Spring 2013 : Spectacle
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Spring 2013 : Spectacle
Oregon Humanities: Spring 2013
This essay, adapted from a longer unpublished work, chronicles the fifth border crossing to the United States by Vicente Martinez (a pseudonym). Oregon Humanities magazine editorial advisory board member Camela Raymond worked with Martinez on editing this essay for publication. Some names and details have been changed.
On Wednesday, February 4, 2009, I said goodbye to my family. I didn’t want to leave, but the thought of getting sick was often on my mind.
I’d been looking for work since arriving in Las Calandrias in October. But the economy was in terrible shape, and I wasn’t an ideal job candidate. I couldn’t do hard labor with my health condition, and I was too old to be considered for most jobs; the cut-off was typically forty, and I was forty-one. I hoped my English language skills might help me find a job with a company that needed bilingual people in Guadalajara—the capital of Jalisco state, where my family lives—but my application was turned down. Ironically, it was far easier for me to find work as an undocumented worker in Portland than as a legal citizen in Mexico.
To control my HIV, I needed a regular supply of medicine and periodic blood tests. I could get these for free at a clinic in Portland, but here in Mexico, although I could get my medicine free of charge at a local hospital, I had to pay for my own lab work—500 pesos every three months. Even if I found a full-time job, which seemed increasingly unlikely, this would be difficult to afford. Minimum wage was 700 pesos a week, barely enough to get by.
That Wednesday around noon, I found my mother sitting on her bed. I told her I was going to leave, and she began to cry. The sight of her tears broke my heart. We’d last seen each other almost eighteen years ago, and this recent reunion had lasted only three and a half months. I couldn’t tell her the real reason I was leaving. I’d never told my parents I had HIV. I didn’t want them to worry. If they knew, they would assume I was suffering; they wouldn’t understand that the medicine I was taking would keep me healthy for some time.
I kissed my mother, and she kissed me. I assured her that my trip across the border would be easier than it was the first time, when I was twenty-four and walked for days without food. Then I said goodbye to my eighty-one-year-old father, who was also very close to crying. It hurt me to leave him, alone and sad.
To pay the coyote, I’d sold the truck I’d driven from Portland (I’d hoped to give it to my parents, who were one of the few families in Las Calandrias that didn’t have a car). So my younger brother Andres drove me to the bus stop about ten miles away in Santa Cruz in our brother Manuel’s old car, which broke down all the time. Also with us was Felipe, a young guy in his late twenties, also from Las Calandrias, who was going to cross with me. On the highway at the edge of Santa Cruz, I said goodbye to Andres and told him to behave.
Friday morning, after nearly two days on the road, Felipe and I arrived at the Tijuana bus station. I found a pay phone and called Pedro, the coyote I’d met in Las Calandrias. About thirty minutes later Pedro pulled up in a white van and took us to his house, which was in a different part of town, on a hill near some railroad tracks. Three dogs guarded the front door from inside a small, walled patio.
The house was old, but in decent shape. One guy was sleeping on the living room sofa, another in one of the two bedrooms. Counting Felipe and me, that made four pollos—chickens waiting for the coyote to take us across.
I called my cousin Luis in Escondido, California. His wife, Sofia, a U.S. citizen, agreed to drive down to Tijuana and meet me later that night. She’d take the $2,500 I’d set aside to pay the coyote, along with my Oregon driver’s license and some other important documents, and hold everything in Escondido until I was safely across.
Pedro left for a couple of hours and came back loaded with food. He had to attend a funeral in his hometown, he said, and would be gone for two days. Meantime, the four of us would have plenty to eat and were free to do whatever we wanted. This was unfortunate news, but I wasn’t too worried; it felt safe at Pedro’s house, and I trusted he’d be back.
Pedro was supposed to be back on Sunday. On Monday, he still hadn’t returned. On Tuesday evening, an associate of Pedro’s in his early fifties arrived at the house. He didn’t introduce himself, but the dogs knew him; later I found out he was Pedro’s stepfather. He told us to get our things. It was time to cross over.
Twenty minutes later we arrived at a residential street, not far from the main gate. Pedro’s stepfather led us to an inconspicuous spot between two houses. The plan was to cross the border through an underground sewer tunnel; the entrance to the tunnel was being guarded by several border control cars, visible in the near distance. We were to wait here until they moved.
Hours went by, and the cars didn’t move—unsurprising, I thought. Finally, at about ten-thirty at night, Pedro’s stepfather let us have a break. He led us to an abandoned house a few blocks away, gave us a blanket (one for all four of us), and said he’d be back the following morning with food. He left a dog guarding the entrance.
I slept for a few hours. It was cold, and there was no working toilet or any running water in the house. In the morning, before Pedro’s stepfather returned, I convinced the others to leave. Using some pieces of metal and wood lying in the yard, I trapped the dog against the house. We walked a few blocks to a commercial area, hailed a taxi, and drove back to Pedro’s house. His stepfather showed up later, surprised we’d escaped.
By Thursday, we had been at Pedro’s house for almost a week. Though it felt safe there, it was becoming apparent we were wasting our time. Reluctantly, we decided to go downtown and look for another coyote. Within a couple of hours, we found one near the main gate—a tall, chubby guy who called himself Sonora, after the Mexican state. His price was US$1,800, cheaper than Pedro.
Sonora’s operation moved quickly. Once we got to his house, the coyotes (there were two, including Sonora, who appeared to be the big bosses) immediately asked for the phone numbers of our contacts in the United States and verified they’d pick us up and pay our crossing fees. A little later they brought us three blankets to share, roasted chicken for lunch, and more food to take on the road: for each person, two cans of tuna, a loaf of bread, some refried beans, and two bottles of water.
That night, we were taken in a pickup truck to a street corner in Tijuana, where five more pollos joined us. An hour or so later, a first-class bus, with a sign that read “Bienvenidos” and flashing lights, arrived. All nine of us, plus a guide, boarded. Soon we arrived at an isolated stretch of highway just east of the city of Tecate, where the driver pulled over.
The guide led us across the highway. We walked in single file, carrying no flashlights, which would attract attention, just knapsacks holding our food and blankets. We passed a small village, went through some bushes, and climbed over a five-foot chicken-wire fence. Mostly, though, the terrain was flat and empty. After about four hours, the guide stopped, and we all lay down on the ground and attempted to sleep.
Moments later it got very cold, and before long, we were all shaking. Four of us shared three blankets, but the remaining guys had nothing to keep them warm. One of them asked if we’d share ours, but I said no. Though I felt bad refusing him, he was young and healthy; I was older and more vulnerable to getting sick.
My body became so cold that night that I thought I wouldn’t make it to morning. I spent the hours praying to God, telling Him that if it was my turn to go, He should go ahead and take me. But at the same time, I asked Him to spare me: I had promised my mother I would survive the trip without harm, and the thought that I might die that night filled me with sadness.
Sometime in the middle of the night, the guide stood up and said it was time to get moving again. Before we started walking, though, he asked us to hand over our blankets. With a knife, he cut the three blankets into nine pieces, handing one to each of us.
It felt better once we started walking and my body grew warm again. The going was quite easy for a while, with flat ground dotted sparsely with tall bushes. But soon we came to a sign warning of an approaching decline, and we descended into a canyon. At the bottom, the guide told us to wait while he climbed the slope on the other side. He stood at the top of the canyon for at least a half hour, scanning the hills ahead for signs of border patrol—and, perhaps, for bajadores, the Mexican bandits who often rob border crossers. Beyond the hills, in the far distance, I could see vehicle lights flashing.
After crossing the canyon, we came to a dirt road. The guide asked for our blankets and laid them down on the road so that we wouldn’t leave footprints. Then we continued on unmarked terrain, traversing a hill and another canyon. When dawn broke, the guide pointed to some large boulders atop a nearby hill. He was going to go on some unexplained mission. We were to hide among the boulders until he returned.
Some hours later the wind began to blow, and I started to shiver again. I pulled a big plastic garbage bag, which the guide had given me, over my entire body, but the wind kept seeping through. Morning passed, then afternoon, and we didn’t move except in order to urinate near the edge of the rocks. Some of the others were able to fall asleep, but I couldn’t.
The guide had given us a code word, and at dusk, we heard him yelling it, and we swiftly packed up our things. Then we continued to walk. We passed over a couple of hills, heading toward the lights of a small town. Suddenly the guide stopped, turned around, and led us back to the top of the nearest hill. We hunched down. I could see people with flashlights, INS agents, combing an area below us. Moments later it started to rain, and we all got inside our plastic bags. After a while the agents left, and we started walking again.
We passed straight through the town, avoiding the streets and walking instead through people’s yards, climbing over several fences, until we reached a highway marked State Route 94. This indicated not only that we were in U.S. territory, but also that we were nearing the road, Highway 8, where we’d be picked up and delivered to safety.
We continued climbing the hills, very high hills this time. My legs almost gave out, but I kept moving. At dawn of the second day we stopped near another large rock. Thankfully, on this day the sun came out. We spent the whole warm, bright day in the shade of the big rock, dozing fitfully, drying out our socks, and eating a little of the remaining food we’d brought.
At dusk we started walking again. About four hours later, in the middle of the night, we finally reached Highway 8. We crossed beneath the above-grade roadway through a large drainage tunnel, and as we headed for a grassy shoulder on the other side, the guide ordered the guy at the back of the line to use his piece of blanket to erase the footprints we were leaving in the dirt. Then we proceeded west alongside the freeway, crouching down every time a car passed, until we reached a road sign that marked the place the coyotes were supposed to pick us up.
The guide had already called them on his cell phone. Within moments, a pickup truck arrived. Instead of taking us away in his truck, however, the driver only dropped off some food. We wouldn’t be picked up until it rained, our guide explained. According to him, there was an INS checkpoint on the freeway that we had to pass through, and it would probably shut down in inclement weather.
We spent the night very close to the freeway. Since the road was built on a high concrete foundation, we weren’t visible to the passing cars. Still, there was nothing, not even a rock or a tree, to provide shelter from the cold, and the temperature dropped so low that, once again, all of us shivered badly. The cold made me extremely thirsty, but I had less than a medium-size bottle of water left, and the pickup driver had dropped off only one additional gallon of water for all us. Sometime in the middle of the night, I took a sip from my bottle, and pieces of ice hit my tongue. I thought I might die from cold again that night; I even planned out how I’d run to the freeway and ask for help if things became truly dire.
Before dawn, we moved slightly away from the freeway and lay down under a big tree. Later we moved farther away, hiding in some bushes. There we spent the day, eating a bit of the food left over from what the driver had dropped.
Night came, and still we were stranded. Once the rain started, the driver would come, the guide repeated.
We were all becoming angry. “What if it doesn’t rain for a week?” we said to each other. “Are we going to be stuck here in the cold the whole time, with no food and water?”
The coyotes had initially told us the entire trip would require only six hours of walking. This estimate wasn’t ridiculously far off—we’d spent no more than about ten hours on our feet—but it didn’t account for the fact that we’d be walking over a period of three days, and that during that time we wouldn’t have enough food, water, and warm clothing. If we died of hypothermia, the coyotes wouldn’t care, though. They’d just be out a few cans of tuna. The guide was the only one working for his money, and he was clueless; in fact, he was smoking weed day and night.
The following day, just before dawn, the guide took our empty bottles and asked one of the other pollos to help him fetch some water. When they returned, we drank greedily. We weren’t sure where the water came from—presumably some nearby stream—or whether it was potable, but at least it quenched our thirst.
Suddenly, a light rain began to fall, and within moments, the guide received a call alerting us that we’d soon be picked up. Once a second call came through, we moved right up beside the freeway, a tall cyclone fence between us and the pavement. When the pickup truck arrived, the same one that had dropped the food the night before, we all jumped the fence and scrambled in. A couple of guys took seats in the cab, and the rest of us lay flat in the open bed. The driver took off speeding.
Within about thirty minutes, we arrived at a house in San Diego. The house was full of people—a group of ten additional border crossers had just arrived; they’d used a route farther east, braving tall hills and snow to avoid the INS checkpoint. The nine from our group were put in the garage. The coyotes brought us plates of warm food—rice, beans, eggs, and tortillas—and immediately began calling our contacts to make arrangements to drop us off. Meantime, they made sure we didn’t escape before paying; whenever we used the bathroom, we had to remove our shoes, so as not to be tempted to leave the house through the small bathroom window.
It was agreed that instead of wiring my payment, my cousin Luis would pay the coyotes in cash once they dropped me at his apartment in Escondido thirty minutes away; I wanted to make sure the coyotes really got me all the way there. Before long only four other guys and I were left, and the pickup truck returned for us. Since it was dark, we were allowed to sit upright in the truck bed, but we had to cover our heads with a blanket until we reached the freeway; this, I think, was to prevent us from learning precisely where the coyotes lived.
We arrived in Escondido, Luis handed over my $1,800, and I was free. Sofia made us a nice, big dinner. It felt good to be with them; Luis was the son of my father’s departed sister, and Sofia and I had always been naturally fond of each other.
That was Monday night, and I needed to be in Huron, about three hundred miles away, by Wednesday. From there, another cousin would drive me to the Sacramento bus station, where I’d catch a Greyhound to Portland.
Tuesday night, Luis and I started out for Huron. The INS checkpoint on Highway 15 didn’t ordinarily inspect vehicles, but the traffic started slowing down as we approached the station. We had already passed a couple of INS cars stopped by the side of the road, and Luis, not wishing to take any chances, turned back home. But we immediately returned to the same route, this time with Sofia driving about a mile ahead. Once she passed the checkpoint, she called and reported that it was clear, and Luis and I drove on.
That night I stayed with Luis’s sister in Huron, and the following evening, my nineteen-year-old nephew Marcos drove me to Sacramento, where yet another cousin gave me a ride to the bus station.
The ticket clerks were checking everyone’s ID, but when I got to the front of the line, the woman behind the counter noted my Mexican appearance and turned to another female employee. “Do I sell him a ticket?” she asked. “Go ahead,” the other woman replied. It was a kind favor, though I had a valid Oregon driver’s license in my wallet.
I arrived in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon, on Thursday afternoon, February 19, 2009. I felt like I was home.
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Staff, advisors, etc.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland.
Alex Behr is a writer in Portland. Her last piece for Oregon Humanities appeared in the spring 2009 “Nostalgia” issue.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland and regular contributor to Oregon Humanities.
Kristy Athens’ nonfiction and short fiction have been published in a number of magazines, newspapers, and literary journals, most recently High Desert Journal, Eclectic Flash, Diverse Voices Quarterly, and Five Fishes Journal.
Rich Wandschneider was the founding director of Fishtrap, a literary nonprofit in eastern Oregon, and is now building the Alvin Josephy Library of Western History and Culture at Fishtrap. He writes a regular newspaper column and has written for the Oregonian, High Desert Journal, High Country News, and others. He is on the editorial advisory board of this magazine and on the board of directors for Oregon Humanities.
Ellen Santasiero is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Northwest Review, The Sun, Marlboro Review, Oregon Humanities, and in a recent anthology from the University of Oklahoma Press. She is at work on a memoir.
Caroline Cummins is the managing editor of Culinate.com.
Jedidiah Chavez is a visual artist and writer based in Portland. His work has been showcased in a variety of venues nationally and in the Pacific Northwest. Chavez was awarded a 2010 project grant by the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
Kristin Kaye is a Portland-based writer. Her book, Iron Maidens, was an Oregon Book Awards finalist. She has recently completed her novel To Catch What Falls.
Lucy Burningham is an independent writer and journalist who lives in Portland. She holds a master’s degree in nonfiction writing from Portland State University.
Eric Gold is a freelance writer in Portland and former communications assistant at Oregon Humanities.
John Frohnmayer is chair of the Oregon Humanities board of directors.
Sarah Gilbert is writing a book about mothers looking for emotional healing in food. In February, she decided to begin homeschooling her eldest son.
Courtney S. Campbell is the Hundere Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University. You can try friending him through his Facebook page.
Barry Johnson has written about the arts since 1978 when he started writing about dance for the now-defunct Seattle Sun. He has edited arts sections at Willamette Week and The Oregonian, where he recently finished a twenty-six-year stint. You can find his up-to-the-minute thoughts on the arts at http://artsdispatch.blogspot.com.
Nancy Rommelmann’s recent books include Transportation, The Bad Mother, and The Queens of Montague Street, a memoir of growing up in 1970s Brooklyn Heights that was excerpted by the New York Times Magazine. She is a long-form journalist whose work appears in the LA Weekly, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Byliner, and other publications.
Phil Busse recently took the position of editor of The Source, a weekly paper in Bend. He also continues to serve as the executive director for the educational nonprofit Media Institute for Social Change and is an adjunct instructor at Portland State.
Sarah Mirk is a Portland journalist who often writes about gender, sexuality, and politics as the online editor of Bitch magazine and as the author of the forthcoming book Sex from Scratch (Microcosm, 2014). Her other interests include writing comics and talking to strangers.
Courtney Campbell is Hundere Chair in Religion and Culture and professor of philosophy at Oregon State University. He is also an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project leader for the program “Friendship: Reviving, Surviving, or Dying?”
M. Allen Cunningham is the author of the novels The Green Age of Asher Witherow and Lost Son, and the recipient of a 2013 Individual Artist Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission. His story collection, Date of Disappearance, was recently published in an illustrated limited-edition by Atelier26 Books and his first nonfiction volume, The Honorable Obscurity Handbook, is forthcoming. He leads an Oregon Humanities Conversation Project program on the subject of e-reading.
Margaret Malone’s work has appeared in The Missouri Review, Swink, Coal City Review, latimes.com, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of a 2009 Oregon Literary Fellowship and a 2011 Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship. She lives in Portland with her husband and son.
Dave Allen is director of interactive strategy at NORTH, a branding agency in Portland. He is also an adjunct lecturer in digital strategy at the University of Oregon, as well as the founding member and bass player of the UK band Gang of Four.
Dmae Roberts is a Peabody-winning radio producer and Oregon Book Award–winning writer. Her work has been on NPR and published widely. She is a USA Rockefeller Fellow and received the Dr. Suzanne Award for Civil Rights and Social Justice from the Asian American Journalists Association. She lives in Portland with her hubby and twin kitties.
Brian David Johnson is a futurist at Intel. His book Vintage Tomorrows: A Historian and a Futurist Journey Through Steampunk into the Future of Technology, coauthored with James H. Carrott, wil be published next year by O’Reilly Media. He is featured in Oregon Humanities’ Bring Your Own video series. This essay was written on a 747 somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.
Mott Greene is a historian of science and technology. He was an Oregon Humanities Think & Drink presenter earlier this year for a program about the future of human and artificial intelligence. A former MacArthur Fellow, he is affiliate professor of earth and space sciences at the University of Washington. He admires Portland’s civic life and wishes Seattle could figure that out.
Jill Owens works in marketing for Powell’s Books. She enjoys interviewing authors as part of her job and for publications like Oregon Humanities.
J. David Santen Jr. has written about books, business, the environment, and communities for the Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, and other publications. He lives in Portland.
For more than a decade Camas Davis has been a magazine editor and writer for national magazines such as National Geographic Adventure and Saveur, and local publications such as Portland Monthly, Edible Portland, and Mix. In 2009, she traveled to France to study butchery. Upon her return, she founded the Portland Meat Collective, a traveling butchery school.
Sarah Gilbert is a writer, photographer, struggling urban farmer, mama to three boys, and military wife in southeast Portland. She is editor-in-chief of the new literary magazine for parents, Stealing Time, and is working on two memoirs and at least one novel.
Photographer Jim Lommasson received the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor prize from the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University for Shadow Boxers: Sweat, Sacrifice & the Will to Survive in American Boxing Gyms. Previous publications include Oaks Park Pentimento. His photographs have been widely exhibited in museums and galleries.
Margot Minardi is an assistant professor of history and humanities at Reed College, and the author of Making Slavery History: Abolitionism and the Politics of Memory in Massachusetts (2010). She is currently working on a history of the nineteenth-century American peace movement.
Jill Owens works in marketing for Powell’s Books, where interviewing authors is the most interesting part of her job. She’s originally from the South but has lived in Oregon for eleven years and is here to stay.
Dionisia Morales is a freelance writer and teaches writing at Linn-Benton Community College. Her essays have recently appeared or are forthcoming in CAYLX, Brevity, Cream City Review, and Silk Road.
Wendy Willis is a poet, Conversation Project leader, and the executive director of the Policy Consensus Initiative and the deputy director for Research and Development at the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University. Her book of poems, Blood Sisters of the Republic, is forthcoming from Press 53 in fall 2012.
Carl Abbott is professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University. A specialist on the history of cities, his recent books include Frontiers Past and Future: Science Fiction and the American West and Portland in Three Centuries: The Place and the People.
Monica Drake is the author of Clown Girl (Hawthorne Books),which was optioned for film by Kristen Wiig. Her next novel, The Stud Book, is forthcoming from Hogarth Press in February 2013.
Tara Rae Miner is a freelance writer and editor, former managing editor of Orion magazine, and author of Your Green Abode: A Practical Guide to a Sustainable Home. She lives with her family in Portland.
John Holloran lives in Portland and teaches at Oregon Episcopal School. His last essay for Oregon Humanities was “After the Fall” (Spring 2011).
Rebecca Hartman is an associate professor of history at Eastern Oregon University. She received her PhD in history from Rutgers University in 2004. Her current research is focused on twentieth-century U.S. rural history.
Dmae Roberts is an award-winning independent radio producer and writer based in Portland.
Jennifer Ruth is a professor of English literature at Portland State University and the author of Novel Professions, a book of literary criticism.
Richard J. Ellis is the Mark O. Hatfield Professor of Politics at Willamette University. In 2008 he was named Oregon Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and in 2007 he was chosen as Oregon Scientist of the Year by
the Oregon Academy of Science. His book The Development of the American Presidency is forthcoming from Routledge in January 2012.
After ten years in Oregon, Leigh van der Werff now lives in central California, where she runs a record store with her husband and their dog, Edgar. When she’s not at the shop, she’s writing essays and music criticism.
Joanne Mulcahy teaches creative nonfiction and humanities classes at the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, where she is codirector of the Documentary Studies Certificate Program. Her writing combines memoir and personal essay with ethnographic exploration. Her book Remedios: The Healing Life of Eva Castellanoz was published by Trinity University Press in 2010.
Marion Goldman has passed through the social worlds of Rajneeshees, Jesus People, and Nevada prostitutes. In her latest book, The American Soul Rush (forthcoming in December 2011), she describes how a small group of 1960s seekers at California’s Esalen Institute cultivated and spread spiritual alternatives ranging from transpersonal psychology to yoga to Zen golf. She is professor of sociology and religious studies at the University of Oregon.
Oregon Humanities editorial advisory board member Guy Maynard is the editor of Oregon Quarterly, the magazine of the University of Oregon, and the author of The Risk of Being Ridiculous, a historical novel of love and revolution set in Boston in the the late 1960s, into which he managed to slip several Red Sox references. He lives in Eugene.
Kambiz GhaneaBassiri is an associate professor of religion and humanities at Reed College in Portland. He is the author of A History of Islam in America (from which this selection is excerpted) and Competing Visions of Islam in the United States. He was also a faculty member at the Oregon Humanities Teacher Institute in July 2011.
Tim DuRoche is a writer, jazz musician, artist, and cultural advocate. He works as the director of programs for the World Affairs Council of Oregon. Tim hosts the The New Thing, a weekly jazz program on KMHD-89.1 FM in Portland, is currently developing a program on jazz and community values for Oregon Humanities’ Conversation Project, and is the author of the recently published collection of essays, Occasional Jazz Conjectures.
Walidah Imarisha is a founding editor of AWOL, a national political hip hop magazine and has toured nationally and internationally as part of the poetry duo Good Sista/Bad Sista. She has taught in Portland State University’s Black studies department and leads three Conversation Project programs for Oregon Humanities on hip hop, the history of race in Oregon, and reenvisioning the prison system.
Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College and author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Muses Among Us: Elegant Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft. This essay is a section from his book-in-progress, 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do.
Debra Gwartney is the author of the 2009 memoir Live Through This, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Oregon Book Award, and the PNBA award. She is currently working on a memoir about growing up in the West and the heritage of Narcissa Whitman, a project for which she received a research grant from the American Antiquarian Society. Debra lives on the McKenzie River with her husband, Barry Lopez, and is on the nonfiction faculty at Pacific University.
After growing up selling corndogs and cotton candy at carnivals up and down the West Coast, Susan Meyers extended her gypsy lifestyle by spending several years in Latin American before coming home to the Pacific Northwest. Her work has recently appeared in CALYX, Dogwood, Terra Incognita, and The Minnesota Review, and it has been the recipient of several awards, including a Fulbright Fellowship. She teaches writing at Oregon State University.
Matthew Stadler is a writer and editor in Portland. He writes about cities and urbanism for journals including Volume, Netherlands Architecture Bulletin, Domus, and Camerawork. His book about urbanism, Deventer, is forthcoming from 010 Uitgevrij, in Rotterdam. In 2009 he cofounded Publication Studio (http://www.publicationstudio.biz) in Portland.
Amanda Waldroupe is a freelance journalist living in Portland. Whenever she fails, she buckles down and tries, tries again.
John Holloran lives in Portland and teaches at Oregon Episcopal School, where he is the chair of the history department. His last essay for Oregon Humanities was “Under a Spell” (Summer 2009).
Scott Nadelson’s most recent book is The Cantor’s Daughter. A new collection of his short fiction, Aftermath, is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books in Fall 2011. He teachers creative writing at Willamette University. His latest essay for Oregon Humanities was “Go Ahead and Look” (Spring 2010)
Todd Schwartz is in reality a very serious and reserved person who divides his time between being a Calvinist minister and a funeral home director. Wait…wait! A funeral home director and a Calvinist minister walk into a bar…
Courtenay Hameister is the host and head writer of LiveWire Radio, the co-creator of “Road House: The Play!,” a screenwriter and filmmaker. In her spare time, she likes to imagine what it would be like to have more spare time.
Ariel Gore is the author of seven books including Bluebird: Women and the New Psychology of Happiness (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010), from which this selection is excerpted. She is also the founding editor of Hip Mama, and editor of the Lambda-award-winning anthology Portland Queer. She teaches creating writing online at the University of New Mexico and The Attic in Portland.
Jamie Passaro lives in Eugene, where she is a freelance writer and an editor for Northwest Book Lovers, a blog produced by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association. Her last essay for Oregon Humanities was “Driving Mrs. Spacely” (Summer 2008).
Andrew Guest is an associate professor of psychology at the University of Portland. When not watching, playing, coaching or writing about soccer, he does research on youth developmental and educational experiences through sports, arts, and service activities.
David Bragdon served on the Portland regional Metro Council for nearly twelve years and was elected president in 2002. The major accomplishment of his service was an expansion of the regional parks and natural areas network known as the Intertwine. He resigned from the Metro Council in September 2010 in order to accept New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appointment as director of the Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability.
M. Allen Cunningham is the author of Lost Son, a novel about the life of Rainer Maria Rilke. His first novel, The Green Age of Asher Witherow was a #1 Booksense Pick and was shortlisted for the Booksense Book of the Year. He’s the recipient of an artist fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission and a Yaddo residency. His third novel, set partly in the Pacific Northwest, is forthcoming.
Bette Lynch Husted lives and writes in Pendleton. She is the author of Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land (OSU Press, 2004) and At This Distance: Poems (Wordcraft of Oregon, 2010). Lessons from the Borderlands, her collection of memoir essays about teaching, class, gender, and race, is forthcoming from Plain View Press. She is a 2004 Oregon Book Award and WILLA finalist and was awarded a 2007 Oregon Arts Commission fellowship.
Bob Bussel is associate professor of history and director of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. He has published numerous articles on labor history and contemporary labor issues, including a history of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. He is currently working on a book about working-class citizens.
Dave Weich is the president of Sheepscot Creative. The Portland-based company fosters engaging and profitable communication among businesses, consumers, colleagues, and fans. Weich is on the editorial advisory board of Oregon Humanities magazine.
Camela Raymond is a Portland-based writer whose work has appeared in Modern Painters, Plazm, the Oregonian, and elsewhere. She was previously an editor at Portland Monthly magazine and the founding editor/publisher of the Organ. She serves on the editorial advisory board of Oregon Humanities magazine.
Scott Nadelson’s most recent book is The Cantor’s Daughter. He teaches creative writing at Willamette University.
Karen Karbo‘s three novels, as well as her Oregon Book Award–winning memoir, The Stuff of Life, have all been named New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Her most recent book is The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World’s Most Elegant Woman.
Lisa Radon has written about art and design for Portland Spaces (as associate editor), Portland Monthly, Surface Design Journal, SHIFT (Japan), FLAUNT, Hyperallergic, and ultra (ultrapdx.com). She’s written a handful of catalog essays and is working on her first book.
R. Gregory Nokes has worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press and the Oregonian. His reporting about this incident has resulted in a formal designation of the massacre site as Chinese Massacre Cove. He lives in West Linn.
Christine Dupres is the former director of the Office of Sustainability and Community Engagement at the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland. She is a freelance writer and an Oregon Humanities board member.
Apricot Irving is a writer and radio producer whose most recent project, Boise Voices Neighborhood Oral History Project , brought together elders and youth in Northeast Portland. She has lived in Haiti, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom, but currently calls Portland home.
Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices, from One Day Hill Press in Melbourne, Australia.
Lucy Burningham is an independent writer and journalist who lives in Portland. During the past decade, she has traveled on assignment for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and Lonely Planet guidebooks. She holds a master’s in nonfiction writing from Portland State University.
Vicente Martinez lives in Portland and works at a fast food restaurant.
Susan W. Hardwick is a professor of geography at the University of Oregon. Her research and teaching focus on the geography of immigration, identity, and place in the Pacific Northwest. She is the author or co-author of nine books, including Russian Refuge: Religion, Migration, and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim (University of Chicago Press, 1993). This article is adapted from Hardwick’s Commonplace Lecture that she delivered for Oregon Humanities in 2007.
Sarah Gilbert is a writer and photographer who lives in Portland with her husband and three little boys. She writes about food and finance for several web sites, including DailyFinance, WalletPop and Culinate, is cofounder of the Portland parenting resource urbanMamas.com, and keeps a blog, cafemama.com.
Kevin Nute is a professor of architecture at the University of Oregon. He is the author of the American Institute of Architects award-winning monograph, Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan (1993) and Place, Time and Being in Japanese Architecture (2004).