Art Racks 2

Art Rack Logo

Decorative bike racks or what I like to call Art Racks are all over the place. It’s a safe bet that most people have seen these, but I’m hoping I’m presenting a couple that are new to the Art Rack game or others that are more out of the public eye and not over-exposed. At the very least I hope my pithy commentary adds a deeper dimension to these dedicated pieces of art serving double duty as bike racks.

Product Placement

I caught a glimpse of this bike rack on a day when the eBike store on N. Rosa Parks was closed. It made more sense. If it had been surrounded by bikes, the cord may have been obscured. While it reminds me of one of my tangled electrical cords at home, this rack is well looped to secure bikes and it sports a giant, well balanced plug, a nice sculptural element that feels like a visual pun on the store’s electric bike product. Buy an eBike and unplug! (So you can ride it!)


How appetizing is a half eaten donut? Is it more appetizing than a half eaten donut bike rack? It reminds me of the best way to eat donuts–two bites. The first, a test bite, then down goes the rest. There seems to be an overly sweet intensity to considering a giant pink parking place,  donut-eating-wise – appealing to the eye, appalling to the stomach.

Bikes Seeking Bikes

A condo building on North Williams was designed with every detail imaginable taken under consideration. Whether it was an after thought or a decision debated in multiple meetings, (we’ll probably never know) these bicycle-looking bike racks were included in the project. Streamlined, functional, elegant.  That covers the categories essential to condo bike racks. The inescapable feeling that the racks are either cliché or ironic is best left on the boardroom table. No further meetings are scheduled.


While on N Albina Ave, I spotted this ingenious rack that includes bike parts. In the photo it is difficult to see where the rack starts and the real bike ends. This camouflage might mean the bike rack will soon be stolen.

To Rack or Not to Rack

I may be going out on a limb assuming this NW located sculpture is a bike rack. It could serve double duty as a bike rack and sculptural name of the company working out of the building. The internal debate would go something like this: Is it a sign or a bike rack? Then I’d work in some logic. If I can lock my bike to it then it’s a bike rack. This works with railings and fences too unless someone posts a sign like this:


The last consideration has to be about how a bike mars the sign’s look, but at least that’s only on a temporary basis while the bicycle is locked up. Unless your bike and lock somehow damages that shiny painted ironwork finish. It may be worth the risk if you are desperate to enter TOPAZ.


In St Johns this rack takes on the look of a Star Trek insignia. I do feel a “Beam me up Scotty” joke welling up. It’s a bit wonky but it looks well bolted into the concrete and sturdy enough to do the job when you’re in town.

Odd Fellows

I’m not knocking these racks outside of Sparky’s Pizza on MLK and Lombard, when I describe them as buried safety pins. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. Also it’s important not to get their various locations mixed up when ordering carry out. The design seems so different. I may even be wrong to assume they are bike racks. They could be related to pizza making process, although I’ve never seen anything related to food preparation going on under the bricks or in the metal tubes in front of a business. I like the look of these and their green color. I can’t attest to the functionality because I’ve never picked up a pizza carry out order while riding a bike.


This rack outside the Odd Fellows on Lombard St. seems more dedicated to topping the rack off with a symbolic design than offering anything more than a slim pole to lock a bike to but that’s an Odd Fellow convention. Would you want it any other way?

Good Night

Nothing spectacular here, but these racks, seen one night in the Clinton St. District, are more eye-catching than your run of the mill bike racks and possibly more functional. With that, this blog post rolls on into the night. May all your biking adventures include time with an art rack.

For more on Art Racks and a couple of additional photos see:

Tune in next week for an Orbit Buddy Holly tribute.

Photographer Doyle Thomas shared a link to his art rack photos if you want to see more:



One Night In SLC

You can’t figure any place out in one night but that hasn’t stopped me from taking random guesses and wallowing in conjecture. What I ended up doing was looking for the familiar to fight off feelings of alienation while wandering around downtown Salt Lake City but getting a sense of a place takes more time than I had.

The scenery scene on the road to SLC.

The scenery enroute to SLC.

