Museum Parking: The Art of the Garage Door

 

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Look here!

The obsession to collect hasn’t left me. It’s easier when I only need images. Otherwise storage would be an issue. Bulky garage doors are impossible to drag home. This topic, inspired by the Pittsburgh Orbit, had me realizing that what happens in Pittsburgh is probably happening in Portland. I hadn’t thought about this specific type of mural until that seed was planted. Examples were all over town. Two questions remain: Why? And, why not? Every available space cries out for art. There’s no reason to waste an otherwise drab garage door surface. Paint away.

Duck Jump

Garage Art South Burlingame 7

Go Ducks!

I’m for whatever anyone needs to spruce up a garage door. This South Burlingame door has the look of a fathead style decal as opposed to something hand painted.  U of O Duck fans or even Donald Duck aficionados can appreciate this while my focus remains on how decorative elements break up the monotony of bland color schemes.

Squares Squared

Garage Art 8

Modrian d’art

Simple yet effective, this garage door in the Kenton neighborhood combines geometric and Mondrian influences. At the risk of already beating a theme to death, the design makes a dull door not so darn dull. There’s a soothing quality to the way one square slides into the other as a new square blossoms.

Squared Apart

Garage Art 6 North Portlahd

Square squares.

Maybe it’s the brown outlines or the mismatched square sizes, but the decorations of this door in North Portland caught my eye. I’m at a loss to this design’s function. It offers subtle visual appeal compared your average garage door.

Medieval Times

Garage Art 5

Modern Medieval

When doors like these in Sullivan’s Gulch cry out for designs they get them in the form of animals transported to the middle ages back when such creatures sported ancient fashions and toiled in a field.

Below, a continuation of the medieval theme.

More medieval than you.

Birthday Greetings

Garage Art 4

The medium is a message.

It was great to stumble upon this garage door in the hills of SW,  the specific neighborhood has been lost to time. This is garage door art at it’s finest making up for it’s slapdash nature with vibrant colors. It’s once pressing message is now out of date. What’s the statue of limitations on birthday celebrations? Yet how could anyone paint over this? Beyond that, and living up to this post’s theme, this is a more interesting, as well as mysterious way to spruce up a garage door.

Heart of the Matter

Garage Art 3

Open heart, open the door!

Leave it to the Albina neighborhood to throw it down with art displays of all kinds. They’re already worldwide leaders in outdoor art so it makes sense that it spills onto garage doors. This work takes an intricate and metaphorical look at a heart. The talent is admirable and sure to stop people in their tracks leaving them to overlook the peeling paint and graffiti of the garage.

Abstractions

Garage Art 2

More artsy than your average door.

The abstract art of these doors would make me regret having to open them ever with their great colors and design. How is it possible to look at any other bland garage door again? Worm holes and a pilgrim hat are among the details that must make the residents of the Albina neighborhood proud.

Look But Don’t Park

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Don’t park here.

The way to get across an important message is to inject a NO PARKING sign into a mural with an undersea motif.  Parking gets tight in the Mississippi neighborhood making this message necessary. The octopus can park where he wants but anyone else should remain cautious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When The Fourth Means Flags for July

Give me peace!

The Fourth of July is a flag holiday. Sure there’s the bang-bang of fireworks, the beer and picnics but the real reminder of Independence Day is the flag. Sure the Stars and Stripes fly year round but flag season extends from Memorial Day past the Fourth of July maybe even beyond Labor Day. The Orbit headquarters prefers a banner that promotes world peace but July 4th needs its Old Glory-style patriotic symbol. Last year I ragged on the flag design, a bit. I felt terrible about it the rest of the year. I have to remember to believe in my country and our system regardless of what the flag looks like. This is America. The only King and Queen we answer to these days are Burger and Dairy. When Betsy Ross came up with her design we were pretty much stuck with it. It’s worked so far. This flag got us through the bicentennial after all. It shouldn’t be considered stale or dull in its appearance when we appreciate what it represents. The only thing left to do is go into the world, or in this case a bit more local, and find captivating images of the Red, White and Blue. 

Flag For Passers-by

A salvaged flag.

Tucked away in a window of Salvage Works in the Kenton neighborhood, this flag is folded and framed to reveal some star and stripes leaving the rest to the imagination.

Eagle Drop

Ram tough, eagle powered.

There’s no better way to display civic pride than opting for a window backdrop seen in action on NE MLK Blvd. It features giant stars, bursting stripes and our national symbol–the eagle, swooping by. Now I’ve always wondered how anyone sees out their back window with this kind of thing. It must take some side mirror adjustments to pull it off.

Faded Waves of Grain

Rain proof glass.

