Eclipse Fever and the Aftermath

Eclipse photo by Ronna

An epic collision of moon and sun.

It’s an aftermath afterthought that has me wondering if this blog post is necessary. Everyone had their experience of the eclipse. So how relevant is mine? I answered my own question about whether it was necessary to be in the Path of Totality. It was. Being in Oregon we weren’t  far away. It meant planning and braving the predicted epic traffic jam which transpired afterwards. I didn’t know the difference a few degrees would make so I ignored pleas from those telling me the eclipse was best experienced in that annoyingly named Path of Totality.

The author in eclipse mode.

We had fun watching the whole eclipse, what we got of it anyway. In the end I thought of Johnny Rotten at the Sex Pistol’s Winterland show in 1978 when he asked the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” It wasn’t Mother Nature’s fault. I cheated myself.

Our plan was simple. We turned our Adirondack chairs around in our driveway to face the sun, made more coffee and put on eclipse glasses. We knew when things would get started.  Soon enough the moon crept across the sun, taking small bites. I thought about bringing out the radio. God knows watching the eclipse on TV or even the preshow coverage would have made me koo-koo nuts. Who needs squawking radio or TV commentary when you can provide your own. I was getting plenty of rapid fire stream of consciousness and screwy non sequiturs from my wife, Ronna.  The sun looked, to her, like Ms. Pac Man and she predicted it would soon look like a banana. A neighbor strolled by. I heard someone speaking but couldn’t see through the glasses.

“You guys have the best seats in the house over there, all comfortable and relaxed,” she said. We didn’t have to go anywhere to find this comfort. Once the eclipse started we looked at the sun every few moments. I rationed my looks because I didn’t want to damage my eyes. No matter which ISO number the lenses were rated, I didn’t trust the flimsy paper and plastic.

Scientific data was recorded.

The postman swung by. He was all business. “Did you get your glasses?” I asked. He said he had some, and seemed to imply he’d check it out when he wasn’t so busy. I had a cup of lukewarm coffee I forgot to drink in the excitement. I settled in for what was becoming a good show. I took notes, while my wife pulled out an oversized tome and began illuminating page one with phases of the eclipse.

“The sun looks like a banana right now. It looks exactly like a banana,” she noted. A big orange banana was hovering in the sky seen only with eclipse glasses. It occurred to me that totality wouldn’t look like much because the whole sun would be blocked out. I relaxed knowing I wouldn’t have to rush this blog post out. People would need time to decompress.

Remote camera detonation or wizardry?

In the interest of science we contined our observations noting times.

9:55a.m.  The sun looks like a cresent moon. It seemed to be getting dark and the wind kicked up.

9:59a.m.   “When’s totality?” I asked. I kept forgetting that I couldn’t see anything with the glasses unless I was staring at the sun. “We’re supposed to see stars and planets,” I mansplained. “Maybe it won’t happen if you keep yammering on about it,” my wife countered.

I became conscious of the car noises, cars blasting their radios. People were missing it. Meanwhile I heard a group of people milling around in the streets like tourists who had lost their tour guide.

The dog seems to be freaking out in the house barking at nothing. I’m mesmerized by the long shadows coming from my pen against my notebook. We hadn’t even waked and baked that morning and the world seemed strange.

10:04a.m.  Our conversation gets confusing. “What time is it?” Ronna asks. “10:04,” I say,  “. . . I think it’s 10:09,” meaning Totality is five minutes away. “No, it’s 10:04,” Ronna said. Pure comedy.

Two musical conundrums occur. I always thought the Smash Mouth song was about staring at the sun when it’s actually about walking on the sun. Then I realize no one seems to know the guy that sings with Bonnie Tyler on the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It’s Rory Dodd!

I couldn’t have the dog’s barking disturb my Totality so I go get him. Inside the house I take note of the long strange shadow in the back of the kitchen.

Kitchen eclipse shadows.

Seconds from totality:
“What in the world,” Ronna said.
“What do you mean what in the world?” I ask.
“It’s crazy look at it. It’s unbelievable.”

Max watch squirrel not eclipse.

At 10:09, Ronna tells me, if we were in the path of totality, we could look at the sun without the glasses. There’s a tiny sliver of sun that won’t go away. We’re looking with bare eyes. In the distance I hear squealing kids. It’s underwhelming. We need Totality, a traffic jam and an under fed, dirty camping experience for the full effect. It got darker but that sun sliver, that tiny percentage kept the sky lit.

