A group of friends and I get together every month as part of a book club we started on our way out of Athens.
The only hitch: We live in each of the United States’ four continental time zones.
So we gather virtually, chiming in from across the country to catch up and chat about our monthly read. We’re currently working through an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
During one recent call, a friend asked, laughing, whether I was chatting from inside my closet.
I wasn’t, and I’m happy to say my new living situation is more comfortable and spacious than my last.
Two weeks ago, I hauled home a mattress, settled on an Ikea chair with a worn blue cushion and managed to fit them both in the back of my Trailblazer (though not at once.)
I opened a bank account using my Portland address and paid for a city parking pass. My parents shipped me boxes containing hockey and snowboard equipment, coats, old magazines and my favorite Michigan ice cream toppings.
I now sit cross-legged on a faded leather couch, while cars dart past my southernmost window, providing a subtle soundtrack for the otherwise sleepy neighborhood.
My walls are bare, the just-bought mattress sits on the floor, and I just spent five minutes figuring out how to lower a window shade. (Twist the dowel, then pull the strings to the side.
And still, the boxes sit unpacked to my left, next to my suitcase, camping equipment, tripod and unused picture frames. That will all move soon, but it’s my hope that I’ll stay put for a while.
I went on three weekend excursions this month: to the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon Coast and rural Washington County. I set out for the first on a gorgeous late-summer day (terrible gorge pun intended) and hiked a 7.5-mile trail called the Cape Horn Loop, which offered several lookouts over the Columbia River.
Later in the month, I left the sun and warm temperatures behind in Portland and drove to the Oregon Coast, where gray clouds, fog and a light rain had rolled in. I took my time while walking along the beach before making a turn at the tip of the Bayocean Spit, which separates a portion of the Tillamook Bay from the Pacific Ocean, and hoofing it back to the trailhead.
And on my first hike of the fall, a friend and I took off on a Friday to find a campsite in rural Washington County, not terribly far from where we work. We laid down a utility tarp and two sleeping bags and camped under the stars, mostly evading rain and making it home without incident.
“I’ll have plenty of time in the dorm. Can you get me later? I’d rather stay with you, for tonight.”
— The Tampa Bay Times, on dropping a firstborn son off at college
“You want a photo?” he said, posing with a passerby. “Say ‘Flat tax!’ ”
— The Washington Post, on a Lindsey Graham campaign stop
You realize that it’s not about hitting a goal weight, or lifting a weight. It’s about being able to wait. Waiting, being patient, and trusting that life will slowly inch along and things will eventually get better. After all, change takes time.
— Medium, on weight loss
I understood the war wasn’t going away, he says. None of these stories that I had worked on were going to stop. They still haven’t stopped. I understood that this was going to be a marathon. More than a marathon. I didn’t know it’d be a lifetime.
— Esquire, on war reporter C.J. Chivers
Hello, my name is Brad Pearson. In March 2006, you were one of three people who kidnapped me in West Philadelphia.
I’m writing this letter not because I’m angry at you, or upset, or hurt. The opposite, actually. While the kidnapping and investigation were difficult for me, in the end they made me a stronger man.
— Philadelphia Magazine, on a man meeting his kidnappers, nine years later
A 24-year-old man who served three years in the Army, Keith classifies watching a game inside Sporting Park as some of the most nerve-wracking moments of his life. But he never misses a match.
— The Kansas City Star, on a brother’s love
There is no space left to build homes for the living. The dead are now flown to the mainland so the ocean won’t encroach upon their graves. Most here agree that the town should be relocated; where, when and who will pay for it are the big questions. The Army Corps of Engineers figures Kivalina will be underwater in the next decade or so.
— The Los Angeles Times, on an Alaskan town threatened by climate change
There are, for reasons previously mentioned, a lot of bars in the Upper Peninsula, hundreds of them, some of them little more than fishing shacks with whiskey and whitefish for sale, many of them making almost as much money from Friday fish fries as they do from pouring shots. Randy and Kevin, somewhat ambitiously, decided to visit them all.
— The New York Times, on a man and his father
Interviews with colleagues, constituents and relatives reveal a woman defined by contradictions: A Republican who’s often disdained in her own party but popular in her left-of-center district. A conservative who grew up poor, supports gay marriage and shuns church. A suburban wife and mom whose own mother plunged Julie and five siblings into turmoil.
— The Oregonian/OregonLive, on “the audacity of Julie Parrish”
It was a Saturday morning. Brian Brijbag had taken off his daughter’s training wheels.
— The St. Petersburg Times, on a father teaching his daughter how to ride a bike
These mornings are a rite of passage for TV reporters: going live from where not much is happening, so that “BREAKING NEWS” can be flashed across the screen. Because even in 2015, the old-school practice of a real person in a real place for the sake of a “live shot” is still the gospel of broadcast journalism.
— The Washington Post, on the TV live shot
But Runyan came away with something even more valuable. The cowboy now knows he had been right all along: Bruce wasn’t a failure. He, like Runyan, only needed the right partner.
— The Los Angeles Times, on a failed rodeo bronco
Like I wrote above, I read Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie, this month. Christie outsmarted me, and I didn’t correctly guess the identity of the murderer. But the book was a page-turner, so to speak, and I finished its 322 pages in less than a week. I’d recommend it.
I recently reported about a 20-year-old who died in a car crash and “blighted” farmland that is to be developed and made attractive to big businesses.
As always, thanks for reading.