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Month: December 2017

Christmas in the land of Muhammad

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Christmases from my childhood were quintessential American events.  Each year could have served as scenes for Norman Rockwell and were wonderfully memorable. Of course, there was a fresh-cut noble fir, the plethora of ornaments, silvery icicles, and plenty of lights inside and out with cutouts in the front yard, including a manger scene and Santa-on-sleigh with Rudolph and eight other reindeer.

Nevertheless, there came a year when it was rather difficult to return home for Christmas.That occurred because the Arabian American Oil Company (ARAMCO) hired me to a job requiring relocation to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.  My job entailed joining a group of other Americans with the objective to convert the workforce from mainly expatriates (foreigners) to Saudis (nationals), a challenge that proved ambitious by work ethic incompatibles but was granted anyway, the “old college” try.

As readers may imagine, it was a monumental undertaking just to get ready to depart for a long stay in the Middle East. The details could literally fill a book, including inventorying everything we owned and organizing the items into two piles: one pile to Los Angeles for “permanent storage;” the other, a smaller pile, for use in Saudi Arabia.  Incidentally, one of the toughest events occurred at the send-off in PDX terminal, a gathering of family and friends during which time my mother was inconsolable with parting tears that caused a welling-up even on my pretentiously macho façade.

We could take the most needed of things, mainly clothes and personal effects, with us. Those items filled suitcases and five foot lockers and accompanied us to eight days of ARAMCO orientation in Houston.  They then boarded with us on an ARAMCO jet along with other hires on a flight that stopped in Paris and then Dhahran.  My first impression of the place was a glance out the plane’s window as it banked in final approach and, looking down at a barren desert, I thought I’d probably make a terrible mistake.

We arrived in early March with the weather already sizzlingly hot and assigned temporary housing at North Camp, metal units located outside Dhahran in the open desert alongside a population of scorpions. While the ARAMCO orientation had been enlightening, it did not even come close to preparing my wife and I for a place as shockingly different as Saudi Arabia. Not to labor the challenges and difficulties of such a foreign destination as different from Oregon as anywhere in the world, the short of the story is that we survived multiple trials and tribulations exampled by daily first-of-five-calls-to-prayer in summer at 4 a.m. that used bullhorns from atop towers, 12-year-old Saudi boys who could barely see over steering wheels driving full-sized Buicks and Mercedes sedans, and the stick switching on  legs by mullahs, Islamic protectors of the faith, reminding women not dressed to Islamic standards to over up any exposed skin.

Then there was Christmas. We were discouraged from taking anything the Saudis believed made by Jewish-owned businesses but we were not advised regarding our fake tree, collection of lights and ornaments my wife and I had collected during the decade we’d been together before leaving. It took about two months for our items by ship to get there.  Well, low and behold, when our stuff arrived, not one Christmas-related item was among our things.  They had all been confiscated by the Saudi government.  My wife also lost her sewing machine which was made by Sears; the wooden desk into which it had been built arrived empty.

Two matters of good news: we had made a list of everything we sent so the full costs were reimbursed by ARAMCO.  Humorously and hypocritically, Saudi businesses in nearby Saudi cities sold the confiscated yuletide items back to ARAMCO employees (we never found our own stuff but that of other Americans).  It was our first time away from a Christmas celebration that we missed most but made the best of it by socializing with other American families who joined us in song and celebration. There was a small, unmarked, barren building known secretly as a “church” inside Dhahran where, without fanciness or fanfare, a Christmas service could be enjoyed. The Saudis ignored us as long as we were discreet and honored their rules, true even for swimming attire as we had our own American pools.

To its credit, ARAMCO provided good salaries, health care, housing and schools; Saudi Arabia provided extreme heat and, with few exceptions, a fairly hostile society that makes every Christmas in Keizer formerly taken for granted but a whole lot more appreciated nowadays.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)


Tax plan takes swipe at little guys

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Republicans are supposed to be the party that cuts the job-killing capital gains tax, not raises it. But because of a quirk in the Senate-passed tax bill, the tax on capital gains may go up — and for some types of long-held assets, fairly substantially.

