Tattoo Party

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I didn’t know what to expect from a Tattoo Party but I was game. It was a Tuesday night (insert social calendar joke here) back on August 18th. I roped my wife, Ronna, to be the party photographer so I could balance a plate of hors d’oeuvres with my drink and my reporter’s notebook. What a party! There were tons of people, parent’s brought kids, cat fish, BBQ chicken wings, paleo cupcakes and Blood Orange Italian Soda were among the vittles, plus there were tattoos and a guy wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt. It was a great way to welcome a new business into the neighborhood or was the new business welcoming us?

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The party was held in celebration of the grand opening of Blue Ox Tattoo. We were excited to have a new business in Kenton. In that location there had been a home brew store and a hair salon so a Tattoo Parlor was a welcome addition. I realize nobody calls these places Parlors anymore, unless maybe you’re a sailor or old fashioned like me. I loved the idea of visiting and partying inside the updated surroundings in what feels like a historic space. There where framed tattoo drawings on the walls, and tchotchkes for inspiration in the various artist stations. If a unicorn isn’t the best tattoo it can at least serve to inspire a better design.

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Before the party crowd became wall to wall.

For me tattoos were strongly discouraged in my youth. Let’s just say my parents never spoke highly of them. I didn’t get swept up in the 90’s tribal craze, in part because I spent time in the post office and whenever I was in line I would end up studying the FBI’s Most Wanted Posters. The one constant identifier always seemed to be tattoos. I figured not having a tattoo would be one less detail that would be included about me if I ever ended up on the FBI’s list.

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Mikal Gilmore, one of the owners of Blue Ox Tattoo, started getting tattooed at 18 and was attracted to the art and rebellious nature of tattooing despite it becoming more mainstream. Wanting more visible tattoos meant not fitting into the corporate world making a career in the tattoo business a necessary option. Living in the Kenton area and seeing there were no local tattoo businesses, despite tattoo shop saturation in the city, Gilmore was thrilled to be the one to offer it and appreciated the community support received for the effort.

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Local business owners & tattoo enthusiasts gathered.

Before going to the party I considered what tattoo I would get, if I ever got one. There was the face of a pit bull named Harlow that I dog sat. A sweetheart of a dog, but I thought a pit bull tattoo, especially the face, would make me a bad ass. I also considered Tom Cruise. I wanted one of those Wall Street Journal dot portraits. Really, like a current Tom Cruise, a portrait of his face, not Risky Business Tom Cruise like we were asked about.  God knows I would not have Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear on my bicep. We’re really talking the charismatic Cruise, but no one can see past his religious interests these days.

Mikal would “get a lot more information” about my choice of tattoos mentioning not being “judge and jury of someone’s tattoo or art choice.” In trying to hold on to tattooing’s rebellious nature and keeping distance from the corporate world, Gilmore mentioned declining to create a tattoo of a logo on someone. Our tattoo party ended with me spotting a thigh tattoo being shown off while also noticing I’d spilled hummus on my reporter’s notebook. In all, it had been a great way to visit a local business, talk to a few folks and get insight into tattoo philosophy.

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The author in the middle of the tattoo party.

(Photos by Ronna Craig)

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Mayberry and Gomorrah: An Orbit Obit

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There can’t be two more diametrically opposed places of business that have reached the end of an era. One, a sedate hair care establishment epitomizing small town Americana with the wholesome name of Kenton Family Hair Care, the other a seedy mega complex of sin and debauchery both suffering from the demise of an old school way of life. The first, the way an older generation takes care of their hair, the other, the way an older generation takes care of their, ahem, soul?!?

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Kenton Hair Care had a way of appearing like a business out of Mayberry, the old fashioned hair dryers, the booths with the stylist’s names on them and pictures of children or grandchildren tacked to the walls. It was the type of place I imagined my grandmother visited for her weekly hair set. I was drawn to the hair dryers, so quaint, it reminded me of photo taken of the Violent Femmes in the 80’s for the Campus Voice Biweekly posters that were posted at my college.

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Clientele was dwindling for years at Kenton Family Hair Care. When the Third Thursday event started they opened in the evenings and attempted to sell quilts and prints of squirrels. I know, I bought one of those prints.  Out of step, perhaps and now, out of time.

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The Town Plaza is a whole other story. As nasty as it was, you could only imagine the appeal it could have had for someone who wanted to indulge their purient interests–a smorgasbord, with a video store, a juice bar called the Sugar Shack, a strip club, a bar and grill named the Pink Marlin and even a burger joint. I can imagine the place, brand spanking new and shiny, briming with temptation, I’m sure Satan himself was there, possilby in disguise, when they cut the ribbon. In the last few years, there seemed to be no trace of activity besides fish sculptures and neon in one of the windows that faced the busy section of Lombard Ave. The strip club may have continued to operate after all the other businesses shut down but it was hard to tell.

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I never saw the parking lot until I drove around to take pictures. Burger Island was only known to me through the remainders of its sign that was never torn down. I saw no evidence of any burgers or relics of an actual burger joint  around the place. The building was purchased by the nearby neighborhood who paid over 2 million in an attempt to rid the area of the activity that occurred within the checker board tile laden building.

