The Portland Orbit Spooktacular

While the rain, gray skies and doldrums sink in around Portland, it’s great to see Halloween come to life in my neighborhood and others. This is an appreciation, not a contest–participation trophies to all! It lifts my spirits to see the efforts made by others to celebrate the season.


You never see a skeleton with guts. It seems like by the time someone becomes a skeleton their guts are sure to have slithered out and been eaten by a proper Halloween themed rodent. The trick seems to be to angle the skeleton in a coffin, just the right way, to keep the juicy insides intact.

pumpkin head close up

Witch Pumpkin

This poncho wearing pumpkin man reminded me of an old Sonic Youth album cover. Getting close up to this growly guy revealed some well decorated digs. There’s a stairway to pumpkins, gravestones, a swinging ghost and that Skeletor looking dude in the background.. While I have no blue ribbon to offer, I would like to say nicely done!


I appreciate anyone’s attempts at decorating but this one bypassed spooky and drifted into creepy central. There’s something about the body baggage and duct tape that’s too realistic for my blood.

Blow up (1)

I’m a sucker for blow up holiday decor. Bonus points for anything that includes motion like something popping out of a present. This mischievous cat struck my fancy. It’s evident that he is seconds from releasing that pumpkin and enjoying a smashing pumpkin party or whatever that secondary Halloween celebration may be called. The good news is that giant jack o’lantern beside him appears quite safe. The cat doesn’t seem to have it in him to trash his pumpkin pal without straining himself.

bandanna witch

Spider webbing was big this year. I saw it all over and it was effective enough to appear to be hiding legions of vicious Halloween spiders. This sinister bird bath arrangement of black roses, mini-crow and curious bandana witch curbed the terror my imagination conjured up about what is lurking in the webs.

ghost hang

Ghosts, too many ghosts, just hanging around, is an eerie sight even in broad daylight. Only seeing the scary scenario in full animation mode created by an autumn breeze could make it more spooky.


When in precise working order these skulls light up and make a  buzzing noise. This is especially disconcerting while on a 6am dog walk, although Max didn’t quite know what to make of it. He also seemed to have little interest in the old bone lying around. Sigh. Expressions of Halloween are a bit wasted on canines.

pumpkin 2

A shout out to my family in Chantilly, VA and Abby in particular because she loves Halloween. It’s a tough call as to whether this is a PG-13.

And here’s a picture for Will from Pittsburgh who was curious about what this blogger looks like. He’s on the left.

pumpkin 1

Again regrets must be expressed for working up a second punny title in a row for this blog. I realize on a deep subconscious level I am making an effort to get the goat of Simmon Wills (the Orbit big boss) who actually loves puns and assumes he has the greatest ability to make them and will only laugh at the one’s he comes up with.

The last two photos courtesy of Ronna Craig! Thanks!

Time for a Treety

I came across this scene on my way back from a sub job one afternoon. There were half a dozen construction worker looking guys in hard hats and safety vest garb standing in the dirt of a lot that had been cleared at N. Morgan and N. Williams Streets. They were tree guys. I looked over at the Redwood trees in the corner of the property and could see that some of the limbs had been cut off. Back on the ground a woman was shaken and yelling. I think it was directed at one of the men. Another woman was walking up the sidewalk. She seemed angry and involved in the scenario. The tree guys were milling around. One of them seemed to be laughing, not a hearty laugh, more like a reaction to an uncomfortable situation. And given this description it’s obvious how things ended. The trees were cut down. I rode past the scene on my bike. I don’t know what else I could have done beyond stopping and watching so I didn’t stop. As I pedaled I noticed a man keeping a silent vigil on the sidewalk around the area. That seemed to be the problem: What could anyone do? The situation made me think of the Jim Morrison story about when he was a kid coming across a car crash with his family. A spoken word piece about the incident later appeared in the middle of the song Peace Frog. There was an intensity: Pissed off ladies, indifferent tree guys and soon to be dead trees. My regret was at least not taking a picture of the living trees. The tense situation caused me to flee.


