Elegant Graffiti

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I’m surrounded by graffiti. There’s no escape. While I want to document it, I’m wary of praising it. This giant decal art work that appeared on the side of my neighborhood strip club, the Dancing Bare, caught my eye a couple of weeks back. It was slapped on the wall that faces the Trimet Max train tracks by an anonymous source. Most graffiti is created anonymously or it might be easier for those who create it to get in big trouble.  It occurred to me that if people needed to deface buildings it might be appreciated a bit more if it were done in an artistic manner.  This one screams art. The bearded dude is a painter holding a palette and brushes.  Artist imitating art.  It could very well be a deep statement pasted on the wall of a strip club.

Elegant graffiti est shot

When I consider the rest of the wall, I see an ad for Bud Light, bolder, letter type spray painted squiggles as well as some painted sections covering up past graffiti and I had to consider which image I could live with more because there’s no way a blank wall can exist for long in Portland without someone wanting to spray paint squiggles on it or display advertising.

I considered who the figure in the picture was. He resembled a pumped up Charlton Heston playing a combination of a Moses character who decided to retire after delivering the tablets and parting the sea to take up painting and then ended up looking more like Michelangelo. Anyone young enough to not have a feel for who Charlton Heston was, well there was a time when he had cool roles in movies like Omega Man and a couple of the old Planet of the Apes films. He shouldn’t be remembered solely as the crazy old coot who stumped for the N.R.A. talking about how we’ll have to pry the gun out of his cold dead hands before anyone messes with the 2nd amendment. Such a memory for that might also be murky. He’s been dead a while.

There’s an endless cycle of decorating and redecorating the neighborhood. Charlton Moses Michelangelo is already in the process of being peeled off the wall. This style of graffiti might be appealing (pun intended and unintended) compared to other forms but it may be harder to remove much less paint over. And really there should be no tolerance for graffiti of any kind. Regardless of the skill level or technique it’s still vandalism. Get there early to catch the first form of this constant flux.

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My apologies to Mrs. Yuckmow (the third grade teacher of Pittsburgh Orbit blogger Will Simmons) for starting a sentence with the word “and.”

Beer Can Bonanza

Group beer cans

When hundreds of beer cans showed up at Kenton Antique & Collectibles on North Denver Avenue something happened to me. As a recovering beer can collector it wasn’t the shakes or delirium tremens I felt, but a surge of nostalgia. So I had to know how Kenton Antiques & Collectibles owner Maureen “Mo” Bachmann got her hands on someone’s entire collection. “I didn’t find it, it found me,” Mo explained. She told the tale of a man who had been in the store and seen beer cans she’d had for sale and sensed that it might be a place where a beer can collection he and his father had shared, could find a temporary home. After asking Bachmann if she might be interested in taking a look at the collection, he presented her with three tall boxes and two giant garbage bags—around 600 cans and a trade arrangement for store credit was made.

Group beer 2

“He was just hoping to replace something that took up a lot of space with things that took up less space,” Bachmann said. She emphasized that cans take up a lot of room adding the collection “looked like they’d been in those boxes in a garage for a couple of years.” That storage method required Bachmann to spend two days sorting and hand washing beer cans. She managed to put a shine on the older steel cans which cleaned up well.

Bachmann has been selling the cans. A kid began his beer can collection with cans from the store. Someone else bought some of the Iron City Pittsburgh sports team collectible cans for a friend. A gentleman completed his Schmidt’s outdoor can series that involved cans decorated with 28 different things you can do and see in the great outdoors presumably with a beer in your hand.

beer art

For me, I enjoyed the opportunity to look at beer cans again up close and personal and in living and some times faded color. My collection, accumulated in the 70’s was boxed up and eventually donated to a bar in Vienna, Virginia. Cans like Narragansett and Narragansett 96, (96 calories!) brought back memories of dragging my parents to package stores in the New England area. Other cans like Brown Derby and the Old Frothingslosh series remained as awe inspiring in their design as I had remembered. Brands jumped out at me with names like Tuborg, Swan and Ballentine–the beer my grandfather drank with the pull top can. There were others I’d never seen before like one of Mo’s favorites: The can commemorating the 1979 Bean and Bacon Days. There’s nothing like the Kenton Antique Store for being able to visit stuff without having to bring it all home.

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Mo’s is always interested in considering people’s collectibles habit which makes it fun to chat with her about collections. “I had 53 typewriters when I moved (to Portland),” she said. “Now I’ve got four, and now I collect miniatures.” She theorizes that “you’re always going to replace one collection with another.” I was so busy talking about beer cans that I forgot to ask what happened to the other 49 typewriters.

beer can box

Ever wanted to know what happens at a beer can convention? Here’s tons of footage from 2005.


From one collection to another:


How could I leave out a photo of Bean & Bacon Days?


  stop danzig

Who is laughing at Danzig? Those who stop at the intersection of N Greeley Ave and N Willamette Ave might see themselves as the culprit and I hope they consider the serious nature of their mirth and realize that someone in this world thinks their laughing needs to end. I’ve seen many a defacement of stop signs that told me to stop this or that, but this one impressed me by looking like a sticker that had been made to be applied to multiple stop signs to stop an epidemic of hilarity that has been foisted upon Danzig.  I can’t imagine someone applying a Laughing at Danzig sticker to the bumper of their car.  That would not go over well in a goth neighborhood.

I ran into another example of this mayhem.

stop apathy

The sentiment is nice, and it’s written in a doom metal font that overshadows it’s message.  It’s hard to read.  Stop is bold and clear, the word apathy is running off the edge of the sign.  I didn’t get into the blogging business to critique street sign penmanship, but it’s common sense. Make your message legible.  I don’t want to have to stop my car or bike, get out and squint my eyes to get the general idea.

I rode through a North Portland neighborhood trying to remember where I had seen a “stop austerity” message.  I couldn’t find it.  I remember it well but it wasn’t where I knew I had seen it.  It had me wondering how often stop signs get replaced.  Certainly times would have to be a bit more austere before a stop austerity sign would get replaced. Stop signs aren’t cheap.

I was at the last stop sign before MLK when I noticed a faint scrawl, possibly written in dust, underneath the stop message. It’s almost not worth showing because even with the most highly sophisticated, forensic-like, software manipulations, I could not get a good image of the “stop working” sign.  It’s probably a sentiment lost on most people anyway.

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Stop working: I tried.

Finally, doubling back to head home, I spied the sign below. Scribbles! I have no idea what’s trying to be stopped here. Sure stop sign manipulations are minimal vandalism and while I can’t condone it, I can be entertained by it. For the most part the message is lost on the people who just want to obey the law and stop at the stop sign. They probably aren’t going to stop anything but their car. For me, I’m done laughing at Danzig.

stop scribble

 I’d stop it, if I could pronounce it.

Are these folks laughing at Danzig? You decide:


In Praise of Coffee Art

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Hanging off a telephone pole next to a coffee shack is my favorite kind of art. It’s paint on wood, more specifically, a giant coffee cup that draws people in to pull up to the drive through coffee cart. It wasn’t until I was doing a bit of photo manipulation that I noticed the head of whip cream frothing on top of the coffee. I couldn’t tell you if it’s a latte gone crazy or a macchiato or some other newfangled coffee drink but with a few tweaks with the photo software the coffee cup painting took on a sheen and a glimmer beneath it’s weathered exterior that made it look even more beautiful. It’s as if it was hung too high on a telephone pole for me to truly appreciate it. I was marveling over the foam waves and the saucer circles and the glint of sunshine bursting in the middle of the mug and around the rim of the handle. It’s folk art that’s too classy to be going under appreciated in it’s parking lot environment.

coffee shack

The coffee cart is surrounded by an auto parts store, a hot dog restaurant and I think, another auto parts store. It’s all part of the giant parking area for the Portland Meadows horse racing complex. I’m not enough of a coffee snob to tell you whether the coffee I had there once was good or not. If you are a coffee snob you may not think this is your type of place unless you’re craving a cup of coffee and a hot dog on your way to place a trifecta bet at the track. I want to say that this is the type of place that puts a chocolate covered coffee bean on the plastic lid of your coffee cup–I love that, but then again I’m not certain that’s the case.

The one thing I am certain about is that the sign is a stunner and admiring a photo of it has to be the next best thing to seeing it in person.

Sarah Mirk Talks Pie Not PI


Sarah Mirk is my journalism hero in Portland. I enjoyed reading her writing when she was a staff writer for the Portland Mercury. She left the paper to work for Bitch Media where she’s the online editor. I’ve heard her appearances on the OPB talk show Think Out Loud doing News Roundtable segments many times and have always appreciated her opinions. It was Sarah’s comments on the podcast Karl Show (starring Jason), when she shared her appreciation for pie, that inspired this email interview. Sarah is the author of Sex From Scratch: Making Your Own Relationship Rules.

3 Questions for Sarah Mirk

What makes pie one of your favorite desserts or even meals?
Pie is a meditative process to make—mixing the crust and rolling out the dough takes time, and that’s good. It’s also tied up in history. I use my family’s recipe, which involves measuring blobs of crisco, but I like hearing other peoples’ stories about their memories of pie. Pie always reminds me of my dad, whose annual tradition is making way too many pies at Thanksgiving. It’s a food that many people have a strong opinions about. Of course, the most obvious reason to like pie is that it’s delicious. My favorite kinds of pie are rhubarb and cherry.

What are some of your favorite Portland area places for pie?
Actually, my favorite place to get pie is at roadside diners whenever I’m driving somewhere far away. I like stopping in a random small town diner for coffee and a huge wedge of berry pie and getting a feel of the town. In Portland, I don’t go out for pie that much. But you really can’t beat Random Order and Loretta Jean’s for a classic pie. I’m vegan these days, so I’ve been eating a lot of flaky pie-like pastries from Sweetpea.

Ever been to Shari’s for their Wednesday night pie special (free slice of pie with the order of an entree)?
You know, I’ve only been to Shari’s once, when some friends and I drove out to the Pendleton Round-Up. On the way back, we stopped at what my friends insisted was the first-ever Shari’s in the world, which is just like every other Shari’s and is in a parking lot somewhere in Eastern Oregon. I got a slice of pie and it was pretty dang mediocre.

Note: This is not meant as an advertisement or commercial endorsement for Shari’s Cafe.

Read all about Sarah:


Listen to the podcast interview that inspired this interview:


Next year I hope to be doing a live remote PI Day broadcast from a Shari’s Cafe parking lot while being beaten about the head and shoulders by a gang of protractor wielding mathematicians.

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Carl & Sloan Show

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It’s great to see a new gallery rising up from the ashes, so to speak, like a Phoneix, to fill up the empty gallery space left after the closure of the Nisus Gallery. I saw Brad Nelson, who ran the Nisus Gallery, on a public access show talking about a long list of projects, none of them related to art so I knew he was a busy man. While it’s sad that the Nisus Gallery is gone, it’s a good time to welcome Carl & Sloan Contemporary to the Kenton neighborhood. I’m happy that I’ll continue to be inspired on my nightly dog walks that usually take me past the new gallery space which is housed in the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center building.

New Show: Testable Predictions
Featuring works by Amy Bernstein
, Perry Doane and 
Michelle Liccardo.
March 14 – April 12, 2015
8371 N. Interstate Ave. #1, Portland, OR 97217 — 360.608.9746

For more info:

This is Not a Motel

This is Not a Motel 2

Surely not a nod to Magritte, but a sign letting people know that what looks like a motel is now no longer a motel. The Comfy Inn has been a short-term housing center run by Emmanuel Community Services for close to two years.

comfy inn est

While it might be confusing, it is cool to see the motel’s “motel” characteristics left intact. The sign and the mural around back, as well as the neon arrow pointing to the motel’s check-in office remain. The unspectacular sign serves as a reminder of the other motels and motel signs up and down Interstate Ave. The neon message that says sorry at the bottom of the sign is as good an apology as can be offered to someone who reads the words “this is not a motel” taped to the old office window and then has to head down Interstate Ave looking for other accommodations.

comfy inn sign

neon sorry

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I don’t know if the sign will always be around but the mural has survived a recent paint job.

I miss the days when the motel was a motel. The biggest excitement then was when the motel would fill up with people coming from all over to attend the Portland International Raceway Auto Swap Meet. These days my inner curmudgeon gets inflamed by noisy kids playing in the motel parking lot when I’m trying to write. I was also irritated about a construction trailer for 6 months after our new neighbors arrived but one construction trailer became two smaller ones and they seem to have blended into the background. Sure the motel was once a quieter place but I can’t deny kids the right to make their joyous sounds. Besides it drowns out the hammering from the condo project across the street and the neighborhood’s many barking dogs as we all strive to live together in perfect harmony.

Read a Willamette Week blog post about this very topic:


Assigned reading:


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One of my favorite motel signs on Interstate Ave.

Drunk Cop


The first thing I noticed was the mustache. It’s black and flat like a beaver’s tail and too round on top. It’s fake. I have a certain radar for anything overly false like toupees and eye lashes. It’s hard not to notice when the installment of Drunk Cop I saw begins. It was posted on the Portland Film and Video Group so I took a look. Beyond my initial reaction, I have to admit I hit the fast forward button. I couldn’t brave the ‘stache. At least fast forward is better than indulging my short attention span on something else.

The next thing I know I see the mustache man sitting down off kilter in front of the Kenton Library. I swell with neighborhood pride, the same pride I felt seeing a photo of three out of four members of the band Red Fang sitting in the kid’s section of the same library–a photo on the Multnomah County Library website where the band talks about their favorite books, but I digress. This slumped down man is getting spoken to by a pregnant woman. I start wondering if she’s really pregnant and now realize that this can’t possibly matter. She is saying the most outlandish things of a sexual nature. Pregnant prostitute! I’m freaking out through more scenes of who I now realize is Drunk Cop wallowing in all kinds of filth and depravity. Sick and disgusting, yes, you’ll want to look away but you might want to look back.

A few days later, I sat down and watched an episode of Drunk Cop and was rewarded with many comedic moments. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart but if you’re a fan of gross out humor each scene out grosses the next. Impressive.

Looking over the website, I spot stills from scenes that feature many of my treasured local North Portland landmarks like Heavenly Donuts and downtown Kenton and again I fill with pride. It’s cool to see something local and lively and truly weird going on in North Portland.

On the site under the heading “Lonely?” you can find out how you might be able to participate as an actor or actress in the web series. You probably don’t even have to be pregnant. I’m trying to get up the nerve to get back into the acting game. It’s been a long time since my days in community theater.

Here’s a link to a Drunk Cop episode:

Here’s the Drunk Cop web site. Get back in the acting game:


See Red Fang. Scroll down to see the Kenton Library and the band:

Mannequin Fever

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Fashionista scarecrow or Goddess mannequin yard art? It was difficult to tell. When I stopped on a misty afternoon to take her picture she gave me her best red carpet frozen pose but refused to answer my queries. She’s got the looks and grace of Taylor Swift dressed up to sign a recording contract extension. I’m not sure what’s propping her up but she stands tall and glamorous braving the elements in a Kenton neighborhood yard.

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This decorative mannequin torso and head with her pants dangling and askew brought out my mannequin fever.  Her head reminded me of a beauty academy practice hair head and I recalled the time a friend found two huge boxes of heads outside an Arlington, Virginia beauty academy.  There were strange heads hanging around for years.

Academy Heads 2

Mannequin Garden photo by Ronna Craig