Perfect job. Perfect life. Heaviest heart.

IMG_2391We creative and techy types have it all. We finished college on the east coast or somewhere in Wisconsin, then chose a cool city where the fun equaled the work opportunities. Go west young man (or woman). Denver, San Francisco, Portland, Austin, San Diego. Climb the mountains, ride the waves, run the trails! Bike lanes, locally roasted, free trade espresso beans, good Thai food – yes, it is all here, bro.

Over time, we fell in love with a cute activist from a local non-profit that we met through a friend one night at an artisan cocktail bar. She battled the evil-doers that dirtied our planet and damn it, we felt good. So good. Eventually, we got married, bought a house in a “transitioning neighborhood,” had a few kids and decided what toddler soccer program in which to enroll the kiddos – Lil’ Kickers, Goal Getters, Ball Bees.

Back in the office, agency, workspace, think tank, etc. we worked our way through the ranks – Copywriter, Senior Copywriter, Creative Director. Or maybe Account Manager, Strategic Planner, Director of Client Services – whatevs, it’s all good. We worked from the office, behind our stand up desks because sitting all day was totally killing us, dude. Some days we connected to the LAN from home, on our patio, on our Apple Macbook Air with retina screen because, hey, telecommuting is the way people work today. C’mon now, a couple times we worked from the chairlift because, why not. That email can wait one more run, there’s still untouched powder to be had – after all, it was Tuesday so the mountain was ours alone. I totally Instagrammed that.

Yes, things in this Wired world are perfect. We have it so good. Everyone’s happy – until things back east, or in Wisconsin or on the Great Lakes or wherever we’re from take a turn southward. No matter how much technology, good beer and organic produce stores we have in our awesome lives, when a parent, brother, sister or friend gets sick, we’re still too far away to help. Sure, we can hop on a plane in the morning and be there for a dying relative but what about the months and weeks before that when things seem, well, mostly OK.

We check in and hear, “Well, I’m in a little pain but I think it’s going to turn around soon.” Shortly after that conversation, the person can’t drive, headaches are getting too severe, and someone else – a brother, sister, or parent who lives closer is burdened with caring for and checking on this person that means so much to us. We wonder, “Should we fly home now?” But any thoughts of that are squashed during the next FaceTime call. “No, no, no she said, I’m fine. You stay there with those two cute kids of yours.” So, feeling a little better, we go back to work on a script about some awesome piece of accounting software for a client video.

Then it happens. We knew it was coming. It doesn’t even have to be death, it’s just that delicate point of no return. This person we love, cherish, and miss terribly won’t be around for much longer. That’s when we take the world’s longest, saddest flight back to where we came from. Award-winning restaurants, quaint coffee shops, art galleries, brew pubs and a killer job in the best part of the city can’t fix this.

It’s true. We have it all, we really do. But no job, client or neighborhood can mend a hole in the heart where someone we miss terribly once occupied. Take a vacation and see family and friends. All this other stuff will be in your cool city when you get back – or in the next, “America’s Hippest City.” I hear it’s Pittsburgh now.

New Artwork For Show on Nov. 7th

BoxingartI just completed three paintings for an upcoming small group show. Sweet Science Boxing Gym is hosting a sparring/art event on Nov. 7th and will be featuring several artists who have created “boxing-themed art”. Clever idea. Here’s one of the pieces I’ll be showing. The Flow. Acrylics on paper.

I Sleep On Concrete

concreteSometimes I sleep on the Eastbank Esplanade path. It’s true, when the sun is shining and a breeze is blowing on a perfect Portland July afternoon, I’ll walk out of my office and lay down on the concrete at the entrance to the popular river walk – yes, the smooth white concrete near Coopers Café at the corner of Clay St .and Water Ave. The warmth of the sun is matched by the warmth emanating from the paved pathway and that combination lulls me to sleep in minutes. With the width of the Esplanade entrance, I’m not in anyone’s way there. I lay flat; eyes closed and let the whizzing by of bicycles, workers gossiping and the chatter of the café patrons at the outdoor tables calm my mind.

This habit of mine started two summers ago after the birth of my first child, Ryder. Although he was a good sleeper by baby standards, the inevitable “up all night” happened pretty frequently. I’d roll into my office bleary eyed, a cup of steaming Stumptown in my travel mug and slog through the morning until lunch. One day, I strolled out into the glaring sun, stopped at the Esplanade, lying down from where I just stood, and closed my eyes thinking, “I’ll just rest here for a moment.” I fell asleep – a deep, truly restful sleep that invigorated me for more afternoon copywriting and creative directing. That’s when it became a regular part of my summer and fall days. Now, with the birth of our second child, and the cycle of sleepless nights continuing, this lunchtime ritual seems natural.

I often wonder if people whisper about me as they walk past or wonder why I’ve chosen the pavement of such a busy corridor as my place for slumber. But then I remember that this is Portland. I’m just another cog in the wheel of original scenes that play out on any sunny afternoon of a Portland summer. From tall bikes riding past to the regular morning crowd of swimmers who cross the Willamette River from the west side to the east, I’m just another detail in the woven cloth of what you’ll find in this city.

Our Portland Story Vol. 2

OPS storyOur Portland Story is a community story project featuring selected local writers and designers. The latest volume took nearly 3 years to complete but I’m proud to have been selected as part of this great project. My writing was paired up with a local designer’s interpretation of the story and despite the somewhat frightening illustration of my face, I think the essence of the story was captured beautifully. Books are available in Portland area bookstores and online.

Click on image at left to read the story.

Thoughts on Elliott Smith and the New Biography, Torment Saint

elliott-smile5002I just finished reading William Todd Schultz’s Torment Saint, the poignant, sad, troubled biography of Elliott Smith. To borrow a well-worn title from another less tragic contemporary (David Eggers), Smith’s music and legacy is truly the Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Of course the tales of depression, drug abuse, and sad lyrics are nothing new to anyone familiar with the myth of Elliott Smith, but as I turned each page of the book, I realized that Smith is someone I would have liked – even with his insufferable self-loathing. Clearly this was another case of an artist who enjoyed making art for art’s sake and when that art was co-opted for mass consumption and all the pitfalls that accompany corporate success, it was simply too heavy to handle – insert Kurt Cobain here.

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Hatch Show Print

I was in Nashville, TN this week and had an opportunity to check out world famous Hatch Show Print. I stared in awe at all the classic posters on the walls dating back to the late 1800’s. The art of letter press is still alive and well there with classic Nashville show posters for Johnny Cash, Ernest Tubbs and Patsy Cline hung next to some of today’s most influential indie artists. Large metal plates containing all the fonts, letters and numbers were stacked high on the shelves around the space and the smell of fresh ink was in the air. It was a glorious assault on the senses.

No matter how far we push technology into the world of design, nothing compares to the art of handmade prints cranked out from the large, creaky bowels of a steel press. Long live Hatch.   

So I took a spin in this sweet 1970 Mustang Mach 1 with a smallblock 351 today at lunch. I’m still drooling on my shirt.