Point Me in the Direction of…Direction Signs to Anywhere But Here

How can you not fall in love with directional signs? I like them so much but I don’t know why. Directional signs drop hints telling us we might consider being somewhere else. Head to Thermopolis, Wyoming one says pointing the way. I shouldn’t demystify the signs suggestion that you wander off these signs inspire the idea going elsewhere by pointing you in the general path of other places. The rest is up to you. Sure these signs are meant for fun. Then there are the functional versions because most people are just trying to get to the bathroom. 

Hit the Beach

For directional signs that favor practicality over whimsy, I offer the prime example. This sign’s job is to point to stores. Another out of work sign twirler! Some functional directional signs are crafty, bright and fun. The sign at Jantzen Beach is bare bones, a means to help people locate the big box store corral. It’s a directory of most of the stores with its triangular arrows pointed in one direction. You can’t miss the shopping if you head that way. The sign orients people, letting them know they’ve landed at Jantzen Beach. There is no arrow pointed to the actual beach because sadly that is gone and so is the amusement park and the carousel. 

In the Grove

Directional signs add an air of quaintness to any business district. They’re visually interesting and effective, even in small outcrops of civilization like the one in Oak Grove, a neighborhood somewhere out near Gladstone that we rolled through on a bike camping trip some number of summers ago. I guess what seemed silly was the need to direct people given the small sized business district. The signs practically point directly to their stores. The sign flaps form arrows, many include illustrations. They make nice bird rests too. The top of the sign welcomes visitors to the Oak Grove historic district noting that it’s a half mile from the Willamette River. All cynicism aside, I enjoyed my visit to Oak Grove despite not getting off my bike. 

Nothing Amusing Here

At Oaks Amusement Park you’re competing with a brightly colored roller coaster so it’s necessary to make the directional signs basic and easy to read. No one should be confused post loop to loop when they then need to find the train station, buy more ride tickets or find a restroom. Direct directions let people get back to their fun. 

Dairy, Oh Dairy

This sign reveals a sad state of affairs that was the end of the recreational activity the Alpenrose Dairy used to offer. I enjoyed visits to the Alpenrose a couple of summers ago watching little league world championship softball games and milling around the faux western town complete with an opera house. I was fascinated by the Velodrome bike track watching bicyclists train. The end times were reflected in the peeling lettering of this directional sign but the various fonts are appealing. The sign still manages to guide wanderers unless one was really hoping to go to the orfice. 

See the World

In the Central Eastside neighborhood, I’m guessing around SE 11th Street, I spotted this directional sign with lots of options for where one could go. It’s hard to tell which yard of the house it’s in, back, front, side but it matters not. It feels industrial with its bolts and regular street sign post material. It has great symmetry. It looks good. You’ll find many options of places and the miles you’d have to travel to get there. Your mileage could vary. Decide on Europe, Canada, the U.S. or Australia. There aren’t arrows pointing the way so it might help to carry a compass. 

Valhalla Is Real?

This sign duo spotted in Montavilla, near Mt. Tabor, offers many options and directions to head to so it makes sense that two posts were needed. They’re a nice addition to this empty field. The top of the signs make sure to remind us that we’re in the U.S.A. The signs clear black script on a white background with black arrow tops point out random places. Although I’m left wondering if Valhalla is a real place. It’s hard to tell why these places were selected. Maybe people need to head off and find out. It’s only 2,980 miles to Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Tell ‘em a directional sign in Portland sent you. 

Things Are Great When You’re Downtown

This directional sign is the most ornate of the bunch. It’s topped with a weather vane and a bronze ball. It has a function beyond its ornateness being a local landmark at Pioneer Square downtown– possibly the meeting place for many a blind date? It can help you get as far away as you might need to get while also offering local points of interest too.

Tigard or Bust!

I caught this directional sign wrapped in a smoky glow from our late summer forest fires while heading up SW Walnut Street. It was great to greet this landmark parked in the middle of a concrete roundabout. It includes local landmarks like John Tigard’s house and City Hall. I’m curious why my phone lists this as Area 10 in Portland when it’s clearly in Tigard. Expect a full three part investigation into the mysteries of Area 10 soon. This post has devolved into way more of a review of directional signs than I expected but I do feel like this one has some great attributes. There are the colors, the usefulness in actual must-see locations along with some of the wonders of the world like the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and the Pyramids. The sign also is a reminder that anytime you get a couple miles down the road you’re that much closer to Balikpapan. 