“That’s all we get?” I asked. “I am disappointed. I thought maybe this would be a lot more fun. I had fun.”

“That’s because you’re easily amused.” Ronna responded.

I vowed to plan ahead for the next eclipse as I slurped cold coffee. So much coffee had me needing an astronaut diaper. There was nothing left to do but watch the moon uncover the sun. To make an eclipse experience epic you had to watch the whole thing. Ronna told me to look at the black spot on the upper righthand corner of the sun. “There’s no corner on the sun.” I said feeling smart. Ronna realized it was a branch. “Nevermind,” she said.

11:37a.m.  It was officially over. The last few minutes included a three dimensional view of the moon and a sense that you could see it moving as it pulled away from the sun.

It is written.

That was it. Despite all the hype it was over. The sun was a round circle again. There was nothing to watch now but television replays.

In the end, watching the eclipse became an excuse to put off chores like folding towels. It must have been dramatic elsewhere. The radio blathered crazy nonsense about poets writing eclipse poetry who couldn’t hold their pens straight during Totality. Facebook was on fire with people singing the praises of the event and all it’s magnificence. I was now a loser in Trump’s America because I didn’t experience the eclipse in the Path of Totality. Maybe if they’d called it something else. Maybe, if I hadn’t been so freaked out about traffic jams and had just learned to love them, I would have achieved total viewership. Trump looked at the sun without eye protection. Surely someone could have found the President a pair of eclipse glasses. Did he not plan ahead? Even with glasses there was no totality achievement for me. My life had not been changed. I did have commemorative stamps, but I still felt shame. I underachieved. I had been a doubter and didn’t think a small percentage would be a big deal. It made all the difference in the universe.

Those heat sensitive stamps reveal the moon.


Special thanks to Ronna Craig for her epic moon and sun collision photo.



Eclipse Fever (Happens to me Every Time)

It’s been wearing on me to the point that I can’t help but obsess over it. The endless eclipse hype got me. Now, I’m quivering with low-level anticipation. Questions remain: How bad will traffic get? Can a viewing of less than totality be satisfying? How will I know? Will I burn my retinas staring into the sun? Is there a chance the world, or maybe the U.S. can achieve enlightenment from the eclipse experience?

The Heart of Totality is on the sticker.

It’s felt like a slow boil to this hysteria that’s happened over six weeks. The local news feels relentless with promos about tomorrow’s live coverage. An event like this must be a godsend in what can be a slow news month. NPR has covered the event from many angles running a couple of interviews with the most enthusiastic eclipse expert ever.  We’re talking a guy who made plans three years ago to observe the event in Jackson Hole, Wy.  At least he’s staying out of Oregon. They also ran a piece about movies that have included eclipse events in them. While this holds my interest, I have hype-fatigue.

Oregon is going crazy. There have been hours of coverage on Oregon Public Broadcasting about the goings on in the state and the Eclipse Festival in central Oregon called the Symbiosis Gathering  that has 30,000 attendees. Oh yeah and, as promised, I can probably choose to watch the solar eclipse live on one of my local TV channels.

Buy a high and get glasses too.

Looking through a sample pair of glasses at Paxton Gate I was surprised that I couldn’t see a thing. It dawned on me. I knew they prevented eye fry but I thought of them as cool and maybe strong sun glasses. My out-of-town guest explained that the glasses were for looking at photons. My God!  Everyone’s a scientist.

My brilliant neighbor Paul was on his way to meet his brother who was camping in central Oregon.  He was leaving the Thursday before the eclipse allowing for a few days to be stuck in traffic without missing it. There have been reports of long traffic back ups and fuel shortages in Prineville, OR and miles around it. Before he left, my neighbor had me considering where the sun would be in relation to my house in case I decided to stay put and not drive anywhere for a few extra degrees of totality. From our observation where the sun was at around 11:30AM that day, he determined our best vantage point was through the sky light in our upstairs bathroom. Again, it’s nice to be surrounded by scientists.

The Furnace guy told me that the Holiday Motel, not to be confused with the Holiday Inn chain was charging $999 for a room he said was only worth about 30 bucks. There’s no time to substantiate this but I’m sure if you needed a room and there’s one available at this price if you coughed, sputtered, hemmed and hawed you could talk them down six or seven hundred dollars.  It is a motel room in Portland; not in the Path of Totality.  Where are you supposed to watch the eclipse? From a motel parking lot in an industrial section of town?

