The Lone Chairs of SW Portland

I used to be able to grab a bus every ten minutes when I needed one. I was spoiled. I would get anxious, hustling to the bus stop, imagining the horror of seeing a bus pull away because I didn’t want to wait ten minutes for the next one. Bus service has changed. Worker shortages and assorted financial woes have made waiting times longer. Less used routes have always had long wait times, sometimes a half hour to forty-five minutes between pick ups. TriMet’s bus stop phone system announces, to the exact minute, when the next bus will arrive. If you’re not in the mood for a 45 minute hike that probably won’t get you to your destination, you’re forced to wait. 

So, chairs, simple, useful objects appeared making the life of the weary commuter better. This is not TriMet issued gear. The occasional bus stop has a bench nearby and a couple of bus stops, in the whole system, have built-in, angular, uncomfortable looking metal seats attached. The chairs are random, sporadic, beat up seating arrangements, donated by kind neighbors, an offering of temporary comfort. I’m remembering a line from a Joan Osborne song, “What if God were one of us, just a stranger on a bus?” Would you want God waiting, shivering and standing for a bus?

Driving by, I noticed these chairs and I felt better. I took the bus for almost half a year and I never had a chair. My wait times were minimal. Had they not been, I would have had to bring my own chair. Taking the bus is exhausting. Navigating the system, getting to the bus stop, waiting, fighting the elements, finding another bus to get back. Technological advances help but chairs soften the blow. It’s nothing fancy but it’s a seat. There’s also that spirit of generosity. People donate cast off chairs so others may sit, sometimes for what feels like hours, waiting for the crappy bus.

Plastic, Fantastic

What could be more disposable than a crappy plastic chair? It seems destined to crack after a sitting or two. These are the chairs you instantly regret buying. If they were better than nothing they still might not be good enough for bus stop seating. There was a theme on Garden Home Road. Give them plastic. It’s almost better than sitting on the ground. Breakable, disposable, these chairs are a temporary alternative to standing. Too bad no one makes a disposable cot. Most chairs are solo, but the white chair with the two small blue ones seems especially thoughtful for any parent traveling with a couple of kids.

The Folding Chairs of Terwilliger

Brown, drab folding chairs populate a section of Terwilliger heading towards the Tigard border. It’s a couple of matching chairs at different bus stops but they have to be someone’s discards. A couple of these seats were offered to the nearby stops. I pondered why it’s always a sad, lone chair. Bleachers, benches, rows of chairs would be overkill because two feels like a crowd at a bus stop.

The scene below seemed precarious. A chair leans against the bus stop pole while a traffic cone marks the spot of some fallen electrical apparatus.

The Multnomah Village Upgrade

The stone wall makes this bus stop feel a bit cozier. I caught the slatted lawn chair above only to discover it had been replaced by a softer office chair—one that needed the weight of a person to keep from turning towards the bus stop pole. Possibly a case of a frequent sitting upgrade. It almost makes me want to start taking the bus along that route so I could use that chair. 

The Miscellaneous Extraneous Conclusion

It occurred to me, I’m taking pictures of chairs. This is my life. Portrait is a more highfalutin word, but really, I’m trying to document this act of support for bus commuters. Bus stops and chairs are not an exciting combinations even when someone drops off fancy wicker chairs. The makeshift trash can is a nice addition as TriMet never springs for trash receptacles. It is a strange phenomenon. Most chairs are empty but they remain ready to assist anyone waiting for a bus. I’m sure they garner gratitude from the occasional bus riders who use them to park their posteriors.

It’s The End Of The Year As We Knew It (And I Don’t Feel So Fine)

I’ll save the canned speech about how The Portland Orbit has to write an obligatory year-in-review column. Is it in the contract? By now it’s a habit. I expect the Pittsburgh Orbit will be doing it so if I hope to survive in the blogging game, I have to emulate my nemesis. The competition ends here. I’m just trying to get something done. This year I’ve just tried to get by. I’ve had to reconsider my outlook on life, maybe that’s what we all do this time of year. I’ll spare you the list of calamities. With luck, we can hope no year will be worse than good old 2022.

Looking back, I wrote some obituaries–fine subject matter for a blog, but there’s no shame in honoring loved ones. I wrote about mannequins and conducted a longish interview with Jeff Dodge. I managed to compiled images for blog posts of lawn deer statuettes, Mt. Hood images used in advertising and stop sign defacement which makes people stop to decipher the message. Sure I was a bit defensive when I wrote a whole post about an nasty comment someone sent me, but hey, I am always looking for material. The rest was holidays, Halloween, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and a comprehensive, overlong Blues Fest review. Then there was my election primary literature rehash and a second run in with my guitar hero Peter Buck along with a report from out of the area. For as much time as I spent hiding in my house wondering if I was agoraphobic, I did manage to get out a bit.

The Hit

I thought I had a story, but I found another. That’s serendipity that anyone can get behind. This blog is inspired by random displays of creativity. Here I discovered, way outside of Portland, handmade signs that made me realize Portland hasn’t cornered the market of unbridled creativity. In Neskowin, cute, sometimes clever and what seemed like kid created signs did double duty. Folk Art combined public service. It sprang out of a tiny neighborhood on the coast. The signs cried out to me making me appreciate the outsider art begging people to drive slow.

The Miss

The significance of 2/22/22 didn’t dawn on me until Willard Simmons, from the Pittsburgh Orbit, pointed it out. It was easily the most significant and amazing date of the year. Willard challenged me to write a post involving 2’s. I had to seize this date. The opportunity wasn’t going to arrive until 3/33/33, ah, 3/3/33, I mean, when we’d be writing about threesomes, I guess. There was a problem. Instead of getting the research team into a google car to drive around photographing everything and looking for examples of two things or pairs or whatever, the researchers stayed home googling stuff. The resulting compiled cubicle listicle was fun and Willard seemed pleased enough but I couldn’t help wondering what I missed. In desperation, I seized on Celine Dion’s two Portland show cancellations and learned that Celine fans were called Celiniacs. There’s probably related fan art but I can’t dedicate six weeks of my life to go down that rabbit hole. One Celiniac seems to have turned fandom into high art creating the movie Aline. Sadly, the retirement of Celine Dion, due to health concerns, means there will be no more shows to cancel.

