What’s with all the skulls? I see them everywhere. The images signify our current apocalyptic culture. Doom stares me down all over town through empty sockets. Beneath a few layers of skin and whatever wig weave we’re sporting, or not sporting, we’re all walking and talking skulls supported by skeletons. I continue to contemplate what the message and symbolism of all this skullduggery could be.

Eyes: The Window of the Skull

For part of the decoration of the Art Car known as the Space Taxi, an unknown artist included swirling eyes on a skull. Most of us are aware that eyes will dissolve right out of their sockets as we decompose but these artistic liberties pay off with an artier image.

Skull Primitive

Rough looking skulls take on the appearance of head bones that have been kicked around a while or stacked up in catacombs for centuries, especially when they look like they’ve been painted with white out. It’s was the subtle placement on an East Central Industrial area furniture store doorway that caught my still intact eye.

Color My Skull

Hyper realist (look at those teeth!) and reflective, this sticker creation seen on SE Hawthorne Boulevard has the added bonus of taking on different colors depending on the viewing angle.

Day of the Dead Skull

Day of the Dead Skull

This Day of the Dead image that includes a key hole in the forehead has the look of being mass-produced but it seems like an ornate way to cover a spare tire.

Skull Transformations

A skull with a third eye and four rows of teeth transforms this transformer box on SE Division Street into a roadside Skull Art kiosk.

Moon Skull

A temporary memorial, it’s since been painted over, sprung up around the time of Fred Cole’s passing on a metal door gate on N Albina Street. I didn’t realize it was a Dead Moon album cover reference at first. Some street skulls have significance. It’s a shame this one didn’t get a chance to live on.

Skulls and Bones

Annoying family stickers get the skull treatment which is way less annoying yet still annoying in that family sticker on back windshield of a car way proving that skulls can’t make everything cool.


The colors are vibrant, the eye sockets look like bike tires and while it’s more skull and crossbones than solo skull, the psychedelic, folk art nature of this piece seen on Hawthorne  Boulevard knocks my socks off.

Raise a Skull

There’s skull branding going on, especially with the design in the eye socket that you’ll see in various incarnations all over town. This one was spotted in the Hawthorne shopping district. Hoisting wine and wearing a classy shirt makes for one stylish skull. I’m not sure what he’s selling besides an upper crusty life style for the after world. Whatever else it is, I’m buying in.

Skull Diving Swayze

The Mississippi neighborhood has so many skull images up and down the street that you’d think there was a morgue in the basement of one of the buildings. It may be the skull capital of the city it wasn’t already the name of a state.

Wall of Skulls

The whole side of a building has been taken over by various skull images on N. Mississippi Avenue.


Another view of various skulls mixed in with other cultural referencing forms of street art.

A Slice of Skull

A pizza skull has to be the greatest skull design ever conceived. I can’t see it selling pizza but it looks delicious.

The Eyes Have It Even When They’re Empty Sockets

There’s something in these two designs found in the Mississippi neighborhood that screams evil eye skull. I like the colors and the hypnotic skull sockets additions. The variations are sure to lull people into a sense of uneasy satisfaction which happens to be my current state of mind being surrounded by skull imagery.


Oregon Decal Obsession Part 2


I’m back to my Oregon Decal obsession and until I find out otherwise, I’m convinced it all started with the green heart in the state boundary design. I’m working on tracking down the creator of this image which really shouldn’t be too hard but my self-imposed deadline is approaching and I’m still planning on one more part to this series before I exorcise this obsession from my consciousness. The last blog post was titled Oregon Decal Spawn Part 1, or some such title, which in hindsight seems terrible so I reworked the title based on what these decals have become to me—something of an obsession. While maybe a casual obsession, they’re images I’m focused on collecting. A snapshot is satisfying enough, the need to possess some tangible remnant of these decals hasn’t over taken me. I have only seen a few of these decals for sale which means tracking them down would have proven impossible.

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While on my bike my eyes scan the bumpers of parked cars. The state outline usually jumps out at me. After considering whether the design is something I’ve seen before I either stop and grab a picture or keep pedaling. I’m surprised by the number and variety of designs that represent all manner of Portland and Oregon related subjects. I want to think that as Portland-centric as we are, a Portland border would be a far more specific and authentic a representation, in some cases, of this sticker concept. There’s only one problem. The Portland city limits prove to be a design flaw mess. No one would recognize it and it would never work as a decal outline.


Portland: Not a decal inspiring border.

Last summer I ran into Rob Campbell who is among other things a T-shirt designer. He showed me a T-shirt design which incorporated the use of the Oregon border. This got me blabbing about my Oregon decal obsession. I asked him why he thought so many people use the state to frame designs. He was succinct when he explained that it’s “effective.” And that makes sense. As I pointed out before, people immediately know the image involves regionalism, whatever the symbol happens to be, sometimes it’s not clear, but it’s stuff in this state or even something being promoted specific to Portland. Regardless, it makes for an eye-catching decoration for a car bumper or anywhere else it gets stuck.

So let’s get to it.



Love Portland City Limits

Why not love Portland? Again if you slapped these words on top of the city limits map it wouldn’t look right so the use of the state border. Everyone knows there’s a city named Portland in Oregon.


It’s greek to me, except it’s not Greek, it’s Latin. It’s the Latin translation of the state motto which when translated back into English is: “She flies with her own wings.” Who knew you could get a  lesson in history and Latin from a sticker.



Tie-dye could be symbolic of almost anything but seems specific to Dead Head/hippie culture. The top design is bold and colorful and has heart so I’m not going to trip out on it. The other one has a peace sign which is also a nice touch. If I’m any kind of decal critic, well these messages of peace and love are mellowing me out. Tie-dye is a bit of a psychedelic cliché but I have an appreciation for colorful design


This one is saying all kinds of things about Portland. It references the White Stag sign, mentions old town and frames it with an eye catching golden state border. The quality of the photo does it no justice but this vehicle owner is loving Portland.



These two seem like homemade designs. The stripes, rays of sun maybe, made me think of   Arizona. The other sticker looks like a basic art project with the tiny blue heart sticker marking Portland’s location on the pink state map.




Every Portland sports team does the Oregon decal with gusto. Thorns, PSU Vikings, and Rip City!


Any kind of advertising receives a boast with a state of Oregon decal design.


Northside shoes were founded in Portland. The  little heart is a nice touch and for whatever reason the state is depicted as dripping, or is it oozing?


Even Pabst ran like a stallion/unicorn with an Oregon design for their Pabst music festival.


And yeah, Portland and Oregon have a few tea drinkers.


Adorned plays off the Keep Portland Weird campaign requesting that people “Keep Oregon adorned.”


Well, no one can exactly advertise snow but it’s another mix of borrowing an advertising slogan and mixing it with a state decal.


Even Bernie Sanders gets in on the act with an Oregon inspired reminder to vote for him.



Do we have bees and bartenders or martini makers in this state? According to these decals, we do!


This one doesn’t make me groan. I could not resist that lame pun. It’s seems like a statement about farming or it insinuates that the owner of the car is a native Oregonian. It could well be there as a show of support for local farming or hauling around vegetables.

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Oregon Crabbing (1)


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Other decals offer identifiers by way of symbols. We run half marathons, love animals, depending on the foot print, crabbing and ride bikes. It can all be spoken in decal.

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This one speaks for itself. It has one of the best uses of the Oregon border since it serves as a reminder of the original inhabitants of these parts.

Gotta run to look over more car bumpers. The obsession will rear it’s ugly head again in this blog soon enough.

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Note to Mrs. Yuchmow:  I feel the need to justify my use of the word “and” to start a sentence. I know you taught Will Simmons from the Pittsburgh Orbit that this usually isn’t a good thing to do but in the case of my usage it needed to happen.



A Bridge To Nowhere, Almost

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Living in a city surrounded by two rivers, bridges are a necessity. It’s possible that we may not have enough bridges, at least to keep traffic moving. I found myself considering a bridge over N Columbia Blvd. more than I ever thought necessary.

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Hours in the dark room pay off.

It’s a foot bridge really, although the ramps that go up three levels make it fun to ride a bike over. After substitute teaching in the area and crossing the bridge a few times I realized it was unnecessary for me to use, especially going home, as I still had to cross back over a four lane road. On my way to the job it made more sense to ride with traffic and use caution when crossing the road. N Columbia Blvd. is the thoroughfare for our northern industrial zone so there’s major truck traffic hurling and screaming back and forth to and from an industrial park at St. Johns. It also feels like a foggy section of town with giant trees and perpetual mist as if from one of those Twilight movies. These hazards and the barreling semi-trucks make it necessary to provide children with a safe way to cross the street to get to the middle school on the other side.

What color do you paint a bridge?

When I used the bridge I took note of its dark forest green color. Let’s face it, it is a nice shade of green. I have no idea who decided or even has to think about what color any bridge should be but they nailed it. It looks great in any weather, sunlight or foggy, gray dawn mist. Surely something that has to be considered, visibility factors, current trends or stylishness when picking a foot bridge color. The ramps take some pedal power to get up which makes the winding trip down worth it but in the end it takes too long to get up and down, making bike traverses a hassle. I was struck by some tasteful and subtle decor.