After spending the holidays in Colorado, we made our way back to Oregon and stopped in Salt Lake City, an urban oasis that ended the first day of a two day drive. As recommended we took Highway 6 from Grand Junction and drifted through empty, yet scenic landscapes of hills, rock formations that grew mountainous and expanses of snow covered terrain. There was a point where I stumbled onto some random Hindi Diwali music on the radio, an oddly perfect soundtrack to my surroundings. As I looked down on a cloud covered valley I had to consider for a moment whether I was driving in heaven. Many hours later, I was spit from the scenery into the five laned concrete morass of Interstate 15 as it ran from from the exurbs and suburbs into downtown Salt Lake City.

I arrived at the hotel, seething with white line fever thinking this couldn’t be good for the composure of the poor kid who was doing the valet parking. Here’s where I made my first generalization based on an interaction with one person: Everyone in Salt Lake City is nice. The valet parker was patient in every way possible no matter how many questions I asked or requests I made. He accommodated me as I made an effort to unpack the car and dog while juggling the needs of the other cars that needed to be parked. This may be more about what I want to believe, that there could be a place where everyone is hardworking, honest and clean cut. I’m not even sure why that’s a need in my search for a utopia.

Bright lights and medium city.

Bright lights and medium city.

All I wanted was a comfortable bed to hide in. It was New Year’s Day so my expectations for anything to be happening were low. The empty downtown reminded me of Omega Man, a trippy sci-fi movie from the late 60’s. I’m sure my big brother hyped it up so much that it became legendary in my mind. The movie starred Charlton Heston back when he was freaking out making ape movies and before he was so publicly obsessed with guns. In the movie, Heston was one of the sole survivors of some kind of plague and had to roam city streets dodging zombie-like creatures. Despite seeing a parallel in an empty downtown, I had a dog to walk so into the desolate streets I went.

Portland has the orange version.

Portland has the orange version.

The first thing I noticed were wide streets laid out in a numbered grid, a kind of Mormon ingenuity and order. I checked out holiday lights on trees and the tops of the buildings. In this downtown old buildings had ornate trim while all tall buildings seemed to have been built by and for bankers. I stumbled upon a block that had a pub next to a Scottish store with an Italian restaurant a few doors down—the ethnic section of town. It made me think that it might be cheaper to skip the United Kingdom trip and just stay blotto in that Salt Lake City pub while making occasional side trips to the Scottish store. There’s sure to be someone with a brough in there for the sake of authenticity. This is the thinking that explains why I’m not a travel agent.

Plan your SLC/UK vacation around this photo!

Plan your SLC/UK vacation around this photo!

I had just scratched the surface of learning anything about Salt Lake City. I knew they had a Max train type system. I saw bike route signs and wondered how bike friendly the city was. I was in the heart of the theater district where there were at least a couple of theaters. On any other night the area might be crawling with hardcore patrons of the arts, the only people who can be lured downtown anymore, but I encountered few people or zombies besides a guy screaming at one of the train stops. I decided not to get too close. Turning a corner I peered into an empty Olive Garden. It seemed sad. It may have been the juxtaposition of the barren restaurant with the lively music, blaring from outside speakers, sounding like the Big Night soundtrack. The hotel was right up the street so we headed back to the room.


A sign of support.

The next morning I walked the dog around the hotel. It had snowed the night before. I was lamenting that my boots were packed away in the valet parked car but the powdery snow didn’t cling to my shoes. We turned down a street with coffee shops and a Used and Rare Book Store, a sight for sore eyes. There was a guy in a sleeping bag blocking the display window so I couldn’t get a good look at the coffee table book with the picture of 70’s Elvis on it. There was snow to sniff and while the dog focused on that, I found myself disoriented. The blocks were huge and all I wanted to do was to get ready for a long day’s drive and not be lost. The only way to reorient myself was to look up at the buildings, the same ones I had been looking at from the hotel room. I had a sense of where I needed to go when when I recognized an area of town from a previous visit. Then I heard the familiar strains of the big band spaghetti music blasting from outside Olive Garden that led me back to the hotel. The music must have played all night, a soundtrack to gentle, falling snow.


Fresh air and capital views.

From the confines of the hotel restaurant, I could look out and see a guy shoveling the sidewalk while across the street someone was clearing walkways with a small Cat bulldozer with a plow attachment. The people of Salt Lake City were up early and working hard. We had more miles of slushy driving conditions then we could imagine ahead of ourselves so it was nice to take a few more minutes to catch our breath and have an extra cup of coffee. My brief visit to Salt Lake City produced very little salt, no evidence of a lake and not nearly enough of the city and without a dog to walk even less would have been seen or smelled. I hope this inspires people to take their pets for a visit to Utah’s state capital.

