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In Character • Matt Webber and Courtney Dillard

by: Christopher Onstott, Matt Webber has one eye on fiancee Courtney Dillard and the other on his breakfast, but in a few minutes Webber is going to look away and Dillard is going to swipe a piece of his toast. The two are still perfecting their breakfast interview skills.

Northeast Portland residents Courtney Dillard and Matt Webber are getting married July 14. A few days later they will embark on their combination honeymoon/writing project called Breakfast with Strangers: 50 meals across America. They're driving across the country, taking strangers to breakfast and recording the stories.

A labor of love? Eggsactly. Which is why we decided to interview the couple over breakfast at the Radio Room. Dillard ordered scrambled and Webber opted for poached, with grits and toasted challah, incidentally.

Portland Tribune: Why breakfast? Why not lunch or dinner?

Courtney Dillard: There's a more homey feel at the breakfast table. There's something comforting about breakfast.

Matt Webber: There's more light out, you're less guarded, it feels safer. I don't normally talk about politics over the breakfast table.

Tribune: Be interesting to see how that holds up late October of an election year when you're having breakfast with some good ol' boy in Alabama.

Dillard: I've heard you can say whatever you want as long as you end it with, "Bless her heart." Like, "She's a big fat pig, bless her heart."

Tribune: That shouldn't be a problem. You're in the South, you're eating bacon. So every morning of your honeymoon you're going to take a stranger to breakfast?

Dillard: Every other morning.

Webber: Maybe every other, other morning.

Tribune: Why not every morning? You're traveling across the country to do this.

Dillard: It's our honeymoon.

Tribune: So basically, the two of you are planning to each gain 50 pounds on your honeymoon?

Dillard: Since we'll be married, I can weigh whatever I want.

Webber: I actually picked up a new pair of running shoes yesterday.

Tribune: You two have done projects together before, right?

Webber: The first thing we did together was the Portland Story Project. We got a P.O. box, made a bunch of flyers, and said, "Send us your stories, your photos, your artwork, about why you love Portland." We got a bunch of great responses.

Tribune: Hold on. Your soon-to-be wife just stole a piece of your bread.

Webber: I hope she enjoyed it.

Tribune: Newlyweds.

Webber: There was a guy who emailed us. He went by the name Crack La Rock. He sent us these great photos. It turned out he was a bouncer at a club downtown -- The Fez. The conversation turned into, "I can get you guys into the front of the line." And I said, "If I brought you cupcakes would you put us at the front of the line?"

So then we roll up on a Friday night, people are standing in line waiting to get in, and we walk to the front of the line with a plate of cupcakes. It was like a movie moment where the guy does this click and lifts up the velvet rope for us. It was our only Portland celebrity moment.

Tribune: I hear you've already started some of your breakfast interviews here in town?

Dillard: We've done five. Our first breakfast we met Jennifer, and her work is taking care of all the plants in corporate offices downtown -- about 10,000 plants. She related how she felt plants responded to their environment, and she told us a story of one plant she felt died because the secretary hated that plant so much. She felt it died of pure hatred.

Tribune: On the road, are you going to take people to breakfast or have breakfast with them?

Dillard: Take.

Webber: It's going to be a mix. Some people want to cook us breakfast, and we'll also be doing some home stays where we cook breakfast for our hosts. But the majority we will be taking out.

Tribune: But you'll pay?

Webber: Yes.

Tribune: I've got a number of relatives along the way who'd love to see you, if you'd like to give me your schedule.

Webber: You're not the first to bring that up.

Tribune: So how are you going to find your breakfast partners?

Webber: A variety of ways. The online community. I put an email out on an online (site) and I've had 200-plus emails in the last 24 hours, from a couple in Portland, Maine who live on a sailboat, to a pastor in Denver who runs a night church service in a bar.

Tribune: And all these people want you to take them to breakfast?

Webber: All these people want to tell their story.