Wednesday, April 21, 2010




: any of a genus (Crataegus) of spring-flowering spiny shrubs or small trees of the rose family with glossy and often lobed leaves, white or pink fragrant flowers, and small red fruits

Mirriam-Webster is no fool—spring is most definitely sinking its flowery teeth into the soggy winter earth. Although I know nothing about this shrubbery other than what is offered above, I appreciate M-W's thoughtful sensitivity toward the changing of seasons.

However, I'm going to write about drags.

Entry number 35 on defines drag as:

Informal. a street or thoroughfare, esp. a main street of a town or city.

Every city boasts at least one of what residents usually refer to as a "main drag" or "strip." Sometimes this is the city's busiest or most accessible street. I want to get even more specific and reference the city drags that are known for their alternative shopping, restaurants, and general accessibility for those who want to "hang out." In Providence this is Thayer Street. In New Haven it is where Broadway meets Whalley Ave. In Portland it is HAWTHORNe.

Wikipedia tells me (be wary) HAWTHORNe street (note the "e") was apparently named after a Dr. J.C. Hawthorne who co-founded Oregon's first mental hospital. It also says the street was once referred to as "Asylum Avenue." This seems too interesting to be true, but I'd like to give wikipedia the benefit of the doubt in this case.

HAWTHORNe is not unlike any other busy alternative retail/food/hang out strip that I have had the (dis)pleasure to stroll. The street showcases the usual spectrum of people: women dressed in matching jogging suits en route to get their eyebrows waxed, sidewalk environmentalists in navy wind-breakers, runaway teenagers wearing tight black jeans and disinterestedly holding up cardboard signs that read, "I just want a burger," and people like myself who know all the back routes to get to the places I need to go while avoiding all of the above.

In truth, I loathe strips like HAWTHORNe. I hate having to push my way through slow moving hordes of people carrying drippy ice cream cones from Ben & Jerry's, who woke up in the morning thinking, "Let's go to HAWTHORNe today—it'll be fun!" I hate that it's a destination. I hate that, at sad, bored moments in my own life, I too have utilized it as a destination. I have walked 30 minutes out of my way to get a cup of coffee on HAWTHORNe when I could have walked across the street.

Why is this? Why is it so attractive to be on a strip like HAWTHORNe? A bike shelter on the corner of HAWTHORNe and 37th showcases a neighborhood attraction map that bears the title, "SEE AND BE SEEN." I suppose this is the poetic justice of HAWTHORNe—a place that's cooler than the mall, but inviting enough to cater to a variety of people who just want to be seen. This is fair, I suppose.

I still wouldn't mind if they plowed the whole mess and planted a bunch of spiny flower-bearing shrubs in its place.

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