Lonnie Holley Keeps Portland Weird

If I say the name Lonnie Holley I wouldn’t blame you if you asked, “Who?” He’s not a household name and he lives in Alabama. I first encountered Lonnie Holley at an appearance in 2014 outside of the old Portland Museum of Modern Art which shared space with Mississippi Records. At that time, I was looking for direction. Lonnie helped me find it. There was something about seeing him that day that inspired me to start this blog. When I saw Lonnie was returning to Portland, it felt like a chance to come full circle. Seeing that Peter Buck was part of a group of people providing musical support was an added bonus. I documented my brief encounter with Peter that first time I saw Lonnie perform solo. I was curious to see what additional musicians could add to Lonnie’s performance style. 

It was interesting and mystifying to find the show was sold out. Lonnie’s not a household name. I can’t remember why I first checked him out. It had to have been the Portland Museum of Modern Art cachet. His recent appearance was a part of the After the End of the World series that had been organized by Mississippi Records. It’s fair to say this was a crowd drawn from the store’s customer base, rabid fans of the obscure, outsider and unusual. People know that Mississippi Records events are always worth checking out.

Peter Buck was wandering through the Hollywood Theatre lobby past the people in line for concessions. I happened to be heading to the bathroom. A half second earlier I would have smacked right into him. As I realized who I was encountering I noticed how tall he was, not super tall, but taller than me. He seemed to be looking at me like I might be somebody but I was just a guy trying to get to the bathroom. It all seemed surreal given my previous encounter with him the last time I saw Lonnie. If I had cornered him I could have at least got a kind of pregame interview going about the game plan for playing with Lonnie. I thought to myself that he probably remembered me from eight years ago as that weird guy who had run at and then by him at another Lonnie Holley appearance. I wasn’t the only one who spotted him in the lobby. I overheard a guy in line mention that the show was bringing out the fanboys.

We were seeing the end of the festival which had involved multiple shows. One included the Sun Ra Arkestra. Lonnie had been picked to end the festival by the main organizer Eric from the record store. He expressed a similar feeling, although one that came from closer contact with Lonnie, about the artist’s charisma offering him a sense of what he should be doing with his life. In his opening comments, Eric talked about the beautiful stream of consciousness Lonnie offers and the courage he has to be himself and create a better world. 

Comments from Matt, a friend of Lonnie’s, followed. When Matt listed some major museums showcasing Lonnie’s art, it dawned on me that he’s a bigger artist than I’d known. Matt set the stage for the performance explaining that it would be made up on the spot. “Lonnie wanted me to point out that like his visual art, his music is created spontaneously so if you’ve heard his critically acclaimed records, none of those songs will be played tonight.” After the laughter died down, Matt went on to say, “As Lonnie says, ‘I’ve already played those songs’.”

Lonnie’s songs begin as bleeps from his Casio keyboard. The song would build around his soulful singing. The only direction given was Lonnie’s mention of which keys he’d be using to start, announcing before each song whether it would be the white keys or black keys. I was surprised to see the musicians sitting down. There would be no scissor kicks from Peter Buck this night. He was partially hidden behind Lonnie and a mic stand obscured his face. I couldn’t tell what he was playing because his guitar was hidden from view. It seemed more drone than atonal so he wasn’t exorcising thirty years of R.E.M. riffs from my brain The group conjured up a bassless dub sound under Lonnie’s thought bursts. The pedal steel player drowned out any guitar sounds. It seemed absurd but Peter Buck was not the star of this show. There’s a humility in showing up to support another performer that made me realize Peter was the ultimate sideman. It was reminiscent of his recent appearance with Eyelids, although he was more center stage playing a pair of songs from his old band. His pal Scott was also there, on keyboard and guitar, adding to their renewed indie cred. Their willingness to show up and play for the love of music was inspiring. 

Lonnie has hours of patter. We heard a lot of it all eight years ago. The subject matter ranges from anti-technology, concerns about the ecology and living more in reality than in the digital realm. I’m not sure what his catch phrase “thumbs up for Mother Universe” really means but it sounds good. I was also mystified when he talked on stage about a three and a half month hospitalization when he’d been hit by a car at age seven. He said he’d come back from being declared brain dead. Mystery cements a legend offering a sense of how far he’s come to be on stage making up songs. 

Eric booked two bands to support Lonnie with the show broken into two sets. This created a dynamic which really showed off Lonnie’s range. The second band, The Tezeta Band, billed as an Ethiopian jazz band, showcased Lonnie’s Marvin Gay/Ecology Song in a blender aesthetic. They got funky and Motownesque. The horn section, bass player, and extra percussion didn’t hurt. Lonnie rose to the occasion, leaping away from the Casio, moved by the music. The Tezeta Band brought a cohesive sound to the proceedings taking the lead that Lonnie was willing to follow. 

If you wonder why I would bring up an artist that’s not from around here or detail a celebrity encounter with someone who probably doesn’t consider himself a celebrity, I can tell you that I really wanted to reflect on Lonnie’s visit and analyze what it all means. Consider Lonnie’s life. He described being the seventh child of a family of twenty-seven kids. That alone tells you he’s a survivor and his art reflects his ability to create his own world that led him to performing with some of my heroes. Even his message, which seemed simplistic with thoughts about being thankful and practicing self care, didn’t seem earth shattering until I thought about the power of the word thankful. It can stop you dead in your tracks. No matter what’s going on it’s nice to consider being glad to be alive. Then, while spending over a half an hour talking to a Comcast technician in the Philippines when I needed help getting our TV remote to work, I started to feel convolutions from not feeding my TV addiction and I thought of Lonnie. Technology has robbed us of real life connections. I’m not sure I needed a 73 year old man to tell me that but his message resonates nonetheless. This isn’t even as powerful as knowing we can all follow our dreams if we’re just a bit more like Lonnie.

Whatever Happened To…Mannequin Fever?

Mannequin fever took me to places I didn’t want to go. I sought a cure but there isn’t one. Mannequins lurk and appear bringing my obsession back, renewing my battle with this fever even in the middle of a never ending pandemic. Mannequin fever is that feeling you get when you see a mannequin in stylish clothes or one outside a store holding a sign and you start shaking inside and you want to go up to it so you can be next to it. Of course your temperature goes up several degrees and you sweat. Mannequins sing a siren song you’re better off resisting.

Once It was liberating and harmless fun, a joke, spot the mannequin, have a laugh. Once there were mannequin scarecrows, mannequins selling cell phones, mannequin fences even. There were gentle razzings from the Pittsburgh Orbit concerning regional mannequin competition. Then a mannequin eluded me causing me to consider my mannequin fever. I noticed this mannequin in the classroom of a charter school where I was substitute teaching. Wearing embroidered disco jeans, he stood to the side of the classroom watching, a silent presence that either inspired or creeped students out. We’ll never know.

If only I hadn’t waited to the absolute last second. I remember the last day of school for that school year, every one trying to clear out and me hanging around, wanting to talk to a teacher already engaged in packing up and talking to someone else. I had time to visit the roof top garden one last time. While waiting, I thought about how I could explain my need to know everything about this class mannequin. I would have name dropped the blog, but how scary would it have been to mention mannequin fever? I would surely have blurted that out. The teacher must have had a funny story about that mannequin. I didn’t get it. The school has since closed. The problem is how to explain my need to write about mannequins. It’s daunting. Maybe on a subconscious level my first encounter with disco pants made it all too weird.