This sticker is a classic. It’s a stubtle reminder of patriotism that has stood the test of time. Spotted in North Portland, the most wear and tear it receives is fading from the sun’s reflections. At least the glass keeps it dry.

Cover Up With Flag Wearables 

Flag fashion for sale.

You can do it. You can pulls off the flag fashion with what I’m guessing is a bathing suit. If these are shorts they’d be good for a laugh and a source of pride at any July 4th function. This fashion statement comes off as a bit ironic with a certain crowd but I’d prefer to consider it decorative, functional and patriotic clothing. Get this look at the Interstate Fred Meyers. These get-ups may even go on sale after the holiday.

Flagging Fencing

A better window.

This flag was part of a larger, artistic fence design the Orbit covered in a past post. Spotted in the Portsmouth neighborhood, this was a decorative Stars and Stripes made from an old window that stood out from other elements included leftover sleds and skis. 

Stars + Stripes = Decorative Tin Flag

Tin flags are special.

Out in SW, the outskirts of town, this flag has a folk art, homemade vibe, but who knows these might be mass-produced and sold out of big box stores. Stars twinkle on a rustic blue backdrop, stripes are a blend of red and white popping from shadows; this banner flutters despite its flat fence confines.

Demanding Keister Respect 

A flag to sit on.

You have to go all the way out to The Dalles and the community of Mosier to witness the glory of this Old Glory bench. Purposeful, functional flag art is as exciting as most flag displays get.

Fast Flag

Pick up that flag.

By now it’s a cliché, the flag bearing pick-up, but ultimately, if it’s an American made truck, if that exists these days, then why shouldn’t trucks bear all the flags they want. It’s good for the US flag market. Those flags take a high speed beating  as they rustle around the highway. They often need replacement.

Functional Flaggery

Keep the car cool flag.

It’s not a real flag but this fragmented design does double duty keeping this car cool while offering patriotic fervor at the same time.

Game Flag Wave

Only a stripe or two.

One stripe is all that’s going to show up on the video screen at the edge of PGE park that offered an animated flag fragment at a Portland Thorns game.

Mobile Flag Art

Spray-on flag.

How could I not be impressed by this spray paint design on a car seen parked outside the Dancing Bare in Kenton. Despite crude art work, this message of American spirit rings true. Stars and Stripes forever or as long as the car lasts.

 

More Fourth!

https://portlandorbit.wordpress.com/2017/07/01/fourth-of-july-flags-unfurled/

This was a tradition begun by the Pittsburgh Orbit. Check out their July 4th coverage!

 

A Post Post: What’s Holding Up Your Mailbox

Generic!

There was a time in my life when I could get excited about an oddly decorated mailbox. I still muster some enthusiasm  but that’s a post for another time. Moving from North Portland to SW allowed me to rediscover mailboxes. In North Portland people had mail slots in their doors. In SW, what sidewalks I’ve encountered have mailboxes planted in them. Mailboxes are a great invention. They offer opportunities for creativity. This didn’t distract me from looking under mailboxes. It happened on a twilight walk heading towards Maricara Park on SW Maricara Street. I spied multiple posts that were not run-of-the-mill or generic. Ingenuity is happening on this street. Mailboxes are being supported in creative ways. This could be a competition among the neighbors or they might draw inspiration from each other. Either way, it makes a walk to the park more scenic.

When I was a kid, well into my sullen teen years actually, we equated the suburbs with “the sticks.” We were living in the middle of a suburban quagmire that was part of an endless metropolis slowly devouring itself, but those stifling teen years had the feel of a life in the middle of nowhere. You could hardly go anywhere without a car, and I did live within a couple hundred yards of a cow pasture with cows and a farm that was eventually abandoned. Whether my SW digs have that exact feel is irrelevant. That suburban spirit is more present out here and can be felt when I take a left down the street to the unlit section of the road. It feels like that old Woody Allen joke about the suburbs. (That’s the long ago,  funny Woody not the current creepy version.) Referring to that living-in-the-middle-of-nowhere feeling he said, “there’s no place to walk after dinner and there’s Dick and Perry.” I’ve yet to encounter Dick and Perry** but thoughts of after dinner walks are met with feelings of exhaustion. It’s too far to walk anywhere. These days the sticks are more about what’s holding up mailboxes. These posts fight the stigma of ordinary while often supporting standard mailboxes. Observation is about taking a closer look.  You might find something interesting.

They Stoned Me

A post that rocks!

When I feel like I’m becoming a mailbox post critic it scares me. I mean how much actual work is there for this kind of thing. This mailbox is a work of art. It has beautiful, smooth stones and it’s set in a rich landscape of small boulders and flowers. This is excellent cement and design work. Anything to keep a mail person interested in their job.

