Summer Teeth (Part Two)


The brain scan of a blogger.

If you meet a blogger run. Personally speaking, I’m that guy deep in the trenches of my mind trying to articulate heavy thoughts while a puppy bites my foot after I get home from a frustrating job when I’m also contemplating a mystery health issue. Sure I’m interesting to talk to provided you ask the right questions but so are all the other people who don’t write blogs. These thoughts erupted out of a writer’s block that occurred when an idea went south and I’m not talking South Portland. Part Two of the Summer Teeth blog post is a blatant attempt to postpone having to roam the streets of Portland looking for old dentures. It has to and will be done, for Part Three to happen, but for now I can only leave you with what I was working on before my temporary insanity occurred.

A boring list.

How can I be motivated to leave the house to search for old, lost dentures buried in cement? (See part one.) If I know where they are and I’m guaranteed to find them, I wouldn’t be wasting a trip. I’m inspired knowing there’s more to this subject. The last post described scouring an industrial wasteland for false teeth. We weren’t in the ballpark. Now I have locations, general as they are, but I’m worn out at the thought of this quest.  I’m not ready to hit the streets, with a map in hand on a hunt for dentures. I’d barely be game using an app that I believe should exist. Portland Embedded Dentures app. Anyone? Some enterprising techie is developing one for people like me as you read this. My plan is to plug some addresses into google maps to see what I can find using street view. I can be on a peridontic prowl without leaving the couch.

Sheridan Ave or I-5? Google knows.

My concept got weird fast. Research is tricky in an age when everything and nothing can be revealed on a computer. How Sheridan Ave becomes 1-5 according to Google is beyond me but I sure won’t be looking for dentures there.

Water underground?

I was not under the impression that I was going to spot dentures from my efforts at breezing around town using Google Instant Street View but I was hoping it would at least offer me the ability to get my bearings so I wouldn’t be roaming streets perpetually lost and mumbling about old dentures. So much for Arthur Water’s teeth!

Denture mural? Photo by Allison Ella Viaja

Could this be the mural that was mentioned that has something to do with teeth? See, I feel like I’m already downtown babbling incoherently. The address is about right and for me this does look like a lady spitting out teeth. That’s just my imagination because dentures are not going to show up on a mural of this scale.

Has anybody found the dentures?

Another goose chase with a good chance that the ganders are going to get run over. A vague mention of the west side of the Ross Island bridge is not narrowing it down. Where are those teeth?


A jog past imbedded teeth?

This image stopped me dead in my tracks. I had to imagine this woman, jogging stroller in tow, so completely oblivious dashing past embedded dentures. My mind was very close to being completely blown.

This Research Department. Get on it.

I leave you with the notion that our Research Department is at least making a stab at reading about old dentures planted in the sidewalk. We’ll be back next month with additional reporting in Part Three of this embedded denture exclusive. That’s right no one else in town would dare bring you this story!

Summer Teeth (Part One)


Hidden roadside teeth attractions.

“Any wild goose chase is better than having to actually chase wild geese.”  –David Craig

My obsession with that summer feeling has to do with getting a few summertime minutes when I can catch my breath and relax. Now, days into Autumn, I can no longer deny that another summer has passed me by. Summer thoughts had me flashing back to a day when I could fritter away an afternoon looking for dentures cemented in the sidewalk. Should anyone have asked at that point, I might have seemed less crazy because I could explain it away as archeological research for the purposes of writing a blog post.

A land of rubble and teeth.

What? Wait a minute, dentures in the sidewalk? It’s quite the legend, one that I could not leave alone. Curiosity inspired me to seek out a story that’s grown mythic in stature.  I was lucky that Pittsburgh Orbit founder Will Simmons regaled me with what he knew of these dentures immortalized in certain sidewalks. Ours was a feeble attempt to find them. The search began on the afternoon of August 14 in 2017. Will had gotten a tip from his friend Kate who had lived in Portland for 10 to 15 years. She told him about an artist who placed dentures in the sidewalk in the 60’s. I’ve come to realize that we were making a spontaneous effort to locate the embedded chompers. We were down around the bike path that leads people to the Tillicum crossing. We could see the tram station and a couple of glass OHSU buildings. The only thing missing were sidewalks, and teeth.


Where are those teeth?

The spur of the moment search was reflected in our texting Kate back and forth to pinpoint the location. Impatient, I wanted to see some old teeth with little effort while hoping technology could make it happen somehow conjuring the ancient dentures. Two years later I contacted Will for his memories of this fruitless search. I was interested in his musings about that day which was a small slice of a long vacation he took in Portland. I asked him if “stumbling around looking for dentures was not the highlight of his Portland visit?” He referred to the texts from that August afternoon two years ago, saying we had been given an area to cover “between Powell and Sellwood.” Even he realized the territory was more than we could check out in an afternoon. Will also figured out we were on the wrong side of the river. This was telling. We were out there desperate for random teeth, any teeth would have satisfied.

