Portland’s Chinese Garden – Part 2

This is an installation perspective on Portland, Oregon’s Chinese Garden which last saw the light of day 8 years ago. I’ve edited and added a few things for this iteration, but the substance remains relatively unchanged.

We pick things up at the “chain design” section, as we prepared to lift and lower the months worth of acquired plants and trees into their positions, some of which were simply gigantic.

So John had the chain designed for our needs – we needed something that could handle the weight without snapping, obviously, while shuttling these massive hand-dug trees with gigantic root balls into their eventual homes. But we also needed something we could uncouple quickly, especially difficult considering the expanse involved: many of the root balls were up to eight feet across! Anyway, this was accomplished well.  It turns out, we had learned, during a first hand tutorial at the surprisingly massive chain factory down the street of the wonders of the famous “Quick Coupler”. I pointed this small element out merely to indicate the unique problems besetting an enterprise like this. Imagine an entire city block and the numbers alone of mature trees needed to complete the look. Imagine as well a stationary crane grabbing these big suckers and then delivering them to the “holes”.  The word is, the crane nearly toppled handling this huge Magnolia for a really far spot.

When we got there and actually commenced the work, it was early in the process. The project was basically a great open massive hole in the ground with pockets of formed concrete piers and foundations for things such as the buildings as well as support structures for bridges and walkways.  Irrigating this mess was intense.  We spent nearly a week just coring holes through all the foundations walls with a diamond drill to poke pipe through and deliver water throughout the entirety. Fortunately, the service was to be completely drip irrigation so the pipes required tended to be in the 2 inch range. We complete a complete enclosed circle, which was always the goal, and then fed off that to supply the valves and the nearly above ground piping. I hasten to add, we also had the unenviable and often nearly fruitless task of running the electrical wiring for these remote vales to tie into a central control clock. Why “nearly fruitless”?  Because of the insane amount of construction yet to perform before the soil we supplied and introduced could supply the padding and insulation fro construction wear and tear. Those nasty things like boots of the workers, shovels and machinery is why, any of which could expose the copper wire by cutting through the plastic sheath and render it useless and an absolute bear to locate and fix – a common lament in irrigation circles.  Indeed, it turned out we did lose a couple of wires by having them cut somewhere.

The most fascinating part of the project for me was when the Chinese workers showed up. There was supposedly 150 involved, but I think that included a substantial corps of engineers and architects as well. The workers were fun and very easy to get along with.  The fact that I smoked cigarettes turned me into a popular figure, lol. I swear, I believe they all smoked. Very James Bondish of them!  But they were all easy to get along with, talented as heck, focused and extremely hard-working.  It was a pure pleasure working next to them.

So many elements of this Garden were brought from China, it’s mind-blowing.  Indeed, the bridges themselves were made of granite, hand-crafted back in China, many by the same guys who installed them here. Needless to say, the awesome rocks featured here were all delivered straight from China as well, including those composing the entire water feature and small mountain.



Random Pictures of Interest – Yawwwwwwwn

Strictly eye candy – hopefully enough to keep everyone entertained……… 😉

I am running extremely whimsical with this. In a way, I am just showing pictures from my Mighty Massive photo file system which have not appeared here before. New blood, as it were.

It also gives a chance to plain have some fun without too much hyped-up thematic discipline, so it’s even cooler. The pic below is my brother Mike posing with our very own Mother, often referred to as “Mom”.  They both seem reasonably happy, so why not etch that rare moment on historical online Eternity? 🙂 I lied, of course. Truth is, we spend most of our time laughing.

Anyways, sashay with me through various and sundry pictures, none of which match.

(left click all images to enlarge – sometimes twice for real detail)

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Here’s a hole in the wall at the Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon.

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Modernistic planting, somewhere.

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Let’s face it. You don’t see Dry Water every day…………


A highly-suspicious plant.

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Some interesting Iron Work a very good iron man did at a project of ours.


Here’s some iron work of Antonia Gaudi’s. Now THIS is a gate!


This fountain always tickles me.