This nonencounter broke my fever. While mannequins are excellent subject matter, they don’t talk, they can’t complain and there’s no interview to schedule, I saw where mannequin fever was taking me: TJ Maxx dressing rooms, mugshots and hysterical laughs from the person doing the finger printing. I imagined a stolen mannequin delivery truck, talking excited, my mannequin copilot sitting uncomfortably next to me and an eruption of mannequin fever. This was an avoidable destiny.

It’s taken forever, but here’s what started this. Walking past the camera shop in Hillsdale, I spotted her in the back part of the store standing with lighting gear. I could see she was a model for testing the equipment. In my video days I worked with an armless and legless version. What more would anyone need to know? She probably has a name but that’s a whole other weird conversation.

There was a point where my mannequin fever raged so hard I thought I needed a separate blog for mannequin stories. In all that was wrong with this idea, I’ve since realized there isn’t much that can be said about mannequins. It’s what I like about them. Before there were complications, mannequin fever had me aspiring to say as much about them as humanly possible but thoughts and theories about mannequins are limited. I’ve offered a couple of mannequin fever war stories and I will always drop everything to run and meet a mannequin but at this point, there’s little left to say about these encounters.

Rally ‘Round The Leaders: It’s Primary Season (Opinion)

The Clutter Of My Mind

May is already “mayhemic” enough without an election primary mixing in with my current life of end of school year madness as Spring continues to burst to life compounding everyday stresses with the sound of loud birds and overpowering flower fragrances. There’s even a lunar eclipse, as I write this, thrown in for good measure. The primary season’s chatter from too many political candidates feels like a wall of sound impossible to ignore–a constant assault by TV ads, texts, social media appearances, radio spots and glossy, probably unrecyclable flyers crowding the mailbox. The good thing: It ends today. Hmmmmm, that phrase that feels like I’m quoting a recent ex-president. On election day I don’t celebrate democracy, I celebrate by counting the hours when it will be too late to tell me who to vote for.

Moving In.

It’s too much blather and never enough concrete information. I suffer under the illusion that somehow all of this works and I’m not talking about voting machines. Being knee deep in flyers, ads and election propaganda has me wondering where this is getting us. So many flyers from Kurt Schrader arrived that I joked on social media that Schrader had moved in with us. This joke went over like a lead balloon, I mean, like, no likes, okay maybe one but it was probably from me. This sad fact left me wondering why Schrader has been trying so hard to be reelected. I wondered about what was behind this nonstop ad campaign. I heard accusations of support from Big Oil and pharmaceutical companies. I’m unsure because I’m not willing to follow my own money, much less that of a political campaign.

Radiologists Approve

In Schrader’s case, I made up my mind that this guy would never get my vote because of his omnipotence. I’ve seen enough. Not even his posing with a puppy in an ad could win me over. I was annoyed to the point of disgust and rage. The over exposure overwhelmed me and yet, I’m naive to think I could have escaped primary season unscathed. I have a short memory but it’s coming back to me with the realization that in previous election years I’ve also been driven mad by too many campaign ads.

Trying to Check Baseball Scores, Oh Hi, Kurt

I was fine with my decision to turn my back on poor Kurt, I even had another candidate in mind, then I saw the first negative ad about this opponent. Doubt creeped in as if someone had hired the old superhero Seed of Doubt Man as part of the politician’s campaign team, I wondered where I might find the truth hidden amongst the hyperbolic assault on the senses. The attack ad used provocative words like “toxic,” “fired” and an insinuation that this person had been a bad boss. This stuck in my craw but because I was voting against Schrader any evil was better than the evil behind the glossy paper flyer overload and having the image of an earnest, animal loving politician shoved deep inside my cerebral cortex.

We suffer from words and what used to be called campaign promises. There’s an old thought that if a politician tells you about the changes they’re going to make, you have to wonder why they haven’t changed anything before. It’s a stalemate and yet, how are we even going to make understanding our political system entertaining enough for us to take an interest? Political ads feel like propaganda films filled with politicians who smile, pay attention to commoners and sit down to drink coffee with potential voters. Heck do any of these politicians know my vote is for sale for a cup of coffee, or two?

The solution is sure to be found in making an effort to seek out candidates. This means reading the voluminous voter guide, which I thumbed through, and making an effort to listen to political debates. I happened to catch candidates from the new 6th District on OPB’s Think Out Loud radio show. I was disappointed to hear that they were squeezing the candidate’s comments between other segments. It felt rushed. How can you put time limits on democracy? A certain candidate stood out to me during the broadcast but the next day, you guessed it, I was accosted by a negative ad that had me second guessing my support. Who do you believe? What does it take to make an educated decision?

Endorse This!

My increasing cynicism makes me wonder who I can trust. The flyers bothered me the most. Words on top of words and all this extra mail and flyers were getting mixed in with my eye care flyer. The flyers kept graphic artists busy for months. Candidates worked on their brands highlighting the letters of their first names in stylish ways while Tina sported a new hairstyle in her campaign photos. Flyers were good for listing the increasingly important endorsements made up of trademarks representing the various groups that endorse the candidates. Making decisions based on endorsements is the lazy person’s way of voting. 

The Science Behind Politics

The Primary Election brought out tons of candidates who at least offered some entertainment. Carrick Flynn has a movie star name but he failed to show up for the Think Out Loud debate and there were murky rumors about who was funding his campaign. Matt West, who’s slogan, “Tax The Rich Save The Planet,” does seem like a joke but it may be a necessary consideration.

A New Car In Every Garage?

I want to vote for Sharia Mayfield for Multnomah County Chair because she personally texted me. Note to other candidates that’s all it takes! I spotted her campaigning in trash ridden homeless camps and giving impassioned speeches while sitting in a rusted out junked car. The easiest candidate to support? A neighbor running for county sheriff. Who wouldn’t feel safer with the Sheriff living in their neighborhood? 

A New Sheriff In The Neighborhood?

The Republican candidates running for Governor seemed to make an attempt at attention grabbing somewhere between used car salespeople and personal injury lawyers. Bob Tiernan squawked about fixing the looting and rioting that has stopped for the most part. His “Results, Not Excuses” slogan sounds good on paper but what happens if he doesn’t get the results he expects.

Ah, Stability!

Dr. Bud Pierce, labeled himself an outsider candidate and ran with the slogan Sane. Secure. Stable. Those are adjectives I could almost get behind but no Governor is offered a sanity test. Stan Pulliam subtitled himself in various ads as either a Conservative Republican or a Republican Fighter. His over the top anti-trans ad doesn’t make me think he has much of a chance against so many other candidates. There were plenty of other options who had interesting ideas about how they’d govern in Oregon but they didn’t have the funding to run TV ads.

If I Don’t Know, Is It Still A Secret?

