Luna’s 2019 Resolutions

The Resolute Luna
The Resolute Luna

January brings frosty weather and those dreaded New Years resolutions. Google reports that only 9.2 percent of people are successful at sticking to their resolutions; Luna is going to prove that dogs can be 100 percent successful. Here are her resolutions:

1. Chase the wind, not George. When it blows, she goes…outside. Why don’t leaves have squeakers?

2. Barkdust is a perfect place for a poo. Luna is learning that the Pottery Barn rug is not the spot to make a spot, but leaving something in the leaves or an ass in the grass is just fine.

3. Learn to play with CoCo. The fence is still dividing Dog World from Catsville, CoCo goes nose to nose with the pup and lets Luna know she disapproves with an occasional hiss. (CoCo’s resolution: “Scratch the puppy’s eyes out!”)

4. Make friends with the Cockapoo in the fireplace glass. She’s pretty hot! Next year: make friends with the Cockapoo in the oven door.

5. Train dad to throw cheese more accurately. Luna will never get to 30 pounds without more string cheese bites. George: you snooze, you lose.

6. Make mom and dad exercise more: walks and evening ball throws. Wow, mom has big biceps; she should thank Luna for all those ball tosses. Dad could lose a pound or two anyway.

7. Conserve water: use the bowl water to wash the floor. And with all the muddy footprints, do it more! (Is there a way to attach a swiffer head to the bottom of the dish?)

8. Plan a garden: she’s already had lots of practice digging and has grand plans for moving day lilies and roses (she’s already tried.)

9. Eat all her food: every floor hockey kibble puck and bully stick remnant. Eat more cat food too (if CoCo will share.)

10. What do you think Luna’s last resolution should be? Email a suggestion, which I will post as an update.

The Babylonians began the custom of making year-beginning promises 4,000 years ago in order to get on the right side of their gods.

Thanks to Julius Caesar, we have the Julian calendar so we know when the year begins; Caesar declared January 1 the day to honor Janus, the god of new beginnings.

Luna would like to dedicate January second to all puppys’ new beginnings.

Silent Dog

The original version of Silent Night was written as the result of a broken organ and the local priest wanting to preserve the parish’s tradition of singing Christmas carols; Silent Night was a solution. Our inspiration? Luna sleeping on the couch in the evenings after a hard day at doggy daycare.
(Sung to Silent Night)

Silent Dog

Silent night, sleepy night
All is calm, all is right
On the sofa is Mom and the Pup
Close together they’re cuddled up
Sleep for an hour at least, ooh,
Sleep for an hour at least.

Silent night, sleepy night
Georgie quakes in the night
Lightbeams stream from the porch light outside
CoCo meows a cry from inside
When will the food fill my dish, hey
When will the food fill my dish

Silent night, sleepy night

Mom and the Pup

All is calm, all is right
Round the kitchen, doggies and cat
Cannot wait for our morning chat
Sleep thru the whole night, please! Ooh,
Sleep thru the whole night, please!

Luna’s Box is Coming to Town

Once again we abuse a classic Christmas song out of blatant love of our dog! And, if you don’t know anything about Bark Boxes, you should click here!
(Sung to Santa Claus is Coming To Town)

You betta watch out, you betta not sigh
You betta not bark I’m telling you why
Santa’s sending a Bark Box to town

He’s looking inside, he’s checking it twice
Gonna find out if the squeakers are nice
Santa’s sending a Bark Box to town

He knows when you’ve been barking
He sees you take your walks
He knows if you’ve been bad or good
So be good for a big Bark Box

You betta watch out, you betta not beg
You betta not chew a wooden chair leg
Santa’s sending a Bark Box to town

Luna the wet-nosed rain dog

With a nod to Bob Rivers, a former Seattle-area DJ who wrote and produced many Christmas song parodies (“Walkin’ ‘Round in Women’s Underwear” is one of my favorites), we present “Luna the wet-nosed rain dog.”

Ready to sing!

(Sung to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”)

Luna, the wet-nosed rain dog
Has a very spongy nose
And if you’ve never felt it
Try asking someone else who knows

All of her other dog friends
Like to bark and jump insane
When she comes to the Scoob Shack
To run around in the rain

On one stormy Weekday night
Scooby came to say
Luna with your nose so moist
All the dogs want you to play

Now she goes to shack up weekly
With Scooby and all her furry friends
Luna the wet-nosed rain dog
She hopes the good times never end


Jingle Dog Rock

I actually look forward to the 1950s Jingle Bell Rock on our all-Christmas music radio station, blaring out of the dashboard (forgive me Bobby Helms!)
Sung to Jingle Bell Rock)

Jingle toys, squeaky toys, soggy toys rock
Jingle cat meows and Georgie dog sings
Chasing and barking up toy tubs of fun
Now the ev’ning doggy romp has begun

Jingle treats, yummy treats, turkey treats rock
Single size treats with mystery meats
Runnin’ and jumpin’ ‘round the table and chairs
Without a single care!

What a bright time, it’s the right time
To chew the night away
Jingle bell time is a swell time
To eat bullies in a one-dog crate

Giddy-up cockapoo, pick up your feet
Jingle around the clock
Mix and a-mingle the treats that you eat
That’s the jingle dog rock!

Deck the Luna

New Luna the Cockapoo lyrics set to a classic holiday song.

“Deck the Luna”

(Sung to “Deck the Halls”)

Deck the crate and chase a collie
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow
Barking at the fire is folly
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow
If you’re George you are in peril
Bow wow wow, wow wow wow, wow wow wow
It sometimes seems like the cat is feral
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow

Let’s jump upon the tree before us
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow
Accidents can cause a ruckus
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow
Follow me to find a treasure
Bow wow wow, wow wow wow, wow wow wow
To relieve myself is sure a pleasure
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow

Fast away the evening passes
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow
Hail for Rin-Tin and for Lassie
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow
Next to George we howl together
Bow wow wow, wow wow wow, wow wow wow
Heedless of the rainy weather
Bow wow wow wow, wow wow wow wow

Luna the Paper Tiger

The Shredder

Luna the Cockapoo is addicted to paper, actually, to chewing in general.

It’s a puppy phase, we are told.

She is not particular about her forest products: napkins, paper towels, receipts, band-aid wrappers, brown paper bags. We try to scan our major receipts and then shred them; maybe Luna could be our “green” shredder! She has a great future career as a professional label remover.

Great shredding results in quite the nest. Was she a bird or a wasp in a former life?

If our girls were still in school, we would have a real chance of sending to school some pictures of homework the dog destroyed (whether or not it was intentional.)

At a recent dinner party I watched from the kitchen as Luna quietly snuck up to a guest’s lap and oh-so gently pulled off that guest’s napkin without his even noticing. (Shredding was also quiet.)

When she plays “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” guess what? She always plays “paper” (although it can be hard to tell with her paw.)

Of course, her chew targets are much broader: she fixates on the throw rugs in front of the back door and has destroyed several. When the rains return, I hope she’ll appreciate the opportunity to dry her wet paws (and fly about the back yard with her new wings.) Probably not.

The Shredder – off

Puppy chewing has expanded to the handles on her toy box, which are at just the right height – no reaching or bending over, but oh so tasty.

Her fixation on forest products occasionally extends to a chair leg; I’ve recently caught her chewing on the edge of a piano bench. Fortunately she is easily distracted by a woody-looking bully.

As one online training site suggested, “Although it’s perfectly normal for a puppy to chew on furniture, shoes, shrubbery and such, these behaviors can be a problem for you…. As long as you keep the learning behavior from becoming a habit, your puppy should outgrow this chewing, too.”

Either Luna doesn’t know she should have out grown this two months ago or we’re screwed.

Luna’s thankful list

“Gratitude is the act of feeling and communicating appreciation for the people, circumstances and material possessions in our lives. The word gratitude comes from the Latin root gratus, meaning ‘pleasing; welcome; agreeable.’”
(“Gratitude: the ultimate spiritual practice,” Forbes, November 22, 2017).

I don’t know if Luna the Cockapoo feels gratitude, or even thankfulness. But we do know that certain experiences in her life are certainly pleasing and agreeable, so we will just go with that. Luna’s thankful list includes:

1. Her water bowl. Not necessarily the water in it, just the bowl. Luna does not hesitate to let us know her dish is out of water: she often grabs it and brings it to us while we watch a movie in the evenings. We’re thankful it is a “spill-proof” or (let’s be real, here!) less-likely-to-spill-much-on-the-floor variety. It’s also a great source for her soggy, drippy snout.

Toys, toys, TOYS!

2. Toys. A whole toy box of them to scatter over the floor so that the people will step on squeakers. Soooo glad she doesn’t play with Legos.

3. Scooby Shack, the Doggy Daycare. Luna LOVES playing with the big dogs!! So much so, she often limps home and sleeps for a couple of days. What the heck! Maybe WE love The Shack more than Luna!

4.Our new(ish) Pottery Barn rug. While George the Old Man Bishon chooses to barf, squeeze and peez on the cheap doorway throw rugs, Luna prefers the lush life, that is using our lush Pottery Barn rug for those quick “bathroom breaks.” We are thankful we’ve found she needs to go (outside) between 8 and 9 pm, but the rug has been steam cleaned several times since her arrival.

5. Our fireplace glass doors. We didn’t think she had much of a bark until she discovered “the other” Lunapoo in the window, that is the fireplace doors, as well as the oven door and the wine refrigerator door. Thankfully the one in the window doesn’t bark back.

6. Bark dust under the plum tree. As long as there’s nice bark dust below her favorite sheltering tree, Luna opts for this privy instead of the expensive carpet from Pottery Barn; guess a Home Depot purchase is in the near future.

7. Bullies. We know what bullies are made from, but does Luna? Makes no difference as she happily chews bull privates. Need we say more??!

8. Apples. In contrast, every morning there is a patient, apricot-colored face looking up while I cut apples for lunches; she takes a sliver with a shy dog smile. Makes my day!

9. George, her favorite toy. The Old Man has so many things he could teach her, but we would rather she not learn anything from him (read the aforementioned cleanup issues.) But George is a loyal associate, always ready to eat leftover kibble and be the squeeky ball for Luna’s game of tackle football. Go Packers! Go Bichons!

Luna loves Mom loves Luna

10. Lastly, we, her people, are so very thankful to have Luna in our lives. She makes us laugh. She makes us roll our eyes. Even after all those times she has chewed on the backdoor blinds, blown out her crate, shredded paper, stained that expensive PB carpet, we LOVE her. She is the Best Dog Ever.

Our dear friends: We hope you remember the many things for which you are thankful this Thanksgiving. HAPPY THANKSGIVING FROM THE WOLFF FAMILY!!

The Rain of Luna

How did our “water dog” become disinterested in, no, reluctant to venture out in the rain?

Bad news, Luna: it’s fall in the Pacific Northwest and the rain hath cometh. It’s raining as I write this.

And it’s beginning to rain indoors. Luna the Cockapoo has decided she doesn’t want to get her paws wet when she squeezes and peezes. We are having more indoor accidents.

We expect reluctance from George the Old Man Bischon. Peeing and pooping indoors when it rains has been his M. O. for most of his 14 years. But even he is charging out into the wet grass to find his squat spots. Except last night.

It’s gonna to rain all fall, Luna. Your favorite place for poopaloopas is covered in soggy leaves. We’ll see if she can be lured there with fresh bark dust.

Luna on Fountain Rock

There’s great irony in Luna’s new-found willingnesss to piddle on the wet grass in the the front yard. And this comes after standing on our Fountain Rock where she ALWAYS stops for a drink and where her paws always get wet.

It’s gonna rain most of the winter, Luna, except for a week in January when there are clear blue skies and temps below freezing. Luna, your moist nose could freeze; careful when you squat in the frozen grass (if you ever do) or stand on Frozen Rock. Snow is rare here; you’d likely be buried in snow back in Wisconsin.

Googling “my puppy won’t pee in the rain” returns all sorts of solutions, clearly some written by content hacks who don’t have dogs, advising, “just stand there in the rain until the dog gets the idea.” Like it’s an issue of confusion!

It’s gonna rain all spring, Luna, except for late May right before the start of the Rose Festival, then rain for a week, turning the fun center midway into the mud-way and making parade-goers soggy.

Maybe Luna will rock the fashion world with a purple rain slicker.

Then summer will return July 5th and Luna will want to lie (hopefully not pee!) in her wading pool.

How did you train your dog to do its duty outside in the rain? Send me an email and I will add everyone’s story as an update to this blog.

Luna and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad tummy

Clean up on the dog aisle.

When our daughters started daycare and later during the fall in elementary school, little feet and nose both ran. And they were so generous, so sharing! In just a day or two mom and/or dad would also be sick.

The no longer horrible very bad dog crate.

Hard to know about Luna’s playmates at doggy daycare. Like toddlers, Luna the Cockapoo and her doggy friends probably don’t wash their paws. They probably share bowls, toys and water. And who knows what they step in out on the playground. Was it the Sharpei puppy, the bouncy border collie or perhaps a pug?

She played Tuesday with the big dogs, so it should have been no surprise that Luna might pick up a bug, a virus or some kind of general dog tummy upset. But I was sure surprised to get home that Friday and NOT find either Luna or her wire crate. Our housekeepers had been at the house earlier that day; maybe they had moved her to the entry. Not there. In the kitchen at the other end of the island? No. Now I was panicking.

To quote George Takei (“Sulu” on Star Trek), “Oh my.”

Only when I glanced outside did I find the crate and in it a very forlorn doggy who was sitting amidst a whole lot of “doggy accidents.” After nearly an hour of dog bathing and crate scrubbing I found a note saying the cleaning crew had discovered first a noxious odor and then the messy dog and crate. They moved her outside (fortunately on a sunny, warm afternoon) so they could clean the house and the dog aisle.

To say we have practice cleaning out crates is an understatement. George the Old Man Bichon has never understood that dogs don’t soil their beds. From puppyhood until this day, George has had many excuses for pooping and peeing in his crate. “It’s too wet out.” Or “it’s too cold out.” And then there’s “It’s too wet and cold out.” Of course he has never shied away from making yellow snow.

The End

Our favorite vet suggested the dog explosion was a one-time event triggered by stress or some change. I wanted to believe; we were leaving her in our daughter’s care that weekend while we frolicked at an out-of-town retreat. There was one smaller accident later that night and nothing else that weekend, so we were in the clear…Or at least we THOUGHT we were in the clear…!

Alas, Luna (and our floor) were “Color me Brown” again on Monday. Like all little ones, after more clean up and a vet visit (and a round of anti- and pro-biotics (this is the year 2019 after all!), Luna has returned to her jolly self. But Luna is so kind, so sharing, with her food dish, water bowl and virus…

Cleanup in the Old Man Bichon aisle!

Luna’s Toy Box

Ah, the holidays. They bring so many fun things, including an endless array of holiday TV shows. One of our favorite films is Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer. I mean, what child could forget The Island of Misfit Toys?? Our beloved Luna has certainly rescued most of those toys as they have found their way to our house!

Luna’s Toy Box

According to PAWS, “Many behavior problems in dogs are the result of boredom or excess energy. Toys offer mental and physical stimulation and enrichment. Directing your dog’s energy into play with toys can prevent or help resolve such problems as digging and chewing on furniture, shoes or shrubbery.” Dog psychologists take note – Luna the Cockapoo is 4 for 4 with these problems — she’s done them all.

Chris the Trainer tells us that a favorite toy can also be incorporated into training to get a dog’s attention. Many shopping excursions later…we’re on it! First off, dogs (well at least Luna) live to chase. We started with an Interactive Toy: the traditional tennis ball, but having found Bark Box, we (and our money) have moved on to monthly themed squeakers. Strange characters (two bats named Frank and Dean), an evil pumpkin and a replica of french fries (“fetch fries”) in a cardboard basket. I’m guessing next month will bring a stuffed squeaking turkey and possibly a large turkey leg (Can’t wait to see what “The Box” will do for Monsieur Stuffing or Grandma Gravy!!)

And then there are so-called Distraction Toys that make it possible to cook dinner while Luna is racing around the kitchen. These include her Bullies (“pizzle,” aka bull privates) and pig ears.

Dogs are said to love cognitive toys. The thinking process can be just as tiring as a romp, as we’ve witnessed after many sessions with Chris the Trainer. We haven’t invested any of these but could sacrifice a dictionary for Luna to chew on — does that count?

Squeaky toys are a distraction. The squeak mimics the sound of prey dying, so a squeaky toy inspires a dog’s instinct to hunt. I could see Luna retreiving a downed foul, only to run around the yard playing keep-away-from-the-human.

And lastly, there are Comfort Toys, which may or may not include my hand for chewing or leg for humping. These include plush toys, which also can be connected with the hunting instinct, or in Luna’s case, the sleeping instinct – she usually sleeps on three or four.

Of course, Luna has a hybrid toy: George the Old Man Bishon, who both squeaks and is plush. The way Luna stalks and then attacks George is far closer to the hunt than picking up her polyester bunny replica. George requies no batteries, no hand to initiate the squeek and even moves on his own vs. being thrown, making the hunt that much more satisfying. Mom’s slippers are also plush, and, while not a normal toy, Luna takes great delight grabbing one and playing keep-away-from-the human around the kitchen island.

Luna with Fries

And lest we forget: every toy deserves a Toy Box. Luna’s is a plastic tub about as tall as Luna’s shoulders, making it tough for the unloved babe to get to anything but a top-layer toy. This will soon be replaced by a small dumpster, if our orders from Bark Box continue.

Please be on the look out for a plush replica of Aaron Rogers: Luna will get a thrill chewing on her favorite football player during games. Even better (for her, not us!) if it smells like Aaron after a game.

A football life: Luna the Cockapoo

FALL IS HERE!! When the leaves start to turn color around our house, we begin to speak another language:

12th Dog

Touchdown, Superbowl, Russell, Nick, field goal, Chip, f#%$&@g dumb refs, Tom Brady, Andy, Marcus…Aaron (especially Aaron

Yes, folks, It’s football season.

Luna the Cockapoo has a long, complicated (as much as it can be given she’s only six months old) history with football.

Having been born in Iola, Wisconsin, Luna continually insists she is a “life long” (remember that six month window…) Green Bay Packers fan (#packers). To the contrary, we remind her on a daily basis that she was born after the end of football season last year and had no concept of football until we brought her home to Portland. LUNA, YOU ARE IN SEAHAWKS COUNTRY NOW. (#seahawks)

George and the Helmet Head

Despite our admonishments, Luna waxes philosophical about her buddy Aaron Rodgers regularly. Making fried chicken?? Aaron would NEVER eat that! Complaining about the rain?? Well, Aaron has thrown footballs in sub-zero weather!! Own a Bichon?? Well…you get the picture.

And what football season is complete without (NFL-licensed) gear?

With all due respect to her Wisconsin heritage, we did make for Luna a ceremonial Cheese Head hat (which, rightfully, she couldn’t wait to take off!) Being Seattle natives in part, we think she makes an excellent 12th dog. Thanks to a quick trip to the pet store, Luna now has an officially licensed Seahawks jersey, which she styled on Game Day against the

Luna the Cheese Head

Cowboys, causing our/her team to win, 24-13.

What, no football? Well, there’s always George the Old Man Bichon. Official NFL footballs are 11 inches tip to tip and the circumference at the widest point is about 22 inches (plus or minus Inflategate, or in George’s circumstances before or after dinner.) He’s pretty close to official size!

November 15 will be a house divided when the Seahawks welcome those Packers in Seattle. Maybe George will have some fan gear of his own by then celebrating Nick Fowles and the Philadelphia Eagles

Educating Luna (not Rita)

The leaves turn, the air cools, children wait at corners holding backpacks heavy with unread textbooks and one dog goes to school.

Luna the Cockapoo has begun to learn.

Her people (our family) readied for her homecoming by watching Zak George videos and reading his book. He makes dog training look easy! It’s really an exercise in patience.

Lily the Bichon took a course at a nearby pet store. She heeled when we walked, played fetch, and could sit, lay down and shake paws on command (for treats – when she wanted to).

Hiring a private, in-home trainer is such a yuppy solution. But, sadly, that’s who we are and who we’ve hired. Chris the trainer makes his way to our house every Saturday to watch us stand like storks, make very serious arm movements followed by cheese treats and rounds of “YES!” to mark the moments. These are really meant to train the people; Luna is just the confirmation of our success.

Luna at the Shack

In addition to training, Luna gets much needed social and gossip time with other large dogs and small dogs (“blue dogs and red dogs”), where she can endlessly ask, “Do you like my hat? Does it make my butt look big?” We investigated several “doggie daycares” nearby, and ultimately chose The Scooby Shack.

No….the truth in 2018 is The Scooby Shack “approved” Luna. Doggy daycares in this age resemble human daycares where toddlers get a test visit to see if he or she is a biting risk, adequately potty trained or knows Pi to 100 decimal places. We were warned by Chris the Trainer that The Shack is the best daycare suburban money can buy. The Shack doesn’t accept just ANY well healed pooch. No….you must be…ACCEPTED – Just like Harvard. Not sure how Luna was tested, but she (and our $30/day) were welcomed anytime (guess she passed that math test!)

We always joke about the Scooby Shack humans who we have labeled after Scooby Do characters. The unlucky fellow we first met is “Shaggy,” his co-workers are “Fred” and “Velma.” We’ve not met a “Daphne” yet, but that could be a future mystery to solve.

Saying goodbye to Chris the Trainer

We have recently discovered Luna has some bad habits spilling her water, which has clearly upset Shaggy. We hope she won’t be expelled, as Club Canine simply isn’t as good a school (wrong side of the tracks and all.)

We’ll throw a big party (and cry) when Luna graduates; not sure if dog-sized motar boards exist (THEY DO!), but she would surely wear one.

What is the coolest trick you have taught your dog? Send me an email and I will add everyone’s story as an add-on to this blog.

The name game

What’s in a name? Well, an identity for all of your life and then some.

Who is this Cockapoo?

(My parents told me it took them several days AFTER I was born to come up with the right sounding name combination. What they were thinking the previous six-plus months I will never know.) You can call me Johnson.

A naming convention is a scheme for naming things. Conventions differ in their intents, for instance, streets that are consecutively numbered.

I am not aware of a scheme for naming pets, although I have heard that using human names can be problematic: for instance, if you’re on the street and call out “Jack” and have a handful of people yell “here!”

What does Luna mean? Was she born during a full moon? Is there a moon-shaped spot on her tummy? Nah, Mom wanted to name her Lula, but the family said nope. Then our daughter got creative and suggested Luna instead.

But that’s not always what we call her. Between the three of us at home, we have a varied list for this Cockapoo:



Luna Balloona






The Dog


Little Girl

Girl with the Curl

Lunesta (like the drug)





Of course there are websites for naming. One site advertises 400,000 baby (human) names. Probably as many pet names too. Looks like we’re on our way with nearly 20.

The Girl with the Curl

“Sometimes you need a little finesse, sometimes you need a lot.”

It’s great to have fun with Luna, but sometimes all that bad ass dog play time ends up with her having “that not so fresh feeling” or just the bad (smelling) ass. (Let’s not discuss adventures with CoCo the cat, who left a racing stripe on our bed the other day.)

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

(Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Enter Salon de la Poo Key Steps to Grooming:

Gather your tools

Tool box.

At our house, we are so-o-o versed in grooming terms of art:

  • 4 blade
  • 5 blade
  • 10 blade (for those wanting a Brazilian)
  • Oatmeal avocado shampoo and conditioner (why stick with plain old oatmeal?!)
  • Baby shampoo
  • Ellen Degeneres detangler
  • Toe clippers
  • Lots of towels
  • The “hold-all” plastic box with caddy shelf
  • Mom’s old hair dryer

Pre-bath brushing

No point bathing leaves, bark chips, dirt, small rodents/dead cats imbedded in the fur; gotta brush all that out. Get real! Who knew there was a retractable(!) slicker brush? And what IS a slicker brush? Well, we have one (or two) of those too. “One of the best tools for undercoats,” says an Amazon description (must be true if it’s on the internet.)


Tubby time.

At almost nineteen pounds, the laundry sink that was quite deep for the Old Man Bichon isn’t the same for Luna. Still big enough to hold her to spray down, she can more easily get out if it’s a solo washer. Fortunately, we started the bath routine early and because she is a “waterpoo,” she’s patient throughout the rinsing, the shampooing all over and on the head, more rinsing, the conditioning and still more rinsing.

We have talked about purchasing her own set of apricot towels (to match her coat of course) not only for bath time, but also for a dry-off after fall and winter weather romps; an embroidered name on the towels is probably too much for her gentle ego.

Blow drying

How embarrassing! Mom’s blow dryer?? Really? Guess we know what Luna is getting for Christmas! (Do they come in an apricot color?)


On the grooming table.

Grooming table? Why not? Got one!

Dog teeth brushing? Seriously? Have you tried the new charcoal toothpaste? Luna hasn’t (yet), either.

Then, after an hour of work and a final squirt of (apple scented) finishing spray, it immediately goes to hell when Luna runs outside to dig in the flower beds.


Luna is my co-pilot

I must confess I’ve always been envious of people whose big dog is hanging its head out a car window with the happy face on and ears blowing in the wind.

Luna rocks her purple harness.

And, equally truthful, I really have no idea how to train a dog to be THAT dog riding in a car, going to Home Depot, doggy daycare or who-knows-where.

There are You Tube videos that offer pointers, but I haven’t watched them.

We didn’t try very hard with the Bichons. They were anxious about so many things. And, what did we know? They rode in crates, they rode on laps. They whined (but didn’t dine) and shook on many drives to the beach. The lap dogs were never going to be the happy face in the breeze.
But what we are learning from Luna is that sometimes you just have to jump into things, like a swimming pool for the first time.

I have learned to utilize her purple harness so that her leash wraps around the headrest and reattaches to the harness with a carabineer. Luna has enough room to put paws on the window, paws on the middle console/my arm or lie down, but in a sudden stop she would never leave the seat to hit the dashboard.

So we took the plunge and drove together. First it was to McDonalds from where our daughter faithfully gets lunch every Saturday and Sunday. A bit nervous at first, Luna was easily distracted by string cheese, a trick we learned from Chris the Trainer from Lucid.

Luna, I guess this is training.

Luna gets her first open window rush.

Then I drove her to Home Depot where we wandered around looking for a spray cleaner. And she was so VERY good on leash, rocking the purple harness.
We have taken a half dozen drives together so far. She’s gone with me to the pet store where we have wandered the aisles smelling bags of food, peoples shoes and (hoping to eat, I mean greet) kittens up for adoption.

Now I’m looking for any excuse to drive somewhere with her. Ultimately, we want to take her to the beach, but that’s a two-hour drive she may not ready to take just yet.

The co-pilot to become a Sea Dog?

How did you train your dog to ride in the car? Click here to write to Scott Wolff. I will update this blog as I receive your comments.

Luna the Waterpoo

Who knew we would have a water dog!

Clearly, Luna the Cockapoo is not Portuguese (Head of Cheese, maybe, given her Wisconsin heritage); however, on a Wikipedia list of so called water dogs (“a type of gundog bred to flush and retrieve game from water”), the Poodle, or Pudelhund as they are called (and used) in Germany, is on the list!

George the Old Man Bichon (who just turned 14) can’t stand to get his paddy paws wet if the backyard grass is damp from rain or a sprinkler. This has been a serious issue with our relationship: sending George outside, only to return and squat on the hardwood floor does nothing to endear (endure?) him to me.

We discovered Luna’s addiction to water first with the water bowl. I have never seen a dog put its paws into the water dish (I’m sure it happens!) I have never seen a dog bob in the water for specs of dirt that came off the aforementioned paws. I have never seen a dog grab a water dish in its mouth and carry it around the room, water flying over our once-nice wooden floors. Very strange!

Later, after turning on the sprinkler, we discovered La Luna lying on a very wet rock, very drenched and happily warmed by the hot day. And now when the sprinkler first comes on, she runs to it to lick at the streams and run beneath. And how she enjoys slurping out of the nightly watering can, (trying) to drench our parched herb garden!

Now there’s pool-a-poo. It’s July in the Pacific Northwest, when temperatures run in the 80s and 90s with very little rain. During a recent string of hot days, we concluded a wading pool would be ideal, but all were long gone from the local big box stores. POOR LUNA! Thank goodness for Amazon Prime. With just a day’s notice and a few inches of water, it was love at first sight: absolutely no hesitation to get in, splash around and even lay down in the pool. Now muddy paws are the order of any given evening, as a lovely mud-roll rounds out the spa treatment.

We can’t wait until the Pacific Northwest rainy season sets in right before Halloween. We’ll have a new problem: muddy paw prints.


The Old Man Bichon and the Pupka

There’s a whole lotta barkin’ goin’ on!

George the Old Man Bichon has had enough. Once king of the (dog) house, he’s now a live squeaky toy for Luna the Cockapoo.

He’s not happy; his anguished looks and frequent yipping when the Lunapoo wants to play (and show domination) make this crystal clear.

He’s probably also not happy about the disparity between dogs right now:

  • Luna toys: 27, George: 3 (that Luna likes to steal).
  • Luna chews: 10, George: 0.
  • Luna treats: “humainly harvested” wild boar, Gearge: “recycled” wild boar (aka backyard poopa-loopas).
  • Luna’s worries: non-existent, George’s anxieties: 100,000.

Any May-to-September romance idea between George and Luna was doomed before arrival; George is no Hugh Hefner. When George was a young squire, he couldn’t wait until spring when he would try to dominate and inseminate Lily, our First Bichon. Now, In the immortal words of Mick Jagger, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” The mounter has become the mountee, and we’re not talking Canadians.

As mentioned in an earlier post, we have come to realize, 14 years too late, that George was probably bred for shows and is most happy being on a lap. Luna is anything but a lap dog. Sure, she sits with us on the sofa in the evenings after she has run her brains out. Sure, she’s under someone’s chair at dinner. But velcro she is not.

And now…she is the Alpha. Good luck, George! Karma is a female dog named Luna!

CoCo and the Pupka

There’s a whole lotta hissin’ goin’ on round here!

CoCo at the baby gate.

CoCo, our bombastic Bombay cat, who we sometimes call Co2, has been sounding as if she has a gas leak whenever Luna the Cockapoo gets too close or escapes the kitchen baby gate we forgot to close. Hissssssssssss.

George, the Old Man Bichon, couldn’t be happier: either he’s smiling, thinking the cat is getting her just desserts after all the years of “Whackapoodle” or just thinking, ‘glad it’s not me.’ Luna has been harassing George a bit lately.

Surprisingly, despite a size advantage (CoCo’s 17 lbs to Luna’s 11 lbs.), the dog frightens CoCo. When a passage is available, you can be sure Luna will run to the living room. If CoCo is hanging out, much kitty kursing will go on before the cat runs off and the game is on.

CoCo now hangs out upstairs and Luna runs around unawares.

CoCo – Luna détente.

Funny thing, CoCo was a rescue cat seven years ago and initially lived with big dogs. We have always thought she thinks herself a dog, stomping around the house in the most un-kitty-like fashion. Much like “Skippy Jon Jones,” a fictional Siamese who imagines himself a Chihuahua, CoCo’s imagination doesn’t match her reality— or frailty.

Some day they may be best buds, but right now they are best enemies in the truest “Tom-and-Jerry” sense.

One of our puppy books suggests “the key (to pet family introductions) is to slowly allow the two animals to be comfortable with each other.” Truth be told, CoCo will come up to the gate to sniff Luna. CoCo will also patrol around puppy territory when Luna is temporarily in her pen and/or asleep there.

Coco and Luna: not yet best buds.

We are getting to know Luna’s rhythms: happy-go-lucky in the morning, siesta in the afternoon, extended greetings and a full dinner, then ZOOM! the energy burst kicks in. Cat and dog introductions would make better sense during the down times, but right now CoCo is just too exciting and new to Luna.

We could still consider a Swiss boarding school for learning proper introductions, but Luna doesn’t have all her shots yet and Coco flunked crate class.

Calla lilies are a no-no

Uh-oh, what’s this?? Which dog threw up the Milk Bone treat?

And so began a frantic, all-hands effort to keep Luna the Cockapoo safe in the backyard.

George, the Old Man Bichon, was never one to take any interest in the shrubs. He was less interested in the grass after a rain, preferring to relieve himself indoors, which is very problematic here in Oregon to say the least.

Luna destroys another day lily.

Luna has taken a great liking to lying on several day lilies; at last count there are (were) nearly a dozen day lilies that have thrived for five or more years in our backyard. She thinks chewing the stalks of bear’s breeches is great fun as well. But when she started taking notice of the calla lilies we had planted earlier this spring, we started to distract her.

When she first came home, our daughter who has a personal fear that foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) near the garden are poisonous to her, pointed out a Google search that indicated foxgloves are a toxic plant to dogs. Luna’s care became a tool to dispense with the foxgloves, also planted last year and which were thriving. I moved them.

But we’re also wanting Luna (and our daughter!) to be on her own; independence was a trait we thought we observed in Luna when we were researching Cockapoos (see my earlier blog, “Breeding the right ingredients.”)

Despite our best intentions and during a brief period unsupervised, we found calla lily blooms on the patio that had been Luna-tized. And then there was the half digested Milk Bone next to the calla lily. That and a slightly lethargic dog made us take notice. The vet, with whom we are now on a first name basis, was duly alerted. Many frantic hourly texts and calls later, Luna was very much alive and wanting to play ball.

Luna’s favorite dead lily bed.

Once again, out came the Google searches. Yes, calla lilies are harmful. A brief memorial was held for dead flowers; Luna the most beloved lingered nearby. The surviving calla lilies took new residence in the front yard. So did the azaleas. Now there are moon-sized craters where landscaping once thrived.

Further searches uncovered a longer list of toxic landscaping, care of the ASPCA (click here to read the list). Our daughter is on red alert.

Our backyard may never be the same…

Let’s sit

I will sit for bacon!

We wanted a Cockapoo in part because our research indicated they are pretty smart dogs. Luna has already proven she’s got the potential to be on puppy honor roll.

Steering out-of-control puppy behavior has been a priority from day one, based on life with Bichons. Knowing one’s name, potty training, nipping at George the-Old-Man-Bichon or now chewing on shoes have been our initial training efforts.

Pre-puppy, we pre-ordered treats and bought a cool teat bag on a belt so we’d be ready when she arrived. The treats were a bust — except for Amazon (these treats went home with friends for their pit bull.)

Leftover crumbled bacon was a hit. Within 24 hours of homecoming, she started turning her head when we called “Luna.” We worked on both name recognition and “sit” at the same time. Half the time we call her she automatically sits.

Smarty pants now knows there are treats in the bag; she also almost immediately sits when the bag goes on my waist, hoping it’s training time.

Training goes something like this:

(High-pitched baby voice) “Luna? Luna? LUNA!”

She investigates; George wanders over, stands right next to us.

“Sit Luna. Sit Luna. GOOD GIRL”

(Regular voice) George: “Breathe. GOOD BOY.”

I think we have conquered a few easy tricks. We’re trying to get her to sit and hand out her paw to shake. Our daughter is trying to get her to stand and to spin.

We thought we had potty training nailed, but she’s nailed a particular rug a few times when we weren’t supervising closely; we will have to go back to treats plus praise when she makes the big deposit at the Bank of Grass where she has an account.

Sometimes, sending her to a finishing school isn’t such a bad idea.

Breeding the right ingredients

Breeding conjures up elitist selection, estates and luxury cars with people, but not with dogs.

Breeding in dogs is still about selection, but it’s all about traits, not boarding schools.

  • What color(s)?
  • How big or small?
  • What kind of temperament?
  • What activities will the dog do (hunting, showing, family)?

Several months ago, this was a daily discussion, along with pictures and videos of dogs. Now that wish list is our reality: LUNA!

More important than the outcome is the breeder who puts the parents and ingredients together and cares for the puppies before they arrive at a new home, to fit or terrorize.

Breeding is not an excuse for dogs that don’t behave — many well-bred dogs end up back at the breeder or in shelters because their humans weren’t ready to make the commitment. We have come to realize that training our first two AKC Bichon puppies — and two human pups at the same time — was a bit much even for Type-A parents.

We have also come to realize, 14 years later, that George, the Old Man Bichon, was probably bred for shows. Having a father who was likely his uncle may have contributed to his looks, but also to his odd behaviors; however, he is still a sweet doggie on a lap. Lily, our first bichon who passed away this spring, was from a different breeder with a larger gene pool and more like Luna. We called her our “Heinz 57” dog.

We looked at many Cockapoo breeders, hoping to find one locally, but happily settled on a breeder who was highly recommend by way of testimonials. Cockapoo of Excellence ( provided us not only pictures and videos, but also the reassurance that their dogs matched with us. Temperament was most important: loving but independent, followed by coloring. So we sent (and offer) this testimonial:

Subject: Luna
Thought you might like to see Scott and Luna are enjoying playing catch! She had such a busy day, she curled up and is sound asleep on the cat’s favorite blankets!
I also wanted to say thank you. She is such a love!! As gentle and kind as she is, I know someone loved her, took really good care of her and is probably missing her! Just know she is well loved and we promise to take good care of her. We were all so sad when Lily passed away. It’s nice to know another little angel is here to cuddle and play, so thank you!!

If you’re thinking Cockapoo, send us a note; we’ll tell you our experiences:

Delta is standing by for your Cockapoo.

This blog is part of a series about our first year with a Cockapoo named “La Signorina Lunetta di Excellence” (AKA “Luna”). Go to to read my blogs.

Homecoming for the Pupka

This blog is part of a series about our first year with a Cockapoo named “La Signorina Lunetta di Excellence” (AKA “Luna”). Go to to read my blogs.


Sometimes, new family members arrive early and in the night.

Luna arrived Thursday, June 14 at 8:21 PM, a day early, due to potentially hot weather at her departing airport.

Our Luna

If she could talk, Luna would probably tell us that service in Cargo Class is not attentive enough, even for Delta. That Wall Street Journal they hand out in first class? It’s shredded and added to the crate downstairs. And don’t even get her started about the inflight treats.

But that doesn’t matter now.

So very cuddly! So very squirmy! So very puppy.

At home, the rest of the family were mustered late to meet Luna.

George the old Bichon: It’s another dog. Can I go to bed? Where’s my treat?

CoCo the bombastic Bombay cat: Waat dey hell! Smells like a dog. Yikes! It runs too! (CoCo has been the least enthusiastic family member so far, making some new yawls when Luna is close. No “Whacka Poodle” game today!)

The at-home daughter: she wanted a kitten instead, but I think she’s warming up.

(More about greetings and adapting in a later blog.)

Such a fluff ball! Such a waggy bundle of energy! Such a love!

We could have had a very long night, but we were surprised: very little whining. She’s since found her bark, but only a couple of little ones.

On her first morning, Luna was up nearly as early as we normally are, at 5:30 am, checking out her world and walking outside past a couple of neighbor houses before coming back. Leash and harness 101 to come.

Knock (or poop) on hardwoods: she has not had an accident inside – yet. And she’s already pointing at the back door when she wants to go out to make a deposit in the Bank of Grass. George hates the grass; Luna rolls in it!

And now there’s fetch. Lunchtime her first day, she and I played with her yellow tennis balls, back and forth. I roll, she lumbers under chairs, slides into the wall and grabs the ball, bringing the ball and a smile right back to me to do it all over.

We’re experimenting with treats and training, but unfortunately, either Blue or Buffalo upsets her so the treats we pre-ordered are a bust so far. We had some left over crumbled bacon that was a hit: we are working on name recognition and sit, with some progress. Glad we didn’t adopt a pig: it’s hard to find dog-flavored treats locally.

Much to her chagrin, Luna “enjoyed” a warm bath (no grooming this time!) After more play, this puppy crashed on CoCo’s favorite blankets.

We’re now her people. And now she’s an Oredogian (not just an Oregonian!)


Ready! Set! Go!

This blog is part of a series about our first year with a Cockapoo named “La Signorina Lunetta di Excellence” (AKA “Luna”). Go to to read my blogs.

Getting ready for a new family member can be hard.

Getting ready for a puppy might be even harder.

Will I be a good puppy parent? What will this dog’s personality be like? Will this dog fit in with our family?

Not for lack of preparation: a dozen or so toys, crates, Blue Mountain puppy food and treats delivered weeks ago, color coordinated harness and leash, treat bag for the humans and even an Oregon State University shirt. But there’s more to get on the list.

And then there’s much studying: We found Zak George training videos and now subscribe and watch often, along with reading his book. Grooming videos remind us of our intent 10 years ago to groom our two bichons; buying the tools (and getting a message from the online store congratulating the start of our grooming business.)

Fifteen years ago, Lily the Bichon arrived, much like Luna will, in a crate on a plane from the Midwest. My first dog. I had never lived with a dog, knew nothing about taking care of one, raising one, taking care of one. Somehow, through the frustrations and confusion, Lily was The Dog my wife and I had hoped she would be: playful, trainable and a companion to our daughters. Eventually, she would spend eight plus years sleeping every night with one girl, then the other.

Not unlike “Hatchi,” a dog that waited for its diseased master every day at a train station, I’m hopeful that Lily will be there every day watching over us, guiding us to be good puppy parents.

Our other four-legged family members won’t be prepared, but will adapt: George, our 14-year, old-man Bichon, and CoCo, our bombastic black Bombay cat. George spends most of his days relaxing in his crate by choice. CoCo was a rescue cat and was socialized with big dogs; she thinks she’s a dog anyway and has never hesitated to casually slap George or Lily when CoCo felt they needed to be put into their place in the pecking order. (I call it her “whack-a-poodle” game.)

Luna will not be Lily. She will not be George or CoCo (CoCo is smiling at this.)  Luna will be a new adventure and, based on the pictures and video from the breeder, we love her already (OK, not so much CoCo.)

Homecoming is June 15.

Life Essay: Memorial Service for Sara Lee Wolff

January 8, 1983, written by the Rev Askew Crumbly, First United Methodist Church, Portland, Oregon

There is a story about a newspaper reporter who, as Mahatma Gandhi was leaving a train station, rushes up to him and asks, “Give me a message to take back to my people.” And Gandhi replies, “My life is my message.”

So is for all of us and so it was for Sara Lee. And she has left many messages for her family and friends; but the most relevant message for this time, this place, and for those of us gathered here is this letter written by Sara Lee in response to a sermon she had heard:

“When we try to serve God, we are sometimes used in ways we never expected, and some of those purposes involve our remolding so that we may be made more fit to do that work. I certainly never expected to contract cancer, either, but in my struggles to understand what was happening to me and how I could use this seemingly devastating event, I have chosen to work with several points which I thought you might like to hear and share. They are not earth-shaking discoveries, and they are all borrowed from various sources, but put together, they express for me the way I must deal with my present problem – and any future ones.

1.       Everything is perfect. God created the world and it is all good. I believe that evil arises only from human free choice and the devil is a mythical expression of the Jungian concept of the “shadow” which universal humanity has conceived to personify the dark and inexpressible side of human nature. In fact, I believe that I must ultimately come to the point – and sometimes I can – where good and evil are irrelevant. God is, everything is as it should be, and that is all that is necessary.

2.       Of course the foregoing would be incomplete without its corollary: we must do everything we can. Because we live in a human world where human affairs are imperfect, it is our responsibility to work as hard as we can to remedy everything that appears wrong. Ram Dass is the teacher from whom I gained the concept of these two points as interdependent. He expresses these two points as a paradox, “Everything is perfect and there is nothing we can do so we must do everything we can.” We have to do everything we can for world peace, for political justice, for the disadvantaged, and for our own growth and healing. 

These two points taken together point up a great truth: everything that has happened to us in our life is exactly perfect in bringing us to this now moment, which is the only moment there is, and this moment holds the potential for our enlightenment. Everything that seems evil as well as good in our past has its place in creating the unique individual that we are and making us God’s unique tool to serve his purpose. It’s all perfect, and yet we must do everything we can to build on this foundation for our personal growth and service to others. 

There are theories that imperfect reactions to stress are contributory causes of cancer, and I have to accept that perhaps there were processes in my experience which I could have handled better so that I would not now be having to deal with the results of those errors. But at the same time, I can say the imperfect thought it is, my life still has the capability for growth and useful work, and part of that usefulness may come through the experiences of suffering from those imperfect responses. So I can say, it is all perfect to bring me here – but I have to work as hard as I can to grow on the foundation which is laid.

3.       The third point, which arises out of the paradox of the first two, is abandonment. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, an eighteenth century French priest, first expressed this concept, and his work is published by Image Books as “Abandonment to Divine Providence.” By abandonment he does not mean a shrug of the shoulders, folding of the hands, and quietly giving up. Rather he means a cooperative effort between our work and God’s plan, but accomplished in total faith that the best will prevail. A typical line for de Caussade is, “We must put all speculation aside, and with childlike willingness accept all that God presents to us. What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.” John Chapman, a 20th century apologist for de Caussade, in “The Spiritual Letters of John Chapman,” says that abandonment is like a swimmer who abandons himself to the buoyancy of the water but nevertheless must work hard to reach the shore. Soren Kierkegaard expresses faith as “swimming over 40,000 fathoms of water.”

4.       The fourth point is one day at a time. Alcoholics Anonymous has a precept that one only has to refuse to drink for one day – today.  We can handle almost everything for one day – it is the fear of the future which weakens us. I have a tape in which an incident is told of a man who had a huge malignancy, was on a life support machine, and was only given two weeks to live. The friend who was telling the story went to see him. “You are projecting your thoughts into the future. You are looking at two weeks from last Wednesday and saying that is all there is.” The patient admitted he was. The friend told him to stop doing that and to convince himself that he only had to live today. Two years later he met the man again at a business conference. His tumor had shrunk to (an) insignificant size, his bodily systems were working normally and he had returned to work. Whatever we fear most is always in the future – the little piece of it we undergo today can always be dealt with.

“I close with this”: There is a parable out of ancient Zen literature about a fishing village where a holy Zen monk lived in a hermitage on the hill above the village. One day a girl in the village was found to be pregnant with an illegitimate child. She knew the father was one of the fishermen, but she didn’t want to accuse him so she said it was the monk. When the child was born, the villagers took the baby up to the monk and said it was his child so he would have to raise it. Being a hermit, this was not something which was part of his personal plan, but he simply said “Ah, so” and accepted the child. He raised it and loved it as his own for nine years. When the village girl was dying and she feared to die with the guilty secret, she admitted the child’s father was the fisherman. The villagers returned to the monk’s hermitage, said they had made a terrible mistake and would take the child to its rightful father. As the monk gave up the child he had grown to love, he simply said, “Ah, so.”

A sign of God is that we are led in ways we did not choose to go. Everything that happens to us is perfectly suited to help us gain enlightenment in accordance with God’s purposes, but we are responsible for a corresponding effort through our human powers to accomplish our share of God’s work in the world. We only need to face these problems one day at a time, and we deal with all things equally, not judging them as good or evil, but abandoning all our results to God. And this is all expressed in the watchword, “Ah, so.”

Ah, so, friends, may you go on to larger service and further growth, enfolded in the love of God.”

Sara Lee

Life Essay: Newspapers

December 2021

It was tradition at my house while I was growing up that the first person who got up retrieved the morning paper off the front porch, no matter what the weather. And then turned up the furnace!

Sure, I read the comics. Peanuts, Blonde and Smilin’ Jack were my favorites. I always read the front page, the Metro section front page and then scanned the business page headlines before diving into the “agate” type of the New York Stock exchange page to see how Monsanto, Bell & Howell and Tektronix traded the previous day. Later, I placed ads in the classifieds to sell cars and looked there to buy them.

My brother Chris had the first paper route, delivering the Oregon Journal in the afternoon in the far corner of Sellwood, later landing the route whose delivery area surrounded our house. Being an early bird, he preferred delivering the morning Oregonian. The printed papers arrived at the local “station,” which was the central distribution office for the zip code. A “spotter” would count out papers for each route and drop the heavy bundles of papers on our front porch between 3 and 4 AM; I can still hear the sound of the bundles dropped on the porch.

During the summer of 1971, I met with the station manager to put my name in for a route of my own; I was inclined to deliver the afternoon Oregon Journal, which also meant I’d be delivering the Sunday Oregonian once a week in the early morning hours too. As a trial, I “subbed” a route for a kid who was going to be away for a month. Easy peezy, riding my trusty 20-inch “sting ray” bike. Shortly afterward, I was assigned to an awful route the included delivering to house boats beneath the Sellwood Bridge on “Watery Lane.” The hill up from the river was quite steep.

To make matters worse, no one paid their bills when I went around to collect the monthly subscription. When you took on a paper route, you became an independent contractor. You bought your newspapers and received a bill each month for all the papers you bought that month at a reduced rate, the difference becoming your profit. We had two-part receipt books in which we wrote the address and the monthly subscription amount on about the 25th of the month. Then I knocked on doors to “collect.” This first route I barely collected enough to pay the bill, with no profit for the month’s work.

I gave up on this route a month or two later when route 619 came available. Its boundary was a block away from home. There were five long streets with hills, a dog that came out to retrieve the paper in her mouth, and apartments across Crystal Springs Creek that flowed from nearby Westmoreland Park—complete with ducks. I delivered over 100 daily papers — six days a week — that I picked up at the Station, rolled with a rubber band and stuffed into a canvas bag that hung from my bike handle bars. I delivered over 80 Sunday Oregonians, which were delivered to my house at the same 3-4 AM Sunday. I completely wore out my first bike and bought a second, better 20-incher that served me well, paid for from my route profit. I earned $50-60 a month — huge bucks in the early 70s for a 12-year-old. I could collect my bill in a single night, then collect the stragglers for my profit, but I never lost money.

Fortunately for me, dad was sympathetic to bad weather deliveries on Sunday. He drove me around my route several Sundays during a typical Oregon snow fall; he didn’t seem to mind going up and down the neighborhood hills, and I was thankful not to be in the elements in the early morning. I think about the benevolence of my dad when I drive to pick up my daughter from work: it must either be karma or paying forward.

Afternoon deliveries were a whole different weather matter: I rode in the heat, the sunshine, driving rain and snow. My hands were often numb after winter days, despite gloves. Rainy days I came home thoroughly soaked from the edge of my coat down to my shoes. But Sunday mornings were so serene: I listened for the first birds singing right before sunrise; I saw many sunrises behind the gray silhouette of Mt. Hood. I was usually home on Sundays before 6 AM. Sometimes I stayed up and made pancakes.

My friend Kelly secured the Journal route around our houses directly north of my route. My friend Bill chose to deliver the Oregonian, pulling a wagon around the blocks surrounding his house two routes north of Kelly’s route.

One of the side benefits of the newspaper delivery was the opportunity to win trips and prizes for soliciting new subscriptions to either the Oregonian or the Journal papers.

Who wouldn’t want to go to Disneyland? The first trip I was aware of was to Disneyland – the Oregonian would provide transportation to and from (on chartered buses), hotel accommodations in the Disneyland Hotel (shared with three others in two beds) and tickets for two days in the park. Only 105 points, which translated into 3 points for a daily and Sunday subscription, two points for daily-only, and one point for Sunday-only.

At the launch of this first trip sales campaign in late 1971 or 1972, there was a pre-sale party at the newspaper station at which we were “inspired” by the area sales manager, then trucked to different parts of the station district to go door to door in the dark of night. Bill and maybe Kelly attended. Bill cut his sales teeth that night and the following weekend by selling enough subscriptions to earn the trip! Unfortunately, Bill’s parents would not allow Bill to attend. Later, Kelly would “buy” points, admitting he was not much of a sales person, and traveled with me.

For me, the first night was not a successful hustle, but I later realized that people in houses had already decided to subscribe or not, but with turnover in apartments, I would head out to large complexes on Saturdays when people typically moved in to sign them up before they signed themselves up. I also learned to not try to kill myself selling, but rather set goals of three points a day. If I sold six points, I could take a day off, or get to the goal faster. I sold enough points in less than 30 days for the trip.

The trip itself was as fascinating as it was long. We left downtown Portland in the afternoon I think, and drove straight down I-5 to LA. But we had to be on our best behavior and were threatened with certain hardships should we misbehave; I think we were even told we were “ambassadors” for Portland and the Oregonian. However, during our first break in Eugene, one of the “ambassadors” stole silverware from the bus depot dining room and was promptly put on a bus back to Portland. This poor individual was made an example of bad behavior and the swift repercussions.

I remember stopping in Sacramento around 12:30 AM to change drivers, seeing the state capitol basked in streetlights, and then taking a break right before Grapevine about sunrise, where I remember reading a newspaper front page announcing the death of some prominent figure. As we down from the northern pass, we drove through the very eerie remains of the 1971 Los Angeles earthquake, which left a number of overpasses still in the median.

We were delivered to the Disneyland Hotel by about 9:00 AM, given our room numbers, keys and the first day tickets. We were told to be back in our room by 11:00 pm when we would be checked on and given the next day tickets. I remember sitting in the a hotel restaurant eating breakfast, ordering fresh (and expensive!) orange juice, all the while feeling concerned about my cash flow over the next few days, measured out in travelers cheques.

But we survived and had fun! Several classmates and I hung around each other, riding the Autopia ride over and over and over – driving go-carts was great fun! Rumor was that others ditched Disneyland and hoped on buses at the front of the hotel to go to Knots Berry Farm for the day, specifically verboten. I hardly remember the bus ride back, except that it was another long adventure. The long bus rides would change my outlook on traveling on my last trip.

The following year was a two-day trip to San Francisco, which came with some free time the second afternoon to roam the city. Who lets 12, 13, 14 year-olds out to roam a major city without parents? The following year was another trip to Disneyland, for which I hustled still more subscriptions. In 1974, Spokane hosted the World’s Fair, and the Oregonian offered a trip, for which I sold the necessary points. This time, I was done riding on a bus for hours and hours. I rode the bus to Spokane, but used my newspaper profits to buy my first-ever plane flight from Spokane to Portland. I was done riding long bus rides, done selling, done delivering.

Later in high school, I worked on the yearbook as an advertising sales person and page designer. I had had a newspaper/magazine layout class from the Yearbook advisor, so I was ready to go. Ads were pictures at local businesses whose ad was really a sponsorship; a caption was added. The only creativity was the page layout, and that was very little.

It wasn’t until my freshman year at Lewis & Clark that I worked on my first newspaper production gig doing “paste-up” for the Pioneer Log. Paste-up was the physical layout of the newspaper pages. Articles were keyboarded into a typesetting machine – the college owned a Verityper – and the articles were saved to an eight inch floppy disk. When ready, the machine exposed a 10-inch-wide roll of film, one letter at a time at very high speeds – a 200-400 word article might take 2-3 minutes. The exposed paper was transferred to a light tight case; an edge of the exposed paper was fed into a developer bath, much like a glossy picture, then hung to dry for a few minutes.

We used double-paged layout sheets that were full size. The printed grid was in “non-repro” blue, a color that didn’t show up in the printing plate negatives. The typeset copy was to size and in the specific font we used. The output typeset sheet would be the entire length of the article in a preset column width. The production person would trim the type column on each side, then run the narrow column through the waxer, which applied a thin coat of wax to the back side as an adhesive. Anything waxed and positioned on the layout pages could be easily repositioned.

Photos were printed with a screen pattern of “halftone” dots, which allowed the press to print the picture, now a series of small black dots. These were trimmed to fit the layout and waxed as well. Any kind of line “art” was either photocopied and waxed or we used a Photo Mechanical Transfer or “PMT” that allowed for resizing and exposure on the same type of film as the typeset copy.

Our primary tools were rulers, the trusty X-Acto with a number 11 blade and a T-square that ensured the copy was aligned correctly with the grid. We used a separate room in the office for layout on three large drafting tables.

I worked on the paper my freshman year (as well as the radio station). By mid-year, I was applying to Boston University to study for a year in an intensive media program, but could not convince Boston to waive the freshman requirements, which would have taken all year to complete. Later that summer I swiveled: I applied to University of Oregon, which wasn’t interested in enforcing freshman requirements; I was able to spend the majority of the classes in the Journalism School.

When I returned to LC in fall of 1980, I gravitated back to the Log. The Editor-In-Chief at the time was Michael, but he bailed LC at the end of the quarter. The paper’s advisor, Dick Hoyt, wanted me to co-edit with a sophomore, Jonathan, but I was not sure about Jonathan’s work ethic and decided to pass on the role.

By spring term, I was ready to take on the editor role in my senior year. After being selected by a media committee, I started working on a style guide, which I typed in the Log office.

I had fun as editor, making sure the paper covered important topics such as the theft of a sculpture and the incoming college President. But by year end, I was beat and we partied on our last Tuesday night of production with a keg in the layout room. We held a party at one of the on-campus restaurants. We also left the paper with a huge ad revenue windfall: our business manager made sure ever advertiser paid. I directed the paper to buy the college a PMT camera for the campus print shop.

A year after graduation, I took a job in 1983 as production “manager” for the Clackamas County Review, a weekly suburban tabloid newspaper, doing paste-up and building ads. There were three ad sales people, the editor and a reporter who was also the photographer, plus me and the publisher, Bert Casey, a very conservative individual who was also computer savvy, owning an Osborne personal computer that could, with some added coding, go directly to typeset copy on the paper’s Compugraphic typesetter. Bert was a bit crazy, but I got paid regularly just below the poverty level for a family of four.

Fortunately, a former ad salesperson, who had jumped ship from the Review and joined This Week Magazine, contacted me to tell me it was a better place to work. I applied and joined RFD Publications, the publisher of This Week Magazine, a weekly “shopper” meaning it was a newspaper in name only; it was more of a wrapper around major retailer advertising sections, including those of Fred Meyer, Safeway, Thriftway, Payless Drugs, and others. The content was mostly subscription columns, recipes and comics, including the first local publication of a single panel comic called “The Far Side” by Gary Larson.

In the newspaper business, Tuesday was called Food Day, when the food ads and recipes were at their peak. This Week arrived on Tuesdays in everyone’s mail, at great cost to the daily paper, the OregonianThis Week had snatched the highest revenue advertising accounts away from the big O.

Joining RFD, which was really a commercial printer for the above advertisers, meant cutting one’s teeth doing 40 hours of paste-up. At first, I was hired for the graveyard shift – four 10-hour days beginning on Tuesday at 8 pm, ending at 6:30 am on Saturday morning. I eventually moved to a noon to 10 pm shift. While working four days a week had its benefits, the days (or nights) were long. It was hard to adjust to working all night.

Concetta and I had been dating since my time at the Review. My graveyard shifts were during her senior year at Lewis & Clark; she would come to RFD during my lunch hour sometime around midnight as a study break. Later, I would drop by the house she lived in off campus, knocking on the window and cuddling with her before she went to class.

By the time Concetta had been in her first year of graduate school in Salem, I was getting itchy feet for additional schooling, setting my sites on a two-year hiatus to San Francisco (see “Sojourn to San Francisco for more details).

When I returned from San Francisco, I was able to pick back up at the Fred Meyers ad department, doing production on the Home Improvement Center ads, later moving up to lead designer. I was part of the early adoption of Macintosh computers for design; fortunately I had borrowed one from a friend and acquainted myself to all things Mac OS by reading and trying each description in the manual over a month of evenings.

Macs weren’t ready for direct typesetting, although we tested it from time to time with small “ROP” display ads. While at Freddy’s, I received in the mail a small 400K disk that had a demo for a new program, Adobe Illustrator. I had no idea how important the Adobe programs would be; I was using a software program called PageMaker at Freddy’s. Freddy’s was a large account for a fledgling PC store, which invited Freddy’s Mac users to an afternoon on the Portland Spirit ship on which I met the founder of Aldus Corporation, the software company that wrote PageMaker; its founder Paul Brainerd coined the phrase “desktop publishing” and we were living it at Freddy’s.

But I was over newspapers, ad design and paste-up. Fortunately, I didn’t think additional schooling was the answer. I was ready to make a significant move to either corporate marketing or an advertising agency. In 1988, I jumped the newspaper ship and into corporate marketing at PacifiCorp, thinking I would never look back.

But my experience with newspapers would come in handy after I joined Grant Thornton in 2004. As a way to promote the expertise of the partners and managers, I sought ways to increase visibility in the local Portland Business JournalDaily Journal of Commerce, any other newsletter that made sense and perhaps the Big O.

After getting the green light to hire a public relations firm, we set out to investigate editorial calendars and tried to match specialties with upcoming sections or an issue focus. I was able to refine my ability to “pitch” an article before it was written. I invited two managers to have coffee with me and two Journal reporters, which got the ball rolling.

Many articles were written by the professionals, but Grant Thornton had a lot of content on audit and tax specialties; I was able take content and fashion it into a compelling article. In one case, I was able to get the national CFO survey culled to West Coast responses, comparing and contrasting the national and reginal viewpoints and submitting for publication in the Journal’s annual CFO of the year section. I was able to get a tax season article published as a business section cover in the Oregonian!

While with Reinisch Wilson Weier, I was able to pitch the expertise of one attorney who specialized in OSHA-related defense, resulting in two articles in back-to-back issues of the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce. I then pitched an article to the Washington Bar Association journal, getting a article not only published, but featured as a cover story. But I wasn’t laying out the pages in these publications, thankfully, but I still sometimes designed an ad (electronically) to go with a sponsorship.

Paste-up would die off as computer software utilized “WYSWYG” tools (What You See is What You Get). I produced a freelance brochure completely on the Mac in PageMaker while I was still at Freddy’s; the marketing job at PacifiCorp required Mac experience. I would buy my first Mac shortly after leaving Freddy’s as well. Printed newspapers would face pressure from the internet as soon as 15 years after I left Freddy’s. The Oregonian was reduced to a tabloid-size in order to survive, the Journal long since silenced.

There were no tea leaves to read, but I was fortunate to be ahead of the changes and to move on before I was moved out.

I would not be that lucky in corporate marketing.



Life Essay: Favorite Quotes

January 2022


Early Quotes (1970 – )


“What happens to another human being in your presence is a function of who are, not what you know. And who you are is everything you’ve ever done.”

Ram Das


“The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for.”

Joseph Addison


Life is a journey, not a destination.


“It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Reliance


“It is not the abundance of knowledge, but the inner feeling which satisfies the soul.”

St. Ignatius of Loyola, Spiritual Exercises


“Money. 200 proof. Taken straight or mixed with many lovely things, it is the most intoxicating substance known to man.”

David Augsburger, A Risk Worth Taking


“In no sense do I advocate evading the law…That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly and lovingly and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.”

Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail


“I shall pass through this world but once: any good thing therefore I can do or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now, let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”

Stephen Grellet


“It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.”

Thomas “Tip” O’Neil


“Those only can take up Civil Disobedience who believe in willing obedience even to irksome laws imposed by the state so long as they do not hurt their conscience or religion, and are prepared, equally willing, to suffer the penalty of Civil Disobedience.”



“Without knowing the force of words, it is impossible to know men.”



“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you not its own mold, but let God remold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves toward the goal of true maturity.”

Romans 12:2 (J.B. Phillips translation)


“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say and the skills to enable the saying, as a writer is someone who has found a way into the process that will bring about things to say that never would have occurred to him if he hadn’t entered the process.”

William Stafford, Lewis & Clark College poetry reading May 15, 1979


“Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”

Thomas Jefferson


“There is danger in reading bad books, but also greater danger not reading good ones.”

John Courtney Murray


“Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


“All missiles are aimed at Jesus.”

Jim Wallace


“We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

General Omar Bradley, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, Boston Massachusetts, November 10, 1948


“Wisdom is the principal thing; then get wisdom. And with all thy getting, get understanding.”

Proverbs 4:7


“The light you seek is in your own lantern.”

Buddhist proverb


“After any vigorous action, it is conscience that saves us, for it furnishes us with a thousand and one excuses of which we alone are judges, and however excellent these reasons may be to lull us to sleep, before a tribunal they would avail us little in preserving our lives.”

Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo


“A religion that is small enough for our understanding would not be large enough for our needs.”

Arthur Balfour


“Find out how much God has given you and from it take what you need; the remainder which you do not require is needed by others. The superfluities of the rich are the necessities of the poor. Those who retain what is superfluous possess the goods of others.”



“If you look for it, you cannot see it. If you listen for it, you cannot hear it. If you believe in it and embrace it, it is inexhaustible.”

An anonymous Zen master


“Chance favors only those who are prepared for it.”

Louis Pasteur


“Even paranoids have enemies.”

Bert Casey


“Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

Dorothy Parker


An optimist finds opportunities in difficulty; a pessimist finds difficulties

in opportunity.


Together we are stronger than any one of us.


Never give up, never forget, never give in, never again.

September 11


“Let’s roll.”

Todd Beamer, Flight 93 victim, September 11, 2001


“Twenty years from now you will be disappointed by the things you didn’t

do than the ones you do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor.

Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. “

Mark Twain


He who hesitates, waits.

Scott Wolff, San Francisco, 1985



Quotes at Grant Thornton (2004-12)


“Every marketer tells a story. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Tourareg, which is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better—and look cooler—than $20 no-names…and believing it makes it true. Successful marketers don’t talk about futures or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story. A story we all believe.”

Seth Godin, All Marketers Are Liars


“You’ve got to take the initiative and play your game…confidence makes the difference.”

Chris Evert (1954 – ), American tennis champion


“It’s a cinch by the inch, hard by the yard.”

John Paul Dejoria, co-founder, Paul Mitchell


“Design is important because chaos is so hard.”

Jules Feiffer


“Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

Albert Einstein


“Every great journey begins with a single step.”

Chinese Proverb


“Fall down 7 times, get up 8.”

Buddhist proverb


“Five thousand years ago, every human was a hunter. If you were hungry, you got a rock or a stick and you went hunting. The problem was that all of the animals were either dead or really good at hiding. Fortunately, we discovered/invented the idea of farming. Plant seeds, fertilize ‘em, water ‘em, watch ‘em grow and then you harvest them. The idea spread and it led to the birth of civilization. Everyone got the idea… except for marketers. Marketers still like to hunt. What we’re discovering, though, is that the good prospects are getting really good at hiding.

Seth Godin, Posted by Seth Godin on January 11, 2006


“When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Albert Einstein


“To Howard Shultz, Starbucks isn’t in the coffee business. It’s in the people business. Once you start looking at things that way, the horizons get a lot wider.”

Fast Company, July 2004


“If today was to be the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple


Lemon quotes (except for one!!!)

“When life throws you a lemon, duck and watch it hit someone else!”

“When life gives you a lemon, hand it to the next person!”

“When life gives you a lemon, make lemonade.”

“When life gives you a lemon, throw it, it’s probably a grenade!”

“When life gives you a lemon, RUN AWAY!!!”

“When life gives you a lemon, make grape juice and sit around watching everyone try to figure out how you made it.”

“When life gives you a lemon, turn it into a muffin. Everyone loves muffins!”

“When life gives you a lemon: don’t just stand there EAT IT!!!”

“When life gives you a lemon, rub it in someone else’s face!”


“Shoot for the moon, and if you miss, you’ll still hit a star.”



“Luck is the residue of design.”

Blake Richey


“Whether I fail or succeed shall be no one’s doing but my own. I am the force. I can clear any obstacle before me or I can be lost in the maze. My choice: my responsibility; win or lose, only I hold the key to my destiny.”

Elaine Maxwell, Quoted in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens


“By avoiding the wrong thing, you may miss the right thing.”

BILL FRITSCH, President of Hydrogen Advertising, Seattle


“Sell the relationship. The fees will come.”

Scott Wolff, Grant Thornton


Si tratta questo pezzo con molto di sentiment

(Treat this piece with great feeling)

Beethoven, Opus 59 no. 2


“It is always the right time to do the right thing”

Martin Luther King Jr.


“Understanding will give you clarity. Clarity is power! Leaders have it. Followers want it. It makes life easier. When you have understanding, you will be able to make the right choices for your job and life.”

Brian Parsley


“Your goal is to be viral, not a virus. Cold calls are virus. Value is viral.”

Jeffrey Gittomer, Sales Caffeine


“We become what we think about all day long.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


“When the heart is right, ‘For’ and ‘Against’ are forgotten.”

Chuang Tzu


“You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky, that’s all…To hold a front position in this rat-race, you’ve got to believe you are lucky.”

Stanley Kowalski, Streetcar Named Desire


“Do not worry about what happens tomorrow; the same loving Father who takes care of you today, will take care of you tomorrow and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace, then, and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginations.”

St. Francis de Sales


I waited, waited for the Lord;

who bent down and heard my cry,

Drew me out of the pit of destruction,

out of the mud of the swamp,

Set my feet upon rock,

steadied my steps,

And put a new song in my mouth

a hymn to our God.

Many shall look on in awe

and they shall trust in the Lord.

Psalm 40, 1-4


“When you get the chance to sit it out or dance…Dance!”

Lee Ann Womack


“You can’t get enough of what you don’t really need.”

Matthew Kelly


Quotes while at RWW (2014 – )


“While things look as though they will not change, with time, they will — and not because we are loud or quiet, riotous or righteous, but because we are sound and right.”

Martin Luther King Jr.


“We choose to . . . do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

John F. Kennedy, Rice Stadium, September 12, 1962


“A salesperson/marketer/copywriter’s job is to empower people to do the things they already want to do.”

Heather Sloan, “Insurance Marketing: The Emotion Behind Forward Motion.” Posted Sep 04, 2014.


“Attorneys are notorious for centering their business around things which aren’t sustainable. For example, many lawyers base their practice on a few particular referral sources. What happens if those referral sources go away?”

Luke Ciciliano, 30 Days to a Better Law Firm (


“Some books are to tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.”

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)


“Being a good lawyer is what gets you to the table, so (being good) is not what differentiates you from your competition. It’s a given.”

Lindsay Griffiths, “The Law Firm of the Future Will Need a Perfect Storm.” Posted on Zen and the Art of Legal Networking ( September 6, 2016.


“What you do with your billable time determines your current income, but what you do with your non-billable time determines your future.”

David Maister, True Professionalism


“I didn’t sell ice cream. I sold a good time. Ice cream was the vehicle.”

Robert “Bob” Farrell, Founder, Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour (quoted in the Oregonian 16-August-2015)


“Brand is reputation. Reputation is behavior.”

Arthur Anderson


“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.”

Steve Jobs, Interviewed by Wired (1995)


“All failure is failure to adapt. All success is successful adaptation.”

Max McKeown, Author and Strategic Adviser (Forbes quote of the day)


“There are exceptions; but the fact is that for many lawyers, marketing is an annoyance, if not anathema. And there is good reason.


Lawyers, often by nature and certainly reinforced by education and training, are highly skilled at spottin problems, whereas marketing professional services is about the identification of opportunities.

Historically, the practice of law has been reactive, providing analysis and applying precedent, while business development is based on proactive pursuit.”

Roger Hayse, The Key To Resolving The Lawyer / Marketing Dichotomy


“How can you settle for less when the world makes it easy for you to be remarkable?”

Seth Godin


“I am trying to think, don’t confuse me with facts.

Purportedly once said by Plato


“We don’t know where we get our ideas from. We do know that we do not get them from our laptops.”

John Cleese, co-founder, Monte Python


“If you never change your mind, why have one?”

Edward de Bono (1939)


“Law firms never get fired, they just don’t get any more work.”

Dick Dahl, Disgruntled Customers


“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Martin Luther King Jr.


“Ten years ago, had you asked me about culture and values I would have rolled my eyes and recited a line from Dilbert. But when I started as CEO I began to appreciate just how important they were. Culture and values provide the foundation upon which everything else is built. They are arguably our most important competitive advantage, and something that has grown to define us. It’s one thing to change the world. It’s another to do it in our own unique way: Members first. Relationships matter. Be open, honest and constructive. Demand excellence. Take intelligent risks. Act like an owner.”

LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, in an emailed letter to employees following the announcement of the sale of LinkedIn to Microsoft, June 2016


“In mobile moments, intent and context count for everything. If you don’t have information that’s engaging, useful, and quickly discoverable, you lose out on conversion opportunities. Why? Because people don’t want to be sold or persuaded. They want to be informed, engaged, and empowered. So much so, that 73% of consumers say that regularly getting useful information from a company is the most important attribute when selecting a brand. Google also learned that more than half of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product when conducting a

search on their smartphones. Businesses that get it are literally swiping sales from competitors.”

Brian Solis, “Mobile is Eating the World”


“There was the bias toward what people saw with their own eyes, or thought they had seen. The human mind played tricks on itself when it relied exclusively on what it saw, and every trick it played was a financial opportunity for someone who saw through the illusion to the reality.”

Michael Lewis, MONEYBALL


“When people ask what college I graduated from, I say: I didn’t graduate from college. I graduated from Nike. I started my career as an intern getting coffee. I was working in sports marketing, which means building the brands of Nike and the athletes. What I realized after I left Nike is that they tell stories. These shoes I have on are just shoes. Obviously, they put some technology in it. This is knit. This is lunar. Blah blah blah. But they tell you the best story ever about this sneaker. They tell better stories than anyone in Hollywood. So it was just a natural evolution: marketing, storytelling, building your brand, producing content. I’d been doing it my whole life already.

Maverick Carter, Ex-Nike Employee and LeBron James Business Manager


“On Winning: It’s better to fail at the right thing than succeed at the wrong. Winning becomes a means; it is not an end. It is a means to improve yourself and your competition. It is a means to improve the world. You have a moral obligation to play to win and therefore force everyone to play at the highest level. Winning is also a means to play again. The rewards of winning – the money the power, the satisfaction and the self-confidence – should never be squired away. The unexamined life may not be worth living, but an unlived life is not worth examining.”

Guy Kawasaki, Apple Evangelist, 1997 Apple Developers Conference Keynote Address


“After all, the best legal marketing is word of mouth. Referrals from colleagues and former clients have always been the most reliable source of new clients, and the internet didn’t change that. After all, as I’ve said many times before, the online is simply an extension of the offline. The medium doesn’t change the message; it simply changes the method of delivery.”

Nicole Black, “The New Word of Mouth: Lawyer Ratings and Reviews”



“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.

Simon Sinek, author


“Personal brand is what people say when you leave the room.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon


“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Boxer Mike Tyson


“My (legal) friends are some of the kindest people I know, but honestly, we are Pitbulls.”

Connie Brenton, Corporate Legal Operations Consortium President & CEO


“Some of (our) focus should be on improving the company’s use of data and consumer insights, and how it interacts with patrons. We’re a company that’s stuck in a transaction mindset, and we need to pivot to a customer lifetime mindset.”

Marianne Radley, US. Chief Brand Officer, Pizza Hut


“Power networkers are go-givers, not go-getters. They aim to give so that they deserve to receive. Conversely, most people become defensive when meeting a go-getter. By offering something before expecting something in return, power networkers are able to build mutually beneficial relationships.”

Lindsay Griffiths, “Two Easy Tips to Power Network Like a Pro,” Zen and the Art of Legal Networking, July 26, 2017


“First, they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemoller (1892-1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor and contemporary of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.


“Your customers are only satisfied because their expectations are so low and because no one else is doing better. Just having satisfied customers isn’t good enough anymore. If you really want a booming business, you have to create Raving Fans.”

Ken Blanchard, Raving Fans


“No matter how immediate the reply, responsiveness per se is not sufficient. In the context of client service, responsiveness extends beyond the act of replying. There is a proactive element that is integral to the working relationship between client and attorney. It is a relationship that results in the attorney’s ability to understand and interpret the client’s needs and allows a response that is commercially valuable to the client. Without value-added responsiveness, client satisfaction will not ensure client retention.”

Robin Rolfe Resources Consulting/2013 (, “Clients complain their lawyers are not responsive, but does that mean?”


“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ”

Mr. Rogers


“Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”

Steve Jobs


“The best way to protect your future is to create it.”

Abraham Lincoln


“The effective leader creates a vision with the help of others, then delegates, communicates, motivates and thanks, frequently, those who also serve.”

Edward Auble


“You are remembered for the rules you break.”

Gen. Douglas MacArthur


“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”

Albert Einstein


“Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Thomas Edison


“Without promotion, something terrible happens…NOTHING!”

P.T. Barnum


“You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”

Zig Ziglar (author, salesman and motivational speaker, 1926-2012)




Quotes during COVID (2020-22)


“You are nothing, nothing, without a good team.”

Anna Wintour


“Today is another day to do better.”

Andrew Cuomo, April 2020


“Perfection is the enemy of good.”

Malcolm Gladwell


“People who consider multiple points of view make better predictions than those who hew to one perspective.”

Phillip Tetlock(?), quoted in Harvard Business Review


“Give yourself permission to imagine a better way.”

Beth Comstock, former General Electric executive, quoted in Harvard Business Review


“Sometimes radical isn’t crazy, it’s smart.”

Ernie the Attorney


“If you are doing something you are afraid of, you’re growing.”

Louisa Waldman, Robert Half, at the 2021 PBJ Women of Influence


“Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it.”

Rene Descartes


“I will let go of . . . I am grateful for . . .  I will focus on…”

Neil Pasricha, Harvard Business Review


“You can’t even lose if you don’t enter”

Nick Zito, horse trainer


“The future is already here, it’s just not evenly divided yet.”

William Gibson, Cyberpunk fiction creator


“Bring a solution.”

Barbara Rogan, Neothonics , quoted in Lawyer Whisperer


“Something comes from nowhere.”

Kim Stafford, poet, on 2020 Oregonian podcast


“If we’re lucky, there’s pain and passion. That means you’re alive and still here. That’s the blessing.”

Steve Perry, musician, on 2019 Dan Rather interview


“So let us not return to what was normal, but reach toward what is next.”

Amanda Gorman, poet, “New Day’s Lyric”


“When it’s grim, be the Grim Reaper.”

Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs Coach, 23-January-2022 playoff game


Life Essay: Sojurn to San Francisco

December 2021

I didn’t see it at the time, but my time in San Francisco came to represent several different tangents in my life in the 1980s.

San Francisco represented escape and adventure.

San Francisco was a way to be serious about graphic design.

San Francisco was about growing up.

San Francisco almost ended my relationship with Concetta.

Of all places, why San Francisco? Because I wasn’t going to Pasadena.

Having graduated Lewis & Clark, my friend and roommate Kevin and I worked for temporary agencies doing odd jobs: He worked in warehouses and I worked on switchboards having spent summers as an operator for Pacific Northwest Bell. I had also worked several months in the L&C Publications department, creating flyers for various on campus events and learning to typeset.

I worked for several newspapers, starting in 1983. Paste-up was a production task – put this type and reproduction art (“PMTs”) here or there. I moved out of pure paste up and into newspaper advertising at This Week Magazine, but there isn’t anything glamorous about designing full page tire or grocery ads — a big feature item with a big price point, several subordinate featured items, then a whole lot of minor items in boxes too small to contain the art or leave room for any description other than “pack,” “each,” etc.

My history degree seemed purely academic; it would be a dozen more years before it would become really useful. But I graduated without an immediate goal or future. By 1984, I was antsy.

I believed I could be a better advertising or graphic designer, but didn’t have the credentials. Doing some research, I discovered the best art schools and set out to get into one. There was CalArts, Pratt, Rhode Island School of Design and Art Center. Art Center had a reputation for creating magnificent portfolios of student work that would allow a graduate to call an ad agency art director to say you were an Art Center alum and get an immediate interview. That was where I set my sights.

Unfortunately, the portfolio I sent along with my application was indicative of my lack of classical training: it wasn’t enough for admission. I needed more work in figure drawing. I regrouped, enrolled in a figure drawing class at the Portland Art Museum Art School. Ironically, the school would be separated from the museum and resurrect itself as Pacific Northwest College of Art, where my daughter attended about 35 years later. But my resubmitted portfolio didn’t pass muster either.

The Academy of Art was a private school in downtown San Francisco. The school had strong credentials in advertising and graphic design, leveraging local professionals as instructors. San Francisco was chockfull of ad agencies and design houses. San Francisco had far more culture going on compared to Portland. And there was family history in Bagdad-By-Bay. The Academy seemed the place to go.

I had never applied for a student loan before, but was able to get that arranged through my local bank.

I had never moved out of state before (on my own), although I spent a summer in Palo Alto: when I was about 3, dad did summer school at Stanford to see if that was the right school for his doctorate, he thought not. Not too much later we were living in Eugene where I attended kindergarten.

I also lived in Eugene my sophomore year at the University of Oregon, which was in line with dad’s own history, but it was a 100 miles away, not 650. Moving away from the family, including my aging grandparents, was uncomfortable, made more so by the pressure to visit often when I returned. Many visits north never went further than Salem.

I consciously planned my packing: clothes in a trunk, a rolled-up futon, a disassembled oak desk as well as my drafting table. I think I also packed some basic pans and dishes just in case.

How I would move became a family discussion. I was able to borrow, though Chris, an El Camino with a trailer hitch. We loaded the bed of the El Camino and hooked on a U-Haul trailer. Dad agreed to help get me there and drive the car back.

This dream and these plans unfolded in many discussions with my chief confidant and girlfriend Concetta. We had begun dating in the fall of 1983 during her senior year at Lewis & Clark. She visited me at midnight during my graveyard paste-up shifts at This Week; after she began graduate school at Willamette in Salem, I would often leave after my advertising work at This Week to drive to Salem for the evening.

Graduate school is tough. The next four years for Concetta would be an exclusive first year of business, an exclusive second year of law and then the third and four years a mix. With her economics undergraduate degree, the business school seemed more natural, but accounting would be tough sledding. She got through it with coaching from a woman she befriended.

How serious was the relationship? By no means causal, I was in love with her! She was in love with me! So why would I want to be 650 miles away? In my mind, I was thinking that the Academy would (finally) propel me into a serious art career at about the same time she finished graduate school and we could ride together into the sunset.

But I failed to consider how my presence grounded her and made it possible for her to get through. We hadn’t fully discussed what the distance would mean for our relationship and how we would maintain it.

But in August 1985, she and dad and I drove in that El Camino 10 hours to San Francisco.

When we arrived, it became clear that I needed to stay in the city; commuting without a car was near impossible without knowing anything about the transit system. We spent the first couple of days looking up various services, but these were not fruitful. I switched to roommate ads in the local paper; dad had decided he was only spending a few days on this adventure. I think we interviewed at one opening before we drove to the Inner Richman neighborhood to meet Bill and Dan Cooley.

The brothers Cooley were from the Wilmette, north of Chicago. It just so happened that their parents were in town when we met. Fortunately, my dad and their dad traded stories about their times in the Army, which helped them decide I was their roommate.

Dan was the older of two. Blind since an infant, Dan had adapted very well: he graduated from Harvard Law and was able to leverage the Harvard network to land a torts attorney gig with the local utility company. Bill was his doting brother who looked after the details, such as braille labels in Dan’s shirts, suits and ties so Dan could figure out what to wear each day. Bill managed a sheep skin seat cover operation in Walnut Creek on the far side of East Bay.

We shared a flat in the Inner Richmond neighborhood on Fifth Ave near Clement Street. It was called “Little Chinatown” due to its Asian markets and restaurants. I walked most Saturdays around the neighborhood and throughout the city. I can honestly say there was produce on the sidewalk stands I had never seen before. Many of these markets also had fish tanks for the very freshest seafood.

The neighborhood was really multi-ethnic. An Irish bar boasted a white line painted on the floor dividing between Protestants and Catholics. The best Vietnamese restaurant was a block away. Japanese, Indian and Javanese were other tastes one could try. An Indonesia-Chinese restaurant run by a family was a find one night – and very cheap.

After moving in, Concetta and I discovered early the need to see one another; we were on the phone figuring out best airline prices for the next Salem or San Francisco rendezvous, usually about every six to eight weeks. During her visits, we explored Toy Boat, a popular ice cream and dessert shop on the corner of 5th and Clement. We tried Mexican in the Mission, Cafe Riggio — a wonderful Italian restaurant on Geary, Scott’s Seafood Grill in the Embarcadero buildings, and a lovely family owned pizzeria on Geary next to the Italian restaurant.

Being poor students, travel varied greatly. Coming and going to San Francisco, there are three airports in the Bay Area, all of which required secondary transit to get to and from the airports. Concetta discovered one of her law school friends was engaged to Margaret who was living in the Height neighborhood; Concetta and Russ drove down a few times listening to law tapes in Russ’s Rabbit. I discovered I could drive rental cars between Portland and SFO, although one trip north was a “white knuckle” drive over the Siskiyou range at the Oregon/Californian boarder between winter storms. Salem was between Eugene and Portland for flights.

The reunions were always exciting and we managed to stay together.

But I wasn’t there just for the fun parts; I was there for school, which isn’t to say it was drudgery. Art school classes were exciting. Some theoretical, focusing on shapes and color. Others were pretty straight forward such as figure drawing (again!) or advertising. Instructors were every bit as engaging and experienced as I had been led to believe.

The classrooms were sprinkled across several buildings in the core of downtown San Francisco. The main building was on Powell Street, literally up the hill from the Sir Frances Drake Hotel on Powell and Sutter. Sitting in class, one always heard the cable cars grinding up the hill attached to the cable, while the downhill cars rumbled to a stop. In both directions, the tourists were charmed by the ringing of the overhead bells, which signaled various steps to the conductor or brakeman. Locals disdained riding the cable cars, but was I resident or a visitor? Didn’t care – they were (and still are) fun to ride – about as fast as a quick walk and “free” with my Muni pass.

I think I was definitely in the older student category. While the vast majority were getting their college degrees (the first time!), I did manage to find some friends who were older due to having worked outside of design, but found the calling and the school.

Thirty-five-plus years later, I don’t remember how much money I had saved to get me started, but I knew it was not going to last me a year or three. So I had to find work. I was depressed – it wasn’t an easy time to be looking for work. The two years were always feast-to-famine, living off meager and sometime irregular earnings

My first work gig was with Lowell Moss Publishing. Moss was a self-publishing coordinator. He has a PC, when PCs were somewhat rare and had software that set up a manuscript to be printed at one or another printers with which he worked. (These days, self-publishing is very easy when using the standard EPUB format.) He leveraged typists to keyboard the manuscript, and designers like me to create camera ready cover art. It was kind of an ego rush; the books clearly satisfied the writer’s ego when a conventional publisher rejected the book. Only one author really utilized the self-published book: Kandy Kidd was a business trainer; she sold her books during her lectures as gravy profit to the gig.

I learned that Moss was a bit oily; he was always tardy with payments, especially when rent was due or I needed to buy groceries. Over time I weaned myself off Moss jobs.

My first job was doing paste-up for a tech magazine Computer Currents in Berkley. While I loved the gig and drank a lot of Peet’s Coffee, getting to the magazine office was a long BART ride and long walk from the station. I didn’t stay very long. I also tried a design job with the SF Ballet, designing mailers. I didn’t stay long either, but got to see one of my efforts in print.

I met Ken at CC. He was a salesperson who actually lived a few blocks from my first flat. He introduced me to Castro Street on Halloween, where you watched or were watched: we watched the crowd part to let through a sauntering woman wearing nothing but a fishnet body suit.

I discovered a newspaper production gig in Oakland. The Oakland/Berkley/San Francisco Posts and Noticious del Mundo were owned by a prominent black Oakland attorney, Tom Berkley. He owned the building at 19th and San Leandro; we watched drug deals go down “kitty korner” in front of a low income apartment building. The publications were all for minority audiences; ironically I was a minority staff member.

The production crew was led by Jack, a lively man from Fiji. Unfortunately, many of the press crew were illegal aliens who fled if INS agents were sniffing around the neighborhood, making printing deadlines impossible. Not only could I do paste-up, but when necessary could typeset when our El Salvadorian women typesetters were finished for the day.

Production was in the afternoon, which I could manage with school. Commuting to Oakland required travel on BART; fortunately there was a 19th Street station only 3 blocks from the Post, passing a seedy Greyhound bus terminal along the way. I discovered I could get to Oakland with a low fare and then exit the station on the SF side using my Muni pass; I don’t think that was legal, but I justified it as the poor student. I always found a daily Chronicle or Wall Street Journal to read on the trip and was amused as the trains slowed in the tube beneath the San Francisco Bay to see water trickling down the side of the tube, probably just condensation (I hope). Getting off at the Powell Street BART station, the best big slice of pizza was a block away at Blonde’s.

The brothers Cooley were actually very entertaining. We hosted a party for Cooley friends, serving cheese and Ragu sauce broiled on Triscuit crackers. Later, they bought a floor model hot tub that was octagonally shaped, which fit perfectly in the back of the flat between the bay windows. We could climb out of the back windows in either my bedroom or Dan’s directly into the tub, sit back with a beer (Miller Lite) and listen to the fog horn on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Just before I moved in, the brothers had decided they wanted a pet, but the always resourceful, Dan realized they could get one from the guide dog school in San Rafael. They brought home Nemoy, a golden lab who was not very smart: either he or Dan flunked guide dog school at least twice and Nemoy never understood what he was supposed to do at a curb. Bill and Dan discovered the dog shed, so they hired an illegal alien woman as a housekeeper, who would wash the dog to reduce the amount of fur. Bill would harness the dog and together they would ride the bus on frequent Saturdays to the beach. Bill got away with Nemoy on the bus when the dog was in his guide dog harness. The brothers would take the dog with them to bars, realizing the dog was a “chick magnet.”

On one of Concetta’s visits, Bill, Concetta and I left the flat late one night, headed out to Easy Bay and out of the glare of the city lights to try to see Haley’s Comet. We came across some astronomers who had seen it before the cloud cover blocked our view.

That spring, Sako, a women who had been in my grade and high schools, was getting married. I had bumped into her near school one afternoon. She was living with Bill in his apartment near North Beach. She had met Bill when she was an undergrad at Stanford, he an MBA student. The wedding would be held at Bill’s parents’ “summer house” in Atherton, near Palo Alto.

Sako had invited our mutual friend Jean and asked if she could stay at my flat in SF, which was perfectly OK; I asked if Concetta could come to the wedding, which was also perfectly OK. Driving to the wedding, we got lost, until Concetta wisely said, “just follow that Bentley.” Took us right to the house, a sprawling one-level, full of art, and a huge backyard for a wedding. Beyond the pool was a circus tent for the sit-down dinner. I shook Bill’s billionaire father’s hand, the founder of the Gap stores.

When the school year was close to wrapping up, I decided not to stay the summer; Bill and Dan would look for another roommate and I stored my stuff in a storage unit. Before leaving, I had managed to ingratiate myself with the house that Margret was living in – she was Russ’s fiancé, but would be moving out in the summer after the wedding. I managed to slip into her space that coming fall, sharing space with David and Lisa AKA “The Brau.”

Having worked at This Week, I was able to score an interview the summer of 1986 with the ad department at Fred Meyer; I had done paste-up on many pages of Freddy’s ads. I also found an apartment sharing arrangement in Milwaukie with Noel, a former Army Ranger studying at Portland State. The Freddy’s gig solidified and I was set for a few months.

Before leaving SF, I made a late afternoon stop at Merrill Lynch to sell Tektronix stock my grandmother bought me in grade school. It had grown nicely to an amount that would allow me to buy the ring Concetta had seen that spring at Cal Brockman’s Goldmark jewelry store. It would be the early evening of July 3, kneeling on the beach at Roads End north of Lincoln City, that I presented the ring and said the four most important words of my life. Turned out to be a better investment.

Living with David and Lisa was certainly an upgrade: three bedrooms, two baths, huge kitchen, living room and fireplace. Located on Page Street, we were between Haight Street and the Golden Gate Park Panhandle, putting us about 5-6 blocks from the famous Height Ashbury intersection. Allegedly, the Grateful Dead had lived in a house around the corner on Lyon Street in their early days – it was actually Janis Joplin.

Living with these two was also entertaining. When Concetta visited, she and David would dance and sing around the kitchen. Spring in SF gets warm, so sitting on the front stoop reading the Sunday paper was a slice of heaven. David and his boys often went “tramping” on Saturday nights, despite the rising AIDS cases. Sometimes there was a Sunday surprise in the form of whoever David brought home.

One Sunday morning in late winter/early spring, we sat on the stoop reading the paper when I spied the neighborhood cat. We didn’t know his/her/their name, but the cat was very friendly. We often had the visitor walk in through the front door and back to the kitchen as if that was home. We named the cat “Butch.” Sitting on the stoop, I mistakenly yelled out to Butch, who was across the street. “Hey Butch!” I yelled, not seeing two women walking into view on the sidewalk. I got the nastiest look and tried to make amends. “Not you, the cat!” I don’t think the women believed me – would you?

Living in SF was entertaining in and of itself. Working at the Post meant certain journalist tickets were available gratis, even if there might not be space for the review. I was able to see rising star Anita Baker in the Oakland Paramount Theatre—a treat by itself, as well as Violinist Isaac Stern at the Davies Opera House in SF. Concetta and I went to a comedy club one night; there was a rumor that Comedian Robin Williams showed up after the last comedy performance at the Other Cafe to do a wild improv. I took Concetta one January to see Windom Hill pianist George Winston also at the Davies. My boyhood friend Kelly sang in the Seattle Gay Men’s Choir, which came to hold a joint concert with its SF counterpart, also in the Davies.

There were many other visual sites as well. We saw a Gary Larson show at the de Young Museum; I saw a touring Impressionists collection there as well. One of our all-time favorite freebies was spending a lazy time at the Green Apple Bookstore. Everyone thinks City Lights books is a great bookstore, but having grown up with Powell’s in Portland, City Lights is not so stunning. Green Apple is a narrow, but jammed bookstore with nooks and crannies on two floors; best of all it smells like a bookstore. I walked around many afternoons looking for design inspirations from the covers. Concetta and I always make a pilgrimage to Green Apple Books when in town.

I spent many Saturday afternoons walking from my flat, or riding a bus to a neighborhood to walk around. Height Street still had a lot of character: it was the sight of the “summer of love,” which for anyone from SF would know would be the worst time to be camping in the city. Summers on the peninsula are cool due to the 3 o’clock fog. It should have been “the fall from love” in September-October when the early fall was the absolute best weather. One remnant was a witchcraft shop with a shrunken head hanging in the window. One afternoon I walked from The Height all the way to Coit Tower and rode the bus back in the later afternoon.

One afternoon I bused out to the end of the Geary bus line near the Clift House, which sits on an outcropping right along the ocean; south of there is a long beach. I was there one night with Bill and Dan when the city was under a tsunami alert due to an Alaskan earthquake. The SFPD patrolled the beach to keep people safe while we waited. If the wave came ashore, it was disguised as the usual and underwhelming rip.

SF Muni pretty much blanketed the city; it’s been said there was a bus stop within two blocks of 80 percent of the population. All the years spent commuting, I never glanced at a schedule; buses just came.

During my first year, I rode the Geary bus, which was usually a wide articulated monster, built with wide aisles to accommodate three people standing across the aisle. It was riding the Geary bus that I developed my SF manta, “he who hesitates, waits.” Buses would roll up to the stop on 6th Street and the throng of people standing would be paralyzed! I always pushed forward and onto the bus first. In the evening, there were never seats until mid-way home. I found pushing into the trailer portion of the bus provided more breathing room — and more crazy people. It was in the back of a bus that I watched a skilled con artist liberate $80 from a rider playing a shell game—letting the stooge win the first game, then cleaning him out.

The Geary bus drivers were very aggressive. Concetta and I rode home one night as the driver yelled out, “hold on, good people!” It was during a morning commute that a Geary bus I was riding started speeding up to the next stop, but before getting there, clipped the driver’s door as a man was getting out; he saw the mass speeding towards him and managed to dive back into the front seat, avoiding impact. It took the bus almost a block to slow and stop; the driver jumped out, spoke to the driver and jumped back in and got back underway in two minutes or less.

Yes, I rode the cable cars, sometimes in the morning from the bus stop to the school. It wasn’t more than four or five blocks, but it was just as fast a walking, so why not. I rode the Hyde Street car back from the waterfront one evening in December. Someone started singing Christmas carols and soon we all were, the voices ringing off the sides of the building on the narrow streets near the cable building.

Sometime during the second school year I began to realize that maybe school, in whatever form that might be, wasn’t going to give me the experience I needed to propel my career forward — somewhat counter to my original thinking. I didn’t want to be away from Concetta, I didn’t want more school debt, didn’t think I needed another undergraduate degree. Still, living in SF was exciting and I thought about all my options, including quitting school to work full-time. Concetta jumped on that, saying why work there when you could work here. She was right, although that realization didn’t come until after I applied for a camera operator job at the design house of Primo Angeli. Pre-interview, they sounded very interested in me and I think I could have moved up into a design-related position at a very preeminent design firn, but I turned down the interview. Sigh.

I flew up to Portland to borrow my brother’s pickup, drove back down to load it up and drive back, this time with David as co-pilot – he was going to stay with Russ and Margaret who had moved into the apartment complex Concetta and I were moving into for her last year of graduate school. Small town Salem, or “Sl(u)m” or “So-Laim” was quite a change from the big city for me!

This seems the time to invoke a Zen-like quote from Ram Das: “…who you are is everything you’ve ever done.” I wouldn’t be the person I am without my time “growing-up” in San Francisco. It seemed risky to go, and perhaps it was, but looking back almost 40 years, not very risky at all.

I consider San Francisco my second home; I look for ways to get back. I can’t say for certain whether I would have felt the same about Pasadena. Whenever possible, Concetta comes along and we try to go to our old haunts in the neighborhoods or fudge sundaes at Ghirardelli Square. Much has changed, as with Portland or any place really, as well as with me.

Life Essay: Words, words, words!

January 2022

“To be a writer, you have to write.” It’s something I’ve done all my life, both professionally and personally.

One of my earliest memories of my creative writing was sitting in front of my dad’s portable typewriter, hunting and pecking away at age eight.

The idea of writing as a vocation wasn’t until much later, but not the same as a novelist, reporter or columnist. I was in a journalism class in high school, which was somewhat inspirational. I thought I was a pretty good writer. Then I arrived in college.

It was in my first term freshman-required writing course that my positive self-evaluation collided with the reality of many corrections in writing assignments. I realized how little I knew about the style and mechanics of writing.

But it was the time on the college newspaper the Pioneer Log that first year that truly inspired me to go on to bigger things, just not at Lewis & Clark. I applied to Boston University, was accepted, but couldn’t get past the University’s required freshman courses, which would have taken up the entire year I was planning to be away from Lewis & Clark.

Later, during the summer of 1979, I turned my sights to the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism, a top ranked J-School (the University of Missouri was always the top school, but is isolated in the farmlands.) A provision of dad’s employment with Lewis & Clark was not only free tuition for dependents, but also tuition coverage for any other school, not to exceed the current L&C tuition. Tuition in Eugene would be free.

According to my transcripts, I was enrolled in Journalistic Writing (the infamous “J-250”), Production for Publication, Print Advertising, Magazine Editing, Magazine Design and Production. The University also offered courses I could not get at L&C, including “Rhetoric”; “Sun as Future Emerge,” a solar energy class; “History of Western Civilization” taught by a sharp former Stanford professor; “Violent Public Policy”; and, “Mock Convention” where I was a delegate on the floor of MacCourt.

J-250 would be the much needed boost in my understanding of grammar, journalistic style – mainly the Associated Press style, and provide me lots of practice in the writing labs with graduate students. One assignment was writing a feature article: I sold plasma and wrote about that. Spelling tests were my not my fave – spelling has never stuck with me to this day. Looking back, I can’t remember ever been taught grammar in elementary or high school.

Back at Lewis & Clark, I was working on the newspaper in the fall, but was being pressured to be co-editor with Jonathan, who I thought would take the glory and leave me doing the heavy lifting. I bailed on the paper winter term, but set my sites on becoming editor the next year and rejoined in the spring. Senior year as editor in chief, my responsibilities were mainly administrative, although I was there for Tuesday night production and to lead a Thursday afternoon staff meeting and critique, along with our advisor Dick Hoyt. I also contributed a Pioneer Log style guide.

I was inspired my freshman year on the Log by the former editor Jeff “Kingston” Pierce who as a senior was the paper’s op-ed editor, but was beginning to write for external publications. Late in my senior year, during another writing class taught by Dick Hoyt, I yearned to also ply my skills writing externally.

Writing topics sometimes wane or flood. Fortunately I had two ready subjects. During that senior year I had a practicum working with two fellows trying to make a-go of a neighborhood paper: Southeast Times. It was a bust. But I had been there enough that I could write about its demise, so I pitched the article to the Willamette Week, was accepted and had about 10-12 column inches published. The other article was based on my primary research into the history of the Wolff family house at 3116 SE 18th. The article was a tutorial for researching a reader’s own house history. I pitched and was published as Sunday section cover story by the Tacoma News-Tribune. But, each of these sales only netted $50: I could easily starve as a writer.

So I didn’t pursue it.

Instead, I leveraged my college design and paste-up experience into newspaper jobs, then traveling to San Francisco to learn more formal design at the Academy of Art, then returning to design ads at Fred Meyer.

Even the diversion into corporate marketing was mostly visual. Occasionally, I not only designed flyer, but I was also writing brief, salesy content, a few paragraphs at a time.

It really wasn’t until I was established at Grant Thornton that writing would be fun and successful. During a West Region marketing meeting or phone call, on which fellow marketing leads and associates from 10 offices, someone shared the benefits they had had engaged an outside PR firm to increase that office’s visibility with articles in the local media. The other offices were challenged to do the same.

I interviewed several PR firms, mostly smaller ones, selecting Frause, a firm with headquarters in Seattle and a satellite office in Portland; my Seattle counterpart would also hire Frause and we would work together. We would talk about the direction the offices want to pursue and into which publications we might be able to place articles if the accountants were willing to write; many did.

Occasionally, there were opportunities, but no accountant to write. I began piecing together articles with a local twist using firm articles and collateral, then having a subject matter expert as well as Frause review and edit the content. I am forever thankful to Krista Hildebrand at Frause for her support, inspiration, oversight and friendship.

Every spring, the Portland Business Journal published its special section on top CFOs, who were our direct target audience. Just after the beginning of the year the firm launched a survey of CFO; I was able to get a subset of the results from the West Coast survey participants by late March and compare and contrast “local” opinions to those of the national audience. Our article was always published in the special section.

This annual article and others were ghost written, assigning a practice leader as the “author.” After a while, these accountants hardly read my content, fully trusting my content and a national office vetting. I didn’t mind that my name wasn’t on it. I knew I had written the piece and we were getting the attention. I was placing several dozen articles a year, a handful of which were written by me.

The time at GT also stirred within me the desire to write personally. One of the internal audit professionals was ISACA and FBI security trained and told me stories, which inspired me to dream up a mystery outline for a book. Over 10 years have gone by and the book outline remains largely just that, although from time to time I revisit it and have written several 1000 word sections.

Outside of work, I turned my volunteer time to Resurrection Catholic Parish, serving on the Parish Council, but also serving on Capital Campaign for the Formation Center and since 2010 producing an annual report about the parish and its ministry committee activities. The reports are largely a layout exercise, but I throw in relevant historical snippets to make the report relevant in the future, should someone want to know when an icon was installed or a building completed.

While at Reinisch Wilson Weier, I’ve largely been a blog editor, but also write the occasional news item for the website. But I’ve used me proposal writing background to craft compelling descriptions about the firm’s differentiation and expertise for a largely non-legal audience. On top of that, my PR placement experience has served with several very good opportunities for the attorneys to contribute and increase the firm’s awareness outside our workers’ comp industry. Those are wins that are as satisfying as seeing my own byline.

Others “book” ideas have floated up and I have outlined these. Or, I’ve studied writing “systems” such as Jessica Brody’s “Save the Cat.” Inspiring, yes, but nothing further has come about.

So I’ve come to realize that no writing gets me no closer, so at least these life essays are about crafting stories, except they really happened.

Life Essay: A summer Fishing

December 2021

For as long as I could remember, my dad always served on a professional or service committee, board or as an advisor. I admired his devotion to giving back.

We would have dinner early some nights so he could make a meeting. I was not privy to post-meeting downloads, which were surely after my bedtime.

I don’t recall exactly when he joined the board of “Fish.” Fish Emergency Services in the 1970s provided emergency food to last three days. I’m not entirely sure when it was begun or by whom. When dad served, the director was a strong willed, chain smoking woman name Jean Higginbotham.

One of the Fish board member duties was to open the office on Saturday afternoon for an hour or two to meet the needs of anyone needing weekend assistance. He would ask me to accompany him, to help put food bags together.

We would head to Centenary Wilbur United Methodist Church in inner SE Portland, located at SE 9th and Pine. This had been a thriving community of faithful, but like its deteriorating structure, the congregation fell away. The sanctuary had suffered a fatal blow during the 1962 Columbus Day Storm; the congregation adjusted and so did the uses for the building.

When we walked up the stairs in the main entrance, many of the church offices, Sunday School and other meeting rooms were rented by community service groups like Fish, as well as other liberally fringe organizations. The Portland Scribe newspaper offices were there as well.

Fish was on the second floor. The door opened into a great room with three mismatched desks for interviewing the needy. An adjacent waiting room was filled with typical non-profit (read mismatch) donated chairs and coffee tables, not to mention magazines that must have been hand-me-downs from doctors’ office. A huge, industrial coffee pot that made dozen of cups of coffee perked in the morning and stewed all afternoon. I learned to drink battery acid at Fish.

A storeroom in back was organized by food types. Instructions for the numbers of cans or bags per order were posted on the wall. Day old bread was shelved. Fresh fruit or vegetables in season and donated in large quantities were also doled out.

The main room was divided by old cubicle partition walls; the other side had racks of clothes that patrons could choose from in case the reason for emergency food also included emergency clothing. In back was Jean’s office.

The patrons who found Fish were sometimes travelers migrating from hardship to hope, but who ran out of money or sometimes got ripped off. Others were locals who may have escaped a fire and needed the resources. Many street people stopped in from time to time, but were turned away if recognized. Intake cards were kept to track times people had received food.

My mother must have put the bug in my ear the spring I turned 16. She served on a committee at First Methodist Church that, among other things, was charged with dolling out funds to students and others as summer interns. The church didn’t have a list to choose; instead the committee reviewed applications by the potential intern describing an organization, why it would benefit from extra help and why this applicant was a good fit. Those applicants deemed worthy then had a panel interview.

Once selected, interns would work eight to ten weeks during the summer, be paid $1,000, and be required to make a brief presentation to the church, usually on a Wednesday night supper service.

I proposed a summer working at Fish: extra hands to sort, shelve and distribute food. My application was accepted, leveraging what I already knew about the organization and the kinds of work needed. I passed the interview; it didn’t hurt that I was interviewed in part by my mother, though I’m sure she did not try to influence the rest of the committee members. Fish was on board and I started in June 1976.

Every day was a new task and usually not very glamorous. It didn’t hurt that a family of three kids, including a girl about my age for whom I would develop a crush, were dropped off to also fill their summer time volunteering at Fish. Various adults also dropped in to do various tasks; several retirees typed thank you letters to those who donated.

One lazy afternoon, one volunteer and I were talking; somehow the conversation got onto my wanting a car blanket for my car. She returned several days later with a used but clean orange wool fire blanket, which has ridden in every one of my cars since.

I accompanied one of the staff people once or twice a week to Franz Bakery to collect loaves of bread. Franz pulled past dated bread from store shelves every day; some of these “day old” loaves went to their outlet store, while the rest sat on racks in the back for agencies such as ours to collect “two-day old” bread for our clients. I learned to read the labels and tried to get the freshest bread.

Many bulk items were donated, which were broken down into family servings. Bulk grains, flour, sugar and powdered milk were measured out, bagged and sealed with bread ties. Instructions for reconstituting the milk were added to the food bags. Large tubs of peanut butter were divided into plastic pint containers. We sorted bags of potatoes on the back concrete stairs, primarily separating the rotten from the edible.

Just before the summer, the FTC or FDA banned Captain Crunch cereal with crunch berries; the berries were colored with red dye number 2, which was deemed a carcinogen — unless it was donated to an emergency food service. We had dozens of cases of cereal boxes and never hesitated to give away boxes in each order.

I learned to appreciate the value of certain food stuffs for food bags, especially high protein foods like peanut butter and tuna. We were often left with odd ball canned goods such as yams or canned chicken.

From time to time, Fish received an invitation from a farm to “glean” unpicked produce. Cucumbers and zucchinis grown for markets were picked when the produce was a certain size, but sometimes couldn’t be picked in time; these became large and sometimes misshaped, but still quite edible. At one farm we climbed ladders to pick plums.

The summer passed quickly; I prepared for my presentation, including slides. I was nervous; it was one of my first public presentations in front of -gasp! – adults, principally families I knew! I hardly remember anything about the presentation, what I said or what pictures I showed. People came up to me later and said kind things, I’m sure.

That time at Fish has stayed with me all these years: the hands-on effort necessary at non-profits; the amount of food needed to meet the daily needs of just emergency resources; the humility of having to ask for a basic need; the satisfaction on people — and these were all people — as they were handed a future meal.

Life Essay: Active Shooter

Updated June 2022

No one goes to work or to school expecting to face a gunman and be shot. Not in Portland. And not in offices, theatres, shopping centers or schools.

As we rack up the tragedies caused by gunfire, I am thankful that my own brush with workplace violence ended without fatalities.

I have held a number of jobs in downtown offices, starting with Onsite Energy (PacifiCorp) in the Lawrence Building, AT&T Capital in the US Bank Tower AKA “Big Pink” and in KOIN Center, and then Grant Thornton adjacent to KOIN Center in Columbia Square.

I was with AT&T Capital when the office moved from Big Pink to KOIN Center in 1991. I was laid off in 1992, but made my way back in 1993, first as a consultant, then hired full time in the spring of 1994. Concetta and I were finally able to buy our first house in Tigard where we could finally be more serious about a family; Allegra was brought home in August 1996.

I was rehired in a marketing role in 1994, which morphed into pricing for our sales materials, then a sales territory about the time we took on a new client, JCB, a construction equipment manufacturer from England. As a territory manager, I called on dealers, which was a whole new toolbox of skills for me to learn.

The KOIN building was really two properties: the business side occupied the lower half of the building, including a television station in the basement. In my first two years at AT&T, my boss Glen dreamed up a video that we would eventually play for our client Hyster in a pitch to provide formal finance training to dealers. We filmed a sleezy piano bar player playing custom jingles about training in between not-so subtle messages. We had hired a production company whose salesperson Glen knew; the company was a subsidiary of KOIN, so we filmed one Sunday afternoon in the basement studios.

The upper floors, the so-called Fountain Plaza Condominiums, are 44 expensive condos whose entrance is around the corner from the business entrance. While both the business side and the condo side parked in the building’s basement, the condo owners had a separte area blocked by a roll-up door. The main entrance and exit went past an area devoted to building services; I had been down to the business services level once or twice to recycle some computer equipment, but with the sales territory came a company car that I parked in the KOIN garage.

In the middle of the afternoon of January 4, 1996, my colleague Nick left to go downstairs to the building sundry shop for a snack. He had been gone a few minutes when I too had an urge for a munchy. I left the office double doors walking toward the elevator when the fire alarms rang. When I hit the elevator call buttons, nothing happened; the elevators had returned to the first floor.

We were all unsure what was happening until Nick called the office. He was at his car parked in the parking garage across the street where he called the office to alert us that there was an armed man with an assault-style rifle in the lobby and everyone should stay put and away from the office glass doors, which were immediately locked.

Nick later filled me in: when he came out of the snack shop on the first floor, he turned left to head toward the elevators There are a couple of steps down and then glass doors. When he had taken a few steps, he looked up to see a man holding a woman hostage and holding a serious looking rifle, waving at Nick to come his way. Nick said in his mind he said, “toy gun . . . toy gun . . . REAL GUN!” He turned 180 degrees and fled to the exit at the SW corner of the building and across the street to the parking garage.

What we didn’t know then was that the gunman had entered through the parking garage and fired shots there wounding a delivery driver. The gunman grabbed a woman hostage, went to the elevator, intending to go up. His mistake was firing shots after stepping into the elevator: the smoke from the rifle barrel set off the smoke alarm. His elevator went to the lobby level and all the building elevators came down to the lobby level. That’s the moment I was heading for the elevator.

Now in the lobby, the gunman would fire several stray “warning” shots, leaving holes in the marble we could see for several weeks afterward. He then dragged his hostage into the Charles Schwab office, located on the northeast corner of lobby, taking hostage the staff there; a number hid under desks and were not discovered by the gunman. The building was remodeled a few years ago; the Charles Schwab office space was eliminated.

There was no access to stairs to the upper floors. While the gunman could not go to upper floors to hassle, injure or kill lawyers with whom he had a grudge (as we learned later), we were also stuck upstairs for whatever the duration might be. We evaluated if there were enough “Lean Cuisine” meals in the freezer to go around.

By now I had alerted Concetta, who was pregnant. What I didn’t know was how this event was playing out on the news, especially KOIN TV Channel 6, whose studio entrance was across the lobby from the ensconced shooter. What I could see was troubling: my west facing office overlooking 3rd Avenue allowed me to see the slow approach of an armored vehicle from the north. At south corner of the building from which Nick had fled, the police were racing an escort of fleeing office workers across the street to the front of the Keller Auditorium and out of harms way.

I can’t really say I was nervous, but I was certainly very “present,” watching for any change going on outside. Our office spanned the whole floor; I don’t remember walking to the northeast corner, in part because we really didn’t know what was going on or where; there was no public internet as there is today that tells us what video stars ate for breakfast; we could have watched in real time and probably would have opted to escape down the stairs, which exited on the second floor near the theatre entrance, letting us flee as Nick had out of view of the shooter.

Concetta called me later, saying she had spoken to my grandmother, who had seen the news and was pretty shaken up. Concetta suggested I call her. When my grandmother answered, first there was silence, then a sniffle. She had been crying and couldn’t speak. I assured her that we were very safe and that the police were present and all would be well. I promised to call when I got home.

The event dragged on through the afternoon and past the normal evening rush hour, but the sky and our knowledge of the events downstairs were in the dark.

What we discovered later was that the police had been in contact with the shooter from just after his takeover of the Charles Schwab office. To the east, SWAT sharpshooters had taken up positions in the Marriott Hotel and allegedly had held the shooter in their sights all afternoon. The negotiations played out and the shooter surrendered by early evening. He was later sentenced to 330 years.

Our VP walked around the office, announcing the end of the standoff and that we could get home. Those of us on the upper floors who had remained in the building created a traffic jam getting out of the building.

The events that day were surreal; many details came out later, which gave us perspective as well anxiety, knowing what could have happened to us, to Nick, to the Charles Schwab hostages, even to the shooter had the police shot him. While those of us in the AT&T office were unscathed, perhaps only inconvenienced, I think that my grandmother was also a victim of terror, as were others’ loved ones. I did call her when I got home.

This fellow was clearly mentally deranged. How he came to possess the assault rifle is unknown. Would he have been kept from buying it legally? Depends. From a gun store yes, but not likely at a flea market or gun show. And perhaps he stole or “borrowed” it from someone he knew. Where do the second amendment “rights” start and stop? Hand guns, legal to own and, five years earlier, to conceal. Hunting rifles, shotguns, legal. These all clearly fit the historical definition of self defense, especially at home. But where does the thrill of taking a high powered, semi or fully automatic gun to a shooting range become too risky for the possession by a few who will abuse this right? Why stop at just owning rifles? How about shoulder launched surface-to-air missiles, just in case our foes invade us with air power? Or silent-but-lethal hand-held lasers that instantly cut through flesh?

This was certainly not the first incident of gun violence in a work setting, but it was rare at the time. A shooting at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon, would happen three years later. It seems that there have been so many since, including schools and places of worship, that we have become almost numb to these violent acts, without a clear solution except to pray for the victims and families.


You can watch a special news segment regarding the incident on KOIN here


Life Essay: Growing up in Westmoreland

Last update: May 2022

As a dad, I’ve had the honor to raise two wonderful daughters while living in the same house, the same neighborhood, in a town that dates back to the early 20th century. As a parent, I have watched my kids heading off to school, riding buses here and there, walking down the main shopping thoroughfare: were their experiences any different than mine growing up?

Westmoreland, where I rew up, was once part of the suburban growth happening in Portland at the beginning of the 20th century, following the Eastside Railway’s streetcar tracks that were laid to the intersection of Bybee and Milwaukie. Whatever Westmoreland once was, it had become an established white collar and working-class neighborhood, full of families and older residents who had once raised their families here, when my parents and older brother moved in in 1959.

I’ll leave it for the anthropologists to fill in the whys and whens. Or read the book by Gail and Michael Evans-Hatch, The Development of Sellwood-Moreland (2015).

But it wasn’t just a place, it was also a time. The 1960s and 1970s: riots downtown, long-haired bands playing music in the park, the Vietnam War, JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Watergate. These were the backdrop to a young life.

My memories of Westmoreland start with grand maple trees that stretched down both sides of 19th street where 7524 was situated. We had a pair of hawthorne trees out front; the house next door had mountain ash trees. These trees saw everything: people moving in and out, new cars in the driveway, new family members being pushed in strollers, as well as the deceased rolled out on stretchers.

Our house was tiny then and it seems even smaller now: Zillow lists the house with just over 1,000 square feet, built in 1921. We used to say that the square footage did not include the basement. Now that’s something you don’t see in new houses! When we were first married, Concetta and I moved into a 1200 square foot apartment in Lake Oswego. I can’t image raising a family in that space, but I think the house on 19th was sufficiently broken up to provide personal spaces, albeit tiny.

That basement could be creepy, but it served many purposes: laundry room, storage cabinets under the stairs stocked with raspberry, strawberry jams and jellies, plus the family favorite “prune butter.” There were storage shelves tucked behind an oil furnace, storing my parents’ college papers as well as the Halloween and Christmas decorations.

One third of the basement had been once dedicated as a playroom where my brother Chris set up “Dinky Town” and later an HO train layout on a plywood sheet. Later, when Dinky Town was gone, half of that playroom space would become a teenage bedroom, the walls of which made from inexpensive sheet paneling plus a drop in ceiling. Chris would occupy the room first, then I moved in during high school.

The rest of the house seemed big growing up: a “Pullman” kitchen, dining room with built in cabinets, living room, one tiny bathroom and extra room on the main floor. A steep stairway led to two bedrooms tucked under the pitched roof. Mom and dad would later “remodel” the bathroom, update the kitchen and add a larger closet using the attic space adjacent their bedroom. I would paint my upstairs bedroom brick red and add a built in bed with rollout drawers for clothes.

The backyard was engulfed by a gnarly cherry tree on the south side. The north side was an oversized garage, which stored our bikes and had a perpetually messy workbench at the end. A back door key hung to one side; you learned early how to raise the oversided garage door without an opener. The backside of the yard along our neighbors was also engulfed by an overgrown cotoneaster (I recently discovered a volunteer growing near a rose bush here in LO and moved it to another location where it’s thriving.) Adjacent to the cotoniaster was a patio made from recycled sidewalk pieces, lovingly motored together by dad.

Around the patio on three sides grew raspberries that dad tended. He had grown up with them, I think, and perhaps had initially transferred some plants from home. The Sears, our neighbors on the backside, had a large gravenstine apple tree that hung over the patio. The agreement was they could pick all the raspberries they wanted along the fence and we would collect apples on our side. During summer vacation time, It was not unusual for mom to simply put a metal mixing bowl in front of me at breakfast; no words need, I was to pick berries that morning.

But what a pleasure it was to have those berries! The majority went into jams and jellies, sometimes combined with strawberries. Some went into a syrup for ice cream. Others were reserved for cobbler or a fresh pie. I don’t think we ever froze any; they were too good fresh and we were greedy. Come late summer, mom would be busy making fresh applesauce from fallen Sears apples as well as an occaisional pie. My love of pie would inspire me to try my hand at pie-making while still in grade school, a love that continues to this day.

There was also a garden; for a while Chris grew vegetables, but dad often planted beans, corn and lettuce. Ben, his father had learned to garden alongside Italian “truck farmers” who took over two vacant city lots along Powell Blvd. as well as part of Tibbetts Street, which was unpaved.

The gnarly cherry tree, despite its typically wormy fruit, provided all sorts of childhood benefits. One particular sturdy branch served as the anchor for a rope swing. Dad later built an elaborate “platform” from which we swung. It was constructed of a pair of 2×6 boards in an A frame on both sides; cross members provided stability as well as rungs to climb to a level deck with enough room for two to stand, about five feet off the ground. I don’t know how any of us managed not to get injured, although once I caught the rope around one of the A frames and tipped the structure over when I jumped off.

Later, dad would utilize the platform as a support when he built a pre-fab outhouse in the backyard, destined for the property we owned on the Wind River in southwest Washington. How does one build an outhouse? Dad studied forest service versions and loosely copied. He bulilt the walls, floor, bench with a toilet seat, and roof so that he could haul them to the property in a borrowed trailer and assemble with screws over a hole he dug. Ironically, he preassembled the outhouse in our backyard and let it stand for a few days; he was proud, but the neighbors may have thought otherwise.

The tree also provided a space for a tree house, but without the supporting limbs. Dad improvised by nailing 2x4s together into two 4×4 vertical post on two sides and then attached 2x4s that wove through the upright limbs and made a diamond shape that held the floor. Initially I was able to attach my army pup tent to the floor, but later built a more formal room using dad’s leftover supply of aluminum printing plates.

Our neighborhood exemplified “neighbors.” You knew everyone and they knew you. Beside the Sears, Paul and Ruth Liniger lived on our south side; she once made donuts for all of the kids playing in the yard and I would take care of her cat while on vacations. The Kesters across the street had lived in their house the longest of anyone. The Knights lived on the other side and with whom we shared a driveway; Al Knight was ironically a newspaper production manager for Clark Press, a shopper newspaper. Al helped usher in digital typesetting at Clark. He brought home aluminum sheets that had been on the offset presses, which my dad used to clad the “club house” he built for Chris in the backyard. Later, the Carters moved in across the driveway.

All around us were families with kids of various ages on 19th between Rex and Knapp streets: Gillams, Ashtons, Sherwoods, Kennedys, Sullivans, Misetichs, Loschiavos, Buckmeiers, Stewarts, Wests, and Cresaps, the latter of which included Kelly and Dale who were friends for both me and Chris respectively.

For the most part, ourselves and our neighbors were lily white. It wasn’t until the 70s that Jose, a Cuban immigrant and his family, moved next door to the Cresaps. In seventh and eighth grades, black kids would be bussed to Llewellyn to meet integration ideals.

Early in our lives, Kelly and I would zoom back and forth between our houses on the sidewalk on our tricycles, long before the creation of plastic “big wheels.” Until you were of a “certain age,” you rode on the sidewalk, first on trikes, then on first bikes. Unless you were Donny: Donny rode and went wherever he pleased; it was not unusual to find him in our garage exploring. Mom had words with Donny’s self-righteous mother, then with Donny’s dad who listened to the issues and left saying he’d take care of it. Meanwhile, Donny would zoom out of his driveway into the street or peddle down the middle of the street oblivious to cars. You could talk to your neighbors, even if it was tough talk.

Those maple trees yielded vast pile of leaves that were fun to jump into or make into forts or whatever. The smell of those decaying leaves has stayed with me all these years, even without maple trees nearby. They stood listening and watching the neighborhood change without revealing any secrets.

A few blocks east of 19th street was Westmoreland Park, a long stretch of green bordered on the far side by Highway 99E/McLoughlin. “In 1935, the Portland City Planning Commission recommended development of recreational amenities for the nearby residents and ‘the improved appearance and traffic safety of McLoughlin Boulevard as a major traffic freeway entrance to the city.’ In January 1936, the City of Portland purchased the 45-acre parcel called Fairways Addition from Oregon Iron & Steel Co., a business owned by the Ladd Estate Co. A partnership between the City of Portland and the federal Works Progress Administration helped escalate the park’s construction. Viewed as an important opportunity to employ laborers during the rough economic times following the Great Depression, park construction focused on manual labor in order to employ the greatest number of people. The fly-casting pond, specifically, was hand excavated, and was one of the first features completed at the park.” The park was completed in 1939. (Source: “Westmoreland Park Historical Information,” Portland Parks and Recreation, City of Portland. Online at Along McLoughlin Blvd. to the east, giant trees, planted in 1936, now tower over the right-of-way on both sides, making a canopy over the highway.

Through the middle flowed Crystal Springs Creek, a tributary to Johnson Creek and on to the Willamette River. At the north end of the park the creek flowed into what was called the duck pond, once known as “a model yacht lagoon.” Along the creek’s path were a half dozen bridges and many trees. In grade school I owned several inflatable rafts in which I plied the mighty Crystal Springs and under all the bridges. Kelly and I also sailed his family’s aluminum canoe on the creek, narrowly (and foolishly!) fitting through a culvert beneath Bybee Street on one occasion.

The park featured a large playground with the necessary swings, teeter-totters and merry-go round. There was a wading pool in the summer, Bocce Ball AKA Lawn Bowling courts, several softball diamonds and Sckavone Field for triple-A baseball. When my grandparents, Ben and Myrtle Wolff, would come for a visit, I knew there was likely a leisurely walk to park; my grandfather’s gait was slow and there was a bit of a hitch in his step. He always wore baggy pants, especially blue jeans that were pulled up to his rib cage. He would take me down to the park to watch a softball game and buy me peanuts from Sally, who would drive a concessions truck into the park. I learned quickly to love Sally’s fruit-flavored snow-cones.

One Saturday while still in grade school, my friend Bill – who lived four blocks north on 19th – and I were rafting in the duck pond when some kids from school thought it would be fun to pelt us with rocks. What they didn’t know is that Bill and I came down to the park regularly to target practice with my Wrist Rocket sling shot, which we had brought along. Bill used several rocks that had landed inside the raft as return fire, with considerably more accuracy. The first shot hit a tree directly behind one of the perpetrators; we could see his surprised reaction. The second shot hit the same kid in the ankle, his jumping around cracked us up and halted the rock tossing.

At the park’s middle was a man-made square pond, known as the Casting Pond, used for fly casting, sailing model boats, Milk Carton races during Rose Festival and the occasional rubber raft. One winter’s evening, the Casting Pond had frozen over, seemingly solid enough to stand on. Kelly, our mutual friend Tom and I were exploring the ice when Tom slipped and fell through the ice. Fortunately, the water wasn’t more than three feet deep; the three of us ran to Kelly’s house where fortunately Kelly’s dad had built a roaring fire in their basement wood stove; Tom’s frozen pants thawed quickly.

I saw a number of events at the park: the aforementioned Rose Festival Milk Carton races in which each entrant’s boat had to be completely made out of glued-together milk cartons, with awards for style and for making it across the pond without disintegrating. I saw a 1970s Rose Festival Court in their Cadillac convertibles; I collected autographs. One Saturday, a band whose name I don’t remember, hooked up their amps and let loose; I could hear the music in our backyard.

One of Kelly’s brother’s friends Phillip used to harvest mosquito larva from the Casting Pond to feed his captive reptiles. He showed us his method: a rock was taped to the bottom of a fire cracker, then the cracker was wrapped with more tape up to the top. Holding the fire cracker a foot or two above the water, it was lit and immediately dropped into the water, exploding just beneath the surface, creating a small plume of water, like artillery. The larva would swim to the surface and Phillip would scoop them up in a small net. Of course, when I tried it, the fire cracker fuse burnt much quicker than expected and I felt the blast between my fingers. I was sure I was injured or skin shredded, but besides a short stinging sensation, I escaped unscathed.

It’s hard to fathom all the influences, both good and bad, that come from the grade school experience. Llewellyn was the neighborhood K-8 school, like all the Portland public elementary schools at the time.

Just before starting first grade, I can remember being coached on the the most direct route to school, by way of the safety patrol crossing at 16th and Bybee. I was supposed to go down 19th to Bybee and then to 16th, but after a while, Kelly and I walked up Knapp to Milwaukie and through the shopping district, later bypassing the safety patrol all together. When we were in 6th grade, we were allowed to ride our bikes to school, locked up to a large bike rack in the back of the school. Today, I can’t imagine my daughters walking 16 blocks to grade school as a six year old!

The current school building was built in 1928 during a decade of district growth; the first school on the site opened in 1905. The current building layout and design was one of many Classical Revival-styled schools repeated throughout the city. We had a dedicated cafeteria with its own kitchen, a gymnasium, auditorium, blacktop playground and two softball fields. Today, parents and kids at Llewellyn have a robust webpage and mission statement; I think our mission was to get through!

I didn’t attend kindergarten at Llewellyn; I was living in Eugene that year. But Kelly, Bill and I would go through the grades, sometimes together, sometimes apart. We were all together starting in second grade.

Thinking back on the parents of kids in my classes, the socio-economics were pretty equitable: professor, pharmacist, salesman, barber, phone repair person, auto parts manager, substitute teacher. The up-and-coming often moved out: a couple across the street moved when the husband, a commercial real estate agent, helped sell the Rhodes building, which became the Galleria.

Comparatively speaking, it was much cheaper to own a home. Economists say that in the 1960s, less than 25 percent of a household income went to pay the mortgage – and the vast majority of income came from one breadwinner. My parents bought the 7524 house for $9500, the down payment for which was helped by my grandparents. On a 4.5 percent VA loan, they were paying less than $75 a month on a 15-year loan. Dad probably grossed between $15,000 and $20,000 annually in the 1970s, based on some internet figures for college professors during that time period. (See Lending Tree site:

The school was laid out with the primary grades along one side on the first floor, the middle grades largely on the other side of the building, and upper grades upstairs. Due to space issues, the district added a portable classroom – a triple wide – at the north end of the property; I was assigned to the portable in fifth and in eighth grades. Members of my eighth grade class were a bit more daring when the teacher left for a restroom break: shooting the fire extinguisher out the door was quite popular.

All of my teachers were women; at the time there was an issue with men teaching primary grades, this barrier of which dad broke through at Forest Hills Elementary by teaching third grade (always a trail blazer!) Of course the Llewellyn principals were men (authority!) and there were two upper grade male teachers.

The older students, beginning in sixth grade, were offered “jobs” outside of the classroom. These included assisting in the office with mimeographing and sorting; being trained as an AV assitant, which meant helping start 16 mm movies in classrooms where teachers couldn’t figure out how to loop the film; becoming a safety patrol person, either at crossings in the morning and noontime, or leading a line of kids to one of two crossings: 16th and Bybee or Milwaukie and 17th at Tolman; or, as I chose, working in the cafeteria. All of these jobs were earned by good classroom standings and could be revoked.

I chose cafeteria duty. Lunches were in two shifts: younger kids first, followed by older kids. Most kids bought a hot lunch, lining up along the hallway wall as they were excused from class. No doubt there were lower income families with subsidized meal plans, but those tickets were handed out elsewhere and looked no different. By sixth grade, I was already delivering newspapers and handling money, so I was able to take the job selling tickets. Other jobs included serving food or dragging full garbage cans to one end of the cafeteria for the janitor. We all did clean-up, which amounted to pushing remnants with large floor mops and mopping table tops and bench tops with smaller mops and an ammoniasolution that would kill both COVID and small mammals. Cafeteria duty came with a free lunch.

Before fifth grade, hot lunches were cooked in the cafeteria kitchen by “Cookie” and her staff, a tough group who took no prisoners among cafeteria duty students or anyone else. I looked forward to pizza and to chilli, the latter always came with a warm cinnamon roll. In fourth or fifth grade, the school district stopped lunch preparation in the grade schools, choosing to truck precooked lunches in warming trays that were prepared at the high school and served cool. Yuk!

With the trucked-in lunches came the advent of chocolate (flavored) milk. Also yuk! I think the district believed more kids would drink chocolate milk, so the majority of the half-pint cartons were chocolate. I often came in toward the back of the line when all the plain “white” milk was already gone. I was pissed! I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I proposed to our principal that I survey students to assess the real preference so that the white to chocolate balance might reflect preferences. My survey reflected a greater desire for plain milk than was clearly being delivered, but I don’t think the survey had any affect.

Recess had its own hazards, minimized by the lack of swingsets or teeter-totters, but there was a stout jungle jim built from pipes. The only other hazzard was from inhaling the unique “airs” coming from the south: the school was next to the Portland Memorial and Crematorium, the first built on the West Coast in 1905. The fumes were clearly “customers.”

I got along with most of my classmates. Family circumstances affected a few with more fringe or disruptive behavior; many had reputations or labels. Kelly and I were labeled “brains” I think because the work was easy and we put more effort into assignments, etc. Greg was a “jock” although we didn’t use that term. Later, I grew my hair long and got a lot of flak from classmates, but I was unphased.

Sadly, Billy was probably the most picked on. Looking back, he wanted attention and did so by telling tall tales, such as telling us he wrestled alligators. But his clothes weren’t the newest or cleanest and neither was his personal hygiene. He was more frequently beaten up after school. He stole from me what I think was a bike lock; the teacher found it in his coat pocket.

A high point of grade school was the week away at Outdoor School. In sixth grade, classrooms were assigned to a fall or spring camp time and separate from any other classes at the same school, but with three or four other Portland schools’ sixth grade classes. My class went to Camp Collins; in high school, I would volunteer as an Outdoor School camp counselor, coincidently at the same camp! A lot of kids never leave the city, let alone go camping. There is also an element of manners at meals, along with jingles that called out “bad” behavior such as elbows on the table or silverware that is propped up on the edge of a plate (a so-called “gang plank”). But it’s also the social experience of being in a cabin of kids your age that you have never met before, but with whom you share this unique 24 hour experience. It only lasts six days, but it’s intense, leaving many kids in tears at its conclusion. I can’t say I was so moved; I’d been camping and had traveled here and there, but there was a lot that was still a new experience.

But not everyone in the neighborhood attended Llewellyn Grade School. A number of families sent their children to the local Catholic School at St. Agatha. There was an antagonism between those in public school and those in uniform—the blue tops and salt-and-pepper cords or plaid skirts. Name-calling, dirt clod-throwing antagonism. But why? I didn’t know these kids, had nothing in common, which was perpetuated by a fear of the unknown. Only as a parent would I come to realize that school uniforms, among other things, were imposed to create equality and neutrality among fellow students, not a label.

On top of that, culturally among many in the United States there had long been a bigoted attitude toward Catholics, stemming in part from the backlash against Irish and Italian immigrants who were deemed undesirable — and largely Catholic, even those these immigrants, like many before and after, took to the American way and became successful. At the extreme end of prejudice was the Klu Klux Klan, which in the mid-20th century, sought a national profile and identified several groups—not just African Americans—as alien threats to family and nation: Catholics, Jews, immigrants, “new women,” bootleggers, criminals and—of course—black Americans. John F. Kennedy’s election seemed to calm some fears that a Catholic Pope would direct US federal policy.

Less extreme and more subtle—but still degrading—were the parents on 19th, who passed down a belief that their Catholic neighbors owed an allegiance to their local Catholic parish. In fact, as Concetta can attest from her experience on the East Coast, the private parochial schools provided a better education, drawing Catholic and Protestant — even Jewish — families. Portland was perhaps slower to realize this, but about the time of forced integration, i.e. bussing kids from North Portland to Llewellyn, private schools such as Montessori and Waldorf began showing up as an alternative to public schools, which unconsciously sanctioned parochial schools — even Protestant schools such Oregon Episcopal School — as a respectable alternative to under-funded public schools with forced integration.

Ironically, I would begin attending a Catholic parish in 2000, converting in 2009. The parish began a school in 2012, which has grown and will be enrolling through the 5th grade in the fall of 2022; the kids — many of whom do not come from Catholic families — look adorable in their uniforms!

There were plenty of kid hijinks and mayhem, as well as all out bullying in and out of school. In the latter category was Danny, who was a year or two older and always threatening. He even punched me in the nose in our driveway once; he must of imagined himself some kind of prize boxer. Was it karma that would come his way later on? After a short stint in the army he came home, but was banned by his parents. He lived in a large used car parked on the street. Ester Kester came out to pray for him on the lawn. He was later in a car accident that left him a paraplegic.

I can’t say that I was innocent of “kid stuff,” but it always seemed I was in tandem with a friend. Bill shot a BB gun from my bedroom window at a neighbor reroofing his house across the street; it was, after all, MY BB gun! Tom and I would throw a spool of thread over a wire crossing a street near the park, then tape an egg at windshield level to hang and be struck by an unspecting car. Tom’s influence would end when his mother remarried before he started high school, moving him to Milwaukie.

On the positive side, Tom and I would collect bottles in the park for refunds and then bike down to Oaks Park for an afternoon of rides. Any of us never thought twice about getting on a bike and riding from one end of the Sellwood-Moreland neighborhood to the other. I think bikes and later cars, because almost everyone got his or her license on the 16th birthday, were our generation’s means of independence. My daughters had no interest in a bike, and one to this day doesn’t have a driver’s license. A neighbor told me a few years ago that the internet was to our kids what bikes/cars were to us. Our kids can go anywhere and talk to anyone without leaving their bedroom.

All of my friends — Kelly, Bill and Tom — as well as others from school, would all have paper routes for several years before high school, riding our bikes (or pulling a wagon) around the neighborhood streets. (For more about paper routes, please see the “Newspapers” essay). We earned far more than the other kids who mowed lawns or babysat; surprisingly, no girls delivered papers. When my brand new 10-speed bike was stolen while in the grocery store, I was able to use my earnings to replace it within a month or two. I was devastated by the theft and my foolishness, but was more troubled by what my parents would say — I certainly wasn’t about to ask them for another bike.

Despite the potential risks of collecting subscription money at the end of the month, I never personally felt a risk, although Kelly was roughed up one snowy night. One of the other newspaper kids was attacked just houses away from his home and one street away from me, but was able to brandish his pocket knife and stab his assailant in the chest.

Tom would move to Milwaukie, but Kelly, Bill and I remained friends, even to this day. We looked for ways to hang out, to talk, to have fun.

Thanks to Don Cresap’s ingenuity, and as an alternative to the park, Bill, Kelly and I had a regulation-sized four square quad perfectly outlined in white on the asphalt in front of Kelly’s house. No one ever told us not to play in the street; we just knew to get out of the way of oncoming cars at the right time. We played after school and sometimes late into the evenings, not so much keeping score, but to have a space away from others to talk the talk of teenagers.

Later in high school, Bill, Kelly and I would take long evening walks up and down 19th, pondering the issues only a teenager can feel and face, trying to figure life out. One of us would call the other, saying “wanna take a walk?” Sometimes it was the three of us, other times just two.

Thanks to the boundaries around Westmoreland, it felt small town-ish. The shopping district along Milwaukie Avenue had two grocery stores, two “dime” stores, assorted specialty stores, banks, bars, the Moreland Theatre, a hardware store and more. My friends and I saw many first-run movies at the Moreland; we became old enough to go alone about the time we started earning money from our paper routes. Kelly and I bought donuts from Art’s Swiss Bakery on our way to school, becoming supreme barter for lunchtime foot swaps. I stopped into the Rexall Drugs to have a 35 cent ice cream sundae. We stood in line at the post office to buy stamps for our moms. The vacant lot next to the Masonic Lodge became a Christmas tree lot after Thanksgiving.

One afternoon at the newspaper station, Bill came down with me to talk with manager. The station at that time was only a few blocks from school along the north end of the shopping area on Milwaukie Avenue, conveniently across the street from the Dairy Queen. We were surprised to see a kid from school, who unfortunately had a hearing issue, try to lock us all in the station. When Bill and I went to the door to stop him, the kid turned and ran between two parked cars and into the busy street. I will never forget seeing the sudden impact of a car on his body and seeing it launch through the air and land some 20 feet away. He survived, later suing the driver. Bill and I would be subpoenaed and testify in court.

I lived at 7524 until leaving for college in the fall of 1978. Mom and Dad would continue living there until mom passed away in 1982; dad met Carol and moved out by 1985 when they got married. Dad kept the house a while longer, providing it to Bill and his wife Kathy when they returned from his Marines tour in Japan, from March 1985 until August 1986.

Not unlike the 40-plus years from Westmoreland’s founding to our time there, the neighborhood has changed in the 40 years since I moved away. The hardware store and Moreland Theatre are still there, but the Dairy Queen is gone. One of the grocery stores is gone, the other is a new brand. Drug stores and dime stores are gone and so are the gas stations. The Oregon Journal ceased publishing in 1982; no one delivers papers on bike anymore. The maple trees still stand as majestic, but the Hawthornes have been long gone, taking with them their memories of my family on 19th.

The “good ol’ days” are perhaps memories, once sharp, that have worn down to a soft patina. These are the days that others will look back on in their own minds. The homes along 19th are still loved and many have been updated or added on. Bikes still ply the sidewalks and families hike down to the park where kids swing, feed the ducks or lie in the grass and wonder what it will be like to be grown-up.


Dad: an essay

The following is a eulogy for Bernard Wolff (1926-2016) read by Scott Wolff at the Celebration of Life gathering Sunday, April 10, 2016, Agnes Flanagan Chapel, Lewis & Clark College.

WOLFF Essays cover 103 x 150pxAs an introduction, Dad discovered while living at the coast that he could offer a programing suggestion to a local radio station; his suggestion was a joke segment. So the producer asked him to tell a joke on the spot. He told about two sons who were contemplating their responsibility, sooner or later, for planning their mother’s funeral, including what to do with her remains. So when the time seemed right, they asked whether she would want to be buried or cremated. Smiling at her sons, the mother replied, “Surprise me.”

Dad surprised me and other family members about 7-8 years ago when he started sending short essays he was writing about his life’s experiences—sometimes one essay at a time, sometimes several—over the course of 3 or 4 years. I was able to compile many of these essays into a book (click here to read it), which I was able to present to him several years ago. Click on the book cover to read an online version of the entire book at your leisure and from which I’m quoting here.

It’s in one of his essays that he describes his Sacred Places, which was inspired by a sermon he had heard at the Portland Unitarian Church in 2009. He wrote that “sacred is not necessarily God-related. Sacred may refer to something one feels at a different time usually related to a person, place or thing. It may elicit positive memories or emotions, or maybe it’s just a feeling you have.”

Today I’d like to change around Sacred Places to become Dad’s Sacred Traits. Three traits out of the many I could choose are the ones most relevant to me: Family, Education and Service.


Regarding family, Dad quoted from a Unitarian sermon that “you have to have people in your life who care about you and prepare you, as much as possible for today, tomorrow and the future.” Dad went on to write for himself “I believe one shows his or her love by the way that individual behaves, such as care giving to friends and loved ones.”

He was not only devoted to his own family, but also to family around us, often in a caretaking role. In college he dutifully came home from Oregon State to wax the floors for his mother. He would later look after his parents together and separately as their health faded.

He was both devoted to and a caretaker for my mother, who as a young mother fought and overcame polio. They would endure countless medical adventures during her bout with cancer, which would eventually take her life. In between those downtimes — and despite them — were many joys: camping and later owning property on the Wind River in Washington; two active sons; yoga and meditation retreats together; a beach house near Lincoln City.

At a point when both his personal and professional lives were in turmoil, Dad found new directions, first meeting and marrying Carol, then retiring from Lewis & Clark to devote his considerable professional talents back in the elementary classroom. He and Carol would have their own 30 years of experiences.

Dad’s family grew with the addition of Carol’s three grown daughters and Carol’s mother Becky. He was devoted to her comfort, including her on trips to the beach and moving her to live next door in an adjoining SE Portland duplex until her passing. Dad also helped care for Carol’s middle daughter Rebecca, whose life was altered by an automobile accident in Idaho. He and Carol spent weeks in Idaho during her convalescence and then watched over her during the years she lived independently in Portland-area assisted living situations until her passing two years ago.

Besides the devotion and caretaking, there were also many skills and lessons he taught me directly as a father, but there were many other traits and attitudes that I observed that perhaps have served me as well or better.

He instilled in me this creative sense to think outside the box—before there was even a box to consider. He built a playhouse—more like a shed—in our back yard and covered it with aluminum offset printing press sheets recycled by our neighbor. It could have been disguised as an Airstream trailer. And, rather than using cardboard from a box, he fashioned a real shield for me for a Knights of the Roundtable theme at Cub Scouts meeting using another aluminum sheet —including on it a family-crest stencil he created—nothing else at the event came close. Rather than just digging a hole in the forest, he built a pre-fab outhouse at home for the Wind River property, fashioning it after the forest service variety in shape and color.  I can’t go forward with a graphic design or remodeling project without considering the extreme options.

He helped me overcome awkward social situations. My wife Concetta and I debate whether Dad was an introvert or extrovert. What I do know is that he could walk into a room of strangers and introduce himself to everyone before the start of a meeting. As a result, while growing up, he would see someone he knew nearly every time we were at a restaurant. I don’t know if it came to him naturally or it was learned, but I remember thinking in high school at an event that I could do it too—wow, it really caught people off guard in a positive way—I was hooked. It’s still not natural for me, but I invoke him before networking events as part of my marketing profession.

He also taught me that it isn’t enough to work hard and enjoy one’s time off. The community needs our help and skills, and so he served others.

I have no doubt that he sincerely loved me – and I loved him.


About education, Dad wrote that teaching is ‘increasing the probability that learning will take place.’

Dad mentioned to me that one of his many motivations for a career in education came from a Montavilla Methodist pastor who had observed Dad teaching Sunday school there while he was in high school, telling him how well he worked with the younger children.

Dad’s path to a career in education would not be a straight one. Graduating from OSU with a Zoology degree, he instead leveraged his years working at Sheridan Fruit to start a box business with a co-worker, only to be drafted six months later at the start of the Korean War. (Similarly, his father too had started a business by purchasing a pharmacy in Multnomah Village in the early 1920s, but was forced to sell a short time later to move to his family to Colorado to mitigate my grandmother’s tuberculosis.)

He was proud to know there are 3 more OSU Beavers in the family— granddaughters Erin and Leslie who are Chris’ daughters as well as my daughter Allegra.

Following Dad’s 2 years – and one day – in the army, he and Sara Lee, now his wife, moved to Portland in 1952 where he could pursue a short program at Portland State College—which had previously been Vanport College—to earn a teaching certificate. They moved to Newport for his first teaching position in Toledo, and to begin a family with the arrival of my brother Chris. Once again, the career path was interrupted by Sara Lee’s contraction of polio, forcing the three to Portland for her care.

Limited teaching jobs filled the void until he accepted a full time teaching position at Forest Hills Elementary in Lake Oswego, proudly one of the first male teachers leading a primary class and breaking a different kind of glass ceiling. He was hired in 1962 by Lewis & Clark for a 25-year adventure, not without its bumps along the way.

“I believe you have to take some risks in challenging authority without knowing what the costs may be,” he wrote. This is certainly true when he joined faculty members in their vote of no confidence of the president of this institution, who would later be dismissed by the Board.

He managed to teach and increasingly take care of not only his parents, but also Sara Lee as she developed cancer and later passed away in 1982, the year I graduated from Lewis & Clark. He would be proud to know that my daughter Ariana is interested in becoming the third generation Wolff at Lewis & Clark.


About service, Dad wrote, “I believe that having a community to be with that has a spiritual focus and a community outreach is essential to support one on his or her spiritual journey.” I don’t remember a time when he wasn’t going off to a board meeting, to volunteer, or to remind church members to bring food items for FISH Emergency Service.

Service was spiritual, perhaps the most outward sign of his devotion to God through his gifts of his time and talents. It was certainly more telling than any commitment to an organized church, which he thought stifled spiritual growth; however at one time or another he was a member of or attended Montavilla Methodist Church in SE Portland; St. John’s Episcopal Church in Toledo, Oregon; First United Methodist here in Portland; Koinonia House at Portland State University; Tillamook United Methodist; and, First Unitarian Church here in Portland.

Chris and I joined him occasionally when he volunteered; I would spend a summer internship at FISH, sponsored by First United Methodist and inspired by his service there. I’ve tried to continue his example with my own daughters by serving the homeless downtown.

A few of the many organizations he served included: The Everett Street Drop-in Center in Old Town where he would spend an entire night socializing and serving coffee at the shelter, the aforementioned FISH Emergency Service where he was not only a board member, but periodically served on Saturday afternoons handing out emergency food rations. He served on committees with the Oregon Education Association and the National Education Association, gleefully breaking tradition to join a national education sorority; when required to introduce himself and describe a unique attribute at his first meeting, he told the audience he was a father. He served the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League. His volunteering at Arleta Elementary in Portland turned into a part-time classroom aid position where he would write grants to fund computer equipment and teacher development. He and my mother served on numerous First United Methodist Church committees; together and separately they taught many Sunday school classes throughout his life. My wife groans when she thinks of him leading my sixth grade sex-education class at the church. Later he volunteered overseas, traveling with Carol to a halfway house in Cork, Ireland, a Habitat for Humanity project in New Zealand, and to a school in Costa Rica.

I like to think that Dad’s many gifts of family, education and service were used wisely and for others, returning those gifts with increase.

I close with this: the following is a modified version of a tribute to Catholic Archbishop Oscar Romero, a martyred priest in El Salvador. Dad might be appalled that I invoked the Catholic Church at his memorial, but the words speak to me about the life we live and the one lived by Dad.

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.

No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.

Thank you for reading.