The idea for my guidebook to the Portland Heritage Trees started one day at Tara Thai, looking up at a magnificent Oregon White Oak.
There are so many Thai restaurants in Portland, my buddies and I used to make bets about any place under construction: we each had to choose whether it would be a Thai place, a bento place, or a coffee shop. And honestly, I can’t tell which Thai place has the best food, because I love them all. Bad Thai food is good, as far as I’m concerned.
But none of them has a deck quite like the one at Tara Thai on NW 23rd. And absolutely nobody — no restaurant, no home, nobody — has a tree like they do.
If you think for a moment about NW 23rd, over by Overton Street, you can probably picture this tree. If guarantee you’ve noticed it. It’s an Oregon White Oak, 80 feet high, 86 feet wide, with a circumference of 14.3 feet. I have no idea how old it is, but the species can go 500 years, and this is a really big one.
It’s one of some 250 Portland Heritage Trees around the city.
No matter how many times I see it, my brain stops working for a few moments, and all I can do is stare up at it stupidly and say, “Damn!” It covers the whole restaurant, and the street, and some of the yard across the street. The immensity of its presence goes beyond the physical and into the spiritual. I can’t be near it without slowing down and slipping, just a little, out of my sense of time and space.
No, I didn’t write this while drinking a specialty cocktail at Tara Thai, nor after having one of their Lao specialties like Pla Neugn: halibut marinated and steamed with fresh lime juice, gingerroot, pickled garlic and green and white onions, delicately arranged over a bed of tofu and topped with fresh ginger, baby bok choy and basil.
Hmm, maybe it’s time to go sit beneath that tree again …
Where it is
TriMet #15 or #77 to NW 23rd and Overton or Portland Streetcar to NW 23rd and Marshall.
(Text from Paul Gerald’s guidebook Peaceful Places: Portland)