In February of 2020 I made a drawing trip to the Hollywood District in Portland, Oregon. News of a new virus outbreak in China was spreading, but at the time it seemed like past outbreaks. Little did I know my next trip to Portland would involve face masks, carrying hand sanitizer and wondering where I would find an open bathroom.
The State of COVID in October 2021
Twenty-two months after my last drawing before COVID lock downs things seem to be gradually improving. As of this writing cases are dropping from the fourth COVID wave in the United States of America. It remains to be seen how holiday travel will impact the case rate. Meanwhile, vaccination rates remain low, but are rising, and life is slowly opening up.
The general sense of a period ending fills the moment and it seemed appropriate to revisit the place where it all began for me. Plus I wanted to explore the Hollywood District further and take some time to reflect on my experience doing these COVID Walking views.
COVID Hollywood District
I was happy to see that the area I had visited seemed to have made it through. The businesses that had been at this location in February 2020 where still there when I drew this in October 2021. A group of people celebrating a birthday even came out of the Wiggle Room.
Yet the area remained oddly empty. The main foot traffic was people scurrying in and out of the library I drew in front of. Gone where the retirees chattering about selling their homes over a post-yoga coffee.
Walking from the main Hollywood District to Fremont Street showed other changes. More people out walking in the residential neighborhood between Sandy Boulevard and Fremont Street. On Fremont a newly covered patio hosted a band and singer performing Embraceable You.
The New Urban Landscape
As COVID over took the world in the spring and summer of 2020 many people predicted the end of the city. Yet the impact in the Hollywood district and elsewhere has been far more complex than a simple ending.
Towns have been overrun by urbanites fleeing the pandemic, looking to escape the city life and seeking more affordable housing. Meanwhile cities find their streets emptied of cars, but full of people.
This has resulted in a rapid re-thinking of the urban landscape. Cities find their public spaces repurposed for people, but face increasing social unrest. Towns find themselves filled with investment, but that it comes with escalating housing costs.
The true impact of these changes remains to be seen. The urban landscape as we knew it is gone along with so much in the pandemic. As with all loss though this is an opportunity to leave behind what was not working and find new ways of living and healing together in the places we love.
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