The Year in Place: 2018

The Year in Place: 2018

Last March, we sold our house in West Linn, Oregon and moved to Austin, Texas. Positive change and forward motion have been a big part of 2018. We call it our year of the pivot.

When it was time to move (after months of preparation), we embarked on an epic road trip from the Pacific Northwest to the American Southwest. The highlights started in Ashland, Oregon where we spent two lovely wind-down days at Lithia Springs Resort, soaking in their healing waters.

Palm Springs was our mid-way destination and literal turning point (from south to east). We spent three incredible days and nights in the desert with our close friends Lotus and David, who generously opened the guest wing of their home to us and showed us around their town.


North By Southwest in ’18

  • Seattle
  • Stevenson
  • Ashland
  • Fresno
  • Palm Springs
  • Tucson
  • Silver City
  • Las Cruces
  • Ozona
  • The Domain/East Austin/Oak Hill
  • Salt Lake City
  • Deer Valley
  • Spring (2)
  • Port Aransas
  • Palo Duro
  • Ransom Canyon

After a night in Tucson, we arrived at The Murray Hotel, an historic art deco hotel in downtown Silver City, New Mexico. Silver City is an artist’s colony and university town at the doorway to the Gila Mountains. It’s a charming place, in an authentic, non-manufactured way. I look forward to going back to Silver City for more.


We arrived in Austin on March 16th, the second Friday of SXSW and the night before St. Patrick’s Day. The hotels were booked solid but we found an expensive room several miles north of the city in a new neighborhood called The Domain. It was not our scene, so we quickly shifted to an amazing rental house in East Austin. The historic home had been remodeled and it just felt SO AUSTIN, which was a great feeling and an affirmation.

After 10 days of looking intently for a new home to rent, we discovered an awesome ranch house in Western Oaks with a fenced yard and lots of trails for Lucy. Also, a community pool! Home sweet home.

In July, we met the Shafer family in Deer Valley, Utah for a vacation. We went rafting on the Weber River, played disc golf at Solitude (where I felt the altitude big time) and we played ball golf with Sarah and Travis at Wasatch Mountain State Park in Heber. We also saw Ricky Skaggs backed by the Utah Symphony with my mom.


Texas presents unlimited exploration opportunities and we are just starting to see what’s over the next rise. In October, we ventured south to Port Aransas on the Gulf of Mexico near Corpus Chisti. In November, we drove eight hours northwest to Palo Duro State Park in the Panhandle for two nights of cold camping with Ski and Sara. We also made two trips in fall to Houston where my uncle, aunt, and cousins live.

Years in place: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |2008 | 2007 | 2006

The Year in Place: 2018

The Year In Place: 2017

When you live in or near a big city, it’s crucial to get out of the city and reconnect with the outside world. I’m pleased to report that we found several adventurous ways to do just this in 2017.

Coast-to-Coast in 2017:

  • Cannon Beach
  • Roseburg
  • Ashland
  • Omaha
  • Gleneden Beach
  • Boise
  • McCall
  • Walla Walla
  • Seattle
  • Eugene
  • Sundance
  • Marco Island
  • Seattle

I do have a well developed obsession with place, particularly with how geography and climate impact people and culture. To me, it’s endlessly fascinating to explore the differences and likenesses in people and places. Inside the state of Oregon, we go from Portland urban to something else entirely in Eugene and Ashland—two of the finest university towns on the West Coast. We enjoyed seeing the Ducks play Nebraska in Eugene this September. We also visited wineries and played disc golf along the Umpqua River in April, and saw “Julius Caesar” in Ashland. Travel Or-Eee-Gun!

One of the highlights of the travel year was our visit to Idaho in July. My mom flew into Boise and we proceeded from there to McCall, and then over to Walla Walla, Washington. McCall was the star of the show. The charming mountain town on the shores of Payette Lake is a great destination. I’m a fan and I’d love to return in any season.


We also made it to Sundance this Fall for the changing of the leaves and incredible new memory making with old friends.

An interesting side note here, almost everyone we mentioned “Sundance” to this year thought it was in Park City. The film festival is in Park City. The mail order catalog is in Salt Lake City and the resort is a few miles up Provo Canyon from Orem. The resort is another destination where time slows down and nature takes over. My hat is forever off to Robert Redford for using his Hollywood money to save Sundance from unchecked development.

“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” –Seneca

Seeing close friends in Seattle, and family in Omaha and Marco Island were also joyful and important trips in 2017.

Place is endlessly fascinating. The people in the places are the reasons we live.

Prior movements: 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |2008 | 2007 | 2006

Mike Riley’s Soft Serve Makes Big Mess at Autzen Stadium

This Husker fans know: It’s Mike Riley’s third season in Lincoln and he continues to lose well, which he did again this past Saturday in Eugene.

What we witnessed in person at Autzen was football ugly. From the opening kickoff, the game seemed like a painless scrimmage for the Ducks.

Here’s one honest press report for all Husker fans to weigh:

Long passes, big runs and a raucous Autzen Stadium had a dizzying effect on a young group of Blackshirts still learning the ins and outs of regular playing time and a new 3-4 defense.

The carnage report at intermission was equally disorienting: forty-two Oregon points on 409 yards of offense.

NU was within a touchdown of tying the most points it had ever allowed in a first half (49 vs. Oklahoma in 2008).

It’s hard for me to relate to this team. These Cornhuskers in no way resemble the tough-nosed teams I once knew. I still love Nebraska and I love my people of the Corn, but I do not relate to a defense that’s soft like room temperature butter. I watched intently on Saturday for any kind of pressure on the QB. Herbert was never touched. He may as well have had his red practice jersey on. That’s how easy it was for him to pick Nebraska apart.

Once the Huskers were down 42-14 at the half, I was hoping for the full Ducks treatment. Putting up 84 points on Nebraska would have been the kind of thing Grandpa Riley could never explain away. The fact is Nebraska was never in this game. And the second half was as off-putting as the first. Oregon was asleep and Nebraska is simply bad.

As a fan, it’s tough to take and harder to understand. The University of Nebraska can hire any coach they want, so why is this now the third coach in a row that has little clue about where they are, or how to conduct themselves in a winning fashion?

It’s fair to ask if “Nebraska Nice” is a real thing? Not on the gridiron!

I don’t care how nice he is—if the Nebraska football coach fails to win 10 games a year, he’s not a good cultural fit in Lincoln. Thus far, Riley is 16-12. That’s a winning percentage of just .571. Will this be Riley’s breakout year? One look at this team and the slate of conference games ahead and the answer is as clear as a dinner bell on the prairie.

Thrice He Rejected The Crown —All Hail Mighty Caesar!

We were in the second row Tuesday night for “Julius Caesar” at Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. The play, directed by Shana Cooper, is both timely and powerful. This modern production is also highly inventive. The ancient tale is set in contemporary times, with urban decay on full display—the walls are literally decomposing as the narrative unfolds.

The play is full of memorable scenes. The closing of the First Act is absolutely searing and unforgettable. We watched a mob stomp an innocent poet to death while chanting “tear him”.

Violence is at the center of this play and at the center of the human drama. Caesar is murdered. Mobs are incited to kill. A civil war breaks out. Shakespeare wrote “Julius Caesar” in 1599. The events that the play depicts occurred many centuries before that. Yet, the play could not be more relevant than it is right now.

Let’s hear from Cassius, a Senator, on the conditions in Rome…

And why should Caesar be a tyrant then?
Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf
But that he sees the Romans are but sheep;
He were no lion, were not Romans hinds.
Those that with haste will make a mighty fire
Begin it with weak straws. What trash is Rome,
What rubbish, and what offal when it serves
For the base matter to illuminate
So vile a thing as Caesar! (Act 1, Scene 3)

Cassius is the main conspirator, along with Brutus. They’re both moody men who let their assumptions get the best of them, and who are ultimately trapped by their own minds and obsessions. In the above passage, Cassius seems to say it’s the common Roman who is equally at fault, and that people get the leaders they deserve. His conspiracy to murder Caesar was driven by the idea that he might do horrible things sometime in the future. It was not about settling an old score for a crime he had already perpetrated. I like Cassius for the most part, but Caesar rightly notes that “he thinks too much.”

Another theme in the play that stands out is how easy it is to sway the crowd with rhetoric, as Mark Antony proves at Caesar’s funeral.

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. (Act 3, Scene 2)

Shakespeare is the master of duplicitous tongues, and in Mark Antony, the Bard has a perfect snake. Antony praises Caesar while inciting his fellow Romans to drive the conspirators from their homes. He’s a real piece of work, Mark Antony.

What can we learn from this amazing historical drama from the world’s greatest playwright? We can learn that power is a narcotic, while deceit and violence are blunt means to power’s unjust ends.

2016: The Year in Place

When you live in the Portland area and want to travel, point yourself in any direction and win.

We started 2016’s explorations with a closer look at the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument—a three-site paleo wonderland in Eastern Oregon. The Clarno Unit is the nearest to Portland, at about four hours. It’s well worth the journey, as you’re transported to another place and time.

  • Prairie City
  • Madras
  • Bend
  • Seattle
  • Stevenson
  • Eugene
  • Kirkland
  • Orcas Island
  • Florence
  • Bend
  • Smithtown
  • Seattle
  • Marco Island

Other 2016 highlights included Mother’s Day and Darby’s birthday at Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA. The Columbia River Gorge is spectacular and Skamania is an accommodating place to gather. They not only had a great dog-friendly room ready, they also let Lucy play golf with us. When does that ever happen? Dog-friendly golf on a gorgeous course in the Gorge!

Another first was a late summer vacation on Orcas Island in the Northwest corner of Washington. It’s a throwback to another time—island time, I believe they call it. The lovely farms and low-key locals vibe is a welcome respite from the crowded Seattle and Portland day-to-day. We also lucked into a table at one best restaurants of all time on Orcas. The Inn at Ship’s Bay delivers on another level. I went into the kitchen on my way out to thank them for their pursuit of excellence. They seemed pleasantly surprised by my declarations of greatness.

Prior movements: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 |2008 | 2007 | 2006

Creative Mornings Features Its Audience Members On Instagram

Creative Mornings provides a monthly talk on a chosen topic (for free) in cities around the globe. Unlike Ted, it’s not exclusive. You can sign up or walk up and enjoy a donut, coffee, and interesting ideas about architecture, design, culture, and so on.

Creative Mornings is also an excellent marketer. The organization is featuring members from around the world on its Instagram page. I am fortunate to be one such featured member.

The answers I provided were in response to a prompt in the submission form. I now have more room to elaborate. I wasn’t happy working in the traditional agency structure, because of the daily diet of shit sandwiches that are required of most ad agency workers.

When you can’t be honest with your clients or with your peers in the agency, you can’t deliver what’s required—thinking and doing that provides a path for greater growth and a fuller understanding of brand value.

case/lang/veirs Is Pure Brilliance

When is the last time you heard something that really blew your mind? For me, it happened just last Spring, when case/lang/veirs put out their first release on Anti Records.

I’m not the freckled maid
I’m not the fair-haired girl
I’m not a pail of milk for you to spoil

case/lang/veirs is the new super group and I simply must sing their praises. Each musician is a star in their own right, but the three together—Neko Case, kd lang and Laura Veirs—form a constellation that shines brighter than bright.

Every song on the album is a treat, and some are standouts that can be listened to on a daily basis. The first track, “Atomic Number,” plus “Best Kept Secret,” and “Greens of June” are spellbinding. “Delirium,” “Down,” and “Supermoon” are equally hypnotic.

When we saw the band perform at The Zoo in June, it was as if they had cast a spell, one I remain under to this day. The lyrical genius, the three-part harmonies, kd lang’s showmanship, Neko’s fierceness…it’s all sublime.

The album, which will win a Grammy if there is justice in this world, was made in Portland and produced by Laura Veirs’ husband, Tucker Martine. Martine, who is originally from Nashville, has worked with The Decembrists, REM, My Morning Jacket, Modest Mouse and many others at his Flora Recording studio.

If you’re looking for the Portland sound, Martine, Veirs and company are making it soar.

Some are born to sweet delight
Some are born to endless night
Cruel hoax and lightning strikes
I’ve tasted both they are the same
Into each other turn again

The Year in Place: 2018

National Monuments Are National Treasures And Oregon Is Loaded With Them

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is a journey through time. Forty million years backwards in time, to be exact.

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

The National Monument features three separate but related units: Painted Hills, Sheep Rock and Clarno. The three units are all located in Eastern Oregon, yet they are hours apart by car. Starting in Madras, the 200-plus mile loop out to Dayville and then north to Fossil and back is best spread out over two or three days. We did the loop in two consecutive days and managed to hike around all three units taking in the otherworldly scenery.

At the Sheep Rock unit near Dayville, one of the world’s best collections of fossils is on display at the Thomas Condon Paleontology Center. A 19-century minister in The Dalles, Condon found fossil seashells on the Crooked River and fossil camels and other animals along the John Day River. He was appointed the first State Geologist for Oregon in 1872. The center named for him is a gem for those with a keen interest in the natural world. The story of misty jungles, active volcanoes, and strange beasts is preserved in rock. The high desert was once something entirely different. The fossils and exposed sedimentary layers evoke a strange present day, while igniting the imagination and expanding our understanding of Earth’s processes.

For a video preview, Grant McOmie of “Grant’s Getaways” does a nice job:

One of the additional attractions in this region is the John Day River. Undammed along its entire length, the river is the third longest free-flowing river in the contiguous United States. In addition to wild spring chinook salmon and bass, the river furnishes habitat for Columbia River redband trout, bull trout, and westslope cutthroat trout. There are no hatchery salmon or steelhead released in the John Day River.

Also, the open vistas, blue skies, Western Juniper trees and Ponderosa Pines all call out to me. The area is outstanding, and largely uninhabited by people. There are far more grouse, quail, deer and antelope than people. It takes a bit of driving from Portland, but the change is dramatic and the quiet at night complete. I can imagine how hot it could be in summer, but it is a delighful temperature for exploring at this time of year.

The Year in Place: 2018

Visitor from the Moon and A River of Pioneers

There are people who live in Portland who find it difficult to leave their neighborhood for another part of the city. One could blame parochial attitudes, poor transportation options, or a simple lack of curiosity.

This post isn’t for them. This post is for the adventurous.

Oregon City

West Linn (population 26,000) and Oregon City (population 34,600) are neighboring cities 12 miles due south of downtown Portland. The Willamette River runs between them, with the Abernathy Bridge and Arch Bridge both crossing the span.

Both cities share Willamette Falls, an industrial heritage tied to the falls, and an amazing place in the history of the West. Oregon City, it must be noted, was the end of the trail for thousands of 19th century American migrants and the launching point for their new enterprises.

Five Awesome Places To Visit In West Linn and Oregon City

  • When we moved to West Linn in 2011, a friend in Portland recommended that we pay a visit to Loncheria Mitzil, across the river and up the hill in Oregon City. What a find! Luz Martinez is a master restauranteur and her cuisine is unlike any other Mexican fare available in the Portland metro. We dine there regularly and are consistently impressed.
  • Pete’s Mountain is one of three West Linn wineries—all of which deserve a visit and support. I’m giving the nod here to Pete’s because of their spectacular hilltop location, and the incredible hospitality that is offered on these premises. The wine is also top notch!
  • Mary S. Young State Recreation Area is the best dog park in the Metro. The park features a massive off-leash area and miles of on-leash trails, plus Willamette River beachfront.
  • The Amtrak Station in Oregon City is just one stop from downtown Portland’s Union Station. The ride takes about 20 minutes. Oddly, few people know about this commuting option, and due to low ridership, the train only stops in Oregon City once in the morning and once in the evening. We can change this by increasing ridership and by lobbying our state representatives in Salem.
  • Arch Bridge Taphouse is a new addition to the must visit list. Portland’s beer culture has reached Oregon City in a big way with the recent opening of three breweries and a taphouse. We’re fortunate that this beer geeks’ paradise is a 10-minute walk from our house.

I am neglecting to mention several other places worthy of your attention. This is a topic we can revisit. Darby and I are also contemplating monthly or quarterly tours of Clackamas County for friends.

In the “Did you know?” department, one of West Linn’s best attractions is no attraction at all. A massive meteorite was discovered in West Linn in 1902. The local Native American tribes had treasured the meteorite, calling it “Tomonowos,” or “Visitor from the Moon.” Today, the 16-ton chunk of flying iron resides in New York City, at the American Museum of Natural History.

Sad Clowns And Vampires Keep Reality TV and News Crews Busy

If you’re a clown today, there’s a good chance the media will eat your act for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Trump proves this every day. Now, more angry white men with few facts on their side are stepping forward to follow his boisterous lead.

Take the invading circus of clowns from Nevada (and Idaho) presently occupying The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural southeast Oregon. Apparently, they want the refuge land to be liberated for use by local ranchers. It’s as preposterous as it sounds, and so is the inept response from a federal government, which seems intent on not taking the threat seriously.

Harney Country’s Sherriff and other locals are taking the threat seriously and have asked the militants to leave Burns peacefully. Thus far, the poseurs have refused to do so.

Of course, the idea that any white people anywhere have any rights whatsoever to this land is in dispute. It’s a question we thought was answered a century ago, but the question is far from settled. Although the wildlife refuge is not part of the Burns Paiute reservation, tribe members consider it sacred ancestral land.

The Paiute are guaranteed access to the refuge for activities important to their heritage — hunting, fishing, gathering reeds for basket weaving and precious seeds. The tribe is also working with the Bureau of Land Management to preserve its archeological sites, according to The Washington Post.

Speaking of the sacred, members of the occupying militia say they were sent by God. One militant interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcasting identified himself as “Captain Moroni,” a historic general who, according to Latter Day Saints scripture, threatened to “stir up insurrections” and fight “until those who have desires to usurp power and authority shall become extinct” because he felt the government did not care about the country’s freedom.

It’s funny how different our concepts of freedom can be. We are not free to visit the refuge at this time. That’s clearly freedom denied. Also, please ask yourself what would happen if a group of armed brown or black men took over a federal building anywhere in these United States. We all know what would happen. Their resistance would be met at once with insurmountable force. This obvious form of racial injustice angers liberal Portland and Seattle residents who are following this story.

Nevertheless, these mini-dramas have been playing out in rural communities for years. Rural and urban residents of the American West have long been at odds over public lands and other important issues. The Sagebrush Rebellion of the 1970s and ’80s was a movement to transfer more control of federally owned Western lands to state and local authorities. This was meant to increase the growth of Western economies. In other words, Sagebrush Rebels want to mine for profits, turn forests into tree farms and so on. And they deeply resent city dwellers (inside and outside of their state) telling them that those activities are prohibited by law.

What’s truly sad is how focused we are on the mini-dramas while missing the larger play altogether. The West is abundant in land and open space but the region lacks the most essential natural resource of all—water. Until we wake up to this real shortage and change our water consumption habits as a nation, everyone’s prosperity is at risk.