As Seen In Eugene

I owe a debt of gratitude to a past coworker for hiring me for a two week job in Eugene, Oregon. Not exactly a vacation but a chance to experience somewhere else. That’s usually worth the price of admission. In this case there was no admission fee. I got a visit to Eugene and a paycheck. I didn’t know much about the place. I had spent one evening years ago biking around the campus after attending a concert at Autzen Stadium. It was a place of mystery. My recent visit had me focused on a job involving the World Athletic Commission Championship, that’s a fancy title for a two week track meet held at Hayward Field. To reveal more of my duties and obligations, well, it seems neither relevant nor necessary. I didn’t sign a nondisclosure agreement if that’s what you’re thinking but I’m not willing to jeopardize any possibility of working with these folks again should the opportunity arise. 

My focus here is mostly on Eugene but I have to point out what anyone from the area knows, it’s hard not to include the neighboring town of Springfield. I was surprised to learn I was staying in Springfield just over the border from the edge of the University of Oregon campus. The police and fire departments use the two town’s names so it’s kind of a metropolitan area now. This post includes both areas despite leaving Springfield out of the title. Not as much rhymes with Springfield. I did spend the majority of my time in a small section of Eugene spotting numerous examples of my favorite fixations, pole art, arrows, signs, murals, museums, letters to the editors and more. I only scratched the surface of these categories. More examples of these topics would have been discovered had I spent more time in the area. 

Painting With Hydrants

My fascination with campaigns to beautify fire hydrants goes back to memories of the Bicentennial in 1976. Then, hydrants were gussied up where I lived for the national celebration in red, white and blue, of course. In Eugene, I spotted the one above and a few more. This isn’t the most skillful paint job but who cares? It’s a colorful offering that’s a far cry from the usual, standard paint job. 

On The Road To The Mannequin Fever

It took a while, then, in a restaurant close to the stadium, I realized there was a mannequin in the corner. She’d been watching the whole time. An added bonus: She’s got a knife! The dark corner, the hat, hoodie, shades and a hand, barely able to clutch that blade–all fantastic!! Especially for an Italian place that was running a half off special on bottles of wine. 

We Get Letters! 

I waited for the next issue of the Eugene Weekly to arrive, disappointed when it failed to materialize despite my being in the area for two weeks. Old hippies meet rural right wingers to duke it out in the Letters to the Editor section. They never fail to provide entertaining ideas and perspectives on how the world should be run. 

Top It Off With An Antenna Topper

Despite their inability to be photographed by my iPhone camera, I can never get enough of antenna toppers. I even had a quick chat with the owner of this one. She laughed as I snapped away, hoping for some focus. The duck imagery never ends at a college with a duck mascot. Ducks everywhere! Souvenirs, t-shirts, silhouetted on athletic department buildings; webbed duck prints even appear in crosswalks. This duck topper made perfect sense. I was equally amused by the black duct tape that fastened this tub toy topper to the antenna. 

Sidewalk Swimming

This sidewalk stamp is part of the campaign to remind and/or educate people that what they put down the drain may head straight back to the local rivers. I was impressed, maybe that’s a stretch of a pun, by the details left by this impression. The salmon practically appears to be flopping off the sidewalk. 

Pole Art, No Pun Intended

It feels like an advanced technique when pole art is placed directly to the pole. The standard is usually affixing an object. This image has the unsuspecting asking, “Hey, who’s humping that pole?” The mustachioed man in green underwear is creatively and humorously detailed, a life sized cartoon bringing art to life.

I was more curious about this art. What’s the meaning behind a bagged photo nailed to a pole? Is it a lost and found situation or a spontaneous pole art gallery? How could this matter?  Here’s a random, yet interesting photo, possibly taken on the other side of the world, in a novel frame. I enjoyed it for a few seconds but I’ll be pondering the meaning of my picture of that picture for many more. 

