Getting to Know Your Neighbors – Gordon Lee

Q&A with Gordon Lee 

Pianist and composer Gordon Lee’s first musical gig was in a rock ’n’ roll band in Westchester County, New York. He was just 14. He went on to earn a bachelor’s in music from Indiana University, where he met Portlander Richard Burdell, a trumpet player and composer. “He painted Portland as the promised land for gigs!” Lee recalls. So in 1977, Lee moved to Portland. Sure enough, gigs were plentiful. He performed with saxophonist/singer/composer Jim Pepper and traveled all over the states and Europe with him. After a hiatus in Brooklyn, New York, where he had a regular gig at a glitzy Village restaurant, he returned to Portland where he played at Jimmy Mak’s, Clyde’s, The 1905, and Arrivederci in Milwaukie. This May, he launched “Front Porch Jazz” on his front porch at 32nd and Alder Street. These free concerts have been one of the bright spots of the pandemic for Sunnyside residents, most of whom found out about them via word of mouth or just by walking by. 

How long have you lived in Sunnyside? I’ve lived here for 18 years now and in the same house! Amy Rose, my wife, bought the house before I moved in.

Do you rent or own? We own.  

What do you love about Sunnyside? It is a diverse neighborhood—and it’s becoming more diverse, which is great. That’s been the goal of jazz music for 100 years—it pulls in people from all different ethnic backgrounds and countries. It’s the universal language. 

What’s one thing you would love to see change about Sunnyside? There’s been a lot of homeless people and it’s difficult. If I’m giving a concert and less than a block away there’s a huge pile of garbage in the street from a homeless camp—that is not healthy. It’s personally not healthy, and it’s not healthy for the homeless people. 

Tell me how Front Porch Jazz got started. 

My wife Amy, who is a piano teacher — we’re a two piano family — was encouraging me to do house concerts for some time, even before the pandemic. Then my neighbors also started to say, “You should play a concert on your front porch!”  When several different people tell you the same thing, you should listen to what they’re saying. I first had a duo with Renato Caranto on sax. Then I had a trio — adding Tim Gilson on bass. Then finally I added Carlton Jackson on drums. I also had James Powers — he’s a trombonist. And John Nastos plays alto sax. There’s a long tradition of summer jazz festivals. So we were able to attach to that kind of energy. There’s a bunch of seniors out there and they’re all having fun! They bring chairs, a bottle of wine.

I’ve had 7 concerts and look forward to having more next Spring 2021. I want to thank my neighbors and the community for being so supportive and encouraging. It’s been my only opportunity to perform during COVID. It’s given me so much focus and direction.

Thank You Newsletter Delivery Volunteers

As Thanksgiving approaches, we wanted to take a moment and give thanks to our wonderful crew of more than 60 newsletter delivery volunteers for their dedication and community service. Some have volunteered their time for many years – even decades – to deliver the newsletter each month to households in Sunnyside.

I asked our volunteers for their thoughts on what delivering the newsletter means to them. Here are a few perspectives:

Toni Anderson

[Toni has delivered the newsletter for 36 years!]

How long have you lived in Sunnyside? We moved to Sunnyside in February of 1980.

What do you love about the neighborhood? There are so many things I love about Sunnyside. The first thing that comes to mind is the physical compactness of the neighborhood. I love being able to walk to four major grocery stores, the library, Laurelhurst Park, the optometrist, local coffee shops, bookstores, and boutiques on Belmont and Hawthorne. All are within a 10-minute walk of my house. I like the energy that results in this compactness. It produces an underlying hum that resonates with me in an agreeable way. I love the sense of community. My neighbors are all so friendly and wonderfully supportive.

What do you value about the newsletter? I value the extreme localness of the news it imparts — what’s happening at the library down the street, what’s on the mind of the SNA’s President, and what issues are up for discussion at their meetings. I also tune into the articles that tell me a bit more about the lives of Sunnyside’s individual residents. 

What do you enjoy about delivering newsletters? Well, one obvious benefit of delivering the newsletters is that you’re going to get a nice walk out of it! It also gives me a chance to experience my neighborhood in a more intimate way. Striding up each walkway, stepping onto each porch, encountering each door — so many chances to expand my appreciation of the dwellings around me. And then there are the neighbors that you encounter along the way, chatting or just exchanging a brief hello — so many chances to expand my appreciation of the people around me. 🙂

Any newsletter delivering stories you’d like to share? The reason I know I’ve been delivering the newsletters for 36 years is because that’s how old my eldest daughter is. I started delivering the newsletters when she was a newborn — strapped to my front in a baby carrier. Later she accompanied me in a stroller, then a wagon. A few years after that her little sister joined us, moving up the ranks, until I was pulling them both in the wagon. It took a lot longer to finish the route than it does today, but we had a lot of fun doing it!

Shelley Bedell-Stiles 

[Shelley delivers newsletters to over 200 households in Sunnyside, more than any other delivery volunteer!]

How long have you lived in Sunnyside? In 1985, on my daughter’s first birthday, we purchased our 1907 Portland Transitional house which became a remodeling project that continues to need maintenance. I don’t recall the exact year that I started walking an SNA newsletter route, but maybe 10+ years. I realized after receiving it monthly that it didn’t just magically appear on my porch. A quiet volunteer delivered it!

What do you value about the newsletter? I value knowing about SNA meetings, these meetings’ content, and the volunteers who serve as Board members and monthly contributors. 

What do you enjoy about delivering newsletters? Soooo much! I enjoy walking my routes to meet and greet neighbors, to comment about gardens and pets, or to add a specific note about the newsletter content.  

