A slice of life in Portland, Oregon

5 years ago

The day started innocently enough. Went to the gym. Lifted weights, shot baskets, sat in the sauna. Came home.

Met my Monday morning breakfast buddy, Tom, at Gravy, known for its big menu and mammoth portions. We both ordered the signature corned beef hash with hash browns and walked out of there with bulging to-go boxes holding more than half of what we were served in the first place. A light meal, it was not.

Swung by the post office to mail a box of books to a friend who's holding a weekend book swap. A great idea, with all the extra books to be donated to the Friends of the Library.

That's when it got weird.

Art on wheels

The postal clerk was taking my money when he burst out laughing and urged me to turn around. There outside the window was a cross-dresser, a big guy with a big grin on his face, gyrating for a captive audience of postal workers and customers. He cupped his fake boobs. He spun around and wiggled his fanny. He twirled 'round and 'round in his dress, then raised his hands, mime style, and approached the window with a smile. Then, just like that, he pivoted, scurried to his car and drove off.

It wasn't just any car and it wasn't just any cross-dresser. It was Extremo the Clown, driving his big-ass car, once described by a Portland writer as "a mountain of artwork on wheels: dark skulls, twisted faces, obscure deities, water fountains, and protrusions."

You have to see the car to believe it. Yes, it's an assault on the eyeballs but it just may be the most recognizable vehicle in Portland. And its owner? Well, let's just say one of Portland's most flamboyant citizens is a sign painter named Scot (with one t) Campbell who once was the director of public information for the Church of Scientology in Los Angeles. Way back in June 2002, Scott Bures wrote an engaging profile of this free spirit, titled "The Dream of Extremo: The Weird, Happy Life of Extremo."

In another city, someone might have picked up a phone and dialed 9-1-1 to report the strange guy dancing to his own drummer. Here at my neighborhood office, one postal clerk smiled broadly and said, "That just made my day!" And a customer, an older African American woman, said on her way out the door, "That's Portland for you."

Photograph: www.dnagallery.blogspot.com

Tweet me @georgerede

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