Most members of Congress don’t even know of this stealth capital gains hike. Here’s the story: At the start of the year, Republicans promised to reverse the near-60 percent rise in the capital gains tax under former President Barack Obama — a hike that helped bring investment rates to historic lows. The GOP plan was to eliminate the Obamacare 3.8 percent investment-tax surcharge on capital gains and dividends?. That repeal never happened. But now, the Senate tax-reform bill proposes to raise several billion over the next decade by changing the rules on how stocks are taxed.

It would require shareholders to sell their oldest shares in a company before their newest purchased ones. The older the share, the larger the taxable capital gain. This is called the first-in, first-out accounting system.

Consider this example: Let’s say you bought 100 shares of Apple stock in 1998 at $100 a share?, and then you bought another 100 shares in 2008 at $300 each. If you were to sell 100 shares at $500 a share, you would have to “sell” the oldest stock and pay a $400 per share capital gains tax, versus $200 a share under the current law.

Now, this accounting change may actually make sense, except that the gains on long-term stocks are not adjusted for inflation. So on many sales of long-held stock, as much as half of the reported and taxable “gain” is due to the compounding effect of inflation. The actual capital gains tax paid could more than double for many stock and asset sales.

Therefore, the Senate rules would require millions of Americans to pay taxes on phantom or illusory gains. That is patently unfair and would discourage the very long-term investment that economists and politicians agree that we need.

If you were to give us $1,000 today, we would be glad to give you $1,500 25 years from now, because inflation is likely to run ahead of that pace. Believe us —you haven’t made a $500 profit on this transaction. But the government thinks you have.

There are other huge inequities in this new policy. Under the Senate bill, there’s an exception for mutual funds, exchange-traded funds and other institutional funds. They would continue to apply the tax treatment under current law.

So get this: The little guy who wants to buy and sell stock on his own has to pay the higher capital gains tax, but the big investment funds have a more generous set of rules with lower taxes. Huh?

The mutual-fund industry convinced the Senate that conforming to the new rule would be too complicated. That’s good news for Fidelity Investments and Vanguard. But what about Joe Lunchbucket? This new rule is complicated for him, too. This law is going to nearly force small investors to purchase stock through the big fund managers—and, of course, pay their fees.

Most important, this is bad for the economy. The higher tax penalty on investment would discourage people from buying stock or investing in small startup companies in the first place.

This would also exacerbate the lock-in effect of the capital gains tax. History shows that when the tax on gains is higher, Americans are much more reluctant to sell their shares and pay the higher tax. This benefits old, established companies like Boeing and Microsoft but dries up capital for smaller, fast-growing firms that could be the next-generation Apple, Google or Uber.

In other words, this stealth capital gains tax contradicts the entire purpose of an otherwise prosperity-generating tax bill. We want lower business tax rates and investment tax rates to get more growth, more jobs and higher wages. A backdoor capital gains tax would accomplish the opposite.

(Creators Syndicate)


“Driving Miss Norma” by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle

Driving Miss Norma” by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle

c.2017, HarperOne
$26.99 / $33.50 Canada
243 pages


The car’s all packed with your gear.

The tent, sleeping bags, extra pillows, there was room for everything you’ll need and some things you won’t. You’ve really been looking forward to going. This trip will be remarkable – especially if, as in “Driving Miss Norma” by Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle, your cargo is particularly precious.

What will we do with our parents when they’re too old to care for themselves?

It’s a question that Baby Boomers ask every day, and it’d crossed Bauerschmidt’s and Liddle’s minds. They decided they had time to make decisions. Their parents were older, but that didn’t seem any cause for concern; her mother and his mom and dad were in relatively good health.

Until they weren’t.

Bauerschmidt and Liddle are nomads, and they travel around the country wherever the roads take them. On their routine annual trip to northern Michigan , they found what they hoped never to find: his father was desperately ill and his mother wasn’t coping well. Then Bauerschmidt’s father died. Two days later, Bauerschmidt’s mother, Norma, was diagnosed with advanced uterine cancer.

Bauerschmidt and Liddle were facing a frontier they never expected. And so they did the unexpected: they offered to take Norma with them on their travels, cross-country.

Not wanting to live her last days in a hospital, she said “yes.”

The trip wasn’t without issues: their first days were stuck in Michigan because high winds kept the RV off local bridges but Norma’s wide-eyed excitement showed the benefits of living in the moment. After all, there were regional foods to sample, horses to ride, hot air balloons to soar in, and a Native American celebration to see. Norma visited Mt. Rushmore and Yellowstone for the first time. She fell in love with Ringo, a standard poodle. Prescription medicines stopped working for her, so the 90-year-old went to a “Pot Store” in Colorado for relief. She went to a World War II museum in Louisiana . She was in a parade, became famous, and blossomed.

“None of us knew what was coming next,” says Liddle. “But one thing we now knew was this: taking Norma on the road was… a good decision.”

I didn’t cry as much as I thought I would when I read “Driving Miss Norma.” I didn’t cry at all, in fact; there’s just too much joy here to cry.

While it bears mention that there are times when authors Tim Bauerschmidt and Ramie Liddle get a little sappy, it’s not all that bothersome. Readers can overlook it because the bulk of this travelogue is so charming: not only is it fun to watch “Miss Norma” go from housewife to hero for millions, but viewing the U.S. through her awe-struck eyes lends a fresher look at old monuments.

And the best part? As Bauerschmidt learns more about his mother, so do we – and it’s easy to like what we see, just as it’s easy to love this book. And you so will. For your vacation this summer, “Driving Miss Norma” is the book to pack.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin

Growing pains in commission’s spotlight

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Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Planning Commission weighed in on the future of city growth at its meeting Wednesday, Dec. 6.

Members of the commission met early this month to take part in a new study weighing the options for expanding Keizer’s city limits against the possible impacts on everything from livability to infrastructure. Glen Bolen and Kate Rogers, planners with Otak, Inc., met with commissioners and several other groups throughout the day, but the planning commission was the only one open to the public. Bolen said Otak will schedule two open-session meetings for members of the public to attend in early 2018.

“The most common themes we’ve heard so far are concerns about traffic and the ability to create more jobs in town,” Bolen said.

Commissioners commented on both topics during the course of the meeting, but the conversation was wide-ranging.

Commissioner Mike DeBlasi said he wanted the city to take issues like traffic and parking into consideration, but look at the larger development picture.

“Do we want development that encourages cars and parking or do we want development that encourages people to get out of their car? Do we want compact urban development? I think people have the myopic view that any development will lead to more traffic. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, it depends on how you set it up to grow,” DeBlasi said.

To expand the city limits, Keizer would have to get approval from state authorities to realign the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). The UGB limits the amount of sprawl a city can have. Keizer’s shares its UGB with Salem and it is the heart of any expansion talk.

“As far as the UGB, Keizer can only go north and there’s a lot of arguments that could be made because it’s agricultural. The area I think would be most ripe is the Perkins Road area and it’s in another school district,” said Commissioner Hersch Sangster.

Aside from the school district issues, moving forward on the issue would either mean coming to an agreement with Salem – which hasn’t been forthcoming on the issue –  and then approaching state authorities with an ask, or finding a way to separate the two municipalities. Regardless, expansion in either instance would mean redeveloping prime agricultural land and that might mean a long, uphill battle.

“When cities try bringing in farmland can take 10 years. The Legislature makes it difficult to bring in farm-zoned land and we will document what that takes as part of our report,” Bolen said

Several commissioners also touched on the issue of affordability. Crystal Wilson, one on the newest commissioners, said she and her family tried for a year to move into an apartment in Keizer before saving up to purchase a home.

“We pursued a rental twice and it didn’t happen,” Wilson said. “I do love Keizer, but it is hard to get here. If you are looking to expand it would be reasonable to look at more affordable housing.”

