Have a Boozy Holiday?

An alien olive almost captured.

An alien olive almost captured.

Sometime in late November I looked up and saw the lights. I expect to see lights at Christmas time but it was after seven in the morning. The design was making me wonder what statement was being made. I was looking at a giant martini glass strung over three balconies of an ultra modern, boxy housing complex. Little did I know I’d be obsessing over it trying to get the right photo while discovering the limitations of my iPhone camera.

Who makes the declaration, in lights no less, that the way to holiday enjoyment is through giant martinis with olives bigger than water melons? While writing this I imagined the King of Swing (think that character in the movie Boogie Nights with his robe flying open) with exotic mixed drinks and good times on his agenda, remaining sober enough to hang lights before his holiday binge begins.

From what I can tell the lights stay on all day. I see them lit up in the morning and again in the afternoon as I pass through town and the sun is a half hour from setting. I view it with bemusement but I can’t figure out what it has to do with Christmas other than being a design made out of what most people refer to as Christmas lights. It is festive, fun and a subtle advertisment for people to cut loose and guzzle an oversized libation. There’s no mystery about that. It’s a swimming hole sized martini glass on the hill side that borders on being tacky. Of course there’s a pun in there about this being in the “spirits” of the season. Groan, slurp from martini glass, ahhhhh!

Afternoon martini at an angle.

Afternoon martini at an angle.

My effort to get a picture I could use for the blog became my biggest challenge. From the downtown Max stop it was too far away. The distance and lighting conditions in the morning and afternoon made it difficult to capture the true green color of the olive. Let’s face it, that is the nicest touch, otherwise it’s the outline of a glass. The stir stick is another great addition. This is an authentic and huge martini glass so my inability to do it photographic justice frustrated me. I took pictures at the Max stop cropping to produce a never quite right image. I took pictures on the bus as it roared by but that had limitations.

View from a bus with neon everywhere.

View from a bus with neon.

The last ditch attempt was going to be walking to the bus stop closest to the martini hoping the morning light would cooperate enough for a satisfying shot while allowing for the opportunity to get back to the bus stop in time to get to work.

Above a motel, lives a martini.

Above a motel, lives a martini.

On a Monday morning I decided I had 8 to 11 minutes which was plenty of time to get to the next bus stop and get the best picture possible without renting climbing gear. As I approached, the martini glass had the aura of an oasis or maybe a mirage but the pictures prove it’s real. If someone were to climb up the hill and scale the porch they might be rewarded by the King of Swing with an appropriately sized martini or maybe get shot with a foreign made gun of an unusual caliber. I had to cross the tricky intersection of SW 5th and SW Broadway as a car was honking at a bicyclist. There above the motel dead center in my view finder, yet still too high in the sky, was that glass of holiday cheer. The olive was only glowing a slight alien green, details were lost even from that distance. I am happy with my iPhone camera in most circumstances but I also stubbornly refuse to read the manual.

A martini lurks in the morning.

A martini lurks in the morning.

So there you have it folks. If you’re downtown in the PSU area look to the West Hills to see the oversized martini glass. It’s really something in real life. The olive glows a gorgeous green. I could not do it justice, but no photograph could. Kids put down your red solo cups and get classy. Raise a martini glass to this well lit example of good cheer.

Thanks Ken Boddie for posting about this: http://koin.com/2017/12/11/where-we-live-portlands-giant-martini-house/

A year later the real story is revealed.

Happy Holidays to one and all. Indulge yourselves a little bit, in whatever way you see fit, (giant martinis seem a tad extreme) and the Portland Orbit crew looks forward to seeing you or you seeing our work in the new year!

TriMet Tales, Not the Final Chapter (But it Should Be)

15399019_10211748068883540_1477338520_oPhoto by Becky Hoven

I bore myself with the stories I have about public transportation. It’s not interesting to those who aren’t immersed in bus lines and breaches of etiquette on the train. By condensing my experiences and employing some snappy editing, I’m hoping to provide a thrill ride of a blog post. I been riding TriMet max trains and buses most weekdays since this school year started. Everyday something happens. There’s a mechanical issue or some one acts out in public and it becomes an epic story of what I endure for my commute.

Maybe because I’m spending an hour each way I’m desperate for a little entertainment. I can equate my travels as a kind of living theater although it’s always improvised. The man who fought so gallantly with the transit employee checking for proof of payment and looking over the old ticket stub he’d been handed was one example. “Give me back my bus pass,” the man demanded before pulling down the red emergency flap to open the door only to be chased and caught. I felt the horror of his situation. If someone took my bus pass I wouldn’t have exact change or any money to get on a bus after work.


Real theater occurred the afternoon I was sitting across from two goth guys–a couple. One of the men was on the phone with his mother making plans to meet up with her and trying to help her confront her fears of dealing with the technology needed to navigate the online TriMet system. His frustration was humorous yet identifiable and riveting. There were hang-ups and his partner tried to soothe him. All the while I was thinking about how goth one of the guys was adorned with multiple gothic accoutrements while the guy on the phone only seemed semi-goth. Did I have a problem with the costume designer in this living theater? Maybe.