Pot To Shop In

I spotted a sign for various weed businesses at a pot festival a few summers ago. The sign was colorful but didn’t use arrows other than the one directing people to their products. I half expect Dr. Phil to jump out of the bamboo to declare that this sign has no motivation. The sign advertises wares but it doesn’t exactly tell you where they are. Stumble around the weed convention for a few more hours and the sign might start to make sense.

In Search of The Ancient Forest

Count the rings.

Sometimes you get lost in the best of intentions, those attempts at getting out into the natural world to soak in some rejuvenating nature. I thought a visit to the Ancient Forest was what my wife, Ronna, and I needed on a Saturday in early February. We’d been postponing our efforts to get there for a couple of weekends.

Let’s get lost.

I read about the Ancient Forest in a guidebook, a Christmas present for Ronna, called Oregon Nature Weekends by Jim Yuskavitch. I liked the book because it’s filled with 52 seasonal nature getaways. The book offers year round information, suggestions like where to see Blue Herons in March or geese gathering in January but it’s more than a guide for us geezer bird watchers. There are 50 other experiences detailed. While the book always seems to direct you to park in the middle of nowhere on a gravel road, the misty, black and white Ancient Forest photo filled me with a yearning to stand beside thousand year old trees. 

No moss appeal.

It proved elusive. As we set out, double checking the directions from the book using the car’s GPS, our route looked fuzzy. Ronna asked how old this book was. The publication date was 2000. Things have changed in twenty years. The book’s directions felt like going back to the prehistoric, preGPS days of scrawling out handwritten directions with a quill pen. At least we had specific cues like, “drive 0.7 mile down a winding, steep grade.” It was making Ronna apprehensive. The old and new technologies didn’t jell.

The Devil’s going down.

The directions weren’t better in actual execution. Finding ourselves in farm country outside of Gresham, a bluegrass version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” blaring in the car was an appropriate soundtrack to our surroundings. It should have helped us enjoy the journey, but feeling lost, we ended up on those gravel roads that kept turning into someone’s driveway. We slow rolled past houses and a horse riding school. The described hilly road never led to a gate and a trail. We ended up at Dodge Park where nothing was going on that rainy morning. The R.V.s weren’t even rocking. A couple of anglers ambled by and I read a sign about the various fish people were allowed to catch during various fishing seasons. We left for Ox Bow Regional Park.

An Ancient Forest is born.

The Ancient Forest is part of the Sandy River Gorge Preserve and owned by the Nature Conservancy. The book describes it as 436 acres in a 700 foot deep gorge with some of the trees being 500 years old. I’m not sure where I got the idea about meeting thousand year old trees. It didn’t seem to matter because the Ancient Forest was hidden among all the other trees.

Ancient Forest, map version.

We discovered from the map we picked up at the entrance that there was an ancient forest within Ox Bow Regional Park. It didn’t seem like it was The Ancient Forest I had been pining for, but it would have to do. It was labeled on the map. The forest trail was muddy and had devolved into puddles. Sometimes there were logs to jump from to avoid getting too deep in the muck. The hike paralleled the road so we never quite got to the middle of the forest. I never felt the presence of old trees.

Swiss trees!

This tale morphs into a sad tale, a story of never quite finding satisfaction from the contents of a book. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying to decipher written directions. Our GPS system may end up knowing some of the guides other locations without us having to pull our hair out to get back to nature.

This author talks to trees. (Photo: Ronna Craig)

The moral of this story seems quite obvious, as if every blog post should have a moral. Buy the most up to date guide book you can or you’ll end up in the backwoods as a wandering and forlorn nature tourist asking tree’s their birthday. Is there a better Ancient Forest that we’re missing out on? Who knows? Perhaps one tree is just as good as another. It’s all about making the effort to look around and see living things like old trees and new ones too.

Way down upon the Sandy River.

An Orbit Obit: The Loss an Accidental Orbit Cofounder

Mom sitting in with Frank’s Organ Jam.

My mother, Joan Craig, passed away last month from Alzheimer’s disease. Nothing seems so important now. Thinking I’m okay feels part of a kind of denial. Past Orbit Obits may have seemed tongue-in-cheek yet they were reverential in their documentation of the loss of a place or thing. Obits bring up nostalgic feelings for businesses I’ve known were on their way out. This was, in a sense, similar to what I went through with my Mom because of her illness. I am sad about that. I’m also okay with it. Life goes on but it’s never the same. 

