Exotic Defacement


When an official looking green sign caught my eye, I decided to walk the dog over and have a look. It was a public notice taped to a side wall of a of a dormant building, home to a small and former, nondescript auto repair shop. I thought notices were usually orange but this one, regarding a Marijuana Regulatory License, made its green color all the more appropriate. Finding out about another pot shop moving into the neighborhood is not the story here. The more the merrier, I guess. Even a marijuana dispensary taking over a potentially contaminated auto shop is not reason enough to call the EPA. What would be the point?


On my way over to read the public notice I took a picture of a poster on a utility pole. There were messages scrawled on it and a splash of red ink that looked like an anarchy symbol. It was getting dark when I photographed the poster so I didn’t look at the image until the next morning. That’s when I made the discovery: Someone had it out for the Exotic Ball.

Poster torn!

Poster torn!

I remembered that I had seen similar posters torn down. My theory was someone was defaming while someone else didn’t like the defamation or was offended by the poster. These assumptions flooded my mind as I traveled by Max train and bus to work on a rainy morning. My questions were: Why take anything out on a poster? What has it done to anyone besides try to look foxy and do a bit of advertising? If you need a platform for your political message why use someone else’s sign? You don’t jack someone else’s poster. In the name of free speech people should be able to display ads without reprisal by those who might be offended. The best theory I’d considered revolved around a loner who couldn’t get a date to take to the Exotic Ball. It’s like an R rated Stalker/Cinderella plot. Someone type up that screenplay right away!


Let’s consider this defamation. First there’s an awful lot of gobbledy gook obscuring the image of two ladies, with fantastic taste in foot wear, perhaps in a bathroom, an image of how wild things get even in the restrooms of the Exotic Ball. Then we see 666, I mean really if the devil doesn’t go to the Exotic Ball who the hell does? Or who admits to it, anyway? Also, I’m wondering about Hot Shot and Lord Pound.


While riding home that day after work, I realized the poster had nothing to do with the Exotic Ball because it doesn’t exist. I had confused exotic with erotic, easy to do when the words are one letter different. This post is becoming one of those elderly hard of hearing jokes. It’s the Erotic Ball that’s held at varying times each year at the Crystal Ballroom. My assumption was that it’s held in February but there probably is already enough romance that month. I remember being at a Crystal Ballroom event and getting an unsolicited earful and an over informative report about the experiences of one participant. There was one specific clue from the poster that had me taking a long, slow fall from my jump to conclusions and embarrassing myself while dealing with the realization that I had just written my first piece of fake news.


It hit me, the medium is the message. The interpretation is anyone’s guess. I can see Marshall McLuhan from that scene in the Woody Allen movie Annie Hall but now he’s talking directly to me. “You know nothing of my work,” he says.


The women in the defaced poster were Exotic pinups from a magazine that’s distributed from various area strip clubs. I went from defending the Erotic Ball to dealing with something that became weird and possibly not in the realm of upbeat, positive Portland sanctioned weirdness. This was an attack on pin up photography which included prankish and juvenile Satanism. I characterize it that way because the easiest way to shock people is to reference Satan. I understood what made people want to tear it down. There’s a Satanism bias that occurs when people see the number 666. I tend to laugh these things off but there’s a disturbing element to all of this. A perfectly good Exotic pin up poster was trashed multiple times.

Reaping wind!

Reaping wind!

Now I have to ask myself, or maybe the world, a series of different questions that may never be answered. Who designs posters by scrawling over Exotic Pinup February 2017? What is the message? Who tore the posters off the other utility poles? Did the devil make anybody do any of this? What’s the point of including an illegible (uh oh, legible on another poster) email address? Who would I be emailing and what would be said? Something like: I’m an admirer of your illegible, satanic, insanity, perhaps? I have no answers at this time but I’m only half as confused as I was when I started this blog post.


Auto Message


It can be a nice life if you’re easily entertained as I am. If something out of the ordinary catches my eye I want to document it. This compulsion has grown since I’ve had pages of a blog to fill. I was attracted to the handwritten and homemade feel of these messages that I spotted on cars and in car windows. I appreciate people’s needs to communicate especially by way of automobiles which have the potential to be roving bulletin boards.