Capitalizing on current events!

We also heard about plans someone made to go to a minor league baseball game scheduled to start at 9:30 Monday morning. This is going to be the only sporting event that anyone knows about where play will have been suspended for the eclipse. The maker of this plan is leaving the house at three in the morning to ensure on time arrival at the game about fifty miles away in the Salem/Keizer area .

The panic to find a pair of glasses ended when the folks at Natural Grocers hooked us up with two free pairs. We were more than willing to sign a waiver for them. The glasses were getting scarce, and we had been joking about having to spend 11 dollars for a pair if we managed to find one.

The worst of this forthcoming eclipse has been rediscovering the existence of a disco remix of Bonnie Tyler’s epic anthem “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  But there I was experiencing it from the lip syncing lips of a TV reporter bound for the Path of Totality. That may well be part of the sour grapes experience of seeing Facebook posts from people with job tasks that involve traveling to optimal places to experience the eclipse.

One recent afternoon heading out of the grocery store  I saw, from the corner of my eye, a display of souvenir cups emblazoned with the phrase “Great American Eclipse.”  I was annoyed with this marketing of a natural phenomenon. I didn’t even think to take a picture, I was too busy fleeing. Days later the display had been moved. It helped a bit when someone pointed out that the marketers were probably going to lose their shirts trying to sell dumb merchandise. One local TV channel is calling the event something generic like Total Solar Eclipse 2017 so “Great American Eclipse,” is, at least, on the exciting side.

Heat sensitive eclipse stamps from the US Post Office.

This hoopla serves a purpose.  It gets the word out that the sun will temporarily be blocked out.  This way, everyone around the world will not freak out, but instead just accept it since they have had ample, to the point of ad nauseam, advance notice.

On a promo for a local radio show, OPB’s State of Wonder, which devoted a whole episode to eclipse coverage, I heard a man discussing the event. I’m paraphrasing but it sounded like he was saying the two-minute event would change people during those two minutes, possibly for all time.  I will be sure to let you know how the eclipse changes me in part two of this post to run later in the week.

Eclipse Ad

Box it up and sell it.

Editor’s note: The Portland Orbit has no qualms with the use of unnamed sources probably because we’re not always sure what their names are to begin with.

Thanks goes to Will Simmons who said “you gotta write about the eclipse,” and Allen Callaci who suggested a two-part post, a kind of aftermath/after geometry type thing.

And a shout out to these folks because the name is so close:

Paul Needs You! (Still)


Nobody puts Paul in a cage.

On a sunny day just after noon I was inspired and exhilarated to see the face of Paul Bunyan, the Kenton neighborhood’s only celebrity Roadside Attraction peeking out from the top of scaffolding. This wasn’t the peeling, sooty faced Bunyan of the past few years. This was a freshly painted version, his hat hidden dutch boy hairstyle and trimmed beard now gleaming with jet black paint. Paul’s cleaned up appearance and piercing blue eyes are giving him a youthful look.  The haggard appearance of the past few years is now a memory. Even his red hat pom sparkled in the sunshine. Paul’s been given what everyone could use, a fresh start. This is only the beginning but starting at the head seems appropriate. It’s the only thing that can be seen through the scaffolding. Knowing that his mischievous grin is right below a platform and soon to be unleashed encourages me. Good things happen through perseverance.

Trained scaffold experts at work.

I was told by one of the harness wearing workers that the top down approach is being employed in the painting process. This helps since Paul has already had some paint spilled on his shoulders. As the painting continues there will be a curing process leading up to the reveal event on Saturday, September 9th.

Primed and ready.

I can’t emphasis enough how sad and shabby Paul was. Between the dirty forearms, chipped paint and bare patches, especially on his boots, he had fallen on tough times. He was never in the position to go to a tailor for new clothes or get down the street to the laundromat where they have a nice large capacity washer seemingly up to any task.

The fund raising campaign for the project is still active but summer’s dry weather proved to be the best time to start and complete the project. Please consider helping pay off Paul’s renovation. He deserves a break. He waited a long time to be cleaned up. He’s still waiting to be suited up with fresh duds. After spending the better part of a year, since the fundraising campaign began, crumbling, with his skin sloughing off and getting increasingly grimy, it became obvious that the painting couldn’t have started soon enough. The scuffed up boots, despite his inability to walk anywhere, keep me hanging on for the promise of those new boots for Paul.