Point Me In The Direction Of Arrows

I don’t understand my love of arrows. I just like them. This spray painted version decorating the sidewalk with possible practical applications was inspirational to me.

Psychedelic Bowerman

To spend any time in Tracktown USA, Eugene’s nickname, is to be surrounded by the legends of University’s past. There’s Steve Prefontaine or “Pre” for short, Coach Bowerman, Hayward, the guy they named the stadium after, Phil Knight and Bowerman’s wife’s waffle iron that helped create the early Nike shoes. The old Hayward Stadium is relegated to the history books now while a striking update stands in its place.

I’m always struck by bathrooms that are stylishly decorated with murals and the soles of track shoes planted into the floor. This was the only stadium bathroom I used but I couldn’t resist taking pictures. It’s not a good look to be snapping away in this type of facility but the art was too bold.

Pre Memorial

I needed to make the pilgrimage to Pre’s Rock if only to tell myself I did more than just work in Eugene. It was closer than I realized and easier to find with sign markers with arrows pointing the way. I followed the winding road that led to the spot of Prefontaine’s doom. The roadside memorial, with all the track gear that’s been left behind, struck a chord of loss and shared grief. I had to shoot around the other visitor feeling bad that I really wanted to take it in alone. 

Signs Of Any Life

Signs were everywhere in Eugene. Sometimes they addressed mundane issues about where to wash or not wash things. The colorful sign above was spotted on the way to the Pre’s Rock. And I shopped a whole lot better knowing Dale’s surgery went well.

Cloud In The Street

Most nights my job had me waiting outside the gate waiting to take on one of my duties. Cloud set up her cube PA system and guitar and played music with a bucket percussionist. The highlight to her groves that rang in my ears was a guy in the street who one night doing an improvisational scat directing people to Cloud’s tip jar. I learned more about Cloud through a business card that was left behind. Heck, us poets have to stick together. 

On The Oregon Trail And The Oregon Film Trail 

The infamous movie Animal House was filmed on the University of Oregon campus in the 70’s. Surely there are Oregon Film Trail signs noting specific film locations there. I didn’t get a chance to see them but when I noticed this sign on the grounds of a fire station I had to investigate. The old Hayward Field was used in multiple movies, even getting a visit from Mariel Hemmingway. It may not get better than that. 

Hippie Relics 

Down the road and through an industrial section of the town, you’ll find Springfield, Oregon. I visited the business district in search of something to eat settling on a food cart. This is the namesake of the setting for the Simpson’s cartoon. The town embraced this distinction adding multiple murals inspired by the show. I joked with the cart operator about when he’d get his mural on the red wall of his cart that seemed to be begging for one. 

The Hippie Museum looked even more interesting especially with a member of one of the iconic psychedelic bands from the 60’s making an appearance. It’s a bit tricky to say what kind of happenings may be happening in a Hippie Museum. There’s only one way to find out. Enter at your own risk. 

Easy Kesey

I learned Ken Kesey spent his formative years in Springfield. He did all his wrestling and letter jacket wearing there before things got really weird. Much is made about his Eugene connection. I suppose it’s more about him attending the university and working there. He was a Springfield guy eventually settling outside of the area in Pleasant Hill. The mural, touting his book collection, feels like the right touch.

Into the Sunset

Eugene and Springfield seemed weirdly peaceful. Of course school wasn’t much in session so student havoc wasn’t exactly raging. The sunsets on the Willamette River were nice way to end long days.

A Blue Light Special: Singing the Blues Fest Blues

The View From A Festive, Sunny Afternoon

By now everyone has rambled on down the road leaving me to decipher sixteen pages of notes in bad penmanship. I didn’t know what to expect from four days of blues that ran from July 1 to July 4, but it was more music than I’d experienced in the last few years. Blues Fest may have been more blues centric when it started thirty-five years ago but its evolved to include blues off shoots like roots, zydeco, soul and rock. Clanging guitars and honking horn sections impressed me more than I imagined.

