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

Total Eclipse of the heart. Yea, yea.

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

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

Free drink included.

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

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

Superman vs Nuclear Holocaust

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

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

Never tire of tire art!

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

Getting ready at the Soap Box.

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

Hop aboard the Space Taxi.

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

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