellow flashing light at the intersection,” neighbor Debbie Weiss told us as she looked at the wreckage strewn along the length of the block. “There are too many accidents, too many injuries, and too much property damage. We’ve been asking for a flashing yellow light, but instead, the put up an intersection sign down the hill.”

After being checked out by paramedics, occupants of the Highlander wait with a parent as the tow truck arrives to remove the totaled vehicles.

Portland Police Bureau Sergeant Brian Schmautz told us that, because of the holiday weekend, information hadn’t come to the PPB Records Division indicating whether or not the 18-year-old driver of the Highlander was ticketed in the smashup. We’ll update this story when the records become available.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Why did 400 dexterous artists come from around the globe to converge in SE Portland for a weekend of throwing things around? Take a look, and discover what we learned from our visit …

Award-winning 11-year old juggler Rachel Leshikar, from Kennewick, Washington, shows her skill at five-ball juggling. (To see her perform on YouTube: CLICK HERE)

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The director of one of our favorite annual events – the 16th annual Portland Juggling Festival – Daniel Peterson, didn’t travel far to the event – he lives in SE Portland. But, some of the 400 participants trekked half way around the world to attend this annual event.

“We’ve brought in performers from Germany and Japan,” says Peterson, a Brooklyn neighborhood native. “But we have performers come from Canada, California, and points east.”

The performers converge on Reed College for a long weekend of juggling to see new “patterns” and equipment, reunite with old friends.

Portland Juggling Festival Director Daniel Peterson (left) “passes clubs” with friends Jennifer Noll and Borg Norum.

Reed College a juggling hub
Another reason Reed College is a juggling nexus is that the school has offered juggling as a physical education course for 30 years.

“I took juggling when I attended Reed College my freshman year, about 20 years ago,” Peterson relates. “But, I really got into it about 10 years ago.”

Asked about his favorite style of juggling, Peterson replies that it is “passing clubs”.

“Two or more people juggle clubs, and pass them back and forth among one another,” he explains. “There are standard, internationally-known ‘patterns’ or sequences for passing clubs; partners don’t need to speak to do it. And, people are always generating new, challenging patterns.”

Daniela Künster teaches new patterns to a class learning ways of passing clubs.

Although it might look like martial-arts mayhem, no one was injured in this – or any – juggling classes at the Festival.

Build mind, body, and friendships
Peterson says most jugglers he knows like the activity because it is challenging, both intellectually and physically. “There’s something new to learn and make a connection to what I’ve figured out in the past. It’s part of my lifelong continuing learning program.”

All of the jugglers with whom we speak also commented that – unlike magicians, who keep the secret of their tricks hidden – “There’s always somebody in the juggling community who has something amazing to show that I want to learn. Sharing juggling tricks builds friendships.”

Class is in session
In one room during the festival, I find two long rows of participants facing each other, ready to pass clubs. “Pass-self-self-pass-self-self,” chants German instructor Daniela Künster, as clubs start to fly through the air in orchestrated pandemonium.

“This is just one of many classes offered at the Juggling Festival,” says Peterson, as we watch advanced jugglers help novices learn how to juggle and pass clubs.

“And, over here, we have a ‘Stilt-walking 101’ class going on. We even offer a class dedicated to picking up dropped juggling equipment,” the event’s host added.

Rob Brown shows off while riding his seatless “Ultimate Wheel”.

Just how many rings is Matthew Knight, who hails from SE Portland, juggling?

Allied arts welcomed
We ask why there are folks at the festival performing related arts such as unicycling, diabolo, devil stick, poi, footbag, and Rolla-Bolla.

“All these arts are affiliated with one another; all ‘circus arts’ are welcomed,” replies Peterson. “Our participants are folks who like to work with props. We all learn from one another.”

Whizzing around the perimeter of the lower gym, in perfect control, is unicyclist Rob Brown. “When I was in sixth grade, I asked for a unicycle for Christmas. About three months after Santa brought it, I was unicycling to school. That was 32 years ago!”

Michael DeBuhr quickly learns how to walk on stilts. “I have a really good sense of balance.”

