Kerns Neighborhood in Portland, OR
From the organic markets and gardens to the hipsters at heart, Kerns neighborhood in SE Portland is distinctively different in the way it acts and thinks. It’s evident that people in this area don’t care about the aspects such as that of other pretentious neighborhoods in terms of cars, dress and attitude. Instead the residents of Kerns ride their bikes, work in their gardens and wear what is comfortable. Locals are carefree. This ‘carefree’ chemical is in the one hundred percent vegan food and the sweat of residents who bike to work; its signs and symptoms are being unobtrusively laid back. This relaxed vibe is part of what makes Kerns such a great neighborhood, and locals say it’s why they love it.
Kerns is located within inner SE Portland, east of the Willamette River, west of SE 32nd Avenue, north of Burnside and south of I-84. The surrounding neighborhoods of Kerns are Sunnyside, Buckman, Lloyd and Laurelhurst, each of which have their own flavors and distinct vibes that are sensed through the people, homes and local businesses.
I started off the day with a trip to Heart Coffee and Roasting on 22nd and E Burnside, where I met Johnny who has been working at the shop for two months and living in Portland for four years. I asked Johnny about the people of Kerns and those who come into Heart Coffee and Roasting. I was a little surprised that he said there is a wide range of people, from young “hipsters” and students, to businessmen, older locals, and tourists or people on business from Europe. Seeing the age diversity was interesting and gave me a sense of the broad community that is at work in this neighborhood. Rather than one narrow demographic, there are several. Johnny said there are a lot of people who visit from Europe because the owner is Finnish and that attracts visitors. I briefly asked him about homes in the area, and he shared with me the communal living situations in the area that many singles and young people are a part of. This is another reason why there is so much emphasis on community in this neighborhood, where people not only stop and talk to each other on the sidewalks, but they share life together under one roof.
Though the coffee shop has been open for a mere 9 months, at ten AM the setting was lively and full of locals. With two businesswomen in a meeting over Americanos in a corner, there were also younger men with large outgrown beards, young women with Nike high tops and older men reading the Oregonian. Though the neighborhood isn’t necessarily culturally diverse, says another local, there is a wide variety of ages that make up the demographic of the neighborhood.
Nearby Parks & Recreation
Within the neighborhood there are plenty of areas to play. Whether your playing consists of drinking a micro brew, or playing a game of basketball, this is a great area. Some awesome areas to take a bite out of nature in this neighborhood include Everett Community Garden, Oregon Park, Vera Katz Eastbank Esplanade, Buckman Field and Buckman Community Garden (the latter which are of the southern neighborhood, Buckman).
I was walking towards Da Vinci Middle School when I came across the Everett Community Garden, which contains plots and areas that gardeners rent out and take care of. I talked to a local who was gardening there named Robin, who was busy plowing dirt and weeds in her plot of land. I did a short interview with Robin, while she was candidly working in the garden, and it captured a piece of the love and sense of community that is present in Kerns. Though Robin is admittedly a ‘country person,’ she loves living in Portland, and working in this garden and her garden at home gives her a slice of the country life. She also enjoys working in the Everett Community Garden because it’s a great way to meet neighbors, working alongside each other in this garden that was once ready to close because of a lack of funds (but the organic, garden loving residents wouldn’t let it happen).
Buckman Elementary School
Da Vinci Middle School
Benson High School
Homes and Real Estate
Since the area is surrounded by thriving businesses and is constantly growing, it is difficult to move into the area on a tight budget. The heavily commercial yet residential area has mostly homes of Old Portland and foursquare architecture, as well as large and old buildings that have been turned into duplexes, apartments and multi-family units.
I walked into the Microcosm Publishing store, hoping to be enlightened on zines and to grab some good conversation. I walked out having attained both of those things. I talked to Joe, an employee at the store, about publishing, SE Portland, and the world of zines. I purchased the Zinester’s Guide to Portland, which was published by Microcosm, and it provides a “low/no budget guide to visiting and living in Portland, Oregon.” This is the fourth edition, as Portland is constantly growing. Flipping to the SE Portland section of the zine, there are headings designated for all kinds of activities in Portland. These headings include “Books, Zines, Comix and the like,” the “Ever-nebulous ‘Other’ Category,” “Museums” and much more. This zine is my first dive into the realm of zines, and I look forward to checking out more of the company’s published titles. Overall on this little side trip, I was reminded of how relational the people of SE Portland are, and how easy they are to talk to. Though there is definitely not one cookie cutter personality (they are all individuals, which makes it even better), everyone I came into contact with was friendly and willing to talk. And mind you, I was once a stranger to all of these people. All in all, the people are interesting, intelligent and original.
Kerns contains a grab bag full of people that have different interests, personalities and brands of bicycles, but there is one common thread that pulls them together as a neighborhood. It’s noticeable while seeing locals talk to each other and live together in this eccentric community.