Fantasy and reality


Sally Hawkins and Octavia Spencer form a close bond as cleaning ladies in “The Shape of Water.”

I’m not much into movies that are rooted in science fiction or fantasy. I prefer those that are tethered to real life, with real characters and a plausible plot.

But my recent viewing experiences has me rethinking my preferences.

A couple weekends ago, Lori and I saw “The Post.” It was a very good film, directed by Steven Spielberg, starring the incomparable Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, and based on the true story of the newspaper’s legal battle with the U.S. government over the feds’ attempt to prevent the Post and The New York Times from publishing the top-secret Pentagon Papers.

A week later, we went to see “The Shape of Water,” a highly touted movie about a mute janitor who comes in contact with some sort of amphibious creature that’s being held captive at the Cold War-era research facility where she works. I’d seen the trailer and I was pretty skeptical going in, despite the 13 Oscar nominations it has accumulated.

Well. You’d think this veteran journalist would have liked the reality-based movie about the First Amendment better than the fictional one that asked you to suspend disbelief. But you’d be wrong.


In “The Post,” the 1971 newsroom was authentically recreated with lots of pasty-skinned editors and reporters in short-sleeved shirts and loosened neckties bustling around. Many of them are on the phone taking notes by hand and, of course, many of them are smoking like fiends. Women and minorities are few and far between.

Streep is marvelous as Katharine Graham, struggling to assert herself as the new publisher following the death of her husband Philip in an era when women were still a rarity in executive offices. Hanks is good but not great as editor Ben Bradlee. Definitely a notch below Jason Robards’ portrayal of Bradlee in “All The President’s Men.”


Meryl Streep, as newly installed publisher Katharine Graham, and Tom Hanks, as hard-charging editor Ben Bradlee, are the focal points of “The Post.”

Spielberg tells the story well. Tension rises as the Post, historically in the shadow of the Times, joins its rival in arguing at the U.S. Supreme Court that it has a constitutional right to publish the classified documents. In the face of threatened censorship or punishment, the Post argues that Americans have have a right to know what’s in the documents so they can decide for themselves whether to believe the government’s claims about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

It’s a solid film, obviously based on real events and people and culminating with a landmark ruling that upheld press freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. And here I must say I watched it with the pride of having worked in that same newsroom just a couple years later as a summer intern: in 1973, when the Post broke the Watergate scandal, and in 1974, when a disgraced President Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment.

“The Shape of Water,” on the other hand, was pure fantasy. I won’t reveal too much here, but Guillermo del Toro has created a lovely story out of thin air. As director and co-writer of the screenplay, he pulls you in to the lives of three ordinary people — Elisa, the mute woman;  Zelda, her co-worker and interpreter; and Giles, her gay neighbor and friend — who all wind up collaborating in an extraordinary way.


It’s a modern-day fable, really. The trio of characters lead lives defined by routine and simple pleasures along with disrespect from others. As the story plays out, each of them has a moral choice to make — and at great risk to themselves. If you’re willing to suspend disbelief, you’ll be rewarded with a story about relationships that shimmers with kindness and friendship, loyalty and love.

Sally Hawkins is a revelation as Elisa. I’d never heard of this British actress, but she is just perfect in a role that takes her from wide-eyed and vulnerable to fierce and fearless. Octavia Spencer shines as Zelda and Richard Jenkins is solid as Giles. Michael Shannon is superb, too, as the villain, a military officer who captured the amphibious creature and mistreats it.

“The Shape of Water” is exactly the kind of film I expected not to like. But, boy, was I wrong. If you’ve seen the trailer, too, and have your doubts, put them aside and go see the film. It’ll move you.


Walidah Imarisha and a call to action


Walidah Imarisha was the keynote speaker at Portland State University’s annual MLK Jr. Tribute on Jan. 22, 2018.

Last summer I got the chance to meet Walidah Imarisha, a Black Studies scholar and author, at the 2017 Oregon Book Awards.

A friend invited me to attend the event and we chatted with Walidah in the lobby as she received congratulations from well-wishers. I left with an autographed copy of the book, “Angels with Dirty Faces,” and the hope that I would have a chance to run into her again.

That opportunity came Monday night at Portland State University. Walidah was the keynote speaker at the university’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. lecture, an event that filled a ballroom on Jan. 22, one week after the holiday commemorating King’s birthday.

Walidah did not disappoint.

