I grasped the plastic coated in pressure sensitive adhesive, admiring the multitude of colors and neat design emblazoned on it. A sticker from KBOO a gleaming radio tower with a red, Sovietesque star perched on top of the broadcast tower. The teal green sticker sits on my laptop now—a reminder of the independent radio station where it came from.
Over the past few weeks I’ve realized that Portland is a literal treasure trove for stickers. Erin Yanke of KBOO even said that she was giving us one sticker for our laptops and one for our bikes. I think the proliferation of stickers has something to do with the obscene number of people who enjoy biking way too much here. Nevertheless, the sticker that I received at KBOO hasn’t been the only sticker that I’ve proudly affixed to my clear MacBook Speck Case.
Looking at my laptop and my burgeoning collection of stickers I had an epiphanic moment: the stickers all tell a story. Whether it’s the sticker from KBOO that speaks of the rushed vox pop projects we attempted to complete there, or the Powell’s Books sticker that ushers in memories of a scavenger hunt gone horribly wrong, the little pieces of plastic aren’t just decoration. Here are some of the moments that stuck with me in Portland.
The Powell’s Books sticker that I meticulously cut to size with scissors to maintain room on my laptop is a reminder of the scavenger hunt where my wayward sense of direction didn’t help us in the slightest. We made it to Powell’s with no trouble. The sign is huge and the clue was obvious, but after that our group got horribly lost and behind. And it was irrevocably All. My. Fault. My sense of direction has never been good. The advent of Google Maps doesn’t help it either. I can hardly get around the city of Richmond where I lived for twenty years and still sometimes use GPS to get home. So, no surprise that in an entirely new city, Portland, my hopeless bravado and directionally challenged brain took us the complete opposite direction on multiple occasions. We ended up catching a TriMet bus to gain ground on the other groups scavenging. Luckily, my sense of direction didn’t put us on the wrong bus. I did venture back to Powell’s later that night though and have the fond memory of Roxane Gay signing a copy of her new book Hunger for me.
Another sticker highlight happened this past weekend when I went to the Mississippi Street Fair. I biked over to the fair and was wandering around in bearable heat when I came across a local artist’s booth. The artist was offering free stickers for an Instagram follow. Me, being the sticker aficionado that I am, recognized his artistic talent and followed him almost immediately. In return, he gave me a skillfully drawn sticker of a bird being held by a pair of creepy looking hands. So, not the happiest vibe for a street fair, but I wasn’t going to turn down a sticker that cool.
I remember the best parts of the Street Fair were the aroma of smoked barbecue from the BBQ ribs competition wafting around, a kindly man with a bubble machine making his way around the festival, and discovering an array of inventive graphic tees. One t-shirt had a picture of bike and the words “Put the Fun Between Your Legs” printed on it. It was a great experience to see droves of people gathering to buy community art, support local vendors, and eat local food.
Most recently I acquired a new sticker on Monday for X Ray FM Radio. We were meeting with Jefferson Smith and talking about the democratization of radio. X Ray FM is based in the basement of the Falcon Art Community at 5415 Albina Ave and the hallways are filled with grandiose paintings. We were informed on multiple occasions by both Phil and Jeff that many of the paintings were the work of Saddam Hussein’s portrait artist who was smuggled into the country.
Monday wasn’t the first time I saw X Ray FM’s digs because during the scavenger hunt we had made a foray into the space and taken pictures of the outlandish paintings. That Monday though, after Jeff’s lecture, I left with a tiny souvenir of the day and it wasn’t the notes I’d taken on the talk or the talk itself, but it was the X Ray FM sticker that was given out afterward.
Thinking back on the stickers I’ve picked up thus far this trip has helped me catalogue a lot of the memories that I’ve made so far, but not all of them.
The stickers don’t tell the tale of rushing on a bus on Fourth of July to catch the Hawthorne Bridge fireworks with Theo and Lucy. Or, that same day abandoning a Reed party where people entertained themselves by flipping hammers and hammering nails while getting hammered themselves (but not by actual hammers).
They also wouldn’t tell you about the David Lynch retrospective I went to on Friday night where I met Theo and Jessica to see Eraserhead. They definitely don’t tell you about the surprise fire alarms that were set off in the midst of the film or about David Lynch’s early work. The struggle catching the last bus home later that night in an effort to get groceries from Safeway is definitely not commemorated by stickers.
I think the most significant part of this summer that stickers don’t cover is my personal struggle to stick to a deadline. With so many things going on in Portland and so many worthwhile organizations to make a radio or documentary piece on the toughest part of the whole thing is distilling it down and quickly. The program is flying by and, as I discussed with Atlas on Sunday, after this week we’ll only have four weeks left of Portland and four weeks left to see our fellow MISCies. There’s still plenty of time to try to stick to deadlines though. I hope there’s still time to get more stickers. I’m cautiously optimistic about all of it, but hey, at least I’m optimistic.