2019 Year in Review: The Year of the Toothless Mermaid

Note: The layout on this post went completely klapooey–some of the photos were unwilling to be centered. That maybe one reason readers stayed away in droves. I really like this piece as a year end review so I tried to fix it to little avail.


“When failure’s got you in its grasp.
And you’re reaching for your very last.
It’s just beginning.”

–David Berman

What a year! Why? Who knows? Each year seems crazier than the last. Was it better or worse than any other? How can you tell? It was living in all its clawing, spewing and hand stabbing glory. Here I sit stitches in hand scrawling the initial efforts of my year-in-review summation. The stitches resulted from an unfortunate kitchen utensil accident, nothing to laugh at and nothing to prevent me from scribbling some lines. Above all it’s been a year of considering the mission to keep bringing the world observations from my skewed vision. In summary, I decided to reflect on three stories that stuck in my craw. The year ended with my attempts to tell a story that put a direct spotlight on my scattershot mind. Those teeth! I rediscovered more intricate details concerning the visual overload I experienced at the Mermaid parade and I also wanted to revisit the explosion of birdbath yard art I wrote about in NE Portland.

The Hits:  Transmermaidions


Hidden behind photos of mermaid parade participants bursting with costume details exploding in color, fabric and under the sea energy were scenes of mystery and glamor that appeared with the aid of photo manipulation changing from color to black and white and cropping the photographs to add a whole other dimension.



Beyond the bridge.



Kid interview.

The Sleepers:  Bird Bathing in Yard Art


Hold that jug.


The minutiae of this display was the thing that has always inspired me. The languishing decorations reveal new details upon each viewing while the mystery of who’s behind it remains in tact to this date. In other words, it’s an oasis of yard art run amok that I have a full appreciation for it all from the Grandma shades on the windows, to the angel, frog and other assorted cement figurines, to the enigmatic smile that graces the face of the jug holding girl in the picture above, it all comes together, not really, yet so neatly, in one yard.


How do you spell squirrel?

The Misses:  Lost Teeth Found?


Street of teeth!

What started as something that seemed easy to write about got complicated. It took three posts to uncover the tip of an iceberg sized mystery. Still what a legend when you consider the unknown specifics of how it started and the evidence that still might exist if one were to look harder. Above is the neighborhood tucked away between the Naito Parkway and I-5 where SW Arthur meets SW Water Street. Below is a contribution to a Reddit discussion. I lost track of this passage. It would have helped after I borrowed this book from the library and I couldn’t find a denture reference after searching in vain. This may yet lead to another denture discovery.


Misplaced research!

Inspirational and noteworthy:

Queen City Discovery

Here’s your chance to visit Ohio and surrounding areas to look at great photos of aging buildings. If you like seeing images of small town business districts this is the site for you.


Love and Saucers

The movie, available on Amazon Prime, was slow moving until it dawned on me that the Alien encounters that seemed plausible could also have been fabricated. In the end it didn’t matter. The movie’s main character was unassuming and believable. The movie brought back fond memories of attending oddball art shows.


Dead Mall Stories

Worried about current mall culture? I know, you’re too cool for that. Someone is out there documenting the casualties of our changing times. I noticed entries that are out of date but it may be worth a look around.


Self-Entertainment: The Only Year-End-Review You’ll Ever Need

How can be was.

While working on a recent blog post, a feeling of satisfaction and pure joy came over me. Was it a phrase I’d created, a well constructed sentence, an idea that hit me in support of my main idea? I don’t remember but it felt good and made me realize if nothing else, I had the ability to entertain myself. It doesn’t matter who or how many would read what I was writing. The numbers are fascinating but more importantly I was enjoying myself exploring this new world of self-entertainment. It’s something like a selfie maybe, a bit self-indulgent but creating something that, at the very least, entertains me. That’s about as much as I can hope for at this point.

