Quotable Graffiti

I like graffiti that makes a statement. If I can get a literary reference out of the deal I’m more than half way home. It’s juicy to chew on some thought while experiencing rampant vandalism. It’s feels like a pyrrhic victory.

So It Goes.


Off the top of my head I can’t tell you the book but I know this slogan appeared in a Kurt Vonnegut novel. I know this even without having read his books since my teenage years, because he used the phrase often in the book. Seeing it on this traffic warning sign is oddly comforting. I’m not sure how it relates to the cul-de-sac being sealed off by the guard rail, but it feels like a vague philosophy of life, especially if you spend any time in the area that surrounds Columbia Blvd. A quick internet consultation revealed that the line is from the book Slaughterhouse Five and that the saying relates to existentialism, one of the greatest of all the “isms,” next to bagism of course.


Anger is an energy.



How great does it get to look across Columbia Blvd and see a Johnny Lydon lyric from the PIL song Rise spray painted on the trailer of a semi-truck?—that being a rhetorical question, I don’t expect an answer, but I have to say I find it oddly inspiring. The rig seems inoperable or I would find even more inspiration in imagining this semi traveling across the country giving people in traffic a chance to read and contemplate Lydon’s words. For now it’s a message tucked away that I peek at when I’m heading down Columbia Blvd.





Not necessarily a specific quote from anyone besides the odd rebellious peasant or serf from back in the day, this plain message spoke to me. I found it somehow ironic to be plastered on the side of a crumbling shed. The exclamation point is a nice touch. Seeing this enroute to Woodlawn Elementary School, I had to wonder if it was giving the kids any ideas. I found comfort in knowing that they’re not that organized.

Fight War Not Wars

Fight War 2

Photo by Ronna Craig

This message jumped out on us in the dark of night down by the frog wetlands past Linnton. It sure seems to be the kind of quote that I would liked to have heard from Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr or at the very least Muhammad Ali. After finding out it’s from a Crass song it makes more sense as a punk sentiment. Having anything to do with fighting could hardly be related to a message of nonviolence. It’s enough of a song or slogan to inspire legible train graffiti. Considering words on trains made me wonder why freight cars are never employed as a means of being moving billboards. It could only have something to do with trainspotting never really catching on.

Oregon Decal Obsession Part 2


I’m back to my Oregon Decal obsession and until I find out otherwise, I’m convinced it all started with the green heart in the state boundary design. I’m working on tracking down the creator of this image which really shouldn’t be too hard but my self-imposed deadline is approaching and I’m still planning on one more part to this series before I exorcise this obsession from my consciousness. The last blog post was titled Oregon Decal Spawn Part 1, or some such title, which in hindsight seems terrible so I reworked the title based on what these decals have become to me—something of an obsession. While maybe a casual obsession, they’re images I’m focused on collecting. A snapshot is satisfying enough, the need to possess some tangible remnant of these decals hasn’t over taken me. I have only seen a few of these decals for sale which means tracking them down would have proven impossible.

Adventure Awaits (1).jpg

While on my bike my eyes scan the bumpers of parked cars. The state outline usually jumps out at me. After considering whether the design is something I’ve seen before I either stop and grab a picture or keep pedaling. I’m surprised by the number and variety of designs that represent all manner of Portland and Oregon related subjects. I want to think that as Portland-centric as we are, a Portland border would be a far more specific and authentic a representation, in some cases, of this sticker concept. There’s only one problem. The Portland city limits prove to be a design flaw mess. No one would recognize it and it would never work as a decal outline.


Portland: Not a decal inspiring border.

Last summer I ran into Rob Campbell who is among other things a T-shirt designer. He showed me a T-shirt design which incorporated the use of the Oregon border. This got me blabbing about my Oregon decal obsession. I asked him why he thought so many people use the state to frame designs. He was succinct when he explained that it’s “effective.” And that makes sense. As I pointed out before, people immediately know the image involves regionalism, whatever the symbol happens to be, sometimes it’s not clear, but it’s stuff in this state or even something being promoted specific to Portland. Regardless, it makes for an eye-catching decoration for a car bumper or anywhere else it gets stuck.

So let’s get to it.