There’s dramatic intensity when people want a bus ride but have no money. Nobody rides for free and bus drivers enforce this rule. I witnessed a desperate woman trying to get into the hills of South West. It’s like a mountain up there so who would want to make that climb if you could bum a ride? The bus driver showed no sympathy as he drove off without her. Too bad I never have exact change, I could have paid her fare.

The first couple of months on the train I didn’t see any authorities checking for payment. One recent time, the first guy confronted offered up a crumpled piece of paper and some rambles. It took so long a line of people formed and they all got off at the next stop. My assumption was they took advantage of a getaway opportunity.


That’s my beef about the train. Anyone can ride free risking the possibility that they might get caught. There’s no supervision so you get the early morning electric guitar playing guy, unplugged at least and the drunk man, who pulled out a wine bottle and asked me if 2012 was a good year. I was more flipped out by seeing that the cork was floating in the bottle. Another morning there were two different people on either side of the train engaged in monologues. They were amazing from the snippets I heard. There’s a climate that borders on fear of breaking the silence, especially in the morning. People seem to clam up when others are acting badly. No one was willing to do anything about the two men, under blankets that were sleeping and taking up five seats on either side of the car. My reaction get out at the next stop and move to a different car. When I got off the train that morning I looked back through the window and saw the two guys, still asleep, taking up space. I’m not sure who is supposed to police this kind of thing. It may not be a big deal to let people sleep unless you really need a seat that morning.


Taking buses and trains means you get to have run-ins with a regular cast of characters like the guy who wears beige overalls every day. A guy wearing the MC Hammer pants shocked me. It might have been because he was normal from the waist up. I looked down and saw the puffery and the intricate and flamboyant design of the garment. The tapering around the ankles was a give away but not even Hammer would be caught wearing Hammer pants theses day. Most days I appreciate a bit of weirdness and hope for what I call “bus luck.” Bus luck is getting to a train or bus stop as the vehicle is rolling in as opposed to approaching a stop as a ride is pulling away resulting in a 13 to 16 minutes while sitting on a wet bench.


I wrote about Trimet in the past after having minimal public transportation experience. Everything seemed exotic and strange, every experience magnified. Years of being a bike commuter left me little need for buses and trains. Now I have a route all mapped out that works. Despite break downs, weather challenges and the odd behavior to witness the system is pretty good. The effort to try to get so many people where they need to be is ambitious. During rush hour there’s usually a bus or train every 15 minutes with multiple bus routes that can get me in the same general vicinity. And yeah, it probably takes three times as long but at least I’m not driving. I have time to practice karate, play an electric guitar, work on a monologue out loud if I prefer or write my next blog post on my phone with my thumb. I usually keep to myself at the risk of boring anyone.


Yard d’Art

Simple, basic yard art, my favorite kind, can be elevated to a higher level (of what I’m not sure) when it’s referred to as d’Art. I have to admit I borrowed this upscale reference from a friend, Jeff Bagato, who wrote the book Garage d’Art. 

In this post, I highlight the “less is more” approach. I appreciate crazy, cluttered and over decorated yards, and I hope to write about them in the future.  For this piece though, I’m focusing on yards featuring only an object or two. It might be a focal point, a subtle display piece or a visual pun. It’s worth noting that a single decorative object can really tie a yard together.*

Easter Hat


Anything Easter Island related comes with a built in legend about giant stone heads and the mystery of how they got there. Images of those statues are burnt into my brain. They mystify me and inspire me. They remind me there is still some mystery left in this world. When considering Easter Island, I know there has to be more to it. The local tourist bureau might consider updating and building a newer tourist trap or landmark for the 21st century.  In the meantime, I can’t help marveling over anything resembling one of these odd stones especially when I don’t have to travel far to do so. This one in Kenton sits, or stands, at the base of the steps and basks in the shadows. It gives me the feeling of having arrived on the island after many months at sea to commune with primitive art forms, all without having to leave my neighborhood.

Kitten Kabuddha


The smiling cat helps me pause and remember to breathe. The cat looks like the happiest, best fed cat I’ve seen in a long time. That smile is contagious. That look of contentment is something that could last a lifetime if the statue receives proper care and nobody drops it. It looks like a Buddha parody or an actual Buddha for the feline set. I’ll have to ask a Buddhist cat.

Headless Lambs


A sheep and a lamb lie down together in peaceful bliss on the grounds of a Lutheran church in northeast Portland. They remain there, in the elements,  steadfast and stoic despite their heads having fallen off. How do stone heads even fall off? My mind immediately flashes to some troubled teens vandalizing sacred symbols on church grounds, but I continue to this day to believe their heads wore out and crumbled off their scrawny necks. It makes more sense to replace these symbols of Christ’s love and bucolic barnyard beauty with some fresher statuary especially now that they’ve been lovingly mocked in the pages of some random blog.

