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Saturday Wandering: Lents

Yesterday afternoon I took the number 14 bus deep into the heart of Lents, almost to the end of the line at SE Foster and 94th. At first blush the heart of Lents did not offer much. In fairness I made only a cursory walking tour of the business district without venturing into the surrounding residential neighborhood. In typical Matthewsian fashion I set out on something of an impulse upon finding myself at loose ends and with an urge to be out and about after a productive morning, without forethought to pack my map of SE Portland, much less do a bit of online research to scope out possible spots of interest.

The productive morning began at 6:30 with a ten-mile run on the waterfront route. This was not one of those incredible nothing but brilliant blue sky and sun mornings, yet it was lovely after its own fashion, cloud cover muting the day's early light, a slight breeze, and temperature at 60 degrees perfect for running. For those of you who know Portland, the route took me from my home between Laurelhurst Park and Belmont to Hawthorne Bridge, south along the eastbank to Tilikum Crossing, across the Willamette River and up the waterfront north to the Steel Bridge, back over the river and return to Tilikum, thence east along the Tilikum Way pedestrian and bike path to Clinton at 14th, and home from there. The city is quiet at this time on a Saturday morning. Traffic is light. Walkers, runners, bicyclists, dogs, geese, and rowers are out and about but not yet in great numbers. It is a pleasant way to kick off the weekend.

After the post-run breakfast of pancakes and scrambled eggs, I ventured down to Portland Running Company on SE Grand at the Morrison Bridge to look for some new shoes. Last year Mizuno tinkered with the shoe I have run in for years. The toebox seems to have been narrowed just enough to put the squeeze on the outside toes of my right foot after five or six miles. The extra-wide edition of the shoe was better but still the fit is not quite right. Ordinarily I get my shoes and other running gear from Trani at Tulsa Runner. As it is not likely I will be in Tulsa until Christmas, and am in need of new shoes now, I had to look elsewhere.

Fortunately, Portland Running Company is a fine store staffed by friendly and knowledgeable runners, much like Tulsa Runner. I recounted the back story about the Mizunos to the young woman who offered to help me. She brought out a selection of shoes for me to try on and take for a short jog along the sidewalk while she eyeballed my stride and footstrike. I settled on a pair of Brooks Adrenaline that felt great. I am eager to road-test them tomorrow morning.

Back home with the new shoes, I finished out the morning with website admin. For the most part this consisted of upgrading the site and laying claim to the domain For readers the primary difference will be that the Wix ads go away at the new URL. For me the upgrade gives the site a slightly more professional appearance, a plus if I come up with a way to do something more professional with it down the road, and there are a few additional features not available on the free version that may prove useful, or not.

Ah, back on topic, Saturday wandering, Lents. The neighborhood is bordered on the west by SE 82nd Avenue, which is, well, SE 82nd Avenue, a dismal stretch of strip malls, fast food joints, insurance agencies, car washes, shops dealing in previously owned wares, little Asian restaurants, some of which may be real finds, others maybe not so much, and so on. There is a nice, well kept up mini-park at Foster and 92nd. Artwork adorns the concrete structure at the MAX line. Zoiglhaus Brewing Company looked enticing and could have drawn me in had it not been a bit early in the afternoon for a beer, although on sober reflection I cannot come up with a good reason why that should have been a deal breaker. An inviting coffee shop is what I had in mind. Alas, my path did not yet take me to one.

Upon returning home I did a Duck Duck Go search for Lents and found that in December 2015 Matt Meltzer at Thrillist deemed Lents one of 12 Neighborhoods Across America That Are About to Blow Up. Presumably "blow up" was not an allusion to riots or gang violence in a neighborhood that not so long ago enjoyed the dubious appellation Felony Flats. Meltzer ranks Lents with South Bronx, Pilsen in Chicago, downtown Tacoma, Southwest Waterfront in Washington, DC, and North Charleston, South Carolina, among others, all in all an eclectic mix.

Meltzer's assertion that the Lents uptick is spurred by Portland hipsters headed east in search of affordable housing is plausible. He tells us the neighborhood boasts a thriving nightlife highlighted by spots like Zoiglhaus and the "legendary strip club Devils Point," along with an expansive food scene that boasts "legendary Viet bakery An Xuyen...a cart-pod plating Road Runner BBQ, dim sum at HK Café, and all things Latin American at the newly opened Portland Mercado." The food carts have a festive look. HK Cafe I missed because it is on 82nd at Holgate, a block north of where I was. I did not spot An Xuyen Bakery, which is a bit west at 5345 SE Foster. Devil's Point also escaped my notice. Perhaps next time.

My initial thought is that the neighborhood is making a noble effort but could do with some gentrification. As always, here and elsewhere, the challenge is to manage gentrification so that it makes the neighborhood a better place for those presently residing there instead of creating a housing market they can no longer afford.

Meantime, another excursion to the heart of Lents may be in order. My online search uncovered what appear be to a couple of nice parks and at least one coffee shop that lay outside the bounds of yesterday's wandering. If nothing else, Zoiglhaus looks like a promising destination for a burger, a brat on a bun, or fish and chips and a beer. Nothing wrong with that.

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