Eclipse Fever (Happens to me Every Time)

It’s been wearing on me to the point that I can’t help but obsess over it. The endless eclipse hype got me. Now, I’m quivering with low-level anticipation. Questions remain: How bad will traffic get? Can a viewing of less than totality be satisfying? How will I know? Will I burn my retinas staring into the sun? Is there a chance the world, or maybe the U.S. can achieve enlightenment from the eclipse experience?

The Heart of Totality is on the sticker.

It’s felt like a slow boil to this hysteria that’s happened over six weeks. The local news feels relentless with promos about tomorrow’s live coverage. An event like this must be a godsend in what can be a slow news month. NPR has covered the event from many angles running a couple of interviews with the most enthusiastic eclipse expert ever.  We’re talking a guy who made plans three years ago to observe the event in Jackson Hole, Wy.  At least he’s staying out of Oregon. They also ran a piece about movies that have included eclipse events in them. While this holds my interest, I have hype-fatigue.

Oregon is going crazy. There have been hours of coverage on Oregon Public Broadcasting about the goings on in the state and the Eclipse Festival in central Oregon called the Symbiosis Gathering  that has 30,000 attendees. Oh yeah and, as promised, I can probably choose to watch the solar eclipse live on one of my local TV channels.

Buy a high and get glasses too.

Looking through a sample pair of glasses at Paxton Gate I was surprised that I couldn’t see a thing. It dawned on me. I knew they prevented eye fry but I thought of them as cool and maybe strong sun glasses. My out-of-town guest explained that the glasses were for looking at photons. My God!  Everyone’s a scientist.

My brilliant neighbor Paul was on his way to meet his brother who was camping in central Oregon.  He was leaving the Thursday before the eclipse allowing for a few days to be stuck in traffic without missing it. There have been reports of long traffic back ups and fuel shortages in Prineville, OR and miles around it. Before he left, my neighbor had me considering where the sun would be in relation to my house in case I decided to stay put and not drive anywhere for a few extra degrees of totality. From our observation where the sun was at around 11:30AM that day, he determined our best vantage point was through the sky light in our upstairs bathroom. Again, it’s nice to be surrounded by scientists.

The Furnace guy told me that the Holiday Motel, not to be confused with the Holiday Inn chain was charging $999 for a room he said was only worth about 30 bucks. There’s no time to substantiate this but I’m sure if you needed a room and there’s one available at this price if you coughed, sputtered, hemmed and hawed you could talk them down six or seven hundred dollars.  It is a motel room in Portland; not in the Path of Totality.  Where are you supposed to watch the eclipse? From a motel parking lot in an industrial section of town?

Capitalizing on current events!

We also heard about plans someone made to go to a minor league baseball game scheduled to start at 9:30 Monday morning. This is going to be the only sporting event that anyone knows about where play will have been suspended for the eclipse. The maker of this plan is leaving the house at three in the morning to ensure on time arrival at the game about fifty miles away in the Salem/Keizer area .

The panic to find a pair of glasses ended when the folks at Natural Grocers hooked us up with two free pairs. We were more than willing to sign a waiver for them. The glasses were getting scarce, and we had been joking about having to spend 11 dollars for a pair if we managed to find one.

The worst of this forthcoming eclipse has been rediscovering the existence of a disco remix of Bonnie Tyler’s epic anthem “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  But there I was experiencing it from the lip syncing lips of a TV reporter bound for the Path of Totality. That may well be part of the sour grapes experience of seeing Facebook posts from people with job tasks that involve traveling to optimal places to experience the eclipse.

One recent afternoon heading out of the grocery store  I saw, from the corner of my eye, a display of souvenir cups emblazoned with the phrase “Great American Eclipse.”  I was annoyed with this marketing of a natural phenomenon. I didn’t even think to take a picture, I was too busy fleeing. Days later the display had been moved. It helped a bit when someone pointed out that the marketers were probably going to lose their shirts trying to sell dumb merchandise. One local TV channel is calling the event something generic like Total Solar Eclipse 2017 so “Great American Eclipse,” is, at least, on the exciting side.

Heat sensitive eclipse stamps from the US Post Office.

This hoopla serves a purpose.  It gets the word out that the sun will temporarily be blocked out.  This way, everyone around the world will not freak out, but instead just accept it since they have had ample, to the point of ad nauseam, advance notice.

On a promo for a local radio show, OPB’s State of Wonder, which devoted a whole episode to eclipse coverage, I heard a man discussing the event. I’m paraphrasing but it sounded like he was saying the two-minute event would change people during those two minutes, possibly for all time.  I will be sure to let you know how the eclipse changes me in part two of this post to run later in the week.

