Skateboard Decor


It’s always about what to do with stuff. There’s a reason we can’t part with the old skateboards in our garage. It could be a desperate attempt to hold on to our youth. They do make good floor dollies for those times it’s necessary to move junk up and down the driveway. My fascination with any subculture and my own “what to do with my skateboard” conundrum may be behind how impressed I was with examples of Skateboard Decor I’ve discovered.

Sure boards get beat up, nicked, banged, bruised, dented, damaged, cracked and broken and they need to be retired. Flinging skateboards around has to be tough on the gear. It’s nice to find out that they don’t have to end up on the scrap heap.

It makes sense that wheels and trucks get salvaged while the boards are put out to pasture, sometimes literally. I’ve seen fencing, plantings borders and benches. I’m not auditioning for writing for a Martha Stewart lifestyle publication here, but there is no end to how old boards can be used to spruce up a yard and to see actual examples of this kind of exterior decor is inspiring. These decorating materials have to bump up the coolness factor a notch. So consider what you might do with old gear from your skater days. Reuse, recycle and make your yard the envy of the skate punks in your neighborhood who still might find you a bit  crazy for discarding old boards in your yard in this manner.

St. Johns


Right next to George Middle School in St. Johns lies a yard brimming with the results of skateboard decorating ideas. Old boards outline a planting bed with a colorful mish mash of stickers and other designs while worn out decks find new life in a brilliant conception of a bench.


MLK near NE Dekum ST


After asking permission from the guys on the porch, it was mentioned, with great pride that these were all boards these guys had bashed up themselves. The house on MLK Blvd near Dekum had a small concrete ramp out front where some of the boards no doubt lost their mojo. It felt like an honor to see this gear lined up  as if it was somehow memorializing the service of the now out-of-service.




This less is more approach was found in the Kenton neighborhood. The skateboard border lines up behind the brick border. I’m here to cheer on the reuse of any piece of diminished skateboarding equipment. The flamingo, looking over the skateboards, is a nice and subtle touch because a flamingo glued to an old skateboard would have been way over the top.

See a slideshow presentation of this blog post by clicking here:



We Survive

The mural that inspired a blog post.

The mural that inspired a blog post.

A few feet away from a pay phone in the Kenton neighborhood, a small, faded, sidewalk mural proclaims: “We survive.” Seeing this I always reflect on the woes of that shabby, nearby pay phone, a relic of the past. As you’ll soon find out, not many pay phone booths are equipped with phones, while others house defunct receivers. But there remain a few operational public phones that could help you make that call. While I was in the throes of my sporadic research, the Portland Mercury beat me to the topic by offering up an editorial piece on public phones. I continued with my survey, possibly to prove I’m not ready for prime time in comparison, but also with the realization that I have a different take on such matters.

Anybody got a quarter, my beeper's going crazy?

Anybody got a quarter, my beeper’s going crazy?

photo by Sandy Smith

Let’s consider the scorn public phones endure in the age of cell phone technology. In a facebook post, my old friend Dave Bjorkback combined a beeper joke with a photo of his encounter with a pay phone in an airport. My man may have been desperate for likes but he was also on target on two counts with his multi-layered joke about antiquated technologies in our increasingly digital world where everyone seems to have access phone technology in their pockets. Although the extinction rate, if such statistics are kept, is probably more staggering than we’d want to imagine, pay phones do survive.

Sad and empty despite sunshine.

Sad and empty despite sunshine.

It’s hard to understand why the phone company takes the phones but not the phone booths. Why not haul it away and call it a day? I’m exploring the theory that vandals and antique dealers nick the phones. It would be cool to have an old phone booth phone mounted on one of my walls, working or not. Like elephant ivory and rhino horns, there’s a market for everything. Then again, phone companies may be waiting for the day when cell phones fall out of fashion and it becomes necessary to reinstall phones in these derelict phone booths.

Twins in futility.

Twins in futility on Lombard St.

Who wouldn’t miss those times when it was possible to walk down Lombard St and access pay phone after pay phone to make calls or check  for spare change? How quaint it seems that hogging a public phone like Rupert Pupkin, from “The King of Comedy,” and attempting to use it as a business line, is joining the reliquary of antique antics punctuating film history.

The coolest broken phone booth around.

The coolest broken phone booth around.

So if you are in need of a public phone you have to hope that the phone booth you amble up to is equipped with a working unit. You’re going to need actual money too. The only dependable public phones may be those at Max train stops. Studying one of these phones revealed the current rate for a call is 50 cents for ten minutes. Don’t expect to pay less unless you’re willing to sacrifice reception quality.

Reliable like Trimet!

Reliable like Trimet!

Marring the streetscape!

Marring the streetscape!

Streetscapes seem to be in flux with bulky, boxy, boothy contraptions dotting them. It seems like time to repurpose these outdated facilities, yet their use is limited. At this point, they are bait and switch machines for those needing to make a call and finding a broken phone or none at all. It’s a mirage in a communication desert.

Detail of a "hone" booth on Interstate.

Detail of a “hone” booth on Interstate.

If you are going to survive, do it in style. Flourish! Don’t crawl towards the finish line in the technology race. If only someone, somewhere, somehow, could make public phones and phone booths cool again.

See a video version of this blog post:

The end of the line you find...

At the end of the line you find… phone!

…no phone!

The Smiling Tree



There is little that can be said about the Smiling Tree. You could get indignant as I have in the past about how wrong it is to mix the unnatural components of spray paint with the natural elements of a living plant but the limb shorning of this tree left behind circular remnants outlining what had to be excellent potential for face portrayal. How could anyone resist the opportunity to give this tree some personality? These faces became fully realized by the addition of eyes and mouths in lines of spray paint.


In the past, I have been driven to the brink of a Euell Gibbon’s kind of colossal, aneuryistic freak out by people’s decisions to tag trees or vandalize them in other ways. Not that old Euell, known to me for his “Did you ever eat a pine tree?” quote in a Grape Nuts commercial from the 70’s, was know for his freak outs about anything but he did seem especially passionate about nature. For me to consider that kind of melt down. . . well, I must love trees too much.


Then there’s another nature lover to consider by the name of Joyce Kilmer who wrote in his greatest poem (pause here while I look it up).  Oh yeah.  He waxed poetic about seeing a tree as lovely as a poem before going off to war and leaving his five kids in the lurch. There is beauty in lovely trees but it’s all for naught when someone throws paint on them, unless they do it in a kind, subtle and fun way.


How can you not return a smile to the smiling tree? You’ll find it facing North Delaware Avenue beyond Kenton Park. I can live with the paint on that tree. A smiling tree seems like a friendlier tree. It’s welcoming and happy. So I look at the addition of these markings as a detail that brings an otherwise regular tree a dash of character.

Unsmiling Trees

Having contemplated tree vandalism lately, I thought I’d drum up two examples. I’m on the fence, I’d say.  After singing the praises of the Smiling Tree, I saw a tree with certain anomalies that might benefit from vandalism. I wish the 11th Commandment, preserved in stone for all humanity to obey for all time, read, “LEAVE TREES ALONE.” Then again, with that 11th commandment, this blog post might not exist.


A tree in my neighborhood has a hole in it that seems to be filled with cement or maybe it’s  a heart shaped bad spot that had been crying out for paint. I’m no arborist, that’s for sure. Initially I thought someone had taken the opportunity to immortalize their love for someone else. I could have sworn there had been a plus sign between the B and the D. Without having done the research (walking down the street), I was speculating the profession of love from B to D was also a side-armed tribute to Kilmer and his love of trees. Catching myself, I remembered no one gives two bleeps about Joyce and his tree poem these days. I had to spend a few years working at a middle school named for him to become interested enough to delve into his legacy. The tree was a place to broadcast affection or really, in this case, a place to immortalize a pair of initials. Kilmer told the world about his love of trees through poetry, and B told us about B and D or D told us of B or BD told of him or herself. Like poetry, it is open to interpretation. So let me get wishy-washy and not stand firm here (or there) by saying most tree vandalism is mostly wrong. Also, it may be better to write poems about trees than to write on, carve, or spray paint them.



Does a Bear Get Nailed to a Tree?


What do you do if you have the perfect piece of decorative bear art and no place to put it? There is no reason not to nail it to a tree. The bear is rugged and vibrant despite the nail in her underarm. I’m going to go out on a limb (there has to be a goddamned tree pun) and say that if people feel the need to decorate trees, I can’t see a nail hurting too much. Also, if someone considers decorating a tree, hanging an item featuring nature really does work as exterior decorating.


Dark Island

This pipe and this slab.

A spooky pipe on a slab.

One day, I noticed the words “Dark Island” on a sign at the base of a pipe jutting out of a traffic island found at the end of N Argyle Street as it runs into Columbia Blvd. You’d have to use your imagination for this plot of land to feel like an island. It is surrounded on all sides by roads, a sea of asphalt, so I consider it a traffic island. I’m sure there’s a more technical definition for what a traffic island is and what purpose it serves, but to me this is an island surrounded by traffic so it qualifies. On the other hand, I’m not sure what it would take to know how Dark Island is a good description for anything besides the setting or title for a horror movie. The darkness seems to emanate from its drab surroundings, lack of street lighting, weeds and garbage inhabiting the island and the trucks that roar by.

It has to be a "D" to make it Dark Island.

It has to be a “D” to make it Dark Island.

The sign has an official, yet worn look. Its intention may be to add an air of mystery or create a legend around this odd piece of real estate. As any mystery, however minor, appeals to me I’ve been doing some speculating, deep in the dark corners of my mind in an attempt to understand what the sign references. It may draw the line between an in-joke or a more elaborate warning.

Beyond Dark Island may lie the secret.

Beyond Dark Island may lie the secret.

A pipe just like the other pipe.

A pipe just like the other pipe.

Closer inspection led me to believe the pipe on Dark Island has to be connected to the the unnamed and unexplained building across the road hosting a mystery pipe in the parking area. In the back of this nondescript, brown building are a set of mammoth curved pipes behind a wall displaying a danger sign. The noxious smell had me wanting to keep my distance while the warning signs made me nervous, but even more curious.

Not that kind of water slide!

Not that kind of water slide!

I then did something I rarely do. I took the time and effort to reach out to the general public in an attempt to research my Dark Island dilemma. I posted a query on Hidden Portland for the Curious, a Facebook group, sharing a picture of the Dark Island pipe and the building across the way. The response informed me that the building is a sewage treatment plant with the Dark Island pipe being part of an air monitoring system, but I was still left in the dark about the origins of the sign.

What's cooking up here?

What’s cooking up here?

After considering the meaning, if any, behind Dark Island, and doing my initial investigation, I continued writing this blog post on a Max train as I headed to a Doctor’s  appointment in Clackamas. I realized more thorough research lied in placing a phone call to the city. That old cliche,”would it kill you to pick up the phone,” echoed in my ears. With a head full of Dark Island thoughts, I stopped for a cup of coffee and had a laugh about choosing the dark roast. Heading for the hospital, I walked through the Clackamas Town Center Mall parking lot. I noticed a puffy cloud, whip cream like, as it rose above the hillside. There was a JC Penny store, a parking garage, a stop sign and a church. It felt as far away from Dark Island as I could possibly get.

Puffy clouds lighten the atmosphere.

Puffy clouds lighten the atmosphere.

What’s a mystery without a cliffhanger? I promise to make that phone call one of these days. It seems a safe bet that one communication with the Water Bureau will solve this mystery for good at the risk of my sounding like some kind of conspiracy theorist, of course.

Dark clouds surround Dark Island.

Dark clouds surround Dark Island.


Toyz in the Hood

When a certain bleakness creeps in under gray skies, I take every opportunity to consider some of the sights I’ve seen and captured digitally this summer. These are the kinds of things that might cheer me up through the long, dull rainy season that appears to be bearing down on us after a couple of dry months. These objects usually involve the stuff I like in the form of shiny, junky plastic which happens to be the material of toys. I’ve concerned myself over the past couple of years with rooting out marginal expressions of creativity. Looking around and noticing random displays of toys in my neighborhood, in tree hollows, yards and on cars, has allowed me to find a way to break up the monotony of my neighborhood surroundings.


Pet Rocks

Wiggle eyes bring rocks to life.

Wiggle eyes bring rocks to life.

These plastic eyed rocks caught my eye and had me keeping both my eyes peeled for additional North Portland toy scene arrangements. Tucked against a fence, these rocks resemble a hard luck doll. Without handdrawn mouths, it’s hard to gauge their moods but it’s quite the realization to discover that wiggle eyes can bring something as hard, cold and lifeless as a rock, to life.

A Scary Bit


Hood surfing--all the rage in North Portland.

Hood surfing–all the rage in North Portland.

This creature could inspire the beginnings of a future, full blown, art car decoration theme. In his current barren state, he remains  twisted and scary. The ratty tape job seems to be keeping this gizmo standing and fastened to the hood. You have to respect its willingness to go a long for the ride enduring mile after mile of forced hood surfing.

Bridging the Gap

This falls could use some water.

This fall could use some water.

This fountain or maybe it’s a rain catcher is the center piece of a scene that reminds me of Multnomah Falls. I appreciated seeing the bridge brought to life with a family of Playmobil characters. A bit of water would complete the scene but we don’t get much rain in the summer. Everything about this scenario is accentuated by well done design elements like the moss on the rocks, the plantings, the partially hidden Berenstain Bear character and the wire holding the toys in place.

The scenery might be behind you.

The scenery might be behind you.


Cool Party

The crazy, wild, dirt pool party scene rages in Kenton.

A crazy, dirt pool party scene raged.

This looks like a depiction of the kind of pool party that was better than any pool party anyone attended this summer or any other summer, with its dirt substituting for water, a pink pony, and beautiful people in varying states of undress dancing crazy in a bamboo forest.

Detail from the coolest party mourned by the uninvited.

Detail from a cool party.

This scene appeared in a Kenton neighbor’s yard and has continued to deteriorate as some of the party stragglers refuse to go home.


When the party’s over…


Oakmore Condos

Move in ready for relocating Gnomes.

Move in ready for relocating Gnomes.

A few toadstools and/or colorful mushrooms and a miniature door made me think that this tree,  in the Alberta neighborhood, has been turned into a Gnome condo. Gnomes may well have the ability and willingness to pay the outlandish prices for one bedroom condos.

Main entrance to the miniature Gnome condo.

Detail: Main entrance to the miniature Gnome condo.


Bull Donkey

Cheer up lost toy on the side of I-5.

Cheer up lost toy.

It finally occurred to me that instead of taking every misplaced toy home I can take a picture. Somewhere along the way  this angry bull found himself on the side of I-5 without even a thumb to do some hitchhiking so he could get out of town.

Hanging in the Hollow

Curb side living at Gnome hollow!

Curb side living at Gnome hollow!

The story of the discovery of toys tucked away in the hollow of a Kenton neighborhood tree (see the ping back in the comments section) straightened me out about the differences between Trolls and Gnomes. It’s nice to have expert readers who are willing to set me straight in a nice way. We continue to keep up to date with the latest additions to the tree scene and it’s ever changing cast of characters.

Hanging in the hollow.

Hanging in the hollow.


To see a video report on this blog post click here:

There Ain’t Bleep on TV Tonight

The Portland TV scene has exploded. It’s essentially free, random, stupid, alien if you weren’t alive in the ’70’s or ’80’s, but its existence can’t be denied especially if you’re too broke for cable or if you are uninitiated in the ways of Apple TV, Roku or other forms of streaming. This television landscape can be discovered with an antenna, and it’s a nostalgia blast smorgasbord overload of programming that will be at your channel surfing finger tips.

You're going to need one of these.

You’re going to need one of these.

Anyone remember the digital conversion? This happened a few years back. The end result was analog TV sets became obsolete for reception without a converter box. This is one reason old TV sets continue to be abandoned on street corners at an alarming rate. Digital tuners in current television sets pick up digital signals with antennae. Our local channels have added sub channels.  KATU, channel 2, has become 2.1 and spawned two sub channels,  2.2 and 2.3. Many subchannels carry networks pumping out old TV shows and movies. There are now more opportunities than ever for you to spend your invisible TV dollars.

Vincent Price haunts Comet TV.

Vincent Price haunts Comet TV.

Other channels to rot your brain include shopping channels, Spanish language stations, (learn telenovela Spanish!) religious channels, although I’m distraught because I can’t get Hope TV (channel 36.3) or maybe I’m dying to know what I’m missing. Then there’s the often weird and low-budget Channel 17 out of Salem featuring appearances by an under dressed weatherman.

Silver aliens could be hallucinations.

Silver aliens could be hallucinations.

Yes, I can get nostalgic, but I don’t often have the time or attention span for an old 70’s show like The Rookies. Who does? I did experience warm memories from seeing the closing credits of Welcome Back, Kotter. I was looking at a kid wearing a winter coat riding a unicycle as the theme song played when feelings of warmth and of being with my family flooded over me and brought me back to those days when I was either procrastinating doing my homework or waiting for the next show to come on.

But who under the age of 30 or 40 or even 50 finds much relevance in seeing Telly Savalas playing Kojak. I do think his “who loves you baby” is one of the greatest catch phrases ever written, but the uninitiated would have to be wondering how this guy got a television show.

Fictitious Indian portrayals are often seen on Grit TV.

Fictitious Indian portrayals are often seen on Grit TV.

This is TV worth watching at least for the sake of checking it out. There’s little financial investment other than the price you pay for a decent antenna which should equal the cost of  a month’s worth of cable. Then cast your eye on the freak out reflected by the shows we watched in the 70’s: Sleestaks on  Land of the Lost, a TV show about Kung Fu known as Kung Fu, and potentially politically incorrect portrayals of Native Americans. All of this TV watching has raised a question: What the hell is a Sweathog?

Sleestaks lurk on Land of the Lost reruns.

Sleestaks lurk on Land of the Lost reruns.

Another caveat is that free TV isn’t really free, not when you have to sit through some of the worst infomercial style commercials imaginable–and lot’s of them. There don’t seem to be any ads of the mildly entertaining football game variety. It’s a trade-off  that might have you pondering whether a show or especially a movie is worth watching while enduring constant and endless commercial breaks. It does inspire more channel surfing. There were a few times, during my recent recovery from a bike mishap, that I made an effort to try to find something on one of these many channels.  I was left uninspired. The pilot for the never produced Horshack show was the lone exception.

  A Selected Portland, OR area TV lineup:

2.2  ME TV  Nostalgia abounds! Lucy, Gunsmoke, Hogan’s Heroes. Ask your grandparents about how there was once was a comedy on TV about American POWs in a German prison camp.

2.3  Comet  This channel features Sci-Fi, B-movies, cool promos and Mesothelioma commercials. It’s the place you are most likely going to catch Godzilla movies.

6.2  Get TV  They seem to be into the 80’s shows and classic movies.

6.3  Decades flaunts it’s nostalgia proudly airing documentaries about decades past and comedy shows in black and white.

8.2  Justice TV  As the name implies, this station is heavy on shows about police work.

8.3 Estrella TV  This is the home to my favorite pink haired clown who does double duty as a talk show host.


10.3 OPB  Want to listen to the radio on TV? You can do that here.

12.2 COZI TV  Get cozy and watch some of your favorite shows like Murder, She Wrote and the Six Million Dollar Man.

12.3 LAFF TV  When you need a laugh or you want to catch a Drew Carey Show rerun.

17.1 KWVT  This station originates from Salem. It’s got a public access feel but mostly it runs YouToo America shows.

22.1 ION  Catch reruns of syndicated police dramas of the NUMB3RS variety.

22.2 qubo  It’s kids stuff.

22.3 IONlife  This is about as close as you can get to HGTV type programming without paying for cable.

22.4-22.6 Shopping Channels  If you dare buy things off of TV then there are three stations  pumping out merchandise for you.

27.1 retro TV  A mixed bag here, but you can find Lucy and Dr. Who on this channel.

KNMT-TV (various channels) Local religious programming

32.2 ANT TV It’s a reference to TV antennas not bugs. You’ll find sitcoms and Carson reruns here.

32.3 This TV Catch movies, mostly from the 90’s it seems, on this channel.

36.3 Hope TV  Nothing but a sad, black screen of despair.

46.1 KGWZ  I’m not sure what’s going on here but when I tuned it was a static shot the Portland city skyline.

47.3 Grit TV  Real manly programming is featured here. There’s plenty of cops and cowboys.

49.2 Escape  Another station devoted to airing detective, investigator and Dateline type shows.

Digital hash is a sign of weakness.

Digital hash is a sign of weakness.

Pole Art 2

Anonymous artists are at work adding pizazz to mundane telephone and electrical poles. These adornments are sometimes subtle and unnoticeable. There is a fine line between Pole Art and Pole Decoration. If a pole is decorated in an artistic way then surely it should be elevated to Pole Art status. It’s as if a committee of scholars and experts is needed to conference at a Holiday Inn somewhere next to an airport to make Pole Art status determinations and establish Pole Art guidelines.


Strands of clear tape slapped on a pole dance in a breeze. Poles become small scale bill boards for a variety of expression. Eventually whatever use the tape served morphed into weathered abstract sculpture.

Some pole artists take it upon themselves to spray paint directly on to the pole.


This redundant replication of the speed limit seems to over emphasize the need to slow down.


Spray paint creates half-assed designs resembling bananas that, at least in the past, could be seen being unloaded on Swan Island below. Pole Art can and will imitate life at times.


Electrical looking crap, for lack of a better word, left on a pole on Lombard St. can look artistic in its own right. Giving it the old black and white will help it to resemble art.

IMG_0269 (1)

Black and white photography is key to making pole decor artistic.


Pole step hangings have a sub genre feel in the Pole Art movement being more decoration than true art. It is an easy way to spice up a pole. All it takes is the right object to hang. The Pole Art Definition Committee will spend many days and possibly nights in the hotel bar perfecting the exact language necessary to distinguish Pole Art from Pole Step Art.


I am curious about who gets inspired to hang Pole Step Art. The question isn’t necessarily “why” so much as “why not?” Is it one neighbor doing all the hanging or is it contagious in the neighborhood in that cliched “Keeping Up With the Joneses” way? Is it all about finding the perfect hangable object that would look exactly right on a pole step rather than inside a house on a wall? Only the neighbors on N. Dana Ave. know for sure.

Would you believe there’s enough Pole Art documentation for a sequel to this blog post? Sorry to cut you off from this fascinating Pole Art world and send you back to reality. We’ll give it a rest but you can bet that someday you will barely be able to believe your eyes when you’re reading a blog post entitled Pole Art 3.

In the meantime I hope this Portland Orbit Report on Pole Art will suffice. Click here:


What Went Wrong

I broke my arm on June 22 along with my collarbone. It was gory enough to keep me sidelined from blogging and whatever else I would have been able to do this summer. The arm break required surgery in early July which seemed to go well. I slept through it. The collarbone, well there is nothing that can be done besides let it heal itself. New bone forms to connect the collar bone to wherever it ended up. I found out from a friend that’s called remodeling.**

Not that grate!

Not that grate!

On a new bike heading down the hills of Tewilliger Blvd around the VA hospital, I clipped the edge of a sewer grate in the bike route. I was trying to get around it but I didn’t make it. I went head first into the asphalt managing to turn my head in time to bear the brunt of the fall on my shoulder. My numb, dead left arm and a knot on my collarbone were the result.

13512097_10153922957533172_6979725732597236385_n (1)

The kid is all right.

After the crash, I got up and wanted to be all right but I but I’m no Chuck Norris. There had been no cars or joggers around when it happened but then a line of cars materialized, slowed down and a driver spotted me hunched over sitting next to my bike. He could tell I needed help. I confirmed this. “I need to go to urgent care,” I said looking up at him. This stranger, who later became known as Scott, was willing and able, with a bike rack on his car, to take me and the bike.

The bike was fine. We had to take the wheel off to get it home.

The bike was fine. We had to take the wheel off to get it home.

Scott was one of many people who have helped me along the way to recovery. Whether it’s been doctors, nurses, X-Ray technicians, occupational therapists, friends offering encouragement and food, calls from my parents and brothers or other family members delivering jelly beans, the attention has been humbling. An accident with a two to three month recovery time is a drop in the bucket compared to other accidents I read about: A bicyclist in a head on crash with a car that ended up in a coma and Bono from U2 whose bike accident in Central Park required two surgeries. He also sustained eye socket damage (glasses failure?) and a mucked up finger that might threaten his guitar playing abilities.


Nothing calms pre surgery nerves like gift shop displays.

View from my hospital room, seeing the flag was much appreciated.

View from my hospital room, seeing the flag inspired me.

The accident taught me that I should never have taken for granted a fully functioning left arm and collarbone, whatever a collarbone actually does. I had a faint memory of reading about the dangers of grates. Now I was living proof. Here’s a bit of advice I figured out after the pain killer fog lifted. If you’re flipping on your bike make it a full flip.

Recently I unearthed the manual from my new bike. It was covered with warning signs and urgent pleas to read it before riding the bike which I neglected to do. It had me recalling that profane acronym RTFM. I’m not sure it if it mentions bike flips or sewer grate hazards. It might be time for me to contribute a chapter.

**Shout out to Mike Blau, who I thought could have been pulling my leg about my collarbone remodeling. (Too much kitchen remodeling on the brain.) I’ve yet to research it but since he’s practically a Rocket Scientist, I’m sure he knows his stuff.

Back next week with the long awaited follow up to my Pole Art piece.


Jelly beans having healing properties.


Portland, Imagined from Afar

Editor’s Note: For those keeping score at home, I am still recovering from injuries involving a broken collarbone and arm due to a bike mishap which will be detailed in an upcoming blog post, of course! I’m recovering from surgery and the healing process requires intensive rest. Will Simmons who writes the Pittsburgh Orbit blog offered to contribute and I can’t thank him enough. I like that this piece offers a glimpse into how Portland is perceived from the outside world. It’s nice to be able to provide content until I can make my return, hopefully in August.


line of food trucks, Portland, OR

Everyone eats here all the time…maybe? Food trucks on a sunny day, somewhere in Portland. (photo:

This is a work of fiction–or, at least, of the imagination and speculation. Your writer has only ever been to Portland once, as but one of many stops on a five-week (nearly) coast-to-coast (and back) road trip more than twenty years ago. The details of that visit are extremely vague–a rainy night in an old movie theater, seeing Japanese spaz-rock band The Boredoms at a big nightclub, The Museum of Advertising, squabbling with our local hosts, a big breakfast at a lumberjack diner on an island–or maybe we just had to cross a bridge. Who knows?

I loved it. But I loved it in the way you get excited about any brand new place you just get to have fun exploring for a few days before moving on or heading back to the real world. What do I know?

Three men holding full beers in toast around a copper brewing kettle

Everyone in Portland is a beer geek, right? (photo: Willamette Week)

So what gives this no-nothing any right to author a post for the prestigious Portland Orbit? Well, I’m going to tell you something. I took an oath–yes, a blogger’s oath. Orbit C.O. David went down with a broken arm incurred in that most Portland of circumstances–a bicycle wreck. David’s convalescence will greatly impede his ability to report, photograph, and write, so I stepped-up with an offer to do what bloggers do best: figure out how to make it all about me.

six-story office building with floral outer layer

Where even office buildings look like the wallpaper in an opium den and are named like microbrews and/or circus acts. The Fair-Haired Dumbbell (proposed). (photo: Norris, Beggs, & Simpson)

[Cue: fantasy music and shimmering soft-focus.]

That single visit way back in 1993 may be short on specifics, but it made a deep impression. Clean, crisp air, an enviable climate[1], gentle, easy lifestyles, a fierce old hippie/new indie–dare we say pioneer–spirit, ample natural beauty in all directions, trees and flowers everywhere. Some of these things aren’t going to change, but we wonder about the others.

What of the city itself–what does it look and feel like? The Internet offers us ways to travel vicariously like never before. Maps show pretty much everything east of the Willamette River as a giant grid, with a few bisecting angles and some gentle curves–Jeffersonian in its sensibility with enough interesting variances to not seem completely metric.

“Virtually” touring the city via Google Streetview (without knowing where to go) a bunch of the stereotypes jump right out: plentiful trees, bicycle infrastructure, uh…youth/yuppie-oriented businesses, hippie colors, and yes, expensive-looking brand new condos. I was surprised by how pancake flat so much of the east-of-the-river/majority of the city appears to be–aren’t you guys in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains? The wide streets and long stretches of low-slung buildings seem very western (or, at least, mid-western) to these eyes.

The intersection of Burnside & 28th, Portland, OR with new condos, novelty bicycle rack, old-school cocktail lounge, and a store called "Smut"

Is this what Portland looks like? Burnside & 28th: new condos, novelty bicycle rack, old-school cocktail lounge, a store called “Smut”. (photo: Google Maps)

The intersection of Stark & 82nd, Portland, OR showing wide streets, low-slung buildings, lots of parking, some hills in the distance

…or is it more like this? Stark & 82nd: wide streets, low-slung buildings, lots of parking, (almost) no trees, very flat, but with some hills (or is that a park?) in the distance. (photo: Google Maps)

Friend and co-worker “Rizzo” moved to Portland with her husband three years ago and though still a relative newcomer she’s already adopted the native complaints of rising rents and “damn Californians moving here!” The couple were ousted from their cute, rented bungalow in Mt. Tabor by a landlord looking to sell the place for the better half of a million bucks. From afar, it sure seems like the real estate market is off-the-charts nutso and its attendant crush of people sounds like a headache and a traffic jam all rolled-up in enough stress to harsh the mellow of even the kindest (now legal) bud.

Are Portlanders already moaning about the golden days of…what were the golden days? The pre-hip eighties? The punk rock nineties? The microbrew/locavore aughts? The last day before Portlandia[2] first aired?

costumed people riding bicycles, Portland, OR

Take the high road. White people retro bicycling (photo:

We imagine the palest of “whitopias,”[3] a place where over-educated liberals congratulate themselves on their acceptance and diversity of opinion–at least when it comes to transgender rights, body piercing, and euthanasia–but may go days without seeing a black person. Media would have us believe the inmates have taken over the asylum–that every denizen of this quickly-growing middle-to-large-sized city is a hopped-up doobie-smoking punk rock vegan costumed bicycle-riding gluten-free transvestite. It can’t really be like that…can it? I would assume there are, you know, “real people” who work everyday jobs, drink Budweiser, shop at Wal-Mart, and watch network TV at night[4]–but you wouldn’t know that from the press.

The future’s here right now, the song says, if we’re willing to pay the price. It’s a strange, wonderful, and horrible time to be alive, I suppose–the whole world at one’s fingertips, every thought, image, and deed but a click away. But what do we really know? Ah, heck, I need to get out and visit David, Rizzo, and the gang and see what the hell is really going on.

[1] This cool weather-lover considers 45 degrees and drizzling to be ideal. On the other hand, I imagine it would be a bummer if you don’t ever get real snow.
[2] It is impossible to write a Portland imagined piece without name-dropping this ultimate national media satire of its citizens. I’ve only watched a couple of episodes and stopped because I just didn’t think it was that funny. People tell me the same thing about Dilbert: “You don’t get it.” I think I probably do.
[3] Pittsburgh also ranks as one of (perhaps the) “whitest cities,” depending on who’s counting and what measure they’re using–but that’s mainly when you consider the entire region, which includes six very rural counties surrounding Allegheny, and the city’s overwhelmingly white suburbs.
[4] lists two establishments (A & L Sports Pub and Skybox Sports Bar & Grill) that suggest at least some of Pittsburgh’s ex-pats haven’t traded in their Terrible Towels for hemp dashikis…yet. Whether the natives ever show up for “an imp ‘n Iron” is unknown.

Go Fourth!

Sure the Fourth of July is all about picnics, fireworks and probably America beer but we can’t forget the decorations found around town.

This tradition was started by our cross country rival publication the Pittsburgh Orbit and has inspired a need to showcase displays of patriotism in the Portland area as well.


I saw this display around 15th and Broadway in NE. It doesn’t explain itself but it makes good use of it’s window design, construction paper elements and symmetry to create an appealing, eye catching, festival of patriotism.


This is a good example of an interior flag decals. Others I’ve seen are faded and peeling off. If this doesn’t make you put your hand over your heart and mumble the Pledge of Allegiance, I don’t know what will.

USA Cart

At the tail end of my own shopping cart hysteria, I discovered this mobile can and bottle collecting vehicle chained to a sign at the end of our street. The decor it sports shouts a patriotic fervor that can’t be denied.



Flag waving sentiments were found within a backdrop of pole art when a cloth flag was affixed to a utility pole in North Portland. This banner may not yet wave like the song says but it does make for a grungy addition of American spirit to an old pole.


I like inflatable decorations of any kind, type or holiday so this Uncle Sam bear cub was destined to catch my eye and camera lens. The bear looks great in patriotic plastic. Here’s hoping he can dodge drifting fireworks sparks.


Faded glory for sure but this one harkens back to the days when we were all proud to be an America back when Lee Greenwood was haunting many a concert stage. While the stripes have long since faded on the flag, the bumper sticker offers up a historical record of there being yet another barber shop in Kenton.


Having made it to the Vernonia Friendship Jamboree on a bike camping trip last summer, I saw this banner decoration attached to a sale sign. Stars and stripes are never a bad way to increase traffic to whatever kind of sale you wish to advertise.

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