Happy Birthday, John

18 10 2019

I write this on the eve of my 47th birthday.

Glad to be here.

It’s raining in the autumn in Oregon. We’re in the state’s interior for a few days. High desert country in the fertile Cascade Mountain range.

It’s a needed respite from city life.

Central Oregon features interesting buttes, forests, calderas and caves. There’s also powerful flowing rivers and breaktaking mountain top lakes all in a day’s journey. David found a condominium for rent on Airbnb in the Sunriver community. Sunriver — in a way — reminded me of Baypoint and the St. Joe Company developments in Northwest Florida.

The accomodations, however, would not be the highlight of this trip. No, this trip was more about to determine if David and I could travel together after such a harrowing crash in the Rogue river valley. Could we make the three-and-half hours drive from Portland and back safely and without incident or argument? This was the test.

I took the wheel leaving Portland. Going over Mt. Hood brought back memories for David as he shared stories of Timberline Lodge, Government Camp and Skibowl. We stopped at a roadside diner on the Warm Springs Reservation where respect was given and we were served an excellent breakfast. The Confederated Tribes’ fried bread was delicous.

After breakfast we crossed the Deschutes River and passed through Madras where we were surprised to find a major airport. The Central Oregon area is definitely growing in population and business. We ate dinner in Bend at a tavern along the Deschutes’ flowing waters. Temperatures were dropping. It was getting colder.

Crater Lake

The next morning we made our way to Crater Lake. The park was open but most of the offices and concessionaire operations had closed for the season. It was still an exciting visit as temperatures dropped below freezing and wind gusts picked up considerably. Just getting out of the car to snap a few pictures along the lake’s rim was a daunting task.

And fun. We were indeed lucky to traverse the east rim drive this time of year. The road provides access to those hiking Mount Scott (8,929 ft.), the park’s highest peek. Crater Lake is a beautiful example of nature’s fury. Almost eight thousand years ago Mount Mazama erupted. The volcanic mountain became the volcanic lake before us.

Coming to Crater Lake was an emotional roller coaster, the least of which being David’s driving. This was a park I had hoped to work for but the lodging concessaire went with another candidate. That stung. We got over it and moved to Portland where we find ourselves in year two. The challenges have been great and, for that, I remain grateful and cautiously optimistic.

I am learning and growing and, God willing, developing mature critical thinking skills.

On our last night in Central Oregon we went to the Pine Tavern in Bend for happy hour. We had hiked the upper Deschutes River trail eariler and visited the ski lodge at Mount Bachelor. It was quite cold that day with snow on the ground. The joy of traveling kicked in that night in the tavern.

There we were — finishing another great outdoors excursion in a cheersy bar surrounded by happy people.

Nice way to celebrate another year in the life.

 





Rogue River Crash

12 05 2019

Hanging upside down trapped in a car is not a fun place to be.

That’s where we found ourselves on April Fool’s Day but this was no joke. Driving back from San Francisco, David and I were involved in a motor vehicle accident. We are lucky to be alive.

The crash occurred on Interstate 5 in southern Oregon. This is a rigorous stretch of roadway along the Cascade Mountain range which I had not given much thought. It can be treacherous as the road turns through the Siskiyou Mountains and in-and-out of forests of Douglas firs.

I underestimated the difficulty level of this portion of our trip. My travel planning was still operating under Florida driving distances. Looking back, San Francisco to Portland in one day — for one driver — is pushing it.

And then you add the rain.

And the darkness of night.

We hit a pool of water and the car began to spin.

“Hold on,” David said as the BMW turned 90 degrees in a blink of the eye.

And then we flipped and landed upside down. It all happened so fast. The roof came crashing down and busted us in the noggin pretty good. David began to scream and yell for help. I unfastened my seat belt and tried to open the passenger door. It wouldn’t budge. Realizing we were trapped, I began to yell for help.

Thankfully, help would arrive. A young couple traveling north witnessed the accident as did a trucker. They arrived before the EMS crew. Clint got the driver’s door open and pulled David out. I crawled out right behind him. It could have been way worse.

We didn’t land in a pool of water or tumble off the side of the mountain and the car didn’t catch on fire. David suffered several fractures in his neck and torso and was hospitalized. He would need staples to close the gash in his head from where the roof hit.

If it wasn’t for Clint and his girlfriend Christina pulling bloody David and I from the car, I’m not sure what may have happened as the panic set in. Their actions could be described as good Samaritan-esque. I considered them angels.

“Not angels just did what we would have done if we were in that positioning,” Christina texted me the next day.

I escaped the carnage with a diagnosis of whiplash. Seeing David in such sad shape was traumatic. His sister Julie once again came to our rescue — traveling down from Central Oregon to fetch us from the hospital.

The BMW is totaled which doesn’t hurt my feelings. I despised that car and all of the problems that came with it. Naturally, David wants to replace it but I am in no hurry.

The important thing is for us to heal. I am back to work now and realize how lucky I am to work for a company that provides family leave time. I’m also lucky to have co-workers and managers that genuinely care.

 

 

 

 

 





Cold Calculations

1 03 2019

It’s winter in Oregon. The winds blowing through the gorge can be harsh at times. There is very little snow fall in the city. That’s ok.

Getting through my first winter in the pacific northwest has been quite interesting. I was warned about the long nights, cold, dampness and the need to stock up on vitamin D. I am also coming to understand the nihilistic, doom and punkish attitude populating parts of Portland. “Keep Portland Weird!” is a frequently used expression.

It’s annoying sometimes. I’ve been harassed on the streets here so much that I worry my demeanor may be sinking to the level of those sludge covered “homeless” campers.  The empathy I had upon arrival is shrinking. Originally instructed to recognize these gypsies’ existence, I now recognize ignoring their savage tactics is the best option.

In the face of these challenges there is still much to be learned. What I am discovering about the pacific northwest millennial species is they are complex, creative, intelligent and quite daring. Winters push most indoors. There are those who brave the mountains, skis in hand. I haven’t ventured up to the slopes yet. This old Florida dude is still adapting.

At work I have benefitted from social policies enacted by left wing bureaucrats. The goal is to continue performing well and lifting the company. David reminds me not to focus all of my energy there. Journalism remains my passion. I write now for love and peace.

Travel-wise, San Francisco and Alaska have been on my mind. San Francisco is obviously one of America’s great cities and Alaska a newer frontier that seems forrested in mystery. Bored with work, I have decided to pursue a graduate degree in urban planning and design.

Entering the university academic realm again seems odd and the threat of student debt is like a flagger on a construction site. However, there are advantages to returning to campus. For starters, the interactions and access to a diverse representation of society is important. There is a human tendency to retreat into safe spaces and minority bubbles. We all live, from time-to-time, in our own little echo chambers. This probably best describes my tenure in south Florida.

After two meetings with the graduate studies director, I decided to seek a master’s in urban and regional planning. I ordered a book from the library in Burbank, California. It was recommended by my friend Wong in San Francisco. Guide to California Planning states there are five elements to planning:

  1. Laws & Regulation
  2. Environmental Analysis
  3. Socio-economic Analysis
  4. Political Approval
  5. Design

Dreams the way we planned them — if we work in tandem.

Shall we begin.

 

 

 

 

 





Future Designs Downsized

23 12 2018

PDXStudio

Space comes at a premium in most urban American cities. I’m fortunate to be living with a master designer and am getting quite a lesson here in Portland.

It’s winter now. I have my boots and heavy parka coat ready — if Alaska calls.

Working at the grocery store is making me stronger and wiser. Major construction projects continue around our market. Cranes coming in, yellow vested workers becoming more frequent and long nights with plenty of rain.

David has worked miracles with his design on our studio. I’d love to see him get a chance in the neighborhood. Portland’s northwest has some landmark structures, no doubt.

I have been learning how to operate in tight spaces. At home, at work, in life.

There are times when you must move your body certain ways. City living is a lot like yoga class only at a faster pace. Although David says this is nothing like New York. The market floorplan can be challenging for both consumer and employee. Even more so in a full, petit warehouse. I believe I am holding my own quite well, thank you.

