In Mike Abrahams' work, he digs up more than driveways, cement and dirt. Abrahams excavates pieces of Astoria's history, little by little.
Abrahams, 43, has lived in Astoria all his life.
"I'll never leave," he said. "There's no other place."
Working as an excavator, he comes across "junk" and "antiques" - remnants of historic buildings, rustic equipment and retro paraphernalia.
"I love anything old," he said. "It's a sickness."
Abrahams' wife, Michele, said he brings things home daily.
"Sometimes you have to make a trip home so you can go back and get more," she reminded him.
Mike "Aba" Abrahams - he earned the nickname in school because there were "too many Mike's" - said he has almost everything he wants.
"But there's always something I haven't seen," he said, describing "anything cool" as collectable.
A meat boom from the Old Finnish Meat Market holds a chandelier over the dining room table. A seven-foot saw blade acts as a television stand - the edges are filed so "the kids don't lose their eyeballs."
Even the site of the Alderbrook home is historic, the former location of a cork factory. The house, which overlooks the riverfront, was built with lumber and timber Abrahams collected from various sites, including recycled material from old buildings and driftwood. Abrahams drew the rough plans for the house, featuring high ceilings and sweeping windows, during Lamaze class more than five years ago. Three years later, the plans were finalized. The house was built in a year, and the Abrahams family, including daughters Miranda,12, and Mykka, 5, has been living there for the past year and a half.
Driving around town, Abrahams points out sites he's worked on to his daughters. He has played an integral part in Astoria's history through his work, though he brushes off what he's done as "the little stuff." He has worked on the Astoria Column and has dug out ground from the historic train depot to the East Mooring Basin so railroad tracks could be laid for the Lewis and Clark Explorer train.
"I have a new boss every day, or sometimes three bosses a day," he said. "My jobs only last sometimes two hours, sometimes four hours."
He doesn't have to manage any employees, and "when it rains I can just go home," he said.
He lists the reasons why he wanted to stay in Astoria as "water, trees, nice people, not as much concrete as Portland, clean air."
Abrahams knew for most of his life where he wanted to build his home.
"When I was 7, I wanted this property," he said. At the age of 22, he bought the house adjacent to the property his current home sits on. Fifteen or 20 years later he bought the rest of the land.
"I'd always told my parents this is where I want to be," he said.
- Tehra Peace