“Portland is a ‘made’ town.”
That phrase stuck in my head when I woke up. I had a cool dream last night. In it, I was walking around a (fictional) part of (real) Portland, OR. This section was called Bilton Hills, and was a very steep area near the river, curving into a cresent shaped shoreline. The sides of the hills were covered in slums and tenement houses in various states of disrepair, clinging to the slopes at crazy angles. The streetcar I was riding slowly made its way down the main thoroughfare of the Bilton Hills section of town.
I was with a friend who was much younger than myself, and I was pointing out areas of the neighborhood with connections to past history. For instance, there was a fire station that had been burnt to the ground and rebuilt in the mid-1950s. Or there was an arcade section, with a small roller-coaster and Ferris wheel, that was known for being a place where anyone could buy or sell anything. It was a center for the underground market. In fact, I explained to my young friend, this whole section of town was overrun with a criminal element, but around fifty years ago, this was actually a very rich part of town. Mobsters and crime lords lived here, and there was a lot of nightlife and clubs and drinking and boozing and whoring going on… My friend didn’t believe me, and as I looked over the poverty-stricken area, I could see why.
But (still in my dream) I could imagine what it looked like fifty years ago… and just like that, I was in a diner in 1950s-era Bilton Hills. I wore a snappy suit and hat, and was catching a little refreshment, while flirting with the cute blonde waitress. My young friend sat at the red-vinyl upholstered booth, also in suit and tie. We sat near a large window looking out towards the river down hill; we were about halfway up and could see most of the area.
As we drank, we could see the old fire station – and, as we watched, in broad daylight, a series of sudden explosions rocked the building and sent fireballs into the skies! The patrons of the diner screamed and I shouted to my friend that we had to leave. “Obviously it’s going to take a while for other fire engines to respond, and if the fire reaches the arcade,” and here I pointed to the all-wooden structure of the roller-coaster, “then this whole section of town is going to become an inferno!” We joined the crowd of people leaving the diner, pausing only allow women and children out ahead of us (people were more polite in those days). I reflected that the explosions were obviously man-made and couldn’t fathom a reason why someone would want to hit the fire station, unless it was specifically to cause this whole section of town to disappear and simultaneously prevent any rapid response. It had to be the mobsters…
As my friend and I tried to find (or steal; he was a ‘mechanic’ with knowledge of hot-wiring cars) transportation out of Bilton Hills, I reflected that “Portland was a ‘made’ town…”
And then I woke up.