The Portland Japanese Garden is inspiring, quiet and beautiful. Even the fish agree:



Yew Dell Gardens in Fall. Dude could use a haircut and a shave.

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Here’s that big Singapore fountain at night:


Now, this is a river.

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Multnomah Fall just outside of Portland.


I always loved traveling this stretch of road between Reno and Portland, Oregon. It was about 540 miles – which is a grind no matter how scenic – but this approach to Mt. Hood not only meant I was getting into more treed areas, it also meant I was within about 60 miles of home. Even in Summer – with the snow nearly gone – Mt. Hood was like a relaxing sight.


Here’s a flower!

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Dealing with the desert – you can find some strangeness, for sure. Here is a mulch only a lizard could love. The good news is it grew up nicely.


And the desert can bloom – don’t let anyone tell you different!


Prune This!!!!!!!!!! 😉

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This is a lot of moving water. 6,000 gallons a minute, to be exact.




Making Bubble Rocks can put you in some tight spaces.

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And some are tighter than others:

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I always have liked what we did in making this little creek.


I absolutely love this picture. I shamelessly add it here, not knowing where I got it. I hope the author does not mind.


“Sobering” applies to this military cemetery in Louisville, I’d think. It is amazing quiet here. Speaking as a veteran, I often wish more of us would visit these places. You’d be amazed at how many connections you have here and elsewhere.

Cave Hill 009

You know you’re up early when this sight greets you on the drive to work. Of course, then again, it could be lunch time in the Yukon in December. 😉


Would this be called a “Green Building”?

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Here’s something you DON’T want to see when you get low on gas.


Those nutty Barcelonans will do anything for a laugh.

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An interesting landscaping idea?


Here’s Louis XIV and an escaped horse in downtown Louisville.

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This is what it’s like driving from Reno, over the mountain to lake Tahoe in Winter.

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A patio and landscaping project in Portland.


You don’t see rocks like this every day. Nor woodwork, for that matter.

HPIM1274An interesting Architectural feature from the Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden.


The Truckee River as it courses through the midst of downtown Reno, Nevada. This shot is at the head of the fabricated kayak run, designed for competitions. Yes, it is in the middle of town.


A luxury swimmin’ hole we helped construct in the woods near Lake Tahoe. We did everything on top – just not the pool itself. The paving, rocks and all that are ours,


Another fountain, now that I am the Fountain Maven at my new blog at Pond And Fountain World………nothing special, just quite unique.

And unusual.


Anyone seen my Narwal?

nosey Narwhal

The Class of 1966 – Musings Now From Distant Years

In August of this year, my high school graduating class reluctantly faces it’s 50th Reunion. I’ll qualify “reluctant” by saying not all are hoping it never happens. Far from it. We have some humorous people among us who relish the wonders of rediscovering our inner beauty with new faces and fresh new approaches. The fact is so many of us would not miss it for the world. In many of our cases, the new medium of Social Media – be it Facebook, Twitter or simply the internet in general – have allowed quite a few of us to actually get to know each other yet again, in an entirely new light complete with children and grandchildren, passions, and many of our diverse interests shared publicly. We have consistently been impressed with the creative energy of our peers as well as the richness of their family lives. We have also shared emotions.

At the same time, we lament the losses of friends who meant so much to us. It is a function of age that we encounter mortality on a recurring – if no less disappointing – basis. We all know the stab of pain we feel when yet another of us shuffles into the next world. We honor them with stories and memories from our past and prove and extend their immortality as we ruefully smile at the shared silliness and excesses back when we were helplessly thoughtless and probably at our most appealing. They still enrich us.

Susan Coffey, with the undoubted help of the indefatigable Sharon Hagerman, Larry Masters, Nancy Russell and suspicious other characters as yet unknown to me have decided I could contribute this piece as something worth entering in the silent auction which was such a resounding success in our other reunions. I confess I am intimidated as hell by the threat of producing work for this crowd whom I expect is anxiously awaiting my failure but not in a nasty way, ironically. Ha ha, anyway, it is my own private tension. Perhaps most readers of this are wondering at my doing something like this. I assume it is likely unexpected to many who have not followed me in recent years. Face it, I was a highly Non Intellectual high school quasi-student, know more for sports, laughs and flirting than scholarship and the cultivation of memory. That is an unfortunately proud legacy, in fact, a childishness which has stuck like glue to me and which I secretly hope never to leave behind.

