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.

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