Paint Paul!

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The Portland Orbit reported in April of 2015 that the Paul Bunyan statue in the Kenton neighborhood was due for cleaning. Still it’s likely coincidental that volunteers have assembled and progress is being made to make this happen. In the mean time Paul has been fading away to the point where I worry that he may become translucent.

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Last paint job in 2009

I’ve appreciated Paul for a long time. While visiting Portland in the summer of 2007 I saw the statue which is sure to overwhelm anyone with a roadside attraction gene. It’s not just that he’s now a neighbor, he’s also a terrific landmark. He’s number one, with the Dancing Bear a close second. When describing the location of Kenton I mention the Paul Bunyan statue and invariably people have driven past it at some point and they have a sense of where I live.

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Second ranked Kenton Landmark.

It’s not only the sooty grime and faded and peeling paint that needs attention. Paul may also be suffering from structural damage. The dude was born in 1959 so he has some old bones. All of this is going to take some dinero.

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Paul as Timbers fan.

Thanks to some amazing volunteer work a committee has put together a fundraising site to raise money. Along with background information about the project, the web site includes old photographs of Paul Bunyan through the years. I’m hoping it inspires people to kick in a few bucks to bring Paul back from the brink of becoming the world’s largest invisible man statue.

Visit the website and make a donation: http://www.paintpaulpdx.org

Check out a visual version of this post: https://youtu.be/g95aGboRoIY

Next post: The Ghost Bike of Killingsworth

 

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“Hey Lady, Up Yours”

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On day two of what had been called Stormpocalypse (a four-day forecast of heavy rain) by some around Portland, at least on Facebook, I started my day with enough optimism to forgo using my rain pants for my bike commute. The all night rain had dissipated, the morning was clear and the rain pants are bulky and unfashionable. I didn’t think to pack them for the ride home.

I watched the afternoon rain and knew I was in for a wet ride home. There was nothing I could do but grin and bear it. So I trudged onward with heavy, soaked pants. I kept my spirits up listening to the podcast Death, Sex and Money. I come back to this one and usually binge on multiple episodes. People talk about their lives, failures, trials and tribulations with a refreshing honesty. I thought I had problems, how about a woman who grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father. She went on to have a 40 year career on Sesame Street. It wasn’t exactly light subject matter to have swirling in my head but it did end up involving a kid’s show. On the other hand, there wasn’t anything from my work day that had me down. I was only dealing with the miserable commute. I was focused on getting home and drying off.

In my rain-stained, fogged up glasses, podcast blaring in my head, my pants wetter than if I wore them swimming, I had to navigate the bike/walking path going through Kenton Park. A woman seemed to be walking in the middle of the path. I was moving toward her and trying to figure out how I was going to get around her. As sad and soggy as I was slowing down was not a consideration. From what I could see, she seemed to be thinking I was going to run her over. She gave me a look of disgust and indignant rage. I could only think such a minor inconvenience wouldn’t have been an issue if she followed common sense rules for traffic patterns which at the very least favor walking/driving/biking on one side of the road or even the other. She might have side-stepped me or made a decision to move out of my way but neither of us could navigate this bike/pedestrian dance. I didn’t break my stride either, but the look she gave me annoyed me to my deepest core as I swerved around her.

As I rode on, I realized something needed to be said. Returning from my day working at a school, I realized there was one more lesson to teach. I thought quick and wondered if I needed to chase her down and get in her face or yell at her from where I had stopped my bike which was now about 100 yards away. I wanted her to consider that when it’s raining and nasty outside rain-soaked bike commuters need a break. I decided on my second choice and found myself yelling, “Hey lady, up yours!”

Pathetic. I know. I’m not even sure it felt good, especially since the lady didn’t turn around or appear to hear me. My improvised insult may have been the direct result of listening to a podcast about Sonia Manzano from Sesame Street which might have inspired me to keep it clean. Besides who really needs to be cussing in the park. I felt stupid, angry, aggressive, but at least gave myself credit for trying. A day of work followed by a watery slog home and a feeling that I received a lack of compassion from a fellow citizen created a need for me to let off some steam that could not even be heard in a downpour.

