Mannequin Fever Part 2

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It was years ago out in East Vancouver where I saw the first of what I call “working mannequins.” She was standing on the side of the road. She’d been rigged up with mechanics that allowed her arms to move a sign in a circle. From what I recall, she was trying to lure people into a coin shop. I vowed to visit, find out more about her and see if she was attracting a crowd to the store but I was never willing to take the bus out to that part of Vancouver. Still, she remains a fond memory.

Other working mannequins have cropped up in North Portland. The pawn shop on Lombard Ave, All that Glitters, had a similar version with a rotating sign but she hasn’t been seen for a while. (She’s actually back, but I couldn’t get a good picture from the car.)

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The cell phone industry has jumped on the notion that there’s a need for human looking forms to stand outside their businesses with signs propped against their bodies. The mattress folks seem to be saying, “hey we hire actual live humans who twirl signs about sales.” That screams worst job in the world. I don’t care how many podcasts or iPods you listen to all day. Who wants to stand around outside for hours on end with a sign for any money is better than no money wages? This makes the working mannequins so good at their jobs. They don’t talk so they don’t complain about not getting paid. They don’t take breaks, bathroom, smoke or otherwise. They stand all day or for the rest of their mannequin lives and they never get tired.

I have to consider if these working ladies accomplish much other than making a noticeable scenic diversion. It’s hard to tell. As sign holders, they add a bit of pizzaz to whatever kind of wooden or metal frame could be mustered up and slung down on the sidewalk as a free standing sign. Plus in the cases of working mannequins who exhibit sign movement–that adds a whole other dimension to the proceedings. I can’t imagine how you retrofit a mannequin so that they move a sign in a circle. It’s a simple, yet effective use of mechanical knowledge.

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Working mannequins have been dressed up in a variety of ways. Some look like store employees while others are allowed to appear in elegant evening wear. Usually long tresses are provided but when an appropriate wig is lacking or a bad hair day is happening the solution seems to be a knit cap.

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While mannequin fever is not contagious once contracted it may be incurable. I have a few more mannequin posts in the pipeline but I’m not going to let this blog become one of those mannequin blogs. I will also never allow a mannequin to guest blog for me, if that offers any comfort.  Then again maybe I could hire one of the more literary working mannequins so I could sit back and relax.

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Detail: (Look down) Sandbag stand.

Note:  This post appears to be nothing more than a series of ads for the cell phone industry. It’s having no effect on me because I’m already locked into a contract with another carrier.

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700 Phish Tapes

I knew Jed Binderman back on the east coast when he was a teenaged acting and filmmaking prodigy. I was once in a band that performed at one of his wild house parties. I took strange pride in injuring myself at the gig. Near the end of the performance our lead singer, late for a date, bolted. The band kept playing. When the music stopped I limped off with a swollen knee.

Jed’s grown up now, lives in Portland and plays drums in the band Eternal Tapestry. A blurb in the Portland Mercury writing about a show mentioned that Jed “stumbled upon a horde of 700 live Phish bootleg cassettes.” It also explained the tapes were used in the preparation of the bands latest recording Wild Strawberries. I had to know more about the find. Jed was willing to answer 3 questions from the Portland Orbit by email.

How and where and when and why did you find 700 Phish Tapes?

A friend of mine noticed a posting on craigslist saying that someone
had 300 Phish bootleg cassettes available for free. I’m not totally sure why said friend thought of me when he saw this, as I’m neither a Phish fan or THAT big of a hoarder, but he forwarded the posting to me, and before I knew it I was inside this dude’s house picking up box after box of Phish tapes. His estimation was 300, but when I finally brought them home I decided to waste the rest of my afternoon and actually count how many there were, since there was obviously more than 300 tapes. I finally counted over 700 tapes, all dubbed on Maxell-II hi-bias tapes, which are pretty expensive to acquire nowadays. At first I thought I could break them up into smaller lots and sell them on eBay, but then realized that Phish fans aren’t quite like deadheads, and they don’t pay big buxx for huge amounts of live Phish tapes. Eternal Tapestry had been throwing around the idea of renting a cabin for a week to do nothing but record music and hang out in a hot tub, and when we finally got our act together and booked the spot, I knew exactly what tapes we were going to be using, to be recorded on our cassette 8-track, for all of those days and nights.

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I know you guys are industrious in your recording methods, but did you or do you plan to record over all 700 tapes?

I think we recorded something like 50 tapes worth of music, maybe a
little less/more, but either way, it was a lot of stuff. Since then I’ve given huge stacks of tapes to other friends that use cassettes to record music, and I think the rest of them were actually given away at a yard sale at my old house, as some of them were “accidentally” left in the basement when I moved out.

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How can you record over September 14, 1999 “the snooze and you lose show?”—Do you expect any Phish fan backlash?

Unfortunately no backlash from any Phish fans who might feel that someone is really tarnishing the name of their true love, but hopefully one of these days I’ll get some hate mail that smells like patchouli.

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See more about Eternal Tapestry:

http://www.thrilljockey.com/thrill/Eternal-Tapestry/#.VWZeYmCQx0h

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Digging Trench Digger

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I met Jeff Dodge at a party my sister-in-law was throwing in her back yard years ago. I overheard him talking to someone about cameras. He was talking camera. Throwing out brand names with letters and numbers. I was new to Portland and I hadn’t talked much camera with anyone. It wasn’t just cameras we talked about. Jeff is interested in just about everything, history, recording music and film making. He started Trench Digger Productions as a way to catalog, organize and explore his interests including his short film series he’s named Darge Dinner Theater.

Soon after meeting Dodge, I got the call to assist on his feature length film, Jeff Steele: Children of the Doomed.  He was shooting in the wilds of eastern Oregon. My mind was blown by the chance to spend time in the high desert area of Malheur County. The Pillars of Rome and Leslie Glutch were two of the surreal locations where we shot.

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Being on a set and seeing what people had to do to complete a movie was an education in itself and getting the chance to visit the wide expanses and empty landscapes of the eastern part of the state has been one of the highlights of my Oregon experience.

Now I’m completely biased about everything I have to say about Trench Digger. I had the opportunity to work on Dodge’s latest production KXLN Nebraska. I ran camera, acted and even got a writer’s credit. KXLN Nebraska has an improvisational element to it. It’s also rooted in the characterization of Mitch Humbucker by Mike “Woodman” Johnson who worked for years as a radio DJ. Mitch Humbucker might seem like something of a Howard Stern clone.  With the movie set in 1982, Mitch would have had no way of stealing the then, mostly, unknown Howard Stern’s act. In Nebraska we find a bored, frustrated and shaggy headed DJ slogging through his AM radio shift with nothing better to do but badger his show guests. Jeff Dodge plays a version of himself as a world-weary touring musician trying to cope with Humbucker’s venomous onslaught.

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Jeff Dodge as Jeff Dodge in KXLN Nebraska. (Video still.)

Jeff Dodge remains a hero to me. He’s a guy with an active mind that never stops. It’s like there’s a shark in his brain that has to keep moving. It’s inspirational to see ideas that seem to explode out his head. I’ll be watching Trench Digger to find out about his upcoming projects. I may find myself participating in them. Why wouldn’t I? Jeff has always been generous and willing to help me with equipment loans, work opportunities and tales of Dodge family history and stories about his work as a sound man.

Every year, around this time, we celebrate the guy’s birthday. He throws the party.

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This blog’s author as the bossy intern in KXLN Nebraska. (Video still.)

Watch KXLN Nebraska:

Got time to watch a full length feature? Here’s the link:

Read all about the goings-ons of Trench Digger Productions and learn some history:

http://www.trenchdigger.us

Wildlife of Killingsworth

How wild are things going to get on a street that runs through the campus of a community college? There’s a pho place we like and I’m in awe of the Florida Room with the cryptic messages they leave on their marquee and that one bar, Ducketts Public House, looks like a place for an intense experience. We’re talking a completely different kind of wildlife. It may just be a coincidence and not a homage to any real animals that roam up and down Killingsworth St. because I have never seen any. I noticed a theme of sorts on Killingsworth that has to be more accidental than planned. It first became apparent with  Elk Cleaners & Laundry.

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The business is named for animals that haven’t roamed this part of town for hundreds of years, if they ever did, and has a mural advertising what is now a defunct dry cleaners and laundry operation featuring the portrait of an Elk trophy head.  More evidence of demise is the obscured phone number at the bottom of the sign. I’m glad to see the mural/signage remains.

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On the same block, a mature buck deer graces the sign of the Saraveza Bottle Shop and Pasty Tavern. The sign is a beautiful thing, majestic in it’s animal choice, portraiture and woodsy feel from the background design. How the deer works with the bar known to be a Packer fan hang out, I’m not sure, but it fits in well with the remains of the Elk Cleaners a few steps away.  It does prove that a handsome animal will improve any sign.

My favorite wildlife sighting, and the last one on this tour, remains up the road around 42nd Ave.

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It’s a cement deer with wide antlers and a beat up face that I’ve always appreciated for it’s folk art and outsider art appearance. My assumption had been that the fountain design was made from white shells, but it’s only rocks that look like shells from a distance.

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All the times I drove past the deer’s habitat, I never realized he was posing next to a fountain until I got close enough to take his picture. Sadly it was not operational at the time of my visit.

So there you have many a wildlife tribute on the not so wild street of Killingsworth. Then again it’s not such a dull street. It did have a Minus 5 album named after it.

Bill Murray Triptych

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Hanging around the Cully neighborhood in northeast Portland on a recent substitute teaching assignment had me enduring minor transportation calamities in the way of two trashed/flat bike tires (thanks for helping Cat Six Cycles), discovering that a record shop called Jump Jump exists in the neighborhood and the possibility that germy kids put the kybosh on my ability to digest birthday celebration chicken wings. It’s all par for the course I’d have to say and finding Bill Murray’s face immortalized in artistic expression, in triplicate no less, soothed my soul and made it somehow worth it.

Gracing the back of an apartment mail box container on NE Prescott Ave. was the Bill Murray Triptych. Amazingly I was able ride by it the first time without stopping to genuflect. I filed this phenomenon away and returned for a photo. The image seems to come from Murray’s quintessential role in the film Stripes. The art captures Murray in all his Zen comedic charm, smirk and swagger. It has the feel of a Warhol homage in its decal, spray paint and screen print. Where Warhol created art based on one named legends like Elvis and Marilyn, this unknown artist offers passersby a portrait of a man of the people. I’d be hard pressed to consider that the Postmaster General would be have a problem with apartment mailbox vandalism when one look at Bill Murray in any form makes people feel good and would cheer up even the most down and out stragglers who happen by.

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The work is marred only by a fellow vandal who decided to join the fray.  I have no problem with the sticker, subject matter or design. I’ve seen this sticker around and it seems a faint homage to Paul Stanley so maybe there’s a celebrity theme going on but I would have preferred to see the predominant piece of art given some space and not crowded out by a more colors and noise.  Don’t mess with Bill Murray with your GOO GOO for God’s sake.

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A triptych is really the way to go here. One Bill Murray would not have been enough yet any more than three would have thrown the universe off balance. I’m not sure everyone in the neighborhood knows who Bill Murray is but it’s a face and artwork that with one glance returns a sense of serene, comedic calm and possibly even enlightenment. It’s a generous offering of street art, taking it out of the normal confines of the art world and exhibiting it on the side of the road where fine art is rarely seen. I can only imagine how Bill Murray figured out that he could entertain the world, but I’m glad he did. Forget your troubles, stop, and look at Bill Murray.

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BOO-BOO

North Portland Carver’s Camp

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In a quiet neighborhood a block away from the bustle of the Interstate Fred Meyer lies something usually found in rural areas of the state. On a gravel pipestem driveway with scraps of trees as a border stand various log sculptures in an array of configurations and stages of completion. A carver’s camp of little know origin has sprung up at the intersection of N. Bryant St. and N. Montana Ave.

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A few passes by the site never revealed the carvings creator or whether they’re for sale. A conversation about chainsaws may have been the result of meeting the North Portland carver or perhaps a deeper understanding for the talent and inspiration behind the creation of this art from fireplace logs. The Portland Orbit’s crack investigation team seems more interested in doing crack than investigating something. A knock on the door of the house connected to the driveway may have provided a clue to the identity of the carver but the no trespassing signs may have proved too intimidating to follow this line of questioning.

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No matter the welcome sign hung across a particular wood sprite made it easy to spend time looking over the folksy, outdoorsy and crafty sculptures.

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This is the kind of thing lovingly made fun of by the Pemco Insurance Company in their insightful profiles of people of the Northwest advertising campaign.

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Update: July 22, 2015

As of the last couple of times I’ve ridden by the Carver’s Camp, I’ve noticed it’s been completely dismantled. There is no evidence that it existed. Only a sign that says something about slowing down for children is left. I’ve seen no logs or carvings. I throw this out to let anyone that might want to visit know. The only evidence of the wood carving in the area is a small bear sculpture in front of a house down the street from the camp on Montana Ave.

Sick Day

For any readers expecting to see a post when I usually try to post of Friday afternoons, I thought I’d let you know I spent the previous night dealing with the results of either food poisoning or a flu bug picked up from kids at an elementary school.  And what a night it was! I’ll spare you details of my demise only to let you know I needed to lay around all day and do as little as possible which excluded attempts at trying to come up with cohesive sentences and typo free copy.  I’ll be back next week.  In the meantime, stay healthy.

Portland Has a Flag?

On a recent couple of Max train trips I noticed a flag. It had stripes of blue and yellow outlined with white on a green background. I saw it flying over PGE Park. I know, I know it as PGE but it may or may not still be Jeld Wen Field. I had a conversation with someone who said it was now called Providence Park. This could be figured out with a quick search on the web but, anyway, the flag was flying where the Timbers play. I also saw it at a couple of fire stations. I was clued in by a sticker on a car. It was the image of the mystery flag with Portland printed underneath. Some quick internet research confirmed what I did not know after living in Portland for seven years. Portland has a flag. I had been mystified. This flag was all over and looking nordic to me, like a Finnish flag with different colors. A poster I saw while substitute teaching at an elementary school made me realize the colors and design reminded me more of the Tanzania flag.