By now the 2018 year end review has been done to death. It’s been list after list of people who died, news events, categories for best music and films, even weather events. Yet my list is the only necessary list. It’s been streamlined to subjects that deserve additional perspective.

Personality Non-Crisis

On the Wall of Fame

This year I got to know a bit more about a couple of Portland legends, in my mind anyway, that I had long wondered about. Both people worked with kids in a way. Evelyn Collins took care of kids in day care programs in a bygone era and had a passing resemblance to Mrs. Doubtfire while David “How Can Be” Chow has provided bar space for kids to sing karaoke. Rich Reece tipped me off to what inspired Chow’s advertising strategy and I became enthralled with the exploits of a third personality, Scott Thomason, especially the commercials he ran for his car business.

Stuck on Stickers

Goo Who?

What has keep me inspired about sticker culture specifically Skullz and the Goo Goo design is the never ending variety of the images and their placement. Sure they can be a nuisance but they add color and a bit of whimsy to places that need it like the backs of street “signz.” Besides it’s less polluting and more concentrated than other types of graffiti.

Skull Drudgery

Mysterious Pole Attachment

Rewarding Pole Art

Noticing this phenomenon and these objects replicating again and again in my neighborhood mystified me. Over-analyzing the situation and providing the public with a breaking news report provided no answers. But, what a mystery! This art form offers a subtle, streamlined design whose enigmatic meaning inspires debates. Then I began to notice so many of these objects—all over town. They’re simple, yet made out of common household items with an oddity factor and concept that should have me scratching my head well into 2019.

Still Antsy

I still feel like I’m trying to sort out some deep seeded feelings about graffiti every time I explore this topic.  I don’t know if I should analyze it, ignore it, appreciate it, come to terms with it or hate it? But this year I made an effort to seek out opinions and see through the eyes of others, not that this made my thoughts any less muddled, but this antithesis of art and street culture has me continuing my search for understanding.

Multiplying Rabbit Posts

Factory horizon

Rabbit Hill perplexed me. My initial post was lacking. It wouldn’t be hard to reach out to the Rabbit Hill folks for some background. There’s also an area organization called Rabbit Advocates who could shed light on the rabbit dumping phenomenon. Visiting the place with my head full of legend fueled expectations. The area had a mysterious vibe along with autonomous zone potential. It merits more answers from me, the one person interested enough to ask questions.

In Passing

No sooner was I making plans to move to SW Portland than two fixtures of Barbur Boulevard closed. Humdinger’s seemed like a family owned neighborhood burger joint on a busy road. It was decorated in bright primary colors. I can’t say anything about the food but I always considered the hamburger special and the smoothies but then I kept driving anyway.

My thoughts on these two closed restaurants revolves around my imaginings of what went on there. That’s not hard when you have the basic concept of a restaurant down. I never made the time or was willing to spend the money to experience these places. I was focused on getting home. I was told the Golden Touch had cool old school booths and that it was a haven for Lewis and Clark students. I constantly have to correct myself thinking the place was called The Golden Spoon. It was sad to see these institutions close this year. As 2018 itself has come to a close, let’s hope the new year is good for us all.

Begin the New Year Wallowing in What Happened Last Year: A Portland Orbit 2017 Year in Review

Total Eclipse of the heart. Yea, yea.

It was nice to have time during the summer, as brief as it was, to stare at the sun and tour the city by bike with an out-of-town guest. Then it was back to no time between work and pet care. Writing returned to conditions of duress and the need to be write fast with fury but I was glad to have an outlet to continue exploring my interests.

Why the Year in Review? Most of you are thinking that the Portland Orbit has never attempted such a theme, well, we actually did a lame version in 2015 which mostly featured a Perry Mason update. Mainly this is happening because every other publication in the world resorts to this type of thing. People need stuff to read while lounging around their in-law’s place over the holidays. The Pittsburgh Orbit relishes in excellent year-end reviews (don’t wait until the end of the year to catch up) and I’ve enjoyed reading those posts so it occurred to me that it would be fun to write one of my own. I am getting the sense that I don’t get the format so well. This post has the style of a woebegone Christmas letter.

