I love the butter-light glow of houses at twilight when the lives of strangers are on display. I love the unkempt, backyard views from trains and trams. Seeing a bit of what is usually hidden is immensely appealing even if what is there is immensely mundane.
The hidden staircases of Portland appeal to me in the same way. On some level, there’s nothing special about them. Just a bunch of concrete steps tucked in between houses, mostly lined with shrubs or fences. But finding them and using them instead of the winding roads feels a little like uncovering a secret.
I didn’t realize that there were so damn many of these staircases in the Alameda neighborhood until I found this great site put out by Metro: 50 treks for you . One of the treks is a 4.4 mile loop up and down and around the Alameda Ridge staircases. The route guides you in a loop to 7 different staircases. 216 steps up and 263 steps down.
Glimpses into the soggy gardens of the fancy Alameda homes feel like tiny treats. Something I’m not supposed to see. For some reason it matters less that all I’m seeing are empty raised beds and mossy lawn furniture. It matters more that the staircases themselves feel like good hiding spots. If I was a teenager growing up in that neighborhood I might find a favorite step and sit there with a book. If I was a different kind of teenager, it would be a good place to kiss.
At one point I stopped to rest on a shady step and when a couple passed by with their dogs, I wanted to give them a secret wink. Don’t tell anyone I’m here, I thought. I’m hiding.