Any newsletter delivering stories you’d like to share? There is an exceptional variety of home and garden design along my delivery routes. One house has a unique fruit tree, not a Persimmon but a Medlar! I inquired during a November newsletter drop-off with a note at the door and the homeowners contacted me and shared their tree’s fruit. How lucky – and all because I was delivering SNA newsletters!

Laurie Watson

I’ve been delivering Sunnyside Neighborhood News to neighbors for more than 20 years, from two different homes and to various different blocks throughout the years. Although I often don’t see anyone on my deliveries, I cherish the occasional conversations that have enlivened my route. I especially enjoy spring and summer when I can ogle (and sometimes borrow ideas from) the lovely gardens that I pass.  I respectfully admire the way artistic neighbors have created a welcoming space at their front doors. Delivering the news is also great exercise, because my route includes many stairs.  I’m happy to bring Sunnyside news to my community. 

Thanks to our current delivery volunteers (listed) and to our past ones too. We appreciate you! 

  • Toni Anderson
  • Vinnie Balistreri
  • Gary Ballou
  • James Barry
  • Shelley Bedell-Stiles
  • Gwyn Benders
  • Tara Bresee
  • Chris Carter
  • Francine Chinitz
  • Jenny Combs
  • Diana and Isabel Deumling
  • Joan Dobbek
  • Rich Dodson
  • Ellen Earsley
  • John Elkington
  • Daniel Fogg
  • Linnea Gilson
  • Chris Hale and Jill Campbell
  • Ashley Hartmann
  • Lorraine Henriques
  • Eric Hollstein
  • Gloria Jacobs and Sean Nolan
  • Shannon Jones and Jeremy Weber
  • Cealila Kosonen
  • Lori Kovacevic
  • Laurie Kovack
  • Wendy Lebow
  • Anna Leisy
  • Rachael Lembo
  • Don Mack
  • Jessie Maran
  • The Martinson family
  • Maggie McGann
  • Lynn Montgomery
  • Carole Most
  • Cheryl Olson
  • Mark Oshin
  • Greg Podolec
  • Carol Poliak
  • Michelle Potter
  • Sandy Reina
  • Jim Rennard
  • Kent Richardson
  • Terry Richardson
  • Amie Rose
  • Darci Rudzinski
  • Madeline Scarp
  • Kelli Scott
  • Fran Siefer
  • Jim Sjulin
  • Bridgett Spicer
  • Amy Stahl
  • Valerie Strickland
  • Gwyneth and Bruce VanBuskirk
  • Laurie Watson
  • Tara Weidner and Tom Roidt
  • Lea Wheeler

Media Alert – Peacock Lane Cancellation 2020

As we approach the holiday season, we wanted to get the word out in advance that the historic holiday lighting display on Peacock Lane will not be occurring this year. Due to regulations regarding large gatherings, and our concern for the health and safety of both visitors and Lane residents, we feel it is prudent to cancel this year’s event, traditionally held December 15- 31. We are saddened that we will not be able to “light up the Lane” this year, but as a community we feel it is best to cancel this year’s activities for everyone’s health and safety.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact: Nathan Freeburg at nathan.freeburg@gmail.com or call him at 651-247-3935.

SNA Safety & Livability Update for October 6th Meeting

At the most recent Community Safety & Livability meeting, we discussed a draft of the Community First Strategy to Address Houselessness in Portland, Oregon and shared it with members of the neighborhood who attended the meeting to get their thoughts and feedback. We started the process of brainstorming how we might take actionable steps to help the houseless neighbors in our community immediately and voted unanimously to do so.

We like the Community First Strategy as a high-level, inclusive guideline to work from, as it attempts to address many perspectives. Of particular interest is the Action Plan near the bottom, which begins with the sentence  “There must be programs for short, medium and long term solutions.” If you’d like to look it over, it can be found on our website at https://sunnysideportland.org/comfirst-draft/.

We are reaching out to adjoining Neighborhood Associations to get their thoughts, and to examine processes already in action to address the emergency of houselessness as winter approaches. We’re also seeking strategic alliances with other organizations who can help.

The Houseless emergency will likely encompass most of the discussion at our next meeting which has been moved to November 10th to provide everyone undivided attention to vote in the Tuesday, November 3rd election.

Please join us at the next Community Safety & Livability Meeting Tuesday after Election Night. Discussions have remained collaborative and solution-focused with all perspectives shared and  respected.

Land Use and Transportation in Sunnyside and Beyond!

In the Neighborhood

4738 SE Belmont St. A new three-story, mixed-use structure is proposed on the .13-acre site at the southwest corner of SE Belmont and SE 48th. The proposed building includes 19 apartments—15 studios and 4 one-bedrooms. Three of the units will be priced to be affordable for those at 50% of median family income. The ground floor will host 1,150 sq. ft. of commercial lease space along Belmont St. A dry well on the south end of the site will dispose of all on-site stormwater. The architect anticipates a minimum of six months before he receives an approved building permit.

Hawthorne Pave and Paint.

For on-going updates on this project visit: https://www.portland.gov/transportation/planning/se-hawthorne-pave-and-paint

In the Region

The NW Broadway Bus/Bike Lane Improvements project creates a signature northbound bike facility on NW/SW Broadway from the Broadway Bridge to SW Oak Street. Construction began on Oct. 3rd and is expected to last eight weeks. For more information on the project components, likely traffic impacts and contractor contact information, visit the project website at https://www.portland.gov/nw-broadway