The Portland Orbit Spooktacular

While the rain, gray skies and doldrums sink in around Portland, it’s great to see Halloween come to life in my neighborhood and others. This is an appreciation, not a contest–participation trophies to all! It lifts my spirits to see the efforts made by others to celebrate the season.


You never see a skeleton with guts. It seems like by the time someone becomes a skeleton their guts are sure to have slithered out and been eaten by a proper Halloween themed rodent. The trick seems to be to angle the skeleton in a coffin, just the right way, to keep the juicy insides intact.

pumpkin head close up

Witch Pumpkin

This poncho wearing pumpkin man reminded me of an old Sonic Youth album cover. Getting close up to this growly guy revealed some well decorated digs. There’s a stairway to pumpkins, gravestones, a swinging ghost and that Skeletor looking dude in the background.. While I have no blue ribbon to offer, I would like to say nicely done!


I appreciate anyone’s attempts at decorating but this one bypassed spooky and drifted into creepy central. There’s something about the body baggage and duct tape that’s too realistic for my blood.

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I’m a sucker for blow up holiday decor. Bonus points for anything that includes motion like something popping out of a present. This mischievous cat struck my fancy. It’s evident that he is seconds from releasing that pumpkin and enjoying a smashing pumpkin party or whatever that secondary Halloween celebration may be called. The good news is that giant jack o’lantern beside him appears quite safe. The cat doesn’t seem to have it in him to trash his pumpkin pal without straining himself.

bandanna witch

Spider webbing was big this year. I saw it all over and it was effective enough to appear to be hiding legions of vicious Halloween spiders. This sinister bird bath arrangement of black roses, mini-crow and curious bandana witch curbed the terror my imagination conjured up about what is lurking in the webs.

ghost hang

Ghosts, too many ghosts, just hanging around, is an eerie sight even in broad daylight. Only seeing the scary scenario in full animation mode created by an autumn breeze could make it more spooky.


When in precise working order these skulls light up and make a  buzzing noise. This is especially disconcerting while on a 6am dog walk, although Max didn’t quite know what to make of it. He also seemed to have little interest in the old bone lying around. Sigh. Expressions of Halloween are a bit wasted on canines.

pumpkin 2

A shout out to my family in Chantilly, VA and Abby in particular because she loves Halloween. It’s a tough call as to whether this is a PG-13.

And here’s a picture for Will from Pittsburgh who was curious about what this blogger looks like. He’s on the left.

pumpkin 1

Again regrets must be expressed for working up a second punny title in a row for this blog. I realize on a deep subconscious level I am making an effort to get the goat of Simmon Wills (the Orbit big boss) who actually loves puns and assumes he has the greatest ability to make them and will only laugh at the one’s he comes up with.

The last two photos courtesy of Ronna Craig! Thanks!

Wildlife of Killingsworth

How wild are things going to get on a street that runs through the campus of a community college? There’s a pho place we like and I’m in awe of the Florida Room with the cryptic messages they leave on their marquee and that one bar, Ducketts Public House, looks like a place for an intense experience. We’re talking a completely different kind of wildlife. It may just be a coincidence and not a homage to any real animals that roam up and down Killingsworth St. because I have never seen any. I noticed a theme of sorts on Killingsworth that has to be more accidental than planned. It first became apparent with  Elk Cleaners & Laundry.

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The business is named for animals that haven’t roamed this part of town for hundreds of years, if they ever did, and has a mural advertising what is now a defunct dry cleaners and laundry operation featuring the portrait of an Elk trophy head.  More evidence of demise is the obscured phone number at the bottom of the sign. I’m glad to see the mural/signage remains.


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On the same block, a mature buck deer graces the sign of the Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern. The sign is a beautiful thing, majestic in it’s animal choice, portraiture and woodsy feel from the background design. How the deer works with the bar known to be a Packer fan hang out, I’m not sure, but it fits in well with the remains of the Elk Cleaners a few steps away.  It does prove that a handsome animal will improve any sign.

My favorite wildlife sighting, and the last one on this tour, remains up the road around 42nd Ave.

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It’s a cement deer with wide antlers and a beat up face that I’ve always appreciated for it’s folk art and outsider art appearance. My assumption had been that the fountain design was made from white shells, but it’s only rocks that look like shells from a distance.

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All the times I drove past the deer’s habitat, I never realized he was posing next to a fountain until I got close enough to take his picture. Sadly it was not operational at the time of my visit.

So there you have many a wildlife tribute on the not so wild street of Killingsworth. Then again it’s not such a dull street. It did have a Minus 5 album named after it.

North Portland Carver’s Camp


In a quiet neighborhood a block away from the bustle of the Interstate Fred Meyer lies something usually found in rural areas of the state. On a gravel pipestem driveway with scraps of trees as a border stand various log sculptures in an array of configurations and stages of completion. A carver’s camp of little know origin has sprung up at the intersection of N. Bryant St. and N. Montana Ave.


A few passes by the site never revealed the carvings creator or whether they’re for sale. A conversation about chainsaws may have been the result of meeting the North Portland carver or perhaps a deeper understanding for the talent and inspiration behind the creation of this art from fireplace logs. The Portland Orbit’s crack investigation team seems more interested in doing crack than investigating something. A knock on the door of the house connected to the driveway may have provided a clue to the identity of the carver but the no trespassing signs may have proved too intimidating to follow this line of questioning.


No matter the welcome sign hung across a particular wood sprite made it easy to spend time looking over the folksy, outdoorsy and crafty sculptures.



This is the kind of thing lovingly made fun of by the Pemco Insurance Company in their insightful profiles of people of the Northwest advertising campaign.



Update: July 22, 2015

As of the last couple of times I’ve ridden by the Carver’s Camp, I’ve noticed it’s been completely dismantled. There is no evidence that it existed. Only a sign that says something about slowing down for children is left. I’ve seen no logs or carvings. I throw this out to let anyone that might want to visit know. The only evidence of the wood carving in the area is a small bear sculpture in front of a house down the street from the camp on Montana Ave.

Mannequin Fever

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Fashionista scarecrow or Goddess mannequin yard art? It was difficult to tell. When I stopped on a misty afternoon to take her picture she gave me her best red carpet frozen pose but refused to answer my queries. She’s got the looks and grace of Taylor Swift dressed up to sign a recording contract extension. I’m not sure what’s propping her up but she stands tall and glamorous braving the elements in a Kenton neighborhood yard.

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This decorative mannequin torso and head with her pants dangling and askew brought out my mannequin fever.  Her head reminded me of a beauty academy practice hair head and I recalled the time a friend found two huge boxes of heads outside an Arlington, Virginia beauty academy.  There were strange heads hanging around for years.

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Mannequin Garden photo by Ronna Craig

Outsider Art Among Us


Political message laden sculpture surround a house on a quiet street. I remembered the location well enough to be able to return to take pictures on a sunny day. There are many things to appreciate about the found object and industrial parts of the sculptures and their anti-corporate themes. The ex-president’s heads floating on the giant mobile and the humorous depiction of Obama riding on a drone, like a nod to Dr. Strangelove, is the exact kind of folk art environment that brings me joy. My eye immediately gravitated to the Richard Nixon’s head on the mobile because years ago I had written lyrics to a song called “Dick Nixon’s Head” and there it was free floating in the sky, easily one of our top five creepiest Presidents, immortalized in the front yard of a North Portland home. Walk on by to see it up close and personal. It’s on North Sumner St between Interstate and Greeley, but closer to Interstate.



Dick Nixon’s Head (far right)



Here’s the link to a “parlor rock” version of the song “Dick Nixon’s Head.” Parlor Rock was a way of recording songs on the spot with improvised or hastily written music parts.

Dick Nixon’s Head was recorded sometime in the 90’s by The Yahoo Skin Band with Mr. Fondle on vocals, guitar and effects, Sal Amoniac on bass and George Willard on the other vocals and guitar. Many thanks to Greg K. for sending the mp3.

Yard Art

Pinwheel yard art

The things I get excited about are out of the ordinary decorations people have in their yards.  It doesn’t take much, just throw a pinwheel on top of your bamboo pole that you’re using as a frame for the netting that supports your pole bean plants. Then maybe top one off with a hand and hang an inviting sign.  These photos were taken on N. Concord.

hand yard art

sign yard art

I’m always on the look out for yard art and would love to talk to people decorating the outside of their houses with a creative flair if anyone has neighbors or friends who are doing this let me know.