Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

A real micro-manager

“At 550 percent of daily value cumulative nutrients, broccoli [microgreens are] the king of nutrients. It has the most complete nutrient package of any vegetable on this list. It is packed with Vitamin A, B, C and K. Plus, it has a significant amount of as iron, magnesium and phosphorus.”

— Jason Lee, Grow Your Microgreens

Microgreens 2
Biointensive growing!

I met Helen Denton at a Newport restaurant while interviewing for a feature story. She had just brought in clear plastic containers of some of her delights — called “plant confetti” for some, microgreens for others. Also, in her cache were edible flower blossoms.

Her operation is in Waldport, called Lil Swiss Farms. She invites me over since I thrive on the stories of people on the coast whether newcomers or sixth generation deep, it doesn’t matter to me.

The story of microgreens eclipses any hippie and vegan roots — if you hate your broccoli like George H W Bush stated as president, there is still the option of broccoli shoots. All that energy to push the seed up into gravity-fed air, all those resources to get the stalk to lift up leaves and flowers through all that cellulose magic actually saps the plant of nutrients. Big time.

“I’ve heard up to 40 times the nutritional value broccoli microgreens have over the vegetable broccoli.”

She’s showing me around her greenhouse operation in Waldport, as part of the seven acres where Tiny Tranquility Park is sited.

This is a one-woman show, and Helen’s 62 years on planet earth belie a 180-degree turn from her more than 40 years in the time-share resort business.

Microgreens 1

Early roots, early gardens

Interestingly, Helen’s background goes back to her grandparents from Bavaria, who ended up in the US after World War One. Family history is a big story for most of my column’s people. Some, like Helen, decide to not get too deep into immediate family dynamics.

She did say, however, that one day her New Jersey-raised father in one fell swoop lost his wife. Helen was six months old at the time when her mother died of a cerebral aneurism. “And if it had happened today, she’d be operated on and be fine.”

He was left raising Helen and sister. She counts Painesville, Ohio, and New Jersey as stopping points in her early life. She ended up in Houston, Texas, from 4th grade to her high school graduation.

Not surprisingly, she wanted to build a family, but she ended up with three children who she raised herself. “I have great kids. It’s the best work I have ever done.”

Her current two-plus year microgreens venture contrasts greatly with her father’s work as a chemist. As a scientist with Bayer, he was part of the manufacturing team for dinitrotoluene (DNT), a mixture of toluene and nitric acid. It’s what ends up in bedding, furniture and car dashboards as a flexible polyurethane foam. Its closes cousin is the more infamous TNT (dynamite).

She is quick to explain while microgreens are a new iteration of Helen Denton, she has always been around gardens and was always gardening. In fact, when she moved back to Texas (there while helping a family member battle cancer), Helen built and tended 27 raised garden beds.

“It must be a leftover from my grandfather. He had half an acre on his New Jersey property. Half of that was a garden. My sister’s been the same. It must be in my blood.”

Demand for the product

She counts many local and regional restaurants as part of her customer base. Green Salmon, Yachats Brewery, Restaurant Beck (a James Beard mention) and Coast & Vine are just a few that put in orders.

The Lil Swiss Farms list of microgreens is extensive, including collards, kohlrabi, pea, mustard, radish, broccoli, borage and sorrel. Also, in the mix are herbs like rosemary, mint, sage and basil. Then there are the edible flowers: nasturtium, marigold, calendula, snapdragon, chive blossom.

“Lil Swiss Farms’ microgreens not only make food more appealing to the eye, but the flavor can take a dish from good to great,” according to Chef Sam Bretz with Restaurant Beck at the Whale Cove Inn.

The greenhouse at Tiny Tranquility Park is huge and full of light. Helen said she has put in sweat equity to clear it out of all the junk as things piled up during its disuse. The space comes from Josh Palmer, the New York native who owns the tiny home/trailer park.

Part of her responsibilities are maintaining the garden dedicated to the Tiny Tranquility residents who have access to homegrown vegetables from a garden which takes up part of the greenhouse. The residents harvest it, in a pay-as-you-will honor system.

She’s aware of microgreen growers who set up grow lights, irrigation systems and hundreds of trays to produce 800 pounds of microgreens a week.

“There’s something really fulfilling, healthy and satisfying to grow in this natural light. To put your hands in the soil.” She says she’d have it no other way working this small business vis-à-vis the value of fresh air, sunlight and ground and gravel under her feet.

The Tiny Tranquility Park garden is her reminder that people who live intentionally have a desire to eat healthy food from a pesticide-and-herbicide-free garden.

While surfing the internet, I came across this accolade for Helen and her microgreens, from a resident of Tiny Tranquility Park:

“Pinch me, as it is a tiny houser’s dream come true. To be in a community with its own greenhouse garden and, with Helen’s expertise in helping us raise our own vegetable gardens. Plus, we have a place to store our own plants in the wintertime. The best perk is having the closest opportunity to purchase the freshest microgreens just a few steps from our tiny houses. Wow, how cool and healthy is that. Thus, the title of my blog, Tiny B is in ‘Microgreen Heaven.’” — Brenda Schwerin, Just B Tiny blog.

Growing the Micro-green biz

“With just the right partner, we could easily quadruple this business,” Helen says while showing me those exotic-looking microgreens like red garnet mustard and red-veined sorrel.

She may be hoping for a 50-50 partner in 2020 — “I worked seven days a week straight for six months, and I haven’t had a vacation in two years.” But she knows daily watering, prepping and washing down containers, packaging, marketing and expanding markets will require a special sort of co-owner.

She laughs about how in all her years in resort timeshare marketing, she got used to four weeks off a year for vacation fun.

Now’s she’s 62 and working long and hard to maintain the business — one where you can’t just lock the doors and take off for a week at a time. Someone has to water the crops. With an average growth cycle of seven to 10 days, they have to be clipped, watered and delivered.

The road here has been long traveled, a far cry from her nascent years.

Think “and ah-one, and ah-two . . . “

She ended up working for a timeshare development company tied to the North Waterwood National Country Club. She was in college majoring in languages and commercial art when a careless “drag racing” accident pushed her out of school and into the corporate world to pay off the resulting bills.

She moved up from secretary and receptionist to director of special projects for the timeshare entity run by the grandson of that famous champagne music guy, Lawrence Welk during her more than 45 years working in resort marketing.

Helen emphasizes that she knows many timeshare schemes have “earned a bad name with their marketing practices in the early days.”

Her role was working on research projects to delve into the corporation’s internal needs such as new computer systems or call center technologies.

At the end of the day — while she relishes her new simpler life — this Microgreens Lady tells me she feels she helped a lot of families have rewarding family vacations.

That world taught her laudable lessons — independence, self-agency, single parenting tools, love of her family.

This family includes son Justin, 35, who is in an RV traveling across the country with his girlfriend. Kathryn, 34, is working for the Westin Hotels & Resorts timeshare office. Her youngest, Kalynn, 33, is a photographer for the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale.

She is jazzed about a two-year-old grandchild living in Arizona.

As she shows me incredibly vibrant microgreens, we talk about how she fought hard in the “good old boys club” while in the timeshare business, and how she felt like a token female.

“I’m a pretty opinionated, strong-willed person who wasn’t a stay-at-home kind of woman.” She points out she wanted to be married and have children, but that she also wanted independence.

He life now is tied to these shoots, microgreens that on average take nine days to grow in the summer and up to 16 days to get big enough for harvesting in the winter.

“These guys are pretty particular and need every day watering and tending.”

Marketing Push 2020

I meet Helen at the greenhouse in January as she preps and packages her microgreens for a run to Yachats, to one of her regular customers, Green Salmon Coffee Company.

I take photos of flowers some chefs incorporate as garnish in their recipes — sugar peas, fuchsia, snapdragons, nasturtium. She quickly updates me on her 2019 gains — her accountant said she did much better than even Helen thought. It was an 85-percent increase in her gross sales from the year before.

Her goal for 2020 is gross at least 20 percent more in sales. She’s also redesigning her brochure and is ready to go north to pitch her product line to restaurants in Lincoln City.

Her one-person show is all about becoming more efficient and hiring reliable part-time help to carry out jobs like basic washing and sterilizing the trays.

She repeats to me several times, “Compared to the women you have written about, I am pretty bland.”

Her story is one where more than 45 years in the corporate world — “where everybody wants more and more out of people” — has morphed into “allowing life to slow down without all these self-imposed pressures.”

“I love my life. It’s taken me one and a half years to say it’s okay if I leave at 1 or 2. The world’s not going to fall apart.”

Her micro-greens are delivered within 36 hours of harvesting. Many last easily seven days under refrigeration. Some of her clients are twice-a-week users, others once-a-week or bi-monthly.

Her greenhouse has a community lounging and a yoga practice area onsite. Inside during winter, the place is warm. In the summer, all the windows are opened and fans cranked up.

Her greens and flowers are digging it, so to speak.

She reminds me that both the basil and chard micro-greens have been a real bear for her to grow. Luckily, she has a good friend and fellow micro-greens and vegetable grower, Becky Sue Graves in Siletz, covering those two products.

Her business has doubled from year one. For now, she is looking forward to her son and his girlfriend coming to Waldport for a few weeks to help out during the peak time, summer.

From the end of May through to the end of December (her peak months), the reader shouldn’t be surprised to see this spry woman delivering compact containers with her dozens of micro-green products to one of your favorite eateries.

In her own words on the quick

She’s a busy person, getting orders for her current list of buyers and planning for new markets for these tasty and nutritious plants. She answered these questions with aplomb.

PH: In a sentence or two define community as you have found it here in Waldport?