Honkies Stop!


If the first part is too faint to read it says:

Do not beep your horn to make me go faster. These roads are for walkers, bikers; the old and the young.

I do believe there’s a semi-colon in the message written in marker directly on the car. Or, is it a stray random dot above that comma? The poor sad semi-colon feels like a dying breed in the punctuation world. A message could get lost due to over analysis. No matter – the message is clear. Is it possible that some of the honkers are people still mad about past elections? Since the message is fading it’s harder for people to read the driver’s anti-honking proclamation.


Rage in the Machine

This statement is bolder and may be easier to see in a traffic jam. Visibility is hard to gauge since I have not had the pleasure of seeing this sign bring its message to where it’s needed the most: to the people stuck in that traffic. I use the word pleasure because I know I need a good laugh and reading material, ideally a combination of the two, when I’m stuck, ass-deep in bumpers and car exhaust and I’m not going anywhere for awhile.

I’m trying desperately not to acknowledge the typo in this message just as I would hope my audience would not throw the errors in this blog back in my face. No one has ever gotten mad enough or made any signs that I have seen about the traffic engineers who designed our roads and created this stasis induced road rage leading to nightmares about a traffic system. These folks seem never to have anticipates an influx of traffic year after year. I suppose that message is too complicated to express on a sign taped to the inside of a back window.

Driving Blind


You have to love this simple, yet effective and humorous sign. It’s a great depiction of a nervous dog. It’s hard to imagine how anyone gets a nervous dog to pose for a picture but here’s proof that it can be done. The message about a seeing eye dog insinuates that the student driver is sight impaired. Is that even safe?  To top it all off the sign is unceremoniously taped to the window with wide gaudy yellow tape. Nice touch. Who put the sign on the vehicle the dog or the blind driver?




Sorry to disappoint. I’m sure you were all lining up in anticipation of reading about a trip to Salt & Straw for a scoop of exotic flavored ice cream. No, I’m dashing this off to share an experience that had me feeling like a real journalist after having a run-in with BREAKING NEWS! Returning home from work on my bike on Thursday afternoon, I heard sirens and saw police and fire trucks zooming past me. I noticed cars turning around because the street was blocked. I kept pedaling because my bike and I could squeeze by anything.

RV side

The first thing I noticed when I got close were two dogs on top of the vehicle pacing. I rode around the school bus in the crosswalk then realized the vehicle was on its side. There was debris in the road, on looking neighbors, a woman with two more dogs was sitting down and a half dozen firemen surrounded the scene. Feeling the excitement and realizing I could take pictures, I dug my phone out. My shots were taken quick. I was walking my bike through the scene while I grabbed two pictures then I acknowledged one of my students standing with his mom and I got back on my bike and peddled off.

RV Crash  1

RV with dogs

Dogs on a make shift roof.

On the ride home, my brain buzzed—thinking about my crash photos. I had not seen any other media at the scene. So far I had an exclusive! Once home, I tweaked the pictures. They were a tad dark. Then I composed the following email and sent it to the news desk of one of the local TV stations.

Hey, I happened upon this crash on Columbia Blvd. in North Portland. I’m not sure why the dogs ended up on the roof of the overturned vehicle. You’d be welcome to use these photos if you’re covering the story.

Please credit:

David Craig
The Portland Orbit

I received no response. Later I saw a mention of the crash on another station’s news broadcast. They showed a photo that looked similar to the one I had taken. It made me realize there had been plenty of people with up to date cell phones  snapping away. I realized anyone with a decent phone could have tweeted, emailed or Instagramed a picture lickety split. The thought of riding home on my bike before sending my photos had me feeling more like the pony express.

The next day on my way to work I stopped at the accident site. There was remnants of the accident left behind piled on the roadway. Later, I talked to the student I’d seen about what happened. The student was quick to tell me that he had been on the news. I asked him the pressing question: “How did the dogs get on top of the RV?”

He responded, “they were inside of the motor home, then one lady came out, the other one was stuck and her leg was stuck with the steering wheel and stuff.” He said he had been driving with his his mother and they had been seconds away from seeing the accident. I got a clear sense of how it happened when he told me a truck had been involved in the accident. “The truck had pieces of the motor home in it. It was a semi,” he explained.

debris blues

Debris blues.