They Stumped Me

Almost a wood stove.

This has to be the best kind of repurposing one can imagine. It appears to be a utility pole leftover. Regardless, it does its job of balancing a mailbox.

One on the Trunks

Mail tree

More sticks here but the real coup de grâce is the how the double trunk cradles the front and back of the box. It looks natural. It appears be an actual tree that was in the right place to be trimmed to form a post. This box holder is due an award in a best supporting role.

Plow Some How

Plow it up!

All right, all right, this isn’t exactly a post but it is a decorative element that sure spices up an otherwise unglamorous mail delivery system. It serves double duty. When it’s not plowing harden it spruces up the mailbox post.

Tree Huggin’ Again

I’m stumped.

The answer to any post dilemma is in using what’s available. This may not be the most attractive piece of wood but it gets the job done.

At Least I’ll Get My Welding Done

Metal rules!

This one is down the road on SW Huber Street. It involves something I get excited about: Welding! This art is serviceable sculpture, a subtle accent to the metal container above it.

Brick-à-Brac

Brick house for mail.

Not so much a creative use of postery, but this example is included to demonstrate what types of set-ups exist. This is a rugged, sturdy, box holder that also seems like it could cook pizzas as well as store mail at the same time.

**Read Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood.

It’s a Purple World, You Just Haven’t Noticed

Prince’s death shocked the world and inspired the Portland Orbit to look for a way to honor him. Tonight a pedalpalooza ride will celebrate his legacy. We have to live with a diminishing output of Prince material. Regardless of how many recordings are in the vault it won’t be the same without a living Prince creating new sounds and musical trends. While things will never be the same, it doesn’t stop us from seeking out another thing Prince left behind: his love of the color purple.

There can’t be much to the Prince/Portland connection. Sure he came here for business trips but it’s unclear if he noticed enough purple to make him feel at home. The only thing I could come up with online was a blog post from the Portland Orbit which was pure speculation, miles away from hard journalism and the blog could only surmise what’s already been said here. There’s no evidence, one way or the other, about whether Prince had a soft spot in his heart for Portland but the world has a soft spot in its heart for Prince.

On this anniversary of Prince’s birth, as spring roars hopefully into the more level headed season of summer, it feels like time to pause and consider purple. Purple reminds us of Prince and reflects his spirit. You won’t have to be a Prince fan or even a fan of the color purple to appreciate this post but it will help. Sit back, catch your breath and contemplate these purple hues.

Purple Wall

Plain, yet purple, this wall color spot lights elegance, perhaps shining above the blues inducing and unsightly nearby garbage can. As part of a dry cleaners on Barbur Boulevard in SW, this color choice on part of the building caught my eye for being the right splash of color in the middle of drab surroundings.

Purple Mountain

Bringing truth to the phrase “purple mountain’s majesty,” this portrayal of Mount Hood does it in style with just the right lighting conditions. Its part of a longer mural on the side of a building on Interstate Avenue.

Purple House

Living in a purple house is as close as some of us get to the Prince lifestyle. It’s a bold choice and it’s the right choice. It gleams in sunlight and cheers up the Foster-Powell area neighborhood on a gloomy day.

Purple Counter

Not too many of us look under the counter at restaurants but while waiting for a take-out order I drank in the purpleness of the counter’s base. It struck me as the right kind of deep and glorious purple for the Kenton neighbor establishment of Po Shines. Another color might have run the risk of blending in, remaining hidden under the counter and going completely unnoticed.

Purple Ex-Coffee Shop 

I’ve been saying good-bye to this place for a long time. The purple paint job, in all of it’s three shaded glory, is something to behold. It’s tough to imagine this Piedmont neighborhood ex-establishment becoming anything else especially a business that might require a new paint job.

Purple Decorative Bike

While getting into an almost realm of dental art by virtue of being placed in front of a dental office, this bike qualifies for inclusion in a purple post instead. It stands out with it’s old-timey style and lighting. This bold bike may not even inspire anyone to make an appointment for a cleaning but it jazzes up the landscaping.

Purple Bike Rack

Where else would you lock a purple bike but on a purple bike rack. Here’s further proof that purple is a versatile color for any municipal equipment. It brings a bike rack into the realm of art object.

Dual Purple Garage Doors

No one gets excited about garage doors but when there’s two of them and they’re purple excitement does begin to gurgle. Tucked away in the SW neighborhood of Arnold’s Creek, these  double doors of purpleness exude tranquility. It’s a strong accent to a more utilitarian and often overlooked aspect of a home.