HD: I have found a generosity of spirit, thought, acceptance and openness in the Waldport Community; both from people I have gotten to know well and those who are merely acquaintances.

PH: Toughest things you face as a business woman — solo — with your microgreens business.

HD: I don’t necessarily feel any gender-related challenges in this business; however, I do wish I could schedule a vacation so I would say my biggest challenge is that it is a solo operation that requires daily attention.

PH: What philosophy have you garnered over the years — personal philosophy?

HD: Do your best to take care of your corner of the world as much as you are able. If you can do more; do more.

PH: What advice would you give a 17-year-old facing dropping out of college?

HD: I wouldn’t.

PH: When you think of a better world, here in our county or anywhere, what does that look like?

HD: The elimination of greed and jealousy. Imagine how awesome the world would be if we didn’t have those two things.

PH: Define success for me in your words.

HD: Being genuinely happy

PH: Define justice for me in your own words.

HD: The illusion that something you didn’t want is an ok replacement for something you did want

PH: If you weren’t in this line of work, now, here and now, what would you see yourself doing and why?

HD: No clue (other than falling back on old employment patterns) so glad I don’t have to think about that.

PH: What do you do for fun around here?

HD: Crab, hike, mushroom hunt, kayak, read.

First appeared in Oregon Coast Today, my paid (minimum) writing gig.

Support writers, man, in this lock-down and death of social groups. I had dozens of book readings planned for local and regional libraries and bookstores and a literary conference. Interviews in newspapers and on the radio. All cancelled. Here is my book, folks. Short story collection that will knock your socks off. I will be writing a piece on my bat cave studies in Vietnam, a non-fiction piece, to appear here on the blog and elsewhere. Order the book, and/or hit that GoFund Me campaign.

Go Fund Me for the story collection, Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam.

The books is ordered through me or the dreaded Fascist Amazon. Here, Wide Open Eyes (Amazon)

Great review of the book, here: Linda Ford at Dissident Voice.

Al M. donated $25 ·10 hrs ago “Love the writing”; Christine L. donated $75 ·15 days ago. A big thanks!

Trapped by the White Man’s Devils

by Paul Haeder / March 21st, 2020

A certain amount of despair is, well, healthy. But that fine line between using it as a motivator and that other type of the neutering kind, or the type of despair that pushes one over the edge into depression, it’s a matter of degree. And perspective.

Denial certainly staves off despair. The huge swath of Americans who are either MAGA crazed or believers in the democratic party line of war, neoliberalism, austerity, and the facilitators of the dog eat dog mentality that is capitalism under any level of American self-declared red-white-and-blue. Bloomberg or Gates, or Bezos or Buffett, they all are the power brokers of despair.

Their riches and their self-importance and their overlord power, all of it, the cause of so much despair in thinking and feeling people.

For me, a few weeks away from Dissident Voice and these polemics is more of a symptom of business that is the new normal for Americans, young and old. I turned  63,  and here I am, with three jobs, and a fourth avocation attempting to hawk my books in a climate of controlled opposition mega-obscene celebrity publishing.

All bets are off since all books readings have been canceled in Washington and Oregon, thanks to CV-19.

But it begs the question . . .

No one buys books of fiction anymore, and few read novels and short story collections, two of my forms of creative expression. My writing is not happy-go-lucky, and the concept of narrative and the great American novel/short story form I have little tolerance for.

I’ve done the college degrees – Journalism, English, Rhetoric, Writing – and have had my time with smug MFA types and worse, belittling professors of writing, AKA Literary Little Eichmann’s.

The despair I have within the context of my own struggle and creative avocations, conjoined with my disregard for this society, or the Western culture of rapacious theft and degradation of other peoples, other cultures, other lands can set forth a type of nihilism or cynicism that proves unworthy of my own desire to continue chopping at the windmills in a ritual of helping as many people as I can.

It is struggle, talking to commercial novelists, or those that have tenure outposts at colleges who are a safe bet, or who wrangle their words from a highly structured environment of  strictures that kill any outlier or outrageous way for writing.

There are not just rules for their form of creative fiction, but rules of the game.

Devil’s Churn

The oddity of the US Forest Service having a little outpost near Yachats, Oregon, called Devil’s Churn is remarkably absurd. Think about it – the number of things in western societies named “devil this, devil that” in a land ripped from the true caretakers of these places is both pathetic and demeaning.

All original names from first nations people’s have been ham-fisted into suffering Anglo Saxon or Germanic or Greek oddities. Spanish, too.

I take the path almost daily to this little cataract of waves surging in and out and pounding the volcanic rocks of this cool place along the Oregon Coast. I leap around slick rocks, look for a sign of any sea star clinging to the rocks, even though I know seastar wasting disease has decimated most of the species of sea stars in Oregon waters.

Along a rocky portion of the geographic stop I see a placard, put out by the Forest Service, in some sort of historical remembrance of the native people’s who used this part of the world for centuries as clamming sites, and well holy places.

It’s been scratched to death, this plaque, with most of the wording obscured by gouges in the Plexiglas. Amazing, this plaque is off the beaten path, under salal and pine boughs. I feel that despair – how the white tourists, the miscreant species, probably with their collective balled up hate for the Indians, just decided to say to the world that the history of these indigenous people are meaningless.

So they scratch off a culture, at least in their square small minds.

Probably dangerous to the illiterate masses this wasteful country keeps churning out yearly in our PK12 “schools” and those bastions of “higher” education called colleges and universities. Knowledge and history are the bane of Americans’ thinking, whether it’s the current accused pedophile in high office who daily bombards us with lies,  or masses more that have the power positions: business heads, politicians, the financial class, CEOs, the rich and famous.

In this time of hysteria, bad planning, no health care safety nets, no leadership, no human governance, we are all stuck in the place of plague!

Thatcher is more relevant now than every. Her words are tattooed on the asses of Fortune 1000 sociopahts and on Trump LLC’s neck, on Pelosi’s and Schumer’s and Dianne Feinstein’s dirty rotten backs.

Margaret Thatcher said it plainly, remember? The clipped syllables yet issue from that throat of near-mechanical inelasticity:

“ … there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.”

Therein lies the dog-eat-dog, survival of the fittest, the fired Apprentice shit Americans consume and bow to.

So simultaneously looking at this amazing place of crashing Pacific (Devil’s Churn or Devil’s Punchbowl) waves and realizing how my fellow citizen and I are world’s apart lends a certain despair in my bones.

THE DIFFERENCE between despair
And fear, is like the one
Between the instant of a wreck,
And when the wreck has been.

The mind is smooth,—no motion— 5
Contented as the eye
Upon the forehead of a Bust,
That knows it cannot see.

–Emily Dickinson (1830–86), Complete Poems, 1924, Part Five: The Single Hound

Worldviews, Not Enough Local Views

This is meandering and it should be. I have gone many miles inside my brain since I started writing this. Man, the world has topsy-turved, but it was expected. My next piece is on bats — all those bats I lived with in caves in western Vietnam working with teams of researchers on biodiversity studies. Bats, man, some 1,300 species, and then, the corona!

I can leap around back to the bailouts for airlines, for a putz like Richard Branson, for so so many millionaires and billionaires. My daughter in Spokane, however, is out of work. The aesthetician school she was about to attend is on hold. Her photography is on hold since she does cool shots of businesses and people.  Her significant other just opened up a New York style pizza place, and that too is closed down. Things will close more and more.

The closing of the American mind slammed shut decades ago. My new book — short stories, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam —  has my preface in it discussing the “no more Vietnam War mistakes” syndrome. That is the neocon syndrome, the neoliberal syndrome, of making sure to go into someone else’s land and bomb them back to the stone age, both literally and with financial nukes.

Vietnam was all about the ramped up bioweapons (that started back thousands of years ago, but for USA, well, read on, and weap: A Short History of Bio-Chemical Weapons.

Damn, this well-done Counterpunch article doesn’t even have listed the Swine Flu USA/taxpayers/CIA unleashed upon Fidel’s Cuba — San Francisco Chronicle first reported this, and alas, it’s not even discussed in a time of bat corona, AKA SARS. That was 1971.

Rumsfeld, Cheney, Swine, Turkey Feather and CIA deja vu in Cuba

With at least the tacit backing of U. S. Central Intelligence Agency officials, operatives linked to anti-Castro terrorists introduced African swine fever virus into Cuba in 1971.

Six weeks later an outbreak of the disease forced the slaughter of 500,000 pigs to prevent a nationwide animal epidemic.

A U. S. intelligence source told Newsday last week he was given the virus in a sealed, unmarked container at a U. S. Army base and CIA training ground in Panama with instructions to turn it over to the anti-Castro group.

Why oh why have the chickens come home to roost?

“…it was the evil of slavery that caused the downfall and destruction of ancient Egypt and Babylon, and of ancient Greece, as well as ancient Rome,” Malcolm told his audience. In similar fashion, colonialism contributed to “the collapse of the white nations in present-day Europe as world powers.” The exploitation of African Americans will, in turn, “bring white America to her hour of judgment, to her downfall as a respected nation.”

Malcolm’s core argument was that America, like the ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome, was in moral decline. The greatest example of its moral bankruptcy, Malcolm argued, was its hypocrisy.

“White America pretends to ask herself, ‘What do these Negroes want?’ White America knows that four hundred years of cruel bondage has made these twenty-two million ex-slaves too (mentally) blind to see what they really want.”

All those Wall Street, Military Industrial Complex, Economic Hits, CIA-launched Businesses, Structural Adjustment, Bioweapon-producing, Fat Boy and Little Boy Nuke hugging leaders of the free world need these pandemics, these September 11, 2001’s, all of it, to keep the engines of money and surveillance capitalism  going.

And it all comes down to my friend Joe from California. It’s a long letter to me, but so many layers of truth and emblematic connections to the DV readers’ everyday lives and struggles in so many ways. The layers of how messed up USA under capitalism are deftly stratified here.

Paul

My oldest brother was born with cerebral palsy as a result of a nurse binding my mother’s legs together because the doctor was still at the golf course and not present for the delivery. As a result of that stupidity, my oldest brother, who was already engaged in the birth canal, starved for air. It fucked him up pretty good.

My father never really handled my oldest brother very well. I think he felt my brother’s handicap was somehow a reflection on him. People and society back then had some pretty weird ideas about what being a man was. Coming off the war, a man was supposed to be tough, and having a child like my brother I don’t think fit in real well to my fathers image of himself.

Growing up in that household was one Hell of a life experience never knowing what was going to set things into pandemonium. The best and worst thing or maybe the worst and best thing that ever happened to my brother was that some medical quack recommended my brother have shock therapy, which turned out to be like pouring gas on a raging fire. The best thing that ever happened to him was that he was institutionalized and assigned a councilor that did more to help my brother than probably anything else in his life. This man was truly a Godsend for my brother. And then came Ronald Reagan. I’ve often pondered who was crazier Ronald Reagan who closed the mental health hospital where my brother was being treated, or my brother. Fortunately the councilor that was helping my brother, before getting the ax, got my brother on aide to the totally dependent.

ATD and with the help of the family, my brother was able to live independently in his own small apartment in Merced. He was crazy as a shithouse rat, but he wasn’t stupid. In some ways I think my oldest brother was the smartest of the bunch. When Nixon went off the gold standard because Charles de Gaulle demanded gold as exchange rather than paper dollars, my brother would take cash from his check and exchange it for rolls of coins. He would take the silver coins out and replace them with the copper coins and do it over and over until he ran out of money and had to wait for his next check.

He did this until he had about fifteen hundred dollars in face value of silver coins. When the Bass brothers in Texas decided they were going to skin a fat hog and try to capture the silver market, my brother got my mother to come in and take him to get the silver coins he had amassed exchanged for dollars. He made a sizable wad of cash out of the deal, and, fortunately, my Mother who didn’t know my brother had been doing this, took possession of his wad and doled it out to him to help with his food, clothing and rent; otherwise, he would have just pissed it away.

I would take vegetables to him after Market on Saturdays; he would never let me inside his apartment which I’m sure was a fucking mess. What finally ended up happening to him was he contracted a disease called Guillain Barre Syndrome. It’s the most horrible fucking disease you can imagine. It started as numbness in his feet and slowly moved up his bod,y until he was completely paralyzed. The only way anyone could communicate with him was to formulate questions in a yes or no sequence and have him blink once for yes and twice for no. He was sent from hospital facility to hospital facility like yesterdays trash with every move ending him up further away from his family.

Somehow I got designated as the contact person for his affairs. I was contacted one morning at about 3:00 AM by a hospital down by the San Fernando Valley that my brother was having a series of mild heart attacks and wanted to know if they should continue treating him or just let him go? During the telephone call, he had a massive heart attack and died. His death certificate listed his cause of death as a heart attack. I later found out that in fact it was a heart attack, but it was caused by gas gangrene because of bedsores because the facility he was in didn’t have a bed that moved his muscles like the previous facility had and no one was checking him for bedsores.

I, along, with my sister got the job of cleaning my brother’s apartment out before his death. It was the most unbelievable mess you could ever imagine. No animal would ever live that way. It made a hog wallow look sanitary. I would suspect it had a lot to do with his chronic health problems regarding his breathing and maybe even helped bring on his Gullain Barre disease. The filth he lived in was a danger to himself and others in the building he rented.

I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this, Paul, other than as I read this essay on homelessness  [ A Crash Course on How to Handle Homelessness ]  all this started coming back to me about my brother. This fellow that wrote this piece brought up a lot of things my own family experienced with my brother; he also left a lot out. Dealing with mental illness is a tough row to hoe. As a social worker, I’m sure you well know that. But what little help there was for my brother was always under assault, and if it wasn’t for my parents, my siblings and myself it would have gone a lot harder on my brother.

Maybe that’s why I get so incensed by a cocksucker like Jamie Dimon who never worked a fucking day in his life and who gets all butt hurt when someone questions his success. His wealth came at the expense of my brother that couldn’t help himself due to circumstances beyond his control by a cocksucker doctor and his Nurse Ratched who totally fucked him up because of the same arrogance Dimon displays. And I do hope the Devil has his arrow- tipped tail up Ronald Reagan’s ass in an eternal effort to never let Reagan forget the Hell he brought on to a lot of those unable to defend themselves.

Book Review of Paul Haeder’s Wide Open Eyes:  Surfacing from Vietnam

by Linda Ford

I can’t pretend to be a literary critic, but as an historian and one who’s plenty old enough to know something about the effects of the Viet Nam war, Paul Haeder’s stories about the lasting, inevitable impact of the Viet Nam experience, in his new book Wide Open Eyes:  Surfacing from Vietnam, are just riveting.  The problem is, of course, that people did (and do) not want to open their eyes wide enough to see all the horrors and lasting pain and enduring legacies of that era and that experience.  When I was a junior at SUNY Albany (1970), the editors of the college yearbook, “The Torch,” decided to insert a photo of a severed head of a Vietnamese child hanging from a pike between each senior’s photo.  This was a time of in-your-face political protest and the editors’ statement caused a huge uproar and a lot of discomfort.  I think that’s what Haeder’s stories are doing — opening eyes and creating discomfort by showing how the horror of that severed head appears in the apparent normalcy of people’s lives.  So in many and varied stories, with their many and varied characters, he is involved in a disturbing but very valuable enterprise.

Haeder’s time in Viet Nam in the 90s, working on a biological survey, solidified a connection with a people who “had no stake in America’s way of life.”  They were just being invaded by “another colonialist.”  Just more victims of American Empire.   Haeder sees their experience as a “linchpin” for other American “adventures” in places like Iraq.  I also see it as the beginning of the inflating of the Big Lie as government policy, that Philip Slater wrote about in Pursuit of Loneliness, a book which had a tremendous influence on accelerating my continuing disillusion with America and its so-called superiority and greatness.  And as Haeder says, this awful war came into everyone’s living room — with the media’s attempted sanitation of it — and with those of us who began to know it was a lie, creating huge rifts between generations, friends, families, and huge rifts within the culture.

Each of these stories is an opportunity to go into a deep pool — sometimes of pain, and sometimes of triumph.  One of my favorites is “Conversation in a Second Story Studio Apartment.”  As a bookseller myself, I sympathized with Jacob Weiss, the widower “Bookman,” in his efforts to keep bugs, etc. away from his books (mothballs are a bad idea, however).  Weiss has unsuccessfully tried to instill anti-war sentiments in his Viet Nam vet Air Force Lt. Colonel son, who “exterminated people thirty thousand feet down”; and he has not been entirely successful trying to start a relationship with Ramona Vinkovska, ballet instructor.  These characters are not romantic leads — they are flawed people — and that makes them interesting.  Jacob complains that there in Albuquerque, he can’t sell Yiddish poetry — people want books on horses, and war.  Ramona lost her husband and baby daughter when she lived in New York, a place where she had lost her chance at being a ballerina.  But they both have their dreams, separately and together.  They make do, do the best they can, and put off decisions.  They deal with their tragedies and they survive, helping each other through painful remembrances.

In “Sister of Glaciers,” protagonist Tony’s sister was married to a war dissenter, and Tony is himself about to go to war in Viet Nam.  His sister died in a motorcycle accident and his mother has “acid eating her thoughts” about that loss, and about Tony going off to war.  Tony’s thoughts revolve around the blame that “old men in Washington and corporate America” hold for the war.  Guilt is key here:  Tony is for going to war and for not being able to heed his sister’s pleas against the war, but instead giving in to his father’s desire for Tony to be a soldier.  His father excommunicated his daughter for being with an AWOL soldier.  Haeder says the war killed Tony’s dissenter sister, Her (AWOL) husband’s will to live, and “his mother’s spunk”, along with Tony’s spirit.  Tony finally finds peace after spreading his sister’s ashes into the ocean.  Keeping some of Kathleen’s ashes with him in a leather pouch, he says he wants to take her “whole” into war.  This account is incredibly sad, but Haeder is able to also present people — again — who survive and still have hope.

Sacrifice and sadness and never-ending pain under the surface are also the themes of “Scordato’s Famous Pasta and Shrimp and Peanut Sauce” (which sounds really good to me).  Martino Scordato is lauded for his food and also for his purple hearts, but Viet Cong were among the villagers he saved in 1968, so he is not entirely a hero to Viet Nam vets.  It’s particularly interesting to me as a women’s historian, that Haeder’s character “Di-Di,” Trung Giang McEvoy — the Viet Cong leader that Scordato saved — was named for one of the sisters who were warriors and then martyrs for their people in 40 A.D.  “Di-Di” fought the American invasion, but also eventually married one of those invaders and left Viet Nam, becoming an author who was a “darling” on the talk show circuit.  The convoluted, secret plot of an American attack to kill Major Wat (Di-Di) and her unit, ran into and attacked Scordato’s unit and his mission to save civilians.  This incident was something everyone wanted to stay hidden — another perfect illustration of America’s Big Lies and its constant collateral damage that Haeder displays so well.

When Scordato and his friend Flip talk about what happened that day, Scordato reveals his still painful scars, and when they talk about Trung, Flip says good for her: “Fuck the war. And bravo to her.”  Sums it up nicely.  Flip also talks about the “corporate world” being behind the wars, and how “CIA types” get away with this sort of operation all over South America, but ”nobody cares now.”  All so true.  I like the way Haeder meshes his politics with his fiction — it all fits — not always smoothly, but it fits.  During the reunion of Di-Di, Scordato and Flip, they acknowledge their truths:  the former hate, the attempts to sanitize what happened to them.  And they find common ground — again — in food and the sharing of that truth.  The vets who were there protesting Di-Di’s presence, accepted the food that Di-Di (who, like Scordato also had a restaurant) and Scordato had cooked together — some of them.  When asked by an NPR reporter if he would have saved Trung’s life if he had known who she was and that she would continue her fight against the Americans, Scordato told the reporter he should not ask that question unless he had been there that day.  He asked him which side would he have been on?  With those who shoot to kill with no questions asked, or with those who questioned who should be killed?  We know which side NPR would be on now.

All of the “mainstream” media hype war now — just as they hype the corporate/capitalist world agenda.  Haeder’s characters have a knowledge:  they know too well what such agendas bring.  The “higher-ups” plan and scheme and the people who have to carry out the schemes suffer and pay and try to forget.  My taste in fiction tends to run to romance and happy endings, but sometimes you just have to read something real — something gritty, with warts and all — Paul Haeder-

Linda Ford is a women’s historian and antiquarian bookseller in central NY. Her recent book is Women Politicals: Jailed Dissidents from Mother Jones to Lynne Stewart.

Image result for scorpion art

many times the Virgin
of Guadalupe has resonance
you touch heart of Dolores
as universal pain, women
tending more than
hearth, flowers
of a dreamy field, tiger
lilies ears to heaven
interstellar places
where hermaphrodite
snail in our aquarium
bursts after two years
egg pouches
you are engaged
laugh

you see cracks in walls
as art, terra cotta
a glimmer of Taxco
pottery earth
of mother country
a dream, sometimes
fancy, you take shots
of Don Julio not
to stave asthma
but to galvanize
agave and soil
to sun and scorpion

a thousand maladies cured
you trace shapes
your eyes see under
surfaces, look to art
intuitively… you were born
with global style
Japanese lacquer here
dabble of aquamarine
there, walls near Cuernavaca
foisted hot air
rumble of buses
you still wish stars
in Oregon move
to Morelos
take you closer
to equator

did we say
you teach us
how to trowel
the earthly trauma
loneliness, despair
reshaped, saddened
you have many lessons
a future sharing
how to celebrate
even inside a war
of emotions
you are like scorpion
beautiful, a temptation
the tail sprung
ready for your
story, plunged
deep, floating
proteins, congealed
pain, but dreams
as technicolor as anything

imagined, your beauty is
held at night
florescent
even in death
bottled up
the alcohol
or formaldehyde
glows blue-green
a reminder Lisa is here
will always be a light at night
under the special glow
of anyone willing
to search

….for Lisa….

Pitch perfect

“I keep going to a lot of places and ending up somewhere I’ve already been.”

— Don Draper, lead character in TV series, “Mad Men”

“It’s hard enough to write a good drama, it’s much harder to write a good comedy, and it’s hardest of all to write a drama with comedy. Which is what life is.”

— Jack Lemmon, actor

Oh, how to characterize this Lincoln City pitchman? A mixture of Jack Lemmon, Peter Sellers and PT Barnum?

Ed Dreistadt is in his office, just above the Lincoln City Council Chambers. He sits me down at a small table, and we both roll up our sleeves for several hours of riffing with this 65-year-old’s adventure as a “wild and crazy guy” (in the words of Steven Martin).

“I’ve admittedly had a strange life. Not sure how you are going to cram it into an article.”

He may be the lead cheerleader for the City’s new iteration of the Lincoln City Visitor & Convention Bureau — Explore Lincoln City (ELC) — but his pathway to our neck of the woods (four and a half years as director of ELC) reads like a script from a Monty Python and David Mamet collision of ideas.

This unofficial member of the Mad Men Club, Ed Dreistadt (he laughs that his wife opted to NOT change her last name upon marriage) has a heck of a resume, typical of someone who has been in marketing and advertising for more than two-thirds of his life.

He’s pretty confident of his positive role in society: “The concept of advertising is to identify the consumer’s needs and present the product as the solution. The game is to identify the Unique Selling Proposition: the point of difference between your competitor’s product and use it to move a product.”

The career of this “ad man” has been a minefield of ups and downs, deals for fat contracts and plenty of lost accounts, and a career tied to the “boom or bust” magic of selling products.

Steel town, college radio, AM rock

His early roots spread back to a typical Pittsburgh working-class: his mother’s family came from Northern Ireland, and his father’s side came over in the 1860s from Southern Germany.

Right out the gate we talk about his infamous birthplace — Homestead Hospital, 1954. And the fact that his grandfather Dreistadt came from coal miner DNA.

The Homestead Strike was a labor/union dispute between the Carnegie Steel Company and workers. That was July 6, 1892, in Homestead, Pennsylvania. The strike went against the company’s management — industrialists Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick — who hired scabs (strikebreakers) and the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. A gun battle ensued in which a number of strikers and Pinkerton agents were killed and many more were injured.

The young Ed worked with scrap metal and learned how to weld and take apart/put back together a lot of construction equipment.

He was a cartoonist for the high school paper, and he ended up in New Wilmington at Westminster College taking a potpourri of classes — chemistry, psychology and history. His highlight there was working on the college radio station — WKPS. He even did DJ gigs with a country station, WWIZ; easy listening, WEDO; and late-night rock ‘n roll on WKST.

Graduate school was in Athens, Ohio, at Ohio University, where he turned a speech and psychology BA from Westminster to a Masters in radio-TV management from OU.

Then he got into 13Q, a rock AM radio station, as a salesperson. “You want to get a picture of my PTSD associated with FM eating up AM? Watch that show, ‘WKRP Cincinnati.’ Every new rating book was a disaster. I was, I guess, too ethical to sell something like that and didn’t do all that well.”

That hardcore sales experience — banging on doors to pitch AM radio spots on a dying station — taught him a valuable lesson that resonates today: “I have had so many doors slammed on me. I have a very thick skin.”

Advertising agent par excellence

It takes some cramming to get from his days on the advertising account for Coca-Cola’s Mello Yello, to reluctantly pitching Doral cigarettes, then to promoting the new $40 million-dollar Apollo’s Chariot roller coaster at Busch Gardens, the one where the goose smacked romance novel icon Fabio in the face on its first run, and finally to our Central Oregon Coast.

He’s all in for promoting Lincoln City and its seven miles of beaches and 9,500 residents. He sees all that 101 traffic as among one of the unique opportunities — here are nine million vehicles driving through each year “with those 22 million sets of eyeballs looking at all the things we have to offer our guests.”

“When I first started here, the city had 13 different logos. One of my first jobs was to help come up with a single city brand, graphics standards and an official typeface.”

A consistent message is what Ed is after.

He says the needle is moving — the city promises people that “we have a small beach town feel but we’re also seven miles long and full of fun surprises.”

His life is about imagining the potential in things. “As a product, Lincoln City is nothing to sneeze at. We have these beautiful places like Cascade Head and Drift Creek Falls. Seven miles of beautiful beaches.”

He counts on the Chinook Winds Casino Resort as an anchor for major headline entertainment. He sees the outlet mall as a great attraction, as well as all the “treasure trove of quirky, one-of-a-kind businesses and eateries.”

With his background in theme parks such as Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia; and Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, Ed’s seen recession hit the tourism industry hard. He is of the belief that “nothing goes in a straight line forever” and after more than nine years of economic growth, he expects another recession sometime soon.

However, Ed Dreistadt believes places like Lincoln City are positioned to weather a national economic downturn.

Looking at the Transient Room Tax (TRT) revenue reports, he says he’s pleased to see that while growth halted during the Great Recession, revenue collected by lodging properties didn’t decrease. “It held steady during the bad times.”

When money gets tight, families still want to travel, but they look for places to vacation closer in. “People are willing to trade down, say, from a trip to Hawaii or Paris, to something nearby.”

His big impetus now as director of Explore Lincoln City, which has a budget of $2.1 million coming from the TRT hotel bed tax, six full-time workers and one part-time employee is “to begin to shift Lincoln City from weekend getaway to week-long family vacation destination.”

One tool he is looking at to build this concept is expanding his department’s PR capabilities.

Getting stories and editorial copy about “this gem of a city” he is tasked to promote — especially into such markets as Boise, Seattle and beyond — takes money.

He knows markets and, interestingly, his children from a previous marriage are spread around, and some have taken their father’s lead in their own careers.

Carol Ann, 32, is in DC with a wealth-management company. Becky, 34, is in LA as a character designer whose work readers can see on the Disney Channel’s “Star vs. the Forces of Evil,” Cartoon Network’s “Steven Universe: The Movie” and soon with HBO’s “Adventure Time.” Son Kyle, 36, is into network security with military bases out of Virginia Beach.

However, the very reason Lincoln City has Ed in its tourism toolbox falls to Puyallup, Washington.

His wife Shellie Stuart wanted out of the Southeast to be closer to her family in Puyallup from where she was raised.

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“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”— Mark Twain

Ed Dreistadt has a litany of stories from his more than four decades acting as a marketing and PR spin wizard. He sees himself as part PT Barnum (he had an account with the circus group, Ringling Brothers) and part Edward Bernays, father of modern marketing (he was Sigmund Freud’s nephew).

One of Ed’s assignments as an advertising account guy in Atlanta was as a researcher for Anheuser-Busch, which was developing a new brand to go against the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull — a mainstay for African American drinkers.

“it was an opportunity to be immersed in the black community,” he said, adding that he was treated like family and as a friend everywhere he went.

He was part-diplomat for the brand he was working for, and part tabula rasa to learn all he could by being invited into a part of an America he might never otherwise have entered. The new brand eventually became King Cobra Malt Liquor through a different shop.

However, what he learned parlayed into events like the Stone Mountain Park Gospel Celebration in partnership with Antioch Baptist Church North and other members of the Southern Baptist Convention.

As a volunteer for the Georgia Council for International Visitors, Ed also took delegations hosted by the U.S. State Department to meetings with Civil Rights leaders like Joe Beasley, who worked with Jesse Jackson on Project Push and the Rainbow Coalition.

Next, Ed dove into marketing the sweetest and highest-caffeine soft drink in the business — Coke’s Mello Yello.

First there was a Dotty West song that supposedly was going to roll out the drink — “Country Sunshine” — but the temperamental singer had a falling out with Coca-Cola.

Ed says got onto the Mello Yello account after ad men attempted to market the drink to the west, to LA. Unfortunately, the three-year drought back then derailed Mello Yello making a foothold in California.

“These signs and public service announcements were all over the place in LA: ‘If it’s brown, flush it. If it’s yellow, let it mellow.’ That pretty much did us in.”

Ed’s work came later, revitalizing the soft drink as a regional brand. “My job was to re-position Mello Yello in a way that made it more relevant to the youth market.”

A pitchman can only do so much with the material he has. For the beverage dubbed the world’s fastest soft drink (lowest carbonation) with the most sugar and caffeine of any other drink (“makes you feel good so fast”), Ed enlisted Lee Abrams, radio consultant, father of the Album Rock format and general radio station fixer.

“This thing called MTV was just starting.” Then there was the Greg Kihn band. Ed and his team convinced the band to re-lyric their song, “Jeopardy” to “Mello Yello.”

“We leased out the old Fox Theater in Atlanta — this beautiful old 1930s art deco venue. We got radio commercials promoting a free rock concert with the Greg Kihn group.”

There were eight roving camera operators with 16-mm equipment. All the kids showed up looking like real kids in their real outfits. “We broke the bank,” Ed says with relish, saying the TV advertisements were new of a kind.

With tongue in cheek, Ed says he’s partly responsible for Michael Jackson’s hair catching on fire. It turned out Pepsi and Jackson copied that Mello Yello campaign, and during the filming of “Billie Jean” for Pepsi, the pyrotechnics set his locks ablaze.

The case of the rogue goose

He’s got that dry and wry sense of humor, for sure, as we figuratively screen “Ed’s Very Unique & Excellent Adventure” scenes.

One minor blip in his career, Ed says, is his brief connection to hawking cigarettes — Dorel and Magna brands with R. J Reynolds. “There’s a special room in Hell for me.” He says that he had a wife and kids, a car payment and a mortgage to keep up when he needed to jump from a failing ad agency.

With all the advertising agencies he has worked for, and Ed’s iterations running a few of his own, he ended up spending many years in the theme park biz.

The movie, “Honeymoon in Vegas,” has these 10 Flying Elvises jumping out of a plane. For Busch Gardens, Ed arranged a fleet of 1957 Chevy convertibles for a parade around the park celebrating 15 years of the Loch Ness roller coaster. The Elvis impersonators dropped out of the plane, which resulted in a combined “Loch Ness and Elvis sighting” that garnered worldwide coverage.

Unexpectedly, that airplane also captured the attention of Camp Perry, AKA, “The Farm” (CIA training base near Busch Gardens). “Park security was informed that the plane was close to CIA airspace and the parachutists would be detained if they landed on base property. And shot if they resisted.”

They made a safe landing in Busch Gardens. That was 1993.

Then, he was tasked with creating the brand for a new roller coaster, the result of a commitment of $40 million by Busch Entertainment Corporation.

After finding a place for its construction in the existing Williamsburg, Virginia (it ended up in the Italian section with a big ravine) and naming it (he got the idea for Apollo’s Chariots after reading a book on Greek and Roman mythology), Ed enlisted his brain trust to come up with a logo and a celebrity to pitch the coaster’s grand opening.

They got this model-actor Fabio to play the part of Apollo for the launch of the spectacular ride that rises up 805 feet and reaches speeds of 73 mph and pushes people to 4 Gs.

That big inaugural run with all these actresses playing vestal virgins behind Fabio had loads of TV newsfeeds ready to uplink the fluff stories around the country and world.

The red carpet was rolled out, the music played, and the rollercoaster peeled out — with cameras attached to the ride, on cranes and elsewhere filming.

The news teams were awaiting the three-minute ride to bring back the celebrity.

“They returned from the ride and here the passengers were all aghast as the vestal virgins’ togas had red splotches all over them. Fabio had blood on his face.”

It turns out a rogue goose got in the way, flew across the lead car and hit Fabio on the nose with its neck. The star was left with a nick on the nose and a small bruise on his cheek.

200228_oct_fabio_enq.jpg

Lucky, Ed said, because those geese can weigh a dozen pounds, and if the bird’s body had slammed into Fabio, the celebrity’s head would have been crushed.

Damage control went into full gear, but the media cat had been let out of the bag. First aid station, news teams wanting to uplink any footage of the ornithological show, and Fabio whining about the dangers of the ride.

National Enquirer was calling. “Good Morning America,” “Entertainment Tonight,” Jay Leno, David Letterman and on and on covered the story.

Fabio had a lawyer who was threatening to have Fabio say there are these dangerous geese right next to the rollercoaster and that children will die.

This taught Ed that the absurdity of that act of nature could instantaneously go global and have staying power as the butt end joke for the late-night scene for months.

Less is always better? In the ad man’s own words

Ed was kind enough to break out of his busy schedule to answer some questions I posed him. What he did premise these questions with is insightful to me as a chronicler of people’s narratives: sometimes I jar awake old things, past lives. “Haven’t thought about a lot of this stuff in years.”

Paul Haeder: Give us your concept of “community” as you see your role here in Lincoln City?

Ed Dreistadt: I just looked up “community” in the dictionary and found this: A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.

I think that sums up how I understand the term and, also, what it means to live in a small town like Lincoln City. You have a bigger stake in a small town. You have a feeling of belonging here as well as a responsibility to help make the community better. I think I actually have two roles, personal and professional. On a personal level, Kiwanis is where I can make the most difference. I was a Kiwanian back when I lived in Williamsburg where I helped raise money with events like their annual shrimp feast (we did wonderfully absurd things to promote the event). Here, I was honored to serve as president of the club for a year. I helped them organize Pixiefest and assist where I can on other fundraising events. Kiwanis is dedicated to improving the world one child and one community at a time. It is where I think I can make a difference.

Professionally, what I do is constrained to promoting Lincoln City as a tourism destination. My role is to convince people to visit and stay overnight. Heads in beds is my defining metric. I find this to be an important and challenging job because tourism is the biggest industry in Lincoln City. However, our tourism efforts go well beyond just getting guests to visit. When my department promotes Lincoln City, the lasting impression is that this is a great place to visit…and work…and live. We demonstrate to the world that Lincoln City is surrounded by natural beauty, populated by fascinating people and home to endless one-of-a-kind businesses and attractions. When we get people to visit our city, they fall in love with it. Some of them can’t get enough and want to be part of it. This is why Explore Lincoln City is working hand in glove with Lincoln City Urban Renewal and Economic Development. What makes our city a great place to visit is the same as what makes it a great place to live and work.

PH: What’s the most difficult decision you have made in your life that changed your life?

ED: Leaving family and friends in the town where I grew up was a tough choice. Not long after graduating college, I headed off to Atlanta to work at an ad agency. That move put me into a boom-or-bust industry that took me to Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, back to Georgia and eventually here. When you work for an ad agency, you learn at least two or three industries a year. Each town I lived in also challenged what I thought I knew. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had committed to a lifetime of learning, which continues today. I came to Lincoln City knowing next to nothing about the Oregon Coast. Fortunately, Anne Hall at the North Lincoln County Historical Museum and Kip Ward, owner of the Eventuary and the Historic Anchor Inn, each took me under their wing and taught me the history of the area. I couldn’t have done my job without them and everyone else in town who took the time to share with me.

PH: What does Lincoln City really need as an economic driver?

ED: I have to answer this as a personal opinion, not as a City employee or an expression of a City policy, so please note it as such. I was lucky enough to work on BellSouth advertising immediately after the breakup of AT&T. That gave me a window to the birth of the internet. I was taught by the network engineers who were taking the world from analog to digital. I still tend to see things through that transformative lens. When I look at the Lincoln City area, I see a town that was close to inaccessible prior to the Roosevelt Oregon Coast Military Highway in the 1920s. From then on, we have been a tourism destination. However, Lincoln City still doesn’t have an interstate highway or a seaport or a railway or an airport. We’re not the ideal city for warehouses or anything that needs to be shipped. However, we can move electrons as well as anyone else. The main fiber optic cable line for the coast goes right down Highway 101. This to me is key to attracting a class of people called Lifestyle Entrepreneurs. These are folks who can work via computer from anywhere in the world. They choose their location based on the lifestyle it affords. I think these are the people who can create high-paying jobs here. Convincing someone that they can do their job with an ocean view, walk along our seven and a half miles of beach when it’s time for a break, hike up to the breathtaking view at Cascade Head for fun when they want and then unwind at Black Squid after an art film at the Bijou, all while earning a high income and creating jobs here in town, feels very right for Lincoln City. Very few cities can offer anything comparable. The same things that are great assets for tourism are great in attracting knowledge-based businesses.

PH: Give us one of your most outside-the-box ideas you have or have heard of which might be a driver of people coming to a place like Lincoln City?

ED: Actually, this one was is actually very much in the box. A vacation is a very ethereal thing. It’s an experience and not something you can literally buy off a shelf. Years ago, I tried to take the vacation and make it a packaged good, same as a box of cereal or a tube of toothpaste. The result was Vacation In A Box. The idea was that you could go into a store, pick your vacation from a shelf, buy it and take it home. Inside the box would be souvenirs, vouchers for your lodging, attraction tickets, everything for you need to just go and enjoy your vacation. Almost all the hassles of planning would go away. I took it to focus groups and people loved it. The use occasion (I’m buying this for me and my family) actually shifted where the vacation could also be gift for others, sitting under the tree with a bow on top. People said that it made the vacation start even before they left home. However, this was pre-internet and we simply couldn’t get it to work because of the infinite number of variations we would have to produce to make it work. Family size being the biggest variable that stumped us. I’d like to revisit this one day, surrounded by internet-savvy folks who can help walk me though the daunting logistics of it all.

PH: If your budget was doubled for the next three years, what sort of things would you be doing differently?

ED: Our current paid advertising budget vaporizes when we hit Portland. I’d love to cast our net a little wider, but it’s difficult when your main market is as big and expensive as ours. One of my frustrations is that, for the most part, Lincoln City is a weekend getaway destination, not the place for that week-long family vacation. There are two ways to change that. One is to get people to visit from farther away. If you invest a lot of time and expense to get somewhere, you tend to stay longer to justify it. The other is to demonstrate that you simply can’t do everything there is to see and do in a weekend. For that we need more attractions, preferably indoor experiences for rainy days and off-season visits. We are going to propose setting up a budget item where Explore Lincoln City works with Lincoln City Economic Development to bring attractions to town. With more money available, I’d make that a much bigger program.

PH: Give us your elevator speech when someone might ask you — say some of those folk in the south you used to work with — “What the hell is in Lincoln City?”

ED: Lincoln City is the Unexpected. It’s a long, slender town that winds its way along the rugged Oregon Coast. It offers endless surprises with rivers and trails and bays and seven miles of beach, plus a full seven miles of beach town to explore that varies in amazing ways along its length. A farm-to-table dining experience that’s also a bowling alley? Lincoln City. Restored 1930s theater featuring avant-garde cinema? Lincoln City. A lantern tour of the cemetery where you meet the people buried there? Lincoln City. Casino gambling, dining and shows? Lincoln City. Glass art that mysteriously appears on the beach? Lincoln City. Haunted historic Bayfront? Lincoln City. Secret-recipe potato salad in a tavern with a view of the ocean? Lincoln City.

PH: If you couldn’t be doing this job, what might you be doing?

ED: A long time ago, I had a boss who wanted to talk to me about career planning. This guy had his life planned out all the way to his grave. I disagreed with everything he told me to do. As far as I’m concerned, life is a parade of opportunities that come by. You watch them go by, pick one and then jump in to join the parade. You have no control over of what will present itself next, so my answer is who knows? Something fun, I hope.

PH: Marketing in some circles — “Mad Men,” Edward Bernays, etc. — has some negative connotations. Which one negative one you regularly hear would you would like to dispel. How?

ED: I get to do luncheon presentations and radio appearances here now and again. I usually start with, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” It gets laughs, but it also hopefully dispels the negatives I see the most. It’s not marketing per se, but more a feeling that nothing good can ever come from a governmental entity. My hope is that I can demonstrate the fallacy of that mindset. My department, and the rest of the City of Lincoln City’s staff, work very hard for the common good.

PH: Which one of the myriad marketing campaigns in the world are you particularly intrigued by, or which you would have been happy to be a part of?

ED: I’m showing my age here, but I would have killed to be able to work with Stan Freeberg back in the day.

I started out in radio way back when and Stan was a genius when it came to painting pictures with words and sound. Radio is a medium where budget pretty much doesn’t matter. You can create anything up to the limits of your talent and imagination.

PH: What’s a typical week for you in your position.

ED: Typical? I honestly don’t think there is any such thing in my department. We rarely do the same thing twice. It’s constant challenges, innovation and creation. Just like an ad agency. It’s not the place for anyone who wants a routine.

PH: There seems like a lot of PR spin happening in some of those articles you have on the website — what sorts of things would you like writers coming out to Lincoln City to focus on?

ED: We want the stories to be where the brand promise of the advertising is proven to be true. Lincoln City is the Unexpected. One Place, Endless Adventures. I want to see stories that have a feeling of amazement, the discovery of things they never expected to see and do in a beach town.

PH: Last book you read:

ED: “Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival” on the heels of “Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West.” I think my fascination with the book, especially in contrast with the Lewis & Clark story, is how almost everything goes wrong. Also, much in the book is close to unbelievable except for the fact that it’s history. It’s a book about fallible humans, which actually gives me some comfort. Things happen. Mistakes can be made, even among people who are making history.

PH: Last film you saw:

ED: “Where’d You Go Bernadette” at the Bijou. Missed “The Story of Valsetz,” much to my regret. Too much going on sometimes.

PH: Favorite activity to do in Lincoln City:

ED: Bluegrass Jam Night at the Eagles Lodge. It’s the one thing I do for me, plus I get to be among a group of supportive musicians who help me try to get better on my banjo. I picked up music late in life and am so far behind everyone else there it isn’t funny. However, they are very supportive and encouraging. I’ve made more progress with their help than I ever could have made trying to learn how to play music by myself.

PH: If Lincoln City could have a theme song, what would it be?

ED: I think we have one. Bryan Nichols, our local surfer-singer-artist-writer-surf shop owner performs songs with his band ZuhG that are inspired by Lincoln City. “Imagine That” from his “Field Trip” album talks about the wonders of living here right next to the surf.

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First appeared here, in my lowly paying gig –– Oregon Coast Today.

Support writing — purchase my short story collection, Wide Open Eyes. It will make you feel good! Here, at Killer Amazon — Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam. Or contact me and send me a check and I will personalize the book, autograph it, and ship it to ! haederpaul@gmail.com

Note: Not all my writing sticks to my socialist principles. A feature on a person is also my MOS. Ed is a family man, an ad man, a real member of many parts of his community. Selling a location as a tourist and visitor destination? Well, you know where I stand on urban planning, resilience, sustainability, etc.

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In 1981, Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President of the United States. For many the Reagan Administration is remembered for Reaganomics and ending the Cold War. Yet the poor and homeless of the time remember it rather for a dramatic reduction in housing and social services, Boss Tweed politics, and constant reminders that a mythical “welfare queen” in Chicago and exaggerated “welfare cheats” across America made their poverty their fault. “Mr. Reagan and Congress’s housing cutbacks are directly responsible for the homeless problem,” Mitch Snyder once said of the Administration.

On Thanksgiving Day 1981, tents appeared in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. A sign amidst the spread of tents read “Reaganville: Reagonomics at Work.” The tent city, an intentional throwback to the Hooverville encampments of the Great Depression, held 20-25 homeless persons and activists each night for the next four months. For many observers, a fine line had been drawn between what is real and what is theater. Such was precisely Snyder’s desire.

In addition to being an activist, Snyder was a self-proclaimed actor. A master of social pageantry and what now would be dubbed “street theater,” Mitch was famed for his insatiable motivation to cause a public scene. Among his exploits, he orchestrated a blood spattering of the Capitol steps, sloshed through the world’s biggest pie yelling “It’s all mine,” sat outside the White House in an old Irish tradition of waiting outside the home of someone who had wronged you without appropriate remorse, often jumped the White House fence, and, most infamously, fasted, nearly unto death three times. These actions gained significant attention to Mitch, the cause of homelessness, and helped to energize and unify many homeless persons and advocates.

Source — “I Don’t Mind Stealing Bread.”

Talking with John (he prefers a pseudonym), I know tagging this 48-year-old as a “victim of circumstances” won’t stick. He prefers to be called a vagabond. We talk about intelligent design, quantum physics, zoning laws, solutions to housing precarity.

He’s been going state to state for seven years. His own life philosophy is complicated, but in one sense is can be whittled down to – “Here today and gone tomorrow.”

“I am not a loner, don’t get me wrong,” he tells me while we share coffee. “I’ll associate with anyone who’s kind regardless of their station in life.”

Like many on the road, John doesn’t want many specifics revealed. He grew up in Los Angeles. He said he was probably a foster child. No siblings. He has no connection to his parents. The effects of a bullet to the lung and one to the hip at age 22 (both removed) are taking a toll on his ability to work long and grueling jobs. 

Terry, 50, from Oklahoma, in Waldport, Oregon

He’s thrown in as a line chef, in carpentry, cabinet-making, demolishing structures and even was paid a penny a word for research through an on-line university.

He thinks labeling anyone with “mental illness” is both incorrect (“we can have mental issues and problems, but it is not a disease”) and a quick way to control people and taking away their rights.

John is skeptical of government services for homeless, saying, “The secular institutions aren’t capable of helping the homeless. When people help me, it’s members of the community. Religious institutions should be helping out much more.”

He’s not atypical in that he had his ID stolen in 2016, and has had major difficulty securing a copy of his birth certificate (from California) to get the process going for an ID. His California driver’s license, he said, was taken by police.

Working under the table isn’t always easy. He isn’t asking for any handouts, but when I pressed him about his immediate needs, he said:

  • somewhere to get out of the rain
  • a place with a source of heat
  • a place to cook food
  • a place to get out of the cold.

“It seems like the powers that be want us to freeze to death. Sometimes it’s just a place to get out of the cold that can make the difference,” John said.

Larry, right, 74, from California, went to Humboldt State, and he’s been without a home for fifty years. Both Larry and Terry (left) are the tip of the iceberg, so to speak: they are on the streets, have signs — “Anything will help” — and talk with locals. Citizens. Homeowners. The issue with homelessness yawns its monster mouth when we take into account couch surfing, basement living, folks with families in garages, those living in fifth wheels and vans and cars.
Two-part series in the local rag — Behind the Faces of Lincoln County’s Homeless.

Part of my impetus doing this sidebar is to get the word out, but in so many cases, I feel as if I am a babe in the woods. There are not real forums where strong, focused arguments about the failures of capitalism can be voiced. You see, the fewer opportunities for social-people-environmental-cultural justice to be voiced and delineated, the quicker this retail/consumer society will tank.

From the bottom up, of course, since we have a system of corporate welfare that sucks the very blood from people. Imagine, no outrage about food stamps — a program if run right STIMULATES local economies, local food purveyors, local community building.

Instead, a million more people off the measly program, while those pigs of capital get cash hand over fist billions for military-surveillance-prison-banking complex.

Children already in bad schools — bad because they teach incompetence, small mindedness, compliance, stupidity, chaos, genuflection to lies about history and about the Empire — need real food, real veggies, real fruit, real nutrition. Instead, more children left behind.

And, then, who knows how many end up like these men in a decade, or two decades.

Imagine systems of oppression in schools, in communities, with police forces, with the broken and dictatorial social services, working to put more and more people through the ringer.

Yep, people come to Lincoln County (like hundreds of other counties) to find a place in the sun. To find work. To get away from the urban core of a Portland.

They find seasonal work, tourist industry low paying service jobs, no transportation system, no community gardens, no community centers, nothing, really, and alas, the worst part, they have no housing.

Think how hard communities of every size and shape give away trillions in tax abatements, free land, loopholes, entitlement program, federal dollars, the whole works. Yet, do we have cooperative housing so these businesses can keep people here with the low wages they shell out?

Insanity is believing the tip of the iceberg is the iceberg, so seeing these down and out men (and some women) on the streets and then calling it good when crappy hot chocolate is donated on a windy cold day, when a pile of toothbrushes is given out, when a Oregon Ducks used sweatshirt if thrown at them!

PhD’s on food-stamps! Adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants living in cars, tripling up, while football coaches and a million other superfluous employees at universities get big pay, big tenure rewards, big retirement benefits.

I have been around enough to have talked with plenty of faculty (I was a freeway flyer with a spouse, so we threw in together, with some help from my mother and her parents buying our only child “things” that would have cost us an arm and a leg) who are living in their vans. I have been around enough to have worked as a social worker with clients living in cars, in tents, in abandoned garages and shacks. These homeless people ARE workers, man — cutting Dole’s fruit, loading a million consumer goods onto pallets, answering phones at call centers. Tons and tons of people working the Amazon Fascist Smile Warehouse gig living in a beat-up 20 foot RV.

Tickets on their windows for parking in “illegal zones.” Tickets for expired plates. Tickets for garbage neatly boxed outside the RV. Tow truck operators making bucks, judges getting paid, cops getting retirement benefits.

Being poor, as John attests, costs a lot of money. “If I have no place to cook and heat up food, what does that leave me? Chips and bad food. I can’t go into a restaurant like this an pay $12 for an enchilada plate.”

Larry is so down and out he has cancerous growths on his face, on his back. His clothes are so bad that he gets shooed away from businesses just being outside. He is in need of massive intervention, and on the surface that intervention might look like mandatory “commitment” to a program or suite of programs. But he is in pain, dying on the streets, a constant reminder of the failure of so many systems in this wacko survival of the fittest/dog-eat-dog/Christ Let’s The Poor Inherit The Earth mumbo-jumbo.

Mumbo-jumbo that drive policy. I have met a hundred social workers (females) who have crucifixes around their necks, who believe in their own personal angels. I have met dozens of male social workers who believe in tough love, in turning off someone’s food stamps to get them to come into the office for their monthly face-to-face.

These are the evil people, the Little Eichmann’s, the banality of evil that is a country like USA. Or any country that values the rich and the material over the majority of people in their midst, over the land, over the ecosystems.

John believes the churches will step it up. He thinks the government is too strong, and that churches — the Xmas kind — should have power in this country. he’s a smart guy, deep thinker, been around but over the years it’s been those ministries that have given him a spare blanket, a dime, food.

That’s the odd thing about smart homeless people — they have undying faith in their personal protector, their big daddy in the sky. Many see their lives in this constant chaos and estrangement from “norms” as part of some big plan.

Some, that is, believe that.

But, just last night — a woman, forty, with two girls, on her own, getting disability security checks for the autistic child. She’s in subsidized housing. She has no money for car insurance. Getting a job means something right across the street from her subsidizing housing. An 11 year old at home with a daughter who just turned 18 receiving the $1300 a month for housing and disability compensation.

If this woman — the daughter — goes over $15 or more a month, she loses payments. Already the food stamp allotment has been cut by $85 a month. Imagine, a family of three, and that is a big cut big time.

The average person spends $75 a month on coffee at Starbucks. But the average person in the other category — really precarious, on the edge, without many employment options — they end up in a life and death situation. Less nutrition.

Now, some redneck type might ask where’st he father? Oh, where is that father who ended up in the US Army, got injured twice, with 300 pounds of antifreeze coming down on his head? Yep, ya think that man is cognitively okay? Divorced and left with the two children at a young age, this woman is not getting back child support.

The cogs of the machinery not only to not turn, they are frozen in place.

Recrimination abounds in the world I travel through — it’s her faulty for having kids; it’s her fault for having a bad spouse; it’s her fault for not going to college’ it’s her faulty she was born into a bad family with no father figure; it’s her fault she carries extra pounds on her frame; it’s her fault the kids have no extras, no activities to do outside of school, walks on the beach and TV; it’s her fault for being here on the coast.

A lot of faults, a lot of recriminations, a lot of what most people of “good upbringing” say among themselves or to themselves while passing this woman by as she walks with her daughters and the passerby is in her SUV.

As a writer-journalist-advocacy thinker-biased human being, I can say not enough gets said in meetings, not enough passion is passed around by the stakeholders and powerful. Not enough calling the kettle black, man.

This society where I enter — so many different demographics, activities, realms, professions, people types — is still deluded into believing the crap of American Exceptionalism. They really believe there was great time in USA, when it was a Great White City on the Hill.

IN the end, trauma-trauma-trauma. Many end up precarious because of the trauma. Misanthropes like a Trump or Bloomberg or Zuckerberg, well, there might have been trauma-trauma-trauma in their lives (all three have exacted millions of traumas to others) but these archetypes are able to “overcome” them and become the cruel and ruthless and demeaning hucksters they have become. That the average Joe and Jane like or respect any of these folk — cult of celebrity is a death sentence of intelligence — is amazing still to me.

But the daily survival of John — he has so many skills a Trump of Bloomberg do not have — is both elegant and real. He is getting close to fifty, and he may look like a regular guy on some walkabout, he still knows things could be much better for him.

He laments how women who are homeless have it worse than the men. “Look, I have seen women come into an area after an assault. The cops don’t care. There are missing women all the time. There’s a new poster out in Newport of a young woman missing. How many of them are murdered, left in the woods. The police don’t pursue these rape cases, these missing persons cases. It’s a tragedy, a crime.”

What We See Behind the Faces of a Homeless Family

On the Streets

The tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to homelessness is what the average person sees on Newport’s streets – mostly men, some women, seeking a public or private building’s overhang to get out of the rain.

Many on the streets are disheveled, struggling with mental health issues and addiction. Others are not so easily identified as homeless people.

Creating a permanent warming shelter is one stop-gap measure the Newport Working Group on Homelessness has been grappling with for more than a year.

On Feb. 5, more than 20 people filled the cramped space in the Avery building (where DHS offices are co-located with other agencies) to move this group into achievable goals.

Outside the DHS office, fighting against the gale force rain, many of these house-less people were on the covered concrete pad that lead up to the offices housing SNAP and TANF DHS workers.

They were seeking a dry space and companionship.

I asked one fellow – he said he goes by Fred, age 47 — what he wants immediately as a homeless citizen.

“Look, I see families out there with kids in tents. That’s just not right. I am okay living in the woods, but even a dude like me wants something, some place, to get out or the rain and cold. Even some simple open carport like structure, man. Nothing fancy. They should be all over the place.”

We talked about portable toilets, even cold-water taps and sanitary soaps. “Look, with this virus over in China, coming here. . . you think the powers to be would think about sanitation. I guess the solution is to let us die off in the woods . . . or ship us off to come sort of camp.”

Paul Looking for Camps —

Task Force with Teeth?

Inside, a city council woman, the Lincoln County Sheriff, plethora of social services leaders, private citizens and others coalesced to try to come up with a plan and priorities. The agenda to create safe transitional housing, welcoming and effective car camping regulations, policies for tent camping areas, and siting a warming shelter is daunting. Also, on the agenda was the big slice of the pie – addressing health and health-related issues.

Newport Policewoman Jovita Ballentine and Sheriff Curtis Launders were among the group wondering “how all this money spent on services” for these so-called “frequent users” (of the ER) really helps people with mental health issues who spend their days hanging out at such places as the Newport Rec Center.

For Launders, mental illness and addiction are the root causes of the homeless police agencies run into on a daily basis.

For Samaritan House director Lola Jones, helping homeless get out of the elements and into programs to assist them into permanent housing are part of a bigger picture. She reiterated that the Task Force is not a panacea for all the underlying issues why people end up homeless.

Amanda Cherryholmes, Lincoln City manager for Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively (C.H.A.N.C.E.), was quick to push back on the myth that more homeless services in an area will bring more homeless into the community. Cherryholmes cited counterarguments to that belief.

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She also pointed out that car camping allowances and even some concerted effort to have designated spaces with port-a-potty’s and storage facilities don’t address the fact “most people can’t afford to keep their car running when temperatures hit the low thirties or below.”

Also, at the meeting was a board member of Grace Wins Haven. Betty Kamikawa, president of the board of directors, ramified the point many in Newport and Lincoln County profess: “Hotels are struggling because of Air B & B. The vacation rentals have caused so many people to become homeless.”

I met people at Grace Wins after the taskforce adjourned. For Betty and the Haven director, Tracie Flowers, the crisis of unhoused individuals in Lincoln County is growing out of proportion to the solutions.

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The US had a shortage of 7.8 million units of affordable housing for very low income (7.5 million) and homeless (400,000) households and individuals in 2017, according the National Low Income Housing Coalition using US Census data. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s count had number of homeless higher, at 550,000 on any given night. The US Department of Education reported that 1.5 million school children experienced a period of homelessness during 2017.

Shelter Us from the Storm

“We need more shelters first,” Tracie said. “Too many people think the homeless are one type of individual. They are not.” That belief creates huge conflicts within social services agencies, non-profits, religious organizations, and for the homeless themselves.

Amanda Cherryholmes wants a more robust assessment of people coming into shelters and transitional housing. “We need to figure out what services the individual needs. Each one has different needs.”

She militated against the idea just any individual should end up in a warming shelter or in car camping arrangements. “There are two distinct groups. Families and young people needing shelter. And then single men.”

She pointed out that having a sexual offender among a group of homeless in a communal setting is not a good idea.

There are some brighter horizons in the mix. Some churches are stepping up to the plate.

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Tiny Homes, Relaxing Zoning

Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Kelsey Ingalls, on her Feb. 2, 2020 church blog discusses one small effort to avail the housing shortage: six cottages at time on church property.

“We formed the Exploration Team which is undertaking a feasibility study to form a partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln County and other local service agencies to help meet the housing needs of homeless, single-parent families. The Exploration Team is looking into the idea of building six two-bedroom/one-bath cottages on the southeast corner of the Church campus.  We are proposing a circular village layout with front porches and a central common area. Supportive services would be provided by our local service agency partners.”

Before the task force convened, Blair Bobier, Regional Director of Legal Aid Services, sent out an email framing the impetus behind the Newport Working Group on Homeless:

“There are many service providers who agree that some form of a ‘coalition’ model is an important next step towards addressing homelessness in our community.  In other places, one form of this model included a regular meeting of elected officials and law enforcement, along with service providers, to ensure that there was sufficient coordination among involved parties.  As has been pointed out, here in Newport, the Lincoln County Affordable Housing Partners (AHP) is a great example of service providers coming together on a regular basis—along with developers, government officials and members of the faith community—to exchange information and work towards common goals.”

With this huge brain trust in one room, and the compassion and passionate solutions-driven people commenting on what needs to be prioritized, it’s clear Newport and Lincoln County at large have many hurdles to overcome as homelessness and housing precarious situations are growing.

Relaxing zoning laws, and rolling up of sleeves will help develop coordinated efforts to get people out of the cold, screen people through various social services resources, and begin to help coastal communities look at the long-range health of affordable housing in this coastal area.

“Over the two years’ operating, Grace Wins has had over 2,000 clients coming through. Some stay a while. The fact is by this September there will be no winter shelter as the Commons will be torn down. Nothing for the homeless and the farmer’s market,” Betty Kamikawa stated.

Since Housing and Urban Development (HUD) no longer funds states for shelters, the onus is on states, counties and municipalities to grapple with the steadily growing problem.

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Running a Permanent Shelter Costs Money

Without financial support, and without volunteers, a shelter is a pipe dream. “We have to have financial support,” Jones stated.

Cynthia Jacobi, Newport City Council, told me at a PFLAG event at OCCC Feb. 8 she is hopeful that HB – 4001 will spur serious discourse on what to do about the homeless population in relationship to cities having the tools to allow for shelters. House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, has introduced a $120 million proposal to allow cities to more easily site homeless shelters. Kotek also wants a statewide emergency declaration on the homeless problem.

Jacobi too sees the need for immediate mitigation and a shelter for this emergency-sized problem here in Newport.

Pastor Ingalls on her blog tells her congregation a chilling fact most social services agencies in Lincoln County also shudder to contemplate – There’s a 17% homeless rate in our local schools. How a community frames the idea that nearly 1 out of every 5 students don’t have stable housing while the county is home to many second home residents will be important.

Several compelling stories about people who are homeless dying exposed to the elements were discussed at the meeting: According to Kamikawa, an 87-year-old Lincoln County resident was found dead in her car. She had been in an apartment living with her disabled son. Electrical wires were eaten through by rats. She had no electricity. She was evicted. She had a stroke while living in her car with her son.

Putting a face on and a story behind each homeless person might get the average person to think about how he or she can support a shelter and permanent housing solution as well as volunteering some hours each month to stem the tide of tragedies like this one.

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Grilling Newport City Councilwoman

I decided to ask a Newport City Councilwoman some questions on homelessness and next steps.

Paul Haeder:  What role do you see citizens joining the Homeless Task Force?

Cynthia Jacobi: I’m the City Liaison to the Homeless Work Group/coalition.

PH:  What role do you see citizens joining the Homeless Task Force?

CJ: I see the role of citizens in the new homeless coalition work group (as yet without an official name or title) as coming forth with the best ideas tailored for our community. Social services, government entities, law-enforcement, interfaith community and concerned citizens can all have a Voice in shaping these policies.

PH:  Why are you involved?

CJ: I have always felt a strong sense of social justice.  I see Families with more than one parent working who still cannot afford safe and decent shelter. Sometimes the cost of an illness, a car repair, or other unexpected costs forces the choice between buying groceries or paying rent or utility bills. Children in unstable situations are especially vulnerable.

As a wealthy society, in good conscience we cannot say there is no room at the inn. We have the means to house all of our population.  With strong leadership and compassion, I know we can do this.

PH: Will the Task Force cover larger issues?

CJ: There are so many overlapping issues:

The new Oregon State House Bill 4001 which may be a game changer in zoning, and funding.

All coastal communities have been addressing the Short-Term Rentals impact on housing inventory for working folks.

It is a valid suggestion to have a study on the actual impact economically and socially of STRs. For example:   Does the room tax cover expenses of police and fire departments, wear on roads, etc.?  Who would finance this study?

The City of Newport has been instrumental in building Surfview, the 110-apartment complex for lower-income citizens. This will open by summer. This was accomplished with a complex partnership of public and private funds, and the leadership in local city and county government. Need to do more of this.

PH: What role do you see mental health services playing in this move to have both temporary homeless facilities (a night facility) and also a warming shelter?

CJ: My understanding is that the county mental health providers have formed out-reach teams Which will go directly to unsheltered people, assess their needs and provide services and contacts for assistance.

PH: Car camping at churches and non-profits and governmental parking areas WITH some sort of case management and oversight seems like a good first step in getting the housing insecure into a system of evaluation and moving ahead with housing options. Is this the biggest and easiest priority now?

CJ: I think the quickest way to make an impact is to allow safe, supervised car camping in Newport.  Newport Planning Commission is in the process of examining our ordinances to allow car camping in certain Defined areas.  Along with oversight, outreach teams, and case management, this is the easiest first step to create safe shelter areas. Women, children, and seniors living in their cars are especially vulnerable. At the very least, they need a safe place to stay at night. We can do this.

I heard anecdotally that much of the seasonal help lives in their cars and rents small storage lockers for belongings.

PH: Do you know anyone personally or within a family circle who have been or are housing insecure, or homeless?

CJ: Personally, I have a few family members who have experienced bad luck, poor choices, and mental illness causing them to live in unstable conditions.

My husband, Gary, and I have volunteered at the overnight shelter.  We have met people displaced from their previous long-term housing, people who can’t afford rent, people who are disabled.

A common problem is affordability when working folks have to pay the first month, the last month, a damage deposit and utility hook ups. Before any of this can happen, there is background check costing $50 per adult for each application, even to be placed on a waiting list. While realizing that landlords must be protected, this situation seems unfair. How many working families can afford $2500 and more up front?

PH: What role do businesses and the chambers have in helping get some sort of affordable housing for the very people who clean the fish, serve the food, chop the veggies, clean the hotels, etc.? Can we get a round-table together, a charrette, where we bring a large brain trust together to attack the housing insecurity and the street homeless issues as a multi-pronged problem to solve?

CJ: As far as the responsibilities of businesses and chambers of commerce: Some businesses have stepped up to help their workers.  In particular, one of the fish plants has purchased motels and converted them to longer-term living quarters.

In the last few years, Newport has lost three large economy motels: one deteriorated and was bulldozed, one burned, and the fish plant bought another one. (or two?). These motels were often used as emergency shelters with vouchers by government agencies.

– The availability of housing related to jobs is affected by public transport access.

– Walkability and bicycle access are also important.

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