David has done much of his studio design with a modest budget. Portland has some real gems in thrift stores but for furniture, we have leaned heavily on Ikea, the Swedish retailer out by the airport. You can shop and munch on meatballs as the jets hum overhead. It’s fantastic.

Our studio is 500 square feet. At first we took what we could get from thrift stores but it was never a proper fit. The studio is nearly completed now, just in time for the holidays. We have a dwarf Alberta spruce decorated with lights and ornaments. The idea is to put the tree back into the ground after the new year. It’s a different concept from before when we relied on artifical trees or ones chopped down in the prime of life.

Recycling and sustainibility are central themes of our new life here in Oregon.

When space matters, trash is reduced. A limited amount of room means clearing out the things you can live without and removing toxic elements. There are times when I miss Florida’s sunshine, but I will not weep over its entrenched political culture. It’s a deeper dive on the West Coast. Liberal positions on the environment, planning and engineering, social economics and human rights are embraced and implemented. At last, I have a job that pays a fair and livable wage.

Am I satisfied? No.

Getting a foundation should have never been this hard. Perhaps, that is my southern, white male privilege showing. I know I must let go of the frustration with Florida. Bitterness will only drag me down. I am determined to be happy and cherish all that life offers. I am committed to providing for my family and grateful for the strength to earn.

May these blessings continue in 2019.

Red Dawn

 

 





Gratefully Injured

11 11 2018

I injured myself. It was bound to happen.

“You’re lifting too much,” Ani said. Smart kid, that Ani.

Yes, my housekeeping duties require extensive lifting and reaching. It’s a physical job and I’m grateful to have it. Aside from cleaning chores, the interactions with co-workers like Ani are important. After years of indepedent contractor work, it is refreshing to be a part of a company again.

Great cities are built by great companies, mind you.

Life in Portland is going just swell. I have been invited on two press tours since my arrival here — Long Beach, California and Puerto Rico. Long Beach was a solo adventure and Puerto Rico a group effort. Both destinations interesting in their own way. Long Beach, in the shadow of Los Angeles, is run by a young mayor. A gay man determined to improve living conditions by implementing new concepts in this coastal southern California port city.

Puerto Rico, still suffering from a barrage of hurricanes, offers beautiful nature and lots of rum. Bacardi is the major player there. I learned how to make a simple refreshing cocktail. Pronounced Die Q Re. It’s basically sugar, superior Bacardi rum and ice. It’s hot in the tropics and ice is a key ingredient.

My tour group in Puerto Rico was a lot of fun. It included seasoned travelers and newcomers. It was designed for the LGBTQ community. There were journalists from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco there. I managed to connect on a personal level with some of them.

Our group sets sail.

Long Beach seemed to be this vision of what we can accomplish. Puerto Rico offered a chance to relax from the heavy work load, over-reaching and contenious mid-term elections. I knew I was hurt when the luggage became hard to handle at the airport. Perhaps I could have packed lighter. I did not use the laptop, but the sports coat was put to good use.

David gave his blessing on both trips. He stayed in Portland continuing to piece together our studio. We both received influenza vaccinations before I departed to San Juan. When I returned the doc diagnosed me with lateral epicondylitis, aka tennis elbow.

So I’m slowed down. Just in time for the holidays.

Time to reflect on the incredible year we have had. A cross country move. New friends and new challenges. A rennaissance of the soul.

I believe this injury is divine intervention to force my conscience into absorbing the events of the past year. To still be standing and breathing — much less working — is something to be eternally grateful for. I am in a good place in life. Time to cherish that and offer a rum filled toast to even better times ahead.

Long Beach stairs

 





New Seasons in the PAC-Northwest

27 09 2018

The leaves are changing and some are falling. Autumn is here. I am content with my life in New America. The financial difficulties and poverty struggles are in the past, although the memory still fresh in my mind and it serves me well in my daily interactions with the less fortunate.

The streets of Portland and Seattle this summer were riddled with the lost — San Francisco, I heard, is way worse. In Seattle last week, I had a delightful time with a local son — a true west coaster. Kyle showed me the sights around Capitol Hill, a neighborhood I had previously visited five years prior with my good friend, Ryan.

Ryan is on the slow boat to China, but that’s another story.

Kyle is a visual merchandiser for a major American department stores chain headquartered in Seattle. He is a handsome man who likes to read and is interested in things that nourish your soul. He also enjoys a good laugh. We got a long famously.

Seattle, like Portland only to a larger extent, appears to be a growing city with cranes of construction abounding. It is picturesque with its hills and harbor — protected from the ocean storms that often batter the east coast around this time of year. From my perspective, Seattle is a politically left-leaning city that gets business right and welcomes tourists from around the globe.

SeattleKylesView

Before skipping around Capitol Hill with Kyle, I had to participate in yet another episode of David’s car breaks down. He drove the BMW up from Portland and took it down into the masses at Pike Place Market where the vehicle promptly overheated upon entering the parking garage. Smoke fumed from under the hood as we descended into the underground garage.

It would take 18 hours to get the car out of the garage. Two tow trucks couldn’t fit and AARP offered little assistance. Frankly, I did not handle the situation well. I have long since lost my patience with David’s desire to rehab this particular car. Fans, radiators, tires, you name it — I’m over it.

I wonder how many marriages have become divorces because of cars?

But I digress.

I remain grateful for our life here on the West Coast. The challenge of learning a new city, state and regional culture is exciting. Working your way up a ladder is fun and seeing David’s design spirit come to life is true joy. Revisiting Portland is a glimpse into where he was born and raised. The hospital is still here. We drove past his boyhood home in Mount Tabor. David was a junior in high school when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“My passion is still with architecture and design,” David said recently. “But I have yet to find my vision here in Portland,” he added.

DavidPortland2018

We still have our tiny flat in one of America’s queen cities. I now work for a B corporation and we are starting to make friends. I would like to see Kyle again. I’m not sure what that agreement would be. Maybe a trip to San Francisco or Japan?? You know, to save the lost…..

 





Coming Back, Gracefully

7 08 2018

Recovery going well. It has been a surprisingly hot summer in Portland. I accepted a union job offer from a local grocery store. Cleaning toilets and taking out the trash. It’s a smelly job, but somebody’s gotta do it and I am damn glad to have the work while earning a decent wage.

Walking the streets has been challenging but it has made me stronger. One must stay ever vigilant in certain sections of the city (Old Town/Chinatown) where those who have fallen on hard times lurk and dwell. I was not prepared for such a stark reality. Skid row here is ugly. Real ugly. These conditions I had not seen since the summer of 2009 in New York. People had lost their minds and were living like dirty gutter rats.

Old Town’s Stag

I’ve seen that here. On more than one occasion.

At my new job it is required to interact with the public. A daily evaluation of the local market. Even in brief conversations, messages can be exchanged. Understanding the neighborhood is important. Knowing hot and cold trends keeps you in the game.

Physically, the job can be exhausting. There is a lot of time on your feet. I average seven miles a day. There is also a lot of lifting to be done. There is even a demolition component involving “bottle machines.” The bottles and cans provide a source of revenue for people living on the margins. A tiny profit for people living on the streets or neighborhood folks trying to pay down bills.

I walk to and from work most days and nights. It is a safe neighborhood with a hospital nearby, plenty of construction projects, shopping and street car lines. Portland, I’m learning, is a major rail city. David and I enjoy riding in the street car. We’ve taken it to the riverfront, library and over to the eastside. Our studio apartment is coming along, albeit slowly. The biggest fix was getting rid of the leaking air mattress.

The Jeep is gone as well. God bless that vehicle. It did its job and more from Calgary to Miami. But, when in recovery mode — rebuilding lives — one needs less worries not more. Vehicles in the city are a luxury. There are risks to street parking no matter where one calls home.

I’m still reporting on queer issues for south Florida and, locally, have picked up a restaurant beat for a Portland neighborhood newspaper. We have joined an Episcopal Cathedral and begun volunteering at community events. Friends are planning visits…. I’m happy again. That’s the most important thing.