Landscaping As Radical Art

The term “radical” stems from the original Latin radicalis – “of roots” and from Latin radix “root”. Whereas, this term ironically resembles “Conservative”, owing to Conservatism’s high valuation of something’s earned past (especially when confronted with “radical change”), I really like the application of “radical” to art as something very nearly opposite of the spirit of its definition. “Radically opposite”, in fact. The term is loosely applied here, but in the overall “sense of things”, it fully meets the spirit of my claims regarding the stunning evolution of a trade which has seen periods of high fashion – from Ancient Times and Babylon’s Hanging Gardens to Frederick Olmstead’s White City and his incredible collection of urban designing accomplishments. Currently, we see regular people create masterpieces of riveting detail and variety in their own fabulous yards, inspiring more public artists and landscaping specialists in a wider realm. I have always said that the best work I ever ran across were productions made by homeowners in the experimental privacy of their own homes.

My current usage of the term “Radical Art” indicates a departure from “the regular” cosmetics of a trade so long defined as just an adjunct to buildings and their grounds – the General Field of Landscaping. It is my conviction that landscaping has evolved into its very own species of art and architecture, outgrowing “Dad” –  into it’s own sort of identity as it evolves further into real art.

Of course, architectural renderings oversee the more vast properties of our urban environments. We’re talking huge.

Noguchi:

 

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What we now see all around us in growing profusion are swaths of land, of urban and suburban wonders, we can simply no longer take for granted and which rivet our minds and souls in ways by which we find ourselves utterly challenged. Some are larger than others:

This work of art in Australia, known as ‘Mundi Man’ or ‘Eldee Man’ was constructed by noted painter Ando (website here) and is located on Mundi Mundi Plains, NSW. It is the world’s largest art work, covering some 4 million square meters, or 5 million square yards. That’s a lot of “cosmetics”!

Antonio Gaudi may have set the Lunatic Fringe of Radical Art in landscaping with not only his remarkable building designs, but in the incredible complexity and bizarre designs so rife at Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain. His admixture of “primitive” and ultra-modern are well-illustrated in this photo I gathered from this website, dealing with Cruises.

 

From the same park………….

 

HDR tonemapped

 

Underneath this….

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The stunning work of Isamu Noguchi, as offered in the first photograph above, has also offered a primary glimpse of landscaping radicalism for long years prior. Now fully enacted by a fabulously and numerically-rich coterie of building designers, the arresting visual and sensual 360 degrees of 3 dimensionality of landscaping reaches an exemplary peak in his work. Below is his spare, yet incredibly evocative construction of a park erected on the site of a former garbage landfill.

Moerenuma Park, Sapporo, Japan:

 

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My view of these installation includes the packages relative to the advancement of technological breakthroughs in the machinery itself of construction. If Da Vinci could conceive of “lift”, “displacement” and the eventual forms which encourage Mankind to fly, then the wildly impractical new wonders of Drip Irrigation, water pumps and advancements in adhesives have opened an entire realm of gravity-defying work of its own.

Vertical Gardening will produce many Babylons, right before our every eyes:

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Even residences will gain from inexpensive-yet colorful profusions of verticality, a technology now just getting underway.

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The advent of the Mini-Excavator, in my world of installations, has produced amazing wonders, quickly-accomplished, only requiring an imaginative combination of materials, designers and installers to implement the next wave of the booming field of water features. Note here the incredible handsomeness of the stud at the business end of such a handy little monster of torque:

 

The above became this……….

 

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Fountains, water, radicalism, sound and senses…………………..