How does one cut through the words to get to the ideas that offer confidence that candidates could actually make changes. I’m lucky it’s only the primary season. It’s sure to be an interesting fall when it’s time for the real election. I get that readers are scratching their heads when they’re hoping to read about mannequin fever, mail boxes or John Kennedy and I’ll get back to that. I’ve been sidetracked by the election because it’s become about how much we can all take. Yes, I’m being hyperbolic here, but what are the real results of this onslaught of information? We get tricked into voting for a candidate who may or may not be up to the job. I have to believe there’s a better way. At this point, I can only wish all the candidates the best of luck. We’ll weed out all possibility and ambition and come up with the candidates who will return to annoy us in the fall. Primaries bring out the crazies but it really only adds to the craziness and that makes democracy a bit unsettling. 

Is There A Doctor In The House Chamber?

Conceptually Numb: Jeff Dodge From The Peasant Revolution Band Talks Kent State Concept Album

Jeff Dodge is a historian at heart. He uses different kinds of mediums, rock music and music videos, to immerse himself and his audience in a unique historical experience. The resulting subconscious alchemy of musical and lyrical interpretations is based on the research and contemplation of Jeff’s latest obsession Kent State. A interview with him racks up footnotes that can be found in this interview in their modern form of hyperlinks that lead to multiple rabbit holes. On this 52nd anniversary of Kent State, I’m looking for a few good readers to take a deeper dive into a Jeff’s wild history lecture in a concept album form.

Jeff Dodge: Yes, yes it is,

Portland Orbit:  Okay, just double checking.

JD: The Portland Orbit, I presume.

Portland Orbit: (laughs) Yes it is.

JD:  Very punctual. 

PO: Man, I’ve got nothing if I’m not punctual.

JD: On the money.

PO: Yeah, I’m about to get fired from The Portland Orbit but I’m just gonna keep trying.

JD: Well, hang in there, hang in there, change is always coming.

PO: Yes I am hanging in there. I thought maybe I’d try to do these questions for you real quick.

JD: Is this the conspiracy theory album we’re talking about?

PO: We are talking about Kent State isn’t that the latest?

JD: Oh, the other conspiracy album, yes, yes, Kent State that’s our newest.

PO: Yeah, actually I think what I want, I usually do an intro write up, I think what I’m going to try to do is ask the questions and then make sure at the end if I feel like there’s some loose ends or just get a better idea of how this concept came about but I think you probably will obviously answer that question based on these questions so I’m gonna start.

JD: Let’s do it

PO: Oh good, if you’re ready then I’ll be ready. What occurred to me is, is this the first Kent State concept album or are you modeling this album after another Kent State concept album?

JD: Well, you know that’s a good question in all the research for this I didn’t research that. I think I came a long this concept when I was in college actually and I think I got a book at a book sale, James Mitchener’s Kent State book, a book that people criticized as being very wrong and one-sided but what many people feel is a somewhat right wing version of it. Anyway, that book haunted me throughout college. I really identified, I guess, with the situation. I was born 20 days after that day happened in 1970.

PO Yeah!

Jeff Dodge

JD: By the time I got to Portland State, where I finished college, I found out they had a little mini riot in reaction to that riot a couple of weeks later. There’s another famous shooting that doesn’t get as much attention. I think it might’ve been in Missouri. It was at an all black student campus and some National Guardsmen took shots, killed a few people in the dormitories there. So yeah, yeah, everything was erupting. At that time, (Jeff’s college years) if you recall, the Gulf War was going on so there were kind of similar vibes and stuff going on. I ended up with this book and so the concept was kind of out of that. I always had elements of it. The book is basically a timeline. It really concentrates on the four, it actually concentrates on five students and goes through the events that build up to that moment and follows those days that led up to it and so that is essentially what I had in mind for this album, to try and create that weekend in a concept album. So I don’t know if anyone ever did that before musically but as I was finishing up I also wanted to mention Derf Backderf, he had a graphic novel that did the same thing I did. I bought it. Phil Jefferson has it. I need to get it back from him. We were kind of in the final stages of overdubs and so I wouldn’t say that it completely influenced me but it definitely has some imagery and yeah I wouldn’t mind trying to connect with this guy to trade some favors for each other hopefully. It’s brilliant art and he has done a really good job, a great depiction of it with details I didn’t know. It was different from Mitchener‘s book.

Meeting Kent State

PO: Um, I’ll apologize in advance for the snark but are historical concept albums the best use of your history degree?

JD: (laughs)

PO: I’m glad you’re laughing.

JD: Well my parents, my dad would probably say no, my mom would probably say yes. That’s me in a nutshell, but yeah, I don’t know for the time being, but things are weird right now and I’m trying to give voice to ideas especially if they’re controversial. I don’t know, I’ve been studying a lot of these things, a long time, so it just seemed like a natural way for me to communicate the ideas or this is my version of it right?

PO: Right. That nicely brings me up to the next question. In researching this project and doing this album what did you learn about the shootings?

JD: Well, I’d say the timeline of it is interesting because we recorded the music first and we didn’t have the lyrics. We did kind of have rough themes of that weekend but the fun part of the music was very light, the initial tracks and then we’d layer tons textures on top of that so we were pretty loose. It was an interesting go, but as we started getting into the lyrics, the writing of it, was in 2019, actually.  That was as we were finishing up Saul that we recorded those tracks then kind of snuck in some sessions and I said okay, I’ll sit with them. The overdubbing and lyrics really took another year to write, I’d say, so it would be unfair not to mention that. The protest and riots that were going on in Portland over that last summer definitely played some context in sort of like the chants, this might be an opportunity to throw in some more new chants because things were getting so redundant on all sides. I don’t know, I think the conspiracy album (Love and Anti-War) had a chant song like that, lot’s of songs are about Presidents LBJ, Tricky Dick. Anytime you can get lyrics in about Tricky Dick–

PO: (laughs)

JD: When we do these things everyone throws in their ten cents. When I was thinking about the concept of the kids that died in Kent State, it was really interesting to think of kind of how much has changed and how little has changed, I mean, in some ways, it’s almost like the opposite is going on, a pro-authoritarian in the guise of being anti-authoritarian, you know. So the big difference is the kids back then were protesting the Vietnam war. It was a mistake and another conspiracy onto its own. Check out our songs about the Gulf of Tonkin resolution if you have any questions there. I believe that’s on (the recording) Love and Anti-War.

PO: (laughs)

JD: Yeah the Vietnam protest led to the entire confusion and I also noticed the guardsmen and the situation they were in and researching what led to those decisions. They decided to make these things, you know, it’s very similar to the police dealing with the protests. Both situations were looking at the low hanging fruit. We’re not talking about the politicians, the Governors, you know, the people who should know better, the administrators, to calm the stuff down. Instead it was similar and they were just throwing more grease onto the fire. So there’s a big word salad of things I’ve learned.

Tin Soldiers and LBJ’s Coming

PO: Well, that was what inspired me to want to interview you because you had sent me some research material it was like, oh yeah, this is not a new thing where politicians are lying and blatantly distorting facts and I think that what led up to the shooting was a lot of misinformation/disinformation coming from the Governor and the Mayor they were getting from advisers.

JD: Interesting parallel. Do you know when the shooting happened, the town of Kent, they blamed the students? The overwhelming majority of the people said the kids had it coming. How dare they provoke the guard like that and they’re unpatriotic and all that stuff. The kids on campus actually had an 8 o’clock curfew for the next six months or something weird like that at least for that summer so Kent State was locked down the entire time. I think what happened to Portland was kinda like a weird reversed version of that, it’s kind of a mirror.