Free drink included.

I can look back through the pages of the Portland Orbit and see what a crazy and weird year has passed. One discovery was the need to move away from short and generic blog post titles. This year it dawned on me that long, engaging titles, like the one associated with this post, bring in readers. Otherwise, I’m grasping at straws. I never know what’s going to capture people’s attention. For instance, it’s a mystery why two of this year’s most read posts had origins in SW Portland. Still analytics and stats haven’t dictated what I should write about. This leaves me feeling obligated to produce something but free to make it about whatever I choose.

I’ll admit 2017 got off to a slow start writing about resolutions I couldn’t keep, snow days and Salt Lake City. Coming off Christmas break is always tough. After that I got back to highlighting artisanal bike racks and the messages people scrawl on their cars. It was great to be able to honor Buddy Holly on the anniversary of his death. My neighborhood has a low-key, unofficial Buddy Holly memorial.

Superman vs Nuclear Holocaust

I can’t over estimate the importance of hitting the streets where the action is. It prompted wild speculation about the menace of Exotic Defacement, that I saw happening on a light pole down the street. Concrete carousing also had me observing the terrific genre of outside art and polite signs people make in attempts to regulate neighborhood car parking. In March, I focused on mundane activities like eating pie, attending government meetings and musing about the meaning of billboards.

This year the Orbit stumbled onto a device involving multiple posts on a certain theme. The Kingsmen’s cover of “Louie, Louie” had guest columnist Will Simmons extolling the band’s virtues which led to my stumbling around Seaside, Oregon searching for the origin of their inspiration. It also inspired me to interview Stew Dodge about the ‘62 Seaside riot and to visit a little known sound wave sculpture based on the Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie.” The sculpture visit brought me downtown where I noticed the city’s Liberty Bell Replica and a prankster’s sign alteration that opened my eyes to the world of humorous sign additions.

Never tire of tire art!

Spring fever had me contemplating Tire Art, what I thought were creepy SW Portland stairs as well as vintage motel signs. Posting pictures of purple paint jobs hardly seems like the makings of a good blog post but how else can one honor Prince on his birthday? There was something satisfying about spending time considering the two pieces of sculptural work of Carlton Bell on the grounds of a SW Portland office park. I’m still on the hunt for more details about this artist.

Getting ready at the Soap Box.

Goofy stuff can cloud my brain and this year was no exception. I considered, more than most sane people ever would, obsolete signs, antenna toppers and obscure bridges and retaining walls. Of course there was the traditional Fourth of July salute to Old Glory. The summer offered a chance to explore, in depth, topics I was long curious about like the art car known as the “Space Taxi” and the Adult Soapbox Derby. In between I went to the Zine Fair, read signs that dogs could never read and stared directly at the sun in a moment of sheer Eclipse Hysteria.

Hop aboard the Space Taxi.

Great times were had when I got to talk to illustrator Kalah Allen,  report on a reading by rock singer Allen Callaci and interview filmmaker Bryan Hiltner about his film retrospective screening. Somewhere in all that I had a chance to obsess over owls and mourn the loss of a dance club. I spent the rest of the year delving into the sidewalk and tree art of the Foster-Powell neighborhood as well as one of its old buildings and displays of protest in the neighborhood. I also investigated a President Kennedy tribute and another possible tribute on Columbia Blvd. Bloggers don’t always take the  holidays off so I continued my Turkey of St. Johns annual post and I wrote about a toy museum for Christmas Day, which, I’d say, seemed exceptionally timely.

Of course and without further ado, the year ended as I wrote this post and began when I officially published it which has made this year in review piece circular in some strange way. Beginnings and endings have blended together like the years but this year comes with a different number that has the feel of a new world opening up to the discoveries that await.