An Onion Dome of a Different Kind

The Pittsburgh Orbit has a legendary love for all things Onion Dome. It also happens to be located in a place with the right kind of orthodox religions that support this interest. Out here in Portland I’ve kept my eyes peeled for domes that might make a comparable piece to what Pittsburgh’s Orbit has come up with but I haven’t found any examples. I have yet to extend my search to outlying areas. Then it occurred to me that there is a dome. Whether this is onion enough to satisfy the Pittsburgh Orbit has yet to be determined but with such sparse pickings this is all the Portland Orbit can offer at this time.

The first time I saw this photo must have been soon after I moved to Portland ten years ago. I marveled at how cool this section of town looked. The dome was only part of what made it distinct. I wondered how I hadn’t seen it. All I could think was that I had to go there. Somehow I found out I had been looking at a place that was no longer there. I have a vague memory that my brother-in-law Paul may have broken the news. In his voice I can hear him saying with some resignation something like, “Yeah, they tore that part of town down” or maybe it was more like, “that’s no longer there, dude.”  This memory, as hazy as it is now, is tinged with a feeling of loss.

Seeing the building from a different angle in another photograph from that era brought back thoughts and imagings of what Portland, especially the North Williams corridor, was like a long time ago. It took me a while to make the connection that the old dome from the photos had been placed on top of the gazebo in Dawson’s Park.

My best attempts at research informed me that the tear down happened as part of the Emmanuel Hospital expansion that never went through as planned, a sad chapter in Portland history to say the least. I’ve read two accounts that both yielded the same result. There was one story explaining that surrounding houses and the Hill Block building were torn down due to expansion for the hospital but the planned funding did not become available while something else I read along the same lines mentioned that money for the project ran out after the land was cleared. In the end it doesn’t matter, a cool part of town was razed. It can only be experienced now by looking at old photographs. It’s a thoughtful memorial that’s bittersweet. As the plaque pointed out it was the citzen’s of the Eliot neighborhood and the City Of Portland who had the forethought to repurpose the dome that  allowing this area to hold on to a shred of history.

There was an amazing view when I drove past one recent February afternoon. I spotted the dome against the backdrop of a giant pink church. The dying light of that late afternoon sun lit up the background making the cupola look majestic. It highlighted how the dome keeps the spirit of the old neighborhood alive. There were guys playing dominoes and someone barbecuing. A community of people had gathered on a random Tuesday afternoon. The park has a long history from pasture land to a place circuses would perform. It was the place RFK gave his last speech before being shot a week later. The most recent celebrity stopover to the park was from Janelle Monae.

It wasn’t until I went for a visit did I realize how ornate the top of the dome was. There’s also a plaque in the middle of the gazebo that’s informative but hard to read. While I was in the area, I realized I needed to get a sense of where the actual dome had been. I’d read it was on the NW corner of N Williams and NE Russell. Being directionally challenged, I broke out the compass on my phone. As I walked down N. Williams toward the Urban League building where the streets cross I noticed I was walking past a big open field and then I arrived at the corner where the Hill Block building and its dome had been. There was something sad in that gray sky that hung over that emptiness where cool old buildings had once been.


Eliot Neighborhood News:

Dawson Park Info:



50 Years in the Making: the Portland Orbit Meets KBOO

I’ve always wondered about KBOO our local community radio station. Sure I knew what they did there, duh, make radio, but I’d only walked past the building and never had a reason to go inside. The colorful mural seems new to me since the last time I’d been by. When I heard the station was having an open house with food, drink and station tours, it felt like the time to visit.

I got a feel for the place as I walked through the door. I was greeted and told the party was in the backroom. “There is a party?” I asked, making sure I had the right day and time. “If you’re here it’s a party,” was the response.