When trying to think about how I got here, a middle aged blogger revising this piece on an iPhone with frozen fingers waiting to pick up a burrito order, it occurred to me that it started earlier than I realized. It began with my Mom asking us, her three sons, if we wanted to see “the smiling rock.” We’d be on our way to our Aunt and Uncle’s house in Westwood, Massachusetts. The rock was one of those New England boulders that stuck out of the earth in random places. Boulder might be an overestimation. It wasn’t a huge rock but it was visible from the car. The rock was painted white and defaced with a red spray painted smile and black, beady eyes. The smile gave me the sense that that inanimate objects were capable of emotions. It sparked an interest in random, and sometimes hidden creative expression. I have no idea how my mother discovered it. She made a special event out of every showing. I was always excited and never too jaded to see that mysterious rock.

Other mysterious rocks.

My Mom was like that. She took different routes to the places she went so she never got bored. Our furniture got rearranged every six months. She loved history and exploring new places like learning about the Gullahs when she lived in Hilton Head, South Carolina. She was always up for a trip to that funky store in Bluffton. All this has unleashed memories of other stores: a creepy antique store in Massachusetts full of old, dark furniture where I mostly remember getting a stuffed animal named Bucky Beaver. My big brother, Jack, later twisted his head off unleashing a spray of sawdust. There was an antique place in the Atlanta area we weren’t allowed to enter. A woman with an exotic accent stopped us at the door saying, “We are mopping the floor.” The strangest details are unforgettable. 

My Mom was also a heavy reader. Her interest in pulp fiction had her entertaining the idea of opening a used book store. My parents passed on a love of reading in the days when that was what we did. The house was stuffed with newspapers, magazines, comic books and regular books. My reading habit was fueled by Weekly Reader monthly hardback book deliveries and a subscription to Mad Magazine. I was compulsive about anything with words. Even the backs of cereal boxes were a source of fascination. My parents supported my pursuit of my potentially uncommercial English degree. 

This time a painted wall.

When my mom had time, I’d say in her retirement, she got the collecting bug. That bug is a genetic thing. I remember seeing more and more blue plates on the walls with each visit of her Toano, Virginia house and there were ceramic lighthouses too, but I know she had to stop that. Me, well, my collections are embarrassing. These days I’m more about collecting and obsessing over images but I’m a reluctant coin collector having to look at every quarter I come across. There always seems to be a different National Park commemorated on the back. It’s a given that without her I wouldn’t be here. Literally. There was also a gentle influence of her curiosity about the world that inspired me. It led me to this blog where I catalog ideas and inspirations within the landscapes I pass through. It offers me another chance to say goodbye knowing it will always be okay to look around and seek out the things that spark my inextinguishable imagination.


The spike in the rock.

Another mystery from my childhood was the spike in the rock on the way to “the pond” at my Grandmother’s house. We never stopped wondering who pounded the spike in the giant rock. We always stopped to have a look to make sure it was still there as we considered whether anyone would ever remove it. I took this not so great photo on a visit in the early 90’s. The wonder of it all has kept me wondering my whole life.

Sitting Next to the Pickle: An Overview of a Year to End All Years

On the last day of 2020 I embarked on this post. Finding a pen that worked became a Herculean task. Everyone knows 2020 sucked worse than any other year in history. I am not sure I want to get into writing a Top Ten lousy year list at this point but in my lifetime this has to be number one. The good news, if you’re reading this, you’re still alive! That’s got to count for something. The real story is going to be answering the question what did you do during the pandemic? It’s hard to imagine how my answer, that is sure to include mention of the phrase “fetal position,” will be received. Oh yeah, 2021 is not bringing the virus to a halt. This isn’t over but there’s no reason to give up or to stop creating and doing the things necessary to work through the challenges of our times.

The Hits

This piece caught readership right after I posted it. I was able to elaborate on this story when some of the news stories I researched had skimped on details. I love learning where ideas come from and how inspiration, knowledge and experience crystallize at the moment a thought becomes fully formed. Scott Wayne Indiana was gracious to explain it. There’s more to the story of tiny horses tied to iron rings and I appreciated the concept evolving to the point of becoming a long standing series of cultural landmarks.

The Sleeper

I’m sure I’m not alone when I had that moment or two when I didn’t know what to do with myself during the stay at home order. Sure people get used to stuff, the confines of jail, an endless daily commute, but a sequestering was unknown territory. Yet there  my backlog of story ideas and old photos for topics I may never have gotten to otherwise meant I didn’t have to leave the house to hunt for a story.

My Spring Cleaning series allowed me to 
get a better sense of who Stanley Grochowski was, learn what the phrase “chinga tu madre” means, had me thinking a whole bunch about a movie screening I went to ages ago as well as getting me to post photos and stories I thought I’d never write. My factionalized account of the meeting of Bernie and Bonnie comes to mind. No details are worth being left unexplained or unmade up!

