Hear ye, hear ye! The holiday season has come to an end. The Christmas Room has been stripped of its association with any and all holidays, and this just 2½ days after Christmas. The Christmas season not linked to any particular holiday or religion has passed and our community room has been restored to normalcy.
So what’s next? Valentine’s Day is coming. Surely the long dreary Portland winter can use a little warmth. Perhaps our decorator can set to work with lots of red velvety hearts, cupids, incense, and candlelight. A lovely red sock perhaps with dangling bells could hang from the entry doorknob to indicate passion beyond. Two tall wine glasses stationed atop the mantle marked HIS and HERS could complete the ambiance.
Only two wine glasses, HIS and HERS? If these do not suit you, please find another place. We do not have to be sensitive, inclusive, or politically correct here.
An abandoned construction site in the heart of downtown has had a facelift…finally. What once was to be a high-rise tower, The Park Avenue West Tower, became a pit full of debris when construction came to a halt a few years ago. The entire block was fenced and boarded, leaving signs and equipment visible. A huge crane remained, looming over the downtown area for more than two years, that crane’s presence the target of a lawsuit.
In a collaborative effort among the construction company, international and local artists, and New Avenues for Youth (an organization dedicated to working with homeless youth), the block-long construction site has been neatly fenced and decorated, and the crane has been removed. A mural now surrounds the abandoned construction site, replacing an eyesore with color and design.
There is talk of the project resuming in the next year or so. Until then, the current facelift is a welcome improvement.
Condo Life is now one year old. Born following the untimely collapse of the condo newsletter, it fills a communication void. It promotes dialogue internally among the membership and from one condominium to another. Condo Life investigates a way of life that is little known to outsiders, and in so doing, has attracted readers locally and internationally who want to know.
Issues pertinent to our condominium have been explored. The merits and trappings of the Clean & Safe program, the emergence and escapades of the Occupy Portland movement, the challenges of living in small urban space, and the opportunities and excitement of living in a bustling downtown area have all been explored along with so much more.
Condo Life has exposed the growth of power among owners as they take seats on the board or chair committees. We have seen waivers and privileges, exceptions to policy, and even occasional skirting of bylaws. The hierarchy of power prevails; politics at work.
We end our first year with the most outrageous display of power to date, with the board’s creation of a Christmas Room. Common space owned by all was transformed into an overdecorated shrine to a holiday they say they do not celebrate, and in a manner they know some find offensive.
Condo Life has grown a lot over this past year. Readership continues to expand and subscriptions increase steadily. Comments are aplenty; they come by phone, by email, on facebook, and in conversations in hallways, on street corners, and in shops. Occasionally shyness abates and a comment appears on the blog itself. Every comment is precious because with it comes insight and an opportunity for each of us to grow.
Condo Life: The First Blog Year is available now as a downloadable e-book. A full table of contents precedes all of the articles posted online in 2011. The articles are searchable with just a click of the computer’s mouse. All photos from the blog are included.
Condo Life: The First Blog Year
We wish all our readers a very happy and healthy 2012.
I took a tour of our building today. Of the 125 units, there were 17 units with decorations on their entry doors. The number of decorated doors increased with elevation.
- First floor: 0
- Second floor: 2
- Third Floor 4
- Fourth Floor 6
- Fifth Floor 3 (highest ratio – 5th floor has only a few units.)
Marketability is an important and much discussed topic here in the condohood. We look to neighboring condos with friendly competition. How our units and our building will fare in the marketplace is important, especially during trying economic times. Building improvements are planned with an eye toward the real estate market. For example, creation of a private bicycle storage room to accommodate a select few owners is seen as a “value added item,” by proponents of this plan. Our decorating committee also spent an entire calendar year planning new carpeting and paint for all the common areas, and not because it is needed, but because it enhances marketability.
As we approach the peak of this holiday season, we have observed that our closest neighboring condominium just three short blocks away on SW 11th Avenue, one that is newer and brighter and more upscale and that is frequently the subject of comparison, is completely undecorated for the holiday season. The exterior has no show of lights, no glitter, no Santas or sleigh bells. Their community room similarly displays no ornaments or trinkets wearing Santa hats.
