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Ricky’s 2011 Bio

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Kaye & Eddie Ray

Kaye & Eddie Ray, 1963

Life as a Mashup

All my life I’ve benefitted from odd combinations that have chosen to stick together. It began with my parents. My Dad was one of five sons in a Jewish immigrant family on the south side of Chicago. My mother’s parents were Baptist sharecroppers from Southern Indiana. They built on that mashup by getting the farm where we spent every weekend and school vacation – 183 days in the city, 182 days in the country.

College Daze

Polly & Rick, 1970

Polly & Rick at the Adlai Stevenson election party, November, 1970 (Chicago Daily News photo)

I went to a little college that mashed-up work and study (Antioch). My jobs included teaching outdoor school in a New Hampshire winter, working at a community radio station, and briefly, two very odd jobs (washing the stars on Hollywood Boulevard, and testing a spacesuit for NASA). I left with a mashup major (political philosophy and communications) and a lot of music credits.

After graduating I was a stowaway with the college’s chorus as we toured Europe for three months. Students got academic credit for music, art history and food & wine. We sang complex 15th century music (download) in the big cathedrals where it had not been performed for centuries. And drank a lot of amazing wine.

Then, for contrast, I found myself in Arizona drilling water wells. I was on my way to Oregon and stopped to visit my uncle along the way. Stayed for a year, met some characters and got to know the desert.

Rick & Friends, annual ski weekend, 2005

Rick & Oregon Friends, annual ski weekend, 2005

Community

Finally got to Portland for my 24th birthday and in time to watch the Trail Blazers win their only NBA title. Portland has been “home” ever since, and I’m lucky to be surrounded by a core group of wonderful friends who came into my life during my 20s, 30s and beyond. Having no kids, it’s been rewarding to be a part of my friends’ children’s lives.

A big theme for me is community. I’ve gotten great pleasure from helping to create events that bring people together. We host three annual events that bring our friends – and our co-hosts’ friends – together: an end-of-summer live music event, a fall pumpkin picking and decorating party (both at our farm) and an end-of-winter dance in the city. And then there are the community events with neighbors and reunions (a four-day reunion of my college chorus and yes, even Parker class reunions).

What do you do?

Ricky, 1958

Ricky, 1958

When asked that question, most folks reply with a job title or a field of work. I prefer to say that I do (a mashup of) these things:

  • help people take command of communications technology,
  • connect people,
  • write about things in a way that reframes how something is perceived, and
  • help small workgroups evolve.

I haven’t had a career, per se, but did spend 12 years doing community television followed by another 12 in software for schools. For the last 5 years I’ve been involved with a tiny non-profit that is trying to reframe our conversation about transforming health and healthcare.

Having no kids has also allowed me to work part-time, leaving chunks of time for volunteer involvement. Since 1993 I’ve been a director of Friends of the Columbia Gorge, which advocates for protection of the National Scenic Area and runs a land trust to purchase important properties. In 2003 I co-founded a volunteer-driven online group called Onward Oregon that advocates for the public interest.

Life & Love

In 1998 I went on a hike to a wildflower-strewn hill on the edge of the Columbia River Gorge. I’m not big on hikes with large groups, but this one was going to a place with no trails and was led by the author of the wildflower book for the region. After a steep climb, a group of us sat on the open hillside to enjoy the view and wait for the rest of the group. A few feet away, two women were chatting and discovered that they were both from Chicago. One said she was from the city, so I stuck my nose in and asked, “Where in the city?”

Anne & Rick in the Columbia River Gorge

In 2011, Anne & Rick revisited the spot in the Columbia River Gorge where they met 13 years before.

She said, “In the Lincoln Park area.”

I asked, “Oh, anywhere near Parker School?”

She said, “Yes, how did you know?”

I said, “I went there.”

She said, “I did, too.”

So began my relationship with Anne Philipsborn, who had come out to Oregon to work at the Nike headquarters. She was skeptical that I had really gone to Parker, so to prove it (in an email exchange) I had to quote Colonel Parker’s motto from the proscenium arch of the Parker auditorium. The other hurdle was that I had to check which grade she was in when we were seniors: if she had been in third grade, we couldn’t date because I had adopted that grade and that would make her my little sister! (Though we did later discover that she was my brother’s little sister when she was in Lee Dreuth’s 6th grade class.)

Coming full circle

The Amazing Quilt Project

The Amazing Quilt Project, for which Anne invited friends to each create a square for Rick's 50th b-day (click photo for details: each square has a story)

The year before we met, Anne had purchased a small apartment in downtown Portland. Meanwhile, I had been living on a tiny farm out in the country – about half an hour away – for the previous 11 years. We immediately liked the flexibility of having the two small places to live, and have stuck with it: city mouse – country mouse.

You’ll find more of Rick’s photos than you could possibly want to see in this gallery.

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  1. Betsy Altman09-15-2011

    Rick,

    This is amazing and puts us all to shame. Thanks for sharing it!

    Betsy

    • Rick Ray09-15-2011

      Thanks, Betsy!