Under the bridge, some teeth fell out.


Will decided to post a message on Reddit:

Dentures embedded in sidewalk in South Portland–has anyone ever heard this legend?

An acquaintance has this story about an artist (possibly PSU professor?) taking either dentures or dental molds and embedding them in sidewalks in the vague area of “somewhere along the river in South Portland.”

Is this something anyone had ever heard of? Can confirm? Knows more specifics on?

Much appreciated.

Attempts at Research Of Any Kind Pays Off!

It’s a rare thing that a Portland Orbit post resorts to leaving readers with a list but here’s some of the responses to Will’s query.

One respondent quoted a passage from a book titled: The Pursuit of Happiness A History of South Portland which described the dentures being set in the old concrete sidewalk at the SW corner of Corbett and Sheridan.

Dentures can also be possibly be found in the following places:

SW Arthur and SW Water

A mural near Stark and 13th, was described as having a 3D denture flying from an old woman’s mouth.

I got a kick out of a Reddit commenter describing this denture siting as “underwhelming.”

I got into the game realizing I could check out Facebook groups like Hidden Portland for the Curious and Dead Memories Portland. If only I had thought to search these out before Will’s visit.

A post on the Facebook group Hidden Portland for the Curious revealed the false teeth could be in the sidewalk on the corner of SW Kelly street across from the OCOM building.

Responses to that post mentioned the teeth being dug out of the area around SW Water off Barbur, possibly around Abernathy. A reader chimed in that they were at Arthur and Water and nicknamed “Arthur Water’s teeth.”

There was one more location mentioned on the Dead Memories Portland Facebook page–the west side of the Ross Island Bridge.

The hunt is on. It’s looking like I’ll be stumbling into multiple parties of tooth sleuth’s in the next couple of weeks. I promise to follow up these leads and report back on my findings.




Are You Ready?/We’re All Going to Die

My name is David and I am a disaster addict. I break into shivers at any mention of the word subduction. I live for the moment, the moment when the fault line shifts and throws us into the throes of the inevitable natural disaster. I’m no expert but people need to consider an earthquake’s aftermath and contemplate what it will be like to scrounge for food and water and not be able to take a real shower for six months. (1) My own preparation includes a water supply that isn’t up to the two-week standard yet and a few spare cans of kidney beans. I might be on a three or four bean per diem until things return to normal. I have yet to check the expiration date on those weird nutrition bars with the five-year shelf life that I would only consider eating if starvation were imminent. This earthquake preparation event was an opportunity to reinforce what I know and learn something new. A chance to improve my knot tying skills was an added bonus.

When we arrived I realized we were in the safest place possible if an earthquake were to occur. Everyone would spring into action, catch ceiling beams before they gashed my skull, bark out commands and rescue us all. The reality was a power point presentation given by members of the Red Cross. My ears and eyes didn’t totally glaze over. My stupor was staved off by thoughts of other natural disasters like terrorism, hazardous materials spills, winter storms, volcanos, fires, floods, landslides and the vague sounding public health emergency—do I need to stockpile tissues?

The talk was standing room only with an average age that could only be described as old. Young people might have better things to do or they only go to earthquake talks that serve beer. The lecture reinforced the need to plan. I realized I hadn’t even thought about how we’d get out of our new house if it were on fire. It’s much harder if you have to figure it out when the house is actually ablaze. The same goes for an earthquake. Who’s going to check on your living quarters and pets? How will anyone get across the river if all the bridges collapse? I did meet a woman once who kept a portable raft in her car for that very reason. Answers to questions like these are a necessary part of disaster planning.

From the Red Cross talk, I learned that up to 7 million people could be affected by a quake with 2 million people dealing with food and water shortages. A percentage of these folks will be coming for my water supply. We’ll all get one teeny sip per day. Up to a million people could be in need of shelter. When one considers FEMA’s record we could all be SOL. A two-week water supply seems like a drop in a bucket given the possibility of a longer recovery period. I also have low expectations of the abilities of an overwhelmed police force. I heard rumblings of SW Portland becoming inaccessible to police assistance if the roads end up a crumbled mess.

Jon Grasle from the American Red Cross offered a casual aside. “It’s going to be a ride,” he said of a possible earthquake. He pointed out that over the last 10,000 years there have been 41 earthquakes over 8.5 on the Richter Scale. These averaged a little over every 240 years. The last occurred in January of 1700. When talking averages, he explained that some quakes have happened as much as 800 years apart. It was a relief hearing that it was possible that an earthquake might not occur in most of our lifetimes even though we’re overdue.

