In the Footsteps of Buster and Belushi

Cottage Grove, Oregon seems like an unlikely cinematic hub if, give or take, four movies merit that kind of descriptor. Yet consider how Kate Hudson, Ernest Borgnine or Lee Marvin, John Belushi and Buster Keaton have the makings for a Hollywood meets Cottage Grove Mt. Rushmore of sorts. If these names are not familiar you are youthful beyond your years and you’re probably not fanatical about film. These stars were part of a personal mystique originating with Keaton’s use of the area for his silent movie “The General” while the homecoming parade scene from “Animal House” also made an impression on me and had me wanting to see the town.

I had considered a trip to South Lane County in the spring of 2021 to gawk, soak up, and seek any remnants of movie magic that happened a long time ago. As luck would have it, this year’s bike camping trip used Cottage Grove as a departure point, a convenient way to experience traces of this film history first hand. 

Cottage Grove has a quaint downtown of a couple of blocks. I counted three book stores in my jaunts through Main Street. On a weekend that featured a car show as part of a Heritage Day’s Celebration and a Saturday farmer’s market too, I began my search for signs of past cinematic glory.  

A wild haired, wild eyed image stares out from a mural on the wall of the Cottage Grove Hotel. Those large, melancholy Buster Keaton eyes are extra resonant from the scale of the work. I was just as struck by the Death Mobile–a prop from the movie “Animal House” parked on top of a trailer. That vehicle had a celebrity all its own. 

The story isn’t complete until you see the site where Keaton wrecked the train. It’s somewhere in the area but it wasn’t on the agenda for this trip. I’m saving it all up for the 100th anniversary of the filming which is sure to feature a screening of the movie and set location visits. That celebration is expected in 2026 so I’m already planning for that blog post.   

I went searching for a plaque on the wall of the hotel where Keaton stayed during filming. I fully expected to find it on the wall of the hotel. After bumbling around, someone noticed and asked if I needed anything. Then a group outside the hotel pointed to the ground and I realize the plaque was in the sidewalk where it was getting ground away from foot traffic.  Oh well, now we know Buster Keaton slept in Cottage Grove 

The downtown, while not huge, is dotted with murals along with a couple of official signs documenting the filming that went on for the two best known movies, “The General” and “Animal House,” that were filmed in the area. 

The homecoming parade scene from “Animal House” is epic. Further scrutiny from the always reliable YouTube gave me access to the parade scene, noting a few inconsistent hairstyles and seeing a section of Main Street that doesn’t resemble the current Main Street much. Things have changed in the over 40 years since the movie was made. I did catch one image from a still from Animal House that revealed a business, or perhaps a neon sign, that has stood the test of time. 

Unless you’re a film scholar who has had a recent screening of “The General” you may feel a bit lost. There’s a sign on the outskirts of town that could lead you to more set locations. An image of the crumbling train on the bridge showed up on a kiosk outside of one of the area’s many covered bridges. Here’s where this piece turns into a travel log. 

There’s not much that really stands out from a film screening with the exception of an iconic location like a house so getting a true sense of a set from a film isn’t the only reason for visiting Cottage Grove. The town is idyllic, offering us an opportunity to take a pleasant ride on a nice bike trail that lead to a lakeside campsite. In town we ran into a chatty, former Portland resident and book store owner. Even police were friendly. 

Josh G., from our bike camping party, talked about lesser known movies filmed in the area. The early 2000’s Kate Hudson vehicle was called “Ricochet River.” It’s proving tough to track down but a trailer revealed very little in the way of Cottage Grove recognizable establishing shot. The Ernest Borgnine hobo/train movie from the 70’s, Emperor of the North, which also features Lee Marvin and Keith Carradine, took advantage of Cottage Grove’s rail infrastructure.

If you’ve read to this point, I have to say there’s more there there then I let on. I would have enjoyed a day hanging out in Cottage Grove going from bookstore to bookstore, seeming overly touristy and possibly hearing an old story or two about any time Hollywood took over the town. It’s cool to watch an “Animal House” clip and see John Belushi get out of the Death Mobile in a pirate costume and start climbing up a Cottage Grove building. It happened, in this little Oregon town. Cottage Grove is worth a visit when you can spend more time there based on what I experienced during my brief stop over. You might not see the Death Mobile but you can bet that Buster Keaton will be watching you.

A Pole Art Poll: Love It Or Leave It

In these dying days of summer I’m taking it slow. Thoughts of heading back to school and shorter days make me melancholy but Pole Art rejuvenates me. Sprucing up dull utility poles, it’s ubiquitous nature has me finding new examples to showcase. Pole Art catches my eye adding a twinkle to it. There’s inspiration from humanity. Public Art worthy of display available for a head tilt. It doesn’t cost 20 bucks, requires no crowds to endure or squeaky floors. Been to the Portland Art Museum lately? I last documented Pole Art three years ago, if you can believe it. So l won’t delay any longer.

