Marriage: It’s Not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon

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Published: 4/15/15. By Steve Strode, PQ Monthly,

Anyone who knows me knows I’m geeked on running and soggy outdoor life. I joined Portland Frontrunners immediately upon moving to the Pacific Northwest, and it became an integral part of my chosen family.  And in my biz as a Realtor, we often have clients who share common interests and passions — many of my clients fit the same scruffy runner/biker/hiker stereotype. How totally cool to have that in one’s profession?

Running also serves as a metaphor for life in general.  The day before sitting down to write this article, I was having a horrible trail run — fueled in part by a prior evening filled with tequila. So I paused on the Wild Cherry Trail in Forest Park, and for the first time read a memorial plaque I’ve run past countless times. On it was a quote from Olympic athlete Julie Isphording, “Running has given me the courage to start, the determination to keep trying, and the childlike spirit to have fun along the way. Run often and run long, but never outrun your joy of running.”

Knowing that this month’s edition was the marriage issue, two gentlemen immediately came to mind as emblematic — Bob Olsen and Bruce Swanson. Bob and Bruce relocated here a few years ago from Baltimore; Bob, 75, is a retired architect/urban planner and Bruce, 69, is a retired minister.  They’ve been together nearly twenty years, and before that were both married — and now have grandchildren. They met at a Gay Married Men’s group in DC, and were introduced by a mutual friend who knew they were both running junkies.  Not to my surprise, their first date was a ½ marathon; and since it was sponsored by the Boy Scouts, they wore t-shirts protesting the BSA’s anti-gay stance.

When you meet Bruce and Bob at their home, you immediately know they have built a loving life together through a shared passion of running and the travel that goes with it. A display of a bazillion finisher medal reads like a timeline. Bob has completed 85 marathons; Bruce has completed 141 marathons and ultras. And their calendar continues to be filled with upcoming races.  Both started running in their 30s and 40s in response to adversity. Bruce was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at the age of 34, has been on medication ever since, and is still considered to have a “terminal” illness. Bob began running for health reasons and recalled memories similar to my own  (the first ¼ mile felt like he was going to die, but eventually it became the time and space to make important decisions, the time to meditate and the time to clear one’s mind).  “Running saved my life,” he says unequivocally.

Distance running enables athletes to travel the world, and experience it way differently than conventional tourists.  The guys reeled off stories of one race after another, in places I never thought organized events. Who knew that Baffin Island held a competition (OK, who even knows where that is precisely, without Googling)? The entire field consisted of 13 marathoners, and 5 ultrarunners — that’s all they had room to host.  And there was Tanzania. And Mongolia. And the Great Wall of China. And Brazil. The list goes on. One of my favorite stories was their race in Antarctica. Due to weather issues on their race day, they couldn’t leave the ship and take the zodiac ashore. So the participants did the entire marathon on the ship — in the form of 422 deck laps.  They had to run the race in shifts; those who weren’t running checked off each lap on a clipboard, one check box at a time.

Bob and Bruce married last year. I asked if they debated whether or not to get married — or if they just knew they would, as soon as it was legal. Bob’s answer was similar to many: “we weren’t sure, but wanted the choice to be ours.”  I was at their wedding last summer in Willamette Park, and it was a really refreshing mix of communities — family from their prior marriages, friends from all over, church community, new friends at Terwilliger Plaza (a continuing care retirement community where they live), and friends from their running group. When I shared that observation, Bob and Bruce said what I saw on wedding day was exactly why they moved to Portland. From a geographic perspective, they feel Portland has the best urban trail running in the country. But more importantly, they could create a blended community.  They had some family already in Portland, they felt welcome and loved at Terwilliger Plaza, could be active in the United Church of Christ, and have buddies of all ages at Frontrunners.

As we were wrapping up our chat, Bob said he wanted to get back to something he said earlier, about just wanting the choice to get married — but not initially feeling it was essential. He recalled that when they had wills drawn up back in Maryland, the term that had to be used in defining their relationship was “legal strangers.”  Now nearly a year after getting married, he’s continually struck by how good it feels to refer to Bruce as his husband when talking to his friends and family.

If Frontrunners ever chooses patriarchs, it’ll be these gents.  Happy trails.