Red Cross representative Libet Steiff started her talk saying, “If we’re lucky we’ll die of something else before this is ever an issue.” Ah, to die any other way than from an earthquake. That’s somehow reassuring. She covered topics worth pondering including pet plans, out-of-town contacts for communication, building survival kits and figuring out a safe place to store them. There’s also water to collect and store, a back supply of medications to stock pile, copies of important documents to make and the sanitation considerations that will have you scrambling for a poo pamphlet or two.

I’m not one to preach to coworkers, friends or strangers but embracing the idea that a debilitating earthquake could happen is important. People need to get their heads around this possible scenario and work up some preparation basics. It’s not necessary to go overboard and build an earthquake-proof bomb shelter but a bit of planning will pay off if things get rocky.

I never got my question answered about how to fend off the marauding band of thirsty psychotic crazies who might come to my house brandishing drinking straws aimed at my water supply. It’s a question for the next preparation event, I suppose. One lecture on a Sunday afternoon was enough. I picked up some reference material in a cavernous room of the Multnomah Arts Center where there were preparation displays, NET (Neighborhood Emergency Teams) groups gathered, people pushing post earthquake supplies and our knot tying instructors. As we left I looked through the window of the classroom where another lecture was in progress. A slide on the screen was titled liquefaction. My wife, Ronna, accused me of drooling at the thought of sitting in on a lecture about this topic. I broke into a cold sweat but managed to drag myself away from the event and into the daylight.

* * * * *

(1) This is not based on any scientific fact. I was trying to think of the longest amount of time someone could go without a real shower before going legally insane.

Pole Art or Not?: A Special Report

A recent mention on Reddit regarding some of my past Pole Art posts drew me back to noticing this kind of thing. I had written about one of the more perplexing styles of Pole Art because materials used appear less like art and more like something that could, with some explanation, be a functional part of the pole. The use of pieces that resemble bottle nipples, caps or other small leftover household gadgets screwed to poles have the makings of an unnamed subcategory of the Pole Art. A clue was provided by a glue cap I spotted attached to one of my neighborhood poles. Seeing something familiar in a different context made me realize this wasn’t a functional addition to the pole. This object was artistic in nature. It adhered to my belief that anything attached to a pole equals Pole Art. The what and the why is beyond even my imagination. My initial conclusion is that someone is creating what they think looks cool. There’s no shortage of available canvas which in this case is the many electrical poles around Portland.

Then more of these forms of Pole Art appeared, one right after another, on a recent dog walk. They’re small but usually placed at eye level so they aren’t hard to miss. Then again I’m one of the few who would look for them and spread the word of this Pole Art phenomenon to a slightly larger audience. With some thought, I could be inclined to come up with theories about what’s happening. Off the top of my head it feels like nods to forgotten industries, or trophies of dish soap tops, glue caps and drink tops. The mystery is overwhelming. I can’t claim to be the foremost authority on Portland Pole Art but I may be the only one who cares.

Tubular Swells

Tubing, some old Spirograph discs, a bottle cap, I’m not just creating an inventory of art parts, I’m listing the ingredients that have combined with an aura of colorful ridged textures to create a dashing piece of Pole Art.

Hands Across the Plastic

More than anything I had to consider the attachment going on between what looks like a bicyclist water bottle top and the plastic material above it. A close-up doesn’t help. It’s a jagged part that appears to be reaching out to connect the two pieces. Attempts at metaphors of human unity have never been replicated so well in other mediums.

Glue Screw

A glue cap can be a beautiful object to consider once it’s been screwed off of a bottle of glue. The  fact that this one is screwed into a blue cap with a plastic coated screw gives it additional panache. The screw is a fitting choice keeping in line with the overall plastic theme of the piece.

This Wheels on Fire

This is a hallmark of a great Pole Art. The black piece resembles either a pair of binoculars, a Polaroid camera or a VR gizmo. It’s smallness against the backdrop of the wooden expanse of the pole’s timber braces the viewer for ultimate impact.

50 Years in the Making: the Portland Orbit Meets KBOO

I’ve always wondered about KBOO our local community radio station. Sure I knew what they did there, duh, make radio, but I’d only walked past the building and never had a reason to go inside. The colorful mural seems new to me since the last time I’d been by. When I heard the station was having an open house with food, drink and station tours, it felt like the time to visit.

I got a feel for the place as I walked through the door. I was greeted and told the party was in the backroom. “There is a party?” I asked, making sure I had the right day and time. “If you’re here it’s a party,” was the response.