PO: It seems like that’s part of this whole mystery. I don’t mean to give it away but there’s probably a trigger warning in this too but you will never know, you’ll never really know why those guys started shooting and it felt like there was no general instigation. The kids that were shot were really from a far distance. We’ll never really know how that started.

JD: There are a lot of theories. I mean at the end of the day for me it’s that it’s that low hanging fruit. It never should’ve escalated that far. It was a lot of people with big egos trying to, as they still do, it’s all about the egos and the innocent get left behind when that happens.

Lindt Chocolate

PO: Let me get back to the music here for a second because you brought in Lindt Chocolate.

JD: Yes.

PO: How great was that to have him on board for this project?

JD: Well, he was on tour recently he stopped in town to do some specials with Jackie Wolffmann.

PO: Yeah!

JD: So I just said Lindt can I grab you for a couple of tracks? Here I got him, I guess before Jackie and him had a last final show. There were some tech glitches and there was an incident. So we got him while he was still hot and added into it and yeah we gave him two star tracks Jeff’s War and Kent State, Ohio. Jeff’s War is about the student Jeffrey Miller who I kind of felt somewhat attached to. He was the one flipping the guard off and got shot.

PO: Oh!

JD: It’s not funny but…

PO: Oh, that’s all it takes huh?

JD: I relate to that.

PO: Yeah. You flip somebody off and they shoot you. I mean that’s—

JD: Yeah. I mean you know it seems very—I could be heading in that direction myself.

PO: It’s possible you were named after this guy, I don’t know.

JD: I don’t think so.

PO: No.

JD: The interesting thing was that in May 1970 I think Jeff and Heather were very popular names.

PO: Ah.

JD: And I have to say when I was at Hollyrood Elementary in second grade I was Jeff D. because there were three or four Jeffs. Jeff Somerville, Jeff Taylor something like that Jeff well Jeff Tiffany had a G so he kind of didn’t count.

Rocking is hard work!

PO: Ah, Jeff with a G. That’s a whole other ball game. And the layered sound and the recording techniques, what’s your methodology for making the music portion of this?

JD: I guess that’s sort of developed over the years. I suppose the technology and my learning of the technology too and I’ve got a lot of experience doing live music so I have a philosophy about capturing the live sound one way but when you’re putting it all together it’s a tapestry with various textures. I tend to one track at a time turn it into a Brian Wilson scientist thing and oh, we better get a horse in here for this part.

PO: (laughs)

JD: Let’s take each track at a time, each section and this album was probably more painstakingly done that way than past albums and it might have been because the tracks were so loose that when we recorded them there just ended up being a lot of room, a lot of like how do we keep this interesting? How do we keep this moving along? Personally, I took it as a challenge and I think everyone else, Steve Cebula (bassist) and (drummer) Johnny Spezza, were basically done when they recorded. The Commander and I jumped on. Phil Jefferson’s on a bunch of tracks.

PO: Oh nice.

JD: The Commander (Sonny Boy Curtis) actually emailed me a bunch of his vocals. That was the first time we did that. It was just wonderful. It was a blast as well as you, Mr. David Craig giving me his audio samples online somewhat randomly, I’m sure. It really helped illustrate the vibe of those two songs The Second of May and the other song, I put you on. What did we put you on? The Informant?

PO: Yeah, I might have done the Mayor, the Governor.

JD: I know you did the Governor, oh you’re the Mayor on Water Street Riots.

PO: Yeah, I just tried to call up my—

JD: Mayor LeRoy Satrom, Water Street Riots.

PO: I was calling up my brother’s impersonation of our old elementary school principal, you know just sort of trying to get that authoritarian feel.

JD: And that Ohioan accent.

PO: I did a little bit of research. Would you say there’s a poppy number in the vein of Saul MacGarvey’s “Love Me Too,” anything like that jumping out or are these more of that layered sound?

JD: I think the obvious nod we were throwing at everything especially when we started the basic tracks, we had no idea what we were doing, that was all kind of, well we know Devo went there, I was just beginning to research a lot of that so we decided to try and give kind of our own subconscious Devo impulses to everything as we went through it so that was definitely there and as I started to learn and research more I found things out like Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders was there so I think there are elements of her song Ohio we’re kind of throwing a nod to. Of course Joe Walsh was, he was a student not during the time but he was in The James Gang at the time and probably playing there every couple of weeks, you know the bar there yeah.

PO: Oh, wow!

JD: Jeff’s War is definitely more kind of a nod to Joe Walsh style singing I guess you’d say. The cartoony voice.

PO: Did you get any kind of inspiration from the most obvious song that I think, again draws everyone’s attention away from the real story? I mean I feel like Kent State, nobody’s ever really thought much more beyond that photo and that Neil Young song.

JD: Four Dead in Ohio, yeah it was a tall order for Lindt Chocolate to try and capture our version of that but I think he did a wonderful job. He did all that magic on his own, no idea, I didn’t witness it. He has a home studio, you know, give me the song and here it is. It’s great.

PO: (laughs) I think that, again, I would emphasize this particular event. I never thought beyond that one day I just assumed they got up, you know there’s this whole build up to this situation which I think is really fascinating. You’re trying to introduce that and give people more perspective on what really happened. What’s going to be the next best topic for a concept album for you? I had something in mind but I forgot it but then I was like—one example would be the insurrection you know would that be something that makes a concept album?

JD: Well, on a similar note I think that one of the things this album is doing is kind of—Kent State to me, the historic significance of it, is similar to what Altamont did to rock and roll after you had Woodstock and oh my God they came together and a baby was born and nobody died or I think some people died—it was an amazing communal be-in. Four months later you have Altamont, you know drug pushers and stabbings and the, you know—

DC: Hell’s Angels

JD: The Hell’s Angels, the security force for The Rolling Stones and yeah some great Gram Parsons stuff in there but you know I think it sort of ended a lot of the optimism of the 60’s and then sort of rolled out this defused 70’s vibe where people—yeah, you throw in all the political assassinations, I think Kent State was kind of like a breaking point on some levels. So where I go to next now I don’t know because I think in some ways the insurrection was part of that broken dream from then, you know, there’s just a lot of things we thought we were going to get after and, (laughs) there’s a real tribalization now. It’s hard to say. I tend to, when things get really crazy, chaotic, I tend to want to look to the past for inspiration when you can’t really see what’s around you being too inspiring but you know there are always opportunities for change. I’m kind of done with this time period here because I feel the real future is in the youth. I don’t know. I think I’d like to go somewhere that doesn’t involve the baby boomers so much. I think that’s where I’d like to go. They’ve been involved in a lot of my concept albums. I’d like to give them a break.

PO: Well, that might lead up to my last question here nicely. Hamilton, big fan?

JD: You know, I gotta say I still haven’t seen it. There’s so many things I still haven’t seen yet. Yeah, how is it? Did you see it?

PO: (laughs) No, I’ve seen bits and pieces.

JD: I’ve seen bits and pieces. I did a gig where they were—it was that music academy.

PO: Oh the PHAME. Was it the PHAME kids?

JD: Yeah, they did something where Hamilton was the theme throughout so I got a good taste of it from that but I don’t know how they were originally sung or written plus they were rewriting the lyrics to fit their event.