My Celiniac fan art parody wound up in the Silver Apple Gallery in Lawrenceville neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Photo by Kirsten Ervin.

See Willard’s double doubles from this year’s historic date:

The Sleeper

I’m a collector. When I collect images I want to share them. My lawn deer obsession must have started with my feeble attempts at painting ceramics animals as a kid. Lawn deer call to me in their tacky splendor, their cement bodies and bad paint jobs substitute for the real thing. It’s all about the elevation of a wild animal into cartoonish ceramic caricatures. A deer on the lawn indicates that a homeowner likes deer and loves to decorate. I had my chance. Right there at a store, years ago, where a man cradled a lawn deer. Asking why seemed confrontational or crazy. I can barely understand why I like lawn deer myself but I was happy to have a format to display the images I’ve collected over the years.

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Remember the new year is a chance to start off with a clean slate at least for a couple of days until all the resolutions have gone by the wayside. Happy New Year and keep reading!!

Boring, Not Boring, Rein, Not Raindeer

We never made it to see the reindeer last year. I made an email inquiry about the reindeer’s touring schedule but sent it to an outdated address. Months later I received a kind response from the folks at Timberview Farms, home of the reindeer. I have to admit I neglected to respond but this made me all the more determined to put “look at reindeer”on my 2022 Christmas season celebration list keeping their appearance schedule on my radar, a totally different radar than the one that tracks Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. 

This determination to make one seasonal/traditional effort this year meant getting up and getting out while convincing my better half, Ronna, to come along. Luckily, the overcast gloom of this Saturday was not including rain. The promise of a coffee drink was an enticement enough, not that it overshadowed seeing live reindeer up close. Reindeer are the holiday’s unsung heroes. They do the heavy lifting. They never ask Santa to diet or whine about the weight of the billions of presents they help deliver. So, after taking a right at Gresham, we found ourselves on the road to Boring for the reindeer appearance. 

Boring, a place that’s a straight line for joke opportunities, seems to be a patch work of farm fields with a quaint, yet brief downtown. It’s a place that rolls with its name, not taking itself too seriously. In fact, the joke went international when Boring became the sister city of Dull, Scotland. On the outskirts of town, we pulled into the landscaping materials store, Boring Bark, for the reindeer display. I was surprised to see the parking lot hopping with cars. A family with six kids headed out while a couple of people wrangled puppies. This was encouraging. We had arrived at THE place for a reindeer watching.  

To avoid the people, Ronna led me around the back of the store. There in a pen were the two reindeer from the team, Vixen and another reindeer. I couldn’t see the name on the collar but I spotted the letters J and O. Our research department is desperately trying to remember the names of the reindeer from the Night Before Christmas poem. The two were laying down either resting or nesting. This may be typical reindeer behavior. The pen was filled with sawdust and tree boughs. Later Jo stood up to eat an apple half. This was a more animated version of these real life reindeer. 

My bud tender mentioned the phrase “tourist trap” but it wasn’t quite like that. I needed to see a reindeer to compare it to every other reindeer like creature, the moose, deer and elk of this world. It was good to compare these reindeer to the animated version, Sven, that I had just seen in the movie Frozen. Note: real reindeer don’t talk. This was yet another of many possible events to get kids excited, as if they needed more holiday excitement and yes, they do. We can never forget that Christmas is for kids. They will grow to dislike it in time. Live reindeer viewings, meetings with Santa and looking at pretty lights provide the delight that will someday turn into cynicism. Choice overheard quotes jumped out, “Please, look happy for just one second,” a woman said to the reindeer while taking photos. Someone else said, “Reindeers don’t typically like carrots and that’s what people leave out.” This year we’ll leave out apple halves and pine boughs for the reindeer when they stop by our house.

Expectations and imaginations will get you in the end but it wouldn’t be life without them. Who needs a low expectation imagination? I expected to see a herd of reindeer frolicking in a field, maybe playing reindeer games. Free admission was a fair price to pay for dashed expectations. It was really about an opportunity to see real life reindeer. We took the long way home where numerous signs begged us to turn right to Gresham, a metropolis in these parts. We continued on our little highway heading towards Oregon City basking in our visit and enjoying the rural, small town vibe knowing the reindeer have a busy December with their appearance schedule and the big night but they’d have most of the following year to rest and relax.

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Post Script: I got a gentle chiding from Willard Simmons of the Pittsburgh Orbit for working on Christmas Eve. Then I made a threat against Tiny Tim and ran out to run a few more errands in the slush. There was a huge technical fiasco–unsaved drafts. Thanks WordPress!! This may result in more typos or misplaced commas than usual. Happy Holidays everyone!!

O Turkey of St. Johns: A Turkey of St. Johns Tribute Part 8

O Turkey of St. Johns whose memory is so great, so strong in my mind, so prompt before the Throne of the All-Knowing-Turkey, I place in you all my interests and desires.

O Turkey of St. Johns do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for me from your divine memory all spiritual blessings through Turkeys everywhere, Our Turkey memory; so that having engaged here below in this blog your heavenly power may offer my Thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Birds.

O Turkey of St. Johns, I never weary contemplating you and imagining you asleep in your pen. I dare not approach during your reposes near my heart. Press the Turkey of St. Johns in my name and kiss the Turkey of St. John’s fine Head for me and ask the Turkey of St. Johns for me, and ask the Turkey of St. Johns to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.

Turkey of St. Johns, Patron of all sacrificial turkeys, pray for us. Amen

Read more Turkey of St. Johns posts:

Is This Halloween Enough For You?

The wind blows shadowy images of tree limbs and their leaves on the wall in the faint fall moonlight during the haunting season. I scurry to work in darkness. When light arrives Halloween images appear around me. Scenarios celebrate the season. Most are gruesome while others truly terrify. I’m left to wait for darkness so I’m less afraid of what I can’t see.