Hung Up Like a Moose Head

Not good enough for a wall?

I’m off to a bad start and yet seeing this frame affixed to a pole in the Kenton neighborhood was something I couldn’t resist. The siren call had me digging out the camera phone to demonstrate that anything can be affixed to a utility pole. This isn’t Pole Art, it’s decor but a resemblance to Pole Art is better than no art at all.

Pecking Away

Never call me Woody!

In the South Burlingame neighborhood this Pole Art recreates nature. You would mistake it for the real thing like I did at first glance. It’s crafty and well executed. It might be art for the birds. There are no bugs in those poles so a real woodpecker would be out of luck. This bird just gets to pose.

Sun Walk

Walk on sunshine.

This one caught me eye in Multnomah Village. I like the colors, the composition and the action. There was a point where I thought this was a homage to Michael Jackson but now I don’t see it. Michael Jackson would never have worn shoes like that unless he signed a shoe contract. It’s not even a moonwalk image so all my moonwalk jokes are obsolete.

Peck a Pepper?

Pepper up?

In the Alberta neighborhood, I stopped to take a picture of the type of Pole Art I appreciate the most. It’s simplistic yet visually creative in its use of two colors. The design is mysterious allowing my imagination to wonder.

It’s What You’re Offering

Rude buddha?

Sometimes Pole Art makes a statement. It’s easier when the art includes words. The message seems ironic when thinking about a zen master swearing. Then again how can you not get this message across without the f-bomb. Without this overused word this Pole Art might be too solemn. Pole Art is usually not funny. These days attempts at humor are always appreciated.

Half Hearted

Glad to see sad art.

Back in Alberta, a broken heart can manifest itself into Pole Art. I guessed it was a tribute to these sad times of pestilence and remorse but in small writing a message reads, “I Have A Father’s Broken Heart.” Despite the heart break the art brings the eye away from the collage of clutter that drapes some utility poles.

Sad Dad.

Dark Night

Good night kitty.

A night time photo of a dark subject matter from the Kerns neighborhood has its challenges. The outline of a silhouetted wolf head creates a mystical vibe that fades into the grime and shadows of its host utility pole.

Starry Sky

An art splatter platter.

This Pole Art offers a rich combination of multiple art movements, so many that I need to complete a correspondence course in art history just to be able to talk about it. It looks like layers of art have been applied to this pole. The effect adds a new dimension of artistic relevance if you’re willing to study it through the murk of a evening in the Sunnyside neighborhood.

Star Star

Striking Star Fish?

Is it store bought or hand made? For the most part, I’m just glad to see utility poles with any decorations. Am I going to get picky? Perhaps I should in the defense of Pole Art but I would rather see a purple star than stare at wood grain it covers. The effort to enliven the tedious landscape of modern infrastructure always perks me up. Vivid purples resurrects dead wood.

Splinter in the Eye

Any hamburgers to steal?

Okay it’s a given that graffiti isn’t Pole Art. I know the difference. Then again after looking at images of poles and Pole Art, I can’t help but include this image. This is a public service announcement to encourage the decoration of poles by any means necessary. At the risk of being reckless, I can’t help to think I’d rather look at anything other than regular old poles. At least this graffiti is spelled correctly and I dig that someone has a thing for Ronald McDonald’s arch nemesis.

Why, White Rose?

White rose, right rose?

Simple, elegant and an image that offers people to consider what it means to them. Yes, we’re back to decoration really, but it’s nice. A stapled white rose says a lot. It could mean anything but it means what you think it means. For me, Even something white and basic breaks up street monotony.

Street Stalker

Pole portrait pontification.

I saved the best for last. Spotted in the Kenton neighborhood, this Pole Art is basic, yet street regal. She’s wearing a fancy necklace. Perhaps it’s a portrait of a long ago denizen of the area. The design drew me it, rising above the broadsheets and flyers, not because it’s placed higher. The figure has pursed lips, an enigmatic smile, a curled coif and gentle, far away eyes. Pole Art has a low key presence but its anonymous nature puts the focus solely on the art.

There’s more pole art where this came from:

What’s in a Name? The Art of Naming a Network

I’m unsure what led me to the subject matter of this blog post. Was I trying for free wi-fi? Regardless I discovered my phone could root out wi-fi networks. I get a kick out of the creativity that goes into naming them. I’m a bit apprehensive due to my limited technical knowledge when talking about computer jargon but right there on my phone it lists available, although mostly locked, networks. If I’m confused, this post will be downright embarrassing but even I have enough knowledge to know that setting up a router and a modem equals a network. Heck, we even named ours after one of our pets. That network will remain undisclosed to keep the hackers at bay. 

