Observed

Heard but not heeded

September 11, 2008

No one who’s eighty says, “The years have dragged on and on. When is this thing going to finally end?” So I wasn’t surprised to hear my father say on his eightieth birthday, “I’m amazed at how quickly it’s gone by.”

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Swashbucklers next door

September 9, 2008

Everyone has a bad neighbor story. Few have bad neighbors who are pirates. The people who rent a house two doors down could even be pirate vampires, judging from their cadaver-like skin and habit of emerging only at dusk.

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Tonight south of Portland I saw a young guy wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “Kill All the Terrorists” in big letters. In smaller letters was the kicker: “And let Allah sort it out.”

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Adventures in flying

September 1, 2008

“What’s in the cup?” asks the woman x-raying our carry-on bags at Orlando International Airport. Our cross-country trip home to Portland is not beginning well. “Our little boy’s water. It’s his sippy cup,” says my wife, Suzame. “You say it’s water. But I don’t know it’s water,” the woman says, her tone curt and accusatory, […]

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A mystery no more

August 18, 2008

“How old are you, Jimmy?” I ask. He’s sitting behind the wheel of his thirty-year-old, faded blue Cutlass Calais, fiddling with hearing aids in both ears. I’m standing in the street next to my home office, leaning down to talk to Jimmy through his open car window. For years I’ve wondered about this gaunt man […]

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Feast amid ghosts

August 13, 2008

We sit at long tables, nearly one hundred of us, amid fields of bounty. It’s Sauvie Island, ten miles west of Portland. I can smell the earth, fertile from Columbia River floods. The sun eases toward the hills, setting aglow acres of vegetables sprawling between guardian white oaks half a millennium old.

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Wildlife in the city

August 12, 2008

“Daddy, I see raccoons,” Atticus says over breakfast today, his third birthday. The raccoons frequently visit our garage roof and use the ladder leading to our Portland backyard.

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Obsessive close encounters

August 11, 2008

An autopsy photo? A closeup of an alien’s skin? Or nature in all its bizarre beauty and symmetry? Hint: I captured the image today at Hughes Water Garden south of Portland in Tualatin. Going there is my crack cocaine: the sound of running water and plants everywhere.

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A new poll concludes that eighty percent of Americans now believe global warming is a real threat to our future but more than half of them are unwilling to bear any financial hardship to address the danger. Of course there would be no hardship, only opportunity, if we hadn’t wasted most of the last eight […]

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Gun: does not compute

August 9, 2008

Atticus Bales Tong, three days shy of three years old, doesn’t know the meaning of the word gun. Suzame and I didn’t set out to deprive him of this knowledge, though it’s no doubt a dividend of allowing scant TV viewing — and only since he turned two. I learned this today when I handed […]

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Arc of nations

August 8, 2008

I doubt I’ll ever see anything as wondrous as tonight’s opening ceremonies at the Olympics. Never has a story been told so vividly on such a sweeping scale. Perhaps only an authoritarian government could pull it off. And yes, the story glosses over a shameful past and present. But to conceive and execute it so […]

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Drummer points the way

July 31, 2008

“You just changed the course of my son’s life,” I tell Phil Bondy. Phil’s a young guy pounding away on a full drum set at the corner of Northeast Alberta and 13th in Portland. Atticus, who turns three in less than two weeks, is enthralled. The occasion is Last Thursday, the once-a-month event when the […]

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It’s hard not to spot a woman riding a bike and wearing a skirt. I mean that strictly from a safety standpoint. After all, it’s a benefit given how cyclists and motorists in Portland struggle at times to share the road. Don’t believe the safety bit? You shouldn’t.

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