The Foster Files: A Feat in Feet

To begin this series I must be upfront about being a transplant. It’s may be obvious. With all the other people who have moved here it’s not necessarily a bad thing. My ten years of living in Portland feels like a badge of honor. It takes the sting out of being a newcomer because I’ve hung on and I’ve lived a bit of local history. I write out of my interest in Portland and the opportunity it presents to make discoveries and learn the history of the area. The transplant comment came from someone on Facebook. It felt like it was alluding to cluelessness on my part. All I had done was write about Portland’s Liberty Bell. I discovered it’s existence years after living here. The Liberty Bell was a new discovery for me. I couldn’t figure out why it took me so long to stumble upon it. The thing was hidden in plain sight.

One of my recent discoveries has been SE Foster Road between 50th and 72th Avenues. My phone tells me this is part of the Mt. Scott-Arleta and Foster-Powell neighborhoods[1]. I had not explored this part of Portland before visiting with some friends living in this area with an out-of-town guest. While driving through this section of town to get to the Gorge this summer, I had a look around. There were run down buildings, different businesses and restaurants–a part of the city I was experiencing for the first time. Weeks later I got a chance to explore the area when I dog/house sat in a house off Powell Boulevard.

The foot prints arrived out of nowhere.  They were spotted on SE 72nd Avenue heading towards Foster Road from Powell Boulevard. The prints were noteworthy for their uniformity and being more artistic than realistic. Visually they seemed to be blaring out as if something from an out-of-this-world wilderness had visited the area. Nothing breaks up a dog walk like giant foot prints. Most sidewalks are undecorated, dull concrete. I stopped, took in the oversized, clawed images, grabbed a few pictures and moved on. The foot prints brought me a moment of brief joy and entertainment.

Someone jazzed things up around this neighborhood. I couldn’t tell if this was a tribute to Bigfoot hunters or if it spoofed them. An argument could be made that it has nothing to do with Bigfoot. Then again a Bigfoot expert could tell me if Bigfoot prints reveal long toenails and yeah, of course whether these are authentic. The image of any big feet makes me think of only one thing–a big foot. It can’t be simpler. I’d have to be a biologist to determine if the prints were specific to an ancient species of some sort. It’s possible another type of statement entirely is being made.

The prints congregate from two directions, mingle together then head under a chained and padlocked gate. One always has to wonder why research for the blog posts on the Portland Orbit is rare. Where is the investigative reporting, the knocking on doors which in this case would have involved high jumping a gate? In this situation it is obvious. Initially, I didn’t notice the locked gate. It was revealed in one of my photos. If I had charged towards the house to get answers and the story behind the prints, I would have been stopped in my tracks by that locked gate. Besides I was doing my dog walking duty at the time. I would also admit to being uncomfortable with the possibility that whatever made those foot prints could be real and living in the house.

I was at risk of confronting a big footed being but it makes more sense that the work was done by friendly, foot print makers, at least I’d want to believe they’d be good natured and fun spirited. It’s more of the attitude that’s reflected by the whimsical nature of the foot prints. It is possible that someday I may get a lead on the story behind the prints. In fact, I rely on sleuths and the hope that there is someone out there who knows more than me and can provide me with answers that I can pass on in another post. But hope isn’t facts. Until I get them, I’ll hold out in hopes they arrive. All I offer now is some, somewhat mysterious, and marvelous footprints that appeared out of the blue in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

[1] It has to be obvious to anyone who lives in that area that SE Foster Road runs through the neighborhoods of Foster-Powell and Mt. Scott-Arleta.

Free Is The Way I Like It

A classic free box, yours for the taking.

My friend Butch Lazorchak had a saying, or maybe it was just something he said once that I  associated with him, an expression legendary in my mind. I forgot the circumstances but one day he blurted out, “free is the way I like it.” It’s not catch-phrase worthy, but appropriate in the right situation. The saying pops into my head when I see a free box or a sign that brings my attention to a free item on a curb.

The deal was sweetened with a jump rope and a dog frisbee.

I’m not writing about the Freegan lifestyle. That’s a different post. I know there are websites and networks for those who champion that lifestyle. With effort, bargains are sure to be found and technological advances make their pursuit easier. I prefer random encounters with free stuff; things I don’t even have to bring home.

No indication of what’s free, but the sign’s magnificent.

Like most people, I appreciate anything free. I’ve never been able to find free shoes that fit but discarded shoes gross me out anyway. I have unrealistic expectations that all concerts should be free which is why I never go anywhere. I have no idea what a free food hook up is. That no free lunch slogan is the story of my life. The occasional art opening really means free cheese. Considering how disappointing “free” antenna TV is makes paying for cable worth it. Regardless I always hope worthwhile free stuff will come my way.

Oxymoronic, yet happening.

Summers in Portland are good times to leave stuff out for gleaners. People feel confident that even if no one wants their junk there isn’t the risk that it will be ruined by rain. In a survey with no scientific merit, Saturdays were deemed the most popular day for this donation method. It’s the first day of weekend cleaning. I always thought that if I needed a chest of drawers, which I actually would like to have for bike stuff, I could drive around on a Saturday and find one.

Spread out your wares so customers can see your free offerings.

This is a great concept, this placing of goods on the curb in hopes that someone will find value, the value that is no longer found in the item by the discarder, and carry it off eliminating the trip to the dump or the item heading to the landfill. I prefer discard piles that have a sign, otherwise it feels like a gray area that has me questioning whether people are getting rid of items or utilizing lawn storage space. The free sign is optional because it’s a given that stuff on the curb invites people to help themselves. It made me feel better when I asked someone if I could take the tape deck from a signless pile on a curb. I also asked if the deck worked. The answer was sure and “your guess is as good as mine.” Cordiality is unnecessary when dealing with free junk.

No free poles, only poles that advertise free couches.

I would gather free stuff from curbs on a regular basis but I can’t indulge my hoarder tendencies when I have a basement full of junk. My restraint is incredible. I only window shop curbside free stores taking fleeting glances into pandora’s box-like, free boxes. My quest for an old couch, delusional as I may have been that the right one would appear someday, ended after hearing a bedbug horror story that occurred from someone dragging free furniture into their home. Contamination cures couch collection compulsion the headline could have read.

A free couch, expertly labeled.

Free Boxes have inspired the creation of art. Jon Meyer named his web series The Free Box after encountering many of them in SE Portland. The show centered around broke characters and free boxes that were worked into some of the episodes.

Conveinent and recyclable packaging is essential.

The free stuff that’s available can be anything. Some of it falls into the “You’re Really Trying to Give That Away?” category. People want to find someone who can give new life to what they need to get rid of, whether it’s a pile of dirt with a sign made from painter’s tape or a collection of broken concrete. Free box books are usually better suited for the Goodwill self-help section yet every once in a while a must-read can be unearthed. A bag of free floral foam was one of the more unusual, yet useful things I’ve seen lately. If you think you really need something and don’t want to pay never give up your quest to find it. Free stuff will always materialize but more likely  when you need it the least.

Free Dirt and home made font.

Free is the way I like my chunks of concrete!


Just as this post went to press I got wind to a nice article on the OPB website with a free stuff angle:

Also Jon Meyer, who was mentioned in this post, sent me a link to a blog post he wrote about the free stuff phenomena that I wanted to pass on:




The World IS Out to Get Me: 3 Questions for Film Maker Bryan Hiltner

In getting some background information about the genre of film Bryan Hiltner works in I had a good laugh when he defined it as “creepy.” I was thinking about his work in the vein of horror and psychological thriller but creepy feels right. It’s a unique category all his own. I’m encouraging anyone who reads this to be at the Whitsell auditorium, Wednesday, October 11 at 7 pm for the film showcase entitled, “Just Because You’re Paranoid Don’t Mean They’re Not After You, short films by Bryan Hiltner . An evening of Bryan’s work will offer a better sense of this creepy film genre. It’s being served up as part of the Northwest Film Center’s Northwest Tracking series featuring local film makers. You might consider this a trigger warning, but Bryan is more about creating subtle malaise than dealing with gun play, except obviously Spunk of the Reaper. If his movies leave a film goer with an unsettling feeling it seems like a welcomed response. It’s more than most films offer these days.

