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Thirty-Eight, Cesar Chavez, Forty

In Portland, Rants on April 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I like numbered streets. They are a force of good in the world. If, for example, you are looking for 32nd Ave, you would do well to look between 31st and 33rd. Easy, intuitive, and logical. Numbered streets are wonderful. Only slightly less awesome are streets that are in alphabetical order.

Portland, though, has decided that the beautiful efficiency of numbers is apparently a bad idea, and has started chipping away at this by renaming 39th Ave Cesar Chavez Blvd. Now, I have nothing against Chavez- but I mourn heavily the loss of number 39, an innocent number that really should be nestled in their with its little sister, 38, and its big brother, 40. Instead, the number 39 is now a restless orphan, wandering the streets alone and trying to sell matches, all the while slowly dying of consumption.

I want to reiterate this again- I have no problem with Cesar Chavez Blvd. as a name. However, I would be opposed to replacing any number with anything. If 15th were going to be replaced with Cuddly Bunny St., I would oppose that. If 82nd was going to be renamed Delicious Pie Ave., I would oppose that. If 33rd was going to be rechristened Screaming Orgasm Drive, I would oppose that, too.

Maybe I’d be okay with having 42nd renamed Douglas Adams Ave. Maybe.

If we wanted to commemorate Cesar Chavez, then we should have used a street with a boring, prosaic, name. I think Grand would have been an ideal candidate. It’s a main arterial, not a numbered street, and has an entirely generic name that could suffer a bit of erasing. Instead, we got rid of a perfectly lovely number. As awesome a guy as Cesar Chavez was, he can never replace 39. No one can.

  1. I would even go a little further then your last paragraph. This obsession of Portland with changing street names needs to end. I am quite certain that Mr. Chavez and whatever progeny of his that are still living would be equally honored by changing the name of a park. Like, Powell Park perhaps. It honors the individual, it doesn't create problems in Portland's grid system and it doesn't require every business on "Cesar Chavez Blvd." to change thier letterhead, business cards and other assorted office supplies.

  2. I feel like naming streets after Cesar Chavez (or MLK, that other perennial favorite) are almost insulting in their intent. Honoring political leaders that come from the non-white pantheon is great, but it's always MLK or Cesar Chavez. Are we really going to act like these are the only non-white historical figures of any importance?

  3. I would be fan of Frederick Douglass Blvd (or Park or Square) or something like that. He was pretty damn cool.

    But, you're both right. Portland's street-renaming habit is sort of annoying, and there were plenty of other non-white political leaders who did quite a bit of stuff.

    I'd also be a fan of Chief Joseph Ave., for entirely selfish reasons.

  4. I agree with everything that everyone has said. I, of course, recently lived on 39th, and the name change was a big pain in the ass; I'm glad I don't have to deal with it any more. The character count of my address increased by a whopping 13 (don't forget the 'E.'!), and I kept forgetting, and then giving my address over the phone and getting an error, or a "Do you mean SE Cesar Chavez Ave?" No, goddammit, I meant 39th! OK, Chavez was a cool guy. He also, to my knowledge, didn't really have anything to do with Portland, just like Parks and King. OK, I get MLK, everyone outside of Arizona gets that. But where's it gonna end? Gandhi needs a street, right? Tutu? Boudica? Moses? Marcus Camby? We're the city of parks and the city of bridges (couple more on the way!), why don't we change their fucking names? Fuck this PC shit, and stay the fuck away from 17th, hippies. It's mine now!

    Hm, apparently I had some unresolved issues with the change…

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