Happy Thanksgiving

apt furnished2-lr

Take a look at the bedroom above, and you will sense why Alice and I are celebrating the glory of Thanksgiving.

One week ago, using two hand trucks we rented from a U-Haul dealer, two college students unpacked a large Pod filled with our furniture and possessions, carefully stacking the contents in our Hillsboro apartment.  The guys also assembled our queen-sized bed, and we have slept restfully ever since.

Our living room looks inviting and is filled with Alice's personality.
Our living room looks inviting and is filled with Alice’s personality.

For the past week, Alice went through each of the sealed boxes, filling our bureau drawers with their contents.  Her sense of design enables the rooms to look pleasing, and now we are able to invite friends and relatives over to share our joy of the holidays.  In fact, we had too much furniture, and we gave the surplus away to a nearby Salvation Army outlet store.

Our former neighbors in Doylestown, Pa. are enduring a pre-holiday Nor’easter snowstorm.  The only good thing we can say about their weather is we no longer live there.

Later on today, we will enjoy a grand Thanksgiving dinner at my cousin’s house.  Consequently, our hearts are full with joy and gratitude, and we hope you enjoy the best that this holiday offers.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dinner a Treat at Intel

Annie Marie McSwiggen finds the holiday season a perfect time to give thanks to Intel's neighbors.
Annie Marie McSwiggen finds the holiday season a perfect time to give thanks to Intel’s neighbors. Photo courtesy of Intel Corporation.

Thursday night, Alice and I attended a celebratory dinner hosted by Intel Corporation at its auditorium in the RA3 building on its Hillsboro, Ore. campus.

We and approximately 450 specially chosen neighbors feasted on turkey (with vegetarian options available), mashed potatoes, green beans and specialty flavored waters prepared by Bon Appétit, a Hillsboro food management company exclusively created to serve Intel.

Pies and cakes were also served, but the food preparers ran out before all attendees could get to the serving area.  For some, it didn’t matter, since a large supply of freshly harvested blackberries and blueberries with homemade whipped cream became a welcome substitution.  Some people who gobbled up the pie commented the fruit was even tastier.

The occasion commemorated Intel’s just-completed D1X building.  The new facility will house a multi-billion-dollar research factory, which Intel discovered was vital to expanding growth.  Actual physical construction of the building began in May 2013 and was just completed, according to Anne Marie McSwiggen, general manager of technical development, in a 15-minute commentary embracing self-effacing Scottish humor.  She summarized her remarks by thanking the audience “for being such fabulous neighbors to us.”

Intel is in a good mood, since Washington County and the City of Hillsboro approved up to $2 billion of tax breaks for $100 billion worth of equipment the chip manufacturer buys over the next 30 years.  The incentive is part of the area’s continuing Strategic Investment Program embraced by state lawmakers in 1993, after Intel began moving its major operations to Oregon in 1974.  Considering how quickly yesterday’s computers reach the trash heap, this approach to embracing computer manufacturing seems to make sense.  Property tax levies on company property and buildings remain at full value, too; however, the formula does not earmark funding for public schools, leaving a bad taste in administrators’ mouths.

The fourth annual feast was Intel’s acknowledgment that its neighbors’ civility muted objections to the noise and traffic attendant to significant construction.  Construction appeared to be effectively managed throughout, since the only objections noted at the dinner revolved around Intel’s envious financial health.

One of the perks about living 15 miles east of Portland is Hillsboro’s proximity to Intel Corporation.  Intel is indeed a gorilla in the neighborhood.

Intel's mammoth manufacturing operations.
Intel’s mammoth manufacturing operations.

With 17,500 employees locally, Hillsboro can be viewed as a company city, since it’s larger than a town.  And because Intel has experienced dynamic profit growth since moving the crux of its operations here, the beneficial ripple effect causes Hillsboro’s affluence to be felt throughout all of Oregon.

Intel doesn’t speak about its role with secret governmental work as it does about private enterprise.  Recent revelations about foreign cyber hacking attacks can only spur residents’ imaginations about what goes on inside its walls – and its spectacular skywalk from the fourth floor of its garage to the RA4 building – but one thing is certain.  Security is tight, yet invisible.

