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Sharon Wood Wortman of Southwest Portland is author of 'The Portland Bridge Book.'

PMG FILE PHOTO - Portland author Sharon Wood Wortman, in front, leads a tour of dowtnown bridges. Wood Wortman argues that Portland is not in decline and needs some help from people who love the city.This is my response to recent news stories about how unsafe downtown Portland is, what a mess downtown Portland is and why nobody is ever going to want to step in downtown Portland anytime soon, at least if they know what's good for them. I led bridge walks in all parts of inner and outer downtown Portland for years, taking large and small groups into so-called "scary" areas, scary defined as places where we might see those who may not have the luxury of dressing like us.

A long time ago an activist-minded grandchild informed me, "Poverty isn't a crime, Grandma." That's true. What's also true is that the former emphatically does its part to engender the latter.

Besides, street crime is like a car accident. You don't stop driving because you don't want to be a statistic.

Well, maybe not all of us. More recently, the husband and I stayed at the high-ceilinged and COVID-19 on-guard 1912 Embassy Suites in downtown Portland during the holidays for a special occasion. Just the two of us, masks on, at a combined age of 159, we walked everywhere, and I mean everywhere. Even after dark.

What we noticed more than anything is that Portland's feeling like a house that's been abandoned. The occupants may have once loved her, until she started to show wear and needed major repairs. 

The next time you get panhandled, instead of turning the other cheek, how about asking, "Are you hungry?" I believe anytime we meet people on the street who are looking lost, we all carry hot coffee and a sandwich in the restaurants of our pockets and wallets.

Be brave, people. You have nothing to lose but your fear. And don't forget to bring a camera. The sponsored and unsponsored public artwork, especially in historic Chinatown, is incredible right now, best enjoyed on foot for a leisurely and up-close look.

While you're at it, stop in at the Golden Horse Restaurant for takeout, right there on the corner of Northwest Fourth Avenue and Everett Street. You'll find Sophie, the owner, at the cash register, but not her husband, the long-time cook, working away in the kitchen. (We recommend the Black Bean Oysters and everything else.)

The two support a couple of sons who are doing their best to stay enrolled at PSU one order of Seafood fried rice at a time.

While you're at it, wander farther east a block to visit the Chinese Classical Garden. Chances are they'll have room to let you in without an appointment.

Maybe I'll see you on the streets sometime soon. How about when the pedestrian and bicycle-only Flanders Crossing opens in March or April? The Portland Bureau of Transportation installed the bridge across Interstate 405 on Jan. 23.

Like Christmas Day, I will be starting near Tom McCall Waterfront Park to begin my walk, about 15 blocks. Or how about this September, when the Congressman Earl Blumenauer Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge opens in the Lloyd Center area, the latter really getting its bad share of news lately?

Sharon Wood Wortman of Southwest Portland is author of "The Portland Bridge Book."

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