Epiphanies of Yesterday’s News

November 19, 2008

Some days some things jump out at me. This morning it was signs. I was traveling a familiar route, and three signs looked new to the urban landscape.

“Keep Portland Weird!” cried out from the west side of Music Millenium, the only place I buy CDs in person. I knew the store on East Burnside Street sold bumper stickers with the slogan. Until inquiring inside I didn’t know how many, more than ten thousand, or that the store had copyrighted the slogan. And had the sign painted a year ago. What fog have I been in?

I’ve also passed the “Free Love” sign above Smut, a store at Burnside and 28th selling a grab-bag of vintage items, dozens of times by car and bike. Am I blind to the world on some days?

When I saw “Paulrus is Dead” graffiti on several traffic signs on NE 28th Avenue, I thought I’d discovered something fresh and clever alluding to my generation. The Beatles. The 1960s. As a teen I spent hours with my brothers trying to discover supposedly hidden messages in “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” about Paul’s McCartney’s rumored death and replacement with a double. “I Am the Walrus” was one of the songs we played backwards in search of clues.

It turns out the “Paulrus” tags have been spread around Portland’s east side since as early as 2005. Blog and Flickr photos abound. A rock band of University of Portland students adopted the name.

What takes me so long to see what’s been in plain view months or years and then experience it as grand epiphany? Thinking about this a lyric played in my head. A lyric from “I Am the Walrus” that says nothing, but the Beatles inflect it as if it’s an answer to everything: Coo coo kachoo ka coo coo kachoo.