The Safeway Shuffle

September 26, 2007 at 1:21 am (The Easy Chair, Waxing Nostalgic)

Over the years, I have lived downtown and in Old Town numerous times. I always took full advantage of Fareless Square, TriMet’s gift to the inner core.

Hats off to the person who cooked up this idea. While downtown is nice to walk through, it’s also nice to expedite ones trip when the need arises. I have a monthly pass, so money isn’t an issue, but I remember back in the day when I’d catch a bus on NW 5th and ride to the Safeway on 10th and Jefferson. The # 57 Forest Grove bus went right by there.

Before that, I’d always approached from the west. So I didn’t think about angles when I hopped off the bus by the waterfront today, and began the uphill trudge to pick up dinner.

Construction is becoming tiresome. I don’t mind the noise, and can deal with the wacky mazes and relocated crosswalks. It’s all the damn fumes and dust.

Still, it had been a long time since I’d gone south of Main Street, so I strolled. As I approached Jefferson, the vast emptiness struck me. Where are the Rose Friend Apartments? What happened to the crappy Chevron station a block further?

This whole week seems to be about erasing evidence of my memories.

Higgins Restaurant was still there, and doing a fair business. Back in 1980, when the restaurant was called Abernethy’s, I worked in a store that has been since converted to Higgins’ dining room. I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood, and while the city fathers and mothers are trying to pretty it up, some things stay the same.

The bums. They still inhabit the Park Blocks, but they are a younger, meaner sort. Speed and heroin have replaced Bohemian Beer as the drug of choice, and nobody smokes Top tobacco. It’s Camel Lights for these vagabonds. They try to intimidate, shamelessly stealing and bullying when asking doesn’t work. Kind of makes one miss the Dirty Dans of the world, whose biggest offense was peeing on a tree after his fourth quart of 3.2 beer.

Safeway has snazzed up a lot as well. They moved it across the street, and put up a high-rise where the Safeway Classic used to be. One of my most colorful memories was a midnight stroll to the old Safeway, tripping on window pane. I must have spent an hour wandering the aisles, watching the walls pulse and fur grow on vegetables. (Real or imagined, I wasn’t taking that home!) Totino’s Pizza and a bag of candy fed my Freak Brother friends, who were afraid something had happened to me.

Another time, in the mid-80s, I was returning from a food stamp run about 8 AM, with two heavy bags of groceries. I was walking past the federal courthouse when three unmarked but very official-looking Jeep Cherokees pulled up. Armed marshals secured the area, and they escorted Ma Anand Sheila into the courthouse. I was so transfixed I walked straight into a parking meter. The marshal relaxed his gun hand and smiled. Sheila had been threatened, but my drunk ass wasn’t coming for her. I had mushroom pizza on my mind!

Today’s mission was simple: potatoes and cookies. Safeway has this new type of chocolate cookie, and justification for buying them was walking from the waterfront uphill to the store. As I headed back, feeling the strain in my calves, I remember thinking I should have taken advantage of the bus system. After all, it was a work day, and I will have to stand up until midnight, and then stand to cook the breakfast I will have for dinner. One must pace ones self, right?

Fuck that. I’ll just have an extra cookie.

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4 Comments

  1. fritoy said,

    Boho beer in the park blocks, Now that brings back some memory’s.

  2. Bad Boy Brown said,

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. When I first moved to the Portland area, my first office was at 11th and Salmon Streets. I got to know the area well over the next seven years. Of course, it’s all changing for the worse. The SRO hotel across from the old Safeway is going away soon; and I wouldn’t be surprised that a condo or apartment building gets built where the Plaid Pantry is right now.
    Fortunately, I’m retiring in the next 30 months – so I won’t be here to see what some asshat architect wants to throw up in the old neighborhood.

  3. Gus said,

    Wow….what a long strange trip…down memory lane. Thanx man.
    I really needed that. I lived in the “urban core” for quite some time in my youth
    (I’m 37, so not too long ago), but I remember trippin through the safeway & the park blox and all the good things. When I came back into town a few years ago, I was shocked at the changes to the old haunts….
    wish I could find some of the folks I hung around with then…

    thanx for the memories man

  4. lykesbro said,

    Remember the Running Fox Tavern now a Avis rent-a car on SW Washington?
    What a crowd!
    Very few stand alone bars left in the downtown area ,even Kelly’s went yuppie.
    Most places to quaff a beverage one has to go to a Hotel bar.

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