“I Graduated, Joined PR Circus” – New Intern Dustin Nelson

 by Dustin Nelson

“I’ve always known that I wanted to be a professional juggler.”

While my lack of hand-eye coordination has kept me from pursuing a literal career in juggling, my passion for juggling multiple projects led me to the metaphorical PR circus that is public relations. It’s often difficult for me to explain to friends and family what exactly a public relations professional does and that’s exactly what I love about it. Working in PR allows me to be many things at once, from a writer (my first passion), to a branding consultant, to a crisis manager.

university of montana building

Hailing from the town of Missoula, Montana I studied journalism at the University of Montana where I took a four-year crash course in balancing my many passions and academic and professional impulses. While I discovered journalism wasn’t exactly the direction I wanted to take professionally, what I learned was that I love people and writing.

After graduating this spring, my passion for food, wine, and PR brought me to Portland.

At heart, I’ve always felt more like a city boy trapped in the country, albeit beautiful country, so my journey to Portland was a smooth transition. While I expected the great food and wine that your fair city delivered to my ever-expanding waistline, what I didn’t expect was how much I would love the people of Portland.

For a big city, Portland has a sense of community that rivals many of the 3,000 population Montana towns I’ve visited.

From the time I pretended to be some random girl’s boyfriend to help rid her of an unwanted drunken suitor at a beer festival, to the staff at Thai Noodle who know our orders like we’re family, building relationships with the folks around here has been easy. I’ve known since I stumbled off the airplane at PDX that I wanted to help tell the stories of this community in whatever forms they take.

oregon wagon image

Everyone has a story to tell, and while some people put it into words, others tell their stories through the things they create, businesses, products, food, and art. A public relations professional gets to be the gatekeeper to such stories, we help businesses communicate their stories to help shape the way people live their lives and interact with their community. It may be a circus in this new world, but to me, the strange is familiar and I can’t wait to learn some new acts.

AM:PM PR Colleague Returns from Cross-Country Bike Trip

Earlier this year AM:PM PR colleague Bill MacKenzie traveled from Los Angeles to Boston (and places in between) on a cross-country bike trip, fulfilling a childhood dream. This week he was featured in a Hillsboro Tribune article and we have reprinted the article here with permission, along with a couple of photos from Bill’s ride.

* * *

Going cross-country on two wheels

Hillsboro Tribune – July 22, 2013

By Doug Burkhardt

Bill MacKenzie is finally home in Oregon after what he characterized as “a grueling, but fun, 3,459-mile bicycle ride from Los Angeles to Boston.”

As he relaxed and savored his recently completed cross-country bike journey, MacKenzie — who worked for 15 years in Hillsboro as Intel’s communications manager in Oregon — said he well knows the United States is a very big country.

“But ever since I was a kid, when my parents gave me a shiny black English three-speed bike, I’ve wanted to cycle across the country from sea to shining sea,” he said.

MacKenzie decided to make his dream become a reality early this year as he neared his Feb. 1 retirement from Intel Corp.

“I thought about it for years,” he said. “I created a poster for my gray cubicle wall. It was a map of the U.S. with a line drawn across it to show a bike route and the words, ‘If I can dream it, I can do it.’”

Even with endless determination, however, MacKenzie, who lives in Lake Oswego, knew training was also essential.

“I trained vigorously, either riding my bike outdoors on 25-mile to 100-mile trips or indoors on a trainer at Club Sport in Tigard,” he said.

MacKenzie also located a company called Crossroads Cycling Adventures that specialized in assisting cross-country cycling expeditions.

“They said they would carry our bags, have vans on the road to keep us safe, arrange our meals and put us up in hotels along the way,” MacKenzie explained. “I’ve done one-week camping rides before, but had no desire to do it all across the United States. The company’s leader assured me I didn’t need to be an Olympian to do the ride, so I made the leap and signed up.”

MacKenzie said he made sure he had all the necessary bike upkeep and travel items and kept it all within the 30-pound weight limit set by Crossroads Cycling, which is based in Littleton, Colo. After that he arranged for Lakeside Bicycles in Lake Oswego to ship his two-wheeler — a U.S.-made Trek road bike — to the starting point in California. And then he booked a flight to L.A.


bill dipping bike wheels in pacific ocean at manhattan beach, california

To start the cross country ride, Bill dipped his back tire in the Pacific at Manhattan Beach in California.

West Coast launch

There were 25 riders in MacKenzie’s group. The youngest was a 22-year-old woman from England and the oldest was a 76-year-old man who had once climbed Mount Everest.

“We launched at Manhattan Beach, Calif., on May 11, after dipping our rear wheels in the Pacific,” MacKenzie recalled.

According to MacKenzie, the group of cyclists bonded as they traveled through 117-degree heat in the California desert; across never-ending hills in Missouri; and in daunting thunderstorms in New England.

“Our route taught us history lessons every day,” said MacKenzie. “It took us through desert in California, over the Continental Divide in New Mexico, along historic Route 66, to Dorothy’s house at the ‘Wizard of Oz’ park and the Dalton Brothers’ hideout in Kansas. We rode the Lewis & Clark Trail in Missouri, crossed the swiftly flowing Mississippi River into Illinois, rode alongside the Erie Canal in New York and pedaled through historic Concord and Lexington in Massachusetts.”

MacKenzie said the trip reaffirmed his own sense of optimism and pride in the country.


Bill posing at the New Mexico border.

Bill posing at the New Mexico border.

“Every single day of our trip was an adventure,” said MacKenzie, “and no matter where we went, American flags were flying, reflecting American pride in our past and faith in the future. Flags lined the streets and flew from just about every home, enveloping you in good feelings.”

‘You’re in Kansas’

In Kansas, the team of bicyclists — most of whom came from urban environments — learned a bit about cultural differences when faced with their own preconceptions about city life as contrasted with life in a small farm town.

“One day a rider commented in a restaurant that he’d parked his bike near a window so he could watch it in case somebody tried to steal it,” said MacKenzie. “A man in a nearby booth overheard his remark and said, ‘Son, you don’t need to worry about that here. You’re in Kansas.’”


Buck's famous cinnamon rolls.

At a stop in Marysville, Missouri, Bill shakes Buck’s hand before enjoying one of Buck’s famous cinnamon rolls.

Not every town offered a positive feeling, however. Ironically, MacKenzie said he believed a town that had been celebrated in a classic rock song from the early 1970s had lost its way.

“There was Winslow, Ariz., made famous by the Eagles song, ‘Take it Easy,’ along the old Route 66,” MacKenzie explained. “A dying town, it seems to continue only so it can showcase its mention in the song.”

Residents of another town put their sense of humor on display. In Hillsboro, Ind., MacKenzie and his fellow bikers got a good laugh out of the banner townspeople had set up to greet their arrival.

“Hillsboro had a large welcome sign at the town’s border saying, ‘Home of 600 happy people and a few old soreheads,’” he recalled.


Bill dips his bike wheels in the Atlantic.

Completing the journey past Boston, Bill dips his bike wheels in the Atlantic.

On June 28, after 49 days of traveling on two wheels, MacKenzie’s band of bicycle adventurers arrived in Boston, where they engaged in a celebratory “front-wheel-dipping” ceremony in the Atlantic Ocean.

“In a downpour, of course,” he said. “I got a lump in my throat and a few tears rolled down my cheeks as I realized we’d finished. It was truly the trip of a lifetime.”


lemongrass portland




Jake Ten Pas
by Jake Ten Pas

I don’t really believe in the concept of reverse racism. At least not in America. Racism is based on power, and, well, this isn’t a blog about reverse racism, so I won’t waste any more of your time with my philosophical ramblings. I simply mention it to preface what I’m about to say.

Reverse racism exists, and nowhere is it more prevalent than in Thai restaurants in Portland. If you don’t believe me, try a little experiment:

Step 1) If you’re white (and also a masochist), go into a Thai restaurant and order your favorite dish at the spiciest level the restaurant offers. This will usually be a four or five.

Step 2) Be disappointed.

Step 3) Invite one of your Asian friends to join you for the same meal at the same restaurant. If you don’t have an Asian friend, make one.

Step 4) Go back and order the same dish at the same level of heat.

jake ten pas sweating
Step 5) Enjoy (Unless you’re one of those “normal” people, who don’t like having your taste buds burned off of your tongue with edible lava, or the impending gastrointestinal discomfort that will surely accompany it).

Step 6) Come to the mandatory conclusion that white folks simply can’t get any respect when trying to order spicy at Thai restaurants. You might want to have a pillow handy, so you don’t have to cry into your sleeve.

Now that we’ve all learned something about the brutal nature of modern life, allow me to blow your mind. What if I were to tell you that there’s a Thai restaurant in Portland where the color of your skin not only doesn’t matter, but where the heat scale goes up not just to five, not even to eleven, but to TWENTY.

It’s called Lemongrass, and it’s located in a beautiful, if slightly dilapidated, old house on N.E. Couch St. The restaurant’s menu is pretty simple compared to many Thai places, and the staff seems to consist entirely of the family that owns the place. If you’re looking for either a luxurious or cookie-cutter dining experience, stay away. This means you, angry man on Yelp.

If, however, you’re looking to eat some incredibly delicious Thai food, and sweat out all the toxins in your body (and perhaps a few pints of essential bodily fluids), Lemongrass is the place for you.

Explaining to our host my issue with most Thai joints’ underestimation of my threshold for pain, I was met with eyes that said they’d heard it all before. I was told that I should probably order a level two on my green curry to match other restaurants’ level 5. Full of the sin of pride, I ordered a level three and braced myself.

Jake Ten Pas celebrating
Did I weep openly? Did I gnash my teeth? Did my internal organs liquefy? No. I’m a professional, people. I’ve eaten something called a Satan’s Handroll, Salvador Molly’s Balls of Fire and even attempted Orochon Ramen’s Special #2 noodle challenge.

But it was damn spicy, and full of flavor that surpassed that spice to disprove the notion that when a dish is too hot, all you can taste is the heat. And this was a level three. Imagine a ten, or heaven forbid a twenty. I am, and my imagination tastes delicious right now.

If you’re like me, and tired of the extremely first-world problem of not being able to get hot enough curry, stop by Lemongrass Thai sometime. I’ll be headed back soon myself, and this time I’m trying for a five. Pray for me.

Know Before You Go (A Closer Look at the Supportland Card)

Supportland-CardThe AM:PM PR team recently held one of its weekly PR 3.0 meetings at a spot close to our offices called Madison’s Grill. We likely would have picked this location anyway, due to its proximity and ability to accommodate large groups. But throw a free plate of delicious nachos into the mix for just checking in, and we couldn’t get there fast enough.

Clearly, I’m always up for a good deal, and if I had a retail/service business I would certainly be on board to create deals for patrons to reward them for showing up regularly. The problem with apps such as Foursquare is that you never really know, until you’re there or nearby, whether the business offers a deal. Since I’m burned out on the gaming aspect, and really couldn’t care less if I become the Mayor, I’m much less likely to use this app on a regular basis.

In a previous post, I wrote about a Smartphone application called CardStar. It’s a way of condensing all of your rewards cards info into electronic form. My only issue with this is that I often shop for essentials at places other than the major box stores.

The Supportland card has filled this gap. Visit the site and learn all you need to know about it. For me, this one is a no-brainer. It’s the best of location-based applications married with the ease of an app like CardStar – or for those who prefer a tangible card, it’s just one card for a whole slew of businesses.

It couldn’t be much easier; you simply swipe your card at participating establishments and earn points to score sweet deals. What’s more, if you see a Supportland sticker in an establishment’s front window, you always know you’re able to use your card and earn points. You can even visit their website and check out a list of participating businesses broken down by neighborhood.

For those of us who get burned out easily with game-centered apps, there’s an alternative. That is, at least, if you live in lovely Portland, OR. **

** Supportland has plans of rolling out their technology to other locations. If you’re lucky, maybe it will be your city next.