two pictures from portland

I spent the weekend in Portland, visiting my sister and her family. I also saw some friends, and recorded an episode of Livewire Radio. It was a gorgeous weekend, with perfect weather, so we got to walk even more than we usually do when we visit.

We were walking downtown with my sister and her son when I spotted this in the street next to the crosswalk:


I got really excited, because it’s the first Toynbee tile I’ve ever seen that wasn’t just a picture on the Internet. While I was taking this picture, Anne was counting down the seconds on the crosswalk. Hearing “…4…3…2…1″ while I was taking the picture made the whole stupid thing a little more thrilling than it should have been, but I’m easily entertained.

One more picture (as promised in the title) before I get ready to go to the set:


Steel Bridge is one of my favorite bridges in the country, and this weekend was the first time we walked across it and up the opposite bank of the river. When we were about a quarter mile from it, heading toward a different bridge to cross back to downtown, a boat came up the river toward Steel Bridge. “Dude! If we hurry, we can get up to the bridge and stand right there when it goes up!” I said to Anne.

“You think we can make it?” She said.

“Yes. I know we can.”

“Are you sure it’s going to go past the bridge?”

“Unless it makes a U-turn in the middle of the river, it has to go past the bridge,” I said. “Come on! It’ll be cool!”

We turned around and walked quickly back toward Steel Bridge, the boat slowly gaining on us. When we were about 500 yards from the bridge, the boat blew its horn, presumably to alert the bridge person that it needed to go up … but when I looked at the boat to see how far it was from the bridge, I saw that it had blown its horn to alert nearby vessels that it was making a U-turn in the middle of the river.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake,” I said, laughing, as we walked onto the bridge and began to walk back across it. “Well, it would have been cool.”

Anne laughed with me, and held my hand.

28 thoughts on “two pictures from portland”

  1. Except that’s not a real Toynbee tile, it’s a copy. A fake. An homage, if you must be kind. Come to the Philly area. They are everywhere here.

  2. I didn’t know we had one either. Granted I only moved here six months ago but still….
    Freaking Will Wheaton was in my (new) home town. That just makes it seem a bit more epic than I already found it.

  3. We had an actual Toynbee tile in Scranton, Pennsylvania. It got paved over before I knew what it was or had the chance to take a picture.

  4. Must have missed the barges on Sunday. All the bridges were up. Good thing I had chosen to take the freeway instead.

  5. A couple of the Toynbee tiles were found in Topeka, KS back in June. The city considered them vandalism and a nuisance and had them immediately removed. Only in Topeka…

    1. Even better go visit Duluth and you can watch the big boats (1000′ coal and ore freighters) pass under the famous Arial Lift Bridge.

  6. I watched that Live Wire episode live on YouTube. You were great! The erotic fan fiction sketch was hilarious.
    The Burnside Bridge is fun to stand on when it goes up. Watching the road go vertical right in front of your face is a trip.

    1. I looked for a few of them on a trip downtown last fall and still found some, so they were still there as of about six months ago. They’re not in all that great of shape, but still recognizable.

  7. Awww, and here I got all excited that Wil Wheaton was in my Portland. I was going to say if you were still here (Portland, Maine, that is), come out for a beer at Novare Res. I’m making Salted Mudslide cookies to take to the pub tonight.

  8. No, what would have been COOL is that you went out on the bridge but then a train came along and you had to RUN across the bridge to avoid…
    Oh, yeah. You’ve been there, done that.

  9. You’re so lucky I didn’t know. You may have had stalkers. I told my husband “Hey Wil Wheaton was here this last weekend.” He said “Yeah. I know. Twitter!!!” I guess my following you of tumbler does not keep me in “the know” like twitter would. If I can ever learn to say anything in a 140 characters or less, I may go back just to follow you.

  10. Here in Philly, it has always been fun to catch these around the area. I think I even saw one on I-95 once. They are still neat, yet creepy at the same time.

  11. Cool on the Toynbee tile. Never heard of them before, learn something new all the time.

    Oh, BTW, it has been a year since the last RFB. Any chance of a new one anytime soon? I get the feeling that you have some much going on you might not have time for one.

  12. I’ve lived in Portland since 1989, and I’ve never seen that tile. I’m on a mission to find it and I will force the kids to help.

    1. That is because it is a new tile. A tile put there by a “movement” called “house of hades” that is piggy backing on the actual Toynbee tiles. Annoying and misleading.

  13. This is Steve from Resurrect Dead. Wil, next time you’re in Philly I’ll take you on a tour of the tiles here.

    Also, to the other commenter re the doc, it wasn’t fiction. Thanks!

  14. I once got to steer the Sternwheeler under the Steel Bridge on my fifth grade field trip (or at least the ship pilot let me think so, I’ve always wondered)….next time you see the Sternwheeler heading that way, there’s a fair chance both decks will go up.

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