In my attempts to take this story to a wider audience I learned a few things. The first thing would probably be to take higher quality photos. My pictures wouldn’t have looked good on TV. I’m really wary of getting cornered in an AT&T store in an attempt to upgrade my phone all while signing my life away again. I also realized I need to be ready. I have to have all the tip lines for all the local news stations programmed into my phone along with email contacts. It also makes sense to contact all of the news stations instead of pinning all my hopes on one station. I also had to consider that maybe I was presumptuous to ask them to include my name and the name of my blog/news organization. I’ll take publicity where I can get it, if I can get it. In the larger scheme of things I’m not sure why I want to work so hard for nothing. Later it occurred to me that this wasn’t much of a story in light of all the breaking news that was coming out of the refuge occupier situation in Harney County.

Addendum: Speaking of scooped, I was impressed (with myself) to see the Willamette Week devote their recent issue to shoes. I was already week a head of them on my own shoe coverage. Read on (link above) if you’re in need of more shoe reporting.

Street TVs

TV Street

They seem sad, dejected and lonely sitting on a curb, waiting and hoping to be picked up, carried off and brought back to life by being plugged in and surrounded by a family who happens to love watching sitcoms together. Television sets appear life-like to me because they talk. This explains that melancholy I feel seeing an abandoned TV. Sure the words televisions say are actually the crap they broadcast but they can take the vision of one world and bring it into another one. That’s not to say you can have a real conversation with a TV.

TV close up

Recently we wanted to watch, or maybe I wanted to watch, a preseason football game while working on our kitchen renovation. My wife, Ronna, suggested I hook up the old set in the basement. I hauled it up, attached the antennae and watched the snowy image on the screen before a hazy memory became clear. The heavy-ass set needed a digital converter box. I flashed back to that murky time when the digital transition was going to be happening and it was all over the television being explained and hyped. I’d forgotten. The old analog set was not going to pick up a signal. I tried to explain this but ended up committing to that day’s work out of lifting and carrying the old set down to the basement. There’s been at least one reason not to ditch it on the curb, besides the heartbreak, VHS tapes and old DVDs still look great on that set. So on that rare occasion when it’s necessary it will be there serve its duty as a monitor.

TV note

But it was the digital conversion that wasn’t that long ago that has created a nation of semi-obsolete televisions. You can still find a converter box. The new ones may cost 40 to 50 dollars, but you could probably get one cheaper, like you can find everything, online. It’s seems sketchy because you’ll be watching a digital image on an analog set. I’m sure these digital converter boxes work fine but why make the investment in old school technology when you can get a new, slim, sleek model for cheap. So out go the old sets often with a reminder note that explains that they work great or that the set is free. I’m especially fond of the giant televisions, wide-screen, state of the art in their day, that seem to take up a city block and would have to be moved by a crane. They make it easy to see how far technology has progressed.

TV curb

I had an eye out for old TVs years ago when I had a plan to make a music video about a guy watching a music video on a mountain of television sets. I suppose the logistics of carting televisions around and hoarding them in the basement killed my inspiration. When I worked in a group home and one of the televisions broke, I made my one and only curbside TV grab. I got the set back only to realize the electrical cord had been cut. I had to drop it off at Far West Recycling Inc.

TV crap pile

Sad, abused, orphaned, to say the least, it’s a difficult question on how to deal with the street TV dilemma. I wonder why there has never been an eye water inducing public service announcement for television junkies to weep over. With a sappy soundtrack the narration could surely describe the plight of the homeless sets waiting for new life in an art project or crying out for a digital conversion to broadcast the late show of a bygone era one last time.

TV Curb St. Johns (1)

What the hell is that?

    IMG_6269 (1)

On a recent bike ride home from work I had a look at, well, what it was I wasn’t sure. I thought about it and realized I had seen it before but in all my huffing and puffing getting up the hill I had not given it much thought. It’s bright and colorful. It doesn’t blend into the background still I had to consider what purpose it served and what it was doing on the far side of N. Weidler St, a one-way street. Then I had to ponder my next question: What the hell is that?