Toddler Fear

You can’t help but get a creepy vibe from a doll-like creature posing as a toddler on a front porch. I was wary of getting close. The limbs hanging from ropes out of frame added to my fear. Toddlers are already menacing. What are they saying? What do they want? Usually I can run away but in this case I merely increase my pace and keep moving looking long enough to get one picture.

In my low light mornings, I huff and puff as I walk to work. This comical ghost received a makeover from a fixed lens camera phone that made the image actually ghostly. The mouth is less smile, more ghoulish slash. This inflatable benefits from photographic imperfections that creates an image with a frightening lack of eyes. Blow ups never fail to entertain but they aren’t as threatening as they wish they were.

Webs of Fright

Webbing is decorative. I’ll give it that but is it ever realistic? It may not matter how many plastic spiders you put in it. This web impressed me because it stretched the length of a long row of tall bushes. I wouldn’t have expected this kind of effort.

Get closer and this mammoth spider may elicit a fearful scream. That’s what she was hired to do. One does need to be grateful that a habitat for real spiders can’t be created from synthetic webs

Another example feels more like worms nesting and attacking trees. This is more frightening from a homeowner’s perspective. Perhaps most frightening of all, in the foreground there are potholes on an unfinished street. These are the true nightmare terrors of homeownership: Worms attack as potholes breed.

Hangin’ With Halloween

I can’t resist enjoying visions of hanging ghosts despite how redundant they seem. These spirits are already dead. I get that the purpose of their suspended animation is decoration. Ghosts are a cog in the Halloween machinery and it would be a grimmer experience without them.

Colorful witch hats hanging in a tree caught my eye and my imagination as soon as I noticed them weeks ago. Blinking lights surround purple and orange–a color too close to traffic cones, in a unique display which leaves me to wonder where the witches are but the mystery is part of how this hanging stuff from a tree display goes to the next level.

Toxic Treat

It’s a gruesome sight. I catch it every year and it keeps getting creepier by the minute–that’s every minute I spend time thinking about it. What’s in the barrel? My first thought was nuclear sludge. I spent more time considering. A body being dissolved in acid? Do you see where this is going? That’s just one element of this scene. There’s a body wrapped in duct tape and thick black plastic and a sinister portrait while some mutant attempts to photo bomb my efforts to take a picture.

When Sculpture Haunts

I noticed this decoration and was intrigued that it was on the property of a church. Kind of a knobby kneed fellow who is sporting some nice rain boots. His head is pumpkin orange but it’s not a pumpkin. The skull and bones on the can he holds fits the season. But the board he holds carries no Jesusween proclamation like I was expecting.

Some effort was made to create a scary sculpture around our house and it’s frightening because it’s so weird.

Meanwhile, I continue to wonder about the sign that’s blank. There’s something wrong with this unless he’s actually holding a paddle. What do you expect from Halloween sculptures? Most days you have to enjoy any and all forms of seasonal decor and the unsung efforts that go into producing them. That’s the real spirit of this season.

See another Halloween post: https://portlandorbit.com/2020/10/28/rattling-around-in-their-bones-yet-another-halloween-spooktacular/

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I’m What’s Wrong With Portland

It started with a blog post in progress that left me over analyzing how to make it just right while being fair about the subject matter. The resulting writer’s block had me putting off the post repeatedly. It’s taken me since late August to post something. While the sabbatical has been nice, it’s time to get back to writing. Life’s been chaotic on multiple fronts. The job is in shambles, the house in disarray due to a renovation, surely a first world problem but there’s a thin coat of drywall dust everywhere and the sounds of tiles being cut blare on leaving me searching for the stuff I’ve squirreled away because there’s no place to put it. On top of that a neighbor had an issue with us because he thinks our dog barks too much. This all may sound trivial but my time management and focus skills have taken a beating. I’m regrouping. In the midst of this, I unearthed the above comment I needed to consider. The sting of negativity only hurts for a while. It helps to acknowledge it with mockery.

I considered different ways to respond. Everything from fiery rhetoric, a Faulkner quote, a reference to post modernism, a Woody Allen allusion and troll jokes about Billy Goats Gruff. Really, the Troll should wait and eat my big brother because he’s much tastier but remember, dear reader, I’m trying to get back on track. I’m desperate for subject matter so a self-referential post about a piece of hate mail is what you get. To analyze the comment reveals how little sense it makes. Social media spun out of control to make it easy to find a good hate read or encounter a troll who wants to get a rise out of people. Plenty of sensible folks abandoned their online presence while I’m left grasping for a reason someone would compare my blog to a piece of shit. I’ve got a dog. I’m familiar with poop so this comparison is apples to oranges. My writing, even on an off day, is never fecal in nature. And this thing about my blog being something that no one wants is an unwarranted and unfounded opinion.** Someone in the world has it on good authority that no one but me and my friends want my blog. My friends, well, I’ve got a few who are the best I’ve ever had in my life and I know they read this but other friends–I’m not convinced they even know about this blog. There’s no need for me to pick another art form, real or otherwise. I’ve never claimed this blog to be art or journalism. It’s words, ideas and images I share with anyone who is interested. Wasn’t that the promise the internet originally intended? Uninterested and uninteresting parties need not apply. No one needs advice from sore losers who can’t express themselves and want to shut the rest of us down. After writing that sentence, expect trolls around the world to surrender en masse!! In the meantime, I’ll do what I want while it’s still a free country.

The demand that I pick a real art form threw me. Hmmmmm, what? Should I stick with making poetry albums, or videos about the stuff in my basement, write more unproduced screen plays, and of course, keep working on The Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour. Right? Or are these options not a real enough art form either? There’s a sad lack of detail within the expression of rage in the comment. I’d welcome specific ideas, a chance to have a debate but everyone is more interested in shouting everyone else down. Maybe it’s better to think about the nice comments I get from real friends and bots. The bots are smarter than some of the humans except when they’re trying to butter me up just to get me to buy something from Ebay. The world has felt like a confusing mess at times. At least technology allows us the option to sift through and block out some things we don’t want in our lives.