Finding network names is as easy as pressing the settings button on my phone then hitting the wi-fi button. A list pops up with names that are sometimes memorable. Other namers use their own names or leave the network naming to a default setting. Looking up network names is a fun game to hunt down goofily named networks, the creative ones and the names that are downright offensive.

Punny Named Networks

The puns are the best and they sure test my computer terms knowledge in order to get the joke and yes, networks are also know as Local Access Networks.

Obscenity Trials and Errors

These freak me out. Don’t people know other people can see the names of their networks?

The above was all the more shocking to me because it appeared in the area of an elementary school. When talking to Pittsburgh Orbit’s Will Simmons he commented that Christine needs to step up her game. It’s not my business what people do in the privacy of their own home, just don’t name your network after it.

There’s no decorum when naming a network. I’m not really sure what this refers to, so shake away.

What a fine name, I guess, if you’re feeling honest or realistic about how you use your network.

Sometimes rhyming words stuck together are funny.

I’m sure I had run ins with guys like Hugh and Phil as I attempted to learn student’s names when I was a substitute teacher. This is a middle school level of sophistication. Then again, if your last name is Mungus how could you resist naming one of your kids Hugh?

All I can say is stay out of my hen house!

Funny Not Punny

It’s blatantly obvious that people celebrate their vices through their network names.

Um, I guess it depends on what you’re smoking or what’s burning.

 

Thanks for letting me know!

It occurred to me that I should have a separate category for ham references. I’m surprised I didn’t find homages to bacon. 

Work Beefs

Who wants to be reminded of a bad work experience when dealing with their network? I’m guessing this isn’t a corporate network. 

Animals

Who ever thought you could name a network after a pet or any animal for that matter?

This has to belong to a sports fan.

This network has to belong to a cat fan.

Maybe there’s a Thundercougarfalconbird fan out there!

Well, this one is cute. It’s from one of our area animal hospitals.

Two of my favorite things combined in one network. If cakes and dogs were actually combined there would be even more biting going on.

From an unknown network, a new canine superhero emerges.

It’s hard for me to imagine a tough Moose. They’re more gangly and intimidating due to their size. This theory is based on an actual observation from this summer.

I’m not sure what Piggyboy9913 is up to. Maybe liking pork too much?

Surveillance Van Network Names

What is it with surveillance and van’s being used for names of networks? Something feels sinister about it. It’s as if someone wants a surveillance van in their neighborhood hacking into their network or watching them as they access the internet. How does Justin Bieber get his own surveillance van? Does he hang out there when he’s not on tour?

Weird Mystery

Are we speaking Italian here? Is it a name? An Italian name? This mystery can only be solved by Justin Bieber Surveillance Van 7.

Most of us would agree that Chombi is a fine name for a computer network. It’s the first thing that comes to anyone’s mind when making that split second, off the cuff network naming decision while wrestling with moden, routers and technology. It wouldn’t surprise me if all networks were named Chombi. It’s perfect.

For those of us who grew up the TV show Father Knows Best this phrase sounds familiar. It’s almost like a Rorschach test in how you might think about the use of the word Daddy. This might belong in the Obscenity Trial and Error column.

Jesusiscomingsoon, as if you need a reminder every time you access your network? Some people are so impatient.

Selling Dairyville

Have another glass!

Buzzing into an auction preview to take pictures with a camera phone at 10 percent battery is not a best journalism practice, but I had come to pay my respects. The auction would be selling off the antiques, signs, Christmas decorations, theater seats, musical instruments, milk wagons, stage coaches and other memorabilia from Dairyville, the frontier village on the property of the Alpenrose Dairy that’s slated to be razed for a housing development. This post is loaded with subconscious thoughts about a vague and sinister corporate takeover that I don’t fully understand. I do know it’s sad to lose a long running, local tourist attraction under any circumstances. I had related the closure to the pandemic. Some places were closed for so long they weren’t able to reopen but this isn’t the case here. Off I went on a manic, yet technically low energy stroll to get the photos for this post. 

Shacked up, packed up.

I owe Nerdletta Erdlettanay for posting information on the Stop Demolishing Portland Facebook page that alerted me to the auction preview. I had been to Alpenrose, seen the Velodrome, watched the Little League Softball World Championship tournament and stumbled around a closed Dairyville. I peeked through windows imagining what it would be like when it was open. I didn’t grow up in the area so I didn’t visit as a kid. By the time I moved to SW the pandemic was keeping people away. The auction preview was my first and last opportunity to enter buildings. 

Waiting for a certain lady to sing.

My initial stop was the Opera House. It was bigger and more ornate than I expected. Inside were piles of dismantled seats, Christmas decorations, furniture and wooden character cut-outs. My wife, Ronna, and I, joked about the lot system with a woman also looking around. We determined someone would have to buy all the cut-outs, not just the ones they liked. She told us she would not want to end up with Humpty-Dumpty and I didn’t blame her a bit.

