Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Puddle city ditties aim to pave the path home

Puddle city ditties aim to pave the path home
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
by Margie Boule

Ian Doescher wants to come home.

Just a few things are standing in his way: three months of classwork in a Ph.D. program, most of the North American continent and the cost of a cross-country move.

If it weren't for those things, Ian, wife Jennifer Creswell and their two children would not be living in Millbrook, N.Y., today. They'd be eating elephant ears, riding MAX and taking walks on the Eastbank Esplanade.

Click on photo to enlarge.

Ian is determined to overcome the obstacles. To help pay for the move, he "got creative," he says.

Ian was a music major in college, before he went to divinity school. (He's getting a doctorate in ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York City today.) And he has kept his hand in since college, working for arts organizations and conducting a small choir.

A few months ago Ian went to his computer and started creating music. It's a cappella music, with four-part harmonies, in a variety of styles . . . and every song is about Portland.

"They're just silly songs," he says. Others would call them comedy songs, because a few numbers are laugh-out-loud funny. And this is material every Portlander can relate to.

Met someone new? Can't wait to see her again? Find out she lives way out in Gresham?

You should be singing "Urban Growth Boundaries Can't Stop My Love (I'll Go Out to Gresham for You)," the fourth cut on the album titled "Portland: The Album."
Some of the songs have comic angst, like "Pearl Girl (She's Too Hip for Me)," with its Beach Boys-influenced Greek chorus, mocking the geek who met a woman in the Pearl District who's "the smartest woman he's ever seen . . . . What does 'exegesis' even mean?"

"Pearl Girl" may be a fiction, but some of these songs are reflections of Ian's homesickness for "the city that holds a special place in our heart."

"I wanna come back to Portland," he repeats in one refrain.

And he does.

He and Jennifer always had talked about moving back after their graduate studies and work contracts ended. Jennifer is an Episcopal priest at a church in Millbrook.

But they got serious about making the move after a heartbreaking vacation in Hawaii last year with Jennifer's parents, Portlanders Sarah and Jeff Creswell. Sarah became ill and died suddenly of a bacterial infection on the trip.
Shocked and grieving, the couple decided not to postpone their move back to what Jeff calls "the best coast" any longer. But it costs a lot to move to, and live in, Portland.

Jeff experienced sticker shock after looking at real estate ads in The Oregonian recently; it turned into a song.

"And then I saw the prices, I couldn't believe my eyes," he sings. "My chest began to tighten, my blood pressure to rise.

"It was a real estate coronary! A real estate coronary!"

Staying in a hospital, he points out, could be cheaper than buying a home.
Ian's album is not a slick, highly produced industry release. In fact, Ian created every sound you hear -- the drum noises, the fake guitar solo, the backup choir -- with his voice.

He recorded it at home, using his Mac and some fancy recording software.
And he found inspiration everywhere. When his mother sent him an e-mail with a list based on the old joke, "You know you're a Northwesterner if . . . " -- he turned it into a song.

"You know you're from Portland when you have to say, 'No, not Maine.'
"You know you're from Portland when you don't notice the rain.
"When you wear hiking boots wherever you go,
"And you expect school to be canceled for just one inch of snow,
"And you talk about your hometown like it's someone you know . . . ."

He even wrote a rap song: "My name is MAX."

"One of the things Portland is known for," Ian says, "is its public transit system. I enjoy riding MAX. I thought, if MAX could talk, what would MAX say?"

Ian admit he's not an accomplished rapper. "I'd never done any rap beyond my sixth-grade science class" at Alameda Elementary School. "I did a rap about Orion. The constellation."

It's not included on the album. But there is a song about Rose Festival, and a nice ballad about the Portland bridges.

Ian ends his album with "Oregon, My Oregon," "the state song nobody knows. Obviously, I didn't write it, but I did arrange it. It's a barbershop version."

Jennifer has found a job as priest at a local Episcopal church. Ian still is job hunting. "We're excited. The last piece of the puzzle for us is for me to find a job," in a school, in a church or with a nonprofit organization.

And for the album to sell well, to help finance the move. If you'd like to support this one-man band with a move-home plan, go to:

Margie Boule: 503-221-8450; marboule@aol.com

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