Portland Skyline: There’s Fine Lines and There’s Tracing


Dreams of a pink skyline.

This post was inspired by the Pittsburgh Orbit, well, actually, the idea was straight up stolen from them. We only steal from the best. When I saw their tribute to Pittsburgh skyline art I was reminded of the images I’ve collected of precise lines and graphics that have created images of Portland skylines used in advertising, company logos, school murals and art pieces. I hadn’t gotten around to pulling them together but seeing the most recent Pittsburgh Orbit post made me realize it was time.

With no clear guidelines every design takes a stab at what to include and exclude. They might sneak in a bridge or two but all the bridges would be impossible. Distinctive skyline landmarks like KOIN Tower and Big Pink are a must. The goal is to make Portland recognizable. Otherwise, why bother? You’d be left with a generic urban landscape. There’s also the trick of creating a one dimensional image that may not jive with the East-West lay out of the city. Giving leeway to precise skyline design is necessary to fully appreciate different designs.

Getting Schooled

Opening doors for Portlanders.

When dealing with school murals it’s safe to assume the work is by students. This means I’ll step light with my critiques. At Jackson Middle School, the Portland skyline graces one of the front doors blending with door handles and windows. It’s a sunny depiction of downtown around the Hawthorne Bridge. (I risk a grilling if I get a bridge name wrong.) The scene stretches from Big Pink to the KOIN Tower with lots of Willamette River and a desolate Waterfront Park that resembles the morning after Blues Fest after everyone has gone home but cleaned up after themselves like good Portlanders. This portrait is colorful and cheery yet devoid of people. Perhaps a post-plague, Portland portrayal.

Portland’s lego inspirations.

At Wilson High School we get a 3D representation with dark shadows and blossoming trees. It’s a pure design I appreciate. I’m no art critic. I only long for images that fit the theme. This works well and it offers equal space to bold letters declaring the city’s name. This youthful statement of the obvious is forgivable. It only takes one recognizable building to make it an authentic Portland skyline and this fits the bill. The mural’s mostly monochromatic design works—like the city’s motto.

Simply Get it Right

Going Uptown!

It takes very little. If you want to make the skyline a logo you just have to work geometric shapes into the patterns that resemble downtown. Blocky rectangles topped with a triangle equals a KOIN Tower. We’ll take the graphic artist’s word for it. Uptown, downtown, wherever you’re going, you won’t get lost when your company name fits within the boundaries of a few of the city’s buildings.

Portland after dark.

The Audubon Society uses the city as a rallying cry. Save energy, birds and make the stars more visible it declares. This poster has nice detailing like purple skies, flying geese, a giant moon and it sneaks in the Steel Bridge. Some buildings don’t appear to be in the correct order. Is that Big Pink standing next to the KOIN Tower?  Who cares. There’s no need to get picky when it’s more about the message. If Portlanders turn off the lights there will savings, sightings and our skyline will pop like a breath taking silhouette for all to gaze upon.

Whimsical Wins

Life in a fairy tale.

I didn’t steal this image so much as borrow it. Famous last words. Details are sketchy. It may have been spotted in a coffee shop downtown. I love the idea of Portland as a land of enchantment of sorts, the kind an artist’s imagination brings our locale. Sandwiched between mountain ranges, we get clouds of falling rain, puffs of heart smoke from chimneys and an abstract rainbow mixed in with Portland landmarks like the St. Johns Bridge and the tram that bring the image home. The tram is part of the city’s whimsy and for lack of a better word, charm so it’s great to see it included. Bonus points are granted for the creation of an image of a place, I assume, most of us would be willing to live.

I’ll have a Portland bagel.

I entered Spielman Bagels in Multnomah Village after deciding to write about Portland skyline art. I was greeted by a theme appropriate illustration as part of their menu board. More whimsy here with what can be spotted under the bright lights. We get the tram, Mount Hood, the Freemont Bridge and the buildings that are a must invite for any skyline art party.


I know all of you are begging for more images which I hope to present sooner than later. Portland images appear before me with regularity and there’s  also a backlog on an old phone that couldn’t be located at press time.

2019 Year in Review: The Year of the Toothless Mermaid


Compromised grasp.

“When failure’s got you in its grasp.
And you’re reaching for your very last.
It’s just beginning.”   –David Berman

What a year! Why? Who knows? Each year seems crazier than the last. Was it better or worse than any other? How can you tell? It was living in all its clawing, spewing and hand stabbing glory. Here I sit stitches in hand scrawling the initial efforts of my year-in-review summation. The stitches resulted from an unfortunate kitchen utensil accident, nothing to laugh at and nothing to prevent me from scribbling some lines. Above all it’s been a year of considering the mission to keep bringing the world observations from my skewed vision. In summary I decided to reflect on three stories that stuck in my craw. The year ended with my attempts to tell a story that put a direct spotlight on my scattershoted mind. Those teeth! I rediscovered more intricate details concerning the visual overload I experienced at the Mermaid parade and I also wanted to revisit the explosion of birdbath yard art I wrote about in NE Portland.

The Hits:  Transmermaidions


Hidden behind photos of mermaid parade participants bursting with costume details exploding in color, fabric and under the sea energy were scenes of mystery and glamor that appeared with the aid of photo manipulation changing from color to black and white and cropping the photographs to add a whole other demension.


Parading is better.


Beyond the bridge.



Kid interview.


The Sleepers:  Bird Bathing in Yard Art


Hold that jug.

The minutiae of this display was the thing that has always inspired me. The languishing decorations reveal new details upon each viewing while the mystery of who’s behind it remains in tact to this date. In other words, it’s an oasis of yard art run amok that I have a full appreciation for from the Grandma shades on the windows, to the angel, frog and other assorted cement figurines to the enigmatic smile that graces the face of the jug holding girl in the picture above, it all comes together, not really so neatly, in one yard.


How do you spell squirrel?


The Misses:  Lost Teeth Found?


Street of teeth!

What started as something that seemed easy to write about got complicated. It took three posts to uncover the tip of an iceberg sized mystery. Still what a legend when you consider the unknown specifics of how it started and the evidence that still might exist if one were to look harder. Above is the neighborhood tucked away between the Naito Parkway and I-5 where SW Arthur meets SW Water Street.  Below is a contribution to a Reddit discussion. I lost track of this passage. It would have helped after I borrowed this book from the library and I couldn’t find a denture reference after searching in vain. This may yet lead to another denture discovery.


Misplaced research!



Inspirational and noteworthy:

Queen City Discovery

Here’s your chance to visit Ohio and surrounding areas to look at great photos of aging buildings. If you like seeing images of small town business districts this is the site for you.


Love and Saucers

The movie, available on Amazon Prime, was slow moving until it dawned on me that the Alien encounters that seemed plausible could also have been fabricated. In the end it didn’t matter. The movie’s main character was unassuming and believable. The movie brought back fond memories of attending oddball art shows.


Dead Mall Stories

Worried about current mall culture? I know, you’re too cool for that. Someone is out there documenting the casualties of our changing times. I noticed entries that are out of date but it may be worth a look around.


Summer Teeth Part Three: The Magic in Arthur Water’s Teeth

End of the road?

Working the margins of speculation made the payoff of actually corroborating a local legend much sweeter. I was already feeling good about doing some “boots on the ground” investigative reporting but I was still mystified by a section of town I had never been to, a bicycle map that made me wonder if I’d reach the possible denture burial sites I’d heard about and that my pursuit of looking for fake teeth in concrete was making me  the Mayor of Crazy Town. There was research. I credit that to Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit. He’d been giving me gentle, long distance nudges to get out of the house. I had to act before he offered up shoves. Will put an announcement on Reddit asking about the teeth legend/denture art installation project and he’d gotten a few responses along with some positive rating points, whatever those mean. With concrete (pun intended and beautifully executed) intel, I set out to verify if there were any planted teeth left. I’d poured through a South Portland history book from the library that I’d heard mentioned a teeth installation but I couldn’t find it. How about including dentures in the index Laflar?

The site!

With my map confusion, I was surprised to find that the streets mentioned intersected. I was able to visit cross streets identifiable by street signs and hunt down dental evidence. In a correspondence, Will had made an an amusing cavity reference. At the very least I was hoping to see a hole or broken section of curb where the teeth had once been. I was getting the feeling that I was writing another post about my being a schlub blogger in search of a legend turning up empty. The Arthur/Water intersection seemed the most promising. A legend had already sprung up about  “Arthur Water’s teeth” and although there was no famous Portlander named Arthur Water related to the story the nickname stuck. I went to the four corners of this intersection looking for clues and wondering what sidewalk planted teeth would look like when I noticed a neighbor down the street beyond a sidewalk closed sign.

Concrete cavity from industrial dentistry.

Approaching the neighbor, I had concerns about how I’d be perceived. It’s odd enough to be approached by anyone. It usually has me reaching for my wallet. My opening was something about whether the man had lived in the neighborhood for a while and if he had heard the legend of buried teeth. He didn’t skip a beat pointing out that they had been underneath the street sign. “They’re gone. Somebody dug ‘em up,” he said. The use of the word somebody may explain why I didn’t ask who dug them up. That didn’t matter because I was hearing they had existed. He explained that they’d been gone over ten years and had looked like a jaw bone. I mentioned what I’d heard, that the teeth had been planted fifty years ago, I realized I was off by some number of years. He responded  that the dark gray sidewalk had looked like they’d been there since the 30’s.


The Teeth!

My journalist skills, having eroded, made me realized I had neglected to ask the man his name. I later learned it was Jesse. I asked him about the neighborhood being tucked away between Naito and I-5. He voiced a legitimate gripe about the condo building that had replaced the green house, next door to his, where there had been a stage for house parties. It was rumored that the Dead Kennedys had played there. Jesse revealed he had an old cell phone image of the teeth that he promised to hunt down and send me. (See above!) I left thanking him for being willing to talk to me when I had felt like I was creeping around the neighborhood asking about teeth. He responded, “And then you’re like he’s actually seen them, that’s crazy.”

I headed off to locate the other sites. The intersection of what I thought was Corbett and Sheridan (actually Water and Sheridan) lined up in an industrial way station surrounded by fences tucked under highway overpasses. It looked like an area stray teeth could be found. The street post was surrounded by dirt and gravel with little concrete, besides the curb, that would have secured teeth for any time. I could have searched more but I had already gotten lucky enough to discover one good denture story and there was no one in the vicinity to offer another.

How many buried teeth?

I walked past the west side of the Ross Island bridge, another possible location. There was no indication besides slabs of concrete in line for an upgrade. I noticed possible cavity fill from whatever industrial dentistry may have been performed to remove dentures that may have been there. As I walked down SW Kelly Street past signs posted about a missing cat named Dexter, I reached the last location, the intersection of SW Water Street and SW Abernathy near Barbur Boulevard. The area was over grown, with sidewalk moss that would have a required a giant toothbrush to clear it away. There seemed to be little chance to spot teeth in this concrete.

SW Abernathy and SW Water

Anything to unearth?

I’d already accomplished more than I thought I would. With my brain full of images of broken down sidewalks, my ears full of the traffic swishing sounds, I caught the last glimpses of the setting sun’s splashes of autumnal hues cast against a late afternoon sky while walking through the shadows of the urban neighborhood to my car.

Planted rocks, not teeth on Kelly St.

I still had questions. I never had a sense of how many dentures were planted. While wandering around it occurred to me that I would have planted hundreds of dentures as a spider unleashes hundreds of babies onto the world hoping that like the spiders some of the installed teeth would survive. I thought about how the teeth were placed in the sidewalk. It couldn’t have been easy to chop up concrete and then seal up the dentures. One answered question took the sting out of the remaining mysteries. A day later Jesse sent an email that included the promised photograph. I saw it the morning after he sent it and it made my day. Something felt magical when I received that evidence along with experiencing a Portland neighborhood I’d never seen, meeting a receptive neighbor and hearing a story of a long ago punk rock show. I had a boost of civic pride. There could have been magic in those teeth. They gave me hope that Portland will always have pockets of weirdness to be discovered.

The Turkey of St. Johns Part 5: From Genesis to Revelation


In the beginning the Turkey of St. Johns was created when the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; as this was all that could be seen from the inside of the egg containing our precious bird friend who began to peck its way into the light that was good. Then, when as a result of all this fruitfulness and multiplications, there was this addition, a turkey I swear I saw in a doghouse in a front yard surrounded by a chain link fence, a sight that no one has been able to verify for the last few years. It was good to have seen this bird but part of me feels the need to rest. It feels like a seventh day especially when I have written so many blog posts every year on the Thanksgiving holiday.

There may have been some consideration about the Turkey of St. Johns living alone. The turkey seemed content, as I recall, so there must have been no need to create an Adam or Eve poultry companion. It wouldn’t have been easy to fashion a whole other turkey from a turkey rib. I’m sure too, that in that environment, the Turkey of St. Johns was spared visits from serpents and was able to eat anything it was provided. It’s hard to reason with a turkey and insist that they avoid eating from a Tree of Knowledge. You can’t explain such matters to birds. I’d like to imagine this turkey lived in this proverbial Garden of Eden until which time it passed away from old age. The Turkey of St. Johns could be living there still and I haven’t been able to find it but it hasn’t been without my having made attempts while scouring the area and making minimal efforts of research.


As for the mystery of the Turkey of St. Johns, I chalk it up to an old memory lost to time, a quick, spectacular vision, a behold moment, out of place, and worth noting by an appreciator and chronicler of the occasional odd sight. After I first spotted this household pet, it felt like lo, a turkey waddling in a yard. I’m not sure if it appeared like jasper and carnelian and I can tell you no rainbows or torches of fire were involved in this encounter but the moment resurfaces in my consciousness as a remembrance of a creature I want to honor, glorify and give thanks to every Thanksgiving. The Turkey of St. Johns is a true symbol of Thanksgiving, a reminder of what stately and generous birds turkeys really are. Reflect on this with each bite of Thanksgiving dinner even if your turkey is made of tofu.


The Turkey of St Johns may have been surrounded by dogs, sorcerers, hungry murderers and idolaters protected from those folks by that chainlink fence. Maybe an angel watched over the turkey to keep it safe, something along the lines of the root and the offspring of David, the bright morning star. I warn everyone who reads the words of this blog. If anyone adds to them the Turkey of St. Johns will add to him the plague this post has become since its completion. The Turkey of St. Johns will take away its share in the tree of life and in the holy neighborhood described in these writings. He who testifies says, “Surely the Turkey of St. Johns will be found soon.” Amen. The grace of the Turkey of St. Johns be with all other forms of poultry. Amen again.

Illustration by Jessica


Go back to what started it all: https://portlandorbit.wordpress.com/2015/11/26/the-turkey-of-st-johns-part-1/

Or read last years tribute: https://portlandorbit.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/the-turkey-of-st-johns-part-4-a-return-to-normalcy/

Nevermind the Bollards: Praise and Perplexity


All in a row.

It started as an in-joke in my mind only. Saying the name felt so good. I said it over and over. Bollards, bollards, bollards. There has to be only one way to pronounce it, but who knows? I became engrossed in thoughts of bollards. They cheered me up and gave me a purpose. Bollards allowed me to ponder them without judgement. I had never thought about them before but I fell in love with bollards. I didn’t know they had a name until I saw a sign on Capitol Highway announcing road improvement plans. The first bollard I saw in person was disappointing because it didn’t match the drawing on the sign.


The beginnings of bollard fever.

My interest evolved. I wondered about bollards and their purpose. One afternoon I spotted two plastic orange bollards planted in the sidewalk. The late afternoon light that shined on them created an image of  beauty that overshadowed their purpose. I knew then they deserved recognition.


Bollard down!

Bollards are tough. I witnessed one getting run over only to see it rise from the dead at its own slow motion pace. As bollards take over, they’re now creeping up Capital Highway in an effort to slow traffic, I’ve continued to wonder if there’s more to what they do. I want to believe bollards exist beyond their simple plastic tubing and bolts in the asphalt design. They have a mission. Their underappreciated sentry duty has them standing, stoic, in whatever weather, reflecting, in a literal sense, because they sport reflective rectangles that offer crash preventative measures.


Dowtown bollards: meaty and tough.

There’s a whole other question that bears research. Is any metal pole that creates a barrier considered a bollard? Wait a minute, you would think I would have answered my own question already. But like the cart going before the horse, I wrote the question then started my research.


Metal as heck and two toned!

When I looked into bollards I had to turn away. What a rabbit hole! I learned that the term bollard originates from shipping. These posts were found on ships and on wharfs and were used to moor boats. The term has since expanded to mean any kind of post. It’s defined as a sturdy, short, vertical post. My eyes bugged out at the idea of bollards calming traffic while my brained buzzed with the realization that I could buy a bollard of my own if I want one. And, I really do want one.**


Sign me up!

From the drawing I saw on the PBOT (Portland Bureau of Traffic) sign, I mistakenly thought bollards would be six and a half feet tall. It turns out that’s the measurement of the space between the bike lane and the driver lane. I need a lesson in architectural/traffic pattern drawings. The yellow color and the size imagined meant when the actual bollards showed up I was let down. The neighborhood bollards are skinny and white with their reflective abilities. It may be the gray skies, but they already appear on the grungy side. 


An artist’s rendering gave me hope.

I’ve gotten used to bollards hanging around. As the excitement waned, their novelty wore off.  They’ve proven to be good neighbors. They’re quiet even as they populate the streets and they have, more or less, faded into whatever scenery we muster around here.


Bollards from the rearview.


**Mrs. Yuchmow I think this is a good use of the word “and” to begin a sentence. I know you used to teach that it’s not a great idea to start a sentence with that word but I felt like, in the recognition of that instance of my intense desire to own my own bollard, it made sense.


Summer Teeth (Part Two)


The brain scan of a blogger.

If you meet a blogger run. Personally speaking, I’m that guy deep in the trenches of my mind trying to articulate heavy thoughts while a puppy bites my foot after I get home from a frustrating job when I’m also contemplating a mystery health issue. Sure I’m interesting to talk to provided you ask the right questions but so are all the other people who don’t write blogs. These thoughts erupted out of a writer’s block that occurred when an idea went south and I’m not talking South Portland. Part Two of the Summer Teeth blog post is a blatant attempt to postpone having to roam the streets of Portland looking for old dentures. It has to and will be done, for Part Three to happen, but for now I can only leave you with what I was working on before my temporary insanity occurred.

A boring list.

How can I be motivated to leave the house to search for old, lost dentures buried in cement? (See part one.) If I know where they are and I’m guaranteed to find them, I wouldn’t be wasting a trip. I’m inspired knowing there’s more to this subject. The last post described scouring an industrial wasteland for false teeth. We weren’t in the ballpark. Now I have locations, general as they are, but I’m worn out at the thought of this quest.  I’m not ready to hit the streets, with a map in hand on a hunt for dentures. I’d barely be game using an app that I believe should exist. Portland Embedded Dentures app. Anyone? Some enterprising techie is developing one for people like me as you read this. My plan is to plug some addresses into google maps to see what I can find using street view. I can be on a peridontic prowl without leaving the couch.

Sheridan Ave or I-5? Google knows.

My concept got weird fast. Research is tricky in an age when everything and nothing can be revealed on a computer. How Sheridan Ave becomes 1-5 according to Google is beyond me but I sure won’t be looking for dentures there.

Water underground?

I was not under the impression that I was going to spot dentures from my efforts at breezing around town using Google Instant Street View but I was hoping it would at least offer me the ability to get my bearings so I wouldn’t be roaming streets perpetually lost and mumbling about old dentures. So much for Arthur Water’s teeth!

Denture mural? Photo by Allison Ella Viaja

Could this be the mural that was mentioned that has something to do with teeth? See, I feel like I’m already downtown babbling incoherently. The address is about right and for me this does look like a lady spitting out teeth. That’s just my imagination because dentures are not going to show up on a mural of this scale.

Has anybody found the dentures?

Another goose chase with a good chance that the ganders are going to get run over. A vague mention of the west side of the Ross Island bridge is not narrowing it down. Where are those teeth?


A jog past imbedded teeth?

This image stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to imagine this woman, jogging stroller in tow, so completely oblivious dashing past embedded dentures. My mind was very close to being completely blown.

This Research Department. Get on it.

I leave you with the notion that our Research Department is at least making a stab at reading about old dentures planted in the sidewalk. We’ll be back next month with additional reporting in Part Three of this embedded denture exclusive. That’s right no one else in town would dare bring you this story!

Summer Teeth (Part One)


Hidden roadside teeth attractions.

“Any wild goose chase is better than having to actually chase wild geese.”  –David Craig

My obsession with that summer feeling has to do with getting a few summertime minutes when I can catch my breath and relax. Now, days into Autumn, I can no longer deny that another summer has passed me by. Summer thoughts had me flashing back to a day when I could fritter away an afternoon looking for dentures cemented in the sidewalk. Should anyone have asked at that point, I might have seemed less crazy because I could explain it away as archeological research for the purposes of writing a blog post.

A land of rubble and teeth.

What? Wait a minute, dentures in the sidewalk? It’s quite the legend, one that I could not leave alone. Curiosity inspired me to seek out a story that’s grown mythic in stature.  I was lucky that Pittsburgh Orbit founder Will Simmons regaled me with what he knew of these dentures immortalized in certain sidewalks. Ours was a feeble attempt to find them. The search began on the afternoon of August 14 in 2017. Will had gotten a tip from his friend Kate who had lived in Portland for 10 to 15 years. She told him about an artist who placed dentures in the sidewalk in the 60’s. I’ve come to realize that we were making a spontaneous effort to locate the embedded chompers. We were down around the bike path that leads people to the Tillicum crossing. We could see the tram station and a couple of glass OHSU buildings. The only thing missing were sidewalks, and teeth.


Where are those teeth?

The spur of the moment search was reflected in our texting Kate back and forth to pinpoint the location. Impatient, I wanted to see some old teeth with little effort while hoping technology could make it happen somehow conjuring the ancient dentures. Two years later I contacted Will for his memories of this fruitless search. I was interested in his musings about that day which was a small slice of a long vacation he took in Portland. I asked him if “stumbling around looking for dentures was not the highlight of his Portland visit?” He referred to the texts from that August afternoon two years ago, saying we had been given an area to cover “between Powell and Sellwood.” Even he realized the territory was more than we could check out in an afternoon. Will also figured out we were on the wrong side of the river. This was telling. We were out there desperate for random teeth, any teeth would have satisfied.

Under the bridge, some teeth fell out.


Will decided to post a message on Reddit:

Dentures embedded in sidewalk in South Portland–has anyone ever heard this legend?

An acquaintance has this story about an artist (possibly PSU professor?) taking either dentures or dental molds and embedding them in sidewalks in the vague area of “somewhere along the river in South Portland.”

Is this something anyone had ever heard of? Can confirm? Knows more specifics on?

Much appreciated.

Attempts at Research Of Any Kind Pays Off!

It’s a rare thing that a Portland Orbit post resorts to leaving readers with a list but here’s some of the responses to Will’s query.

One respondent quoted a passage from a book titled: The Pursuit of Happiness A History of South Portland which described the dentures being set in the old concrete sidewalk at the SW corner of Corbett and Sheridan.

Dentures can also be possibly be found in the following places:

SW Arthur and SW Water

A mural near Stark and 13th, was described as having a 3D denture flying from an old woman’s mouth.

I got a kick out of a Reddit commenter describing this denture siting as “underwhelming.”

I got into the game realizing I could check out Facebook groups like Hidden Portland for the Curious and Dead Memories Portland. If only I had thought to search these out before Will’s visit.

A post on the Facebook group Hidden Portland for the Curious revealed the false teeth could be in the sidewalk on the corner of SW Kelly street across from the OCOM building.

Responses to that post mentioned the teeth being dug out of the area around SW Water off Barbur, possibly around Abernathy. A reader chimed in that they were at Arthur and Water and nicknamed “Arthur Water’s teeth.”

There was one more location mentioned on the Dead Memories Portland Facebook page–the west side of the Ross Island Bridge.

The hunt is on. It’s looking like I’ll be stumbling into multiple parties of tooth sleuth’s in the next couple of weeks. I promise to follow up these leads and report back on my findings.




Summeritus Meets Signitus: Another Summer Sign Round Up

Slow and steady…

I was diagnosed with “summeritus” by a clerk at a Dollar Store a few years back. It wasn’t a medical diagnosis but the word stuck with me. There was no time for explanation. This wasn’t a Kevin Smith movie so the comment wasn’t overanalyzed. I had stuff to buy and places to be. A few summers later, I continued to contemplate the meaning of “summeritis” coined by that Dollar Store clerk/savant. Discussion around the Orbit office lead me to conclude that while medical terminology usually describes afflictions, I see this as a condition to embrace. Pacific Northwest summers are short. They deserve appreciation and sloth. So I’m really looking for a something to believe in that helps me enjoy a Portland summer. The resulting post, an annual one at that, is a reflection on taking it easy and embracing “summeritis” as a temporary condition, whatever it is.

Video Surveillance

Someone’s watching.

I spotted multiple video surveillance signs, none of them homemade, but I was struck by the different old school cameras and the imposing thought of being watched every and anywhere. There’s footage of me taking pictures of signs that warn me about being surveilled. I get it. No one wants their Walgreen walls or parking lots messed with. Let these signs be a reminder of the many reasons it’s better to remain behind cameras.

Roll With It

Slow and slower.

I never figured out this stretch of SW 45th and the reason for reminders for people to pump the brakes. A slight curve and a deep ditch contribute the need to heed a sign slow down. The handmade sign coexists with a regular traffic sign. The slangy nature of the sign’s phrase made me realize how much sense it makes to replace two vowels with the letter “e.” Take the sign’s advice. Read this post slow. It has words with curvy letters that might crash your brain.

Lower Your Standards

Art stop.

A tiny student made stop sign graces the entrance to the Sunstone Montessori School in South Portland. Who is being asked to stop? It’s almost unnoticeable. Perhaps students get extra credit for sign making. Their method proved more interesting than an average stop sign.

25: No Way To Drive

Rocks out!

The city’s campaign to get everyone to drive slower hinges on a brilliant bit of rhyming wordplay. “Twenty is plenty.” Okay so you can argue the brilliance of it but someone, somewhere had a moment of lightbulb exploding inspiration. You can almost hear the bug eyed scream, “TWENTY IS PLENTY! EUREKA! THAT’S IT!” These signs are ordinary but a line of rocks painted the same color creates a nice eye path to the message.

Hoist Me Up

Here’s a declaration for a limited audience. Those who know about hoisting need to know where they should and shouldn’t hoist.

To Dump or Not To Dump

Don’t get dumpy.

I was amused to see a no dumping sign getting specific with examples of what not to dump. While the sign is pointing out that nothing should be dumped, it’s illustrated with a trash bag, tire and washing machine that should not be tossed aside to rot and rust and become someone else’s disposal hassle. The image makes me laugh at the realization that the popularity of pick up trucks makes it easy for people to pull up with their pony tail wearing driver/accomplice and empty a bed load of junk anywhere they choose to ignore a no dumping sign.

D.M.G. stands for what?

An old sign in the West Portland Park neighborhood used to do it’s duty. Now it looks like it’s been dumped itself. The message is clear enough to keep this patch of wilderness trash free and it’s more intimidating. A Wheel of Fortune watcher could fill in the blanks without buying a vowel.

To Climb or Not to Climb

On the list of do nots.

The sign may not keep anyone away from the temptation of climbing this wall in the parking lot of the Memorial Coliseum. Red screams danger while the capital letters broadcast a louder warning. It is a long way down to the next parking lot so it is better to be safe than mangled.

Climb mountains instead.

At a Portland Public School site in Northeast, a sign benefits from an additional sticker or drawing. All signs should be rendered this interesting. No matter how much someone enjoys climbing on roofs they have to realize it’s not as fun as having to spend time in a court.

Closer To The Fine

No loud allowed.

The intention is obvious. No loud amateur should dare make an attempt to live at the Dickinson Crossing Apartments. It’s not clear how this banner is discriminatory. I wonder where those who can’t control their volume live. Perhaps the walls are thin at the Dickinson Crossing Apartments. Quiet professionals are not the type of folks I would want to live around. It may not be a bad thing to sequester all of the quiet professionals behind those thin walls of the Dickinson Crossing Apartments. If they all want coexist in peaceful harmony, well then, fine.

Live and Let Live

The eleventh commandment.

The appeal here was in the random nature of this tacked up post-it note that may not qualify as an actual sign. Spotted at the Tryon Creek nature center, this could this be the lost 11th commandment or an attempt to remind people that not all spiders are evil, poisonous, diabolical creatures plotting a takeover. It asks its readers to reconsider if they were thinking about going into the forest to kill spiders. Let the arachnids live their happy, web making, scheming lives deep in their natural habitat.

Sticking It To ‘Em

Beef out runs bike.

I’ve seen plenty of stick men traffic signs. I never batted an eye until I saw this one in Tigard out near the train tracks and bike path. Here I encountered a beefy stick man with power thighs that gave me pause. The juxtaposition between biker and pedestrian indicates a competition. Bike riding is painted as the way to a fit and sleek physique while walking leaves you looking like a beef stick.

Pick On My Pet

Before is even better!

No one wants pet waste from pets that aren’t their own on their lawn. It’s not like people ignore pleas they’ve planted in their yards. These signs, cranked out for purchase, feature a happy dog and three exclamation points. This message seen in West Portland Park makes the signs spotted in Multnomah Village encouraging dogs to do their business make even less sense.



Pee freely!


Who’s Property Is It?

Property proud.

This sign serves a purpose but it struck me as odd. It’s meant to rust away in a trail side section of brush bordering I-5 in the Crestwood neighborhood. In case anyone is wondering who owns this land, well, it’s the Department of Transportation Highway Division and they must be making a declaration of pride along with an acknowledgement of ownership. It’s ours so don’t try to take it and build a condo. They must be confident that no one is willing to live so close to an Interstate highway.

When Portland Almost Killed Beatlemania

I caught the exhibit about The Beatles at the Oregon Historical Society. The displays weren’t specific to the Beatles’ visit to Portland on August 22, 1965  when they performed two shows to a combined attendance of 20,000 fans. There were relics from the concert but the collection, organized by the Grammy Museum and Fab Four Exhibits, included items from the full spectrum of the Beatle years. Through November 12, people can pour over artifacts, admire replicas of the band’s gear, look over oddball Beatle merchandise items, play drums with Ringo or even sing and record a personal version of Yellow Submarine.

Press kit photo by David Falconer

The band’s performances in Portland must have impacted those who attended, the excitement, the memories. The Beatles, in Portland. Imagine that. Their tours came with baggage. Every show factored into their decision to stop touring. Screams of excitement muffled their ability to hear their instruments. There was more fun backstage jamming, smoking and drinking Wink soda before being trotted out to face 10,000 adoring and screaming Portlanders in a boxy arena. It’s amazing to think facing a crowd like that could get old.

Press kit photo by David Falconer

On tour the band was shuttled by plane and limo in a whirlwind. On the way to Portland the airplane lost an engine. The incident shook up John Lennon but this didn’t merit a mention in Philip Norman definitive Beatle biography Shout, although I swear I read about it somewhere. I also had it in my head that the band landed in Troutdale. I just liked the idea of the Beatles in Troutdale. My memory was proven wrong by a photo of Ringo and Paul waving to fans from a limo at the Portland airport. Their concert rider at the museum called for two seven-passenger limousines, “preferably with air-conditioning” to pick them up. The hoopla  netted them 50,000 dollars for their performances and possibly proceeds from the gate on top of that. Tickets, at four, five and six dollars, seemed like a hefty price for the time. How much that equals in today’s money is beyond me.**

Ringo’s suit jacket.

Tiny details from the exhibit revealed more about the band’s personalities. There were things you would never absorb from a book. I saw John Lennon’s loopy handwriting, the use of his elbow to play keyboards in a show photo and a suit that Ringo had made to wear on the cover of the Abbey Road album. George liked it so much he ordered one. In a concert projected on one wall, I watched Paul graciously invite Ringo to sing “With a Little Help From My Friends.” I’m not sure why Ringo is all over the exhibit. He must have been the one Beatle wiling and able to participate. His deadpanned intro to the Yellow Submarine booth was hilarious.

The most significant thing I learned about the Beatles’ Portland shows was that Allen Ginsberg was in the audience for the evening performance and he wrote a poem about it. Now a Beatles concert for the band was just another show. For the city and those who attended it’s historical. Not many concerts have poems written about them. Ginsberg has already received props for hanging out with Dylan and recording and performing with The Clash, his poem offers a sense of the essence of a Beatles show.

by Allen Ginsberg

A brown piano in diamond
white spotlight
Leviathan auditorium
iron run wired
hanging organs, vox
black battery
A single whistling sound of ten thousand children’s
larynxes asinging
pierce the ears
and following up the belly
bliss the moment arrived

Apparition, four brown English
jacket christhair boys
Goofed Ringo battling bright
white drums
Silent George hair patient
Soul horse
Short black-skulled Paul
with the guitar
Lennon the Captain, his mouth
a triangular smile,
all jump together to End
some tearful memory song
ancient-two years,
The million children
the thousand words
bounce in their seats, bash
each other’s sides, press
legs together nervous
Scream again & claphand
become one Animal
in the New World Auditorium
—hands waving myriad
snakes of thought
screetch beyond hearing

while a line of police with
folded arms stands
Sentry to contain the red
sweatered ecstasy
that rises upward to the
wired roof.
— August 27, 1965

Now I’m going to attempt something rare in this blog, or any other: poetry analysis. If you absorb the poem you get images of that cavernous “New World Auditorium” filled with screaming beings while the Beatles jump as the complete a song. That must have been their stage move at the time. I got a kick out of his descriptions of the band. George, so sick of being labeled the quiet Beatle probably kept his mouth shut about it. Paul being painted “black-skulled” is something he’ll never live down. “Screech beyond hearing” seems likely what the Beatles heard but they were Portland kids, sweaters and all, and that could have made all the difference.

**From a story in the Oregonian I learned 6 dollars I s equal to 47 dollars in today’s money.

P.S. The museum is free to residents of Multnomah County and the exhibit is worth checking out for a few minutes if you find yourself downtown. It’s fun to have a look but the mock teenager bedroom decked out in Beatle paraphernalia is a bit of a stretch.

For the Beatlemaniacs:


Bob’s website doesn’t appear to work well but it’s an archive of photos from the Portland show.

The Author: New kicks, old road.


Taking Me to the River: The Portlandia Mermaid Parade

mermaid mass

The Mermaid mob!

What makes someone consider the mermaid life? Dressing like a Mermaid? Participating in a Mermaid parade? These questions had been in my head since last year. After missing the 2018 parade, I needed answers. The event, in it’s fourth year, had me incorrectly assuming it had sprung from a skit on the show Portlandia until I read the website:

The name ‘Portlandia’ is in honor of the river goddess sculpture created by Raymond Kaskey, currently located above the entrance of the Portland Building located in downtown PDX.

Okay, so there’s always been a bit of confusion between the statue and the TV show.

mermaid parade


Getting there was a challenge. It can be when you travel by bike or bus. The bike option had us stopping at a repair shop with a mechanical issue. I thought we might miss the Saturday, July 27th parade entirely. I misjudged how long it would take to get there. As we got closer I realized I had no idea where the parade was. Such festivities that included floats and Mermaids in kiddie pools would have involve street closures but I didn’t know the streets. Despite my worrying, we intercepted the hard-to-miss parade cutting through the Tom McCall Waterfront Park with no floats or kiddie pools in sight just people pushing Mermaids in hand carts and wheelchairs.

make way for mermaids

Make way for mermaids.

The event has a Portland vibe. It’s a definite local bucket list item. The Mermaid theme, not exclusive to the area plays up Portland traditions of homemade creativity in style and design. Seeing the parade in real life helped me interpret its mystery.

mermaid push

When push comes to cart.

Pictures don’t do it justice. This force, a nautical battalion cruising dry land had me searching for a descriptor. What’s a group of mermaids called? A herd? A gaggle? A crush–if you got in their way. A school? A pod? The internet couldn’t settle it so I decided on a mass for the alliteration but I think mob works better. It was a conglomeration of people celebrating mermaids and moseying towards Poet’s beach, an urban oasis of sand under the Marquam bridge. The Sister Sledge song “We Are Family” blared from a boombox in a theme of Mermaid unification.

mermaid canyon

I know the alley.

The procession continued through the SW Harborside retail canyon of what seemed like mostly ice cream stores anchored by a McCormick and Schmidt’s steakhouse. A table of mermaids had given up and gone to lunch. The group remained an amazing spectacle for the unsuspecting as they moved in a methodic, disciplined school of fish fashion.

mermaid wave

Greetings earthlings.

No one could resist the colorful costumes. My wife, Ronna, told me I should have let her know the parade was formal. Which begs the question about what to wear to a mermaid parade. Anything with scales, I suppose. Mermaid fabric pants were in order.

jelly fish man

Under the jelly.

On Poet’s Beach a Mermaid’s tail flapped in the sand. I saw smiles and countless photo ops with plenty of chances for photo bombing–if that’s even a thing these days. My surroundings felt like a Fellini movie set, extras in shimmering costumes pursuing the unusual. I heard Ronna in her bathing suit say, “I have to work on my mermaid game. This is awful.” A t-shirt read, “I Can’t Run I’m a Mermaid” reminding me of my obvious and poorly constructed joke that mermaids can’t parade in a literal sense.

photo session

Summer’s pose.

“Can a mermaid’s tail get wet?” a little girl asked her mom about the tail she was dragging behind her as she headed to the river. Impending rain had me anticipating an uncomfortable ride home but I was comforted by the realization that Mermaids drip dry. I couldn’t help imagining a future Trump tweet threatening to deport Mermaids back to the sea.

dog mermaid

Merdog and friends.

This Mermaid parade and gathering could be described using words that start with the letter “F” like fun, freeing, frivolous, fancy and family. It’s a communal, inclusive celebration of anything mermaid related. Sharks, pirates and jellyfish umbrellas weren’t excluded. Kid’s fascination with mermaids has to be part of the reason for this necessary spectacle.  Out of the ordinary is inspiring. On the beach Aretha Franklin could be heard singing about freedom. People were freed to express themselves. Reasons for Mermaid gatherings were adding up. This celebration felt good; a great way to spend a summer’s day. Mermaid good cheer is something to commemorate on an annual basis.

mermaid rocks

Rocking out.

You never get over the Hans Christian Andersen effect of seeing a Mermaid on a rock. The paraders spread out over Poet’s Beach socializing while kids swam. Mermaids seemed wary of the water. Who could blame this threat to their costumes, extensive make up, face paint and wigs. Who wants a wet wig? I began to feel pasty on the beach in need of sunshine. The parade became a day at the beach. I took comfort  knowing a shirtless burly man, who arrived fashionably late with two kids in tow, was not a sea creature.


mermaid throne

Una holds court.

Una had me starstruck. I feel like the Mermaid scene revolves around her as their de facto leader, but I may be mistaken. She seemed otherworldly, exotic, graceful and dignified—like a real mermaid. She had scales on her face, flowers in her hair and a multi-colored costume. After the parade and Poet’s Beach gathering some of the celebrants headed back to the Harborside retail area. I was a few tables away from Una. I discovered that Mermaids like ice cream. She was an amiable celebrity, happy to chat with passersby enchanted by her costume. I made too much of the notion of being in the presence of a Mermaid Queen. Queens make people nervous. I’ll get the whole story someday. I have no doubt her grace would be willing to answer a few questions from the Portland Orbit.