The Louie Files: Louie Louie Sculpture

I never would have known there was a “Louie Louie” sculpture in town if I had not been tipped off by Will Simmons. Will enjoys his fame as a blogger for the Pittsburgh Orbit and I was lucky to have him as a guest columnist. Earlier this month, he wrote about the greatest moment in rock history and had been looking for photos for the post. If you haven’t read it already it was about the 60’s Portland band the Kingsmen recording “Louie Louie.” I ran the post on April 6 in honor of the 54th anniversary of the making of that record.

A closer look.

You have to make some considerations when you’re attempting to illustrate a song. It’s challenging. Artist Tim Bavington illustrated the song’s sound waves in a sculptural form  that hangs in the lobby of the Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building at 1220 SW 3rd Avenue in Portland. You pretty much have to have synesthesia to make an image of music and yet Tim Bavington’s sculpture takes the notes and chords from the song “Louie Louie” and does that. My research revealed that the sculpture replicates the Kingsmen’s version of the song but unless you’re a sound engineer with a keen eye, as opposed to your average federal worker, how would you know?

The Louie Files: Louie, Louie Sculpture 3

I made my way downtown on a Tuesday afternoon during my spring break. With a sneaking suspicion that a federal building meant security, I emptied my pockets of various odds and ends before leaving the house. I was getting worked up knowing I was going to have to explain my mission. When I arrived I told the guard about my blog related photography assignment. I wondered if I sounded professional, or crazy. He remained unfazed, as if this were an everyday occurrence. I was instructed to only take pictures of the sculpture and not the security apparatus I was passing through. Taking off my shoes only proved to be a minor annoyance. It was getting me closer to the sculpture. I discovered the plate in my arm from this summer’s bike accident didn’t set off the metal detector.

The guitar solo is the yellow part.

After collecting my belongings, one of the other guards told me, what sounded like a rumor, that the art was hung upside down. I was flabbergasted. Art hung upside down? I asked why no one ever returned to hang it right. She explained that she had worked in building construction and thought the art work cost more to hang than to make. Rearranging it would be cost prohibitive. She seemed like a good source of information so I asked how the art work ended up in a Portland federal building. Her explanation was cryptic. She told me she had lived in Portland for a long time and wacky things happen here. Days later I had to wonder if I had not fallen victim to the greatest joke about abstract art of all–the old nobody knows which side is up joke.

The Louie Files: Louie, Louie Sculpture

Feds in there somewhere.

The Federal Building itself is a work of art. Ironwork up the entire building had me wondering how this obscures people’s views from the windows but it sure looks cool. Inside the lobby, the “Louie Louie” sculpture is given a great amount of space, the whole lobby, minus the security apparatus, to be noticed and admired. The large windows on the ground floor allow light to be reflected back on the surface of the art work. I found this distracting because it doesn’t allow the color of the sculpture to be seen as well but it adds a dimension to the piece. It’s always going to look different. That sentiment was summed up in the title plaque that describes how artist Tim Bavington:

“assigned colors to spectrographic images of the music, and the resulting color combinations correspond to the song’s changing chords. Viewed from different angles and in shifting light throughout the day, the forms appear fluid and ever-changing.”

Seating for seven.

Another detail I appreciated was how the art reflected off the shiny floor, mirrored in swirls of color. I laughed to think about how there was seating arranged far from the art work with enough space between to take the whole thing in or not look at the sculpture at all. I had to wonder if people considered the artist’s methods, design and subject matter and if the art ever started discussions about the song itself.

Detail

The song has taken on a bit of a new life for me as I started this series of blog posts related to it. I never quite caught on to the “Louie Louie” resurgence in the ’80’s but after reading about the “Louie Louie” marathons at California college radio stations it now makes sense. I finally got around to visiting the building where the song was recorded. Next year I hope to write about the plaque being returned to one of its walls. I heard it had been stolen but was told when I visited the site that it was taken off for renovation work.

IMG_4979

The Louie, Louie Building sponsored by FedEx.

Mostly I like the idea of a bunch of guys bombing into a recording studio and being bum rushed into churning out a quick take of a song that became legendary. One Facebook responder didn’t think the guitar solo was raunchy enough and while that’s something to consider, the song was recorded in a way that created a delicate balance, anything done even in the slightest different way, another take or an overdub (if that technology even existed then), might have thrown off the whole recording. As Simmons described in his greatest rock moment post, the Kingsmen created a recording full of “magical quirks,” a phrase that relates to the possibilities that can still be found in Portland. Somehow it all seems subversive in a subtle way that a sculpture would be installed 50 years after an Indiana Governor alerted the F.B.I. and started a rock and roll witch hunt of sorts over the song’s perceived explicit nature. I’ll take quirks anywhere I can find them even if it means taking my shoes off.

Next week’s topic will be Sign Additions. You’ll have to tune in to see what this is about. The following week we’ll be running the last of this year’s Louie Files series. We’re thinking it will be a first hand account of the Seaside riots.   

For sculpture information see:

http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2013/07/the_kingsmens_infamously_innoc.html

Many thanks to Louielouie.net for their “greatest moment” write up:

http://www.louielouie.net/blog/?p=8424

The Louie Files: Finding Pypo

There’s plenty to do at the Oregon coast, even during a rainy weekend. There’s bad cable television, waves to look at and listen to and rain showers to dodge when the time seems right for a walk on the beach. But I was on assignment. No, I hadn’t gone to Seaside, Oregon for the sole purpose of hunting down the remains of an old teen club but since I was in the area, the exact area, I knew I could make it part of my agenda. I was really in Seaside because my wife, Ronna, was attending a conference at the Convention Center. My real assignment was to monitor the dog and keep him from barking and waking everyone up at the hotel.

When Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit was preparing a post for this blog to celebrate the anniversary of the Kingsmen’s recording of “Louie Louie,” I read the story about the origins of the song and kept hearing about the Pypo Club in Seaside. I was in the right place to snap a few photos of the place that played a part in the song’s history. By now, hopefully, you’ve read Simmons’ “Louie Louie,” post. The Pypo Club was integral to the Kingsmen’s association with the song. It was at the club where the band kept seeing kids get up and dance to Rockin’ Robin Roberts’ version of “Louie Louie” every time it came on the jukebox. This inspired the band to perform it themselves. Obsessives like me find this moment of inspiration historical. It led to the Kingsmen recording “Louie Louie.” Historical events mean building preservation and plaques. I knew the club was on Broadway so after walking to the Convention Center the night we arrived I found the street which is the town’s main drag and headed towards the ocean. I expected to see the Pypo Club looking familiar like the old photo I’d seen but the darkness kept it hidden. That was okay since I had the next day to find it.

The Club keeps you young.

The following morning I did more research. I read the obituary of the man, Gil Tolan, who co-founded the club in 1961. The Pypo Club got a brief, one sentence mention. The gentleman had a full life so the obituary explored his many other accomplishments. Then I discovered that the first Pypo Club was torn down. This club had figured so prominently in rock history and yet I could find few specifics about it. Some Facebook mentions seemed concerned with casual reminiscences. Somewhere a comment explained the building’s demise.

A commenter tells the tale.

With all the development that had gone on in the last 50 years it made sense that a teen club would be inconsequencial. Right there at the point where the Pypo Club would have faced the ocean was a concrete bunker complete with a roundabout for auto traffic with a statue of Lewis and Clark in the middle. Underneath this were the public bathrooms. Additional research revealed the club had moved to a second location in a building that became an electrical business. That too was torn down to make room for a parking lot. I never determined when that happened. I was sitting in a hotel room like I’d been bowled over by a rouge wave. I had nothing to photograph. There was no way to capture the Pypo Club aspects of the “Louie Louie” story.

Possible Pypo Club site now bathrooms.

I thought I needed to go to the electrical business named Borland’s. They had moved into the second Pypo Club on A Street. That business then moved to G St. I’m not sure if I had a specific address other than the street name but I was thinking that the town was small enough that if I drove up and down G Street I’d see it. I imagined a back office with photos of old buildings and stories about rock and roll legends but I never saw the business. Surely the internet would have told me if the business was still around and if they had weekend hours, but I missed the part where the business was actually located in Gearhart. I regrouped because I knew I had spared someone, and myself, some awkward and over-caffeinated blubbering about being a blogger hot on the trail of a rock club who’s name I couldn’t even pronounce.

History is made here.

I remembered seeing a sign for a historical museum in the area and I headed back to find it. Walking in and seeing the sign for the 3 dollar entrance fee had me telling the man at the desk in the entrance way, “I don’t have any money but I’m trying to find information about the Pypo Club.” I still wasn’t sure how to pronounce it so I said it both ways, “Pee-po” and “Pie-po” to be safe. I explained that it was an old rock club where the Kingsmen and Paul Revere and the Raiders played. He said he hadn’t heard of it. I think I babbled a bit about what I knew about the buildings being torn down. I mentioned the ’62 riots which were associated with the Pypo Club. He seemed to know about that. Then he disappeared into the back and brought out an old phone book. I would have preferred he bring out an old timer they had stashed in the backroom with exstensive knowledge of the town’s early rock years. After going back a couple of times, he found a phone listing in the 1963 book. He had spent a few minutes looking the club up under the letter U. The photo I showed him had “Under 21 Club” on the awning.

The Louie Files: Finding Pypo 5

There’s that number, again!

I’ll admit it was a bit confusing but I realized Seaside had more history going on than what happened at the Pypo Club and there was a whole museum devoted to it. The volunteer was younger than me but I was still mystyfied. I mean the Kingsmen, “Louie Louie,” the germ of an idea had happened in Seaside. Why wasn’t it a bigger deal? Why didn’t everyone know? I took a photo of the listing in the old phone book, evidence that the place existed. I left wracking my brain about what else I could photograph, but forgot to take a picture of the museum. I made my way back to A Street and took pictures of the empty lots across from the Dairy Queen the man at the museum told me about.

In the area of the second Pypo Club.

The next morning I realized I could go back to the old address of the original club, 1 N. Broadway. Here’s where I remain confused. Either I saw the club listed at this address or wanted to think that the address still existed even though the club is long gone. Right there in the phone book it’s listed as 1 Broadway. The thing I got excited about was that with it’s black stripes the awning looked similar to the one in the old Pypo Club. Due to some early morning chaos, my first picture was crooked. When I went to take the picture the dog growled at a man who approached the store then turned away, while out front a woman was having her car towed which wasn’t going to make a nice wide shot. As I was packing up to check out of the hotel, I made plans for more photos. I needed the histroy museum and business at what I thought was the old address or at least a better awning shot. I was in need for a witness to this history but was in no mood to hang out at the local eatery, the Pig’n Pancake restaurant and badger random senior citizens with questions.

That old, familiar awning.

There I was scrambling around, carrying bags in the pouring rain, loading the dog in the car, going back to the room for the last load and dealing with a key card that stopped working. The museum was easy. It was all about waiting for the flag to unfurl just right, but even that ended up getting cropped from the photo. Getting back up Broadway at noon proved tougher than I realized. It’s a small area but traffic congestion combined with the longest red light I’d ever experienced was making me late. I still needed to pick my wife up from her conference. I drove past the market somehow related to the Pypo Club snapping photos and realizing that driving while photographing was probably just as dangerous as driving while texting as I then began to navigate the turn around. I took a deep breath slogged for another block back through traffic and realized that I, at least, had a few more options of photos to tell the story of the Pypo Club a place that’s gone but who’s spirit emanates from the sun, rain, wind blown sand and ocean spray of the resort town of Seaside, OR.

