Faux Cowboy Seeks To Lasso Our Public Lands

Extraction. American industrialists posses a voracious appetite for it. In fact, their hunger for more precious metals, oil, and coal is so great, they want to find these untapped riches in our National Monuments.

Thankfully, REI is taking a strong leadership role in the resistance, and actively encouraging its members to step up and help protect our natural heritage.

Our country’s public lands define who we are. These are the places where we work, where we play and where we connect to our shared history. Now is the time to stand up for these places—places that help us live a life outdoors.

Right now, the Department of the Interior, headed by Secretary Ryan Zinke, is undertaking an unprecedented review of 27 national monuments established by presidents from both parties since 1996, including the San Gabriel Mountains in California, Craters of the Moon in Idaho, and Bears Ears in Utah. More than 11 million acres of national public land are at stake.

The Department of the Interior wants to hear from you. And we want to make it easy for you to speak up.

REI’s business is at stake. Taking 11 million acres of public land off the table isn’t just a violation of everything sacred and good, it’s a direct threat to the outdoor recreation industry and the travel and tourism industry. It’s good to see REI fight back. Too many companies hesitate when faced with tough social and political issues. No one wants to offend customers. At the same time, brand managers know they can’t be all things to all people, especially today.

In February, both REI and Patagonia supported pulling out of a major outdoor trade show in Salt Lake City in response to a resolution from Utah’s Gov. Gary Herbert that advised President Donald Trump to overturn Bears Ears as a national monument. Companies like Patagonia and REI are powerful enough to make Utah pay the price for their public official’s backwards ideas. But will it be enough to move the needle and restore common sense throughout the land? No, but it’s a start.

It’s such an odd moment in America. Don and his wrecking crew are busy doing damage to our institutions and traditions. Meanwhile, American brands fight the good fight. Bring all the skepticism you want, but REI and Patagonia aren’t playing marketing games here. This is real, and it’s also a showcase for the power of PR and brand activism. When a movement is backed by an active and loyal community of customers and fueled by an activist company or group of companies, it can be a powerful force for good. Companies haven’t usurped the role of non-profits, nor will they. This increased activism is an added layer of pressure, and an effective one.

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

Don’t Get Trapped In Bad Media Habits

I gave myself the gift of digital detox and no TV news for Christmas. After one week, I feel better already.

Which begs the question, what am I doing with my head so far up the machine’s ass? Why are any of us willing victims to the manipulations of media? The obvious answer is we are human beings seeking information and connections via one of our many screens. The problem is we end up failing to enrich ourselves via this daily habit. We are degraded by an onslaught of bad news and Internet trolls. Consuming and sharing today’s crap news and toxic opinions mostly upsets and angers me. When I am angry I am no good to others, and only marginally good to myself. Anger is fuel, but fuel is explosive when left untreated.

We’ve left the information age behind. We are now in the disinformation age, and it ain’t pretty. Let’s use Tweets from Don as one example of the inane nature of today’s “news.” Why would I ever care what Don puts on Twitter? He uses the platform to bypass the press and to stoke his ego engine. There is no useful information in Don’s Tweet stream and no reason for anyone other than his sycophants to pay attention. Yet, what Don Tweets is fodder for the talking heads on TV. What a waste of airtime. If anyone does care about Don’s Tweets, they can simply visit his Twitter page.

As a member of the opposition, it is way too easy to obsess over political minutiae. Don does something wrong many times a day. Instead of reacting to all the slights and miscues, we can opt to skip past the daily distractions and focus on the big picture. The big picture means taking care of yourself, your family and friends, and your community first. Think of it like putting on your oxygen mask first, so you are able to assist others.

Media of all types seeks to evoke a reaction from its intended audience. To stay even and centered right now–a necessary state in order to help yourself and others–it is important to be aware of one’s media habits and behaviors. If you watch the news on TV and find yourself yelling at the screen, you have a common problem. If you find yourself inundated with trolls and haters, you have another all too common problem. Personally, I don’t want to give trolls an inch. I want to bash their puny little skulls together, but more violence isn’t going to help them learn anything new, and I will not be uplifted by the bashing.

We are being tested by an invisible teacher right now. Can we maintain grace and grow our compassion under intense pressure? I am confident we can, and that we can become stronger, better people in the process. One of the means to this important end is to clearly establish the proper media diet, moving forward. Each person has their own limits. One hour of TV news per night, for instance, is certainly better than three of four hours. Maybe your diet will include no TV news at all, and you will read (and subscribe to) only the best foreign and domestic press.

National Monuments Are National Treasures And Oregon Is Loaded With Them

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.

National Monuments Are National Treasures And Oregon Is Loaded With Them

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.

National Monuments Are National Treasures And Oregon Is Loaded With Them

2015: The Year In Place

I started tracking my movements about the country a decade ago (and logging them here) as an annual exercise meant to encourage memory, cataloguing and in the best cases a bit of travel writing.


Looking back on it, 2015 wasn’t a big year in travel, although quality and quantity are two different things.

Here’s a list of amazing places where I spent one or more nights away from home:

  • Hood River, OR
  • Seattle, WA
  • Cannon Beach, OR
  • Marco Island, FL
  • Bend, OR
  • Omaha, NE
  • Long Beach, WA

We traveled to Seattle for Poppy’s fourth birthday; to Cannon Beach for my 50th birthday; to Florida for Danna and Gary’s 50th anniversary; to Bend for my first Phish shows in 18 years; and to Nebraska for the opening game of The Mike Riley era.

2015 was also the year of the home for Darby and me. We purchased the mid-century home in West Linn that we had rented for four years, and invested time and energy in repairs and remodeling. It’s good to be home, and good to have a place to come home to, after expeditions near and far.

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

Inside Van Evera Bailey’s Mid-Century Hilltop Masterpieces

Inside Van Evera Bailey’s Mid-Century Hilltop Masterpieces

Last Saturday, Restore Oregon hosted a tour of six homes in Lake Oswego and SW Portland, all designed by noted Portland architect Van Evera Bailey (1903-1980).

Brian Libby of Portland Architecture argues, “if Northwest midcentury-modern houses are arguably the most significant and unique contribution that Portland has contributed to world architecture, then Bailey not only deserves his place alongside Pietro Belluschi and John Yeon, but a larger recognition beyond Oregon’s borders.”

Van Evera Bailey
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All six homes were interesting to see up close, but two homes in particular stood out on the tour—the Bruno Residence (1939) on Ridecrest Drive in Lake Oswego and the Shaw Residence (1957) on SW Hessler Drive in Portland.

Bailey’s clients purchased dramatic hilltop lots and he made the most of the settings. The homes appear to be humble from the street. But open the front door and move through the compressed entries into the expansive living rooms, and any concept of humble is long gone.

hessler drive

The raw wood ceilings are at once soaring and grounding. An architect can’t improve on the natural forest, but he can showcase the raw material in flattering ways, as Bailey has done.

One’s home is one’s sanctuary, and Bailey definitely plays to this ideal. He incorporates Prairie style lines and he places his building on the lot carefully, so it belongs to the landscape.

I couldn’t help thinking about the architect’s state of mind as the nation endured, then emerged from WWII and the Great Depression. Bailey’s homes are for optimists, people able to see the big picture (literally). He worked in California early in his career, and he learned the trade from a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. He wears his influences well.

Bruno Residence

Here’s a look at some of Bailey’s homes that have recently sold.

National Monuments Are National Treasures And Oregon Is Loaded With Them

2014: The Year in Place

Point Supreme

Place impacts people in a deep way. It creates culture, which explains why I am forever fascinated with the things that make up place—things like geography, local customs, food and beverage, music, art and so on.

Here’s a run down of the places (other than home) where I was fortunate to spend at least one night in 2014:

  • Seattle, WA (3 visits)
  • Bend, OR (2 visits)
  • Marco Island, FL (2 visits)
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Hurricane, UT
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • Prosser, WA
  • Cannon Beach, OR
  • Smithtown, NY

Utah in July was a highlight. We said goodbye to our beloved friend David Keller in a series of ceremonies, in Rockville and Salt Lake City. It wasn’t easy, but I was grateful to be part of these gatherings and honored to help celebrate my friend and lift up his stories and his teachings to the community.

Cannon Beach in September was another special moment in time (and place!). My mom flew in from the west coast of Florida for a west coast beach vacation. Interestingly, one of the things I love about Cannon Beach is how reminiscent it is of New England beach towns like Edgartown, Mass. I can’t write about Cannon without recommending the best restaurant we’ve ever visited in our six plus years in Oregon. Newman’s at 988. Please consider me your own personal Zagat on this one.

Visiting our parents in New York and Florida was also a total treat. As were our multiple visits to Seattle. Ultimately, people are the draw and people are shaped by place. It’s all wrapped up in one. We endure the long flights and the traffic to see the people we love. We are fortunate to love great people (who just so happen to live in amazing places).

Former movements: 2013 | 2012 | 2011 |2010 |2009 |2008 |2007 |2006

On The Frontier, Justice Was Bought And Paid For

“People love to talk. They love to slander you if you have any substance.” -Mattie Ross

Mike Kline, my friend since freshman year at F&M, was in Portland with his family last August. Over Italian food and later over coffee at Albina Press, we spoke of President Obama’s performance in the White House, Portland’s strange ways and finally books. Mike suggested that I read True Grit by Charles Portis. He said I would enjoy it (he was correct!), and also that he is teaching the novel this fall at Shipley School in suburban Philadelphia.

Charles Portis is from Arkansas. He lives in Little Rock. His most famous heroine, Mattie Ross, is also from Arkansas, from “near Dardanelle in Yell County,” to be exact. The events of True Grit take place in 1873, but the story is recounted by Mattie as an old woman.

The novel, published in 1968, has twice been made into a Hollywood film. The first production earned John Wayne a best acting nod for the Oscar. The remake was a Coen brothers movie. Let’s have a look at young Mattie through the Coen brothers’ lens:

There’s a solid argument to be made that Mattie Ross is a feminist hero. Another way to read the book is to understand how hard it was to live on the American frontier in the 19th century. Teen girls were not taking selfies, they were working on the farm and in the house. Mattie Ross is an exceptional figure, larger than life in many ways, but there’s also an unvarnished realism here. She’s a Bible quoting Presbyterian who doesn’t have time to trifle. How exactly do we think the West was won? By women (or girls, as the case may be) like Mattie.

Portis worked as a journalist in New York City before moving home to Arkansas to write books. He has four other novels to his credit—The Dog of the South, Masters of Atlantis, Gringo, and Norwood—all of which are fan favorites. The New York Times says of his books: “Mr. Portis evokes an eccentric, absurd world with a completely straight face. As a result there are not a lot of laugh-out-loud moments or explosive set pieces here. Instead of shooting off fireworks the books shimmer with a continuous comic glow.”

Clearly, Portis has a unique voice and a great sense of detail to go with his good humor. I’m also intrigued by his knowledge of American history and fascination with place. In an essay for The Atlantic, “Combinations of Jacksons,” Portis describes his family history and culture, both firmly rooted in place.

MY ALABAMA grandmother wasn’t pleased when her youngest son (a seventh son, my father) told her of his plans to marry an Arkansas girl. She kindly explained to him that the unfortunate women living west of the Mississippi River had, among other defects, feet at least one size bigger than those of their dainty little sisters to the east. No Cinderella to be found in the Bear State. Any mention of that old slander, even a teasing one fifty years later, could still make my placid mother bristle and blaze up a little. In any kind of refined-foot contest, she said, she would pit her Waddell-Fielding-Arkansas feet against all comers with Portis-Poole-Alabama feet.

In my quest to understand the man, I read his novel, The Dog of the South directly following my reading of True Grit. The Dog of the South is narrated by a son of Little Rock and failed journalist, Ray Midge. Midge, 26, is a bit of a mess, but he’s also on a quest to right the wrongs in his life, thus he is also heroic. His hero’s journey to Central America and back is clownish, for sure, but there’s also a seriousness of intent and time for informed reflection. Ideals, people and places worth fighting for (including actual battle sites along his route)—this is what occupies his mind as he travels by car to find his runaway wife.

There’s a passage at the end of The Dog of the South, where Midge is back in Little Rock and catching the reader up on his status. He says, “A lot of people leave Arkansas and most of them come back sooner or later. They can’t quite achieve escape velocity.” I love this line. Place, particularly one’s home place, has a magnetic hold on us and Portis both reveals this truth, and revels in it.

Utah Is Deacon Space, Utah Is Sacred Space

“I spent the night in Utah in a cave up in the hills.” -Robert Hunter

Last week, we celebrated David Keller’s life at gatherings in Rockville, Utah and again in Salt Lake City.

Anne Decker, a close friend of David’s mom, Big J., made a touching speech last Wednesday night in Mill Creek Canyon.


I will not contradict Anne’s fine sentiments. But I will add that grieving the loss of my friend is something I relish. I relish it because I like to feel the intense sadness and joy that comes when I think of him.

Anne is right however, in that we mustn’t be stuck in our grief, but rather use it to fuel new adventures with friends and family.

The Deacon of Freakin’ wouldn’t have it any other way.