(Noguchi again):

Lighting has caused a Mini Sensation and a completely outrageous burst of creativity in the field as well, from simple, well-placed uplights and filters of a smaller but ineffably gorgeous dimension:

To the radical fringe of massive urban production such as this Mall Fountain in Singapore – the world’s largest fountain:

More Radical yet, we have the entire realm of fountains and the myriad new applications of water, beginning, once again, with Noguchi’s completely impractical 9 Floating Fountains at the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair:

My belief is that we are just entering a field which promises a burst of fabulous artwork of increasing meaning and relevance. I honestly believe we are being pushed outdoors, kicking and screaming, as our back yards become “destinations” and extended living rooms, kitchens and dens. Our cities become more vibrant when we supply other “destinations” to please the eyes and senses. The factor of radical art in landscaping may even supply microcosmic pleasure in the tools and those items which we have so long merely taken for granted………..

such as garden furniture, as Helen Nock (website included)  so brilliantly illustrates:

Walls and fences take on some structural interest when in the hands of Micahel   Eckerman of Santa Cruz, his website here. A surfer and gatherer of native materials, his formations show movement and form which closely resemble the behavior of ocean waves:

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The creations we see today raise our vision and stop our wandering eyes so that we can better focus on their message. The “message”, as in all art, is that of celebration of our shared humanity. These spiritual accomplishments encourage us all to be better people, in every way.

I am glad Landscaping enters the realm of art itself. The scope of the trade has no conceivable limit, from the very tiniest of realms to those of massive scale. It is Man tickling Man and the sooner we understand that, the more we can create and enjoy more of the same.

 

Strictly Personal – My Mom

001I began this series about my Mother with some trepidation. I was concerned about the reflected glory issue: “How utterly selfish!”, I thought. And then I found myself stricken with the fact that her story would never be told without some help from this quarter, nor her story of her evolution as a modern woman, nor, perhaps most importantly, how she has impacted the lives of those around her and those lessons she gives as a result.

As a teacher, she naturally influenced hundreds or, better yet more likely thousands. I know her reputation and it was universally fairly stellar. She stuck to business, had her favorites, tried to understand whether they understood and she had the reputation as the rarest sort of “color-blind” person and teacher. She loved when people became successful – it was always one of her proudest moments, to relate some success achieved by someone she had taught. Like any great teacher, I think, for her “success” was a mutual thing, won with the help of others.

Here is the central Illinois – near Mattoon –  house she grew up in, now-sold and ‘improved’. The railroad tracks which so accompany any memories here are seen under the tree branch to the left. That’s the line that connect New Orleans with Chicago. To say it gets traffic is an understatement.

Growing up in rural Humbolt saw Mom joining the first classes at the “new school” there, I believe which included grades 1-12. She and her little friends were equal parts darlings and semi-devilish and they had the run of the town in a somewhat safe, definitely family-centered town. Yes, the Depression saw many travelers as the railroad tracks which border their house sent car loads of “hobo’s” and “hillbilly’s” north to Chicago during the early 30’s. It was the Depression and, to make matters merely 5 times worse, we suffered a climatic event of the Century at the same time – the Dust Bowl. Etta Rogers and Paul were sometimes “guilty” of feeding those who stopped in Humbolt to try and find a rare bite to eat. The times were exceedingly grim for everyone, even in Humbolt.

Her best childhood friends, Lucille and Betty lasted as “best friends” for their entire lives. Our trips always included visits to both ladies’ homes where we were as accepted as family as can be imagined – without hesitation. Amazing things happened some times. My brother Tom once had a dog bite nearly through his head off the porch of a neighbor of Lucille’s. A huge and vicious German Shepherd only restrained by a chain on the front porch, Tom figured it was yet another animal he could win over as a complete animal lover and as someone who rightfully was considered more than just a little “good with animals”. Wow – the amount of blood pouring out of his little head was incredible as he ran, screaming and so disappointed back to “home base” where we all panicked and where Dad went to “take care” of the dog for good. The rips were huge – Tom wore “clamps” instead of stitches for weeks afterwards and – for the record – the dog was put down by its owners.

Betty Edgar was a woman whose heart was beautiful to me. Like Lucille Abel, Betty and Mother were as thick as thieves as kids. She made sure we all visited her family and children who had moved over to Charleston on a regular basis and they would also scheme to hook up with us at Lucille’s big farm out in the flatlands. Betty lost her husband, Cecil, in 1953, in a car accident, and never remarried. I think that tragedy made my Mom and their friend Lucille that much more necessary and close. Of course, she had 3 strapping boys to raise, so it’s somewhat understandable. And she did a marvelous job of that – by all means.

This is actually not Betty’s original home, up the street from Mom’s place. I was reminded of this by Mom’s younger sister and my beloved Aunt Jody. But it is at least typical and it comes from my own camera lens. I would move in there in a New York minute, lol. I just love the architecture.

Here is a shot of the younger Mom – I mean, like, way, way younger, lol – I am assuming Betty is on the left, Mom on the right. Like everyone, I feel totally lucky finding childhood pics of my Mother. She can, after all, still be blackmailed. 😉

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The famous Humbolt Post Office in it’s raw glory:

A good look at the local Illinois environment?  Right here; not a lot of mountains:

The good news for us was that Betty and Lucille both had children who were generally our ages and with whom my brothers, sister and I enjoyed play and a general take on the stuff around us. Jim, who was more my age, eventually became the first downstate Governor in Illinois for some unGodly number of years and is still regarded – to this day – as a very popular and successful governor. Jim Edgar. (Wiki Link included). He and his older brother Tom were favorites of ours and they were fun guys we would see almost every visit at one point or another. Plenty of Mad Magazines, comics, toys and such were shared, along with walks in the corn and the explorations of Lucille’s big broom corn farm. We buried ourselves more than once in dried corn, lol.

A look at Arcola, Illinois’ big corn silo’s beside the tracks – nearly exactly the same as Humboldt’s:

When Jim was inaugurated as Governor, the first ladies invited were, of course, his Mom and mine. Lucille worked harder for him than she did at golf – at which she was something of a fanatic. She made the scene also because she was such a mover and shaker in politics. She would have been invited anyway, lol, and needless to say, she worked tirelessly in behalf of Jim.

Later, during my family’s diaspora to everywhere in the world, my younger brother, Tom, used to visit Lucille’s son Jeff and ride horses. It was something I missed out on but they evidently made it work like nobody’s business.  Huge barns, great big silos, cattle, odd animals of almost any stripe could be found all over. These were big farms, all broom corn and now soybeans, alfalfa and even sunflowers. We visited them, Tom and I, when I had first returned to this area, in 2009. As warm and friendly as ever, in many ways it was as if 45 years had moved quickly between visits.

Here’s Mom and I at Jody and Joe’s wedding. Jody is Mom’s sis. Jody is in the middle and Mom is to her right. I’m not altogether sure what I was doing in this shot, lol. But all I know is, my sister Diane’s dress is the greatest ever!

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This little triumvirate of lasses made differences in their worlds and they – as much as My Father, it often seems – impacted Mother’s and our own lives forever. All worked for a living and all made splashes wherever they found themselves.  I think they were all a part of an emerging modern day type of woman and they were each quite successful in incredibly diverse ways. When one considers their shadow and their impact, one is humbled by how such humble beginnings could lead to such amazing accomplishments.

Here Tom and I visit the graves of our relatives and the Edgars and Abels in Humboldt’s township cemetery. It was incredible moving for us both – my first visit to Humboldt since 1982.

Lots of folks know Jim Edgar as this guy, celebrating his election victory as Governor of Illinois:

But – Ha ha, man – this is my memory of Jim, the youngest here with his brothers Fred and Tom:

This is the grave of my Grandfather and Grandma. Such a peaceful and gorgeous setting:

Upon graduating from Eastern Illinois University, my Mom made her way to Springfield, the state capital, to experience life on her own. Her relationship with my Pop, Fred – or “Sned” as she called him, just like so many of my current friends call me – was always important and they were in love but she decided she needed to check things out, nevertheless. They put rushing into the Big Decision on hold. Dad had graduated and had gotten a gig teaching and coaching basketball at a high school in Franklin, Illinois, not too far away, so he was committed. Mother found herself asked to do a bit of modeling, did some severe secretarial work and lived ‘the life’ until Dad became essentially too hard to live without. He was a persistent man, my old man. Finally, they tied the knot.

Just in time for a War.

Our Father joined the Navy and ended up being posted to San Diego. There is some long story about how an important Colonel or General liked him, but Dad had a background as a shooter and as a teacher, so he began as a Drill Instructor on a rifle range and stayed in that position for the entire war effort. He has oodles of pictures of a few hundred guys posing at a time upon graduating, all with Dad in the middle of them. I hate saying this, but having had my own version of Drill Instructors in the Army, I regret to say I can picture him doing this.  😉  Most importantly for them, it not only kept the family together, the family expanded.