Having said that, I certainly look at this project as something fairly serious and I absolutely relish the challenge.

Lord love a duck, we have all been through some incredible times.

Thus armed with qualifiers, I’m going to begin with a statement which comes from that era and which I feel has always more or less defined our group as placed inside the world’s “Whole Shebang”:

September of 1963 was one hot deal. My earliest memory was pre-admission ….I remember myself practicing football in weather that would shame Las Vegas. It stayed in the high 90’s with unendurable humidity during our 2 practices a day in August as classmates Steve Bare, Danny Howes, Roy Kennedy, Tom Higdon, Wayne Catron, Sam Tandy, Bill Smith, Larry Adkins, Sam Estes, Larry Moorman and others I probably should recall all lined up for Coach Ralph Genito’s uncompromising torture chamber. A group of 60 plus eventually made its way downward to just 31 players in a reprise of the Bear Bryant “Junction Boys” film. That Genito played for Bryant was readily – and painfully – obvious.

What eventually transpired was a very successful season, which led to even better seasons by the time this group graduated. This brutal introduction made for a supremely tough bunch of lads. I believe the eventual total record during our time at Senior High was along the lines of 34-6, if memory serves. Each season also saw OHS ranked at Number 1 in the state at various intervals.

When school commenced, we had already been there, is what I am saying. Of course, so had the marching band members, among many others in the various clubs and organizations which reached out to incoming sophomores.

I so remember my initial sense of finally walking the halls at Senior High at what seemed a vast, unending stream of friends and total strangers passing hurriedly by from class to class in an incredible maze of personality, style and vocal tone.  My own experience very much included choosing faces of strangers as symbols of my own strangeness – every single day I literally and silently recorded new faces for my entire high school sojourn. Every trip down a hallway represented an experience of seeing people for the first time.

As freshmen at Eastern, Southern, Foust and Western Junior High Schools, each and every one of us had looked forward to finally “getting there” to the Big O – Senior High. It was a virtual and shared Rite Of Passage. In many ways, we all felt the same nervous energy and curiosity. The sight of our friends provided us a comfort zone which we regularly relied on in our strangeness. There was no Hubris to be found. We arrived as the “tourists” in a gaping maw of high school energy, the smallest and perceived youngest of them all. As Captain Beefheart so eloquently put it in his song “Ashtray heart”:

“It was a case of the punks! Right from the start!”

Honestly, how were we to know that what we entered then would set us up so incredibly well for our futures during the upcoming turmoil and amazing churn which was and always is American history? The lessons experienced in Crystal Edds’ or Louise Brodie’s English classes had ramifications over which I have long wondered at their persistence. The Math classes of Mr. Puckett’s resonated hugely for Jim Nation, Jim Gilmore, Denise Hilliard, Susan Parish, George Dejarnatt, Jimmy Walker as they patiently picked their ways through intellectual puzzles which led to eventually terrific and successful careers as achievers, Moms and Dads. Speech and debate classes so overlooked by so many led to some eventually marvelous political awareness on the parts of so many who embraced them then. We had a virtually world class chorus. The Rose Curtain Players presented near-professional dramas.

The intellectual growth fed to our class by such a competent teaching crew has led to many accomplishments by high-end intellectuals, but it may have formed an even more important lesson plan for the less renowned among us. In the end, it is my belief that a good education supplies more than simple job qualifications. I honestly believe we were taught that absolutely anything is possible. The promises of a bright shiny future, which are the staple of Valedictorian and High School Principle’s speeches upon graduation led us to understand the subtle relationship of idealism and personal success. When they kicked us out into the world, 3 years after we entered, we joined the speedy maw of history, some in ways far more direct and immediate than others.

