Friday, June 2, 2023

First & Last

First day of K at Hunters Woods ES (Reston, VA)

Last day of high school at McDaniel HS (Portland, OR)

Some highlights (by grade):
K - called in for a parent meeting after watching a Three Stooges marathon with his abuelo and acting out various scenes at school.
1st - played Angry Birds with friends during recess. They hurled themselves off the swings towards moving targets. Ended with a bump on his head and a call from the school nurse.
2nd - attended Donuts with Dads breakfast with Ed. When I asked him how it went he replied, “Don’t worry. Papi definitely didn’t kiss Ms. Toth” (his teacher) and then he walked away.
3rd - wrote a note on his homework to his teacher that read, “My mom said this worksheet is a waste of my time.” But still completed worksheet.
4th - refused to let me cut his hair before start of school because I "didn’t go to college for this.”
5th - told me that he didn’t want to go to middle school next year because there might be drugs there. Then he asked, “what are drugs, anyways?”
6th- tried out a new name at a new middle school. I was so confused at curriculum night when asked if I was “Paco’s” mom.
7th - walked to school on second day without his backpack. Didn’t notice until second period.
8th - flew out alone to visit his cousins in Texas before school started and boarded the wrong plane.
9th - walked home from school one day in giant Homer Simpson slippers because he traded shoes with his friend.
10th - COVID YEAR - would randomly run out of his room and then out the front door during zoom school for his online PE class. Also, took his first AP test in his bedroom. Abuelos were visiting so he listened to The Price Is Right blaring through the house through most of the exam.
11th - boarded the wrong bus on his first day at new high school and ended up in Industrial Portland. Precalc teacher yelled at him for being late on first day.
12th - *graduating
*pending his ability to find his Psychology textbook

What's next?

University of Oregon
Summit Scholar

Monday, December 5, 2022

The kid will be alright

                            Asher at (almost) 18

Back in 2004, when I was pregnant with our second child, I really wanted to name him Asher. I was still obsessed with Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev. I had read the book post-college while in bed recovering from knee surgery. I fell in love with the sound of the name and the protagonist in the book.

The Asher in My Name is Asher Lev is a Hasidic Jew and a protege artist. As a young child he is compelled to draw pictures, and as he grows to be a famous and prolific painter, his art conflicts with his religion in very public ways. It is a precarious balance that often leaves his family and his community deeply ashamed of him. But he's determined to not compromise his art or forsake his religious tradition.

I am neither Hasidic Jew nor a protege in any shape or form, but his character spoke to me as someone who existed on the political fringes of their religious community and as someone who was determined to keep their faith while pursuing more worldly ambitions. It feels a little self grandiose now, but at the time I was in my early 20s and I still thought I was destined for greatness.

Ed had never read the book. He liked the name but was hesitant. There is no sh sound in Spanish and because it isn't a speech sound Ed's parents learned to produce as a child, their sh sounds like ch. This means Ed's parents and family would call him Acher. I felt some guilt but still lobbied hard for the name. We compromised. The baby's first name would be Asher and his middle name would be Victoriano, after his abuelo.

Asher Victoriano came into the world, and as he grew and my own faith evolved, I slowly forgot about the connection between his name and the book. Asher is no longer an uncommon name. No one ever asks us where it came from. 

My Asher is now turning 18, a senior in high school. He is dreamy,  creative, more than a little angsty. He attended prom last-minute in the spring but otherwise doesn't have much patience for high school drama and tradition. He is a strong student academically which I've come to realize is mostly for the benefit of his parents. And at his heart he is an artist. He wants to study music production. He's avoided getting typical teenage jobs by finding paid summer internships that he can work, mostly on his own schedule, and then he stretches those dollars through the school year by wearing thrifts, buying food from dollar menus, and making excellent use of his free Trimet pass. He is singularly focused on making his music.

If I'm really being honest, I don't really understand this music - "beats" as he calls it. I listen and give enthusiastic support, but I couldn't tell you if the music he produces is good or bad. Many others have chimed in. He's good. He spends a fair amount of time in his "studio" which doubles as his bedroom, with his laptop, his drums, his keyboard, experimenting with sounds and rhythms. He's a bit of an enigma to me. I was a lot more motivated by grades and money at his age.

I feel a little scared for his future and this nontraditional path while knowing deep down that following a well-treaded path is not necessarily a recipe for happiness or success. Often, it is quite the opposite. 

I was letting this fear drown me the other day when it occurred to me in a flash of insight that Asher had in many ways become his namesake. He is the new Asher Lev, artist and respectful rebel of his upbringing. He is trying hard to synthesize a path between his more traditional middle class upbringing, his Mexican heritage, and his art. He is determined to not let any of it fall wayside.

The name we had given him had more power than I ever realized. I had raised the child that I had fallen in love with in that novel, the child I had always wanted. The fear of an unknown, undrawn future is slowly dissipating. The kid will be alright.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

'It happened how it was supposed to happen'

I’ve always considered myself fortunate in life. I’ve often said that I’ve had experiences that are beyond this barrio kid’s dreams. Whether it was being the first in my family to graduate college, or getting to work and live in the places I’ve worked and lived, it’s been a good life. And all along the way, having friends, loved ones and mentors to share the moments with have made it that much more gratifying. 

Lately, I’ve also found myself saying: It happened how it was supposed to happen. And as I sit here, on the eve of starting my next professional chapter in what can safely be called a dream job (deputy sports editor, Los Angeles Times), I find myself shocked at just how much I’ve packed into the “it happened” part of the phrase, particularly in the last five years.

But when you’ve had said friends (like the one in the picture above; more on her later) in your corner during that whole time, it starts to make more sense.


Five years ago, nearly to the day (Nov. 9, 2017), I left the Seattle Times. We all said the right things publicly on that last day, but as I quietly walked out of the newsroom via a back stairwell, the relief was palpable. It had become an incredibly toxic situation for me there, and I had been passed over for a couple of promotions in the previous 15 months. I would find out much later just how futile my efforts at moving up in that workplace were, further confirming my instinct to pivot out.

In short, I needed to get out of there. 

As self-evident as it was to leave, it was not an easy decision. Journalism was the only thing I had ever wanted to do and it was something I had been doing for 18 years up to that point. More than half that time was spent at the New York Times and Washington Post. 

At the same time, it was as good a time as any to transition. My two sons were about to turn 13 and 15, a critical time for me to be more present as a father. The next job (in the nonprofit sector) not only provided a more traditional work schedule, it also facilitated an eventual move to Portland, something we had always aspired to but could never quite pull off. And after moving constantly for my career, it only felt fair and right to figure out a move that would land us back in Jen’s hometown.

Once we relocated from Seattle to Portland in the summer of 2018, I found comfort in the familiar, and the new. I had lived here previously, when I worked for the Oregonian from 1999-2002, and I met and married Jen in Portland. There was plenty to savor, even 16-plus years after we had moved away. But there was also the new as I leaned into my propensity to network (a skill I had vastly improved on; I could write thousands of words about relationship building alone). It created a new circle of friends, some of whom I lean on heavily to this day.

It was a fruitful time for me, and it led to the next job: as a bilingual communications specialist with the City of Hillsboro. My start date was March 16, 2020. I drove to the Hillsboro Civic Center, decorated my cubicle, met my new co-workers, did the HR orientation session… and by that afternoon, the city manager sent an email memo announcing that we would all be working from home until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The most succinct way that I could describe my time at the City of Hillsboro is that sometimes, the moment finds you. I knew going in that because of Hillsboro’s demographics (roughly 25 percent Latino/Hispanic and 44 percent BIPOC), my bilingual skills would be useful. But I never would’ve guessed that they’d be leveraged this heavily as the communications team worked tirelessly to disseminate information to the public related to a global pandemic. 

The old journalism skills also proved useful as my colleagues and I worked collaboratively as we reacted quickly to a fluid situation, ever mindful about meeting all of our community members where they were. During such an uncertain time, I took some solace in being able to do meaningful and impactful work.

As I worked in the nonprofit and government sectors, journalism was never too far away. A very wise acquaintance told me when I left the Seattle Times that I would have more “emotional bandwidth” for the things that mattered most in my life. And in the journalism space, it was definitely the friendships I had forged. The industry is volatile and challenging, but the relationships can be forever. Something about the nature of the work that allows for moments in which you can bond, and you end up remembering those who showed up for you. And thus, I was happy to return the favor for my friends, offering any advice, perspective or volunteered time when asked.

Even so, by the late spring/early summer of 2021, I wondered if that chapter in my life was done and if I needed to make my peace with that. To be sure, there wasn’t any great feeling of anguish about it. I felt like I was thriving in Portland in many respects (a strange thing to say in the middle of a pandemic, but it was true), so I wasn’t actively seeking out any way back into journalism. I was nearly four years and two jobs removed from my last newsroom. 

It was happening how it was supposed to be happening. Or so I thought.

Sometime after Labor Day 2021, one of those trusty journalism friends connected me to the person who would become my boss in my first job back in the biz. A few weeks and interviews later, I had a job offer from ESPN. Terms were agreeable – I could even do the job from Portland – and before I could catch my breath, I was back as the sports editor of Andscape, ESPN’s website that explored the intersection of race, culture and sports. 

There was an inkling of self-doubt on the eve of starting the job at ESPN. What if my journalistic instincts felt rusty? 

By the end of the first week, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

The next several months were exhilarating and satisfying. We went through a rebrand (Andscape was formerly known as The Undefeated), I was the editorial lead on interesting projects, and I was bringing fresh voices into the fold. Nearly six years after the lowest moment of my professional life (losing out on the sports editor job in Seattle), I felt vindicated and fulfilled. 

And yet, one more twist remained. 


The person in the photo with me at the top of the post is Iliana Limon Romero, sports editor of the Los Angeles Times. She is an incredible journalist, and more important, an incredible person – truly one of my personal heroes. We’ve known each other for several years, a friendship borne out of many long conversations about how to navigate this industry as Latinos. The respect and admiration is deep, and mutual.

A few months after I left the Seattle Times, she was promoted to sports editor in Orlando, one of the few Latino sports editors in the U.S. at the time. It felt like such a triumphant day, and I made sure to tell her that. As I’ve often told her: this is what progress looks like.

Iliana was one of those journalism friends whom I stayed connected with, and I was always happy to listen, talk, and listen some more. I still remember the first time she mentioned the idea of working at the Los Angeles Times and what that could look like for her. She would eventually join the L.A. Times staff as the deputy sports editor in early 2021, another triumphant day.

Not surprisingly, she hit the ground running and was promoted to sports editor about six months ago. By the summertime, we were having conversations about her old job and what it would take for me to seriously consider such a role. 

Many weeks and many conversations and interviews later, here we are on the verge of being co-workers at long last. It worked out, all the way around. My sons are about to turn 18 and 20, with one of them through high school and the other about to graduate in the spring with plans to go to college after that. Even with all the challenges our oldest son has endured in recent years – in addition to being on the autism spectrum, he started having epileptic seizures in May 2020 – he seems to be in a generally good spot in life and is well supported by all of us in our family.

I go into this next professional chapter with excitement, enthusiasm and profound gratitude. 

Excitement over the chance to work for the hometown newspaper, the one I first read when I was in elementary school when my parents got me a subscription and sparked a lifelong passion for sports journalism. 

Enthusiasm about working with someone I greatly respect in Iliana. She is a wonderful leader who advocates for her charges like few I’ve ever seen. When you get the opportunity to lead with a boss who shares your vision and your values, you do everything you can to make it happen.

And profound gratitude, for family that kept me grounded and focused as I considered this latest change. And to friends, who were there with me through this whole time and never lost faith that I still had something meaningful to offer an industry I had exited.

It happened how it was supposed to happen.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Ave Maria pelencho, que bien me siento!

Editor's note: This post is strictly for my own memory. If no one outside my family looks at this, I don't care. This is for me and a chance to jot down what I remember from one of the best interactions I've ever had with a public figure/baseball hero. If you click off here, absolutely no hard feelings.

There's something about Latino moms, no matter the region of origin. No matter how hard you work, no matter the heights you reach in your professional life, they can be hard to impress sometimes. 

To be fair, some of this is point of reference. You're sometimes the first in your family to earn a degree, advanced or otherwise. Or you're the first in your family to work in certain sectors. So certain accomplishments just aren't going to resonate.

I still remember a former colleague at The New York Times who's Puerto Rican tell me about the time his mom was finally proud of him: it was when he had lined up an interview with... former Sabado Gigante host Don Francisco. Even got him to sign a copy of his memoir for her.

Keep in mind, my former colleague had served as a foreign correspondent in Panama when Manuel Noriega was ousted, had served with distinction as a Metro columnist, and had been at the Times for a great many years. But it was meeting Don Francisco that did it for his mom.

I got a version of this moment last week during the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in Las Vegas.

As I've managed to work my way back into journalism after four years away, currently serving as the sports editor at Andscape, I've happily involved myself in volunteer work with organizations like NAHJ. One of the things we've been trying to get off the ground this year was a sports task force. We are nascent at the moment, but we still wanted to launch on some things at this year's convention, including a lifetime achievement award named for Pedro Gomez, the former ESPN baseball reporter who died suddenly at age 58 in early 2021.

With that award established, we wanted to find a first recipient worthy of the spirit and grace that Gomez embodied during his career.

Enter Jaime Jarrin, the Spanish-language play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's been at the mic for the team since 1959 and has called countless World Series and All-Star Games and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1998. Fans of a certain age also remember him as being in the eye of the hurricane during Fernandomania in 1981, serving as Valenzuela's interpreter during postgame interviews.

For my family, and countless other Latino households across Southern California, Jaime Jarrin was almost like another family member. That tends to happen with baseball announcers, since the season is 162 games long, and when you include spring training and the playoffs, the season can go from March through the end of October. The team, and by extension the announcer, are a constant presence.

But Jaime also means something to us because he spoke our language. And considering he will have ended up doing the job for 64 seasons after he retires at the end of this year, it's hard not to leave an indelible impression on us all. In short, I cannot recall a single Dodger-related memory that didn't involve him in some way as I grew up in a Spanish-speaking household of crazed Dodger fans.

So needless to say, I was good with us awarding Jaime the Pedro Gomez Lifetime Achievement Award.

As we made arrangements for Jaime to receive the award at a designated luncheon, my fellow task force members let me know that I would be the one who would greet Jaime (and his personal assistant, Jesse NuƱez) when he arrived at the hotel and would then escort him to the luncheon. Once we wrapped up the event, I would escort him and his assistant out to the valet area, where a car would take him back to the airport.

In nearly 20 years of working in journalism, I've been fortunate enough to meet some prominent figures in and out of sports. They're all human like the rest of us, though certainly they've achieved their status in life by being more gifted/charismatic/driven than most. 

All that said, the idea that I was going to meet one of my baseball heroes was blowing my mind in the days leading up to it. In lighter moments, I would joke with my family that I would probably be like Chris Farley talking to Paul McCartney in that old "SNL" sketch ("Do you remember when Kirk Gibson hit that home run in the World Series? That was awesome."). 

The day of the luncheon, I made sure to text Jaime's assistant before they took off for their flight to let Jesse know that I would be greeting them and escorting them to the event. And I made sure to be extra early. I also made sure to pack a few things that I wanted to share with Jaime when it was appropriate. (More on that later.)

This interaction actually got off to a stressful start. Caesar's Palace, where we had our convention, is so vast and sprawling that there are many points that a town car could drop off a VIP. So imagine my surprise when I get a call from Jaime's assistant wondering where I was -- as I stood in an area labeled "town car drop-off area."

The mad scramble began, as did my endless apologies. 

After running around, and a few phone calls and text messages to get coordinated, I finally spot Jaime and Jesse at the bottom of some escalators that led to the convention space. 

I made eye contact with Jaime, and he nodded and motioned at Jesse. He looked regal in his blue suit, gray hair and dark rimmed glasses. It was a breathtaking moment, but I needed to pull it together -- and besides, I could probably chalk up the loss of breath to my running around trying to locate them.

I shook hands with Jesse, since we'd been in contact this entire time, and then I turned to Jaime and introduced myself in Spanish, and shook his hand with both of my hands. And after some small talk, Jesse pointed out to Jaime that I was from East L.A. and have been a long-time fan of his. Jesse then offered to take a picture of us together. As I joked later with many friends and family: other than my tie looking disheveled (I blame the running around), I could've died in peace after this picture was taken.

And with that, we were off to the event. As we rode the escalator up, I made sure to offer my condolences over the loss of Vin Scully, who had died only three days before at age 94. He was very gracious and mentioned how much Vin meant to him as a friend and mentor over the years. It's a theme I touched on in my own tribute to the man, such was the profound impact the Dodgers' English-language announcer had on us all.

Once we were at the luncheon space, we received the run of show so that Jaime and others knew where to go when it was time for him to receive his award. We then stood out in the hallway as former colleagues and other interested parties came up to him to wish him well, catch up, and take photos. Again, Jaime was just an extraordinarily gracious man throughout.

I was mostly off to the side, getting well-acquainted with Jesse, a gracious man in his own right. I talked to him about how much this meant to me, getting to spend time around someone like Jaime. I explained how this spans generations in my family, how my parents and my aunts became Dodger fans in the 1970s, and his voice was the soundtrack for a significant portion of that fandom. I told him that I'm sure I wasn't unique in telling him this, but all the same, perhaps it reinforced how much Jaime matters.

He told me that Jaime obviously is a unifying figure among the fan base, that he brought people together regardless of class, race or ethnicity. But what amazed Jesse was how much he resonated with older Latinas, particularly working-class Latinas. To which I immediately confirmed that as I thought about my mom and my two aunts with outsized personalities. They truly adored Jaime, unquestionably.

The event went off with nary a hitch, though I was stressed over the fact that if it took too long, would Jaime and Jesse miss their flight back to L.A.? There was a Dodger game that night, after all, the first game at Dodger Stadium since Vin died, so you knew it was going to be an event.

But we made it, and we spilled back out to the hallway for more pictures and well-wishes. At a certain point, we began to make our way down the escalator so we could begin to walk to where the town car would pick them up for the ride back to the airport.

It was a long escalator, and about a third of the way down, Jesse looks at Jaime and says, "Hey, Ed told me that his parents have been long-time listeners of your broadcasts!" Jaime turned to me and said in Spanish, "Oh, well, tell them thank you so much and please give them my best and a hug from me."

At this point, this incredible day went to the next level.

Jesse looks at me with a smile and says, "You think your mom's home right now?"

I said she probably was. And he says, "Why don't you put her on the phone, and Jaime can thank her personally?"

Jaime asked what my mom's name was (Aurora Guzman), and I began to dial.

If ever there was one solitary phone call in my life that I wanted her to pick up, it was this one.

It rang for what felt like 20 minutes (it was probably five rings), but she picked up. As calmly as I could, I said in Spanish, "Hi, mom. Hold on, because I want you to talk to a friend of mine."

Jaime took the phone, and in a sing-song voice said, "Aurorita, Aurorita, que gusto me de en saludarle, Aurorita!"

I heard later from my tia Teresa that my mother was on the other end in complete shock and crying.

As the phone call continued, we were standing back at the bottom of the escalator where we had met and taken a picture earlier in the day as Jaime effortlessly and graciously thanked my mother for the long-time support, and he mentioned that she has "an extraordinary son who had been a big help to me here in Las Vegas" and that it was such a pleasure to speak with her. He calmly handed the phone back to me, I told her I'd call her later and we continued to walk toward the exit.

As we made our way through the casino area to get back to where his town car was, Jaime and I ended up walking together and we made small talk. He asked where I lived, and he proceeded to tell me how much he loved Oregon and Portland, the rain and the green scenery in this state. I'm sure he says nice things like this to everyone regardless of where they're from, but again, because he's such a gracious gentleman, you really believed it in that moment.

We also talked baseball. He was talking about what a big series the Dodgers had that weekend against the Padres and how they likely won't catch them in the division, but they'll be a tough out in the playoffs. I agreed, and told him I often thought that the Padres were the future. He also told me about how he's called so many World Series in his career, both for the Dodgers and for national media outlets like ESPN. I told him how growing up, whenever he was on the World Series for a national station, it warmed my heart because if the Dodgers couldn't be in the World Series, at least Jaime Jarrin was in the World Series.

He chuckled at that, and said, "Well, the Dodgers won a World Series the very first year I was on the job (1959). Perhaps they'll bless me with another one in my last year here."

Your lips to God's ears, Jaime.

Somewhere during this conversation, I had him sign a couple of things, including this cap I bought in 1990 during what was the Dodgers' 100th anniversary season. My parents had saved it all these years before having me take it last year. I could think of no better personal memento for him to sign.

As we neared the exit, Jaime asked me about what I did at ESPN and the nature of the work that I edit. He patiently listened as I explained it in Spanish, and told me how he knew some of my colleagues and was proud of the progress they'd made in their careers. That was roughly where the picture at the top of this post was taken. You could see the genuine warmth and care he was taking in our conversation. And I am only the fortunate other player in this moment.

We got to the car, and said our goodbyes and thank-yous, with Jaime telling me to keep in touch. They got in the car and off they went to the airport.

I turned around to go back inside, and before I even got to the doors, I doubled over and started crying. It was tears of joy, to be sure, but the overwhelming nature of what had just happened finally got to me. I eventually got inside and called my mother back, and she was just over the moon. That will be a phone call she'll be talking about for, well, forever.

I have often said that my career in sports journalism has afforded me opportunities to do things and have experiences that are beyond this barrio kid's wildest dreams. It's been a good life with regards to work, even with the inevitable disappointments that have happened along the way. And it's moments like the one I had with Jaime Jarrin, the great broadcasting hero to my family and so many others, that really make it all seem worth it.

The next day, as I was going through the last full day at the convention, I got a text message from Jesse. It was him following up to thank me for all my help, and he added knowingly as a fellow Latino: "I hope your mom is proud of you now LOL."

I think it's safe to say that, yes. In the words of Jaime himself: Ave Maria pelencho, que bien me siento!

Monday, May 9, 2022

A Little Truth Serum on Mother's Day

A little truth serum on Mother’s Day: Motherhood hasn’t been at all what I expected. When I got pregnant with NoĆ© I assumed we were all headed on a trip to um… Denmark and then we took a swift detour to … let’s say … Morocco. Morocco is a fine and an equally beautiful destination. But I wasn’t prepared. I had been learning Danish and studying Denmark guide books and none of that was remotely helpful when we landed in Morocco. And I feel like I’ve been winging motherhood over here in Morocco while everyone else is hanging out in Denmark.

How do I help my child with severe disabilities realize his full potential? What exactly is that potential? How do I raise this kid next to my other typically developing kid without short-changing either? How do Ed and I stay engaged with our marriage when we have 24/7 caregiving demands with a (now) 19 year old? I am writing this guide book as I go and frankly, I get a lot wrong.
A lot of days I’m grateful we crash landed in Morocco. Ed and I are unshackled from a lot of the expectations of raising kids in Middle Class America and are free to figure out what works best for our family. It has made us value kindness over achievement. Want a quick way to rid yourself of caring what strangers think of you? Take an older teenager with severe OCD and all the autism tics (and seizures!!!) out in public on the regular.
Watching our eldest on a different development path has made us reexamine what is best for our other kid. Last year Asher told us he wanted to transfer high schools. We gave him the green light and let him figure it out and he has grown and thrived in ways I never anticipated. I am positive that had I been “living in Denmark” I would have encouraged him to stick it out at his highly-rated former high school.
But lately I’ve felt utterly exhausted with motherhood. I feel ready to be done with the work of raising children. Blame the pandemic, blame my own lack of patience, blame the dearth of paid caregivers currently available to help us with our disabled son. Whatever. I am ready for novel challenges and ready to follow the horizon of some unrealized dreams. I feel the smallest bit of resentment that I am currently an almost full-time mom and I only fit this other work in small bursts of free moments. Ed has lovingly filled a lot of caregiving gaps when I’ve crawled away to my bed and raised a white flag from under the covers. But these two kids deserve a mom to get them to the finish line. And Ed and I will find a way to get them there together, error-riddled guidebook in hand.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Marine Drive

Last weekend, Ed had to work and NoƩ paced the house like a cat on crack cocaine, so I took him for a drive. Drives with NoƩ have been our go-to during the trickier parts of Covid. And Marine Drive is our favorite pandemic driving destination.

Tucked into the car, I thought of our many drives on this roadway since Covid hit and the many ways Marine Drive has changed with the times. I realized I’d been trying to outdrive this damn pandemic on this damn road for almost two years.

NoĆ© and I started driving Marine Drive in March 2020 when in-person school and the rest of the world shut down. After morning online classes, we would head to the car. Life then was still very locked down and driving was one of the few things that offered both freedom and safety. We drove east from 33rd Avenue along Marine Drive until we hit Blue Lake, and then we would turn around and head back west on the same road. Marine Drive boasts great views of PDX Airport to the south and the mighty Columbia River to the north. NoĆ© likes watching the planes take off and land at PDX. Amazon and FedEx delivery planes dominated the runways back then. My eyes usually moved to the other side of the road, towards the serenity of the river that divides Oregon from Washington. I’ve always sought out great bodies of water to calm my mind when it is otherwise hitting the red panic button.

Together, we watched the Oregon winter gradually lift from the inside our silver Honda CRV. Blooms formed on the trees lining the river and snow slowly receded from the mountains surrounding us. On clear days we had a view of Mt. Hood, still vanilla with snow. Good ol’ ever-dependable Mt. Hood. Always positioned east in that exact same spot on the horizon. It towered in our windshield as a beacon of certainty among the chaos.

As the temperature warmed into April and May, we pit stopped at Brighton Beach. The beach, near the 33rd Ave turnoff and Salty’s restaurant, is admittedly sketchy. You wouldn’t catch us there anytime after dark. But NoĆ© and I enjoyed playing in the sand and in the small rolling tides, the beach otherwise empty of visitors. We sat on oversized logs dotting the beach and wished into the waters many an overcast spring and fall afternoon. I could read on a blanket and let him wander the beach without worry. It was about the most carefree either of us felt during that stretch of time. I told NoĆ© it was our “secret beach,” even though every Portland teenager had recreated and experimented on that rocky strip of sand since the 1970s.

NoĆ© and I kept driving straight through the Summer of 2020. Our afternoon visits to Brighton Beach turned to morning walks along the shore to avoid sunny masses of bodies and booming music as Covid cases and restrictions eased. We noticed garbage piling up along Marine Drive. And then, a never-ending trail of tents and rusted out RVs and illegal bonfires popped up along the bike trail that runs between the street and the river. Commercial airliners returned to the airport runway. Later that winter, part of the airport parking lot would transform into a gigantic maze of cars — a drive thru vaccine clinic. Ed took Noe (twice) through that very line.

Through 2021, our Marine Drive adventures abated as school and work returned, and life normalized a bit. We headed back to public transportation and theaters and restaurants and other places where we might interact with others. But this winter, we’ve tried to isolate once again in an effort to keep virus transmissions down and school up. And NoĆ© and I  find ourselves Thelma and Louise’ing it back on Marine Drive. On my worst days, I drive and look out at the water and the garbage and wonder how we will ever get ourselves out of this literal and figurative mess.

Two years into this pandemic and the only real certainty is that there will continue to be lots of uncertainty. Will my kids have school today? Is there another, more dangerous variant on the horizon? Will the garbage and recycling pickup come today?

Will Noe and I be driving Marine Drive forever?

Monday, January 3, 2022

In appreciation of male friendship

“Male friends are important to me, and the ones that I love are vitally important. These two guys, I loved.” -- Ben Bradlee, in his memoir A Good Life, on his friendship with Art Buchwald and Ed Williams

The guys in the picture above are Alfredo and Jose, both of whom I met in 2019. I met Alfredo first through a Latino professionals networking event that we’re regulars at (well, at least we were in the Before Times). I followed up and asked if we could have lunch in early 2019, and would ask again every couple of months. Thankfully, he always agreed and we began to hit it off. 

Jose I met through Alfredo in the summer of 2019. Alfredo looped us both into a text thread that has never stopped nearly three years later. As we subsequently met up in person, the chemistry was instant with Jose, and it wasn’t just our common fandom of the Dodgers.

It's been really serendipitous to meet two Latinos who are age peers and with whom I have a lot in common. Whether it was nerding out about baseball, talking about our families (immediate and extended), or providing a space to vent and compare notes on navigating our professional lives, the conversations have been enriching and deep.


It is invaluable to have people in your corner who can relate on a number of levels and can keep you honest or offer an encouraging word when it's necessary. But I’m also very grateful we had that time to cultivate the friendship and form a bond of some kind before the pandemic shut everything down. I’m pleased to say the bonds have stayed strong as we navigated these last couple of years.

As I've cultivated these friendships, my mind drifted to Ben Bradlee’s memoir, A Good Life. It is firmly in my wheelhouse because of the cross-section of journalism and history and is a book I reread at least once a year. I even own an audiobook version, read by the man himself, his gravelly voice filling my earbuds or speakers upon every listen.

It’s an engrossing read, thanks to a charismatic central figure who was a giant in his industry and had a direct hand in or close-up vantage point for many moments in post-war American history. (For the non-readers out there, I recommend a recent HBO doc on the man, which basically used his memoir as a script.)

One secondary thread in the book that always fascinated me was his friendship with Art Buchwald and Ed Williams, which is a recurring theme as he weaves through tales of JFK, working at Newsweek, the Watergate scandal, and more. It was a warm, deep and lasting bond between the three of them, and I always wondered what that must be like. Would I ever have an inner circle like that?

It wasn’t until I moved to Portland in the summer of 2018, and started networking and meeting people in the area, that it started to manifest itself. 

I had found my guys, and am very grateful!

I look forward to the time when we’re past this pandemic, whatever that looks like, and I get to see Jose and Alfredo more frequently. Because, yes, to paraphrase Bradlee’s line: these two guys, I love.