Tag Archives: Portland OR

Happy Trails, Part 49

PORTLAND, Ore. — Our retirement journey has brought us to where our lives together began nearly 47 years ago.

It was a rocky landing, though. It had nothing to do with my wife and me, or our relationship per se.

It had to do with an RV park where had reserved space.

We had intended to stay at an RV location in Vancouver, Wash., across the mighty Columbia River from Portland, where I was born and where I spent the first 34 years of my life.

I called ahead from Eugene, where we spent the previous night. We made the reservation. The young woman told us all she had left were “back-in” sites. Fine. Let’s reserve it, I said. She told me the space was “tight, but no one has any trouble” backing in.

All righty. We arrived at the RV park. We paid for our reservation. e drove our truck and our RV to the site. Tight fit? Uh, yeah. It was. It was so damn tight, we couldn’t get the RV/truck assembly positioned correctly to back it in. The spaces were packed like sardines.

I am not yet an expert at backing in our fifth wheel, but I am not a complete novice/dunderhead, either. I couldn’t get it to fit. A young man who works part time at the RV park took the wheel of our pickup. He couldn’t get it right, either. He had to leave to pick up his girlfriend.

My wife and I looked at each other. Then she spoke words of wisdom: Did we want to stay there or try to find another location … somewhere? We went to the office and read the riot act to the young lady, the one who told me “no one has any trouble” maneuvering their RV into these back-in sites.

The lady made an offer. “We can reserve a spot for you at a sister site in Portland, Oregon.” She called ahead. They had pull-through sites available. We could get in for the cost of our stay at the Vancouver RV park.

Deal! Done! Let’s do it.

So, we did. The Portland site was just a few minutes away.

The lesson? It came from my wife: Never again are we going to reserve a back-in site at a private RV park. State parks are OK. We’ve discovered that the Texas state park system, for example, has ample space for back-in sites.

The journey now can continue.

Time to tap that limitless prayer well … once again

It’s a good thing that humankind’s wellspring of prayer knows no limit. We can pray forever. For eternity. Until the end of time.

I now shall do so yet again, just as I did for our friends and the millions of others along the Texas Gulf Coast as Hurricane/Tropical Storm Harvey bore down with all its rage and savagery.

The recipients now are those who sit in the path of Hurricane Irma.

Oh … my. What awaits them?

Irma is churning across the Atlantic Ocean. The storm has drawn a bead on South Florida. It’s a Category 5 monster, with sustained winds of about 185 mph. Have you seen the traffic moving north, away from that monster? And have you wondered — as I have — about the few motor vehicles one sees on the news video heading south, toward the storm’s Ground Zero?

We don’t have many friends in South Florida. But I worry specifically about a former colleague and friend. She’s a journalist who lives in Fort Lauderdale. I am going to pray extra hard for her and her loved ones’ well-being.

While all this has occurred here in Texas and what is about to occur along the Florida coast, my hometown of Portland, Ore., is choking from the smoke and ash being deposited from that hideous Eagle Creek fire just east of the city.

The fire started on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, but it has jumped the big river and is now burning forestland in Washington. I read today that firefighters are beginning finally to contain the blaze — and that the weather might be about to turn in the firefighters’ favor with shifting wind and some rainfall expected over the weekend.

Let it rain! As a friend of mine pleaded, we need to send some of that Texas deluge north to the Pacific Northwest. If only one could do such a thing.

Hurricane Irma is being called the monster of all storm monsters. It’s stronger, windier, larger than any storm in anyone’s memory. Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was a pigmy compared to what Irma is expected to deliver. That’s pretty damn scary, given the damage Andrew brought to South Florida and then to the Louisiana coast.

I guess I should ask those who read this blog to join me in some prayer for our fellow travelers over yonder in Florida and along the Caribbean. Keep praying, too, for those along the Texas coast who are trying to cobble their lives back together. And, yes, please pray that firefighters extinguish the Eagle Creek fire sooner rather than later.

Just remember: Our prayer source is infinite.

Climate change is real, NW fires notwithstanding

I’m seeing a bit of social media chatter that needs to be put in perspective.

Some of it is conflating a couple of key issues: climate change and those horrific fires that have scarred many thousands of forestland in Oregon and Washington.

Critics of climate change deniers are pointing to the Oregon and Washington fires as evidence that climate change is real.

I agree with the notion that Earth’s climate is changing, that its temperatures are warming. The fires that began along Eagle Creek just east of Portland, though, were the result of a dumbass who allegedly was playing with fireworks in tinder-dry woodlands above the Columbia River.

Oregon State Police have a suspect. He’s a teenager. He is a minor, so we won’t know his name, which I guess gives me license to refer to him as a dumbass.

Back to the issue of climate change/global warming. It’s playing out far from the Pacific Northwest.

The Texas Gulf Coast just got hit with a Category 3 hurricane/tropical storm. It dumped 50-plus inches of rain on Houston and the Golden Triangle; it brought killer winds to the Coastal Bend. It has created unspeakable grief, agony and misery along the coast.

But wait! Now there’s a Category 5 storm blasting its way toward South Florida. It has winds of 185 mph; gusts are reaching 225 mph.

Meteorologists and other scientists are speaking in unison — more or less — on this subject: We’re going to see more catastrophic storms in quick succession in the future because of climate change.

The debate, though, centers on the cause of this change. The scientific consensus appears to suggest that human activity has exacerbated the change, through carbon emissions and immense deforestation.

The fire will be extinguished. I remain supremely confident that the forest will be restored over a lengthy period of time. Humankind can repair the damage done by a single thoughtless idiot.

The frequency of those storms? The rising sea levels? The intensity of the savagery that boils up out of the ocean?

That problem requires our immediate attention, if only we’d stop bickering over whether the climate is changing. It is. Let’s get busy finding solutions to this worldwide crisis.

Let’s learn from Tillamook Burn recovery

I have received a chilling message from a friend of mine who lives in Portland, Ore., the city where I was born … a very long time ago.

“We’ve lost the Gorge,” my friend wrote. The wildfires that have consumed much of the Eagle Creek region east of Portland and have jumped the Columbia River into Washington, according to my friend, have consumed much of the Columbia River Gorge. I’ll take his word for it, that the Gorge — one of America’s true scenic treasures — has been scarred deeply by the fire.

The Gorge forms a significant portion of the border between Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River — which the U.S. Coast Guard has closed to all traffic because of the fire.

Oh, man. This is heartbreaking in the extreme.

The picture I’ve attached to this blog shows the fire as seen from Stevenson, Wash., across the river from Eagle Creek.

My friend, though, reminded me also of that the damage need not be permanent. It might last a long time. However — as the saying goes — time can heal the wounds.

Eighty-four years ago, a huge fire broke out along the Coast Range of Oregon. It was the first of a series of blazes that burned near the town of Tillamook, a coastal community. The fires took out many thousands of acres of pristine forestland. The final blaze in the series occurred in 1951. It came to be known to us as The Tillamook Burn.

I remember driving to the beach with my parents and sisters and passing through many miles of scorched timber. The photo below is of the Burn in 1951.

That changed over time. I am proud to say that I played a teeny-tiny role in the recovery of the forest. I was a Boy Scout and my fellow Scouts and I would venture many times in the early 1960s into the forest to plant trees. We were not alone. Other groups did the same the thing: churches, civic organizations, even large families would make an outing of tree-planting in The Tillamook Burn.

Today, I am happy to report — as my friend noted in his message to me — that the forest is back. My friend wrote: “On our way to the coast we often stop at the Tillamook Forest Center. That’s inspiring to me, the way that Oregonians … came to fix a destroyed forest that we enjoy today. We might have to do that again.”

When the fire is extinguished, I believe there will be a concerted effort to do precisely what occurred along the Oregon Coast Range.

The Columbia River Gorge might be “lost” today. One must not bet that it will stay lost forever.

Feeling cursed by Nature’s wrath

Forgive me if I sound as if I’m feeling cursed these days.

Mother Nature is drawing a bead on communities I know well. Beaumont and the rest of the Golden Triangle along the Texas Gulf coast is bailing out from the deluge dumped on the region by a storm named Harvey.

Most of our friends are OK. Not all, though. There’s a lot of heartbreak and agony to go around as the Triangle struggles to recover from the Harvey’s savagery. Our hearts go out to them … along with our prayers.

Now as we look in the other direction, toward the Pacific Northwest, I see that my hometown is under siege from an entirely different foe.


I see pictures on social media from the Columbia River Gorge, one of the world’s greatest natural splendors, and my heart breaks all over again. Flames are consuming many acres of virgin timber. Historical structures are in jeopardy.

Portland, the city of my birth, is now being showered with ash, reminding residents there of when Mount St. Helens exploded in the spring and summer of 1980, blanketing the city with a fine coat of volcanic ash.

The picture above is of downtown Portland. That ain’t fog, man! It’s smoke billowing over the city from the fires that are burning not far away.

We’re getting ready to head that way for a little R&R. Our trip isn’t coming up in the next few days, but we’ll be hauling our RV in that direction fairly soon. My hope is that the fires are quenched soon. I have considerable faith in the firefighting crews that are on the job. They’re pretty damn good at fighting those forest fires.

Their expertise comes from experience, just as the Gulf Coast rescue crews and other first responders have plenty of experience dealing with the aftermath of killer hurricanes and tropical storms.

But these monstrous events make me nervous in the extreme and they break my heart for tangible reasons.

These great Americans would be appalled

These are three great Americans. I knew two of them well; one of them died when I was an infant.

I want to write about them this weekend for a couple of reasons: to celebrate their love of the United States of America as it approaches its 241st year of existence and to comment on how I believe they would be reacting to the national mood emanating from the halls of power.

They are three of my four grandparents. From left they are: Katina Kampras Kanelis, my father’s mother; George Filipu, my mother’s dad; and Diamontoula Panesoy Filipu, Mom’s mother. John Peter Kanelis, my father’s dad and the man for whom I was named, was somewhere else, I reckon, when someone snapped this picture.

They were immigrants. Mr. and Mrs. Filipu came here near the turn of the 20th century from — get a load of this! — a Muslim-majority country. They were ethnic Greek residents of Turkey, which prompts me to ponder whether they would be welcome today. My grandmother Katina hailed from Kyparissia, a village in southern Greece.

They were great Americans. They loved this country more than life itself. Indeed, my “Yiayia” — Diamontoula Filipu — died on the Fourth of July, 1978. My wife has reminded me that Yiayia left us on that day just to ensure that we’d remember. I do. My Papou George — who died in January 1950 — loved this nation so much that in 1918, he enlisted in the U.S. Army just so he could obtain instant U.S. citizenship. He wanted to fight in World War I, but the war ended before he got the chance to see actual combat.

All of my grandparents were, shall we say, undereducated. They lacked a lot of formal education, but that didn’t prevent them from carving out great lives in the Land of Opportunity. Papou George operated a bakery; Yiayia was a homemaker. Papou John worked a number of jobs in America: steelworker, hotel manager and then he shined shoes in downtown Portland, Ore; my grandmother Katina also was a homemaker.

They were great because they loved their country arguably more than many of their peers who were born here. They came here because they wanted to be here, which to my mind makes them uber-patriots.

My Kanelis grandparents did return to Greece in the late 1950s. After my grandmother died in September 1968, Papou John returned twice more to Greece; he died in 1981 at the age of 95. My Yiayia and Papou George never went back to the “old country.” Yiayia always felt that the United States was “home” and she had no desire to return to the nation of her birth.


How might these great Americans react to what’s transpiring these days? I don’t recall any of them having acute political instincts. But my hunch is that they would be aghast at the kind of rhetoric we’re hearing these days.

This mantra calling for us to “make America great again” likely would enrage them. America is great. These great Americans came here because of this nation’s greatness. They forged their lives, reared 10 children among the four of them.

They would be aghast at the angry rhetoric. They wouldn’t endorse the behavior we keep witnessing from the president of the United States. They would want to remind everyone that we are a nation of immigrants. Every single American whose ancestry isn’t linked to those who were here when the settlers arrived comes from an immigrant background.

My grandparents understood it far better than many of our current leaders do today.

They were among the greatest Americans this great nation has ever welcomed. I am proud beyond measure to be their grandson.

Attack ‘unacceptable’? That’s it, Mr. President?

A man believed to have white supremacist links stabbed two other men to death on a Portland, Ore., mass transit rail line the other day.

The victims were breaking up a disturbance involving a man and two young women. The man was verbally attacking them; one of the women was wearing a Muslim hijab.

Police have arrested Jeremy Joseph Christian, who’s been charged with murder.

Meanwhile, back in the White House, the president of the United States was blazing away on his Twitter account blasting “fake news,” and congratulating the winner of a Montana special election after he “body slammed” a reporter.

Where was Donald Trump’s outrage at the senseless murder in Portland?

No mention of hate crime

He weighed in today — finally, saying that the “violent attacks in Portland are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/them.”

According to the Huffington Post: “Not one of Trump’s personal Twitter messages mentioned Portland, the two deceased men being hailed as ‘heroes,’ or a condemnation of the attacker’s actions that are being investigated by police as a hate crime.”

Is it me or does this expression of presidential emotion seem just a bit tepid?

This reunion thing can get maddening

I am blessed beyond measure with wisdom that comes from members of my immediate family.

My frame of reference is my wife and my two sons.

One of them offered me a bit of wisdom this weekend that is giving me serious pause about whether I should attend a reunion of my high school graduating class.

It’s the 50-year reunion that is coming up in October. I had leaned against attending. As of this moment, I’m back on the fence. Totally neutral. I have indicated to close friends that I could be “talked into” going.

My wife and I attended my 10-year reunion in 1977; I flew back for my 30-year reunion in 1997 — and I hated almost every minute of it. I vowed then I wouldn’t return for any subsequent reunions. The 40-year reunion occurred without me. I had no regrets about staying away.

But then my son and I had a conversation this weekend that went something like this:

Me: You know, of course, that I am thinking about whether I want to go to my 50-year high school reunion.

Son: Yes, I know. I also know that you aren’t too keen on going.

Me: That’s right.

Son: Let me offer this bit of advice. You said your 30-year reunion was a bummer, that you hated it. I think the reason was that you went alone. Mom wasn’t there. You also set the bar too high. Why not just go this next reunion with Mom, see your friends, have a good time — and then go do whatever you want to do with Mom?

Do you see what I mean about wisdom? I’ve never told my sons that I was the knower of all knowledge. I’ve always had an open mind to whatever advice either of them — along with my wife — were willing to give me.

My wife and I now are retired. We purchased a fifth wheel recreational vehicle, which we tow behind a big ol’ pickup. Were we to go, we likely would haul our RV to Portland, Ore., where we both graduated from high school.

As I understand it, our Parkrose High School class of 1967 is planning a dinner in October at a hotel near Portland International Airport. We could attend the dinner, have some laughs, get caught up; my wife knows a couple of my classmates — one quite well, the other not nearly so.

Then we could say goodbye. Go back to our RV, visit some family and a few of our many other friends we have in the city of my birth.

Then we would be on our way to, oh, destinations to be determined.

I won’t set the bar too high. I won’t seek to rekindle relationships that I learned at the 30-year reunion did not exist in the first place.

Hmm. I am now thinking carefully about the wisdom I received from my son. That reunion is beginning to beckon — and I am beginning to pay attention.

I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Trails, Part 10

This retirement life allows my wife and me to spend more time holding hands while walking through our southwest Amarillo neighborhood.

While we do this activity with Toby the Puppy, I am free to look at my surroundings and entertain strange thoughts.

This one popped into my noggin this morning.

We live on a “place.” The street that t’s into our street is a “drive.” It originates from another right-of-way labeled a “lane.”

They all do the same thing: They convey motor vehicle, non-motorized vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

What’s the difference among them?

I looked the terms up in the dictionary I keep on my desk. I found the term “lane” and saw that it refers to a narrow roadway. “Drive” has many applications, most of them are verbs. There’s no street reference to “place.” Get this: The “lane” one block north of our house is the same width as the “place” where we live. Go figure.

I noticed long ago, too, that Amarillo labels its major east-west thoroughfares as “avenue,” while those that run north-south are “streets.” My hometown of Portland, Ore., does something similar. Hmm. Streets and avenues do the same thing, too.

Boulevards are different. They usually refer to broad streets with medians. I’m aware of only one “boulevard” in Amarillo. It does have a median west of the major commercial area through which it passes.

I know I could solve all this curiosity with a phone call or two to City Hall. What fun is that?

I’ll entertain any suggestions or ideas.

Reunion No. 50: The dilemma deepens

I just got word that the planners who are organizing the 50-year reunion of my high school graduating class have set a date and a location.

It will take place this October at a hotel near Portland (Ore.) International Airport. Ironically, it also will occur not terribly far from where my classmates and I graduated from Parkrose High School.

The old building was torn down years ago and was replaced by a shiny new structure that doubles as a community center.

My dilemma is deepening about whether to attend this event.

The 30-year high school reunion sucked for me. I went back to Portland seeking to rekindle relationships I had with some of the folks with whom I graduated. Much to my surprise — and chagrin — I found that there was nothing to rekindle. You can’t ignite something that doesn’t exist.

I vowed not to go back.

No. 40 came and went. Without me. I stayed true to my personal pact.

Now it’s No. 50 looming out there.

I cannot tell if my waffling means I want to go but I’m looking for reasons to stay away; or whether it means I don’t want to go but I’m seeking a reason to go.

Maybe I need to reset my expectation if I do return to this event.

I hate these dilemmas. I think I’ll pray for some discernment.