Having a great summer.
Between a Welt Elf and Rift Rat.
Just needs some air.

I wasn’t in a shopping mood, despite being fascinated by the characters. The arrangement of a girl sandwiched between an elf and a short eared rabbit propped up against a wall seemed more menacing than fun. The Opera House had a balcony and boxes where my wife pointed out the grouchy, old Muppet Show characters would sit. A dusty, pneumatic percussion instrument sat on the stage. The phrase “everything must go” entered my head. The finality hit me. It would all be gone soon. Until then I could only laugh about a sign telling people not to touch elves. 

I don’t even want to touch your hammer.
Need to pick up some milk.

The magic of a Dairyville Christmas is lost on me. A tour of Storybook Land, a village within a village, featured plaster mountains, houses, stores, story books on podiums and a church. This was the kitsch fix I needed. I couldn’t focus on the story, choosing to work extra hard to get a decent shot of Mr. and Mrs. Claus without catching too much window glare. The scenes within the buildings drew me in while signs demanded we stay behind the fences. Ronna pointed out that she would have liked to have seen the display’s water features but they had been drained.

House of the holy.

Reflecting on the Stop Demolishing Portland post, Nerdetta’s words stung:

“I’m pretty sure that even though there’s so many fascinating pieces of history up for sale, many generations of folks in the Portland area and beyond feel just as sad, especially that the world we live in today is saturated with snake-oil salesmen and neoliberal shills who characterize all our memories and social gathering places – the sentimentality that roots us to place, time, and one another – as weakness.  Everything and everyone gaslit by the false-narrative of  cognitive dissonance – that in order to save the planet we must destroy it by sacrificing to the bulldozer.  And all that does is create endless amounts of expensive empty artifacts needed to trade interest-bearing / debt-backed securities on Wall Street so that the .1% speculative investor class can extract, conjure, and hoard even more trillions to build unsustainable luxury hotels just beyond the atmosphere of the planet they are rapidly destroying.”

The loss of all that Alpenrose offered seemed pointless. I thought about the plight of the bicyclists who used the Velodrome and wondered where they would play the Little League World Softball Championship. I couldn’t think of another local frontier village that would fill this void. A Facebook commenter pointed out that the sell off occurred due to family in-fighting. I read about a divided family battling in court to keep Dairyville open. I also learned that the buildings were considered structurally unsafe. Words fail me in trying to sort out my feelings about an injustice that can’t be stopped. 

Could use some new shoes.

I picked up a couple of giveaway calendars from 1968 and 1973 filled with images of bygone days. They offered a combination of history, pride and nostalgia. Henry Cadonau, the son of the man who started the dairy and his wife Rosina were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary back in 1968. The place has a long history that’s hard to let go. Photos brought the old days to life. Bike racing, Little League sports, Easter egg hunts, Quarter-Midget racing, the Shetland Shodeo, goats and milk advertisements (5% Guernsey Milk anyone?) were prominently featured. I got my clown jollies seeing more pictures of Rusty Nails and discovering Guppo, part-time clown/full-time principal. I felt the graciousness of the notice at the bottom of each calendar page that stated, “visitors always welcome at Alpenrose Dairyland.” Something had me wanting to believe the end of Dairyville was a simple matter of family vs corporation. 

Own some history.

As a side note, I got mixed up seeing Dairyville referred to as Dairyland in the older publications. I wondered if I’d referred to it wrong the whole time. More research revealed Dairyville to be a subset of Dairyland known by its official title as Dairyville Western Village. My confusion waned.

Drink milk with ponies.
Original milk sold here!

My battery dies in a warehouse full of vehicles, a Christmas sleigh decked out with a tree, buggies, stage coaches, something labeled the original milk wagon and what appears to be the crown jewel, a 1930’s milk delivery truck that you have to stand up in to drive. I found out later from a KGW report that this vehicle sold for $30,000. There wasn’t much I could do then but head out. I took one brief look at a man sitting in a chair on the Dairyville gazebo and I went to find Ronna. A man on a porch thanked me for coming, which seemed nice but I would have hated to miss it. 

Milk man bring me more milk!

On the way home, my wife described to me overhearing the man on the porch telling people that housing all around the property once belonged to Alpenrose Dairy Farm. Progress somehow means the Dairy is sure to be swallowed up by housing. I feel bad about the Northwest Senior Theatre losing the Opera House as their performance space and how the train club won’t be able to meet in Dairyville any more. I was struck by the stunned look someone gave me when I told them Dairyville was closing and I’m saddened by the loss of community this place supported. It feels like the end of a kind of generosity that Dairyland brought to the area for so long. I’ll miss the Little League World Series and live with regret for not catching bike racing at the Velodrome. For me, one last chance to combine an Opera House visit with a dash through Storybook Lane while seeing some old modes of transportation and milk distribution vehicles was the best I could do. 