The station has the energy and atmosphere of any college radio station you might have had a chance to walk through. Posters, photos, notices and stickers were on every available surface. There were shelved records and cds, overheard political talk and of course, audio and broadcasting gear. I was standing in a hallway digesting a ginger snap when I was approached by Erin Yanke KBOO’s program director. She was kind enough to offer a station tour and a chat. The open house was celebrating the station’s present location of 35 years in the Central Eastside Industrial area. With previous locations in Belmont and downtown since the station began in 1968, it made sense to find a place where a lease with the option to own could be signed. “The way we get to think is different,” Erin explained about the past decision to buy a building. While KBOO is free from the hassles of a landlord or worries about rising rents, money is always a concern with aging equipment, keeping up with technological changes and paying a staff of twelve people.

The staff’s job, in part, is about wrangling the 500 volunteers that are in and out of the station at any given time. This involves keeping them “trained up” and helping them find volunteer opportunities. Anyone looking for knowledge about broadcasting has come to the right place.

I appreciate KBOO for offering freeform radio along with good signal strength. Erin described the freeform aspect of the station by saying, “what we do is so varied.” The station, as she noted, really is one place that does many different things. Back when I had days off during the week, I could keep KBOO on all morning catching Noam Chomsky during one show and getting to hear the riffs of the Air Cascadia broadcast later in the morning. My hopes of meeting some on my KBOO heroes, most notably Abe and Joe were dashed when they hadn’t appeared while I was there. Then again there’s always that wariness about meeting one’s idols.

I had been wondering about the best way to sift through all the programming to discover new shows. I like being able to access the morning public affairs shows through iTunes. KBOO also streams live and archives shows so they can be listened to later. Erin mentioned volunteers promoting KBOO at street fairs who can recommend shows based on people’s interests. These days the website is the best resource. It has program information and schedules which helps in finding of what’s being broadcast.

I’ve realized that the station supports different communities within the larger community when Erin pointed that there were foreign language shows beyond Spanish language programming that airs. She told me about a long running Dutch show that ended when the host died and how it was replaced by a Slavic show. Being at KBOO gave me a sense of the kind of community the station attracts. I got a chance to talk to a freelance writer and  a songwriter in my brief time there. KBOO seemed like a hotbed for people with creative aspirations.

I ran out of time before I could get the tour but I wandered around enough to get a feel for the place. While there, I was reminded that KBOO is in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to build a city of media makers. While I see myself as a media maker it seemed especially inspiring, after seeing the promotional video, to hear the call for funding go out so they can continue their mission to continue powering the voice of independent journalism. Listening Monday morning I heard in-depth conversations about environmental concerns and native american rights–important topics that are rarely explored on other stations in the amount of time KBOO offers.

* * * * *

The station is celebrating its 50 year anniversary with an exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society that runs until July 27, 2018.



If you look around you notice things falling apart. It took little effort to discover the rapid deterioration that is happening to the raised dotted yellow rectangles planted in the sidewalks near intersections. Many of these look shabby. Some are strewn with graffiti while others have missing chunks. They take on the appearance of abstract art. It would be difficult to report these conditions to the city because I don’t know what these things are called. I’d like to see them fixed but how do I explain it? It seems crazy to even say out loud, “the yellow rectangles with the raised dots are crumbling.” For starters, I don’t know who to call. It almost makes more sense to accost people on the street. “The yellow rectangles with the raised dots, they are crumbling,” l’d whisper hoping my plight for the rectangles would become contagious.

