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: https://youtu.be/MTni0JKVWqc

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 the warm fuzzies 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 nostalgic feelings 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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jmz2zdqKPE