Day 1

Arriving the first afternoon, we got the lay of the land. There wasn’t a rush to get to the downtown Waterfront, where the event was held. An afternoon arrival still meant at least six hours of blues. We waded into a sea of people catching the scenic views of the river full of boats, one flying a giant American flag. Music blared.

Travis Hodge Jr. And The Sound Of Steel

We headed to see Tevis Hodge Jr. at the Crossroads Stage. I had seen his appearance on The Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour. He played authentic blues on a steel guitar. Tevis encouraged a dancing couple, “Loosen them bones,” he said as he played a song by a train hoppin’ hobo. I was pouring over the schedule making the plan. As soon as Grace Potter plays the Ooh La La song, I thought, we’ll run to the Front Porch stage and catch the James Brown Tribute. My quest to race from stage to stage changed when I realized there was more magic in random unplanned moments. Tevis played the fishing song, a nice bookend to Taj Mahal’s version we would see on Day 3. He told the audience about riding his bike to Blues Fest during his high school days when the admission fee involved can donations. Back then he dreamed of playing the festival. His love for the Blues made the living the dream adage come to life.

We noticed the multitudes wearing music related t-shirts unrelated to blues: Kiss, Clash, Slash, Stevie Nicks 2022, Ramones, Primus, Dead and many others. The more appropriate Johnny Lee Hooker shirt didn’t appear until Day 3. On Day 1, my wife Ronna and I were mystified, yet excited for some reason, to see two different Reba shirts. Any shirt is better than no shirt at all.

I Might Play This Here Piano Later

Introducing the Robert Randolph Band, Dan Tolkin from KOIN 6 made a lead balloon of a stage diving joke but he wasn’t far off. The band revved up scorchingly heavy blues featuring Randolph’s distorted lap steel. When the sun sunk low, Grace Potter scooted across the stage, moves that could have been inspired by sharing a bill with Mick Jagger and the Stones. Her suggestive comments about a limp microphone had a fan behind us shouting, “we’re listening.” It was a sultry romp bordering on a starlet parody and a Jennifer Jason Leigh movie. None of that mattered. Grace and her band rocked. Loud, abrasive at times, rollicking; I knew the Ooh La La song. It seemed destined to be the closer. Before the set ended, we were rocked out and needed to pace ourselves. I settled for hunting for a live version of Ooh La La on YouTube as we scurried home.

Day 2

From The First Note You’re In Chubby’s Family

After catching Son Little on the Blues Stage, we wandered toward the back of the festival dominated by Zydeco music. Accordions and wash board contraptions get anyone within earshot bobbing. Chubby Carrier was doing his thing with the Bayou Swamp Band bringing the spirit of New Orleans. Standing by what Ronna called the “bear cage,”Chubby announced we were all members of his “Zydeco Family” making Blues Fest a family reunion. My feeble attempts at dancing made me feel like the black sheep of the family.

We’d Zydeco Dance If We Learned How
This One Goes Out To The Beverage Monitors

We headed towards the Crossroads stage where Zach Person was cranking the sound that’s bringing him fame outside of Austin. He slipped in classical music riffs, the dance of the sugar plum fairy, I was told, before playing a Hendrix song. The Crossroads Stage was a victim of its own success becoming standing room only unless you arrived early.

A Big Voice Will Reach All Of The People

The festival scene became a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds. A taco walking down the esplanade was a costume and not a hallucination. Diunna Greenleaf taught me a cool stage move. When you’re done, reach for the sky, yelp and walk off stage. I understand show business but as a curmudgeon, I don’t like to be told what to do. Don’t tell me to put my hands together. Don’t tell me to give some love to anybody. Blues Fest introduced us to many artists we wouldn’t have known otherwise. I recalled Lady A’s battle with Lady Antebellum when they wanted to undixiefy their name and use her’s, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling her “Big Mama.” Ronna explained her Sugar Honey Ice Tea reference. We’d all slogged through and stepped in it during the pandemic.