Back to the barn.

Sad Toys (Say So Much)

Very Vegetarian

Not all discarded toys are sad toys as you too will discover with continued reading. The sad toy descriptor was something I picked up from The Pittsburgh Orbit and it has its origins beyond that. My eyes were open to the plight of these orphaned toys for the purposes of documentation. I don’t have room in my heart or my home to offer them a place to live. It had been awhile since I’d seen any sad toys. Then they appeared to me in droves. There’s an intriguing juxtaposition when something is not where you’d expect to see it, a fluffy toy curled up curbside for instance. The toys seem a long way from a cozy toy box. For the record this post mostly features portraits of lost toys found in my West Portland Park neighborhood except where noted.

Sleeping Bear News

You Are Getting Very Sleepy

Dirty, worn out and sleepy, these characteristics epitomize sad toys. The curb snuggles the bear. It’s disheartening to see a sad toy lying in the gutter and yet, it’s so authentic. What a find! What a photo op! With its hands in a prayer position this stuffy appears angelic, lost in a dream of happier times.

Alone Auto

Parking solution.

A lone car looks, well, lonely as if it did it’s best just to get itself parked and abandoned on top of the curb. It shines in the sun as if arriving fresh from the car wash.

Elephants: Never Forget

No mice apply.

Imagine being an elephant discarded in a school yard. This little guy seems able to overlook this, reaching out for a big hug to any passerby willing to return the love.

Cat Splat?

Grounded cat.

This cat usually serves as a mailbox topper/decoration. There are times when the cat slides off the box for some face planting and dirt napping. The very definition of sad toys seems to be how trashed they can become when spotted in random locations most often the ground. Eventually, the cat ends up dusted off and back on the mailbox. 

Ken Pile

Never a dull doll.

Is Ken of Ken and Barbie fame even a thing anymore? Has he been replaced by an Austin or Brandon at this point? I spotted this figurine, whatever his name might be, practically next door. I found Ken sunbathing in an uncomfortable posture using abandoned toys as a pillow. Getting beach ready left Ken in a state of rigor mortis.  

Dipsy Do Little

Little dipper.

The purple Teletubbie, Tinky Winky, made an appearance in this year’s Prince Tribute. So how could a character from Teletubies be considered sad? Try hanging around in a tree with a head strap in the elements like Dipsy here. A diet of ice, rain, hail, snow, wind and sun will do things to your brain. .

Pieces of You

A missing feat.

Our North Portland correspondent Graham Marks spotted a sad toy in pieces in the Kenton neighborhood. It’s hard to imagine the scene but it had me considering a miniature bomb blowing up a figurine. We’re left with pieces mostly limbs and wire. With so little left, the imagination has to piece together what happened.  

Wire transfer. (Photo credit: Graham Marks)

Majestic Sad Toys

A snack for later.

These photos offer a misconception about sad toys. Some rise above sadness. New, unblemished toys, positioned in the right way, appear majestic. I stumbled upon these scenes in various locations along a trail that leads to the Multnomah Village neighborhood. In some of the scenarios you might consider a dinosaur on its side to be a sad sight and there are toys getting eaten by other toys, but these dioramas remain undisturbed. They elevate any possible sad toy status to a level of majesty and they look good doing it.   

Tipsy.
Kimba and unknown scorn.
The famous final scene.

A Flag is Forever And It Makes July Better

The American Flag hangs around all year reminding us of the country we live in and how we need to do our best at all times to be good citizens, recite the pledge when asked and take off our hats and put our hand over our heart when the Stars Spangled Banner or that Lee Greenwood song comes on.

It’s okay to iron.

Late June and early July is really the time when I start keying into displays of patriotism in preparation for my annual Fourth of July spectacular blog post. I realized this year there’s a competition between the people of Pittsburgh and Portland that few, to no people, realize is happening. The only documentation is within the confines of two blogs. I say every year, the Pittsburgh Orbit put the idea into my head to scour Portland for flag arrangements and displays of patriotism.

What else can be said?

Since then I’ve wondered: Who does do it better? Not to turn everything into a competition but it would require me to search far and wide across the whole city looking for fantastic flag conflaggulations instead of poking around in my fair corner of SW Portland to happen upon average Fourth of July decor. No need to keep score. The Pittsburghians are working hard but do they out decorate Portlandians? I’m not sure anyone cares. It occured to me that I write this post every year to direct traffic to the Pittsburgh Orbit for their flag coverage so people can decide for themselves.

Up A Driveway

Don’t run me over.