Interestingly, both condominiums could have taken a middle path, but chose not to. It seems likely that the presence or absence of holiday decoration is not an accident. Doing nothing turns out to be more inclusive and sensitive to the diversity of residents. The competition stands taller in more ways than one.
Hanukkah lights are available at Target stores and online at Target.com.
Festival Brass delighted downtown shoppers this Sunday afternoon. The band, clad in costume for the holiday, played song after song, lifting the spirits of all passersby.
A well-written article crossed my desk today explaining Christmas icons. It was written by Chas L. Lietaert at North Dakota State University and published in Perspectives, Spring 2011, Volume 47, Issue 1. I know that for many of my readers, Mr. Lietaert’s words will ring true, and that some will be unable to open their minds.
I have been told that Santa is not a Christmas icon. I have been told that Christmas decorations bear no religion, that a Christmas Room in a building shared by a diverse group of people is somehow inclusive.
I have expressed my feelings and they have been dismissed. Perhaps Mr. Lietaert can inject some insight.
How the Hall Director Stole Christmas
We boldly sent off a brief note to each member of the board of directors and the property manager expressing our displeasure with the transformation of our community room to The Christmas Room. We received several written responses, each one quite surprising in its own right. We learned a lot over the course of the past few days.
The chairman of the board indicated that he is “not a Christian,” but finds the community room in good favor. He feels the lights and decorations make Portland’s dreary winter a little brighter and more “bearable.” Another member of the board is Jewish, it turns out. Although his opinion was not directly expressed (a rare event, I might add), his wife, as chairman of the arts interior and exterior committee, addressed our concerns. She took full responsibility for the decorating and presented herself as “a nonbeliever.”
It has been stated in various ways that this group of non-Christian/nonbelievers embraces Christmas not for the religious aspects but for the holiday spirit that it represents. Red and green color scheme, strings of lights, Santas, and even Christmas stockings are all part of the holiday season which brings the year to a close and ushers in a new year. We were assured by our decorator that the community room as it now stands “is an attempt to create a sense of goodwill [sic] and holiday spirit among our neighbors.”
With that, we shall put the issue to rest. We will grow to accept The Christmas Room in the spirit that is intended, as we now understand it.
Starbucks in the heart of downtown at Pioneer Courthouse Square understands how to decorate for the season. Imagine that!
From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy Portland to Occupy the Condohood, the Occupy movement continues to spread.
The Occupy Wall Street movement has swept across our country and around the world and now has taken root in our own private living space. The concept that a group can take over a park, a street, a port, or a community room because it belongs to them, presupposes that it does not belong to anyone else. They occupy to suit their own whim or fancy. Whether in protest or with narrow-mindedness, it is an occupation that meets the needs of a few in the face of many and with the belief (or so they say) that they are acting on behalf of everybody.
Condominium living combines private ownership with joint ownership. Individual units within a building or complex are privately owned with common areas owned jointly. The dictionary defines it:
An apartment house, office building, or other multiple-unit complex, the units of which are individually owned, each owner receiving a recordable deed to the individual unit purchased, including the right to sell, mortgage, etc., that unit and sharing in joint ownership of any common grounds, passageways, etc.
When common space is decorated by one or a few to satisfy their own personal religious or cultural beliefs without regard for all of the members, they are occupying that space. Some may need a reminder, but Christmas is a religious holiday, even if some extract only the cultural aspect by their own design. Decoration of a common area with a “holiday” theme eliminates Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witness, atheists…to name only a few, from enjoyment of their space. Like the Occupy Portland protesters who took over our parks, calling it theirs and preventing others from the enjoyment of those parks, our community room has been similarly occupied.
Our community room has become the Christmas room. Whose common space?
The holiday decorations are up! Our courtyard is outfitted with holiday lighting. The community room is decked out with lighted “tree,” hanging red and green glittery things, and bowls of more red and green glittery things on tables and shelves. There are stockings hung by the chimney with care and Santa sits proudly on the mantle.
Every year there is a little more.
Merry “Holidays,” EVERYBODY!
