When It All Literally Goes Down The Toilet


You never think you’d find yourself looking at pictures of toilets, but it’s happening. I looked through thousands of photos to find these images. Bringing the world toilet pictures became a second job, one for which I am not paid handsomely. “Never for money/always for love,” David Byrne sang.


It dawned on me that Toilet Art, in this case mostly Toilet Yard Art, is rarer than I thought. I would have sworn that through the years of working on this blog I saw many toilets hanging around in people’s yards. And you know every time I saw one I stopped what I was doing and took a picture.(1) I was hoping for more toilets in my photo archive.

This blog offers something you’ll never see anywhere else. All we can do now is appreciate these toilets captured in their outside, unnatural habitat. They’re a bit tacky but they provide a unique design element to people’s landscaping schemes.


A house in Kenton had great flair for yard decoration. New installations were rotated in keeping my dog walks interesting. The house has showcased paper mache art on the porch, an explosion of Barbie dolls in a kiddie pool filled with dirt and the toilet above serving as a plant holder with industrial tape keeping it all together.


In Northeast, a toilet makes a subtle splash adding character to a front yard. The plant emerges as a classy asset and compliments the greenery of the ferns in the yard. There’s no doubt a toilet bowl makes a great planter.


A free toilet on a Northeast street is a sight that would have Marcel Duchamp rolling in his grave. As I recall his ambition would have been to put a price tag on a urinal or have it displayed in an art show and yet here is someone giving away this toilet. The real story that I read on Wikipedia is even stranger with a replica of Duchamp’s original work titled “Fountain” selling for over a million dollars. Sigh. Getting rid of junk plumbing and marketing art are two completely different concepts. You have to admit a sign with three smiling faces and no money down makes a good sales pitch. You’re not flushing your money away on this baby.

In the archive, I was hoping to find more abandoned toilets fashioned into yard art. I was hoping to uncover a movement. Decorative Lawn Toilets proved to be scarce. There always was a certain joy along with a twinge of disgust in seeing a toilet in an unfamiliar scenario, namely not in a bathroom. I did discover some toilet pictures. When I wrote about the art car nicknamed the Space Taxi a boy at the decorating party we went to made a point of showing me the toilet glued to the car. As I zipped though photos deciding what to keep or delete this forgotten image caught my eye. It counts as a toilet and it’s arty too. In my world, that’s an exciting discovery.


Then there’s toilet art that turns out to be art above the toilet. I placed this painting above the toilet at our old place as a visual joke never realizing it would come back to haunt me when I needed it for this post. The joke has something to do with males having to take care of a certain business in front of a pair of eyes. The current toilet is a similar situation. At least in this case displaying art in this way wasn’t my idea but it has the same effect.



(1) “And you know every time I saw one I stopped what I was doing and took a picture.” Mrs. Yuchmow this sentence was crying out to start with the word “and.” I know you taught your students, for which I was never one of them, that “and” isn’t a great way to start a sentence, but like I said, in this case the sentence was actually crying and I thought using that word in that way would end the tears.


The Stone Cats of Orchard Hill

The suburbs are scary. I knew that going into our recent move, but as I’ve become reacquainted with a more suburban way of life, I’ve tuned into feelings of orderly desolation and alienation. No one seems to know or want to know their neighbors. It’s sad when human connection becomes bothersome. Walking down empty streets, minus an occasional passing car, I considered this notion of not wanting to bother anyone while trying to solve a mystery.

I had come to the streets of Orchid Hill looking for three cement cats I’d spotted on a “forced march” in the month of March. This walk, being recreational and practical, centered around a stop at the grocery store. Walking up Orchid Hill Way and Place, I spotted a trio of stone cats on brick mail boxes. We had stumbled on a street of cat enthusiasts. It still might not have even been interesting enough for a Portland Orbit post but one of the cat topped mail boxes stood in front of a yard full of cat figurines. Through the randomness of it all a pattern emerged. Neighbors found a way to express cat love and for a brief moment, with three families participating, a contagion almost became an outbreak. Then, it stopped. I was on a mission of curiosity to get answers. At the very least I’d be able to marvel at some neighbor’s shared celebration of cement cats.

For the Portland Orbit three of anything is enough for the makings of a blog post. It surely is as much a nod to cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller’s rule of the threes–always three rocks in the background of the Nancy cartoons, or none at all. Two of anything, that’s a couple, not as dynamic, adding a third always makes things interesting. When we’re talking cement cats perched on large brick mailboxes the interest also lies in what may have inspired this group effort.