Sometimes you have to try to make your point even when it’s pointless.

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Uncredited image jacked from the internet.

Mattress Battle

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Spring hasn’t even sprung yet.

It happened one morning on my bike commute to work. I noticed what seemed like a random thing that didn’t make sense. I rode past a mattress and a box spring dumped on the side of the road. Then, not too much further down the road, I saw another mattress. I was in a hurry or I would have taken pictures because the mattresses were out of place. They weren’t in front of houses but had been tossed on the side of the street. Sure, mattresses are a challenging disposal nuisance. Then again, it seems like it would be a difficult job for a lone mattress assassin to dispose of a mattress on the side of the road. So why doesn’t one of the two people dragging the mattress around cave and admit that there might be a better way to get rid of bed junk.

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Worse than bed head.

After work I rode home and spotted a mattress sitting on top of a fire hydrant while leaning against a street sign. It had me thinking that the day could have been set aside for a city-wide mattress pick up.  I went to look for the other  mattresses I had seen in the morning to take pictures with visions of such exotic trash in the grass becoming high-art. They were gone. Some time during the day the offending slumber pads had been cleaned up. I was shocked. I headed over to a dump site that has sprung up in the vicinity of the Kenton neighborhood where I had seen a heap of mattresses and box springs. It seemed like someone may have gathered up the cast off mattresses and added them to the pile in the empty parking lot that is now full of  disposed tires, a TV set, and family room furniture.

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A mattress sandwich. Almost!

That morning the mattresses had seemed like collateral damage from a mattress battle. Sad, sick and bleeding–dead mattresses were now looking sadder still. I initially thought of this piece as a rumination on the idea of what to do with stuff and how to get rid of it when the time comes. It’s really not that difficult given that our crack investigative team got off their duff and did some internet research that found a quick solution. Last night I drove passed a mattress propped up against a tree while coming back from the Roseway Theater. I fought off the compulsion to stop the car and take pictures. It struck me that dragging anything to the curb and making it someone else’s problem or high-art daydream is no disposal solution. The Orbit investigation revealed that mattress disposal doesn’t hit the wallet too hard. The job can be done for $20 per mattress and another 20 for a boxspring and I’m even guessing that these folks don’t discard the picks-ups in an empty lot dump site but even if they do, you have to pay to have someone do your dirty work. In the end, empty parking lots seem like the sneakiest and cheapest way to go. There’s a link above for a mattress recycling company, it’s a plug for them because I consider this piece a public service announcement. It will all be worth it if I can keep even one mattress off the streets.

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This place is a dump!

The Portland Orbit Spooktacular

While the rain, gray skies and doldrums sink in around Portland, it’s great to see Halloween come to life in my neighborhood and others. This is an appreciation, not a contest–participation trophies to all! It lifts my spirits to see the efforts made by others to celebrate the season.

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You never see a skeleton with guts. It seems like by the time someone becomes a skeleton their guts are sure to have slithered out and been eaten by a proper Halloween themed rodent. The trick seems to be to angle the skeleton in a coffin, just the right way, to keep the juicy insides intact.

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Witch Pumpkin

This poncho wearing pumpkin man reminded me of an old Sonic Youth album cover. Getting close up to this growly guy revealed some well decorated digs. There’s a stairway to pumpkins, gravestones, a swinging ghost and that Skeletor looking dude in the background.. While I have no blue ribbon to offer, I would like to say nicely done!

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I appreciate anyone’s attempts at decorating but this one bypassed spooky and drifted into creepy central. There’s something about the body baggage and duct tape that’s too realistic for my blood.

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I’m a sucker for blow up holiday decor. Bonus points for anything that includes motion like something popping out of a present. This mischievous cat struck my fancy. It’s evident that he is seconds from releasing that pumpkin and enjoying a smashing pumpkin party or whatever that secondary Halloween celebration may be called. The good news is that giant jack o’lantern beside him appears quite safe. The cat doesn’t seem to have it in him to trash his pumpkin pal without straining himself.

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Spider webbing was big this year. I saw it all over and it was effective enough to appear to be hiding legions of vicious Halloween spiders. This sinister bird bath arrangement of black roses, mini-crow and curious bandana witch curbed the terror my imagination conjured up about what is lurking in the webs.

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Ghosts, too many ghosts, just hanging around, is an eerie sight even in broad daylight. Only seeing the scary scenario in full animation mode created by an autumn breeze could make it more spooky.

Skulls

When in precise working order these skulls light up and make a  buzzing noise. This is especially disconcerting while on a 6am dog walk, although Max didn’t quite know what to make of it. He also seemed to have little interest in the old bone lying around. Sigh. Expressions of Halloween are a bit wasted on canines.

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A shout out to my family in Chantilly, VA and Abby in particular because she loves Halloween. It’s a tough call as to whether this is a PG-13.

And here’s a picture for Will from Pittsburgh who was curious about what this blogger looks like. He’s on the left.

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Again regrets must be expressed for working up a second punny title in a row for this blog. I realize on a deep subconscious level I am making an effort to get the goat of Simmon Wills (the Orbit big boss) who actually loves puns and assumes he has the greatest ability to make them and will only laugh at the one’s he comes up with.

The last two photos courtesy of Ronna Craig! Thanks!

Tattoo Party

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I didn’t know what to expect from a Tattoo Party but I was game. It was a Tuesday night (insert social calendar joke here) back on August 18th. I roped my wife, Ronna, to be the party photographer so I could balance a plate of hors d’oeuvres with my drink and my reporter’s notebook. What a party! There were tons of people, parent’s brought kids, cat fish, BBQ chicken wings, paleo cupcakes and Blood Orange Italian Soda were among the vittles, plus there were tattoos and a guy wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt. It was a great way to welcome a new business into the neighborhood or was the new business welcoming us?

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The party was held in celebration of the grand opening of Blue Ox Tattoo. We were excited to have a new business in Kenton. In that location there had been a home brew store and a hair salon so a Tattoo Parlor was a welcome addition. I realize nobody calls these places Parlors anymore, unless maybe you’re a sailor or old fashioned like me. I loved the idea of visiting and partying inside the updated surroundings in what feels like a historic space. There where framed tattoo drawings on the walls, and tchotchkes for inspiration in the various artist stations. If a unicorn isn’t the best tattoo it can at least serve to inspire a better design.

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Before the party crowd became wall to wall.

For me tattoos were strongly discouraged in my youth. Let’s just say my parents never spoke highly of them. I didn’t get swept up in the 90’s tribal craze, in part because I spent time in the post office and whenever I was in line I would end up studying the FBI’s Most Wanted Posters. The one constant identifier always seemed to be tattoos. I figured not having a tattoo would be one less detail that would be included about me if I ever ended up on the FBI’s list.

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Mikal Gilmore, one of the owners of Blue Ox Tattoo, started getting tattooed at 18 and was attracted to the art and rebellious nature of tattooing despite it becoming more mainstream. Wanting more visible tattoos meant not fitting into the corporate world making a career in the tattoo business a necessary option. Living in the Kenton area and seeing there were no local tattoo businesses, despite tattoo shop saturation in the city, Gilmore was thrilled to be the one to offer it and appreciated the community support received for the effort.

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Local business owners & tattoo enthusiasts gathered.

Before going to the party I considered what tattoo I would get, if I ever got one. There was the face of a pit bull named Harlow that I dog sat. A sweetheart of a dog, but I thought a pit bull tattoo, especially the face, would make me a bad ass. I also considered Tom Cruise. I wanted one of those Wall Street Journal dot portraits. Really, like a current Tom Cruise, a portrait of his face, not Risky Business Tom Cruise like we were asked about.  God knows I would not have Tom Cruise dancing in his underwear on my bicep. We’re really talking the charismatic Cruise, but no one can see past his religious interests these days.

