Cartlandia

The title of this blog post is sure to cause stomachs to rumble. I can imagine people thinking, finally this guy is writing about chicken sandwiches and the various delicious options from food carts, but then once it gets figured out people think, WTF, this guy is writing about shopping carts?!?

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When I began noticing random shopping carts in neighborhoods while I was biking to work it seemed like this phenomenon was worth writing about. These carts had strayed from their usual grocery store and parking lot environments. It was strange to see them outside of that context. Appearing next to a tree or leaning against a street sign, they stood out. I waited for a revelation or inspiration to make a grand statement, but realized there is nothing to say about them and there is no one to speak for them. The are lost souls in a wilderness of consumerism.

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You may see these shopping carts and not give them a second thought. Many are used by the homeless to haul belongings. Some stores have tried to implement security so carts can’t leave. According to my research, though, there is a widely known work-around allowing many to escape. Escape they do, but for what purpose and where?

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I became concerned with the matter of shopping cart neglect while pondering several examples of these simple, dutiful machines. They make shopping easier for us, but in the real world they are tossed out, knocked over, abandoned and abused, far from the brightly lit aisles and their good time, gentle rolls. I noticed them scattered all over North Portland – on sidewalks, gathered around signage, and on the bike path that parallels Columbia Blvd. Some were stuffed with trash while others lay on their sides like dying horses.

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I talked to a person who saw me taking a picture of a cart parked behind her house. It stood in a no man’s land between her fenced-in property and the alley. She told me what an eyesore she thought it was. She was hoping someone (maybe even me) would haul it away. I was there only for the sake of documenting the cart. The last thing I need is a shopping cart zoo, but it’s nice to know I could have one if I wanted it. That cart has remained unmoved for months in what now seems lost in an Island of Misfit Toys scenario, abandoned with no one coming to its aide.

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Before…

before and after

…and sometime after.

I could have sworn I saw a guy with a sign on his truck that advertised a cart retrieval service, but tracking him down and hearing his adventures is a whole other blog post. At this point he seems to be slacking on the job.

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My shopping cart sightings eventually led me to something I could get excited about. At the Lombard Transit Center bus stop, I spotted a piece of shopping cart public art. Of all the types of art that move me, this one had me shaking. There, at N. Interstate and Lombard skirting a low wall, is an art piece featuring fifty overlapping shopping carts stenciled in blue. Nothing I’ve seen or photographed has approached this level of art that I saw when I made this discovery. After seeing cart after cart and trying to make sense of it, this cart art seemed to compile, in a figurative sense, all the sad and wayward carts I’d encountered in my travels. The photos I post may give you a sense of the art but a pilgrimage to witness it in person, while no doubt passing multiple abandoned shopping carts in the process, would be well worth it.

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Not for the faint of heart. Five panels of shopping cart art!

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Carts found in their native land, a grocery store parking lot!

Author and shopping cart

The author with a shopping cart; an uneasy truce.

See a video report with more photos: https://youtu.be/wsSDLd5QpqU

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The Parade Chase: A St. Johns Parade Extravaganza

For years I worked weekends and could never get to the St. Johns parade. I had to find out what I had been missing. My plan was to take in a kaleidoscope of sights and sounds. It was a safe bet I’d be hearing squeals and giggles of children along with brass instruments, revved up engines, whistles and drum blasts. I expected to see plenty of colors and blurry motion. By the time I found a place to park, I ended up popping up in what I thought was the middle of the parade. I began a chase for the front. The sidewalks were clear but when I arrived at Ivy Island, the old gateway to downtown, I felt wedged in. I was across from the guns and ammo store and had caught up with as much of the parade as I was going to catch so I stayed put. Standing against a chainlink fence next to a construction site, I realized the battle for Ivy Island had been lost. The Rose City Model T Club rolled by. Old cars make the best parade subject matter!