During an hourlong speech titled “Afrofuturism & Possibilities for Oregon,” Walidah mixed elements of history, science fiction, humor and seriousness. Along with references to civil rights icons Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X and Dr. King, there was a mention of Ursula LeGuin, the celebrated author of socially conscious fantasy and science fiction novels. (Oddly, LeGuin died at her Portland home on the same day of the speech. She was 88, the same age Dr. King would be today had he had not been assassinated 50 years earlier.)


Walidah Imarisha weaved several references to science fiction into her Jan. 22 speech at Portland State.

With an elegant Afro reminiscent of Angela Davis, Walidah alternated between the language of academia (“postcolonialism”) and everyday expressions (“nerding out” and “y’all”).  Mix everything together and the product was an entertaining, informative speech that made me glad I had read her book beforehand.


“Angels with Dirty Faces” is an eloquent critique of the U.S. criminal justice system. Ten years in the making, it’s a nonfiction book that begins with an array of statistics that paint a depressing picture – that of a country that incarcerates its citizens, particularly its black and brown ones, at a rate far greater than any other nation.

  • 70 percent of those incarcerated are people of color.
  • The majority of people in prison are there for nonviolent offenses.
  • The vast majority were never tried in front of a judge.
  • Over 90 percent of people in prison took a plea bargain.

But the book doesn’t dwell on policy recommendations or offer a magic bullet. Rather, its aim is to get readers to begin to see “those people who do harm” as human. “Flawed, damaged, and culpable, but still human.”

angels with dirty facesAnd so the book is presented as “three stories of crime, punishment and redemption,” with chapters devoted to a black inmate, a white inmate and the author herself.

One inmate, Kakamia, is Walidah’s adopted brother, serving a 15 years-to-life sentence for being involved in a murder when he was 15.  The other is Mac, an aging Irish mobster who worked as a hit man for the Gambino family in New York. Turns out the two men befriended each other while doing time together in a California prison.

Walidah tells their stories with empathy, not to excuse their criminal acts, but within the context of a bureaucratic system that dehumanizes the men and women who populate our nation’s prisons while also needlessly erecting petty barriers that make it next to impossible for visiting family members to connect meaningfully with their incarcerated spouses, children, parents and siblings.

It’s not a pretty picture. Walidah attacks the institutional racism that drives incarceration at starkly different rates for white and black Americans.

In telling her own story, Walidah recounts her childhood as the daughter of a black father and white mother, growing up on military bases overseas and eventually, at age 13, settling in Springfield, a conservative blue-collar town adjacent to liberal Eugene, home of the University of Oregon.

The overall approach – to put three faces on the criminal justice system – works well in driving the narrative. What could have been another academic treatise on a broken system instead becomes a compelling tale of two men – one black, one white – and a woman who is at once a scholar, an activist and a prisoner’s family member.

It helps that Walidah is a talented writer. She concludes:

“The pieces of the larger whole I hope to bring are the stories of angels with dirty faces. The capriciousness of fate. The idea that every person has the capacity to salvage their tattered humanity even in the moment before they take their last breath.”


Knowing Walidah’s personal story and worldview ahead of time made it easier to ponder the provocative questions that she raised in her MLK speech: What is the kind of world we want to live in? How do we go about building that kind of world?

The questions, she said, arose from an appreciation of Ursula LeGuin’s body of work in creating fictional worlds that turn convention on its head. Imarisha, in fact, is co-editor of the anthology “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements.”

“Science fiction is not about escapism,” Walidah said. It is about envisioning a world of new possibilities free of militarism, capitalism and racism, she said. As I am not a fan of the fantasy genre, I had never thought of science fiction as a way to frame the idea of imagining a different, better world, especially when it comes to race relations.


Walidah Imarisha invoked the words of the late fantasy fiction author Ursula LeGuin in challenging her audience to envision a more just world.

Walidah pointed out that the United States was founded as something of a utopia in the sense of ordinary people rebelling against an oppressive system in England. In turn, the Oregon Territory, encompassing the entire Pacific Northwest, was settled as a “racist white utopia.” Oregon, she pointed out, entered the Union in 1857 as a free state but also with a state constitution that excluded blacks.

The state’s racist beginnings led, perhaps predictably, to the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and any number of policies and practices intended to perpetuate economic, social and political inequalities.

More than 160 years later, the question remains of how to build a more just society.


Last fall, the Portland African American Leadership Forum unveiled the People’s Plan, a 130-page document that addresses the needs of the city’s African American population.


Walidah is an impressive figure, and not just because of her tall stature. As a public speaker, she seems comfortable in her own body and totally in command of her subject.

