Best of 2014

Simone and friends walk through the village of Eastsound en route to the wedding venue. Our daughter's wedding was the biggest event of 2014 for the Rede family.

Simone and friends walk through the village of Eastsound en route to the wedding venue on Orcas Island. Our daughter’s wedding was the biggest event of 2014 for the Rede family.

A year ago, I was consumed by the role of primary decision-maker for my ailing mother, with regard to her health care and finances. It was something of a lost year in that it required a lot of travel to the Bay Area and countless conversations and consultations with health care providers, relatives and neighbors of my mom. So much so that it seemed some things and  some people simply got ignored.

Well, in the year just completed, I’m happy to say life got back on track. And part of that was the momentum created by a spring visit to my dad and stepmother in New Mexico.

The loss of a parent is something you don’t easily gloss over. Lori’s parents have been gone for several years now; with Mom’s death last year, that means my 88-year-old father is the only one of our parents still alive. Little wonder that this year’s visit, after a three-year lapse, seemed to mean more than the previous ones.

George and C.A. Rede

We visited in early April and mostly stuck close to home. Dad has slowed down a bit (eyesight and hearing are in decline), but his sense of humor and love of the peace and quiet that comes in a rural community are still very much evident. I don’t know that we’ll be able to make a return trip in 2015. If we can’t, we’ll definitely plan on it in 2016.

***

As for the rest of the year, there was plenty to look back upon with pride and joy.

At the top of the list, the magical island wedding of daughter Simone and her fabulous partner Kyndall. Even four months removed from the August 9 wedding date, memories of the event are as fresh and vibrant as ever. Quite simply, it was a party. The ladies planned every bit of it — from the welcoming venue to the vows and ceremony to the farm-to-table menu to the late-night pizza to the table centerpieces made of succulents-and-driftwood — and it all came off spectacularly well.

Kyndall and Simone  basking in the glow.

Kyndall and Simone basking in the glow.

It felt like we were guests as much as parents in that we simply melted into the dancing, smiling mass of people who came from all over the United States to celebrate with Simone and Kyndall. Family and friends from the West Coast were thrown together with people who knew the girls from the East Coast, and for many from both regions it was their first time experiencing the beauty of Orcas Island.

Lori and I had anticipated that day for a long time and it was wonderful in every aspect.

***

Other highlights? Let me hopscotch across the calendar:

Jordan and Nathan with Buck Bay in the background.

Jordan and Nathan with Buck Bay in the background.

Guy time on Orcas was a delight. Spent three days at our cabin in March with my boys, Nathan and Jordan, doing nothing but relaxing.

Reconnected with my longtime Texas buddy, Mike Granberry, in September. Made a trip to Big D (that’s Dallas, people) that was heavy on the sightseeing (football stadiums, museums, Kennedy assassination landmarks) and all-good on the vibes. Got to meet his wife and three of his four boys.

A month earlier, I attended a golden wedding anniversary party in Salinas, California, for a favorite aunt and uncle, Minnie and Julian Flores. He was my mother’s youngest brother and together with his wife they’ve raised four adult daughters.

In October, it was back to California, this time for the wedding of my best friend’s daughter. Nicole Lee-Rodriguez looked radiant as she married Andrew Acosta in an outdoor ceremony in the hills above Santa Barbara. My compadre Al rocked it in his father-of-the-bride speech.

***

In the world of arts and literature…

I had the pleasure of curating the fourth annual Voices of August guest blogging project, followed by a meetup in early October that brought together several familiar faces and a few new ones. It’s wonderful seeing people connect in person after revealing aspects of themselves in their guest blog posts and in the comments as they react to each other’s writing. It was especially nice seeing one VOA regular, Jennifer Brennock, make it down for the first time from Orcas Island.

Many of the events in "Beautiful Ruins" take place in a fictional town in Italy's Cinque Terre.

Many of the events in “Beautiful Ruins” take place in a fictional town in Italy’s Cinque Terre.