Thinking about what set off the person who wrote the comment, I realized somebody had a bee up their bonnet about graffitti. Looking back at what I wrote in A Message of Mystery: Graffiti Abuse, I admitted to being tolerant of graffiti. I may have made a better case when I wrote Antsy About Antsi Part 2 because I added some input from people I respect in an attempt to understand the graffiti phenomenon. It’s not something any of us control. It’s unstoppable. There’s a culture, like it or not, that expresses themselves this way. Painters are going to paint and haters are going to hate. Ugh, I know, but if you condemn someone for writing about anything that demonstrates an out of control need to control everything. Good luck with that. Ultimately, if “no one wants this shit,” I’m fine with that. This is about what I get from writing, revising, thinking and being curious and appreciative of where I live. It’s for me first and I’m happy to share. I welcome any reader of any intelligence level, even artificial. Instead of getting hung up on everything that’s wrong it might be better to focus on making things right.

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**Mrs. Yuchmow I really felt the need to start that sentence with the word and. Now I need to justify it to you but the problem is I wrote it a while back and I can’t remember what possessed me to do it. Maybe the devil? As a teacher, I do think you’ll be impressed that I just learned that the word possessed is spelled with four s’s.

Mt. Hood: Portraits And Portrayals Of Our Mountain Friend

Am I too cynical now? Definitely a rhetorical question but looking back at what I wrote about Mount Hood in 2018, I can see how my attitude has changed. Then, I thought it was fine to use the image of the mountain to sell a product, advertise businesses and even decorate a dumpster. Now, I’m not sure. It’s not the worst thing. Mount Hood is a good looking mountain but people jump on the bandwagon and I’m questioning their motives. Do they just want to be seen with the cool nature kid? “Hoodie” on a logo, product or dumpster is instant natural wonder cred. There seem to be no qualms about associating with the majestic, breathtaking image of Mt. Hood to elevate status. Look at our affiliation with the splendor of nature these connections broadcast. How can you blame anybody? Mt. Hood is a great symbol that can be graphically rendered and imagined in an infinite number of stylish ways. Living in the shadow of Mount Hood, most of us appreciate breathtaking views of the actual mountain. It gets more views than I ever do. Being a local hero to many communities, means businesses from miles around can’t resist co-opting its image.

Backing the Skyline

The Lost ‘N Portland podcast logo fits a couple of categories combining skyline imagery with an out of scale representation of the Mount Hood background. Our regular reader can tell you how much we love the Portland skyline. Loving the mountain means the more you see, the bigger, and better it is.

Fabricate the Mountain

This is a more rock like representation of the mountain. I get it, of course Mount Hood is made of rock, but this sign is drawn as one lump, more rock slab than majestic mountain. It doesn’t much matter. It’s still a decorative sign. The image is squeezed into a rectangular shape but it’s a good enough replication. The day I saw this sign in Tigard, I was seeing Mount Hood designs everywhere I went. I’m not the least bit picky.

Over the Hills

Indian Hills Apartments seems like a politically incorrect name but the sign seems to indicate Mount Hood and the surrounding area is Native American hill country. If you’ll pardon my pure speculation, the best I can offer is another view of the mountain. This Mount Hood rendering is sweet and endearing while the bubble enclosure at the top of the sign creates an accidental snow globe effect.

A Sci-Fi Try

You might see this depiction of Mount Hood in a Hobbit movie or during a therapist approved mushroom experience which isn’t to say I don’t fully appreciate the graffiti approach I saw in South Portland. The giant carrots perplex me but they don’t diminish the floating surrealistic Mount Hood landscape with the river aligned for perfect run off to feed the carrots to make them grow big and strong allowing them to dance in the sky and off the dirt clouds that keep the mountain suspended in air. Yeah. Something like that.

Welcome Matt Hood!!

Here’s a commercial tie in that feels so wrong it might be just right. Ahhhhhhh, imagine shuffling your shoes, cleaning your soles, while peering into this peaceful, serene mountain landscape. Does it get more “ah” than that? It’s an image made for profit, but not by that much. Did you see the price? How did I not take home one, or two?

Mountain Of Choice

They do a lot right at those Markets of Choices. It’s a special shopping experience but not one you can afford often. They must pay their graphic artists well to come up with concepts like the pear in the shape of a letter A. The look of this bag I picked up from a Eugene location, well, it’s done well. Market of Choice has its own crest. “Oregon owned since 1979,” it proclaims with a background of Mount Hood and some optical illusion trees. The image has just the right amount of melt, snow and glacial activity to present a pleasing rendition of our Hoodie. Bravo.

On A Sellwood Wall, Mt. Hood Dwarfs All

Artsy, in a Batman/Gotham way, this Mount Hood mural spotted in Sellwood, looms over downtown. Dwarfing the city, I can hear this volcano’s grumbling voice whispering, “People forget I’m a volcano because I’m mostly covered with snow but I could Pompeii you all if you don’t cut out all the Sodom and Gomorrah stuff.” Regardless, this image’s dark tone spruces up the wall’s drab surroundings .

Get Your Kicks On Route 26

I came home to find a van with this logo in my driveway. It was about actual electrical work–nothing about this blog. Route 26 will take you to Mount Hood or at least get you in the shadows so this design is pinpoint accurate hitting the trifecta by including the road, mountain and highway sign. The three pronged electrical plug is a nice touch but it’s not a cord running from the mountain.

The Western View of WY’east

There’s a reason this photo looks like abstract art. The image that makes a logo, of sorts, was on that back of tour bus in traffic. It was too far away to get a sharper image. It’s a magnificent image of Mount Hood spotted in Eugene. It’s more art then logo anyway–I’m talking about my photo. This simple idea offers us the mountain from an interesting perspective. As you admire the image, you’re bound to start thinking about how you need to book a tour bus. At the very least, you can have a look at the website and possibly see more images of Mount Hood. (This website appears to be defunct. You’ll have to search for Hoodie images elsewhere.) I wasn’t sure about the placement of the web site address. Where could it go where it wouldn’t block my view of the mountain?