I wish I’d started teaching at Portland State when Walidah was still there herself in the Black Studies Department. More recently, she has been teaching at Stanford University while immersing herself in a variety of writing and research projects.


Walidah Imarisha’s image is projected on a screen in an overflow room at the Smith Memorial Union Ballroom at Portland State University.

Putting a nice cap on the evening, I took my daughter out for drinks and appetizers after the speech. Simone is as socially conscious as they come and over the years she has gifted me several books that have exposed me to different authors and perspectives.

What better way to close out the night than with mi hija, recalling different parts of the speech and catching up in general?

We’re all dreamers, aren’t we?

More than a week after I finished my first novel of 2018, I’m sitting down to gather my thoughts. There is so much good to say about “Behold the Dreamers,” the debut novel by Imbolo Mbue, a Cameroonian immigrant with some serious writing chops. And there are so many ways to begin this post.

Do I reference President Trump’s ugly remarks last week about people from “shithole countries”?

Do I reference the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech? (After all, I am writing this on the national holiday named for him.)

Or do I frame this in the context of the universal American Dream, the one to which generations of native-born and foreign-born Americans have aspired?

Maybe it’s best to keep all three in mind, for Mbue’s novel touches on the sentiments of all of them — from crass ignorance and resentment of outsiders to the amazing work ethic and striving for a better life embodied by so many newcomers to the United States.


Let’s start with the author. Imbolo Mbue is in her mid-30s. She hails from Limbe, a beach town of about 85,000 residents (a little smaller than Salem, Oregon) in southwestern Cameroon, a California-sized country in central Africa that borders Nigeria, and a former colony of Germany, France and England.

cameroon-location-on-the-africa-mapMbue has degrees from Rutgers University in New Jersey and Columbia University in New York City, where she now lives. She became a U.S. citizen in 2014.

“Behold the Dreamers,” published in 2016, won the Pen/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was named one of the best books of the year by NPR, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Guardian and several other news outlets.

The awards are richly deserved. Mbue has written a book rich with insight into both American and Cameroonian culture, laced it with diction from her native country (a place where more than 200 languages are spoken, by the way), and delved into the minds and attitudes of people at both extremes of the socioeconomic scale.


The story is a familiar one. Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant, has come to New York City with his wife Neni and their 6-year-old son, hoping to provide a better life for his family. Jende lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a workaholic executive at Lehman Brothers, but he also has the responsibility of driving Clark’s wife, Cindy, and their two sons on assorted trips across the city. Cindy at one point offers Neni temporary employment at the couple’s summer home in the Hamptons.

With these dual sources of income, and with Neni taking community college classes in hopes of becoming a pharmacist, the young immigrants make do in a tiny, cockroach-infested apartment in Harlem but are nevertheless optimistic about their future in America.

But there are two complications: Jende lied to Cameroonian authorities about his intentions in the U.S., so now he must rely on a sketchy legal adviser to help him gain permanent resident status or risk deportation, along with his wife and son. The other issue is that the story begins in the fall of 2007, a year before Barack Obama was elected president and the country was relatively stable. And timing is everything.

behold the dreamersAs the story progresses, the Great Recession takes hold and Mbue presents the perspectives of both couples.

From Cindy and Clark, we get the view from Wall Street and Manhattan; their affluence is beyond imaginable and the privileges that money brings seem to have no end.

From Jende and Neni, we get the view of constant struggle; nothing comes easily, whether it’s navigating the immigration system, trying to understand the ways of their new country, or conducting themselves in ways that will impress white Americans, or at least not threaten them.

With an extraordinary display of empathy, Mbue does not pass judgment on any of the four characters, She depicts their contrasting worlds — of the 1 percenters and of the newly arrived immigrants — not just through descriptive detail but also, more tellingly, through interactions and conversations between the husbands and the wives.

The lives of all four characters are inevitably affected by the tanking economy, and that’s when things get interesting.

Will Clark lose his job at Lehman Brothers? Will Jende lose his? How can Cindy maintain the appearance of a perfect life marked by material possessions and social outings with her equally rich friends? How can Neni stay on track toward her academic and career goals?


The beauty of the book is that it raises fundamental questions about the American Dream for both couples. Just what defines happiness? Is it money? Is it a feeling of belonging? Does professional success guarantee contentment? Does making a new life in America mean forsaking the previous one you had in the country when you were born?

imbolo mbue

The writer Imbolo Mbue.

To her credit, Mbue presents the humanity in all her characters, as well as the path of upward mobility traveled by both couples. But it is in portraying the multiple pressures on the Jongas and the excruciating decisions they must face about family, finances and their future that she really shines.

I couldn’t help but read this book with a sense of appreciation for what immigrants have given this country along with a feeling of disgust toward those racist elements of our society that would gleefully slam the door shut on today’s immigrants — and even give the boot to DACA Dreamers.

All of us who are here in the United States aspire to some version of the American Dream, the idea that each generation strives to create a better future for our children. We may differ in the value we place on various material, social and familial markers, but I think it’s fair to say we are all dreamers, aren’t we?

Read more about Imbolo Mbue here.


Moments with meaning

A recent email exchange with a fellow blogger about “being present” prompted me to dive into the Rough and Rede archives. This is what I found: an August 2009 blog post.

No words. Just images and sounds to convey the ordinariness of human life — and its beauty.

When you watch the video, please know the first 25 seconds are intended to be that way. Your patience will be rewarded.


4 films worth viewing

As one year ended and another one started, Lori and I found ourselves with enough free time to watch a few movies, both at home and at the theater.

No lengthy reviews here. Just a quick thumbs up for each of these four:

florence foster jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins. Took a stab at this on Netflix, based solely on the fact of knowing that Meryl Streep had been nominated as Best Actress — her record 20th Oscar nomination — for her role in this 2016 film.

The unlikely premise: Jenkins is a wealthy New Yorker and patron of the arts who longs to become an opera singer despite an obvious issue: She has a terrible singing voice. Yet she’s encouraged by her voice coach and her husband, skillfully played by Hugh Grant. Meryl is marvelous in this based-on-a-true-story tale, making you want to root for her despite her dreadful voice.

the big sick

The Big Sick. A charming story, released last year and also based on real life, that centers on the cultural clashes that ensue when a Pakistan-born comic (Kumail Najiani, playing himself) falls in love with an American graduate student (Zoe Kazan) named Emily.

Kumail’s parents are committed to the tradition of an arranged marriage — humorously so, given the parade of Pakistani women who “just happen to be in the neighborhood” when the family is sitting down to dinner. But when Emily falls seriously ill, Kumail not only has to meet (and win over) her parents at the hospital, he also has to confront his folks about his feelings for the girlfriend they don’t know about. (Thank you for the recommendation, Elaina Anders.)

loving vincent

Loving Vincent. This movie, also released in 2017, is both gorgeous and intriguing. This is a story that’s told in exquisite oil-painted animation — the work of more than 100 professional artists — and a plot that revolves around the mysterious death of the famous painter Vincent van Gogh.

A young man is entrusted with hand-delivering the artist’s final letter to his brother, Theo, in the French village where van Gogh last resided. What the young man perceives as an annoying task becomes a fascinating opportunity to learn more about van Gogh from the many townspeople who knew Vincent and in some cases modeled for him and inspired his art. The visuals are lush and the story raises more questions than it answers. Be sure to see it on the big screen, as we did. (Thank you for the recommendation, Patricia Conover.)

he loves me he loves me not

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Imagine sweet-faced Audrey Tautou in the role of a young art student who’s in love with a married cardiologist — or at least thinks she is. Is the relationship real and reciprocal?  Or wishful thinking? Why won’t the handsome doctor leave his wife for her? How does he explain the various gifts that come to his office, with no notes, and the messages left on his phone? Should his wife believe his claims that there isn’t another woman?

This is a 2002 French film that struck us as sneaky good, one that became more intriguing and more complex the deeper we got into the plot, with its many twists and turns.  Pretty cool storytelling device to have the same set of events told through the student’s eyes and the doctor’s eyes. Tautou, best known for playing the title character in Amélie, is captivating in this film as Angélique. (Thank you, Netflix.)


I already broke my resolution

smartphone addiction

Who’s in control? You or your device?

I flunked. No doubt about it.

Remember that pledge I made to “lighten up on the iPhone” this year and become “a smarter user about when and where to use it”? Yeah, that one.

Here’s how I fell short:

On Friday night, Lori and I went to see the Trail Blazers. They easily beat the Atlanta Hawks in a lopsided game that had people leaving early. I didn’t want to go, though, because I wanted to stay until the final buzzer, when the confetti rains down to signal a Portland victory. And, truth be told, I wanted to get a couple of photos to post on Facebook after the game.

As the game was winding down, a young man seated to our right began chatting us up. He and his date were friendly and, as one question led to another, we found ourselves talking about our marriage and our three kids. The guy had moved around a bit and was intrigued that our youngest child had moved from the Seattle area to the middle of Missouri after graduating from college

As he and Lori conversed, I found myself checking the remaining time on the scoreboard, wanting to be ready for the game-ending photos. The buzzer sounded and I got my pictures. We said goodnight to the couple and headed to the exit.

After we got home and I’d walked the dog, I selected some photos, wrote an intro and posted them, and went to bed. Next morning I was surprised to see something had gone wrong. No photos.

Was that a sign or what?

I could have taken the time to re-post, but I had to ask myself: Why? Who needs to know that you were at the game? Who cares if Portland won or lost?

And in that moment, I realized I had been a chump.


Why did I think it was so necessary to capture this moment?

I’d been handed an opportunity to engage in friendly conversation with a stranger, and I’d chosen to focus on a meaningless photo or two. While Lori seized the moment to be present, I only half-listened because my attention was elsewhere.

Shame on me. I’d broken my resolution one day after I’d made it public.


Though I’d already recognized the error of my ways, a column by The Oregonian’s Tom Hallman Jr. popped up in my Facebook feed and drove home the point.

The piece describes the change of heart that Andrew Sullivan, a renowned journalist and author, had after shutting down his blog in 2015, after writing 115,000 posts and attracting millions of readers.

“One of the great mistakes people make is thinking, as I did for a while, that being online and on your phone constantly is a wonderful enhancement, an addition to what you are doing,” Sullivan said. “But over time, you realize you are present, or you are not.”

Sullivan contends that the phone, always accessible, makes us believe we are connected. Instead, it renders reflection and perspective more difficult, and blunts our capacity to capture moments with meaning.

Hallman writes:

I thought about this on Jan. 1 when I stood outside to look at the supermoon, a term for when the moon orbits closer to the Earth and appears to be larger and brighter than normal. Instinctively, I reached for my smartphone to take a picture to capture the moment.

And then I put the phone back in my pocket.

That’s what I need to do more of in 2018.


Editor’s note: Thank you, Lynn St. Georges, my friend and fellow Boomer, for sharing the link. Here’s the column: Technology, the smartphone and the battle for our soul

Smartphone photo:

3 resolutions for 2018


According to researchers at the University of Scranton, the three most popular New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight, get organized, and spend less, save more.

All worthy goals, for sure. I’m keeping mine simple this year — simple as 1-2-3.

  1. Drink more water.
  2. Eat more fruits and vegetables.
  3. Lighten up on the iPhone.

The first two need no explanation. The third means I’m going to strive to cut back on habitual use of that handheld device. This means reducing, not eliminating, my use of the iPhone. This means generally just being a smarter user about when and where to use it — and why I’m doing so.

It’s unrealistic to even think about severing the cord. As a communications professional, I rely on my phone for tasks big and small — texting colleagues, doing quick research, taking photos, checking email and keeping up with the news. As a consumer, it’s handy for maps, directions and business profiles, and a gateway to social media.

But there’s a time for everything. And my epiphany came last month as I was getting ready for a massage. I’d just begun to unbutton my shirt when a text popped up. I picked up the phone, paused — and then put it down.

It was from a co-worker. It was my day off. I was about to indulge in the luxury of an hour-long massage. Why would I even read the text, let alone respond to it at that particular moment? What would it hurt to delay reading and responding until after the massage?

It wouldn’t.

At that moment, I knew I’d work this into my resolutions for the new year. No more checking the iPhone before I even roll out of bed. More intentional, less habitual, use of the device.


A few numbers to chew on, courtesy of a 2016 study by, a Web-based research firm:

Q. How often do we touch our phones?

A. Oh, only about 2,617 times a day?

That means that people tapped, swiped and clicked 2,617 times each day, on average. The heaviest users did so twice as many times —  5,427 touches a day.

Q.  How about sessions—how many separate times a day do people actually pick up their mobile phone to use it?

A. The average user engaged in 76 separate phone sessions a day. Heavy users (the top 10%) averaged 132 sessions a day.

Paul Lewis, writing in The Guardian, says these signs of phone addiction aren’t healthy.

“There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called ‘continuous partial attention,’ severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent study showed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. ‘Everyone is distracted,’ (34-year-old tech executive Joshua) Rosenstein says. ‘All of the time.’ ”

Read more about the dscout study here: Putting a Finger on Our Phone Obsession

Image: Digital Synopsis

Jordan at 30

SMU jordan

Jordan flashes a big smile after receiving his diploma during commencement exercises at St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington.

Today brings yet another New Year’s Eve, but in our family December 31st means something more special: our youngest son’s birthday.

This year, it’s extra special: Jordan Emilio Rede is turning 30 years old.

Hardly seems possible but, yes, our little guy is saying adiós to his 20s.

Distance prevents Lori and I from celebrating with him in person, as he’s now living two time zones away. But that doesn’t lessen our pride and joy as his parents. And I’m sure Nathan and Simone would agree that their little brother has developed into quite a guy.


The pumpkin patch at Sauvie Island was always one of Jordan’s favorite outings.

Over the years, Jordan has transformed himself from an energetic, physically active, risk-taking adolescent into a solid, responsible young husband and father with a bright future ahead of him.

His trajectory in the last few years has been breathtaking. But let’s not get ahead of the story.


Growing up, Jordan was the most physically active of our three. No surprise, considering he started walking at 10 months, well before either of his siblings. He’d climb trees, skateboard and break dance. In high school, he played coed soccer, took up snowboarding and Shaolin kung fu, and wrestled.

When he joined the Army at 21, he took it to another level during basic training. I’ll never forget how trim and deeply tanned he looked when we traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, in the summer of 2009 to see him graduate and become an active duty soldier.

Proud parents

Lori and George with Jordan in July 2009 following his graduation from boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia.

Joining the military isn’t what we had in mind for Jordan, but he was intent on becoming an infantryman and seizing the opportunity to challenge himself and be part of a team in service to his country. Of course, we worried when he was deployed to Afghanistan for a 12-month tour ending in December 2012 — five years ago this month.

That day he returned to Joint Base Lewis McChord, safe and sound with hundreds of other troops, stands out as one of the most emotional days of our lives.

Read “A soldier’s return” here


U.S. Army Specialist Jordan Rede with wife Jamie and his proud parents in December 2012.

Jordan completed his four-year enlistment the following year and since then, the years seem to have passed in a blur.

Using his G.I. Bill benefits, he enrolled at St. Martin’s University, a small school with a veteran-friendly reputation, and plowed through four years of undergraduate study in the sciences. From their home near Tacoma, he endured a daily 50-mile round-trip commute to attend classes.

In May of this year, at age 29, he graduated magna cum laude in biology. Along the way, he won a National Science Foundation summer fellowship to study at Marquette University, an experience that piqued his interest in science research as a career.

Read “Jordan’s Journey” here

Immediately after graduation, he and his wife and their young daughter packed up and moved to Columbia, Missouri, home of the state’s flagship university, where he began a one-year fellowship aimed at giving post-baccalaureate students more experience in the lab in preparation for graduate school.

MO jamie-emalyn-jordan

All bundled up in Missouri: Jamie, Emalyn and Jordan.

When we visited Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn earlier this month, we was just hearing back from the first of several top-notch universities he’s applied to in hopes of pursuing a Ph.D in genetics and microbiology. Early next year, if the best-case scenario plays out, he’ll have a choice of where to go. (No specifics here, but we’re talking about Ivy League-caliber public and private schools.)

During our visit, I had a chance to see the lab where Jordan works on the Mizzou campus. Impressive.

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In spite of all his academic accomplishments, nothing makes us prouder than seeing Jordan in his element as a husband and young dad.

He and Jamie, sweethearts since he was in high school, have been married eight years now. She has been the wind beneath his wings, offering love and support from Day One.

They were married eight years ago on a crisp fall day in southern Oregon, not far from where Jamie grew up on a ranch. She worked as a licensed veterinary technician for several years but has shelved that for now to focus on being a stay-at-home mom.

Their daughter, Emalyn, was born in July 2016 and we were privileged to be the first ones (other than Jamie and Jordan) to see and hold her as an infant, within hours of her birth. Seeing the three of them together, whether in their cozy townhouse or out and about on a holiday outing, brought smiles to our faces.

So much has happened in the nine years since Jordan enlisted. That was a turning point in his life, for sure, as it gave him purpose while testing him physically and mentally. I would have never imagined he’d follow a path leading from the military to the college classroom to a university lab, but I’m damn proud that he has.

Today stands as a major milestone in his young life. I can’t wait to see what comes next.

2017: A year of transitions


In a year of transitions, Lori and George celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary in September.

This year has felt like no other.

Seeing the White House change hands from the most inspiring president of my lifetime to the least qualified and least compassionate was bad enough. Watching that train wreck of a human being proceed to drive even deeper wedges into an already splintered populace — well, that was even worse.

But I’m not here to dwell on politics.

No, not even Trump can take the luster off a year that produced plenty of memorable moments for the extended Rede family.

Yes, there was sadness with the passing of my dad, Catarino Allala Rede, just six days after he turned 91 in March.