I read some great books during the year, none as pleasurable as “Beautiful Ruins” by Jess Walter. Just a lovely novel about imagined, intersecting lives in Italy and Hollywood. Also noteworthy: “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” by Katherine Boo; “The Free” by Willy Vlautin; “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown; “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers.

I made it to just four music concerts this year, and each one was great: Amos Lee, Mayer Hawthorne, the Wailin’ Jennys and Steve Winwood. Fell in love with a new British band, London Grammar, and snapped up some tickets to see them in November. They’ve been touring a lot this year, though, and moved their Portland concert to next February. Can’t wait.

On a “mystery date” in January, I surprised Lori by taking her to see Jerry Seinfeld at the Schnitz. What a masterful performer. Lori and I literally were crying with laughter during his set.

***

Finally, two transitions of note…

In November, I described two years of head-spinning changes in my work as a journalist. The industry has changed dramatically from ink-on-paper to digital presentation, with more and more readers opting to read on the go from their mobile electronic devices. I’ve survived the newsroom downsizing by being adaptable and keeping up with the new tools of the trade.

I ended the year moving from our suburban offices in Hillsboro and Beaverton to the main office in Portland and switching from editorial writing to straight news reporting on the workplace beat. Been at it for just two months, but I’m loving it.

Princess Charlotte.

Princess Charlotte

Also in November, we added to our family. We adopted Charlotte — an 11-pound package of high energy, playful personality and spunky attitude. She’s a jet-black terrier mix we got from The Pixie Project, ostensibly as a foster dog, though it took only a few days for us to know she was a keeper.

She’s become best buddies with Otto, our 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier, and a delightful new member of the household. I’ll admit it was challenging at first to deal with her nightly routine, where she’d bark until we let her out of her kennel for a post-midnight walk.  But she’s sleeping through the night now, thanks to a soft-cloth kennel and a more comfortable location — near the foot of our bed. For that, we are both grateful.

All in all, 2014 was packed with a lot of milestones. If next year is anything like this one, I’ll be a happy man.

Wedding photographs: Brandon Witzel

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2014 in review: For all my R&R readers

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

I’m sharing this report with each and every one of you who took time to visit Rough and Rede II during this past year. I hope you’ll take time to scroll through it and relive some of the highlights with me. Like me, you might be amazed at the international reach: Russia, Sweden, Pakistan, Australia, just to name a few far-flung places.

If you were a contributor — a guest blogger during Voices of August — take a bow. Your piece undoubtedly contributed to the 14,000-plus page views.

This year’s most-viewed post: “The girl on the treadmill” by Taylor Smith.

Others in the top five: “Almost the bad guy,” by Jacob Quinn Sanders; “Know when to fold ’em,” by Lillian Mongeau; “From Portland to Paris,” by Patricia Conover; and myself.

If you were a commenter, take two bows. The online conversation is only as robust as you and I and all of us make it.

A special public thanks to the five most prolific commenters — Elizabeth Hovde, Lynn St. Georges, John Knapp, Lori Rauh Rede (hey, I know her!) and Tammy Ellingson.

Pretty cool stuff. Thanks for being part of it.

Very sincerely,

George

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Redes and Rauhs

The beauty of a personal blog? Posting as many family photos as you like and no one can say no.

So for my sake, if no one else’s, here’s one more look at the sons and daughters, nieces and nephews and assorted in-laws I hung out with during this just-completed Christmas season of 2014.

Lori-James

Lori and our nephew James Rauh, born two days after our son Nathan.

Daughter-in-law Jamie and our sister-in-law Judi Rauh.

Our daughter-in-law Jamie Lynn Rede and our sister-in-law Judi Rauh.

Brother-in-law Jim Rauh with his son-in-law Tucker Fife.

Brother-in-law Jim Rauh (Lori’s brother) with his son-in-law Tucker Fife.

Daughter-in-law Kyndall and Simone whippin' up something good.

Daughter-in-law Kyndall Mason and our daughter Simone whippin’ up something good.

Sara Bird and our son Nathan.

Girlfriend Sara Bird and our son Nathan.

Jim and Judi's oldest daughter Michelle Rauh Carver with husband Jason, daughter Chloe and son Jackson.

