A New Deal

As I remember it, there were candles on the table, fried steaks, cold bottles of home brew from out of the ice box and not much else.

After a few months at Meier & Frank’s, my mother moved on to a job as an elevator operator at one of Portland’s major downtown office buildings. The pay wasn’t any better. But in her new job, she didn’t have to call out each floor, which she detested.

“Second floor, ladies lingerie and sportswear…Third floor, ladies coats and designer dresses…Fourth floor, sporting goods and toys…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera”


Books have had a joyous and important influence in my life, Yet, admittedly, I had trouble reading early. I was a spotty reader until I was about ten or eleven. Then, something kicked-in. I got into high gear. And I became a voracious reader.

Books excited me. I read—not simply to pursue knowledge. That intense desire came later. As a kid, I read to quench a thirst for adventure.


For Christmas that year, I received three prized gifts that became the beginnings of my childhood collection of good books—a collection that grew and grew.

My mother gave me a twin set of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Reading the escapades of Tom Sawyer was fun. But it was the Huckleberry Finn book that really hooked me. Huck got himself into scrapes and experiences that made my mouth water. And how about the Duke and the Dauphin? In all of literature, has there ever been a more delicious pair of rascals?

Emma gave me a beautiful edition of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I related to Jim Hawkins immediately, as he observed the human nature of those exuberant characters who surrounded him. But it was that lovable rogue, Long John Silver, who fired up my imagination. “Fifteen men on a dead man’schest.” Remember? “Yo—ho—ho—and a bottle of rum.”

Agnes gave me an early edition of Jack London’s Call of the Wild. Critics called the book an expression of London’s credo: survival of the fittest. “The ruthless struggle for existence.” As a boy, however, I found the gripping story of the great dog Buck to be a thoughtful lesson in courage and loyalty. It’s a compelling book, worth reading again.

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