The Missing

The Turkey of Saint Johns is still missing. I feel like I’ll never find that bird. So, I mythologize. It’s a vision as rich as Dantes encounter with beer tricks, I mean Beatrice. It leaves me wallowing in a long lost memory that’s evolved into an annual literary parody set to the tune of a lonely Turkey gobble. I put my English majorness on display every Thanksgiving exploring literary forms that have run the gamut from last paragraphs of famous novels, a screenplay, biblical passages and this year’s poetry parody. I found out T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land didn’t translate to turkey talk. I needed some thing more famous and simpler. Bob Frost, who I’m sure befriended many a turkey, sprag to mind and the rest is poultry history. I miss that turkey but I can put my melancholy mindset to rest, at least until we get closer to Thanksgiving.

In conclusion, and I think even Ms. Yuchmow would advise me not to start a concluding paragraph with this phrase, it’s time to let this past year and the use of in conclusion go. There was something out there, bigger than us all. Laying low was the antidote. Like Trump once said, “it’ll disappear by April,” well, maybe he was talking about April of 2021. We can play the waiting game. We’re stronger mentally and there’s nothing stopping anyone from dealing with the pandemic in all the other ways needed to get through it.

Stay strong America!


This Christmas I was given a cardboard cutout of myself along with season tickets to the Blazer home games. The tickets were for my cardboard likeness. When I went looking for myself, I found me in the back corner of Section 105 “sitting” next to the Portland Pickle mascot. A weird bitterness, not unlike the taste of a pickle, came over me along with at least one bad pickle joke about vinegar aftershave. My inner tirade was followed by the realization that of all the people in Portland, there was no better choice. Somebody nailed that seating chart. Expect an interview with a Pickle at some point in the new year. 

Here’s to a whole new year and a whole new life. You get a new one everyday. Don’t waste it.


Nice Tri: An Appreciation of Art on The Tracks

I could have sworn this was a hot tip from Weird Portland United but I might be mistaken. Weird Portland United and the Portland Orbit are cut from the same cloth. We should be enemies, jockeying for position on all breaking weird news but Weird Portland United has probably never heard of the Portland Orbit. Besides, at this point I’ll accept hot tips from anybody. As for enemies, I’m not looking to make new ones. I’ve become more open. I’m even willing to listen to what Gwyneth Paltrow has to say. You know, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change. 

It was challenging to find the post I spotted on Facebook until I realized it doesn’t matter. It revealed there’s a Trimet publication about public art at Max stops that you can read online or download for free. I’ve wanted to write about Max art for years. I never had the right angle until now. The Trimet publication offers stories behind art splattered along the Max lines, art hidden in plain sight that attempts to break the monotony of waiting for a train for those aware enough to notice. 

The art publication was denser than I imagined. The yellow line section was 68 pages in its pdf form. The overview section had me looking at early days of art meeting public transit in black and white photos in a newspaper layout. The different Max section write ups come in full color that jumps off the page and catalogs the art along the tracks and around the platforms. I’ve been noticing and taking photographs of Max art since 2016. It’s satisfying to explore this topic after putting it off for years. 

Community mapping!

The Denver Avenue/Kenton station is full of great art. Some of it has a found art feel, an added bonus. There are the metal cow cut outs grazing along the track that I learned are are known as guardrail panels—a homage to the neighborhood’s cattle stockyard history.

Historic preservation.

The mosaic work on the ground/platform is by Mary Taponga. I remember meeting her after trekking to her art shop, Hail Mary, that used to operate in NE around 28th Street. I was there on Election Day 2008 where we shared our anxiety about the uncertainty of that election. Her work is all over the McMenamin’s Kennedy School. On the platform there are mosaics tiles and found art objects housed in what I imagine is some kind of epoxy. The objects have the look of those soaps with something in the middle that appears as the soap wears away. In this case, these elements of the art piece have remained mostly unscathed through the years.

Trolley life.

I had always assumed the benches, also known as Terrazzo seating, were created by Mary but the Trimet publication proved me wrong. The benches reproduce scenes from the good old days in tile. It amazes me that a bench at a Max stop evokes feelings of nostalgia with images of the neighborhood’s streetcar and movie theater.

Blue who?
Blue three.

Somewhere down the yellow line, (the North Prescott Station) the occasional blue tile is substituted for the brick at the train platform. The tiles are randomly placed, but the blue glass pops when seen alongside the industrial brown shade of the bricks. The Trimet publication explained that the blue glass bricks “hint at imaginary waterways beneath the station.”

Old bones aren’t enough.

Outside the Kaiser Interstate medical building, it seems fitting that the platform sports medical imagery. Teeth, bones, a map, I’m not sure what’s all going on here but once again it outclasses the concrete. The Max art scheme is big on community maps, a concept I’m not familiar with, but this piece in particular features a street grid.