Knowing that I live in the internet age, the answer is online. As I thought about the search I began to fear what would be revealed, or worse, that I would get information about the specific words instead of the complete phrase. The search for “raised dots on a yellow rectangle” ended up being painless. The promise of the information age came through identifying something I had wondered about for a long time.
These raised dotted yellow rectangles are part of what’s called “Detectable Warning Systems.” It seems obvious that they help people with visual impairments navigate sidewalks. They are component in the braille paving system that can be found in other ways on streets and train platforms.
With this information I realized it would be easier to contact the city and tell them, “Yo, your Detectable Warning Systems are crumbling.” Of course after that it might be necessary to describe what I was talking about, “You know, the yellow, raised dotted rectangles; they need help.”
At one point I was on the street taking a picture of a couple of these “Detectable Warning Systems” for an example of what they looked like when they’re in reasonable condition. A man asked me what I was taking a picture of. He said he was only curious but I couldn’t help him with his curiosity. There were no words to explain what I was doing. If I could have thought straight in the moment it would have been something like, “Ah, I’m trying to blog about things.” I recall muttering not much of anything and wandering away fast.
Taking pictures of Detectable Warning Systems in good condition made me realize that regardless of wear and tear they all end up getting filthy. People put their feet on them.
It’s easy to see why these Detectable Warning Systems are falling apart. They are out in the elements getting walked on, stood on and generally roughed up. I have wondered whether anyone else besides me has noticed this deterioration or has become alarmed by it. It has me considering what other parts of our infrastructure are in disrepair and going unchecked. I want to believe these parts of the sidewalk are maintained on a regular basis and replaced or repaired as needed. It’s a minor thing but it leads me to wonder how anyone can keep up with the onslaught of all the things that are busy falling apart around us. My guess is that a few city employees have the time on their hands to be a part of my vast audience. They’ll get the message.
I’m dealing with a Pacific Northwest winter that’s mild by most standards but what does envelope us is the grayness of it all, the pale, sunless skies that stretch on for weeks shed dim light on grimy streets and now no one’s going to the car wash as the “Wash Me” scrawls accumulate on these dirty vehicles. Meanwhile everywhere I look I see lines of meaningless graffiti or somehow worse bad painted cover up jobs, not to mention misaligned hair cuts in the grocery store. I’m no longer sure I can tell the difference between a winter chill and a flu symptom.  My seasonal despair has me  bracing for the next month which Rich Reece described as being tougher. Most days I try to shake out the ear worm of Jeff Dodge and the Peasant Revolution Band’s version of The Pogues “Dirty Old Town.” Crumbled bits of plastic from the Detectable Warning Systems seem to be the last straw.
Post Script: Admittedly I became a bit confused about these warning systems. The bumps and rectangles were referred to in many different ways in my research. These systems have been put in place in conjunction with the American Disability Act.
Post Post Script: If you’re looking to check out the video link to “Dirty Old Town,” you can fast forward to 55:34 of episode 3 of Season Two of the Peasant Revolution Band Variety Hour. Don’t say I did warn you about the possibilities of an earworm.

The Unstoppable Heart of Allen Callaci: A Heart Like a Starfish Reading Recap

On Thursday, August 17, Allen Callaci began his late afternoon reading from his memoir “Heart Like a Starfish” as the undying summer sun engulfed the performance space of Turn, Turn, Turn. He was very much alive. His book details his heart transplant surgery, an event that brought him to death’s door. I can’t help giving the story away. When I approached Allen before the event he joked, “Spoiler alert, it turns out good at the end,” a relief, because if it hadn’t turned out good there would have been no one to write the book.

Heart Like a Starfish reading review 5

Allen Callaci reads.

I met Allen over twenty years ago, when I had the freedom and time to drive around the country and took a trip with two friends, playing music, seeing the United States and meeting people. We had a connection with the gang associated with the Shrimper cassette label. One travel companion, Will Simmons, had recordings on compilations released by Shrimper. In planning the visit, Will remembered the idea of performing in a Laundromat being discussed with Shrimper founder Dennis Callaci, Allen’s older brother and bandmate. We found ourselves in Claremont, California, a bunch of guys with acoustic guitars, playing an impromptu show to an unsuspecting audience preoccupied with getting their clothes clean. Allen and Dennis, a stripped down version of their band Refrigerator, were playing “State Trooper,” a Bruce Springsteen song. Allen was belting it out. When Dennis joined in on the chorus it seemed to get more intense. With each cry of “Mr. State Trooper,” their volume made me more anxious thinking the Laundromat concert would erupt into an incident of disturbing the peace. It turned into a memory and an example DIY ingenuity. When faced with no concert venue, you create one.

Heart Like a Starfish reading review 2

After getting in touch with Allen through Facebook, there were inklings of the book he’d been working on. The story had me squeamish. It was tough to imagine Allen’s health struggle. He told me how insane his experience had been. At first no one could figure it out. Allen felt sick, left work and then blacked out at home. At urgent care he was diagnosed with a bad appendix, sent to a hospital where a new diagnosis of a blood sugar issue was made. As he was being released he blacked out again. Allen admitted he picked the right time and place to pass out. He ended up in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles or as he called it, ER to the stars. He praised the hospital as the only one in the world that could help his condition and figure out what was wrong.

Allen reads some more.

It was discovered that Allen’s heart was operating at less than twenty percent efficiency and he had been born with an artery to his heart that never fully formed. The doctor was surprised he could be active at all. It was Allen’s brother Dennis who explained that Allen had been able to lead a normal life despite his heart’s condition, working as a Librarian, College Professor while also being a Rock and Roll Singer. Allen got a kick out of imagining his doctor’s befuddlement concerning his patient’s unlikely rock singer stature. In the book he created a humorous chart comparing himself to, perhaps the most representative of all rock singers, Mick Jagger.

Allen compared to Mick.

Allen spent six weeks in the hospital getting his new heart. This turned out to be a quick turn around as the procedure can take six months or more. His convolesence included a “bubble boy” experience where he couldn’t leave the house and had to be especially germ conscious due to his loss of an immune system.

“Music is where I’ve always gone to heal,” he explained as he read a section from his book about a fisher-price cd player on loan from his nephew that he had in his hospital room. He also read descriptions from the book of his performances of the song “Lonesome Surprise” with John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats calling him from a concert stage in San Francisco so he could phone his part in while recovering from surgery. This was a reprise of a performance Allen had done of the same song years before during an international radio broadcast in the Netherlands when he had just started working as a Junior Librarian at the Upland Library. Allen proved his versatility being able to perform in a Laundromat, international radio broadcasts by phone and even after a heart transplant operation.

Allen sings.

After reading from the book, Allen sang an a cappella version of “Heart Like a Starfish,” the song he had written twenty years before about a past relationship gone wrong that became the memoir’s title. He explained that the song had come from reading Harlan Ellison who had written about how the heart could be like the body of a starfish with damaged parts growing back. There he was, that kid as I remembered him from the Laundromat, singing, pardon the pun, his new heart out, with passion, conviction and the authority of a rock singer. I no longer had to worry about him getting too loud. This was his gig.

Post script: After the reading Allen sat down with old friends and discussions about medical tribulations ensued. A woman talked about her bone marrow transfusion and similar immune system challenges and Jake and I compared left elbow, bike crash scars. I didn’t want to make a low ball offer to Allen to buy the book. I didn’t have enough cash but I figured I’d get it at the library. When I looked through the online system it wasn’t there. I discovered a book suggestion form and filled it out. A week later, I received an email telling me the library purchased the book for their collection and that I could be the first person to put a hold on it. I’m guessing that’s the kind of thing that might fill a librarian/author’s heart with pride.

Public Service Announcement:
One of the first things Allen mentioned was the importance of getting an echocardiogram, a sonogram of the heart, instead of an EKG or ECG, electrocardiogram test that measures the electrical activity of the heart. This starts to feel like a medical conspiracy that I’ll have to revisit in a later post but it may be worth discussing this with your Doctor. This may have been the type of information that might have helped Joe Strummer, another rock singer, who died from a heart attack caused by an undetected heart defect.

See the book trailer here:

Info on Allen’s next reading:

Eclipse Fever and the Aftermath

Eclipse photo by Ronna

An epic collision of moon and sun.

It’s an aftermath afterthought that has me wondering if this blog post is necessary. Everyone had their experience of the eclipse. So how relevant is mine? I answered my own question about whether it was necessary to be in the Path of Totality. It was. Being in Oregon we weren’t  far away. It meant planning and braving the predicted epic traffic jam which transpired afterwards. I didn’t know the difference a few degrees would make so I ignored pleas from those telling me the eclipse was best experienced in that annoyingly named Path of Totality.

The author in eclipse mode.

We had fun watching the whole eclipse, what we got of it anyway. In the end I thought of Johnny Rotten at the Sex Pistol’s Winterland show in 1978 when he asked the audience, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” It wasn’t Mother Nature’s fault. I cheated myself.

Our plan was simple. We turned our Adirondack chairs around in our driveway to face the sun, made more coffee and put on eclipse glasses. We knew when things would get started.  Soon enough the moon crept across the sun, taking small bites. I thought about bringing out the radio. God knows watching the eclipse on TV or even the preshow coverage would have made me koo-koo nuts. Who needs squawking radio or TV commentary when you can provide your own. I was getting plenty of rapid fire stream of consciousness and screwy non sequiturs from my wife, Ronna.  The sun looked, to her, like Ms. Pac Man and she predicted it would soon look like a banana. A neighbor strolled by. I heard someone speaking but couldn’t see through the glasses.

“You guys have the best seats in the house over there, all comfortable and relaxed,” she said. We didn’t have to go anywhere to find this comfort. Once the eclipse started we looked at the sun every few moments. I rationed my looks because I didn’t want to damage my eyes. No matter which ISO number the lenses were rated, I didn’t trust the flimsy paper and plastic.

Scientific data was recorded.

The postman swung by. He was all business. “Did you get your glasses?” I asked. He said he had some, and seemed to imply he’d check it out when he wasn’t so busy. I had a cup of lukewarm coffee I forgot to drink in the excitement. I settled in for what was becoming a good show. I took notes, while my wife pulled out an oversized tome and began illuminating page one with phases of the eclipse.

