Spring Cleaning (The Stories I Could Never Get To): This Art by Stanley Grochowski

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I was always on the look out for possible ideas when I started this blog. I was figuring out what topics worked while seeking out displays of creativity and inspiration behind them. Heading down North Greeley Avenue on a day in early April three years ago, I noticed a display of art work framed and screwed to a utility pole. I stopped, read the blurb about a man hit by a car at this cross walk and I’m sure I was moved by the memorial’s intensity. Then, I dutifully took pictures and filed them away.

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Three years later I came across the images going through the photos on my computer. I had considered writing about it when I took the pictures. My spring cleaning/pandemic concept has given me a chance to revisit past ideas I didn’t have time to explore. This story had more to it than I realized.

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While searching for information about the memorial, I learned things that made the story sadder. Local news agencies stuck to press release reports but the blog Bike Portland offered details that added another dimension of tragedy to the story. Fifteen months after Stanley Gochinski was fatally injured after being hit by a car in a cross walk, his sister was killed in Beaverton while walking her bike through a cross walk. I found out another man was seriously injured in another crosswalk in the Arbor Lodge neighborhood. I ended up going down a rabbit hole reading comments about the sister’s death that were alarming in regards to the press coverage of pedestrian deaths but I was comforted by people’s concerns about the situation.

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The write up posted under the art described these pieces as something Stanley had with him when the accident occurred. There was no information on how the art was obtained but Bike Portland revealed it was collected at the scene. These tangible remnants of the victim made the display more intimate and provided a sense of Stanley’s imagination. It’s hard to tell the art from what may be deterioration from its outside display. It’s not about the quality of the art but that it was used to create a unique tribute honoring a senseless death.

The unsolved case became part of the Crime Stoppers of Oregon reward program. Hoping for an update, I called but the number led to an answering machine. The website was filled with information on other cases showing grainy surveillance footage. It felt like an amateur slueth’s dream, figure out whodunnit and collect reward money. Seeing so many languishing cases bummed me out. I recovered by reminiscing about the old spooky AM radio Crime Stoppers spots where a guy named Henry Gribber (or Gripper) had a funny way of pronouncing “cash reward.” It sounded more like “kaaysheee reward.” I was hoping to find information about this case being solved. Then it hit me, Crime Stoppers of Oregon was making a valiant attempt to stop crime but people were getting away with all kinds of transgressions.

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No one should ever die crossing a street. My disappointment is compounded by those who think they can drive away from the scene of an accident. There’s someone out there living with the consequences. Maybe they managed to go on with their lives after taking someone else’s but having to live in hope of getting away with something seems like no way to go through life. In the end my angry curmudgeon side worked up another rant about how all drivers are speedy, inattentive, accidents waiting to happen. To overstate the obvious, there’s nothing anyone has to do and no where anyone needs to be that is worth someone’s life. Stanley Grochowski deserved better that late August night.

Spring Cleaning (The Stories I Could Never Get To): The Return of the Shopping Cart Blog

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I’ve spent my pandemic quarantine deleting photos from my computer. There were over 18,000 images clogging my hard drive. I had to reclaim space. Anybody would have told me to get an external hard drive which I have but it’s full of video footage. Another one is not the answer. It can’t keep everything and move it around. Stuff has to go. My digital hoarder issues got real when I began getting constant messages about my start up disk being full. Let’s switch gears before this post devolves into a Mac Help Forum.

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If anyone asks what I did during the pandemic I’ll start talking trashed photos. I never got to the boxes of actual photos that need culling. Photographs pile up. Dealing with real photos is for another day or a future pandemic. I deleted thousands of photos. Many were duplicates from technological advances that transfer photos from my phone to my main computer. The computer also creates copies of photos I edit. Dealing with photo clones took time.

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Common photo themes included shots of old mattresses, abandoned TV sets, our chickens, impossible-to-photograph-with-an-iPhone antenna toppers and stickers in the shape of Oregon. Then there was my shopping cart obsession. If anyone can tell me what it’s about I’d appreciate it.

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There’s some grand statement I’m looking for, something metaphorical. I hoped that if I got the right angle I’d achieve a mythical image. Yet, there will never be much art in the banal. Andy Warhol might have disagreed. At the very least I’m trying to take a worthwhile photograph and document out of place shopping carts.

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Maybe I was trying to live up to the standard that was set when a friend called the Portland Orbit “the shopping cart blog.” I want to be THE shopping cart blog even if I only run posts about them once in a blue moon. I was overrun with shopping cart photos which has to be better than being run over by a shopping cart. The carts drifted into my North Portland neighborhood making them easy pickings.

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Since moving to SW, I don’t see neglected carts much. The one above appeared in the parking lot of the Barbur Transit Center empty due to the pandemic. Seeing shopping carts outside of their supermarket parking lot environment, I tend to forget they’re used by homeless people to cart their stuff around. There is a purpose in their relocations but it isn’t until they’re emptied and abandoned that their appearance hints at a deeper significance.