Purple Planter

Perhaps we have to stick with this newly coined adage, “if you’re feeling down, keep some purple around.” Surrounding an orange tree with a purple planter is one way to stay color coordinated and purple, like Prince himself, can get you out of one funk and into one that’s way better.

Rubbing Elbows with Aliens at the McMinnville UFO Festival

Saucery

Somewhere down the Pacific Highway the strangle hold of suburbia gives way to wine country. You want to believe everything past Sherwood is a place where grapes grow well. Seventy years ago was a different time when ultra-modern technology, still light years away, allowed a UFO to swoop through the McMinnville area skies. Paul Trent took photos of the craft much like the one pictured above and the rest became history that has included a celebration of all things UFO related for the last 20 years.

The Alienation of Puppetry

Aliens are necessary. They give people an identity as either believers or non-believers. Anyone above “UFO nonsense” would still have to give it up to the people of McMinnville for devoting a weekend to the celebration of alien culture. Strains of unalien carnival music lead us downtown. My first glimpse through martian eyes was cosmic. So many people in the streets the cars had to dodge them. Minutes into my arrival I came to a realization. I don’t have to wear jeans slitted up the thighs to be cool. How can aliens be stranger than the people surrounding me?

Monkey and Aliens

Waiting for the parade to start, I spotted my first alien but couldn’t figure out which pocket my camera phone was in. By the time I got it out I was distracted by a gorilla across the street, then an upright monkey, who had no place in a UFO Fest, walked by. I was in the midst of an occasion that caused people to dress anyway they saw fit. The theme was broader than expected. Walking through the festival’s retail tent section, I found myself too jaded to make contact with Portland celebrity, the Unipiper. I was enjoying the wares that were all things alien, soap with alien faces being my favorite. An alien fashion t-shirt displayed the phrase “Get in Loser.” My mind wandered. Why are aliens portrayed with big eyes and skinny bodies? I know this comes from someone’s description but it seems clichéd. Aliens need a better publicist or better yet, a stylist.

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Alien Fashion Hub

At the Bigfoot tent, one of the retailers looked intense. I’m not going to be the one to question why Sasquatch paraphernalia is being pedaled at UFO Fest. Next door there was a rep from Bath-Fitter, again, why? But then why shouldn’t everyone jump on the bandwagon even bath-tubbers? Maybe there’s a special on alien shaped tubs. This niche market only gathers once a year. Mother was right though, I am a purist. I’m only in it for the aliens.

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Crashing the parade.

Dryer Hose Man Rules!

As we waited, my wife, Ronna, pointed out that the scariest part of any parade is when the random dude, this one had his skull and face painted blue with black spots, walks the parade route by himself. This parade started off unofficially with three intrusions. A group of men approached pushing what looked like a grill, but turned out to be a speaker. As they passed, I heard a man say, “One of the things the bible says…” before I got distracted by my philosophical musings that religion and alien celebrations don’t really mix. Minutes later a simple, yet effective, giant dryer hose wearing guy broke into the parade unpermitted.

Alien Wars

We found the media section of the parade route and settled in. The event seemed to be an excuse to sport alien fashions and get your face painted. I overheard someone say, “They have to have a beer garden set up around here,” and of course, the beer drinking excuse. I asked myself why I’m so fascinated with plastic alien blow-up dolls. Kids in renaissance costumes were ready to fight off aliens. I felt safer.  I wondered if the parade would ever start? The media section was a reminder that you never really have to leave the house. Everything will be live-streamed. I wondered if alien candy would be flung from floats? Restless kids might have wondered about this too as they danced and lay down in the streets. The parade was not on time. Before the parade started impatient aliens turned on each other. I watched two kids swing blow-up aliens dispelling their parade anticipation energy.

Alienacopter

Waiting, I grew tired of aliens and alien joke t-shirts—funny in small doses. (Have you seen the one where the flying saucer beams up a Sausquatch?) Where’s this bleeping parade? Finally, the first few caddy convertibles carried, in a Grand Marshall vein, what I assumed would be politicians but ended up being  festival speakers and UFO experts. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a guy walking down the sidewalk sporting an alien related t-shirt that read, “What is real” No question mark. What is real appeared to be alien floats full of homegrown creativity. There can’t possibly be many UFO themed parades. Yet hear I was at one so brilliantly conceived albeit a bit off schedule. Real aliens could have crashed this festival and who would have known?

Hold That Alien

Floats floated by. A mishmash of Martian chronicles: A helicopter festooned with blow- up aliens like something our of Star Wars, a flying saucer hoisted up by a genie lift. The Linfield College marching band, out paced by all the other local school bands, couldn’t find motivation to play their instruments. They’re just kids paying too much for their education. Another freaky participant was spotted until I realized it was only a mask.