PO: I never really had to see it. I got the gist of it and this was like I’m probably not that into it and I didn’t really think it was up your alley other than it’s sort of a concept album brought to life.

JD: Yeah, that’s a good point. I’ve been so lost in the Civil War stuff that I didn’t really leave a lot of room for the Revolutionary War. I’ve been fascinated by that period but for me to approach Hamilton. Really I’d have to do some research to know all about all the characters before I watched it.

PO: Nice! That’s good.

An Orbit Obit: This Is Phil Jefferson

It took me weeks to accept Phil Jefferson’s death. I’m still holding out for a call, imagining a time when it won’t be a telemarketer and I’ll look down to see Phil’s name. A Facebook post by Jeff Dodge whittled at my denial helping me face reality. Phil won’t be calling. It’s tough to accept because Phil had a vitality, an energy about him. When we first met Phil we knew he was a bit older. Age was a topic because he seemed so young. I recall him saying he was 63 and then years later it seemed like he was still telling people he was 63. He seemed ageless. As one of my Portland icons, he enriched my Portland experience. Like most people in Portland, he shied away from talking about his past. I knew Phil was from back east and when I heard Maryland Governor Larry Hogan speaking on TV I thought about how much he sounded like Phil. On his Facebook page it mentions he was born in Annapolis, the capital of Maryland. Otherwise, Phil remained a bit of a mystery.

I met Phil sometime after I moved here in 2008. It’s a murky memory because I always assumed he was part of the Jeff Dodge gang. It surprised me to learn we all met around the same time at one of the Illahee lectures. Phil was going to be the marketing arm of Jeff’s video production company. He talked about selling advertising for a local music magazine. This all sounded up Phil’s alley because these skills lended themselves to his gift of gab. Phil was a friend but there were times when we worked together doing a video shoot with Jeff’s gear deep in the heart of the Tryon Creek forest and I always liked seeing Phil in his spiffy banquet jacket during gala events where I would be working on the tech crew. 

Phil released two flute based albums, with the help of Jeff Dodge as his producer. This collaboration made sense because Phil was Jeff’s in-house flute section. He can be heard on many tracks of Jeff’s band, The Peasant Revolution Band. Phil was big on jazz. That became more apparent at a recent memorial held in his honor. Phil was the type of musician who did the occasional studio work and could find a gig in a supper club where he’d be sitting next to a an unused piano playing Somewhere Over the Rainbow while an acoustic guitarist, Jeff Dodge of course, chops away at Across The Universe riffs which makes for an interesting mash up. Phil wasn’t gunning for the big time and it would be unlikely for him to be playing The 1905 Club with Rich Reece sitting at the front table. 

Phil’s discussions about his first album were filled with excitement and were inspiring. In a text he described the recording saying, “this album is a MONSTER!!” I always liked hearing Phil talk about his album but it took getting called out on someone else’s Facebook page to get me to listen. The incident showed me Phil could get a bit more intense than his usual sarcastic self. Where a tough text or a blast by phone would have sufficed, I was chided in a public way, for good reason, for not listening to the album in the two and a half years since it had been released. Almost immediately, I navigated the CD Baby site which probably had something to do with finding a password and listened to the album. I always knew I’d get around to it but a public kick in the pants provided the motivation. A second album, The Madness of Crowds Part 2, has just been released.

Phil worked the phone. While I’ve shied away from phone calls, something that’s left me wondering how I got so weird about this, Phil kept it old school. During the pandemic he made it a point to check in on people allowing them to offer him a reality check as well. This was thoughtful, sweet and practical. Sure I missed his calls at times. I always assumed I needed a half hour to talk to Phil but it was great to talk to him when I did and the calls were often not as long as I expected. I regret being too caught up in my I-have-no-time mentality and not making more time for this friend. 

I always thought of Phil as the kind of guy I’d want to get together with other people. I could imagine him connecting with certain people. The pandemic made it difficult to socialize but I remember him connecting with my big brother Jack through Facebook, sharing random thoughts about science fiction and I wish those guys could have had an extended conversation. It was great to find out Phil interviewed Dave Dahl, of Dave’s Killer Bread, yet another icon. This proved Phil’s ability to jaw with anyone. Not everyone got Phil. This could be said about many people but it was fodder for some discussion with the Jeff Dodge crew. I considered it a musician thing, assuming musicians to be persnickety. I mostly stayed out of it accepting Phil for who he was. Phil had a way of challenging me that sometimes felt uncomfortable but I know he was only that way because he cared.

I long mulled over a blog post idea that would have featured me and Phil. Two old guys sitting on a bench in an empty mall talking about the end of the world. This was inspired by thoughts we’d shared about science fiction and the environment. I never coordinated what was an underdeveloped idea at best. I can imagine us sitting there, all set up with the tape recorder on and hearing Phil announce, “Well, what do you want me to say?” Then we’d look around the mall, laughter would ensue and the fading gleam would speak for itself. 


Thanks to Jeff Dodge for photo contributions and video images.

Remembering Phil:

See a short film memorializing Phil Jefferson:

See a short film dedicated to Phil:

Taking It Slow In Neskowin: A Spring Break Special

Slow Clap Welcome

A proliferation of slow signs in SW, and probably all over Portland, has me thinking about the need for people to remind others to reduce their driving speed. These signs are mostly store bought, mass produced and not especially creative. I was pleased to find a cache of homemade signs in Neskowin on the Oregon coast. One sighting led to another as if this particular beach area is full of drag racing outsiders tearing through the tiny neighborhood trying to find their beach rental in a hurry and need gentle reminders at every turn. It was a nice surprise to a beach trip that had its challenges when we were trying to get some recreation with our dog.

More Than Stumps?

Ah, Neskowin, home of the Ghost Forest which proved elusive this visit. Is there a secret path? A better way to get there than crossing a creek which is doable at low tide but it still requires walking through water. Then I had to wonder if I was spotting the right forest. The ride out to the coast was nice enough, even Newberg seemed cool on a cloudy morning, so I would be willing to make a return visit to experience the Ghost Forest more up close and personal. 

Win That Race

On the way back to the State Park parking lot where it was nice to see my tax dollars providing free parking and bathroom facilities, I noticed a couple of traffic signs. These were home made, possibly by kids, brimming with fun folk art flair and offering messages for cars to drive slow. Really the tight quarters and the small size of the neighborhood didn’t seem like it enabled speeding. I noted these signs and spotted a cluster down another street that I didn’t have time to photograph. 

Cluster Up!

Full of inspiration to write something, my first choice was the Ghost Forest but since I wasn’t willing to get my feet wet to get the story I went with the traffic signs that had caught my attention. Before leaving, we drove over to see the others. I got more than I bargained for with a couple of sign clusters all screaming at us to slow down. It feels like the sign posting bug swept the neighborhood inspiring many of the homes to participate. The speed limits on these hand painted signs were sometimes as low as 15 miles an hour. I certainly can’t even run that fast but the arrangements and the different variations on the theme were a great discovery.


Sure, it’s a safety message. Children may not play in the streets so much anymore but we should give them the option. This means going slow. If you’re at the beach you really only have one thing in mind and you can take all day to get there unless you’re in a hurry to beat the tide to get to the Ghost Forest. 