The scene at the funeral home in Silver City, New Mexico.

But even then, there was a silver lining to his passing. I got to do a mini-road trip with daughter Simone to and from the Phoenix airport to Dad’s home in southwestern New Mexico. There, we were reunited with my stepmother, my two sisters, a niece, a nephew, and assorted cousins that I hadn’t seen for several years.

It’s funny how life’s milestones — births, weddings and deaths — are those that bring families together from near and far. But when your siblings and other relatives are spread out all along the West Coast — from Alaska to Southern California — that’s the way it is.

SC cathy-rose-george 2

With my sisters Cathy (from Dillingham, Alaska) and Rosemary (from Oceanside, California).

Aside from Dad’s death, this year of transitions was dominated by our youngest son’s graduation from college, followed just days later by his move to Middle America.

In May, Jordan graduated with a degree in biology from St. Martin’s College, a small Benedictine school outside Olympia, Washington, where he had commuted for four years from his home in Spanaway, near Tacoma. It was a remarkable accomplishment for someone who began college just months after completing a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, including a one-year posting in Afghanistan, and who became a father during his junior year.


We had barely had time to celebrate before Lori and I returned to Spanaway to help Jordan and Jamie pack up their house for a 2,000-mile move to the University of Missouri. There in Columbia, Jordan would do science research in a fellowship program designed to help students prepare for the rigors of graduate school.

Father and son embarked on a four-day road trip, with me driving a 20-foot U-Haul truck and Jordan driving the family’s Honda Fit, packed to the gills and including their two dogs and one cat. I had envisioned the trip as an upbeat adventure, but it quickly took a dark turn when the U-Haul truck got a flat tire on the first day and again on the second day in remote areas of Idaho and Montana.

We made it on schedule, but only after pounding through really long third and fourth days where sightseeing took a back seat to the urgency of sticking to our schedule. We arrived late on a Friday, unloaded the truck’s contents on Saturday, and I flew home early Sunday.


How I wish Dad had lived to see his youngest grandchild graduate from college and become a father, as well.

As for the rest of 2017, well, it’s no wonder it feels like these 12 months flew by. Lots of memories and two end-of-year milestones.

Travel: We stuck close to home with three trips to our quiet cabin on Orcas Island. We always look forward to the week-long respite from urban life. The trips entails a 250-mile drive to Anacortes, where we board the ferry for a one-hour sailing to the island, and then an additional 45-minute drive to our place above Eagle Lake.

Pictures are worth a thousand words.


In early December, Lori and I returned to Missouri for a quick pre-Christmas visit. It was a joy to spend time with our sweet granddaughter, Emalyn, and her loving parents.

Books: Literature is a passport of its own, with talented authors opening doors to unfamiliar places, people and experiences. Among those I enjoyed this year were: “Among the Living and the Dead,” a memoir by my Latvian-American friend and former colleague, Inara Verzemnieks; “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest,” the last in the trilogy of Swedish crime thrillers churned out by the late Stieg Larsson; “Hillbilly Elegy,” a window into the Appalachian hillbilly culture written by one who escaped, J.D. Vance;  “Lab Girl,” a peek into the world of Hope Jahren, a pioneering research scientist; and “Evicted,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning examination of American poverty through the  racist practice of eviction. (Racist? Read the book and you’ll see what I mean.)


Music: I like to think I have broad tastes, though family members would disagree.  But, what the heck. I think I did pretty well catching a handful of concerts featuring artists ranging from Janet Jackson and Coldplay to Lady Antebellum, Michelle Branch, Tuxedo, Liz Longley and ZZ Ward.

Movies: No links this year because I wasn’t as diligent as usual. But I did enjoy “Get Out,” “Lady Bird,” “Detroit” and, most recently, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Visitors: We had a surprise visit in early May from Chiho Hayamizu, a lovely young lady from Japan who was just 20 when she came to live with our family during a year of study at Portland State University. Our oldest child, Nathan, was just 13 when Chiho moved in with us in the spring of 1993.

Chiho, now 44 but still looking 20 (and even 30) years younger, was back in town for an unofficial reunion with friends who’d also been exchange students in Portland.


Lori and Chiho: Radiant smiles, no matter the location or the year.

In October, my best friend, Al Rodriguez, came up from Santa Barbara to spend a few days timed to coincide with the annual Voices of August writers meetup. It was great hanging out with my longtime buddy, whether it was grabbing lunch from the downtown food carts or attending opening night of the Trail Blazers’ 2017-18 season. (They actually won!)