These colors don’t run.

Find a few more coins under your couch cushions and make a donation to Paul if you can. Please see:

The Kenton Business Association posted a great photo on Facebook. You’ll probably have to scroll down to find it:

Our report from two years ago:

Editor’s note: Many of you tuned in this week expecting to read about owls. Our apologies. When breaking news like this happens, owls take a back seat. We won’t forget the owls and will return with an owl post soon. This August has actually become less of a slow news month than usual. The owl report has been postponed until September. Your patience in this matter is much appreciated.



17 Years of That: 3 Questions for I, Anonymous Illustrator Kalah Allen


Illustrator Kalah Allen

As an aspiring cartoonist, zine maker and comic book illustrator Kalah Allen began creating images for the I, Anonymous column which runs in the Portland Mercury in the summer of 2000. With demands on her time from family and work, she appreciates having an outlet for her creativity. Kalah retains a bit of her cartoonist identity with the weekly publication of her work. She’s recently streamlined her illustration methodology which has brought new life and personality to recent drawings

Portland Orbit: So, when you get the I, Anonymous submission, how do you sum up the image in an illustration, is there something you have to go through to get that initial burst of inspiration?

KA: So it’s interesting sometimes I receive a bundle of them like in a little file package and I’ll skim through all of them and I don’t really focus on any particular one, I’ll just take them in. My habit is usually Sunday night, it’s the last thing I do before I go to bed is to finish the I, Anonymous. So maybe before that if I’m stuck I’ll give it a really good read again and I might read it a couple times and I think about what’s the most visual thing that’s also the most important in the text. A lot of times lately there’s nothing particularly visually interesting in the text to illustrate and I really have to think about it. Some things that are the most difficult are things that are ideas, like for instance a recent idea was, it was about goals. Those things are difficult to draw and so I’ll look through the whole text and see if there’s a theme. Because you don’t want to be too easy, you want to make something kind of weird and different and make it interesting.

Portland Orbit: I think the other part of that was trying to get that inspiration.

KA: Yeah, sometimes inspiration is hard. Sometimes I’ll scroll through, I’ll just google a thing like “guy pooping” and see if there’s an interesting angle that I can draw a guy pooping from.

Portland Orbit: That is so perfect because that goes right into my next question. Because it seems like you are often dealing with potentially gross stuff. That seems to be a job requirement so I’m wondering if you’re okay with that.

KA: Yeah, I’m fine. I’m really sick inside. I’ve always, from my childhood, I’m always three years old in my mind. All the body stuff is hilarious. Right? I did get banned, when I first got started a lot of them were about dicks or about fucking or pissing or whatever. Sometimes it’s like what do you draw. So I draw the thing and they said, “Kalah, you can’t draw dicks anymore. Sorry, it’s just too much.” I drew one that was flying or something and they said, the ladies who advertise, on the page that used to face I, Anonymous, who were like escorts, don’t want that on the other page.

Portland Orbit: They were pretty racy back then. I think they’ve driven those people away. I remember when I first got here I was like, whoa.

KA: I know.

Portland Orbit: Have there been any of the I, Anonymous letters that have been challenging to illustrate?

KA: Like I said the ones that are more like ideas rather than things can be difficult, it can be a challenge to think of something that is not a total cliché or if you choose to draw a cliché totally knock it out of park and make it over the top cliché so it’s funny.

Portland Orbit: So that can be the challenge of just trying to find that over the top kind of angle on it.

KA: Yeah, I always forget what I’ve drawn like the next week if you ask me what I’ve drawn, I’m like, “I don’t remember.” If we looked at a bunch of them I could probably point out, “this one was particularly difficult.” They’re starting to do two in a theme. There was one about goals one week and I was like, “oh that was such a pain to draw. How do you show that?” And then the next week it was about goals again. It was like “ugh,” here we go.

So I just used some of the, I used a generic person crossing the road illustration like that kind of road sign style and I just took what I’d made the week before and changed it. And they did it again the next week with bag pipes so I hope that’s not a theme. It was funny, a couple of weeks ago I did one about this guy who was playing bag pipes. He played the same song over and over and someone was complaining that they had to listen to him all day at work and then the next week it was another one about that guy. After work one day I went to meet a friend for dinner and guess what I heard? I heard that guy! I was like “yeah, this does suck.”  I couldn’t image listening to that all day.