Editor’s note: The Portland Orbit has no qualms with the use of unnamed sources probably because we’re not always sure what their names are to begin with.

Thanks goes to Will Simmons who said “you gotta write about the eclipse,” and Allen Callaci who suggested a two-part post, a kind of aftermath/after geometry type thing.

Paul Needs You! (Still)


Nobody puts Paul in a cage.

On a sunny day just after noon I was inspired and exhilarated to see the face of Paul Bunyan, the Kenton neighborhood’s only celebrity Roadside Attraction peeking out from the top of scaffolding. This wasn’t the peeling, sooty faced Bunyan of the past few years. This was a freshly painted version, his hat hidden dutch boy hairstyle and trimmed beard now gleaming with jet black paint. Paul’s cleaned up appearance and piercing blue eyes are giving him a youthful look.  The haggard appearance of the past few years is now a memory. Even his red hat pom sparkled in the sunshine. Paul’s been given what everyone could use, a fresh start. This is only the beginning but starting at the head seems appropriate. It’s the only thing that can be seen through the scaffolding. Knowing that his mischievous grin is right below a platform and soon to be unleashed encourages me. Good things happen through perseverance.

Trained scaffold experts at work.

I was told by one of the harness wearing workers that the top down approach is being employed in the painting process. This helps since Paul has already had some paint spilled on his shoulders. As the painting continues there will be a curing process leading up to the reveal event on Saturday, September 9th.

Primed and ready.

I can’t emphasis enough how sad and shabby Paul was. Between the dirty forearms, chipped paint and bare patches, especially on his boots, he had fallen on tough times. He was never in the position to go to a tailor for new clothes or get down the street to the laundromat where they have a nice large capacity washer seemingly up to any task.

The fund raising campaign for the project is still active but summer’s dry weather proved to be the best time to start and complete the project. Please consider helping pay off Paul’s renovation. He deserves a break. He waited a long time to be cleaned up. He’s still waiting to be suited up with fresh duds. After spending the better part of a year, since the fundraising campaign began, crumbling, with his skin sloughing off and getting increasingly grimy, it became obvious that the painting couldn’t have started soon enough. The scuffed up boots, despite his inability to walk anywhere, keep me hanging on for the promise of those new boots for Paul.

These colors don’t run.

Find a few more coins under your couch cushions and make a donation to Paul if you can. Please see:

The Kenton Business Association posted a great photo on Facebook. You’ll probably have to scroll down to find it:

Our report from two years ago:

Editor’s note: Many of you tuned in this week expecting to read about owls. Our apologies. When breaking news like this happens, owls take a back seat. We won’t forget the owls and will return with an owl post soon. This August has actually become less of a slow news month than usual. The owl report has been postponed until September. Your patience in this matter is much appreciated.



17 Years of That: 3 Questions for I, Anonymous Illustrator Kalah Allen


Illustrator Kalah Allen

As an aspiring cartoonist, zine maker and comic book illustrator Kalah Allen began creating images for the I, Anonymous column which runs in the Portland Mercury in the summer of 2000. With demands on her time from family and work, she appreciates having an outlet for her creativity. Kalah retains a bit of her cartoonist identity with the weekly publication of her work. She’s recently streamlined her illustration methodology which has brought new life and personality to recent drawings

Portland Orbit: So, when you get the I, Anonymous submission, how do you sum up the image in an illustration, is there something you have to go through to get that initial burst of inspiration?

KA: So it’s interesting sometimes I receive a bundle of them like in a little file package and I’ll skim through all of them and I don’t really focus on any particular one, I’ll just take them in. My habit is usually Sunday night, it’s the last thing I do before I go to bed is to finish the I, Anonymous. So maybe before that if I’m stuck I’ll give it a really good read again and I might read it a couple times and I think about what’s the most visual thing that’s also the most important in the text. A lot of times lately there’s nothing particularly visually interesting in the text to illustrate and I really have to think about it. Some things that are the most difficult are things that are ideas, like for instance a recent idea was, it was about goals. Those things are difficult to draw and so I’ll look through the whole text and see if there’s a theme. Because you don’t want to be too easy, you want to make something kind of weird and different and make it interesting.

Portland Orbit: I think the other part of that was trying to get that inspiration.

KA: Yeah, sometimes inspiration is hard. Sometimes I’ll scroll through, I’ll just google a thing like “guy pooping” and see if there’s an interesting angle that I can draw a guy pooping from.

Portland Orbit: That is so perfect because that goes right into my next question. Because it seems like you are often dealing with potentially gross stuff. That seems to be a job requirement so I’m wondering if you’re okay with that.