Duck and Cover

This duck is a classic. He has an antique look. If he’s a drake then he has awesome guyliner. I guess mascara is more expected on lady ducks. This duck is covered a bit in an ivy and clover mix. I like how he’s having a look around and trying, despite his short neck, to get his bearings. He has a unique, individually crafted look about him with his crackled skin and quiet demeanor. Waddle on my friend, but don’t ever waddle too far from this serene setting.

Unsuspecting Snow White

Here we have two lawn figurines placed together to create a story. I was struck by the unfolding drama. We are freeze framed in a moment, the exact fraction of a second that a bear has wandered up behind Snow White in one of her typical magical trances while spreading her joyous love and affection toward a sweet, tame song bird. Perhaps they are cheerfully engaged in song. Your mind may have created a different scenario. These lawn ornaments allow us to consider an interaction that will never actually happen. Is the bear a friend of Snow White? Can her charms work on this ferocious beast so she can avoid being mauled? Will the bear sneak up on this unsuspecting sweet soul and eat her before she even knows what happened? You’re welcome to your own story if I haven’t covered all the bases. We’ll never really know because we’re dealing with the infinite and frozen-in-time aspect of lawn ornament arrangement.

Stoned Unicorn

I spotted this proud specimen in southwest but he or she could be anywhere demonstrating his or her pride and grace. If this statue were in West Linn, I imagine, it would be a hundred times bigger. I like that it’s small and subtle and caps off a well designed front landscape and porch steps. The Unicorn’s horn isn’t even gold. I’m a stickler for that for some reason. Upon closer inspection it’s off white. Such a minute detail might detract from the overall concept which is simple: a dainty, all white unicorn stands atop a rock pile. It makes me wonder who put the corn in Unicorn? This may be the reason I think all unicorn horns should be gold or yellow.

Dalmation Stationed

This set-up looks like something from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. Maybe my photo isn’t magazine-ready, but it captures my impression of this side yard outdoor reading nook on N. Williams Ave. The burst of red from the chair, the plantings and flattened turtle plant stand along with the faithful, oversized antique dog figurine all combine in a fit of savvy decorating and create an inviting place to lounge with a dog statue.


The dog is chipping and peeling in a way that fits his breed. You know, Dalmatians are already spotty.  It’s another case of something becoming more interesting to look at as it ages. We find this patient companion on the verge of bursting into fits of joy when his owner arrives.

Keep Yards Weird


Sometimes you end up wondering about what people place in their yards. Yard art will always entertain me, but some objects also make me scratch my head. The first is kind of a standard. I’ve seen a few and get the sense it’s a good natured commentary about a woman bending over, maybe to do some gardening, and then whoops! bloomers are showing. Real bloomers might be embarrassing, but wooden, painted ones, well, not so much.



This statue needs to remain an unsolved mystery. From a distance and up close, I’m still not sure what’s going on, and I don’t want to know. I was wary of taking this picture because I felt like I was sneaking onto my neighbor’s yard (or it was sneaking into me). I made sure no one was home. How could I explain my interest in their yard d’Art?  Or worse yet what kind of conversation would or could we have had about the piece? They moved not too long ago taking their yard ornament with them. Thank goodness!  It was in the FRONT yard.

A passerby cannot help but see this boy has his pants down while peering over at the girl who seems unaware. There’s a fence between them, so I’m not sure what he thinks she’s going to see. Already, this analysis has gone too deep and we are uncomfortable. I’ve said too much. You’re on your own to consider any further interpretation. I can think no longer about this statuette.

Simply Keith


In the last of this subgenre of yard d’Art which I call “bare bottoms and bloomers” appearing on lawns and possibly offending the neighbors, we find Keith relieving himself on a chimney. Good job Keith. That’s not the worst part. He’s not even discreet. His fleshy buttocks are exposed due to their inability to hold up his pants. Keith doesn’t seem to know that if you gotta go it’s better to find a bush and avoid disrobing to an alarming extent. To avoid reverse flashing the world, one can opt to leave as much clothing covering sensitive areas as possible. One more thing, Keith, if you decide to go around peeing in people’s yards, it’s probably not a good idea to do it wearing a shirt with your name on it. All of a sudden everyone knows that Keith is the culprit – the reason the grass is yellow and dying over by the chimney. Our Keith: a public urination offender who enjoys a side of indecent exposure. You’re going to jail Keith. Do you hear me, Keith?!!!!!**

*Yes, that was a Big Lebowski reference but something tells me I needed to tweak the phraseology a bit more to appease the achievers out there. Having watched the Big Lebowski this summer at a fake drive-in movie set up at the Expo Center, I gained an appreciation for the cult like aspects of the movie created by rabid fandom. Borrowing a line from that film feels like a given when writing about how one item of lawn art can make or break an exterior space.

**A shout out to neighbor Graham Marks for posting a picture of Keith on Instagram and making me aware of his existence. I eventually tracked Keith down and caught him in the act again!