Mikal would “get a lot more information” about my choice of tattoos mentioning not being “judge and jury of someone’s tattoo or art choice.” In trying to hold on to tattooing’s rebellious nature and keeping distance from the corporate world, Gilmore mentioned declining to create a tattoo of a logo on someone. Our tattoo party ended with me spotting a thigh tattoo being shown off while also noticing I’d spilled hummus on my reporter’s notebook. In all, it had been a great way to visit a local business, talk to a few folks and get insight into tattoo philosophy.

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The author in the middle of the tattoo party.

(Photos by Ronna Craig)

Displays Of Place

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My dog walking routine has changed since I’ve acquired a more anti-social dog. I had a regular route that would take me past the window of Kenton Antiques most days. There were times when I would stop and study everything on display. I appreciated that the displays would change or evolve, sometimes even an additional item would be added and I’d notice. I’m not walking by the store as much. Our current dog encounters more dogs in downtown Kenton than anywhere else in the neighborhood and it can be harder to maneuver him around so rather than face a vicious muzzle to muzzle encounter we take alternative routes. I still get by the store plenty and always appreciate a wave from the owner Mo Bachmann. Stuff from the store is always displayed in the front window with some displays being more random and others fitting themes centered around holidays or going back to school.

I appreciate the Kenton Antique store because it was under different ownership when I first moved to Kenton. The owner then was nice enough. Sometimes there was coffee brewing in the store and candy and I had more time to kill then. I’ve seen a difference in the level of interest Mo has in her customers since she’s taken over the store. She’s also shares her interests in collectibles and antiques in an enthusiastic and infectious way.

I’m familiar with her window display work because I made a short film about a particular display she made. It’s been years, but when Mo broke out the 80’s figurines and pitted them against a brigade of plastic army soldiers and staged it around a scale model battleship my mind was blown. I used to work in a group home and late one Monday evening coming back from work, I was riding my bike through Kenton when I saw the display. I was impressed that rather than display objects from the store the scene in the window was a multilayered narrative. It stirred my imagination and inspired me to get back into making short films. I knew Mo a bit at that time and felt comfortable asking her to sit for an interview. She was also generous in allowing me to run around the store crouching and crawling through her window display to get footage.

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Detail from the film The Battleship Battle.

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Which brings me to why I’m writing this in the first place. Sometimes with window displays it’s one item in particular that I relate to without knowing why. I remember seeing a teepee in the window, a strange one-off item and it was hard to tell if it was something decorative or a child’s toy. It seemed like that dug into my subconscious on some level because when the book The American Indian and the Occult appeared in the corner of the window I had to have it.

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It might have been the title, the subject matter or the design of the book or all three that captured my attention. Most things I can pass on but this book, I was worried someone else was going to snatch it up. It turned out to be a book that I would have appreciated more while serving detention in middle school, but it is a good book full of strange stories. It’s probably not the type of book you’re going to find anywhere else but at Kenton Antiques. The sad story of the Tukudeka Indians also known as the Sheepeaters who lived in the rugged mountain ranges of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho was especially poignant–a whole tribe of Indians wiped out by small pox.

.Chief Joseph

Not only did Mo’s teepee in the window sway me, but I’ve had a sense of NW Indian culture around me since moving out here. It’s resonated in various ways from hearing the history of the people who lived here and seeing images like the one at the local elementary school named after Chief Joseph that I used to pass on my way to work. All this has combined to create a magical vibe that now has me studying the psychic secrets of ancient people.

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See the re-edit of the video The Battleship Battle. I’ve posted this before but I really felt the need to fix one particular shot.

Trollarium of Schofield

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It was Ronna Craig, degreed in anthropology and with an intuition that someone or thing had taken refuge in the hollow at the bottom of a giant tree, who I would say made the discovery of the Trollarium of Schofield. All awkward sentences aside, walking down North Fenwick Ave on a Saturday morning Ronna made a beeline to a cave like indention in a tree at the corner of North Fenwick Ave and North Schofield St. She seemed to know she’d find something where I would never think to look. The troll sat in the hollow with a couple of plastic friends and a rabbit. We took brief glances not wishing to disturb the troll in his habitat.