My timing proved impeccable. As I wandered by one of the mail boxes the homeowner stepped out to check the mail. The man was willing to consider my question of why there were a trio of cat mailboxes in the neighborhood.

“I don’t know if we copied them or they copied us,” he responded. From the looks of it, the cats had been around for long time, long enough for anyone’s memory to remain foggy about their origins. The man paused to consider the unkempt nature of his cat statue which reflected his own grizzled state. “Maybe that can be for spring cleaning,” I offered. I asked him if he knew the other neighbors with cement cats but was told, “We don’t know the neighbors very well.”

Of course I missed the operative question but the man seemed to be in a rush to get his mail and get back inside. I’m sure a question about cat ownership would have been affirmed. I don’t know what cat lovers look like but it seemed like he must have had a live cat living at the house with a cement cat topped mailbox at some point. Since I was granted permission, I took photos and headed off to find the next cat.

Cat figurines dotting a meticulously mulched yard proved fascinating in the considering of the lore of the home being a mythical, or real!, cat lady residence. Not one to barge up to a front door blaring with No Solicitation signs, my Orbit exclusive had to happen in a more stealthy way. This catscaped yard was tasteful and subdued. Partnered with the cement mail box topper which may work better in a pet cemetery, the “catphilia” was genuinely felt. The only thing missing were actual cats roaming the premises.

The third cat portrayed a kind of proud puma look. Lying in repose, possibly painted blue at some point, the cat demonstrates a certain long-tailed swagger even while lying in wait for the mail person. Dogs on mail boxes would prove too aggressive or threatening to mail people. This cat has the right attitude. Chill for the bill.

Never one to have experienced cat fever, I got a sense of it from my excursion to Orchid Hill. My fevers have taken across many lands. These examples of cement sculpture are as entrancing and mysterious as any I’ve encountered, a far cry from the empty bird baths I encountered a couple of summers ago. In this case cement held these cats captive in a nap, a frolic with a ball, a contented smile and time.



Gnome Alone: Going Solo in Gnome City USA

Is Portland worthy of the title Gnome City USA? I think so. Where do we rank? #1 for sure! There are plenty of Gnomes around but does Portland have more Gnomes than any where else? I’d say absolutely with certainty but given that I imagine few people really care I’m going to go about the business of presenting to Portland, and the world, a few thoughts about these local gnomes.

Lately it’s been more questions than I can really answer. I’m more driven just to spread the gospel of Portland being a city crawling with this type of garden decor. Everyone gnomes it. This lawn and garden art is everywhere. All bad puns aside it feels like there are at least 2 to 3 per capita, but I’m not sure I can muster the jargon for correct statistical analysis so I’m ready to move on to other concerns involved with gnome ownership. Then again presenting facts while making no effort to back them up means the Portland Orbit is more in line with trying to make it onto President Trump’s list of fake news organizations.

What’s really important is making people aware of how crucial picking the right Gnome is when making the effort to decorate your yard. This could be is the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life. Deliberate, choose wisely, deliberate some more. One you decide there’s no going back. In cases of buyer’s remorse it’s important to point out that Gnomes hate being replaced or returned to the store. Their special powers will have them stopping at nothing in the event of such scorn. An indecisive yard decorator risks being beset upon by a plague of crabgrass, an army of moles or worse. Don’t test their powers. Behind these docile statues lie a vindictive warrior.

Weathered But Not Beaten

Weatherbeaten Gnomes, like this one in SW Portland, can still get the job done. In fact they’re more interesting to look at than brand spanking new Gnomes. Besides no one has any clue about the proper way to dispose of a Gnome until they crumble and fall apart for good.

Geographical Showdown

North Montana Avenue in the North Portland neighborhood of Arbor Lodge seems to inspire a contagion of Gnome displays. It’s hard to tell if it was coincidental or competitive. The Gnomes have spare time to pursue fancy hobbies like bug collecting and riding while wiling away the hours performing their display duties.

Super Sized

Instead of three or four gnomes why not an extra-large Gnome that’s about the size of three or four Gnomes. This intimidating sized Gnome can do double duty guarding your garden as well as your front door.

Pick a Side Gnome

Gnomes don’t generally pay attention to sports and they’re certainly not dedicated followers of fashion but people can’t resist forcing their Gnomes, like this one spotted in the Kenton neighborhood, to pick a side and show team spirit accordingly. All in a day’s work for any Gnome.

