A Colorful Street Books Shift & The Photos That Got Away

As with most weeks, the Street Books shift did not disappoint. This librarian had an interesting conversation with C., a regular patron, who broke down the city by drug areas: Park Blocks is weed, he said. China Town, crack, though it’s better than it used to be. Pioneer Square, Alder and Washington Streets between Broadway & Fourth: pills, heroin. The Galleria on Morrison and under the Burnside Bridge is meth, he said. Though in winter it’s a mixed bag under the bridge. C. says he’s trying to kick heroin — he’s been clean 14 days now. We’re wishing him good luck.

Portland legend (actress, writer) Marjorie Sharp came by with her little dog, and participants from a city-wide scavenger hunt called CitySolve (including superheroes, some in short-shorts–see below) visited the Street Books library to have their pictures taken.

Portland poets Matthew & Michael Dickman stopped by, carrying a bag of pickles and about 20 baguettes. They are twin brothers who have both had success with their writing. Michael’s recent book is Flies, and it’s already winning prizes. Matthew has a great collection called  All American Poem, for which he’s also received prizes, including the Oregon Book Award for poetry in 2009. He said in an interview, that he wants people “from the community that I come from” (the Lents neighborhood in southeast Portland) to get his poems. “Also, I decided to include anything I wanted in my poems…Pepsi, McDonald’s, the word ‘ass.'” Matthew said he’d like to donate a copy of his collection to the Street Books library, so we look forward to that. After they said goodbye, I realized I’d missed a great opportunity to snap their photo — to talk them both is like talking to one Dickman in stereo, and seeing them together is great. Ah well, just visualize 2 poets in plaid shirts and horn-rimmed glasses, bearing pickles & baguettes, and you’ll get the picture.

The other photo I should have taken: A wonderful conversation sprung up between security guard/Street Books fan A.B. and Jeffrey, a formerly homeless/meth addict who is now a student at Marylhurst University. Jeffrey was in my creative nonfiction class this summer, and helped out at the Street Books library. He’s a terrific writer, and he is full of ideas about how he wants the rest of his life to go. He gestured to A.B., who was looking through the library books, and said “That guy used to wake me up in the park next to the elephant, back when I was still using. He was always pretty nice about it.” “Hey, A.B.,” I said. “This is Jeffrey, and he used to be on the streets. He says you weren’t mean about telling him to move on.” I told A.B. that Jeffrey was a college student now, and free of drugs. A kind of success story. “I thought you looked familiar,” A.B. said. He reached out an shook Jeffrey’s hand.

The Street Books project has created an intersection for these conversations to happen, where people can stop and talk to one another. People who live under roofs, people who live under bridges, people who love books, poets with baguettes, and dogs on leashes. So many stories to be told.

We are very glad to announce that the Street Books project will live on after the RACC grant ends in early September. We will have a reception in September (Save the Date: September 12, 6-8 p.m., at the Mercy Corps Action Center), to wrap up the grant and launch Street Books as its own entity. We’ll keep you posted on how you can help us to run the Street Books library through the winter, and beyond. Thanks again to everyone.

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