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There was never any debate between us, although others might be able to detect gnome character traits in the troll’s features—regardless Trollarium flows off the tongue better. They managed to accept my brief manic, paparazzi impersonation when I returned later with a camera to document their living quarters in an attempt to publicize and somehow profit from their lifestyle. We’ll let them all live in peace for now. No need to concern ourselves with whether they’re getting mail delivery or paying taxes. There’s never been much of a Welcome Wagon in this neighborhood so there’s no one to bother them. This discovery is so low-key that it’s quite conceivable that the Trollarium of Schofield will exist in quiet obscurity. I can only add: Squat as long as you like Mr. Troll, hang out with your friends and enjoy your tree as long as it continues to stand tall.

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Troll friend: shirtless, plastic hunk-guy.

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Another of the various hangers-on with Mr. Troll.

Dumb Ass

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I got called “dumb ass” while crossing the street and I deserved it. I was crossing against the light while walking my dog. Everything looked clear and then I was between a car and a bike or the other way around. It happened fast. It was the bicyclist who called me a “dumb ass” as he peddled off down a side street. I watched him, making a mental note of his bushy beard and square plastic bucket on the side of his bike. I was so offended I wanted to chase him down the street. I knew I was wrong. I’d been in a fog, too impatient to wait for the light in the rain, over caffeinated as always with Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Wrath of the Khans part 1 podcast blasting in my ears, and deep in thought about whatever else was going on in my life. But that crosswalk, it had been empty. I swear.

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Scene of the incident.

The idea that I could be called a dumb ass for doing anything by an ill-mannered stranger bummed me out. I was wrong. I put the ill in that ill-mannered bicyclist. Forces in the universe colluded. I was destined to experience that moment and be branded a dumb ass. In my attempt to come to grips with what transpired, I realized that I needed to be happy I was alive and had survived crossing that cross walk. I’m not sure why I was so shaken up. I took being called a dumb ass way too personally but it did occur to me that an accident could have happened. Was I supposed to come home and tell my wife, Ronna, that I almost caused a car, bike, two people, one dog pile up? I thought it would be better to make sure I didn’t do anything to make it possible for something like that to take place again. I vowed to change my serial jay walking/dog walking ways. I was determined to resist my cavalier street crossing lifestyle and wait for the signal.

My first trip to the Pacific Northwest in the early 90’s should have taught me something. Fresh out of the car, in downtown Seattle, I’m crossing the street when a police officer on foot informs me he could give me a ticket for jaywalking. He decided to be nice and let me off with a warning. I guess it could have been a lesson, but it became more of a story to break out when I want to imply that Seattle is full of overzealous cops that bust tourists for jaywalking. I can’t say I learned anything from that experience other than relying on the dumb luck of not getting a ticket or run over in a crosswalk. I feel my luck running out.

Later that afternoon, I went to Fang and Feather, the pet store in the Kenton neighborhood, to get chicken food. The people who work there are always nice. All they have to say is something like “how’s your day going” and I spill my guts. I’m blubbering about how I almost got run over by a bicyclist while walking my dog and that I got called a dumb ass. We laughed. The cashier said that kind of thing happens. He told me to be safe out there. It seemed less like a big deal.

So the lesson in all this is that if I obey the rules of the road, traffic signs etc… I can keep myself, my dog and my fellow travelers safe. There’s no other way around it. There’s no point in saying that bicyclists should not cuss. I can’t blame anyone for this incident. I caused it. I know the adrenaline surge that comes with pedaling furiously and I’ve found myself saying or at least thinking worse phrases. It’s time to start taking potential bicyclist and pedestrian crashes seriously. For the record, I’m a blogger with a heart of gold not a dumb ass. Sometimes I do dumb things.

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Max, excited again about seeing a dog friend.

Bunyan Need a Bath!


Paul Needs A Bath

When I first started this blog I included a picture of Paul Bunyan in a blog post professing my love for giant milk cartons and loafs of bread that can be seen around Portland. A woman in the neighborhood who is involved with the Kenton Neighborhood Association saw the post and photo and remarked on how dirty Paul looked. This got me thinking. Paul needs a bath. He’s sooty, especially around the forearms, his painted on shirt is peeling and he’s fading. When it is sunny, he gets blasted. His skin turns paler and his clothes get dingier every second.

I was told that a Paul Bunyan bath runs in the neighborhood of $10,000. Well, that’s what you might expect to pay at the Bonneville Hot Springs Resort and Spa but good luck getting Paul there. It is quite an involved process. It takes time and multiple people to scrape, power wash, scrub and then repaint Paul. The last time it happened was in the summer of 2009.

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That’s right, Paul has not had a bath in over five years. We’re lucky Paul doesn’t perspire or the neighborhood would be smelling like it did when the Union Meat Company had a processing plant in the area. I don’t know how it was all arranged the last time Paul was cleaned up but it’s looking like it’s time to start thinking about another restorative/industrial spa session.

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Despite the fact that our Paul Bunyan statue never takes a step, his shoes are worn out. It’s time. It’s beyond time. We can all agree that no one should have to go over five years without a bath! New shoes, clothes and a good scrub for our beloved Paul Bunyan statue are the order of the day!

Paul Needs...

See this link for more great info on the Paul Bunyan statue in Kenton. The book PDXccentric will tell you about the time the statue was in a movie so you have to buy it:

https://pdxccentric.wordpress.com/d8-paul-bunyan-and-his-babes/

Here’s a link to a great Kenton history page. Scroll down to see the version of Paul with heavy mascara.

http://www.pdxhistory.com/html/kenton.html

Check out the neighborhood photos from the Kenton Commons web page. They are beautiful. Wait a minute, I live here?
http://www.kentoncommons.com/amenities.htm

Elegant Graffiti

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I’m surrounded by graffiti. There’s no escape. While I want to document it, I’m wary of praising it. This giant decal art work that appeared on the side of my neighborhood strip club, the Dancing Bare, caught my eye a couple of weeks back. It was slapped on the wall that faces the Trimet Max train tracks by an anonymous source. Most graffiti is created anonymously or it might be easier for those who create it to get in big trouble.  It occurred to me that if people needed to deface buildings it might be appreciated a bit more if it were done in an artistic manner.  This one screams art. The bearded dude is a painter holding a palette and brushes.  Artist imitating art.  It could very well be a deep statement pasted on the wall of a strip club.

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When I consider the rest of the wall, I see an ad for Bud Light, bolder, letter type spray painted squiggles as well as some painted sections covering up past graffiti and I had to consider which image I could live with more because there’s no way a blank wall can exist for long in Portland without someone wanting to spray paint squiggles on it or display advertising.

I considered who the figure in the picture was. He resembled a pumped up Charlton Heston playing a combination of a Moses character who decided to retire after delivering the tablets and parting the sea to take up painting and then ended up looking more like Michelangelo. Anyone young enough to not have a feel for who Charlton Heston was, well there was a time when he had cool roles in movies like Omega Man and a couple of the old Planet of the Apes films. He shouldn’t be remembered solely as the crazy old coot who stumped for the N.R.A. talking about how we’ll have to pry the gun out of his cold dead hands before anyone messes with the 2nd amendment. Such a memory for that might also be murky. He’s been dead a while.

There’s an endless cycle of decorating and redecorating the neighborhood. Charlton Moses Michelangelo is already in the process of being peeled off the wall. This style of graffiti might be appealing (pun intended and unintended) compared to other forms but it may be harder to remove much less paint over. And really there should be no tolerance for graffiti of any kind. Regardless of the skill level or technique it’s still vandalism. Get there early to catch the first form of this constant flux.

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My apologies to Mrs. Yuckmow (the third grade teacher of Pittsburgh Orbit blogger Will Simmons) for starting a sentence with the word “and.”