Fishing in North Portland

Again in more of an inspired moment of yard decor it’s nice to consider what you can make a Gnome do. Fishing in a garden is something no one but a Gnome would attempt yet a yard decorator with a sense of humor or a love of fishing can force a Gnome to hold a fish bearing fishing pole and tend to squash plants at the same time.

Home Gnome

Possibly foisted upon us by the proprietor at Kenton Antiques (thanks Mo!), I grew to love the strange Gnome who came to live in our backyard. Even at his final resting place (the side yard), the Gnome seems to weather any weather without losing a smile or getting a bad attitude.

Ghosting the Blogosphere: A Not Too Scary Halloween Spooktacular

I can’t get enough homemade Halloween decorations and ghoulish scenes that pop up this time of year. There’s no need for over-the-top special effects. It doesn’t take much to delight me. I appreciate any effort. Where there was nothing but lawn, a cemetery arrives. Ghosts sway while skeletons roam the usually dull streets. It’s a nice diversion.

At least one of these ghosts is friendly.

Blow up decorations may seem tacky or lazy. They’re not homemade but they add pizzaz to any holiday decor. Ghosts that appear overly friendly prove there’s not much to be afraid of in late afternoon sunshine.

Mom and egg are doing fine.

What’s scarier than a dragon? The easy answer is a mother dragon guarding her egg. I might have considered seizing that egg to make a giant omelette while somehow avoiding being scooped up and dropped into the nearest volcano. There’s something about that egg being just the right detail. It terrifies me to consider Dragon-Mom rage and it reminds me of where dragons come from.

dragons & pirates

Set sail for Dragon Island.

Pair the mother-of-all dragons with a ship full of pirate skeletons spotted in Arbor Lodge and you have the beginnings of quite a tale that might eventually involve an omelette feast. The homeowner assured me it was even better at night and recommended that I bring some kids by.

Crash through the cemetery gates.

Someone out there should be protesting outside cemeteries to stop Halloween from giving them such a bad rap. They’re supposed to be places of peaceful, eternal rest not cobweb ridden terror terrariums. Halloween brings out misnomers but front yard cemeteries do add the right amount of seasonal creepiness. We can only hope this scene spotted in Kenton contains the remains of political canvassers and door-to-door magazine salespeople.

Fear strikes the heart.

In southwest Portland, I spotted such creepy decor that I was afraid to get too close. It didn’t help that there was someone, seemingly oblivious to the carnage outside the window, watching daytime television inside the house. Take a red cloaked skeleton and combine it with a snake chasing a rat around a clavicle and my chills start feeling attacked by my heebee-jeebees.

Bones hanging with bones.

Some neighbors go out-of-the-way to create an environment like this one spotted in the Kenton neighborhood. It may not make sense but that ups the scare ante. There’s a cemetery, decorations stuck to a wall and a scene featuring the proper burial of a Wicked Witch. These scattered ideas combine to form an unsettling tableaux.

Hang it on the wall like a moose head.

Buried witch grows skeletal head.


Ghosts join leaves.

Ghosts in trees, like autumn leaves are a joy at Halloween. Between the rustling and the low level ghost moans it’s not the Season of the Witch without a sighting like this. These ghost folks showed up in my new SW neighborhood to welcome me.

If you need more Halloween decor check out this Pittsburgh Orbit post on the folk art creations of Gary Thunberg:


Or see our past Halloween posts:



Post Script:  I know few are wondering but I pulled a disappearing act this October only being able to surface at the beginning and end of this month. I spent a good part of the month moving from north Portland to southwest Portland. I may be entering a bit of an Obi-Wan crazy hermit phase, only time will tell. The move took me away from my usual existence involving stuff like blogging and other forms of social media but I hope to get the Portland Orbit back on a semi regular publishing schedule next month.

Yard d’Art

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

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

Easter Hat


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

Kitten Kabuddha


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

Headless Lambs


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

Duck and Cover

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

Unsuspecting Snow White

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

Stoned Unicorn

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

Dalmation Stationed

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


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

Keep Yards Weird


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



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

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

Simply Keith


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

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

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

Halloween Spooktacular: Spiders and Ants

Antique pumpkin equals old and scary.

Antique pumpkin equals old and scary.

Initial notes for this post had me jotting down words like “spiders” and “ants.” Is that Halloween enough for the Portland Orbit? Probably not, unless they are giant, made of papier-mâché and set up in someone’s yard or radioactive. I can’t resist a forum for sounding off about insects, though. They have invaded our home. The spiders claim their territory in the backyard. Things were heading over the top when we saw a bird we could have sworn was going to get caught in a web on the roof of the garage. The bird didn’t snack on the spider and vice versa but the drama that unfolded for a minute and imagining what was going to happen became a fascinating live action nature show.