It’s up the driveway in the Crestwood neighborhood and stealthily planted in an old flower pot but this flag subtly whispers, “It’s the Fourth of July” and “hey, American Flag alert over here” and, oh yeah, “I’m here up the driveway ushering in the most American of all the holidays.” The flag looks fine sandwiched in between a retired banner and a bag of something. Old Glory never looked better even when it’s almost unnoticeable.

Slouching Towards Main Street

I’ve made it a point many times to admit that wind is a necessary component of the Fourth of the July. While wind will potentially carry sparkler sparks into dry forests, it also makes flags look their best. Without wind primping them up, flags limp around, almost to the point of looking depleted and dejected. Flag flyers have a responsibility to keep a fan nearby, when the wind isn’t on duty, to keep flags flying strong and proud.

A boldly folded flag.

In Multnomah Village, this flag is weighed down by its own expectations. Was it planted upside down? Neglected in some other way? It still offers that familiar color scheme while remaining a flag we can still all believe in. In the end, I hope this flag gets the help it needs, which, at the very least, would be a good flipping so it can fly true like so many examples of the red, white and blue.

Not a portrait of a car.

Again it’s all in the wind. This flag, while much appreciated, would look positively majestic in a roaring breeze. There’s not much the coffee shop below can do. It doesn’t matter much because like in other holidays and birthday presents it’s the thought that counts. What I’m saying is a floppy flag is better than no flag.

Patriotic Decorations: As Good As Flags

Red, White, Balloon.

The Multnomah Village toy store gets seasonally appropriate with a window display celebrating Independence Day. There are flag themed pinwheels, balloons of the appropriate trio of colors and those triangle-flag-streamer things suspended from the ceiling. While I’d hope to see a flag blowing in a fake breeze created by a fan set at a medium speed, I’ll take what I can get.

Not The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

Stars in my eyes!

Walking into a Beaverton Fred Meyers, I was struck by the realization that it was Fourth of July fashion season. It hit me then that in my admiration for this get up with its reimagined stars and stripes I was at a loss for what this garment actually was. Whether it’s a sleep shirt, jumpsuit, giant shirt, poncho or July 4th/Elvis impersonator costume; that’s still under consideration. Most would admit it’s festive as hell and as bright and lively as a firework display.

Mono Americo

Proud American.

You might see this anywhere but in the Foster-Powell neighborhood this image appeared in the back window of the cab of a pick up truck. The flag takes on a completely different look in black and white but it still resembles the flag. The image keeps in mind the power of a good wind, if only in illustrative form, keeps a flag looking active.

A Quicker Display

Stars for home bars.

What could be more American than a flag in front of a liquor store? It’s a reminder that one of our freedoms is the ability to get alcohol whenever the liquor store is open. There’s nothing terribly exciting about this flag display other than I appreciate the idea behind it. I mean the store is making the effort to put up an Independence Day display. Streamers, bunting and balloons would surely be overkill when a flag pole makes a dignified statement on its own.

Ruffled Revolution

l was struck by the ruffled texture of these flags which formed a line along with aslie numbers in the Lake Oswego Ace Hardware Store. The shiny materials of these Neo-Old Glories clash with the fluorescent lighting. They create the kind of effect that had me proudly marching through a store as if I were promenading into a military ball.

It’s A Small World

Flags in the garden.

Add a mini flag and I’m sold. Did I really buy all these flower arrangements just for the flags? Nothing says Happy Fourth of July more than an American Flag of any size. A small flag still makes a giant statement and helps flowers get patriotic.

Decorations In Other Places

Who’s been flying my flag?

In Colorado a bear that appears to have taken an ax to the face endures having a flag taped to his body. Forest animals of all kinds are made to serve double duty as yard decor and flag holders and yet this bear smiles through the indignities.

Wild horses carry me away!

The Wild Horse Casino broke out the festive feather banners by mid June to get the Independence Day celebration started. Whether this photo is obscured by heat steam or sprinkler haze I can’t recall but the important thing is the banners contain all the necessary ingredients of excellent July Fourth decor in an elongated form. Stars, stripes, and shades of red, white and blue are all you need for a triumphant display.

Flags At Home

No canon made the hole.

If you hate Cornhole because you always lose then why do you find yourself every Fourth of July with a beer in one hand and a bean bag in the other. Do yourself a favor cut back on the drinking and start your serious training in early spring so you can improve your game. While your at it, invest in an especially patriotic game board to help you love America more. This one was a gift from a family member so it resides year round in West Portland Park.

Stripes to the left of me.

I include this photo because the stripes are the last thing I see pulling out of the garage. The flagpole was destroyed during the ice storm of the winter of 2020. The flag was moved and thumb tacked to the wall until our flagpole can be restored. In the meantime I’ll keep my eyes on the rear view camera and my view of the Stars and Stripes, minus the stars that I catch from the corner of my eye every time I go anywhere.

