Many avid readers and dear friends have inquired as to the situation here (mine and Portland’s), so here is a quick update:
Fires and Smoke.
Much of Oregon is suffering greatly from wildfires caused by a confluence of factors:
First, the table was set with summers that have become increasingly hot and dry. Our humidity level earlier in the week was down to 11% – unheard of in this area.
Second, an unusually strong wind from very hot and very dry central Oregon came barreling east over the Cascades, plunging down the mountainsides into the Willamette Valley, and continuing all the way to the coast. This is rare and occurs with this strength (60 mph or more) only every 20 or 30 years.
Third, add to the mix sources of ignition including lightning, accidents, and at least one case of arson that triggered the devastating fires in Southern Oregon that wiped out the towns of Talent and Phoenix. In fact, one major fire east of Salem had been burning quietly for weeks, and had been left to extinguish itself over time – until the winds came. Over the last few days, that fire combined with another and the commingled conflagration has threatened even some exurbs of Portland.
Fourth, the air circulation pattern shifted from easterly winds to southerly winds, which brought in smoke from Southern Oregon and California.
Fifth, after smoke from Oregon and California fires had covered much of the Pacific Northwest, the winds ceased, leaving virtually the entire Pacific Coast, from B.C. south to California, obliterated by smoke for days now.
The result was tragic loss of life and property from the fires, and horrendous air quality throughout the region. In fact, for four days running the contenders for the worst air quality on the planet have been Portland, Seattle, Vancouver BC, and San Francisco. That unsavory honor has gone to Portland more than one of those days.
Aficionados of conspiracy theories may inquire whether it is true that antifa is setting the fires so they can go in after people evacuate and rob their homes. It is not. And to the Russian internet agencies that no doubt initiated this rubbish: Utikhnut!
A Personal Perspective.
The normal view from our condo in the heart of Portland, looking south and east:
The view as the fires were being whipped up by severe winds pouring in over the Cascade mountains from eastern and central Oregon:
Our view for the last four days:
Protests, Violence, and Riots.
These events have been well-covered in the national and international media so no reason to cover what you already know. Here, though, is a personal perspective from my own observations:
First, protests have continued every day, to some degree or another. By “protests” I use the Biden definition: “Violence is not protest. Setting fires is not protest. Destroying property is not protest.” Protests usually start during daylight hours and end by evening. They are peaceful.
Second, violent demonstrations have occurred virtually every night as well, beginning after (usually well after) the protestors have gone home.
Third, the violent demonstrations consist of a small number of people, with only an even smaller number of them actually engaged in violent behavior.
Fourth, the violent demonstrations take place within a 2 or 3 block area of wherever they have decided to focus their activities that particular night. When violence begins, the police declare a “riot,” arrest some of the perpetrators and sometimes others, and the crowd ultimately disperses. Our newly elected District Attorney has decided not to prosecute unless they can show violence resulting in serious damage or injury, so after arrest most everyone is released. Next day, repeat.
In my view the term “riot” hardly applies. Watts in 1965 was a riot. South Central LA after the Rodney King verdict was a riot. What is happening in Portland is localized, predictable, and contained.
As a result, these activities still do not affect day to day (and even night to night) life in Portland unless the demonstrators happen to have chosen your neighborhood on a particular night. This happened twice in my area, home to the local ICE facility. The first was the subject of my recent post: “Surrounded.” The second took place last week before the air turned toxic, and this one was a dud. Around 11pm I heard someone leading chants with a megaphone, but otherwise heard nothing more, and the next day there was – thankfully – no further vandalism that I could find.
Now, with the air quality having turned hazardous for everyone, the streets have largely become the domain solely of the homeless living downtown and in other pockets of Portland. Today I drove the streets of downtown, including the hotbed area outside the Justice Center and the Federal Building. Nothing looked different, just the same graffiti and vandalism I saw a month ago. The only sign of human occupation was the homeless tent community in the park across the street.
For the interested few: I continue to be wary of the growth that has taken up residence in the pituitary area of my brain, although I remain greatly relieved that the effort to rid my body of cancer has otherwise succeeded. Knowledgable people suspect that the brain tumor is benign and harmless, and will bother me less than being served lukewarm coffee. The medical team at OHSU will weigh in, no doubt after extensive testing, come October. Otherwise, I continue to be frustrated that healing from my two tongue cancer surgeries and radiation is neither linear nor rapid. In context, however, the fact that I CAN eat, CAN swallow, and CAN talk at all speaks volumes about the miraculous hands of my surgeons, the healing touch of the medical and nursing staff who have taken care of me, and the prayers and good wishes of the squadrons of people whose kindness and love I do not deserve but deeply appreciate.