Tonight we took the kids over to Jim and Patty's Coffee for a "Community Singing and Ice Cream Social" (those of you who know us will recognize this as Liz's idea...I really shouldn't be allowed to sing in public - a bad thing for a minister - but Liz has a good voice and loves nothing more than to sing and sing and sing). Frances and Katherine enjoyed the ice cream more than the music, I think, and we did have to leave early for them to head to bed but it was a fun evening. The best part is that proceeds benefited Our Mother's House, a new program at the Downtown Chapel that is "Portland’s first and only drop in center for mothers involved in human trafficking, prostitution and other forms of sex work." Street Roots recently ran a story on their mission and the problem of human trafficking in our area that you can read here. Additional information from Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel and Multnomah County Commissioner Barbara Willer can be found on the county's website. Jim and Patty's Coffee is to be commended for opening their doors and helping out the community in this important way.
O’Connor’s in Multnomah Village has been one of my favorite Portland restaurants for nearly twenty years – before it even was in Multnomah Village. The food is terrific but the owner is a classic. Steve Arel was on the board of director of Baloney Joe’s during the same period I was. Today The Oregonian profiled his restaurant and they got the story right. Instead of sending in a food critic they sent in a writer to get a flavor for who Steve Arel is.
Steve Arel grew up in the restaurant and bar business under family tutelage back when O'Connor's was downtown's last men-only establishment.
But 18 years after he took over from his dad in 1972, Arel wearied of being a tenant in the battered old Jack London Hotel, the last of three downtown O'Connor's locations. He decided to buy his own building.
Arel, who grew up in Southwest Portland and graduated from Wilson High School, found a place on a street he'd bicycled countless times as a kid. It was a tavern at 7850 S.W. Capitol Highway.
In 1991, Arel transformed it into the new home of O'Connor's. Besides a full bar and a moderately priced menu of eclectic Tex-Mex-Southern-style food, the restaurant has become home away from home for many regulars, and Arel has planted himself firmly as a Multnomah Village asset.
"Steve is probably the most generous business owner in the village," says Luna Jaffe, president of the Multnomah Village Business Association. Jaffe works nearby and eats often at O'Connor's. "He has donated an endless amount of food and beverages to a wide range of events, in addition to operating a consistently well-run restaurant."
Arel upped his community ante four years ago when he bought an adjoining storefront that housed the Multnomah Bank when he was a kid.
The annex, which Arel also calls the Vault, is a music venue at night and can be rented for evening parties. During the day, Arel makes it available at no cost for community groups, including the business association.
"I don't use it a lot during the day," Arel says. "I've been in the community a long time. It's a way of giving back."
That isn’t the only way he gives back to the community. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked Steve to help with a fund raiser and there has never been a time when has turned me down.
We tried to go there just last week but they hadn’t opened up yet (I guess unlike our twins most people don’t think 5:45 am is an appropriate breakfast time). It was a big loss for us. Where else in town can you get food that good from a business owner so committed to his town?
We packed in a pretty full family day this Saturday. The weather was pretty decent for spring in Oregon. There was only a trace of rain. We did yard work and Frances and Katherine got to spend a couple of hours playing with friends in the morning. A trip to Powell's was next on the agenda. Then we took a long walk through our Grant Park neighborhood this afternoon and later drove over to the Woodstock section of town for dinner at the Delta Café, Portland’s southern cuisine destination. This was the first time we’d been to the Delta since moving back to Portland in December. Check this place out if you're in town. After dinner we took a walk through the Foster-Powell neighborhood to see my old house and to drop-by and say hello to our friends Michelle and John and their cute-as-can-be daughter Madeline. Tomorrow it is off to church in the morning and then hopefully a lazy afternoon. Anything going on in the world I should be concerned about?
Tonight we returned from a one-week visit to South Carolina. Liz and I brought the twins to visit Rock Bright, their great-grandfather, and to see other relatives. My mother (who lives in Puget Island, Washington) and sisters (from Oregon), along with my three nephews in tow, also made the trip. While there we just went from one meal to the next. My cousin Susan had everyone over to her place one night for a huge barbeque feast. There were so many people there introductions had to be made to get all the family relations correct. We spent a great hour that evening just reminiscing about Velma Manley, my late great-grandmother. Velma was something of a living legend. She died after reaching the age of 101 and we all felt cheated there wasn’t more time to be had with her.
A highlight of this trip was the 2-nights we spent in Charleston. Charleston is one of the cities I lived in as a boy. My mother (who attended nurse midwifery school at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston) kept the twins for us and that meant Liz and I had a wonderful day of sight-seeing followed by nine-hours of uninterrupted sleep. Whenever visiting Charleston a special pilgrimage should be made to the Circular Congregational United Church of Christ. This historic church is in the heart of downtown. For over 300 years they have brought a progressive voice to theological debates about the nature of god, slavery, racism, gender identity, and environmental issues. I was able to see the inside of the sanctuary on this trip and look forward to the day I’m actually in town when they’re holding services. This is one of only two United Church of Christ-related congregations in all of South Carolina. I very much admire their long history of progressive ministry in Charleston. Their members work proactively to support social change efforts in a city filled with great wealth and great poverty.
Liz and I had so much fun just hanging out with all my relatives. Running around with my nephews was a joy. Family pictures will be up on our homepage sometime later next week. In the meantime a couple of tourist notes for those visiting South Carolina:
Four Oaks Farm is always the place we stop off at for food supplies. They have the best country ham and bacon, perseveres, pecans and pies. You can also get some really good grits there – both white and yellow.
The South Carolina State Museum is another real treat. I still remember a display there about a decade ago on WPA-era murals. Right now they have a display on dinosaurs that my nephews loved.
A big group of us when off to the Columbia Zoo for an afternoon. This has always been one of my favorite zoos. You’re right up close to the animals – but still at a safe and respectful distance.
When in Charleston my family eats at only one place: The Trawler in Mt. Pleasant. We’ve been going to this restaurant for their she-crab soup, fried flounder, and hush-puppies for ever. Would you know the place was closed down for renovations this week? Well, it just gives me an excuse to get back their soon.
Tomorrow is my 35th birthday and tonight we celebrated by going to Giovanni’s on the Hill. This has to be one of the best restaurants we’ve ever come across. People should fly to St. Louis just to eat there. Oprah made it famous after a missed flight to Chicago stranded her overnight and she found herself wanting Italian food. She liked the pasta so much that she invited Giovanni Gabriele on her show. We had Ecuadorian shrimp, salmon pasta, veal, and salads. The only downside: my course was named after Ronald Reagan. But they also had pictures on the wall of Al Gore and Dick Gephardt. So there was a bi-partisan feel to the place.
Last week the National Council of Churches General Assembly endorsed consumer boycotts of Taco Bell and Mt. Olive Pickle products, both effective immediately, to put pressure for improvement of wages and working conditions of their suppliers’ farm workers. It is the largest and broadest U.S. religious body to join the boycotts.
The National Council of Churches is the nation’s leading ecumenical organization. Its 36 mainline Protestant, African American, Orthodox and Episcopal member denominations comprise 50 million U.S. Christians in 140,000 local congregations nationwide. The actions came during the Nov. 4-6 annual meeting of the General Assembly, the NCC’s highest legislative body, made up of official delegates from the member denominations.
Given the NCC’s insistence that boycotts are a measure of last resort, the affirmative votes on the two boycotts are especially significant. It has been more than 15 years since the NCC endorsed a boycott (May 1988, related to Royal Dutch/Shell’s connections at that time to apartheid South Africa.).
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.