Though it rains for most of the school year, there are short periods in early fall and late spring when the sun shines and the temperature is warm. One can lie out on the grass and pass out for a few hours before returning to the strenuous task of cranium-cramming in stuffy, claustrophobic, florescent-lit classrooms. Compare your blood pressure 10 minutes before your class ends and 10 minutes after and chances are it’ll be a few points lower sprawled out under the shadows of PSU’s deciduous giants.
But it takes work to keep the courtyard looking sharp. As pristine as it looks, there aren’t magical elves doing the dirty work. People like Maciej, Willy and Michael are the ones picking up your cigarette butts and half-eaten Pad Thai, as well as keeping the bushes trimmed and the lawn mowed. Without them the lovely oasis that is the Park Blocks would look like a trash heap in the Amazon jungle. Get to know them:
Is your name Polish?
So how long have you been working at Portland State?
Over a year now.
Do you go to school here as well?
Yeah, I’m an English major.
Who are some of your favorite authors?
I like Janet Campbell Hale, D.H. Lawrence, Joyce. Basically Modernism and Native American lit.
Are there any Polish authors you like?
There’s one that I read here that I like that was translated. Kapuscinski. He wrote “The Emperor” – it’s about Haile Selassie. Right after the fall of his reign he interviewed all of his servants. He was a descendant of King Solomon and a symbol of anti-colonialism, he defeated Italy in the ’30s, but he was a complete fucking dictator and murdered his own people.
What is it that you do on campus?
I pick up garbage and litter in the morning, and I prune and weed and rake leaves in the fall. Basically landscaping.
How long do you think it’ll be until you graduate?
I just graduated last spring. I’m in the master’s program for the English department now, so it’ll be like a year and half to two.
What are your plans with your degree?
I don’t know – I’d like to teach at a community college.
Did you have one in mind?
Maybe like Vancouver, B.C., or here in Portland, Rock Creek or Cascade.
How long have you been working at Portland State?
Going on 11 years.
What is it you do?
Garbage, and just general maintenance.
What do you do in your spare time?
Reading, watch football.
What’s your favorite team?
I’m going to go for the Cowboys because I’m from Texas.
What is it you’re eating there?
Beef and bean burrito.
Do you like burritos?
What do you like to eat?
What do eat with your catfish?
What sort of a name is that?
Were you born in Czechoslovakia?
No, that’s just who I am. Ancestors.
What is it you do on campus?
Landscaping and maintenance. That’s mowing the lawn, pressure-wash, weed, take care of the plants.
Have you ever found anything weird in the plants?
Well, it’s downtown Portland so it’s probably not really weird.
Is there anything that stands out in your mind?
Maybe in about 1990-something – early ’90s – we found a lot of balloons full of some kind of drug. I wouldn’t know what.
Where was it?
It was buried in the bark dust over by the PCAT building.
How did you come upon it?
Me and a guy that used to work here were sweeping and he was blowing out the dust and saw a plastic bag and pulled it out and it was full of balloons. He started digging around and found about 80 bags full of balloons.
Did you keep any for yourself?
I did use some – I thought it was sugar, and I put in my coffee.
You’re not serious.
Nah, I’m not serious. Security was there. They confiscated it – they probably kept some of it for themselves – (he laughs).