Jim and Judi’s oldest daughter, Michelle Rauh Carver, with husband Jason, daughter Chloe and son Jackson.

Jim and Judi's second-eldest daughter Melissa Foster with husband Brad and daughters Uma and Pilara.

Jim and Judi’s second-eldest daughter, Melissa Foster, with husband Brad and daughters Uma and Pilara.

Jim and Judi's youngest daughter, Christiane Fife, with husband Tucker and daughters Lena and Mia.

Jim and Judi’s youngest daughter, Christiane Fife, with husband Tucker and daughters Layna and Mia.

The Rauh siblings: James, Michelle, Melissa, Christiane.

The Rauh siblings: James, Michelle, Melissa, Christiane.

Two Rede siblings and their wives: Kyndall, Simone, Jamie and Jordan.

Two Rede siblings and their wives: Kyndall, Simone, Jamie and Jordan. (Nathan and Sara had to work. Bummer.)

Brad Foster and daughter Pilara admire her 3-month-old cousin, Lena.

Brad Foster and daughter Pilara admire her 3-month-old cousin, Layna.

Holiday/birthday rewind

Christmas Eve: George, Lori, Simone, Kyndall, Nathan and Sara

Gathered around Lori’s skinny pink Christmas tree: George, Lori, Simone, Kyndall, Nathan and Sara

December always ends in a rush, so the past four days were nothing out of the ordinary. Start with Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Throw in a Blazer game and a day visit to see relatives. Top with an early double birthday celebration and it all adds up to another set of experiences for the memory book.

Wednesday (Christmas Eve): Before the celebrating began, I put in a full day of work and wrote a holiday feature about an act of generosity guaranteed to melt of the heart of the grumpiest Scrooge: “Secret elves surprise family of Reynolds High School shooting victim Emilio Hoffman”

Three lovelies: Lori, Simone and little Charlotte.

Three lovelies: Lori, Simone and little Charlotte.

When I got in the door, my favorite elf (Lori) was putting the finishing touches on another spectacular Night Before Christmas spread of hors d’oeuvres. It’s a tradition that goes back at least 30 years, even before our youngest child was born, and it’s always a hit. Soon enough, Nathan and Sara arrived, as did Simone and Kyndall.

We noshed and played a board game – Wits and Wagers – and said goodbye for about 12 hours.

Thursday (Christmas Day): We regrouped at noon, joined by Jordan and Jamie, who drove down from Spanaway. Opened gifts, snacked on the previous night’s leftovers, had a mid-afternoon turkey dinner (as Sara had to leave early to visit her parents) and played another board game – Scattergories.

The Rauh siblings: Clockwise from left, Michelle, Melissa, James and Christiane.

The Rauh siblings: Clockwise from left, Michelle, Melissa, James and Christiane.

Friday, Dec. 26: Drove over to Beaverton to join in a big gathering on Lori’s side of the family. Her brother Jim and his wife Judi had all four of their adult children over, plus three spouses and six grandchildren, including the newest one born in late September. Two of the kids live in San Diego, so it had been years since they had the whole crew together.

Kyndall and Simone, Jamie and Jordan joined us, but Sara and Nathan both had to work. Had a lot of fun seeing everyone and marveling at how the lives of adult children spool out in such different ways.

Man date: Basketball, beer and burgers.

Man date: Basketball, beer and burgers.  Another win for Portland: Blazers, 114, Sixers 93

Came home in time for Jordan and I to head out on our own for father-and-son time, beginning with a meal at Tilt – our new favorite burger-and-fries place – and followed by a Blazer game. They easily beat Philadelphia, one of the worst teams in the league, and we were delighted to see a message on the jumbo scoreboard appear during a second-quarter timeout that read “Happy Early Birthday, Jordan and George.”

Yes, this little elf had something to do with that.

