My Latest “Breakfast Bulletin” Newsletter: In 2020, Rain is Sunshine


Every couple of … well, years lately (hanging my head), I write a newsletter I call the “Breakfast Bulletin.” The name comes from my old days as the Portland Breakfast Guy, and I keep it to honor those good times.

The latest issue is about the strange times we live in — for example, when the city of Portland celebrates rain in September. Tough times bring weird thoughts, I guess.

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What It’s Like Being From Portland in 2020


First, a little historical context. When I moved from Memphis to Portland in 1996, people in other parts of the country would say one of two things about my new hometown: “I hear it’s pretty there,” or “Isn’t that up near Seattle?”

Somewhere along the way, Portland has become both one of American’s “it” cities, as well as a canvas on which people paint all sorts of assumptions and fantasies.

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Did I Just Go On a Trip?


I woke up this morning at home, wished the construction guys across the street would keep it down, made my coffee, stood in the back yard for a minute taking in the fresh air, then thought about what I need to do today.

First up? Unpack.

And that’s when I remembered I just went on a long trip — over 3,000 miles of driving and about 15 nights of camping in the last three weeks. I had actually forgotten!

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RIP Marjorie Gerald

Man, it was just a few months ago we were saying goodbye to Dad, and now Mom’s gone to be with him. It’s what she wanted, once he was gone, and she deserved peace and rest, so we let her go with love and gratitude.


Marjorie Ann Brown Gerald took her last breaths in the evening of July 19, 2020, in Memphis, Tennessee. She was 85 years old. Her son, Lee, got to be there for those breaths and told her that he and his siblings, Lucy and Paul, love her, that she did a great job, that they’re going to be okay, and she can go be with her husband and their father, who crossed the same mysterious divide six months before. And with that, she was gone, to be where she wanted to be all along: with her Barry.

But the sadness of her passing, even with the lonely final months this damned pandemic imposed on it, simply can’t stand up to a life so well lived.

Marjorie was born November 11, 1934 in Calhoun City, Mississippi to Albert Yeates Brown and Lucille Fatheree Brown. And while geographically her life didn’t end too far from where it started, few people got to have the journey that “Marge” did. As the daughter of a Methodist preacher, she was raised in – it seemed to her kids – every town between Memphis and Jackson. Then it was off to Ole Miss, where she was one of the first group of Rebelettes, performed in a Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl, and also where, as she famously said at a family reunion, “I got me a husband.”

In that sense, Marjorie Ann (as her Mississippi family always called her) was very much of the old school. She wanted to get married and raise a family, and that’s where she drew so much of her joy. But she sought, and got, so much more from life. She was determined to see the world, learn all about it, and then show you the pictures and tell you the stories. She may have been a preacher’s kid focused on raising her own kids – and she did indeed do a hell of a job at it – but she could spin yarns from the Silk Road across China, the palaces of Russia, the villages of Europe, and California’s Bay Area in the 60s.

That desire to learn, see and share drove her long life of volunteer activities, running the speakers’ bureau for Memphis’s historic Elmwood Cemetery (where her parents rest), Wonders exhibitions, Dixon Gardens and Botanical Garden. She simply loved stories, especially when they were about strong women who didn’t “stay in their lanes.” She had a bit of that rebel streak in her, too; one of the family’s favorite stories about her is when she sat down in the “men’s grill” at the country club and demanded to be served because, after all, the whole idea of a “men’s grill” is just ridiculous. She said it was a fine lunch, too.

Tough, sweet, vulnerable, caring, beautiful, flawed like the rest of us, loved greatly and greatly loving, Mom was one of a kind. We will all miss her, and while we are saddened to be without her, and heartbroken we couldn’t all be with her at the end, we did reunite her with Barry at last. Their ashes were laid to rest in Deer Creek in Leland, Mississippi on July 24. As their final containers settled into the mud and began to dissolve, surrounded by cypress trees and ducks and warm delta breezes, the current took them off on one last journey – together, the way they always wanted it to be.

Marge and Barry had three children, all of whom survive her: Lucy Cook of Chevy Chase, Maryland; Lee Gerald of Memphis; and Paul Gerald of Portland, Oregon. She also leaves her brother, Albert Yeates Brown Jr. of Columbus, North Carolina.

The family suggests that in lieu of gifts or flowers, we think Marge would appreciate a donation to Elmwood Cemetery or any effort that gets us a new president in November.


RIP Barry Gerald

An obituary for my father, who passed away January 6, 2020.

With my mom, Marjorie, in Italy.

Each person, while passing through this world, leaves behind them a wake of experiences, little bits of their character sprinkled on those whose paths they crossed.

In the case of Barry Elmo Gerald, whose heart gave out after almost 86 years on January 6, a remarkable pattern emerges in these memories of co-workers, family members, and friends. Each story is a moment shared with a truly lovely human being, who treated them with kindness, respect, compassion, and just enough irreverence to keep things light. Even in the rare story where Barry got mad, it was always restrained, appropriate, and laced with humor and perspective.

He would admonish a wayward child with a tone of understanding and forgiveness. He would suggest a better way forward through some complication without letting on he thought your idea was silly. He would share information without commenting on the quality of yours. When he wasn’t telling one of his many charming stories, he would actually listen to yours. He would be deeply disappointed by an Ole Miss football loss but also remember, and remind others, that it’s just football, and we’ll get ‘em next week. He would even, especially in his final years, express a true intimate feeling or two!

With the family at mom’s birthday, 2019.

Barry Gerald was born February 10, 1934, in Greenville, Mississippi. He was a bookish child who always dreamed of being a doctor, like his grandfather. He once said that his father, Elmo, a Leland-area cotton farmer, “Never really understood how I lived my life, but he always supported me to the best of his ability.” It was a lesson he would apply and pass on to his three children, Lucy Cook, Lee Gerald, and Paul Gerald. They are in turn doing their best to pass it on the grandkids – Rebecca Davis, David Cook, Jeff Cook, Jack Gerald, and Max Simpson – and even a great-granddaughter Barry got to meet, Josephine Davis.

He graduated from Leland High School and met his future wife, then Marjorie Brown, at Ole Miss. She was a Rebelette and he on a path to a medical career – both fine catches. They wed August 6, 1955, and Marjorie and the kids followed Barry and his medical career from Mississippi to Houston, Cincinnati, Oakland, Little Rock, Boston, and eventually to Memphis.

The quiet book-lover from Leland thrived in the academic medical world and eventually served as the Chairman of the Radiology Department at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Memphis from 1980 to 1995 and again from 2004 to 2009. He was also Medical Director for Radiology at LeBonheur and St. Jude and Chief of Radiology at The Med. There were many other titles, positions, and honors, and he and Marge enjoyed a lifetime of international travel during their 64-year marriage.

Barry Gerald will be remembered as a good doctor, father and husband, as well as a positive influence on many careers and lives. But mainly folks will say he was just a really nice guy – the same nice guy at home, work or on the tennis court.

The world could use more Barry Geralds, but we must now give him a break, for even in death we assume he’s extremely uncomfortable with all this glowing talk about him. We will let him go, with thanks, love and best wishes, for one last trip down to the delta and a final swim in Deer Creek.

Barry respectfully requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to The Church Health Center of Memphis.