Have a Whale of a Time

The signs dished out sayings about slowness with groan inducing puns and images of slow creeping animals emphasizing the need for less speed in this beach community. This made the signs less threatening despite their being bossy. The humor and creativity softened the message. Heck, people need to slow down to notice these multicolored displays.

Welcoming Slowly

I suppose it’s a lifestyle issue as much as a safety concern. Think about it, you’re at the beach. Nobody cares if it’s just for a long weekend. If you slow down after witnessing constant reminders, you might just take the time to enjoy at least a few moments of your beach vacation. 

Stop, And Go Slow
Quack Slow For Better Comprehension
Hands Across the Water
Brake For Poppi!
Drive Like Snails Walk
Go With the Slow
Whoa, Horsey

An Orbit Obit: Goodbye to Meaty Boy

Meaty Boy was a beefy, male rabbit. His real name was Bartlesby Bunny or something along those lines. We mostly called him Bart which caused sitcom-like confusion because our dog is named Burt. The Meaty Boy nickname was derived from the muscular nature of this rabbit. When I picked him up he offered powerful back leg kicks, unnecessary when I was placing him back in his pen and he was feet from the floor. He always needed to show off his power and leaping ability.

We watched him die, Tuesday, February 22, with the help of a veterinarian who made a house call. Bart was in rough shape. He had congested breathing, had stopped eating and pooping–bad for bunnies and it felt like he would stubbornly try to live too long in his near death misery. The first shot sedated him. His nose continued to wiggle. I realized it had never occurred to me that a rabbit’s nose is in constant motion. The second shot took him to what we euphemistically called the Rainbow Bridge. In that moment I felt calm. He lay on his side. There was no more congestion or sickness. There was no turning back, no more thoughts of whether this was the right thing to do. Losing a pet is tough. Other pets made it easier but it never really is. 

I was skeptical when, my wife, Ronna said she was going to get a rabbit. I was sure someone else would get there before us. Responses to internet queries are usually high volume, but he became ours. Bart was hanging out in a hay-filled manger. His owner’s landlord wanted him gone. An abandoned house next door and Bart’s outdoor living space were causing a rat problem. He was two years old when we adopted him in 2017. Bart’s first “wife” had passed away so it made sense to get him a mate. They lived all over our North Portland home, the bathroom, the mud room and the basement. Bart loved escaping in the basement and had a great time chewing cords of some of the items stored there. I forgave him and it stills seems funny when I recall leaning over to put hay in his pen while watching him take a bite out of a headphone cord dangling from my neck.

The rest is the life of rabbits. We all like to say our pets lived a good life. Some days I felt like Hannibal Lecter with rabbits in a pen in the garage at our new place, but I often thought about how we had taken the rabbits out of a tough situation and given them the best life we could. There were free runs in the backyard and a trip to Colorado with Max the dog. When we had to evacuate because of a wild fire the rabbits had a blast chasing each other around various hotel rooms. They traveled reasonably well. Not many rabbits go on vacation.

Hare Metal Rules!

The rabbits were part of an experiment to prove if there were any truth to an old riddle. What’s a rabbit’s favorite kind of music the riddle asks. The answer: hare metal. I told this joke to a student and I realized he had no idea what hair metal was. I borrowed a Ratt album from the library’s online music lending system, hooked up some speakers and let the music play. There was little reaction. Perhaps they really preferred long hare music, a little Chopin perhaps. It wasn’t until I overheard the later tracks that I realized what was bad about hair metal, the lyrics devolved into misogynistic women hating rants. The bunnies didn’t seem to care.

Rabbit Food, Not Weeds!

While working at my school, I noticed greens–abundant dandelion leaves grew in the courtyard area. I gathered leaves most days to take home. Bart knew his schedule. He would periscope, which is rabbit speak for standing on his hind legs, and then hold onto the bars of his pen with his paws in anticipation. I couldn’t let him down. I had to get his greens. I told kids at the school, “some people see weeds but I see rabbit food.” I brought home bag after bag. Bart’s insistence eventually earned him the nickname “Boss Bart.” He was always happy to munch away at his late night snack until one morning, last month, I realized he hadn’t eaten much the night before. Things weren’t quite right for poor old Bart.

Bart and Jessica

Bart’s mate Jessica passed away in January of 2021. When it was just Bart again it felt lonely but we knew Bart wasn’t going to survive a third wife. I missed Jessica but I’d have laugh about walking in on the “rabbit things” they used to do together that I couldn’t avoid seeing. I’m still thinking about Bart and missing him every time I walk through the garage. I cleaned up the pen and the hay all over the garage floor but the image of the water bottle that was tricky to get in and out of the pen still gets me. 

Thinking about and even talking a little about it made me realize how stuck in denial I am, telling myself it’s just a rabbit–it’s no big deal. I’m not talking about it much. After mentioning it to a friend by text and seeing his response about his being sad when his pets die I realized it’s okay to be sad. I was upset thinking about the scheduled euthanasia appointment. I didn’t like the idea of putting the Grim Reaper on the calendar. As it turned out there was a time window so we waited with the rabbit for his last couple of hours.

I’m looking for ways to accept death. In the meantime there has been what feels like an onslaught of deaths of people I’ve met, or worked with. As I write this I’m having more feelings of denial, not being able to take in the news that another friend has died. The day after Bart died the war started in Ukraine beginning a wider scope of senseless death. While it feels like there’s too death much lately, I have to consider what I can do about it. A student told me I should put a picture of the rabbit next to my bed. I didn’t take this serious until my sister-in-law sent us a miniature pewter rabbit in the periscope position. It made me realize the need to memorialize people and pets and keep their images in mind. I’ve also considered that death is inevitable and I have to work on getting past the denial stage and onto acceptance. In the meantime, I’ll hunker down with a book by Mr. Rogers that I just unearthed. It’s called “When a Pet Dies.” Rogers explains that “loss takes time to understand.” As for Bart, I’ll remember his foot stomps when we made him mad, his leaping jumps, known as binkies, when he was happy and roaming free in the backyard and his soft fur that he was always shedding. I’ll walk past the dandelion leaves swaying the breeze. Today I don’t need any rabbit food.

Twofer Two, Two Two, Two Tuesday: Daily Doubles for 2/22/22 (The Portland Orbit Edition)

Twice The Inspiration
(Photo by Willard Simmons)

The challenge came over the wire from the Pittsburgh Orbit about running parallel Daily Double stories. This left me confounded. It sounded like a Pittsburgh thing but this date, 2/22/22 is magical, so full of 2’s and Pittsburgh Orbit head honcho Willard Simmons later explained that a daily double references anything involving the number 2, doubles or twins. He left the rest to my imagination and modern research techniques. The internet sent me on multiple goose chases, funny Willard said this idea was inspired by his spotting a double goose. 

Double Arrow: Be One With Yourself

This Twosday on a Tuesday may have you soon sick of twos. You’ll be begging for a three by the end of the day. Imagine the Two for Tuesday marathons and the prattling disc jockeys. The local classic rock station, The Eagle, 106.7, should be reminded not to mix old and new Van Halen tracks and I’d always follow up a Volume One Greatest Hits Eagles tune with a song from Volume Two but that’s just me. Sigh, I suppose radio programming is yet another thing left to the algorithms. It also has to be the best day ever to celebrate two for the price of one tacos. BOGO (Buy One Get One Free) has tried to take the twos out of the two for one deals but NOT today!

