Sitting Next to the Pickle: An Overview of a Year to End All Years

On the last day of 2020 I embarked on this post. Finding a pen that worked became a Herculean task. Everyone knows 2020 sucked worse than any other year in history. I am not sure I want to get into writing a Top Ten lousy year list at this point but in my lifetime this has to be number one. The good news, if you’re reading this, you’re still alive! That’s got to count for something. The real story is going to be answering the question what did you do during the pandemic? It’s hard to imagine how my answer, that is sure to include mention of the phrase “fetal position,” will be received. Oh yeah, 2021 is not bringing the virus to a halt. This isn’t over but there’s no reason to give up or to stop creating and doing the things necessary to work through the challenges of our times.

The Hits

This piece caught readership right after I posted it. I was able to elaborate on this story when some of the news stories I researched had skimped on details. I love learning where ideas come from and how inspiration, knowledge and experience crystallize at the moment a thought becomes fully formed. Scott Wayne Indiana was gracious to explain it. There’s more to the story of tiny horses tied to iron rings and I appreciated the concept evolving to the point of becoming a long standing series of cultural landmarks.

The Sleeper

I’m sure I’m not alone when I had that moment or two when I didn’t know what to do with myself during the stay at home order. Sure people get used to stuff, the confines of jail, an endless daily commute, but a sequestering was unknown territory. Luckily, I had a backlog of story ideas and old photos. These were for topics I may never written about and I didn’t have to leave the house to hunt for a story.

My Spring Cleaning series allowed me to get a better sense of who Stanley Grochowski was, learn what the phrase “chinga tu madre” means  and it had me thinking a whole bunch about a movie screening I went to ages ago.  These were stories I thought I’d never write. My “factionalized” account of the meeting of Bernie and Bonnie comes to mind. No details are worth being left unexplained or unmade up!

The Missing

The Turkey of Saint Johns is still missing. I feel like I’ll never find that bird. So, I mythologize. It’s a vision as rich as Dante’s encounter with beer tricks, I mean Beatrice. It leaves me wallowing in a long lost memory that’s evolved into an annual literary parody set to the tune of a lonely Turkey gobble. I put my English majorness on display every Thanksgiving exploring literary forms that have run the gamut from last paragraphs of famous novels, a screenplay, biblical passages and this year’s poetry parody. I found out T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land didn’t translate to turkey talk. I needed something more famous and simpler. Orbit favorite, Bob Frost, who I’m sure befriended many a turkey, sprang to mind and the rest is poultry history. I miss that turkey but I can put my melancholy mindset to rest, at least until we get closer to Thanksgiving.

In conclusion, and I think even Ms. Yuchmow would advise me not to start a concluding paragraph with this phrase, it’s time to let this past year and the use of in conclusion go. There was something out there, bigger than us all. Laying low was the antidote. Like Trump once said, “it’ll disappear by April,” well, maybe he was talking about April of 2021. We can play the waiting game. We’re stronger mentally and there’s nothing stopping anyone from dealing with the pandemic in all the other ways needed to get through it.

Stay strong America!


This Christmas I was given a cardboard cutout of myself along with season tickets to the Blazer home games. The tickets were for my cardboard likeness. When I went looking for myself, I found me in the back corner of Section 105 “sitting” next to the Portland Pickle mascot. A weird bitterness, not unlike the taste of a pickle, came over me along with at least one bad pickle joke about vinegar aftershave. My inner tirade was followed by the realization that of all the people in Portland, there was no better choice. Somebody nailed that seating chart. Expect an interview with a Pickle at some point in the new year. 


Here’s to a whole new year and a whole new life. You get a new one everyday. Don’t waste it.


Nice Tri: An Appreciation of Art on The Tracks

I could have sworn this was a hot tip from Weird Portland United but I might be mistaken. Weird Portland United and the Portland Orbit are cut from the same cloth. We should be enemies, jockeying for position on all breaking weird news but Weird Portland United has probably never heard of the Portland Orbit. Besides, at this point I’ll accept hot tips from anybody. As for enemies, I’m not looking to make new ones. I’ve become more open. I’m even willing to listen to what Gwyneth Paltrow has to say. You know, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change. 

It was challenging to find the post I spotted on Facebook until I realized it doesn’t matter. It revealed there’s a Trimet publication about public art at Max stops that you can read online or download for free. I’ve wanted to write about Max art for years. I never had the right angle until now. The Trimet publication offers stories behind art splattered along the Max lines, art hidden in plain sight that attempts to break the monotony of waiting for a train for those aware enough to notice. 

The art publication was denser than I imagined. The yellow line section was 68 pages in its pdf form. The overview section had me looking at early days of art meeting public transit in black and white photos in a newspaper layout. The different Max section write ups come in full color that jumps off the page and catalogs the art along the tracks and around the platforms. I’ve been noticing and taking photographs of Max art since 2016. It’s satisfying to explore this topic after putting it off for years. 

Community mapping!

The Denver Avenue/Kenton station is full of great art. Some of it has a found art feel, an added bonus. There are the metal cow cut outs grazing along the track that I learned are are known as guardrail panels—a homage to the neighborhood’s cattle stockyard history.

Historic preservation.

The mosaic work on the ground/platform is by Mary Taponga. I remember meeting her after trekking to her art shop, Hail Mary, that used to operate in NE around 28th Street. I was there on Election Day 2008 where we shared our anxiety about the uncertainty of that election. Her work is all over the McMenamin’s Kennedy School. On the platform there are mosaics tiles and found art objects housed in what I imagine is some kind of epoxy. The objects have the look of those soaps with something in the middle that appears as the soap wears away. In this case, these elements of the art piece have remained mostly unscathed through the years.

Trolley life.

I had always assumed the benches, also known as Terrazzo seating, were created by Mary but the Trimet publication proved me wrong. The benches reproduce scenes from the good old days in tile. It amazes me that a bench at a Max stop evokes feelings of nostalgia with images of the neighborhood’s streetcar and movie theater.

Blue who?
Blue three.

Somewhere down the yellow line, (the North Prescott Station) the occasional blue tile is substituted for the brick at the train platform. The tiles are randomly placed, but the blue glass pops when seen alongside the industrial brown shade of the bricks. The Trimet publication explained that the blue glass bricks “hint at imaginary waterways beneath the station.”

Old bones aren’t enough.

Outside the Kaiser Interstate medical building, it seems fitting that the platform sports medical imagery. Teeth, bones, a map, I’m not sure what’s all going on here but once again it outclasses the concrete. The Max art scheme is big on community maps, a concept I’m not familiar with, but this piece in particular features a street grid.

Round and round.

One day at the Rose Quarter Transit Center I looked down at the pavement. First I discovered sporadic concrete circles in the platform area. I realized the circles were full of circles–one circle smaller than the next with the rings getting smaller and smaller. Then it hit me: Stump tops in concrete.


When I looked at the Trimet Art guide, I found out this was all part of a theme. The stump slices are part of a broader art installation that includes an electrified forest and an artistic take on a fire pits

So there you have it. This yellow line report barely scratches the surface of the art on the rail lines. My hope is to inspire the masses to map out the rest of the Max lines and take art excursion/art hop to see all the creations. You might not even have to get out of the train.

Read on!:

Stopping By A Turkey Pen On a Lonely Evening

This neighborhood as I recall

A time when St. Johns had it all

even a Turkey as a pet

Fenced in, I’m reminded each Fall

My memory remains unclear

To stop and consider thoughts dear 

A Turkey that remained unscathed 

On the scariest day of the year

I give my brain another shake

As if to jolt the past awake

I know I saw that Turkey then

Now it’s more than I can take

This memory lovely, dark and deep

This mystery alive, is what I keep

My search goes on before I sleep

My search goes on before I sleep

It wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving without a Turkey of St. Johns tribute. I talked to a long time St. Johns resident recently who had a vague memory of the St. Johns Turkey. We all have that. That recollection was not substantial enough to offer any leads. I will continue to make every effort to find this bird. In the meantime enjoy the holiday.

Turkey on Turkey (collage by David Craig)

Take it back to the beginning:

Not Just Delivering Joy to Letter Carriers: The Unbearable and Compelling Ridiculousness of Decorated Mailboxes

Admit it. It’s scary out there. Election quagmires, a pandemic running rampant, Halloween decorations still hanging around, or are those real cobwebs? Yet mailboxes remain a constant, stoic and calm, if a human condition could be attributed to an inanimate object. Mailboxes excel at their one duty: opening their mouths a couple of times a day to receive and give mail.

When this assignment landed on my desk I scoffed. Mailboxes again? Further research revealed that I last wrote about them in June of 2019 but it felt sooner. The timing couldn’t be better. People need distractions from the sheer terror that strikes these days when we leave the house to do anything else but look at or in mailboxes. These parcel containers are cheerful in their banality. Flare lifts them into the stratosphere without them having to leave their posts. In some cases it’s the posts themselves that get the artistic treatment. Either way decorated mailboxes are as compelling as they are ridiculous but in these serious times, they offer joy by breaking the monotony.

Stones on top of stones on top of more stones, these are the buliding blocks of a grand mailbox post. The Arnold Creek neighborhood has a reputation for fancy mailbox posts. This one is dark, handsome, rough and ready enough to support what appears to be a plastic mailbox. Ah, stone and plastic, how is that a match? I’ll have to imagine the mailbox is a newfangled synthetic resin that pairs with stone.

While a wheel might be connected to a foot as the Minutemen pointed out in one of their old songs, they can also be part of a mailbox post as seen in Far Southwest, that’s what my phone is calling it. Our research department is looking into whether this is an actual neighborhood. The wheel does add a decorative element reminiscent of western wagon wheels. I’m not knocking it. I’m starved for interesting mailboxes and posts to look at. It’s what I live for.

In Hillsdale, housing was provided for this mailbox. It’s a nice home. Sure someone needs to scrape the moss off the roof, like every other roof in this town. This should inspire anyone who lives in a house to realize that mailboxes deserve proper housing too.

In time, a mailbox covering, like the one seen in Far Southwest, will fade, chip and peel but it continues to add character lacking in standard mailbox designs. The birds haven’t flown away, while the branches and pine needle boughs blend in with the surrounding overgrowth.

You say, “Come on it’s not art.”
You say, “It’s just a soft focus, hot mess of a photo in harsh lighting conditions.”
You say, “Why another bannered mailbox?”
I stopped listening after the first question. Why? Because I could care less. I’m left to ponder the image of a flag wrapped around a bucket of flowers topped with a cheerful bird. Sure it’s Hallmark Shop tacky—the best kind! You have to admit it’s not another bland mailbox.

The chain post is macho, rusty and rugged. It winds itself through itself in a twisted and gnarled fashion. It anchors and supports this Arnold Creek mailbox and seldom used newspaper holder and it looks good doing it. Buy that mailbox some after shave from the Avon catalog this Christmas.

Art posts will slant and flirt with falling over to keep things entertaining. And yes, some people find entertainment value in slumping mailboxes held up by a dirt pile. Things can’t get lower. I stopped the one afternoon to document this postal plunge spotted in that mythical land of Far Southwest. I was glad to see someone, not a postal employee mind you, fixing this post the next afternoon.

In West Portland Park, I noticed this mailboxes forming a nice pattern of colors. It’s what I need these days—nice things. There’s a pattern. It’s a soothing pattern to these eyes, a Caribbean dream of peaceful colors that reach out and caress my vision. It has to be a pleasant experience picking up mail from one of these boxes.

This wooden sculpture makes an amazing mailbox post. We don’t throw that A word around often. We do use the other A word. What’s this post doing? The wood swirls around creating wooden teardrops which give me teardrops. I find myself crying out for people to offer up their mailboxes as art for the world to appreciate.

What’s not to love about a mid century modern piece of art disguised as a mailbox. Heck if I know, but this would be my idea of a sleek design and I can’t think of any other descriptor, even with the possibility that my knowledge of architecture could be way off.

Squiggles and swirls, it’s a phrase I never tire of writing. I tend to include it in all my blog posts. This mailbox has ebbed into a chameleon state, resembling its surroundings beyond the obvious burst of colors. It’s a nice splash of hues organized in a vibrant way–the kind of thing that might keep a mail person coming back day after day.

* * * * *

In case you were wondering, this post combines element of the art mailbox with designs that feature unique posts. Those used to be two separate categories until I found myself fleeing from and trying to avoid getting a deadly virus.

Note to Mrs. Yuckmow: Yes, I did it again, I think, up there, somewhere, I began a sentence with the word “And.” I feel the need to explain myself since I’m breaking one of your cardinal rules about not using the word “And” to begin a sentence. Let’s just say when I do it, it makes my writing sizzle.

Rattling Around in Their Bones: Yet Another Halloween Spooktacular

This Halloween is especially scary. If anyone shows up at your door the trick they might offer is a POTENTIALLY DEADLY VIRUS. I’m sure I’m wrong, but the Halloween decorations I spotted, many in SW Portland, depicted scenes of skeleton’s run amok leading me to wonder if we will all soon become skeletons ourselves. The creativity poured into these scenes of mayhem had me feeling even more uneasy. I long for next Halloween when fact and fiction may not be quite so intertwined which could bring back the sense of normalcy we’ve lacked in 2020.

Grim and Grime

Doom unalone.

In West Portland Park, a figure of doom carried multiple blades. Even a skeleton could be seen leaping away. Yet this black clad, modern day, grim reaper looking dude made an effort to protect the world from his respiratory droplets. How bloody kind of him!

Save somebody’s soul.

This well dressed, half skeleton was spotted at the feet of that grim reaper. Looking like a lost Joy Division album cover, this image needs to be sent to the graphics department so they can gloss it up and dial in the right amount of black and white. Oh and could a seance with Martin Hannett be arranged so we can get his approval.

This scene is frightful. The pain on the skeleton’s face is amazing when you consider it’s only bones. It’s difficult enough to make those expressions with muscles and when one is just a bag of bones nothing is supposed to hurt. Right?

Heading Off

Which direction? I’m headless.

A headless horseman in the Grant Park neighborhood attempts to get away on a wooden horse. At first, second and third glance it’s hard to believe there isn’t a living, footless human underneath that denim.

No time to unmask!

This scene spotted in Grant Park presented an inventive way to get a message across. It’s especially scary when you have to consider that some people will not be wearing masks this Halloween. Oh, and that nice couple sitting on a bench—they’re HEADLESS!

Inflation is Scary

Blow it up!

Inflatables air on the ho hum side of decor most of the time but this Pumpkin Master Beast Guy, spotted in the Grant Park neighborhood, is frightful. The bony, gnarled hands and the jagged smile made it especially photogenic.

Half Buried/Half Alive?

Buried, half alive.

I always fall for this. It’s even worse to have to deal with this in my own neighborhood of West Portland Park. This guy isn’t buried alive. He’s parts, stuck in the ground. Yet when I took his picture, he wiggled his toes and reached for me. He begged me to dig him out. I told him I didn’t have a shovel.

Gellin’ and Skellin’ (In the Trees)

Merman bones.

This year I spotted skeleton’s everywhere. The thought of them leaping about at Halloween time gives me the shivers. Seeing them living or swimming in trees was scarier. This display, seen in the Alberta Arts district, earned bonus points for using the bones of a Merman. They are as challenging to spot on dry land as they are in the trees.

What a Ghoul Believes

Roof top ghoul baby! Holy Heck!

