Oregon, My Oregon
I’ve lived in the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area nearly all my life — in a grand total of one house and five apartments, not necessarily in that order. I’m rapidly coming up on 18 years in the current apartment, which is moderately astonishing in today’s ultra-mobile society. Whenever I work up the energy and resources to move, there will be a lot of stuff to pack….
I like Portland. We have very good public transit (important to a non-driver), lots and lots of bookstores (including the legendary Powell’s Books, possibly the largest retail bookstore in the US, if not the world), a great many very good restaurants, and a lively arts-and-culture scene.
“Walla Walla Wash & Kalamazoo”
That’s right, my alma mater is Whitman College in bucolic Walla Walla, Washington. You’ve probably heard of Walla Walla, if only in comic strips and Christmas-carol parodies. In real life, it’s a pleasant farming community (and more recently, the center of a burgeoning wine-growing region) almost precisely in the middle of nowhere — if you define “nowhere” as being framed roughly by Portland, Seattle, Spokane, the Rocky Mountains, and the Oregon/California border. Whitman, though, is a startlingly good Small Liberal Arts College In The New England Tradition, and graciously provided me with a degree in English and four years of semi-independence.
It also helped nurture a healthy interest in and respect for the theater. Whitman’s drama department makes its actors work hard; it was among the first colleges to actually stage the memorable but grueling eight-hour adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Nicholas Nickleby — very well, too, I might add. Its graduates have found work of varying degrees of distinction over the years. Among well-employed Whitman thespians one can count Batman (Adam West), Lt. Starbuck of the original Battlestar Galactica (Dirk Benedict), and the Green Goblin from Broadway’s epic Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark (Patrick Page).
Whitman drama graduates have also appeared in respected theatrical companies all over the United States, from Seattle to Utah to Arizona to the highly regarded Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland — another small but attractive community almost precisely in the middle of nowhere, in this case just under 20 miles from the Oregon-California border next to Interstate 5. OSF is now the largest repertory theater in the country, presenting an eleven-show season that runs from February through October in three separate theaters, one of them an outdoor Elizabethan stage.