Missed Connections #3

You even looked a bit like Shelley,
but you don’t remember it correctly.
That night, the fiery hour had elongated itself. It wasn’t 6 April,
it was the same day Helen began her workbook for students.

Again, Love needed two more for his quota of quivers,
though there were 98 names behind the rains.
We were not in church, I was just trying to listen when deft Love
made that red slice on your sweater from arm to arm.

I did not see his bow let loose the world from all I thought it was.
He must have retreated beyond that bright band of motley horses behind us.
Imagine my surprise when I found fletching in my breast pocket!

We had written to each other from inside the pit –
It was that yaw and pitch of Love’s fixed wings, not stars or dreams,
that ushered us down rows and made you match my pace.

That instant my eyes failed me for lack of a simple veil.

Petrarch and Laura
Laura Brooks conducts the Astoria Poetry Workshop, meeting each Wednesday from 6-8 p.m. at Studio 11, 11th and Duane St., 18+, $5



Yoshihiko Yoshida Master Potter • CCC Art Center Gallery

YoshidaClatsop Community College (CCC) welcomes Yoshihiko Yoshida, a master potter from Mino, Japan, to the College’s Art Center Gallery for an exhibit of ceramic pottery in the Mino tradition. The show opens May 20, 2011 and runs until June 30, 2011. There will be an opening reception on Friday, May 20, at 6:00 p.m. in the CCC Art Center Gallery to welcome Yoshida and his work.

“In my responsibilities to find artists who could contribute to my teaching at Clatsop Community College and the professional art and general community, I traveled to Japan to look at traditional ceramics and its thousands of years of history,” says Richard Rowland, CCC Ceramics instructor. “I began my study by looking at the ancient work of Joman, Aichi and the traditional 6 ancient kiln sites. I also investigated through maps and museums the migration routes of peoples into Japan from Korea and China. I visited many well-known potters but when I was invited to visit potters in Mino and Shigaraki I was lucky enough to meet Yoshihiko Yoshida, and was instantly impressed by his humble and honest demeanor.

After meeting with him and his wife, I realized that he could show my community how to hold on to the best of traditional values by using them as a springboard for contemporary reflection. The timing seemed right to ask him if he could come to Astoria.”

In addition to the gallery exhibit, Yoshida will conduct a ceramic workshop the next day for students and professional artists on Saturday, May 21, from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. in the Art Center ceramic studio. He will do a pottery throwing demo and answer specific question about ceramics in Japan. Cost is $20 for CCC students and $30 for the public. A tea ceremony is included during the day’s event.

Contact for workshop information and availability. Space is limited.

Saturday evening, Yoshida will finish his visit to CCC with a lecture and slide presentation at the CCC Performing Arts Center (PAC). The presentation, “In the Mino Tradition”, is at 7:00 p.m., and is free and open to the public. Larry Tyrrell will perform Shakuhachi—traditional bamboo flute. Yoshida will lecture about his life and work as a traditional potter in Japan; as well as his apprenticeship with Arakawa Toyozo (1894-1985), one of Japan’s First National Living Treasures.

FMI: about the artist, Yoshihiko Yoshida, visit

Yoshida Lobed Bowl 2008 Yoshida Carved Vase 2008

“Once described as a sennin (mountain hermit)…. Yoshida lives amid a forest in the hills of Toki City in Gifu Prefecture. Located near his secluded home are the ruins of many kilns that fired the masterpieces of medieval Mino wares. I imagine that while walking by these kilns, looking for shards, some unseen force entered into Yoshida’s soul like water silently seeping into sand. How else can one describe the feeling he energizes his pots with?……..That is why potters such as Yoshida are so vital for this country. They anchor Japan in these changing times and question the frivolous fashions that appear, and disappear, like the moon in a cloud. They put “soul” in our hands. Yoshida works in a few different styles, including the aforementioned Shino, aka-Shino (red Shino), shirokesho (white-slip wares), hai-yu yohen ash-glazed wares, and his stellar Setoguro (Black Seto).”

“Yoshida studied with the late Living National Treasure Arakawa Toyozo (1894-1985) starting in 1956 and established his own kiln in 1969. His work is subdued, understated, refined, contemplative, graceful, and honest. I asked him upon viewing a lovely pastel Shino vase how he gets the colors, he turned to me and said matter-of-factly, “Shizen (it’s natural).” It best describes the man himself, and his work.”

-Excerpt from To See a World in a Bowl of Tea, By Robert Yellin
for The Japan Times, Nov. 14, 2001


Columbia River Maritime Museum: Cleveland Rockwell (1837-1907) Opening: Friday, May 20 through July 20

Scow SchoonersThe Columbia River Maritime Museum hosts a special exhibit for the opening weekend of Astoria’s Bicentennial Celebration. This new exhibit is a collection of works by Cleveland Rockwell focusing on the region: Astoria, the Lower Columbia River & the Coast.

Cleveland Rockwell was the foremost painter of the Pacific Northwest. Although he did not become a full-time painter until his retirement in 1892, the many sketches he made on his expeditions with U.S. Coast Survey served as the basis for his later oil and watercolor paintings. With a life-long passion for fishing, hiking and climbing, Rockwell knew his scenes intimately. Showing sketches, watercolors and oil paintings of this area from over a century ago, this exhibit depicts the stunning beauty of the unspoiled local landscape. With the eye of a surveyor and an engineer, Cleveland Rockwell captured the natural beauty and grandeur of his subjects, documenting the Columbia and the coast at a time when change was occurring rapidly and before photography was readily available.

All exhibits are free to Museum members or with paid admission to the Museum. Children (ages 6-17): $5.00 • Children under 6: Free.


A Bicentennial Tribute

marks the Liberty Theater’s first locally produced production

Land of the Dragon

Girl with fan
Alice Whitaker is Jade Pure in Land of the Dragon

ON SATURDAY, MAY 21, at 7:30 p.m. the Liberty is hosting it’s “very first community theatre offering since the grand opening,” says the Liberty’s Executive Director, Rosemary Baker-Monaghan.

The play, “The Land of the Dragon,” is being co-produced by Coast Community Radio, directed by local creative, Sen Incavo, with casting assistance from regional director Karen Bain. It’s performance marks the  celebration of Astoria’s Chinese history and the Bicentennial Legacy Project: the Garden of the Surging Waves. In fact, the set has been designed so that the action taking place on stage, appears to be taking place in the Garden of the Surging Waves with the Moon Gate forming a focal point for the audience.

The play was written in 1945 by Madge Miller and first preformed in 1946 by the Philadelphia Children’s Theater.  “It’s a basic Cinderella story and all cultures have them but this play is done in what’s called the ancient Chinese stylized manner,” said Incavo.

Incavo, a Portland transplant, residing in Astoria the last 8 years, was prop master for Portland Repertory Theater for six years and with that company, won a Portland Drammy Award for the set design on a production of the pay “Angel Street.” He’s been involved locally with the River Theatre, and various projects. A degree in Theater with costume and set design concentration from Monmoth College in Illinois, Incavo was involved in a production of Land of Dragon.

Rather serendipitously, Incavo called Baker-Monaghan with a pitch to do the show on the Liberty stage. As told to HIPFiSH by Incavo, the director of the Liberty had been approached by the Bicentennial organizers to do a production in conjunction with the opening festivities. However, not privy to this, Incavo personally had envisioned the play a good fit for the Liberty stage. Prior to the meet, Baker-Monahagn glanced at her horoscope, which said, “ Something is going to be put before you – you should go with it.” Now if she had just been to Golden Star for dinner, and this had been a message from a fortune cookie.  . . Wow. All whimsy aside, synchronicity was at play here, planting seeds for future development of the Liberty’s intention on more local productions.

The play is rather comical and it’s suitable for anyone ages 8 to adult. There are real dragons, fake dragons, (puppeteering!) including “Small One,” played by Alan Isaksen. A lazy property manager, (John Howe) a wandering minstrel, (Sky Gager) a scheming step-aunt, (Precious Heart, played by Melissa McLeod) ensuing chaos, and of course, the lovely princess Jade Pure (Alice Whitaker) round out the cast.

While on stage, the Stage Manager (played by Incavo) narrates the action.

When Jade Pure is rescued from her malicious aunt Precious Heart and Precious Heart’s chancellor; Covet Spring, (played by Bill Ham) she becomes haughty with her hero, who quickly departs. Then it’s up to Jade Pure to find him again and change her fate. Jade Pure has many cousins who act as maids and aid her in her quest, played by Lori Wilson Honl, Kerri Hilton, and Sofie Kline. The “Twenty-fourth cousin,” is played by none other than – Slab Slabinski.

“Everything is mimed in the show.  This stylized manner is a beautiful art form partly because the kids watching it really need to use their imagination,” said Incavo. All of the props are portable. In one scene, a wall is erected: a scroll of paper painted with bricks is unloosed from the hands of the stage manager.

According to Incavo, the script was read and approved by the Chinese community both locally and in Portland. “We wanted it to be as authentic as possible,” he said. Even the costumes have been redesigned for added authenticity. “I was very lucky in being able to cast A-list actors in town who weren’t involved in other productions,” he added.

Liberty Theater WindowThe actors and actresses will be signing children’s programs after the show. “I want the kids to be able to see the dragon and the costumes up-close to generate interest from them so that they are getting something of value from this. I really want to do children’s theatre here and what I mean by that is adults performing for children  – not creative dramatics – which is children performing for their peers and families,” said Incavo.

“The Land of the Dragon” is “very different than anything that we’ve done here before,” says Baker-Monaghan.

In the past, the Liberty has brought in theater troupes from different parts of the country to do shows as part of its commitment to the educational enrichment of youth, and it will no doubt continue to do so. While this production is special for many reasons, it also represents just another step towards the Liberty’s goal of continued renovation and locally produced community theater. The theater already has educational alliances with Clatsop Community College and Portland State University and Baker-Monaghan already has half of the money raised to begin renovating the second story, back corner of the theater (above Columbia Travel and Lucy’s Books). In the future, the extra space would bring more opportunities to the theater for classes, rehearsal space, additional meeting space and the like.

It is also worth noting that during the show,  art from The Garden of the Surging Waves will be on display along with representatives who will be available to discuss the project and take donations. Presently, the Garden of the Surging Waves is Astoria’s Bicentennial Legacy Project. The Astoria Column was Astoria’s centennial project, so perhaps the importance of this project seeing completion should be on every citizen’s mind.

The Garden of the Surging Waves celebrates the importance of the Chinese population in Astoria and the lasting impact they have made. Chinese immigrants to Astoria worked hard in the canneries, built the jetties, and brought the railroad to Astoria, and struggled to gain a foothold in a rugged town not always willing to accept foreigners and a different culture.
The Liberty celebrates a rich, colorful Chinese heritage culture of Astoria, and welcomes all to enjoy this frontier production!

For more information on the Garden of Surging Waves and Chinese heritage go to
Performances and Ticket Info

May 21 at 7:30 pm Liberty Theater. Tickets are on sale now at the Liberty Box Office. (503) 325-5922 Ext. 55. Groups of 10 or more will receive a $2 discount on each ticket. May 28 at 11:00 am Clatsop Community College PAC. $2 donation at the door June 4 at 7:30 pm and June 5 at 3:00 pm Coaster Theatre in Cannon Beach. Tickets on sale soon.

Open Seating.  Adult $18.00 Student, Senior, Military $15. Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 2pm – 5:30pm and two hours before the show.

Tickets may also be purchased through TicketsWest 503.224.8499 or 1.800.992.8499. Tickets subject to a convenience charge. Ask for your tickets to be put in Will Call at the theater and you can pick them up on show night and avoid the shipping charge.


Astor St. Opry has a new show and the company’s “mother-of-all” is behind it

July Niland
Photo: Dinah Urell

THIS MONTH the Astor Street Opera Company (ASOC) is set to debut a new musical melodrama, and as I sit down to talk to JUDITH NILAND, the ASOC’s manager-director, a little lion and a little pint-sized tin-man are milling about. Before I know it, the whole cast of the Wizard of Oz is there and it’s getting very loud. Niland and I are sitting in the theatre at tables so narrow their only use could be for one arm, and a beer and a hand-full of popcorn. When all of a sudden she whips around and with her sprightly demeanor snaps: “Could you keep it down? We’re trying to do an interview here!” Ergo: the Lollipop Guild departs. They don’t even bristle, they love her. Niland is a straight-shooter and she’s hilarious to boot.

“The Real Lewis and Clark,” is ASOC’s first original production in five years, Their last original production was “Scrooged in Astoria,” which has proven to have a wonderful track-record of success for the playhouse that continues to produce it every year. It should also go without saying that “Shanghaied in Astoria,” is a local theatrical institution and watching it can only be described as a rite-of-passage.

Niland has been at ASOC for 26 years, “I just don’t quit,” she says. After living as an artist in Santa Cruz, Niland and her first husband settled in Astoria and her then husband became a co-founder of the theatre. Niland started out as a costume designer, but when she saw her first costumes being worn on stage, “I was hooked,” she said. She freely admits that she’s hung on to the theatre group for longer than most. “I’ve seen it shed skins several times, really, I’m a watcher. I sit back and observe. I keep threatening to move to Ireland, you can print that, it drives my sister wild.” When I ask her where she gets her stubborn perseverance from she says with incredulity, “Seriously? Please. I’m a Leo and a Niland and I’ve got a moon in Taurus!”

In regards to the subject of this new show; “Finns are always easy targets when it comes to telling jokes,” says Niland.

The story, the real story of “The Real Lewis and Clark” was unearthed from a pioneer journal that was discovered in an attic in Uniontown, in 2001. It explains how the Finns – in all actuality – were the first to arrive in Astoria.

Unlike Lewis and Clark, the Finns still had some beer left by the time they reached the Pacific.

The “hysterical-historical” script was essentially born out of the brain of the deceased and greatly missed ASOC player, Rodger Martin. Martin died in a tragic fire that destroyed the better half of an Astoria city block in 2008. In 2005, however, when Martin was still a major player at ASOC, the theater was contacted to produce something for the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Martin and Niland began discussing ideas and Martin even wrote a song “Talking to the Trees,” for it, but the script was too comedic and the association that commissioned the script wanted a historically-accurate drama. Niland said no way, obviously these people hadn‘t done proper research on the playhouse’s well-defined genre: “we’re the Saturday Night Live of melodrama.”

The script was put on the backburner until more recent times when ASOC decided they needed a third major anchor for their yearly show schedule. It was also fitting to do something to celebrate Astoria‘s impending bicentennial, so Niland began writing again, alone this time.

The woman who came from a self-described family of “Irish actors, hams and joke-tellers,” and wanted “to be Carol Burnett,” as a child says “The Real Lewis and Clark” was inspired by the comedic stylings of Mel Brooks and Monty Python. “I’m from that generation and it really influenced me,” she said.

Niland’s sister and brother-in-law, Stanley Azen, Ph.D. and Joyce C. Niland, Ph.D., wrote the original music for the production along with Astoria’s own Philip Morrill. The show also features original choreography by another local Astorian, Carly Lewis Allen. ChrisLynn Taylor provides the musical direction.

Just so you know, “The Real Lewis and Clark” is a family-friendly production. However, “You can still boo, hiss, and throw popcorn,” says Niland.

“The Real Lewis and Clark Story: or How Finns Discovered Astoria,” opens on Thursday, April 14th and runs every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday until April 30 at the ASOC playhouse on Bond Street.Tickets for the new show range in price from $15 to $8 with available discounts for children, seniors and groups.

Humor-rich, song, dance, and sizable cast enliven the ASOC stage. Reservations are recommended by calling 503-325-6104 or tickets can be purchased at the door one hour before show time.


No. 10 Tenants Talk to HIPFiSH

Burnt No. 10
Constance Waisanen had been doing investment and retirement planning
for the Astoria branch of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans at #10 6th St since 2006. A month and a half before the fire, Matt Crichton was hired on at Thrivent. Waisanen and Crichton miss the “funky historical flavor and the feeling of camaraderie,” that existed at #10 6th St. “There was a sense of family between the tenants,” says Waisanen, who first learned of the fire via Facebook.

“I was just getting ready to go to bed and I clicked on Facebook . A friend’s son had just posted an entry saying that the Cannery Café was on fire and so I posted back,‘Tell me more, my office is next door!’ His mother was with him and she immediately called me. While we were talking she said she could see smoke coming out of our building.”

Crichton, who lives on the south slope of Astoria received a call from a friend around midnight. “She had to tell me it was on fire five times because it didn’t seem real,” he said. “Coming over the hill, I saw a bright yellow-orange ball of fire. I didn’t like that and I actually turned off and parked just to watch it from afar before I went down to the scene.”

Nearly everything in the Thrivent office was destroyed. However, all of the company’s files had been backed up to an offsite single server. Waisanen says that she was lucky and had taken her work computer home with her, but “Even if I hadn’t, I would have been able to call the company and they would have overnighted me a computer with all of my files on it. When you work in the financial world you really need to have that kind of security.”

Still, not much was left for them to recover. “I had a nativity set that my mother had bought me in Mexico. I found all the figures from it except for baby Jesus.”

“And we looked and looked and looked for baby Jesus,” adds Crichton.

“We dug through the ashes pretty deep, but we didn’t find him. ‘He has risen,’ went through my mind,” said Waisanen with a grin.
Unfortunately, the fire destroyed Waisanen’s own beautiful art quilts which hung on the office walls. “Virtually everyone’s first response was: ‘Your quilts are gone,’ because that’s what they remember from being in my office.”

Crichton, who had recently returned from a stint in the Peace Corps, lost souvenirs from Samoa, where he taught High School. “I lost my hardwood, hand carved ‘ava’ bowl and my souve- nir war clubs! But that just gives me an excuse to go back to Samoa,” he said.

Both Waisanen and Crichton were touched by the outpouring of condolences from the community at large as well as customers and colleagues who called to the company’s national headquarters from Longview and Tillamook. “Be- cause we are a faith-based company there was a lot of prayer going out for us,” said Waisanen.

For two months after the fire, Thrivent operated in space lent to them by the congregation at First Lutheran Church in Astoria. They have since relocated to The Red Building at 20 Basin St. Several other financial offices displaced by the fire have also resettled there, “it’s a financial Mecca now,” quips Waisanen who thinks that the new office is a far better fit for their needs. The Thrivent office was at the point of needing to expand, and the fire proved to be the impetus to make the jump.

“It wasn’t bad timing, it just wasn’t the best way to do it,” said Waisanen. “At least we didn’t have to move any furniture! It feels good to have a firm base of operations now and it’s nice to have the sound of the water lapping underneath us again.”

Constance Waisanen is the Financial Consultant for the Astoria branch of Thrivent.
Matt Crichton is a Financial Associate at Thrivent.

With more than 30 employees at their #10 6th Street location, Clatsop Behavioral Health (CBH) was the largest tenant of the building, occupying much of the first floor. Staff member Sumuer Watkins had worked in #10 since CBH moved there in 1997. “When you’ve been in a place for that many years, it feels like home.” She fondly recalls staff potlucks in the conference room, counting sea lions in the Columbia River as she walked down the windowed hallway, and visits from Charlie the seagull who would rap on the window when he wanted food.

June Longway misses her office in #10 6th Street. “I had a wonderful view, right on the water, looking across at the mountains in Washington.” She loved the convenience and friendliness of the Lazy Spoon Café and being able to easily consult with other therapists who worked in the historic building.

Everything changed on December 16 when fire broke out in the Cannery Café. Late that night, Watkins was woken by a call from her brother who is a volunteer with the Warrenton Fire Department. By the time she and her husband had arrived at the fire, #10 6th Street was burning.

Watkins is grateful for the actions of emergency workers at the scene. “The police and fire personnel were so amazing. They came and found us, told us they had pulled some of our items out of the building, helped us load it into the back of my husband’s truck. I was so impressed with them because they were actually trying to save what they could of ours, knowing that it was very important and that it was confidential information. They kept watch on everything, policemen were guarding it until we got there.”

Unfortunately, they were able to remove only a fraction of the records from CBH before it became too dangerous to enter the building. Most client records were stored in a file room, which was windowless and locked. Later it was found that the paper records in the file room had not burned and were salvageable.

In the immediate aftermath of the fire, CBH set up a temporary workspace in their Open Door location, just around the corner from #10. They contacted all clients within 48 hours of the fire and were able to start seeing patients again within a week. Just after Christmas, CBH moved into four separate suites in the Park Medical Building in Astoria. According to Watkins, it was a scramble, ordering enough computers, furniture, and office supplies for 30 staff members. “It was $250 for staplers; it was crazy, the amount of office supplies we needed. Essentially, we were working off of TV trays and card tables. It took about a month for us to feel like an office again.”

Andrew Art
Andrew Wiegardt ressurects Darren Orange painting, Resurrection Hipfish

Getting used to the new workspace has been an adjustment for CBH staff members. Finding space for 30 individual offices under one roof was nearly impossible in a necessarily short time-frame. Moving into four different suites scattered throughout the Park Building was a compromise. Both Watkins and Longway say that they feel more isolated in the new space, that there is some disconnect between employees who had felt like family before the fire. There are actually more group rooms available than at #10 6th Street, but none is large enough to comfortably hold the entire CBH staff.


There are, however, advantages in having four separate waiting areas. Longway says, “It’s a little calmer because there’s not as many people in one waiting room. Children are separate from adults, and the Drug and Alcohol patients have more privacy in their own space. The receptionists are more relaxed because they aren’t dealing with multiple groups plus individual clients simultaneously.”

The fire has been a springboard for positive changes in the operations of CBH.

Prior to the fire, the agency was just beginning the transition from paper to electronic medical records. Fortunately some of the earliest files to be converted contained client demographic information, which enabled the immediate recovery (from a remote server) of client contacts and caseloads. “We are fully computerized now,” says Longway. “The prescribers were already us- ing Infoscribe, so we had all the information on everybody’s medications. We made sure nobody ran out. It could have been much worse.”The forcibly accelerated switch to electronic records has been difficult for CBH staff, but is already paying off in easier accessibility. (Consider the difference between manually flipping through a handwritten paper file that you first have to physically remove from a filing system or using search parameters on an electronic database to extract certain information.) The new electronic medical records are fireproof. All records are backed up on a server in New York City.

In the long run, the devastating #10 6th Street fire may be the catalyst for many positive changes in the lives of former building tenants. Emotions and memories, however, run deep. Lives have been changed forever.

“Fire is devastating.” – June Longway
“It was very strange when I got home from the fire. I looked around at everything and thought: if I lost this, how would I feel? I now look at everything like this. It gives you a new perspec- tive, it makes you appreciate what you have, but you also know that you can get by without It.” – Sumuer Watkins

Sumuer Watkins is the Chief Operations Officer for Clatsop Behavioral Health
June Longway, P.M.H.N.P., B.C. is the Medical Director for Clatsop Behavioral Health.

Gretchen Mather, the self-employed owner/ operator of a small accounting business, was a tenant at #10 6th Street for four years before the fire, but she had moved to a new office within the building six months earlier. “I had just put my sign on the door.”

When #10 burned two weeks before the start of tax season, Mather didn’t have time to look for a new office. She immediately set up operations at her home and began working. “I did all my payroll not knowing whether I had files or not. I did my quarterlies and recreated all that data or I had my clients recreate the information for me because I didn’t know what, if anything, would be left in the building.”

During the, the roof of #10 collapsed directly into Mather’s office. Firemen postulated that her filing cabinets were gone and had probably evaporated from intense heat. When she was finally able to get into her ruined office weeks later, she could see the cabinets trapped under debris from the fallen roof. Remarkably, with the help of a friend, Mather was able to lift chunks of the roof off of her file cabinets and was able to recover 90% of her records from what was the most devastated part of the building. Unfortu- nately by that time, she had already been forced to duplicate a lot of that information.

Miraculously, Mather discovered that she had papers sitting on top of her filing cabinets that weren’t even burned. However, all of her personal photographs including artwork by her deceased aunt, Alaskan artist Barbara Stanbaugh, were destroyed. By the time Mather was able to get in to her office six weeks after the fire, the hard drive on her office computer was ruined. She had backed up her files online, only to discover after the fire that data from certain accounting software she uses is considered proprietary and was not saved after all. To say the least, this was a frustrating experience for her. Like many of the former tenants of #10, Mather feels that if she had been let in earlier, more of her belongings may have been retrievable. “Had I had access early on, I probably would have my hard drive because sitting exposed to the weather for so long is what did it in.”

All of Mather’s rescued paper files are infused with toxic smoke pollution. This has made using at the files she did rescue treacherous. “I made myself sick trying to go through the files looking for stuff. I had to wear gloves and a mask to be able to touch them because I got very ill. So did the people who tore the computers apart.”

Still, Mather says, when it comes to her business, she’s trying to think of the positive and not the negative. “How can I make it better? Why put it back the way it was? Paperless is probably the way I’m going to go.” Of the difficulties, she says, “you overcome because you have a self-employed mentality. When you are an employee, there are other people to handle the situation.”

After a particularly grueling return wasn’t going right, Mather hit a wall. “It was 9 o clock at night and I started bawling and my daughter came in and saw me and said; ‘Mom you just have to stop that and you have to keep going,’ I think my kids will take away from this experience the lesson that you can get through anything.”

Last year, Mather’s father also lost his home to a fire. “I had just gotten all of his bank records and we had put them all in my office and then my office burnt down so I had to go back to the bank again and ask them for his records all over and they were like, ‘You have to be joking!’ ”

Mather says that the fire has helped to draw herself and her father closer together. “Silly things happen, like you turn around and don’t have a paperclip or that stupid stamp. I recognized that this was exactly what my father went through.

Gretchen B. Mather, C.P.A. is sole proprietor of an accounting business.

Pam Christensen, a psychotherapist in private practice, had been working in #10 6th Street for about a year and a half before the
fire. She misses the daily interaction she had with other therapists in the building. “I really enjoyed running into colleagues in the hall. I especially enjoyed times when Dr. Daryl Birney would come sit in my office and we’d just talk,” she said.

On the night of the fire, Christensen recalled; “I was sleeping when the phone rang and didn’t recognize the number so I didn’t pick up,” on the other end was a colleague, who thankfully left a message telling her that #10 was on fire. At that point, the flames were still far from Christensen’s office. She listened to the voice mail and tried to go back to sleep.

“It really didn’t register,” she says, but it worked on her mind enough that sleep became impossible. She got up and drove to #10. “I never had seen a fire that big.”

Pam C
Pam Christensen, Counselor, hauls out client files

She called a friend who worked at Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare and the two met up at the scene.

“I think that helped me, we sat together and watched it burn from about three in the morning until about nine so we had a lot of time to talk, and process, and plan and strategize. We’d drive around and then we’d go back and look at it again and by 8 a.m. I had another space rented in the Spexarth Building.”

Christensen’s immediate challenge was to figure out the status of her court records during the weeks following the fire when tenants were not allowed back into the building. “The clerks at the courthouse were amazing in terms of making photocopies of stacks and stacks of records. A lot of those records were salvageable, but we didn’t know that at the time.” (Christensen has a private practice and also does work for Clatsop County probation counseling).

The fire’s emotional toll took a few weeks to sink in, but the loss sparked Christensen to make sweeping changes in the way she operates her business. Realizing she needed to expand and delegate, she hired a new assistant to take care of clerical work, freeing up more time to see clients. She also contracted with another therapist who could share in the work Christensen provides for the courts.

“It was the small things after the fire that I felt really irritated about. I locked my self out of my new office three or four times because it had a funny handle. My favorite black blazer hung on the back of my office door in #10 and I forget that and go to my closet to look for it, and it’s no longer there. None of these things are rocket science, but being a creature of habit and a highly-scheduled person, these kind of disrup- tions really stuck with me for weeks afterwards.”

However, Christensen says she knew from the very beginning that good things would eventually result from this very bad situation. “What came up for me was a bigger piece about the process of ageing. As we age we don’t remember everything and I’ve been someone who pretty much always remembers things, but not having my records I realized I didn’t remember and I couldn’t look it up. It was kind of a gift to get in touch with how it’s going to feel to not have access to all that stuff. At some point, I’ll have to look at a picture or ask a friend.”

Pamela Christensen, MA is a professional counselor.

Robert Brown Financial Group
Robert Brown Financial Group dig their new location at the Red Building

Since 2007, Ann Lederer has worked for the Clatsop County Court Appointed Special Advocates for children (CASA) program. CASA had a long tenant history in # 10 6th Street prior to the fire. “I loved that building,” says Lederer, “there was something about being over the water and seeing the trolley go by. I was thankful for it every day, it’s irreplaceable.”

Lederer received a call from a CASA volunteer the night the fire broke out. “He suggested I look out of the window of my home. I did, and I could see flames. I immediately threw on some clothes and went down to the fire.” Lederer says she felt compelled to go to the scene and stand with other #10 tenants there. “We were just stunned and watching,” she recalled.

Chief amongst Lederer’s worries were her client files, which contain sensitive and confidential information. Were they secure? Could they be retrieved? When? Her second thought was about the toy donations that were wrapped and ready to go for a Christmas party the non-profit would be hosting for foster children. Eventually, CASA’s client files were salvaged and were legible but considerably smoke damaged. Nonetheless, Lederer was able to secure and dispose of them properly.

Immediately after the fire community members provided an amazing response in the form of donations. “Within 24 hours we replaced all the toys,” said Lederer who continued to deal with a huge flood of inquiries from those who wanted to know how they too could donate.

One of the lingering challenges faced by for- mer #10 tenants has been complicated insurance liability debates that are ongoing. Many tenants await partial rent refunds as the fire occurred halfway through the month. “I’m sure they are doing their best, but for a small non-profit, a couple of weeks worth of rent reimbursement is significant,” Lederer said.

Going into the building weeks after the fire was emotionally hard for Lederer. “It’s an unreal experience to go someplace that you’ve been every single day for years and see it transformed into something so sad.” While she did lose per- sonal items in the fire; a painting by local artist Darren Orange and years worth of Garden Tour posters from CASA fundraisers, directors from other local CASA programs reached out, donating artwork for the new space.

Ultimately, the fire forced Lederer “to think about the kind of work we do and about the kids who we work with. These are kids who leave home with maybe a trash bag full of their belongings,” she said.

“It really puts everything in perspective.”

“The silver lining is that we are improving rather than just recreating the old system. I took the situation as an opportunity to think about the ways in which we had operated. I’m in the process of changing from settled patterns and ways of doing things to the new ways we receive and process information.”

CASA’s new home is in Suite 401 of the Spexarth Building, 818 Commercial St. The City of Astoria had had an option on the space, but after the fire, decided to make it available to busi- nesses affected by the disaster. The Spexarth’s location on a diagonal from the courthouse is convenient for CASA staff and volunteers who may be required at court hearings as often as four or five times on a given work day.

Ann Lederer is Executive Director of Clatsop County CASA.

When Catastrophe Happens, It
Often Opens The Door For
New Business Relationships.
Join us in the collective celebration of the new
office location for five businesses that have
relocated from the #10 Sixth Street to
the Red Building office suites at:
20 Basin Street Astoria, Or.

The newly relocated offices of:

Brown Financial Group
Dr. Daryl Birney
Thrivent Financial Group
Eagle Financial Group
Dan Van Thiel Attorney at Law
Rosemary Berdine Psy. D

Open House at the Red Building
Professional office suites.
We invite you to explore and get acquainted
with our new offices take a mini tour, have a
glass of wine and enjoy some appetizers.

Where: Red Building Professional Office Suites
Red Building 20 Basin Street Astoria, Or.
When: April 27th 2011 Time 5:00-7:00 pm.