Displaced persons

Before we began this trip I plotted out where all our friends lived that we might be able to visit. But serendipitously, we also managed to rendezvous with some friends who were away from their homes, but managed to be in the same location as us.

In New York a small crowd (which ranged from the truly to the slightly displaced) assembled for dinner with us. Marley Zeno (in the middle) came all the way in from her home in Brooklyn, but we think of her as being even more displaced than that, as to us she is fundamentally a Seattleite. She grew up in Kirkland, the daughter of our friends Mike and Karen, and left the Northwest to go to school at Oberlin. Eventually she found her way to New York, where she entered a program through which she earned her masters in education at Hunter, while teaching second grade and living in Bedford Stuyvesant. (One of the weirdest things about visiting New York now is discovering that neighborhoods I wouldn’t even walk through when I lived there are now pretty gentrified and expensive.) Marley is having one of those young adult experiences in New York that I remember fondly, but the big question is whether she will stay; we’ve found that the call of the Northwest is strong for those raised here, and even if life in the big city is fun, they eventually start missing the rain and the gloom.DSCF5137

Marley’s sister Rachel (on the left) was completely displaced, visiting Marley from her home in Seattle. I’ve known Rachel since she was an infant, and I’m technically her godfather, even though we’ve never exactly figured out what that entails since the Zenos are Jewish. But she’s been an important part of my life, back from when I lived in New York and would go to Seattle to visit them. Rachel went to college at Pomona, and after considering several life options, headed back to Seattle, as the lure of the Northwest was already at work on her. She has yet another of those jobs where I don’t really understand what she does, but I think it involves being a well-rounded person in a high-tech firm, where she can put her broader viewpoint and interpersonal skills to work as an interface between the techie types and more normal people. We saw Rachel on this trip in New York, and then we narrowly missed her a few more times: while we were driving west through Kayenta, she was 20 miles north camping in the Valley of the Gods. Then while we were in Palo Alto, Rachel was at a meeting in San Jose. But we finally managed to reconnect with her last weekend, at her wedding in Seattle. It was a really beautiful service as she and Tim got married, we reconnected with lots of old friends and Rachel’s extended family members we get to see at major life events, but I still couldn’t figure out what my role was as godfather.

We really enjoyed seeing the Zeno girls on this trip, especially as we have come to think of Greta as the third Zeno girl. She is uncannily like them in many ways – smart, outgoing, mature, talented, kind of nerdy, concerned with social justice, and unfailingly nice. (Whenever we can’t quite figure out some new aspect of Greta’s developing personality, we then think, oh yeah, she’s a Zeno girl.) These two (along with their younger brother Ben) are also the prime examples of a phenomenon that’s become apparent as our friends’ children have grown up: we don’t think of them as our friends’ children, we think of them as our friends. It is definitely harder to make new friends as you get older, and we are very grateful to our friends for raising a whole new generation of them for us.

The third person rounding out this group is Pam Shipley, who has been one of my best friends for the past 35 years or so. Pam’s state of displacement is often in flux, as it was at the time of this dinner, and it seems to have grown even more since then. I met Pam in Cambridge during college, when she was going out with one of my friends, and we didn’t get along all that well. She had grown up in Manhattan, gone to a couple of prep schools, and was in the middle of a college career which spanned a range of schools from Evergreen to Sarah Lawrence. I thought she was pretty flaky, and she thought I was pretty annoying, both of which were mostly true. We lost touch, and then one late night in New York, as I was walking home down Broadway from Columbia, I ran into Pam. We had a chat, she invited me to her birthday party the next week, and we’ve been friends ever since.

We spent a lot of time hanging out in the 80s, doing that single young person lifestyle in New York that Marley’s doing now – going to concerts, movies and parties, walking around, eating in cheap restaurants, and complaining about the people we were dating. Pam got her masters in education at Teachers’ College, and since then has been working as a private tutor, for high school, prep school and college students. It’s been an interesting career, and she ends up becoming more involved in many of her students’ lives than many regular teachers do, as the relationship usually extends for years. Pam certainly helps her students with their academic issues, but even more, I think she provides them with some grounding and wisdom that they need. Pam is noted for intermittently coming up with theories that explain important aspects of human behavior, such as Tomato Theory, Clipboard Theory, and the concepts of Paying Someone So You Can Do Their Job for Them, and Why You Should Never Go Out with Anyone to Whom You’re Attracted.

Towards the end of the decade Pam did meet someone about whom she didn’t complain, and since she and Chuck got married, he’s been a very good friend also. Chuck grew up outside Buffalo, went to Cornell, and his career has bounced among the poles of railroads, wine, and sustainability (it’s confusing). Their daughter Sophie was born in New York, but after they spent a few years upstate, she was mainly raised on the Philadelphia Main Line. (At some point Sophie also adopted me as her godfather, but then as she came to understand that we shared a fundamental disbelief, I became her anti-godfather.) Once Sophie was off to college, Pam and Chuck increased their degree of displacement, as they shifted their careers back towards New York, and for years they’ve maintained a small place on the Main Line, while also having a studio in New York. After dinner, Pam and I walked around Tudor City, where they were contemplating getting a bigger apartment. However, in subsequent months, as the increasingly annoying process of buying real estate in New York devolved, they finally said the hell with it, and the last I heard, they were buying a rowhouse in Philadelphia. On our next big trip we will certainly visit them there, but this year it seemed that they were even more adrift than we were.

Ihab Elzeyadi is our colleague in the architecture department at the UO, but he was following our blog and figured out we might overlap in Washington DC. Ihab grew up and went to college in Egypt, then came to the US to get his PhD at UW Milwaukee, and after working in California, joined our faculty in the late 90s. Ihab is an expert on high performance building enclosures, and also the relationship between building design and the performance of the building inhabitants, whether they are students or office workers (he was recently extensively quoted in the Times article about the new Amazon headquarters). He is one of the core members of our faculty who carries on our reputation as the leading school for sustainability and environmental architecture.44. DC 029P1050512

When we interviewed Ihab for the job many years ago, I thought he was going to be a classic ASHRAE geek, but there are many more aspects to his personality and expertise than I expected. He is a fabulous design teacher, and he knows a lot about historic preservation. (A number of years ago he taught a studio looking at remodelling a historic complex in Cairo, and brought many of his students along on a site visit.) Ihab lives with his wife and son in Eugene, and somehow manages to get impressive amounts of work done while still being a super-engaged dad.

Ihab was in Washington for a conference when we arrived there, and he took us out for dinner at the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl (the president was not there that night). We had been on the road for a couple of months at that point, and it was good to have someone fill us in on what had been going on back home (before we learned to just live in the moment and forget about Eugene). It was also a nice reminder that we had left many good friends back in Oregon, and we’d be happy to see them when we returned.

Chris Ramey was the only person we unexpectedly ran into on this whole nine-month trip. (We had run into my cousin Jim McCarthy in Harvard Yard, but we knew he was on campus and we were already planning on looking him up.) Strangely, Linda and I had once before run into Chris and his family while on our honeymoon in Victoria (there’s a data point).   I’ve known Chris since I arrived many years ago at the UO. His title seemed to change with administrative regularity, but his job description stayed pretty much the same – whether he was head of campus planning, or a vice president, or campus architect, Chris has been in charge of the UO campus for decades. Chris had grown up in Eugene, then studied architecture at the UO, and after working in professional offices, returned to work in campus planning.80. Phoenix079DSCF6559

Over the years I’ve worked with Chris a lot, on various planning committees and projects, through various positions in university governance, and also when he’s come to reviews in our department. Most recently we spent a lot of time at meetings together as the university has undertaken a long-range visioning process, something we’d been advocating for years. An important thing I’ve appreciated about Chris is that in the world capital of passive-aggressive behavior, Chris is always willing to engage in a substantive argument about ideas and principles. He and I have often agreed on issues, but when we have disagreed, we have argued our points forcefully, and haven’t taken it personally afterwards. (This is not normal procedure in Oregon, where conflict resolution proceeds on one of two levels – indirect passive aggression, or the nuclear option.)

Chris has recently retired from his position at the UO, and is continuing his work as a planning consultant. He had been attending a campus planning conference, where he was presenting an overview of the UO vision process, and we ran into him at the Phoenix airport. We were on our way back to the Northwest for a brief spring break hiatus, and chatting with Chris in the airport helped with the re-acculturation process.

At the end of the trip, I was surprised at how few displaced persons we saw, and how there was only one true random meeting; I’ve had a lot more on other trips in my life, mostly in airports, big cities, and European destinations. I attribute this to our often being in pretty out-of-the-way places, and mostly staying out of airports. Not many of our friends seem to be staying in trailer parks in the off-season, but that may change as we age.

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