The above is Dad with Mike who is apparently practicing an early oral argument on the yard in San Diego. Note the sweeping hand gesture, something we witness on a daily basis to this very day.

Well, the War ended and the Big Build began and our father became a contractor, moving after 8 years in San Diego and the birth of 3 kids including yours truly, to various construction projects. Mother would sometimes work with him as his responsibilities began including some projects of his own as a subcontractor, and, in a version of  “The Help”, we had numerous Nannies, almost always African American ladies of the sweetest dispositions, as we careened around the South, from New Orleans to Jackson, Mississippi to Biloxi and thence to Paducah, Kentucky. It all culminated in a move from Toledo, Ohio to Louisville, where Dad found his own business and constructed what was then Tanglewood subdivision (now Wildwood) off Shelbyville Road – a single family housing development of upper middle class representation.

Dad’s business failed then – he got back on his feet, no sweat – and Mother’s career began. She began teaching high school. From this point on – with the notable exception of helping Dad yet again as he attempted another business, Mother taught either high school or college for the next 52 years. Having already borne 4 kids, dealt with oodles of moving and relocating, worked as Girl Friday/secretary/accountant for Dad and others, she began her career again at this tiny 1-12 grade and high school in a tiny Kentucky town outside of Bowling Green called Alvaton – where I encountered my very first 16 year old true hillbilly 4th grader. 😉  There was a poverty there which we rarely spoke of, Mom and I, on our trips out to that place. But it was most certainly there, including one of my classmate’s homes, hard by the school, that you could literally see through. And it wasn’t because of the windows.

The social exclusions and cruelties I witnessed there were very sobering to me. Economic Social Reality hit me with the force of a Sun. I found more out about the world around us than I did at any other time in my life outside of the Army, and it was as bittersweet as it ever got. I cried at times, thinking of how poor some of my acquaintances in that class were. Shoes with holes and no socks, dirty faces, weather at sub zero temperatures, small holey jackets made a tableau which formed much of my later politics without my even knowing how or why. It may well have been the most influential year of my life. Mother, meanwhile, became known as a “cool teacher” among the kids who attended there.

(Random shot of Mom and her Great Grandaughter, Quinn.)

And here is my Mother with my own little munchkin, when we lived in Reno. 😉

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Mother – seeing the handwriting on the wall – decided to get her Masters Degree  which she eventually completed at the University of Louisville for the purpose of upgrading her profession – in Math.

Still later, 3 years, we relocated to Owensboro. Mom taught high school there for 3-4 years then got the opportunity to join her good friend Joe Voyles at his new edifice – Owensboro Business College, where she taught accounting. The shorthand she had so assiduously learned (and still uses) which enabled her to take dictation, she found edging its way to the scrapheap as the new world emerged – of technology and filing and transcribing progress. Finally, in 1970 all that changed with Dad’s business going South and they moved to Louisville.

Since then, Mother taught at Sullivan, Spalding and McKendree Universities as well as providing Accounting classes for the management and workers at the huge Ford Motor Company plant, during evenings. I and she run into her former students literally all the time – at Louisville basketball games in elevators, at Doctor’s Offices and on the street. For someone as used to independence as myself, and with my own levels of popularity where I have lived for various reasons, it is sometimes sheer crazy how many people she has impacted. She’s one of them there Wholesale Impactors.

Yet another family picture with my brother Tom, his girl Meagan, Quinn and Mom. For some strange reason, the Snedeker boys issue some amazingly gorgeous females. I’d like to take credit for that.

Mom taught until she was 84. She would come home and rip back out to take walks – often covering 3 miles. Her health caught up with her in that year and she has had what I suppose is a somewhat predictable round of health issues since that time. Her heart problems caused her to not renew her contract – in spite of being pled with by the University faculty and staff to take some time off then return. When I say they missed her, I honestly mean that.