Round and round.

One day at the Rose Quarter Transit Center I looked down at the pavement. First I discovered sporadic concrete circles in the platform area. I realized the circles were full of circles–one circle smaller than the next with the rings getting smaller and smaller. Then it hit me: Stump tops in concrete.


When I looked at the Trimet Art guide, I found out this was all part of a theme. The stump slices are part of a broader art installation that includes an electrified forest and an artistic take on a fire pits

So there you have it. This yellow line report barely scratches the surface of the art on the rail lines. My hope is to inspire the masses to map out the rest of the Max lines and take art excursion/art hop to see all the creations. You might not even have to get out of the train.

Read on!:


Stopping By A Turkey Pen On a Lonely Evening

This neighborhood as I recall

A time when St. Johns had it all

even a Turkey as a pet

Fenced in, I’m reminded each Fall

My memory remains unclear

To stop and consider thoughts dear 

A Turkey that remained unscathed 

On the scariest day of the year

I give my brain another shake

As if to jolt the past awake

I know I saw that Turkey then

Now it’s more than I can take

This memory lovely, dark and deep

This mystery alive, is what I keep

My search goes on before I sleep

My search goes on before I sleep

It wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving without a Turkey of St. Johns tribute. I talked to a long time St. Johns resident recently who had a vague memory of the St. Johns Turkey. We all have that. That recollection was not substantial enough to offer any leads. I will continue to make every effort to find this bird. In the meantime enjoy the holiday.

Turkey on Turkey (collage by David Craig)

Take it back to the beginning:


Not Just Delivering Joy to Letter Carriers: The Unbearable and Compelling Ridiculousness of Decorated Mailboxes

Admit it. It’s scary out there. Election quagmires, a pandemic running rampant, Halloween decorations still hanging around, or are those real cobwebs? Yet mailboxes remain a constant, stoic and calm, if a human condition could be attributed to an inanimate object. Mailboxes excel at their one duty: opening their mouths a couple of times a day to receive and give mail.

When this assignment landed on my desk I scoffed. Mailboxes again? Further research revealed that I last wrote about them in June of 2019 but it felt sooner. The timing couldn’t be better. People need distractions from the sheer terror that strikes these days when we leave the house to do anything else but look at or in mailboxes. These parcel containers are cheerful in their banality. Flare lifts them into the stratosphere without them having to leave their posts. In some cases it’s the posts themselves that get the artistic treatment. Either way decorated mailboxes are as compelling as they are ridiculous but in these serious times, they offer joy by breaking the monotony.

Stones on top of stones on top of more stones, these are the buliding blocks of a grand mailbox post. The Arnold Creek neighborhood has a reputation for fancy mailbox posts. This one is dark, handsome, rough and ready enough to support what appears to be a plastic mailbox. Ah, stone and plastic, how is that a match? I’ll have to imagine the mailbox is a newfangled synthetic resin that pairs with stone.

While a wheel might be connected to a foot as the Minutemen pointed out in one of their old songs, they can also be part of a mailbox post as seen in Far Southwest, that’s what my phone is calling it. Our research department is looking into whether this is an actual neighborhood. The wheel does add a decorative element reminiscent of western wagon wheels. I’m not knocking it. I’m starved for interesting mailboxes and posts to look at. It’s what I live for.

In Hillsdale, housing was provided for this mailbox. It’s a nice home. Sure someone needs to scrape the moss off the roof, like every other roof in this town. This should inspire anyone who lives in a house to realize that mailboxes deserve proper housing too.

In time, a mailbox covering, like the one seen in Far Southwest, will fade, chip and peel but it continues to add character lacking in standard mailbox designs. The birds haven’t flown away, while the branches and pine needle boughs blend in with the surrounding overgrowth.

You say, “Come on it’s not art.”
You say, “It’s just a soft focus, hot mess of a photo in harsh lighting conditions.”
You say, “Why another bannered mailbox?”
I stopped listening after the first question. Why? Because I could care less. I’m left to ponder the image of a flag wrapped around a bucket of flowers topped with a cheerful bird. Sure it’s Hallmark Shop tacky—the best kind! You have to admit it’s not another bland mailbox.

The chain post is macho, rusty and rugged. It winds itself through itself in a twisted and gnarled fashion. It anchors and supports this Arnold Creek mailbox and seldom used newspaper holder and it looks good doing it. Buy that mailbox some after shave from the Avon catalog this Christmas.

