The Mountain Lion Game

October 4, 2008

Thirteen years ago, a mountain lion looked at me. I still see clearly its long sleek body, two hundred yards away on a bare hilltop.

Suzame and I were hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore in California and had reached the highest point, Mt. Wittenberg. At first I thought the mountain lion was a big dog, but the tail and graceful gait said otherwise. It stopped and stared at us, and I began to consider our options if it headed toward us. After a very long minute, the beast padded away. Read More


Blown Far on the Wind

October 3, 2008

I have a high school friend named Jim. I haven’t seen him in nearly four decades. In fact, none of our other friends have seen him in years. This protracted absence gives Jim a leg up on the rest of us: he’s frozen in our minds as he was back then, young and good-natured and athletic.

People have a way of drifting off after high school and college, not by design, but more like dandelion seeds on a puff of wind. We end up where we do, looking forward and not back. At least until the weight of so many passing years reverses everything, and we try to put the flower back together. Read More


In late August I was three thousand miles from my Portland home, back in the Orlando area where I grew up, left, and returned to work for seventeen years.

My wife and I were enjoying a notable meal at a new restaurant in Winter Park, The Ravenous Pig. I heard a familiar voice at a nearby table but didn’t turn around. Suzame confirmed it was a personable guy I fired years ago from the newspaper, the Orlando Sentinel. Read More


Excitement in the ‘Hood

September 30, 2008

Excitement of the moment sometimes clouds my judgment. That’s the inescapable conclusion from a phone conversation with a Portland police dispatcher yesterday.

I called the cops while standing next to our friends’ house up the street. They were out of town, and another neighbor had told me that a solicitor tucking a business card in their front door spotted a man inside fifteen minutes earlier. Read More


On the Beach

September 29, 2008

What will the boy remember of yesterday? Years hence, is Atticus, my son of three, doomed to never recall his first day at the new edge of his known world, the Pacific Coast?

As I watched him run toward and away from tiny advancing and retreating waves, I realized how fleeting the moment probably was. Not just his memory of what he did but the pure delight of not caring about anything else. Neither the event or the feeling might ever return. Read More


Sound of the sea lions

September 28, 2008

Long after midnight, I heard sea lions barking. The sound echoed off Yaquina Bay, exotic at first as if I was on an isolated Pacific atoll, alone except for the abundant wildlife. After awhile I craved stillness and had to step inside from my perch on a condo balcony to escape the incessant cacophony.

The next evening along the Newport waterfront, I saw the sea lions sprawled on a floating dock beneath the pier where I stood. They were quiet except for an occasional honk. Not so of their comrades on a nearby jetty. They swayed on the rocks as they called out all at once. Read More


Political tie that binds

September 26, 2008

My friend Charlie and I came out of the closet last week.

No, not to confess a hidden sexual orientation, but to reveal to each other our strong support for Barack Obama. We hadn’t seen each other for a decade, but when he made a comment that the upcoming election is the most important of our lifetimes, I knew where he stood.

Thus began a spirited political conversation, the kind I eat up. One problem: I was driving us on a grocery run for a cookout with other long-lost high school friends. Getting worked up about politics as I’m prone to do, I started driving erratically and had to stop the campaign banter. Read More


Window unto a new world

September 25, 2008

One definition of serendipity is “an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.” I don’t know whether I have such an aptitude, but I am a keen and curious observer.

Does this characteristic stem from many years in journalism, or did it lead me to that career? All that matters, I suppose, is this: I like noticing something or somebody that invites inquiry and having that inquiry lead somewhere unexpected. Read More


Friends at 40,000 feet

September 24, 2008

I’m living vicariously through two high school friends since spending time with them last week in Florida. Charlie and Danny are civilian pilots who fly extraordinary jets, sometimes to exotic and far-flung places.

We had less ambitious expeditions in school, including one I’ve written about before. And on Friday, Charlie and I reminisced during a drive to New Smyrna Beach how he and I would intentionally get lost in my dad’s 1962 MGA sports car simply for the hell of it. Read More


No courage, no contrition

September 23, 2008

A few years ago I wrote a lousy short story. The main character, based loosely on me, carried a burden of regret for wrongs committed in his youth. Although decades had passed, he decided to make amends and began a quest for redemption.

Yes, the premise was cliched. But I was writing based on personal experience, and this public acknowledgment of sins felt good, though fiction absolves no guilt. Read More


The Road Home

September 21, 2008

Dawn has passed without sleep, and I’m headed back to Portland, crammed into a jetliner thigh-to-thigh with strangers. But I’m elsewhere, drifting through another world, a planet of the previous three days and nights in Central Florida.

With me in this world are dearest friends, friends I’d lost for an unspeakable number of years. The occasion, at least on the surface, is my forty-year high school reunion, which conjures up a stereotypical image of social gatherings not conducive to meaningful conversations. Read More


Future past of now

September 17, 2008

A name, “Huff,” is sewn on his backpack. The backpack is made of camouflage cloth. So is his Army uniform. I’m standing behind the young man. We’re stuck in an airline aisle, inching toward our seats.

“Headed to I-raq,” he says when another passenger asks. The soldier’s tone is flat, inflection free, practiced. Read More


Training days

September 13, 2008

The rumors sweeping the Internet are true: I’ve been working out. On my own and with a trainer. Working out a lot.

The motivations are the usual mix of superficial short-term and serious long-term desires. Top of mind is looking good for my forty-year high school reunion next week. So is losing weight I gained this winter after losing it last summer, wanting to fit into something sold on the same rack as skinny young hipster jeans, increased stamina, shocking my doctor by hitting a seemingly unreachable weight goal. I could go on. Read More