It’s possible I had seen some flyers in the neighborhood leading up to the time the trees were cut. There was some mention of organizing to save them. This didn’t happen. It had me thinking about the trees in SE that were saved. TV news coverage ate up the exploits of the man who climbed up the tree to stop the chop. Surrounding neighbors banded together to put up a fight and bring awareness to the plight of the trees. A guy named Arthur Bradford seemed to be a spokesman for the protesters. I had heard that he performed a song about saving the trees at a Disjecta event. In the end it was Bradford’s connection to the world-famous co-creator of South Park who donated money that led to a deal with the developer to save the trees. I appreciated that for once something worked out. The SE trees were a statement that there can be victories for people and nature but Matt Stone can’t save all the trees.



Who can save the trees? The Redwoods in the episode I witnessed were massive. I noticed this more after eyeing the giant stumps and logs splayed across the lot. It didn’t make sense that trees located on the corner of the property were cut. With minimal effort the design of a house or houses on the lot could have included these trees. It also seems senseless when you consider the older growth, healthy trees being removed. The Portland nickname of Stumptown is more of a quaint term of endearment than something to continue to live up to.



I saw the remnants of the trees for what seemed like a couple of weeks hanging around after they had been cut. It seemed spiteful not to remove the remains as soon as possible. Spray painted messages appeared on the vinyl fencing around the property–anonymous expressions of rage. One tree stump became a makeshift altar. The messages seemed to be too little, too late but at least brought some attention to the loss of these trees.


I can’t claim to be a tree hugger. But what I witnessed was disconcerting. I can explain it away as Portland growing pains but these are becoming more and more uncomfortable. There has to be a better solution to preserve noble, old trees. To compare the confrontation of the people with the tree cutters to that of the scene that Jim Morrison witnessed as a kid where people had died in a car crash is on the melodramatic side but there was an intensity, an underlying rage to that situation. In Portland people climbed trees and the top of a roof to protest various demolitions. There was also such a doomed energy to what I saw, a helpless feeling in not knowing how to stop the changes to the character of Portland neighborhoods that are happening. I left the confrontation I witness thinking that something needed to be done to make changes that may protect threatened trees in the future. I wondered what mayoral candidate Ted Wheeler would do to save trees. I’d want that concern brought up at a future debate. The regulations now seem to favor developers paying minimal fees when they want to remove a tree. You’ll see me at an upcoming Mayor debate. I’ll have it looking like a Donald Trump rally. I’ll be the crazy standing up and asking, “What are you going to do about all these trees that are getting cut down?” I damn sure better get an answer.


Note to Mrs. Yuchmow:

I think I can justify the use of the word “And” at the beginning of one of my sentences in this post. I know you taught your student Will Simmons of the Pittsburgh Orbit fame not to begin a sentence with the word “And.”  He has explained to me that you also said that good writers break the rules. Let’s just say I’m choosing to breaking the rules here with a somewhat guilty conscience.

P.S. I can imagine the title pun is a bit obnoxious. I couldn’t help myself.

Wall of Mirrors

Bryant St. Bridge

The Bryant St. Bridge is a bike/walking path that crossses I-5. Most afternoons it’s encouraging to ride over it and look down on the freeway traffic jam below. The bridge fence curves to discourage people from leaping onto the highway.


Not much else happens on the bridge but I did see a couple of Bernie Sanders supporters hanging a Bernie banner in the fencing. For whatever reason the sign was gone the next day.  There were also some traffic counters I spotted decked out in neon vests with each counter assigned a lane. It’s not a busy bridge besides the occasional pedestrian or fellow biker. So it makes sense to reflect on (yes, pun intended) these mirrors that hang from the gray sound barriers.


I can’t remember when the public art display first appeared. My initial reaction was that the framed mirrors were too cutesy and juvenile in their primary color scheme of red, orange, green and yellow. I rode over the Bryant St. Bridge not too long ago and it hit me that I was dealing with a potential blog post. This meant I needed to consider the mirrors for longer than it took to ride past them. I want them to have some meaning more than being decoration but I’m not sure what it is. I have to admit they do break up the monotonous gray sound barrier walls. Some color, any color brings a bit of excitement to the drab exterior of the industrial wall color. I also realized the mirrors serve to allow me to see oncoming bike traffic around a blind curve while making my exit off the bridge.

Wall of Mirrors 4

While the mirrors attract graffiti, they may in the long run focus vandals attention on a smaller target and keep them from trashing the hard to clean sound barrier stucco walls with spray paint.

Wall of Mirrors3

Grafitti on the mirror not on the wall!

Then there are the strange reflections that you may only experience if you stop and take pictures. If inclined, you can check your look in one of the multiple mirrors that dot the walls. But that’s probably not an incentive to stop a bike ride.


Strange reflections indeed.

Wall of Mirrors 5

The Office Too

The Office front (1)

I fixated on my last post after receiving feedback about it when I shared a link on the Dead Memories Portland group page on Facebook. I felt the need to expand on my coverage about the Office. Dead Memories Portland is a group where people post pictures of old Portland landmarks and have discussions about them. The responders to my post revealed to me how little research went into my commentary about the Office. There was also information I found out about the place worth sharing that revealed to me that many thriving businesses have operated out of the site where people did everything from buying groceries a long time ago to drinking, playing darts performing stand up comedy and briefly playing punk rock. It was also pointed out that I had completely forgotten the existence of the punk club called Saratoga that opened up between the time the U & I Tavern closed and the Office opened. Saratoga was around long enough for me to procrastinate going there for a couple of months. Some commenters mentioned that one neighbor made numerous noise complaints, which didn’t make it worth it to keep the club going. I had totally forgotten Saratoga. Once my memory cleared, I remembered the place and thought about how I had felt inspired that something cool was occupying the space and I had been hopeful that it would stick around. I remember it being the same maroon color as the old U & I. I never made it there.

One revelation on the Facebook page made me realize how misguided and lazy I had been about the opinions I offered. I speculated at the end of my post that someone may not have liked “the ugliness” going on inside the strip club and so they made it ugly on the outside. For one thing that’s more judgmental than I wanted to be and it’s silly to think that someone who had this opinion would resort to vandalism. At the very least their graffiti might reflect in words the opinions they had rather than your basic graffiti scribbles. As one commentator pointed out the graffiti was a reflection of the lack of activity going on with the space and the opportunity to decorate the “large blank walls.” That makes more sense than my off base speculation. People who don’t like strip clubs, punk clubs or noisy businesses are more apt to call the police or file noise complaints and not likely to break out spray paint.

It probably would have been better to seek information from Dead Memories Portland before I created my initial post. I could have included historical tidbits and written a sidebar about what it was like to perform stand up comedy at an open mic night in the space but I was impatient and wanted to present my opinion more than a feature story about the building. The reason I post links from my blog, in situations that really pertain to dead memories, is an effort to drum up readers. Now how far people actually read before breaking into guffaws–it’s hard to say. In my defense I have to say that I didn’t deliberately distort my memory about the punk club so I could attempt a joke about a bar becoming a strip club. I know I had been more fixated on the plight of the Office last spring when I rode up and down Interstate on my way to a substitute job at a charter school. It made more of an impact when the Office did open because the building received that new paint job so my memory was stuck on U & I becoming the Office. I have figured out that even a bit of rudimentary research might have helped me relieve my own dead memory spots.

A gentleman commented about a history project he did concerning business occupants of Interstate Ave and used the Polk’s Portland City Directories to do kind of a ten year census that revealed that the building was built in 1928 and had been the N. Elliot Grocery Store in 1940, the S.E. Cornell Grocery Store in 1950 the Bru Room Tavern in 1960 and the U & I Tavern in 1970 until 2008. I appreciate dead memories Portland because I’m interested in any historical commentary about anything that has gone on in Portland. When it’s something closer to where I live that I see more often it’s even cooler to get as much speculation along with specific information as I can get. While it’s been a bummer to see the building fall into disrepair it has been uplifting to see a flurry of activity with construction going on inside the building and plumbing trucks being parked outside. There seems to be some effort happening to bring the building back for a chance to serve the community again.

the Office with truck

Follow the comment thread concerning my last post: