View from a meeting room.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The meeting began with questions. Those wanting to ask were given a numbered piece of paper. Mixed in with the questions were asides like, “I’ve been breathing this crap for two years now and it’ll all poison.” “This is people’s lives.” “What’s going in the air?” “We all get a little riled up about this.” Some questions revealed that knowledgeable people were familiar with technical aspects of the situation. Hearing about a thermal oxidizer and the company being accused of being a title 5 pollutor, which is scary regardless of what kind of scale we’re talking about, were concepts over my head so I was glad to know some people knew what was going on. It was revealed that there was a tank containing PCBs on the site. I’m not sure what a PCB is but I’ve heard it’s bad stuff. How can anyone be cavalier about carcinogens? The real reporters stood on the sidelines looking bored and waiting for their chance to do their TV work. I have to live with this, or maybe die from it.

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

Rally ’round the flag!

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

The DEQ point of view.

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

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

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

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

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

Homemade signs fastened with painter’s tape


Local coverage:

Good job Lincoln!

A Pi(e) Day Hangover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Please (Parking Hassles)

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



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


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

The block letters are bold:




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



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

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


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

Outside Art


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

Octopuses Garden

Octopus’s Garden

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

Can anyone find the bridge?

Can anyone find the bridge?

Detail, Outside Art

Detail, Outside Art

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

Subject matter clouded by distance.

Subject matter clouded by distance.

Nice day for a bike painting.

Nice day for a bike painting.

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

Not bugging me.

Not bugging me.

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

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

Color My World

Color My World

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

Join the party!

Join the party!

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

Sidewall, sidewalk Art

Sidewall, sidewalk Art

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

Exotic Defacement


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


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

Poster torn!

Poster torn!

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


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


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


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


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

Reaping wind!

Reaping wind!

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

Auto Message


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

Honkies Stop!


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

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

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


Rage in the Machine

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

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

Driving Blind


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



Buddy Holly Lives On


This graffiti has been a fixture in the Kenton neighborhood for years. It can be found on a building that looks more commercial than residential but it does not appear to be a business. The first time I saw it I considered old Buddy Holly and I agreed. He lives. Holly died young on that fateful early February night fifty-eight years ago and left a lasting legacy. This is a tale of graffiti with a few revisions. The original wasn’t something I bothered to document. Fortunately neighborhood instagrammer and raconteur, Graham Marks, had taken a picture. “Buddy Holly Lives,” it said until someone added the word “on.” Now Buddy Holly Lives on.


In the time I spent working in a group home I had a routine with one of the clients.  We played music while I helped him get dressed for work. We wore out his slim cd collection. Then I discovered the weirdly reasonable selection of cds for sale at Rite Aid. There was a cd of Bruce Springsteen demos, some Dylan, Aerosmith, Willie Nelson and Meat Loaf.  We passed on his greatest hits as too bombastic for a group home. When I saw a Buddy Holly cd it was my client’s era and gave me a chance to get past the hiccuped hits and delve deep into his discography. Weeks after that shopping excursion a Rite Aid employee oddly enough was trying to push a Buddy Holly recording on me. I may have been standing near the cd section. I fought off any need to discuss my interactions with Buddy Holly’s back catalogue. I was avoiding “mansplaining” before I even knew that was a thing. The idea of having a cultural interaction with someone at a drugstore, however brief, was something I appreciated though.


Sometime later, an infinity sign was added to the Buddy Holly memorial wall. Someone must have felt this was necessary. Perhaps it was a certain Rite Aid employee. I would like to think that Holly’s music will be appreciated as long as recorded music exists. Infinity, I don’t know about. That’s forever. We still kind of remember Virgil the Poet although I’m not sure he had any “Top XL” hits. I’d like to imagine someone will be googling Holly two thousand years from now.

Buddy Holly was an iconoclast who won’t be forgotten soon. His death being referred to as “the day the music died” is proof of his impact on rock music history and his influence on The Beatles is also notable. Sadly he didn’t make the cut on that gold plated disc NASA sent into space. Chuck Berry somehow seemed like a better representative of early rock. He missed out on an intergalactic audience but there’s bound to be a bronze statue in Lubbock. And here in Kenton a spray painted slogan reminds the world not to forget the spirit of Buddy Holly.


Have a gander at Graham Mark’s instagram account:

Next week’s message will be an Auto Message. 