When he moved to Portland in 1990, Brown looked for a place to ride his unicycles during the rainy winter months, and found that jugglers welcomed him into their midst.

We see that the unicycle Brown was “riding” has no seat – it’s simply a spoked bicycle wheel with pedal cranks. “It’s called ‘The Ultimate Wheel’; I’ve been riding one for 20 years,” Brown explains. “I kept lowering the seat on my unicycles until finally I just took it off. You won’t find many people riding this.”

The best part of unicycling, Brown says, is feeling success after he works at learning difficult tricks. “And let’s face it – I like to show off. Ask anyone here; it’s one of the reasons we do this!”

Peterson smiles and nods his head in agreement. “No matter what a performer may say, we all love to show off.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

See why this argument led to a single-car accident, which led to the arrest of the passenger who reportedly pulled a knife on the car’s driver, while passing through the Lents neighborhood …

The car hit the lamp pole with such force, it snapped off the fixture as it charged up the embankment.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
This accident is an object lesson on why couples shouldn’t argue while driving – especially if one of them has potential anger-management issues.

A police officer observed a Ford Taurus heading northbound on Interstate 205 as it passed through the Lents Neighborhood on the afternoon of November 13.

Suddenly, the car swerved off the freeway – as we gathered from the police radio calls – snapped off an aluminum light pole, and ploughed up the embankment almost to the top. From there, it rolled back down, then down across the freeway, ending up in the center emergency strip.

Looking at the embankment from the side, the tire tracks – and the downed lamp pole – tell part of this little domestic story.

Stunned-but-alert drivers who witnessed the event managed to miss the careening car, so no other vehicles became involved in the incident.

Said to threaten driver with a knife
“Apparently 28-year-old Sean Smith was the passenger in the car, which was being driven by his 22-year-old former girlfriend,” Portland Police Bureau’s spokesman, Sgt. Brian Schmautz informed us, adding dryly, “It appears as if they had prior domestic violence issues.”

While they were driving northbound on the freeway, passing the SE Foster Road interchange, Schmautz added, Smith allegedly threatened the driver with a knife.

“Smith reportedly grabbed the [car’s steering] wheel and turned it enough so that the car hit the pole and continued up the embankment. Officers on patrol in the area saw the accident and stopped to assist,” Schmautz said.

The driver was not injured. Smith was accompanied to Adventist Medical Center by a police officer for evaluation. “Smith was charged with one count each of Assault in the Second Degree, Menacing, Unlawful Use of a Weapon, Reckless Endangering, and Criminal Mischief in the First Degree,” reeled off Schmautz.

There appears to be no hope of a romantic reconciliation in this one.

Traffic creeps by the spot where the car came to rest in the center of the freeway where officers investigate the incident.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

If you haven’t walked through a “Clown Garage Sale” – you’ve missed an interesting experience. The clowns didn’t buy squirting lapel flowers with their proceeds – find out about the virtuous charity they were supporting instead …

Physical comedian, clown, and street performer Angel Ocasio juggles an armful of merchandise with which he says he’s willing to part.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
At the bazaar held at Portland Habilitation in outer NE Portland, one almost expected to see a real elephant – not a white one – as the annual Clown and Street Performer’s Garage Sale got underway on November 8.

Looking around the room, we saw tables laden with red rubber noses, trick flowers clown costumes and makeup, magic props, and juggling apparatus.

But more entertaining than the merchandise were the individuals offering them for sale.

You might recognize the event’s organizer, Angel Ocasio – he heads the Portland Rose Festival’s Clown Character Corps. “There is a lot of wonderful stuff here. We’ve had many new performers come and get good buys on all kinds of props,” he said.

Albert Alter, an SE Portland resident, demonstrates (and reluctantly offers for sale) his valuable merchandise at the clowns’ bazaar.

Another well-known physical comedian and circus-arts teacher, Albert Alter, said he wasn’t sure if he’d sold more items than he’d purchased. “It a way, it’s like a swap meet. One performer’s discards are another’s delights,” Alter said.