Watch It, The High E Shatters My Wine Glass

Performers of all kinds gave their all. This made Duffy Bishop’s efforts even more impressive. She hit the stage clucking like a chicken, her jewelry rattling. You would assume she was just an elderly woman but she belted out song after song. It hit me. All bands need horn sections. I’ll never see the Foo Fighters unless they add one. Duffy left the stage to sing in the crowd. This was a transcendent moment that elated the audience.

When Night Falls So Do The People

Son Little played a second set on the smaller Crossroads Stage. The dusky evening vibe felt like quintessential Portland. Random people connected, a woman, alone at the side of the stage swayed to the music and a guy in a Denny’s bacon costume jitterbugged with his lady. In front of us, a man drummed along to Son’s cozy minimalism. His subtle, southern riffage, angular and choppy, was supported by keyboard bass notes. Later the same man shared his vape pen and danced with a couple. We sang along to the Blue Magic song feeling like there had been magic in being able to, once again, see performers and be around the characters that give local shows their Portland charm.

Day 3

Sometimes You Choose Either Guitars or Shoes

A few licks into Artis Jordan’s set on the Blues Stage had me thinking, “guitar hero.” The guy wailed. I was distracted by a guy who spilled beer down his shirt, slurped from his buddy’s flask and washed it down with a joint. The Parks and Rec department outlawed smoking. Most people complied so there was little need to crack down. Artis reminded me of Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel. We experienced a Portlander we hadn’t heard of before.

Beer was a big part of Blues Fest. At seven bucks a pop I found it amusing, yet irritating, that it was sold full to the brim in small cups leaving people to slosh and weave through the crowds. Spillage was unavoidable. I laughed about the crowd management worker in a Steeler knit cap checking the ID of a man with a giant beard that looked like it took ten years to grow. A festival wouldn’t be festive without jostling with the crowd. A guy made a joke of my wife’s lack of a use of a turn signal while she was walking. Another element was encroachment on our space. We laid down towels to claim space. This felt like our lawn. I became that get off my lawn guy. One lady proceeded to move my bag—shocking! You never touch a guy’s bag without asking. This is what I’ve missed from rarely going to concerts.

As Soon As This Is Over I’ll Go Fishing

An 80 year old Taj Mahal ended the evening in strong voice. He still had it. My favorite part was when he told his horn section to, “horn me!’ I was enjoying my lack of expectation from a legendary artist I should probably know more about. In an ageist world, it was nice to see old folks kicking ass.

Day 4

Find A Partner To Win A Prize

We stumbled onto a blues dance competition with a judge wandering through the pairs, taping some, which either meant they were in or out. Of course a competitive dancing subculture exists, this was my first up close encounter. The dancers wore special shoes and I’m still unsure how people dance to the blues. I was lacking stamina for the last day, worn out from so much music. Despite the grind, there were several acts I wanted to catch. I flashed back to Woodstock. How could they have taken sleeping in the mud and being high for three days? Heck Jimi’s Monday morning performance might have seemed like a mass hallucination if somebody hadn’t filmed it. But it’s all about the music and we had the luxury of sleeping in our own bed every night.

Dancing Is One Way To Beat The Blues
Dancing Is One Way To Fight Corruption

I was excited to see Femi Kuti. I knew something of his lineage, but not much. I was glad to see that Blues Fest parameters were not rigid enough to exclude afrobeat. The horns kicking in were pure joy. The sparkling dancers shook while Femi stalked the stage in a green kung fu suit. Most performers had avoided political statements but this was Femi’s act. His songs spoke of corruption and coming from a place where people fight their government for health care, decent roads, even electricity. I read up on Femi’s father, Fela, finding out he’d spent time in jail for his beliefs. Femi’s message warned of a battle of political will brewing. “Let the storm be our storm,” he said. “Let that storm be love. Let that storm end pain.” Music, the family business, had Femi ready to pass the torch, bringing his son on stage to finish the show.