Flying the Hood A

Wow! So much excitement seeing Mount Hood forming the letter A–just like that pear in the Market of Choice logo. I discovered this sign deep in the bowels of the Portland International Airport. I was on a mission retrieving something from the lost and found. I couldn’t resist taking a picture when no one was around, but I tend to shy away from doing suspicious things in airports so I did not want to press my luck and get a better shot. Hoodie makes a reasonable letter A and the plane’s wing completes the lettering–a nice touch. The graphic ties so many concepts together, a mountain and a plane joining together to form a letter A in the middle of a P and a C surrounded by a chemtrail. This design feels almost brilliant.

All Lit Up

I’m not one to try to bore my reader but I almost blew off this final image. The electric sign flashed the image of Mount Hood in Tigard but I wanted to keep driving telling myself I would come back before realizing if I didn’t stop I’d come back. I’m glad I did because I love this sign. The mountain with its red background has the feel of old video game graphics. Well done dentist office!!

As Seen In Eugene

I owe a debt of gratitude to a past coworker for hiring me for a two week job in Eugene, Oregon. Not exactly a vacation but a chance to experience somewhere else. That’s usually worth the price of admission. In this case there was no admission fee. I got a visit to Eugene and a paycheck. I didn’t know much about the place. I had spent one evening years ago biking around the campus after attending a concert at Autzen Stadium. It was a place of mystery. My recent visit had me focused on a job involving the World Athletic Commission Championship, that’s a fancy title for a two week track meet held at Hayward Field. To reveal more of my duties and obligations, well, it seems neither relevant nor necessary. I didn’t sign a nondisclosure agreement if that’s what you’re thinking but I’m not willing to jeopardize any possibility of working with these folks again should the opportunity arise. 

My focus here is mostly on Eugene but I have to point out what anyone from the area knows, it’s hard not to include the neighboring town of Springfield. I was surprised to learn I was staying in Springfield just over the border from the edge of the University of Oregon campus. The police and fire departments use the two town’s names so it’s kind of a metropolitan area now. This post includes both areas despite leaving Springfield out of the title. Not as much rhymes with Springfield. I did spend the majority of my time in a small section of Eugene spotting numerous examples of my favorite fixations, pole art, arrows, signs, murals, museums, letters to the editors and more. I only scratched the surface of these categories. More examples of these topics would have been discovered had I spent more time in the area. 

Painting With Hydrants

My fascination with campaigns to beautify fire hydrants goes back to memories of the Bicentennial in 1976. Then, hydrants were gussied up where I lived for the national celebration in red, white and blue, of course. In Eugene, I spotted the one above and a few more. This isn’t the most skillful paint job but who cares? It’s a colorful offering that’s a far cry from the usual, standard paint job. 

On The Road To The Mannequin Fever

It took a while, then, in a restaurant close to the stadium, I realized there was a mannequin in the corner. She’d been watching the whole time. An added bonus: She’s got a knife! The dark corner, the hat, hoodie, shades and a hand, barely able to clutch that blade–all fantastic!! Especially for an Italian place that was running a half off special on bottles of wine. 

We Get Letters! 

I waited for the next issue of the Eugene Weekly to arrive, disappointed when it failed to materialize despite my being in the area for two weeks. Old hippies meet rural right wingers to duke it out in the Letters to the Editor section. They never fail to provide entertaining ideas and perspectives on how the world should be run. 

Top It Off With An Antenna Topper

Despite their inability to be photographed by my iPhone camera, I can never get enough of antenna toppers. I even had a quick chat with the owner of this one. She laughed as I snapped away, hoping for some focus. The duck imagery never ends at a college with a duck mascot. Ducks everywhere! Souvenirs, t-shirts, silhouetted on athletic department buildings; webbed duck prints even appear in crosswalks. This duck topper made perfect sense. I was equally amused by the black duct tape that fastened this tub toy topper to the antenna. 

Sidewalk Swimming

This sidewalk stamp is part of the campaign to remind and/or educate people that what they put down the drain may head straight back to the local rivers. I was impressed, maybe that’s a stretch of a pun, by the details left by this impression. The salmon practically appears to be flopping off the sidewalk. 

Pole Art, No Pun Intended

It feels like an advanced technique when pole art is placed directly to the pole. The standard is usually affixing an object. This image has the unsuspecting asking, “Hey, who’s humping that pole?” The mustachioed man in green underwear is creatively and humorously detailed, a life sized cartoon bringing art to life.

I was more curious about this art. What’s the meaning behind a bagged photo nailed to a pole? Is it a lost and found situation or a spontaneous pole art gallery? How could this matter?  Here’s a random, yet interesting photo, possibly taken on the other side of the world, in a novel frame. I enjoyed it for a few seconds but I’ll be pondering the meaning of my picture of that picture for many more. 

Point Me In The Direction Of Arrows

I don’t understand my love of arrows. I just like them. This spray painted version decorating the sidewalk with possible practical applications was inspirational to me.

Psychedelic Bowerman

To spend any time in Tracktown USA, Eugene’s nickname, is to be surrounded by the legends of University’s past. There’s Steve Prefontaine or “Pre” for short, Coach Bowerman, Hayward, the guy they named the stadium after, Phil Knight and Bowerman’s wife’s waffle iron that helped create the early Nike shoes. The old Hayward Stadium is relegated to the history books now while a striking update stands in its place.

I’m always struck by bathrooms that are stylishly decorated with murals and the soles of track shoes planted into the floor. This was the only stadium bathroom I used but I couldn’t resist taking pictures. It’s not a good look to be snapping away in this type of facility but the art was too bold.

Pre Memorial

I needed to make the pilgrimage to Pre’s Rock if only to tell myself I did more than just work in Eugene. It was closer than I realized and easier to find with sign markers with arrows pointing the way. I followed the winding road that led to the spot of Prefontaine’s doom. The roadside memorial, with all the track gear that’s been left behind, struck a chord of loss and shared grief. I had to shoot around the other visitor feeling bad that I really wanted to take it in alone. 

