MEDIA

‘Tightrope’: A working class in tatters

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn will make a series of local appearances to talk about their book, "Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope"

Many Yamhill County residents will recognize the street scene on the cover of Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope as downtown Yamhill. New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof grew up in the 1970s on a farm outside the tiny town and rode the bus to school with people whose stories are told in the book written by Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn.

The couple, the first husband and wife to share a Pulitzer Prize for journalism, will visit McMinnville on Friday to talk about the book, which, despite its title, largely focuses on Americans who have lost hope after decades of vanishing blue-collar jobs.

Tightrope is the latest in a growing body of journalistic work examining what George Packer in 2013 called The Unwinding in his book of that name: The seismic economic shifts that have left the working class in tatters, trying to find a way in an economic world very different from the one their parents grew up in.

Yamhill County native Nicholas D. Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, are authors of “Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope,” which chronicles the epidemic of loneliness that has overtaken the American working class. Photo by: Michael Lionstar, courtesy Penguin Random House

What distinguishes Tightrope, however, is its deeply personal nature. Kristof is writing — with great respect and obvious affection — for many of his former classmates. He estimates that about one-fourth of those kids he grew up with died in adulthood from drugs and alcohol, suicide or reckless accidents — “deaths of despair,” as they have come to be called. One official quoted in the book talks about the epidemic of loneliness, a social phenomenon that’s hardly surprising in a society coming apart at the seams.

A few weeks ago, piles of Tightrope appeared at Third Street Books in downtown McMinnville and also at the McMinnville Public Library, in anticipation of the latest MacReads, a community-wide book discussion series that traditionally culminates with an appearance by the author.

Kristof and WuDunn will appear at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7, in the McMinnville Community Center. Additional discussions will be held at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 19 in Linfield College’s Nicholson Library and at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 in McMinnville Public Library’s Carnegie Room. All those events are free. In addition, the couple will appear at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, in Portland’s Newmark Theatre in a ticketed event.

I caught up with Kristof by email, and he was gracious enough to respond to a few questions. Our exchange appears below:

Not that it’s important to fit Tightrope into a neatly defined genre, but given that you’ve known some of these folks for most of your life, it occurs to me that it has elements of memoir or autobiography. Maybe that’s a stretch, but beyond the straightforward work of reporting, did you ever think of it in those terms?

Yes, we did. Tara Westover, author of Educated, is a friend, and I hugely admire not only her journey but also her book. I also knew that a personal story would be more accessible than an analysis from 30,000 feet about Americans left behind. But Sheryl and I were also clear that we didn’t just want to write a memoir, and we wanted the focus to be on the issues and solutions, and not on my journey. One of my frustrations with Hillbilly Elegy was that it didn’t offer enough in the way of solutions.

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Yamhill County calendar: From tea to ‘Tightrope’

Gallery shows focus on glasswork, the Rogue River Wars, and tea service; Linfield hosts a one-night play reading; and a native son is coming to town

Yamhill County’s lively gallery scene continues to intrigue this week with a couple of new openings, and we’ve also got a one-night theatrical affair at Linfield Theatre. Finally: Have you read Nicholas Kristof’s new book? There’s still time before he comes to town.

Let’s get to it:

“Ancient Cedars at Fort Orford Site,” by Rich Bergeman. The U.S. Army fort housed more than 200 men and more than 1,000 Indigenous prisoners during the peak of the Rogue River Wars in 1855-56. Nothing of the fort remains.

CHEHALEM CULTURAL Center has several shows ready for your viewing pleasure. Hanging River, an installation of glasswork by Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko, occupies the Parrish Gallery, visible to visitors as they enter the Newberg center. You’ll marvel at both the glass pieces themselves and the exquisite care it must have taken to install them. In the Founder’s Gallery at the rear of the building is a collection of Fretta Cravens’ stunning botanical photography, titled Intimate Conversations.

Down the hall to the right is a new exhibit that’s been traveling around Oregon: Rich Bergeman’s collection of photographs documenting the landscape of the mid-19th-century Rogue River Wars of Southern Oregon. The Land Remembers is both an exhibit and a handsome book (available for sale). Bergeman used infrared light for the images, which are mostly void of any sign of human presence. “I felt that the haunting quality of infrared would help transport viewers to another time,” he writes in the introduction to his book. “And because the infrared spectrum is invisible to the human eye, it seemed especially appropriate for photographs that follow in the footsteps of ghosts.” The show runs through Feb. 28. Highly recommended.

Tea is the theme of a show by ceramicist Jonathan Steele in George Fox University’s Minthorne Gallery. Photo courtesy: George Fox University

A FEW BLOCKS AWAY at George Fox University, we find … tea! I haven’t seen this one yet, but it looks inviting: In the Service of Tea features ceramic work by Jonathan Steele in  the university’s Minthorne Gallery in the Hoover Academic Building. A reception for the show, which opened last week, will be from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, in the gallery. Steele will perform a Chinese tea service at the free event. An artist’s talk follows from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Chehalem Cultural Center.

“Tea is a quiet joy – art is a fervid one,” Steele said of his exhibit in the press materials. “I make the tea to be still, to observe the present moment, to watch slowly unfurling leaves, feel the weight of the warm cup pressing against my fingertips, steam rising through my nostrils, the sweet, light astringency of the perfect steep welling on my tongue. I make the teapot, the cup, the tray and boat, the floral arrangement, the interior décor, the room and the house itself – all to the same end.”

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Vision 2020: Brenna Crotty

Women have read male-centered narratives their whole lives, says the CALYX editor: "Men would benefit a lot from reading female-centered narratives as well"

On its 25th anniversary, feminist literary publisher CALYX Press was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “a literary survivor.” It surely is – that was way back in 2001, and Corvallis-based CALYX is still in the game, even as other journals have run their course and publishing houses have closed shop.

The journal was founded in 1976 by Margarita Donnelly, Barbara Baldwin, Elizabeth McLagan, and Meredith Jenkins. In 1986, CALYX expanded into book publishing. Barbara Kingsolver, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Julia Alvarez, and Natalie Goldberg are among the writers whose careers were helped early on by CALYX. Literally thousands of writers and artists have had work published there.


VISION 2020: TWENTY VIEWS ON OREGON ARTS


We talked with Brenna Crotty, who has worked as the senior editor for CALYX since 2015. Her book reviews and humor articles have been published in CALYX, Cracked, and College Humor. She lives in Portland.

Brenna Crotty, senior editor at CALYX, says Oregon literature has a wonderful ecological/environmental slant: “We are all, maybe a little, dreaming up our words in a William Stafford forest-soaked fever of ferns and dappled sunlight.”

Oregon is full of readers, and yet there are surely those who have never heard of CALYX Press. What would you like people to know?

Whenever people ask me this, glib excitement always leads me to say, “Oh man, CALYX is rad!” And by that, I mean that CALYX is awesome and that it is also delightfully radical. We are a nonprofit literary journal that came about in 1976 simply because four women wanted to create a space in a male-dominated industry for art and literature created by women. I’d love for that not to be a radical idea but, even now, in 2020, it is.

The most recent issue of CALYX, October 2019, features cover art “Mom,” by Ho JiaHui.

CALYX publishes two print journals a year: one in summer/fall and one in winter/spring. They are gorgeous little coffee-table books with glossy covers and a full 16-page insert of art. The other pages are filled with poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, book reviews, and occasional interviews.

We are open for submissions every year (from Oct. 1-Dec. 31) to all women and nonbinary writers. We publish material over the course of two issues, and any submissions that are held for final consideration but not accepted are given personalized feedback by our editorial collective. We also have two competitions over the course of the year, one for poetry and one for prose, and the winners receive cash prizes and publication in the journal as well. We accept art and book reviews year-round.

CALYX has published work by authors and poets such as Sharon Olds, Julia Alvarez, and Sandra Cisneros, but we have also always had a focus on publishing new and emerging writers.

What else? We are hardcore proponents of the Oxford comma.

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Remembering the Big Blow

Book author John Dodge will speak in Cannon Beach about the 1962 Columbus Day Storm and its effect on Oregon and its wine and timber industries

On Oct. 12, 1962, the strongest windstorm in the recorded history of the West Coast battered the Pacific Northwest, claiming lives, destroying homes and businesses, and decimating farmland and forest — the latter resulting in an unexpected silver lining of sorts. John Dodge was 14 at the time, living in the Olympia area with his family. He would go on to a 40-year, award-winning career in journalism, serving as columnist, editorial page writer, and investigative reporter for The Olympian before retiring in 2015.

John Dodge says many people who attend his talks about the Columbus Day Storm are seeking closure for the event they lived through 58 years ago. Dodge was a teenager living in Olympia when the storm hit in 1962.

In 2018, Oregon State University Press published his book, A Deadly Wind: The 1962 Columbus Day Storm.  Dodge will kick off the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum’s lecture series on Jan. 16 with a presentation about that deadly day.

The free talk will be from 4 to 5 p.m.  Plan to arrive early, as no one will be admitted after 4:15.

We talked with Dodge about his memories and his research. His comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Where were you when the storm hit?

I was at a football game and right before kickoff, a state trooper came out and told everyone to go home — a big storm is coming. Right about then, the lights went out and the winds kicked up. We lived in the woods in a very rural area on property with a lot of Douglas firs. Our fear was our house was really vulnerable and we didn’t think it would be safe there. So our family went to a friend’s house in a suburban development. Then a tree came down. We were lucky not to be in the room where the tree fell. Later, after the storm had passed, Dad and I got in our truck and drove back to the house. Lo and behold, there were trees all over, but nothing hit the house. It was one of those ironies, we went to a house to get safe from the trees only to be struck by a tree.

Among the casualties of the 1962 Columbus Day storm was the Campbell Hall bell tower at the Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) in Monmouth. The iconic photo shot by college student Wes Luchau illustrates the cover of John Dodge’s book, “A Deadly Wind.”

What is notable for you about the storm?

Most notable is that it seems the number of fatalities and injuries could have been much greater. There were a lot of “there but for the grace of God go I” type of experiences. I tallied 63 direct and indirect deaths. Indirect would be folks who died of, say, a heart attack the next day cleaning up debris or someone who fell off their roof trying to attach a TV antenna. Direct deaths — people who died in the storm — are closer to 46. There were 300 serious injuries requiring someone to be hospitalized.

We’re used to some big wind here on the Coast. How big was this?

The highest peak winds were probably at Cape Blanco (four miles north of Port Orford) on the headland. There was a Coast Guard station there. Their wind gauge blew out before the worst of the winds arrived. When it blew out, they had already recorded a 145 mph gust. Most of those at the station thought the winds hit 175 to 185 mph gusts. There were sustained winds of over 110 mph. That would be the equivalent of a Category 3 hurricane. Ground zero of the storm was the Willamette Valley. You’ll find the most harrowing stories coming from Salem, Eugene, Corvallis, and Portland. People succumbed to the wind all the way to Vancouver, B.C.

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Yamhill County calendar: Winter warmers

The new year rolls in with a little of everything: gallery exhibitions, TEDx talks, readings, and music

I’m not sure whether to chalk this up to naivete or the fact that Yamhill County’s arts and culture scene has been developing momentum in recent years, but there was a time not so long ago when I assumed things slowed down in the winter. 

Perhaps it did once, but not anymore. Even when the skies turn gray and the trees are bare in Oregon’s wine country, our cultural calendar remains packed full. So follow along as we dive into 2020 with a peek at what’s in store over the next couple of months.

CURRENTS GALLERY IN DOWNTOWN McMINNVILLE is one of several businesses housed in the Elks Lodge building on Third Street. The top floor of the 1908 structure, once occupied by lodge space (including a ballroom), was renovated in 1993 by locals Matt and Marilyn Worrix into a sprawling 10,000-square-foot apartment. Having visited there over the years, I could wax poetic for some time about the place, but the point is the building is on the market, and the couple’s downsizing strategy includes selling much of the art collection that filled the apartment: paintings, etchings, ceramics, glass, and more.

Matt and Marilyn Worrix are downsizing and selling much of their art collection, such as this acrylic painting by Matt Worrix, through Currents Gallery in McMinnville.  

Currents Gallery will host the affair, which kicks off with a reception from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, in the gallery. The show runs Jan. 7 through Feb. 16 during regular gallery hours. Artists whose work will be on display include Nils Lou, Marg Johansen, Chris Johnson, Glen Hashitani, and more. A second reception will be held for the monthly 3rd Friday on 3rd Street artwalk, from 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 17. For more information, call 503-435-1316.

THE CHEHALEM CULTURAL CENTER IN NEWBERG opens 2020 with three new shows in January. In the Parrish Gallery, look for a stunning glass installation, Hanging River, by Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko, beginning Jan. 7. Also opening that day is Intimate Conversations, a botanical photography exhibition by Fretta Cravens. Rich Bergeman’s The Land Remembers opens Jan. 14. The series of black-and-white infrared landscape photography, inspired by events during the Rogue River Wars of 1851-56, has been bouncing around the state and lands in Newberg for a show that runs through February. Visit the website for more information and details on receptions for all three shows.

The “Hanging River” show by Takahiro Yamamoto and Andy Paiko at the Chehalem Cultural Center includes multiple transparent objects, including a large glass sculpture resembling a stringed instrument.

While you’re there, check out the staged reading series that begins Feb. 1 (tickets are on sale now) courtesy of Newberg-based Penguin Productions. More? The 2020 Boxed Show Series begins Feb. 21.

TWO SHOWS HIGHLIGHTING art by local youth will be featured in The Gallery at Ten Oaks in McMinnville this month and next. The first runs Jan. 7 through Feb. 2 and showcases work by students from high schools around Yamhill County, including Yamhill-Carlton, Sheridan, Amity, and the Delphian School. An opening reception is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15. Then, work by students from high schools in McMinnville and Newberg will be unveiled Feb. 5, with a reception at 6 p.m. Feb. 12.

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The family that vanished

Author JB Fisher talks about a 61-year-old Portland mystery, this week at Third Street Books in McMinnville

On Thursday evening, Portland author JB Fisher will return to his one-time home of McMinnville to read from and discuss his latest book, Echo of Distant Water: The 1958 Disappearance of Portland’s Martin Family. You’ll find him downtown at Third Street Books, which has proved over the years that small-town indie bookstores can not only survive, but thrive. The Sept. 26 event begins at 6:30 p.m., and the store has a plentiful supply of copies for purchase.

Fisher is the author of another Portland true-crime book, Portland on the Take: Mid-Century Crime Bosses, Civic Corruption & Forgotten Murders, written with JD Chandler and published in 2014. That volume tells the tale of how gangsters gained control of some of the city’s unions during the Red Scare that followed the 1934 West Coast waterfront strike.

It turns out his new book was born right under my nose.

The author, teacher, and historian and his family used to live around the corner from us in McMinnville before they moved to Portland about six years ago. Our kids played together occasionally, so it turns out that I’ve actually visited the house where Echo of Distant Water has its origins.

Portland author JB Fisher came to true-crime via a background in Shakespeare and English Renaissance literature. He notes that popular literature of that time is “full of sensational stories: infanticides and hangings and the seedy underworld of ‘rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars.’”
Portland author JB Fisher came to true-crime via a background in Shakespeare and English Renaissance literature. He notes that popular literature of that time is “full of sensational stories: infanticides and hangings and the seedy underworld of ‘rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars.’” Photo by: Robert Delahanty

Digging through boxes in the garage of the ranch-style home, Fisher found a stack of newspapers left behind by the previous owner, and that was where he first learned about the Martin family. That story goes back to 1958, and boiled down to the most basic facts, it goes like this:

A few days before Christmas of that year, Ken and Barbara Martin of Portland and their three daughters climbed into their 1954 Ford station wagon and headed up the Columbia Gorge to find a Christmas tree. (Their 28-year-old son was stationed in New York with the Navy.) They had lunch at a Hood River diner, then apparently headed back to Portland.

Then they vanished.

Evidence emerged about a month later suggesting that the car had plunged off a cliff into the Columbia River near The Dalles. Early in May 1959, the bodies of the two youngest girls were discovered — one in the Columbia Slough near Camas, Wash., and the other near the Bonneville Dam spillway. The car was never found.

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Ed Asner: On politics and performing

The actor, who will perform in Newport next month, talks about the political environment, favorite roles and what it's like to be working at 89 years old

In about 10 days, Ed Asner will take the stage at the Newport Performing Arts Center in the play God Help Us!  The 90-minute show is described as “a political comedy for our times, and centers on two opposite-leaning pundits who are transported to purgatory by the Supreme Being himself for the purpose of debating today’s political and social issues.”

Asner, as God, will be joined on stage by four local actors for the two-night run, Aug. 10-11. Performances will benefit the performing arts center’s capital campaign. Tickets are available here.

Ed Asner, who says a real Democrat is a euphemism for socialist, characterizes the current political environment as “like the monkeys escaped the zoo.” Photo by: Tim Leyes
Ed Asner, who says a real Democrat is a euphemism for socialist, characterizes the current political environment as “like the monkeys escaped the zoo.” Photo by: Tim Leyes

I spoke with the seven-time Emmy-award winner by phone from his California home.  We talked about the play, politics, favorite roles and what it’s like to be working at 89 years old.

I’ve heard you described as the last real Democrat. How did you earn that title and can you talk about how God Help Us! relates to the current political scene?

Asner: I was born in 1929, so it was good year to be christened a Democrat. I come from Kansas City, Kansas, so we were vastly outnumbered. You had to learn to fight dirty and fight hard. I felt like the last living Democrat. A real Democrat is a euphemism for socialist. I like it. I think Americans were shucked into equating socialism with communism. People have been placed badly by that equation. They’ve screwed themselves. Until they get over that prejudice, our social progress will be slow.

How do you feel about the current political environment?

It’s like the monkeys escaped the zoo.

Can you share your thoughts on art/theater as a medium for resistance?

I’m delighted that artists have played a prominent role in creating resistance and continue to do so.

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