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Home to Portland (And Back)

June 9-24
Written June 21+
Dear Diary and Friends and Family,

I have let two weeks go by with no notes to this diary, generally a sign that not much is happening.  And it's true.  Nonetheless, I'd like to offer up some memories from this not-much-happening time.
Our backyard hawk pair has hatched two not-so-little chicks.  The little ones started out as white puff balls, but were soon reported to be the brown and white camouflage coloring of mom and dad.  Unfortunately for my pictures, they still spend most of their time burrowed deep in the nest, so I have no proof.  UPDATE: the little ones have been seen flying around, just not when I am armed with my camera.  I will keep trying.
Speaking of wildlife, here are a few more shots.  I think the first three are potential hawk food.  The last just someone interesting.
In the course of trying to see the hawks near sunset, I also ran off a batch of flower pictures.  I like the muted colors.  Maybe Marianne can paint one or two.
Speaking of painting, Marianne's mom came over for a painting lesson.  Apparently 98 is not too old to learn a few new tricks.  It was fun for both student and teacher.

Now (June 22) we are on a real trip, a four-day flight up to Portland for my 50th college reunion.  We will be staying with Marianne's friend Connie, our solar eclipse camping partner. 
I like flying from Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (aka: FAT).  It's small.  It is seldom crowded.  Workers and travelers are not harried.  It is a far cry from our last home town airport in Frankfurt!
On Alaska Flight 3440, we were pleasantly surprised by extra legroom seats.  No extra money, just luck.  (Later, we even got snacks, simply by asking.)
d180621_06_traffic.jpgDeparture was delayed a bit by traffic - loud fast traffic from the National Guard fighters.

We flew up the San Fernando Valley with the Sierras on our right: Farmland; Sierra National Forest; Yosemite Valley; Lake Tahoe.  By the time we were over Oregon, cloud cover had blocked the Cascade Mountains.
Our Portland Airport experience was not as positive.  The walk from the plane to baggage claim went on forever, through smelly crowds.  The Budget Car Rental shuttle bus was jam packed and let us off into a half-hour line to get our car.  And then I could hardly operate the fancy modern controls of our not-your-father's Buick.  (Shifting from Park to Reverse required a bit of designer mind reading!)
All was better when we got to Connie's house.  In no time at all, we had settled in the kitchen to discuss current events and options for meals.  Current event discussion was, shall we say, "animated"?  At least we three are all on the same side.
Portland is a great place for dinner decisions, no matter the animated news discussion. Downtown has scores of good spots including, for "happy hour", an option that sounded right to us.  We chose Pho Van Fresh and were well served by both light food and wine.  (Except for Marianne who was suffering a bout of gastroenteritis.  Not good for travel, but she's a trouper!)

Friday.  The day at Connie's started with more political discussions.  I think this may be the new American pastime, at least until everybody tires of the agitation.  Hopefully, when we look back at these diaries years from now, we will be able to say: "See, these things too passed."  Can't be soon enough.

To be productive, we shopped.  There just wasn't enough hours to do any worthy tourist activities, but a little shopping can fill any available time.  Marianne needed special art supplies, so our first stop was Blick Art Materials in downtown Portland.  Nice store.  Reasonably successful hunt for specific supplies, although we decided that a second stop, at Columbia Art & Drafting, would be useful too.  Each store, one west of the Willamette River and one east, were in areas I remember from my youth 60 years ago, areas that were once seedy (and interesting) are now largely gentrified. 
After art supplies, we noticed an antique store (name?) and pulled to the curb to see what might be on offer.   The inventory was a eclectic mix of antiques, old stuff, and dusty junk.  Nice place to wander, but nothing tempted us.  Somehow, I think we have moved past the stage of acquiring antiques, old stuff, and junk and are now thinking of how we can dispose of our own current inventory.  Any suggestions?

The last shopping stop was Penzey's Spices back in downtown.  As a mail-order business, Penzey's is Marianne's go-to source for spices, but seeing and smelling all the goodies was a far better way to go.  Definitely something to be said for brick and mortar shops. From this stop, my suitcase gained five pounds.

After a quick rest and cleanup, we were off to the first of the University of Portland reunion events: The President's Welcome and Awards Gala. I was uncertain if I would know anyone, actually, since I had visited my alma mater just once in the previous 50 years.  I set a goal of recognizing just five people at the gala (whatever THAT is.)
As it turned out, I just met that goal:  two Mike's, a Jim, an Ed, and a Kathleen.  (Diary practice is to avoid full names, since I never ask for permission for publishing on the internet.) We did a reasonable job of bridging a 50-year gap, if that's possible in a couple of hours, between sips of wine, munchies, and desserts. I hope to have more time on Saturday, since I am not sure most of the conversations were more than just being glad (surprised?) we were still around.

The main event of the evening was university awards including one to Bill Reed.  Bill was Class of '72, a bit younger than us, and he returned to the school as alumni director a decade or so later.   He said he outlasted four university presidents and 32 graduating classes.  His popularity was clearly evidenced by several rounds of applause.

Next up for an award, was Tsikata Apenyo, Class of 2018, Graduate of the Year. Tsikata's list of accomplishments at graduation was longer than most of us would have by the time of our 50th reunion: a mathematical model to help identify suicide risk, Army ROTC  commander, residence hall president, student government vice president and now, heading into a one-year Fulbright program for English Teaching in some small foreign country whoes name I forget.  And he plans to become a doctor.  I was tired just listening.
The third award went to Katie Hughes, Class of 2002, winner of the Outstanding Service Award.  After graduating from UP, she did social work, including founding of an organization called "Girls Build".  This organization teaches construction trades to 8- to 12-year old girls from "at risk" backgrounds so that they can be self-confident, empowered young women. Here is a link to a fun story about Girls Build.

Bottom line: Day 1 was a success.  I met the self-established goal of chatting with five classmates and we even enjoyed ourselves.

Saturday, Reunion Day Two
We arrived plenty early for my first event, a 10am Mass for the Class of 1968. I think arriving early was a sign of nervousness, but about what I am unsure.  It has been a long time since I was a church-going Catholic, not quite since 1968 graduation, but almost.  I followed the still-ingrained Catholic rituals, and appreciated the warm and fitting words of the priests and readers, but did not come away any more convinced of the correctness of the whole deal.  Maybe curious enough to mull over any future role of religion in my life.
After mass, we all went over to "The Commons", the dining hall where I remember spending so much time decades ago.  At the time, the food supplier was Saga Industries, not known for fine food, but my tastes were not very developed anyway.  I understand they have been replaced with higher quality student fare.  One reason for the increase in Room & Board fees, I suppose.
Father Mark Poorman, President of The University, gave a nice review of history over the last fifty years.  I wish I could remember the points he made about world changes in the last five decades.  The only fact I can remember is that the Boeing 747 flew for the first time in early 1969.  (Days later, I actually saw flight #2, from the shoulder of Interstate 5, above Seattle's Boeing Field.)  Mostly, he reviewed the progress of the university from 1600 undergraduates in our time to almost 4000 today.  Over the course of the day we would see the extensive physical plant changes that has required.d180623_90_pin.jpg
 Father Poorman (aka Father Mark) then gave each of the 1968 graduates a fifty-year pin.  As near as we could tell, we earned these simply by getting older.  Successfully, at least. 
After receiving pins, we posed for a group picture, proof we were still around, aging still.

After brunch, we attended a memoriam organized by my Sigma Tau Omega fraternity for college friends that have not survived.  Personally, I found I could not handle the sad memories with the positive views expressed by my classmates.  Next reunion, I'll pass on this event.

d180623_20_bustour.jpgd180623_22_grass.jpgThere was also a tour arranged of the 35-acre addition to the campus down on the banks of the Willamette River.  This expansion has been under consideration since my days at the school and now it is happening.  The area will include soccer fields, tennis courts, and a boat house for the women's rowing team, an NCAA-level team at UofP.

d180623_24_studentgym.jpgd180623_26_studentfitness.jpgOn the way back through the main campus, Marianne and I stopped off at the new student recreation facilities.  Wow.  Two gyms, weight and exercise rooms, a climbing wall, and locker facilities equal to those found at high-end country clubs.  Another reason room and board has increased so much!

d180623_30_intobbq.jpgThe day's main event was a late afternoon barbecue. It was a nicely done event, and we were able to say hi to the dozen or so classmates we had run into so far, but I failed to document much of it in pictures.  In hindsight, I may have gotten shy of being the picture-taking geek from days past.  I'll do a more complete job after another 10 years.
Our last pause on the campus was to stand on the bluff where Captain William Clark, of Lewis and Clark, looked out on April 3, 1806.  This was the farthest south he would visit on the expedition before it continued to the Pacific-ocean mouth of the Columbia River.
Without buildings, the 1806 view was undoubtedly different, but the river and mountains are the same.

d180623_44_matanuska.jpgThe ship in the dry dock is the MV Matanuska from the Alaska Marine Highway System.  I remember seeing this boat 48 years ago, as it and its two almost-new sister ships would tie up at the Petersburg, Alaska, Ferry terminal, right next to the Standard Oil fuel dock where I worked for the summer.

Sunday, back to the heat.
d180624_02_family.jpgAfter bidding farewell to Connie and thanking her for her hospitality, we met with Ron and Nancy at Elmer's restaurant near the airport.  We had all selected the location for it's location near the airport and its breakfast specialty: German pancakes, a dish we never saw in Germany.  (Coincidentally, we were at the Elmer's where Ron and Nancy had their first date, ten years ago.)
Well-fed, we returned the Buick rental car, shuttled over to PDX airport, self-checked bags, passed the TSA security screening without drama, did some walk-by viewing of the airport shops, and finally settled in the check-in area to wait for our Alaska Airlines flight.
After an hour rest, we moved on board and settled into seats 9A and 9B.  Secret for Alaska Airlines flights on this model airplane: get in Row 9, it has four inches extra legroom, but there is no extra charge!  And, since it sits centered above the wing, the ride is the smoothest on the plane.)

d180624_10_portland.jpgd180624_08_byepdx.jpgTaking off, we had our last look at PDX and the Columbia River on the eastern edge of Portland.  Minutes later, we had perfect views of Mount Saint Helens, Mount Adams, Mount Ranier (I think), and, eventually, Mount Hood.
d180624_24_solktahoe.jpgFarther south, we flew above the Cascades and then the Sierras , first over dry brown almost-desert before we hit the green and blue of Lake Tahoe.  (Note the ski runs of Heavenly Valley.)
As we moved into the San Joaquin Valley, forest fire smoke layers showed that summer and summer problems have arrived.  I wonder how bad the 2018 fire season will be.
Just before touching down at Fresno-Yosemite International Airport (code: FAT), we got a good view of the largest winery in America, an industrial facility that looks more like an oil refinery than a cute little family operation.  In fact it IS a family operation, the Gallo family.

Arrival was the simple FAT process I have come to appreciate.  Bags show up almost as soon as we get to the luggage belt and parking is a reasonable walk away.  It would have been more reasonable at less than 100F, but it is Fresno, after all.

We made it back to Cambridge Avenue in time for a neighborhood meeting, but that's part of the next story.  Stay tuned.

John and Marianne

PS:  What did I come away with from the 50th Reunion?  The event was OK, well-organized and friendly.  The University of Portland is a much-changed place since my time there, bigger and more sophisticated.  The expansion of sports and recreation facilities was particularly note-worthy, especially the new on-the-river campus addition.  I suppose that is part of recruiting a larger student body, but it has to be a driver behind some of the 2000% cost increase as well.

Seeing classmates was similarly "OK".  Decades of disconnect meant I did not feel like this was a gathering of near and dear friends.  Nonetheless, there was a resonance with two or three folks. I wonder if there will be any follow up, at least at the Facebook-friend level.  Stay tuned.


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