Initially, I planned on 3 to 4 break days in Portland. I was definitely going to take a day to go with Street Books, see the city, and visit a rehab clinic. (Unfortunately, I only got cancellations from the rehabs due to the Corona situation, but I won’t let that stop me and will contact others along the way).
Through Laura’s contacts, Amit, a filmmaker and Youtuber who provides Portland’s cycling community with stories about cycling, took me around the city. Together with his colleague Daniela, who interviewed me, he created a Youtube clip that I think is very well done. Feel free to check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VuJfJ9BxwwE&t=10s
On the second day in Portland, Laura also organized a dinner in her garden, where half the neighborhood was invited. Here, too, I felt very flattered that a small celebration was held because of my visit.
As I mentioned before, I had this incredibly painful rash under my arms for a few days. In the last few days, the rash had spread so much that even the lymph nodes were very swollen and I felt totally exhausted and went to the doctor. There I was prescribed antibiotics as well as 7 days of rest. What was amazing was that as soon as I allowed myself the rest, my body completely shut down and I was really sick in bed for 3 days. After four days, things started to look up and I joined Laura on her Street Book Tour to downtown Portland. Totally frightening was that in the city center on each side of the street countless tents of homeless people were built and felt every fourth person seemed to be homeless. Laura said that the situation has worsened significantly since Corona and, among other things, because of the poor health care system, many people can not be helped and instead they fall into drug abuse. Another problem is the extreme price increase of the housing market and rent, which fewer and fewer people can afford and are thus forced to live on the street.
It was all the nicer that during our library shift a lot of people came up to us and were hugely excited about the opportunity to borrow a book. They felt like normal people without being treated disapprovingly.
One situation in particular touched me. An elderly man came by, donated two of his books and struck up a conversation with me. He was a former pharmacist and had been living on the street for a long time due to old-age poverty. He now has an apartment in the outskirts of Portland, I’m sure in part because of his contact with Street Books. At least once a week he comes to town to visit Street Books. He was so inspired by our conversation and my story that he went to a woman friend of his, incredibly motivated and beaming, told her about me, and said that because of stories like this, he would be grateful to be able to witness something like this. Stories like mine would encourage him that there is always a solution in life.
The visit to Street Books showed me that homeless people are not just drug addicts who no longer want to participate in the life of society, but on the contrary, through contact and a perspective can find their way back into life. Many people no longer have any perspective and therefore need courage and inspiration and people who give them the feeling of being valuable.
Nach unserer Bibliotheksschicht besuchten wir Powel’s Books, the largest bookland in the world according to Wikipedia, for which Portland is famous. In addition, there was still a visit to a Portland art exhibit and memorial service where Street Books was invited. The memorial service was held in honor of Keaton Otis, an African American young adult who died as a result of police violence. Because he was interested in literature and art, an exhibit was held along the street where the murder took place.
In the next few days, I still fully recovered from my infection and visited the city. Among other things, Portland is famous for its street art, which is totally fascinating. Driving through the city, gigantic, colorful and radiant paintings turned up on countless street corners.
A few times Bruce and Carolyn invited me to dinner, reminding me strongly of my grandparents, and introduced me to other neighbors from the street. Soon everyone on the street knew me and I felt so well received, as if I had lived there for years.
I am beyond grateful to Laura for putting me in touch with so many great people and showing me Portland and her valuable Street Books work.