PS I’m not sure anyone besides an outsider like me refers to Salt Lake City as SLC but I was reminded of a movie recently that used this shorthand. For some reason that abbreviation seemed cooler than spelling it out.

We’re back next week with an Art Racks–an Orbit staple!

Snow Daze Indeed

Wind makes a winter wonderland.

Wind makes a winter wonderland.

Portland, Ore. BREAKING NEWS: Heavy snowfall throws local blogger off his publishing schedule.

Anyone who has read the Portland Orbit more than once might be curious as to how snow fits into the theme of the blog. It has no relevance but this particular weather phenomenon has the whole area in a contagious tizzy. There is nothing else anyone can think of other than to consider that we are snowed under. We can’t get anywhere, we can’t work, we can barely think other than to make as quick an effort to adapt to the ways of Eskimos. There is snow day/cold weather sloth to wallow in and the drifting back to memories of childhood snow day anticipation. These memories have become more familiar because I work for the school system.

A cancelled school reminder came early.

A cancelled school reminder came early.

This was a significant snow accumulation event in Portland that began Tuesday night. That weather man phraseology has something to do with watching round the clock news coverage which I now realize is completely optional but, hey, sometimes you get sucked in. We live in an area that can be paralyzed by an inch of snow so imagine twelve times that much. After a while it became obvious that all these live reports added up to one fact: This is a lot of snow and the city is shut down. When the snow started falling it was satisfying to be able to watch traffic camera shots of cars stuck on the highway from our warm and cozy home.

The post blizzard dawn.

The post blizzard dawn.

Unlike Eskimos we only have one word for snow. It’s snow, snow and snow. This is more snow than the last significant snow fall which occurred eight years ago. This means I won’t drop everything to write another blog post like this one until 2025. Portlanders don’t see much snow but this is the third snow event of the past six weeks. I’ve had eight snow days off this winter. There’s not much preparation, no plowing or sanding and recent debates erupted about salting the roads but no salt could even be located to use when this snow storm began. There’s that word. The media has erupted with the use of the storm word. If their isn’t enough snow to cover the grass, which happened last weekend, then it’s hardly a snow storm. That word promotes hysteria and insanely long lines at the grocery store and it keeps us glued to the news allowing for more opportunities to sell us cars and mattresses. I wanted to rant but you have to admit that anytime ice occurs you get an ice storm and then with this situation the snow piled up fast and furious like we’d never seen it and we got a legitimate snow storm.

Snow inspires snowmen.

Snow inspires snow creations.

Our response to the dumping around our household was to bozoing it up and dig ourselves out with a dust pan and a canoe paddle. Okay so we brushed the snow off the cars, got a rudimentary path on the front sidewalk and cleared the driveway for the mailman, the least we could do for the guy. The next day the sky was blue and the sun was doing its best to melt the snow despite cold temperatures. That’s where I leave this story. I now realize how this does relate to this blog. People get creative when they get snowed under. I enjoyed a slide show of exotic snow men, snow creatures and polar bears made out of snow on an episode of AM Northwest. People are not taking as many selfies in order to focus on photographing the beautiful snow scenes. I only spotted one full fledged snowman with terrific hair and a baby carrot nose in my neighborhood. But kids of all ages are taking time to enjoy the snow. There’s also more personal contact that comes when talking to neighbors about fallen tree limbs or passing by the people whose cars may be stuck as well as a chance to spot occasional cross country skiers. I was relaxing, feeling sluggish and thinking that I needed to use my snow days to compose a symphony or some thing when it occurred to me that my favorite four letter word was slot and all I needed to do was add an h to achieve sloth. (Cabin fever has done something to my brain.) I’m okay with trying to enjoy a break. Soon enough I’ll be back to my comfortable rut of gray skies and rainy afternoons. Portland is experiencing winter, not like a Shakespearean winter of discontent so much as real winter with actual snow and cold. It’s nothing to get too excited about it’s just some thing to dig.

Snow. Long shadows. Cigarette ads.

Snow. Long shadows. Cigarette ad.

Back to our regular programming next week with a speculative commentary about Salt Lake City, Utah. 



A Resolution Revolution

When I get time off I want to at least make an attempt to enjoy it. But then I had more time on my hands than I knew what to do with. There were year end reviews to read and too many worst year ever Facebook comments. Then Will from the Pittsburgh Orbit threw down a challenge to create a New Year’s resolution post.


I’m not one to let Will down and I won’t let my readers down either. That’s my first resolution. I resolve to never disappoint my readers. That becomes all the more important after obtaining a reader or two. It helped to have some writing to do since I was almost out of my mind with cabin fever. Have no pity on me. I was high in the mountains looking at picturesque snow and tall trees with the best group of in-laws anyone could want. I was wary because I’ve never made a New Year’s resolution that I didn’t break minutes after ringing in the New Year. The only notable exception being last year’s experience of giving up coffee for a month which might not have even been a resolution in a true sense.


A porcelain head ponders a new year.

In considering resolutions, my first thought concerned boosting my readership. Recently I  subscribed to a YouTube channel. It was from a kid who posted a video of herself and a friend running around construction sites and sitting in the seats of bulldozers. I subscribed to offer support. If you know you have more viewers maybe you’re going to up the stunts. The next video I watched involved resolutions. Talking directly to the camera, she resolved to get 5,000 subscribers. Now that’s the kind of number I’m talking about. Once you become a blogger you can get completely absorbed in numbers. My stats offer specifics on how many visits I get and how many times each post is read. I even get pin point data on readers in foreign countries. It’s exciting but also a bit weird to see that someone in Ireland or Japan is checking out my blog. I’ve got some tricks up my sleeve to attract readers. I resolve to make that effort which has no effect on those who are already dedicated readers but an increased audience will improve my morale.


The author revising the revisions.

If you think I should be resolving to create better content my resolution actually involves finding better readers. That was an attempt at humor that has, no doubt, fallen flat and was not meant as an insult to any current readers. Coming up with ideas to write about has challenges but it’s the easy part. Ideas can be a dime a dozen while ideas that work are pennies on the dollar either way they leave me staring at a blank page. I feel like I just hit a cliche trifecta there! But getting started is the biggest challenge which has me resolving to keeping the unexplored angle on subjects of interest and people who don’t get press. Really, I’m looking for stories that write themselves.

The other resolution I can make and try not to break involves specific subjects I plan to tackle. I’ve always planned to run interviews. In the interest of time, the time it takes to transcribe interviews, I plan to keep Q and A sessions to a minimum of three questions. I figure if you can’t get to the heart of the matter in three questions you might be asking the wrong ones. In the interest of saving even more transcription time I may pioneer the yes or no answer interview. The ideal format for that would be 20 questions.

Along with interviews, I resolve to take on subjects that require more research. I hope to get out of my shell and mix it up with people. There have been more few ideas for my “What’s in a Name” category lately. I’m always curious about how people name things. Probably the only subject I’ve written in this style featured this very blog. I’m telling you the origins of names promises to be fascinating.

My last resolution has to be about a continued search for inspiration. As blogs go, I am always inspired by what the Pittsburgh Orbit covers. We’re in different geographic areas but still end up in a similar galaxy. With this recent time on my hands, I had a chance to read many posts from a blog called Bus75. This covers the Portland area along a TriMet bus line. It was sad to see they were taking a break but the quality of the writing and photography would have been enough to wear anyone out. I also just discovered Parkbench which I have not had time to investigate but the interviews with St. Johns business owners they were running looked interesting. This seems like a good way to get connected to a Portland neighborhood. Somehow I’m thinking that anything inspirational will keep me from writing in a vacuum.


Stand in the place where you are.

2016 became a strange year punctuated by an unexpected, for many, election result. It was also a year of never ending celebrity death that shook people up. I had to take stock in what I have, what I’m doing even where I live. When I stopped to take the picture above I did so because I noticed improvements and improvements in progress in the downtown of my Kenton neighborhood. These are small changes for the better despite feelings of uncertainty. It’s time to resolve to take action and get involved in our communities from a local level on up. Demonstrate, hopefully in a Robert’s Rules of Order way more than a random smashed windows way. The calming rants of the heroic Phil Nunnally have offered me guidance and hope. Hopefully others will find this as well. Also, don’t hesitate to become a frequent reader of the Portland Orbit. 2017 is shaping up to be an interesting year and I resolve to contribute as best as I can.


Art box, troll, giant church, red van, ah Pittsburgh.

Need more resolutions that you don’t have to worry about breaking? See the column that inspired this one: