I thought my night was going to be like every other night I’ve been having- uneventful, quiet, and spent all by myself. I had settled myself at my building side patio dining on my specialty peanut butter sandwiches and a Java Monster energy drink. I had my journal and a book to keep me company. And, really, it was quite nice just sitting there watching the leaves fall and scatter themselves across the Park blocks.
Then I caught sight of a very distinctive looking truck passing by. It parked on the university grounds and the passengers then proceeded to transform the vehicle into a makeshift kitchen putting up “wings” on three sides creating awnings. Rugs and pillows were thrown around and they put out a “free tea” sign. They were obviously setting up for something. I thought it was another concert performance by a local band that always seem to be going on. Or, worse, some kind of hippie demonstration to try and legalize marijuana or something horrible like that. But when a patrol car went over and then let them go about their business, I figured it was all good.
I even thought it was just some experiment to see how many people they can get to stop by- something along the lines of “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Despite how much I want to know what’s going on, I don’t ask and end up forming my own conclusions and scenarios which usually turn out to be wrong. This time, though- maybe it was the caffeine- my curiosity got the best of me and I walked over and asked one of the people setting up what they were doing.
They were from the City Repair Project- a non-profit organization who crate naturally-friendly and artistic places for people to gather and be more of a community. They were responsible for many of the colorful benches, murals, street paintings, memorials, and other funky looking structures all over Portland. In one part of town, they drew a Fibonacci-inspired sunflower design in a busy intersection to promote their togetherness initiative. A project they did with PSU was the benches outside the library shaped in stacks of books.
The truck was their mobile teahouse- or what they called a “T-horse”- and it obviously got people’s attentions as it did mine. I learned all this throughout the night as I had decided to stay around awhile. I grabbed a cup of herbal tea and a plate of homemade carrot cake- later I went for seconds on banana bread which I originally thought was meatloaf- and sat down in their lounge area. Normally, I’m a shy guy but I ended up socializing with the volunteers and other curious passers-by. A few people from my building were there as well. A band even came out to play their “world twang” type of music and some people danced.
Once again, I was amazed by how everyone seemed to be dedicated to a cause or two. Even I had started volunteering since moving to Portland. I thanked the volunteers for the nice event and good food and told them I’d definitely be checking out future “place-making” activities. It was an unexpected fun night and something different for me.