Tag Archives: Portland OR

Name tags: cure for embarrassment

PORTLAND, Ore. — Thank goodness for name tags.

They saved my backside while my wife and I attended my 50-year high school reunion. I had feared walking into a roomful of individuals I hadn’t seen in a few decades. I was prepared to deal with the consequences that time has brought to human beings over a 50-year span of time.

I did discover a couple of things about my classmates. One is that a surprising number of them remain quite recognizable. Another is that they — and I, for that matter — are pretty good at shooting quick-hit glances at name tags before greeting each other.

I found myself relying somewhat on name tags — which contained pictures from our 1967 Parkrose High School yearbook.

The event was far more enjoyable than I expected, which demonstrated the wisdom of setting the bar low and then being pleasantly surprised at the positive result.

I made up a throwaway line for those who wondered where I live these days. “I live in Amarillo, Texas,” I would say, “but my wife and I came all the way here for this reunion — and just to see you.”

Here, though, is my major takeaway from the 50-year reunion. It is that I am giving some preliminary thought to attending the 60-year event when it rolls around.

One of the women of my class, Karen is her name, mentioned attending No. 60, presuming she’s still alive. Indeed, time has that way of reminding us of our mortality.

If I am still on this side of the grass in 2027 and am in reasonably good health — and still have my wits — I’ll likely be there.

It is weird in the extreme to have these thoughts after how I felt coming out of the previous reunion two decades ago.

I’ll have to remind the event planners, however, to be sure to print the name tags. We’ll need ’em even more the next time.

Reunion No. 50: much better, thank you

PORTLAND, Ore. — I owe one of my sons a debt of thanks for steering me this direction, at this time, to attend a particular event.

I have regaled (or bored) you already with my tale of woe regarding my 30-year high school reunion. I had some serious trepidation about coming to the 50-year event. My son talked me into going.

I’m glad he did.

Yes, the event exceeded my expectation. Who knew? Perhaps it was because I set the bar so low that it was next to impossible to not clear it with ease. It was quite  unlike No. 30, for which I set an impossibly high bar; there was no way to meet the expectation I had set for that one.

And wouldn’t you know it, as I gravitated around the room schmoozing, back-slapping the guys, hugging the girls and getting caught up, I heard from three — maybe four — of my Parkrose High School classmates that they thought No. 30 was a downer, too.

Imagine that, will ya?

My son had advised me that this one would be better because his mother — my wife — would be there with me. She had a good time, too. She met some of my classmates, a couple of whom shared stories about me back in The Day that bore a semblance of truth, although one of my old runnin’ buddies seemed to embellish his recollection more than just a little.

My best friend from high school, Dennis — along with his wife, Linda — attended the event, which all by itself made it worth the trip from Texas. Dennis’s friendship is the longest sustained relationship I have with anyone on Earth who is not a member of my family; we go back 55 years, to the seventh grade.

My biggest takeaway is this: The 110 or so classmates who attended seemed to go out of their way to circulate and to talk to those they might not have known all that well in the old days. My comfort level was enhanced many times over what I felt two decades ago when I ventured here from Portland to attend the high school reunion I swore would be the last one I’d ever attend.

Silly me. I must have forgotten how time has this way of making most of us grow up.

I am glad I came.

‘Atmospheric river’? Huh? Eh?

PORTLAND. Ore. — We are being swept up in something I never knew existed.

The TV weathermen and women here are referring to something called an “atmospheric river.” You might ask, “What the bleep is that?”

I have deduced it describes a long band of rain clouds that is tracking over a region. We are RV-parked along the Columbia River in Portland. It’s been raining like the dickens almost since the day of our arrival. Weather conditions are producing more of it, which is welcome around here, given the Eagle Creek fire that incinerated much of the forest land around the Columbia Gorge.

But I am amused/bemused at this new meteorological term of art: atmospheric river.

The last time I heard weather people glom on to a particular term I guess was that “polar vortex.” I laughed when I heard that one.

Whenever I hear the term “vortex,” I flash back to 1970. They had a music festival here then. It took place at McIver State Park near Estacada, which is southeast of Portland in the foothills of the Cascade Range. I recall it was meant to protest the Vietnam War.

They called it “Vortex.” The most interesting part of it was how then-Gov. Tom McCall decriminalized marijuana use during the run of the festival. I believe the late governor wanted to give those rascally kids a pass on getting stoned while they “protested” whatever it was they were protesting. No need to hassle them and assign lots of cops to round ’em up, McCall thought.

Just so you know: I didn’t attend Vortex.

I digress.

“Atmospheric river” is a descriptive term used to define a lot of rain. That “river” has become a rapids.

And aren’t you just relieved that climate change is just a giant, cooked-up “hoax”?

Hoping a lower bar allows for satisfaction

PORTLAND, Ore. — A big day awaits my wife and me.

We ventured to the city of my birth to attend a high school reunion, an event I once swore I’d never attend again for the rest of my life. Not ever. Not in a million, billion, gazillion years!

Here we are.

The 50-year reunion for my high school class will commence in a little more than 24 hours and I am expecting it to produce a significantly different emotional result than the 30-year reunion I attended.

I graduated from Parkrose High School in the Summer of Love; that would be 1967. I took a stab at college, but didn’t make the grade. The U.S. Army beckoned the following year and it sent me to Vietnam, which placed me on the fast track to becoming an actual grownup.

I returned home in August 1970, got married a year after that. My wife and I went to my 10-year reunion in 1977. I skipped No. 20, but flew back to Portland from Amarillo to attend No. 30.

I hated it. I had set the bar far too high. I placed too great an expectation on what I would discover about the people next to whom I sat in class or goofed off with in the hallway or the cafeteria.

One of my sons blamed my disappointment on the absence of my wife at No. 30. He’s a wise man and he’s likely correct that my trip back alone contributed to my lack of satisfaction in the 30-year reunion.

I got invited to No. 40. I chose to skip it for reasons relating directly to the event I attended a decade earlier. I heard from one of my pals who did attend No. 40; he told my wife and me that everyone had a blast. Good deal.

So, my wife and I have ventured here together in our RV.

I will walk into the hotel banquet room with next to zero expectations. My wife and I will catch up with a couple of good friends of mine with whom I’ve stayed in touch over the years. I’ll seek to catch up the best I can with the others. I won’t expect anyone to recall what a great guy I was back in those Glory Days.

I’ll slap a few backs, shake a few hands and perhaps swap a lie or two. Then my wife and I will be on our way.

But you know … these low expectations just might be exceeded by what we encounter. I’m not expecting it. Then again …

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.

Fire!

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.