We decided not to move claiming our space by the South Stage and watching performances from the Blues Stage on the telescreen. There was no point in moving back and forth when it wasn’t possible to see much with people standing in front of the stage. Judith Light’s performance revealed her incredible voice and admirable guitar skills. Her band included family members. She introduced her keyboard playing mom as “the funkiest mom on the planet.” Her Dad’s introduction included a bass solo.

Everybody Likes A Sharp Dressed Man

I was in line getting Ethiopian food as Andy Stoke’s band was setting up. I was feeling judgmental. I hadn’t even seen Andy in his stage clothes. There was a guy at the Crossroads Stage who had done historical research for a purebred blues sound and a parade at the other side of the Festival that I thought deserved my attention but it was too much to dash back and froth. As we ate, Andy Stokes won me over with passionate soul singing and showmanship. While I was feeling sluggish, like the bottom heavy six string bass groove, Andy pumped out his new take on his ballad, “I Don’t Give a Damn,” that was a resurgent hit. He offered up a pun on his name telling the audience we were going to get “stoked.” He reminisced about his twelve years playing the Candlelight Lounge while making good use of his talented background singers.

From One Hill Country To Another

Cedric Burnside did double duty this day performing for the dance competition then following Stokes. The energy had been sapped out of the “room” so to speak. Stokes proved a tough act to follow. Grumblings from a guy behind us had me thinking that this may not have been the best act for the time slot. Burnside had an innovative, simplistic approach to his Mississippi Hill Country Blues, influenced by his grandfather R.L. Burnside. It took him awhile to get cooking.

If You Can Find The Lettuce You Get Salad

The Blues Fest ended in a huff with drunken chatter becoming a distraction. I had to wonder why I was worked up when I was listening to a band named Lettuce. They were a funky, jazzy band. Their main ingredient: a horn section! It was polyrhythmic and fun, fun lost on the chattering people around us. Who goes to a concert to listen to themselves or others talk? They had it all wrong. It’s about the music! It got worse as Lettuce pumped up the audience. People crowded around us, a guy started talking to us about weed and he got too close. All the standing meant we couldn’t sit and relax to watch the Fourth of July fireworks after the show. We managed to catch some of the display before hustling away from the blues into the darkness of night.

Some Nights End In An Explosion

A Flag Blog Draft Implodes Like Fireworks! July 4th Edition

Dig These Star Sleeves! Have You Seen The Back?

In the middle of one of my greatest blog entries, at least one of my best flag focused posts ever, I realized there had been a terrible, modern day techniclogical snafu. That’s all I knew. For some inexplicable reason my flag post vanished. Poof! In a cloud of technical haze, vapor or whatever dots and dash kind of mumbo jumbo anybody could muster–my flag post was gone. I had prepared most of it before the holiday so I could Blues Fest it up and try to relax. Only WordPress and maybe an army of IT specialists could tell me where it was but they were keeping it a secret. Since I owed it to my three readers to produce my annual Portland Orbit July 4th Flag Spectacular blog post, I carried on and started over from scratch. Originally, my opening paragraph had gone off the rails talking about a lack of giant flag images. This had been rendered moot when I spotted one at Blues Fest a couple of days before the Fourth of July and I had to include it. Read on to see it and weep over that glorious example of Old Glory. In the meantime, I’m presenting other examples of how I’ve scoured the world, at least my small section of it, to bring my readership representations of the stars and stripes that awe and inspire. Independence Day celebrates the battles we won. In my case the battle was against technology. This post proves I rallied to produce something. Enjoy the holiday and be careful out there. Refrain from blowing off body parts as you celebrate.

Patch It Up

I caught this tiny patch flag in the streets of West Portland Park. If you watch where you’re walking, literally, you’re liable to see something like this. While it’s taken a beating, the flag displays its flagness and American spirit. The streets out here aren’t paved with flag patches but I wish they were.