Less scary when they cuddle plants.

Less scary when they cuddle plants

All who wander aren't lost. Get lost!

All who wander aren’t lost. Get lost!

Ants are another story. My future comedy routine will feature material on ants but now all I can say is that they’re freeloading morons. I mean ants, really? You want to crawl around our bathroom sink and eat toothpaste? Ant flavored toothpaste is never going to be a thing.

But is Halloween really about insects? Ghosts and goblins are fine but ultimately I’m not in the mood. My pre-Halloween horrors include soggy socks and a long bus ride with a dripping nose and no Kleenex. Make a haunted house scenario about that!

Porch Attack

When porches attack.

When porches attack

Neighbors never fail year after year. This home has created something completely different from the year before. Would I have concerns about being eaten by a porch? This display has me considering that possibility.

Web Central

Web screen.

Web screen induces screams.

Scary scene, indeed.

Scary scene, indeed.

I don’t suffer from arachnophobia but walking through webs is an icky sensation followed closely by the thought of a spider heading for my face after I’ve invaded her turf. Cobwebs are a staple of Halloween decorating. Web walls conjure up thoughts of a thousand spiders. Throw in a skeleton and I’m keeping my distance.

Hot Corner

Zoombie crossing.

Zombie Crossing

Who benefits when next door neighbors throw it down with over the top Halloween decorations? The kids who have to brave these strange scenarios to get treats and onlooking neighbors, that’s who.

Probably not getting married.

Probably not getting married.

Ther are some zombies on one porch and a Beetlejuice looking Gent hanging with a woman holding her own head on the next. It has potential for at least a few scares this Halloween.

The Eyes Have It

Eyes see me.

Eyes see.

The thought of eyes staring out at passersby is certainly creepy, but when the eyes are Cookie Monster in nature they appear more comical than frightening.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

The Smiling Tree



There is little that can be said about the Smiling Tree. You could get indignant as I have in the past about how wrong it is to mix the unnatural components of spray paint with the natural elements of a living plant but the limb shorning of this tree left behind circular remnants outlining what had to be excellent potential for face portrayal. How could anyone resist the opportunity to give this tree some personality? These faces became fully realized by the addition of eyes and mouths in lines of spray paint.


In the past, I have been driven to the brink of a Euell Gibbon’s kind of colossal, aneuryistic freak out by people’s decisions to tag trees or vandalize them in other ways. Not that old Euell, known to me for his “Did you ever eat a pine tree?” quote in a Grape Nuts commercial from the 70’s, was know for his freak outs about anything but he did seem especially passionate about nature. For me to consider that kind of melt down. . . well, I must love trees too much.


Then there’s another nature lover to consider by the name of Joyce Kilmer who wrote in his greatest poem (pause here while I look it up).  Oh yeah.  He waxed poetic about seeing a tree as lovely as a poem before going off to war and leaving his five kids in the lurch. There is beauty in lovely trees but it’s all for naught when someone throws paint on them, unless they do it in a kind, subtle and fun way.


How can you not return a smile to the smiling tree? You’ll find it facing North Delaware Avenue beyond Kenton Park. I can live with the paint on that tree. A smiling tree seems like a friendlier tree. It’s welcoming and happy. So I look at the addition of these markings as a detail that brings an otherwise regular tree a dash of character.

Unsmiling Trees

Having contemplated tree vandalism lately, I thought I’d drum up two examples. I’m on the fence, I’d say.  After singing the praises of the Smiling Tree, I saw a tree with certain anomalies that might benefit from vandalism. I wish the 11th Commandment, preserved in stone for all humanity to obey for all time, read, “LEAVE TREES ALONE.” Then again, with that 11th commandment, this blog post might not exist.


A tree in my neighborhood has a hole in it that seems to be filled with cement or maybe it’s  a heart shaped bad spot that had been crying out for paint. I’m no arborist, that’s for sure. Initially I thought someone had taken the opportunity to immortalize their love for someone else. I could have sworn there had been a plus sign between the B and the D. Without having done the research (walking down the street), I was speculating the profession of love from B to D was also a side-armed tribute to Kilmer and his love of trees. Catching myself, I remembered no one gives two bleeps about Joyce and his tree poem these days. I had to spend a few years working at a middle school named for him to become interested enough to delve into his legacy. The tree was a place to broadcast affection or really, in this case, a place to immortalize a pair of initials. Kilmer told the world about his love of trees through poetry, and B told us about B and D or D told us of B or BD told of him or herself. Like poetry, it is open to interpretation. So let me get wishy-washy and not stand firm here (or there) by saying most tree vandalism is mostly wrong. Also, it may be better to write poems about trees than to write on, carve, or spray paint them.