Love Portland City Limits

Why not love Portland? Again if you slapped these words on top of the city limits map it wouldn’t look right so the use of the state border. Everyone knows there’s a city named Portland in Oregon.


It’s greek to me, except it’s not Greek, it’s Latin. It’s the Latin translation of the state motto which when translated back into English is: “She flies with her own wings.” Who knew you could get a  lesson in history and Latin from a sticker.



Tie-dye could be symbolic of almost anything but seems specific to Dead Head/hippie culture. The top design is bold and colorful and has heart so I’m not going to trip out on it. The other one has a peace sign which is also a nice touch. If I’m any kind of decal critic, well these messages of peace and love are mellowing me out. Tie-dye is a bit of a psychedelic cliché but I have an appreciation for colorful design


This one is saying all kinds of things about Portland. It references the White Stag sign, mentions old town and frames it with an eye catching golden state border. The quality of the photo does it no justice but this vehicle owner is loving Portland.



These two seem like homemade designs. The stripes, rays of sun maybe, made me think of   Arizona. The other sticker looks like a basic art project with the tiny blue heart sticker marking Portland’s location on the pink state map.




Every Portland sports team does the Oregon decal with gusto. Thorns, PSU Vikings, and Rip City!


Any kind of advertising receives a boast with a state of Oregon decal design.


Northside shoes were founded in Portland. The  little heart is a nice touch and for whatever reason the state is depicted as dripping, or is it oozing?


Even Pabst ran like a stallion/unicorn with an Oregon design for their Pabst music festival.


And yeah, Portland and Oregon have a few tea drinkers.


Adorned plays off the Keep Portland Weird campaign requesting that people “Keep Oregon adorned.”


Well, no one can exactly advertise snow but it’s another mix of borrowing an advertising slogan and mixing it with a state decal.


Even Bernie Sanders gets in on the act with an Oregon inspired reminder to vote for him.



Do we have bees and bartenders or martini makers in this state? According to these decals, we do!


This one doesn’t make me groan. I could not resist that lame pun. It’s seems like a statement about farming or it insinuates that the owner of the car is a native Oregonian. It could well be there as a show of support for local farming or hauling around vegetables.

13.1 (1)

IMG_6370 (1)

Oregon Crabbing (1)


bike (1)

Other decals offer identifiers by way of symbols. We run half marathons, love animals, depending on the foot print, crabbing and ride bikes. It can all be spoken in decal.

Indian Land (1)

This one speaks for itself. It has one of the best uses of the Oregon border since it serves as a reminder of the original inhabitants of these parts.

Gotta run to look over more car bumpers. The obsession will rear it’s ugly head again in this blog soon enough.

Oregon Border (1)

Note to Mrs. Yuchmow:  I feel the need to justify my use of the word “and” to start a sentence. I know you taught Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit that this usually isn’t a good thing to do but in the case of my usage it needed to happen.



Trimet Tales: The Final Chapter Part 2

trimet tales photo

It was a simple Facebook post from Jovana a while back. It struck me when she said she was giving up taking public transportation due to obnoxious people. It had me wondering what it took to make that decision. At last year’s Ugly Christmas Sweater Party, I sat down with Jovana to find out. Nate’s comments were appreciated as well because he was familiar with the ledgendary lady in question.

Jovana:  So remember that big lady who was on the bus.

Nate:  Yeah, I’ve ridden on the bus with her.

Jovana:  She would be on the phone all of the time.

Nate:  The entire trip.

Jovana:  Yes, and she was really obnoxious and I would dread getting on the bus with her.

Nate:  Six years ago when I rode the bus she was on the same bus all the time and I couldn’t believe—I was like, oh no not her. I would get off the bus. I would wait twenty minutes for the next bus to avoid her. I swear to God.

Jovana:  It was awful. So my first experience with the bus was, I had not ridden the bus until this summer, this past summer.

Nate:  You hadn’t ridden anything TriMet related.

Jovana:  When was that May?

Nate:  Yeah.

Jovana:  June, something like that. So I would ride it from downtown from the big pink building, US Bank Corp. tower, there’s a bus right in front of that. I’d take it to Nate’s work in Tigard and, I don’t know, it’s maybe like ten stops. I would get on the bus and the very next stop she would get on the bus. This woman, she’s a big lady, she’s white. I know far too much about her life. She’s a temp at some place.