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Politicians

Early on the parade was clogged with politicians. It made sense with the election three days away. My inner cynicism kicked in. My brain flooded with snide thoughts. A waving Dan Saltzman reminded me of how politicians never really look at you. Ted Wheeler seemed in need of a stylist which is probably unnecessary for Portland politics. Steve Novick takes his dog everywhere. I realized it was going to be too brazen and probably unethical to trade a Sarah Iannarone vote for a piece of bubble gum. Jules Bailey impressed me. He wasn’t riding in a convertible and his entourage walked the talk carrying signs with messages concerning air quality.

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After seeing so many old cars and a couple of dune buggies, I got excited about seeing of all things—a boat! The Multnomah Sheriff’s department dragged along a river patrol boat. My transportation topper was Teeter Roofing and their gang of ATV riders, something you don’t often see at parades.

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More middle school bands marched by. It didn’t seem to matter what song they played. They all had a warm, warped sound, like vinyl. It occurred to me that transportation was the major theme of this parade as Miss Teen Rodeo Oregon brought her posse of assistant teen queens by on horseback. Soon after the Clark Country Saddle Club followed. It was great to see how young ladies in sparkly country outfits and cowboy hats are another parade must-have. I realized I was missing the parade watching it through a camera phone so I headed back through the onlookers to another spot. The rain made me realize I needed water proof paper and floats!

As the Roaring King Car Club weaved back and forth along the route I realized there was something cool about a car club. The cars looked like modified ex-police cars with a basic design but I’m guessing supped up engines.

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The Mexican dancers twirled around in colorful dresses that cut through the gray skies. I have no idea why someone was making comments about caterpillars as they swirled past.

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Then just when I needed to see unicycles the most—they appeared!

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Another middle school band passed playing Ozzy Osborne’s “Crazy Train.” Tall people at parades began to get on my nerves. Floats? I was getting desperate for floats when the Power Pep Band rolled by in what looked like a ship on fire.

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Ronald McDonald was working the crowd behind this float. He was too chatty. There is nothing worse than a talking clown. Although his make-up was impeccable and his hair poofed and cherry red, he creeped me out in the kind of way I’d feel if I looked at a hamburger patty too long. Behind me I heard a mother say, “Stop whining about it,” which brought me back to the parade and the crowd. I wanted a picture of Ronald. I still hadn’t forgotten the year he was made Grand Marshal. My camera malfunctioned when I hit a button that turned the screen white. By the time I figured it out Ronald McDonald was too far down the street. As I considered whether to chase him down, it occurred to me that he gets all the publicity he needs from having been on TV all the time in the 70’s.

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With Ronald out of the picture, I spotted a woman in full clown regalia in the crowd. My need for a clown photo fix drew me to her. I caught up to this clown, passed her and turned to get a photo. She seemed happy to comply or was this happiness due to the perma-grin painted on her face? She suggested a selfie which I attempted but due to being selfie impaired I failed. Ugh! No selfie with the lady clown. I began to wonder if the parade would ever end, my only real complaint was about the rainy weather. I spotted Ellen Rosenblum parading by. She was running for Oregon Attorney General. It’s fun to find a politician with a sense of humor. I heard Ellen say, “Vote now, vote yesterday.” Due to Oregon’s ballot by mail system people were able to vote early either by mailing ballots or dropping them off. Little Leaguers walked by and another middle school band played Michael Jackson complete with dancers doing Thriller moves.

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Then I watched a tall tuxedo clad man stroll in the street while a woman wearing a tiara waved from a Jeep. These were representatives from the Skyliners Tall Club. Tall people were now in the parade instead of standing around watching it and blocking other people’s views. The rest of the parade was a blur due to the rain on my glasses.

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A car held out a sign with the word JOY scrawled on it. I found out later that this was the theme of the parade. This part of the proceedings felt spontaneous with a car driving around with someone holding a sign out the window. The enthusiastic, low budgetness of it all was joyful.

Holy Trilogy
Pirates announced themselves with obnoxious gun fire. But at that point I was witnessing what felt like a holy gathering, a culmination of a very St. Johns-centric trilogy of Pirates, Wrestlers and floats full of mermaids. Realizing I could catch the rest of the parade on the way to my car I followed the remaining participants back through to the staging area.