Art posts will slant and flirt with falling over to keep things entertaining. And yes, some people find entertainment value in slumping mailboxes held up by a dirt pile. Things can’t get lower. I stopped the one afternoon to document this postal plunge spotted in that mythical land of Far Southwest. I was glad to see someone, not a postal employee mind you, fixing this post the next afternoon.

In West Portland Park, I noticed this mailboxes forming a nice pattern of colors. It’s what I need these days—nice things. There’s a pattern. It’s a soothing pattern to these eyes, a Caribbean dream of peaceful colors that reach out and caress my vision. It has to be a pleasant experience picking up mail from one of these boxes.

This wooden sculpture makes an amazing mailbox post. We don’t throw that A word around often. We do use the other A word. What’s this post doing? The wood swirls around creating wooden teardrops which give me teardrops. I find myself crying out for people to offer up their mailboxes as art for the world to appreciate.

What’s not to love about a mid century modern piece of art disguised as a mailbox. Heck if I know, but this would be my idea of a sleek design and I can’t think of any other descriptor, even with the possibility that my knowledge of architecture could be way off.

Squiggles and swirls, it’s a phrase I never tire of writing. I tend to include it in all my blog posts. This mailbox has ebbed into a chameleon state, resembling its surroundings beyond the obvious burst of colors. It’s a nice splash of hues organized in a vibrant way–the kind of thing that might keep a mail person coming back day after day.

* * * * *

In case you were wondering, this post combines element of the art mailbox with designs that feature unique posts. Those used to be two separate categories until I found myself fleeing from and trying to avoid getting a deadly virus.

Note to Mrs. Yuckmow: Yes, I did it again, I think, up there, somewhere, I began a sentence with the word “And.” I feel the need to explain myself since I’m breaking one of your cardinal rules about not using the word “And” to begin a sentence. Let’s just say when I do it, it makes my writing sizzle.

Rattling Around in Their Bones: Yet Another Halloween Spooktacular

This Halloween is especially scary. If anyone shows up at your door the trick they might offer is a POTENTIALLY DEADLY VIRUS. I’m sure I’m wrong, but the Halloween decorations I spotted, many in SW Portland, depicted scenes of skeleton’s run amok leading me to wonder if we will all soon become skeletons ourselves. The creativity poured into these scenes of mayhem had me feeling even more uneasy. I long for next Halloween when fact and fiction may not be quite so intertwined which could bring back the sense of normalcy we’ve lacked in 2020.

Grim and Grime

Doom unalone.

In West Portland Park, a figure of doom carried multiple blades. Even a skeleton could be seen leaping away. Yet this black clad, modern day, grim reaper looking dude made an effort to protect the world from his respiratory droplets. How bloody kind of him!

Save somebody’s soul.

This well dressed, half skeleton was spotted at the feet of that grim reaper. Looking like a lost Joy Division album cover, this image needs to be sent to the graphics department so they can gloss it up and dial in the right amount of black and white. Oh and could a seance with Martin Hannett be arranged so we can get his approval.

This scene is frightful. The pain on the skeleton’s face is amazing when you consider it’s only bones. It’s difficult enough to make those expressions with muscles and when one is just a bag of bones nothing is supposed to hurt. Right?

Heading Off

Which direction? I’m headless.

A headless horseman in the Grant Park neighborhood attempts to get away on a wooden horse. At first, second and third glance it’s hard to believe there isn’t a living, footless human underneath that denim.

No time to unmask!

This scene spotted in Grant Park presented an inventive way to get a message across. It’s especially scary when you have to consider that some people will not be wearing masks this Halloween. Oh, and that nice couple sitting on a bench—they’re HEADLESS!

Inflation is Scary

Blow it up!

Inflatables air on the ho hum side of decor most of the time but this Pumpkin Master Beast Guy, spotted in the Grant Park neighborhood, is frightful. The bony, gnarled hands and the jagged smile made it especially photogenic.

Half Buried/Half Alive?

Buried, half alive.

I always fall for this. It’s even worse to have to deal with this in my own neighborhood of West Portland Park. This guy isn’t buried alive. He’s parts, stuck in the ground. Yet when I took his picture, he wiggled his toes and reached for me. He begged me to dig him out. I told him I didn’t have a shovel.

Gellin’ and Skellin’ (In the Trees)

Merman bones.

This year I spotted skeleton’s everywhere. The thought of them leaping about at Halloween time gives me the shivers. Seeing them living or swimming in trees was scarier. This display, seen in the Alberta Arts district, earned bonus points for using the bones of a Merman. They are as challenging to spot on dry land as they are in the trees.

What a Ghoul Believes

Roof top ghoul baby! Holy Heck!