            Steve Strode is a broker with Meadows Group Inc., Realtors in Portland. When he is not selling the American dream, he is probably wallowing on a muddy trail run somewhere in the PNW. He may be reached at steve@sagepacificliving.com.

SOLD – Mt. Tabor View Home

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520 SE 73rd Ave, Portland | 4 BR | 3 Baths | 2 Car Garage | Large Yard | $599,900 | MLS# 15572482

Charming Mt. Tabor eyebrow bungalow, with breathtaking Mt. Hood views from main and upper level. Period details, abundant light and great flow make this home truly special. Entire upstairs is owner’s suite with its own large sitting area. Lower level includes separate entrance, bath, and family room. Like to entertain? Check out the multi-level decks leading down to a large backyard. Lush landscaping and two-car garage to boot!

 

 

Success Stories

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Published 2/18/15. By Steve Strode, PQ Monthly

“Closets are For Clothes.” I remember buying a t-shirt printed thusly when I was about twenty years old. At the time I felt like it was a huge deal to wear it—even in progressive Wisconsin. Yes, left-coasters, Wisconsin has a progressive heritage (disregard current news cycles). Wherever there is a person in the closet, there is a person whose full, true self is diminished in some way. And there is a reason that the closet metaphor has worked so well. Home symbolizes our safe place, our refuge.  I write this on the day that gay marriage becomes legal in Alabama, and it hits home how different life can be in the LGBT community depending upon which side of a state line we live.

On this third anniversary of PQ, I’m reflecting on its purpose—to write about what is, what should be, what we’ve done wrong and what we’ve done right. In these pages we’ve read regularly about the trials and tribulations of dudes dating in an app-based world. We report on various phobias, and create new terminology to help understand why many in a “Q-diaspora” are still marginalized or at-risk.  This is really important stuff and the only way to effect positive change. But it’s nice to reflect on the good stuff too.

This month I’m not writing about the brick and mortar, or transactional side of real estate.  But rather, I’m focusing on my subsection of the LGBT community—chiefly, gay men who have managed to stick together for decades or more. Not because we’re special in any way; rather, because there are both universal themes in maintaining committed relationships, combined with the ability to write ones own rules.
Through the power of Facebook, I reconnected with a colleague from many years ago named Tim Clausen. In addition to being a talented jazz pianist, he is a great interviewer—the kind of guy with a soft and soothing voice that would make anyone want to open up and share. For example, post-9/11, he conducted interviews with widows, then sent them the recordings to share with their young children once they were old enough to learn about their lost parent. It takes a special guy to come up with that idea. I was happy to learn that Tim just released a book entitled Love Together: Long Term Male Couples on Healthy Intimacy and Communication.

For the book he interviewed about a hundred couples from throughout the United States, and chose a couple dozen for print. Just entering the 19th year with my partner, I really wish I would have had something like this to read early on. Most of us didn’t have the benefit of same-gender parents to learn from, or a how-to manual on how gay coupledom works. From my perspective of how the world worked, you find someone—the one—and once you’ve decided you loved that someone, you settle down.  While gay marriage was still illegal everywhere, the relationship was to resemble mom and pop’s.

One of the couples that Tim interviewed for the book were from Portland—Eric Marcoux and Eugene Woodworth, partnered for sixty years. Eugene has since passed, but I really enjoyed reading about their relationship and hearing Tim speak so fondly of them on a recent public radio show. They shared their stories of how they met, and techniques they used to stay together for so many years.  Like any long-term relationship, there was the spark that brought them together. But it was a combination of ongoing communication, intentional routines, and impulsive bits of generosity that helped maintain the bonds for a lifetime. “Consistency and continuity keep our relationship growing. By consistency I mean we are constantly telling each other ‘I love you’ and constantly touching each other. For a relationship to last, make sure it’s based on love rather than lust. There’s nothing wrong with lust, but it may not last that long.” That’s a tough one to reconcile, since men are so visually oriented (want confirmation? Scroll through almost any gay guy’s web browser history).

