One day, I noticed the words “Dark Island” on a sign at the base of a pipe jutting out of a traffic island found at the end of N Argyle Street as it runs into Columbia Blvd. You’d have to use your imagination for this plot of land to feel like an island. It is surrounded on all sides by roads, a sea of asphalt, so I consider it a traffic island. I’m sure there’s a more technical definition for what a traffic island is and what purpose it serves, but to me this is an island surrounded by traffic so it qualifies. On the other hand, I’m not sure what it would take to know how Dark Island is a good description for anything besides the setting or title for a horror movie. The darkness seems to emanate from its drab surroundings, lack of street lighting, weeds and garbage inhabiting the island and the trucks that roar by.
The sign has an official, yet worn look. Its intention may be to add an air of mystery or create a legend around this odd piece of real estate. As any mystery, however minor, appeals to me I’ve been doing some speculating, deep in the dark corners of my mind in an attempt to understand what the sign references. It may draw the line between an in-joke or a more elaborate warning.
Closer inspection led me to believe the pipe on Dark Island has to be connected to the the unnamed and unexplained building across the road hosting a mystery pipe in the parking area. In the back of this nondescript, brown building are a set of mammoth curved pipes behind a wall displaying a danger sign. The noxious smell had me wanting to keep my distance while the warning signs made me nervous, but even more curious.
I then did something I rarely do. I took the time and effort to reach out to the general public in an attempt to research my Dark Island dilemma. I posted a query on Hidden Portland for the Curious, a Facebook group, sharing a picture of the Dark Island pipe and the building across the way. The response informed me that the building is a sewage treatment plant with the Dark Island pipe being part of an air monitoring system, but I was still left in the dark about the origins of the sign.
After considering the meaning, if any, behind Dark Island, and doing my initial investigation, I continued writing this blog post on a Max train as I headed to a Doctor’s appointment in Clackamas. I realized more thorough research lied in placing a phone call to the city. That old cliche,”would it kill you to pick up the phone,” echoed in my ears. With a head full of Dark Island thoughts, I stopped for a cup of coffee and had a laugh about choosing the dark roast. Heading for the hospital, I walked through the Clackamas Town Center Mall parking lot. I noticed a puffy cloud, whip cream like, as it rose above the hillside. There was a JC Penny store, a parking garage, a stop sign and a church. It felt as far away from Dark Island as I could possibly get.
What’s a mystery without a cliffhanger? I promise to make that phone call one of these days. It seems a safe bet that one communication with the Water Bureau will solve this mystery for good at the risk of my sounding like some kind of conspiracy theorist, of course.