A ghoul baby and a skeletal nun from West Portland Park walk into a bar… No, but I swear I didn’t know what I was looking at when I wrote the above caption. This display freaked me out so bad that I couldn’t get close. The only thing creepier than a ghoul baby crawling around on a roof might me a ghoul baby slipping and falling onto a driveway.

Hovering Aspirations

Swinging party.

I’m not sure this was what Bob was singing about with the line, “they’re selling postcards of the hanging” but these ghosts lingering in West Portland Park created a bleak scene that is no less mystifying. There is no way to actually hang a ghost.


Skeleton dogs love bones.

In Lake Oswego the skeleton dogs are as fierce as the real thing chasing their obsession for bones straight up trees. This dramatic diorama is proof that dogs don’t give up easily–even when they aren’t technically alive.

Lazing in the Blazing

Be wary.

The bright sun takes all the fear and mystery out of Halloween displays like this one in West Portland Park. The skeleton in the back appears to be offering a neighborly wave. At least, the blood red sign lettering made me feel like I should really beware.

Boo who?

I’m reminded that skeletons are just plain weird. They don’t know how to sit in comfortable positions. They dangle their limbs in awkward poses. Despite the silly skeletons, the sight of sticks, stones and plastic bones scattered in the dirt was sending shivers up my intact spine.


Pumpkin poetry is a genre!

In the Grant Park neighborhood even the poetry posts celebrate the season. The pumpkin picture is not as scary as the poem “Theme in Yellow” by Carl Sandburg. Not that the poem is scary, I’ve just developed a poetry phobia at this point in my life. As a matter of fact, the poem is about pumpkins that have terrible teeth which probably haunts your average dentist.

Cruise Your Illusion II: Stuck On Studebaker

Symbols tell their story.

Recap from Cruise Your Illusion 1: Sure it’s unconventional to take a perfectly good car and paint it or better yet, glue junk to it, but art cars aren’t conventional. As the car commercial would whisper in a deep voice: art cars break monotony. As for people glueing objects to their cars, I’m fascinated with the obvious. How do the plastic figurines and other decorations stay stuck? I delved into this when I talked to the owner of a car called “The Trophy Wife” and I saw the actual glue used for the Space Taxi but I’m still mystified. If stuff goes flying it goes flying. Hopefully it won’t put out an eye, cause a traffic accident or ruin the artistic merits of the vehicle.

After years of capturing images of art cars it’s time to unleash them. I’m always hoping for information on the origins of these arty automobiles. My recollections are often about where I first glimpsed the vehicle. The results of my thoughts is an online art car rally something like what happens when vintage cars gather at the Portland International Raceway but they’re just gathering here in cyberspace.

Double Deck Me

Glass to last.

This double bubble decker vehicle is more art car as a reflection of art in architecture. It has a sculptural feel and it may have been produced using less glue, but it is an art car. I was also curious, when it showed up in the Kenton neighborhood, how the second roof functioned. It looks to be more of an extended sun roof.

Bearly there.

On a random walk that led us deep into a more rustic section of the Arnold Creek neighborhood, I spotted a pick up truck on a gravel road with a teddy bears roped to the grill. I was excited enough about that phenomenon. Then after getting closer, I realized it wasn’t just a bear toting pick up, it was an art car and the proper art application technique had been executed at a high level. That’s a fancy way of saying it had a bunch of toys glued to the hood. There’s joy in these objects. It’s about recognizing plastic characters, pondering the arrangements that creates dramatic scenes and witnessing these interactions frozen in time. It’s not a random as it appears. There has to be planning in the design or none of it would make sense.

Eye witness.
Who wants to know?
Monster truck on truck.

Slick and Arty

All dressed up.

On my way to cover a move by bike story in the Concordia neighborhood, I took a quick look and a few photos on a rainy fall day. The rain didn’t dampen my spirits so much but it threw a wet blanket on the camera phone’s ability to focus. This car proved a classic in the art car genre with paint and bigger sized toys and even dinosaurs. Sure, it always has me imaging a scenario similar to one I could imagine where toys get blown out of Santa’s sleigh. These are great toys whether they’re on the car or airborne about the highway. I know there’s some strong epoxies out there and I guess I have to put my faith in that for the sake of all art cars.

Heads above the rest.
The muffin mobile?

Space Taxi

Space is the place.

At this moment, we’re investigating the whereabouts of the Space Taxi. This summer there was a report that the car was down for the count, thereby taking the art with it. There will be a full report as soon as we can make one up, I mean research one. There’s a slim chance that the space taxi might still make the drive down your street or be seen at the Fred Meyer’s parking lot.

