This week we sat down with Joe Streckert, an independent Portland-based journalist and the host of Interesting Times, a podcast on XRay FM and interestingtimespodcast.com.
Question 1: Why do you like Portland? Do you have a favorite neighborhood or pocket in the city?
I’m from here, so I’m a bit biased, and while I grew up in Northeast Portland I think I’ve been won over by Southeast at this point. The quadrant certainly has its share of trendy and popular destinations, but what I really appreciate about it is that, in multiple sections of Southeast, there’s always some kind of main drag or central area nearby with cafes, bars, restaurants, etc. I live in Foster-Powell and am within walking distance of a pretty good cafe, an excellent bagel place, a geeky game store, a dive bar, and the amazing Foster Burger. That walkability and accessibility informs a lot of Portland neighborhoods, but I think it’s especially on display here with Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, and (yes) SE 82nd. Having access to things even outside of the main downtown is important.
Question 2: Do you ride a bike? Go running? Climb at a rock climbing gym? What Pacific NW activity are you interested in trying? Share a little bit about your Pacific NW activities.
I do ride a bike with some frequency and, while I do run, I don’t do it nearly as often as I should. In the past year I’ve gotten into bouldering and really like The Circuit as a gym. Earlier this summer I did the Warrior Dash, one of those mud runs, and it was a lot of gross fun but not super demanding.
Question 3: What’s the last book you read?
The Martian. It was great. I loved how comprehensive it was about what it would take to get to, survive on, and get off Mars.
Question 4: How did you start writing about Portland?
The first thing I ever published was a short list on the McSweeney’s website. It wasn’t terribly long or even all that funny, but it was published work and McSweeney’s is a name that a lot of people respect. With that single clip under my belt, I was able to get a few freelance gigs with outlets like Not For Tourists and Nerve. Eventually I got a regular blogging job with Portland’s Daily Journal of Commerce, writing about construction, architecture, and the built environment downtown. The DJC was not in a good way, though, and they had to cut me and their other regular freelancers.
I got my start with Portland history through my day job as a tour guide. I’d been teaching for Kaplan, the test prep company, and they laid me off, but tour guiding was similar to teaching, and I eased into it pretty well. Working for a company called Portland Walking Tours, I learned more local history than I ever thought I would, and, freshly cut from the DJC, I started pitching to the Portland Mercury. They were into doing a few features on local history, and since then I’ve written things about the Vanport flood, Portland’s urban planning history, and where this city is going. I’ve also done a lot of miscellaneous work for them, which is always fun. Everything from TV recaps to cocktail reviews to election coverage. They’re great to work with.
On top of that, I’m also part of a history collective called Stumptown Stories which does local history lectures on the second Tuesday of every month at the Jack London Bar (I’ll be talking about the 1905 Lewis and Clark Expo on November 10th at 7:30), I write for Comic Book Resources, and I have a history podcast called Interesting Times which also airs on Portland’s XRay FM. I love it. All of it. Creating things is consistently rewarding, and I never want to be in a place where I’m not writing. Weirdly, I owe it all to that silly McSweeney’s list that I published years ago. If I hadn’t gotten that one clip out there from a notable literary mag, then I probably wouldn’t have a lot of the gigs I have now.
Question 5: Where do you think the current real estate market is going?
I recently wrote a whole feature for the Mercury on this. I think it’s safe to say that the population is going to grow, the demand is going to continue to increase. That means more density. This will probably be a good thing. There are a few patches of the city that have never really been all that vibrant and now we see them flourishing a bit more. For example the Lloyd District has been a dead zone for a long time, but now there are actual apartments going up there, and the South Waterfront used to be a huge boondoggle, but now real activity is going on. I do hope that people don’t get displaced, though. I know a few folks who have had to move because of rising house prices, and that’s not good. Hopefully we can have development that accommodates the maximum amount of people possible.