Rain and wind blew across the parking lot at Oswald West State Park. It was a weekday morning in October and the parking lot was empty. I parked my car, loaded up my gear and took the path to the Matt Kramer Memorial, perhaps my favorite inspirational place in Oregon.
Kramer was a veteran journalist whose dogged and unbiased reporting helped save Oregon’s beaches from privatization during the fight to pass the Beach Bill in 1967. The state erected a memorial in the park to commemorate his reporting in 1972. Something like that occurring today is right out of science fiction.
I have visited the memorial at least 50 times since I first discovered it 15 or so years ago after reading a footnote in an obscure history of Oregon State Parks. Since that discovery, I have written thousands of words about this unique memorial in at least a dozen publications. I wanted everyone in Oregon to know what Kramer did with his writing. I’ve always said any writer needing inspiration should visit the memorial. Every Oregon journalist in training should lay hands on it and imagine where great journalism can lead.
As I walked the path, paralleling the creek, through a dripping old growth stand of Sitka spruces, hemlocks and Western red cedars, past massive downed trees and root wads, I thought about previous visits to this park and memorial and began to construct a Matt Kramer-themed stream of consciousness in my mind. I doubt he would have approved. He was more of an inverted pyramid straight news man. It is my hope that one day I can become an inverted pyramid straight news man and write on issues with the succinct clarity that Kramer once did. And make the writing count for the greater Oregon good and not have one word of it about me.
There were three field trips, one in 4.75 inches of rain, fires, soggy Subway lunches, pizza, football, Led Zeppelin on the boombox, pledges and poetry, a special magazine, a middle finger to Lars Larson, the Field Trip Runaways smoking dope, jump rope with kelp, presentations, talks and tours, dates, crushes, a Christian youth group outing in my youth, a secret kiss in the driftwood in 1976 with a lapsed Christian girl wearing yellow, rain, mist, Rose, Rose on the Memorial, bringing tools to care for the Memorial (remember caulk next time!) This park and this memorial encompass my whole Oregon life. Honor it forever. Keep writing about it forever. Keep coming here forever.
I groomed the memorial as I always do, and left behind a token for anyone curious enough to visit this place.
It was time to go and continue my journey into reinvention.
I came down the rooted trail from the memorial into the clearing that overlooks the beach. On the beach, in substantial rain, three young people, one man, two women, were taking pictures with phones in that easily identifiable Instagramming/curating style. Their presence seemed impossible since the parking lot had been empty. They very well could have been part of a national Instagram campaign of the types I have been reading about with mounting astonishment.
An idea sprung to mind, catapulted there by rain! Why not head down the beach and give them a heads up on the memorial and let them showcase it to the larger Instagram world? Matt Kramer on Instagram! If they were all gorgeous and wearing cool sexy clothes then it would be even more spectacular!
I watched them ply among the driftwood, along the beach, and hop across a stream. They knew what they were doing with their phones. They were pros!
Matt Kramer on Instagram? #mattkramermemorial. Perhaps one day, but not this morning. That is, unless the trio found it themselves. It could happen. The Instragram van probably wasn’t picking them up for another hour. If it did happen, I wonder what they’d make of the token I left behind. I’m sure it would result in some hashtag.
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