The station has the energy and atmosphere of any college radio station you might have had a chance to walk through. Posters, photos, notices and stickers were on every available surface. There were shelved records and cds, overheard political talk and of course, audio and broadcasting gear. I was standing in a hallway digesting a ginger snap when I was approached by Erin Yanke KBOO’s program director. She was kind enough to offer a station tour and a chat. The open house was celebrating the station’s present location of 35 years in the Central Eastside Industrial area. With previous locations in Belmont and downtown since the station began in 1968, it made sense to find a place where a lease with the option to own could be signed. “The way we get to think is different,” Erin explained about the past decision to buy a building. While KBOO is free from the hassles of a landlord or worries about rising rents, money is always a concern with aging equipment, keeping up with technological changes and paying a staff of twelve people.

The staff’s job, in part, is about wrangling the 500 volunteers that are in and out of the station at any given time. This involves keeping them “trained up” and helping them find volunteer opportunities. Anyone looking for knowledge about broadcasting has come to the right place.

I appreciate KBOO for offering freeform radio along with good signal strength. Erin described the freeform aspect of the station by saying, “what we do is so varied.” The station, as she noted, really is one place that does many different things. Back when I had days off during the week, I could keep KBOO on all morning catching Noam Chomsky during one show and getting to hear the riffs of the Air Cascadia broadcast later in the morning. My hopes of meeting some on my KBOO heroes, most notably Abe and Joe were dashed when they hadn’t appeared while I was there. Then again there’s always that wariness about meeting one’s idols.

I had been wondering about the best way to sift through all the programming to discover new shows. I like being able to access the morning public affairs shows through iTunes. KBOO also streams live and archives shows so they can be listened to later. Erin mentioned volunteers promoting KBOO at street fairs who can recommend shows based on people’s interests. These days the website is the best resource. It has program information and schedules which helps in finding of what’s being broadcast.

I’ve realized that the station supports different communities within the larger community when Erin pointed that there were foreign language shows beyond Spanish language programming that airs. She told me about a long running Dutch show that ended when the host died and how it was replaced by a Slavic show. Being at KBOO gave me a sense of the kind of community the station attracts. I got a chance to talk to a freelance writer and  a songwriter in my brief time there. KBOO seemed like a hotbed for people with creative aspirations.

I ran out of time before I could get the tour but I wandered around enough to get a feel for the place. While there, I was reminded that KBOO is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build a city of media makers. While I see myself as a media maker it seemed especially inspiring, after seeing the promotional video, to hear the call for funding go out so they can continue their mission to continue powering the voice of independent journalism. Listening Monday morning I heard in-depth conversations about environmental concerns and native american rights–important topics that are rarely explored on other stations in the amount of time KBOO offers.

* * * * *

The station is celebrating its 50 year anniversary with an exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society that runs until July 27, 2018.


For the Love of Karl

Title card, no caption necessary.

I’ve whined enough. Sure, I’m broke, old and I never leave the house but the motivation to see a bunch of Karl Lind short films was strong. Despite a low-grade feverish, mild sickliness I’d been feeling, a slight cold that was neither arriving nor going away, I kept thinking I can’t bag this. Every filmmaker in this town deserves an audience especially when their work is packaged up neatly and shown at as nice an auditorium as the Whitsell. Karl was kind enough to offer a promo code to defray the cost. My lack of money was no longer an issue. I kept thinking I can’t not do this, no excuses, no thoughts of having too many other things to do. This focus on getting to the screening became the mantra, “for the love of Karl.” I imagined myself holding a sign with the slogan in the back of the theater. Later, I realized this approach would have resembled a character out of one of his films.

Karl Lind warms up the crowd. Ben Popp stands by.

I have a long history with Karl steeped in mystique. I knew his films would fill in the blanks. Initially it was someone who knew him, their name since forgotten, who spoke of this filmmaker Karl Lind. It started a legend. There was the time I saw him judging entries at a film event at Disjecta. I was impressed by the elbow patches on his blazer. The first movie I saw of his was at a Portland Underground Film Festival screening at the Clinton Theater. I went to see a Jim Haverkamp short but Karl’s film caught my attention with an excellent supporting role and music by Ron Gassaway. Somewhere in the dark theater was Karl. Years later we worked a Puppet Software video conference job and I got to pick his brain. From social media I discovered his  pinball obsession and Devo fandom. I even got him into an online sparing match with a filmmaker something about a scene in a short film where he’d be in his underwear holding a chicken. I only jokingly thought Karl would be right for the job. There was also an appearance on the Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour TV show that I directed. Getting to know Karl the person is still different from knowing his filmmaker persona. Finally the screening which happened Thursday, February 8 offered me a chance to see the other side.

