Coast Road Trip: Sans Pics

A perspicacious reader asked why I haven’t posted any pics from the road trip. I’m working on moving toward a new kind of blog, more like the one I started, back in December of 2007, which contained no pics, just short bursts of writing pleasure. I had in mind the kind of posts the venerable E. B. White wrote in the early New Yorker.

“From 1925 to 1976 he crafted more than eighteen hundred pieces for the magazine and established, in the words of editor William Shawn, “a new literary form.” That form was the magazine’s Comment essay—a personal essay that was, in White’s hands, light in style yet often weighty in substance. As White noted in a 1969 Paris Review interview, > I do feel a responsibility to society because of going into print: a writer has the duty to be good, not lousy; true, not false; lively, not dull; accurate, not full of error. He should tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.

“Eighty-Five from the Archive: E. B. White,” by Erin Overbey, The New Yorker, June 7, 2010.

Not that I ever achieved anything everyone might call, “not lousy.” In any case, I drifted away, or off, and into a kind of academic stream, where I imagined I might augment my adjunct work at the time. And I tried to bring some attention to the books I was working on, both reading and writing. Then I began to work-in more slant, though never totally “false,” and found the proverbial bottom of the barrel when I started putting up some poetry. And I recently considered retiring The Coming of the Toads, leaving it to sink to the bottom of the archive abyss of the Internet, where some future crab scuttling along might find a few morsels to criticize.

E. B. White’s idea of the short, personal essay (note the importance of that comma) has been replaced in many blogs by the personal pic essay, with and without words, the latter like Beckett’s short play, “Act Without Words.” And I suspect more reading is done on phones these days than when I started The Coming of the Toads on a desktop computer back in ’07, and the phone and other smaller size formats encourage changes in aspect ratios of screen, pics, and writing. And thinking about that, I decided to remove this blog’s header pic, begin writing with a minimum of pics altogether, returning to the short, personal note or comment type essay. I even thought of a new tagline for the title space: The Coming of the Toads: No links, No likes, No comments. I know that sounds a bit anti-social, but what I’m aiming for is clarity, simplicity – a clean, well-lighted blog.

Besides, I don’t get many comments or likes, and many that I do get appear to be from spam and bots, and I lost all the pics I took on our recent trip, mistakenly thinking I had backed up my phone photos to Google Photos when I had not, in the meantime deleting all the photos from my phone, then crashing my Instagram account trying to retrieve what I had at least saved there. Seems poetic justice for an anti-social attitude.

Having at this point already exceeded my target word limit, not to mention having probably lost my target audience, those interested in hearing more about the Road Trip, I give you this portfolio of road trip pics, all taken by my sister Barbara and Susan as I was trying on the lighthouse keeper’s uniform jacket at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, north of Newport, trying to strike poses I imagined a lighthouse keeper might have aimed at were he the subject of a live, on the job photo shoot:

Note: Comments On for this post. Have fun!

Winter Solstice Walk

Cold. Wet and damp. Dark. Slippery walk in Mt Tabor Park, where the trees appear ready for the winter solstice.

The reservoirs, built with new Portland Cement techniques in the early 1900’s, until recently, held the city’s drinking water. A new, enormous underground tank was built and the reservoirs disconnected. What to do with them now has occupied the community and city planners for the last few years. I’m in favor of building a wave pool, though there’s been no discussion of that idea I’m aware of.

The Oregon Myrtle and Washington Hawthorne are lovely in winter. In California, the myrtle is know as California Bay Laurel. The leaf is like a bay leaf in shape, color, and texture.

A slow walk focusing on the big and small. To the east, Mt Hood dominates the view. Throughout the park, the popcorn bush is popping its white kernels.

Someone built a labyrinth of branches in the grassy opening to the west-side creek valley. Portlanders love to sit out. In the yard at the west-side entrance to the park, two colorful chairs sit empty.

SE Portland Triathlon Photo Essay

For the first leg of my triathlon event yesterday, I boarded Line 15 and rode down to the river, disembarking at the east end of the Hawthorne Bridge. I sat in the last seat of the bus, in the left corner, with this week’s New Yorker fiction issue. I had read on the bus stop the Langston Hughes story, written around 1960 but only recently discovered. More about that in a subsequent post.

On the bus, an ad caught my attention, a woman in a red dress, orange hair, the copy: “Be More Brilliant.” The ad was up front, behind the driver’s seat, and I was too far away to read the smaller print. Note though that the imperative doesn’t suggest you are not brilliant. If you are not brilliant at all, you can’t be more brilliant. But why be “more brilliant”? Don’t I attract enough moths already? I thought of the two books I recently put out. Maybe my writing should be more brilliant. I took some pics from the bus of the south side of Belmont.

The afternoon was still overcast, and I felt a few drops of rain as I began the second leg of my triathlon, walking down the ramp from the bridge to the Eastbank Esplanade, a more brilliant name for the shared sidewalk with bike path that runs along the industrial, east side of the Willamette River.

I walked south along the river, a little under a mile, to Susan’s work, where I started the third leg of my triathlon, a short drive to Em’s place to visit the girls.

I didn’t get any pics while driving, driving a car these days multi-tasking enough as it is. The few pics I’d taken of the south side of Belmont, from the bus, came out blurry, not too brilliant. I tried to get a few murals, and a couple of the old buildings, the ones the developers, none too brilliantly some have been arguing, are in a hurry to tear down. We passed a typical east side tavern. I realized I have my shutter delay set too long. I had to anticipate where the bus would be when the shutter finally clicked. At the river I saw the lean-to boat setup again, and tried to get a contrast pic of the east side boat in the foreground with the west side yachts in the background. I paused at the OMSI sign to repeat Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ a few times, feeling even less brilliant as I moved on. I never tire of the sign of Theory, and took yet another pic of it. The blue building was brilliant in the soft afternoon overcast light.

At Em’s, I snapped a pic of her copies of “Penina’s Letters” and “Coconut Oil,” sitting on the shelf next to her cookbooks, and I wondered if my covers were brilliant enough, or brilliant at all. I think so. But to some, brilliant might suggest shiny, and I went with a matte finish.

In Em’s yard, I took some pics of a flowering tree and a tricycle rained in rose petals. It’s almost dragonfly season here, and I thought how nature always seems sufficiently brilliant, yet also always seems to be becoming more brilliant. Nature is superlative, while we can only ever be comparative, until we remember that we are also part of nature, where we are most brilliant.


Line 15 currently detours across the Hawthorne Bridge due to a temporary weight restriction on the Morrison Bridge, which is under repair. I hopped off the bus at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge, passed the Salmon Street Springs Fountain, and walked south along the Willamette to the eye clinic, just over a mile upriver. I saw some strange markings on the sidewalk, as if math really is fun. A gaggle of signs befouled the views, whispering orders, dangers, and cautions. I noticed there were no warning signs near the mooring bollards, and wondered how many people walking along ogling the view have tripped over them. Rarely do I have to yield to slower traffic.

Just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, I noticed an interesting, kind of improvised, lean-to-dock moored just off the west bank between the bridge and the park beach, downriver from the yacht harbor. The boat and dock set-up reminded me of Anais Nin’s “Houseboat,” and of Penelope Fitzgerald’s “Offshore.” And the usual gaggle of geese casually befouled the park beach area. I don’t mind the geese, though the city has been taking precautions to minimize the goose poop problem. But I was wearing the new Fila walking shoes Susan recently scored for me, and I wasn’t sure the goose path was how I wanted to break them in. Portland is called the City of Roses. You would think the roses wouldn’t mind the geese.

Modern accommodations for travel, appurtenances for getting around – what a mess! Just north of the Ross Island Bridge, workers were just about finished dismantling the Project Pabst Festival. It was a little early to be thinking of a cold PBR Tall Boy. I walked along “River Place,” above the small harbor, and passed by the “River Walk Cafe,” enjoying the cliches, and at the corner of Meade and Moody thought, how about “Mead Place,” or the “Moody Walk Cafe”?

A rowing crew rounded the pilings of the Marquam Bridge (a concrete brouhaha that spans and expands the definition of bridge), the submarine moored behind them on the east bank, below OMSI and the Portland Opera. The Pabst Horse trotted off on a trailer. The Portland Aerial Tram (constructed at a cost of $57 million), juxtaposed with the old Ross Island Bridge, reminded me of the 20th Century: “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”.

Word Pics

MapleTurtle butterfly rock
Petunia seashell ceramic
pot candle wire stand
Gas meter downspout blue
slate red bricks green
Blue wall with painted white
wood door with window
of six small glass panes
Electric meter "Nutone"
metal stove exhaust fan
double spotlight wall
fixture no bulbs wires
grub green fern
blue green blue fescue

ShellsChain link cedar planks
Redwood boards bamboo
Flower trash cans green
yellow and grey
Sheets glossy green laurel
hedge golden chain bench
Grapevine clothesline
Wire pool cues hall chalk
Ivy baseball bats raspberry
Green wine bottles
in yellow bin.

Azalea if you've read
this far.
Canvas sails to you gentle
reader and happy
Fish nets.
And may your day be free
of commas and other fences.

A Cat’s New Year’s Celebration

“Are you napping through the New Year again?”“Have you a better suggestion?” “Par-tay!” “Surely you jest.”
“Are you napping through the New Year again?”
“Have you a better suggestion?”
“Surely you jest.”

“We’ve been invited to a New Year’s celebration. All the cool cats will be there.”“The gentrified cats, you mean?” “These are hep cats, the kind you should get along with.” “Get along is for doggies.”
“We’ve been invited to a New Year’s celebration. All the cool cats will be there.”
“The gentrified cats, you mean?”
“These are hep cats, the kind you should get along with.”
“Get along is for doggies.”

“We’re supposed to bring noise makers. I got this kazoo out for you.”“What are you bringing?”
“We’re supposed to bring noise makers. I got this kazoo out for you.”
“A kazoo? What are you bringing?”

"Ever hear of rock-n-roll?"
“Ever hear of rock-n-roll? Hee, hee!”

"Move on over and let Jimi Cat take over!"
“Move on over and let Jimi Cat ring in the New Year with some rockin’ hallelujah cheer!”

“I think I’ll stay home and reread ‘A Cat’s Christmas in Wails’. I love the part where the cats attack that little punk with the snowballs.After that, I’ll get out some old Sing Along with Mitch records. Maybe I’ll ask Archy and Mehitabel over.”
“I think I’ll stay home and reread ‘A Cat’s Christmas in Wails’. I love the part where the cats attack that little punk with the snowballs.
After that, I’ll get out some old Sing Along with Mitch records.
Maybe I’ll ask Archy and Mehitabel over.”

“You going to the party?“I’ve way too pooped. I've been blogging all day long. I think I've got the Blogger's Blues."
“You going to the cat’s New Year’s party?
“I’m way too pooped. I’ve been blogging all day.” “Sounds like you’ve got a case of the Blogger’s Blues.”

"OK. I'll go to the party on one condition.""What's that?" "I don't have to wear one of those silly hats. And I don't have to go outside in the cold at midnight and blow that silly kazoo. And I don't have to have fun." "Yes to all of that. And no New Year's Kiss for you, either." "OK, OK, maybe the kazoo. The kazoo for a kiss." "Happy New Year!"
“OK. I’ll go to the party on one condition.”
“What’s that?”
“I don’t have to wear one of those silly hats. And I don’t have to go outside in the cold at midnight and blow that silly kazoo. And I don’t have to have fun.”
“Yes to all that. And no silly New Year’s Kiss for you, either.”
“OK, OK, maybe the kazoo. The kazoo for a kiss.”
“Happy New Year!”

A Cat’s Christmas Carol

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."
“‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

That's because I'm standing on his tail, hee-hee.
That’s because I’m standing on his tail, hee-hee.

Why can't you just sit on Santa's lap like everyone else?
Why can’t you just sit on Santa’s lap like everyone else?

What a mess! Who put the lights away last year?
What a mess! Who put the lights away last year?

Dig it! We got a Christmas card from Jimmy Carter!
Dig it! We got a Christmas card from Jimmy Carter!

Remember the year that cat in chains showed up? Claimed to be a cat from the past. What's the past? I asked.
Remember the year that cat in chains showed up? Claimed to be a cat from the past. What’s the past? I asked.

Won't Susan be surprised when she opens this one! The cat of Christmas present...hee-hee...
Won’t Susan be surprised when she opens this one! The cat of Christmas present…hee-hee…

Is this a good place for this one? Why do you have to hang on my head?
Is this a good place for this one? Why do you have to hang on my head?

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Cat Couple Vacation: A Photo Trip

“Just once I would like to go somewhere for vacation,” I told him, “and not just sit around the house watching you with your whiskers in a book, your tail as still as a surfboard on the Oklahoma Panhandle.”

At the Wild Animal Park. It’s a Dogoneus. It’s on the Endangered List. “You’re going to be on the endangered list, if you don’t start showing some enthusiasm for this trip,” I told him.

At the Cat Dinosaur Museum. “We’re getting smaller and smaller,” he said. “Soon, we’ll be as small as mice. It’s called Existential Evolutionism.” “Is that why you’re always so bummed out?” I asked him.

Finally, he had some fun. Here he is on the Cat Teacup Ride.

In Japan. “No, it’s not The Beckoning Cat,” I told him. “She’s beckoning me,” he said, “to take her on Antiques Roadshow.” “I can’t take you anywhere,” I told him.

At the Colossus of Cats. “It’s not size,” he said, “but the sharpness of claws.”

Back home again. He’s doing some research on mice and re-reading all his Black Cat Books. Next year, he wants to visit all the great libraries of the world. I told him he can do that on his laptop. “I want to go dancing across the tierra of Los Angeles,” I told him. He looked at me like I might have cat scratch fever. “There is no earth in Los Angeles,” he said. “Yes, there is,” I said. “You just gotta dig it up.”

Special Host Spring Yard Photo Post

We’re going on a yard walkabout to check out Spring progress. This raspberry red rhododendron is a favorite, the way it fills the window, but it always makes me want some raspberry ice cream. I don’t know why, but I get these urges to take a giant bite off a raspberry bloom. 

You know you’re getting old when you enjoy sitting and rocking in the early morning sun, and you couldn’t care less if weeds get pulled or things get swept. The blueberry coffee cup is my favorite.

Once, when I was little, before I got my handle, I got stuck way up high. But if one is to get stuck, high is as good a place as low.

The Golden Chain tree is lovely in spring, though it looks rather ratty the rest of the year. Oh, well.

The raspberry bed has been moved to the back of the yard, behind the apple tree.

The piano garden is just getting going. It needs more sun. It needs a lot more sun, poor little guys.

This is just silly. I don’t get this at all.

Portland recycles. Don’t you just love the colorful cans?

We’re having breakfast on the deck. I’m famished after this yard photo post.

The End.

East Side Mt Tabor Photo Essay Walk

The sidewalks in what used to be called Tabor Heights, on the north slopes of Mt Tabor, were poured in the early 1900’s. The dates are marked on the curbs, but many of the dates are being lost to code enforcement requiring homeowners to fix broken concrete in their sidewalks. Curbs rounding corners were banded with steel to protect them from wheels of horse drawn carts. The steel bars are now peeling off.

Steel rings were placed into the curbs for horse ties. Some folks have taken to tying play animals to them these days.

The names of the streets were cut into the curbs.

John Lennon once said a poet’s job is to walk around and notice things that no one else has time for. It’s late December, but bulbs are already starting to come up, and noticing them, I was reminded of John.


There are a few poetry posts in the neighborhood. Today, this one contained Walt Whitman. I stopped to read it. Here’s what it says:

“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

The excerpt is from Whitman’s preface to Leaves of Grass.

Someone left a small pile of used bricks near the sidewalk. Maybe they are going to make a little stepping block. Used brick is very useful.

The deciduous trees in the neighborhood are asleep. One of the biggest yard trees around is located on Yamhill, across from the small pile of bricks.

In addition to a lot of bikes, beer, and beards (as illustrated in Alex Barrett’s This is Portland), there are a lot of churches in Portland. This stained glass window is at Ascension, on the corner of SE Yamhill and 76th.

Tri-Met Line 15 passes through the neighborhood. This one’s rounding the Ascension corner, continuing its westward route to Belmont and downtown.

The NO sign is on the fence of the playground-parking lot at Ascension. It was the occasion of a sestina (see previous post). Today there were a couple of bright orange-red cones by the fence. So much depends upon the bright orange-red cone; not sure what depends on the sign of NO. John Lennon might have written a song about the sign of NO, instead of a sestina.

Just below the sign of NO, on the wall, is a little plaque that reads, “Dedicated to All of the Lost Children.” It’s easy to miss. It’s just below the sign of NO.

Inside the Ascension grounds, there’s a lovely shrine.

This building on SE Stark shows a number of projects involving bricks.

This is a Portland landmark, on SE Stark. Stark was originally called Baseline Road, and from the baseline meridian, measurements and directions were made. The two photos show one of the old baseline markers, located just west of Flying Pie Pizza, on the south side of Stark.

This is another Portland landmark, the original Flying Pie. Above the sign, you can see the tops of the firs atop the northeast corner of Mt Tabor. I’ve dropped a few hundred feet since beginning the photo essay walk.




This is my destination, Bipartisan Cafe, SE Stark and 79th. Note the Vintage cocktail lounge sign just below the Cafe sign, where I’ve played guitar a few times. Vintage used to be the Why Not Wine bar. I played some guitar there when it was the wine bar also, a few times with George, and a few times solo.




Here I am inside Bipartisan, putting together the photo walk essay, drinking a cup of coffee. The cafe is crowded today. I’m sitting on a couch with my back to the wall. They’re playing some good songs in the cafe. People all around me are talking, reading, working on laptops, as I am, drinking coffee. There’s a guy showing his daughter how to play Scrabble. There’s another guy reading and listening to his iPod, white wires going into his ears. Outside, the rain is beginning to fall again. There goes another Line 15. Above and behind me is a large poster of a Rockwell. At the top it says: “OURS…to fight for.” And at the bottom it reads, “FREEDOM FROM WANT.” The drawing is of a family turkey dinner.