Couples in the book also engage in frank discussions about monogamy versus open relationships. Years ago, I was told that couples who were open were looking to fill a void, to make up for a deficiency. It was just a last-gasp attempt before breaking up, rather than enhancing an already full life.  Again, communication enables couples to write their own rules and decide what works. In the decade since moving to Portland, I’ve seen every type of gay relationship arrangement; some work, some fail.  But we’re allowed to figure it out, perhaps with more freedom than our straight counterparts. And I know Tim’s words will provide insight and inspiration to many.

In the book, I read a quote from Eric Marcoux that I think could’ve been written by Jose, my partner. And if you know him, I know you agree he’d say that about me! “We’re quite different, and he really does irritate me a lot, but I’ve never loved anybody the way I love him.”

Steve Strode is a broker with Meadows Group Inc., Realtors in Portland. When he is not selling the American dream, he is probably wallowing on a muddy trail run somewhere in the PNW. He may be reached at  steve@sagepacificliving.com. For more info on the book visit: www.lovetogetherbook.com.

SOLD!

5141 SW Shattuck | 2 BR | 2 1/2 Baths | Well priced at $285,000

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This spacious townhome lives like new. Neat as a pin, including new carpet and fresh paint, this affordable condo offers great value in a convenient location. Beautiful wood, open kitchen, smart floorplan, two balconies and great light round out the interior. Outside, you’ll enjoy the great proximity to coffee shop, grocery store and all area amenities. Less than 5 minutes to Hillsdale, and super-easy commute either east or west.

 

Follow Your Bliss

 

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Publish date: 12/17/14 By Steve Strode, PQ Monthly

When asked what I love most about my job, the answer is quick and always the same, “the great variety of people I meet!” Sure, the 10PM call when there is midnight contingency deadline is both annoying and usually 100% avoidable if someone hadn’t dropped the ball. But when the deal closes, and anyone needing to be talked off a proverbial ledge is now calm, I can’t envision doing anything else for a career.

We tend to typecast white collar professional gay guys—urban, stylish house, some type of fun car—probably foreign, and the relaxing trips to Palm Springs or Hawaii each winter. I love meeting people who defy these stereotypes and happily chart their own course. Which leads me to this story.

Mark Schmidt and Dan Sapp work at Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, and Brian Winner works at Wells Fargo as a Financial Crimes Manager. Mark and Dan met in Michigan about 14 years ago, then moved to Oregon in the past decade. About five years ago they met Brian, and in getting to know each other found their lifestyle values were very much aligned.

Owning a home in North Portland, they developed an interest in farming, and over a period of time an original small garden grew to cover most of the property. Fruit trees were added. And of course, there had to be chickens (sorry, I didn’t ask their names or provenance). The guys began canning vegetables too. The goal really became about growing as much food for themselves as they could in this urban homestead.  Neither Mark nor Dan grew up on a farm, but rather the suburbs of Detroit; Brian’s grandma had a 10-acre farm near Cottage Grove on which he used to help occasionally. So it was an evolutionary process for all of them.

About four years ago, by then running out of urban farm space, they decided to pursue this passion further, and began looking for a farm within a 90-minute radius of Portland.  After exploring lots of areas, scouring the consumer and foreclosure websites, they honed in on Puget Island and the town of Cathlamet.  If you’re like me, I needed a little geography lesson when we all first met; picture the drive from Portland to Astoria and it’s a little more than half-way between the two cities.

I asked why they chose Cathlamet and it was for totally objective reasons—water rights, close to Portland, but far enough out to be affordable. Imagine Sauvie Island West without the beach.  The big unknown was the subjective part. How would a rural community react to three gay dudes buying a farm together? And here was the pleasant surprise—they felt the community itself was very progressive and they met other transplants from Portland, Seattle and the Bay Area.  Moreover, Mark, Dan, and Brian were excited by the community of talented artists and professional types, dedicated to agricultural and environmental stewardship, who have all created their own paths to coalesce here. As far as any other LGBT population, they’re still getting settled and getting to know people—having just sold their home in Portland and closed on the farm (called Blue Skies Farm of Puget Island) in the past year. But they were already impressed and have heard great things about the local PFLAG chapter.

When talking about the logistics of the move, we chatted about what else they’d have to consider because of taking this plunge. And here it boiled down to the old adage “don’t quit your day job.” This is a labor of love and a long-term commitment, not a get-rich scheme. Working an established farm is hard; creating a farm is even harder. There are significant barriers for entry into farming—land  acquisition, and money for capital expenses such as equipment and greenhouses (hence the desire to sell the Portland home). They’ll keep a small condo in Portland and maintain their careers.  But it boils down to envisioning the type of world they want to live in, then doing their part in a little corner of the world to make it so.

Final thoughts from the guys? First, was recalling a unique contingency from the purchase of the farm—requesting that the seller remove four inches of goat poop covering the front porch, which had accumulated while the property sat vacant.

But in a more pleasant memory, Mark recalled when they got their first batch of honey and realized “Wow, we can do this!”

Steve Strode is a broker with Meadows Group in Portland. He serves on the Global Leadership team of the National Association of Realtors, and also learned about sustainable and organic farming practices in Cuba this past Spring. He can be reached at steve@sagepacificliving.com.

SOLD – Calling all Mod Lovers and Urban Farmers

SOLD – 530 N Russet St, Portland | 3 BR | 1 & 1/2 Baths | NEW PRICE – $389,900

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Here is your antidote to cookie-cutter new construction! This extensively updated ranch lives large while retaining an efficient footprint. Sited privately on a large lot, think of this as the oasis for the urban farmer who likes to entertain. Updates inside include Marvin wood windows, quartz floors, wood stove, water heater, hybrid heat pump, and ductwork. Party flow with large dining room and impressive vaulted great room – complete with wet bar, home theater wiring & secluded patio. Outside bonuses include a second kitchen and patio, plentiful fruit & veggie gardens, and a dozen fruit trees. Enjoy!

SOLD – Hot Mt. Tabor Neighborhood!

1134 SE 60th Ave | 3 BR | 3 BA | 2621 sf | $539,900 | MLS# 14109017

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Enjoy this beautifully updated Mt. Tabor just minutes to Division, Hawthorne, and Belmont hotspots. Extensively updated from top to bottom, inside and out. Perched off the street for maximum light, this home retains lots of original charm, with some modern elements thrown in for a smart contrast. Great flow inside, two car attached garage, and the huge private backyard is a sweet retreat.

SOLD – Modern Lover’s Delight

SOLD. 7828 SE 119th Dr | 2699 sf | 3 BR  2 1/2 Baths

This smartly updated retreat will call you home. Sited perfectly to embrace abundant light & mountain views, just simply unpack and enjoy! Updates include modern cook’s kitchen, powder room, carpet, furnace, exterior and interior paint. Nicely flowing floorplan invites a myriad of living options inside, and outside offers two decks – including one overlooking a peaceful koi pond & lush landscaping. Great proximity to Brookside Park,  Leach Botanical Garden and Springwater Corridor; easy commute downtown, Max Green Line, Clackamas, and PDX. MLS#14399145

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Milwaukie Modern – Clean Lines, Abundant Space, Private Retreat

TOO LATE! But let me help you find your own modern space. I’m an Accredited Buyer’s Agent too.

1131 SE River Forest Rd, Milwaukie | 4 BR, 3 Bath | Over 3,600 square feet | $450,000 | MLS# 13146317

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Peacefully sited on a lush 1/2+ acre lot, this immaculate mid-century home is move-in ready. Recently remodeled and updated with new flooring, windows, high-efficiency furnace, circular paver drive & more. Scaled nicely for day-to-day living, yet large enough for any need – open floor plan in main house, expansive daylight basement, separate office, family/music room and guest apartment over garage.  Sellers have loved the warm and engaging neighborhood community with monthly book group and potlucks – and being close to the public boat ramp to boot!  Enjoy the natural and serene setting, while living within super-easy reach to Portland. Additional MLS detail here.

 

Hey, How is the Market?

THE HOME FRONT “Hey, how is the market?”

By Steve Strode,  originally published in PQ Monthly, November, 2013

It’s the question always asked at a cocktail party, when one learns there’s a realtor in their midst. People are used to hearing daily news on the macro-level—national foreclosure rates, price appreciation, inventory shortages. But what they really want to know is: How are things in their neighborhood? So now my standard response is, “Where do you live?” While that’s sometimes interpreted as a pick up line, it’s a completely necessary question.

