Tag Archives: Portland OR

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.

RIP, Packy the Elephant

Those of us of a certain age who grew up in the City of Roses — aka Portland, Ore. — are sad today with news that burst out of the Oregon Zoo.

Packy the Elephant is dead at the age of 54.

Big deal, you say? You bet it is.

Packy came into this world in April 1962. His birth at the time was heralded as the rarest of events. His mother Belle had gone into false labor, causing panic among zoo officials. Then came the real thing. Packy was born.

Packy’s birth became so big, in fact, that they hung a new name on a song that had played in the film “Hatari.” They called it “Packy’s Elephant Walk.”

Packy was one of several Asian elephants to be born at the zoo. I and others just like me watched Packy grow up. I didn’t get a chance to see him grow old, though, as my family and I moved away from Portland in 1984. Our sons, though, did see him — although they likely were too young to remember it today.

Packy was a star.

Still, some social media messages have disparaged the Oregon Zoo — once called the Portland Zoo and the Washington Park Zoo — for its treatment of pachyderms. Honestly, I don’t know what the hell those trolls are talking about. I long have considered the Oregon Zoo to be one of the better such attractions in the country.

And take my word for it: Packy the Elephant was a huge draw for visitors looking to see a bit of zoological history up close.

He had grown ill, as I understand it, in recent years. He suffered from recurring TB.

So, Packy’s time among us has ended.

I am saddened by this news.

‘Glass Palace’ still standing tall

PORTLAND, Ore. — This picture is of a building that in its day was considered a state-of-the-art, never-to-be-duplicated sports and entertainment venue.

I have so many memories of this place. It was built in 1960. Its cost was — get ready for this — $8 million. Think of that. Eight million bucks today perhaps wouldn’t pay for rest-room upgrades today.

It was called the Memorial Coliseum. It became known colloquially as the Glass Palace. It was home for many years to a minor-league hockey team, the Portland Buckaroos. Then the National Basketball Association started looking around for a place to install an expansion franchise. In 1970, the Trail Blazers started playing hoops in the place.

Where is this blog going? I’m taking in two directions at once.

First, some of the Trail Blazers came back to Portland this week to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the team’s only NBA championship. Bill Walton came; so did Larry Steele, Bobby Gross, Lloyd Neal and many of the rest of them were here to celebrate.

So many memories of that era. My bride and I used to go to those early Blazers games. We would plunk down $2 each for a ticket, which were discounted by half for students; we’d sit through the first quarter of a game and then gravitate to the empty seats nearer to courtside to watch the rest of the game.

Ah, yes. The memories.

I watched my first rock concert, with my sister, in August 1965 in that building. A British band came to play: The Beatles. Mom scored two front-row seats for sis and me. We listened — as best we could over the din of screaming fans, my sister included — to a 30-minute show by John, Paul, George and Ringo. Then they were gone.

The memories.

The second direction?

The Blazers abandoned the Coliseum in 1995 to play their home games in a fancy new venue, the Rose Garden, now has a corporate name: Moda Center. It seats nearly 20,000 fans, compared to the 12,600 or so seats in the Coliseum. It’s got those fancy corporate suites and, oh yes, the fans pay an arm and both legs for seats to watch the Trail Blazers.

What would they do with the Coliseum? Some folks here wanted to tear it down to make room for better vehicular access. Others wanted to preserve it.

The preservations apparently have won out.

The building now carries the name “Veterans Memorial Coliseum.” That’s brilliant! Why? Because the building was erected in 1960 to honor the veterans of World Wars I and II and the Korean War. It didn’t have the name displayed so outwardly for all those decades.

It does now. Which is why — in my view — the building is standing to this day. They aren’t going to destroy a structure that honors our veterans. They wouldn’t dare!

It gladdens my heart because of the tribute it pays to our vets — thank you very much for that — and for keeping alive the memories I have kept for so many years.

Well done, Portland!

Craft beer: Is its time coming in Amarillo?

Take a look at this illustration. The building it depicts is going to be built in downtown Amarillo.

What’s it called? Six Car Pub & Brewery.

Yep. It will be a brew pub, a place where one can purchase a cold one brewed in the back room. Right there. On site.

I have lived in Texas for nearly 33 years. We moved to Beaumont in the spring of 1984, gravitating to Amarillo early in 1995. I’ve never quite understood why craft breweries have not yet become part of either city’s commercial landscape.

My family and I moved to Texas from a community in the Pacific Northwest where craft beer has become the norm; it’s part of life in Portland, Ore. If you’ve been to the City of Roses, you’ll see a city bursting with life that includes brew pubs throughout its downtown district — and in neighborhoods all over the city.

Will the Six Car operation break the mold in Amarillo? Will it become the first of many such outfits here in the Yellow City? I do hope so. It’s not that I am going to consume a lot of beer at this place; I drink little of it, although I do like the taste of a cold one on a hot day.

We had that brewery on Olsen Boulevard. Then it closed. The Big Texan now has a brewery on site. If there are other such sites in Amarillo, I’m unaware of them.

Now we’re getting this Six Car Pub at Seventh Avenue and Polk Street.

This clearly is part of what appears to be the fundamental reshaping of Amarillo’s once-moribund downtown district. They’ve cleared the site where they hope to build the multipurpose event venue. The Embassy Suites hotel job is getting closer to its finish, right along with that parking garage next door.

Even though I don’t intend to imbibe regularly at this new place, my enthusiasm for its presence in downtown Amarillo is no less vigorous. My hope for the city is that it signals a new era as the city continues reshaping its downtown district.

And no, I’m not advocating that Amarillo become a city of drunkards and sloths. I do advocate that the city transform its central business district into a top-tier after-hours place where residents can chill out, relax and enjoy a better quality of life.

A pub closing early on Super Bowl Sunday? Yep, believe it

American football on field with goal post in background.

PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of my birth is known these days for a lot of things.

Yes, there’s the rain.

It also is known for coffee houses on (seemingly) most street corners, lots of people on bicycles, lush parks, a downtown district that is full of life and vitality . . . and microbreweries, where they serve craft beer that’s brewed in the back room.

I haven’t, until right now, mentioned the volcanic peaks along the Cascade Range that one can see on sunny days.

I’ve laid out the good stuff. Here’s something quite unusual some friends and I discovered this past Sunday.

We found it at one of those breweries — which I was told is a popular pub in northeast Portland. My friends had recommended this place as a pub “where they happen to serve pretty good food.” So we went there expecting to get in ahead of the Super Bowl Sunday crowd that would be piling in to watch The Big Game, swill a few brews and perhaps get a little louder than they otherwise might get.

We arrived at the place at 2:30 p.m., about an hour before kickoff.

Then we saw a sign on the door.

“Closing at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 7.”

Huh? What? Who does that? What kind of business would close on what arguably might be the busiest, most lucrative, most financially advantageous day of the year?

This place would. And did. Apparently.

My friends and I were stunned at this revelation.

So . . . we turned around, walked out, and went looking for another venue for a late lunch and some adult beverages. We found one not terribly far away.

Upon reflection, though, I have determined that the owner of the pub that closed on Super Bowl Sunday must be wealthy enough to be able to afford to shut the doors on a day when he or she could have made a lot of money.

Or perhaps he or she just doesn’t give a flying  rip about a stinkin’ football game.


A return to some old haunts brings stunning discoveries


PORTLAND, Ore. — I come back to the city of my birth on occasion and every time I do I see things that continue to surprise me.

This trip was no exception. Indeed, I saw and learned some things about my hometown that I found rather shocking . . . in a good sort of way.

I learned that the part of the city once known as the “ghetto” is less so these days. It’s being “gentrified” with condos, apartment complexes, coffee houses, micro-breweries. The area known as the Albina District is undergoing a transition the likes of which I never thought possible when I was growing up here in the 1950s and 1960s. Other neighborhoods have gone through similar changes over the years: Hawthorne, the Pearl, Foster Road, Parkrose.

Sitting in the back seat of my sister and brother-in-law’s car Saturday en route to visiting our uncle, we buzzed along the southern and western edges of the downtown district. I noticed construction — lots of it — involving at least three new high-rise complexes. I was told later by friends that the downtown construction is because of additions being built for the Oregon Health Sciences University, which is the reason that a tram runs from the west bank of the Willamette River to a bluff overlooking the waterway.

I learned that the city’s real estate market is booming. My friends’ home in northeast Portland possibly could sell for a half-million dollars when they get ready to put it on the market; they bought it two decades ago for about a fourth of that amount.

We gripe in Amarillo about the road construction occurring all over the city. Come here, my Texas friends, and see what real transition looks like.

I went by some old haunts over the course of the past couple of days. Two houses where I grew up — one in northeast Portland and the other in what once was the “burbs,” but has since been annexed into the city — still look well-kept. My grandparents’ old house in that former ghetto neighborhood also has been maintained nicely.

Driving along the busy streets produced interesting sights, such as many people riding bicycles, pedestrians walking their dogs, groups of young people sitting outdoors during this balmy and sunny weekend; and oh yes, the sun did come out today — in the middle of winter, in the Pacific Northwest!

Finally, as some friends and I were looking for a place to have lunch and get caught up, I learned that in Portland, it’s a municipal law that motorists must stop when they see pedestrians waiting to cross the street at clearly marked pedestrian crossings.

I laughed when they said that. “It’s true,” they answered. My response? “In Amarillo, you take your life into your hands whenever you cross the street.”

Yes, Amarillo is home now. I’ll be returning very soon to resume the great life I enjoy there.

However, it’s good to return here and see my hometown grow up to become something I truly would not have deemed possible.