Portland Orbit: It’s almost like a theme if two people are complaining about the same thing.

KA: Yeah.

Portland Orbit: So I have a lot of the images, I’ve been reading it for at least the last nine years, looking at it and I’ve tried to think of the ones that were really memorable, one, which I couldn’t look at, was the toenail collection.

KA: Oh that was so gross.

Portland Orbit: That was really gross.

KA: That was so fucking gross.

Portland Orbit: One that I recall that was funny because it was about someone farting in Powell’s and then I guess you had a line of books and you came up with all these book pun titles.

KA: That was one of my favorites. My friends helped me come up with the names for that and I wish they could all be a little more interactive. But I’m generally too lazy to do that kind of stuff, like ask everybody, I just want to get it done.

Portland Orbit: Also to me, it was interesting, the one about old goats, somebody was complaining about old men in the bar, kind of like a generational gap thing and even the next week somebody wrote a letter to the editor defending the old goats. So my question is really which ones, maybe more in general, not necessarily coming up with the idea, which ones have been memorable to you?

KA: Ummm, gosh I don’t know there’re are just so many, 17 years of that.

Portland Orbit: I know, I know.

KA: The one that makes me laugh every time I see it, there’s like a cat with a condom in his mouth. It’s just so over the top funny, just the idea of, you know what animals love, what they find attractive and will bring home as a trophy.

Portland Orbit: Yeah, combines a little bit of that grossness too.

Note: I met Kalah over 20 years ago on the first and only US Tour I made with Charlie McAlister (12 shows in a month) We ditched a show (actually an open mic night in Kansas), but Kalah was able to get to the next show, in Omaha, and hung out with us at a casino named Harvey’s in Council Bluffs, Iowa where she drew on the roof of my car. Possibly before that, and certainly after that we communicated through letters that highlighted Kalah’s gift, a zany off-the-cuff sense of humor.

All illustrations by Kalah Allen.

See more of her work in bright, bold computer color:

Next Week: Those pesky and ubiquitous owls.


Dog Days: What Dogs Aren’t Reading

If you ever tried to teach your dog to read the first word he’d need to learn is poop followed by no or not here or maybe, don’t. Let’s face it dogs can’t read. I don’t care how smart you think your dog is he or she is never going to learn. I know signs are written for dog owners not dogs. To communicate with a dog it might be best to use doggie hieroglyphics.

I’ve always felt bad for dogs. When they go to the bathroom it’s a challenge to give them privacy. It’s not like you have to watch but dogs on a walk use the “facilities” in full view of the world. It is up to each owner to pick up after their pooch. Dogs won’t do it. If the following signs go unheeded then all I can say is may the dog owner suffer the sign’s harsh rebukes. I’m as diligent as I can be about picking up after my dog. I can deal with crap for the most part and I’m trying to be a good citizen. I did have one moment where I spaced out, what was I thinking I didn’t even realize the dog had gone. I was called out by an even better citizen. At the very least, people who post signs  should be aware that I read every sign and take pictures of them too.

Let’s begin the sign review:

Well, if my dog can’t pee here can he poop here in this no pee zone. That is going to get tricky. This handwritten sign looks like an official traffic sign of sorts in it’s design which makes it look official. Ultimately someone may be trying to protect their shrubbery. Look, there’s lots of other places to pee so we’ll just move on.

It’s actually a nice design for such a profane message. I like the black outline and green lettering. Yes your lawn does not resemble a giant toilet but my dog has never used one of those. Look, there are lot’s of other places to pee and poop, so we’ll move on.

This message gets very specific. “My lawn is not a toilet.” This confuses my dog greatly because all he knows about toilets is that they’re a secondary water source if his water bowl is empty. As far as pooping goes, no one wants to poop where they’re not wanted. There are plenty of other places to poop, despite how inviting this lawn is, we’ll just move on.

This one gets it right by using manners, exclamation points and doggie hieroglyphics (paw prints, hearts and a smile.) This looks like a nice spot, if he agrees I’ll make sure I clean up afterwards.

A store bought sign speaks in dog language if you can teach your dog that the red circle with the line across it means no. Most dogs could relate to what the squatting dog is doing. The lawn looks lush and green and tempting in the afternoon sun. If the sign is encouraging respect, the least a dog and owner can be is respectful and find another lawn.

We ran into this sign last week. It tells the whole story so I’ll take the rest of the afternoon off.

Next week: An interview with the I, Anonymous Illustrator.