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Author Archive: "Matt Love"

Last Rains of Consciousness

Thanks for joining me on my discursions on Oregon's greatest cultural asset — rain. The rainy season has rotated our way and the lakes will soon begin colliding overhead, perhaps as you read this. Are you ready? Are you rapturous at the thought? As Jack Kerouac wrote, "The taste of rain — why kneel?"

Rain thoughts keep falling on my head. Some final observations:

• Invariably, when a new book comes out, a few days, weeks, or months later I discover (or remember) a fantastic story about the subject of the book that obviously won't be included.

It happened again last month when I purchased a 35-year-old pamphlet for $3 at a Lincoln City bookstore. The pamphlet is titled "Orygone III, or, everything you always wanted to know about Oregon, but were afraid to find out." The first sentence goes, "...it was Sunday and it was raining and it was in Oregon."


I read that sentence and felt dumbstruck: I had forgotten to include in my book about rain perhaps the greatest Oregon Coast rain story ever captured in literature, one I had ...

Send Rain to Cure the Civil War

A disease is haunting Oregon — the disease of a cultural infantilism. It's here, again, and the infection this fall is stronger than ever. We need rain and more rain as the cure, or at least to make enduring the sickness a little more interesting.

The disease is exhibited by adults in connection to the fortunes of the University of Oregon's and Oregon State University's football programs. And infantilism it is, naked, bawling, obnoxious, crushingly boring to witness. I would ignore its irritating presence if I could but cannot since it constantly invades my cultural space. Can Oregonians talk about something else, like rain or their sex lives or the death of rock?

It all brings to mind something I read by the Italian author/intellectual Umberto Eco, "Sports debate is the easiest substitute for political debate." He wrote that before the onset of ESPN and the Internet. Let me also loosely paraphrase something else Eco wrote: those who watch and obsess over spectator sports are not playing sports. They have lost the ability to play or an interest in sex, too.

UO and OSU football used ...

A First Date in Rain

How many of you have a story of lust or love or a date in the rain? If you live in Oregon, you most certainly do. Here's one of mine.

March rain sheeted across Highway 101 in such ridiculously daunting waves that no technology known to the universe could keep a person from becoming drenched after sprinting 20 feet from a vehicle to a restaurant. Meteorology has no term for this type of rain. Deluge is totally inadequate.

She was barely wearing any clothes, certainly not a coat. Coats do impair mystery sometimes. I don't think she owned one.

There was a distinct possibility the storm would blow her polka-dotted dress right off her nimble body. I wanted to see that. Who doesn't? Rain equals attractive skin, and umbrellas are the chastity belt of the Oregon Coast. I have heard that eunuchs love them, too.

A week earlier, she had magically appeared out of Newport rain on my birthday and helped obliterate the residual longing for a woman of the sun who dumped me from California dreaming. She came bearing a piece of writing that she said I inspired her ...

Where My Obsession with Oregon Rain Began: Lost Lake

My unique and eccentric relationship to Oregon rain began, I think, in the summer of 1973 or 1974 at the Lost Lake campground in the Mount Hood National Forest when a family friend, Katie Green, matriarch of a gyppo logging outfit, Green Brothers Logging from Hood River, the kind of hearty woman Hank Stamper should have married instead of Viv in Sometimes a Great Notion, a woman who was married to a logger named Melvin, the Hank Stamper of Oregon's share of the Cascade Range, a rugged yet gentle man who once saved my life by chasing off a charging Doberman pinscher with an ax, yes, it was Katie who took my family camping with her in a fifth-wheel trailer, no, not the fancy behemoths you see today, with preposterous names like Arctic Fox or Vortex Traveler, but a little rounded one made of metal and wood, yes wood, that slept four although there were five of us on the trip, including my older sister, and we ventured there for three days to hike, wander, bushwhack, swim, skip stones, fish, split wood, boat, build forts, pick ...

How Rain Inspired a Book

What inspires a book? Invariably, this is the first question asked of the author when it comes out.

My new book is about rain, particularly the year it rained 89.97 inches in Newport, Oregon, where I live. Despite unfolding during the second wettest year in recorded history, my story has very little to do with weather.

Inspiration began unexpectedly one Sunday in January 2012 when I learned that someone I loved was leaving me for someone else. She told me over the phone prior to boarding a plane flying to the sunniest places on earth with, presumably, her new boyfriend.

That afternoon, rain moved like a gray phalanx across the yard. As I looked out the window, I felt crushed. I had never seen this coming and was shocked how my intuition had betrayed me. At first I asked, How did it come to this?, which is the dumbest question in the universe. If you ask it, then you already know the reasons why.

I knew the reasons. The story now, however, was not about recrimination, but how to advance, always advance, and learn new lessons and a new ...

