All posts by Mason

Grew up as a child prodigy on the piano. At age 12 participated in a Carnegie Hall Annex recital, followed by an encore performance for an audience of one: Louis Armstrong. Former writer and editor for the Miami News, technology columnist for The Miami Herald, freelance journalist for the Bucks County Herald in Lahaska, Pennsylvania.

Oregon Becomes a Reality

After an exhausting cross-country trek from Doylestown, PA, Alice and I pulled into the parking lot of our new digs on Saturday, Sept. 20.  We’re now in Oregon, about 20 miles east of Portland.

Thanks to Eddie and Joanie, Mary and Sean, and Margaret and Bruce for their help along the way.

There’s much to share, and many photos and highlights will be posted to this website.

Stay tuned!

Taking Responsibility for Carbon Footprints

Ford Escape

As I drove to meditation Sunday morning, I considered the carbon footprint being put into the atmosphere from the Ford Escape SUV that I was driving.  And I asked myself, “What am I doing to personally lessen unhealthy carbon emissions I am responsible for emitting?”

As I pondered the question, I took stock of some sizable changes Alice and I are making.  Two weeks ago, we downsized from a two-car family by selling the Chevrolet Cobalt I owned.  Our imminent move near Portland, Oregon, will position us one mile from a light-rail station that will speed us into the city.  Therefore, we will drive less and enjoy a healthy lifestyle more.

But, like Don Quixote, are we tilting at windmills?

Our day-to-day routines are predicated on automobile travel.  Grocery stores have been built in strip shopping centers, far enough away from residential areas that a vehicle is required to patronize them.  Box stores have grown bigger and bigger to become Super Stores.  Sure, it’s convenient to find the staples we need under one roof, but what cost are we paying for the deteriorating air that we and our neighbors breathe?

Look around, and ask, “How can I and my family properly function if we toss the car keys away?”  The answer – for most of us – is like a kneejerk response, “Not at all.”

Local municipal, state and federal planners are failing us.  Functioning in today’s society requires a car, except in urban areas with rapid transit – and many of those cities harbor high-crime risks.

What’s worse, highway travel is encouraged in the media.  Commercial television saturates its cable/satellite frequencies with car advertisements, one after another.  Happy drivers flaunt shiny vehicles in light traffic with catchy music – hardly a dose of reality.  And dare I mention the trucks flooding high-speed expressways with their choking contribution of carbon monoxide-laden exhaust?

As responsible citizens, we must hold our elected officials to a higher standard.  We cannot continue this way, because the Earth is holding us accountable.  Every time we turn on a car engine, we’re bequeathing future generations a disgusting legacy.

We need to stop this polluting lifestyle now.

To supplement this story, the 2006 poem “Road Rage” was added to my poetry page.  Check it out here.

The Angst of Downsizing


The cost of a long-distance move, especially from eastern Pennsylvania to western Oregon, is daunting. Accordingly, I had to engage in some serious downsizing, and an emotional price is being paid.

The most difficult part was to take a vast 300-record library of rock classics and cull through it to keep only 50. What music would I throw away? What would I sell to a used-record outlet? And what will I keep?

Most of the choices were split-second gut decisions, and as I look at the thinned box of vinyl, I wonder which choices were correct. The prospect of moving to Oregon is certainly heart-thumping, but some of the “stuff” I discarded – to use the George Carlin euphemism – is already deeply missed.


Chris Rock video
takes on Ferguson


Today I viewed a Chris Rock video that brilliantly bridges the gap between contrasting perspectives on the Ferguson police shooting of Michael Brown.  Sometimes we need to get down to basics, and  reveal bullying that is being carried out in uniform.

I find bullying abhorrent, especially by those whom we grant permission to use deadly force.

You can access the video on YouTube by clicking this link How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police.


Page Added

This week’s Bucks County Herald contains my story about the demise of Danawa Buchanan.  It appears on the obituary page, designated as D-2 (Page 30 of the online edition.)

As promised, I deleted the blog post about her on this website and moved the unedited version onto a webpage titled NATIVE AMERICA.


Meditation Interruptus


This morning, at the stroke of 9, seven people began meditating at Doylestown’s Pebble Hill Church, with Norm Danis.

Meditation ended at 9:45, enough time for an in-depth session.  But only five people remained; a couple of first-timers had tip-toed out halfway through the session in order to make a phone call.  (During meditation, isolating one’s self from outside contact, including electronic, is de rigueur. )  A former facilitator then left the circle before our customary three “OM’s” were chanted.

Breaking the circle is distracting and sends a confusing message.  And I wonder: Why would a meditator turn her cellphone ON during a spiritual journey with fellow companions?

The world outside is not conditioned to respect thoughtful silence and peaceful meditation.



Oregon, here we come!

Yaquina Head Light in Newport, Oregon. Photo by Neil Howard
Yaquina Head Light in Newport, Oregon. Photo by Neil Howard

After writing and publishing my first book, Gulag to Rhapsody by Paul Tarko, life changed dramatically.  I sold my ranch-style home near Biscayne Bay in Miami Shores, ended a marriage of 22 years and moved to Bucks County, a picturesque region of Pennsylvania.

Over the last eleven years, I succeeded in adding one more book project, Pickled Punks and Girlie Shows by Rick West.  Although modestly successful, my contribution was limited to editing West’s manuscript and finding a reputable, reliable publisher to design, print and market the coffee-table-sized book.  Not too shabby, though.

I spent a lot of time writing for a local newspaper, the Bucks County Herald.  Although the free weekly paper’s demographics are enviable, its growing five-figure distribution does not compare with the mass-circulation readership I experienced in South Florida.  So to survive, I supplemented my meager income by driving for several limousine companies.

Well, the old adage – life is what happens while you’re busy making plans – is now apparent.  Four years ago, while chatting up two young honeys in a wine bar in Doylestown, a lean, towering force of a woman named Alice McCormick infused me with new beginnings, a healthy lifestyle and a rewarding partnership.

This year, Alice began the process of selling her spacious Doylestown two-story home, including pool, gazebo and Irish-bar-themed basement.  With its disposition in sight, she is dragging me – willingly – to the outskirts of Portland, Oregon where we will set up stakes on September 20.

Oregon is an awesome, environmentally sensible state and also reputed to be 420-friendly.  Preliminarily, I find a beckoning writing community throughout the Beaver State to be far more active and embracing than what Pennsylvania has to offer, but the cynical side of myself says to wait and see.

After an expected soft landing, I will report on what we find out there, including  a report on our 3,000-mile trek across the country with our finicky tabby cat, Millie.  Stay tuned!


Drug testing for doctors

California Ballot Initiative Gaining Popularity


An interesting political battle is shaping up in the State of California.

On one side is Consumer Watchdog, founded by Harvey Rosenfield in 1985. Rosenfield worked with Ralph Nader on campaign financing reform and nuclear power proliferation. According to the Aug. 1 issue of The New York Times, Jamie Cort, now the group’s president, predicts drug-testing doctors “will spread like wildfire if the voters of California give it a nod.” Erin Brockovich jumped on the bandwagon in late July.

The activists want California to become the first state to add physicians onto a growing number of professionals – pilots, professional drivers and public-service employees – that risk draconian penalties if they fail random and on-the-scene accident drug-testing. Aligning themselves with Consumer Watchdog is California’s association of trial lawyers, including U.S. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi.

Once the initiative passes, the legal beagles plan to give themselves a pay raise. Piggybacked onto Proposition 46 is an end to the 29-year-long cap for pain-and-suffering awards, raising it from $250,000 to $1.1 million. In opposition is the California Medical Association, unions representing various other medical workers, the state’s Chamber of Commerce and California’s chapter of Planned Parenthood, a longtime advocate for OB-GYN doctors.

These opponents argue the end game has little to do with drug-testing doctors, and they worry that doctors’ insurance premiums will skyrocket if the pain and suffering limit increases more than four times the current limit. Historically, doctors’ insurance rates were pushing medical professionals out of the state until the pain-and-suffering cap was mandated in 1975.

The California ballot measure threatens to dwarf all other state political races in November, and out-of-state medical professionals, including Johns Hopkins University, the Department of Health and Human Services and New York University, have joined in the chorus embracing passage.

Consumer Watchdog cites California Medical Board estimates that “18% of doctors will have a substance abuse problem at some point during their careers, and that 1-2% will abuse drugs or alcohol at any given time. A review of California physician disciplinary records found that one in six actions involved substance abuse, including self-use or overprescribing.”

Seemingly lost in the debate are physicians who drink coffee or take over-the-counter stimulants. Or doctors who use cannabis while on holiday and show a positive reading upon his or her return. Will that medical professional be weeded out from the pool? Another thing: Will California’s head-long quest to drug-test doctors ripple out to other Golden State-licensed professional occupations?

Like attorneys, for instance. One might reasonably suspect trial lawyers in that state could be next, right?

Nah, I doubt it, but it’s fun to contemplate.

UPDATE (8/17/14): Proposition 46 will appear on the California ballot on November 4th, and a growing list of opponents warn of the consequences of passage.  Get the full background here: controversy growing over California ballot measure.