Rough Day at the Office

The Office est

I wish I could report that the Office is a thriving Interstate corridor business that rewards it’s dedicated clientele with satisfying multi-sensory experiences. This isn’t the case. The Office never quite got off the ground. I’m not sure it ever opened for business. Something was off from the start.

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Some offices aren’t a good fit, but you don’t figure that out until you’re knee deep in the job. This Office started off with the all too clever and old school name where it sounded like a guy could tell his wife, “Honey, I’m at the Office” when he was actually at a strip club. Would she buy it? Not hardly when he arrived home stinking of gin with his tie askew and lipstick on his collar. If the Office actually opened it seemed like a short time before it closed for business. I watched the progress and lack of progress for this establishment because of the Interstate Ave location. When passing, I never missed a chance to look the place over and wonder about it.

 Rerun life sorry

Before it was known as the Office the building was home to a bar called U & I, again a clever name.  If you’re trying to get people to stop at your business located on a busy street a catchy name seems necessary. U & I was a bar that also had shows. I thought their brilliant move was to have a jam band play an afterparty when The Other Ones, made up of members of the Grateful Dead, performed in town. This didn’t seem to be enough of a business model to keep the place afloat. In came the paint crew who inspired me when I saw them leave behind a snazzy paint job with maroon trim. There’s no other way to make improvements to the boxy exterior. I was curious to see what business would take the place of the bar.

Dick Hennessy

The Office Marquee close up

It wasn’t exactly clear that the Office was a strip club until information was posted on the marquee. I can’t figure out if a strip club replacing a bar is a step up, a lateral move or some kind of devolution. I suppose it wouldn’t matter one way or the other to those who patronize this kind of establishment. Please pardon my conflicted condescension. Portland is full of strip clubs so one more is like icing on the cake that a stripper jumps out of, that is if they still do that these days. I have nothing against strip clubs. I retain a certain pride towards the one in my neighborhood. In the end and the beginning, the marquee never changed. Everyday seemed like an advertisement for Sinfire Sunday. I can get a vicarious thrill imagining being in the midst of DJ Dick Hennessy slabbing down platters for the Summer Strip Off all summer long. Naming an event “Sinfire Sunday” seems like a miraculous means of drumming up Sunday business. Yet again it was strange that I never saw evidence of the place being open. No one entered and dancers never gathered outside in skimpy outfits taking smoke breaks.

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The place stayed dormant until it was attacked. It never recovered from being splashed with graffiti. Some time later the place was spruced and repainted but it didn’t reopen. The Office Too would have been a good name for such a resurrection. It would have offered us the opportunity to witness the triumphant return of DJ Dick Hennessy lofting a crate of 12” records above his head on his way to the DJ booth. How long it stayed clean I can’t say. I never thought to take a picture. It’s not the most photogenic building but it did have an air of class and even pride when it wasn’t awash with spray paint. Once again after it was cleaned up it became a canvas for more graffiti. As I took pictures it hit me: Rough day at the office. It seems to me that somebody had it out for the place. Maybe they didn’t like what they may have considered ugliness going on inside so they sought to add their own ugliness to the outside. Pure speculation on my part, but it leads me to hope for a better day when life, in any form, can return to the Office or whatever name it’s given in it’s next incarnation.

Office painted over

Post Script:

At press time I witnessed a man with a paint roller painting the outside of the building. I would have stopped to take pictures if I hadn’t been running late for work. That afternoon, the result of the labor was a spotty attempt to cover up graffiti. I have seen evidence of interior work being done to the inside of the Office. Keep reading the Portland Orbit for updates.

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The Portland’s Orbit’s 100th Post: What’s in a Name?

 Orbit notebook (1)

We celebrate the 100th blog post of the Portland Orbit by getting self-reverential, explaining the origins of the blog and how I arrived at the name for it. Thinking a blog would change the course of my life or make me famous, I’ve since found out that the Portland Orbit exists for people to discover in the hopes that those who read it appreciate it. The blog is rooted in an interest in journalism I’ve flirted with my whole life. This might reflect the newspaper sounding name. In another life I could only have hoped to have hired Clark Kent away from the Daily Planet.