Our names in lights: Happy Early Birthday, Jordan & George

Our names in lights: Happy Early Birthday, Jordan and George

I’m so proud of our youngest child: Another 4.0 during the just-completed fall semester at St. Martin’s University. Five years of marriage to his sweetheart, Jamie. Four years of military service and a year-plus with the Washington Army National Guard. And best of all, the unusual blend of intelligence, curiosity and gentle demeanor that continue to define him at 27.

Saturday, Dec. 27: Another birthday for yours truly. The good wishes on Facebook started coming in yesterday and kept up all day. Makes a guy feel good to be remembered by so many great people from various stages of my life.

Took a phone call from my dad in New Mexico a little before 8 a.m:

“Happy birthday, mijo! Did you get a lot of presents?”

“I dunno. I just got up 10 minutes ago.”

“Oh.

Simone and Kyndall came over again to join Jamie and Jordan and Lori and me for brunch. Sad to say, Nathan and Sara once again had to work.

Lori whipped up another delicious meal and Simone baked us a chocolate cake. Jordan’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve, so we opened gifts for him and me.

Capricorns rock! Jordan and George

Capricorns rock! Jordan and George

Reluctantly, we said goodbye to J&J as they hit the road for the drive back to Washington, and to S&K as they headed back across town.

Sat down to write this and got a surprise phone call from my compadre, Al Rodriguez, in Santa Barbara. He’s a good man.

Year-end birthdays may contribute to a sense of being overwhelmed, but I’m not about to complain. Feeling lots of love this year.

Gracias, everyone.

One and done

Going out on a winning note: George, Cherie, Brian and Michelle

Going out on a winning note: George, Cherie, Brian and Michelle

In early September, I joined a new team of bowlers at a new venue, happy to continue my once-a-week routine at a local bowling alley.

Well, 15 weeks have come and gone and last night we put the wraps on our one and only beer league season at AMF Pro 300 Lanes in Southeast Portland. One and only because our team is sitting out the winter league and it doesn’t appear there’s much enthusiasm to return to this particular alley. There’s also no interest at all in following a few teams to yet another bowling alley in the suburbs.

We were forced from our “home” by the sale of Hollywood Bowl and conversion of the building to a hardware store. My old crew, the Broken Taco Shells, disbanded, so I was happy to land on a new team of Hollywood Bowl refugees at the new location. I actually bowled better — 152 average — than at the old place, but my teammates were less than impressed with the new place.

That’s fine. I’ll be happy to reclaim my Monday nights and have another evening to hang out with Lori.

Team captain Cherie and husband Dave

Team captain Cherie and husband Dave

As for the final night of bowling, I couldn’t have asked for a better ending with The Cheeseheads.

We gathered for a pre-game meal at the brewpub across the street, next to the strip club. Had a private room off the bar. Enjoyed a nice dinner and good conversation with teammates Cherie, Michelle and Brian (who replaced original team member Sarah halfway through the season) — and Cherie’s husband, Dave, who used to work with me for many years at The Oregonian.

At the bowling alley, we cleaned up — twice.

We won three out of four games from the Mis-Splits, who had come into the evening with an identical record as us (25 wins, 35 losses), which meant we finished in second-to-last place among 12 teams. Score a victory for team pride.

A cooler on wheels. Beverages not included.

A cooler on wheels. Beverages not included.

Each of my teammates also won some schwag during the final raffle. Michelle took home a beer glass, Brian won a $50 gift card to a brewpub and Cherie, befitting her status as team captain, won a portable cooler with a retractable handle, as well as a T-shirt with naughty language on the back.

I won nothing Monday night, but earlier in the season had won a T-shirt and beer mug of my own.

Time will tell if another opportunity comes along for coed bowling. In the meantime, I’ll add this season to the vault of fond memories.

What am I missing?

It looked so enticing: A historical novel about the experience of Chinese soldiers held in U.S. POW camps during the Korean War. A work of fiction by a Pulitzer Prize finalist, someone whose work I’d read before and enjoyed very much.

The New York Times Book Review chose it as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year. The Times’ reviewer positively gushed: “Powerfully moving…Brilliant and original…Timeless and universal..Nearly perfect.”

Other reviewers were just as enthralled: “Striking…Remarkable…Enlightening…Riveting…Poignant…Harrowingly realistic…”

Still others found it “Magnificent…Spellbinding…Evocative…Splendid…Compelling…”

So why didn’t I, too, go gaga over Ha Jin’s “War Trash?”

wartrash-coverAfter all, I’d read “Waiting,” his National Book Award-winning novel (1999) based on his experiences serving in the Chinese Army. I appreciated his precision with language, his dedication to telling a story at his own deliberate pace.

Though it was published in 2004, the book was coincidentally very timely, given recent events surrounding North Korea’s suspected role in hacking Sony and threatening violence if the movie studio dared to release a new comedy-satire making fun of the country’s dictatorial leader.

And yet.

And yet I found myself wondering if I’d picked up the same book as all those critics who’ve given it such high praise.

The story is told by a narrator, Yu Yuan, who works as a translator for the Chinese Army. He is his mother’s only son and the fiancé of a young woman he hopes to marry upon his return from the war. As a POW, he finds himself caught between fellow prisoners, most of them Communists loyal to Mao Tse Tung and others drawn to the Nationalists and their leader, Chiang Kai-Shek.

The Chinese POWs are not only divided themselves, but also have to deal with North Korean, South Korean and U.S. soldiers, all of whom have their own agenda. The novel purports to show us the brutality of the prison experience — and it does — while also portraying instances of hope and despair, generosity and cruelty, jealousy and selflessness, trust and sabotage. Maybe something was lost in translation, but the novel just fell flat for me.

I found myself debating whether to push ahead in the hope that the second half of the book — or the final third or even the last couple of chapters — would somehow redeem all that had gone before.

No such luck.

Last year, I had a similar experience when I picked up a book on a whim, intrigued by Junot Diaz’s endorsement of it as “the best book I’ve read this year.”

I wound up writing a blog post (“When a novel disappoints”) that incorporated the advice I received from many friends on Facebook: “Ditch it. Life is too short. Why put up with a bad book?”

To be sure, I thought of that post as I forced myself to turn page after page, hoping for the spark that never came.

The author Ha Jin

The author Ha Jin

As one who writes professionally, I deeply appreciate the tremendous effort it takes to imagine, research, organize and write a novel. So I want to honor the effort, give the author the benefit of the doubt. Especially one as talented as Jin, who after all brings an accomplished background as a native Chinese speaker who does his writing in English. He’s a Ph.D and a professor of English at Brandeis University and the author of six novels, three volumes of poetry, and a book of essays.

In all candor, The Guardian’s Julia Lovell articulated what I was feeling, with no small measure of guilt, as I read “War Trash.”  “Unsurprisingly for a non-native speaker of English, Ha Jin’s novelistic voice still falls short of the absolute linguistic fluency that discriminating readers would also normally demand from literary fiction.”

Two examples: “I’m not a meanie,” Yu apologises to a soldier he has denied a cigarette; and “I have to get a piece of your flesh today,” an angry nationalist screams at Yu Yuan, “I don’t believe we can’t teach you how to behave!”

I shouldn’t feel too guilty, should I? After all, if I don’t like a movie or a song, no big deal. Quitting on a book feels different, though. There’s more of an investment. Plus, I’m the one who picked this one off the shelf of a used bookstore.

But, now, having felt the same disappointment as I did with last year’s underwhelming novel, I’m going to give myself permission to bail out if and when another book doesn’t live up to its promise. The sun will continue to rise. The Earth will continue to revolve around the sun. And with any luck, the next book will be great.

Photograph: University of Delaware

A lot to like about ‘St. Vincent’

Bill Murray, as Vincent MacKenna, provides wisdom and guidance to next-door neighbor Oliver -- all from a lawn chair.

Bill Murray, as Vincent MacKenna, provides wisdom and guidance to next-door neighbor Oliver — all from a lawn chair.

The critics are busy compiling their lists of the top 5, 10, 15, 40 — even 100! — movies of 2014, so I suppose the time is ripe for me to write about at least one: “St. Vincent.”

It’s not because the film tops my list of favorites. And it’s not because I think Bill Murray deserves the Best Actor Oscar, though I do think he deserves a nomination.

Rather, it’s because it’s the only recently released film I’ve seen in the past month. (I do hope to see “Wild” before the year ends.)

Lori and I saw it the day after Thanksgiving. It was one of those films where I went into the theater knowing nothing about the story and came out thinking two things: 1) That was a nice little story, with a made-for-Hollywood ending; and 2) Bill Murray was perfectly suited for that role.

If you haven’t seen it, I’ll try not to divulge too much. However, there’s a lot to like about the film.

st.vincentposterMurray plays an aging Vietnam vet named Vinnie who lives alone in Brooklyn — unemployed, disheveled and grumpy —  while his wife, afflicted with Alzheimer’s, resides in a nursing home. Melissa McCarthy (obscenely funny in “Bridesmaids”) is a frazzled single mom who moves in next door with her scrawny, bullied son. Out of desperation, she agrees to pay Murray to watch the boy after school while she works long hours as a medical technician.

An unlikely friendship develops between the two. Hard-drinking, chain-smoking Murray teaches young Oliver how to defend himself, takes him to the race track, even takes him along on visits to his wife. Oh, and did I mention Vinnie “dates” a pregnant Russian stripper/hooker played by Naomi Watts?

The boy gains self-confidence and over time sees qualities in Vinnie that others don’t. It all leads up to a school assembly where students honor their heroes. The movie’s title tells you all you need to know about Oliver’s choice.

Going in with no expectations, I found myself easily drawn in to the stories of the four main characters, all flawed in some way but each one deserving of a better deal in life. That they come together in the end — and how — is the stuff that Hollywood films are made of.

“St. Vincent” may not be Best Picture quality and Bill Murray may not be (quite) Best Actor material — I really won’t know until I see more of these films certain to wind up on the Oscar-nominated list. But I can say it’s an entertaining film with a feel-good ending. Implausible? Probably so. Formulaic? Sure. But, then, that’s why we go to the movies.

Two thumbs up.

For other takes, read these reviews:

Vince Mancini, Filmdrunk

George Grella, City Newspaper

Owen Gleiberman, BBC

Photograph: The Weinstein Company

Throwback Thursday: Michigan memories

UM-hoodie

A favorite hoodie.

I can’t let this year end without acknowledging the 30-year anniversary of my sabbatical at the University of Michigan.

I was one of a dozen U.S. journalists – and five foreign journalists, as I recall – who made up the 1983-84 class of Michigan Journalism Fellows. We were plucked from our newsrooms, given a monthly stipend in lieu of salary, and told to go out and make the most of a free year of study at one of the country’s leading universities.

Each one of us had a focus of study (mine was 20th Century U.S. History) and the freedom to audit any class we wished, free of any obligation to take a test or write a paper. We came together twice a week for seminars exclusive to the fellows, often meeting with guest speakers from the arts and politics, both faculty members and visiting luminaries.

Our spouses had the same privilege. Lori studied kinesiology and took an African dance class that culminated with her being part of a student troupe that performed live on campus. Those experiences help explain how Lori went from pre-sabbatical aerobics instructor to post-sabbatical personal trainer.

The nine months spent in Ann Arbor were wonderful on every level. (Think of Eugene, Oregon: Roughly the same size, way more diverse, and lots more cultural offerings.)

We arrived in August with our then two children – Nathan, then 3, and Simone, just 6 months old -– and two cats and a U-Haul trailer of too much stuff that we unpacked into a rental home owned by a professor who was away on sabbatical himself.

The impressive facade of the university's law school.

The facade of the university’s law school.

We endured a tornado warning the first week we were there – terrifying for us lifelong West Coasters more accustomed to earthquakes – but quickly settled in to our leafy neighborhood and the perks of time away from the Statesman Journal, the Salem newspaper where I’d been a reporter covering politics and state government.

So many memories come flooding back:

Fall in the Midwest:  Diving into piles and piles of autumn leaves. Visiting a nearby farm for hot apple cider and homemade donuts. Scoring season tickets to U of M football games, including a big win over archrival Ohio State. Go Blue!

Enduring winter: Frost on the inside of our windows at home. Tromping through the snow with Nathan every day to our bus stop on frigid mornings, with the sun reflecting blindingly off snow-white streets and the bitter cold stinging our eyes and cheeks. Seeing our son make friends at his preschool with a Norwegian boy who spoke no English – not uncommon given the number of children of foreign students in Ann Arbor.

Celebrating spring:  Visiting the farmers market. Attending a Detroit Tigers baseball game in the old Tiger Stadium and seeing the team go on to win the World Series title that fall. Curling up a chair in the student union for hours on end with a pile of books, a muffin and coffee. Heavenly.

During the year, we joined another couple and their two kids on a weekend train trip to Toronto. And in April, after the academic year had ended, I was part of a five-person group of fellows who went on a government-funded tour of Japan for 10 days, spending time in Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima, riding the bullet train, and, yes, singing at a karaoke bar.

hunger-of-memoryOn the return flight to the U.S., I stopped off in San Francisco and had a memorable one-on-one meeting with the author Richard Rodriguez, whose autobiography (“Hunger of Memory”) deeply resonated with me when I read it for one of my university classes.

We left in May – reluctantly – having had the most stimulating intellectual year of our lives. It truly was a wonderful experience, going through the cycle of the seasons, and becoming acquainted with the history and culture of another region.

We came back to Oregon, thankful for our home here, but within months I landed a job at The Oregonian – a step made easier by the prestige of coming off a humanities fellowship at such a well-respected institution.

***

This fall, there was a special invitation to attend the annual reunion of Michigan Journalism Fellows. It would have been nice to see some of my own classmates again, but the timing was bad. I had two trips in September to California and Texas, and another one in October, again to California, and it just wasn’t doable.

Nevertheless, I’m blessed to have spent a year in Ann Arbor on such amazing terms. Even three decades later, Lori and I look back on that time as playing a major role in our personal and professional development, as well as in our bonding as a young family.

Truly, it was wonderful in all respects.

Saturday Sounds: Sade

Must have been a sign. Two of ’em, actually.

Last time I played Pandora, who popped up? Sade.

This morning, when I turned on my iPod, who popped up? Sade.

Saw her in concert a couple of years ago — with John Legend as the opener — and it still resonates as one of the best ever.

So without further Adu (sorry, corny pun), here’s a sonic treat featuring the fabulous Helen Folasade Adu, better known to the world as Sade.

The Rede-Mason wedding

Kyndall Mason and Simone Rede basking in the glow.

Kyndall and Simone basking in the glow.

It’s been four months already since Simone and Kyndall tied the knot on a glorious Saturday on Orcas Island.

Saturday, August 9, was like a major motion picture — everything scripted just so, with lots of food and drink, fun and frivolity, and an outpouring of love that washed over everyone there at a rented hall in Eastsound.

Lori and I had the newlyweds over for dinner Sunday night, and it was a nice opportunity to once again flip through more than 250 images shot by wedding photographer Brandon Witzel.

Here are a few more of my favorite images. And lest you think this is a case of oversharing by a proud papa, let it be known that several friends have asked to see more photos.

So here you go.

Simone getting ready with the help of best friend Makinna Ridgway.

Simone getting ready with the help of best friend Makinna Ridgway.

Lori helps behind the scenes before the wedding.

Lori helps behind the scenes before the wedding.

Kyndall and Paul Sayko, a Pittsburgh friend who officiated, wait for Simone to arrive.

Kyndall and Paul Sayko, a Pittsburgh friend who officiated, wait for Simone to arrive.

No wedding cake? Not a problem when guests bring pies.

No wedding cake? Not a problem when guests bring pies.

Simone and friends walk through the village of Eastsound enroute to the wedding venue.

Simone and friends walk through the village of Eastsound enroute to the wedding venue.

Dad gets a hug after the ceremony.

Dad gets a hug after the ceremony.

At the reception, the first dance ends in a dip.

At the reception, the first dance ends in a dip.