In November, two of Lori’s best friends, Terry (Long) Mullaney and Lin Dillon, came up from San Francisco for a long weekend of sightseeing and hanging out. Lori and Terry grew up on the same city block, and the two of them met Lin at the all-girls high school they attended. Nice to see such an enduring friendship.

Voices: For the seventh consecutive year, I curated a month of guest blog posts during the month of August. It’s become something that I look forward to every year, the opportunity to be informed, inspired and entertained by a changing cast of friends, relatives and online acquaintances, with ages ranging from 14 to 65-plus. Each person writes on a topic of their choice and does so in a way that brings variety and texture to the whole.

VOA 7.0 group

This year’s VOA peeps gathered Oct. 20 at McMenamin’s on Broadway. Front row, from left: Gosia Wozniacka, Elizabeth Gomez, Jennifer Brennock, Lynn St. Georges, Lori Rede, Lakshmi Jagannathan. Back row, from left: George Rede, John Killen, Bob Ehlers, Al Rodriguez, Keith Cantrell. Not pictured: Eric Wilcox.

This look back at 2017 wouldn’t be complete without two final notes:

— This is the year both Lori and I moved into a new age bracket: 65. She’s still rockin’ it as the owner of her personal training business and I’m enjoying my work as well, as an adjunct college instructor and part-time communications coordinator for a local education nonprofit.

— Chalk up another year with our two pets: Mabel, the mellowest of cats, and Charlotte, the energetic mutt who’s won our heart with her antics and underbite.

charlotte monkey

Up to no good. Again.



The mother of all milestones

SMU nathan-simone-jordan

Three reasons to be a proud father: Nathan, Simone and Jordan, all gathered at a family dinner in May 2017.

So I’m sitting in my favorite chair, with my little dog stretched out atop my lower legs, and I’m looking out the window at a silvery-gray sky. It’s perfectly quiet.

“I don’t know what to think or how I’m supposed to feel,” I say.

“It’s just like any other day,” Lori responds.

“Is it?”

A milestone day I never imagined has arrived. On this 27th day of December, life’s odometer has reached LXV. The Big Sesenta y Cinco. Sixty-Five.

An age that officially makes me a senior citizen, though some businesses and organizations consider you to be so at 62 or 60 or even 55. Whatever.

In any case, I’m now 65, eligible for Medicare and Social Security.

I don’t feel it. I’m still swimming, running, lifting weights. Working three part-time jobs: teaching at two universities and working for a local nonprofit. Reading, writing and blogging.

Two thoughts come to mind:

— The two people who gave me life are both gone now. My dad, Catarino, died in March of this year, six days after reaching his 91st birthday. My mom, Theresa, died four years ago in October, one day short of her 86th birthday.

I am eternally grateful to them for instilling so many enduring values — of hard work, honesty, loyalty — that I’ve tried to live by, as well as pass on to our three children.

I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without their love, support and encouragement. Neither had the opportunity to attend high school (though my dad went back and got his G.E.D. much later in life). Both worked a variety of blue-collar jobs and took pride in my earning a college degree, knowing I could then make a living with my head instead of my hands.

— I have much, so much, to be grateful for.

Three adult children — Nathan, Simone and Jordan — each with a personality as different from the others as one can imagine. Two daughters-in-law — Kyndall and Jamie — and one more —  Sara — who will become the third next May. One granddaughter. Emalyn. Everyone in the family healthy, happy and gainfully employed, or else in school or at home by choice.

Two furry roommates that provide entertainment and companionship: 12-year-old Mabel, our brown tabby cat, and 4-year-old Charlotte, our border terrier mix.

One wonderful wife. Lori has been with me since college and at least a half-dozen moves, most of those coming in the early years of our marriage. She adapted every time as we moved from San Jose to Portland to Bend to Salem to Ann Arbor, back to Salem and up to Portland again, finally settling in a place that brought financial stability and a great city in which to raise our family and build our careers.

SC.jacketI know I drive her nuts after 42 years of marriage, with my forgetfulness and I’ll-get-to-it-in-just-a-minute approach toward too many things. But there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t recognize what an amazing and tolerant and generous woman she is. I love her deeply.

And not to be overlooked: My stepmother, Ora, now living without my dad in the home they made together in his native New Mexico. We grew very close over the course of her 46 years of marriage to my dad, and I am grateful for her love and support as well.

So, is turning 65 just like any other day?

We shall see.

Today I’m wearing my dad’s San Francisco 49ers jacket, the one I inherited upon his death. Wearing it with pride.