We eventually lost friends in Viet Nam, that great vacuum of turbulent idealism and counter idealism which sucked us up and tossed us around like dice in a cup in Las Vegas at unfortunately tender, barely mature ages. As a result, for some of us, our collisions with reality contained the absolute and most horrific “worst of Mankind” – War – death and destruction on a scale which was so incredibly hard to fathom. It killed James Conkwright, a person I am still delighted I was enabled to spend time with, (even if Tommy Jones and I once cheated him out of $8 in a poker game, a shame we both still talk about in a wry admission that we both miss him to this very day). The Viet Nam veterans in this class were numerous, a list I am afraid I cannot render. But, know that within 4 years of our matriculation at Senior High, we had men falling physically to wounding and death during a controversial war which sucked up numbers of young men like an out of control industrial vacuum. Nor does this begin to cover the psychological and spiritual wounds which many of us carry to this day.

We moved along, graduating from colleges, many of us already reading the future and just plain going to work, some of us even before graduation. We began the hard work of being citizens and many of us moved directly to the equally hard and rewarding work of being Moms and Dads. We mowed our own lawns. We had some beer. We flirted and searched for acceptable mates. We got married and bought homes.

Some of us traveled, unready to settle down entirely while so much mystery remained to be studied and seen. These were the restless ones, people sort of like myself, actually, to whom I always feel obliged to seek out to discover what they found themselves. Their captivating stories of their adventures in France, Tokyo, Saudi Arabia, or merely their fascinating inner journeys to psychological continents and planets of which we know little we let  speak of in poetry and art. Or they inform us in words we learn to value, in dimensions of time and space we had not seen before this. I am unaware of anyone who became a preacher or Priest, but I am willing to bet top dollar that we produced some.

It is my belief that the rudiments of our educations alone put us in an excellent vehicle to make whatever journeys we all embarked on. At the time of our experience, Owensboro High School was exceedingly proud of what their students were accomplishing. And, make no mistake, this piggy-backed on top of what had already been accomplished by others who went before us and resulted from the successful educators who led us to these moments. It was obvious to us all that a high quality of student and eventual citizen was not some weird anomaly from our school. We were – in the last analysis –  an extremely fortunate group.

We discussed values and often economics in our school. We were forced to study our histories in those classes we were so hilariously reluctant to attend. We studied higher mathematics, from Plane and Solid Geometry to Trigonometry to Calculus. We had Physics and Geography classes, Government, Chemistry. We were required to write out in long hand form and, of course, in some cases typed form, entire thematic choices for our Senior English subjects. We were made to pay attention whether we liked it or not. To this day, I respect the manner in which we were taught. It was a tough love in so many ways, added to which were the expectations of our instructors which were etched in rock. Those expectations as much as anything else were the engine which drove the bus.

It was a good, high quality education. We had an education which, in the very highest sense, kept our curiosity alive. This was the essential gift of our lives. Curiosity knows no age. It is as timeless as the memory of our first kiss.

Real Life

And we moved along with the river of Time itself. Our children matured, politics raged as some of the vital material of good citizenry. Controversy abounded as the best of us relied on the give and take of dialogue to try and reach clearly imperfect decisions. We oversaw so many social changes it frankly boggle the mind. The racial and gender-specific changes which occurred since our graduation, while bumpy as hell, have produced a far more egalitarian society.

We have watched the incredible birth and development of technology and the Internet. The global nature of life has become immediate. I regularly communicate with Israeli’s on a near daily basis. Got a question? Just ask. In 5 minutes now, we know the answer from another perspective, even if it comes from Mexico, Australia, Iraq or Israel.

Our careers have been recorded and, for most of us, they are also finished. The achievements here are frankly as off the charts excellent as would be the case almost anywhere. A recitation of special accomplishments by the members of our Calls of 1966 could occupy our time for literal days and weeks.

Make no mistake – successful families are duly noted here. Indeed, nothing is more important.

