I’ve walked through (or by) Holladay Park near Lloyd Center countless times, and somehow I’ve never noticed this metal sculpture by Tad Savinar.

A Neighborhood Gardener

It’s really amazing when you see it up close:

Fiskars clippers; well known to all gardeners!

And, my favorite part:

Metal gardening gloves in a metal pocket

According to a Portland Public Art blog, the sculpture depicts Carolyn Marks-Bax, a former neighborhood organizer, aide to former County Commissioner Sharron Kelley and organizer of the (now defunct) Sullivan’s Gulch Blackberry Festival.

Then I saw this guy as I was leaving the park; his name is Katastrophe and he was selling CDs of his hip-hop music. He said I could take his picture and I almost stopped to talk. Then a friend of his came over and I kept moving.


It was kind of humid and windy and I didn’t have my walking shoes on. A few times I decided to hop on the bus but then changed my mind and kept walking.

There are a couple of benches at the corner of 15th and Weidler. A woman was sitting there with a piece of paper in front of her, pen in hand. As I walked past, she looked up and said hello.

Sometimes people just effortlessly rope you into their world, and this was one of those times. “I’m making my list,” she informed me. “Your list?” I parroted, stopping and turning to face her. “Yup. My grocery list. And I’m just enjoying this weather, right here.” “Oh,” I said, moving close enough to peek. “What kind of stuff is on your list?”

“Well,” she said with a sigh. “I’m thinking about some scallops. Someone told me they’re on sale down at Safeway. And I thought, ‘Mmm, I can do that.’ But I can’t afford those. I need some salad. Healthy stuff. I gotta get rid of some of this butt.” She glanced down at her rear. “Portland’ll do that to you. The weather and all. It’s depressing.”

I had my hand in my pocket, where I had stashed a hundred earlier. I agreed that it had been real nice to see the sun for a couple of days this weekend. Then I said, “Well, hey, I have a surprise for you.”

Alisa at the corner of NE 15th and Weidler

I moved a little closer and she looked at me, startled. “What is it?” she asked. “It’s this. I want to give this to you.” I held the bill out to her and she took it in her hand. “Oh!” she said. “Oh! That’s a lot!! Are you sure?” I said I was and she thanked me. I told her that I was giving gifts in honor of my mom, who had died last year and left one for me. “Oh! She must have left you a lot! Was it millions and millions? If you don’t mind me asking?”

I laughed. “No, nothing like that. But I have enough to give away.” She looked at me, hard. “Are you sure?” she asked again. I asked her name and if I could take her picture. She said I could, then she squinted her eyes at me and asked, “You’re not going to put it anywhere crazy, are you?” I laughed and told her I would put it on my blog if that was okay with her.

Her name was Alisa. She asked me about the blog and how to find it. As she posed for the picture she said she was going to have some work done on her teeth – so she was kind of keeping them to herself in the meantime.

We talked for a few more minutes and she showed me her list. “It’s not on here, but I am going to get me some of those scallops!” she decided. She smiled again, a big open smile showing all her teeth. And then the bus came and I decided to ride the rest of the way home. I climbed up the steps and turned to wave. “Bye, Alisa!” I shouted. She waved back. I saw her bent over her paper as the bus pulled away.

Alisa's List


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3 Responses to Alisa’s List

  1. DJan says:

    That is truly a wonderful sculpture. And thank you for introducing me to Alisa. I have certainly been enjoying the change in our weather!

  2. Jill Ginsberg says:

    Thank you, DJan. Your sweet comments always make me smile.

  3. andrea gehrke says:

    I hope Alisa got to enjoy those scallops. You meet such dear people. Alisa looks like a sweet soul. I am honored as always to follow along with you in this unique journey of honoring your mother. Thank you Jill.

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