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What? A mask!

The giant Alien puppets holding utensils were my favorite. Ronna insisted Aliens invented the spork. My reverie was broken up by a parade attendee saying, and it’s only the second quote I got all day, “Excuse me, do you mind you almost hit me twice with your elbow.” I apologized and spared her a rant about my being a practicing journalist who got carried away taking photos of passing puppet aliens. This woman had no idea she was in the media section. The second photographer, who showed up late and stood in my way, didn’t even make it obvious. This town, with all it’s great shops and restaurants, was proving itself to not be big enough for the both of us, and my elbows. I seethed for the rest of the parade.

The Art of the Foil

In all it was a day of goofball weirdness. Let’s hope no aliens were pissed off with so many people making sport of them. I took away memories of silver face painted folks under giant foam cowboy hats who strutted their stuff and square danced while some we-can-fend-off-aliens-with-martial-arts street fighting broke out to the tune of a Led Zeppelin song. Jiffy pop lid headed Parade watchers cosplay players and other foil contraptions crinkled my brain. Our fest experience ended with psychedelic boogie-woogie music after hearing the tale of a guy in a beer line who was wearing an Area 51 shirt and talking about his visit to the area that ended with him watching security guys through binoculars while they watched him back with their’s. You could have many interesting conversations at a UFO Festival that might make you question what is real. As long as there’s a question mark I’ll be okay.

Alien Stroll

Alien Stroll

 

More photos from the parade can be found here:

 

Royal Living in North Portland

As I was trying to explain who I was and why I was calling, I started getting a good natured razzing. Telling the guy on the other end of the line that I was a blogger had him joking about how bloggers are the ones who don’t make any money from their writing. I could only laugh being too familiar with my impoverished blogging pursuits. At this point I was proud for doing something challenging, namely picking up the phone and making a call. The voice on the phone preferred to remain anonymous. All jokes aside, the man was making my penniless endeavors worth it by telling stories about something I’d long wondered about.

I’ve marveled at the twin apartment buildings, Queen Johanna and Queen Jeannette for a long time. My curiosity outweighed my need to know but here I was talking to someone in the know—the owner of the Queen Johanna building. Looking through an apartment webpage featuring the Queen Johanna, I dialed (does anyone dial anymore?) the number on the site. Soon I was talking to a friendly, chatty guy who told me about the twin Queen apartments in the Portsmouth section of North Portland. The apartments were built by a man named T. A. Nelson, first name Thomas, who named them after his daughters. While one of the Queen apartments was sold, Jeanette still owns the building named for her.

The apartments were built around 1974. Mr. Nelson’s excitement over his accomplishment inspired him to rent a limo to drive his friends over to show off the buildings. When asked what he thought people might think about living in buildings named for Queens, my anonymous source said they might appreciate it but they didn’t know the history. The apartment owner suggested the royalty theme was inspired by how much Nelson cherished his children.

My source then served up a triple bombshell telling me that Nelson also built an apartment building named Carroll’s Castle. The building’s namesake, another daughter, lives in one of the apartments of the place named after her. Not only that, he built more apartments called King Arthur’s Court and you guessed it—his son inspired the name. It never occurred to me that these buildings, with a royal theme, were related but in hindsight it’s easy to see how it couldn’t be coincidental.

My contact explained that these were particulars of the story he had heard. There was a point where I began to fear this anonymous voice might be making up an elaborate tale and pranking me. I found an online bizapedia entry for T. A. Nelson Buildiers Inc. a company that started in 1967 so the story seems legit. The one sure way for more details would involve tracking down Carroll of Carroll’s Castle. Sadly, my source had no contact information for her.

When I joked about how Carroll’s Castle might feel like living in a castle, a question that was tounge-in-cheek and inspired by the peeling paint on the apartment’s sign, I was given a history lesson about how nice the apartments were for their time. These were some of the first apartments in a neighborhood described as being full of cheap houses.

“Back then when they were built, those buildings were like dynamite. That was it,” he exclaimed. When I said it sounded like the apartments were state of the art for the time the Queen Johanna owner elaborated, “the buildings were like condos, but they’re not.” The garages were an added bonus and an unusual feature for apartment living. He told me if I tracked Carroll down I should ask her if she’d sell him the building. “I love that building,” he said. I asked him if I got a deal going whether there’d be money in it for me. He laughed saying I might have a broker in me. He did promise a bookstore gift card if I assisted on a deal. Having made all the calls I have time to make this week, I can only hope to hunt down the rest of the story from Carol, Arthur and Jeanette one of these days. In the meantime I’m off in search of my inner real estate broker.