Does a Bear Get Nailed to a Tree?


What do you do if you have the perfect piece of decorative bear art and no place to put it? There is no reason not to nail it to a tree. The bear is rugged and vibrant despite the nail in her underarm. I’m going to go out on a limb (there has to be a goddamned tree pun) and say that if people feel the need to decorate trees, I can’t see a nail hurting too much. Also, if someone considers decorating a tree, hanging an item featuring nature really does work as exterior decorating.


Toyz in the Hood

When a certain bleakness creeps in under gray skies, I take every opportunity to consider some of the sights I’ve seen and captured digitally this summer. These are the kinds of things that might cheer me up through the long, dull rainy season that appears to be bearing down on us after a couple of dry months. These objects usually involve the stuff I like in the form of shiny, junky plastic which happens to be the material of toys. I’ve concerned myself over the past couple of years with rooting out marginal expressions of creativity. Looking around and noticing random displays of toys in my neighborhood, in tree hollows, yards and on cars, has allowed me to find a way to break up the monotony of my neighborhood surroundings.

Pet Rocks

Wiggle eyes bring rocks to life.

Wiggle eyes bring rocks to life.

These plastic eyed rocks caught my eye and had me keeping both my eyes peeled for additional North Portland toy scene arrangements. Tucked against a fence, these rocks resemble a hard luck doll. Without handdrawn mouths, it’s hard to gauge their moods but it’s quite the realization to discover that wiggle eyes can bring something as hard, cold and lifeless as a rock, to life.

A Scary Bit


Hood surfing--all the rage in North Portland.

Hood surfing–all the rage in North Portland.

This creature could inspire the beginnings of a future, full blown, art car decoration theme. In his current barren state, he remains  twisted and scary. The ratty tape job seems to be keeping this gizmo standing and fastened to the hood. You have to respect its willingness to go a long for the ride enduring mile after mile of forced hood surfing.

Bridging the Gap

This falls could use some water.

This fall could use some water.

This fountain or maybe it’s a rain catcher is the center piece of a scene that reminds me of Multnomah Falls. I appreciated seeing the bridge brought to life with a family of Playmobil characters. A bit of water would complete the scene but we don’t get much rain in the summer. Everything about this scenario is accentuated by well done design elements like the moss on the rocks, the plantings, the partially hidden Berenstain Bear character and the wire holding the toys in place.

The scenery might be behind you.

The scenery might be behind you.


Cool Party

The crazy, wild, dirt pool party scene rages in Kenton.

A crazy, dirt pool party scene raged.

This looks like a depiction of the kind of pool party that was better than any pool party anyone attended this summer or any other summer, with its dirt substituting for water, a pink pony, and beautiful people in varying states of undress dancing crazy in a bamboo forest.

Detail from the coolest party mourned by the uninvited.

Detail from a cool party.

This scene appeared in a Kenton neighbor’s yard and has continued to deteriorate as some of the party stragglers refuse to go home.


When the party’s over…


Oakmore Condos

Move in ready for relocating Gnomes.

Move in ready for relocating Gnomes.

A few toadstools and/or colorful mushrooms and a miniature door made me think that this tree,  in the Alberta neighborhood, has been turned into a Gnome condo. Gnomes may well have the ability and willingness to pay the outlandish prices for one bedroom condos.

Main entrance to the miniature Gnome condo.

Detail: Main entrance to the miniature Gnome condo.


Bull Donkey

Cheer up lost toy on the side of I-5.

Cheer up lost toy.

It finally occurred to me that instead of taking every misplaced toy home I can take a picture. Somewhere along the way  this angry bull found himself on the side of I-5 without even a thumb to do some hitchhiking so he could get out of town.

Hanging in the Hollow

Curb side living at Gnome hollow!

Curb side living at Gnome hollow!

The story of the discovery of toys tucked away in the hollow of a Kenton neighborhood tree (see the ping back in the comments section) straightened me out about the differences between Trolls and Gnomes. It’s nice to have expert readers who are willing to set me straight in a nice way. We continue to keep up to date with the latest additions to the tree scene and it’s ever changing cast of characters.