Now that line is from an old Steve Martin bit. Let me pause for anyone who may not know who Steve Martin is. If you grew up in the 70’s you knew him. You may have bought his comedy albums, saw him on Saturday Night Live or in his movie The Jerk. If you are figuring out who he is now you’d think he was some old guy. He’s had gray hair since he was about 14 so he’s been distinguished looking forever. Ultimately I just like co-opting his comedy because it’s funny but I make sure to give him credit.


But, yeah, wow, I saw this building, sculpture, thing, and couldn’t figure it out. What the hell is that? I don’t mean it in a negative way. It looks cool but sticks out with its jarring colors and patterns in an otherwise drab section of town.

IMG_6282 (2)

After looking it over on my bike, I saw no information indicating what this object could be. It was up to me to use my imagination. I demand a bronze plaque with the title of this art construction or at least the name of the artist or designer. These people deserve recognition.


What the hell is that?

My mind wandered and then I came up with multiple descriptors. I’m sure anyone could come up with better ones but I thought: psychedelic igloo. Not half bad but actually really terrible. Eskimos never seemed interested in the frivolity of psychedelia, especially its genesis in the ’60s from what I can tell. It never would have help them survive their harsh environment.


The contraption also appears circus tent-like, yeah psychedelic circus tent, insect-esque under a kaleidoscope-microscope and the art of it all is a possible nod to Gaudi. It is awe-inspiring in it’s creativity and it made me appreciate my efforts to take a closer look. It could also be a beautiful outdoor chapel for any number of New Age religions. I had a great time looking it over, basking in the form, shape and color of it. Soon enough it made more sense.

What the hell is that?



It’s a streetcar station!

Here’s some Vine footage that brings it on home:


See Bill Murray and Steve Martin try to figure out what it is:


Mannequin Fever Part 2


It was years ago out in East Vancouver where I saw the first of what I call “working mannequins.” She was standing on the side of the road. She’d been rigged up with mechanics that allowed her arms to move a sign in a circle. From what I recall, she was trying to lure people into a coin shop. I vowed to visit, find out more about her and see if she was attracting a crowd to the store but I was never willing to take the bus out to that part of Vancouver. Still, she remains a fond memory.

Other working mannequins have cropped up in North Portland. The pawn shop on Lombard Ave, All that Glitters, had a similar version with a rotating sign but she hasn’t been seen for a while. (She’s actually back, but I couldn’t get a good picture from the car.)


The cell phone industry has jumped on the notion that there’s a need for human looking forms to stand outside their businesses with signs propped against their bodies. The mattress folks seem to be saying, “hey we hire actual live humans who twirl signs about sales.” That screams worst job in the world. I don’t care how many podcasts or iPods you listen to all day. Who wants to stand around outside for hours on end with a sign for any money is better than no money wages? This makes the working mannequins so good at their jobs. They don’t talk so they don’t complain about not getting paid. They don’t take breaks, bathroom, smoke or otherwise. They stand all day or for the rest of their mannequin lives and they never get tired.

I have to consider if these working ladies accomplish much other than making a noticeable scenic diversion. It’s hard to tell. As sign holders, they add a bit of pizzaz to whatever kind of wooden or metal frame could be mustered up and slung down on the sidewalk as a free standing sign. Plus in the cases of working mannequins who exhibit sign movement–that adds a whole other dimension to the proceedings. I can’t imagine how you retrofit a mannequin so that they move a sign in a circle. It’s a simple, yet effective use of mechanical knowledge.


Working mannequins have been dressed up in a variety of ways. Some look like store employees while others are allowed to appear in elegant evening wear. Usually long tresses are provided but when an appropriate wig is lacking or a bad hair day is happening the solution seems to be a knit cap.

While mannequin fever is not contagious once contracted it may be incurable. I have a few more mannequin posts in the pipeline but I’m not going to let this blog become one of those mannequin blogs. I will also never allow a mannequin to guest blog for me, if that offers any comfort.  Then again maybe I could hire one of the more literary working mannequins so I could sit back and relax.


Detail: (Look down) Sandbag stand.

Note:  This post appears to be nothing more than a series of ads for the cell phone industry. It’s having no effect on me because I’m already locked into a contract with another carrier.