Stuck On You

Decals spruce up any work van and display a kind of seal of approval. Would customers be wary if a work van displayed any other flag? All rhetorical questions aside, I’m always happy to see any representation of the red, white and blue no matter how worn or faded it is.

Flag Plant

It’s obvious that people who plant flags in planters know they won’t grow. If that were possible, I’d have a garden bed full of tiny flags. Still, this is an effective method of holiday decor. Just plant flags where ever there’s soft soil. This flag seems dangerously close to the ground and if the grass and other plants aren’t kept in check it will soon be obscured by the overgrowth.

Peace Out!

This patriotic and peaceful spare tire topper was spotted in Lake Oswego. It’s obviously very mobile so it could be anywhere else by now travelling around and spreading its message of peace. It’s the perfect combination of stars, stripes and chill that we could all hope for. I only wish this flag /peace sign combination wasn’t as oxymoronic as it seems. At the very least, it remains a nicely designed tire cover an added bonus of symbolism to contemplate.

Sing About The Flag

Attending a Blazer’s game this winter, (shout out to Paul P.!) I got caught up in the rapture, not the rafters– the seats were great, of Miss Oregon’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. You can guess her pageant talent. The high tech wizardry utilized at the Moda Center gave us all kinds of fragments of stars and stripes imagery, even going as far as to mark the exits with flags in case anyone was making a beer run during the anthem.

Flag It Up

Outside of the A-Boy store on Barbur Boulevard, this flag does double duty. It’s decorative while guiding customers to the store’s entrance. Surrounding the flag with red, white and blue flowers would have been a nice touch. Posting a NO PARKING IN THE FLAG ZONE sign wouldn’t have hurt either.

Buy The Flag

Inside the A-Boy store, I discovered this display of signs. With my limited retail experience, I know nothing of effective sales display techniques of anything but it occurred to me that the better the flag display, the sooner you’ll have nothing left to display.

Stars, Stripes and States

I received a carry out order in this box. This old squid sauce container served double duty proving a convenient way to transport food. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I discovered and marveled over the flag design on the box. It’s a smart and noble representation of the flag that I couldn’t wait to share. I liked how the flag fit into the outline of most of our country. It may not be original but which of our ideas about America weren’t cobbled together by Thomas Paine from ancient Greek and Roman aspirations? The anti-sickle message on one of the other side of the box is an added reminder that we’re supposed to be anti-communists.

Dog Days

I spotted this at the TJ Maxx in Tigard and I’m flabbergasted as to how I could have walked out of the store without it. I like the illustration of the dog modelling in front of a flag so an artist could recreate the image for reusable shopping bags. I have no idea how many pencils, dog treats and good boys it took to produce this image. I’m just grateful it happened at all. Dalmatians seem like a patriotic breed. They certainly like to ride around on firetrucks covered in flag decals.

Oh Give Me A Flag That’s Bigger Than A Boat

This post was missing a giant flag photo until I spotted one on a sailboat “parked” in the Willamette offshore of the Waterfront Blues Fest site. I waited for the right amount of breeze to hoist the flag into a more photogenic state. The enormous size and possible weight of the flag looked like it would tip the boat over. Despite my limited maritime knowledge, I.m guessing this isn’t possible. This over sized patriotic expression wasn’t doing double duty as a sail. It was still only a flag but a bigger and more American flag than most.

Jumbotroning It!

When in doubt, fly the flag on the Jumbotron. At Blues Fest downtown, this was the perfect way to celebrate the Fourth between acts. What else would we need to see on a giant screen near the stage? Debauchery in the crowd? A kiss cam? KOIN 6 broadcasters? This flag image startled me. It reminded me that it’s the reason for the season. No matter what happens, my feeling about flags are: Fly ’em, don’t fry ’em.


Every year we try to out celebrate The Pittsburgh Orbit. See how we did:

Bye bye

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.