Ferguson Humanitarian Foundation International, Inc.

I’ve been helping out Christi Roehn, Social Media Director for the Ferguson Humanitarian Foundation International, primarily doing copy-editing for their blog posts and such, and today they featured me as a small thank you on their Facebook page.

Volunteer Highlight: Brian Moon
“Brian Moon lends us his copy writing skills to help us with our website, and post our blogs.”

I’m grateful to be able to help in whatever ways I can, and encourage you to look into their programs if their goals align with yours. They are primarily focused on improving education for young women in India and around the world.

Guessing Wrong on Purpose

I was sitting in the warm sun in my parent’s yard next to my mom, watching my dad grill a chicken with a beer can up its butt and my Aunt Carol working in the garden, when I realized that every conversation I had with her could be my last one. It was a Sunday afternoon, May 27, 2001, and she had been fighting lung cancer for about 4 years, but she was 72 and the fight was difficult and it had become clear to me that she would lose, and probably soon. I was right; mom would be dead just 13 days later.

Mom was always very skinny, our family inside joke made fun of her “chicken legs”, which sounds mean now that I type it out. But having her lungs fill up with tumor and not being increasingly unable to breathe had accentuated her thinness. But not frailty. She had a fierceness that showed in her sharp humor. She accepted our teasing and returned it and it felt like love sometimes.

I remember the moment I decided to set aside denial about her dying very clearly.

“What, if anything, do you wish you could have done?” I asked her.

Her face turned to me but I couldn’t see her eyes directly; she was wearing giant movie-star sunglasses and a floppy hat to shade her pale skin and white hair from the light. She didn’t smile, and she didn’t frown.

“I always wanted to be a torch singer.”

I did laugh. “But you can’t really sing.”

“Like in that movie, the one with the Bridges brothers, that actress, you know.”

“Julia Roberts?”

She swatted at me. “Don’t do that.” I would often guess wrong on purpose whenever she asked me to remember a piece of trivia.

“Sandra Bullock?”

“Brian. You know who I mean.”

“Michelle Pfeiffer. The Fabulous Baker Boys.”

She settled back in her lawn chair. “Yes. So glamorous. On the stage, a piano, a spotlight.”

“You could have learned. Taken singing lessons.”

“No, I couldn’t.”

Mom was the second-oldest of 13 children, and her parents, straining to raise so many kids, had apparently married her off young, 16 or 17, to her first husband, Bud Bodvin. They had a daughter, Donna, my half-sister, but the marriage ended in the late ‘50s and she returned to her parent’s home, a divorced woman with a daughter, at a time when that was seen as a scandal. Single moms didn’t go out in sequined gowns to sing torch songs in nightclubs then, not even in progressive Portland.

“Things would have turned out different, for sure. What ever happened to Bud, anyway? You never talk about it.”

She gave me a sideways glance. Said nothing.

“I might not get another chance to ask you.”

She waved her hand, brushing away memories. “It was a long time ago. He was so much older than I was. I was 17. It didn’t work out.”

I kept watching her face. She didn’t turn to look at me, watching dad at the grill, who was talking to Aunt Carol, mom’s younger sister, who had moved in to the house after the first round of cancer, to help with cooking and chores.

“What was he like? Was he tall? Short? Blonde? Dark? What did he do?” She scoffed. “If it was so long ago, then the details don’t matter now. It’s a story. I like stories.” I pleaded.

“He was… rough. He had a temper. I couldn’t stay. My father didn’t approve.” Her jaw was set. I had pressed as much as I could. That was all she would say, I could tell.

“So you met dad. I’ve heard that story.”

Dad had been traveling across country selling magazines in 1959, and one night at a diner in Portland, OR, waiting for a buddy who was trying to get a job in the kitchen, dad had struck up a conversation with the waitress, my mom. In the late spring sun, I saw my dad, wearing shorts and a t-shirt and flip flops, wearing out, graying hair, hands rough from a lifetime of pulling wire as an electrician.

“What did you see in him?”

“He was so charming.” Mom’s voice held a tiny note of surprise, and a tiny note of regret. “He was funny, and persistent. And dad loved him.”

“He asked you out, and showed up at your house.”

“And I wasn’t there.”

“You weren’t? Where were you?”

“I was out on another date. You knew this.”

“I did not! On another date? With who?”

“A dentist! I can’t remember his name now. But when I got home, there your father was, sitting in the front room with Grampa. ‘You’re going out with Bob tomorrow night,’ he told me. I was so angry. I never saw the dentist again.”

I tried to imagine dad as a charming young man. Although I can easily picture it now, at the time, our relationship was much more strained and distant right then. One of the reasons for that, which mom and I both knew but did not normally speak aloud, could be inferred by the staging of this scene: me and mom at one end of the yard, dad and Carol at the other end.

Mom was dying. I was, and am, an atheist. I know that there is no life after this one, and as a consequence, I know that every moment with someone else could be the last time I see them, or speak to them. If there is something I want to tell someone, I need to tell them, I need to not hide or wait, because the moment could be gone.

Mom and I watched dad and Carol for a moment.

“You know, right?” I asked.

“She’s my sister. Of course I know.”

“It’s awful. It seems so… disrespectful.” My eyes were filling with angry tears.

“I don’t have any interest in it, not anymore. I’m not going to be around forever.”

I was silent, my face hot. I couldn’t speak, and I couldn’t look at her.

“At least he’ll be with someone, and if it has to be someone, it’s better that it’s my sister.” She reached over and held my hand. Her voice was steel, not from meanness or teasing, but a simple statement of fact, aimed at her youngest son, hoping I could hear her.

“They won’t be lonely. They’ll have each other.”

It has taken me years to hear her.


I wrote this post on Mother’s Day, 8 May 2016. I didn’t post it right away because I wanted to run it past my family first, give them a head’s up, because I touch on some family issues. But my main point wasn’t to dredge up old secrets, it was to remember how clearly mom saw things (and to remind myself that I didn’t, and who does, one hundred percent of the time, really?) 

Ghosts of Brian

A photo posted by Brian Moon (@lunarobverse) on


Last night, because of an odd-for-me schedule, I found myself downtown in Portland, on a warm May Friday evening, around 8 or 9 PM. For a lot of boring reasons, I haven’t spent a lot of time downtown, wandering, with no particular place to be, not recently. My normal mode lately is to go, get what I need done, and return to Sellwood, my home neighborhood, as quickly as possible.

There was a time, several times, in my life, however, when that was not the case. Downtown Portland was a destination and a playground for me and my friends. Simply hanging out at Pioneer Courthouse Square, or walking or driving up and down Broadway. Movie theaters. There were late-night bookstores, bars, and dance clubs. I could write a book. Many books.
Last night, in an introspective mood, I went looking for that same feeling. I started by going to Powell’s City of Books, still a world-class bookstore, one of the largest in the country and possibly the world, on several measures. No matter where you are in the world, if you’re a reader, you may know of Powell’s, since it’s an online bookstore that rivals Amazon and is often mentioned in the same breath. That website came after the physical bookstore chain, which itself started by taking over an entire city block, expanding out and up and down and becoming a weird maze of shelves and books and cranky, furtive, hippy, diverse, booksellers.
Powell’s is not the only place I wandered as a kid, far from it. Just stepping off a bus, or waiting on the bus mall for a trip back to the suburbs, or, later, parking the car and wandering around. I could talk about the Broadway Theater or the Fox Theater, The Metro, the Blue Aardvark dance club, the Virginia Cafe (the original one, tucked away on SW Park between Morrison and Yamhill, not the new one across from Central Library), the X-Ray Lounge or Satyricon or Roseland, or Tom McCall Waterfront Park, on a summer night on the river.
Powell’s, though, Powell’s is central.
My beautiful readers, the story of Powell’s could fill a room full of books all by itself. It’s difficult to settle on just one. And my life history is entwined with it, too, and not just as shopper and shop. For an all-too-short time, two years, summer 1992 until summer 1994, I was an employee, until I was fired. It was a rough time in my life, and the main reasons were that I was still trying to get a handle on this “being an adult” thing. Paying my bills, doing my job, not blowing all my money on strippers and pizza. I was in my late 20s, and I was a mess. I was crushed by being fired, but honestly, looking back, I deserved it. I would tell early-90s Brian so many things, but I am not sure he would listen, because I would only be telling him the same things my co-workers, friends, and family were telling him. As my dad said at the time, after I told him I was fired, “I’ve been fired from jobs before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been fired from a job I loved before.”
Losing that job broke my heart, tossed me into a pit, and cost me several friendships. Shortly after, I was forced out of the basement apartment for failing to pay my rent, prompting me to live out of my car and hiding my shame from everyone around me, although I’m pretty sure they all knew. I would shower at my parent’s house, carefully timing it when my dad was at work, because mom was more sympathetic.
Eventually I did get a new job, but it took a few months. I got hired on as a temporary worker at Intel, putting replacement Pentium chips into boxes, to repay customers who had purchased flawed Pentiums, on a swing shift. From there, I made the transition to technical work, and began my career. But it was a rough and rocky time, beautiful people. I get the sads just thinking about it.
I had been fired from Powell’s 22 years ago, but I never stopped going there. Even after being cast out for failure to adult, the idea of that giant multi-level building carved from the heart of liberal Portland was too enticing to avoid. Through the years I’ve seen it grow and modernize. The architecture has become more refined. Instead of writing prices in pencil on the first page, computer printed labels with bar codes tell if a book is new or used.
But there are still faces in the aisles that I recognize as co-workers from those summers two decades or more ago. It’s easy for me to imagine 28 year old Brian straightening up, flying right, and becoming a lifer there. A different life but maybe a very similar Brian, in a more stable place and state of mind?

A short bio

How does this sound as a short bio for me?

Brian Moon was born in Portland, OR, and has lived most of his life in Sellwood, a neighborhood of working-class bars, coffee shops, antique shops, and city parks, and grew up thinking that his last name destined him for space, which has not happened yet. He’s been reading and writing since his earliest memories, and enjoys telling stories, explaining things simply, and making others’ words shine in their own voice.

My Week in Freelance Writing

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 4/29/2016:

  • Articles: 3
  • Total words: 1,770
  • Total hours (research/writing): 3.67
  • Dollars earned: $24.78
  • Dollars in my bank: $24.78

I’m back! It’s a small amount, but I did manage to write some articles for money this week. The experiment is not over. It won’t be over until I stop trying it, and I’m that kind of poor dumb sucker who just keeps trying, keeps on getting up after getting knocked down.

I’m not sure what the policy is on talking about what I’ve written; because they’re “works for hire”, I don’t retain any of the rights to them, and, in fact, the articles appear under someone else’s name. But in vague terms, I wrote two articles about traveling, and one About Page for a carpet store. Doesn’t sound very exciting to you? I actually enjoyed doing them. And after turning in the assignments, I got “excellent” ratings from the clients. One (the carpet store people) even added a note:

boom. mic drop.

Yeah. I nailed it.

Getting positive feedback is almost as important as getting paid. I’m making a note of this so that later, I can look back and remind myself that I’m good at this. I can write what people want to read. I’m right where I need to be, at least in this area of my life.

Writing through the distraction oh hey what’s on YouTube?

I wrote an article today. 580 words in 62 minutes, or $8.12/hour. It’s the first one I’ve written and submitted in almost 3 weeks. I’ve been sick, and distracted, and working my two day jobs, and worrying about whether I can afford to keep living in this apartment and in this neighborhood, and wondering about the future, and generally thinking about anything but writing.

But today, tonight, I made myself choose a topic on Textbroker, and did a little research, and outlined a few ideas, and then fleshed it all out, and submitted it. It’s not a lot of money, and it wasn’t a topic that’s going to set the world on fire, but it’s writing, and being paid for writing, and that’s what I think I want to do with my life.

My Week in Freelance Writing

This post got lost somehow. I know I posted it, and my Tumblr and Facebook pages both link to it, but here on bamoon.com, it’s no longer here. Maybe it got eaten when my host upgraded to WordPress 4.5? Anyway, here’s a reconstructed version, post-dated to the original date.

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 4/15/2016:

  • Articles: 0
  • Total words: 0
  • Total hours (research/writing): 0.0
  • Dollars earned: $0.00
  • Dollars in my bank: $0.00

Sadly I have been too busy at my day jobs to write this week, and the week prior. Also, caught a head cold last weekend which has sapped my spirit. But! I am not done with this project. I will persevere.

Feature Request for Mac OS X: replacing synonyms

I’m a writer and I’ve got a pretty big vocabulary, if I do say so myself, but I do find myself searching for the right word sometimes. I like using Mac OS X’s built-in dictionary and thesaurus for that. It’s handy, especially in 10.11 El Capitan. Just highlight a word, right-click (yes, you can do that on Mac OS X, you’ve been able to for years) and choose “Look up [word]”, and you get a nice popup that includes synonyms.

Showing the Thesaurus popup menu for the word
“Gross” is close but what’s a better choice? “Flagrant”? Yes, that’ll do nicely, thanks.

The feature has been around since at least 2006. But as handy as it is, it seems like a no-brainer to me to be able to double-click on one of the suggestions and have it replace the highlighted word. Despite me trying this almost every time, it doesn’t actually work that way. So I’m filing Radar #25533454 for it. Just for good measure, I also sent Apple a more generic Feature Request via their Feedback page.

Tour Portland’s Political Underbelly

I’m reading (well, listening to the audiobook of) Nixonland by Ron Perlstein (Amazon affiliate link) and Portland’s been mentioned as a location twice, even though I’m less than a third of the way through. First, Nixon was in a hotel here during the campaign for president Eisenhower; Nixon was the vice-presidential candidate, and there was some controversy about a slush fund, and Eisenhower was apparently pressuring Nixon to bow out. Instead, Nixon doubled down, and two days later, gave the infamous “Checkers” speech, where he deflected criticism by showing off an adorable Cocker spaniel. (To be clear, the speech was given in Los Angeles, in the El Capitan theater).

The second mention was when Nixon started a boiler-room phone bank operation here to spread misinformation about a political opponent.

That got me to wondering if I could track down the actual locations. Would it be possible to find the exact hotel room Nixon stayed in? Is the building where that phone bank was situated even still standing?

It felt like it was turning into a project that an author like Tim Powers would love, and I love Tim Powers’ work. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I imagine I would feel something like haunted, standing in a place where Tricky Dick worked his weird anti-charisma magic. Language and communication and consciousness are deeply affected by context, and that particular context is difficult for me to resist.

And that got me to thinking: what other Portland buildings, rooms, street corners hold the not-actual-ghosts of some of Portland’s infamous political history. We’ve had our share of home-grown seedy politicians.

  • Neil Goldschmidt, once a rising star of the Democratic Party, went from Portland City Commissioner and Mayor to US Secretary of Transportation under President Clinton, to state Governor. He was probably going to make a run for president, but some investigative journalism uncovered a victim of his: a woman revealed he had been her statutory rapist, back in the 1970s, during his tenure as Mayor. She had been 13 or 14 at the time.
  • Bernie Giusto, The Teflon Sherrif, had been Goldschmidt’s bodyguard but eventually rose to elected official himself as Sherrif of Multnomah County, a position he was forced out of in large part because he lied about knowledge of Goldschmidt’s rape during the state’s investigation into the matter.
  • Bob Packwood, Senator from Oregon from 1969 until he stepped down in 1992, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was discovered to have been sexually abusing and assaulting women during his political career. He’s no longer in public office, but he’s apparently doing quite well, sharing his expertise in government funding with a large number of private firms as a lobbyist.
  • Going further back, Oregon was under Federal investigation as the center of organized crime and corruption that went all the way to the statehouse. The Senate Select Committee on Improper Activities in Labor and Management, a.k.a. the McClellan Committee, as part of their investigation into Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa, found out about a plot by the Teamsters to bribe, blackmail and extort their way into power in Oregon. Recordings of conversations with Jim Elkins, a Multnomah County crime boss whose specialties were brutality and illegal gambling, were played on national television, to 1.2 million viewers, in 1957.
  • Portland Mayor Sam Adams, three weeks into his first term in 2008 and enjoying wide popularity, was accused of sexual misconduct with an intern by the name of Beau Breedlove, who had been a teenager at the time. Adams admitted to the accusation. Despite the resulting scandal, and with Beau Breedlove appearing wherever and whenever he could in the local media to remind everyone of the scandal, Mayor Adams was cleared of criminal wrongdoing and served out his full term,  retiring from public life to become the director of a non-profit devoted to climate change.
  • Then there was Police Chief Derrick Foxworth, who, in 2006, got caught via email for sending sexually explicit emails to a subordinate. He was demoted, and filed suit against his accuser, but remained employed until he retired a couple of years afterward.
  • The last truly local scandal I can recall without more research is Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen, was forced to step down after his affair with a policy advisor was made public. When his emails and text messages were published he was found to have enjoyed support from the union president, too, who had known and warned Cogen about the affair a year before.

There’s a bunch more, going farther back: land fraud in 1908, Sen. Hatfield’s graft in 1984, Police Chief Harrington’s improper collusion with drug dealers in 1986. But I was specifically trying to find ones that may have ties to a Portland, or, at least, Multnomah County, location.

Portland is seen as incredibly liberal, and generally, politically, it is, but there’s another side of the coin that doesn’t get as much play. Our political leaders seem to enjoy, or maybe I should say take flagrant advantage of, our native sexual permissiveness, only to find that public opinion about that can turn on a dime.

My Week in Freelance Writing

Inspired by Nicole Dieker’s weekly reports.

For the week ending 4/1/2016:

  • Articles:
  • Total words: 1,496
  • Total hours (research/writing): 3.5
  • Dollars earned: $20.94
  • Dollars in my bank: $37.04

If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that this “week” is short by a few days. It’s because I’m posting this early in order to sync up with the pay period of the main site I’m working on now. They pay out at midnight every Thursday, while I was preferring to end a week on Sunday. I got tired of keeping track of two different weeks, so as of today, these posts will come out on Friday.

Also, my two other day jobs got in the way of my writing this week. I was only able to complete two, and I wasted some time researching another one that I ended up returning without writing a single word, which hurt my hourly pay rate. But I’m trying to be scrupulous in accounting for my time, to see if I can get faster or better at this as I go. It’s tempting to not count that kind of unproductive “thinking about writing”, but it’s all part of the job and it keeps me focused.

Next week is already off to a good start! As a small preview, I’ve already written three articles today. Stay tuned to see my final tally!