I tried blogging in the past. The short lived photo blog named with little imagination, “Year of the Camera” was the result. I posted three photos before realizing something was off. I still do love those landlocked boats but I needed to regroup. My independent video projects seem to take forever for me to get around to editing, sometimes taking the better part of a year to complete. I was looking for a format that was quicker with topics I could explore and consider for a short while and then move to something else in an attempt to satisfy my short attention span.

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Landlocked boat from a prior failed blog.

Since moving to Portland I cataloged ideas and interests I wanted to explore. I considered subjects for videos, places I’d visit or people I’d want to interview. Listening to local podcasts, reading the two alternative weekly newspapers every week and seeking out culture, more through the papers than in real life, I kept these ideas in the back of my mind. A blog seemed a way to expand on my interests so it was in my subconscious, as were my journalism aspirations that haven’t left since my reporter days at my college newspaper. I found myself not leaving my neighborhood or going anywhere that wasn’t a bike ride away which led me to seek my immediate surroundings for inspiration.

orbit entry (1)

The blog urgency struck after getting back from a trip to Vietnam. Something crystallized there. I’m not sure if it had to do with being out of my comfort zone but I was energized after seeing more of the world. Returning to Portland, jet-lagged and spacey we headed over to the Portland Museum of Modern Art for a show and concert by outsider artist Lonnie Holley. I dropped my wife, Ronna, who has a bum ankle, off at the front door and found a nearby parking space. As I headed back to her I ran but then got closer and closer to someone walking towards me who I recognized but couldn’t place. As I blazed past I realized none other than my guitar hero, Peter Buck, was walking out of the museum. You know him from his old band R.E.M., but he’s also in a few bands now and even performs solo. I hope I didn’t spook him and I was glad that I didn’t really recognize him enough to throw myself at his feet. He was also better off not timing his visit to the record store and museum where I might have had a chance to corner him and bombard him with questions about Roswell, Georgia.

That afternoon we experienced the engaging, yet mystifying outsider artist and his equally enigmatic pianoman performance outside the museum in the park area that had become engulfed in the warm, late afternoon, August sunshine. The photo I took of Lonnie, facing the sun created no actual image of the man, only rays of light that appeared like the remnants of the big bang explosion. It was time to start something. A blog was the one solid idea that surfaced and I had been pushed over the edge to move forward. A blurb about Lonnie Holley was the first post.

Big bang 2

Seconds after Big Bang 2.

The next thing I needed was a name. I had long wanted to call the media conglomerate of my daydreams “local loco” which spoke to me of a specific micro-journalism ideal–writing about what’s around me. I researched the name and saw a similarly named local burrito place. I could not name my blog after a burrito restaurant. I was at my then group home job, thinking hard about what I would call this blog that would make me famous and change my life forever. It had to be something good. I was straining my brain. At the point I relaxed for a second, a series of thoughts helped me come up with a name. Around that time I had been reading Facebook entries from Sid Deluca who had been promoting an art show. I had become familiar with him through Jeff Dodge, even participating in a film screening with him. I thought about Sid and considered his art to be the kind of thing I would write about. I thought that as someone I was familiar with, he was in my orbit. Inspiration struck. Orbit seemed to be the word that captured what I wanted to do: write about my strange encounters with my surroundings. Later I realized I had named the blog after a brand of gum. That still seemed better than naming it after a burrito joint.

other notebook

Fund Film Not Salad

Taililo

In an over caffeinated moment I ran into film maker Jon Meyer at a Fred Meyer’s (no relation) grocery store. It seemed like he was in a hurry, but I couldn’t let an opportunity pass to talk to him. I had just seen on Facebook that he was working on a fund-raising campaign for a documentary. In our conversation, Jon made the point that instead of people supporting some guy’s interest in making potato salad they should help finance film projects. It made sense to me. Jon explained how he’d use the money. He was in the middle of documenting the life of Talilo, a rap artist. I watched a 10 minute rough cut of the film he’s working on which is now posted on the gofundme site and I saw three storylines unfolding. There’s a family member with a major health issue, living quarters being provided for the artist from what seems like an unlikely source and there are also glimpses of the artist supporting himself teaching a hip hop class. I picked up on the struggles of an artist in progress. The film explores what will happen.

Talilo Teaches

Hip hop class in session.

Jon Meyer lives and breathes video production. He brings enthusiasm to every angle of it from cameras, associated gear of any and all kinds and editing software. From the days I experienced seeing him at Attack of the Flix screenings, he was always interested in sharing his work and appreciating the work of others. Also the guy has an uber-bohemian aesthetic and philosophy about living on the cheap that tells me he will make great use of the money he collects.

Talilo with sister

Talilo with his sister.

I remember reading in-depth about Jon’s lifestyle and approach to film making in an article about his Free Box video series in the Portland Tribune years ago where it was revealed that Jon used to live in a van. Whether it was down by the river like the Chris Farley bit, I’m not sure, but it had to be saving him rent money.

Talilo raps

Have a look at this film project and kick in what you can. I feel like if I inspire one person to donate I’ll have done something to support this cause. Looking over the footage included on the gofundme site reminds me that he deserves an opportunity to make the kind of film he aspires to make and he’s not asking for much to make it. With one percent of the budget of one of today’s blockbuster movies (well below what he’s asking for), Jon Meyer could create the projects he does as long as he wanted to and that would be way cooler than potato salad.

http://www.gofundme.com/talilo

Read an all too brief article about Jon’s days working on Free Box. I could not find the Tribune article:

https://www.oregonbusiness.com/high-five/3854-lowcost-webshow

Stills from the Talilo Documentary Teaser shot by Jon Meyer.

Street TVs

TV Street

They seem sad, dejected and lonely sitting on a curb, waiting and hoping to be picked up, carried off and brought back to life by being plugged in and surrounded by a family who happens to love watching sitcoms together. Television sets appear life-like to me because they talk. This explains that melancholy I feel seeing an abandoned TV. Sure the words televisions say are actually the crap they broadcast but they can take the vision of one world and bring it into another one. That’s not to say you can have a real conversation with a TV.

TV close up

Recently we wanted to watch, or maybe I wanted to watch, a preseason football game while working on our kitchen renovation. My wife, Ronna, suggested I hook up the old set in the basement. I hauled it up, attached the antennae and watched the snowy image on the screen before a hazy memory became clear. The heavy-ass set needed a digital converter box. I flashed back to that murky time when the digital transition was going to be happening and it was all over the television being explained and hyped. I’d forgotten. The old analog set was not going to pick up a signal. I tried to explain this but ended up committing to that day’s work out of lifting and carrying the old set down to the basement. There’s been at least one reason not to ditch it on the curb, besides the heartbreak, VHS tapes and old DVDs still look great on that set. So on that rare occasion when it’s necessary it will be there serve its duty as a monitor.

TV note

But it was the digital conversion that wasn’t that long ago that has created a nation of semi-obsolete televisions. You can still find a converter box. The new ones may cost 40 to 50 dollars, but you could probably get one cheaper, like you can find everything, online. It’s seems sketchy because you’ll be watching a digital image on an analog set. I’m sure these digital converter boxes work fine but why make the investment in old school technology when you can get a new, slim, sleek model for cheap. So out go the old sets often with a reminder note that explains that they work great or that the set is free. I’m especially fond of the giant televisions, wide-screen, state of the art in their day, that seem to take up a city block and would have to be moved by a crane. They make it easy to see how far technology has progressed.

TV curb

I had an eye out for old TVs years ago when I had a plan to make a music video about a guy watching a music video on a mountain of television sets. I suppose the logistics of carting televisions around and hoarding them in the basement killed my inspiration. When I worked in a group home and one of the televisions broke, I made my one and only curbside TV grab. I got the set back only to realize the electrical cord had been cut. I had to drop it off at Far West Recycling Inc.

TV crap pile

Sad, abused, orphaned, to say the least, it’s a difficult question on how to deal with the street TV dilemma. I wonder why there has never been an eye water inducing public service announcement for television junkies to weep over. With a sappy soundtrack the narration could surely describe the plight of the homeless sets waiting for new life in an art project or crying out for a digital conversion to broadcast the late show of a bygone era one last time.

TV Curb St. Johns (1)