The homeowners association is accepting bids from companies who would like to clean the dryer vents for our building. We offered our home so that one dryer vent cleaning company could demonstrate their skills and methods to the property manager in hopes of winning the bid. At 9:30 this morning, as scheduled, three men knocked at our door: our building coordinator and two men from the hopeful company. After an initial walkthrough with technical talk, the men set to work.
We have had our dryer vents cleaned twice so far over the past 5+ years. Both times, the process took under 5 minutes. Of course, hoses and equipment were already in the building and readied before they entered our unit so that most of the five minutes was spent vacuuming lint from our 29-foot duct work. The first time, I asked the workers to please clean the hose from the machine to the wall which I was aware they had not done, but they refused, stating that they were not authorized by the property manager to do so. Later the property manager denied that. A few years later, a different company did the job and in the same five minutes. They did vacuum out the hose from the dryer and without being asked to do so.
Today’s cleaning crew performed quite differently. They did not drag hoses through the building or through our unit but instead used portable equipment. There was a lot of discussion accompanying the whirring machine noises and the project, from start to finish, took a labor-intensive hour and 40 minutes.
We volunteered for this trial. Our duct work should now be like new!
A black SUV traveling on Broadway ran off the road this afternoon and crashed into the northeast corner of our building. The vehicle went through the storefront window of unit C1, a vacant commercial unit at the corner of Broadway and Clay Street.
I am learning Portland geography, one park at a time, thanks to the Occupy Portland movement. As they take over a park and bring the city to its knees, each park becomes known to all of us, and by formal names I, for one, did not even know existed.
Those of us who live and/or work downtown know the South Park Blocks well. We are familiar with the landmarks that line the perimeters, the sculptures and fountains and the varieties of flowers and trees that are hosted. Now we know (and perhaps I stand alone) that the South Park Block between Main Street and Salmon Street is Shemanski Park, featuring the Shemanski Fountain, donated by a businessman by that name.
Occupy Portland has decided to use Shemanski Park as its base. They have tried to set up an encampment in the past few days and riot police were forced back into action to clear this park. This of course, follows the ruination of Chapman and Lownsdale Squares by such encampments since the Occupy movement began. Relentlessly, the occupiers returned several times, and after a few confrontations, numerous arrests, and a dwindling crowd over the course of several days, the occupiers can still be found, with tables and chairs, food, and signs, and just enough participants to call themselves a camp. Under the guise of darkness they come alive, their numbers grow, and their bold and outrageous behaviors erupt.
Shemanski Park by day. Occupy Portland demonstrates its intent to establish a new encampment here.
All of us in the condohood received an email this morning from the property manager asking for two volunteers to have their dryer vents cleaned as part of an investigative process. It seems the board of directors is evaluating the service and quotes from two vendors and an on-site evaluation of the actual performance will be factored in. All unit owners are required to participate in dryer vent cleanings when scheduled. This can be an annoyance to those who are otherwise engaged. For us, it is welcomed. Clogged dryer vents pose a fire hazard and emit more lint (and dust) into the unit than usual. Currently, the vents are scheduled to be cleaned about every three years.
Sir Braver was not yet aware, but he was scheduled to do some dryer vent cleaning for us this weekend. I had noticed that our lint screen was collecting more lint than usual and each load was taking longer to dry. Although we do not have the equipment to do a thorough cleaning, we are capable of climbing on ladders and vacuuming out at least some lint from access points – from the dryer to the exhaust tubing, from the exhaust tubing into the duct at the dryer end, and at the terminus on our exterior wall on our balcony. It is a project for us, to be sure.
When this email came in, I urged Sir Braver to jump on it. He was reluctant, not wanting to sit around for the test event and concerned that it could possibly be an inferior job since it was not a “normal” cleaning. When I suggested that he would otherwise be doing a vent cleaning himself this weekend, he thought better of the opportunity.
We are in! We were one of the first two to volunteer to have our dryer vents cleaned tomorrow. Timing is everything!
UPDATE: We have since been informed that the vendor cannot make it tomorrow and has requested rescheduling for next Friday. That vendor is off to an impressive start. However, I will be content to get my vent cleaned…next week.