420 Special


Whatever you consider the significance of this date to be, I hope you celebrate it as you see fit. Next year’s 420 holiday will either be an all points epic blaze out or another day in paradise once marijuana is legalized in the state of Oregon on July 1st. It won’t be long before the City of Portland is shrouded in a haze of pot smoke.

Meanwhile I experienced this mildly hallucinogenic flyer promoting paraphernalia needed to commemorate the April 20th date know to some as 420 Day. It seems like the poster was much brighter when I first saw it. It may well have been a shade of green that popped on a gray day. The appeal for me is the blast of squiggles and smudges encircled by some wormy things that all seem to pulsate and spin around the sparkly glass water pipe in the center of the picture. Stare long enough at the flyer and a contact high seems imminnent. In the meantime celebrate 420 Day anyway you see fit using this image as inspiration.

Happy Valentine’s Day

valentine's day2

The spirit of the day has taken over. Earlier in the week I was in a Dollar Store parking lot when I witnessed two people carrying enormous bunches of balloons. They proceeded to stuff them into a station wagon. My research revealed that the first batch of store bought balloons totaled 124. One escaped and floated away. How this was actually accomplished I never found out because I went into the store to do my in depth reporting.  I was told that 250 balloons were purchased in all making a return pick up necessary.  250 balloons at a dollar a pop, you do the math.

For all of you getting the love, flowers, chocolate, the cards, wine and prix fixe meals have a happy and abundant Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's Day

vday 3

Post Script:  This (above) was hanging on a telephone pole in downtown Kenton dark and early Valentine’s Day.  The sign included free hand decorated tags for the taking to spread Valentine’s Day cheer.


Strapped, Baby!


If you want to grab a blogger of my ilk’s attention strap a baby doll to the front of your car. What kind of statement is attempting to be made here? I have no idea but it struck me as odd and mystifying enough for inclusion in this blog.

I noticed this first while driving the work van earlier in the week and when I went back to find the car, it was gone.  The next day I discovered it and grabbed a couple of photos.  I was surprised to find the baby’s eyes closed, but it makes sense.  If I were strapped to the front of a car, I too would close my eyes and hold on to something for dear life.


Hold tight kid, you’re in for a rough ride and it’s only the beginning!

SantaCon Remembered


Every year I’m caught off guard. Right after work, on a Saturday in December when more often than not the weather seems seasonal and unChristmasy I catch glimpses of people dressed in Santa outfits. Then it dawns on me: It’s the first Saturday in December, the day of the SantaCon Pub Crawl which has these Santa look-a-likes straggling, wandering, stumbling, and marching all over North Portland. Numerous Claus clones gathered outside the Nite Hawk Cafe and Lounge. As I rode by I was caught unprepared with a dead camera phone battery so I couldn’t take a photo. I’ve always enjoyed what to me ends up being a random gathering of St. Nicks including grunge Santas, pimp hat wearing Santas–yes red velvet, Santas with beards askew and all kinds of lady Santas–innumerable variations on the theme. I quick charged my phone when I got home and hit Denver Ave in Kenton only to find the street devoid of the Claus crowd.  I missed them. 

Years ago I had enjoyed a Santa street party with crazed chants and Santas dragging around blasting boom boxes. At the time I had my video camera. The Santas assembled and marched up to then Mayor Sam Adam’s porch. The Mayor mixed and mingled with this Claus conglomerate.  It felt historic, a little levity in the life of our embattled Mayor. It seemed important enough to pitch to one of our local news affiliates. I wasn’t smart enough to start a bidding war. No promises were made when I dropped off a DVD of the footage but I was convinced images of the Mayor almost crowd surfing in a sea of Santas had the makings of a short blurb that was can’t miss TV or even not quite breaking news. I watched the next morning’s broadcast to no avail. I told a friend about it later who said the local news was a bit too vanilla for something out of the ordinary.

The Santa Con remains my number one Portland Christmas event. It’s not the singing Christmas tree, a trip to the Grotto, the Cinnamon Bear Cruise or the tree lighting; it’s catching sight of a trashy troop of sad, bad Santas on a pub crawl through North Portland that lifts my holiday spirits every year. Thanks again!

So was it newsworthy? Decide for yourself:

For more coverage of this year’s SantaCon see: