Billbored

I’m a compulsive reader. I’ve admitted that before and there’s probably nothing wrong with it. Lately I’ve found my dwindling attention span has kept me from having an interest in long form publications like books which make billboards perfect reading material. They’re set up to be attention grabbing with big lettering and simple concepts. I’ve read them all, the ones I’ve seen anyway. When I started to notice billboards together with signs that combined to form either a condtradictory message or a theme, I realized I had a concept for a blog post.

The Spark

This is not John Wayne in a movie!

A couple of springs ago, I noticed a coincidental placement of John Wayne’s cowboy claded head peering over the Bison Coffeehouse in the Cully neighborhood, which I have since learned is the only Native American owned coffee shop in the Portland area. It put the idea in my head a long time ago about odd billboard placement that could combine with either other billboards or businesses to form unintended statements or a clash of cultures imagery.

Vice Corner

Time to get busy.

Above the building that houses the Arbor Lodge coffee shop and Revolver bike shop sits a billboard duo that, I’ll admit can be challenging to photograph. I didn’t let it stop me when I spotted two signs together promoting vices, albeit legal ones. There’s an exponential power telling us get high and gamble. Years ago these vices would have been found under more shadowy circumstances, now there’s open encouragement. Whether it’s wise to do both at the same time, well, that’s beyond my comprehension.

Beer & Bar

It’s Miller time.

There doesn’t seem anything more appropriate than a billboard advertising beer outside a bar besides maybe an advertisement for a DUI attorney, but that would be tacky, wouldn’t it? Seeing the brand of beer that seemed antithetical to the type of beer sold in most Portland bars had me gearing up for a rare occurrence in my line of blog work–the investigative phone call. It wasn’t until I hoofed it up the street early one evening to take a picture of the Lombard Pub, formerly the Foggy Notion, that I saw the banner sign calling attention to the Miller beer special. Art is reflecting life and there’s truth in that advertising—almost all is right with the universe.

Is it special enough?

Pushin’

Pick your poison.

This billboard jumped out at me the second time I drove past it. The man in the picture is the image of health and vitality that is either proof that the tanning product works exceptionally well or that this gentleman/model/push up performer doesn’t need the product at all!

Jesus & Tequila

Do I have to decide?

These two advertisements appreared to represent a kind of fork in the road made all the more momentous by what appears to be a halo of golden clouds. I imagine this image as a kind of sign from heaven or an enticement from the underworld. Beelzebub will be your bartender tonight! Pardon the melodrama, but this billboard grouping seems to create the choice of either going to the liquor store or straight to church. In my mind it’s not possible to balance the two although Jesus was more likely to turn water into wine than to preach temperance.

Next: The first in an epic series of Kingsmen/”Louie Louie” related posts.

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Mayberry and Gomorrah: An Orbit Obit

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There can’t be two more diametrically opposed places of business that have reached the end of an era. One, a sedate hair care establishment epitomizing small town Americana with the wholesome name of Kenton Family Hair Care, the other a seedy mega complex of sin and debauchery both suffering from the demise of an old school way of life. The first, the way an older generation takes care of their hair, the other, the way an older generation takes care of their, ahem, soul?!?

Hair dryers

Kenton Hair Care had a way of appearing like a business out of Mayberry, the old fashioned hair dryers, the booths with the stylist’s names on them and pictures of children or grandchildren tacked to the walls. It was the type of place I imagined my grandmother visited for her weekly hair set. I was drawn to the hair dryers, so quaint, it reminded me of photo taken of the Violent Femmes in the 80’s for the Campus Voice Biweekly posters that were posted at my college.

NW Staffing check back 2

Clientele was dwindling for years at Kenton Family Hair Care. When the Third Thursday event started they opened in the evenings and attempted to sell quilts and prints of squirrels. I know, I bought one of those prints.  Out of step, perhaps and now, out of time.

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The Town Plaza is a whole other story. As nasty as it was, you could only imagine the appeal it could have had for someone who wanted to indulge their purient interests–a smorgasbord, with a video store, a juice bar called the Sugar Shack, a strip club, a bar and grill named the Pink Marlin and even a burger joint. I can imagine the place, brand spanking new and shiny, briming with temptation, I’m sure Satan himself was there, possilby in disguise, when they cut the ribbon. In the last few years, there seemed to be no trace of activity besides fish sculptures and neon in one of the windows that faced the busy section of Lombard Ave. The strip club may have continued to operate after all the other businesses shut down but it was hard to tell.

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I never saw the parking lot until I drove around to take pictures. Burger Island was only known to me through the remainders of its sign that was never torn down. I saw no evidence of any burgers or relics of an actual burger joint  around the place. The building was purchased by the nearby neighborhood who paid over 2 million in an attempt to rid the area of the activity that occurred within the checker board tile laden building.

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To me it was always a curiosity. Even when driving by with a friend who voiced disgust, I still held on to a slight glimmer of appreciation for a place that made such an attempt of commodifying seediness for those in need. Maybe it was just a matter of the wrong place being in the wrong place.

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End with a more wholesome image.