The Pursuit of Goo-Goo (Part One)

Goo-Goo won me over with prolific stickering, the use of a baby sound proclamation and an image that reminded me of KISS frontman Paul Stanley. Despite Goo-Goo stickers filling me with an unexplained irrational fear of the unknown, I still need to make sense of them. I turned to a valued resource in all things counter-culture my old friend Jeff Bagato who lives in the Washington D.C. area. As an avant-garde artist/musician and author of poetry books and science fiction novels, Jeff is a scholar of all forms of creative expression, a category that Goo-Goo stickers fall under. “I’m assuming that Goo-Goo is a tag, but it could just be a weird phrase; both would appear on stickers,” Jeff noted by email when I queried. “I see it all the time on IG feeds. There seem to be a million sticker artists in Portland and Seattle,” he added. “Tag” and “IG,” those references left me a bit mystified but I’m playing up my ignorance for dramatic effect.

The problem with getting to the bottom of a mystery means it will cease to be a mystery. Once explained my imagination won’t fill in the gaps and my interpretation will probably become invalid. I suppose that will only inspire me to search out other unexplained phenomena.

When thinking about the application of these stickers around town my mind conjures images of a shadowy figure in a Jack the Ripper cloak and wide brim hat. Why this guy, in my mind, is not trying to look less conspicuous is beyond me. I’m sure sticker art is not like that at all. The act of disobedience by decorating the backs of traffic signs is probably duller than I realize. People are sure to be casual and not mysterious about it.

The stickers caught my attention because of the variations of design, color, size and the subject matter. Their ubiquitousness helps. I’m partial to those in my neighborhood. When a Goo-Goo sticker appeared close to my house it led me to think the sticker artist was clairvoyant and had caught on to my Goo-Goo obsession.

Speculation on the meaning of Goo-Goo abounds. Jeff astutely commented that it’s unlikely a reference to the band the Goo Goo Dolls. To me it calls forth the beginnings of language itself, the first attempts a baby makes to speak. The great unknown is the combination of the letters and the face that I so want to believe is a homage to Paul Stanley. That the lead singer of KISS could end up as part of an underground sticker art project is something that has held my attention and kept me on the look out for more of these images. While some would could say Paul Stanley never wore his make up as it is on the sticker others might be quicker to ask: Who is Paul Stanley?

The first time I wrote about Goo-Goo was when a sticker was placed next to a piece of Bill Murray art. I used the power of my limited graphic arts abilities to remove the sticker from one of the images mainly because I didn’t like one piece of street art encroaching so hard on another.

When I reached out to my friend Jeff to help me sort this out he offered an online resource to assist me in my quest to understand Goo-Goo culture. Originally I was too naive, neurotic or nervous to dig into sticker art in a way that didn’t include some support. I was afraid my mind would be blown and I knew I’d need some help putting the pieces back together.

Bill Murray Triptych

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Hanging around the Cully neighborhood in northeast Portland on a recent substitute teaching assignment had me enduring minor transportation calamities in the way of two trashed/flat bike tires (thanks for helping Cat Six Cycles), discovering that a record shop called Jump Jump exists in the neighborhood and the possibility that germy kids put the kybosh on my ability to digest birthday celebration chicken wings. It’s all par for the course I’d have to say and finding Bill Murray’s face immortalized in artistic expression, in triplicate no less, soothed my soul and made it somehow worth it.

Gracing the back of an apartment mail box container on NE Prescott Ave. was the Bill Murray Triptych. Amazingly I was able ride by it the first time without stopping to genuflect. I filed this phenomenon away and returned for a photo. The image seems to come from Murray’s quintessential role in the film Stripes. The art captures Murray in all his Zen comedic charm, smirk and swagger. It has the feel of a Warhol homage in its decal, spray paint and screen print. Where Warhol created art based on one named legends like Elvis and Marilyn, this unknown artist offers passersby a portrait of a man of the people. I’d be hard pressed to consider that the Postmaster General would be have a problem with apartment mailbox vandalism when one look at Bill Murray in any form makes people feel good and would cheer up even the most down and out stragglers who happen by.

