March 9th, 2005 Patty Wentz, Philip Dawdy, Chris Lydgate | Special Section Stories
 

1998

     
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Bastard Nation

BY PATTY WENTZ

It was the ultimate in identity politics. A handful of political neophytes, led by an art teacher from Nehalem, did what had never been done before in the United States: They convinced Oregon voters that adult adoptees should be able to look at their own birth certificates to answer the age-old question, "Who am I?"

Measure 58 was a long shot about an issue no one had ever heard of.

It passed because chief petitioner Helen Hill had money (a $100,000 inheritance from her adoptive father) and smarts (she hired expert signature gatherers.) And she had Bastard Nation, a national group of adoptee-rights activists who used the Internet to spread the word, give legal advice and send in the troops to hold rallies in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Opponents kept Measure 58 tangled up in litigation for a couple of years. When the dam finally burst, more than 5,000 adoptees applied to see their original birth certificates-which would tell them who their birth parents were. Media reports, predictably, focused on teary reunions. While not every encounter was easy, even opponents had to admit there were no "horror stories." Turns out we weren't allergic to sunlight after all.

The Boys Next Door

BY PHILIP DAWDY

Beginning in November 1996, Portland detectives noticed a string of robberies in Northeast Portland. But there was something odd about the capers. The robbers wore ski masks, brandished pistols, and once even gave a victim a countdown to hand over a cash drawer-stuff you see on TV but not in real life.

In fact, the two perpetrators-who pulled off as many as 20 heists-turned out to be students at Grant High School. But not just any students.

Ethan Thrower was a choir boy and a star runner with a college scholarship in his future. Tom Curtis was student body president and an Eagle Scout. Both were homecoming princes. They weren't poor. They weren't gangbangers. They came from two-parent families.

The teenagers' downfall came after they robbed Rustica, an Italian restaurant on Northeast Broadway, at gunpoint, making off with $454. As they made their getaway in a stolen Chevy Suburban, Thrower accidentally shot himself in the groin. They ditched the car a few blocks away and called 911, first telling police they had been attacked by gangsters, then admitting that Thrower's gun had gone off accidentally.

Police did not link the duo to the robbery for several months-until an eagle-eyed detective realized that their 911 call came moments after the Rustica heist. Detectives matched bloodstains inside the Chevy to Thrower's blood type and arrested him on April 16-the day before Grant's senior prom.

As a nationwide media circus ensued, Curtis skipped town, but showed up in Mazatlan a few months later to party with classmates from Grant. He later turned himself in to authorities in Las Vegas after his case was aired on America's Most Wanted. Both men are currently serving time in Oregon penitentiaries. Thrower is due to be released in 2006, Curtis in 2009.

The Government denies all knowledge

BY CHRIS LYDGATE

He was always something of an enigma, this rough-hewn, chain-smoking journalist with a voice like a Douglas fir, who lobbed his fulminant jeremiads at government gone awry. But there's no question that Ace Hayes was the granddaddy of Portland conspiratologists. As editor of the far-out Portland Free Press and host of endless seminars held at the Clinton Street Theater, the 58-year-old Hayes was a walking catalog of cover-ups who attracted a cult following of tax resisters, mutant hippies and gun-totin' computer geeks. But though Hayes was unflinching in his criticism, he never descended into black-helicopter paranoia. Portland lost an original voice when this former logger, machinist and union organizer died of a brain aneurysm-on Friday the 13th.


* Obese paraplegic Steven Dons shoots and kills Portland Police Officer Colleen Waibel at his home during a pot bust gone bad. Dons later strangles himself in his jail cell.

* Institute for Brewing Studies reports flat sales among Portland microbrewers, after seven years of double-digit growth. Top factors to blame: a severe drop in out-of-state demand and the persistent advertising of megabrewers such as Anheuser-Busch.

* Farmworkers union PCUN (Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste) signs the first union contract in Oregon history between farmworkers and growers. Twenty workers at Nature's Foundation Farm, an organic blueberry and strawberry farm in Woodburn, are now guaranteed breaks, overtime, holidays and seniority.

* After shooting his parents, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel goes on a rampage at Thurston High School in Springfield, killing two students and wounding 22.

* Business Week reports that Portland's cost of living is rising at a faster rate than in any other city. Since 1991, life's necessities for the average Portland resident have jumped 25 percent, while national prices rose only 15 percent.

* The Princeton Review names Reed College the country's top academic school for undergraduates for 1998. The college places third in the "reefer madness" category.

* Sure, no one wants a homeless shelter or a sewage-treatment plant in their neighborhood. But westside NIMBYs redefine parochialism when they oppose a Holocaust memorial in Washington Park. It will take six agonizing years before the memorial finally opens.

* After 17 years in captivity, Keiko the killer whale is hoisted out of his tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, packed in ice and flown in an Air Force C-17 cargo plane to Iceland, near his original diving-grounds. Departure of the cetacean star of the 1993 movie Free Willy makes Oregonians blubber and-er-wail.

* Some 160,000 metro-area residents celebrate the arrival of westside MAX. TriMet's 18-mile line, which includes a three-mile tunnel through the West Hills, is an engineering triumph, but it draws fire from local Buddhist clerics who fear that the tunnel, which runs beneath a cemetery, may have disturbed the souls of the dead. Later the clerics hold a ceremony to reassure ancestral spirits that all is well.

* Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie-swing is in, man, and all the hep cats are dressing zoot and cutting the rug. Eugenesters the Cherry Poppin' Daddies' new album, Zoot Suit Riot, climbs the charts.

* Hold your breath: Oregon voters approve the use of marijuana as medicine. By June 1999, infirm inhalers can sign up for an official get-out-of-jail-free card with the Oregon Health Division if they can get a doctor's note. Registration fee: $150 a year.

* Peter Klarquist, 20, who suffers from manic depression, gouges out his eyes in the Multnomah County jail. The system is broken, people.


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