Conversations with Intel’s corporate affairs people were congenial and welcoming, but we could not help observing a high degree of sophisticated regimentation in their responses.  After all, Intel’s Oregon payroll is $2.8 billion (including benefits).  And the world outside has become foreboding.

The computer chip manufacturer’s neighborly self-serving ambience makes the area a safe place in which to live.  In retrospect, therefore, the company’s pre-Thanksgiving dinner was a great unofficial welcome to the City of Hillsboro.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!


As dawn broke across the eastern horizon this morning, my cellphone rang.  The caller, a truck driver for Pods, announced he was half an hour away from our apartment complex.

Alice jumped up and down with joy, erasing any reminders of the good night’s sleep we shared.  I told our newfound savior that Alice and I would drive over to the entrance and show him where to unload the container.

A cup of coffee later, with the Ford Escape’s engine defrosting a sheet of ice covering the windshield, a white container with an identifiable red-and-black Pod logo passed by the entrance.  I pulled out my phone and had the pocket-sized mobile device hail our early-morning caller.

“You just went by us,” I said.

“Yes, I know,” the driver replied.  “I overshot the turnoff.  I’m turning around now.”

Within two minutes, a bearded young truck driver hauling a Pod container pulled through the entrance, and we led the way to where maintenance men had sealed off five parking spaces.  A mobile engine-run device nestled underneath the container to secure the shipment in place.


The bearded wonder operated Pod’s engineering marvel, which unshackled the heavy-laden Pod, lifted it up, wheeled it around the truck effortlessly and gingerly positioned the bulky container onto a parking space, all within 10 minutes.  Once the truck was unloaded, the Pod driver stayed with us as Alice and I spent more than 20 minutes to unlock its vertically sliding door.  He also helped us maneuver precariously jammed contents around the door to reveal thoughtlessly placed artwork inside.

Once left on our own, Alice addressed her dearest possessions jammed inside.  The vacuum cleaner was perched atop boxes by the sliding door.  While retrieving the rug-cleaning marvel usually taken for granted, we exhaled a huge sigh of relief.


All our stuff appears to be inside.

Alice said her thanks to St. Jude and St. Joseph.  And exhausted, she now sleeps on the futon, our makeshift bed for the last eight weeks and three days.

We both took photos, and are glad to share them.  Beyond the happiness we feel today, we have good reason to be thankful.

It’s a little early, I know, to extend best wishes to one and all.  But it doesn’t matter.  For us, Thanksgiving 2014 is an ideal time to give thanks and count our blessings.

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Impressions of Portland

Pioneer Square's centerpiece is a visitor-themed welcome area.
Pioneer Square’s centerpiece is a visitor-themed welcome area.

First impressions of any place, let alone a city, can be misleading.  Nevertheless, a newcomer’s embarkation around Oregon’s most-populous community creates memories to be later embellished or forgotten.  Here are mine, in no particular order:

  • Portlanders do not carry bottled water around like East Coasters, which may be accountable to the prevalence of rigid water quality.  When a problem is noted, it’s big news.  Keeping the water supply pristine is not nearly as problematic as elsewhere in the country.
  • Portland’s TriMet rail system personifies what rapid transit should be.  From the break of dawn to well beyond evening rush hour, trains run at least every 15 minutes.  That’s how a well-planned city encourages patronage and avoids daily gridlock.
  • Portland’s rapid transit system refers to seniors as “honored citizens,” and offers deep discounts when they ride anywhere.  Store prices in many locales offer seniors a percentage discount on Wednesdays.
  • Bicyclists are everywhere, and their attire doesn’t emulate competitive riders’ garb either.  Much of their prevalence stems from Asian immigrants, whose attitude toward cycling finds pedal power more convenient and less costly than daily motorized travel.
  • Although penalties for smoking marijuana in public have been heavily reduced, we have yet to observe visible puffing away of “wacky tobaccy,” like we initially anticipated.  Can it be that pot use here has become passé?  Or do users keep it private?
  • Hillsboro – and much of Portland – is less than an hour’s drive from a nude beach on the Columbia River.  That’s far more accessible than any other metropolitan area in the USA.
  • Employees in grocery stores are far friendlier – and more educated – than most places in the country.  Plus they like their jobs.  At employee-owned WinCo Foods, cashiers and clerks are treated honorably, and competitors emulate its working conditions.
  • Communities on the west coast offer hospitality that goes beyond the greenback dollar.  Perhaps that’s because this coast is public property, thereby not subject to manipulation by greedy landholding entities.
  • When the sun comes out, it’s far brighter than most anywhere in the country.  Newcomers soon discover how much of a hazard sun glare can be.  That’s because the air here is clearer than most other developed areas.
  • Small restaurants outside Portland City Center are rare.  Malls and shopping centers abound, and so do fast-food outlets.  Many Portlanders obtain their Chinese fix at Panda Express, cheaper than at traditional Chinese eateries.
  • Drivers in and around Portland travel close to the posted speed limit; violators who exceed the limit are at greater risk to be ticketed.  The roads here are visibly highly patrolled, making for predictable travel.
  • During the rainy season, contrary to public perception, the sun does appear occasionally.  And the maritime climate of the nearby Pacific Ocean tends to moderate temperature extremes.
  • Prices for many commodities are cheaper here than elsewhere.  For example, some staples, like milk, currently cost $3 or less per gallon.  Discount stores are truly discount, and merchandise in dollar stores cost a buck.  And it never grows old to see sales tax extinct.
  • Portlanders tend to feel secure in their city.  If residents note someone staring at a map, it’s not rare to receive directions or friendly inquiries.  Their cordiality is endemic for maintaining a positive mood.
  • Television network affiliates pay attention to the homeless in times of weather extremes.  Good Samaritans abound, too.  Residents appear confident, and store windows are kept open after closing, not shuttered.
Powell's City of Books occupies an entire downtown city block, stocking over 1 million new and used books.
Powell’s City of Books occupies an entire downtown city block, stocking over 1 million new and used books.

Alice and I like it here.  We feel good about our friends, relatives, neighbors, surroundings and ourselves.  So far, Portland is turning out to be everything that we had hoped.

A Welcome Reprieve

Apparently, Oregon weather isn’t nearly as predictable as what is forecast for the East Coast.

None of the snow predicted yesterday for the Portland metropolitan area actually fell.   Even though public schools decided Thursday around 7:30 am to close for the day, the only precipitation from the overcast sky was a cold, light rain.

We’re not complaining, though.  If Pod delivery takes place on Nov. 18th as currently scheduled, we’ll have our winter coats, gloves, boots and head gear for the next winter event.



Out of the Freezer and into the Icebox

A tree fallen across Old Dublin Pike in Doylestown, PA after Hurricane Sandy was smaller than the one encountered on Forest Park's Germantown Road.
A tree fallen across Old Dublin Pike in Doylestown, PA after Hurricane Sandy was smaller than the one encountered on Forest Park’s Germantown Road.

Baby, it’s cold outside.

Last night, Alice and I spent several congenial hours in a nearby mountaintop tavern with new friends, whom we met through mutual comrades in New Hope, Pa. and Lambertville, NJ.  After the sun had set, we drove to a fashionable dive bar, known as the Skyline Tavern via Germantown Road, a winding, unlit mountain road with serious switchbacks and no guardrails.  Oh yes, we did this while the entire Portland area was under a high-wind warning.

Toward the end of our third round of glasses clinking – made more enjoyable by imbibing palate-pleasing, locally produced pinot noir wine – the lights went out.  An area-wide power failure seemed to be the cause, because we could not discern any lights emanating from nearby homes.  The bartender, who had filled our wine glasses to the very brim, began to close down the place.  Considering how gusty the cold wind outside had become, the Skyline Tavern’s ad-hoc host appeared to realize that the likelihood of electricity being restored anytime soon was nada.

We parted company with our newfound friends, and proceeded to go back down the mountain using Germantown Road.  After dodging numerous tree branches and negotiating severe turns, the Ford Escape’s headlights lit up a huge fir tree across the highway.  A tree had fallen, blocking any chance of getting through.  Another car on the opposite side managed a U-turn, so I thought it propitious to negotiate the same maneuver just short of a severe drop-off.

We drove back up to Skyline Drive, turning left along the aptly named road, following well-marked turns for four miles while skirting branches strewn along the way.  Fortunately, at this time, our journey along Northwest Portland’s Forest Park was passable to the junction with Cornelius Pass Road, which led us back to Hillsboro.

We count ourselves fortunate to have arrived home safe and sound, because the noontime newscast today warns that all detours in and around Skyline Drive are closed to traffic.  The weather forecast for tonight and tomorrow is not exactly encouraging, either.

Until 6 am tomorrow, winds will continue to blow 20-30 mph with occasional gusts to 50.  The weather service advises that once the wind subsides, with a low temperature of 26 anticipated, there is a 100 per cent chance of snow – 3 to 5 inches – that will transition to freezing rain.  An ice accumulation is expected to measure from a tenth to a quarter inch, and tomorrow’s high temperature should reach 33 – barely above freezing.

A winter storm watch has been posted, and while we await our winter coats, gloves, headgear and boots – all in the Pod hopefully arriving next week – we will stay bundled up inside our sparsely furnished apartment, hoping Millie will not go stir-crazy.

I can’t help wondering what other tricks Mother Nature has in store, now that we’re officially Oregonians.  Whoopie!

Good News!
Our Pod Is on Its Way

Relief and elation.
Relief and elation.

Alice and I are breathing a huge sigh of relief.  At 3 am today, a Pod containing most – or some – of our stuff began its long transport from Hatfield, Pa. to the Kelly Point storage facility outside Portland, Oregon.

Already documented on this website were the roadblocks and obstacles faced, so there is no need to be repetitive.  In updating our experience of arriving high and dry in Oregon seven weeks ago, though, it’s necessary to relate that I took a leap of faith on Nov. 5th and paid Pods the shortfall of $1,511 on a third-party account.

Since then, we did not attempt to communicate with our former neighbor.  Instead, I nervously sat on pins and needles.  If he had further criminal intent, our former man Friday could have ordered the container back to Doylestown.

Confirmation came a few minutes ago, though, that the shipment is on its way.  Our supposed Good Samaritan-turned-nemesis is past the point of no return.  At long last, our stuff is scheduled to arrive Wednesday, Nov. 19.

As this episode unfolded, I never knew how much it would affect me.  Sleep-deprived nights caused friction between Alice and me.  Conversations at bedtime revolved around treacherous financial obligations, and I expressed little joy.  Without good clothes, my press clippings, Alice’s medical records, warm winter coats and precious family memorabilia, I was in the darkest of moods.

My dispirited nature came to a head last Sunday.  At a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church service, the sermon’s topic – “the notion of evil” – caused me to come forward before the congregation and spill my guts for an interminable period of time.

Since then, I officially joined the choir and have resolved to keep my mouth shut unless someone spoke to me.  To make amends, I want to uplift the congregation with accounts of resolution as Alice and I seek to restore ourselves to some semblance of financial health.

Creating this website has turned into a godsend.  These electronic submissions are taking on a life of their own, as old friends, newfound ones and relatives offer constructive advice and comfort.  I don’t have a crystal ball to see the future, but the people who regularly visit this site and offer feedback – public or private – truly reveal unmatched quality.

I could not be prouder of the support and your insight.  Thank you.

Oregon Goes Left While Country Swings Right

election 2014

Voters in Oregon’s populous Multnomah County, Portlanders’ home, overwhelmingly endorsed a measure legalizing recreational marijuana, allowing the initiative to overcome statewide opposition in sparsely populated eastern and southern sections of the state.

Fifty-four percent of all Oregonian registered voters said yes, but legalization doesn’t formally begin until July 1, 2015.  On Tuesday, Oregon joined Alaska and the District of Columbia where voters decided they would not sit by and “just say no.”  Two years ago, Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana possession.

In addition, by a 2 to 1 margin, California voters turned down a statewide proposition that would have ended a 29-year-long cap on pain-and-suffering awards.  Since limiting pain-and-suffering liability in 1975 to $250,000, California doctors have enjoyed one of the lowest insurance rates in the country.

The initiative originally focused on random drug tests for doctors, but it soon became apparent the vote would raise maximum liability for pain and suffering to $1.1 million.  A nonpartisan Legislative Analysts’ Office estimated if the initiative was passed, government health care costs “would increase from the tens of millions of dollars to several hundred million dollars annually.”

With the entire country appearing to shift toward the right, Oregon’s legislative body actually turned more Democratic.  Perhaps the national trend of this election is to see gridlock end, rather than enhance polarization.  Only wizards know the future.  For us mere mortals, time will tell.

Library science in Hillsboro

Library staff and volunteers have arranged piles of books into easy-to-peruse categories.
Library staff and volunteers have arranged piles of books into easy-to-peruse categories.  Photo by Alice McCormick.

Hillsboro Library is in the midst of a fund-raising book sale, and readers are gobbling up some bargains.  More than 60,000 items – fiction, nonfiction, children’s books, cookbooks, reference, mysteries, large print and audio, plus CDs, DVDs, videos and LPs – are on display at rock-bottom prices for Friends of the Library and its patrons.  The sale began on Halloween and continues through Sunday, Nov. 9.

In a forward-thinking civilization, libraries are necessities, not second-class services, and they require imaginative streams of public funding to keep pace with demand.  An ever-growing population knows the importance of literacy.  Oregon funds its libraries enthusiastically, with the health of the local economy a prime benefactor.

Here in Hillsboro, Oregon, the main library’s 77,000-square-foot building opened in 2007 near Intel Corporation.  Almost 300,000 items grace two floors, along with a quiet reading room with newspapers and magazines, study rooms, conference rooms and an art gallery area.  The library also houses a “Storytime” room for young people and public computers.

By contrast, Pennsylvania’s meager funding for these bedrock institutions is impacting future generations.  In Doylestown, a unique, picturesque town that celebrates a connection with hometown author James Michener, the strategy is to use public computers to displace titles.

A spartan countywide budget has cut staff to the bone and eliminated health-care benefits.  In New Hope-Solebury, an affluent part of Bucks County, librarians face the threat of closure; over half of a $212,000 operating budget is derived from fund-raising.

When I attended the University of Florida in the early 1960s, one prerequisite course study entailed library science.  Because I appear anal by nature, I aced the course, although I forgot much of what was taught over 50 years ago.  These days, I still revere the concept of a disciplined approach to cataloging print matter.

My grandmother, Grace Johnston, was a full-fledged librarian, and my mother, Thelma, a lifelong English teacher.  I can only imagine what my life would have been like without their access to a reputable library.

Hillsboro's library offers a ballot-drop box during election season.
Hillsboro’s library offers a ballot-drop box during election season.  Photo by Alice McCormick.

Do yourself a favor; visit Hillsboro’s marvelous, lakefront edifice and discover the treasures therein.  Hours are 10-9 weekdays, 10-6 Saturdays and 12-6 Sundays.  The address is 2850 NE Brookwood Parkway with plenty of free parking.

The back of the library offers a bucolic view befitting the most sophisticated reader.  Photo courtesy of Washington County.
The back of the library offers a bucolic lakefront view conducive for sophisticated readers. Photo courtesy of Washington County.

A Call from George

George takes pleasure in keeping his South Florida barbecue skills honed.
George takes pleasure in keeping his South Florida barbecue skills honed.

Last night I received a phone call from George, a former neighbor who lives across the street from my longtime home in Miami, Fla. that I sold in 2003.  He read the previous post on this website and expressed his deep concern.

As we feasted on pizza in our respective abodes, George compared the sticky situation in which Alice and I find ourselves with a similar incident unique to him.  George reminded me of the considerable emotional and tangible value of our stuff, and strongly advised that if $1,512 gets the Pod container to its intended destination, that’s the way to go.

I appreciate his advice, and that of others.  By exposing our plight here, I heard from friends and family, and their opinions help form the decisions I make.  Should I max out my credit cards and pony up the money to an account that doesn’t have my name on it, therefore out of my control?  Or should I go the legal route and visit whatever nastiness I can summon from a distance?

The former option offers no assurance that the transfer from Pennsylvania to Oregon will happen, while going the legal route gives up hope altogether and suggests a final solution cannot happen if or unless we return to Pennsylvania.

One family member says we should contact his probation officer.  What to do?

At the Sunday service of Hillsboro Unitarian Universalist Church, I bore witness to this demon afflicting me and how I think of our Man Friday.  Do I want to live in a world where I have to consider any trusted person to be a potential threat?  I must decide by Wednesday.  Otherwise, the container’s scheduled shipping date out West on Friday, November 7, will not happen.

I’m between the devil on the East Coast and Oregon’s welcome wagon.