Nate:  She’s big. She’s disproportionally big.

Jovana:  Yeah.

Nate:  She’s just big. From the waist she’s got this, you know those things you used to bounce on as a kid.

Jovana:  The top and the bottom

Nate:  Like two of those together. That’s the lower portion of her body. She takes up at least three seats on the bus.

Jovana:  Yeah…So you know people, generally, they’re not on the phone on the bus or other forms of transportation because it’s loud and there is a lot of attention or whatever. People read to themselves.  A lot of people are quiet. This woman, she couldn’t hear. She was screaming into the phone.

The Portland Orbit:  Oh no!

Jovana:  And personal things like how her job is really awful. She’s a temp at this place. She’s been there so long. They won’t give her a permanent position and she thinks it’s because she’s a woman. She’s yelling at her 14-year-old daughter, I don’t know, something about shoes, I remember, like screaming on the phone. This happened four or five times, every time I would get on the bus, argghhh, and if she was not on the bus—whoo wee, this is going to be a great ride. And she would always sit right across from me.

Orbit:  Oh God!

Jovana:  Right across or a little bit to the right, always within kicking distance

Nate:  Yeah, because the bus is not a lot of space then when someone who’s not normal sized, all of a sudden, they’re in your lap.

Jovana:  She was loud every single time. She was bitching about everything. Why don’t people like me? It was like because you’re so loud and rude and listen to yourself and no wonder no one wants to hear this and then she would gossip about people. She was irritated about them and other people gossiping, I was like you’re fucking gossiping about them here, right here, I can hear who you’re complaining about.

Orbit:  I guess I was wondering, like, what I had written about, I was trying to figure out why people aren’t more conscious of other people. They just feel like they need to make their phone conversation. That supersedes everything.

Nate:  Yeah!

Jovana:  I think people are just oblivious.

Nate:  Yeah!

Jovana:  They have no idea that there are other people on the bus, other people on the road…

Nate:  Or other people on the planet.  They think their problems are the universe’s problems.

Jovana:  They have limited perspectives

Nate:  There was an attack on America in 2001? When was that?

Jovana:  Yeah.

Nate:  They have no idea, no concept of anything.

Jovana:  Some people are that way. They have no idea that they are not the only person in the world.

Nate:  They tell me that everyday in traffic. I don’t know if I believe it.

Orbit:  Did that kind of color your whole TriMet experience.

Jovana:  I hate it.  I don’t like…

Orbit:  Because you think that’s going to happen again?

Jovana:  It’s going to happen again and there is nothing you can really do about it. As much as I wanted to say hey lady stop talking can you just be quiet, I only have three more stops, you can’t really say that. Maybe I should have said that. The bus driver isn’t going to do anything about that and all the other people on the bus are feeling the same way. I haven’t ridden the bus since summer time. It’s obnoxious and I would much rather wait at work, spend an extra hour at work by the time Nate comes down then have to go sit on the bus. You have to listen to everyone, it’s crowded, everyone is in a hurry like we were just talking about. Nobody has any perception of what everyone else is doing. It’s just like all I can see is myself.

Nate:  Do you remember when I told you about how I was on the bus and I had my headphones visibly in and people would just talk to me and I’d look at them and go, what, okay and then just hope to God they wouldn’t talk to me again. And they’re not friends they’re complete strangers and you try to look as mean as possible.

Jovana:  My mean face doesn’t look right.

Nate:  I can do approachable really easily.

IMG_7341 (1)

Orbit:  Was there any straw that broke the camel’s back or did you have the opportunity to not have to take it?

 Jovana:  I suppose not everyone would have the same opportunity to not take it but I was able to be like you can just come and pick me up after work and I’ll just wait here. It would be nice sometimes to leave work and then get over to Nate’s, that extra half an hour that he doesn’t have to drive would be nice to not have to put him through that because traffic people are the worst.

Orbit:  Gonna see that lady again?

Jovana:  God, I hope not. I know what area she’s in, any downtown bus is probably not going to happen for me, probably not in the east side or west side because I don’t like those people too.

Nate:  The fact that I ran into her too.

Jovana:  Yeah.