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This flag had my imagination wandering. I couldn’t put it together until I saw the decal. To give a true feel for the flag I could have borrowed an image from the internet and used it in this post but I was stuck on that particular decal image. I have no idea why I didn’t take a picture of it when I first saw it. I started obsessing over that decal. I kept going back on dog walks to where I thought I saw the car with the flag decal and I could never find it. It’s not as popular as the decal of the outline of the state of Oregon with the green heart in it. After a few bike commuter rides to a sub job and observing multiple car decals, I ran into the image on Tillamook Ave and snapped a photo.

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Portland has a flag.

We saw the Portland flag flying outside a restaurant in Multnomah Village and my wife, Ronna, started speculating about what the colors represented, like green being about the ecology and blue symbolizing our rivers. It’s true, the colors and design are all significant. So in order to not get bogged down in those details, allow me to introduce a secondary source. I would have considered good colors for a Portland to be black, red and silver. The same colors as the Trail Blazers or representative of darkness, blood and silver.

The more amazing thing about my Portland flag discovery was learning about vexillology. I knew nothing about it. I can’t even pronounce it but it makes sense that there would be people interested in flags enough that there would be a science behind it. I could tell you more but you will soon be looking at a blog—what?!? Star Wars flag posts—and possibly be attending a meeting. You’ll become more obsessed with flags and flag decals and their design and symbolism than me.

Check out the Portland Flag Association website. The blog might make you think about flags in ways you never have and you can go to a meeting:

http://portlandflag.org

An Orbit Obit: Two Closed Stores

I started thinking about two stores that I never went to that are now closed. One seems like it’s been closed for a couple of years the other ceased operating more recently.  What hit me was this selfish attitude that I thought the stores should have stayed open until I got around to going to them. I’ve lived in the Portland area over seven years which was plenty of time to make a trek to these places that I never made. While the stores intrigued me, they didn’t sell anything I wanted. Still I missed out on getting a feel for the atmosphere of the places and I regret that. They seemed like quirky, Portlandy type establishments from a bygone era that we’re losing.

Fabric World

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Fabric World detail

Fabric World was looking a bit run down for years. Then it was hard to tell if it was open. I saw this store many times driving up Lombard Ave towards St. Johns and I thought it was cool to have an independent fabric store in the area. Towards the end a boarded up window seemed to signal its demise.

I’m not the fabric sort. I do have good memories of my wife, Ronna, and I buzzing around Hancock Fabrics in Alexandria, Va. With a cup of coffee in hand and an over caffeinated brain, fabric and all the various gizmos that go with it take on a whole new meaning. I can tell you that a box of fabric from those days remains in one of our closets so we were never in the market to make acquisitions from Fabric World. The only consolation of missing the Fabric World experience is that now we don’t have bolts of a polyester blends hanging around the house. Marci Macfarlane writes about Fabric World on her blog Sewing With Cupcake (see the link below) which offers a detailed sense of the spirit of the place. Sadly it’s as close as I’ll get to the actual experience of having gone there.

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If I’m remembering right there were painted cartoon pictures on the front window and some Star Wars cardboard cut outs there as well. It’s one of those landmarks for me, something that made me feel good when I saw it. Mostly when I was biking around the intersection of 7th Ave and SE Hawthorne. I could tell there was a whole world inside that store. How could a costume shop not be an interesting and magical place? And yet, I am not a costume renting person. I leave that up to my film maker hero Jeff Dodge. It seems like the type of place where he could rent Civil War costumes. There is a bit of heartache for a lost opportunity. This isn’t like one of those cool things I hear about that I missed out on years before I moved here. I had plenty of chances to wander into the store and get an eyeball full of costumes and associated relics. It feels like a here one day gone the next kind of thing.  It’s sad to go from seeing that store, go from colorful and offbeat front window decorations to a blank and empty store front.

If there’s any lesson it has to be not to put off checking places out. I could probably make a list of other places that I’d like to see but I’ve delayed visiting for various reasons.  I tell myself I don’t have time or offer up other excuses. I’ll be filled with even more regret if I end up noticing another business gone under that I never bothered to visit.

Here’s Marci’s report on Fabric World that is the next best thing to going there which you can no longer do any more. Scroll down to the March 31, 2015 post. Photos too!:

http://sewingwithcupcake.blogspot.com

Check out yelp reviews, many positive to get another sense of the Fabric World experience:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/fabric-world-portland

Many one star Yelp reviews about Hollywood Costumers which have a charm all their own if you’re into that:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/hollywood-costumers-portland