Hanging in the hollow.

Hanging in the hollow.


To see a video report on this blog post click here: https://youtu.be/MTni0JKVWqc

Go Fourth!

Sure the Fourth of July is all about picnics, fireworks and probably American beer but we can’t forget the decorations found around town.

This tradition was started by our cross country rival publication the Pittsburgh Orbit and has inspired a need to showcase displays of patriotism in the Portland area as well.


I saw this display around 15th and Broadway in NE. It doesn’t explain itself but it makes good use of it’s window design, construction paper elements and symmetry to create an appealing, eye catching, festival of patriotism.


This is a good example of an interior flag decals. Others I’ve seen are faded and peeling off. If this doesn’t make you put your hand over your heart and mumble the Pledge of Allegiance, I don’t know what will.

USA Cart

At the tail end of my own shopping cart hysteria, I discovered this mobile can and bottle collecting vehicle chained to a sign at the end of our street. Its decor shouts undeniable patriotic fervor.



Flag waving sentiments were found within a backdrop of pole art when a cloth flag was affixed to a utility pole in North Portland. This banner may not yet wave like the song says but it does make for a grungy addition of American spirit to an old pole.


I like inflatable decorations of any kind, type or holiday so this Uncle Sam bear cub was destined to catch my eye and camera lens. The bear looks great in patriotic plastic. Here’s hoping he can dodge drifting fireworks sparks.


Faded glory for sure but this one harkens back to the days when we were all proud to be an America back when Lee Greenwood was haunting many a concert stage. While the stripes have long since faded on the flag, the bumper sticker offers up a historical record of there having been yet another barber shop in Kenton.


Having made it to the Vernonia Friendship Jamboree on a bike camping trip last summer, I saw this banner decoration attached to a sale sign. Stars and stripes are never a bad way to increase traffic to whatever kind of sale you wish to advertise.

See also: https://pittsburghorbit.wordpress.com/2016/07/04/flag-post-a-very-orbit-independence-day-2016/


Mattress Battle

Box Spring 1

Spring hasn’t even sprung yet.

It happened one morning on my bike commute to work. I noticed what seemed like a random thing that didn’t make sense. I rode past a mattress and a box spring dumped on the side of the road. Then, not too much further down the road, I saw another mattress. I was in a hurry or I would have taken pictures because the mattresses were out of place. They weren’t in front of houses but had been tossed on the side of the street. Sure, mattresses are a challenging disposal nuisance. Then again, it seems like it would be a difficult job for a lone mattress assassin to dispose of a mattress on the side of the road. So why doesn’t one of the two people dragging the mattress around cave and admit that there might be a better way to get rid of bed junk.

torn matress

Worse than bed head.

After work I rode home and spotted a mattress sitting on top of a fire hydrant while leaning against a street sign. It had me thinking that the day could have been set aside for a city-wide mattress pick up.  I went to look for the other  mattresses I had seen in the morning to take pictures with visions of such exotic trash in the grass becoming high-art. They were gone. Some time during the day the offending slumber pads had been cleaned up. I was shocked. I headed over to a dump site that has sprung up in the vicinity of the Kenton neighborhood where I had seen a heap of mattresses and box springs. It seemed like someone may have gathered up the cast off mattresses and added them to the pile in the empty parking lot that is now full of  disposed tires, a TV set, and family room furniture.

 mattress 2

A mattress sandwich. Almost!

That morning the mattresses had seemed like collateral damage from a mattress battle. Sad, sick and bleeding–dead mattresses were now looking sadder still. I initially thought of this piece as a rumination on the idea of what to do with stuff and how to get rid of it when the time comes. It’s really not that difficult given that our crack investigative team got off their duff and did some internet research that found a quick solution. Last night I drove passed a mattress propped up against a tree while coming back from the Roseway Theater. I fought off the compulsion to stop the car and take pictures. It struck me that dragging anything to the curb and making it someone else’s problem or high-art daydream is no disposal solution. The Orbit investigation revealed that mattress disposal doesn’t hit the wallet too hard. The job can be done for $20 per mattress and another 20 for a boxspring and I’m even guessing that these folks don’t discard the picks-ups in an empty lot dump site but even if they do, you have to pay to have someone do your dirty work. In the end, empty parking lots seem like the sneakiest and cheapest way to go. There’s a link above for a mattress recycling company, it’s a plug for them because I consider this piece a public service announcement. It will all be worth it if I can keep even one mattress off the streets.

dump site 2

This place is a dump!