Monday, April 23, 2007

Encountering Paul Pintarich

What a treat it was run into Paul Pintarich at the Hillsdale Post Office today. I hadn’t seen Paul in maybe five years even though he lives quite near Hillsdale and frequents the Town Center.

Paul was once the book editor at The Oregonian. After he parted ways with the paper, I invited him to write a regular reminiscence column for the Southwest Community Connection, the monthly newspaper I founded and edited.

A life-long resident of Southwest Portland, Paul, who is 68, has rich memories of growing up here. Memories of jazz clubs along Barbur, drive-in movie theaters, massive snow storms and summers spent swimming in the cool but polluted Willamette River.

They all became subjects for the column, which we dubbed “In My Time.” For effect, Paul managed to repeat the title somewhere in each column’s narrative.

Here’s how he did it in closing out a column about neighborhood eccentrics. After describing a few, he ended with…

“And there were others too. The wild Pilcher clan, who lived behind us, the prolific Petersens, who lived next door, the old man with the bulldog on the corner — and many more.

“In my time, our old neighborhood could hold and hide them all.”

Paul also has written two books since leaving The Oregonian: "The Boys Up North, Dick Erath and the Early Oregon Winemakers” about the rise of Oregon’s wine industry and "History by the Glass, Portland's Past and Present saloons, bars & Taverns."

He’s at work on another book, the story of a Portland-born spy and adventurer. In fact Paul was mailing a chapter off to his publisher when I encountered him at the post office.

Well over 6 feet tall (I’d guess 6' 4”), husky, out-going and deep-voiced, Paul is an engaging presence. Our encounter carried into the parking lot. I mentioned The Red Electric and invited him to send me some writing. He suggested poetry.

I always admired Paul’s prose. Now the thought of sharing his poetry in future entries is more than inviting. We'll see what happens.

I suggested that he might want to start his own blog. He’d have an instant following from the many Portlanders who have enjoyed his work.

He said he’d think about it. After all, he admitted, he's never even read a blog. The word itself was unfamiliar to him.

Anyway, his new book is keeping him busy enough.

“Ever written a book?” he asked.

“No, I’m too much into instant gratification,” I answered.

“Right, newspapers will do that, but books get you into some meaty things. Kind of fun.”

And then he was off, no doubt getting back to more meaty things…and fun.

Here’s an excerpt from an “In My Time” column about Paul’s recollections of Portland movie houses in the Forties and Fifties. For this one, Paul interviewed June Fortune, 82 at the time of the interview, about her memories selling tickets at the old Multnomah Theater.

“Though Fortune can neither recall when the theater opened nor remember when it burned down, the memory flickers in her mind like an old silent movie: slow, pleasant and warmly familiar — just as we both remember Portland being, way back when.”

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