“The sun looks like a banana right now. It looks exactly like a banana,” she noted. A big orange banana was hovering in the sky seen only with eclipse glasses. It occurred to me that totality wouldn’t look like much because the whole sun would be blocked out. I relaxed knowing I wouldn’t have to rush this blog post out. People would need time to decompress.

Remote camera detonation or wizardry?

In the interest of science we contined our observations noting times.

9:55a.m.  The sun looks like a cresent moon. It seemed to be getting dark and the wind kicked up.

9:59a.m.   “When’s totality?” I asked. I kept forgetting that I couldn’t see anything with the glasses unless I was staring at the sun. “We’re supposed to see stars and planets,” I mansplained. “Maybe it won’t happen if you keep yammering on about it,” my wife countered.

I became conscious of the car noises, cars blasting their radios. People were missing it. Meanwhile I heard a group of people milling around in the streets like tourists who had lost their tour guide.

The dog seems to be freaking out in the house barking at nothing. I’m mesmerized by the long shadows coming from my pen against my notebook. We hadn’t even waked and baked that morning and the world seemed strange.

10:04a.m.  Our conversation gets confusing. “What time is it?” Ronna asks. “10:04,” I say,  “. . . I think it’s 10:09,” meaning Totality is five minutes away. “No, it’s 10:04,” Ronna said. Pure comedy.

Two musical conundrums occur. I always thought the Smash Mouth song was about staring at the sun when it’s actually about walking on the sun. Then I realize no one seems to know the guy that sings with Bonnie Tyler on the song “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” It’s Rory Dodd!

I couldn’t have the dog’s barking disturb my Totality so I go get him. Inside the house I take note of the long strange shadow in the back of the kitchen.

Kitchen eclipse shadows.

Seconds from totality:
“What in the world,” Ronna said.
“What do you mean what in the world?” I ask.
“It’s crazy look at it. It’s unbelievable.”

Max watch squirrel not eclipse.

At 10:09, Ronna tells me, if we were in the path of totality, we could look at the sun without the glasses. There’s a tiny sliver of sun that won’t go away. We’re looking with bare eyes. In the distance I hear squealing kids. It’s underwhelming. We need Totality, a traffic jam and an under fed, dirty camping experience for the full effect. It got darker but that sun sliver, that tiny percentage kept the sky lit.

“That’s all we get?” I asked. “I am disappointed. I thought maybe this would be a lot more fun. I had fun.”

“That’s because you’re easily amused.” Ronna responded.

I vowed to plan ahead for the next eclipse as I slurped cold coffee. So much coffee had me needing an astronaut diaper. There was nothing left to do but watch the moon uncover the sun. To make an eclipse experience epic you had to watch the whole thing. Ronna told me to look at the black spot on the upper righthand corner of the sun. “There’s no corner on the sun.” I said feeling smart. Ronna realized it was a branch. “Nevermind,” she said.

11:37a.m.  It was officially over. The last few minutes included a three dimensional view of the moon and a sense that you could see it moving as it pulled away from the sun.

It is written.

That was it. Despite all the hype it was over. The sun was a round circle again. There was nothing to watch now but television replays.

In the end, watching the eclipse became an excuse to put off chores like folding towels. It must have been dramatic elsewhere. The radio blathered crazy nonsense about poets writing eclipse poetry who couldn’t hold their pens straight during Totality. Facebook was on fire with people singing the praises of the event and all it’s magnificence. I was now a loser in Trump’s America because I didn’t experience the eclipse in the Path of Totality. Maybe if they’d called it something else. Maybe, if I hadn’t been so freaked out about traffic jams and had just learned to love them, I would have achieved total viewership. Trump looked at the sun without eye protection. Surely someone could have found the President a pair of eclipse glasses. Did he not plan ahead? Even with glasses there was no totality achievement for me. My life had not been changed. I did have commemorative stamps, but I still felt shame. I underachieved. I had been a doubter and didn’t think a small percentage would be a big deal. It made all the difference in the universe.

Those heat sensitive stamps reveal the moon.


Special thanks to Ronna Craig for her epic moon and sun collision photo.


Eclipse Fever (Happens to me Every Time)

It’s been wearing on me to the point that I can’t help but obsess over it. The endless eclipse hype got me. Now, I’m quivering with low-level anticipation. Questions remain: How bad will traffic get? Can a viewing of less than totality be satisfying? How will I know? Will I burn my retinas staring into the sun? Is there a chance the world, or maybe the U.S. can achieve enlightenment from the eclipse experience?

The Heart of Totality is on the sticker.

It’s felt like a slow boil to this hysteria that’s happened over six weeks. The local news feels relentless with promos about tomorrow’s live coverage. An event like this must be a godsend in what can be a slow news month. NPR has covered the event from many angles running a couple of interviews with the most enthusiastic eclipse expert ever.  We’re talking a guy who made plans three years ago to observe the event in Jackson Hole, Wy.  At least he’s staying out of Oregon. They also ran a piece about movies that have included eclipse events in them. While this holds my interest, I have hype-fatigue.

Oregon is going crazy. There have been hours of coverage on Oregon Public Broadcasting about the goings on in the state and the Eclipse Festival in central Oregon called the Symbiosis Gathering  that has 30,000 attendees. Oh yeah and, as promised, I can probably choose to watch the solar eclipse live on one of my local TV channels.

Buy a high and get glasses too.

Looking through a sample pair of glasses at Paxton Gate I was surprised that I couldn’t see a thing. It dawned on me. I knew they prevented eye fry but I thought of them as cool and maybe strong sun glasses. My out-of-town guest explained that the glasses were for looking at photons. My God!  Everyone’s a scientist.

My brilliant neighbor Paul was on his way to meet his brother who was camping in central Oregon.  He was leaving the Thursday before the eclipse allowing for a few days to be stuck in traffic without missing it. There have been reports of long traffic back ups and fuel shortages in Prineville, OR and miles around it. Before he left, my neighbor had me considering where the sun would be in relation to my house in case I decided to stay put and not drive anywhere for a few extra degrees of totality. From our observation where the sun was at around 11:30AM that day, he determined our best vantage point was through the sky light in our upstairs bathroom. Again, it’s nice to be surrounded by scientists.

The Furnace guy told me that the Holiday Motel, not to be confused with the Holiday Inn chain was charging $999 for a room he said was only worth about 30 bucks. There’s no time to substantiate this but I’m sure if you needed a room and there’s one available at this price if you coughed, sputtered, hemmed and hawed you could talk them down six or seven hundred dollars.  It is a motel room in Portland; not in the Path of Totality.  Where are you supposed to watch the eclipse? From a motel parking lot in an industrial section of town?

Capitalizing on current events!

We also heard about plans someone made to go to a minor league baseball game scheduled to start at 9:30 Monday morning. This is going to be the only sporting event that anyone knows about where play will have been suspended for the eclipse. The maker of this plan is leaving the house at three in the morning to ensure on time arrival at the game about fifty miles away in the Salem/Keizer area .

The panic to find a pair of glasses ended when the folks at Natural Grocers hooked us up with two free pairs. We were more than willing to sign a waiver for them. The glasses were getting scarce, and we had been joking about having to spend 11 dollars for a pair if we managed to find one.

The worst of this forthcoming eclipse has been rediscovering the existence of a disco remix of Bonnie Tyler’s epic anthem “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”  But there I was experiencing it from the lip syncing lips of a TV reporter bound for the Path of Totality. That may well be part of the sour grapes experience of seeing Facebook posts from people with job tasks that involve traveling to optimal places to experience the eclipse.

One recent afternoon heading out of the grocery store  I saw, from the corner of my eye, a display of souvenir cups emblazoned with the phrase “Great American Eclipse.”  I was annoyed with this marketing of a natural phenomenon. I didn’t even think to take a picture, I was too busy fleeing. Days later the display had been moved. It helped a bit when someone pointed out that the marketers were probably going to lose their shirts trying to sell dumb merchandise. One local TV channel is calling the event something generic like Total Solar Eclipse 2017 so “Great American Eclipse,” is, at least, on the exciting side.

Heat sensitive eclipse stamps from the US Post Office.

This hoopla serves a purpose.  It gets the word out that the sun will temporarily be blocked out.  This way, everyone around the world will not freak out, but instead just accept it since they have had ample, to the point of ad nauseam, advance notice.

On a promo for a local radio show, OPB’s State of Wonder, which devoted a whole episode to eclipse coverage, I heard a man discussing the event. I’m paraphrasing but it sounded like he was saying the two-minute event would change people during those two minutes, possibly for all time.  I will be sure to let you know how the eclipse changes me in part two of this post to run later in the week.

Eclipse Ad

Box it up and sell it.

Editor’s note: The Portland Orbit has no qualms with the use of unnamed sources probably because we’re not always sure what their names are to begin with.

Thanks goes to Will Simmons who said “you gotta write about the eclipse,” and Allen Callaci who suggested a two-part post, a kind of aftermath/after geometry type thing.

And a shout out to these folks because the name is so close:

Happy Birthday!

Don’t touch my tower.

The Portland Orbit office is closing early this afternoon in order to celebrate the birthday of our founder, contributing writer and photographer, Mr. David Craig. We’ll be back tomorrow with a post about a Colonial statue in SW Portland.