Walk in the Rain, 2003

Fourteen short films later a question and answer session followed. Karl mentioned he was impressed with the amount of questions being asked. It was opportunity to find out more about his creative process. He talked about collaborating and compulsion being the reason he makes films. His methodology was described as “dealing with chaos and a lot of repetition.” A love for cartoons inspired some of his more frenetic style. I was struck by Karl embrace of the rough edges of video which gave his films a textured feel notably in the unfinished A Walk in the Rain from 2003, a film that is exactly what the title describes.

Later when I looked at my notes scribbled in the dark scrambled lines jotted at odd angles, I laughed that it took on the feel of one of Karl’s films. There had been an bombardment of images to sort out. I had also been taking pictures of the movies for film stills. I never wanted to be that guy fiddling with my phone at the movies but there I was. One film in particular captured the spirit of Karl. I got so caught up in it that when it was over I realized I hadn’t taken any photos. The video was a Devo song covered by a local band The Hand That Bleeds. I could equate Karl’s creative personality with the character he played—a lab coat wearing scientist type with an assistant frantically juggling 2001, a Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes film references with Gorilla costumes, goofy props—yes, that was a big red button on the bureaucrat’s desk, and mixing it all up as if he was making any of his other films. The video ended with a brain cut out of a man’s skull bursting into flames, an appropriate metaphor for anyone absorbing his movies.

Striping, 2006

In a collaboration with poet Cat Tyc, copious amounts of distorted video and digital hash were employed providing fragmented blocks of color. Karl explained this by rattling off the brands of various cameras followed by numbers and letters which brought a smile to my face.

Karl Still Ron Meditation

Meditating with Angels, 2011

Collaboration included editing visuals for poets reading poems and making music videos. Karl’s Meditating with Angels was the film I remembered seeing years ago. It used special effects and a guided meditation narration written by Jennifer Keyser to create a humorous look at the process of meditation.

The pre-show hype had been good. In their Get Busy section, Willamette Week proclaimed that “Karl Lind makes some weird-ass abstract films” while Ron Gassaway posted on Facebook about Karl’s showcase being a chance to see films that are “politically inquisitive and socially surreal but never boring, fusing strong compositions and fresh aesthetics with comedic undertones and thoughtful timing.”  My overview was how his films speak to “the increasing onslaught of visual and aural clutter people are constantly bombarded with in today’s world.”

“Fearless Leader” by Rustlah

With budgets for his projects ranging from “little to no money” Karl seems to use ingenuity to create stylized music videos. His work for the song “Fearless Leader” by Rustlah employed green screen technology as well as other video trickery for maximum visual impact.

“Handrea” by Banimal

I was also able to see the long-awaited Banimal video “Handrea,” another demonstration of resourcefulness that created a humorous narrative. The video had a gritty appeal that centered around the bad dream scenario of the main character dating himself in drag.

Lullaby, 2003

Karl described the use of found footage as the oldest trick in the book but it’s really more about how images are used with narration or a piece of music. In the end if guys in gas masks are cross dissolved with the spotlight of a film projector something compelling is happening.

Untitled video

I learned more about a possible Charles Bronson fixation Karl might have along with his willingness to step in front of the camera. The last video screened, whose title I’m still waiting on, featured a naturalistic performance by a convenience store owner. In the store, Karl’s character struggles to put together enough change to buy a 40 and a can of Spaghetti O’s, a commentary on the rigors of life as an independent filmmaker perhaps? Always committed to his projects, Karl shamelessly sports a pair of pantyhose on his head and endures a slow motion beat down from a golf club wielded by the clerk as he exits the store.

Karl Still Poem CU

Frozen Sea

Karl Lind: Video Collaborations & Unclassifiable Video Ephemera offered a chance to see the evolution of a filmmaker’s work. Karl might be more comfortable with the term devolution. I thanked Ben Popp, maybe too profusely. He’s the Film Services Manager and Programmer at the NW Film Center who showcased Karl’s work. They go back ten years to their micro cinema days. Seeing these films was the realization of what I hoped living in Portland would be—that chance to see the work of a local filmmaker of some renown on the big screen. Sure I still had more questions than answers, but Karl’s a friendly guy. Someday he’ll explain everything.

* * * * *

The NW Film Centers next local filmmaker showcase will feature the work of Jason Rosenblatt and be held on Thursday, March 15 at 7pm at the Whitsell Auditorium.





What’s with all the skulls? I see them everywhere. The images signify our current apocalyptic culture. Doom stares me down all over town through empty sockets. Beneath a few layers of skin and whatever wig weave we’re sporting, or not sporting, we’re all walking and talking skulls supported by skeletons. I continue to contemplate what the message and symbolism of all this skullduggery could be.

Eyes: The Window of the Skull

For part of the decoration of the Art Car known as the Space Taxi, an unknown artist included swirling eyes on a skull. Most of us are aware that eyes will dissolve right out of their sockets as we decompose but these artistic liberties pay off with an artier image.

Skull Primitive

Rough looking skulls take on the appearance of head bones that have been kicked around a while or stacked up in catacombs for centuries, especially when they look like they’ve been painted with white out. It’s was the subtle placement on an East Central Industrial area furniture store doorway that caught my still intact eye.

Color My Skull

Hyper realist (look at those teeth!) and reflective, this sticker creation seen on SE Hawthorne Boulevard has the added bonus of taking on different colors depending on the viewing angle.

Day of the Dead Skull

Day of the Dead Skull

This Day of the Dead image that includes a key hole in the forehead has the look of being mass-produced but it seems like an ornate way to cover a spare tire.

Skull Transformations

A skull with a third eye and four rows of teeth transforms this transformer box on SE Division Street into a roadside Skull Art kiosk.

Moon Skull

A temporary memorial, it’s since been painted over, sprung up around the time of Fred Cole’s passing on a metal door gate on N Albina Street. I didn’t realize it was a Dead Moon album cover reference at first. Some street skulls have significance. It’s a shame this one didn’t get a chance to live on.

Skulls and Bones

Annoying family stickers get the skull treatment which is way less annoying yet still annoying in that family sticker on back windshield of a car way proving that skulls can’t make everything cool.


The colors are vibrant, the eye sockets look like bike tires and while it’s more skull and crossbones than solo skull, the psychedelic, folk art nature of this piece seen on Hawthorne  Boulevard knocks my socks off.

Raise a Skull

There’s skull branding going on, especially with the design in the eye socket that you’ll see in various incarnations all over town. This one was spotted in the Hawthorne shopping district. Hoisting wine and wearing a classy shirt makes for one stylish skull. I’m not sure what he’s selling besides an upper crusty life style for the after world. Whatever else it is, I’m buying in.

Skull Diving Swayze

The Mississippi neighborhood has so many skull images up and down the street that you’d think there was a morgue in the basement of one of the buildings. It may be the skull capital of the city it wasn’t already the name of a state.

Wall of Skulls

The whole side of a building has been taken over by various skull images on N. Mississippi Avenue.


Another view of various skulls mixed in with other cultural referencing forms of street art.

A Slice of Skull

A pizza skull has to be the greatest skull design ever conceived. I can’t see it selling pizza but it looks delicious.

The Eyes Have It Even When They’re Empty Sockets

There’s something in these two designs found in the Mississippi neighborhood that screams evil eye skull. I like the colors and the hypnotic skull sockets additions. The variations are sure to lull people into a sense of uneasy satisfaction which happens to be my current state of mind being surrounded by skull imagery.