* * * * *

Royal living isn’t just for North Portland residents. If you’re hoping to live amoungst Kings and Queens there are options out there.

Get Your Royal on at Royal Crest

I’m not sure if these apartments inspire jokes about the Royals in this Game of Thrones era but if you’re interested in moving to Beaverton you can find out.

Live like a King On NE MLK BLVD

You can live like a king or maybe live on a street named after a King, nonetheless the building name checks the highest level of royalty you can muster in Portland.

The Stone Cats of Orchard Hill


The suburbs are scary. I knew that going into our recent move, but as I’ve become reacquainted with a more suburban way of life, I’ve tuned into feelings of orderly desolation and alienation. No one seems to know or want to know their neighbors. It’s sad when human connection becomes bothersome. Walking down empty streets, minus an occasional passing car, I considered this notion of not wanting to bother anyone while trying to solve a mystery.

I had come to the streets of Orchid Hill looking for three cement cats I’d spotted on a “forced march” in the month of March. This walk, being recreational and practical, centered around a stop at the grocery store. Walking up Orchid Hill Way and Place, I spotted a trio of stone cats on brick mail boxes. We had stumbled on a street of cat enthusiasts. It still might not have even been interesting enough for a Portland Orbit post but one of the cat topped mail boxes stood in front of a yard full of cat figurines. Through the randomness of it all a pattern emerged. Neighbors found a way to express cat love and for a brief moment, with three families participating, a contagion almost became an outbreak. Then, it stopped. I was on a mission of curiosity to get answers. At the very least I’d be able to marvel at some neighbor’s shared celebration of cement cats.

For the Portland Orbit three of anything is enough for the makings of a blog post. It surely is as much a nod to cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller’s rule of the threes–always three rocks in the background of the Nancy cartoons, or none at all. Two of anything, that’s a couple, not as dynamic, adding a third always makes things interesting. When we’re talking cement cats perched on large brick mailboxes the interest also lies in what may have inspired this group effort.

My timing proved impeccable. As I wandered by one of the mail boxes the homeowner stepped out to check the mail. The man was willing to consider my question of why there were a trio of cat mailboxes in the neighborhood.

“I don’t know if we copied them or they copied us,” he responded. From the looks of it, the cats had been around for long time, long enough for anyone’s memory to remain foggy about their origins. The man paused to consider the unkempt nature of his cat statue which reflected his own grizzled state. “Maybe that can be for spring cleaning,” I offered. I asked him if he knew the other neighbors with cement cats but was told, “We don’t know the neighbors very well.”

Of course I missed the operative question but the man seemed to be in a rush to get his mail and get back inside. I’m sure a question about cat ownership would have been affirmed. I don’t know what cat lovers look like but it seemed like he must have had a live cat living at the house with a cement cat topped mailbox at some point. Since I was granted permission, I took photos and headed off to find the next cat.

Cat figurines dotting a meticulously mulched yard proved fascinating in the considering of the lore of the home being a mythical, or real!, cat lady residence. Not one to barge up to a front door blaring with No Solicitation signs, my Orbit exclusive had to happen in a more stealthy way. This catscaped yard was tasteful and subdued. Partnered with the cement mail box topper which may work better in a pet cemetery, the “catphilia” was genuinely felt. The only thing missing were actual cats roaming the premises.

The third cat portrayed a kind of proud puma look. Lying in repose, possibly painted blue at some point, the cat demonstrates a certain long-tailed swagger even while lying in wait for the mail person. Dogs on mail boxes would prove too aggressive or threatening to mail people. This cat has the right attitude. Chill for the bill.

Never one to have experienced cat fever, I got a sense of it from my excursion to Orchid Hill. My fevers have taken across many lands. These examples of cement sculpture are as entrancing and mysterious as any I’ve encountered, a far cry from the empty bird baths I encountered a couple of summers ago. In this case cement held these cats captive in a nap, a frolic with a ball, a contented smile and time.

 

 

Are You Ready?/We’re All Going to Die

My name is David and I am a disaster addict. I break into shivers at any mention of the word subduction. I live for the moment when the fault line shifts and throws us into the throes of the inevitable natural disaster. I’m no expert but people need to consider an earthquake’s aftermath and contemplate what it will be like to scrounge for food and water and not be able to take a real shower for six months. (1) My own preparation includes a water supply that isn’t up to the two-week standard yet and a few spare cans of kidney beans. I might be on a three or four bean per diem until things return to normal. I have yet to check the expiration date on those weird nutrition bars with the five-year shelf life that I would only consider eating if starvation were imminent. This earthquake preparation event was an opportunity to reinforce what I know and learn something new. A chance to improve my knot tying skills was an added bonus.