Trophy Wife

A wife in park. (photo by Marci)

I couldn’t let it go with out posting a couple more pictures of my favorite area art cars like the Space Taxi, above, and the Trophy Wife. It’s really the best use of all the trophies in the world that people eventually out grow. **And yeah, making fun of Trophy Wives is also hilarious although the joke might be over their heads visually and languagely.

Swan song.


**Mrs. Yuckmow, I feel justified in using the word “and” at the beginning of that last sentence. I’m not being lazy, I just think from a comedic stand point I had to inject a bit of slackness into my paragraph. I know, you’re looking beyond that at my use of that non word, languagely. Hardly a proper adverb. You might even frown upon the use of adverbs. Sometimes the invention of a word needs to happen.

Summer’s Gone: Dive and Dash Until the Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Ducks like swimming.

Nothing reminds me of what’s great about a Portland summer than the end of a Portland summer. I hold out, hoping the season lingers. The late summer heat inspired us to hit the sometimes frigid, but swimable area rivers and lakes. We made late afternoon runs during the hottest part of the day for quick dips to cool off. Then summer had an abrupt end despite more plans to swim. A wind storm blew forest fire smoke into the area creating unhealthy air that was less than ideal for breathing much less swimming. I’m left with memories to share of the spots we managed to visit which created the kind of summer feeling that has to last until the next one.

Poet’s Beach

The sign says it all.

We’d know about Poet’s Beach since it opened. The city’s public relations staff must have got the word out. It’s felt like a tradition to make at least one visit each summer to this make-shift beach under the Marquam Bridge. It was also the end point of the Portlandia Mermaid Parade allowing the assembled mermaids a place to take a dip. The lines of student poetry inscribed on the rocks leading to the beach have faded somewhat but the beach area is wide for a steady stream of visitors. The river is clean, thanks to the big dig project making a rare occurrence out of the sewage overflows that used to make the river unswimable.

Mermaids and more at Poets Beach.

The Willamette River is shallow around the beach that offers a sandy river bottom. The constant boat traffic is either annoying or scenic depending on your disposition. Unless your free parking game is strong, you’ll have to pay to park in the inner SW area. The beach is listed as being part of the South Waterfront City Park. I associated it with its proximity to the Harbor Marina area where the anchor business is a McCormick & Schmidt’s. If the goal is to get wet this is as good a place as any within the city limits.

Henry Hagg Lake

Dog days at Hagg Lake.

This lake is out there if you are looking to get out of town. The nearest barely-a-town-town is Gaston. The boat heavy waters carry the essence of diesel fuel. Then there are the indignities of having to pay seven bucks and weed through a State Park induced traffic jam. Still there’s the uniqueness of the lake’s squishy, muddy bottom along with the antics of the boaters and swimmers that provide entertainment on a summer afternoon. It’s worth at least one visit for the escapism factor and the wide open views of the lake. 

Audrey McCall Floating Dock


This was our most focused dive and dash experience. What else is there to do besides hang out on a dock or jump in the water? I was surprised to learn that the Vera Katz Esplanade is named after Rich Reece’s cat. The dock offered a shimmering view of downtown and provided a ladder for those unable to heave their bodies out of the Willamette River and back onto the platform. People weren’t concerned about drinking laws. I’m unsure of OCC regulations but I saw at least one guy enjoying beers. The dock may be an unregulated autonomous zone. It was easy to get there from the Eastside industrial area with free parking if you’re up on zone parking regulations. This is an essential spot for however much time one can spare for sunshine, swimming and dog paddling.

Cedar Island

How to make an island.

Who could resist a visit to an island off the coast of West Linn? It’s about as much status as anyone could hope for. In my possibly misguided geological knowledge, it’s a kind of jetty created by the Willamette River where a swimming pond has formed. We found parking outside a gated mansion although there’s boat ramp parking too. It’s necessary to walk through a river side beach area and over a bridge to get to the island. Once there we had the rocky beach to ourselves. The water temperature was fine but you wouldn’t know it from my wade and squat technique for entering the water.

The author in island waters.

Cross Park

Rocky, not roaring.

You can go to High Rocks Park or Cross Park. Either offers access to the Clackamas River. Cross Park seemed to be more accessible when we dashed down to the Gladstone area for a Friday afternoon happy hour swim. The river wasn’t crowded in the area where we parked. A guy standing in the water told me I’d get used to it if I ever got brave enough to get wet and I did. Minutes later he got in a kayak and paddled away. Our dog had a blast swimming until he was scolded by us for chasing ducks downstream. The river bed was rocky but despite the current and the mountain run off it wasn’t too treacherous or cold. The water was just right for cooling off after a hot week.


Special thanks to Ronna Craig for her photographs minus the duck and mermaid photos that I took.