Next time: A visit to the “Louie, Louie” sculpture located in a Portland federal building.

The Louie Files: The Greatest Moment in Rock-and-Roll

exterior of two-story brick building painted black, downtown Portland, OR

Hallowed ground. The former Northwestern Recorders, Burnside and 13th Ave, where “Louie Louie” was recorded.

Editor’s Note: Guest columnist this week is Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit. His love of the the Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie” has inspired a slew of forthcoming posts to celebrate the 54th anniversary of  the recording. He’s won me over as I realize Will isn’t spewing hyperbole.

 

It is the greatest moment in rock-and-roll. I can say that definitively–I know them all.

Oh, sure–there’s Jackie Brenston and pre-spousal abuse Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”, the so-called “first rock-and-roll song”. Elvis, whose famous croon and gyrating mid-section is right up there with the crazed abandon of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. Chuck Berry is a one-man honors course on the past, present, and future of the genre.

The Beatles launched a million shrill screams and sent inspired amateurs from all over into guitar shops. Their across-the-pond mates The Kinks, The Who, and the Rolling Stones all launched impressive salvos at this hallowed target.

Somebody’s going to argue for Robert Johnson selling his soul down on Highway 61, Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s rock-and-roll gospel, Dylan “going electric”, Janis Joplin’s impassioned ball-and-chain wails, Hendrix on his knees and out of his mind at Monterrey. “Rock and Roll, parts 1 & 2”, Mike Leander’s Frankenstein studio creation for Gary Glitter, was famously called “a castration op where you throw away the patient and keep the balls”. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” set some kind of high-water mark, but it’s not this one.

We could go on and on–heck, we haven’t even gotten to punk rock!–but what’s the point? No, “Louie Louie”–The Kingsmen’s definitive “Louie Louie”–recorded on this day in 1963, alone holds that title. And it happened right here….er, right there…in Portland.

Tim Bavington's sculpture "Louie, Louie" (detail), Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building downtown

Tim Bavington’s glass and acrylic sculpture “Louie, Louie” (detail), Edith Green-Wendell Wyatt Federal Building downtown

Kids today. One thing they’ll never know is the absolute moment of greatest excitement in life. I’m talking about the brief seconds immediately following the record player’s discordant crunch–like a car crash heard from blocks away–as the needle makes contact with spinning black plastic. From that instant until the music kicks in–possibly nanoseconds, a blink of an eye, really–there is nothing except the amplified scratching of dust on empty grooves and a heightened anticipation that something incredible is about to happen.

When the needle drops on “Louie Louie” it has every molecule of this electricity behind it. The organ pick-up on the V chord and one run-through of the progression is just enough warning for rockers to rise from their seats and the timid to dive for cover.

Lynn Easton is a sonic terrorist wanted for crimes ranging from flagrant tempo irregularity to rampant contraption kit abuse. But then as now, there are no normal circumstances and Easton’s all-fills-all-the-time, no-crash-cymbal-left-alive approach to drumming is exactly what you want destroying rhythm in the scorched earth ground war that is rock-and-roll.

What takes “Louie” over the top, though, are the loose, drunk-sounding, shout-sung vocals of young Jack Ely. It’s just one of the song’s many magical quirks that the record was done in a single take, recorded live in the studio using just three room microphones, by a band that only just added the song to their repertoire. When Ely sings through his teenage orthodontal work, craning to be heard over the live band din, he’s working from only a passing familiarity with both the new lyrics and arrangement.

It all adds up to one of the great vocal performances in rock history. No one would possibly practice singing a song the way Ely delivers it. Likely–had the band been granted more studio time, budget, a producer–they might have rethought the spontaneity of this first, perfect take. Fortunately for all of us, they never got that chance.

"The Kingsmen on Campus" album cover with five band members in cardigan sweaters at the top of a brick staircase

If the cardigan’s a-rockin’… big Kingsmen on campus (1965)

By all accounts, Ely, Easton, and the gang were pretty square. From the band’s Wikipedia entry, “The Kingsmen began their collective career playing at fashion shows, Red Cross events, and supermarket promotions, generally avoiding rock songs on their setlist.” The group only fell into trash rock ass backwards after hearing the popularity of an already-recorded version of “Louie Louie” while playing at the very un-rock-and-roll venue of a yacht club on the coast.

There are plenty of wilder early rock records that pre-date “Louie’s” moment of glorious infamy, but none that got anywhere near the exposure The Kingsmen received. Coming at the tail end of the brief window between Elvis leaving the building and The Beatles “yeah-yeah-yeah”-ing arrival, “Louie” is the great exclamation point that ushers both popular and underground rock music into the 1960s. When the record peaked at #2, in December, 1963, the Billboard’s Top 40 chart contained such ’50s hangovers as Neil Sedaka, Bobby Vinton, and Al Martino, “Be True to Your School” and “Wives and Lovers”*. The top spot was held by The Singing Nun’s folky “Dominique”, sung en Française.

Seaside, Oregon phone book entry for the PYPO CLUB at 1 Broadway

An old-school phone listing is all that’s left of Seaside, Oregon’s Pypo Club, where The Kingsmen first heard “Louie Louie”.

The Kingsmen went on to record a series of albums in the mid-1960s full of decent, but forgettable R&B standards, dance-craze-of-the-week retreads, and unfortunate novelty tunes. It didn’t help matters that shortly after “Louie’s” success, Easton staged a bloodless coup to unseat Ely as lead singer and frontman. In one fell swoop, the band lost both of their greatest assets–the untrained voice and the unhinged beat.

promotional photograph of Jack Ely and the Kingsmen with band members smiling in jackets and ties

Jack Ely’s post-sacking, hack lineup of The Kingsmen, c. 1964 [photo courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society]

None of these things mattered to me. As a high school student in the 1980s, I bought used-bin copies of all their records and played them incessantly. My peers were listening to Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Cure while I was spinning The Kingsmen’s B-grade takes on Allen Toussaint and Rufus Thomas songs.

Looking back, I recognize how mediocre the Kingsmen’s second- or third-hand, safe-for-middle-America versions are in comparison to the real thing. But those albums served as a great gateway to finding out about much more interesting music–both in the New Orleans/Memphis R&B records they copied and the mid-’60s garage rock they became synonymous with.

The Kingsmen will never be remembered for the catalog produced by ‘60s rock peers The Pretty Things or The Troggs, The Chocolate Watch Band or The Sonics, The Standells or The Easy Beats. But they did one magical, perfect thing–right there at Burnside and 13th. It changed this blogger’s young life and he is forever in their debt. Me gotta go. Aye-yi-yi-yi-yi.

Hyperbolically yours,
Will Simmons
Pittsburgh

man holding a copy of "The Best of 'Louie, Louie'" vinyl album

The author, one needle-drop from ecstasy


Further reading: Dave Marsh’s 1993 book Louie Louie: The History and Mythology of the World’s Most Famous Rock’n’Roll Song (Hyperion) is a totally great read for anyone with even a passing interest in the song, Northwest rock history, or just a goofy, wild true tale. It’s amazing to me that Multnomah County Library only has one (print) copy in the system considering how much of the book could be considered “local history”, but hey–it’s available! (as of this writing)


* In fairness, the Dec. 14 Billboard Top 40 also contains some pretty good stuff–“Walking the Dog”, early Motown records, “Sugar Shack”, etc.

Next week in the second installment of the Louie Files, we’ll explore an attempt to find the rock club in Seaside, OR that inspired the Kinsmen to record Louie, Louie.

 

Billbored

I’m a compulsive reader. I’ve admitted that before and there’s probably nothing wrong with it. Lately I’ve found my dwindling attention span has kept me from having an interest in long form publications like books which make billboards perfect reading material. They’re set up to be attention grabbing with big words and simple concepts. I’ve read them all, the ones I’ve seen anyway. When I started to notice billboards together with signs that combined to form either a condtradictory message or a theme, I realized I had a concept for a blog post.

The Spark

This is not John Wayne in a movie!

A couple of springs ago, I noticed a coincidental placement of John Wayne’s cowboy claded head peering over the Bison Coffeehouse in the Cully neighborhood, which I have since learned is the only Native American owned coffee shop in the Portland area. It put the idea in my head a long time ago about odd billboard placement that could combine with either other billboards or businesses to form unintended statements or a clash of cultures imagery.

Vice Corner

Time to get busy.

Above the building that houses the Arbor Lodge coffee shop and Revolver bike shop sits a billboard duo that, I’ll admit can be challenging to photograph. I didn’t let it stop me when I spotted two signs together promoting vices, albeit legal ones. There’s an exponential power telling us get high and gamble. Years ago these vices would have been found under more shadowy circumstances, now there’s open encouragement. Whether it’s wise to do both at the same time, well,that’s beyond my comprehension.

Beer & Bar

It’s Miller time.

There doesn’t seem anything more appropriate than a billboard advertising beer outside a bar besides maybe an advertisement for a DUI attorney, but that would be tacky, wouldn’t it? Seeing the brand of beer that seemed antithetical to the type of beer sold in most Portland area bars had me gearing up to make a rare occurrence in my line of blog work–the investigative phone call. It wasn’t until I hoofed it up the street early one evening to take a picture of the Lombard Pub, formerly the Foggiest Notion, that I saw the banner sign calling attention to the Miller beer special. Art is reflecting life and there’s truth in that advertising almost all is right with the universe.

Is it special enough?

Pushin’

Pick your poison.

This billboard jumped out at me the second time I drove past it. The man in the picture is the image of health and vitality that is either proof that the tanning product works exceptionally well or it may be a sign that this gentleman/model/push up performer doesn’t need the product at all!

Jesus & Tequila

Do I have to decide?

These two advertisements appreared to represent a kind of fork in the road made all the more momentous by what appears to be a halo of golden clouds. I imagine this image as a kind of sign from heaven, or an enticement from the underworld. Beelzebub will be your bartender tonight! Pardon the melodrama, but there seems to be this billboard grouping seems to create the choice of either going to the liquor store or straight to church. In my mind it’s not possible to balance the two although Jesus was more likely to turn water into wine than to preach temperance.

Next: The first in an epic series of Kinsmen/”Louie, Louie” related posts.

 

Air

View from a meeting room.

In my professional video production days I was paid to go to public forums and government meetings. Sometimes you have to do things when there’s no payday involved. On Tuesday, March 7, North Portland community members gathered in a conference room at the Red Lion Inn  for a meeting that concerned a permit for an oil recycling business on Hayden island called American Petroleum Environmental Services or APES for short. It was inevitable that we would make an effort to find out more about area air quality issues since we had been encountering an ongoing chemical odor in our Kenton neighborhood since the days we first moved in eight years ago. I lived with it and listened to the complaints. My running joke was about how sometimes, when the wind was right, we were treated to the scent of cookies from the nearby snack factory. More often the air has been filled with the byproducts of the industrial goings on that lie between the Columbia slough and businesses along Columbia Blvd. The Sunday morning before the meeting, my wife Ronna, had been watching videos about air issues in our vicinity. One showed an infrared image of a smoke stack with waves and bubbles could only represent insane toxins spewing into out atmosphere. The image cried out for some industrial music in the vein of Tone Ghosting in the background. It was scary visualizing what’s going into the air knowing I’d been breathing and smelling that. There were also videos of a woman talking about the situation in the manner of a fireside chat detailing the work of her North Harbor Neighbors group and their concerns with the performance of the State’s Department of Environmental Quality.

In order to set the record straight I thought I’d borrow from the meeting invite posted on Facebook:


Since the public forum, in a general sense, was about air. It had me thinking about the Talking Heads song of the same name. Air has a science fiction feel to the lyrics and the music seems modern and electronic. The overall feeling is someone voicing struggles in a world gone wrong. The narrator says to himself:

What is happening to my skin?
Where is the protection I needed?
Air can hurt you too
Air can hurt you too
Some people say not to worry about the air
Some people never had experience with…
Air…Air

Even when I first heard this song I thought it was a strange topic. I wasn’t sure why someone needed to write a song about air. Talking Head’s singer and songwriter David Bryne has probably never been to Hayden Island. Clear, pollution free air to breath is not something to overlook and even though it’s a strange song subject the reality of polluted air is alarming. It’s worse to smell it and suffer health complications as a result.

The forum gave citizens an opportunity to question DEQ employees and make comments. I wanted to see some government employees taken to task. Any of us would be yelled at by our bosses if we did what these employees did or in this case didn’t do. The moderator was a former high school teacher who presented meeting guidelines in a way that meant he had experience with keeping people in line. His list was meant to prevent the meeting from devolving into chaos or a public flogging. Attendees were encouraged to raise thumbs up or down when reacting to people’s comments which made for a lively and less disruptive participation tool.

The meeting began with questions. Those wanting to ask were given a numbered piece of paper. Mixed in with the questions were asides like:

“I’ve been breathing this crap for two years now and it’ll all poison.”

“This is people’s lives.”

“What’s going in the air?”

“We all get a little riled up about this.”

Some questions revealed that knowledgeable people were familiar with technical aspects of the situation. Hearing about a thermal oxidizer and the company being accused of being a title 5 pollutor, which is scary regardless of what kind of scale we’re talking about, were concepts over my head so I was glad to know some people knew what was going on. It was revealed that there was a tank containing PCBs on the site. I’m not sure what a PCB is but I’ve heard it’s bad stuff. How can anyone be cavalier about carcinogens? The real reporters stood on the sidelines looking bored and waiting for their chance to do their TV work. Things were heating up for me when I realized I have to live with this, or maybe die from it.

It occurred to me that I was onto a hot story although it’s taken me weeks to sort it out. I was hearing things like the DEQ wasn’t testing for all possible contaminates and that a regulatory overhaul wasn’t supposed to happen until next year. Given the circumstances, the pace of the state’s efforts seemed glacial.

Rally ’round the flag!

When Mary Lou Putnam spoke she seemed like a star to me. I had seen her videos and her discussions of what was feeling like a crisis. She pointed out that people were losing trust in government employees. Her question involved when the DEQ was going to do emission testing on the stack. Tied into that had been thoughts on full spectrum testing and 24/7 monitoring.

The DEQ point of view.

Answers were being provided by a DEQ employee with rolled up sleeves. He seemed diplomatic and careful, I’m not implying that he didn’t care but what effort he was making didn’t seem like it could be enough. Even his explanation of a one time testing process that took three hours seemed woefully inadequate. Another DEQ employee explained, “I’m committed to telling you the truth even if it’s something you don’t want to hear.” It occurred to me that people already knew the worst and they seemed like a bunch who could handle the truth.

I liked how an older generation of people felt like tribal elders, with apologies to any actual tribal elders, as they began to skirt the ground rules. There were grumblings and discontented reactions. They were fighting for us. Somewhere in all the questioning an attendee suggested that a grand jury should be impaneled. There were murmured chants of, “shut ’em down.” It felt like they had the authority to tell the state employees what was right. They could have easily blown off the meeting, given up and stayed home with their windows shut, but they didn’t.

Cornerstones of meetings: Notes, Site photos, Timer, Hand outs

Our Kenton neighborhood star Steven Glickman offered to pay for a permit to get a monitor to put on the stack. He had been the first to ask a question and later in the meeting the first to make a comment. He must have gotten there early. I felt lucky to have people with scientific knowledge challenging the DEQ representatives. It held them more accountable and didn’t allow them to hoodwink the audience with circuitous mumbo jumbo. The state was accused of not monitoring “this stuff” because it’s bad for business. One questioner made the point that the DEQ employees feared corporations more than the taxpayers. An insider to the oil recycling business offered up what felt like whistle blower details when he mentioned that he knew workers who left the industry due to fears of getting cancer. It had me hoping that Erin Brockovich was going to walk through the meeting room doors.

I learned that there was a network of groups, coalitions and advisory committees that met and were working for cleaner air often on a voluntary basis. It occurred to me that that anyone who might be partying or playing banjos or even working multiple jobs all while breathing nasty air, well, more power to them, but it’s made me appreciate the people taking their to time to make the effort to clean up out air and bring awareness to the state employees failings. In the end there was talk of more hearings and draft permits that all seemed to amount to government workers working overtime.

Homemade signs fastened with painter’s tape

 

Local coverage:

http://katu.com/news/local/hayden-island-residents-face-off-with-deq-over-air-quality-concerns

Good job Lincoln!

A Pi(e) Day Hangover





Pi Day is really supposed to be about math as I learned from The News Hour. Yet there is no reason it can’t be about pizza pie or a slice of pie. Why not? Bloggers make their own rules. I first had to find out if I could get a free piece of pie. I was looking all over for the word about Shari’s pie special on their website. Since I was looking on a Wednesday which is supposed to be the day of the pie giveaway, also the day after Pi Day, I was expecting visual website fireworks or a blaring proclamation on the site about the promotion that’s supposed to be held every Wednesday. It could have been hidden in plain sight. I’d heard the advertisement enough times on the radio over the years that it became part of my informal Oregon bucket list. Still I needed confirmation. I placed a call to a random Shari’s to ask if the pie special was still happening. I began to feel like I was losing my phone skills. I could barely hear the person on the other end and I discovered that I have developed a phone tick that involves bumping my head into the number screen causing a long beeping tone to occur. I was incompetent until I got the word that the free pie day was going strong as it has for eons on Wednesdays at Shari’s. Customers get one free slice of pie after 4pm with the purchase of an dinner entree.

I went to the restaurant that afternoon. Without seeing a wait to be seated sign, I chose a two person booth next to a wall that separated the kitchen from the dining area where I could hear workers talking. I was entertained by random discussions. “Did you see my ride?” Which was met by a response of, “Did you see my ride?” The latter ride turned out to be a black truck. There was also assorted business related talk about people’s orders. Maybe I’m too cranky, anxious, uptight or all of the above but these feelings were welling up because I was being ignored. I had no time to waste and I wanted to get into my celebration of Pi(e) Day. I was 24 hours late.

At Shari’s I was being auditorily assaulted by bland rock, Dave Matthews, Sheryl Crow and even “Dust in the Wind” which felt overbearing as a pie eating soundtrack. When I was spotted, my waitress informed me, in a cheerful way, that I had snuck in. I learned that it’s a bad idea to sneak into a Shari’s when you actually want to be seen there, at least by the wait staff. With menu in hand, I began the process of selecting an entree to earn my free pie prize. Then it occurred to me that with the Orbit expense account being nonexistent ordering a $3.49 slice of Chocolate Dream pie and a cup of coffee would be more economical than the cost of an entree that included free pie.

The pie pictures on the website were gorgeous, dessert porn in brilliant lighting. The menu photographs were equally enticing. The actual pie looked appetizing, perhaps not so photogenic but it included a chocolate sauce plate splash like the menu photo. The coffee order arrived in a personal carafe with individual vanilla creamers which I decided could make any coffee taste good. There was a possible lipstick stain on the mug but somehow seemed to add to  the ambience.

The pressure was on. This slice represented all that would be celebrated by me for Pi(e) Day. I knew I was going to have to describe the pie, at least the first bite. I was writing, and adding sugar to my coffee while the pie sat there. I wrote some more and was getting nervous like I was going to be caught in blog mode and kicked out of the restaurant like real journalists were getting kicked out of Donald Trump press conferences. I was putting off the first bite. It wasn’t there to pose for a photo. It was there to be eaten. The other procrastination factor was once it was gone there be no more pie and I knew I’d be sad.  The pie was becoming part of the decor. A Paul Simon song energized the dining room as an older couple shuffled by. Shuffling would be the expected result of eating an entree and a piece of pie. To avoid arousing suspicion, I needed to eat the pie slice. Restaurant critics must give themselves away by measuring, sniffing at their uneaten food and scribbling furiously. The first bite was worth the wait. So light, so creamy, I pressed down to get through the crust. Cream pies are more light on pie, but what I was really after was chocolate.

All around me pie questions were being slung at patrons. Al, who was sitting at the counter reading a newspaper seemed like a regular because everyone called him Al, was asked if he was ready for his free slice of pie. Soon after a couple was asked, “Are you ready for pie?” Then I overheard, “Do you know what kind of pie you want?” Shari’s is about pie. It’s on the sign. I considered a bold plan about showing up on pie day and inquiring about unclaimed slices.  Minutes later it was revealed that those too stuffed from their meals were presented with their pie slices in a white bag to take home. My brilliant idea seemed foiled, but my mood lightened as I poured my third cup of coffee from my personal carafe and a cowbell soul song came on.

As I sat in the restaurant I overheard the specifics of the pie special. Classic pie slices were free while gourmet slices cost one dollar. My selection had fallen into the classic category so it would have been free had I felt richer. The classics were more of the crusty and berry variety like Peach Perfection, Strawberry Rubarb Delight and Oregon Marrionberry. That Sour Cream Lemon or Key Lime would have set me back a buck. Of course you pay extra for gourmet. I was in awe of Shari’s having won pie awards from the American Pie Council. The menu was dotted with 2016 blue ribbons. The numbers were impressive: 14 blue ribbons in 2016 and more than 35 over the past six years. From the menu I read about Shari’s  World Famous Pie Shake. I’m not in position to travel the world to find out if that claim is really true but the concept was amazing. I made plans to return for Milk Shake Day.

When there was nothing left to scrape off I was tempted to lick my plate.

 

This post was not meant as an extended yelp review or product endorsement only as a last ditch effort to celebrate Pi(e) Day. Tune in next time when the subject of Air Pollution is tackled. 

 

Please (Parking Hassles)

People around here are often polite when offering instructions about certain parking situations. In a couple of signs I’ve seen, please is the lead word and it reminds me that people continue to display good manners.

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I remember seeing this sign in a neighborhood around Benson High School and being perplexed for a moment about what needed to be pulled forward. The sign? The tree? I suppose it became obvious when I considered that the tree was along the curb and that back bumpers stick out and block driveways. The sign hangs dainty and delicate from the string, but commands your attention. There’s something in the power of block letters and a pleasant font.

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This sign, spotted by the Pioneer School, seems wordy. It’s the kind of sign one passes then wonders about. “What’d that sign say?” Even slowing to a crawl, I’m sure most drivers are focused on carefully parking the car, not reading.

The block letters are bold:

PLEASE
DO NOT PARK
BEYOND THIS POLE.

IT MAKES IT UNSAFE
AND DIFFICULT TO
BACK OUT/PULL IN
TO MY DRIVEWAY.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR
COOPERATION

Sure you’re going to cooperate if you bother to read the sign. What kind of person would you be if you didn’t? I read all signs, and I hope other people pay attention to them not to mention whether or not they’re blocking someone’s driveway. Also, that pole is an excellent boundary marker.  Anything beyond the pole is out of bounds.  I’m not critical of the message in any way. It seems perfectly reasonable.

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On the other hand, I’m sometimes struck by the lengths some signs will go to. Sign makers find reminders of common courtesy necessary at times, and some parse the biblical commandments. There’s not a hint of the word please from this sign spotted in the parking lot of a defunct cluster of stores across from the Tamale Boy restaurant on Dekum St. Bossy, pushy, blaring out it’s “NO” in red ink, the parking lot had a long list of prohibitions as if to discourage people from doing anything but parking in the lot. I’m not sure why anyone needs to be reminded not to engage in any “indecent exposur” in a parking lot. And thanks for letting me play music, just not loud music. (You could have included a volume number.) I don’t like rules in my parking lots. There are no rules or even suggestions necessary for me. When I park my car, I’m there to stop driving.  I’m there to get out, do some shopping, get back into the car and get out of the parking lot. I would rather loiter and do other things from the list of activities in any other place than a parking lot.

If I had a parking lot, there would be no rules allowed except maybe that there shall be no rules or rules signs. Thou shalt post no bills is my commandment!

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What I really need to do is reread that last part of that sign, slow down and not get riled up about dumb signs in parking lots.

Outside Art

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When I see Outside Art I admire it. I do wonder why people display it outside. Outside Art tends to look discarded unless it’s hung properly. There are fancy pieces, oil paintings that look valuable yet they are in the elements as if the weathering process is part of the artistic process. It reflects the impermanence of our material world while not being so obvious about making such a statement. There’s something to appreciate about art being displayed in an unusual way outside the typical art gallery or walls of a home.

Octopuses Garden

Octopus’s Garden

I asked Jeff Dodge about the Outside Art he has on a fence tucked away in a corner of his backyard and surprisingly, he had no real story. The way he described it, it felt like it had always just kind of been there. He was pretty sure it came with the house. There it hangs an unobtrusive dash of art in a shadowy section of a backyard.

Can anyone find the bridge?

Can anyone find the bridge?

Detail, Outside Art

Detail, Outside Art

In the Woodlawn neighborhood I saw this piece on a shed. In the upper photo the piece fits in well with the truck, trash can and recycling bin making these elements more homey. People must respect the art. Up until the point I took photos, no one had stolen the painting. The subject matter captures a bridge to nowhere scenario which feels like a fitting theme for Outside Art, an outdoor scene that remains open ended and mysterious.

Subject matter clouded by distance.

Subject matter clouded by distance.

Nice day for a bike painting.

Nice day for a bike painting.

Another nice fit for this spot between North Williams and Vancouver is this energetic portrayal of outdoor bike riding. It might make more sense if the building is affiliated with a bike shop which I think it is. It’s in a combination Leroy Neiman, Jackson Pollock style. All right, so I’m proving that I know nothing about art when I break out random names. At least I didn’t say Bob Ross. The painting is also appropriate with its location being in a heavily traveled bike corridor. There might be something to Outdoor Art gravitating to an outdoor theme if only on a subconscious level.

Not bugging me.

Not bugging me.

Bugs are perfect subjects or, in this case, specimens of Outdoor Art. This one on Mississippi Ave gets bonus points for being a kind of three dimensional piece complete with a tile frame and some additional tile pieces. It looks like the art is cemented into the building making theft impossible. An art hater or thief would have to use a chisel. It’s a handsome bug too, more arty than creepy.

What is it about this recurring theme about art theft? I’m really not sure but having watched TV shows and movies about it has planted the idea in my brain. Art works that might be easy pickens may not be the type of art that fetch high prices in the underground art market and art thieves hanging stolen art on their walls are reminded of their crime every time they see it.

Color My World

Color My World

One nice thing about Outside Art is the freedom it has to spruce up dreary spaces. Behind Cup coffee shop in North Portland and beyond a graffiti splashed fence hangs a piece of Outdoor Art on a shed. It’s bright background highlights a stenciled, business suited man from another era. My first out of date reference was Hugh Beaumont, but Don Draper will work. He doesn’t have to do much besides look over the fence and be pleasant while standing in front of a sunny backdrop. He appears to be a good listener if that stuff that look like butterflies is going into his ears instead of heading out. The coffee ring stains are a nice touch.

Join the party!

Join the party!

Some art is left outside for varying lengths of time either for display purposes or perhaps it’s part of a curing process. More proof that I may not know as much as I think I do about art. I mean curing process? This painting was placed on a porch by a neighbor and it accentuates the already outstanding taste in exterior design. The theme of the painting mimics the flesh and bone themes used in the porch decor.

Sidewall, sidewalk Art

Sidewall, sidewalk Art

This piece, propped up against an auto body shop in Kenton, has an industrial look to it. Besides that there’s no story I know as to who left it behind or created it. The rust factor in this abstract piece is perfect for it’s outside nature but it looks abandoned. It’s hard to tell how long this synthesis of industrial art loitering outside an industrial workplace will last. Every once in a while an example of Outside Art makes the sad transition to discarded art.

Exotic Defacement

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When an official looking green sign caught my eye, I decided to walk the dog over and have a look. It was a public notice taped to a side wall of a of a dormant building, home to a small and former, nondescript auto repair shop. I thought notices were usually orange but this one, regarding a Marijuana Regulatory License, made its green color all the more appropriate. Finding out about another pot shop moving into the neighborhood is not the story here. The more the merrier, I guess. Even a marijuana dispensary taking over a potentially contaminated auto shop is not reason enough to call the EPA. What would be the point?

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On my way over to read the public notice I took a picture of a poster on a utility pole. There were messages scrawled on it and a splash of red ink that looked like an anarchy symbol. It was getting dark when I photographed the poster so I didn’t look at the image until the next morning. That’s when I made the discovery: Someone had it out for the Exotic Ball.

Poster torn!

Poster torn!

I remembered that I had seen similar posters torn down. My theory was someone was defaming while someone else didn’t like the defamation or was offended by the poster. These assumptions flooded my mind as I traveled by Max train and bus to work on a rainy morning. My questions were: Why take anything out on a poster? What has it done to anyone besides try to look foxy and do a bit of advertising? If you need a platform for your political message why use someone else’s sign? You don’t jack someone else’s poster. In the name of free speech people should be able to display ads without reprisal by those who might be offended. The best theory I’d considered revolved around a loner who couldn’t get a date to take to the Exotic Ball. It’s like an R rated Stalker/Cinderella plot. Someone type up that screenplay right away!

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Let’s consider this defamation. First there’s an awful lot of gobbledy gook obscuring the image of two ladies, with fantastic taste in foot wear, perhaps in a bathroom, an image of how wild things get even in the restrooms of the Exotic Ball. Then we see 666, I mean really if the devil doesn’t go to the Exotic Ball who the hell does? Or who admits to it, anyway? Also, I’m wondering about Hot Shot and Lord Pound.

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While riding home that day after work, I realized the poster had nothing to do with the Exotic Ball because it doesn’t exist. I had confused exotic with erotic, easy to do when the words are one letter different. This post is becoming one of those elderly hard of hearing jokes. It’s the Erotic Ball that’s held at varying times each year at the Crystal Ballroom. My assumption was that it’s held in February but there probably is already enough romance that month. I remember being at a Crystal Ballroom event and getting an unsolicited earful and an over informative report about the experiences of one participant. There was one specific clue from the poster that had me taking a long, slow fall from my jump to conclusions and embarrassing myself while dealing with the realization that I had just written my first piece of fake news.

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It hit me, the medium is the message. The interpretation is anyone’s guess. I can see Marshall McLuhan from that scene in the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall but now he’s talking directly to me. “You know nothing of my work,” he says.

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The women in the defaced poster were Exotic pinups from a magazine that’s distributed from various area strip clubs. I went from defending the Erotic Ball to dealing with something that became weird and possibly not in the realm of upbeat, positive Portland sanctioned weirdness. This was an attack on pin up photography which included prankish and juvenile Satanism. I characterize it that way because the easiest way to shock people is to reference Satan. I understood what made people want to tear it down. There’s a Satanism bias that occurs when people see the number 666. I tend to laugh these things off but there’s a disturbing element to all of this. A perfectly good Exotic pin up poster was trashed multiple times.

Reaping wind!

Reaping wind!

Now I have to ask myself, or maybe the world, a series of different questions that may never be answered. Who designs posters by scrawling over Exotic Pinup February 2017? What is the message? Who tore the posters off the other utility poles? Did the devil make anybody do any of this? What’s the point of including an illegible (uh oh, legible on another poster) email address? Who would I be emailing and what would be said? Something like: I’m an admirer of your illegible, satanic, insanity, perhaps? I have no answers at this time but I’m only half as confused as I was when I started this blog post.

Auto Message

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It can be a nice life if you’re easily entertained as I am. If something out of the ordinary catches my eye I want to document it. This compulsion has grown since I’ve had pages of a blog to fill. I was attracted to the handwritten and homemade feel of these messages that I spotted on cars and in car windows. I appreciate people’s needs to communicate especially by way of automobiles which have the potential to be roving bulletin boards.

Honkies Stop!

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If the first part is too faint to read it says:

Do not beep your horn to make me go faster. These roads are for walkers, bikers; the old and the young.

I do believe there’s a semi-colon in the message written in marker directly on the car. Or, is it a stray random dot above that comma? The poor sad semi-colon feels like a dying breed in the punctuation world. A message could get lost due to over analysis. No matter – the message is clear. Is it possible that some of the honkers are people still mad about past elections? Since the message is fading it’s harder for people to read the driver’s anti-honking proclamation.

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Rage in the Machine

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This statement is bolder and may be easier to see in a traffic jam. Visibility is hard to gauge since I have not had the pleasure of seeing this sign bring its message to where it’s needed the most: to the people stuck in that traffic. I use the word pleasure because I know I need a good laugh and reading material, ideally a combination of the two, when I’m stuck, ass-deep in bumpers and car exhaust and I’m not going anywhere for awhile.

I’m trying desperately not to acknowledge the typo in this message just as I would hope my audience would not throw the errors in this blog back in my face. No one has ever gotten mad enough or made any signs that I have seen about the traffic engineers who designed our roads and created this stasis induced road rage leading to nightmares about a traffic system. These folks seem never to have anticipates an influx of traffic year after year. I suppose that message is too complicated to express on a sign taped to the inside of a back window.

Driving Blind

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You have to love this simple, yet effective and humorous sign. It’s a great depiction of a nervous dog. It’s hard to imagine how anyone gets a nervous dog to pose for a picture but here’s proof that it can be done. The message about a seeing eye dog insinuates that the student driver is sight impaired. Is that even safe?  To top it all off the sign is unceremoniously taped to the window with wide gaudy yellow tape. Nice touch. Who put the sign on the vehicle the dog or the blind driver?