We decided not to take the Pimpmobile on this particular day. 😉

Since that time, Mom has lived the life of a retiree. She has been a regular at the Louisville Symphony and at University of Louisville basketball games. We attended both events together at times and her knowledge of the game of basketball is superb. We have developed a nasty superstition for my social life. She is pretty certain the Cardinals have a better chance of losing when I don’t watch with her in her room. Unfortunately, it appears she may have something there. Bye bye, microbrews!

And she never – ever – and this is not an exaggeration – misses a game when the St. Louis Cardinals are playing. She had to have watched 50 games last season. Her great disappointment in life may be that I became a Giants and A;s fan while living out West. In this family, that is nearly unforgivable, lol.

She attended darn near every sporting event I ever played. Her devotion was exceptional, as was my Father’s. Make no mistake, we are talking an average of some 200 events a year. Our baseball team played a high school schedule of generally 50-60 games, then the American Legion season commenced. That was usually around the same. And they did the same for all the boys’ sports. They had tickets to every town’s college games, no matter where we lived – Bowling Green and Western Kentucky University’s Red Barn, Owensboro and now Louisville. Naturally, Dad was the mover concerning all this – he played football at Eastern Illinois and did well until a knee injury in his incarnation as  “Freddy The Flash” – 😉 – he was truly a talented player and he had that nickname laid on him in local newspapers of the era – a nickname my friends were merciless in using around him after I busted him.

These were not stay-at-home parents!

In summation, Mother spends these days at a mellow clip. She has great good friends she sees now monthly for a luncheon group which has been around in one form or another for 30 years – ex-teachers and girlfriends who she used to go to games with or with whom she attended the orchestra, but that option has dwindled at 97. She reads voraciously and her acumen seems as solid concerning the world around her as it ever has. Her distant kids, Mike and Diane call weekly and she looks very forward to each call. Her sister Jody is equally devoted and she calls and sends pictures of her clan – our cousins Sam and Rachel and their children – in Galesburg, Illinois. Now Meagan or Hannah will call increasingly often. I can see in Mother’s expression the rare and severe delight she relishes at these moments. The advent of free long distance has been a boon to my family of positively tectonic proportions. It sure makes her days. She absolutely relishes being up to date.

Random shot of Tom’s daughter Hannah with she and Jimmy’s young kiddo’s:

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And Jenny – his other daughter we don’t see enough of – with the gorgeous smile at around 16:

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We speak of spiritual matters at times and of private confidences as well. She is very liberal politically, probably as a result of dealing with so many disadvantaged kids, from every walk of life. Her grandfather and his father were preachers in Decatur, so she has had the underpinnings of a Christian education, to say the least. But she is a modern woman who also believes the best stuff in the world happens in front of our faces. She has a life.

From my end, it is bizarre living with her again. It seems so strange, after all these years of living 2,500 miles away – 40 of those years, actually – to reunite like this in such an every day manner. There are those days I wake up and feel incredibly lucky to have her around. My role in providing her later years with some extra oomph gets its reward in climbing the stairs and seeing the size of her smile every single morning. One can only wonder at the reservoir of happiness which motivates such a gorgeous take on the day and in the simple pleasure of seeing #2 Son walking by. Having a child of my own does, however, give me insight into the world of Unconditional and Total Love – and she gets to multiply that by 4. So, what the heck. It makes sense after all. What I am saying though, is that she makes it a 2 way street. She gives rewards – simple and cleansing ones, still.

My life will still be the same stupid set of mistakes, loves and losses, interspersed with a few major successes, I hope. But the one thing I most certainly do NOT regret is in returning to this family.

Love ya, Mom.

2016 What a Huge Chaw!! My Cheek Hurts

A “chaw” of tobacco is the nasty lump of brown ruffage hillbillies and baseball players chuck inside their cheeks for a variety of reasons which never include addiction. The larger the “chaw”, the more distended the cheek and the less it resembles the original human’s face.

I can hardly imagine a better description of 2016.