The shame in my recollections is in the sparse reward I can offer such an immensely successful, still smiling and popular group. Nor are these successes surprising. We expected no less and so did those who taught us. Now we are somewhere else, altogether, aren’t we?

Things got real. And then it got really, really real. The 50th Class Reunion. I mean, how real is that?

We now find ourselves collectively approaching our 70th birthdays. This 50th Reunion surprises us – well, at least me, anyway. We seem to have arrived here on some amazing Express train – maybe on of those Japanese or Euro models that travel up to 300 MPH. As we collect ourselves and dust off the accumulated dust from our most recent 50 year experience, we pause as we consult the world as we now know it. Amidst the love and caring we receive upon this reunion – as we bestow the gratitude of decades to one another and to those others so intimately and objectively responsible for our journey’s fate, our wisdom comes to the fore as the gift given to those who age with the curiosity planted by teachers whose greatest accomplishments are a restless mind.

Carl Jung has an interesting take on this era we now share together. His quote:

“The afternoon of life is just as full of meaning as the morning; only, its meaning and purpose are different.  A human being would certainly not grow to be 70 or 80 years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species to which he belongs. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life’s morning. I believe the approximate time between ages 56 and 83 offer each of us the opportunity to make the process of aging a positive and life-enhancing experience. Regardless of whether we find ourselves only approaching that “afternoon” of life, or deep within it, we need to learn and stay conscious about what we can do to live an ongoing life of quality and purpose.

Jung implores the aging personality to discover himself “while sweating the small stuff less”.  I believe we all understand the glimmers of wisdom in these remarks, even as we live in an age which too often is prone to devalue the elderly. I believe the combined wisdom derived from the experiences of one widely-informed, OHS-educated person such as every single man jack one of us offers a window into eternity all on its own. So many connections are made when we find ourselves dropping the pretensions of competing with younger people. For most of us, that sort of work is already done.

Our actualization is beginning, not finishing. We are far more able to tie together strains which avoided our intellects owing to a lack of interest or because of competing impulses and needs based on the stages of life which delivered us here. I feel this reunion takes place at a juncture for many of us which faces us with choices we never appreciated until now. We can now remember our private nightly dreams, for example. We are better able to verbalize our thoughts, worked out in precious solitude which is a right of our maturity. Our imaginations should be getting a boost and our recognition that so little changes in spite of the strident claims of media outlets so dependent on fear to sell themselves as somehow necessary.

Our paths are not finished, is what I believe. In fact, we face a richness of experience which only concentrated truth, memory and love can give. I am extremely proud to be able to offer my own experiences as an equal member of our OHS Class of 1966 tribe in relishing our experience together from not only the past, but also into a very colorful, disciplined and delightful future.

A Serious Post Involving Nature And Food

A recent picture-taking jag dating back to my visit to the warm climes of San Diego as it rained in tropical Monsoon-style back in Louisville – where it was also warmer, lol – lets me catch up with events of a very modest and most natural nature.

We’ll begin with something serious.

(Know also that left clicking on pictures can enlarge them. Clicking twice on some of these makes it even cooler) 😉


Moving right along, what follows is more or less random. For everyone’s Peace of Mind, having said that, I think it might be best to begin with at least one other picture of San Diego flora before we launch into the natural homeliness of a Kentucky Winter……a season I have found fascinating this year for some reason or another……..

The brilliance of succulents in general but of the understandably common Ice Plants in particular, have always completely grabbed my attention. Mixed into this picture is a rather ungainly Yucca/Aloe specimen which somehow manages to make the grade owing to its brilliant blooms. A nasty creature with amazingly sharp little pricks on the succulent-like leaves, I could be an ideal addition to a garden which someone spent too much time in. Just backing into could be the lesson of a lifetime. 😉


Moving along now and recalling the downpour I described “back in Kentucky” during my coastal doings, in my return, I took a trip up the road a very small piece to visit one of my favorite Louisville parks – Beckley Creek Park. A part of a greater park system of recently constructed vintage, this park shines as an outstanding example of the new movement of city parks everywhere going “natural”.

