We celebrate the 100th blog post of the Portland Orbit by getting self-reverential, explaining the origins of the blog and how I arrived at the name for it. Thinking a blog would change the course of my life or make me famous, I’ve since found out that the Portland Orbit exists for people to discover in the hopes that those who read it appreciate it. The blog is rooted in an interest in journalism I’ve flirted with my whole life. This might reflect the newspaper sounding name. In another life I could only have hoped to have hired Clark Kent away from the Daily Planet.
I tried blogging in the past. The short lived photo blog named with little imagination, “Year of the Camera” was the result. I posted three photos before realizing something was off. I still do love those landlocked boats but I needed to regroup. My independent video projects seem to take forever for me to get around to editing, sometimes taking the better part of a year to complete. I was looking for a format that was quicker with topics I could explore and consider for a short while and then move to something else in an attempt to satisfy my short attention span.
Landlocked boat from a prior failed blog.
Since moving to Portland I cataloged ideas and interests I wanted to explore. I considered subjects for videos, places I’d visit or people I’d want to interview. Listening to local podcasts, reading the two alternative weekly newspapers every week and seeking out culture, more through the papers than in real life, I kept these ideas in the back of my mind. A blog seemed a way to expand on my interests so it was in my subconscious, as were my journalism aspirations that haven’t left since my reporter days at my college newspaper. I found myself not leaving my neighborhood or going anywhere that wasn’t a bike ride away which led me to seek my immediate surroundings for inspiration.
The blog urgency struck after getting back from a trip to Vietnam. Something crystallized there. I’m not sure if it had to do with being out of my comfort zone but I was energized after seeing more of the world. Returning to Portland, jet-lagged and spacey we headed over to the Portland Museum of Modern Art for a show and concert by outsider artist Lonnie Holley. I dropped my wife, Ronna, who has a bum ankle, off at the front door and found a nearby parking space. As I headed back to her I ran but then got closer and closer to someone walking towards me who I recognized but couldn’t place. As I blazed past I realized none other than my guitar hero, Peter Buck, was walking out of the museum. You know him from his old band R.E.M., but he’s also in a few bands now and even performs solo. I hope I didn’t spook him and I was glad that I didn’t really recognize him enough to throw myself at his feet. He was also better off not timing his visit to the record store and museum where I might have had a chance to corner him and bombard him with questions about Roswell, Georgia.
That afternoon we experienced the engaging, yet mystifying outsider artist and his equally enigmatic pianoman performance outside the museum in the park area that had become engulfed in the warm, late afternoon, August sunshine. The photo I took of Lonnie, facing the sun created no actual image of the man, only rays of light that appeared like the remnants of the big bang explosion. It was time to start something. A blog was the one solid idea that surfaced and I had been pushed over the edge to move forward. A blurb about Lonnie Holley was the first post.
Seconds after Big Bang 2.
The next thing I needed was a name. I had long wanted to call the media conglomerate of my daydreams “local loco” which spoke to me of a specific micro-journalism ideal–writing about what’s around me. I researched the name and saw a similarly named local burrito place. I could not name my blog after a burrito restaurant. I was at my then group home job, thinking hard about what I would call this blog that would make me famous and change my life forever. It had to be something good. I was straining my brain. At the point I relaxed for a second, a series of thoughts helped me come up with a name. Around that time I had been reading Facebook entries from Sid Deluca who had been promoting an art show. I had become familiar with him through Jeff Dodge, even participating in a film screening with him. I thought about Sid and considered his art to be the kind of thing I would write about. I thought that as someone I was familiar with, he was in my orbit. Inspiration struck. Orbit seemed to be the word that captured what I wanted to do: write about my strange encounters with my surroundings. Later I realized I had named the blog after a brand of gum. That still seemed better than naming it after a burrito joint.