Hundreds of pages long, the Portland City Code of Ordinances details the many regulations governing our city. You can read it all online, to learn how elections are held or what certain permits cost. Or you can read it instead for the strange parts, the inexplicable parts … the dirty parts.

Chapter 4  AMUSEMENTS

Sec. 4-16. Definitions.

Adult amusement device shall mean and include any device capable of showing by audio or visual reproduction, projection or otherwise, and used primarily to display material containing details, descriptions, or narrative accounts of acts of sexual stimulation, intercourse, or deviation, the dominant theme of which is an appeal to the prurient interest of the listener or viewer within a cubicle or other enclosed area.

Forget it, I’m not in the mood anymore. 


Chapter 5  ANIMALS AND FOWL

Sec. 413.  Removal of chickens.

… any violation of the provisions of this article shall be grounds for an order from the city to remove the chickens and the chicken-related structures. If a chicken dies, it must be disposed of promptly in a sanitary manner.

And if a chicken dies in a chicken-related structure, then all chickens may attend a chicken-themed funeral dressed in chicken-appropriate garb.

Chapter 7  CEMETERIES

Sec. 7-26. Cemeteries not responsible for loss or damage.

… the cemeteries will not be responsible for loss or damage from causes beyond their reasonable control, and especially from damage caused by the elements, an act of God, common enemy, thieves, vandals, strikers, malicious mischief-makers, explosions, unavoidable accidents, invasions, insurrections, riots, or order of any military or civil authority …

I suspect that “invasions” or “insurrections” won’t be targeting our cemeteries.

Sec. 7-133. Sports, games prohibited.

No person shall conduct or participate in any sport, game or contest in any cemetery, except ice skating.

Ice-skating insurrectionists are prohibited from city cemeteries. 


 Chapter 11  FOOD AND FOOD HANDLERS

Sec. 11-1. Contaminated items of food or drink.

No person shall knowingly sell, offer for sale, or hold for sale in the city any unwholesome, stale, putrid, diseased, or otherwise contaminated items of food or drink …

Good to see an SAT word like “putrid” showing up in the City Code!   


Chapter 12  GARBAGE, WASTES AND JUNK

Sec. 12-16. Definitions.

Vermin shall mean any noxious offensive animals which shall include but not be limited to insect larvae, flies, bedbugs, roaches, fleas, lice, ants, wasps, beetles, pigeons, starlings and other nuisance birds.

Starlings?!? 

Chapter 16  MASSAGE ESTABLISHMENTS

Sec. 16-2. Definitions.

Massage or therapeutic massage are used interchangeably to mean any method of rubbing, kneading, tapping, vibration, compression, percussion, application of friction or manipulation of the external parts of the human body with the hands or other parts of the body or with the aid of any instrument or device.

“Percussion” — yeah, I’ve had massages like that. Ow! 


Chapter 17  OFFENSES, MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

Sec. 17-31.  Selling toy balloons with flammable gas prohibited.

No person shall sell, offer for sale, or have in his possession with intent to sell, any toy balloon inflated with hydrogen or any other flammable or explosive gas.

Aw man, the government never lets you have any fun. 

ARTICLE IV. OBSCENITY

Sec. 17-61. Definitions.

Obscene means material or a performance that … taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

So that’s why people keep telling me this column is obscene.

ARTICLE V. REGULATION OF TOBACCO

Sec. 17-91. Smoking prohibited at playgrounds, beaches and outdoor athletic facilities.

“Smoking” as used herein shall mean inhaling, exhaling, burning or carrying or having in one’s possession any lighted cigar, cigarette, pipe, weed, plant or other combustible substance in any manner or in any form.

Wait, did they say “weed”? Do they mean “weed” or, well, “weed”?

Chapter 22  RODENT AND VERMIN CONTROL

Sec. 22-1. Definitions.

Vermin shall include noxious little animals or insects such as larvae, flies, bed-bugs, roaches, fleas, lice and mites.

Didn’t “Noxious Little Animals” play at Asylum last month?

Chapter 27  BROADBAND TELECOMMUNICATIONS NETWORK

Sec. 27-2. Definitions.

Public way shall mean the surface, the air space above the surface, and the area below the surface of any public street, highway, Jane, path, alley, sidewalk, boulevard, drive, bridge …

Jane? Yep, that’s what it says:  Jane. As the old joke goes, “I wouldn’t call Jane a public way, but …”

John Spritz is a marketing and communications consultant based in Portland, www.jspritz.com.

Illustrations by Jay Sacher, www.jaysacher.com