It is now New Year’s Eve – well, New Year’ Day by now, ha ha – and we are all waiting impatiently to welcome some relief.. Wow! Do we ever need it.
Should I be serious and say what I believe???….. or simply take advantage of my friends’ good nature and wish them well, fully and correctly expecting a genuine smile in return? I’m definitely holding off on Part 2 of my ego-stroking baseball tale – of my not so fab pitching career, lol – but something in me insists on not letting it get away. Later for that. I guess I will perform my usual autobiographical crap meet to no one’s surprise and just supply some thoughts on what this past year meant to me.
 
Whatever else can be said, 2016 was a tremendously active year for me, welcomed quietly in Louisville just days after closing out a visit to San Diego and my daughter Alena. The reunion with Alena’s Mom, Alice and my own ex-wife was also a celebration of sorts at the time. Typical of my last few years, we were celebrating my ability to visit in the first place, lol, if nothing else. My near miss with just plain dying offered enough spiritual juice to let us all express the love and respect we each have for one another and to dismiss any remaining rubs in favor of enjoying life itself. It had worked great. The incredible turkey gravy put together by Greg’s mother and new Mother in Law to Alena, Julie Gorton, highlighted a Christmas brunch after a night spent out at she and Gary’s place. Yes, I ended up just plain drinking it, lol. Like a boss!! It’s funny how the greatest tastes are so memorable. Now and then we have to thank The Creator for slipping us such a great benefit as a sense of taste. That gravy was sent straight from Olympus, man. 😉
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4 months later, I was back in San Diego with a brand new suit, some killer red Converse all star low cut Chuck Taylors, about 20 more extra pounds with my patented Extroversion Jones re-kicking back in. It was very much a Communion for the Ages all on its own, this time for my family and my newly-extended family and a huge dollop of friends of all of those. Weddings are an accounting nightmare, and not just financially, lol. The number of happy faces you want to know more about from the bottom of your heart runs over at the top and just spills everywhere. The extravagance of Soul of weddings and the stuff surrounding them has been my closest brush with the literal experience of Paradise. I cannot imagine a better time.
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sniff, sniff   😉
View More: http://photoandiamo.pass.us/alenaandgreg

4 months after that, I experienced another selfishly wonderful event – a Reunion with my classmates from 50 years back – Owensboro High School’s Class of 1966. Speaking of soulful extravagance and the good fortune of living in our current times!!! I am sure everyone feels their particular class was somehow special. I am equally sure that is a good thing for all concerned. (Note also, my red Converse All Stars are still in bidness.)

001I adore this group of people with a huge heart. So many of us were integral in the formation of our personalities, many from 12 years old and upwards. So many are appreciative, therefore, of the work we supplied one another. That we remain actively involved in spite of our various winding paths to where we find ourselves today is a choice made easy. We not only actually really like each other, we also respect one another. The love at this event, punctuated by the uber funky stylings of Steve Bare and the reunited Avrons, ha ha, was off the charts. I found it a virtually Peak Experience and one I personally really badly needed in these days of he seeming Permanent Rehabilitation I find myself enduring yet again.

We misbehaved really, really well. I went home partially sober, lol. Even made ot to the class breakfast the day after!!

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We reminisced about our old friends from the past………….

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LOL, good, I mean, really good times.We got lucky with so many fine and gracious ladies, it has to be said. And, Lordy, we had a zillion military veterans. 1966, duh, lol.

 

So, a week after this memory and soul extravaganza, I went back under the knife for a 10 hour long surgical procedure where I found myself almost croak and from which I am now successfully making progress in yet another rebab.

 

In the meantime, everyone who was fun in rock and roll – except for the incredible Keith Richards, anyway, lol – went and died. David Bowie, Prince, George Michael – the list is tiring to even look at.
And, later, The Donald Trump was elected as President of the United States. Now that’s what I call closing out the year with a bang.
Other than that, it was fairly boring, lol.
  

Portland’s Chinese Garden – Part 1

It’s been a while – 2008 – since I began this series on Portland’s Chinese Garden. In the meantime, as is the case with any garden, much has occurred. A very few plants failed, a few were relocated, some overly ripe stuff was replaced based purely on taste. For a notable period, a leak was found in the water feature part of the garden, chased down and then repaired – a relatively constant plague or at least a danger, for almost any water feature, anywhere.