This bizarre bazaar had a special purpose, Ocasio said. “Our table sales are donated to a group called Clowns Without Borders. They provide laughter to relieve the suffering of all people, especially children, who live in areas of crisis – including refugee camps, conflict zones, and territories in situations of emergency.”

The group sponsors professional entertainers to travel and bring cheer, contemporary clown/circus oriented performances, and workshops into communities “so that they can celebrate together, and forget for a moment the tensions that darken their daily lives,” Ocasio said.

  • For more information about Clowns Without Borders, CLICK HERE.
  • To learn more about the wacky world of Angel Ocasio, CLICK HERE.
  • And, to discover the physical comedy of Albert Alter, CLICK HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

No, they didn’t vandalize it! See why Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish and Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen – and 40 other volunteers – worked to spruce up a school they’d never before visited …

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish says volunteering helps him stay connected with the community he serves.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A volunteerism match-making service is taking steps toward providing more services in outer East Portland, we learned on November 15 – when we visited a “Paint with the Commissioners Party” at Jason Lee Elementary School, on NE 92nd Avenue near Rocky Butte.

“We’re here working with a great organization I love called ‘Hands On Greater Portland’,” explained Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, as he continued to apply masking tape along the top of the school’s main hallway. In his informal survey, the commissioner said none of the volunteers with whom he spoke had ever visited the school before, including himself.

“Most of the people came here to help spruce up the school; but some folks have taken the opportunity also to make Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen and me aware of their concerns,” Fish added.

“There are a lot of people out there that want to volunteer, and give back to their community, but they don’t know how to go about it,” explained Fish. “The beauty of ‘Hands On Greater Portland’ is that people can go online, find an event that suits them, sign on, show up, and get put to work for a few hours.”

Started by ‘do-gooders’
Fish introduced us to Andy Nelson, a founder of, and the executive director of, Hands On Greater Portland.

“We are a nonpartisan, non-ecumenical, nonprofit organization – just a bunch of do-gooders,” said Nelson with a smile. “There is no hidden agenda here.”

It started up about 12 years ago, with a circle of friends who wanted to work volunteering into their lives. “Now, we make 15,000 volunteer connections in partnership with 250 nonprofits throughout the area,” revealed Nelson.

The organization puts on about 100 volunteer projects over the metropolitan Portland area every month, he explained. “Volunteers search on our website for projects that are convenient for them, and which also meet their interests or fits their schedule.”

He went on to say that volunteers need only bring a willing spirit. “All of the tools and supplies are provided. It doesn’t take any special skills. We’re doing our best to eliminate barriers to volunteering.”

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, and Mt. Hood Community College students Chelsey Lemire and Melissa Points, work with Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen, as they paint the hallways at Jason Lee Elementary School.

Increased East Portland focus
Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen put down a paint roller and joined the conversation. “We want to focus more on East Portland needs and projects. It’s one of the places where ‘Hands On Greater Portland’ has not been as active.”

Nelson added that educational and non-profit organizations in outer East Portland that need a helping hand should register at the website, to be considered for help with future projects.

“Nick Fish and I are planning to choose ‘Hands On  with Commissioners’ events every other month, perhaps more often,” volunteered Cogen.

Fish added, “They make it so easy for citizens to help their communities; check out their website, and donate a few hours this weekend.”

How to take action
Sign up, and volunteer for a few hours – or donate to their cause by visiting the website of this 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Just CLICK HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Although the purpose of the meeting was to focus on developing “quality places” near the City’s original East Portland light rail stations, the topic of public safety kept coming up. See how you still have time to comment, online, if you act now …

At one of the two mid-November workshops focusing on outer East Portland MAX stations, citizens were asked to look at displays depicting of each light rail station, to ask questions of officials, and make comments.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although the City of Portland’s newest light rail line won’t open until next year, the original MAX stations dotted across outer East Portland are passing their 25th year of operation.

On two evenings last week, members of Portland’s Bureau of Planning conducted “Outer East Portland East Portland Eastside MAX Station Communities Project Community Workshops” – part of a one-year study regarding the transit system.

Portland Bureau of Planning project leader, Tom Armstrong, talks about the information they’ve learned since starting the Outer East Portland East Portland Eastside MAX Station Communities Project about six months ago.

Seeks to improve station area development
“In this project, we’re looking at six of the Eastside MAX stations,” Tom Armstrong, the bureau’s project leader, told us at the November 13 meeting at Ventura Park School.

“We’re primarily focusing on how the areas around the MAX stations are growing and developing,” Armstrong continued. “What we want to do is improve the quality of the development, and the ‘quality of place’ around the stations. We’re also looking at ways to increase the safety and convenience for people to get to and from the stations.”

No condemnation to improved connectivity
After looking at the map of her neighborhood, one neighbor said she was alarmed that a new proposed street – or a path – ran across her yard.

“Are you here to tell us what you’re going to do; or, are you actually asking for real input in the process? If you’re really planning to for growth in my backyard, do you plant to talk with me about it before you do so?” the neighbor asked.

“We’re here, discussing it with you tonight,” replied Armstrong. “All we are showing on these maps is future street connections.”

He assured neighbors there would be no condemnation of property by the city for putting streets through people’s yards. “These connectivity improvements only occur when property is sold and redeveloped.”

‘Good development’ examples given
Another neighbor asked Armstrong to list examples of what the Planning Bureau would consider to be good, transit-oriented development along the MAX line.

“On the east side,” Armstrong responded, “the best example of success would be what’s happening around the Hollywood station. They’re building just off that station, and attracting new development there near the station, as well as on NE Sandy Boulevard.”

Development around outer East Portland MAX stations is challenging, says the Planning Bureau’s East Portland Liaison, Barry Manning.

The Planning Bureau’s East Portland Liaison, Barry Manning, added, “All of the East Portland MAX stations are really challenging. It’s difficult, because we’re dealing with infill development – there is an existing neighborhood context, and some level of density. Orenco Station is one to which people point as a model. But it was a green field before it was developed. We’re not dealing with that kind of situation.”

Manning pointed out that several of the Gresham-area stations show “pretty good development design” as well.

Each of the maps showed a circle drawn around the stations. “The radius is about a quarter mile,” explained Armstrong. “Between a quarter mile and a half mile [from the station], ridership drops off. That’s why we’re focusing on these areas, making them good, safe environments, so people will want to walk to the light rail stations and take MAX.”

Curbing freeloading riders
A neighbor asked, “What attempts are being made to curb the free ridership on MAX?”

Armstrong said, while he couldn’t speak for TriMet, the agency that runs Portland’s light rail, there was an announcement a few weeks ago about increasing the number of fare inspectors and security guards and the transit police on the system. “They also announced retrofitting and replacing the ticket machines, to give them better reliability.”

Manning added, “They’re talking about going to a new ticket machines – and a new style of tickets – next year when they open the Interstate 205 line. The tickets will be larger, sturdier, and credit card shaped.”

Crime and safety on MAX
“Can you give us any examples of safe, well-working MAX stations anywhere on the line on the west side or north side?” quizzed a neighbor.

“I understand your question,” Armstrong replied. “On the Eastside, we have what we have. The stations were built to state-of-the-art standards 25 years ago. Each new leg [of the light rail system] gets built a little differently. They’re trying to go back and retrofit the older stations with closed-circuit TV, and changing the shelter design.”

Outer East Portland neighbor Ralph Fullerton doesn’t mince words as he expresses his concern about crime in and around area light rail stations.

One of the 28 neighbors attending the meeting was Ralph Fullerton who spoke frankly about the crime issue. He said no station improvement plans will resonate with citizens until crime is reduced along the MAX lines. “It’s like you’re trying to make water run uphill. Nothing will change, until you solve that problem.”

A prime frustration with Fullerton, he told the group, is the methadone clinic at the NE 162nd Avenue and E. Burnside Street Station. “It used to be a Social Security Administration office; now it’s methadone clinic. I watch drugs being sold near the clinic every day.”

The audience erupted in spontaneous applause.

“It’s absolutely absurd that you would spend tens of millions of dollars creating the marvelous light rail system – and then give junkies a ‘quick pass’ to journey around our neighborhoods. You guys in the Bureau of Planning spend a lot of money – and I believe that you work really hard – but until you can reduce crime on the light rail system, you’re wasting money and wasting time.”

David Kelso, a developer with land near a MAX station says his investors are concerned about crime issues to the point that it hinders investment.

Says crime hinders redevelopment
Fullerton continued, saying he was sure that private developers wouldn’t put any money, “even 25-cents, into projects – until you stop thugs and hoods from walking on and going for a ride. It’s a big challenge to you guys.”

David Kelso agreed, saying he and his partners own 2½ acres near one of the light rail stations.  “We have very feasible projects that pencil out from a financial standpoint to build – but it’s getting difficult to get investors to buy-in, because of the high crime in these areas.”

Tell it to the City Commissioners
Manning announced that the Portland City Council was meeting at Midland Library on December 17 to consider the East Portland Action Plan. “In our discussions, TriMet issues were certainly on the table. Come and give testimony – we hope it will be geared toward the Action Plan – but people from East Portland are welcome to come and talk to City Council about their hopes and aspirations, including crime and safety.”

Armstrong added, “When we wrap up this project next year, we’re going to have another City Council meeting, and we’re going to be making presentations. The message that you just delivered is a powerful message. They need to hear, ‘You know what? This redevelopment isn’t going to work unless you fix the crime problem’.”

Next steps
Armstrong said their staff would take the ideas and comments they’d gathered from this round of community meetings and begin to craft specific proposals for changes and improvement projects. “Tonight’s meeting was really to check in with people about the direction we’re going, before we get too far down the road.  In this way we can make a mid-course corrections and refinements.”

He said the staff will work on recommendations, and bring back a report to the community by January or February.

Open for comment
The comment period remains open through next week. CLICK HERE to go directly to the bureau’s Outer East Portland East Portland Eastside MAX Station Communities Project web site.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Why did so many law-abiding citizens turn their weapons at this event? We’ve got the answer right here …

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. Tim Sessions checks out a gun being turned in at the Lents Neighborhood Association event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Lents Neighborhood Association, in cooperation with Ceasefire Oregon and the Portland Police Bureau, provided citizens the opportunity for citizens to turn in working handguns and rifles on November 1.

“I guess the word got out,” said Dewey Akers, the immediate past chair of the neighborhood association. “We had people coming here, from as far away as Canby and Gresham, from the hour we opened.”

Akers said that Ceasefire Oregon made a presentation to the neighborhood association, at which time they agreed to sponsor the turn-in program.

Gets guns off the street
In charge of the day’s program was Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Sgt. Tim Sessions, who talked with us about the event, as he made sure guns were made safe and ready for transport.

“The number one reason do this is to help keep us all safe,” Sessions began. “And, we encourage people who don’t want guns they inherited or have to bring them to events like these. It gives them a safe way to turn in a gun to be destroyed without any questions asked.”

Sessions said gun turn-ins help “keep us all safe” because, “When you think about it, if a person doesn’t know how to be responsible for a gun doesn’t know how to secure the weapon, there is the possibility of an accidental shooting. Add to that is the potential of a theft or burglary that can put the gun ‘on the street’, and in the wrong hands.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Cadets Houck and Cisneros help at the event.

Said most successful ever
“Ceasefire Oregon”, we were told, collects donations used to buy gift certificates which are then given to citizens who surrender a “workable firearm weapon”. At this event, each citizen turning in a working weapon received a $75 Fred Meyer certificate, with a maximum of two certificates for two guns turned in.

“We started out with 375 certificates, and gave out 100 IOUs after we ran out,” commented Akers. “I didn’t think anyone would leave their name and address on the envelope, but they did.”

We observed some citizens deciding to keep their gun after they learned the supply of gift certificates was exhausted.

534 guns were surrendered at the Lents turn-in; organizers said it was their most successful event ever.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News.

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