A Short Road Trip

June 27th, 2008

NOTE: This is a belated post–quite belated, in fact–but I though I’d share it because it’s a nice intersection of international travel and the domestic road trip.

With Romy riding shotgun, we headed south to Portland with camping, climbing, and other gear strewn about the wooden sleeping platform in the back of my Subaru. Late as usual, and getting later, we nudged through an early rush hour watching the clock. We had a fundraiser to get to. (at right: romy in the subaru)

This extended weekend was the first short road trip in a long time for my lemon of a car. It was warm enough we drove with the windows down–all but Romy’s since the electric motor is out. The part costs $180. It is one of a long list of ailments: cruise control: not functional; horn: dead; power outlet: fried; drive axle boot: leaking; brake caliper mounts: rattling again; clutch throwout bearing: sounding less like a mouse and more like an overgrown hamster; that engine oil leak: still untreated. I wanted to show Romy a slice of the “real” America, the grand open spaces, mountains, and the beauty of the open road. Assuming my car made it. When we got home, Romy would comment, “I guess it runs ok.”

Our first destination was a cute wine bar in Portland where the Transitions Cambodia (TCI) founders, James and Athena Pond, were hosting an event. I’d never met Athena, but I knew James from one rather intense month in Cambodia. He set me up with a lot of my contacts, gave me organizational access no other NGO was willing to offer, spoke in my support when I was slandered, and would often meet me at a watering hole we grew to love. I think I saw him almost every day he was in Phnom Penh and, when he left, the cityscape felt a little empty. James is the kind of guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, is no-bullshit, and works to get the job done. I like that ethic. (at left: athena and james pond)

The event started slow, giving me a chance to meet some of the board members and Holly writer and producer Guy Moshe, but it quickly built. With live music in the warmth of the open cellar, it was a pretty cool event. Romy and I were fortunate enough to meet two supporters of TCI, Sherry and Mellani. Good friends, Sherry is a very successful sales person and Mellani is the Queen of Benefits for the recovering addict. The next day she would give us a tour of Central City Concern in downtown Portland.

I like Portland, I enjoy exploring it and doing so with Romy was fun. We had met in Cambodia and this time, instead of cruising around on her moto, we had my beat up car to tour with. In true travel form, we wandered from person to person, place to place. Mary, a new FEAR Project volunteer I met in Seattle, came down from Centralia and we had a chance to check out the bar scene and, the next day, the coffee shop scene. (at right: Transitions Cambodia board member Erin McNamara and Holly screenwriter Guy Moshe)

I had a chance to meet with Wendy Freed, a prominent researcher in the field of human trafficking, as well as Keith Bickford, the sole officer comprising Oregon’s anti human trafficking task force. I find Keith’s willingness to be challenging and forthright in a very delicate field admirable; things don’t get done by standing on the sidelines, but with the political and ethical issues coming to light in domestic human trafficking, striking a balance is no small feat. Wendy, after she learned I had worked with Lucy Berliner at HCSATS took her card back, put down her personal email and phone, and began a more candid conversation. (at right: Q&A after the screening of Holly. James, Jaya, Wendy, and Keith with my pictures on screen behind)

I’m still learning just how far Lucy’s influence spans; she is a friend and mentor to many, a strong leader, and I’ve only realized recently just how valuable that first interview years ago was for me–had she not taken the time I sincerely doubt FEAR Project would exist or that I’d be as involved in anti-trafficking as I’ve become. (at left: Jaya Sry at the theater for the screening of Holly, a film about sex trafficking shot on location in Phnom Penh)

Romy and I stayed with the Ponds where we saw Jaya (pronounced Zaya) the director for Transitions’ Phnom Penh aftercare facility. Ever smiling, she denied being jet lagged however the next morning she didn’t emerge until nearly noon. This was her second trip out of Cambodia; the first was in February when she went to Bangkok. James lost her in a large department store, a scale she had never seen before, and didn’t find her until he remembered she liked smells. Like Ferdinand amongst the flowers, they found her in the perfumery.

We headed south to Smith Rock, a climbing crag I used to make regular weekend pilgrimages to. There we woke to the scent of juniper and sage, shared campfires in the Grasslands (now called Skull Hollow), and spent hours climbing on the sharp-edged volcanic tuft. The usual suspects, locals and seasonal locals, were there as well; comforting in their seeming permanence. (at left: a wind turbine near the Columbia river)

Taking Highway 97 north, we drove through open range land, dined on authentic taco truck cuisine (Romy loves Mexican food–something I miss when I travel), and found the wind farm I’d longed to photograph several years ago when it was being constructed. There’s something about seeming the swooping blades of a massive turbine carving across the horizon which, when you crest the gentle rise, you see is but one set of hundreds spread across an open landscape of green grass and dull rock.

We took some time to drive amongst the forest of towers, crisscrossing fields on gravel access roads. The light never quite got right for the pictures I was hoping to make; we could have stayed the night and waited, but home called us on so we headed north into the gathering dusk. (at right: looking like a space ship, an under construction head of a turbine lies flat on the ground)

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