Bolen said Keizer is out-of-sync with cites of similar size. Only about 30 percent of the housing options are multifamily units. Many urban areas of the state are closer to 50 percent multifamily.

Wilson also lamented the lack of entertainment options and the ease of accessing different parts of the city.

“When you want to bring newer younger families in there has to be entertainment other than shopping or food,” she said. “ I have heard and feel that there isn’t a lot to do here. We bought a gym membership for my stepson, but we don’t feel comfortable with him walking or riding his bike along River Road.”

Commissioner Matt Lawyer added that he would be priced out of his own neighborhood today and he only bought his home three years ago.

Part of the reason for the steep increase in housing prices in Keizer is that refugees from the Portland housing market are moving further and further away and then commuting to jobs in the metro area. City Councilor Marlene Parsons, the council liaison to the committee, said she and her husband are the only ones on her street that work locally.

“If we encourage industry or commercial development with family-wage, high-skilled jobs it will encourage people to work closer to home,” Parsons said. “(Keizer) is a great place to live, but a hard place to work.”

Commissioner Garry Whalen said that before the UGB is expanded the city needs to take a long, hard look at how the current space is being used.

“We need to make a conscientious effort to redevelop areas of the city where the housing stock is significantly older and where a lot of improvements to the streets – sidewalks, curbs, drainage – have not happened yet,” Whalen said.


Whiteaker 7th graders finish 33-4

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Whiteaker Middle School completed its 2017 volleyball season Tuesday, Dec. 12 at Claggett Creek.

The Wolverines had 108 girls participate on eight total seventh and eighth grade teams.

The eighth graders went a combined 28-5 with coach Scott Coburn’s varsity team tying for first with an 8-1 record. All teams finished the season playing against CCMS at McNary.

“We worked hard to improve so that they are ready to take the next step to high school,” Coburn said. “It is a great event that showcases Keizer’s two middle school’s volleyball talent.  Thank you to coach (Crystal) DeMello for hosting us and all her players for keeping score and line judging.”

Whiteaker’s seventh grade teams went a combined 33-4. Coburn’s varsity team went 10-0 to place first in the league.

“For it being the first experience for a lot of our 58 girls they improved quickly and competed well,” Coburn said. “This group is very eager to learn and are planning on playing a lot of volleyball to be ready to have a great eighth grade season. Many of our volleyball athletes are playing club volleyball this winter and spring.  Next year will be another amazing experience for all these young ladies, either at Whiteaker or in high school.”


Celtics suffer first league loss

Of the Keizertimes

SALEM—Sprague senior Teagan Quitoriano entered last Friday’s game against McNary averaging 32 points per game.

The Celtics held Quitoriano to five in the first two and a half quarters but the Olympians finished the game with nine 3-pointers, including a back-breaker at the end of the first half to give McNary its first loss in league play, 70-62.

“From a game plan standpoint, that’s everything you could want,” McNary head coach Ryan Kirch said of holding Quitoriano to five points in the first half. “When you do that, you pack the middle a little bit and leave some outside shots open and they hit a few more outside shots than we did. And really that was it.”

Quitoriano finished with 20 points, which included going 9-for-10 from the free throw line in the second half. But he also made his mark on the game when he wasn’t scoring.

“We tried to have a guy in front of him and a guy behind him anytime he caught the ball on the block,” Kirch said. “We were running a double (team) at him and really force him to make some decisions. Credit to him, he passed the ball well. When you’re a guy that’s used to being dominant, a lot of times you’ll force plays but he did a nice job of kicking it out to the open shooters and they made shots.

“Very rarely can you find a guy that scores five points and really dictate the entire game. Because he’s there, you’ve got to take an extra step to him and everyone’s got to adjust to that, credit to him. Great players win games and he did a great job tonight.”

McNary led 19-14 early in the first period but Sprague answered with two 3-pointers within a minute and a half to take a 22-21 lead. A putback by Ricardo Gardelli tied the game at 24-24 but two free throws gave the Olympians the lead for good.

A 3-pointer in the final seconds of the second period by Sprague junior Jailen Hammer put the Olympians ahead 35-28 at halftime. Hammer finished with 25 points to lead all scorers.

Two more 3-pointers early in the third quarter stretched Sprague’s lead to 43-33.

McNary got within 47-42 on a Lucas Garvey 3-point play with 2:04 remaining in the third period but never any closer.

“That was a good, hard, physical game,” Kirch said. “That’s a very tough place to play. Coach (Steve) Masten does such a great job. Our guys are disappointed obviously but I thought we competed and played hard and battled and just a couple more shots went in for them than they did for us.”

Senior Andrew Jones led McNary with 15 points and seven rebounds.

“He’s really put on a lot of weight in his upper body,” Kirch said. “He’s put a lot of work in the weight room. I just told him to get to the rim. We work on a bump and finish drill and we want to play through contact at the rim. I thought early in the game, we settled for one pass shots and it’s a tough thing because we want our kids to shoot when they feel in rhythm but we also have to ball fake and get inside and be more aggressive. I thought Andrew did a really nice job of that in the second half.”

Chandler Cavell added 14 points and eight rebounds. Garvey finished with 11 points.

McNary faced a Sprague team that won the Greater Valley Conference last season and returned four starters.

“The scoreboard doesn’t necessarily tell us how much we’ve improved,” Kirch said. “This is a really good team and we’re going to play other really good teams and we’ll have a chance to play them again and they can certainly do a lot of things. Sometimes the scoreboard says you won by 25 or 30. This for us is a better growing experience. We’re better because of this game.

“I haven’t doubted really our competitiveness. We’ve challenged our guys. We’ve just got to get better at a few areas, shot selections and spacing and how we do a couple of things. I’m certainly proud of our guys. They’re disappointed but we’ll walk out of here with our heads held high.”

The Celtics play Clackamas, defending 6A state runner-up, in the first round of the Capitol City Classic on Monday, Dec. 18 at 8:30 p.m. The 16-team tournament runs through Friday, Dec. 22.

McNary is back at home on Wednesday, Dec. 27 against Tualatin at 7 p.m.

Defense behind 6-0 start

Of the Keizertimes

SALEM—McNary (6-0) continued to crank up its defense at Sprague on Friday, Dec. 15, holding the Olympians to just two field goals in the first half and under 23 percent shooting for the game in a 48-24 Greater Valley Conference victory.

“Going into every game, we’re just really focusing on defense and how we are going to defend and the girls are doing a great job of executing what we’re trying to get them to do,” Lady Celts head coach Elizabeth Doran said. “They play really hard defensively and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing.”

McNary jumped out to a 20-6 lead in the first quarter as Kailey Doutt, Leah Doutt and Paige Downer each had six points in the period.

Holding the Olympians to only a free throw in the second quarter, the Lady Celts led 31-7 at halftime.

Leading 46-17, McNary started its four freshmen, Leah Doutt, Mackenzie Proctor, Kennedy Buss and Annie-Leigh Besa, to begin the fourth quarter.

McNary junior Sabella Alfaro scored the only points of the period, knocking down two free throws.

Kailey Doutt led the Lady Celts in scoring with 17 points to go with six rebounds. Leah Doutt added 10 points and three rebounds. Downer finished with nine points. Abigail Hawley had seven rebounds and Buss added four assists.

Through six games, McNary is averaging more than 52 points per game while allowing 31.5.

“A lot of our offense is coming from our defense right now,” Doran said. “We’re getting steals. We’re executing in transition very well. We did do a pretty good job against their zone, moving it around and being patient and looking for openings and getting some high percentage shots and we’re shooting well from the outside, too. That always helps.”

The Lady Celts had eight steals against Sprague.

Doran would like to see McNary get more rebounds.

“Once I said something in the first quarter, we did do a better job offensively crashing the boards but still we can do a better job defensively,” Doran said. “That’s an area we’re looking to improve in.”

The Lady Celts are taking a break from league play to host David Douglas (3-3) on Tuesday, Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. McNary is then playing in the Lake Oswego Nike Shootout Dec. 27-30. The Lady Celts open the 16-team tournament against Clackamas (3-0) on Dec. 27 at 4 p.m.

“It’s a fun atmosphere up there,” Doran said. “They have good teams usually in that tournament.”

McNary swimmers dominate McKay

Of the Keizertimes

McNary’s toughest competition in the pool came against itself as the Celtics easily defeated McKay in its second swim meet of the season.

Competing at the Kroc Center on Thursday, Dec. 7, the McNary boys outscored the Royal Scots 123-23 while the girls won 101-54.           

With more depth on the boys team, McNary coach Casey Lewin mixed up his relays.

In the 200-yard medley relay, Brock Wyer, Harrison Vaughn, Jackson McCarty and Wyatt Sherwood were able to edge Kyle Hooper, Grant Biondi, Jabez Rhoades and Jack O’Connor by a little more than half a second.

The 200 free relay was also tight with Wyer, O’Connor, Rhoades and Vaughn defeating McCarty, Biondi, Hooper and Sherwood by two seconds.           

“I was impressed with our boys, both our A and our B relays,” Lewin said. “We were much more competitive amongst ourselves than I thought, which I like to see. It will keep them more motivated during practice, knowing there is someone right at their heels. It will be interesting to see how it all shakes out at the end of the year because we have 7-8 guys that are gunning for those four spots.”

The Celtics also won the 400 free relay as Brennan Whalen, Collin Wentworth, Josiah Metz and Bryce Junker touched the wall in 4:28.51.

The Lady Celts swept the relays as well. Kylie McCarty, Emma Garland, Kylee Daulton and Alyssa Garvey won the 400 free relay by under a second in 4:28.81. Alex Beard, Bella Beard, Emily Alger and Haley Debban took first in the 200 medley relay in 2:02.93. Alex Beard, Alger, Garvey and Garland won the 200 free relay in 1:55.21.

Bella Beard won the 500 free in 5:49.08 and the 100 butterfly in 1:17.79. Alex Beard took first in the 200 IM in 2:26.97. Alger touched the wall first in the 100 free, finishing in 1:04.11.

Biondi edged Hooper by a little more than a second in the boys 100 fly, finishing in 1:06.18. Biondi also won the 500 free in 5:57.65. Hooper took first in the 200 IM in 2:16.61.

Vaughn won the 50 free in 24.04 and the 100 breaststroke in 1:10.60.

O’Connor took first in the 100 backstroke in 1:25.34. Wyer won the 200 free in 2:16.79.

“We’re starting to a look a little more in swimming shape,” Lewin said. “We definitely improved a lot from Forest Grove. I’m really excited. This group everyday gets a little bit better, which is nice to see.”

Man arrested for crimes against coffee

Of the Keizertimes

After Keizer Police Department asked the public for help in locating a transient man suspected of burglarizing two Keizer coffee shops, an arrest was made in Salem on Monday, Dec. 11.

Keizer Police Department publicized their search for John Albert Herriges last week and it helped lead to his arrest.

Herriges was wanted in connection with four incidents in Keizer, three that took place in October and one in December. On Oct. 12, investigators believe he was involved in a criminal mischief incident at Dutch Bros. He is also being sought in connection with a burglary at Bentley’s Coffee on Oct. 14 and a second burglary at Dutch Bros. on Oct. 20. Herriges is also a suspect in a third incident at Dutch Bros. on Thursday, Dec. 7.

J. Herriges

At 10:20 a.m. on Dec. 11, Salem Police Department officers responded to a possible sighting of Herriges walking into a restroom at Champions Bar & Grill located at 2930 Silverton Road N.E. The caller said she had seen media reports about Herriges being wanted in connection with the Keizer crimes.

Police arrived at the restaurant and Herriges was identified and taken into custody without incident. After his arrest, Herriges was brought to the Keizer police station where he was questioned about the Keizer burglaries. He was arrested and taken to Marion County Correctional Facility where he was charged with one count each of burglary, attempted burglary and criminal mischief. He is being held on $20,000 bail.

Herriges was arrested in October on suspicion of involvement with a burglary and criminal mischief incident in September at the Bentley’s Coffee on Mission Street in Salem. Charges were filed on Oct. 16 in Marion County Circuit on Oct. 16 and Herriges was released from the Marion County Correctional Facility on Oct. 18.

On Nov. 30, Herriges was charged with burglary, criminal mischief and theft in connection with incidents at Crooked House Bistro in west Salem. Herriges allegedly entered the restaurant and remained inside with intention of committing a burglary, during the course of the incident the building was damaged and property valued at less than $100 was taken.

When Herriges failed to appear for the arraignment on charges related to the Crooked House Bistro, a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He also had an outstanding felony warrant stemming from a Polk County arrest.

Herriges has had run-ins with Marion County law enforcement officers dating back to 2002. Charges range from driving infractions to possession of methamphetamine to forgery.

Anyone having additional information about the crimes can contact Det. Tim Lathrop at 503-856-3481. Tips can also be emailed to [email protected], individuals who provide times can remain anonymous.

“Blue Suede Shoes: The Culture of Elvis” by Thom Gilbert

Blue Suede Shoes: The Culture of Elvis” by Thom Gilbert, foreword by Kim Novak

c.2017, Glitterati Incorporated
$65.00 / $84.00 Canada
252 pages


Forty years ago, you were All Shook Up.

The death of The King was unexpected and chances are, you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news that he was gone. It wasn’t Alright, Mama; it was devastating and you still miss Elvis Presley terribly. In “Blue Suede Shoes: The Culture of Elvis” by Thom Gilbert, you’ll read about others who miss him, too.

Elvis Presley, says Gilbert in his introduction, “was nothing like what you heard about him.” Presley’s career, for example, almost didn’t happen: according to one story here, young Presley didn’t initially want his first guitar. He wanted a rifle but his mother talked him out of it.

Early in his career, Presley was publicly shy and self-conscious, sometimes questioning his purpose in life. Live mics made him tongue-tied and nervous. Still, he loved a good time, and he had more than his share of girlfriends – including one who wanted to marry him and one who definitely did not.

Unfailingly polite, Presley was respectful of his elders (even two-years-older-elders), and was complimentary to fellow musicians and kind to fans. He loved to read the Bible, and he carried the New Testament with him in a travelling box, which also held jewelry he impulsively bought as gifts.

“Sweet,” in fact, is a word used often in this book. “Nice” is another one, and that didn’t change as Presley’s career grew. Never taking on airs, he was “plain as a shoe” but fame had its price, even so: friends had to disguise Presley so he could enjoy everyday pleasures like restaurants and nightclubs.

Yes, some things were off-limits (Elvis wanted to be on TV’s “Laugh-In,” but Colonel Parker wouldn’t allow it), yet when someone came up with an idea, Presley would “make it happen.”

“Once Elvis touched your life,” said one friend, “you were never the same.”

It’s maybe hard to tell by the photo you’re looking at here, but that’s fringe on the edge of “Blue Suede Shoes.” It’s gaudy, like an old Las Vegas showgirl costume, perhaps the kitschiest book you’d have on your shelf – but if you loved Elvis Presley, it’d be the most popular one, too.

And what’s between those blue faux-suede-fabric covers? Interviews, of course: author Thom Gilbert spoke with musicians who worked with Presley, as well as co-stars, body guards, love interests, and others. But that’s not all: readers will find pages absolutely packed with photos of things Elvis owned, gave away, lived in, wore, treasured, and used throughout his career.

Beware, though: despite the uniqueness and abundance of memories here, it cannot be said that this is a wide-arcing book. That’s okay; it has the feel of a lush secret that’s whispered from the dressing room of a smoky casino. Who could resist?

Fans can’t, that’s for sure. This book may be pricey, but you’ll know “Blue Suede Shoes” is worth it once you take a quick peek inside. If you’re a die-hard Elvis aficionado, you Can’t Help Falling in Love with this book.

Terri Schlichenmeyer is based in Wisconsin