A ghoul baby and a skeletal nun from West Portland Park walk into a bar… No, but I swear I didn’t know what I was looking at when I wrote the above caption. This display freaked me out so bad that I couldn’t get close. The only thing creepier than a ghoul baby crawling around on a roof might me a ghoul baby slipping and falling onto a driveway.

Hovering Aspirations

Swinging party.

I’m not sure this was what Bob was singing about with the line, “they’re selling postcards of the hanging” but these ghosts lingering in West Portland Park created a bleak scene that is no less mystifying. There is no way to actually hang a ghost.


Skeleton dogs love bones.

In Lake Oswego the skeleton dogs are as fierce as the real thing chasing their obsession for bones straight up trees. This dramatic diorama is proof that dogs don’t give up easily–even when they aren’t technically alive.

Lazing in the Blazing

Be wary.

The bright sun takes all the fear and mystery out of Halloween displays like this one in West Portland Park. The skeleton in the back appears to be offering a neighborly wave. At least, the blood red sign lettering made me feel like I should really beware.

Boo who?

I’m reminded that skeletons are just plain weird. They don’t know how to sit in comfortable positions. They dangle their limbs in awkward poses. Despite the silly skeletons, the sight of sticks, stones and plastic bones scattered in the dirt was sending shivers up my intact spine.


Pumpkin poetry is a genre!

In the Grant Park neighborhood even the poetry posts celebrate the season. The pumpkin picture is not as scary as the poem “Theme in Yellow” by Carl Sandburg. Not that the poem is scary, I’ve just developed a poetry phobia at this point in my life. As a matter of fact, the poem is about pumpkins that have terrible teeth which probably haunts your average dentist.

Cruise Your Illusion II: Stuck On Studebaker

Symbols tell their story.

Recap from Cruise Your Illusion 1: Sure it’s unconventional to take a perfectly good car and paint it or better yet, glue junk to it, but art cars aren’t conventional. As the car commercial would whisper in a deep voice: art cars break monotony. As for people glueing objects to their cars, I’m fascinated with the obvious. How do the plastic figurines and other decorations stay stuck? I delved into this when I talked to the owner of a car called “The Trophy Wife” and I saw the actual glue used for the Space Taxi but I’m still mystified. If stuff goes flying it goes flying. Hopefully it won’t put out an eye, cause a traffic accident or ruin the artistic merits of the vehicle.

After years of capturing images of art cars it’s time to unleash them. I’m always hoping for information on the origins of these arty automobiles. My recollections are often about where I first glimpsed the vehicle. The results of my thoughts is an online art car rally something like what happens when vintage cars gather at the Portland International Raceway but they’re just gathering here in cyberspace.

Double Deck Me

Glass to last.

This double bubble decker vehicle is more art car as a reflection of art in architecture. It has a sculptural feel and it may have been produced using less glue, but it is an art car. I was also curious, when it showed up in the Kenton neighborhood, how the second roof functioned. It looks to be more of an extended sun roof.

Bearly there.

On a random walk that led us deep into a more rustic section of the Arnold Creek neighborhood, I spotted a pick up truck on a gravel road with a teddy bears roped to the grill. I was excited enough about that phenomenon. Then after getting closer, I realized it wasn’t just a bear toting pick up, it was an art car and the proper art application technique had been executed at a high level. That’s a fancy way of saying it had a bunch of toys glued to the hood. There’s joy in these objects. It’s about recognizing plastic characters, pondering the arrangements that creates dramatic scenes and witnessing these interactions frozen in time. It’s not a random as it appears. There has to be planning in the design or none of it would make sense.

Eye witness.
Who wants to know?
Monster truck on truck.

Slick and Arty

All dressed up.

On my way to cover a move by bike story in the Concordia neighborhood, I took a quick look and a few photos on a rainy fall day. The rain didn’t dampen my spirits so much but it threw a wet blanket on the camera phone’s ability to focus. This car proved a classic in the art car genre with paint and bigger sized toys and even dinosaurs. Sure, it always has me imaging a scenario similar to one I could imagine where toys get blown out of Santa’s sleigh. These are great toys whether they’re on the car or airborne about the highway. I know there’s some strong epoxies out there and I guess I have to put my faith in that for the sake of all art cars.

Heads above the rest.
The muffin mobile?

Space Taxi

Space is the place.

At this moment, we’re investigating the whereabouts of the Space Taxi. This summer there was a report that the car was down for the count, thereby taking the art with it. There will be a full report as soon as we can make one up, I mean research one. There’s a slim chance that the space taxi might still make the drive down your street or be seen at the Fred Meyer’s parking lot.

Trophy Wife

A wife in park. (photo by Marci)

I couldn’t let it go with out posting a couple more pictures of my favorite area art cars like the Space Taxi, above, and the Trophy Wife. It’s really the best use of all the trophies in the world that people eventually out grow. **And yeah, making fun of Trophy Wives is also hilarious although the joke might be over their heads visually and languagely.

Swan song.


**Mrs. Yuckmow, I feel justified in using the word “and” at the beginning of that last sentence. I’m not being lazy, I just think from a comedic stand point I had to inject a bit of slackness into my paragraph. I know, you’re looking beyond that at my use of that non word, languagely. Hardly a proper adverb. You might even frown upon the use of adverbs. Sometimes the invention of a word needs to happen.

Summer’s Gone: Dive and Dash Until the Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Ducks like swimming.

Nothing reminds me of what’s great about a Portland summer than the end of a Portland summer. I hold out, hoping the season lingers. The late summer heat inspired us to hit the sometimes frigid, but swimable area rivers and lakes. We made late afternoon runs during the hottest part of the day for quick dips to cool off. Then summer had an abrupt end despite more plans to swim. A wind storm blew forest fire smoke into the area creating unhealthy air that was less than ideal for breathing much less swimming. I’m left with memories to share of the spots we managed to visit which created the kind of summer feeling that has to last until the next one.

Poet’s Beach

The sign says it all.

We’d know about Poet’s Beach since it opened. The city’s public relations staff must have got the word out. It’s felt like a tradition to make at least one visit each summer to this make-shift beach under the Marquam Bridge. It was also the end point of the Portlandia Mermaid Parade allowing the assembled mermaids a place to take a dip. The lines of student poetry inscribed on the rocks leading to the beach have faded somewhat but the beach area is wide for a steady stream of visitors. The river is clean, thanks to the big dig project making a rare occurrence out of the sewage overflows that used to make the river unswimable.

Mermaids and more at Poets Beach.

The Willamette River is shallow around the beach that offers a sandy river bottom. The constant boat traffic is either annoying or scenic depending on your disposition. Unless your free parking game is strong, you’ll have to pay to park in the inner SW area. The beach is listed as being part of the South Waterfront City Park. I associated it with its proximity to the Harbor Marina area where the anchor business is a McCormick & Schmidt’s. If the goal is to get wet this is as good a place as any within the city limits.

Henry Hagg Lake

Dog days at Hagg Lake.

This lake is out there if you are looking to get out of town. The nearest barely-a-town-town is Gaston. The boat heavy waters carry the essence of diesel fuel. Then there are the indignities of having to pay seven bucks and weed through a State Park induced traffic jam. Still there’s the uniqueness of the lake’s squishy, muddy bottom along with the antics of the boaters and swimmers that provide entertainment on a summer afternoon. It’s worth at least one visit for the escapism factor and the wide open views of the lake. 

Audrey McCall Floating Dock


This was our most focused dive and dash experience. What else is there to do besides hang out on a dock or jump in the water? I was surprised to learn that the Vera Katz Esplanade is named after Rich Reece’s cat. The dock offered a shimmering view of downtown and provided a ladder for those unable to heave their bodies out of the Willamette River and back onto the platform. People weren’t concerned about drinking laws. I’m unsure of OCC regulations but I saw at least one guy enjoying beers. The dock may be an unregulated autonomous zone. It was easy to get there from the Eastside industrial area with free parking if you’re up on zone parking regulations. This is an essential spot for however much time one can spare for sunshine, swimming and dog paddling.

Cedar Island

How to make an island.

Who could resist a visit to an island off the coast of West Linn? It’s about as much status as anyone could hope for. In my possibly misguided geological knowledge, it’s a kind of jetty created by the Willamette River where a swimming pond has formed. We found parking outside a gated mansion although there’s boat ramp parking too. It’s necessary to walk through a river side beach area and over a bridge to get to the island. Once there we had the rocky beach to ourselves. The water temperature was fine but you wouldn’t know it from my wade and squat technique for entering the water.

The author in island waters.

Cross Park

Rocky, not roaring.

You can go to High Rocks Park or Cross Park. Either offers access to the Clackamas River. Cross Park seemed to be more accessible when we dashed down to the Gladstone area for a Friday afternoon happy hour swim. The river wasn’t crowded in the area where we parked. A guy standing in the water told me I’d get used to it if I ever got brave enough to get wet and I did. Minutes later he got in a kayak and paddled away. Our dog had a blast swimming until he was scolded by us for chasing ducks downstream. The river bed was rocky but despite the current and the mountain run off it wasn’t too treacherous or cold. The water was just right for cooling off after a hot week.


Special thanks to Ronna Craig for her photographs minus the duck and mermaid photos that I took.

Getting CIMBY and UnCIMBYed by the Multnomah Village CIMBYs: A Satirical Tragedy

MV Sign


I meant to write Portland is underseige but it came out underserved. Wham! It hit me. People don’t realize how true this is. A Saturday morning on Facebook meant reading about the aftermath of the previous night’s protest and the Feds vs protesters situation along with posts about the mask/no mask controversy. When I found myself reading about CIMBYs I was clobbered. I’m a CIMBY. The post was too clever to be real. I missed the part of the initial post that labelled it satire. Dissenting opinions were met with tact, surrealistic wit and no one who commented was beaten perjoratively about the head and shoulders.


CIMBY, in case you’re wondering, is Chipotle In My Backyard. The crux of a joke that I couldn’t accept because I realized I never want to not be within two miles of a Chipotle. Ever. I started to sweat realizing I wasn’t sure where the nearest Chipotle was. Two miles is easily covered by a light jog. Anything else means getting in a car or running further. As I write this I thought of the Chipotle in NE near the Lloyd Center—not close! There might be one down Barbur Boulevard but I realized that’s one of those places that starts with the letter B. (Baja Fresh) There could be one down Hall Boulevard, my favorite street in Beaverton, but I don’t want to go there.