Bryan Hiltner: Making things happen.

Portland Orbit: The first question is: I was really curious about how you came up with the title for the program screening and this is kind of a two parter, and then how it feels to be screening at the Whitsell Auditorium?

BH: Well the first part is I’ve helped out Vu Pham with a few of his movies and he screened at the Whitsell earlier and when I went to his screening his shorts all have—they’re very cohesive, the themes kind of blend together and they are all one thing or about one thing so when I was approached to see if I wanted to do the screening I said yes and he asked me for a title, Ben Popp at Northwest Film Center, asked me for a title for the program and I had no idea because I feel like my shorts are really different. The only thing I guess they all have in common is that they all come from my brain so I was trying to figure out what was common in all these shorts and I don’t know if it’s paranoia or not, but there’s some darkness, there’s a lot of existential musing and I think a lot of times with my shorts I try to think about, even the silly ones, I try to think about things like life and death and all that sort of thing. But that line came to me because it’s from a Kurt Cobain song that I always liked and I always liked that line in it even though I know it’s from something else but it was a Kurt Cobain lyric that came to me. I thought about it and most of my characters are in some kind of Twilight Zone world where they don’t know what’s going on, they don’t trust anyone and a lot of times they don’t trust anyone for good reason and so that’s kind of, I think, what that title Just Because You’re Paranoid, Don’t Mean They’re Not After You, that’s kind of what it’s talking about. You’re paranoid for a reason. The world is out to get you and I don’t necessarily believe the world’s out to get me but it’s out to get my characters for sure.

On the set of Elena Vance. Giving these hats to other people.

Portland Orbit: Right, okay so it doesn’t really reflect you?

BH: Not necessarily but you know we all have different sides and I’ve got my self-conscious side, I’ve got my really confident side but there’s that dark side where you kind of wonder if things are going to work out or whatever and I guess I heighten that in my horror films so I think most of what we’re screening is kind of straight up horror and that’s kind of the horror side of me, that’s what I’m afraid of, I think. The world’s out to get me. And then as for the second part, screening at the Whitsell, it’s like the biggest screening of my life which isn’t necessarily saying much but it’s just a great place to screen. It’s cool that a great theater in town approached me to screen stuff rather than me actually trying to seek out a way to show my stuff somewhere. When I went to Vu’s screening it was really exciting. It was really an artistic environment to show something so I’m excited to do the same and see what people think about all these movies together in one program.

Portland Orbit: Yeah, no, that’s why I asked because I do think it’s a really nice auditorium and I screened something and I remember going, “wow, it just looks so good.” That’s just part of it, you know it’s a really cool place to screen. One of the things I’ve been impressed upon, I kind of feel like you’re really fanatical about movies and so, I know that you even go to Movie Madness, the video store, but I’m wondering how all of the film viewing that you do, how does it finds it’s way into the movies you make, I mean is it more than inspiration, do you learn technical stuff that you can apply to movies and things that might come up in certain situations while you’re making your movies?

BH: Yeah, I think it’s a little bit of everything. You know there are certain obvious techniques that when you’re watching a movie a lot of times the directorial style is not something that pops out at you but there are other movies where you see, “oh they’re using two focal planes” and there’s like someone in focus in the background and foreground at the same time. “Oh, how’d they do that,” and I’ll figure that out. Just those sorts of things, camera moves. You have to figure out what you like stylistically. I watch a lot of art house stuff but I also watch a lot of lower “horror stuff” but I think what’s in common with all of it is that it’s really directed and it uses the camera to try and express something beyond just what’s on the written page to express what’s on the character’s mind. Lately I’ve been watching a lot of Italian Giallo Films and those movies are so stylish and I think that’s inspiring me. I guess when I sit down and watch a movie I’m not necessarily picking it apart, more just like anybody else I’m sitting down and letting it kind of wash over me. But a lot of the things that stick with me I think are not conscious things, the things I like just kind of spoke into my brain. When I go to direct, usually there’s no specific moment where I say I’m going to ape this shot or I’m going do something like this director. Even though I’m watching Scorsese films something that I’ve been doing a lot, or at least my last couple of films is I’ll do these little moments in slow motion all the sudden just because I think finally Raging Bull is kind of seeping into my conscious. I love how he does that. He does it in seemingly inane moments that don’t really mean anything but it really gets you in a character’s head space when you see something slowed down that much. So those kinds of things, yeah, they kind of work their way in but when I’m directing I just see the way that looks right to me and then we do it.

You start with the vision.

Portland Orbit: Yeah, I wasn’t even applying you know like a straight like homage or theft or anything but even on a subconscious level and the fact that you’re all over the map on a lot of the stuff you have written about through Facebook you’re really exploring a pretty wide variety of films out there.

BH: Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes, some of these movies, like one I watched recently Slumber Party Massacre sounds like the trashiest thing in the world and yet it’s fascinating. It’s written and directed by these two feminists who are working for Roger Corman and so it’s like this give and take with this producer who just wants sex and blood in his movies and then the women who are trying to make some sort of statement. Yeah, I love that stuff. I love interesting stuff going on behind the scenes of a script.

Portland Orbit: Yeah, it’s amazing. So I know it seems like that last couple of movies I hadn’t heard about that much, the shorts you’ve been working on but my questions is sort of more like, you know, how do you manage to get all of this stuff done to make these films that you’ve made over the last few years when you’re working, I know you’re about to become a father, even just trying to organize, I mean for me to imagine even organizing something that involves more than one person just seems like it takes a huge amount of effort so my main question is how do you get all this stuff done to be able to make these movies?

BH: You got to be able to rely on other people. One thing that’s different from maybe a few years ago when I was making Elena Vance, I started getting more and more people involved and I didn’t have to wear as many hats because that’s what’s really draining for you when you’re producer, writer, director, editor–all these things. Spunk of the Reaper, the one before the newest one, I kind of wore all those hats and it was exhausting but—yeah when I’m working 40 hours a week and focusing on impending parenthood and stuff like that you just have to have people step up. I think because I’ve been working on other people’s movies and stuff when we did Spunk of the Reaper all of the sudden all of these people were excited to donate their time and energy and everything and yes a lot of that work load got taken up by people that want to make a good movie. I don’t know what it is, I think it’s me working on other stuff and all of the sudden developing this group of collaborators that are willing to, I don’t know, do whatever it takes to make a movie and one thing that’s very important to my last few movies is (garbled cell phone reception) who did sound editing on Elena Vance. He’s kind of become one of my main collaborators and whenever I work with him he brings on so many people. He’s instrumental in surrounding me with all these people who pick up the work load. That’s really the answer I think a lot of people who understand the vision and are willing to help out and they take the work off my hands.

Portland Orbit: The audio guy that you mentioned, I think the phone was cutting out a little bit. What was the name?

BH: His name’s Evan Gandy, E-V-A-N, G-A-N-D-Y.

Portland Orbit: Okay.

BH: He did sound on Elena Vance but he was the director of photography on my last two, my most recent two.

Portland Orbit: Wow, okay, that’s amazing.


I go back with Bryan to the days when we used to screen projects at a monthly film screening event called Attack of the Flix. I always appreciated Bryan’s offer to let me shoot footage  on his Elena Vance set one night. Here’s a link to the resulting behind-the-scenes film: