Friday, June 19, 2015

Pieces of Portland

An inside look at America's weirdest  city 

Written by Marie Deatherage/ Photos by Joyce Brekke

My pluperfect spousal unit Marie is a professional writer. Like a real writer. When we met in 1997 and began our courtship, she had been working for a foundation, summarizing grant proposals for the trustees to study before they would offer financial consideration to one of Oregon’s many illustrious non profits. Before that she was writing articles and editing several publications including “The Oregon Clarion”, which was the “go to” periodical for Oregon’s disabled community. And when she was only 17, she wrote an article for the Cottage Grove Sentinel, where she was actually working part time, about famous Oregon heroine Opal Whitely, which won “Best Feature Story of The Year” as awarded by The Oregon Newspaper Publisher’s Association.  

When we were dating, Marie shared with me a few chapters of a book she had begun to write about her son Blaine and her experiences with him in the world of the disabled. It rather blew my mind. Heartfelt, educational, and above all, so beautifully written. Having been drawn to writing myself over my lifetime, and holding writers up as heroes and heroines, my immediate respect for Marie and her command of language (and her babeness) soon morphed into a full blown love affair.

About the book:

Cut to 2013, we are hanging out in our basement, attempting to thin the hoard, when Marie spies two large boxes full of papers and begins thumbing through the contents. “Oh my God”, she suddenly spoke, “this is all the work I did when I was teaching, before Blaine was born, notes I took, interviews, and study I did to write a book about Portland. I did so much work! I have to transfer these handwritten documents onto the computer!” So for about the next month, when she would get home from work at night, and on the weekends, our kitchen table was covered with papers, and those two boxes were on the kitchen floor. And basically the world stopped turning until she was done. And then she announced to me that I could return the much lighter boxes to the basement. 

I am certain that I questioned Marie about what her intention was to do with all that information that she had just transferred to her computer, and I am also sure that she didn’t really know. But the train had left the station. I could tell she was mulling over the whole situation, having reread all the notes she had taken years earlier during her time teaching the geography of Portland, and other related subjects. 

But Marie is not just a writer. Marie thinks like an artist, and has artistic talent. She can also draw. Design a garden or a kitchen. She also possesses color expertise. And she can sew. So when she decided to take up quilting with a vengeance, some years ago, like her grandmother and her mother, I was not surprised. And when there were 30 quilts, she asked me to build her a rack on a wall of our home, to store them. My friend Tim Gillespie calls it “Marie’s Quilt Garden”

I think we may have been driving in the car, maybe a foray to Cottage Grove, Oregon to visit Marie’s mom, or maybe a trip to Longview, Washington for dinner with Marie's sister Sarah’s fam, when Marie expressed to me how she might go forward with writing a book. And I am here to tell you, though I was immediately jazzed by Marie’s ideas, I had absolutely no idea what a magnificent book Marie would finally write.

So she says t'me she says, "I am going to ask Joyce if she would like to join me in the book project. (Marie’s best friend since their days at The University of Chicago). Since we are both quilters, and Joyce is a photographer, I think we could do a book together that would be interesting and unique. We could weave our quilting and the fabric of Portland together. Something like that. And go into some depth about what makes Portland Portland."

"Okay!", says I, having absolutely no idea how in the world such a plan might tumble, "what I'm gonna say honey is, if anyone can pull off such an idea, I know you can! I'm backin' ya!"

So for the next many months, here's the scene: Marie is perched in her chair by our pond (except during inclement weather) with her laptop, for up to 14 hours a day. Or Joyce comes over and the two of them leave together, toting many quilts and camera equipment.

If I may, I want to underscore the amount of time and effort that Marie and Joyce have put into their book. First, there's the book concept. Then, there's a basic outline. Then there's writing the text, interviews, photos, assembling the book as you go so it makes sense. And since she has the computer chops, after she wrote the book, she did the complete design and layout! Placing text and photos, table of contents, everything!

Sunday April 26, 2015:

Today I sit here at 6am in our quiet home with my snoozing dog Drifty on my lap, cruisin' the TV schedule for today's sports, and waiting for my exhausted wife to come tip toeing down the stairs for her requisite cup of strong coffee. She worked late into the night on her book again, as she has been doing for most of the past year. But I am pretty sure that today is the day she will be delivering the thumb drive containing the master copy of her book to Kinkos/Fedex to make the first loose leafed copy, with all the high-res photos placed, the whole deal. So we can see what the finished product will pretty much look like. And so she can make any necessary changes.

During this book writing process, I have been so fortunate to read the text it as it was being written. What a blast! It's fabulous! I've learned so much! It's so well written, the photography is great, the featured Portland peeps and places are all so interesting and beautifully described by an accomplished writer, who, along with providing us with an amazing view of our grand city, can be damn funny! I hope you get your hands on a copy of "Pieces of Portland", by Marie Deatherage and Joyce Brekke. Also visit Marie’s personal blog at Comments welcome!

And lastly, please allow me to express my pride in both Marie and Joyce for what they have accomplished. I cannot even begin to describe my joy at having been the proverbial fly on the wall over these past months, watching these two amazing women start and then finish this project. That I am closely associated with them both, and married to one of them for godsake, is like some kind of miracle. Many, many thanks to both of you for allowing me to be a part of this process. And yay, now I get my wife back!!!

My story in annoying detail:

1 comment:

revphil said...

Yup! at first I thought the book was gonna be kind of too lighthearted. I've been delighted to learn so much as i flip through the pages and see my friends excited when they see it.

My photo
Pacific Beach, Washington, United States