My instant CIMBY conversion led to disappointment. It’s unlikely a Chipotle will materialize in Multnomah Village. It would be nice for that one or two times a year I might get a craving for a fast and robust burrito that I help put together by calling out ingredients. If it all has to be a humorous diversion why did their guac have to be discussed as if it’s excellent? I would crave it more if it were accessible. Also, what about the joyous margarita parties lampooned in the post? While I abstain from alcohol, it sure would be fun for a few minutes to stumble upon raccaous frivolity in the Village once in a while.


The corporate creep from Starbucks left a bad taste in one of the commentator’s mouth. They’re awfully nice in that store. Try returning a drink that’s not made to your exact specifications and they’ll cheerfully make you another. Portland has bigger battles at the moment, I know, but I’d want that Chipotle to be placed in the retail section of the latest condominium. I suppose that’s asking a bit much.


I reached out to the guy who wrote the post but he didn’t get back to me. It was probably my mess of a Facebook messenger message. I don’t think I would have responded if I’d received a message like that. I would have assumed it was from a crackpot. It reminds me of how hapless and devoid of ideas I’ve become to write about a Facebook post in the first place. It had me laughing myself to tears—not easy to explain or reenact. Lately Facebook has offered a fair share of hate reads. After that I get distracted by a cat video before I start to wonder again if social media is the best use of my time.


For once I found pure entertainment. People who were too serious were met with oddball responses like that’s a “GIANT TINY IDEA.” Lot’s of commenters played a long but others were as serious as Margaret Dumont dealing with the Marx Brothers. One guy had no idea how his writing “no no no” could be construed as an Amy Winehouse lyric. Obscene references were tossed around for Taco Bell and Chipotle became the rather offensive Shitpotle. Descriptions for Chipotle being “extremely delicious” had me wondering why delicious is such a funny word. There was mention of someone preferring Qdoba branding himself a QIMBY. Another place I can’t pronounce. Where’s the U? A helpful response revealed that a new Chipotle would help a Negative Nancy become a Joyous Jane. Someone even managed to drop a Parrot Head reference. I started ascending to heaven. At least I found out there’s a Chipotle on Beaverton Hillsdale Highway—still too far for my taste. Somehow a sign-of-the-times accusation of racism creeped into the post—a misunderstanding that was cleared up when once again it was pointed out that the post was satire. Oh satire, how I’ve missed you! Most of the responders were having a good time. The pressure was off. No one was really having to go to a meeting, debate the merits of a real Chipotle in Multnomah Village or mobilize in anyway to make my newly found, yet soon to be unrealized dream a reality.


After reports of 50 plus straight days of violent, murderous, bloody rioting in the streets of Portland with Federal troops, the likes of which haven’t been seen in America since before the Revolutionary War, I was left in shock over my realization that I do not live within two miles of a Chipotle restaurant. I am underserved. The CIMBY lifestyle has me  pining for a bigger back yard. At the suggestion of making buttons and bumper stickers I thought this movement could get serious. While activities in downtown Portland boil over, a movement in the name of burrito liberty, guac justice and the pursuit of happiness from a full Chipotle meal extinguished itself in my corner of SW Portland. It was a grand idea gone awry or at the very least lost to the whims of satire.


A Long Winded History Of A Half Century of Living in Dodge City


Jeff Dodge is too busy for fame. He’s multitalented. He knows music, videography, sound engineering, computers and history. With the latest technology he streams a monthly, live TV show from his home office. He makes movies, short films, music videos, produces bands and he recently recorded a 33 song triple concept album. There are more projects in the wings. Jeff’s always up to something.


Another project, in production.

I’ve written other posts about him but I couldn’t let this significant birthday go without acknowledging his work. Participating in his show, The Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour, gives me an opportunity to experience any number of interesting Portland characters, musicians and performers. I only have to leave the house once a month for this. Hanging out with Jeff means a whirlwind of ideas, costumes, fun, craziness and the occasional technical difficulty. The suits he wears as the show’s host are hilarious. It’s great to know someone with so much going on. I contribute what I can and the rest of the time I live vicariously through his exploits and I don’t end up exhausted.


After a half century, I am curious about what keeps Jeff going. I thought it would be fun to see where he’s been and hear tales from his associates. I started with members of the Peasant Revolution Band who appear as the house band on the show. I didn’t know how Jeff put the band together. Curtis Worsely, aka The Commander, explained that Jeff “was the one who gave me my name. That was a big leg up in my career.” They’ve had an on and off again musical relationship that goes back 30 years to the days of one of Jeff’s early bands The Bolsheviks. The Commander appreciates how Jeff has always welcomed him in after telling me he joined the Peasant Revolution Band when he moved back to Portland. He described Jeff as a “historical encyclopedia of information.”


photo by Echo Narcissist (Courtesy of Darge productions)

Bassist Steve Cebula goes back with Jeff to their days at Central Catholic High School. Steve was a rocker in pleather when Jeff was hanging out with a punk rocker named Tom Nims and sporting a “Travis Bickle” look. These were different circles. They got to know each other in Jazz and Stage Prep Bands and played Cream songs with the Pep Band at football and basketball games. Steve had a front row seat to watch a band teacher trying to keep Jeff in line. I discovered Steve wasn’t in the Middle Fingers but joined Jeff’s next band Pink Milk, a name that could have been inspired by Cream. Both band names were controversial at the school. All these years later Steve, the consumet sideman, tells tales of Jeff being a tyrant in the recording studio. I wanted to believe he’s joking from his vivid description of Jeff Dodge in a “one more take” fervor. “Mannequin parts get thrown against the wall—well, one part but it’s heavy,” Steve said.


In 2013, Jeff organized a Badfinger Tribute Benefit Show for Scott Peterson who had been through a health crisis. Rich Reece sat in on drums. Meeting Jeff, he could see the years of work experience that went into coordinating the event. “Everyone else would have given up,” Rich said considering the logistics of organizing 30 different musicians to perform for two hours. “One of Jeff’s big talents,” he pointed out, “is to just keep going. He doesn’t stop.”

It was Phil Jefferson who inspired me to seek out testimonials. He spoke highly of his experience working with Jeff who recorded and played on his flute centric album Madness of Crowds. He explained that Jeff lives for spontaneity and going into studio sessions fresh not knowing what he’ll be playing. “We didn’t know where it was going to go,” Phil said before offering a comment that explained Jeff’s people person persona. “He wants to be around as many people as he can. That’s his thing.”


When houses in her neighborhood were being demolished, Jordi Leeb decided to make a film about the situation and the impact it had on her and her neighbors. Being a first time film maker, she called on Jeff.  Jeff took the lead with some assistance from me. Jordi experienced Jeff’s business side finding him to be professional, methodical and patient. “I never felt judged or talked down to. He laid everything out and it was so helpful for me to understand all of the steps. He was eager and excited about my project. He made the whole experience approachable for me,” she said. Jeff’s efforts earned him Jordi’s respect and their collaboration resulted in the film “Diary of a Street.”

Robert Pardington is also known as Bobby Caesar. I always saw him as an archenemy of Jeff’s because, as legend has it, he left the Peasant Revolution Band to go solo. He later showed up to battle Jeff in the movie WNYCee New York. Robert met Jeff through high school friends and later roomed with him in the “infamous White House” in Eugene in the early 90’s. Robert admires Jeff’s openness. “He always included everyone, frat types, stoners, nerds,” he said. Robert is in awe of Jeff’s musical brilliance, phenomenal ear and their Meerkat brotherhood.


On location. photo by Echo Narcissist (Courtesy of Darge productions)

Clint Sargent meet Jeff in 1988 at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. Since then they’ve played music together and  partnered to make a cable access TV show and feature length movies. Clint praised Jeff’s prolific nature. “I have never known anyone with so many visions going at once. There seems to be no end to his ideas that flow non stop.”


The stories Jeff shared in a frenetic phone call set the scene. He remembered seeing the puppeteers Sid & Marty Kroft on TV giving career advice, “If you want to make sure you keep control of your content in this society, keep your name on it,” one of them said. Jeff took note giving birth to the Jeff Dodge brand. Somewhere in the middle of playing Plastic Man with his sisters a character named Julio would be involved. Julio was resourceful and had a local connection everywhere he went. Jeff aspired to these qualities that have inspired his modus operandi. It adds up to him being fearless. He let’s everybody in the pool resulting in either Busby Berkeley choreography or everybody drowning.

A half century is something to consider. “The winds of age are upon me,” Jeff says quoting a line from one of the movies about his alterego Jeff Steele. (I know, Jeff Steele and the Lost Civilization of NyoNuc from 2004.) Still, there is time for new beginnings and even old dreams. Jeff hasn’t given up on the one where he owns and operats a historical amusement park. With Portland being the creative place that it is, there could be thousands of Jeff Dodge types out there. I’m talking about catalysts who create scenes of fun loving havoc. And most everyone is too busy creating to know what anybody else is up to. Clint Sargent described what Jeff does as “unmatched entertainment” and that makes all the difference. 


Behind the scenes of Jeff Steele and The Children of the Doomed         photo by Echo Narcissist (Courtesy of Darge Productions)

* * * * *

Post Script:  The Dodge City from the title is not a nickname anyone ever had for Jeff. Hanging out with him has always felt like visiting another world of his making. I  refer to it as Dodge City.



Along Come Marys: The Mother of All Mother’s Days

Bless this!

I couldn’t think of a better way to honor mothers than write about one of the greats. She entered motherhood under tough circumstances having to bed down in a manger with barnyard animals. Since then she’s been sainted, name dropped in a Beatles song and has been named after countless churches including a famous Paris cathedral. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people honor her, in statuary form, with a place of residence in their yard.

As the two Orbit franchises that have managed to hang on, there’s a bit of a symbiotic relationship between the Portland and Pittsburgh offices. That’s why it’s not accurate to say I’ve stolen this idea because it would have been shared freely if I’d asked. My version originated from a kind of oneupmanship, a comparison of our respective cities. Pittsburgh Orbit head honcho Will Simmons asked me if there were Marys in Portland after he ran a few posts showcasing displays of her image. Because I had never noticed them I assumed they were scarce. When I started looking, they appeared all over town.

Chain linked in Pittsburgh.                     (photo by Will Simmons)

I reached out to Will for the details of his Mary fixation. Growing up in Southwest Virginia, he found little of the Catholic presence he would experience when he moved to Pittsburgh, a city known to have one of, if not the highest, per capita Catholic populations in the country. Will’s fascination with Catholic culture percolated when he realized the gambling operation run by a priest at a Catholic Carnival was possibly illegal. This had him thinking, “The Baptists don’t do this.”

Will has long wondered “why Catholics have this deeper connection to Mary than other Christians.” While that notion is a mystery to me I realized it was intrigue like this that fueled his writings. He’s returned to ideas inspired by Catholic culture in multiple posts. In an email Will wrote:

“In Pittsburgh, it’s not just where people go to church on Sunday (or, often, Saturday evening) but all of these other cultural tangents–fasting for Lent and its byproduct of church-sponsored fish fries; Greek Orthodox “onion dome” architecture; retail stores that sell nothing but bibles, crucifixes, and “Last Supper” reproductions; framed portraits of past popes for sale at every estate sale.”

Will points out that in the Pittsburgh area, Marys are everywhere. There are Every Neighborhood Marys, Porch Marys, Built Into Brickwork/Grotto Marys, Garden Marys, Up On Cement Blocks Marys and Embedded In Concrete Flower Pot Marys—all variations on this theme that Will has photographed and blogged about for years.

Personal Mary. (photo by Will Simmons)

Not religious himself, Will has contracted Mary fever with a Mary of his own to prove it—a friend who rescued her from the trash. He has a blast keeping “an eye out for new Marys” while lamenting those hidden away in people’s backyards that he’ll likely never see. Will also willingly burst my bubble, hey what are friends for, telling me that I was confusing what I thought could be Marys with wings with plain old angels. Some angels look a bit too much like Marys with wings.Wannabees! At least I’ve learned the rules.

Our Lady In Lavender

Not too dry for tears.

This purple cloaked Mary, spotted in the Powell neighborhood, stood out on a late August afternoon when forest fires had created an orange haze that blanketed the area. Sitting in a brick bordered dirt pedestal, she remains calm and serene. The surrounding burnt grass makes her seem a bit parched from the relentless summer sun. The spot light means this Mary merits an evening visit.

Hearts Afire

Sunny Mary

A Mary this bright and colorful becomes a lesson in the challenges of taking photographs at high noon. The detailing is great including the visible heart and the rosary. Additional surroundings offer a feeling of a peaceful oasis.

Radiant Lady

A serene scene.

As if sculpted out of ivory or a giant bar of Ivory soap, this Mary gleams. Her namaste/prayer pose is striking. She appears to be levitating or about to launch out of the bird bath of flowers. Her serenity flows into the surrounding yard off of Interstate Avenue in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood so hard that it keeps a Fu Dog subdued and disinterested in the prey potential of the deer family reclining nearby.

From the Shadows

There could be a gnome too.

I caught sight of this Mary battling overgrowth outside the remainders of the long since gone out of business store Yesterday and Today store in North Portland. There’s a stoic feel from Mary’s grace as she half grins and bears her plight facing eventual engulfment from rouge foliage in this side yard.

Keep Calm And Mary On

Ready for Palm Sunday.

This blue cloaked clad Mary popped out of a Kenton neighborhood yard. Her expression reads pure chill while her attitude offers a blunt reminder that any and all interlopers, stragglers and wayward souls should make all attempts to embrace solemnity as well.

Porch Plopped

Porch perch.

Mary has earned the right to be respected. While she winds up being yard decoration, there’s a need for her to be honored as a focal point to a design scheme. What I came across was disheartening. This Mary display was too unceremonious. To leave her on a doorstep hanging out with a random Francis or possibly Joseph seems like sacrilege. It’s a different story if she’s meant to ward off possible porch pirates. Here’s hoping Mary has the power to make someone think twice about committing theft.

Okay With Angels

All in this together.

I know, I know, Mary doesn’t do wings, but that doesn’t stop her from hanging out with winged sculptures. It was obvious that she was comfortable when I came upon this scene in the Mississippi neighborhood. This display works. There’s lightning, a flower and a pair of angels. It all comes together to make this crown wearing Mary appear even more regal. It’s a setting that has her so blissed out as to not be bother by a few weeds.

Altared Reality

Keep it glowing Mary!

Going through my photo archive, I discovered a Mary doing actual duty as part of an altar set up on a stump left from a house demolition and tree clear cut that transpired in the Woodlawn neighborhood a few years ago. The situation created ill will with the area residents and it seemed like someone thought Mary might be able offer some solace.

Wing Over Portland

Wings, but no Mary.

Garden angel.

I was initially fooled because these statues, seen in North and Northeast Portland, were roughly the same size as the other Marys I’d spotted. Maybe I didn’t want my Hunt for Mary efforts to be wasted. Mary is an angelic presence but in the end I shouldn’t be confusing myself or anyone else with fruitless debates. Instead I’ll lead you out with angels. Peace and good thoughts to all you Mothers out there.

# # # 


Will Simmons has a whole Mary/Mother’s day tribute on his site:

The Mother of All Mothers! A Mother’s Day Mary Super Round-Up