Generally, however, little has changed overall. Eventually, the huge Weeping Willow will become problematic with its invasive root systems and the softer wood becoming perhaps snow – or ice – laden during some Winter storm and affecting its shape. But all in all, it has matured very gracefully into a focal point destination inside a gorgeous city.

I have revised some of these older posts, tinkering around with pictures and script, but altogether I am very happy with these posts. I hope they give as much pleasure as I got from writing them and from helping construct this masterpiece. This series deals with some of the tales of its emergence out of the city block-wide big hole where it began.

The Portland Chinese Garden was a combined effort between a company from Portland, Oregon’s sister city, the incredible Sou Zhou, and, well basically, the Mayor of Portland. It was at various points a hot political potato with mounting criticisms from all the usual political-type sources (which usually means an opposing party, naturally) in an era of average or worse resources, following the ‘Dot Com” bust which negatively impacted Portland having long since gone “all in” on high tech. However, Portland was even then showing the strength of a reasonably well-planned expansion, complete with very innovative and successful local corporations, such as Intel, Nike and a million smart subsidiary businesses to Microsoft just up the road in Seattle.

We spent an interesting meeting in the Mayor’s office once, proposing an idea that she accepted with joy and hopefulness – naming various trees and baubles for the largest donors. For a price, of course. 😉  Well, it worked. But my favorite interactions were always with the Chinese who also worked hard on this lovely project. Constant smiles, elaborate bows and exclamations, tons of laughter and the joy of sharing and cooperation made it entirely special to me.

I’m going to recirculate an entire series of Chinese Garden construction factoids and tales from its construction, which I was integral to. It was easily the neatest gig I was ever a part of and I was fairly high up in the work and liaison stream, then working for Teufel’s Nurseries, a $40 million a year business in early 1996.

Enjoy a ride through some of the highlights of this project.

Oh – by the way – Portlanders are inordinately proud of this Garden. It gets heavy traffic 12 months a year.

(You can enlarge each picture by clicking – sometimes twice.)

Set solidly right in the very depths of downtown Portland, Oregon, the Chinese Garden is serene and mind-boggling at the same time. The fact that the locals understand this is implicit – basically placed smack in the middle of the Chinese District, it has a congruity within the city itself. Leaving the Garden, you can go shop at stores specializing in Chinese items or eat at any number of bordering restaurants. Portland is an immensely satisfying walking town, although an umbrella is de rigueur during the drippy Winter months.

But of course, that is not the entire story, and especially as it relates to this blog. That the Garden is a gorgeous feast for the eyes and senses is pretty much a no brainer. I will address that pictorially. How it relates here is my own small involvement with it and it may take a post or two to finish.

At the time, I was living in Portland and working for Teufel’s Landscaping, a very large and successful nursery and landscaping firm who counted their clients among those they have worked for or supplied for over 100 years. Among their clients were the Nike and Microsoft Campuses, golf courses, Intel’s booming Portland base and countless others. In residential landscaping, I have myself worked for some notable people. When the mayor of Portland decided she wanted this Garden in conjunction with Portland’s sister city, they tried and eventually found the approximately $12 million it took to make it work. I salute Vera Katz here and now for her wonderful addition to the city and her bulldog-like tenacity in seeing it come to pass. You da gal, Vera.

Well, Teufel’s got a contract to do a number of things under the project. Once again, my good friend John Stone was instrumental in all this and was my supervisor. John’s rather bizarre mandate was to provide the local landscaping expertise dealing with irrigating the grounds, locating all of the plant materials, installing the soils and planting the plants for a project no one wanted to look “brand new”. Naturally, what this meant was that fully mature plants were to be supplied which matched the specifications and artistic needs supplied by the Chinese portion of the engineering and landscape architect class who basically designed it. It implied some stuff you just couldn’t make up, it was so far fetched. For one example, I accompanied John in an expedition down to a plant who specialized in fabricating chains. Why? Because as we found and excavated the trees, we began seeing some intimidating issues with their weight. The root balls on some of these behemoths were in the tens of tons. We already knew we would be using a 180 ton crane for placement – at the time the largest vehicle made for street travel.