Nate:  That’s was a long time ago, totally inconsiderate. I had to turn up the music as loud as I could on my phone and it was like really is this really happening?

Jovana:  And people would have to sit next to her and she’s screaming on the phone and these poor people are like trying to block it out as much as they can. She’s the worst, whoever she is?


Mean face practice off the bus!

Tip of the pin to Josh G. for a link to this site: http://trimetdiaries.com

As always we salute the rants:



The Ghost Bike of Killingsworth


It gave me pause, the white bike, a familiar object, alone and riderless, chained to a street sign. I noticed it last spring while cruising up and down Killingsworth Street on my way to substitute teaching jobs. The nickname “ghost bike” came to mind. It seemed to only represent tragedy, an accident, death. It implied that  something awful had happened at that spot with the bike serving as a reminder.


The Internet was full of links to information and photos. Still I hung back from researching. I wasn’t ready to dig in.


Ghost Bike Google

When we moved to Portland we had an avid bike riding neighbor.  I’m more of a commuter type, but this guy went on long bike rides around town. He mentioned having had a couple of intense bike accidents. I began to expect the same fate. Sooner or later I feared I’d suffer a serious crash that would involve scrapes or broken limbs. I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve suffered only two minor falls. Once wherI got tangled up with the Max tracks and fell over. Another was a low speed, goofball flip over my handle bars that earned me a compliment from a nearby biker but caused no damage. I’ve had my share of wild riding when I’m late for work but I try to be safe.


Wikipedia talks about the bikes being set up as roadside memorials where cyclists have been killed or injured. The Willamette Week, in an article from October of 2005, mentioned that the ghost bike project in Portland was started by Forrest Burris to honor his brother Christopher who had been killed on Martin Luther King Blvd. Of course anything and all things bike related are well covered by BikePortland.org.  I admit this was about as much research as I was willing to do. I don’t want to associate a name  and details with the ghost bike on Killingsworth. It makes that much more intense.

A bike conscious place like Portland provides bike lanes and bike corridors that create the means for a alternative transportation system. I’m hoping people driving in cars and riding on bikes take time to consider the ghost bike. It’s a worthy reminder if it helps people slow down and be a tiny bit safer.


While looking online for ghost bike information,  I was struck by a link that led to a list of people who had been killed on bikes in Portland. It was a stark reminder of the risks of cycling. It had me considering the need to read and obey stop signs and be careful about pulling into and riding with traffic. I hope it makes me more aware of bike riders when I’m driving. The ghost bike is a bit like that “there but for the grace of God go I,” saying. I have to remind myself to steer clear of becoming a roadside memorial. Looking at these pictures I took last spring has the ghost bike doing what it’s supposed to do. It haunts me.

See also a Portland Orbit video piece on this subject: https://youtu.be/kKuYhNIFaRE

Paint Paul!


The Portland Orbit reported in April of 2015 that the Paul Bunyan statue in the Kenton neighborhood was due for cleaning. Still it’s likely coincidental that volunteers have assembled and progress is being made to make this happen. In the mean time Paul has been fading away to the point where I worry that he may become translucent.

Bunyan's Bath 008

Last paint job in 2009

I’ve appreciated Paul for a long time. While visiting Portland in the summer of 2007 I saw the statue which is sure to overwhelm anyone with a roadside attraction gene. It’s not just that he’s now a neighbor, he’s also a terrific landmark. He’s number one, with the Dancing Bear a close second. When describing the location of Kenton I mention the Paul Bunyan statue and invariably people have driven past it at some point and they have a sense of where I live.


Second ranked Kenton Landmark.

It’s not only the sooty grime and faded and peeling paint that needs attention. Paul may also be suffering from structural damage. The dude was born in 1959 so he has some old bones. All of this is going to take some dinero.


Paul as Timbers fan.

Thanks to some amazing volunteer work a committee has put together a fundraising site to raise money. Along with background information about the project, the web site includes old photographs of Paul Bunyan through the years. I’m hoping it inspires people to kick in a few bucks to bring Paul back from the brink of becoming the world’s largest invisible man statue.

Visit the website and make a donation: http://www.paintpaulpdx.org

Check out a visual version of this post: https://youtu.be/g95aGboRoIY

Next post: The Ghost Bike of Killingsworth