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For more Portland Orbit flag coverage see: https://portlandorbit.com/2020/07/04/a-journey-fourth-into-a-slight-history-of-portland-flag-waving/

More Purple Than You Can Handle: It’s What Prince Would Have Wanted

Purple Parrot, South Portland

We know Prince had no connection to Portland but I was inspired by the Prince themed group bike ride that used to happen during Pedalpalooza before everything was cancelled. Prince now belongs to the world community and well, I can’t help but once again want to offer another Prince/Purple post in tribute. There are plenty enough Portland fans who would love to see him honored on his birthday and purple things seems to be the way to do it best.

Purple Star Pole Art, South Burlingame
Purple House, South Portland
Purple Garage, South Portland
Tinky Winky, West Portland Park
Purple Chairs, Oregon City
Purple Pick Up, Markham
Purple Sky, South Portland
Purple Police Box/Little Library, West Portland Park
Purple Trash, West Portland Park
Purple Flower, West Portland Park
More Purple Flowers, Hillsdale
Purple Brush, Washington Square

More purple and Prince tributes: https://portlandorbit.com/2019/06/07/its-a-purple-world-you-just-havent-noticed/

Fences Make Interesting Neighbors Part 2

Robert Frost had that poem about fences making good neighbors and it was a good poem and everyone liked it. What happens when people don’t like your fence, well that’s a whole other story. If you design it well or decorate it in fine fashion, well they shouldn’t have much to complain about it. Heck, everyone has the capacity to be a critic anyway. Loving everyone and everything–that’s hard. We do have to hand it to Bob for inspiring the title to this series and inspiring us to realize that fences can be more neighborly than the people who live behind them.

Garden Wall

It helps to have the occasional walk about in our home turf of West Portland Park. There are sights and rare finds yet to behold. On such occasion I could not help but be struck by a garden mural painted on a fence. Great colors and recreations of flowers on a grand scale that spruced up the fence and added pizzazz to the rest of the street.

Not Grant’s Tomb

We were in the Grant Park neighborhood for a Witch Walk last October. That’s a whole other story but our mission was to impersonate witches and remind people to vote before the 2020 election. Scary stuff! The walk ended at a house where the fence has been taken over by messages of hope during the height of the pandemic. This outpouring of expression was moving. Fences don’t have to be static barriers. They can be billboards to enlighten and encourage. The homeowner allowed anyone to write a slogan or post a flyer on the fence resulting in a pastiche of positivity.

I Saw the Signs

In the Markham neighborhood, this fence took on the look of a Friday’s, Applebees or Red Robin interior or even a combination of all three. It’s appealing in its visual stylishness. Signs on an iron fence have the makings of a delightful collage that recalling the back wall of an antique store. The fence breaks up the suburban monotony by wearing advertising and traffic signs like pieces of flair.

Cool Your Heals

This fence decor was always a blur. It’s located at the end of a twisty road just before a stop sign. All the times I’ve driven by it’s appeared out of the corner of my eye. Standing in front of it, I realized a girl on a bike is approaching a person who’s feet are in a creek. My play-by-play is a bit redundant because you can see the photo yourself, but this scenario is now frozen in time with its pleasant colors and story. I appreciated finally being able to experience the painting. A creek soak foot bath seems to be the exact thing any bike rider would need after a bike ride.

Get Me To The Forest

The scene would almost be serene if it wasn’t on such a busy road in the Multnomah Village neighborhood. The two panels and a koi flag felt peaceful for a moment before a car rumbled past. The art has a spray paint graffiti feel that reveals hallucinogenic forest floor landscapes. It’s a dynamic fence mural in a drive-by art gallery that doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

One to Tide You Over

It’s almost at the end of Alberta Street, the Arts District anyway and the bones of this fence, colors and details, that have borne the brunt of pandemic discord, still manage to shine. The fence encloses the patio at Cha Ba Thai restaurant offering diners privacy. I remember this fence from its heyday. The doors, windows and bright colors typify the eclectic feel of the neighborhood. The graffitti doesn’t quite blend in but I can sense the walls are making attempts to absorb the additional paint and continue on despite the times.

Blocking Out: A New Pandemic Low

Tools of the trade.

It all started with a source who was supposed get back to me. Between calls from telemarketers about my expired warranty for a car I wrecked, my credit cards or that one about my errant social security card requiring a visit from the police, I figured I’d never answer the phone to take that call. The Berkeley, California street performer Rick Star said it best. “They never call you back from Hollywood.” That’s a testament to how persistent you need to be in this life. You have to keep calling. 

I need a foot bag!

Figuring out what I would write for my next blog post meant the return of certain feelings. Anxieties, from deadlines no one’s really counting on and a lack of confidence about the idea–strongly felt at this point, crept in. Weirdly, this idea inspired me. It’s an attempt to allow readers to crawl around in my brain to get a glimpse at the inner workings of this blog. Every two weeks or so, I peck out another missive to another form of hidden creativity. I’m trying to offer a respite to a mad world and insulate you from whatever political, social or COVID-19 variant upheaval it out there. I’m working hard and sometimes it is hardly working. 

What’s in a name?

Lately it’s been a few other things in the way. Maybe my time management skills are flawed. I did start recording a poetry album, seriously, with this guy, and there’s still always the monthly TV show. What I’m not doing is organizing my time to do the research. Case in point I have tons of photos of different sidewalk stamps. It’s an idea I may have borrowed from the Pittsburgh Orbit. Nonetheless, it occurred to me that I don’t have much to say other than to offer a glimpse at these various stamps and to increase people’s awareness that they exist. A memo to the research department will get them digging into finding out who the guys are that built all the Portland sidewalks. They deserve a bit of acknowledgement.

How to for everything!

My organizational lag may have something to do with the pandemic and the upheaval it caused to plans, schedules and the jumbled mess it’s made of my mind. It’s an easy thing to blame. Life was strange early on when everything was cancelled. But as things kinda, sorta, have comeback to normal my biggest challenge is dealing with all the preparations necessary to leave the house. Has anybody seen my mask? Those times were a  bit unnerving in the Trump era. News of the pandemic before the vaccination felt like we were living in a sci-fi zombie movie. Then there was that feeling. Will the pandemic be stopped? It’s been gradual but I’ve been able to find a bit of breathing room. 

Love is all you need, right?

So here it is in the fourth paragraph: The Truth. I’ve become one of those blocked up writers, procrastinating, avoiding, the guy who has every other thing to do rather than meet the needs of his readers. I’m letting car crashes, broken teeth–not mine, possibly rat poisoned dogs and work get in the way. The whole poetry thing is proof that I really can’t string a sentence together, only fragments. It’s never not been about not having ideas, there are plenty. It’s more to do with getting along with this scattered brain and making the time and finding the peace and quiet to sit down and think. All of this reminds me of the very old Saturday Night Live skit about Don Corleone from the Godfather movies going to therapy. The shrink kept telling him. “Vito, you’re blocking out.” Well, I have to tell you right now, at this moment, this typing feels great.

Here we go around the sun.

Don’t worry, my photo archive reveals plenty of ideas for blog posts. Dear God, I will return. I’m reminded of the principles of which this blog was founded, the search for unexpected creativity in the ordinary—fences, mailboxes, sidewalks. It’s a matter of hoofing it out to get the story and the glory. The obvious is to go back to the basics and reevolve from there. I really meant to write reevolve and not revolve. I learned something this week in a fourth grade classroom, something I’m sure I already knew but had forgotten. The world is tilted. No wonder everything is wonky.

Whatever Happened to… Beer Can Helicopters?

We were wandering down a Portsmouth neighborhood street heading for some kind of pot shop celebration of some sort or another at Best Buds across from New Seasons back in the summer of 2018. The other part of this “we” prefers to be anonymous. Hey, we were just educating ourselves besides they were offering information booths, samples, music and live pro wrestling—well, maybe semi-pro wrestling. It didn’t seem like a half bad plan to visit for part of an afternoon. As we headed down an alley after parking the car, I looked up and noticed a beer can helicopter hovering up tall poles.


Beer can helicopters are the best. Besides being a resourceful use of recyclables for art, they’re more interesting to me than the real thing. I didn’t expect a ride from a can helicopter but a random discovery is always appreciated. So what’s happened to these? It’s a safe bet they’re still there catching wind gusts and spinning their wheels when they can to continue their quest to keep that Portsmouth neighborhood’s unique yard art going.


Then it occurred to me. I look back at memories and they become distorted. It’s good to have photographic evidence but I had assumed the cans used in these kinetic sculptures were beer cans. I’d also forgotten about the bike tire whirligig. What can be more Portland than finding creative ways to use bike parts? Looking over the cans in my photos, I wasn’t seeing beer cans. The cans were bigger, not the usual soda size. I spotted ice tea, energy drinks and malt liquor cans. I’ve been stuck on my description because beer can helicopter sounds better in the title. Perhaps can helicopter is more accurate.


Beer can aviation replicas have a long history. It doesn’t predate the invention of the aluminum can of course. It couldn’t have taken long before the cans inspired art. Eventually someone saw the possibilities in this mixed media use of gears, bike parts and aluminum resulting in these sculptures. The only thing missing the day I saw them was wind. It’s the only way to get the full effect. Head out to Portsmouth some windy day. This helicopter will surely be spinning its propeller bladed, can powered wheels looking for a place to land beside its whirligig pal who has stood by him all these years.