Urban Renewal & Dislocation

kellerOn summer days, Portland’s Keller Fountain is alive with children splashing, students playing with smartphones while dangling feet in the water, and workers from nearby offices enjoying lunch. Formerly named Forecourt, the Ira Keller Fountain sits across the street from the Ira Keller Auditorium, host of much big-name entertainment that comes to town.

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A Man Ahead of His Time

The Brooklyn Dodgers won the World Series in 1955. Two years later, after the team played what was to be its last game at Ebbets Field, the Dodgers announced they were moving west to Los Angeles. Brooklyn has never forgiven them.

Dodgers’ owner Walter O’Malley began construction on the only privately-financed baseball park since Yankee Stadium in 1923 and until the Giants’ Whatever-Is-the-Current-Phone-Company Park in 2000. (The 2008 version of Yankee Stadium cost taxpayers $1.2 billion.)

When the new $23-million, 56,000-capacity, stadium opened, featuring an “unobstructed view of home plate from every seat,” fans noticed there were only two drinking fountains, one in each dugout. O’Malley said it was merely an oversight and denied that the reason was to increase beer and soft-drink sales. His remedy was to place Dixie cups in the rest rooms. The city Health Department considered that a code violation and ordered drinking fountains be installed.

(When Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt Disney claimed a plumbers strike forced him to choose between rest rooms and drinking fountains. Disney reasoned, “People can buy Pepsi Cola but they can’t pee in the street.”)

Walter O’Malley, were he still alive, would have the last laugh. Public drinking fountains are out of fashion and fans now pay $5.75 for a bottle of water at Dodgers Stadium.

America’s First Wine Country

virginiaFrancis Ford Coppola’s eponymous wine company not long ago purchased the former Geyser Peak Winery in Sonoma County’s Alexander Valley. (Geyser Peak wines still exist. Its U.S. corporate owner recently sold the company to an Australian corporation. The new owner moved the tasting room to a different location.) Coppola renamed the winery Virginia Dare after the first American Baby.

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Calvin Trillin – Part 1 and Part 2

Part 1

Calvin Trillin, longtime contributor to the New Yorker magazine, has a new book out: Jackson 1964 & Other Dispatches from Fifty Years of Reporting on Race in America. It’s a collection of his pieces from the sixties and seventies, covering the civil rights movement. The timing of its release couldn’t be better. He reported not only the conflicts in the South, but all over the U.S.

“I couldn’t pretend that we were covering a struggle in which all sides — the side that thought, for instance, that all American citizens had the right to vote and the side that thought people acting on such a belief should have their houses burned down — had an equally compelling case to make.”

Part 2

Years of travel for the New Yorker’s “U.S. Journal” sent Trillin on another quest: something decent to eat in an unfamiliar town. Growing up in Kansas City, “The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” His first food essays were gathered in American Fried, published in 1974.

Mr. Trillin has also poked fun at wine aficionados, questioning whether a person can really tell the difference between red and white.

“I should probably tell you a little something about my background in the field. I have never denied that when I’m trying to select a bottle of wine in a liquor store I’m strongly influenced by the picture on the label. (I like a nice mountain, preferably in the middle distance.)”

Gift Guide for Every Occasion

Trying to find the perfect gift for that very special person? You won’t go wrong shopping at Archie McPhee in Seattle’s Wallingford neighborhood. A Holy Toast maker – imprinting the Virgin Mary in your bread –could be just the thing for your devout friend. Or how about Nikola Tesla socks for that electric-car driver? Or a Mr. Bacon Air Freshener? If you’re looking for something more conservative, Archie McPhee carries the traditional Rubber Chicken.

Archie McPhee has been selling life’s necessities since 1983. If you can’t make it to Seattle, they also offer on-line shopping.

For a report on the hazards of this specialty business, click here.

Shopping at Archie McPhee can work up an appetite. I recommend going around the block for Puttanesca at Bizzarro Italian Café.