Signs Of Any Life

Signs were everywhere in Eugene. Sometimes they addressed mundane issues about where to wash or not wash things. The colorful sign above was spotted on the way to the Pre’s Rock. And I shopped a whole lot better knowing Dale’s surgery went well.

Cloud In The Street

Most nights my job had me waiting outside the gate waiting to take on one of my duties. Cloud set up her cube PA system and guitar and played music with a bucket percussionist. The highlight to her groves that rang in my ears was a guy in the street who one night doing an improvisational scat directing people to Cloud’s tip jar. I learned more about Cloud through a business card that was left behind. Heck, us poets have to stick together. 

On The Oregon Trail And The Oregon Film Trail 

The infamous movie Animal House was filmed on the University of Oregon campus in the 70’s. Surely there are Oregon Film Trail signs noting specific film locations there. I didn’t get a chance to see them but when I noticed this sign on the grounds of a fire station I had to investigate. The old Hayward Field was used in multiple movies, even getting a visit from Mariel Hemmingway. It may not get better than that. 

Hippie Relics 

Down the road and through an industrial section of the town, you’ll find Springfield, Oregon. I visited the business district in search of something to eat settling on a food cart. This is the namesake of the setting for the Simpson’s cartoon. The town embraced this distinction adding multiple murals inspired by the show. I joked with the cart operator about when he’d get his mural on the red wall of his cart that seemed to be begging for one. 

The Hippie Museum looked even more interesting especially with a member of one of the iconic psychedelic bands from the 60’s making an appearance. It’s a bit tricky to say what kind of happenings may be happening in a Hippie Museum. There’s only one way to find out. Enter at your own risk. 

Easy Kesey

I learned Ken Kesey spent his formative years in Springfield. He did all his wrestling and letter jacket wearing there before things got really weird. Much is made about his Eugene connection. I suppose it’s more about him attending the university and working there. He was a Springfield guy eventually settling outside of the area in Pleasant Hill. The mural, touting his book collection, feels like the right touch.

Into the Sunset

Eugene and Springfield seemed weirdly peaceful. Of course school wasn’t much in session so student havoc wasn’t exactly raging. The sunsets on the Willamette River were nice way to end long days.

A Blue Light Special: Singing the Blues Fest Blues

The View From A Festive, Sunny Afternoon

By now everyone has rambled on down the road leaving me to decipher sixteen pages of notes in bad penmanship. I didn’t know what to expect from four days of blues that ran from July 1 to July 4, but it was more music than I’d experienced in the last few years. Blues Fest may have been more blues centric when it started thirty-five years ago but its evolved to include blues off shoots like roots, zydeco, soul and rock. Clanging guitars and honking horn sections impressed me more than I imagined.

Day 1

Arriving the first afternoon, we got the lay of the land. There wasn’t a rush to get to the downtown Waterfront, where the event was held. An afternoon arrival still meant at least six hours of blues. We waded into a sea of people catching the scenic views of the river full of boats, one flying a giant American flag. Music blared.

Travis Hodge Jr. And The Sound Of Steel

We headed to see Tevis Hodge Jr. at the Crossroads Stage. I had seen his appearance on The Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour. He played authentic blues on a steel guitar. Tevis encouraged a dancing couple, “Loosen them bones,” he said as he played a song by a train hoppin’ hobo. I was pouring over the schedule making the plan. As soon as Grace Potter plays the Ooh La La song, I thought, we’ll run to the Front Porch stage and catch the James Brown Tribute. My quest to race from stage to stage changed when I realized there was more magic in random unplanned moments. Tevis played the fishing song, a nice bookend to Taj Mahal’s version we would see on Day 3. He told the audience about riding his bike to Blues Fest during his high school days when the admission fee involved can donations. Back then he dreamed of playing the festival. His love for the Blues made the living the dream adage come to life.

We noticed the multitudes wearing music related t-shirts unrelated to blues: Kiss, Clash, Slash, Stevie Nicks 2022, Ramones, Primus, Dead and many others. The more appropriate Johnny Lee Hooker shirt didn’t appear until Day 3. On Day 1, my wife Ronna and I were mystified, yet excited for some reason, to see two different Reba shirts. Any shirt is better than no shirt at all.

I Might Play This Here Piano Later

Introducing the Robert Randolph Band, Dan Tolkin from KOIN 6 made a lead balloon of a stage diving joke but he wasn’t far off. The band revved up scorchingly heavy blues featuring Randolph’s distorted lap steel. When the sun sunk low, Grace Potter scooted across the stage, moves that could have been inspired by sharing a bill with Mick Jagger and the Stones. Her suggestive comments about a limp microphone had a fan behind us shouting, “we’re listening.” It was a sultry romp bordering on a starlet parody and a Jennifer Jason Leigh movie. None of that mattered. Grace and her band rocked. Loud, abrasive at times, rollicking; I knew the Ooh La La song. It seemed destined to be the closer. Before the set ended, we were rocked out and needed to pace ourselves. I settled for hunting for a live version of Ooh La La on YouTube as we scurried home.

Day 2

From The First Note You’re In Chubby’s Family

After catching Son Little on the Blues Stage, we wandered toward the back of the festival dominated by Zydeco music. Accordions and wash board contraptions get anyone within earshot bobbing. Chubby Carrier was doing his thing with the Bayou Swamp Band bringing the spirit of New Orleans. Standing by what Ronna called the “bear cage,”Chubby announced we were all members of his “Zydeco Family” making Blues Fest a family reunion. My feeble attempts at dancing made me feel like the black sheep of the family.

We’d Zydeco Dance If We Learned How
This One Goes Out To The Beverage Monitors

We headed towards the Crossroads stage where Zach Person was cranking the sound that’s bringing him fame outside of Austin. He slipped in classical music riffs, the dance of the sugar plum fairy, I was told, before playing a Hendrix song. The Crossroads Stage was a victim of its own success becoming standing room only unless you arrived early.

A Big Voice Will Reach All Of The People

The festival scene became a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds. A taco walking down the esplanade was a costume and not a hallucination. Diunna Greenleaf taught me a cool stage move. When you’re done, reach for the sky, yelp and walk off stage. I understand show business but as a curmudgeon, I don’t like to be told what to do. Don’t tell me to put my hands together. Don’t tell me to give some love to anybody. Blues Fest introduced us to many artists we wouldn’t have known otherwise. I recalled Lady A’s battle with Lady Antebellum when they wanted to undixiefy their name and use her’s, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling her “Big Mama.” Ronna explained her Sugar Honey Ice Tea reference. We’d all slogged through and stepped in it during the pandemic.

Watch It, The High E Shatters My Wine Glass

Performers of all kinds gave their all. This made Duffy Bishop’s efforts even more impressive. She hit the stage clucking like a chicken, her jewelry rattling. You would assume she was just an elderly woman but she belted out song after song. It hit me. All bands need horn sections. I’ll never see the Foo Fighters unless they add one. Duffy left the stage to sing in the crowd. This was a transcendent moment that elated the audience.

When Night Falls So Do The People

Son Little played a second set on the smaller Crossroads Stage. The dusky evening vibe felt like quintessential Portland. Random people connected, a woman, alone at the side of the stage swayed to the music and a guy in a Denny’s bacon costume jitterbugged with his lady. In front of us, a man drummed along to Son’s cozy minimalism. His subtle, southern riffage, angular and choppy, was supported by keyboard bass notes. Later the same man shared his vape pen and danced with a couple. We sang along to the Blue Magic song feeling like there had been magic in being able to, once again, see performers and be around the characters that give local shows their Portland charm.

Day 3

Sometimes You Choose Either Guitars or Shoes

A few licks into Artis Jordan’s set on the Blues Stage had me thinking, “guitar hero.” The guy wailed. I was distracted by a guy who spilled beer down his shirt, slurped from his buddy’s flask and washed it down with a joint. The Parks and Rec department outlawed smoking. Most people complied so there was little need to crack down. Artis reminded me of Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel. We experienced a Portlander we hadn’t heard of before.

Beer was a big part of Blues Fest. At seven bucks a pop I found it amusing, yet irritating, that it was sold full to the brim in small cups leaving people to slosh and weave through the crowds. Spillage was unavoidable. I laughed about the crowd management worker in a Steeler knit cap checking the ID of a man with a giant beard that looked like it took ten years to grow. A festival wouldn’t be festive without jostling with the crowd. A guy made a joke of my wife’s lack of a use of a turn signal while she was walking. Another element was encroachment on our space. We laid down towels to claim space. This felt like our lawn. I became that get off my lawn guy. One lady proceeded to move my bag—shocking! You never touch a guy’s bag without asking. This is what I’ve missed from rarely going to concerts.

As Soon As This Is Over I’ll Go Fishing

An 80 year old Taj Mahal ended the evening in strong voice. He still had it. My favorite part was when he told his horn section to, “horn me!’ I was enjoying my lack of expectation from a legendary artist I should probably know more about. In an ageist world, it was nice to see old folks kicking ass.

Day 4

Find A Partner To Win A Prize

We stumbled onto a blues dance competition with a judge wandering through the pairs, taping some, which either meant they were in or out. Of course a competitive dancing subculture exists, this was my first up close encounter. The dancers wore special shoes and I’m still unsure how people dance to the blues. I was lacking stamina for the last day, worn out from so much music. Despite the grind, there were several acts I wanted to catch. I flashed back to Woodstock. How could they have taken sleeping in the mud and being high for three days? Heck Jimi’s Monday morning performance might have seemed like a mass hallucination if somebody hadn’t filmed it. But it’s all about the music and we had the luxury of sleeping in our own bed every night.

Dancing Is One Way To Beat The Blues
Dancing Is One Way To Fight Corruption

I was excited to see Femi Kuti. I knew something of his lineage, but not much. I was glad to see that Blues Fest parameters were not rigid enough to exclude afrobeat. The horns kicking in were pure joy. The sparkling dancers shook while Femi stalked the stage in a green kung fu suit. Most performers had avoided political statements but this was Femi’s act. His songs spoke of corruption and coming from a place where people fight their government for health care, decent roads, even electricity. I read up on Femi’s father, Fela, finding out he’d spent time in jail for his beliefs. Femi’s message warned of a battle of political will brewing. “Let the storm be our storm,” he said. “Let that storm be love. Let that storm end pain.” Music, the family business, had Femi ready to pass the torch, bringing his son on stage to finish the show.

We decided not to move claiming our space by the South Stage and watching performances from the Blues Stage on the telescreen. There was no point in moving back and forth when it wasn’t possible to see much with people standing in front of the stage. Judith Light’s performance revealed her incredible voice and admirable guitar skills. Her band included family members. She introduced her keyboard playing mom as “the funkiest mom on the planet.” Her Dad’s introduction included a bass solo.

Everybody Likes A Sharp Dressed Man

I was in line getting Ethiopian food as Andy Stoke’s band was setting up. I was feeling judgmental. I hadn’t even seen Andy in his stage clothes. There was a guy at the Crossroads Stage who had done historical research for a purebred blues sound and a parade at the other side of the Festival that I thought deserved my attention but it was too much to dash back and froth. As we ate, Andy Stokes won me over with passionate soul singing and showmanship. While I was feeling sluggish, like the bottom heavy six string bass groove, Andy pumped out his new take on his ballad, “I Don’t Give a Damn,” that was a resurgent hit. He offered up a pun on his name telling the audience we were going to get “stoked.” He reminisced about his twelve years playing the Candlelight Lounge while making good use of his talented background singers.

From One Hill Country To Another

Cedric Burnside did double duty this day performing for the dance competition then following Stokes. The energy had been sapped out of the “room” so to speak. Stokes proved a tough act to follow. Grumblings from a guy behind us had me thinking that this may not have been the best act for the time slot. Burnside had an innovative, simplistic approach to his Mississippi Hill Country Blues, influenced by his grandfather R.L. Burnside. It took him awhile to get cooking.

