A condensed version of this story was published in the East Oregonian newspaper. Read More


Rockets At Night

March 19, 2009

Growing up in Central Florida, I saw dozens of rockets streak across the sky. They became part of the landscape. That’s not to say they weren’t memorable. Especially at dusk while I fished in our lake from a row boat with my father. One of us would spot the trail of fire, and we’d watch until it became a pinprick of light, like an evening star only moving. Read More


Memorable Lines

March 19, 2009

Subjective selections, yes. Some dubious. But Esquire‘s choice of the greatest 70 sentences are a humbling and inspiring read that I stumbled upon.

Finding them led to a search for best opening sentences, and this list of 100 from novels echoes longer. Read More


Rewarding Failure

March 16, 2009

How can the $165 million that AGI is paying employees be considered bonuses if awarded for failure and not success? And that’s just the start. The bonuses are part of $450 million to be doled out.

Some of my vanished retirement money came from annual bonuses while working at two Fortune 500 companies. Every manager knew never to count on anything extra until the checks were in hand. Why? The bonuses were tied directly to performance: performance of the company, performance of the business unit, and performance of the individual. Read More


Mystery of the Mounds

March 14, 2009

Three mounds of black dirt sprouting droopy yellow flowers in a vacant lot. It’s raining and I almost don’t stop the car. But the sight is too incongruous in this expanse of green to pass up. The oddity warrants a photograph, I decide, and unsheathe my camera. Read More

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History Lost

March 13, 2009

Today I stood beneath a statue of Teddy Roosevelt astride a high-stepping horse. I was among  75 people in Portland’s South Park Blocks. Warmed in late afternoon sun, we protested plans to greatly reduce access to the Oregon Historical Society research library across the street.

Many people spoke of the library’s key role in their work — historians, writers, journalists, genealogists, and others. During the last two years, I spent innumerable hours there researching this book about the Pendleton Round-Up and desperately need it for my next big project. Read More

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Merits of Chaos

March 10, 2009

If better organized I would not have spent so many hours this month navigating the treacherous paper trail of my recent past.

Tax time triggered this journey through canceled checks, receipts, and cluttered file draws. Disgust with the disarray then led to wholesale purging and imposition of order.

But the paper trail also reconstructed much that I’d set aside in my mind: a gift bought here, a trip there. Numbers on paper conjured moving pictures of life so easily forgotten.

Without chaos, much would have been lost.


Lunar Mission Gone Awry

March 9, 2009

Our little boy, Atticus, spots a bright moon at dusk. He’s holding a toy modeled after one that was around when I was a kid, the Dan Dare Planet Gun. Pull the trigger and it launches a spring-powered propeller disk.

I’ve wound it to the max. From our front steps he aims at the moon and fires. The disk whirs an impressive 20 feet into the air and lands a short distance away. I’m thrilled and assume he is too.

“Why didn’t it land on the moon?” Atticus asks, not impressed at all.


Panhandlers for Obama

March 6, 2009

Long before The Sopranos, I learned about real-life Mafia from Gay Talese in his stunning 1971 book Honor Thy Father. So his recent byline in the New York TimesCity Room blog caught my eye.

Talese recounts helping panhandlers improve their income by composing better-worded signs that invoke President Obama’s name.

Word gets around. Tonight, a man and woman camped on the sidewalk outside my neighborhood Safeway grocery brandished a sign with this spiel: “Obama Wants To Make A Lot Of Change! We Only Need A Little.”

It works, the woman said between bites of meatloaf.


Media Junk Food

March 6, 2009

Not only did we learn this week that Portland is the country’s unhappiest city, a new study says it’s among the least manly. But according to whose definition? These criteria aren’t my idea of manliness.

The Portland Business Journal reports that “cities scored higher based on the number of sports teams they have, the number of hardware stores, the number of tools purchased and the frequency of monster truck rallies. Cities lost points based on their number of home furnishing stores, high minivan sales and subscription rates to beauty magazines.” Read More


Commode Commentary

March 6, 2009

The bathroom at Mississippi Studios in Portland is the home of succinct political commentary that summarizes the sentiments of many people these days.

A message typed on a sheet of paper taped to the wall above the toilet advises patrons to flush twice. Below the message someone has scrawled an addendum:

It’s a long way to the Republican Head Quarters.


Amped Up on Live Music

March 5, 2009

Strange feeling, though not new, to look around a small-venue concert (my favorite) and see I’m the only one looking, well, old.

I wonder what the twenty-somethings think when they see my gray and white hair. Have they ever considered that love of live music doesn’t vanish when you hit thirty or well beyond? Read More


Nose Job Memory

March 4, 2009

Among my earliest memories of my mother is her repeated complaints about the prominence of her nose and expressed hope to have it “fixed” one day. I thought of her nose when I saw this drawing from a 1930 nose reshaper ad.

She complained persistently for several years. Her hope, which my frugal father greeted with silence unless she pressed him, eventually became a demand. Read More