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In Character with Marc Moscato

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Fans can stop sending Marc Moscato  pickle-theme objects. His nonprofit is  now called  Know Your City.You wouldn’t think a name change would cause much of a fuss for a little-known agency. But Marc Moscato, executive director of the once but no longer Dill Pickle Club based in Union Station, found out differently.

Portland Tribune: You folks sent out an announcement you were changing your name. So what’s the new name?

Marc Moscato: We are called Know Your City.

Tribune: The Dill Pickle Club was catchier.

Moscato: It was misleading. Some people were really into pickling and each year we had this event called The Perfect Pickle where we challenge local chefs to craft the best pickle. We did it as a fundraiser. Last year people came to the event with their own pickles they had made. They just thought it was a pickling club.

We did have a perfectly logical reason why we chose the name in the beginning. I happened to do a lot of research about Chicago and there was an organization called the Dill Pickle Club. It was a free speech forum, a meeting ground for intellectuals and activists. It started in 1914 and closed in 1932.

Tribune: How did you start the Portland Dill Pickle Club?

Moscato: I was laid off from my job. I met Lucy Rockwell and Karl Lind. The three of us were in the process of organizing a bar. We didn’t have very much money so we started doing tours of Portland.

Tribune: Hold on a second. The Dill Pickle Club was supposed to be a bar but it became a tour guide agency and now it’s ... What is it now?

Moscato: We’re a nonprofit.

Tribune: Well, practically everybody in Portland is that.

Moscato: We’re an arts and education cultural organization.

Tribune: Well, practically everybody in Portland is that.

Moscato: We connect people to place. We do tours, lectures, we lead youth programs. I’m co-teaching a 10-week video class at Benson High School.

Tribune: A favorite tour you’ve led?

Moscato: One tour, the title was, “Ghosts of Times Past.” It was a field trip to boom towns of Central Oregon that sprung up overnight and have since disappeared.

Tribune: Disappeared? Then how did you find them? GPS?

Moscato: They didn’t technically disappear. Some of the shells of buildings were there, but the people had mostly vanished.

We did a bike tour of works from the Work Projects Administration. Our last stop was at the Bonneville Power Administration building near the Lloyd Center. There’s a Woody Guthrie etching. We weren’t being rowdy, we were just reading about Woody Guthrie’s life, and this security guard came out and started asking us all sorts of questions and saying nobody could take photographs.

He said, “If you don’t leave immediately we’re going to have to persecute you.” In a way it was kind of fitting, given the subject matter. We were talking about some of the things that happened to artists who were associated with the WPA.

Tribune: Did anyone point out to the guard he meant prosecuting, not persecuting?

Moscato: That was not a good idea at the time. He was really serious and threatening us.

Tribune: I still don’t like the new name. Dill Pickle was darn clever. Know Your City is kind

of mundane.

Moscato: Too bad. It’s never a good thing when you’re trying to explain who you are and immediately after (saying) your name, then you have to explain what you’re not. We have assembled quite a collection of pickle-related gifts.

Tribune: Your favorites?

Moscato: The electronic yodeling pickle. It’s a very phallic looking object. You press a button and it yodels at you. We have pickle Band-Aids — they’re in the shape of pickles — and pickle-flavored dental floss and gum. A woman in Hawaii hand crocheted a pickle ornament for a Christmas tree. It had googly eyes and a mustache.

Tribune: So now that you are Know Your City, what happens to all the pickle paraphernalia?

Moscato: I don’t know. They’re just in a box. If anybody wants to buy them, get in touch.

Tribune: Really? My wife loves pickle-flavored potato chips. You got any?

Moscato: That’s just a terrible idea, putting pickle flavor in a potato chip.

Tribune: Well, if that’s your attitude, maybe the name change was a good idea.

Moscato: I don’t even like pickles that much.