Art Racks 2

Art Rack Logo

Decorative bike racks or what I like to call Art Racks are all over the place. It’s a safe bet that most people have seen these, but I’m hoping I’m presenting a couple that are new to the Art Rack game or others that are more out of the public eye and not over-exposed. At the very least I hope my pithy commentary adds a deeper dimension to these dedicated pieces of art serving double duty as bike racks.

Product Placement

I caught a glimpse of this bike rack on a day when the eBike store on N. Rosa Parks was closed. It made more sense. If it had been surrounded by bikes, the cord may have been obscured. While it reminds me of one of my tangled electrical cords at home, this rack is well looped to secure bikes and it sports a giant, well balanced plug, a nice sculptural element that feels like a visual pun on the store’s electric bike product. Buy an eBike and unplug! (So you can ride it!)


How appetizing is a half eaten donut? Is it more appetizing than a half eaten donut bike rack? It reminds me of the best way to eat donuts–two bites. The first, a test bite, then down goes the rest. There seems to be an overly sweet intensity to considering a giant pink parking place,  donut-eating-wise – appealing to the eye, appalling to the stomach.

Bikes Seeking Bikes

A condo building on North Williams was designed with every detail imaginable taken under consideration. Whether it was an after thought or a decision debated in multiple meetings, (we’ll probably never know) these bicycle-looking bike racks were included in the project. Streamlined, functional, elegant.  That covers the categories essential to condo bike racks. The inescapable feeling that the racks are either cliché or ironic is best left on the boardroom table. No further meetings are scheduled.


While on N Albina Ave, I spotted this ingenious rack that includes bike parts. In the photo it is difficult to see where the rack starts and the real bike ends. This camouflage might mean the bike rack will soon be stolen.

To Rack or Not to Rack

I may be going out on a limb assuming this NW located sculpture is a bike rack. It could serve double duty as a bike rack and sculptural name of the company working out of the building. The internal debate would go something like this: Is it a sign or a bike rack? Then I’d work in some logic. If I can lock my bike to it then it’s a bike rack. This works with railings and fences too unless someone posts a sign like this:


The last consideration has to be about how a bike mars the sign’s look, but at least that’s only on a temporary basis while the bicycle is locked up. Unless your bike and lock somehow damages that shiny painted ironwork finish. It may be worth the risk if you are desperate to enter TOPAZ.


In St Johns this rack takes on the look of a Star Trek insignia. I do feel a “Beam me up Scotty” joke welling up. It’s a bit wonky but it looks well bolted into the concrete and sturdy enough to do the job when you’re in town.

Odd Fellows

I’m not knocking these racks outside of Sparky’s Pizza on MLK and Lombard, when I describe them as buried safety pins. That’s the first thing that comes to mind. Also it’s important not to get their various locations mixed up when ordering carry out. The design seems so different. I may even be wrong to assume they are bike racks. They could be related to pizza making process, although I’ve never seen anything related to food preparation going on under the bricks or in the metal tubes in front of a business. I like the look of these and their green color. I can’t attest to the functionality because I’ve never picked up a pizza carry out order while riding a bike.


This rack outside the Odd Fellows on Lombard St. seems more dedicated to topping the rack off with a symbolic design than offering anything more than a slim pole to lock a bike to but that’s an Odd Fellow convention. Would you want it any other way?

Good Night

Nothing spectacular here, but these racks, seen one night in the Clinton St. District, are more eye-catching than your run of the mill bike racks and possibly more functional. With that, this blog post rolls on into the night. May all your biking adventures include time with an art rack.

For more on Art Racks and a couple of additional photos see:

Tune in next week for an Orbit Buddy Holly tribute.

Photographer Doyle Thomas shared a link to his art rack photos if you want to see more:



One Night In SLC

You can’t figure any place out in one night but that hasn’t stopped me from taking random guesses and wallowing in conjecture. What I ended up doing was looking for the familiar to fight off feelings of alienation while wandering around downtown Salt Lake City but getting a sense of anywhere takes more time than I had.

The scenery scene on the road to SLC.

The scenery seen on the road to SLC.

After spending the holidays in Colorado, we made our way back to Oregon and stopped in Salt Lake City which was an urban oasis that ended the first day of a two day drive. As recommended we took Highway 6 from Grand Junction and drifted through empty, yet scenic landscapes of hills, rock formations that sometimes grew mountainous and plain old expanses of snow covered terrain. There was a point where I stumbled onto some random Hindi Diwali music on the radio, an oddly perfect soundtrack to my surroundings. As I looked down on a cloud covered valley I had to consider for a moment whether I was driving in heaven. Many hours later, I was spit from the scenery into the five laned concrete morass of Interstate 15 as it ran from from the exurbs and suburbs into downtown Salt Lake City.

I arrived at the hotel, seething with white line fever thinking this couldn’t be good for the composure of the poor kid who was doing the valet parking. Here’s where I made my first generalization based on an interaction with one person: Everyone in Salt Lake City is nice. The valet parker was patient in every way possible no matter how many questions I asked or requests I made. He accommodated me as I made an effort to unpack the car and dog while juggling the needs of the other cars that needed to be parked. This may be more about what I want to believe, that there could be a place where everyone is hardworking, honest and clean cut. I have no idea why that’s a need in my search for a utopia.

Bright lights and medium city.

Bright lights and medium city.

All I wanted was a comfortable bed to hide in. It was New Year’s Day so my expectations for anything to be happening were low. The empty downtown reminded me of Omega Man, a trippy sci-fi movie from the late 60’s. I’m sure my big brother hyped it up so much that it became legendary in my mind. The movie starred Charlton Heston back when he was freaking out making ape movies and before he was so publicly obsessed with guns. In the movie, Heston was one of the sole survivors of some kind of plague and had to roam city streets dodging zombie-like creatures. Despite seeing a parallel in an empty downtown, I had a dog to walk so into the desolate streets I went.

Portland has the orange version.

Portland has the orange version.

The first thing I noticed was wide streets that were laid out in a numbered grid of a kind of Mormon ingenuity and order. I checked out holiday lights on trees and the tops of the buildings. In this downtown old buildings had ornate trim while all tall buildings seemed to have been built by bankers. I stumbled upon a block that had a pub next to a Scottish store with an Italian restaurant a few doors down, the ethnic section of town. It made me think that it might be cheaper to skip the United Kingdom trip and just stay blotto in that Salt Lake City pub while making occasional side trips to the Scottish store. There’s sure to be someone with a brough in there for the sake of authenticity. This is the kind of thinking that explains why I’m not a travel agent.

Plan your SLC/UK vacation around this photo!

Plan your SLC/UK vacation around this photo!

I had just scratched the surface of learning anything about Salt Lake City. I knew they had a Max train system. I saw bike route signs and wondered how bike friendly the city was. I was in the heart of the theater district where there were at least a couple of theaters. On any other night the area might be crawling with hardcore patrons of the arts, the only people who can be lured downtown anymore, but I encounter few people or zombies besides a guy screaming at one of the train stops. I decided not to get too close. Turning a corner I peered into an empty Olive Garden. It seemed sad. It may have been the juxtaposition of the barren restaurant with the lively music that sounded like the Big Night soundtrack blaring from the outside speakers. The hotel was right up the street so we headed back to the room.


A sign of support.

The next morning I decided to walk the dog around the hotel. It had snowed the night before. I was lamenting that my boots were packed away in the valet parked car but the snow was powdery and didn’t cling to my shoes. We turned down a street with coffee shops and a Used and Rare Book Store a sight for sore eyes. There was a guy in a sleeping bag blocking the display window so I couldn’t get a good look at the coffee table book with the picture of 70’s Elvis on it. There was snow to sniff and while the dog focused on that, I found myself disoriented. The blocks were huge and all I wanted to do was to get ready for a long day’s drive and not be lost. The only way to reorient myself was to look up at the buildings, the same ones I had been looking at from the hotel room. I had a sense of where I needed to go when when I recognized an area of town from a previous visit. Then I heard the familiar strains of the big band spaghetti music blasting from outside Olive Garden that led me back to the hotel. The music must have played all night, a soundtrack to the gentle, falling snow.


Fresh air and capital views.

From the confines of the hotel restaurant, I could look out and see a guy shoveling the sidewalk while across the street someone was clearing walkways with a small Cat bulldozer with a plow attachment. The people of Salt Lake City were up early and working hard. We had more miles of slushy driving conditions then we could imagine ahead of ourselves so it was nice to take a few more minutes to catch our breath and have an extra cup of coffee. My brief visit to Salt Lake City produced very little salt, no evidence of a lake and not nearly enough of the city and without a dog to walk even less would have been seen or smelled. I hope this inspires people to take their pets for a visit to Utah’s state capital.

PS I’m not sure anyone besides an outsider like me refers to Salt Lake City as SLC but I was reminded of a movie recently that used this shorthand. For some reason that abbreviation seemed cooler than spelling it out.

We’re back next week with an Art Racks–an Orbit staple!

Snow Daze Indeed

Wind makes a winter wonderland.

Wind makes a winter wonderland.

Portland, Ore. BREAKING NEWS: Heavy snowfall throws local blogger off his publishing schedule.

Anyone who has read the Portland Orbit more than once might be curious as to how snow fits into the theme of the blog. It has no relevance but this particular weather phenomenon has the whole area in a contagious tizzy. There is nothing else anyone can think of other than to consider that we are snowed under. We can’t get anywhere, we can’t work, we can barely think other than to make as quick an effort to adapt to the ways of Eskimos. There is snow day/cold weather sloth to wallow in and the drifting back to memories of childhood snow day anticipation. These memories have become more familiar because I work for the school system.

A cancelled school reminder came early.

A cancelled school reminder came early.

This was a significant snow accumulation event in Portland that began Tuesday night. That weather man phraseology has something to do with watching round the clock news coverage which I now realize is completely optional but, hey, sometimes you get sucked in. We live in an area that can be paralyzed by an inch of snow so imagine twelve times that much. After a while it became obvious that all these live reports added up to one fact: This is a lot of snow and the city is shut down. When the snow started falling it was satisfying to be able to watch traffic camera shots of cars stuck on the highway from our warm and cozy home.

The post blizzard dawn.

The post blizzard dawn.

Unlike Eskimos we only have one word for snow. It’s snow, snow and snow. This is more snow than the last significant snow fall which occurred eight years ago. This means I won’t drop everything to write another blog post like this one until 2025. Portlanders don’t see much snow but this is the third snow event of the past six weeks. I’ve had eight snow days off this winter. There’s not much preparation, no plowing or sanding and recent debates erupted about salting the roads but no salt could even be located to use when this snow storm began. There’s that word. The media has erupted with the use of the storm word. If their isn’t enough snow to cover the grass, which happened last weekend, then it’s hardly a snow storm. That word promotes hysteria and insanely long lines at the grocery store and it keeps us glued to the news allowing for more opportunities to sell us cars and mattresses. I wanted to rant but you have to admit that anytime ice occurs you get an ice storm and then with this situation the snow piled up fast and furious like we’d never seen it and we got a legitimate snow storm.

Snow inspires snowmen.

Snow inspires snow creations.

Our response to the dumping around our household was to bozoing it up and dig ourselves out with a dust pan and a canoe paddle. Okay so we brushed the snow off the cars, got a rudimentary path on the front sidewalk and cleared the driveway for the mailman, the least we could do for the guy. The next day the sky was blue and the sun was doing its best to melt the snow despite cold temperatures. That’s where I leave this story. I now realize how this does relate to this blog. People get creative when they get snowed under. I enjoyed a slide show of exotic snow men, snow creatures and polar bears made out of snow on an episode of AM Northwest. People are not taking as many selfies in order to focus on photographing the beautiful snow scenes. I only spotted one full fledged snowman with terrific hair and a baby carrot nose in my neighborhood. But kids of all ages are taking time to enjoy the snow. There’s also more personal contact that comes when talking to neighbors about fallen tree limbs or passing by the people whose cars may be stuck as well as a chance to spot occasional cross country skiers. I was relaxing, feeling sluggish and thinking that I needed to use my snow days to compose a symphony or some thing when it occurred to me that my favorite four letter word was slot and all I needed to do was add an h to achieve sloth. (Cabin fever has done something to my brain.) I’m okay with trying to enjoy a break. Soon enough I’ll be back to my comfortable rut of gray skies and rainy afternoons. Portland is experiencing winter, not like a Shakespearean winter of discontent so much as real winter with actual snow and cold. It’s nothing to get too excited about it’s just some thing to dig.

Snow. Long shadows. Cigarette ads.

Snow. Long shadows. Cigarette ad.

Back to our regular programming next week with a speculative commentary about Salt Lake City, Utah.