The Second City

Two Portlands

Portland is the other Portland, not the original Portland. Most of us know the story about a couple of Easterners flipping a coin to see whether they were going to call the city Portland or Boston. There’s little confusion between the two cities besides the occasional internet search mix ups. There are plenty of other Portlands including one in England that has a Bridge Pairs tournament. When this headline caught my eye: The Portland Police Respond to a Bar Fight–Twice, it took double checking to realized it’s the wrong Portland Police. Multiple Portlands can get confusing.

Double Up!

Enter the Dragon

As if this piece isn’t listicle enough, here’s a list of establishments in Southeast Portland that use double names. Double your pleasure today and while you’re at it, make it a double.

Twin Sisters In Folk: The Shook Twins

No Mirrors Involved
(photo by Summer Wuerthner Courtesy of the Shook Twins)

I wish I could tell you more but I take these folks to be a folksy band utilizing twin harmonies and the secret weapon in their arsenal–the use of oversized percussive eggs to drive their rhythms. My giant egg fascination began when I learned about the band from an OPB Arts Beat segment that aired in 2012. I’m trying to spare you a Nelson reference but it hit me that they have to be the most famous current twins-in-a-band band that I know. My labeling the band as folkies hardly seems fair. Their music has evolved over time as this video, which plays around with twin imagery, demonstrates.

Twice the Crime

Portland Twin Gang Members

This feels like doubling your trouble and nothing I want to mess with but twins work together in many ways, not always the preferable artistic ones.

Robbed Twice in a Month

As if one robbery wasn’t enough having to go through it all over again seems especially difficult. It’s scary out there. These are desperate times even for blog post subject matter.

Dribble Doubles

Double Red Ale

Double Up!

Of course this post is going to channel a beer reference. More research is needed to determine what actually gets doubled in this ale recipe. I’m sure I could get a soliloquy out of the beer guy at Barbur World Foods. Double Red Ale sure seems twice as exciting as your basic Red Ale.

A Portland Pilot Triple Doubles

Double History

Maybe this is ultimately going to work better for a different month, 3/22/22 perhaps but I’ve gotten so excited about doubles that I’m exponentially impressed with three of them. This probably happens every night for LeBron, but it’s cool to see a local kid having a great night on the court. 

The Stat Line!

Twice Delayed

Celiniac Fan Art (Uncredited)

I’m so sorry to have to reremind people that Celine Dion hasn’t been able to perform in Portland lately. The Oregonian reported that her whole “Courage World Tour” was cancelled due to health issues. Now she may not perform at all in Portland in the foreseeable future. One of my goals is to help people learn. Sometimes it’s trivial stuff. I’ve learned that Celine Dion fans are known as Celiniacs. If you haven’t already forgotten that fact you’ve learned something as well.

Not Just A Tennis Thing

Roll Together!

When I hear the phrase doubles I always think of tennis. I was surprised to learn people can double their fun while bowling. Doubles has to be about a combined scores and not two people working together to roll a ball down the alley.

A Pair Of Laughs

Under a search of “Portland pairs” nothing of significance popped up besides a ho-hum, Portland pair being charged with meth dealing. Then the random nature of this exercise revealed an Oregonian link to YouTube video of a clown addressing the City Council at a hearing. I got as far as hearing that Ronnie the Clown, in full clown makeup, talk about insurance issues related to injuring his funny bone. I had to stop watching. The cringe factor made me uncomfortable especially when I anticipated the reactions and non reactions of Portland’s stilted elected officials. When I had another peek I saw Ronnie the Clown graciously yielded a third of his three minutes while managing to nominate the Mayor for Clown of the Year and read a proclamation to “immediately instate him as an honorary Clown Commission.” Ronnie’s appearance was met with indifference proving City Council affairs are truly humorless. 

Honorable Mentions: Twos, Twices and 2.0’s.

Portland Timbers 2 are the reserve squad for Portland’s major league team.

Courtney Taylor-Taylor, the singer and guitarist for The Dandy Warhols.

Portland 2.0, a cryptic, joint venture between Oregon Public Broadcasting and Portland State University. tackled issues concerning Civic Infrastructure.

Local Business Gets In On The Act!

Add To Your 2-Do List

The New Seasons grocery store gets in on the act with a nice use of the numeral 2 instead of the word two. Make plans to get there and you’ll run into me. I love those double points!

2 Years Of COVID

(Photos by Yusef and Ronna Craig)

In a stunning two year COVID transition I went from sauve sophisticant on Valentine’s Day of 2020 to middle aged grunge rocker exactly two years later in 2022. That’s what the pandemic did to me. It’s been a tough couple of years but we are all, for the most part, muddling through. Now if I could only find that Tad album!

In Through the In-Store

In-Store Performance!

Not related much to a specific combination of twos unless you consider this math problem: 2 American Creep Van Albums multiplied by 2 American Creep Van Albums equals 4 American Creep Van Albums! Can you believe there here have already been four American Creep Van recordings released?

Twin Brothers in Rock

This has nothing to do with Portland but since we’re celebrating all things twins, twos and doubles here’s one last chance to celebrate this Day of the Twos.

Head to 1:25:20 of this video for more entertainment than you can possibly stand:

Production Notes:

I think it’s clear that my transplant self is suffering from a blind spot as to a Portland landmark or institution that fits this category. After an especially tough week of work–working twice as hard as I should have to, I suffered from an inability to, well, think. Please take me to task and point out any glaring errors. I certainly appreciate the inspiration I got from Willard Simmons to even tackle this piece and make a deadline. This piece ended up shedding light on a realization that Portland doesn’t have to keep it weird, it is and will always be weird. Head over to the Pittsburgh Orbit for their take on this subject.

Deer Hunting in Portland

Feel The Difference (Photo by Ronna Craig)

I make one bad joke in the grocery store about having to take up hunting because of inflation and days later I see a deer with huge antlers crossing a SW street on my way home from a pizza run. I never see antlers. It’s usually females grazing on the sides of roads. This was a reminder of another kind of deer that I’ve been obsessed with for a long time: The concrete lawn deer. This deer has no reason to exist other than a decoy of sorts. Do people really want someone shooting towards their front porch? Or do these deer keep other territorial deer off people’s property? Let’s not overlook them as a mighty fine lawn decoration.

Fawning Over You

I’ve managed to avoid buying a lawn deer. The closest I’ve come has been the above thrift store craft creation and yet I’ve never been able to get enough of this kind of deer. One lawn deer would be a gateway to a flock, or a herd all collected up in yard space, concrete and bad paint jobs. They are easier pursued by camera as they pose on people’s lawns and never startle. I may never know why people display these creatures. I blew a chance to ask a direct question while in a giant, roadside store in North Carolina, a place known for cheap towels.There in the lawn deer section I noticed a man cradling a find. It was my chance to pick his brain. I anticipated the weird conversation that was sure to ensue so I held back only to be haunted all these years later. Shyness has no place in real journalism. Now I leave it up to the idea that this is how people choose to decorate their yards. I benefit by getting to hunt lawn deer.