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Sharon Nasset was riding shotgun in a mini van—not even in a convertible. She seemed keep the lowest profile of the bunch.

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A biker gang, well bicyclists on bikes with long handle bars known as Belligerent, were rounding out the parade. A man with a bull horn rode his bike in a circle announcing that the parade committee was “saving the best for last.” I rounded the corner and ran out of parade. I now had the choice of going to the car or meeting back up with the lady clown who was clamoring away from the parade. I’d had almost enough excitement for one day so headed home.

Punny Business

What the cluck? I mean how could anyone resist putting that phrase on a banner and stringing it above the entrance to a chicken restaurant. This post is focused on puns used by businesses to enthrall, entertain and inspire us to become customers. It seems only fair to consider what a pun is and isn’t. My big, red dictionary, a gift from Mrs. Reser years ago, defines it as the humorous use of a word in such a way as to suggest different meanings or applications or of words having the same or nearly the same sound but different meanings. This definition will be applied to see how well these puns work.

While it seems like a good pun may depend on a person’s sense of humor, the idea of puns used by businesses have the potential to be the kind of stuff that would cause viewers of Good Morning America to spit their coffee in hysterics. Puns are big business. They create smiles. They help people remember your business and get people talking about it. Making people happy creates a desire to spend money. Puns will make you rich. Use them to spread joy and good humor throughout the world. Be clever with the language, and the people of earth will laugh along with you and throw money at your feet. Somehow, in all that, I managed some pun free copy. So, brace yourself, a pun overdose is about to kick in.

Puns that Cuss

What the Cluck?

How can you not appreciate a pun that references profanity? It employs bad taste with good humor. “What the Cluck?” is the right message for a banner on a chicken restaurant. It sounds like what chickens actually already say to each other in the barnyard.

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Shih Tzu has always been a funny name for a dog breed and, as I learned from auto-correct, hard to spell without using profanity. I originally left out that pesky silent “h.” The word has a sound halfway between a swear and a sneeze which suits this type of dog well. This sign was spotted outside a Vet’s Clinic at Hayden Meadows where it sure seems like you’ll have a good chance of working with a veterinarian that will laugh with your pet instead of at it.

Dog Puns

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In the Central Eastside business district you have a doggie day care facility/hotel with a clever name. I have to digress by saying that I can’t say dog day care, it always has to be doggie for some reason. The business name seems to be a combination of a reference to a Bing Crosby movie and the reaction guests have when their owners drop them off.

Expressoing Yourself

Expresso Yourself sign

Yes, you might end up expressoing yourself especially if you speak with an Italian accent. You may well express yourself better if you drink expresso. A sign at the T.J. Maxx keeps it simple and begs you to buy the sign, take it home and hang it in your kitchen above the coffee maker.

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A sandwich board outside of Posies goes for the gold. In fact, I just caught the last pun by studying my photo extra hard. The message ends with, “It’s a latte” and it is a lot to take in. To translate, the sign says: “I can’t express how much you mean to me, but I can try. It’s a lot.” By now you know how puns work so you’ve, or I have, figured out that the keywords are words pertinent to coffee shop nomenclature. It’s a colorful sign too. It inspires me to want to drink expresso, coffee and possibly a latte. I’ve never been much of a chai person.

Maxx for the Minimum

If you spend anytime at all at T.J. Maxx you may find strange objects mixed in with bargains. You might try to imagine for them a new owner and where and how this person might use the door knocker in a bikini or the grill cleaning brush with a gorilla sculpted into the handle.  It might seem like it would take a lot of imagination.

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Consider this spoof of the second greatest line to come out of “Jerry Maguire.” Not to be out-shined by all the cute kid antics, Tom Cruise and (don’t forget) Renee Zellweger, was the script with a couple of famous lines. When a mixed-up in love character played by Renee Zellweger delivered the line,“You had me at hello,” no one was able to resist repeating it, spoofing it and mangling it for the rest of the 90’s and possibly beyond. “You Had Me at Merlot.” Is it even a pun? I don’t know. I’ve gone insane. It’s the sign version of a wine bottle upside the head. Nevertheless, it is nice to think that you could buy something like this and hang it in your wine cellar because the joke would never get old.

An Orbit Obit: Interstate Lanes

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On April 30, 2015 I blogged about Interstate Lanes. The piece was posted exactly a year before the bowling alley’s last day of operation. At that time, I had heard rumors that alley operations would cease, but I was resistant to considering it. My denial was strong enough to let me enjoy one more year of the bowling alley. Over the course of that year, I didn’t step foot into the place until the last day of business, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t happy to see it each time I drove or rode by. I’ve also appreciated knowing the people of North Portland, who really needed a bowling alley, had one close by.

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Huddled for warmth and bowling!

Needing one last taste of bowling atmosphere I headed over to Interstate Lanes in the afternoon of the last day of operation. I needed to see the red neon outlining the windows and the other decor left over from a bygone era. Whether it’s ’70’s, ’80’s or 90’s it’s hard to tell but bowling chic is comforting. The multicolored, multiple bowling, bowlers mural was magical. A kind of magic that’s hard to let go. That was part of the beauty of the bowling alley, the ability to escape into a bowling world and shutting other world out. There’s the clatter of falling pins, blaring classic rock and the mechanical sounds of the machines cleaning up pins and spitting back bowling balls. I think Interstate Lanes was clued into my bowling world concept. On one side of the alley, the interior decorations resembled giant bowling balls rolling over cityscapes–a bowling world takeover? The intergalactic mural on the outside of the building spoke to my world domination through bowling theory.

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I bombed into the alley on that last day with my camera phone blazing trying to get the right shot of the congenial note on the door reading:

LAST DAY OF BUSINESS
Interstate Lanes will close
at midnight tonight for the last time.
We want to thank all of
our loyal customers for supporting
Interstate Lanes for so many years.
THANK YOU

The worker at the counter gave me the hairy eyeball. I was self-conscious but I’ve since come to realize that people who blaze into bowling alleys with phone cameras held high are annoying. I wanted one last peek at the the bowling gear vending machine. I stood in front of it only to find it empty. Bowling gear purchased from a machine like tape and powder and maybe ball cleaning supplies has always amazed me. Next to the machine was a glass case with bowling pins on sale for five bucks. I had no cash on me. One side of the alley was empty but the other had a few bowlers who seemed to be enjoying themselves. I watched a girl bowl. Seeing her knock down nine out of ten pins felt satisfying. I looked at the ceiling. It looked stained and worn out. It hit me. After that evening’s cosmic bowling session the alley would lock the doors and never open them again.

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A short history of my visits to Interstate Lanes and my experience with bowling in general reveal a mild obsession. I was once in a bowling league. There’s nothing like the pressure of trying to pick up a spare with one pin left and a match on the line. As you can imagine, I whiffed and it’s haunted me to this day. The PE credit I picked for a college bowling course offered little improvement to my mechanics. We grew up with a grandmother who watched duckpin bowling on Saturdays. Years later we had to break the news that the bowling coverage was being cancelled. Working in a group home I had opportunities to watch bowling and I appreciated the talents of the guy who throws the ball down the lane without using the finger holes. I made two visits to Interstate Lanes: once, just after we moved out here and again when a subsection of our book group decided to meet there. With only three members present, a haphazard discussion of Being There broke out during our quest for strikes.

I’m going to miss that place. It seems obvious now why the paint was peeling outside. There was no reason to spruce up what’s going to be torn down. An apartment building will never have the charm or character that this bowling alley had and yes I can accept the economics of it all but I don’t like the idea of people having to hoof it over to Big Al’s or out to Gresham to go bowling. Maybe Grand Central is not so bad. It seems strange that a bowling alley closing puts a hole in my heart, but I know I’d feel the same about a movie theater shutting down or other forms of old school entertainment. What gets me sad is that sooner than later I’ll drive up Interstate to see a hole in the ground. Bulldozers or wrecking balls will have quietly moved in and not so quietly done their dirty work. A year ago I was writing about bowling alone, which seems like a strange and impossible concept to me, but now I’m writing about not bowling at all, at least not in North Portland.