Tag Archives: Laura Moulton

Lives lived unconventionally connect author and readers

by Laura Moulton, Contributing Writers

In the early 1990s, in Provo, Utah, I worked at the Food and Shelter Coalition, in a worn two-story white house with a square of grass in front. In the main room were tables covered in brightly patterned oilcloth, vases of plastic flowers on each. People came seeking meals, sack lunches or a voucher for emergency shelter at the dilapidated Hotel Roberts. They came by foot, or in listing RVs, or had hopped off a train and crossed the tracks into town. One man lived in a tent in the Wasatch Mountains, where he awaited revelation from God, and another, in his eighties, who squatted in a basement, rode a child’s bike complete with a banana seat and tassels on the handlebars.

Everyone came from different places, some living outside by choice, and others gripped by addictions giving them the ride of their lives. But what they had in common when they stepped through the doors and sat down for a meal was that each knew what it was like to sleep outside, to wonder when and where they might eat next. They knew the particular brand of solitude offered by “no particular place to go.” And they knew what it was like to be outside of the busy-ness of living, where people strode purposefully down sidewalks and climbed into cars and drove to jobs, and then repeated the process at the end of the day. Whatever their particular grief or haunting, whatever had brought them to the place they inhabited, they knew what it was like to be alone, and alone with their thoughts.  It was enough to drive a body crazy, but it also offered a kind of trial by fire: if they could survive themselves, and that look down into their very core, then they could survive anything. Continue reading

Street Books brings a good read to people on the streets

This summer, Portland writer and educator Laura Moulton took it upon herself to bring a mobile library to the streets. Her project captured the attention of not only people experiencing homelessness, but the community at large, people in the media, and a devoted cadre of volunteers. Here, Moulton writes about the journey that became Street Books.

by Laura Moulton, Contributing Writer

The first week in June, I rolled up to the South Park Blocks at Salmon Street and parked my bicycle-powered mobile library. It was drizzling — June appears to be Portland’s new November — as I set the brakes, pulled out the drawer and propped it up. I wiped down the books with a cloth, and took stock of my surroundings. There were guys with backpacks at the north end of the square, sitting together smoking and talking quietly. A group of tattooed kids with dogs on ratty leashes sprawled on the grass not far from me, under what small shelter the canopy of branches above provided. People walked through the square with children, others jogged through with headphones on. Continue reading

The making of a killer breadmaker: Dave Killer Bread

By Laura Moulton, Contributing Writer

At first glance, Varinthorn Christopher and Dave Dahl appear to have nothing in common. She is a Thai artist born in Bangkok, and he is a 6-foot-tall ex-con with a rap sheet that could paper a trail to the moon and back. But a closer look at their unlikely partnership reveals what they have in common: a collaborative project in the form of a book containing stories from prison, bread recipes and advice to drug addicts. They also share a belief in the possibility of redemption in life and in the power of second chances.

Varinthorn Christopher was born in Bangkok, Thailand during a coup de’etat, in 1977. Because of a strictly enforced curfew at sundown, no one dared venture out, for fear of being shot or killed by the military. During all this, Varinthorn’s mother went into labor, and her father loaded her in the car and went out into the city. Soon they were pulled over by Thai soldiers, but instead of being shot on sight, the soldiers saw that her mother was in labor and formed a cavalcade of tanks and cars around her family’s car, escorting them to the hospital. Her father saw this procession as a very auspicious beginning to a life and assumed she would be a boy.

Meanwhile, in the United States that same year, Dave Dahl was an awkward pre-teenager, working in the family bread business, but already beginning to struggle with the depression that would plague him into his 20s and 30s.

When Varinthorn was three years old in Bangkok, Dave was dropping out of high school in Gresham, Oregon. As a 12-year-old in her hometown of Pathum Thani with extended family, one of Varinthorn’s favorite rituals was to gather at sunrise to offer cooked jasmine rice to monks clad in saffron robes. By now, Dave had married and divorced, fathered a daughter, and gotten good and hooked on methamphetamine, a habit he financed by committing armed robberies and break-ins. Continue reading

A pleasure trip to Rio becomes an exploration into the real world of Brazil’s masses

by Laura Moulton, Contributing Writer

Last fall while preparing for a trip to Brazil, I did research online and discovered an article in the New Yorker about the favelas, or slums, of Rio de Janeiro. It detailed recent events in a favela called Moro do Dende, profiled a notorious drug dealer called Fernando Gomes de Freitas and described the inability of the government to bring order. I read the article carefully, chilled by particular phrases: armed posse with automatic weapons, city busses torched, the practice of dismembering police or rival gangs, tossing bodies into the sea for the crabs to eat.

In a photo, two young men lay on their bellies on the street, hands cuffed behind them. In less than a month I would fly with my children and extended family to the city of Rio for my brother’s wedding. My children were 5 and 2, and I was taking them to a place with a crime rate supposedly four times that of the United States, where just that month a military helicopter had been shot from the sky during a stand-off between two rival gangs, where street kids huffed glue and the vast shantytowns that clung to the hillsides above the sea stretched on forever. The article underscored the complete chaos in the favelas and the corruption of the police who were supposed to be fixing the problem.

The State Department Web site’s warnings about Brazil were no more reassuring: ignore stoplights between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid holdups. Even the beaches were dangerous, with very strong riptides and a “higher-than-average probability of shark attacks.” Continue reading