Nothing is more local than real estate. Chiefly, it’s how we build community—one block at a time. Coming out of the recession, the majority of foreclosures were confined to a handful of states. But we still felt collectively paralyzed—that it was doom and gloom everywhere. And then we noticed. Places like Portland were starting to do okay; then later, doing well.

As I’m writing this article, I’m sitting in a hotel lobby in San Francisco, about to attend a Symposium on Sustainable Development. The program reads, “Sustainable development begins from the ground up. The first step is to change the way we think.” And I smile, knowing that what we live and breathe in Portland is not quirky or weird. It’s the future, but we’ve been experiencing it for years.

The National Association of Realtors just published survey results entitled, “Neighborhood Preferences are Changing,” which provides further support that Portland is getting it right—in the big picture. Sixty percent of respondents want a mix of housing, shops and services that are walkable. The majority responded they would give up a larger yard or would buy a smaller home if they could have a shorter commute. Seventy-eight percent said the neighborhood is more important than the house size. Having access to different types of transportation modes also rank very highly.

And what we’re seeing are buyers and renters willing to walk the talk. In major cities everywhere, Millennials are leading the charge. They are trading the car-dependent suburban culture they grew up in, exchanging them for an urban lifestyle, choosing micro-apartments of 400 square feet or less. The apartment is a place to sleep; the neighborhood and its amenities have become the living room.

These trends are playing out daily with buyers and colleagues I know. Professionally-marketed homes in close-in Portland are getting offers soon after hitting the market—often multiple ones. We’re seeing hot building trends in Portland, too. For example, every vacant lot along Southeast Division appears to be an apartment construction zone. A few builders are selling their formulaic “McInfill” homes on every available lot (I’m trying to coin that term as an urban version of “McMansion”—you read it here first). We all have friends desperately seeking an apartment, or know first-time buyers competing for homes.

All is not perfect. Re-development and new urban development is often viewed as a zero-sum game. The LGBT community is often associated with gentrification. We’ve moved into areas that have been maligned by the majority, renovated homes, and created vibrant neighborhoods. But these same neighborhoods have also been home to other groups for generations—and they often reach a tipping point where it becomes too costly for long-term residents to remain.

In the nationwide public radio show “State of the Re:Union,” host Al Letson featured Portland, discussed the North Williams corridor and interviewed African-American residents who have experienced the changes. In an only-in-Portland fashion, it was the bike lane proposals that helped bring racial issues to the surface, but also brought an opportunity for dialogue. Imagine being a multi-generational black resident, getting frequent calls to sell your house. You see this as your family’s neighborhood—and while the white callers meant no harm, they are not realizing that same call has been received dozens of times previously. (Disclaimer: as a realtor I am not suggesting “black” and “white” neighborhoods, but sharing an anecdote from Letson’s program.) As affordability has waned, we see various population shifts. And unfortunately, the same things that people like best about living close-in are not yet prevalent in neighborhoods on the periphery. Children have lost their sidewalks. Commute times are longer.

Local community is built through local involvement, and as someone on that radio show quipped, “If you don’t have a seat at the table, you don’t get fed.” Engagement has to be at the neighborhood level. If surveys indicate that we want walkable neighborhoods, this cannot be tied to income. On the whole, we’re getting it right in Portland and we’re well-poised for the future. But to create a sustainable model for all, we have to create that same sense of “local” in all Portland neighborhoods.

Steve Strode is a realtor in the Portland metro area, and co-founder of rEqual – an LGBT housing and advocacy organization. Steve is also President of Portland Frontrunners. He can be reached at steve@sagepacificliving.com.

It Takes a Village

THE HOME FRONT The Home Front: It takes a village

Originally published in PQ Monthly, August, 2013.

Maybe it’s because the campaign for “Hillary 2016” already seems to be full swing that the title of her 1996 book came to mind. But it does tie in nicely to the theme for this month’s article. Over the course of the our queer civil rights movement, our tent has continued to enlarge (and get more fabulous); in my lifetime I’ve seen the evolution from “Gay & Lesbian,” to LGB, to LGBT to LGBTQ — and the initialism continues to grow.