There’s was a nod to Star Wars but not every last character so it’s not overdone. Another screen printed decal featured a microscope. How inspirational would that be for students to get their days started or ended with a reminder of science or maybe a reminder of science homework or a test.

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Same goes, in a way, for the light bulb sticker. Ideas might start percolating as people walk up and down these ramps to cross the road. Objects from bygone eras like the old timey microphone have a quaint appeal.


I returned weeks later to see that some of the decals had peeled off or been peeled off and some less artistic graffiti had cropped up.


The bridge seems like a fine way to get to school. I can imagine that the bridge will have an impact on the students that use it. They will boast to their own kids someday about how, in their day, they had to walk up three levels of ramps and cross over a treacherous road on a forest green bridge to get to school.

Oregon Decal Spawn (Part 1)

If we lived in a square state like Colorado or Wyoming an Oregon border style decal would not work. It would look square much like any old frame or square, so it’s amazing how unique and appealing a frame in the shape of the state of Oregon is. Any symbol can be placed within the state border to make a statement that says, “we do this in Oregon.” What’s more it’s a message that suits a decal. If I had not been searching in vain for a Portland Flag decal, I may not have caught on to the decal phenomenon.  My search focused on decals people put on their car windows and bumpers.  I saw many of the green heart within the Oregon border sticker but then noticed variations on this design. Images of golfers, bikes, and sports related designs within the Oregon border cropped up.

Mt Hood Heart of Oregon

The Oregon Decal Grandaddy with Mt. Hood.

I have to believe it starts with the heart of Oregon image. This is by far the most popular Oregon state border decal I’ve seen on cars. I would estimate seeing it on one out of ten cars. It’s like the gateway decal. If someone is going to have one Oregon outline decal it’s at least going to be that image. I even know a guy who had the green heart in Oregon tattooed on his right calf. It’s likely that a decal historian could confirm or disprove my theory that all the rest of the Oregon related decals borrow from the original green heart design. The Portland Orbit crack investigative team researched the wikipedia entry that says the green heart design was created in 2003 which has me hard pressed to imagine that there were other Oregon border designs before then.  I would be happy to accept any information from decal historians out there who can set the record straight. Also any decal statistician would be welcome to set me straight on my one out of ten cars estimate.

The state of Oregon border decals now come in many variations and themes.  The ones I’ve discovered so far and documented consider Oregon and Portland related themes–the stuff we do here. It’s great to see them paired up with local stickers touting the the community radio station KBOO and the St Johns Bridge .

Oregonians Rule decal

Airport Carpet Decal

How can you not get excited about an airport carpet reference.  It wasn’t until all the clamor started about replacing the carpet that I even realized there was such an interest in it or even noticed it and I had been to the airport more than a few times.

A certain mystery lies in exactly what these decals are promoting but put it in the border of the state of Oregon and that has to at least mean it’s an Oregon thing, whatever the thing is.

mystery decal

green decal

Sometimes the decal makes it statement in writing:

wild decal

Other times it’s symbolically obvious that Oregonians are as addicted to their coffee as any other member of any of the other states in this union.

coffee cup decal

I’m loving the sports references.  Portland teams are Oregon’s teams so seems to say this one:

Timbers decal

Go Timbers!


The University of Oregon has a design which makes me wonder what aspect of U of O life the one below represents:

pink U of O decal

Who cares! It’s colorful, cool and small for some reason.

Then there are the flat out promotional decals doing it in the Oregon border style:

Powell's Decal

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This one struck me as the most beautiful with it’s quivering border outline, faded heart and wood grain.  It shouts, “I love wood working in Oregon, plenty of trees, great lumber” etc…

wood decal

If you haven’t seen enough Oregon border decal inspirations this one proclaims, “I run marathons in Oregon, none less than 26.2 miles thank you.”

26.2 Decal

The REI decal is usually found in basic black, but it wouldn’t be an Portland Orbit post with out a reference to graffiti in some way. So here’s how REI represents with some additional artistic flare.

REI Decal

Note:  Having Part 1 in the title means another onslaught of decal photos is in the plans. I’ve noticed more decals out there that I was not able to photograph either due to being in a hurry or seeing car decals in traffic. Hang tight for more images related to activities like running, golfing, Indian rights and Woman’s soccer as well as more discussion of this decal phenomenon.

Another note: At times I wish these photos had been a bit better but there is only so much you can do with an iPhone 3 under these conditions. Here’s hoping a soon to be acquired macro lens will help the situation.