KA: Yeah, I’m fine. I’m really sick inside. I’ve always, from my childhood, I’m always three years old in my mind. All the body stuff is hilarious. Right? I did get banned, when I first got started a lot of them were about dicks or about fucking or pissing or whatever. Sometimes it’s like what do you draw. So I draw the thing and they said, “Kalah, you can’t draw dicks anymore. Sorry, it’s just too much.” I drew one that was flying or something and they said, the ladies who advertise, on the page that used to face I, Anonymous, who were like escorts, don’t want that on the other page.

Portland Orbit: They were pretty racy back then. I think they’ve driven those people away. I remember when I first got here I was like, whoa.

KA: I know.

Portland Orbit: Have there been any of the I, Anonymous letters that have been challenging to illustrate?

KA: Like I said the ones that are more like ideas rather than things can be difficult, it can be a challenge to think of something that is not a total cliché or if you choose to draw a cliché totally knock it out of park and make it over the top cliché so it’s funny.

Portland Orbit: So that can be the challenge of just trying to find that over the top kind of angle on it.

KA: Yeah, I always forget what I’ve drawn like the next week if you ask me what I’ve drawn, I’m like, “I don’t remember.” If we looked at a bunch of them I could probably point out, “this one was particularly difficult.” They’re starting to do two in a theme. There was one about goals one week and I was like, “oh that was such a pain to draw. How do you show that?” And then the next week it was about goals again. It was like “ugh,” here we go.

So I just used some of the, I used a generic person crossing the road illustration like that kind of road sign style and I just took what I’d made the week before and changed it. And they did it again the next week with bag pipes so I hope that’s not a theme. It was funny, a couple of weeks ago I did one about this guy who was playing bag pipes. He played the same song over and over and someone was complaining that they had to listen to him all day at work and then the next week it was another one about that guy. After work one day I went to meet a friend for dinner and guess what I heard? I heard that guy! I was like “yeah, this does suck.”  I couldn’t image listening to that all day.

Portland Orbit: It’s almost like a theme if two people are complaining about the same thing.

KA: Yeah.

Portland Orbit: So I have a lot of the images, I’ve been reading it for at least the last nine years, looking at it and I’ve tried to think of the ones that were really memorable, one, which I couldn’t look at, was the toenail collection.

KA: Oh that was so gross.

Portland Orbit: That was really gross.

KA: That was so fucking gross.

Portland Orbit: One that I recall that was funny because it was about someone farting in Powell’s and then I guess you had a line of books and you came up with all these book pun titles.

KA: That was one of my favorites. My friends helped me come up with the names for that and I wish they could all be a little more interactive. But I’m generally too lazy to do that kind of stuff, like ask everybody, I just want to get it done.

Portland Orbit: Also to me, it was interesting, the one about old goats, somebody was complaining about old men in the bar, kind of like a generational gap thing and even the next week somebody wrote a letter to the editor defending the old goats. So my question is really which ones, maybe more in general, not necessarily coming up with the idea, which ones have been memorable to you?

KA: Ummm, gosh I don’t know there’re are just so many, 17 years of that.

Portland Orbit: I know, I know.

KA: The one that makes me laugh every time I see it, there’s like a cat with a condom in his mouth. It’s just so over the top funny, just the idea of, you know what animals love, what they find attractive and will bring home as a trophy.

Portland Orbit: Yeah, combines a little bit of that grossness too.

Note: I met Kalah over 20 years ago on the first and only US Tour I made with Charlie McAlister (12 shows in a month) We ditched a show (actually an open mic night in Kansas), but Kalah was able to get to the next show, in Omaha, and hung out with us at a casino named Harvey’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa where she drew on the roof of my car. Possibly before that, and certainly after that we communicated through letters that highlighted Kalah’s gift, a zany off-the-cuff sense of humor.

All illustrations by Kalah Allen.

See more of her work in bright, bold computer color:

Next Week: Those pesky and ubiquitous owls.


Dog Days: What Dogs Aren’t Reading

If you ever tried to teach your dog to read the first word he’d need to learn is poop followed by no or not here or maybe, don’t. Let’s face it dogs can’t read. I don’t care how smart you think your dog is he or she is never going to learn. I know signs are written for dog owners not dogs. To communicate with a dog it might be best to use doggie hieroglyphics.

I’ve always felt bad for dogs. When they go to the bathroom it’s a challenge to give them privacy. It’s not like you have to watch but dogs on a walk use the “facilities” in full view of the world. It is up to each owner to pick up after their pooch. Dogs won’t do it. If the following signs go unheeded then all I can say is may the dog owner suffer the sign’s harsh rebukes. I’m as diligent as I can be about picking up after my dog. I can deal with crap for the most part and I’m trying to be a good citizen. I did have one moment where I spaced out, what was I thinking I didn’t even realize the dog had gone. I was called out by an even better citizen. At the very least, people who post signs  should be aware that I read every sign and take pictures of them too.

Let’s begin the sign review:

Well, if my dog can’t pee here can he poop here in this no pee zone. That is going to get tricky. This handwritten sign looks like an official traffic sign of sorts in it’s design which makes it look official. Ultimately someone may be trying to protect their shrubbery. Look, there’s lots of other places to pee so we’ll just move on.

It’s actually a nice design for such a profane message. I like the black outline and green lettering. Yes your lawn does not resemble a giant toilet but my dog has never used one of those. Look, there are lot’s of other places to pee and poop, so we’ll move on.

This message gets very specific. “My lawn is not a toilet.” This confuses my dog greatly because all he knows about toilets is that they’re a secondary water source if his water bowl is empty. As far as pooping goes, no one wants to poop where they’re not wanted. There are plenty of other places to poop, despite how inviting this lawn is, we’ll just move on.

This one gets it right by using manners, exclamation points and doggie hieroglyphics (paw prints, hearts and a smile.) This looks like a nice spot, if he agrees I’ll make sure I clean up afterwards.

A store bought sign speaks in dog language if you can teach your dog that the red circle with the line across it means no. Most dogs could relate to what the squatting dog is doing. The lawn looks lush and green and tempting in the afternoon sun. If the sign is encouraging respect, the least a dog and owner can be is respectful and find another lawn.

We ran into this sign last week. It tells the whole story so I’ll take the rest of the afternoon off.

Next week: An interview with the I, Anonymous Illustrator. 

Double Your Pleasure: Zine Month Collides with a Zine Symposium


Scene from a Zine display.

Imagine my surprise seeing a display declaring July to be Zine Month at my local library. I didn’t know. I snapped up a few of the zines and had to tidy up the display. Zines had been off my radar, but I was reminded the library offers small press publications for checkout in five of its branches including Albina, Belmont, Central, Hollywood and North Portland. With a title in mind, you can use the online system to place a hold on the and pick it up at your local branch.

I collected zines in the 90’s. They’ve ended up in a box in the basement labeled “small press publications.” Inside the box are zines with reviews of my musical releases, publications I appreciated (usually by people I ended up corresponding with) and a complete set of Mole Magazine, a zine I contributed to. Mole publisher, Jeff Bagato, did the heavy lifting. I submitted articles, wrote music reviews and participated in collating parties.

Yes, July is Zine Month!

During Zine Month, I noticed a poster in the window of my local coffee shop advertising the Portland Zine Symposium. I made plans to attend. Before heading out to the Zine Symposium, I considered what a blogger’s convention would be like imaging an uncluttered space with people gathered around computer screens looking at each other’s work.

Walking toward the meeting space in the Jade Market District, the first person I encountered was someone I knew. Matt Dan was sitting on a curb, taking a break from the hot crowded space. I knew him from his time as an animator screening work at a monthly event called “Attack of the Flicks.” He was there with his collaborators called Night Time Science who produce comic books.

Site of this year’s Symposium.

Soon I felt like I was in a spinning kaleidoscope. The printed word, illustrations and people’s voices swirled around me. I circled tables, stopping to look through the materials. The symposium was hopping. I thought if I arrived late on the second day people would be packing up and the crowd would be thinning.

Fronting the product.

At one table I paused to look at an illustration of Margaret Dumont in a zine about movies from the 30’s. This started a conversation with zine distributor Joshua James Amberson about the actress and whether she was in on the joke about being the repressed foil to the Marx Brother’s in many of their movies. Joshua runs Antiquated Future and publishes a zine called Basic Paper Airplane and a Prince tribute publication. He told me that zines are as popular as ever because the internet has created the kind of word of mouth that keeps people interested. He stays busy filling orders a few times a week and paying zine makers with a system he’s developed over the years. I wish I’d been recording because I was getting a great overview about the current state of the zine world from an avid participant but he did mention some intriguing thoughts about what he’d learned as a publisher. He’s noticed the importance of titles in deciding the popularity of a publication explaining these days they needed to be specific in their descriptions of the zine’s content which he said wasn’t as important in the 90’s.

Some of Antiquated Future’s wares.

Joshua slipped me a copy of Basic Paper Airplane which I read days later along with a hand colored one sheet zine that someone else had handed me. Both amazed me. The latter described the plight of bees and mentioned things I could do to keep them healthy. This was an inspiring piece of paper. Joshua’s zine focused on personal stories of his work history and being a writer. It made me realize how interested I was in the memoir. The personal stories jumped out at me at the Zine Symposium whether about someone trying to sell a house or dedicated to chronic pain and sporting a elaborate cover.

Anoymous Zine

Don’t go killing all the bees.

Matt in the middle.

I caught up with Matt Dan inside the meeting place and learned he was promoting a comic he worked on which is set in Beaverton. He explained he chose Beaverton because “there’s no cultural coverage there.” He talked about how he transitioned away from animation due to the expense and time consuming nature of it. But any art form takes time as he acknowledged the months of effort it took to create a comic book.

Don’t forget Zine Fest.

I talked to another person behind a table. She pointed out the award winning book by Martha Grover. My attention was drawn to a zine by this author about the Fred Meyer grocery chain. I had a zines worth of information at my fingertips. The three dollar price was too high. I consoled myself by thinking that I already knew that Leo DiCaprio had once been in a Fred Meyer TV ad. At this table I was given a flyer for the Olympia Zine Fair. The woman told me that Olympia was like Portland only two hours away. I walked away having learned two things: If you go to a Zine Symposium don’t be broke, bring cash and make an effort to meet people who are friendly and interesting.

The roar of the masses.

It makes sense that the Zine Symposium is held during Zine month. I had to find out more about Zine month so I contacted Lori Moore, a regional librarian with Multnomah County. Lori and I have a history that goes back a few years to my effort to donate those Mole magazines I’d helped with in the 90’s.

Lori told me that the library didn’t create Zine Month. She believes that credit goes to Alex Wrekk, who, from what I could gather, has organized Zine Symposiums. Zine Month promotes our county’s zine collection.

Detail: Zine display

By email, Lori explained that the library supports zines, “because we had a band of library staff who read, made and loved zines and were involved in the zinester community.” It may be unique in the library world to offer zines but the Multnomah County library system strives to be different. Lori pointed out “zines reflect the perspectives and voices of people who might not otherwise be represented.”

I was curious about current zines so I asked for recommendations. Lori suggested They Call Us Viet Kieu, the Prince Zine, the Women of Color (WOC) collection, and Hari Kondabolu Interviewed.

The library’s website also mentions a Zine exchange program whereby donated zines, not a part of the library’s collection, can be picked up or dropped off to be kept or returned for some one else to read. It’s a safe bet you’ll find the Zine Exchange boxes at the library branches with zine sections.

My apologies for reporting so late, at the end of Zine Month. But zines aren’t going anywhere. You can catch the Olympia Zine Fair or browse through zines at library branches that have them. The IPRC looks like great local resource if you’re thinking about making your own zine. I was trying to relate to how things may have been different in my day but I realized things haven’t changed much. People are still looking for ways to showcase their creativity. I like the tangible qualities of paper that’s flexible, portable and perfect for hoarding. I’m only wary of accumulating more zines because I don’t need another box of stuff in the basement for the next fifty years.

Past live zine experiences:

Transmission Troubles: An Art Car Fundraiser



Advertising gets results.

A photo on a bulletin board in the art supply store on N Lombard St caught my eye. A flyer advertised an art car fundraiser. I knew the car having seen it around town. It was especially memorable parked in front of Roosevelt High School. I posted on Facebook about the time the car drove past our house. I had long wanted to contact the people behind this car and now I had the chance.

In praise of the art car.

When I think about meeting people involved in outsider pursuits like art cars, graffiti or sticker culture, I fear the people involved might be subversive, anti-social or pretentious. It’s unheralded anxiety not based on experience. Myriah Day and Chris Landon owners of the art car Space Taxi couldn’t have been more welcoming. The fundraiser was a combination cook out, open house and opportunity to decorate, or redecorate the car. My wife, Ronna, and I were offered food and drink and friendly company. We were encouraged to contribute our own artistic touches to the car. Boxes of paint, glue, and art materials were provided.

Phone parts and more.

The inspiration for the art car started when the couple owned a fancy Carmen Ghia which brought them attention and compliments. When Myriah became pregnant with their son Harvey, it must have seemed like a time to make changes. Chris realized he was too tall for the car and got rid of it. Around that time Myriah received a car from her grandparents.

“It was a plain white car and nobody talked to us about our car anymore,” Chris said. Mariah pointed out that the white Chevy Lumina, resembled a police car so people were always doing the speed limit around them. “It was no fun,” Chris admitted. He had always wanted to make an art car. Myriah suggested the art car by committee approach.

Chris works with foam.

The original design was planned out. Myriah imagined it like a quilt. They started with a grid of 298 squares, it was organized, a map was made, squares were numbered, contact info was gathered but the plan resulted in an overwhelming bureaucracy that at least got the project started. Through the years the car continues to be decorated at art car parties. “I always say that (Chris) makes the car look better than I probably would but I bring the people together. I’m the social component,” Myriah said. One decorating gathering at a Last Thursday event on Alberta Street had them mobbed by eager assistants. The resulting chaos had Chris accidentally setting Myriah’s hair on fire.

The decoration committee.

Art car parties help with the upkeep of the car’s design. Damaged squares get painted over and new objects are added. Miffed about the “Keep Portland Normal” sticker peeling off the car, Myriah laughed at the irony of it’s message as she pulled what remained off the bumper.

Street Transmissions: An Art Car Fundraiser 9

The “M” train.

The car is now in the neighborhood of twenty years old with over 200,000 miles. It serves a dual purpose, not only is it a Portland Icon, it’s the families’ only car. After replacing the head gasket, catalytic converter and getting new tires, fixing the transmission merited the fundraising campaign. Myriah and Chris weren’t ready to let the car go. They felt a responsibility to the community to keep it on the road.


Somebody call for a taxi?

Not even a car crash could stop Space Taxi. Myriah had been hit in a parking lot by a driver who claimed not to have seen the car. A comment she found laughable. The insurance company wanted to total the car until she pleaded her case for its artistic value. It’s not just a Chevy Lumina, anymore.

Street Transmissions: An Art Car Fundraiser 7

A teachable moment.

Myriah parks the car in front of Roosevelt because she teaches Chemistry there. Students look out for the car and let her know when they think someone’s messing with it. The car made her conscious of the need to prove she was a good teacher and “not just a weirdo.”

Something to sing about.

Space Taxi’s charms can be found in the original quilt pattern with varied art styles and scenes found on the the hood and roof. Ronna pointed out that every time she looked at it she saw something different. I could look at it a thousand times and continue to see new details. I did wonder if decorations were capable of flying off, but I can attest to the strength of the glue used for bonding.

The car locator beacon.

“It’s really funny to look out at a sea of cars and see a foot,” Chris said. This kind of foot spotting can help them find the car in crowded parking lots. Chris recalled a time when they discovered a plain white version of their car in a parking lot which had them thinking, “Oh, no, someone took all of our stuff.”

Space Taxi has appeared in the Portland Orbit once before in a post about Shoe Art. I realized I was looking at a different shoe, one that had been replaced due to theft. This one needed some retrofitting, including cutting out the toe section, but it’s now secure.

An art car detail.

There can’t be a dull moment driving an art car. Myriah mentioned how they collect facial expressions in their minds examples include the image of a scared parent dragging away a curious kid or an onlooker shaking their head in disgust, an expression that changed to a smile and a thumbs up sign when the person realized the scowl was spotted by the art car’s occupants.

Mariah had great advice on art car creation. “The biggest thing I always tell people is you have to make sure the engine works because you’re putting all this time in a car. People are like I have this junker I want to turn into an art car and I’m like why would you ever put all this effort to make an art car to not have the engine work. It’s heartbreaking.”

The first piece, frog brains.


You can help Space Taxi by contributing what you can:

See Chris Landon, aka Doktor Creature’s Instagram account:

See more art cars:



Summeritis: A Wall and Some Bridges

Last week, I was out of town but still managed to write a post. I wrote it using my iPhone and sporadic wi-fi. Talk about phoning it in! This may have me resting on my laurels. There’s a post vacation malaise that took over as I was working on this week’s piece. I haven’t totally envisioned the concept, and the theme is happening as I write. My “summeritis” is hitting a wall.

When I became a car commuter this spring, I started spending time on I-5 South and in SW Portland. I went from bike commuting to taking the train and bus to my current job. Once I had a car available, I drove. I began to see things in a different section of town, and stuck in traffic. This had me examining my surroundings.

This post wouldn’t have happened if John Lennon hadn’t named one of his solo albums Walls and Bridges. That title was on my mind. As oblique and simple as it is, it had me considering the category. There were probably more walls that I overlooked but I discovered a bridge less glamorous but no less notable than other bridges in Portland. My summertime brain is mushy, but I can hear the cries of the universe begging for a blog post like this one.

It occurred to me one morning that this retaining wall along I-5 was well conceived. It’s not that I can’t point out a couple of faults, but most mornings when I looked at this heap of rolling concrete, I was pleased. Someone had executed a nice design. The wall’s grooved stucco texture and gentle curves look great. This slab did seem to be begging to be covered with impossible to clean graffiti. We’re talking about an accessible canvas in a high traffic area. I always try not to worry about the inevitable and enjoy the view. My only problem with the wavy wall of clean concrete is the chain link fence crowning it. Were there no other fence options? Anything? It’s not a classy accompaniment. It’s chain link.

Bridges in the area are classy for the most part.  How would it feel to cross a pedestrian bridge named after you? Darlene Hooley knows. The official name of the bridge pictured above is US Congresswoman Darlene Hooley Bridge. There may be only a few people who could name this I-5 crossing by the Tram station. There’s nothing fancy about it besides the name. It’s utilitarian as bridges go and gets the job done.  Foot traffic passes over the highway without the fear that comes form dodging cars.

If I had a bridge named after me I would walk up and down it often asking people, “Do you know who I am?” Maybe that’s why no one has named a bridge after me.

I often road over this crossing on SW Barbur Blvd after work. The cement arches are aesthetically pleasing. The plaque piqued my curiosity, so I made plans to stop to take photos. It offers information concerning the Oregon Electric Railway.

The word in the second line is in shadow so I can’t make it out. I know it doesn’t say “ottercrossing.” Further research filled my head with information about the Oregon Electric Railway, the historical society and trolley cars. I almost lost an afternoon delving into local railroad history, so I will leave it up to my readers to take it from here.

Another bridge in the SW Portland area boasts impressive metal work. This is a bridge that carries SW 19th over I-5. I would have no problem walking across it often, perhaps if I were on my way for a bite at Humdingers. Pattern and detail are lacking in modern slapdash bridge designs.

Looking across to the other side, I noticed what happens when a car crashes into the railing. This doesn’t appear to be something that can be straightened without some effort, so there’s no reason to get bent out of shape about it. This post was desperate for a pun–ah, rock on anybody!

Who couldn’t resist the view of a bridge behind a rain splashed windshield? This bridge leading in or out of Multnomah Village has old world charm, nice curve appeal and looks sturdy. It allows for car traffic above and below. With all of it’s grayness, it almost blends in with the gray skies. There was something quaint about this image as I saw it looming through the windshield. Like the rest of Multnomah Village it has a certain charm even  through rain drops and glass.



Top This! Antenna Toppers Invade Portland

Antenna Toppers aren’t confined to Portland. They have the potential to top any antenna. Technology has made antennas much smaller. The newfangled shark fin antenna couldn’t handle a topper which would disrupt its aerodynamics and sleek appearance. It’s possible antenna toppers will become a thing of the past which makes our enjoyment of them all the more poignant.

It’s rare to see an antenna topper shiny and new. They get ravaged by the elements as soon as they are exposed. The short life span that comes with this rapid rate of decay makes them precious. Antenna decor falls into several basic categories: corporate logos, team mascots and helmets, unidentifiable animal characters and the occasional unknown. Allow me to present to you, in living color, a gaggle of antenna toppers spotted in Portland.

Keep Smiling

If anybody should be a topper it’s the ubiquitous smiley face that has no problem getting 3 dimensional since he’s always been so round. Even as the antenna impales his circular frame he keeps smiling. Maybe there’s a lesson here about smiling through impalement.

A Tale of Two Princesses

A princess topper starts off fresh and new dressed in her finest until exposure to the outdoors, wind and rain batters her pink felt, saddens her ears, and tarnishes her golden crown.

Logo the World

Why should 76 company not have an antenna topper that represents their gas stations? Most 76 signs resemble giant antenna toppers as it is.

Alien Mouseketeer

This one is a mystery. Not much of a face with giant eyes and a Venusian completion. But what’s up with the mouse ears? Aliens can’t get enough Disney? There’s not much of a reason to care other than to enjoy life on top regardless of the headgear you choose to sport.

Bug Me

Legless lady bug, some kind of bee, it hardly matters because it’s evident this topper is a free riding insect of some species and an awful happy one at that, as the giant smile can attest.

Top Cup

Looking styrofoam in nature, this topper is a reminder that I could use a cup of coffee. That’s the story of my life. I don’t recognize the brand but in a weird way cows might be as good as any other animal to serve as spokespeople for a coffee company.

Gaucho’s Revenge

It’s Zorro-like, this topper, but it could be anything you want if your imagination works. My first thought was a gaucho, one of those Argentinian cowboys, but his beat up face lacks a mustache or any other characteristics that would offer a clue.

Rubber Ducker

You can never not have fun with a rubber duck so finding one on top of an antenna seems like the right place. If you spot this thing in traffic, which is difficult if traffic is moving, it will bring great joy to your world or at the very least someone’s antenna.

Rabbit Habit

This topper has suffered an elemental beat down so hard it’s unrecognizable. My first thought was the outline of an Easter bunny. I had another look and saw the state of Idaho. At this point I’m unwilling to take a third look.

Jack on the Antenna

A Jack in the Box logo wearing a tiny hat is a fitting way to end this post.

Fourth of July: Flags Unfurled

Capture the flag takes on a whole new meaning when you’re trying to get that shot, the one where a flag unfurls majestically revealing all of its stars and stripes in their full glory. It takes waiting for the right wind or snapping away hoping for that perfect patriotic tear inducing shot. Flags are out aplenty this time of year creating opportunities to make classic all-American images.