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To me it was always a curiosity. Even when driving by with a friend who voiced disgust, I still held on to a slight glimmer of appreciation for a place that made such an attempt of commodifying seediness for those in need. Maybe it was just a matter of the wrong place being in the wrong place.

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End with a more wholesome image.

What the hell is that?

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On a recent bike ride home from work I had a look at, well, what it was I wasn’t sure. I thought about it and realized I had seen it before but in all my huffing and puffing getting up the hill I had not given it much thought. It’s bright and colorful. It doesn’t blend into the background still I had to consider what purpose it served and what it was doing on the far side of N. Weidler St, a one-way street. Then I had to ponder my next question: What the hell is that?

Now that line is from an old Steve Martin bit. Let me pause for anyone who may not know who Steve Martin is. If you grew up in the 70’s you knew him. You may have bought his comedy albums, saw him on Saturday Night Live or in his movie The Jerk. If you are figuring out who he is now you’d think he was some old guy. He’s had gray hair since he was about 14 so he’s been distinguished looking forever. Ultimately I just like co-opting his comedy because it’s funny but I make sure to give him credit.

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But, yeah, wow, I saw this building, sculpture, thing, and couldn’t figure it out. What the hell is that? I don’t mean it in a negative way. It looks cool but sticks out with its jarring colors and patterns in an otherwise drab section of town.

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After looking it over on my bike, I saw no information indicating what this object could be. It was up to me to use my imagination. I demand a bronze plaque with the title of this art construction or at least the name of the artist or designer. These people deserve recognition.

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What the hell is that?

My mind wandered and then I came up with multiple descriptors. I’m sure anyone could come up with better ones but I thought: psychedelic igloo. Not half bad but actually really terrible. Eskimos never seemed interested in the frivolity of psychedelia, especially its genesis in the ’60s from what I can tell. It never would have help them survive their harsh environment.

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The contraption also appears circus tent-like, yeah psychedelic circus tent, insect-esque under a kaleidoscope-microscope and the art of it all is a possible nod to Gaudi. It is awe-inspiring in it’s creativity and it made me appreciate my efforts to take a closer look. It could also be a beautiful outdoor chapel for any number of New Age religions. I had a great time looking it over, basking in the form, shape and color of it. Soon enough it made more sense.

What the hell is that?

Answer:

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It’s a streetcar station!

Here’s some Vine footage that brings it on home:

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See Bill Murray and Steve Martin try to figure out what it is:

 

Cut Through the Night

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If there’s a sound or sounds that best exemplify summer I’d say it’s a guy calling a baseball game that you hear from a radio. The full effect may be best heard on an AM radio station driving in a car but an old radio on a porch would work. Crickets may be a close second as a summer sound but I prefer a ball game. Even though I’m not following baseball much this season, besides knowing the Red Sox are in last place, hearing a game on the radio gives me that summer feeling.

I stumbled on a Hillsboro Hops broadcast while surfing the AM dial one night in late July. I was drawn into the game not because I knew anything about the players or the league they’re in, but because the play-by-play announcer started telling a story. I haven’t heard much about the Hops. I may have stayed away over disappointment about losing the Portland Beavers, the Portland area minor league team, who seemed to get kicked out of their stadium (in favor of soccer!) and then left town. I was trying to get to a game but never made it.

As I absorbed the sounds of the baseball broadcast I was comforted by the soft whooshing background noise that’s made up of fans at the game. Then there was the voice. So it was two guys that made up the broadcast team but the play-by-play man had a radio perfect voice–golden tones not too deep or too high–a baseball voice that cut through the night.

His story began in the middle of an inning. This seemed like a challenge because the play-by-play guy still had to call the game. His tale described an old baseball coach, maybe he was from a community college, who had been flipped off by one of his players. He had me going with the whoosh in the background, the summer feeling rushing into me, but there were interruptions. He’d break into his story with game descriptions like 2 and O count or batter swings, typical game phrases. At one point there was so much action going on. I began to wonder, out loud, if he was going to get back to the story. I feared he’d forget to finish. The guy was a pro. Sure enough he got back to talking about the coach and the player who flipped him off.

The kid was given a choice. He could quit the team or go with the coach to a gymnasium. The player decided to stick it out and accept his fate. Once in the gym the coach told the kid to put on a helmet. I don’t know what kind of a helmet, but the player at least had a chance to protect his head. The coach proceeded to pelt the player with baseballs giving the player an opportunity to run in a confined space and do some dodging. There wasn’t much more to it than that. The coach, an old baseball coach, could pretty much get away with whatever he wanted to do.

The story reminded me of the kids of books about baseball I enjoyed reading in the 70’s, books by Joe Pepitone, Sparky Lyle as well as Bill Bouton’s Ball Four. How I managed to never read the book by Bill “Spaceman” Lee is beyond me. Those books brought out the crazy side of baseball personalities the stuff I was getting from the radio on a summer night. There’s a lesson too that it’s never a good idea to flip off a coach, any coach whether you’re on his team or not.