Snapshots from Silver City

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Looking west from Mountain View Road in Silver City. Buildings with reddish roofs in the distance are on the campus of Western New Mexico University.

“Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation.  For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life. ” — Albert Einstein

Like births and weddings, funerals are one of life’s milestones that bring people together.

That was the case last week when we laid my dad to rest after 91 years of a well-lived life, the last big chunk of it spent as a retiree in his native New Mexico.

During less than 48 hours in this town of 10,000 about 70 miles east of the Arizona border, I was reunited with both of my sisters, a niece, a nephew, a great-nephew, an aunt, assorted cousins and in-laws. Some I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager and, trust me, that was a long time ago.

Here’s a look back:

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

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A trio of Rede cousins. My daughter Simone with cousins Austin Flavin (son of my sister Cathy) and Bernadette Hermocillo Rackley (daughter of my sister Rosemary).

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From right: My Aunt Linda, cousins Stephanie and Bob, and Bob’s wife, Ana.

“Watching a peaceful death of a human being reminds us of a falling star; one of a million lights in a vast sky that flares up for a brief moment only to disappear into the endless night forever.” — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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Four of the eight Hernandez siblings, children of my dad’s sister, Valentina. From left: Luis, Pablo, Tomas and his wife Lila, and Linda.

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At the Knights of Columbus Fellowship Hall with my cousin Shelley Owens, a daughter of my dad’s brother, Albert.

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My stepmother Ora, right, drew strength from the presence of longtime friend, Lydia Montez, in my father’s final hours.

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Luz Perez, with his wife Josefina, was a cousin of my dad. The couple live in Tucson, Arizona, and hosted a memorable family reunion there a few years ago.

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A colorful New Mexican motif adorns a wall of the Knights of Columbus Fellowship Hall in Silver City.

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John Sterle, an American Legion Post 18 board member and Navy veteran, spoke at the military funeral for my dad while daughter Simone served as one of the six pallbearers. Turns out Mr. Sterle’s ethnic roots trace back to Slovenia, just like my wife, Lori.

“Death is beautiful when seen to be a law, and not an accident. It is as common as life.” — Henry David Thoreau

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My niece Bernie and sister Cathy.

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My nephew Austin with Terrell, the husband of my niece Bernie.

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My lovely stepmother, Oralia Caballero Rede, with Simone.

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Ora and George.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Gandhi

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Rule No. 34: Before one hops in the rental car for a long ride on the interstate, one must take a selfie.

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Dad and Ora came to visit Lori and me in Bend, Oregon, in the years before we had kids. Photo is circa 1977 or 1978.

Quotes about death: BrockBlack.com

Road warriors

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Simone and I put nearly 600 miles on this compact rental car during our recent drive from Phoenix to Silver City, New Mexico.

If there was a silver lining to my father’s recent death, it was this: I got to spend two days with my daughter, Simone.

Though she and her wife live just a few miles away from us, I don’t see her as often as you might think. When they aren’t working, she and Kyndall are hosting dinner parties, attending political events and rising early for dragon boat practice on the river. Simone also belongs to a book club, sings in a women’s choir, and volunteers for a couple of nonprofit organizations.

Busy girl.

So, I was glad to enjoy her company from Wednesday morning until early Friday evening as we traveled to southwest New Mexico for my dad’s memorial service.

Simone flew into Phoenix late Tuesday night after work. I arrived early the next morning, fetched a rental car and picked her up at her motel. And so began a round trip of nearly 600 miles to and from Silver City – which meant about 14 hours on the road (including a time zone change and rest stops), much of it clocked at 75 mph on interstate highways.

It that isn’t a test of compatibility in close quarters, I don’t know what is. Happy to say we passed, with flying colors.

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Love hanging out with my daughter.

Simone is a great conversationalist. She’s well read, adept at social media and naturally inquisitive. Had she not become an auditor, she easily could have become a journalist, given her writing skills and her incessant questions of “Why?” and “What do you think?”

Not only that, she is a very attentive listener, a skill that’s also essential to journalism and a trait that I value in anyone. (Few things bother me as much as when people talk over me, so impatient are they to say their piece without extending the courtesy of letting someone else finish their thought.)

The only “rough” spot? Simone had to endure her father’s endless collection of CDs. What sounded so cool to me when I put together various mixes a few years ago still sounds good to me. But it’s that “few years ago” quality that desperately needs updating, she says. Simone came prepared, however, with a plan to introduce me to a couple of podcast stations on the internet. And so, wherever we could pick up a signal, we also listened to The Moth, a site featuring professional and amateur storytellers in New York.

***

We shared a room at a budget motel in Silver City and that went well, too. Fresh-baked cookies and cold milk at check-in made for a nice welcome, and we indulged in some fun people-watching at the breakfast buffet in the lobby each morning.

In the evenings, Simone more than compensated for my domination of the CD player by binge-watching her favorite Food Channel shows. At times it seemed like a continuous loop of “Cooks vs. Cons” with all the faux drama of today’s reality shows.

