Monday, July 18, 2011

The man in our living room.

  He is a man we can count on, every single day and night he stands and stares. Covered in bronze and enamel he raises his hand for eternity in our living room. The man, in motion and stuck in time at once, in a hurry to go nowhere. He offers his umbrella to every passerby.
  The living room I am speaking of is of course Pioneer Courthouse Square. The man who I am referring to is known affectionately as "the umbrella man" to most. The bronze gentleman, with his business suit and red tie, was a gift to the city of Portland from New Yorker, Harry H. Schwartz in 1983. It was originally sculpted by J. Seward Johnson a native of New Jersey. The sculpture itself is actually titled "Allow Me" and is not the only one in existence or on display. However, this one is ours and it seems he is a local icon and tries to capture the civic virtue in some aspects. Just a guy, in a suit, offering his umbrella.

Hello there from bronze limbo.

  What's that? What did I say? This is not the only "Allow Me" statue in existence? Sadly, and strangely enough, it is not. Our courteous, bronze man was one in a series of seven casts. The other remaining statues reside in Bath, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. Three of them are not on public display and are in private collections in Port Smith, Arkansas, Hamilton, Ohio and Los Angeles, where he doesn't need his umbrella as much as he needs a gas mask. At least he's already bronzed.
  I thought it would bother me knowing there was more out there. I thought maybe it would cheapen the feeling I have for this piece of art. It hasn't, not at all. Especially after finding out the one in Philly has been stolen and vandalized numerous times. It doesn't really make a difference to me, because this one, this man, is ours. Besides all that, ours is the only one with a red tie. 

The umbrella makes me a bit suspect sometimes.
  There is one thing I wonder about the man in our living room. If he was a living being, would he be a native Portlander? By today's so called standards he hardly fits the part. First of all, he is using his umbrella. I own or have owned umbrellas in my life and rarely have I ever used them, if ever. Like most Portlanders who have been raised in the puddles of the Rose City, an umbrella is usually an after thought. Even when they are used, they are usually left in a booth at a restaurant or on Tri-Met at some point. I have never in my adult life bought an umbrella.
  Secondly, we come to the suit. I know there are suits abound in every part of the world and Portland is no different. I just feel like the guy would be a little more comfortable if he was wearing a bronze hoodie. It would be fitting. 

I just pictured that in my head and now I am disappointed in myself for imagining that. It would make a lot more sense as far as realism goes. However, it seems the chosen outfit works. He has been seen in a lot worse after all.

Jimmy Buffet fans can be so cruel.
  Although the years he has spent on the top of the Square have not been very many, they have been ours. This statue has seen it's share of photos, cigarettes placed in his hand, among other things. He had been there for a great many things that have happened in our living room. There might be six more like him, but none of them compare. Although the sculptor who molded him was not known as the greatest artist, some circles call him kitschy and lacking feeling. I disagree with the last one. It is one of my favorite pieces in the city.
  Nostalgia may have something to do with it. Maybe it's the central location? For me it's the simple fact that rain or shine, like this city, it will be there for me. It's a comfort to me to know that although he is not real, he offers no opinions or insights, nor is he able to offer directions or even a smile, he welcomes us to our living room day in and day out. Which unfortunately is more than I can say for citizens and officials some times. That is good enough for me.

Thanks. Until Next time.

Play nice.

No comments:

Post a Comment