When we arrived I realized we were in the safest place possible if an earthquake were to occur. Everyone would spring into action, catch ceiling beams before they gashed my skull, bark out commands and rescue us all. The reality was a power point presentation given by members of the Red Cross. My ears and eyes didn’t totally glaze over. My stupor was staved off by thoughts of other natural disasters like terrorism, hazardous materials spills, winter storms, volcanos, fires, floods, landslides and the vague sounding public health emergency—do I need to stockpile tissues?

The talk was standing room only with an average age that could only be described as old. Young people might have better things to do or they only go to earthquake talks that serve beer. The lecture reinforced the need to plan. I realized I hadn’t even thought about how we’d get out of our new house if it were on fire. It’s much harder if you have to figure it out when the house is actually on fire. The same goes for an earthquake. Who’s going to check on your living quarters and pets? How will anyone get across the river if all the bridges collapse? I did meet a woman once who kept a portable raft in her car for that very reason.  Answers to questions like these are  a necessary part of disaster planning.

From the Red Cross talk, I learned that up to 7 million people could be affected by a quake with 2 million people dealing with food and water shortages. A percentage of these folks will be coming for my water supply. We’ll all get one teeny sip per day. Up to a million people could be in need of shelter. When one considers FEMA’s record we could all be SOL. A two-week water supply seems like a drop in a bucket given the possibility of a longer recovery period. I also have low expectations of the abilities of an overwhelmed police force. I heard rumblings of SW Portland becoming inaccessible to police assistance if the roads end up a crumbled mess.

Jon Grasle from the American Red Cross offered a casual aside. “It’s going to be a ride,” he said of a possible earthquake. He pointed out that over the last 10,000 years there have been 41 earthquakes over 8.5 on the Richter Scale. These averaged a little over every 240 years. The last occurred in January of 1700. When talking averages, he explained that some quakes have happened as much as 800 years apart. It was a relief hearing that it was possible that an earthquake might not occur in most of our lifetimes even though technically we’re overdue.

Red Cross representative Libet Steiff started her talk saying, “If we’re lucky we’ll die of something else before this is ever an issue.” Ah, to die any other way than from an earthquake that’s somehow reassuring. She covered topics worth pondering including pet plans, out-of-town contacts for communication, building survival kits and figuring out a safe place to store them. There’s also water to collect and store, a back supply of medications to stock pile, copies of important documents to make and the sanitation considerations that will have you scrambling for a poo pamphlet or two.

I’m not one to preach to coworkers, friends or strangers but embracing the idea that a debilitating earthquake could happen is important. People need to get their heads around this possible scenario and work up some preparation basics. It’s not necessary to go overboard and build an earthquake-proof bomb shelter but a bit of planning will pay off if things get rocky.

I never got my question answered about how to fend off the marauding band of thirsty psychotic crazies who might come to my house brandishing drinking straws aimed at my water supply. It’s a question for the next preparation event, I suppose. One lecture on a Sunday afternoon was enough. I picked up some reference material in a cavernous room of the Multnomah Arts Center where there were preparation displays, NET (Neighborhood Emergency Teams) groups gathered, people pushing post earthquake supplies and our knot tying instructors. As we left I looked through the window of the classroom where another lecture was in progress. A slide on the screen was titled liquefaction. My wife, Ronna, accused me of drooling at the thought of sitting in on a lecture about this topic. I broke into a cold sweat but managed to drag myself away from the event and into the daylight.

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(1) This is not based on any scientific fact. I was trying to think of the longest amount of time someone could go without a real shower before going legally insane.

Gnome Alone: Going Solo in Gnome City USA

Is Portland worthy of the title Gnome City USA? I think so. Where do we rank? #1 for sure! There are plenty of Gnomes around but does Portland have more Gnomes than any where else?  I’d say absolutely with certainty but given that I imagine few people really care I’m going to go about the business of presenting to Portland, and the world, a few thoughts about these local gnomes.

Lately it’s been more questions than I can really answer. I’m more driven just to spread the gospel of Portland being a city crawling with . Everyone gnomes it.  This kind of lawn and garden art is everywhere. All bad puns aside it feels like there are at least 2 to 3 per capita, but I’m not sure I can muster the jargon for correct statistical analysis so I’m ready to move on to other concerns involved with gnome ownership. Then again presenting facts while making no effort to back them up means The Portland Orbit is more in line with trying to make it onto President Trump’s list of fake news organizations.