On the home front, our needs and wants continue to evolve, too. No longer marginalized to specific neighborhoods, our housing choices tend to mirror the public at-large. Some of us want to walk/bike/bus to work, some want that extra space and privacy in the suburbs, while others seek a little place in the country — “Brokeback Mountain”-style. And more commonly, our households have become more multi-generational; we’re having or adopting children, or moving in parents during their final years. And in higher cost-of-living places like Portland, countless of us have housemates to share expenses.

Portland is city of in-migration. How often do we find ourselves simply asking, “Where are you from originally?” It’s almost presumptive that that person came from elsewhere. “I’m a Portlandia interloper, so you must be too!” Many of us have biological families far outside of Portland, which we visit as often as we can. But on a day-to-day basis, it’s our chosen family that we see, rely on, and love as our own. We form these chosen families through joining groups or getting involved in community organizations. In my case, one of those is Portland Frontrunners. Most of the group has moved to Portland from elsewhere, so newbies are warmly welcomed. The same can be said for groups like the Portland Gay Men’s Chorus, the Amazon Dragons, OutKayaking, our synagogue, and so on.

We also embrace the concept of intentional living. Intentional living is the desire to live in a manner that is consistent with our core beliefs and values. Whether it be an ecological consciousness, concern for fair trade, or social equality, Oregonians see the global big picture in how we live locally. Basically, we want to walk the talk.

In the world of real estate, nowhere are the ideas of “chosen family” and “intentional living” better manifested than in cohousing. Cohousing is not a hippie commune. With cohousing, people buy and sell their homes just as any other condominium. But there are inherent features that set it apart from most condos; for many this is exactly what they are looking for in their community. Recently, my running buddy turned client, Bill Cunnighame, bought a unit at Daybreak Cohousing. He offered to share his reason for buying and his experience thus far.

Steve: Why compelled you to buy?

Bill: I knew I wanted to downsize so I went to an open house. It was conducted by both the homeowner community and the realtors. The room was packed with interested parties.

Steve: What caught your attention about cohousing vs. a regular condo?

Bill: The intentional way of living in the community. You have to buy in to the concept. You’re not just sharing common walls — but share maintenance, landscaping, garden spaces, group dinners. Everyone knows the children.

Steve: What do you like most about the community?

Bill: The pleasant surprises — it’s truly multi-generational. I work from home during the day and I crank open my windows just to hear the kids playing. In some ways it’s an extension of my First Unitarian Church community — inclusiveness, concern for sustainable environments, or shared spaces like the woodworking room, which minimize excessive possessions.

Steve: What appeal do you see for the LGBTQ community?

Bill: It’s very diverse — straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual. A single lesbian just had a baby and the community offered to chip in with babysitting. I wanted it to be a mixed environment with all ages and types of people, with lots to learn from each other.

Steve: Any advice or things you would’ve done differently?

Bill: Just be very thorough. Attend group dinners before buying; ask tons of questions. Meet everyone.

As Bill summed up, cohousing is not for everyone. You interact much more with neighbors than a conventional condominium, and there is an expectation that everyone is engaged in operations to the best of their ability. But it fills an important niche for the homebuying segment who seeks something just a little bit different and a little bit more. How Portland indeed!

Steve Strode is Portland-area realtor with Meadows Group Inc., Realtors. He is also co-founder of a newly forming non-profit organization called rEqual, a nationwide LGBT real estate coalition.

SOLD. $551,650. Southwest near OSHU and downtown

I am also an Accredited Buyer’s Representative. Please contact me to find your next home.

4242 SW Condor Ave | 3 BR, 2 and 1/2 Baths | 2 Car Garage | $550,000 | MLS 13597446

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Dialed-in and ready, this sweet contemporary is priced to move. Complete renovation & stellar addition completed in 2008. Perfectly scaled with open floorplan & loaded with goodies – 11′ ceilings, malaccan floors, quartz countertops & extensive tilework. Owners’ en suite is a true delight. Making an irresistible home even more irresistible – unobstructed Mt. Hood views, and great proximity to OHSU, downtown and waterfront.

eXp Realty | phone 503-490-4116 | licensed in oregon