On Oregon / Finding Myself at the Ocean

Readers, thanks for checking out my On Oregon blog the last four years. It's been a great run of something like 100 or more posts, and I am also thankful to Powell's for letting me run with my Oregon ideas. Here's my last post, and, fittingly enough, it's about the most important Oregon thing in the world to me: our publicly owned beaches.

In the spring of 1997, not long after my 33rd birthday, I awakened in my Portland loft to the reality that I craved a total revolution of my mind, body, and spirit. Truly, I was lost as a human being and unable to envision a path to fulfilling any of my dreams. On a whim, I accepted a teaching job at a small rural school on the Oregon Coast, needing to believe something transformative might happen to me. I honestly felt this was my last shot at doing something important with my life.

Something did happen after heading west. I met the beach, we fell in love, and it has since become the greatest creative, spiritual, and sensual force in my life. But my transformation only ...

John Reed Running

As an adolescent growing up in Portland and when on summer break from Harvard, John Reed frequently visited the North Oregon Coast and wrote about these experiences in some of his first published work. This was a few years before he rode with Pancho Villa in Mexico; consorted with Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin in Russia; wrote Ten Days That Shook the World; and became the country's most famous romantic revolutionary and radical journalist (and the obsession of Warren Beatty, who starred as Reed in the classic 1981 film Reds). Reed died in 1920 and is the only American ever buried in the Kremlin Wall.

On one trip in 1908 when he was 21, Reed, a native Oregonian, described the north Oregon Coast as a place of "wildness and desolation that cannot be imagined." In his essay "From Clatsop to Necarney," he sketched the story of a September hike from Seaside over Tillamook Head to the base of Mount Neahkahnie and the beach at Oswald West State Park.

In this piece (and a few others recounting or fictionalizing outdoor adventures), Reed always described what it meant to be a ...

Happy 100th Birthday, Tom McCall — From the Oregon Story to Portlandia

Were he alive, former Oregon Governor Tom McCall would have turned 100 on March 22, 2013. This is a birthday worth celebrating, and many of us are doing exactly that because we want to honor an Oregon politician who immeasurably improved our lives and had the temerity to say something like, "Oregon is demure and lovely, and it ought to play a little hard to get. And I think you'll be just as sick as I am if you find it is nothing but a hungry hussy, throwing herself at every stinking smokestack that's offered."

Skeptical of such an outrageous claim that McCall improved our lives? Just amble down Oregon's publicly owned beaches at no cost and you must surely agree. Back in 1967, McCall helped protect them from exploitation by his impassioned support of the Beach Bill, eventually signing it into law after a hard-fought legislative victory where he bucked his own party's leadership.

During his two terms as a maverick Republican (1967-1975), McCall and a largely bipartisan legislature collaborated to implement a series of progressive governing initiatives that McCall collectively called "The Oregon Story." McCall described "The Oregon Story" to one national reporter as one of "innovation and regeneration that can actually be used anywhere. We're trying to export the hope and the formula."

One Man’s Beach/Waves of Consciousness, Part Three

During the winter, I like watching anything undulating in motion with the ocean. That might be seals or surfers. That might be mermaids or drift logs. That might be skinny-dippers or coils of kelp.

My favorite day to watch is Sunday. Call it going to church. My favorite place to observe the winter undulations is sitting on a bench overlooking the roiling surf at Rocky Creek State Park, just north of Cape Foulweather. The bench, at the westernmost part of the park, is utterly alone and surely rests there because some closet poet in Oregon State Parks chose the site.

One Man's Beach

The Kelp Fountain

Question: What's the most memorably creative use of kelp you've ever witnessed on tan Oregon beach?

My candidates:

  • Jump rope
  • Photographic subject for greeting cards
  • Harness for a driftwood sled pulled by huskies
  • Rotunda fort
  • Telescope
  • Whip for practice S&M
  • Teenage fashion statement
  • Dog toy
  • Trampoline
  • Riding crop
  • Percussion instrument
  • Coiled decoration on a pagan monolith
  • Typography for a love letter in the sand
  • Pointing directions to a secret hideaway

Excellent candidates all of these, but none of them compare to the wonder I discovered not long ago.

It was a rare rainless afternoon in late November, and I was walking my neighbor's dog, Crazy Country Maddie, down the beach after a big storm. We dodged dozens of huge entangled piles of kelp at the wrack line and they vaguely reminded me of creatures from a Jules Verne novel.

A quarter mile into our jaunt, something distant to the north captured my attention: a strand of kelp originating at the base of a cliff that snaked 75 yards westward to the ocean before ending atop a drift log partially submerged in sand.

Curious, I jogged over to investigate. Five minutes later I found myself sprinting back to the house with Maddie ...

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