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The work is marred only by a fellow vandal who decided to join the fray.  I have no problem with the sticker, subject matter or design. I’ve seen this sticker around and it seems a faint homage to Paul Stanley so maybe there’s a celebrity theme going on but I would have preferred to see the predominant piece of art given some space and not crowded out by a more colors and noise.  Don’t mess with Bill Murray with your GOO GOO for God’s sake.

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A triptych is really the way to go here. One Bill Murray would not have been enough yet any more than three would have thrown the universe off balance. I’m not sure everyone in the neighborhood knows who Bill Murray is but it’s a face and artwork that with one glance returns a sense of serene, comedic calm and possibly even enlightenment. It’s a generous offering of street art, taking it out of the normal confines of the art world and exhibiting it on the side of the road where fine art is rarely seen. I can only imagine how Bill Murray figured out that he could entertain the world, but I’m glad he did. Forget your troubles, stop, and look at Bill Murray.

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Sign Round Up Snarkathon

Here’s a chance to empty the Portland Orbit photograph backlog that also allows me a forum to make snarky comments about street sign graffiti, bumper sticker philosophy and homemade signs.

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Stay True

I’m thinking this message on North Lombard is referring to staying true to my convictions. Too bad my convictions aren’t paying me a dime. But it’s a nice message written in admirable penmanship. I wouldn’t be offended by foul language written in this script.


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Don’t Postpone Joy

Ah, bumper sticker philosophy! Joy, joy, joy, joy, joy, you want to talk about joy.  I thought that was a Christmas thing. How am I supposed to postpone joy when I can’t muster up any in the first place? I had to look up the definition of joy to get a clear idea of the sentiment of this bumper sticker. Joy resembles the temporary euphoria I get after my second, or third cup of coffee. I noticed the word dismal was included in the dictionary entry as the opposite of joy. That’s closer to how I feel and I don’t have to postpone a thing. It’s better for this bumper sticker to be stuck on the back of a stop sign instead of a car bumper or I would find myself unable to postpone the joy of smashing into any car displaying this message.

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Pick Up Your Poop

I pick up 97.999 percent of the poop my dogs, past and present, have pooped out while on dog walks. The one time I didn’t, I was instantly scolded when I hadn’t realized one of the dogs I was walking had made a deposit. This was back when I was walking two old dogs that were kind and gentle. They didn’t get worked up about seeing other dogs or chase cats, squirrels or flying birds. This meant I could multitask and read the weekly papers while walking them. I had been reading an article about Gene Simmons of KISS, so engrossed was I that I hadn’t paid attention. A guy walking to the body shop where this occurred asked me if I was going to pick up my dog’s poop. Like I said before, man, I didn’t see it happen. I wanted to tell him I was reading a Gene Simmons article but who the hell cares about that.

I haven’t figured out my complusion to read about Gene Simmons every chance I get. He’s repulsive, his hair, his arrogance, his TV show, which I hope is off the air. Besides, I’m still getting over being traumatized by seeing Paul Stanley sing the National Anthem in a New York accent last Fourth of July before a Timber’s soccer game. This whole KISS aura, including their arena football team, has infiltrated me.  The sophomoric response is to consider the “your poop” section of the message.  It really should refer to your dog’s poop but I guess there’s only so much space for messages that people hang in trees.  All in all, Pick Up Your Poop is a good reminder, although I don’t think I need to read it every time I see it.

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Please No Littering

Like the Pick Up Your Poop sign, this sign was also spotted in the Kenton neighborhood. If I had been creating this sign I would have spent at least an afternoon deciding on whether to include a comma in the message.  Using the word please is a nice way to begin an imperative sentence. It doesn’t feel harsh in that do this or don’t do this kind of way. All right, so I’ll figure out a better place for my candy bar wrappers and cheeseburger bag. I won’t toss them on the street under your sign. You win anonymous sign poster because you have manners.