I’M NOT QUITE SURE when it happened. Maybe it was while I was standing atop a dune in the Mars-like Saudi Arabian desert, wearing a ghutra (the customary Saudi headdress) on loan from Soliman al Buthe, a Saudi civil servant whom our government has named a “specially designated global terrorist.” Maybe it was in the vast mosque in central Riyadh, where I shook the gnarled hand of the Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al Ashaik, a white-bearded, blind cleric who is Saudi Arabia’s senior Islamic authority. Or maybe it was in the Ashland dining room, where I sat with Pete Seda, an Iranian-born American accused of helping al Buthe smuggle $150,000 to Muslim warriors in Chechnya. But at some point during the process of reporting “The $150,000 Question,” an article that details how the global war on terrorism came to Oregon, my passion for chasing and telling thrilling news stories was reawakened.
I signed on as news editor of this magazine one February four years ago, when Portland Monthly was a precocious bimonthly putting the finishing touches on its third issue. I was the ninth hire in a company that today boasts 76 employees and a burgeoning portfolio of publications, including Seattle Metropolitan, two bridal magazines and, most recently, Spaces, a home-design magazine headed by Randy Gragg. Back then, my job was to fill Portland Monthly’s yawning “news hole,” which, given the resources available, meant I single-handedly tackled many of the stories myself. The job suited me. As Portland Monthly grew in size, frequency, staff and ambition, I assumed ever more responsibility, progressing from managing editor to executive editor to editor-in-chief, until it seemed the only writing I had time for happened on this page.
Then I stumbled onto the Pete Seda story.
During the four months that I spent unraveling a narrative thread that took me from Seda’s surrender at Portland International Airport in August to a courtroom in Eugene to a Bedouin tent in Riyadh, I was, in the most literal sense of the term, often “at large.”
Which is precisely where I want to be.
Now that Portland Monthly has reached a comfortable stage in its maturity and has earned a reputation as one of the finest city magazines in America, I’m confidently handing over the reins to my talented and driven staff so that I can return to my news-gathering roots. In my new capacity as editor-at-large, I will roam wherever the unfolding stories of this city and region happen to take me (although probably not as far away from Portland Monthly’s headquarters on SW Oak Street as that sand dune in Saudi Arabia anytime soon). And in the telling of these stories, as always, I’ll be endeavoring to bring you a bit closer to this fascinating place that we call home.