Unfurled in the reflection.

With an inflatable, wind sock and buntings the flag becomes secondary to this Uncle Sam scene but it does manage to sneak its way into the picture.

Porch breezes caught.

Stars are stripes are essential decorations for this holiday. Sneak them into an old flower pot and they’ll dress that up as well.


Not every flag is in the right place to catch air. This flag is unable to display its faded glory. It can only hope to catch the right breeze.

Unfurling in a crazy wind.

The stripes of old glory here are encountering wind gusts from multiple angles making it tough to unflap its flapibility but it’s not with out effort.

Unfurling slowly.

A fun sculpture that attempts to heed a warning gets into the spirit of the Fourth of July with the addition of a small flag. Slow down, heed the patriotism revealed by this plastic boy and dog and you’ll keep kids safe in the process.

Bright and sunny.

Taken from a new home built across from the Post Office, whoever gets this room is going to wake up to an amazing flag view. On sunny days the sight of this is sure to supercharge anyone’s patriotic fervor.

Barely breezy.

This flag speaks to me about rights and freedom of expression and respect for the goings on behind closed doors. This flag also gets replaced periodically when it becomes tattered. Regardless of what kind of dancing goes on in this establishment, even if bears dance bare,  I salute this flag.

Bud Light drinkers unite.

This one goes out to some time Portland Orbit contributor, Will Simmons, who made a crack about Budweiser drinkers in Portland. Here’s proof that somebody is at least trying to inspire people to drink Bud and his cousin Bud Light in this town.

At some point this year it occurred to me that the American flag had been coopted, that it had somehow has come to represent those who use it as a way to show themselves to be more patriotic and even more loyal to American ideals. Sure flag waving has always been a thing but as I aim to keep things light and fluffy around here my flag appreciation remains unfettered. Things in the U.S. are in a state of flux but the flag still represents the hope and a determinations our founding fathers set out for this country in their old school, powdered wig wearing ways. This post, an annual one, is an attempt to extol the joys of flag displays. I want to see the flag as something all Americans understand as well as stand behind. I encourage everyone to get creative with Fourth of July decorations, if only for my entertainment alone.

Have a happy July Fourth!

Left Behind: The Sign Edition

It’s understandable. Signs can be difficult to take down when businesses move on. So signs from former tenants remain. I was struck by how much I liked some of the signs that are still lingering despite possible confusion.

The first abandoned sign I noticed, was for a nail salon. Not having been a customer, I’m was unsure when it was operational in the last nine years. It may have shared the building with the High Water Mark bar briefly. I have seen tenants come and got to this building at the corner of NE MLK Blvd and Dekum St. At some point I realized the bar had taken over the whole space. The sign is colorful, typical in nail salon style and design, but it’s cool in a kitschy way and the L.A. connection amuses me. On a subconscious level nail salons need to encompass all the glitz and glamor L.A. has to offer so why not be overt about it. The sign is nondescript in a way to be almost unnoticeable. Any one happening by, wanting to get their nails done will be sadly left with ragged nails and a continued search for another salon.

Given the size of some of the signs it’s easy to see why they haven’t been removed. It makes sense to cover up the name of a previous business with brown paint. The real solution may be to hook up a sign for the current business to the old sign.

The Boom Boom Room on Barbur Blvd had an attractive sign to go along with their amusing name. Who could resist saying that a dozen or so times? It feels pointless now with the place being closed. The internet will tell you otherwise but it also links to the Boom Boom Room’s MySpace site. I have a sense that this sign’s days are numbered. Odds are it will be removed. The new tenant seems to be making extensive renovations to the building and has already added their own spiffy sign to the front of the building.

The renovation to the building’s exterior revealed a previous tenant.

Mackin’s Auto body still has a presence in the Kenton neighborhood. This faded painted sign is either an advertisement or it marks a previous location. I like this relic of bygone days but it’s hard to watch it fade away.

The last sign that caught my attention was spotted on NE MLK Blvd. It’s not evident what this sign may have advertised. An added dash of a graffiti does not cover up what looks like a car tire, while a human figure can be seen below with a bit of imagination. The old sign seems related to the nearby auto business. It retains a certain character with it’s oddball geometric shapes while offering itself as a canvas for additional graffiti artists.

Post script:

On the second, third and fourth day of my summer vacation I can feel a creep of dog days engulfing me. It could be the warmth or the sunshine or that plain old summer feeling. If you notice topics getting less and less challenging to the brain, well, that might be due to the neurological melt (not an actual medical condition) experienced on my part.