What’s really important is making people aware of how crucial picking the right Gnome is when making the effort to demonstrate your yard decoration skills. This could be is the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life. Deliberate, choose wisely, once you decide there is no going back. In cases of buyer’s remorse it’s important to point out that Gnomes hate being replaced or returned to the store. Their special powers will have them stopping at nothing in the event they are scorned. An indecisive yard decorator risks being beset upon by a plauge of crabgrass, an army of moles or worse. Don’t test their strange powers. Behind these docile statuettes lie a vindictive warrior.

Weathered But Not Beaten

Weatherbeaten Gnomes like this one in SW Portland can still get the job done. In fact they’re more interesting to look at than brand spanking new Gnomes. Besides no one has any clue about the proper way to dispose of a Gnome until they crumble and fall apart for good.

Geographical Showdown

North Montana Avenue in the North Portland neighborhood of Arbor Lodge seems to inspire a contagion of Gnome displays. It’s hard to tell if it was coincidental or competitive. The Gnomes have spare time to pursue fancy hobbies like bug collecting and riding while wiling away the hours performing their display duties.

Super Sized

Instead of three or four gnomes why not an extra-large Gnome that’s about the size of three or four Gnomes. This intimidating sized Gnome can do double duty guarding your garden as well as your front door.

Pick a Side Gnome

Gnome don’t generally pay attention to sports and they’re certainly not dedicated followers of fashion but people can’t resist forcing their Gnomes, like this one spotted in the Kenton neighborhood, to pick a side and show team spirit accordingly. All in a day’s work for any Gnome.

Fishing in North Portland

Again in more of an inspired moment of yard decor it’s nice to consider what you can make a Gnome do. Fishing in a garden is something no one but a Gnome would attempt yet a yard decorator with a sense of humor or a love of fishing can force a Gnome to hold a fish bearing fishing pole and tend to squash plants at the same time.

Home Gnome

Possibly foisted upon us by the proprietor at Kenton Antiques (thanks Mo!), I grew to love the strange Gnome who came to live in our backyard. Even at his final resting place (the side yard), the Gnome seems to weather any weather without losing a smile or getting a bad attitude.

Fences Make Interesting Neighbors

Consider fences. Most of the time they’re damn dull. They do their job without making a fuss or a fashion statement. At the Portland Orbit, we’re interested in any stabs at creativity we can feast our eyes on. You might think there isn’t much people can do with fences but I here’s proof to the contrary.  Fences can take on elements of yard decor that make them unique. There might be windows added or fences made from scrap doors and window frames. A structure can take on the look of a mixed media piece of art when elements of whatever might be lying around are mixed in. These days people have realized that fences can straddle the line between practically and art.

Backside Barrier

This homemade barrier had us stopping dead in our tire tracks so I could jump out of the car and take a picture. It encompasses everything I love. Homegrown ingenuity for fencing from an unlikely source which includes mannequin materials that launched some old familiar and feverish feelings. This yard in SW near Multnomah Village is also directly across the street from a Christian school so one could only imagine the backstory. This is form that follows function as fencing goes. It inspired me to think of other examples of interesting, yet less exotic styles of fencing, that I needed to bring to the public’s attention.

Nautical, Not Knot to Call

In the University Park neighborhood off of Willamette Boulevard, I spotted a fence that took  elements of a nautical theme combined with a kitchen sink approach to fence design. The water decor works well given that the fence is in front of a house that backs up to the banks of the Willamette river.  It weaves netting and ropes through trees and logs.  A closer look revealed decorative items that brought color and a touch of whimsy to this kind of yard marker. Who knew how artsy an old rake could look when grouped with old logs, nautical floats and a random cat mask?

The Windows to the Soul Approach

First I would consider why anyone would want a window in their fence. Fences are all about privacy. Right? But at the Portland Orbit any time anyone asks why? The response is a guaranteed why not. These windows offer a dramatic decorative element that may also serve a function if anyone ever needs to see who might be creeping along the fence. This is something that any fence builder should contemplate. A wall of wood doesn’t always do much good. I mean all that grain and stain really could stand to be broken up by a few windows.

Frame by Frame

In the St. Johns neighborhood this house had an approach to fencing that seized my imagination. Windows and doors along with elements like skis and a sled have been utilized to create this fence. A neighbor, out walking his dog, described it as looking “hooterville” when I was getting some photos. He did counter the thought by adding “to each his own,” as he and his dog continued off on their walk. I have to say I might feel different if I had to look at this everyday. My only problem would be that I wouldn’t be able to stop looking at it. I’d always be finding new objects that I may have missed. These kind of things keep the design fresh and interesting especially when it stands out in of a crowd of generic neighborhood fences.

Detail: Fence wash board

 

Welcome sledders and golfers!