A Deer Student

This deer hung out in an inaccessible courtyard at George Middle School in St. Johns when I worked there. It’s not like I would have been able to pet the guy, but he remained mysterious from his psychedelic paint job to his unknown origins. It was always great to admire this concrete landmark from various perspectives around the school’s hallway intersections.

Abandonment Issues

Way out in the Beaverton suburbs this poor deer looks abandoned on the other side of the sidewalk and propped up against a tree. She’s beat up, moss covered, ensnared in a tree limb, not quite the cozy confines of other deer but she survives. Perhaps this orphaned looking deer will find a better home someday.

No Safe Hiding Place On The Streets
Step Deer

The exact location of these specimens is not clear. Memory is cloudy and nobody really has to know. Our research department is head scratching and full of regret for not using the location setting on the iphone back in the day. Regardless, here’s proof that concrete deer are not just for lawns. Decorating tip: They can be placed near steps or on porches. The configurations have proven to be endless. It is nice to appreciate faded colors and fallen antlers. The state of decay take on lives of their own and builds character.

Call Me Mellow Yellow
Old One Antler
Proud Poses

Deep in the heart of the Arnold Creek neighborhood where things get more rustic the deeper you go, these lawn deer blend in resembling wildlife. They impersonate, posing with chests out and heads held high, scanning their surroundings against the backdrop of a house’s stone exterior.

Under Cover Deer

You can’t make a blanket statement about the way Hillsdale residents dress their lawn deer when you only have one example of a dressed deer. No matter, this interests me. I see so few lawn deer wearing clothing of any kind. This addition is an attempt to liven up the statue with a colorful floral pattern and some flower antlers.

The Better To See You

This old mainstay in the Kenton neighborhood stands close to the Buddha mural. It’s a classic with nice coloring and a pleasant face and snout. This deer is hanging out doing its best lawn deer thing which means it looks decorative. Its brown coat mixes in well with its brick surroundings.

A Natural Habitat

Here’s one of my favorite lawn deer in the Portsmouth neighborhood of North Portland. This deer is surrounded by all the trappings of yard decor. The concrete bench, the picket fence, the plantings, the block steps and the windmill in the background. It blends seamlessly to keep the deer half in a natural setting and half in a well decorated naturescape. This setting is pure serenity. I feel it when I remember the times I happened passed this lawn deer.

Rest For The Weary

These are the great decorative elements of Doctor Creature and the gang, the folks who owned the art car The Space Taxi. They had a decoration party/cook out a few years ago. I found them to be warm and friendly and their home was full of tasteful yard decor. This deer in particular seems so serene, oblivious to the nearby skulls indicative of a fate that awaits any of us who aren’t cast in concrete and displayed on someone’s lawn.

Ain’t No Stopping Us Now: Stop Everything And Read This!

Temporary Restraining Order

Somedays I want it all to stop. It’s as if there’s a giant stop sign on my brain. I could stare at walls until their paint color drove me mad but the design of a stop signs keep me motivated. They are reliable, traditional and recognizable; those white, capitalized letters shout through a burst of crimson that causes my foot automatically to tap the brakes. With the help of stop signs we can change the world. They aren’t only about the whims of traffic engineers to keep us safe. Now messages about everything that needs stopping can be broadcast. Consider the signs that blared: STOP TRUMP! They worked, at least for the time being. Updates will need to read: STOP TRUMP AGAIN! We love doctored signs at the Portland Orbit so any effort stops us dead in our tracks. 

Don’t Stop Living

If we stop mass extinction we won’t all die. This may include pets, wild animals and maybe many species of insects. Stopping mass extinction should be a priority. This sign, seen in the Kerns neighborhood, is living proof. We need to do this. If all stop signs carried this message vehicles would stop, then stop doing all the things that have us on track for our prospective extinction. The message would be two fold and read something like:



This is just a draft. The right wording is crucial to communicate the message and it has to fit on the sign to really work.

Gas Costs Too Much

Another in a series of stickered messages, as seen in South Tabor and created for whichever campaign being run to stop what needs to be stopped. Fossil fuels get a bad wrap because they’re pungent, flammable, toxic, expensive and environmentally unfriendly. They should be stopped. A message on a stop sign is the first step. Doctored stop signs may also be a ploy to get bike riders to stop. They might be curious about what the signs says and take an extra couple of seconds to stop and read the whole sign. Bike riders would swell with pride knowing that their people powered modes of transportation are helping to stop fossil fuels.

Stop and Smell the Flowers

These stickered messages aren’t the stop sign blending shade of red. A seamless transition would look more official and make the impression that the Portland Bureau of Transportation was working to put themselves out of business while attempting to save the planet at the same time. I could think of many other things I’d like to stop on my personal stop list but climate breakdown should be in the top three list of priorities, perhaps right after mass extinction. While it’s hard to say how effective the vandalism of traffic signs like this one spotted in the Kerns neighborhood is, the act offers a thought provoking message.

Stop First Then Get Excited

If we stop apathy people would be freed up to put effort into stopping all the other categories added to stop signs. This message, spotted in Multnomah Village, is presented in the most apathetic of scrawls. This sign speaks truth to power. If we stop apathy we have a chance to stop it all even bikes. Drivers pay attention to stop signs so this bold message might work better with improved penmanship. With people having to read and drive at the same time the message has to be easy to see.

Stop Fun!

When adding a message to a stop sign, like this one in the Concordia neighborhood, we already know it’s best to make it legible. It should not look like white out was involved. The font and message size is best when it’s similar to the letters in the word stop. People shouldn’t have to stop, scrutinize and decipher the contents of a notice. I’m not in a position to defend or deny the message at this point as the Portland Orbit avoids politics. The sign could read, “STOP taking money out of the community to give to the Police Department,” but that wouldn’t fit on the sign.

Don’t Stop Thinking About Anything (photo by Graham Marks)

This is a sign of anarchy. Stop following the orders of stop signs the message implies. I would like to think that not too many people take this sign serious. Then again some people might wonder whether they should followed the revised sign and keep going. Luckily the sign doesn’t look official but it’s an ominous reflection of the end of civilization as we know it. When we all begin our rants about the apocalypse, the first thing we’ll be saying is, “Now, they’re not even stopping at stop signs!”

Stop or Go!

This sign, spotted on the campus of Ida B. Wells High School in SW Portland, seems to reflect a student’s new found power of editing and revising skills that have gotten out of hand. While we applaud the hard working personel in the English Department, it looks as if a student decided stop was the wrong word, crossed it out and added what was deemed an appropriate one. This had me thinking. Why are there no GO signs? A sign in a bold green proclaiming drivers to GO would spruce up any intersection.

Stop Talking Too

This last sign, spotted in Hillsdale, leaves us all in suspense. It offers the obvious, unanswerable question: Stop talking to who? Someone doesn’t want us to know. Does it mean we should stop talking to everyone until we find out who it is? I have to say it’s nobody’s business who any of us talks to. I’m unwilling to take orders from a stop sign but, ya know, I’m excited about any redecoracted sign so I’m certainly going to read any altered sign, and take its picture. After that it goes back to being a stop sign and it’s no longer a message center or a billboard.

Sign Off With Flags

Have you just not had enough fun? Read more: