Tag Archives: California

Climbing Mt. Shasta: A Journey After Spinal Fusion Surgery

-Emily Fraysse

My eyes opened at the sound.

The nurses dressed in all white with hairnets and facemasks were clinking the industrial set of tools around on a steel patter to my right. I drifted off again as I felt a sting of the IV slide into my right arm.

My eyes opened at another sound.

My father’s alarm had gone off. It was three o’clock in the morning and I had just been dreaming a flashback to the spinal fusion surgery I had undergone around two years before.

Sliding on my down coat and slipping on my booties, I heaved myself out of the comfort of my royal blue tent and out into the cold, deserted ice. I could see my father had already begun boiling the water for tea and my younger sister, Madeline, still fast asleep in her sheltered cocoon.

With a full moon over head, the view was stupendous. It was still the dark hours of the morning, but with the full moon, the shadows of the luscious pines and the sparkle of the snow was clearly visible. Looking up at the slope of Mt. Shasta, a lit ant trail of climbers were already making their way up to the looming ridge above.

A bowl of oatmeal later and I was snapping my crampons onto my boots and heaving my thirty-pound pack on my semi-sore back. My back has been an issue for many years due to a duel with scoliosis. I spent the winter break of my senior year of high school getting a spinal fusion (two titanium rods fused to my spine to prevent the curve from gaining distance). The surgery, thankfully, worked, and a mere two years later I was climbing again. I had climbed before my surgery, but just a few times here and there with my father and sister.

One step. Stop. Breathe. Another step. Stop. Breathe.

And that’s how it went for the next eight hours uphill. Any faster and the climber would find themselves exhausted after only three hours, unable to scale the 14,179 foot California mountain.

This was my battle. Battling my body, my mind, my mountain.

One step. Stop. Breathe. Another step. Stop. Breathe.

I couldn’t necessarily feel the rods, but I knew they were there. It had taken me about six months after the surgery until I was fully healed, and even then I was still not allowed to go on rollercoasters or partake in any other potentially dangerous activities for an entire year. Luckily, a mountaineering backpack sits on your hips, thus lessening the pressure on your spine.

I pushed my body and my mind, step by step. It wasn’t enough to cause injury, but I wanted to push myself to see how far I really could go. The first doctor I went to when I had first found out that I had scoliosis said that there was nothing I could do for it—not even surgery would help. But I took the plunge: a scarily deep plunge that has left me with a giant scar going all the way down my back. I wanted to prove to myself and to him that I could do it.

And I did.

Discovering Hidden Gems: Flea Markets


-Emily Fraysse

Right there, displayed in front of me, was a perfect, authentic pair of ruby red Chanel pumps for twenty bucks. They were exactly two shoes sizes too small for me.

Every time a new month began, I looked forward to one thing: the flea market in Alameda, California. Around six a.m. of the first Sunday of every month, I would drive with friends and family to an island located next to Oakland and across the way from the fog-ridden city of San Francisco. The sunrise loomed above us as we walked towards to entrance, each of us holding a cup of coffee in our hand.

Flea markets can be overwhelming. Different vendors displaying vintage items from clothing to taxidermy to just about anything and everything imaginable. But, it’s worth it. Through a careful scope of each row of vendors, you have the ability to find hidden gems that are unique and cheap. It’s amazing how time and money can disappear so fast while getting lost in the market.

The craziest thing that I have ever bought was a vintage, white bed frame and headboard, two white side tables, a giant white mirror, and a vintage seafoam green dresser for a total of $500. The vendor had used Ralph Lauren paints on all of the items and sanded them down a bit to make them look older. It was a steal.

There are a variety of flea markets along the west coast that are definitely worth checking out. The Alameda Flea Market, which is where I always went, is the second largest flea market in California. There are many in California, Washington, and Oregon.

A bit of advice for going to flea markets: sometimes there is a fee to get in, so the earlier you go, the more you’ll have to pay since you are looking at the vendors first. Bring a piece of paper or take notes on your phone of vendors that you might want to go back to.

Although sifting through each of the vendors wares can seem daunting, running across those unique finds is worth it.

Visually Oriented: The Theatre of Dreams

“Visually Oriented” is about taking a step back and observing the vibrant, skillful world around us. Whether it be a visually appealing advertisement stapled to a telephone poll or the mastery of iconic graphic novel illustrations, this column will dive deep into the minds and geniuses behind those skills and bring to the surface the story of what people make, the techniques they use, and the purposes of their artistry.


-Emily Fraysse

The strand of silver glitter letters spelling out the word “DREAM” glistened as they hung loosely behind the weather-beaten window. Cupping my hand to the window and shifting my view to the inside, a worn wooden table stands by the back wall with a Victorian-aged silver cash register placed on top. Slightly worn mustard-colored curtains illuminated from behind, casting the silhouette of a fairy onto the spectacle of the shop. On the other wall hung vintage French ribbons stamped with phrases like “DREAM” and “PARIS,” on another hung gilded wreaths covered in mirrors. On a second wooden table in the middle of the room is a display of cut-out clowns, elephants and other circus animals with silver-glittered doves and ornaments dangling from a brilliant Charlie Brown Christmas tree. This is the realm of Wendy Addison.

About an hour northeast of San Francisco between Crockett and Martinez lies the little town of Port Costa. Nestled among the Boo Radley houses is a main street lined by drooping locust trees that lead right to the ocean. The town consists of a single U.S. post office, cafe, hotel, and Wendy’s shop. What may seem like a sleepy little town is actually full of wonder and amusement; that is, once you’ve stepped through the light blue, weather-beaten French doors of a shop called The Theatre of Dreams.

Open only by reservation or when there is an open house, Wendy Addison has created a whimsical, mystical world full of vintage-striped French ribbons, German-glittered silver stars, and other imaginative trinkets. It is a world of nostalgia, wonder, and awe. Wendy does not have to wander far to where she handcrafts all of her items in her studio, rightfully named “The House of Memories,” which is located next door. Her tiny apartment, where she lives with her daughter and cats, is right behind the shop.

In 2008 she decided to do something new—create a book. In the same theme as her store and workshop, she delicately and intricately designed 400 hand-drawn books on vintage paper and materials. The Theatre of Dreams Notebook for an Imaginary Life contains around 12 years of drawings, scribbles, and a poem about the makings of an imaginary life.

When Wendy first opened her shop and created the items, she was unpatented. Unfortunately, other companies began copying her ideas and creating their own versions of Wendy’s creations. This problem is now solved and Wendy is on to do bigger and better things like decorating the Lincoln Center Christmas Tree in New York City.

For more information and updates on The Theatre of Dreams, you can go to her blog and check out her book The Theatre of Dreams Journal.

Junior Seau’s Death Forces Us to Look in the Mirror

-Erik Gundersen

No matter what time of the year in the sports world, it is evident in our country NFL football is king. Although exciting playoffs in both the NHL and NBA are underway, any football news takes precedent. A bombshell hit early Wednesday morning with the suspension of linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire 2012-2013 season.

Then, breaking news came from Oceanside, California: Junior Seau, one of the greatest defensive players to ever play football, died at the age of 43 in a suspected suicide.

Allegedly, for the second time in a little more than 14 months, an NFL player has taken his own life. Dave Duerson, who had a 10-year NFL career, took his own life last year. He shot himself in the chest after sending a text message to his family saying that he wanted his brain to be studied at the Boston University of School of Medicine. Seau, a far more recognizable figure for our generation, took his life in the same fashion: a gun shot to the chest.

This brought myself and others to start talking about these problems, mainly on Twitter. When will this, and other cases of players suffering long-term damage finally weigh on the conscious of the American people? Is the enjoyment many of us feel on Sunday’s in the fall really worth all of this?

Myles Brown of SLAM Magazine (@mdotbrown) had these remarks: “Lie to yourself, not me. Depression and suicide have been linked to several players with a history of concussions, including NCAA players,” Brown continued, “if you need to deny that to enjoy your Sundays, go for it. But I bet you’ll think twice about putting your kids in harm’s way.”

I doubt football’s popularity will decline, but there has to be a point where viewers start thinking about the players on the field as people.

Last year, former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who has suffered memory loss long after his playing days, along with six other former players filed a lawsuit against the NFL last August for “negligence and intentional misconduct in its response to the headaches, dizziness and dementia that former players have reported.”  The cases have been piling up, and although NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell has unleashed his recent crusade on the New Orleans Saints, the problem is still not solved.

I love football and as a student these last four years, it has given me some of my lasting college memories. The NFL is the most competitive league in professional sports, but now I find myself reevaluating my love for it.

At what point do we reevaluate the fact that our favorite sport is one that leaves so many that play it, as shells of their former selves?

The feel good story of the day was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signing paralyzed player Eric LeGrand. Bucs coach Greg Schiano was LeGrand’s coach at Rutgers. I saw many of my Facebook friends repost the articles about the signing and comment about how great of a gesture it was.

It was truly a heartwarming gesture on the part of the organization, but I’m sure if you’d ask LeGrand, he’d give it all up just to walk again and live a normal life.

Maybe he will be able to walk again. But would you take a full athletic scholarship and a great public gesture in exchange for the certainty you’d walk again?

But that discussion has its place outside these six hundred or so words.

A Little Taste of Africa

-Kerri Anderson

Amongst a small shopping complex on Martin Luther King Blvd in North East Portland, sits the Horn of Africa. Behind the counter Mohamed Yousuf and his wife Khadija prepare platters of lukku hurdi (chicken and yellow curry) and foon hoola diima (lamb in a house-made sauce)— traditional dishes of Northeast Africa— to serve to tables of eager customers.

Guests do not receive silverware with their meal but instead, eat with their hands from one large platter that is placed in the center of the table for the entire party to share. Eating here is not just about the flavorful dishes on the unique menu, but about gaining an authentic cultural experience.

“We give [the table] a platter and they eat together like the culture. If it is a private party, we give you an upstairs room and you take your shoes off and sit down on the floor to eat, like the culture,” Mohamed says, who moved to the U.S. in 1989 as a refugee originally from Ethiopia.

The Horn of Africa, which opened its doors three years ago, is just one of many African-inspired eateries cropping up in North East Portland that are owned by African immigrants or refugees like Mohamed and Khadija. The growing African population that provides a necessary network of support has helped make Portland one of the most popular cities for refugees to relocate to in the U.S. Refugees are forced to leave their home countries in order to escape war, violence, and political corruption.

Mohamed fled his home in Ethiopia when he was 17 to escape the brutal attacks he could have faced from the government due to his participation in the political rebellion movement during the Civil War.

“All the younger people from my ethnicity was killed because of the movement we were in. All of the revolutionaries had to leave,” Mohamed says. “Either you go to jail or you are killed.”

Mohamed relocated to a refugee camp in Sudan before moving to Cairo, Egypt to study business and English at university on a UN scholarship. After marrying Khadija, Mohamed moved to California in 1989. Khadija stayed behind to work as a chef for foreign diplomats, but she was able to follow her husband five months later, and the couple moved to Portland to start their new life.

“I’m happy. I’m safe. I didn’t die.” Mohamed says. “This is home now.”

Mohamed says he never wanted to work for a company, but always hoped to start his own business. Mohamed decided to combine Khadija’s cooking talent with his business and English skills and open a food cart at the Portland Saturday Market. The unique East African cuisine was an instant success at Portland and other festivals on the West Coast. When customers started asking where the real restaurant was located, the Yousuf’s worked to save enough money to lease a building.

Yousuf and Khadija opened the doors to their restaurant three years ago. Today, Horn of Africa offers an insightful view into the cultural differences between America and Africa. “It’s a big difference,” Mohamed says. “Back home, they don’t worry about tomorrow.”

Learning to adjust to America’s focus on individual success instead of depending on family for support was one of the biggest differences Mohamed noticed. “Back home there is more sharing, here it is very individual,” he says.

Today, Mohamed and Khadija are both American citizens and have two daughters who speak both their native African tongue and English fluently. It is important to the family that the girls are raised with an understanding and pride of their culture and heritage— something many refugees try to maintain.

While the network of African refugees continues to grow, a small community is developing near the area of MLK Blvd offering a refreshing taste of African culture.

Stop by one of the grocery stores, barber shops, or restaurants and talk with the owners to learn more about their story and the places they come from.

Check out Kerri’s feature story, A Home Between Cultures

Coffee with Karen Karbo

-Elliott Kennedy

“If a subject is really good, it has a sticky factor,” says Karen Karbo, smacking her hands together and wrapping her ring-clad fingers together, making her red beaded bracelet clatter. “You think about it and you can’t stop thinking about it. If you’re really a writer, that’s what you do and who you are.”

The New York Times notable author untangles her fingers to reach for her frothy latte. Vero Espresso House is buzzing with the sounds of clinking mugs and tapping keyboards, but I can still her softly murmur “Mmmm,” with the first sip of steaming coffee.

The California-native first studied journalism at the University of Southern California—but only briefly. One piece of criticism showed her that the fact-based world of news was not well-suited to her writing style.

“I had written something where I described a lady as having a ‘really bad haircut.’ My professor said that was too much editorializing,” says Karbo. “I argued that it wasn’t editorializing and it really was just a bad haircut, but he didn’t go for it.”

After changing her major several more times, Karbo graduated with a double Bachelor’s in English and biology. Drawing heavily on her college years for inspiration, Karbo published her first book in 1990.

Trespassers Welcome Here was inspired by Karbo’s time working in the Russian department at USC. Her second book, The Diamond Lane, hints at personal details, such as her Master’s in film and cinema studies. Karbo’s third book and only memoir, The Stuff of Life, chronicles her relationship with her father during the last few months of his life.

“Reliving [his death] wasn’t a great time,” Karbo says. “If it’s emotionally resonant, our natural instinct is to push it away. But that’s the gold, the meat, the passion.”

Hearing the story of Karbo and her father, I remember something else Karbo had said earlier: Find where you intersect with the story. Abandoning my organized line of questioning and closing my notebook, I asked, “How did you deal with it?” And then I shared my own story.

My father died at the age of 60, killed suddenly by a small glitch in his otherwise healthy heart. Her father died at the age of 75 of lung cancer, brought on by years of chronic smoking. Our stories seemed similar in so many ways, and there in a small college town on an ordinary rainy day, we intersected.

“I wrote,” she says, answering my question.

And for the past eight years, Karbo has been writing up a storm, publishing six books and planning a seventh. The Minerva Clark three-part children’s series was written expressly for her daughter, Fiona. Most recently, Karbo has been writing a “Kick Ass Women” series, which includes biographies about Katherine Hepburn, Georgia O’Keefe, and Coco Chanel.

“I chose these women because of their complete faith in their own instincts,” Karbo says. “There was no self-doubt or second-guessing—not to say there weren’t mistakes. But they never betrayed themselves in hard times.”

From the Pacific Southwest to the Great Northwest: The Story of UC Eugene

-Jamie Hershman

The University of Oregon, also known as UC Eugene, has a large California population. But what is the lure of this rainy campus when California  has beautiful, sunny skies to offer?

I am one of those students who wanted a “change of scenery.” Born and raised in Southern California, I had a choice: University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) or University of Oregon. Everyone thought I was crazy when I made my final decision to attend the UO, but I knew it was right. The lure? I honestly am not quite sure.

When people ask why I chose Oregon, I don’t really have an answer. My immediate response: “When I visited the campus, I just fell in love.” And those who I’m talking to just nod their heads and smile, reminiscing on their first visit to the beautiful Ivy League style the campus resembles.

But there is much more than just the campus that lured me here. Maybe it was the amazing journalism school that UO has to offer. Or who can forget the (almost) unbeatable football team and school spirit parading around campus?

With many Californians flocking to Oregon, UO has stepped up its standard for admittance. One of the reasons I applied to UO was the fact that as a high school student with above a 3.0 GPA and having passed over 15 college prep high school classes, I was automatically accepted without having to write an essay. But as of 2012, that rule has been cut and all students must now submit an essay to even be considered for admittance. The new standards put University of Oregon on a higher standard for academics, and thus have even more eyes and ears interested in our outstanding campus.

With so many factors playing into the transfer between west coast states, there’s still that one question that stumps all who don’t attend UO. Why would people trade in the California sun for the Oregon rain? I’m still stumped on that one, even though I’m one of those students. Really, it’s all of the other aspects that make UO so amazing that all us Californians would trade in some warm weather for just a little bit of rain.