If You Can Find The Lettuce You Get Salad

The Blues Fest ended in a huff with drunken chatter becoming a distraction. I had to wonder why I was worked up when I was listening to a band named Lettuce. They were a funky, jazzy band. Their main ingredient: a horn section! It was polyrhythmic and fun, fun lost on the chattering people around us. Who goes to a concert to listen to themselves or others talk? They had it all wrong. It’s about the music! It got worse as Lettuce pumped up the audience. People crowded around us, a guy started talking to us about weed and he got too close. All the standing meant we couldn’t sit and relax to watch the Fourth of July fireworks after the show. We managed to catch some of the display before hustling away from the blues into the darkness of night.

Some Nights End In An Explosion

A Flag Blog Draft Implodes Like Fireworks! July 4th Edition

Dig These Star Sleeves! Have You Seen The Back?

In the middle of one of my greatest blog entries, at least one of my best flag focused posts ever, I realized there had been a terrible, modern day techniclogical snafu. That’s all I knew. For some inexplicable reason my flag post vanished. Poof! In a cloud of technical haze, vapor or whatever dots and dash kind of mumbo jumbo anybody could muster–my flag post was gone. I had prepared most of it before the holiday so I could Blues Fest it up and try to relax. Only WordPress and maybe an army of IT specialists could tell me where it was but they were keeping it a secret. Since I owed it to my three readers to produce my annual Portland Orbit July 4th Flag Spectacular blog post, I carried on and started over from scratch. Originally, my opening paragraph had gone off the rails talking about a lack of giant flag images. This had been rendered moot when I spotted one at Blues Fest a couple of days before the Fourth of July and I had to include it. Read on to see it and weep over that glorious example of Old Glory. In the meantime, I’m presenting other examples of how I’ve scoured the world, at least my small section of it, to bring my readership representations of the stars and stripes that awe and inspire. Independence Day celebrates the battles we won. In my case the battle was against technology. This post proves I rallied to produce something. Enjoy the holiday and be careful out there. Refrain from blowing off body parts as you celebrate.

Patch It Up

I caught this tiny patch flag in the streets of West Portland Park. If you watch where you’re walking, literally, you’re liable to see something like this. While it’s taken a beating, the flag displays its flagness and American spirit. The streets out here aren’t paved with flag patches but I wish they were.

Stuck On You

Decals spruce up any work van and display a kind of seal of approval. Would customers be wary if a work van displayed any other flag? All rhetorical questions aside, I’m always happy to see any representation of the red, white and blue no matter how worn or faded it is.

Flag Plant

It’s obvious that people who plant flags in planters know they won’t grow. If that were possible, I’d have a garden bed full of tiny flags. Still, this is an effective method of holiday decor. Just plant flags where ever there’s soft soil. This flag seems dangerously close to the ground and if the grass and other plants aren’t kept in check it will soon be obscured by the overgrowth.

Peace Out!

This patriotic and peaceful spare tire topper was spotted in Lake Oswego. It’s obviously very mobile so it could be anywhere else by now travelling around and spreading its message of peace. It’s the perfect combination of stars, stripes and chill that we could all hope for. I only wish this flag /peace sign combination wasn’t as oxymoronic as it seems. At the very least, it remains a nicely designed tire cover an added bonus of symbolism to contemplate.

Sing About The Flag

Attending a Blazer’s game this winter, (shout out to Paul P.!) I got caught up in the rapture, not the rafters– the seats were great, of Miss Oregon’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. You can guess her pageant talent. The high tech wizardry utilized at the Moda Center gave us all kinds of fragments of stars and stripes imagery, even going as far as to mark the exits with flags in case anyone was making a beer run during the anthem.

Flag It Up

Outside of the A-Boy store on Barbur Boulevard, this flag does double duty. It’s decorative while guiding customers to the store’s entrance. Surrounding the flag with red, white and blue flowers would have been a nice touch. Posting a NO PARKING IN THE FLAG ZONE sign wouldn’t have hurt either.

Buy The Flag

Inside the A-Boy store, I discovered this display of signs. With my limited retail experience, I know nothing of effective sales display techniques of anything but it occurred to me that the better the flag display, the sooner you’ll have nothing left to display.

Stars, Stripes and States

I received a carry out order in this box. This old squid sauce container served double duty proving a convenient way to transport food. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I discovered and marveled over the flag design on the box. It’s a smart and noble representation of the flag that I couldn’t wait to share. I liked how the flag fit into the outline of most of our country. It may not be original but which of our ideas about America weren’t cobbled together by Thomas Paine from ancient Greek and Roman aspirations? The anti-sickle message on one of the other side of the box is an added reminder that we’re supposed to be anti-communists.

Dog Days

I spotted this at the TJ Maxx in Tigard and I’m flabbergasted as to how I could have walked out of the store without it. I like the illustration of the dog modelling in front of a flag so an artist could recreate the image for reusable shopping bags. I have no idea how many pencils, dog treats and good boys it took to produce this image. I’m just grateful it happened at all. Dalmatians seem like a patriotic breed. They certainly like to ride around on firetrucks covered in flag decals.

Oh Give Me A Flag That’s Bigger Than A Boat

This post was missing a giant flag photo until I spotted one on a sailboat “parked” in the Willamette offshore of the Waterfront Blues Fest site. I waited for the right amount of breeze to hoist the flag into a more photogenic state. The enormous size and possible weight of the flag looked like it would tip the boat over. Despite my limited maritime knowledge, I.m guessing this isn’t possible. This over sized patriotic expression wasn’t doing double duty as a sail. It was still only a flag but a bigger and more American flag than most.

Jumbotroning It!

When in doubt, fly the flag on the Jumbotron. At Blues Fest downtown, this was the perfect way to celebrate the Fourth between acts. What else would we need to see on a giant screen near the stage? Debauchery in the crowd? A kiss cam? KOIN 6 broadcasters? This flag image startled me. It reminded me that it’s the reason for the season. No matter what happens, my feeling about flags are: Fly ’em, don’t fry ’em.

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Every year we try to out celebrate The Pittsburgh Orbit. See how we did:

www.pittsburghorbit.com

Bye bye