11.19.2007

More weird Portland

A lot of what makes Portland funky and unique are the subtle things. For example, I wrote a blog a while back about a movie theater that played "Suppressed Vicious War Cartoons" (see The "weird Portland" myth). Now, the Clinton Street Theater, which played the cartoons, is a quaint little movie house. When passing by the theater, as well as the charming neighborhood around it, one wouldn't think twice about the obscure, or flat out weird, movies and performances (they also do a weekly, interactive performance of Rocky Horror Picture Show) that take place there. A closer look, though, would reveal something far from normal and mainstream. That's why I say subtle.

Another example might be that random unicycler who passes you on his way to work in the morning. I mean seriously, a unicycler? It happens, though...and it's weird. However, because it isn't out of character for Portland, and not so radical and shocking, it is just accepted as one of those subtle quirks of our social fabric in the Stump.

To expand on the subtlety of "Weird Portland," I wanted to share something I just discovered: the stencil people in the city's bike lanes. You know what they are, stenciled markings of a two-dimensional figure on a bike, indicating where the bike lane is. However, Portland's "bike people" are, naturally, a little different. Apparently they've been around for almost 10 years, when Todd Roberts, an employee of the Office of Transportation, took the liberty of expressing his creativity while on the job. While marking Portland's bike lanes with the customary stenciled bike rider, Roberts began making minor adjustments to the figures. The first of his "bike people" was created when, with extra reflective tape, Todd added a hat to one of the figures. This created a whole new phenomenon of street art. And, as I said earlier, it is so subtle that I hadn't noticed them until recently (with the aid of an article in PDX Magazine).

Anyway, take a look at these photos. I think they're great. To read more about the art and the artists, or just to check out more photos, go to:http://bikeportland.org/2005/09/29/meet-portlands-bike-lane-people/

Although brilliant, I don't know how they get away with these, as they are in officially designated bike lanes, and I would assume are viewed, technically, as street signs. Whatever the case, it's fucking great that they exist and are accepted by the city and Office of Transportation. Maybe it just speaks to Portland's bike culture and artistic breeding ground, but it definitely adds to what makes the city unique.

2 comments:

Oldie said...

My favorite bike lane character is the one depicting a seated-Bilbo battling a fire-breathing Smaug with a heat tape-rendered Sting. You should check it out...I think it was on 12th and Alberta.

Sluggy said...

You should put your graffiti talents to work, Roost! Maybe even a guy who depicts one night in Bangkok.