It’s good to see her relax, knowing she has such great responsibilities at work and precious few hours of genuine leisure time to simply relax. And for me, I suppose it doesn’t hurt to see what kinds of dishes these chefs can whip up using leftover Chinese takeout as main ingredients.

***

On the way in to Silver City, we took the slower, more scenic route traveling east on U.S. 70, a two-lane road. We passed through the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and several small towns in southeastern Arizona, stopping for lunch in Safford (population 9,500).

We ate at a café on Main Street and afterward walked through the two-block business district, where we shared an ice cream cone dished up at a retro ice cream parlor.

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Pistachio for two at Candy’s Ice Cream Company in Safford, Arizona. I like to match my shirt’s color to the ice cream.

On the way back, we stopped in Tucson, where I knew an outdoor table and a fabulous menu awaited us at the Hotel Congress’ Cup Café. I’ve eaten there a few times before, starting when I used to travel alone as a newsroom recruiter for The Oregonian. To my delight, Simone thought it was every bit as good as Lori did, when I took my wife there (twice!) on our most recent trip to Silver City.

Perhaps the most fun, though, was introducing Simone to Silver City’s historic downtown district. In a sleepy little town of 10,000, where Walmart, CVS Phamacy and any number of fast-food chains predominate, it may come as a surprise to know that this former mining town also has a very alternative aspect.

On Bullard and surrounding streets, there are old-timey saloons, a food coop, modern restaurants, art galleries galore, jewelry shops and gift shops, a movie theater, a karate studio and two refurbished hotels catering to upscale tourists.

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The place to be in Silver City if you want coffee and a hippie (not hipster) vibe.

We stopped in to The Jumping Cactus coffeeshop Thursday evening and again Friday morning before we hit the road, charmed by the ambience and impressed by the array of drinks and pastries.

If we didn’t know better, we’d have thought we wandered onto the set of “Portlandia.”

Even before we went inside, a woman passed by on the sidewalk carrying a rolled-up yoga mat and a container of coconut milk.

At the counter, there was a transgender person, who struck up a conversation with us as if they were an employee or a city ambassador. Two middle-aged ladies sat at a table chatting over a copy of a thick book on astrology. A weathered old guy with bedhead and a backpack came in and ordered a double espresso. A young man, evidently just passing through town, got up from his corner table, earnestly hoping to join two older men in a philosophical conversation about faith and atheism.

On the porch, there were all sorts of fliers for local businesses pinned to a community board, including one advertising the discreet construction of underground shelters and man caves.

All this and Joni Mitchell on the in-house stereo system? You couldn’t have scripted this any better.

***

With a family as far-flung as ours, the funeral service provided an opportunity to see my sisters again (one from San Diego, one from Alaska) and other relatives, including several cousins, in-laws and a niece and nephew. For many, it was their first time meeting Simone. She socializes easily and I’m always proud to introduce my middle child.

I was especially gratified that Simone volunteered to be a pallbearer – the only woman among the six.

Circumstances didn’t permit Lori or either of our sons to make the trip. But I know my dad would have been very happy knowing his Oregon granddaughter had made the trip to pay her respects.

Though it would have been nice to make this trip while Dad was still alive, I will carry fond memories of time spent with my fellow road warrior. Though the bond between father and son was pretty special, so too is it between father and daughter.

If you’ve read this far, here’s a bonus video offering a taste of this former mining town:

A son’s remembrance

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Hanging out with Dad on his 90th birthday in 2016.

Catarino A. Rede: March 22, 1926 to March 28, 2017

We laid my dad to rest this week. On March 28, six days after he reached his 91st birthday, he suffered an early-morning attack at home in Silver City, New Mexico, and died hours later at the hospital with his beloved wife, Oralia, at his bedside.

Lori and I were on a spring break vacation, four states and one time zone away, when we got the word. Just a year ago, we had celebrated Dad’s 90th birthday, with my two sisters and their families. He was so happy then, surrounded by three generations of people who mean the most to him. He looked healthy, even if his vision and hearing had begun to deteriorate. And his first and only experience with Skype had him marveling at the wonders of technology.

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Since the beginning of this year, however, things had changed. He lost his appetite and pretty much quit eating, which caused his weight to plunge and his body to lose muscle. He drank so little water, he became dehydrated and sedentary. Finally, his heart gave in.

His death felt surreal.

More than three years earlier, my sisters and I were in a quiet, darkened hospice room when our mother died. We could talk to her, hold her hand, wipe her brow and feed her ice chips as we watched her life come to a merciful end.

In contrast, all of us were hundreds of miles away when the end came for Dad. It wasn’t until this Thursday when I saw him in repose in a mortuary in his adopted hometown, rosary beads draped across his hands and his handsome face stilled forever, that it sank in. Death had taken my father.

***

I loved my dad. I admired him and appreciated him more and more with each passing year.

Catarino Allala Rede was born in Artesia, New Mexico, the fifth of nine children, the third-oldest of seven boys who all served in the U.S. Navy. He was the last surviving sibling.

Like my mom, Dad came of age during the Great Depression and had limited opportunities growing up in a family of migrant farmworkers. He experienced discrimination early in his life and his formal education ended at the eighth grade, though he later obtained his G.E.D. in his 40s.

Read his obituary here as published in the Grant County Beat.

My parents met as teenagers in Salinas, California. My dad enlisted in the service when he was 18, saw action in World War II, and moved to the San Francisco Bay Area with my mom after they married. They had six children — three of whom died as infants. Among the three of us who survived, I was the middle child and only boy.

My parents divorced when I was 15. He soon met and married a wonderful woman with a gentle disposition, Oralia Caballero, a registered nurse at the same Oakland, California, hospital where my dad worked as a stationary engineer. Dad was a jack-of-all-trades responsible for the operation and maintenance of boiler and other mechanical systems, and he took great pride in his work.

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Dad and Ora came to visit Lori and me in Bend, Oregon, in the years before we had kids. Photo is circa 1977 or 1978.

Dad was one of those men who earned his living with his hands and a broad set of skills. He wore overalls with a name patch over his heart;  ate taquitos and black coffee from a metal lunch pail and thermos; and variously worked the graveyard, morning and evening shifts.

He became an officer in the International Union of Operating Engineers and I still remember vividly one of the tangible benefits of the health insurance policy that extended to us kids: my first pair of eyeglasses as a 13-year-old.

Marrying Oralia was the best thing that ever happened to him. I told her this week that it was if my dad was born again, given an opportunity to live life to its fullest alongside an affectionate and dedicated wife who fully embraced his adult children and cared for him to the very end.

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Ora and C.A. Rede outside their New Mexico home in April 2014.

During their 46 years of marriage, Dad and Ora traveled widely — to Europe and Mexico, to Israel and South Africa — and became deeply involved in civic life in Silver City. Dad was active in veterans, fraternal and religious organizations, and accompanied Ora to music programs and other events at the local university, something he never would have done in his previous life.

***

On April 6, the day of his funeral, it was readily apparent that my father had made a mark in the little town of 10,000 people in southwestern New Mexico where he chose to retire. Not on the scale of a First Citizen or anything like that. Rather, as an ordinary Joe who had a big heart and could be counted on to participate in a community service project.

“He was a man of few words but a man of strong words,” a fellow veteran said. “He was always concerned about others. He was a man of his word. If he said he’d be there, he was there.”

Whereas my mom’s funeral drew mostly relatives, my dad’s was attended by family, of course, but also a wide spectrum of friends, neighbors, camping buddies, fellow veterans and Catholics.

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Dad’s photo hangs on the wall at the Knights of Columbus Fellowship Hall in Silver City.

I especially appreciated the presence of the Knights of Columbus, whose white-haired, white-gloved members, with their decorative hats, capes, cummerbunds and swords, took shifts standing at either end of the coffin during the church service. Afterward, I broke into tears thanking each one of these gentlemen for honoring my father.

Dad was buried at the nearby Fort Bayard National Cemetery under a sunny sky as a gentle wind riffled the U.S. and New Mexico flags, plus those of the American Legion and U.S. Navy.

Seven riflemen fired three volleys each — a 21-gun salute. A priest offered a blessing and a leader of the local American Legion post recounted Dad’s military service.

He enlisted June 15, 1941 in Salinas, California, a week after the Allies landed at Normandy. Following basic training, he was assigned to a unit that was posted to Hawaii on Dec. 29, 1941, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was deployed to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands for training in anticipation of the invasion of Japan. The Japanese surrendered on Aug. 15, 1945, before the invasion could take place, and the unit was decommissioned. Back in the States, Dad was discharged on May 13, 1946, as a second-class machinist’s mate. He received $119.58 with which to resume his civilian life.

Born into a large family and equipped with little formal education, Catarino Rede nevertheless overcame a lot of life’s challenges. He became a husband and a father, a military veteran, a skilled laborer and a homeowner. He became a second husband, a grandfather and a great-grandfather, and a community volunteer in service to those less fortunate.

I will forever be proud to be his only son.

Bittersweet

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Sunrise on Orcas Island

Ordinarily, a trip to the San Juans is nothing but pleasurable. In the decade-plus that we’ve owned our cabin on Orcas Island, I’ve always known that whatever stresses might be weighing on me, I’d leave them at the ferry dock as we sailed away from the mainland.

This time, the coming back home was different. A week ago, Lori and I got up early and headed back to the ferry landing with the sobering knowledge that my father had died the day before on March 28.

Just six days earlier, he’d turned 91. The March 22nd phone call to wish him a happy birthday turned out to be the last time I spoke to him.

Today I’m flying down to Phoenix, then driving with my daughter to southwestern New Mexico for tomorrow’s funeral service and burial at a military cemetery.

There’s so much I’ve thought about, but not yet put in writing, as I think about my dad. I know I will share those thoughts in the coming days. But first, I owe it to myself to acknowledge the entirety of our five-night stay on Orcas. After all, the purpose of this blog is to serve as a digital diary. And we all know that life represents the stitching together of memories and milestones, both bitter and sweet.

***

We arrived late Friday afternoon. Though we usually have the cabin to ourselves, this time Lori and I knew we’d be sharing it for a couple of days with our youngest son, his wife and their daughter.

Jordan and Jamie and our granddaughter Emalyn arrived earlier in the week, a welcome Spring Break reward for our son, who’s been working his tail off in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in biology. Jamie, too, deserved a respite from the 24/7 responsibilities of a stay-at-home mom.

We enjoyed two home-cooked meals with the kids, and I joined them on a hike in Moran State Park on Saturday while Lori stayed behind to wait for a handyman to complete a plumbing job in the kitchen.

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Sunday morning came all too early, as the kids headed back home. We had the place to ourselves for the next three nights, and mostly just hung out at the cabin, enjoying the exquisite peace and quiet. Even the birds stayed away, though we put fresh seed in two new feeders.

We treated ourselves to dinner Sunday night at Doe Bay Café, always a relaxing experience. We read books and magazines, listened to favorite CDs, and took walks in the surrounding woods with our lovable Charlotte.

Our friend Juliana joined us for dinner at our place on Monday night, though we missed her husband Carl, who was tied up with a long work day.

On Tuesday, we drove into Eastsound (population 2,000) to buy a few things for the cabin, had a snack at a coffeehouse, and headed back to the cabin at a leisurely pace, appreciating the natural beauty of the clamshell-shaped island.

That same morning had begun with a phone call from New Mexico. My stepmother Ora said Dad had suffered a heart attack at home and had been taken to the local hospital. Just hours later, a family friend called again to say the end had come. Mercifully, I thought. I wouldn’t ever want Dad or any loved one to hang on needlessly, in pain or if there is no hope of recovery.

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Sweet memories of a hike to Big Twin, the larger of the Twin Lakes in Moran State Park.

Wednesday morning came and as we sailed across the waters back to the mainland, it dawned on me that now Lori and I are the oldest generation in our family. First, it was Lori’s dad. Then her mom. Then my mom. And now Dad.

I look forward to tomorrow’s service, not just to support my stepmother, reunite with my two sisters and assorted relatives but also to celebrate my father.

Live from Portland!

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A Washington, D.C., crowd settles in for a performance of Pop-Up Magazine. (Photo by Jon Snyder. Courtesy: Pop Up Magazine)

As much as I enjoy books and movies, there’s something special about seeing a story come to life in real time, right in front of your eyes.

Twice in recent weeks I was able to take in a live performance. And both experiences left me wishing I had the time and budget for more.

Three weeks ago, I went with a friend to see a touring show called Pop-Up Magazine. It was exactly as advertised — a live version of traditional magazine content, presented in Portland by the authors themselves as part of a five-city winter tour.

A week earlier, Lori and I went to see a play performed in a spare, intimate space by a cast of two. The story revolves around a Latino teenager who leaves home to get away from his homophobic father and encounters another boy at a LGBT homeless shelter, sparking an unexpected relationship.

In both cases, the motivation to buy tickets came from the Media Literacy class I’ve been teaching at Portland State. I’ve encouraged my students to broaden their media consumption beyond favorite websites and social media feeds — and many of them have done just that. So it seemed only fair that I should do the same. Much to my delight, two shows popped up at the same time on my calendar.

The Pop-Up Magazine provided an opportunity to finally see a show at Revolution Hall, a renovated space that once was the auditorium at now-closed Washington High School.

Meanwhile, the two-man play gave me a chance to get reacquainted with Teatro Milagro (Miracle Theater), a company that’s been producing bilingual works for more than 30 years in Southeast Portland.

***

Teatro Milagro was part of a date night.

Lori and I had a light dinner during happy hour at a neighborhood restaurant, then motored over to the theater. We had plenty of time so we checked out a nearby place called Lantern, which bills itself as a French Vietnamese cocktail bar.  Nice!

Back at the theater, it was closing night of “Swimming While Drowning,” written by playwright Emilio Rodriguez and directed by Francisco Garcia. A small but appreciative crowd got into the story of teenagers Angelo (Michel Castillo) and Mila (Blake Stone), both estranged from their families and seeking a way forward.

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Original postcard artwork for “Swimming While Drowning”

What follows is a coming-of-age story, with touches of humor, romance, spoken word poetry and self-revelation. It always amazes me how a static set and minimal props, combined with skilled acting and the willingness to suspend disbelief, can all add up to a captivating story brought to life.

Pop-Up Magazine was, by contrast, a much larger production in a much larger space.

My friend David Quisenberry joined me on a Tuesday night as we caught the one and only Portland performance of 11 pieces billed as “A night filled with bald eagles, bad grades, blind dates” and more. The evening showcased the work of journalists, filmmakers, photographers, poets and other storytellers.

Instead of flipping through the pages of a magazine, you had these storytellers coming out solo or in pairs to read their work aloud, often with blown-up photos or videos above and behind them. The effect, for me, was one of authenticity.

Who better to deliver a tongue-in-cheek essay about one’s unattractive facial features than the owner of that “Picasso-esque” face? Who better to testify to the annoying presence of bald eagles in a remote Alaskan fishing port — where the locals refer to our majestic national symbol as “Dutch Harbor pigeons” — than the writer and photographer who spent some time up there on a reporting trip?

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In a review for PBS NewsHour, Elizabeth Frock explained Pop-Up’s genesis:

The magazine began in 2009 in San Francisco as a sort of experiment. Could a series of shows, structured like a magazine and performed live by journalists, pack performance halls across the country?

It turns out it could. It’s filled auditoriums and theaters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, among other places. A physical magazine, California Sunday, has also grown out of the show.

Read the article here: How a pop-up magazine experiment is turning journalism into performance art

There was an added incentive for me to catch this March 7 show. One of the performers was Kelley L. Carter, a senior writer at ESPN whom I’ve known since we met on the recruiting trail in the ’90s. She was a promising journalism student at Michigan State and I was representing The Oregonian when our paths crossed at the Spirit of Diversity job fair in Detroit.

Kelley did a powerful piece entitled “1991” —  a year that she contended was both the best and worst year ever for black America.

I got a chance for a quick hug and hello after the show. Kelley, after all, had flown into Portland that day and was operating on East Coast time, so I knew her energy was flagging. Still, it was fun to see her and also offer congratulations to a couple other performers who happened by.

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After the show with Kelley L. Carter

The next morning, I gushed about this novel way of multimedia storytelling. Where my boomer generation grew up primarily with two-dimensional media (print, TV and radio), today’s college students and other consumers, for that matter, are blessed with an abundance of video and interactive material on digital platforms. And now this — live storytelling presented within a journalistic framework. Genius.

Back to PBS’ Frock for a final insight:

It’s important to note that Pop Up Magazine is gaining ground as most national magazines are struggling for readers, forced to slash newsstand prices or shut down all together. But in many ways it seemed that it wasn’t just format of the night that made the magazine something special, but the quality of the stories it put out. Almost every performance was carefully-structured, deeply reported and, in some way, surprising.

Can’t wait until this tour comes through again.

Twin Lakes

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Looking north toward Big Twin.

Six months had passed since I last set foot on Orcas Island. Too long.

Halfway through a five-day stay, I can say the restorative qualities of this place are once again at work.

It’s 1 pm on a tranquil Sunday. The on-and-off misty rain is off for the moment and I’m enjoying the jazz music of Heather Keizur, a Portland vocalist who Performs at our neighborhood block party every summer.

Lori and I arrived on Friday, knowing we would overlap with our youngest son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter for two days. They packed up and left today at mid-morning to catch the ferry back to the mainland, leaving us to enjoy the tranquility of our cabin for the next three days before we, too, return home.

***

Yesterday, I joined Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn on a 4.2-mile hike in Moran State Park. (Lori stayed behind to meet with a handyman who was coming up to finish a job at our place.)

It was a nice respite from the urban routine and the first time I’d been out to Twin Lakes in a long, long time. It’s an easy hike, following the western shore of Mountain Lake and then a spur at the north end of the lake.

You’re at 1,100 feet elevation when you arrive between the two bodies of water, but it’s not like it’s a vertical hike. The drive up Mount Constitution Road brings you to a parking area next to Mountain Lake and the well-groomed path has only modest ups and downs.

Even on a short hike — an hour out, an hour back — it was enough to awaken the senses. Cool, fresh air. Still lake waters. Humongous, overturned tree stumps. An occasional breeze whooshing through the trees. Snow melt tumbling over rocks.

And in spots along the trail where we paused for a sip of water? Absolute silence. The kind where you almost feel guilty disrupting the stillness to resume your hike.

Check out the Moran State Park map

Moran State Park has five lakes — Cascade, Mountain, Summit and Twin Lakes. I still haven’t hiked around Summit Lake, but I can vouch for the beauty of the others.

With this most recent hike, on the eastern flank of Mount Constitution, it was wonderful to reacquaint myself with Big and Little Twin Lakes, a couple of jewels.

Celebrating 35 years of voluntarism

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A nice way to spend a Friday night, in the company of people who help kids who come to The Dougy Center.

Lori is way too modest, way too selfless to call attention to her volunteer activities, so leave it to me to do so.

Friday night, we attended The Dougy Center‘s annual Volunteer Appreciation Celebration, an event that marked 35 years of this Portland nonprofit providing peer support groups for grieving children and their families.

Lori was among a roomful of big-hearted men and women — and, by the way, they are mostly women — who work with these children as they deal with their feelings after the death of a parent, a sibling or other loved one.

There are 31 peer support groups who meet at The Dougy Center’s headquarters in Southeast Portland or in satellite offices in Canby and Hillsboro. Children ages 3 to 18 meet every other week in age-appropriate groups with a professional facilitator and trained volunteers. Young adults, ranging from 19 to 35-ish, have their own groups.

As a past member of the center’s board of directors, I underwent the training too and volunteered for less than a year before outside commitments got the best of me and I had to quit. So I know what these volunteers go through and fully appreciate the love and care they provide as these kids heal, each in their own way and on their own time.

Some of those honored Friday night were celebrating 5, 10 and 15 years of service. Remarkably, two were celebrating 20 years, five were celebrating 25 years, and two were celebrating 30 years. Amazing.

Lori has been with the same Esperanza group for six years. Esperanza is Spanish for hope — and the name fits because these are the children of Latino parents, many of whom speak little or no English, and it’s the one group out of the 31 that caters to their language and culture.

Of the eight volunteers in Lori’s group, two others joined in the celebration Friday. We shared a table — three female volunteers and three of us male partners — and enjoyed a fun evening that included a catered dinner, speeches, raffle prizes and a silly photo session with props.

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Highlight of the evening? No question, it was when a former participant in a Young Adult Group shared his story of loss and healing. John spoke of the devastation he felt when his older brother died at age 26, leaving him at age 23 to sort through the pain and confusion.

Now 35, John became a first-grade teacher, a husband and father of a young daughter. Last year, when he and his wife welcomed a second child into the world, death struck again. Their daughter was born with severe brain deformities and died in their arms just an hour after being born.

Another person might have been crushed by despair. But John said the self-healing that occurred at The Dougy Center, with the unconditional love and support provided by adult volunteers, made all the difference in getting through his brother’s death and gave him the strength and the tools to both celebrate and accept his daughter’s short life.

In all my years being affiliated with The Dougy Center, I can’t recall a speech that was more profound than John’s. His moving testimonial was a gift to all in the room that evening, for these are people who are either retirees or else already-employed men and women,who give three to four hours of their time every two weeks to be there in a child’s time of need.

Knowing Lori is among this caring group of people made me, once again, very proud of my wife and her giving spirit.

Eight years and still laying bricks

Vertie Hodge, 74, weeps during an Inauguration Day party near Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Houston on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009 after President Barack Obama delivered his speech after taking the oath of office, becoming the first black president in the United States.

Vertie Hodge, 74, weeps during an Inauguration Day party near Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Houston on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009 after President Barack Obama delivered his speech after taking the oath of office, becoming the first black president in the United States.

In January 2009, Barack Obama took office as 44th President of the United States.

A month later, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals, 27-23, in the 43rd Super Bowl and Bruce Springsteen performed during the halftime show.

Back then, our oldest son, Nathan, was a few months away from getting his bachelors degrees in business and marketing at Portland State. Our daughter, Simone, was working with low-income students at alternative high schools in Portland and applying to graduate schools on the East Coast. Our youngest son, Jordan, was a newlywed and and stationed with the U.S. Army in El Paso, Texas.

Lori and I were empty nesters, still in the Grant Park neighborhood where we raised our kids and living with our dogs, Otto and Max, and our cats, Rudy and Mabel.

And so it was that on March 1, yours truly launched the Rough and Rede blog. I’d been hired to teach a weekend seminar at a local college called “Opinion and the Blogosphere.” (How quaint that word “blogosphere” seems now.)

My first blog post, written in the wee hours of March 1, 2009, was comprised of a single paragraph:

It’s about time…I’m going to teach a weekend seminar on “Opinion and the Blogosphere.” Shouldn’t I have a blog of my own? Even one that has more bones than skin? It’s about time…It’s after 1 in the morning, that transition time between Saturday night and Sunday morning. I find I do some of my clearest thinking and clearest writing in the wee hours. Fewer distractions that way. It’s about time…How will I sustain this? I’m already on Facebook; don’t wanna do MySpace. I’m online every day, much of the day, owing to my job as editor of the Sunday Opinion section at The Oregonian. It’s about time…It’s about getting started, as the title of this post says. Choose an image: dive in, dip your toes in the water, take the first step, just do it. So I’m doing it. I have no illusions about this, by the way. Just one guy on the Left Coast laying the first brick of what I hope will be good for the soul, good for the mind. Welcome, friends and new readers.

Well, here we are, eight years later. President Obama is president no longer and our nation threatens to pull itself apart under the policies of the Cheeto-in-Chief.

The New England Patriots just won the Super Bowl (again).

Nathan is following his passions of music and food, working as a DJ and a cook at a Thai restaurant. Simone is married and working for Metro as a senior auditor. Jordan is a young father, living near Tacoma, Washington, and closing in on a biology degree at nearby St. Martin’s University.

Lori and I are in a condo, sharing our living space with our slinky feline, Mabel, and our rascally little mutt, Charlotte.

And I’m celebrating the eight-year anniversary of the original Rough and Rede blog.

***

How appropriate that this milestone would fall on the same date that I just gave my Media Literacy students their midterm exam in COM 312 at Portland State University.

Eight years ago, I was still employed at The Oregonian and just dipping my toes into the waters of higher education.

Now here I am, 14 months removed from taking a buyout at The Oregonian/OregonLive, and teaching not one college course but three.

In addition to my class at Portland State, I’m also teaching two communications courses across the river at Washington State University Vancouver.

I’ve written about the transition from newsroom to classroom before, so I won’t go into yet again, although I fully expect to reflect on my teaching experiences when the quarter (PSU) and semester (WSU) are done at each campus.

***

I’ve got some more thoughts on this personal milestone and I’ll share them before the week is through. In the meantime, thanks to one and all for following the original R&R blog or this newer version, Rough and Rede II.

Photograph: AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Mayra Beltran

 

Ohio on my mind

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On the Cincinnati riverfront in May 2016.

The Buckeye State and the Beaver State have so little in common that it’s hard to think of a logical start to this post.

Ohio is a typical Midwestern state stretching from the Great Lakes to the Ohio River, a political swing state with a big industrial base but also a big chunk of poverty-stricken Appalachia. With 12 million people, its population triples that of Oregon.

Oregon has the Pacific Coast, the Cascade Mountains and Crater Lake, and is a reliably blue state, one of just five left where Democrats control the governor’s office and both houses in the legislature. We’re so predictable that neither Trump nor Clinton campaigned here last year, knowing that our few electoral votes would go to Hillary.

So I’m just going to dive in and say that as a longtime Oregonian, it’s odd to realize how much the state of Ohio has intruded on my consciousness during the past year.

The connection took root last spring when I spent some time in Ohio at the tail end of a whirlwind trip whose main purpose was to see four baseball games in three cities in the space of five days. I began in Pittsburgh, then shimmied over to Ohio.

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My rental car and airbnb rental in the Ohio City historic district of Cleveland.

I saw one game in Cleveland and spent the night there, then drove to Cincinnati and did the same there.

Before then, I’d passed through Cleveland twice before in the mid-70s as a college student heading to summer internships in Washington, D.C., and again more recently on a road trip with my daughter to get her settled for graduate school in Pittsburgh. We made time to visit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Years earlier, Simone and I also got a look at Oberlin College, on the outskirts of Cleveland, as she was considering where to go for undergraduate school. (Thank goodness, she didn’t choose Oberlin.)

In any case, here’s how Ohio has burrowed itself into my mind:

— When I visited in May, the first highway sign that greeted me upon entering the state bore the name of Governor John Kasich. Hey, remember him?

— Arriving early for the baseball game in downtown Cleveland, I was dazzled by Progressive Field, one of the most beautiful stadiums I’ve seen. In the fall, the Indians would return to the World Series and lose a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Chicago Cubs.

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Progressive Field is a great venue. It was ranked as Major League Baseball’s best ballpark in a 2008 Sports Illustrated fan opinion poll.

— A short walk away is Quicken Loans Arena, bearing larger-than-life images of LeBron James and his teammates. In June, a month after my visit, the Cavaliers would win the NBA Championship in a thrilling Game 7 against the Golden State Warriors. In July, delegates to the Republican National Convention would nominate Trump for president.

— In Cincinnati, I got to attend a Reds game with Anne Saker, my former co-worker at The Oregonian. A native Ohioan, she’s now working as a reporter at The Cincinnati Enquirer. Peter Bhatia, my former boss in Portland, is now the editor at the Enquirer. The newspaper made the news last fall when its editorial board endorsed Clinton for president — the first time in nearly a century that it had backed a Democrat.

 (Click on images to view captions.)

— Before the game, I had lunch with Rachel Lippolis, a regular contributor to this blog over the years. Though we’ve been online friends for several years, this was the first time we’d met in person. Rachel, another native Ohioan, was pregnant then and became a mother in October. For some odd reason, her alma mater, Denison College, is represented among the college and university banners lining one wall of the entrance to the building where I work for an education nonprofit.

— That afternoon, I also explored the Queen City’s riverfront. Looking south into Kentucky, I hadn’t realized the Ohio River had served as the dividing line between the free North and the Southern slave states. It was a powerful, wrenching moment that stays with me still. Part of the reason why is that I spent some time in the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, learning more about the region’s history and viewing museum exhibits that included an actual slave pen with shackles chained to the floor. Chilling.

— Back in Oregon, I became a grandparent in late July. Looking for a suitable gift for daughter-in-law Jamie, I stumbled upon a wonderful book and blog titled “Becoming Mother.” I  bought the book and sent off a complimentary email to its author, Sharon Tjaden-Glass.

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Sharon Tjaden-Glass

We became Facebook friends and soon enough, Sharon landed in this space as a guest blogger, writing about life in a swing state and then about the horror of discovering her baby’s due date was Inauguration Day. She lives in Dayton, a place I came nowhere near during my 2016 trip. I don’t imagine we’ll ever meet, but it’s still nice to connect with a millennial who’s a kindred spirit. (Her newborn son delayed his arrival until early February.)

— Two books I read during the latter half of 2016 were set in Ohio. One, by Celeste Ng, is titled “Everything I Never Told You,” and takes place in the late ’70s in the fictional small town of Middlewood. The novel is centered on the tensions within a family made up of a Chinese American father, an Anglo mother and their three reclusive children. The other, by J.D. Vance, is “Hillbilly Elegy,” a memoir of growing up amidst generational poverty and low educational expectations in Appalachia, first in eastern Kentucky and then in southwest Ohio, in the now-decaying steel town of Middletown.

— A Netflix movie that Lori and I rented was filmed on location in Ohio. “Liberal Arts” stars Josh Radnor as a disillusioned New Yorker who returns to campus at the invitation of a retiring favorite professor. The scenery at Kenyon College is breathtaking, reminiscent of Oregon’s many hues of green. And the movie, also starring Elizabeth Olsen (younger sister to the Olsen twins), is actually pretty good.

— Before the year ended, I met with another former co-worker, Steve Woodward, when I was looking for ideas to incorporate into my college teaching this term. Steve was a guest lecturer in two of my classes last week and, wouldn’t you know it, he too is from Dayton and a graduate of nearby Wright State University. Once a reporter and editor at The Oregonian, Steve is now CEO of his own online news startup and one of the most forward-thinking individuals I know.

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The “Sing the Queen City” 3D Art Sculpture, is the signature piece and part of the ArtWorks urban public art project known as “CincyInk.” (Photography by Brooke Hanna.)

I could go on about my discovery of a little indie band called Over The Rhine, named for a neighborhood in Cincinnati. Or about my newfound love of Cincinnati Chili, a no-beans chili made with cinnamon, cloves and chocolate that’s paired with spaghetti and shredded cheddar cheese. But that might make a person wonder if I’m thinking of moving to Ohio.

No. Way.

From the newsroom to the classroom

 

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The classroom where I teach two courses at Washington State University Vancouver.

I’m five weeks deep into the 2017 winter quarter at Portland State University, already halfway done with the 10-week term. Across the river, five weeks in means I’m a third of the way though the 16-week spring semester at Washington State University Vancouver.

I’m teaching one course at PSU on Monday-Wednesday and two at WSUV on Tuesday-Thursday and, yes, that’s keeping me plenty busy. (I also work four afternoons a week at a local nonprofit, but let’s not go there right now.)

As I write this on a Saturday morning, I’m struck by how fast the time goes, particularly when snow days force cancellation of classes — two at each campus — during the first two weeks. Throw in the King Day holiday and that’s another day we didn’t hold class at PSU.

But who’s complaining?

Fourteen months after leaving The Oregonian/OregonLive, I’ve got plenty on my plate.

***

Here I am this weekend with nearly 70 essays to grade, three chapters to read in three textbooks, two guest speakers to prepare for next week, and dates and times to confirm with a half-dozen more guests I’ve lined up in next couple of months.

Surely, this is nothing out of the ordinary for anyone who teaches full-time or even as an adjunct. Classroom time is just part of the deal. Planning and prep time take up a lot of intellectual energy, too, but the many administrative tasks involved — grading papers, maintaining a grade book, posting weekly schedules and lecture notes online, emailing students — account for far more time.

But, again, who’s complaining?

When I agreed to teach three classes at once, I knew I was in for a challenge. But the rewards are definitely worth it.

There is no better time to be teaching Media Literacy than now. When you’ve got a new administration declaring war on the press, throwing out phony accusations of fake news, and offering “alternative facts” as a diversion from verifiable facts that show Trump and his minions in an unflattering light, well, it’s the perfect time for a course like this.

My students at PSU have eagerly engaged on the subject, admitting their own shortcomings when it comes to digital literacy but also getting quickly up to speed in understanding who is providing what content (news, opinion, advertising) on the internet and for what purpose.

In Vancouver, I’m having a great time teaching Sports and the Media, holding up organized sports as a mirror of society. Coverage of sports has gone so far beyond just games, scores and hero worship to an era of athlete activism and self-marketing and wart-and-all coverage of coaches, players and programs. I present sports as a mirror of society, touching on racism, sexism, politics, entertainment, marketing and campus sexual abuse, among other topics. (Great timing to have Super Bowl 51 come along to illustrate the intersection of so many of these themes.)

I’m also teaching Reporting Across Platforms, traditionally a writing-intensive course designed to prepare students for producing words and images for print, broadcast and digital. I’m going at it somewhat differently, in light of the fact that many students are non-communications majors (let alone non-journalism majors) and have never done journalism in their life.

Accordingly, I’m trying to provide more context about the challenges facing today’s multimedia journalists in an era of 24/7 news and social media rather than emphasize basic skills of reporting, interviewing, writing and tweeting. The students are taking baby steps, but they’re also getting introduced to media ethics and the realities of a profession under siege.

I’ll check in again when the quarter and semester are done.

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I met for coffee recently with Gosia Wozniacka, a former reporter at The Oregonian and the Associated Press, who is now teaching a journalism class at Clark College in Vancouver. We compared notes on teaching.

For now, I take comfort in knowing I’m making a difference in how these young people are seeing things more clearly now — and even putting actions behind their words.

At least three students have let me know they have begun subscribing to The Oregonian/OregonLive or least committed to buying the newspaper two days a week as a sign of their support for local journalism. Several more made it clear to me, in emails or in class discussions, that they now understand the importance of a free press in a democratic society and are changing their media consumption habits accordingly.

What more could a teacher ask for?