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I discovered the crown jewel of my shopping cart fascination at the Woodstock Trader Joe’s. There on a pole elevated into the heavens was a red shopping cart gleaming in the sun like a beacon. To me it honored all the world’s lost shopping carts. The sad reality is that it’s only there to show people where to return their carts.

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Pictures of shopping carts discarded on their sides have always pulled at my heartstrings. There’s drama in what I have to imagine is a kicked over cart left to transpire. I had to go for the added bonus of working the Mercedes insignia into the shot to make a high class/low class statement. This hardly seems fair because pushing a cart in a grocery store is not indicative of any class at all. I will admit that this was more than likely taken at a Fred Meyer’s parking lot where carts are expected to be returned not shoved on their side.

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My attempt to increase the art factor has always been to change the image from color to black and white. Again it’s a cart on it’s side heaving like a broken legged horse. It’s quite possible that any wayward shopping cart with a soul would beach itself a some point. It’s not easy being dragged away from a shopping center. That would be enough to make anyone give up.

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A Purple Post Postponed

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To the one person who missed what had been an annual Prince Tribute in celebration of his June 7th birthday, I can only offer one purple picture this year. I hope to bring this tribute back if I’m ever able to track down and bag an interview with the infamous and elusive “Purple Duck.” In the meantime enjoy this picture of a purple jeep. Oh, and we miss you more than ever Prince.

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The above vehicle may, or may not, be the Purple Duck. I spotted it one day heading up North Williams. This version was spotted in Portsmouth. It has since become the great white whale/Moby Dick of this blog. Someday I’ll track him down and ask questions about purple and ducks.

When It All Literally Goes Down The Toilet

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You never think you’d find yourself looking at pictures of toilets, but it’s happening. I looked through thousands of photos to find these images. Bringing the world toilet pictures became a second job, one for which I am not paid handsomely. “Never for money/always for love,” David Byrne sang.

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It dawned on me that Toilet Art, in this case mostly Toilet Yard Art, is rarer than I thought. I would have sworn that through the years of working on this blog I saw many toilets hanging around in people’s yards. And you know every time I saw one I stopped what I was doing and took a picture.(1) I was hoping for more toilets in my photo archive.

This blog offers something you’ll never see anywhere else. All we can do now is appreciate these toilets captured in their outside, unnatural habitat. They’re a bit tacky but they provide a unique design element to people’s landscaping schemes.

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A house in Kenton had great flair for yard decoration. New installations were rotated in keeping my dog walks interesting. The house has showcased paper mache art on the porch, an explosion of Barbie dolls in a kiddie pool filled with dirt and the toilet above serving as a plant holder with industrial tape keeping it all together.

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In Northeast, a toilet makes a subtle splash adding character to a front yard. The plant emerges as a classy asset and compliments the greenery of the ferns in the yard. There’s no doubt a toilet bowl makes a great planter.

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A free toilet on a Northeast street is a sight that would have Marcel Duchamp rolling in his grave. As I recall his ambition would have been to put a price tag on a urinal or have it displayed in an art show and yet here is someone giving away this toilet. The real story that I read on Wikipedia is even stranger with a replica of Duchamp’s original work titled “Fountain” selling for over a million dollars. Sigh. Getting rid of junk plumbing and marketing art are two completely different concepts. You have to admit a sign with three smiling faces and no money down makes a good sales pitch. You’re not flushing your money away on this baby.


In the archive, I was hoping to find more abandoned toilets fashioned into yard art. I was hoping to uncover a movement. Decorative Lawn Toilets proved to be scarce. There always was a certain joy along with a twinge of disgust in seeing a toilet in an unfamiliar scenario, namely not in a bathroom. I did discover some toilet pictures. When I wrote about the art car nicknamed the Space Taxi a boy at the decorating party we went to made a point of showing me the toilet glued to the car. As I zipped though photos deciding what to keep or delete this forgotten image caught my eye. It counts as a toilet and it’s arty too. In my world, that’s an exciting discovery.

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Then there’s toilet art that turns out to be art above the toilet. I placed this painting above the toilet at our old place as a visual joke never realizing it would come back to haunt me when I needed it for this post. The joke has something to do with males having to take care of a certain business in front of a pair of eyes. The current toilet is a similar situation. At least in this case displaying art in this way wasn’t my idea but it has the same effect.

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*****

(1) “And you know every time I saw one I stopped what I was doing and took a picture.” Mrs. Yuchmow this sentence was crying out to start with the word “and.” I know you taught your students, for which I was never one of them, that “and” isn’t a great way to start a sentence, but like I said, in this case the sentence was actually crying and I thought using that word in that way would end the tears.