Photo Diary | St. Johns |

Monday, October 21, 2013


This is actually from a visit to St. John's from last weekend, this weekend happily turned out to be quite a lazy one. St. John's is where I grew up and we go way, way back as evidenced by this photo. It's a district/neighborhood in Portland, but until 1915, was its own city. It still feels like its own city which is what I love so much about it. There is a lot of history here and a lot of my history here. It was the place you didn't want to say you were from, but that you loved anyway in a sort of Bruce Springsteen My Hometown sort of way; right down to the buick, the high school fights and vacant signs in shop windows for years. It's a place where if you weren't born there, locals will always consider you an outsider (sorry new folks of st. johns, but this is a fact). Much of my family was from this area but the roots of that family have all passed away or moved away, and I find it a place that makes me equally really happy and really sad to visit. And even though it's only a 20 minute drive from me it feels like I am time traveling when I go back there. It can feel a little exhausting.

When I was a kid I wished it was a cooler place because it was just so beautiful to me. And it is. Those top photos are of the "bluff" where you have a gorgeous view of downtown portland and the hills, which I might add are lovely this time of year. It's right on the river and in my opinion has one of the most beautiful bridges in the world. I used to look at photos of the Golden Gate bridge and think what's the big deal? Why don't people hang pictures of the St. Johns bridge in their offices? Now all the dreams I had for it being "cool" have started to happen (or have been happening for awhile), which leaves me both excited and resentful (i always temper that resentment with the fact i could move back to that area, which is always met with a nah.). But underneath all the mixed feelings one can have about hometowns, I love this place and I miss it, and I don't miss it, and then I miss it again.

So last weekend we walked around and checked out all the new hot spots, which I have been avoiding for the last, oh, 15 years. But in my quest for a credenza I caved in to discover the new (and old) haunts. There has been a lot of updating going on around there and there are a few really great vintage shops like St. Johns Vintage and Hound and Hare Vintage (both pictured). And despite the whiny child inside me that wants to sulk in the corner like I was picked last for the team and so now I just don't want to play anymore, it's exactly as I had always hoped it would be. It still has that old vintage charm about it. In fact I can see that people who have moved in and opened shop, have done so with the intention of keeping and augmenting exactly that charm that is so innate to it, and that fact just makes me so happy. How about do you live in your hometown or visit it?

9 comments:

  1. Oh, I found this post so evocative for so many reasons. Far too many to numerate here, I think! It makes me think of my little hometown, which I haven't seen in over ten years now, and what it would be like to go back there. And it makes me think of my mom's hometown too. I have a lot to write about the town where she grew up, but I'm waiting on some more information so I can't just yet. Still, it reminds me of what you describe. Small town, struggling to come back.

    I love all the photos and the way you write about it. I really, really love this post.

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    1. thank you, as you can imagine this is the very condensed version ;) i can't wait to read about your moms hometown. i also have a connection to where my grandparents grew up (and my mom and i did too, for shorter times); it was a mining town so there's a wealth of stories and ghosts there too. i think hometowns are just evocative, you know just hearing that word 'hometown' that there's stories upon stories behind it.

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  2. that mustard chair - that gorgeous bridge!!! so many lovely shots. it's so crazy to think that there is this little town within portland that is small enough for the locals to know if you are not from that area! i'm with you though - that bridge is gorgeous and way more swoon-worthy than the golden gate bridge! the small town i grew up in is the southernmost town in staten island, new york. i never go back to visit because i spent my weekends in manhattan with my grandparents and there is so much more for me to explore there than in staten island! i do miss all of the victorian era houses that lined the streets of my town though. i do hope that they are all kept in good condition to this day. i think i'd like to go back just to see that.

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    1. i know i am still thinking about that chair, i love it too. portland is pretty small but st. johns is really, really small. i loved kind of having the best of both world, the small town within the city. there's really not a ton to explore there for me either, mostly just memories which is what makes it exhausting ;) xo

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  3. That bridge really is one of the most beautiful I've seen. For some reason, despite the fact that I still live in the same city I grew up in, I can almost relate to the way you described it as being exhausting. It's because there are so many memories tied up in every single street and it's a lot to process over and over again. I hear you. You're a trooper for going back, and it does seem like it was a good day had by all. Now I need to come to Portland. I fall more and more in love with it every time you post pictures. xo

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    1. isn't it pretty. i do love it but (full disclosure) the park underneath it is creepy. well, portland is still my hometown and of course i have a lot of memories all over. but the ones from there are bigger, or smaller. something like that. but you said it exactly: it's a lot to process over and over.

      i go back through there sometimes (drive-throughs) but i usually end up getting all weepy so i just keep going. this was the first time in a very long time i allowed myself to go through - the town and whatever emotions came with doing that. it was good. oh! i hope you come visit someday!!! xoxo

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  4. beautiful pics. the bridge really is stunning. I don't live near home. my family moved when I was 11 or 12 years old. as a result I have no proper connection to the town I was born in nor to the town I spent my teens in. going home, I always feel like the odd one out. I do love the countryside there, tho. it's beautiful, and there are no haunting memories waiting for me. so when I do go home to visit, I always go for long hikes.

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    1. thank you. we moved around portland a lot (my mom and i) but my grandparents (the ones that helped raised me) stayed put in the same house forever, and that was my constant. i guess that's why it's extra emotional. with them gone going back there reminds me that even when i go back, i can't really go back. other than that bit portland is pretty free of haunting memories for me and i can meander about unaffected ;)

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  5. oh wow, that looks like an amazing wonderland of fun. I love searching for buried teasures.

    Cheers

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