Here is the Beckley Creek Portion, complete with its own website:


This fascinating, $120 Million park system has become a deep and quantitatively huge geographical investment as an urban feature. Complete with walking and biking trails which will eventually comprise a 100 mile circle around Louisville, the islands of concentrated activity mix a delightfully-landscaped and architecturally pleasing bunch of elements together with a cleaned-up and only-somewhat-groomed natural environment.

Where the absurd richness of the Spring, Summer and Autumn’s deciduous glories abound in Kentucky, I was also pleased to see the contrast of Minimalist Landscaping Designs around the buildings of the park. Used for many purposes – from weddings and parties to your standard average dog park to conventions and educational experiences drawing Nature Lovers, the park answers the bell with resounding merits.


From the other side of this building, we see the “Real” reason for its location, while this side of it expresses some genuine art for design freaks such as myself. Considering the dull gray skies and apparent skeletons of trees so common in a Kentucky Winter landscape, the dried old grasses, the solitary limestone boulder and the now-barren and ruined bed of perennial flowers and scrawny shrubs in the foreground still manage to gather the eye in a most-rewarding way.

Here, then, is the other side of the same building:


And here is a better look at the creek it sits beside, now still somewhat swollen from the aforementioned rains. Yes, that is a working farm and barn in the distance.


The creek I found totally fascinating. There are roughly a billion and one ways to view the creek itself, all within walking distance from parking spots along the road coursing through the park. As an historical presence, Beckley Creek has lots of historical stories, from Revolutionary times onward.

Closer to the Shelbyville Road entrance is my favorite perspective. A short walk from the car leads you though a path into an entire world of creekness. Huge Sycamore, Hickory and Walnut trees abound, as well, in summer, as a near-impenetrable set of bushes and shrubs, many of whom flower at different times of the warmer year, some of which are an allergy sufferer’s nightmare, such as Goldenrod in profuse quantities.

But it is this past Winter we are dealing with now. Here is a deceptively passive-looking creek view back upriver under so many now-barren deciduous trees……..


What seems rather placid from this particular angle is really not so much. The higher water is typically brown like this from the collection of silts alongside the water frm rain runoff. What it can provide is a somewhat amazing sensuality as this liquid mass gets yet another angle:


The storm’s after effects are vivid:


Those collected leafs, caught in the spines of naked shrubbery testify to the incredible force brought to bear in the rushing floodwaters of that week.The height is completely telling – it was high!


Alongside the trail down to this area, I noticed other damage.


A completed cycle of growth and death stand right in front of us as we see the demise of a once-strapping young buck of a tree toppled over by the erosion at its base. It’s neighbor, already ancient beside it, stands drunkenly alongside a new aspirant, completing what was for me at the time a very moving tableau – a story of raw nature, cycles, time and the surprises in store for us all, tree or no tree. While there seems to be ugliness galore in the plain and uninteresting colors shown at this time of the year – and at such odds with the more outrageously vivid beauty and fullness for the other 3 seasons – the mind gets stricken by thoughts of passages in this gloom. This is merely one of the lessons available at this gorgeously abundant park.

Well, as luck would have it, then I came home to this rewarding scene:


And there was another treat in store as well. Tom;s daughter Meagan and her man Jeff had sent an Amaryllis plant to us for Christmas. Not only that, but a Chocolate cake that was so rich, only I could handle it!! 😉 Which I did, for the record, like that would fool anyone who knows me.

I had a tough time getting pictures of the Amaryllis exactly right, but I managed a few as it began blooming, the first one recognizable as shot with a flash at night……..:


Later, now ensconced safely and semi-permanently on Mother’s desk, daylight helped show off its color and textural softness:



Obviously, I really like the plant, as do the rest of us.

OK. Here’s a random Stork at the Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden. I’m a Stork fan. 😉


And this here is a look upward inside Gaudi’s massive 120 year old construction project of a catherdral in Barcelona. I thought they did that well, personally.

This picture is especially interesting when enlarged. I am sure Antonio intended this. 😉