Christmas in Portland

Portland's light-rail trains run smoothly on railway beds, tracks underground and on city streets.
Portland’s light-rail trains run smoothly on railway beds, tracks underground and on city streets. Photo by Alice McCormick.

Hillsboro offers one kind of life.  Because Alice and I live less than a mile from a Trimet light-rail station, occasionally we savor a completely different life in Portland.

Don’t misunderstand me, though.  As an organic additive to Hillsboro’s Unitarian Universalist choir, I relished the aftertaste from our Christmas Eve caroling service.

Our choir’s performance of “Welcome Yule” was killer!  Although Minister Christine Riley advised no applause was necessary, the UU congregation couldn’t contain themselves.

Because music is indeed the universal language, our Christmas Eve was made ultra-merry by the congregation’s enhanced sensibilities.

Christmas Day, though, had a different feel.  Alice and I drove next to paved walking paths to the easily accessible Washington County Fairgrounds rail station.  A 38-minute light-rail trip through tubes 260 feet underground – beneath the Oregon Zoo and the International Rose Test Garden – initiated a welcome unveiling from holiday lights adorning downtown Portland.

We disembarked at the Portland Library, walked north on 10th Avenue for four blocks just beyond Stark Street, where on the west side darkened plate-glass windows precede a roped-off sidewalk box office.  Beyond the ticket counter was a sophisticated neon-lit interior awaiting us as brand-new patrons of Living Room Theaters.

Darkened windows allow customers unfettered views of the world outside.
Darkened windows allow customers unfettered views of the world outside.

On one side was a fashionably holiday-garbed hostess seating customers in a neon-lit bistro bar.  On the other side are six modest, but extraordinarily comfortable, mini-theaters that can seat up to 40 people.  Each auditorium, composed of five rows of eight seats, offers leg room fit for a czar.  And the auditoriums’ front and back rows have extra space to accommodate tables.

Tables?  Patrons can prearrange to be served any items from Living Room Theaters’ inventive tapas menu.  Food selections are priced at $6 or $8 a la carte, plus a full bar offers mixed drinks, fine wine and micro-brews, apparently a Portland accoutrement to worthwhile entertainment.

As for the entertainment bill of fare, it’s composed entirely of art films, either in the King’s English or an exotic foreign language.

Not just any art films, mind you.  These are movies currently shown to hip New Yorkers in the Big Apple’s avant-garde districts.  And although seeing “The Interview” was all the rage, we opted for something different and daring: “Force Majeure,” shot on location in the French Alps.


Avalanche photograph courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
Avalanche photograph courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

In the film, a Swedish family of four encounters an apparent avalanche whose force threatens to engulf them all.  The father figure morphs into survival mode, running away to save himself, but deserting his wife and two pre-teenage children.

The psychological impact of what seems like an act of cowardice exacts emotional outbursts, asking us to inwardly examine the traditional roles we expect to portray in family life.  The wide-screen photography captures the loneliness and danger routinely ignored by amateur adventurers in similar tourist meccas.

Anyone who has skied near Mt. Hood should find expansive shots of stanchions supporting skiers’ cable lifts to be familiar.  And I was impressed by the Dolby Surround Sounds from controlled avalanches routinely created by strategically placed explosives during the overnight hours.  The realistic bass level rocked my world, that’s for sure.  You can watch clips from the movie here.

I won’t ruin the movie’s ending by saying any more, other than revealing that reviews from today’s respected critics give it high marks.  And while watching the movie, I savored a mixed drink with rye whiskey, lemon juice and maple syrup.  I also feasted on a spicy tuna roll, created fresh from scratch, as well as four deviled eggs.  Alice enjoyed an arugula salad with pita bread, as well as a delicious glass of zinfandel.

Total cost: $38 on food and drinks, another $14 on senior tickets and that’s all.  The round-trip train rides on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were free of charge.  Indeed, the promotion ensured a good time by both of us.

We never concerned ourselves with threats made public by Sony Pictures for its non-cancellation holiday premiere of “The Interview” shown in an adjacent auditorium.  And as pleasant scenery came into view through well-maintained, routinely clean giant windows during our train ride back to Hillsboro, we wondered: Was the controversy created to give national press to a critically unimpressive movie?

We didn’t care.

We were treated to a good Christmas Eve and Day.  The only thing left to end our annual Yuletide holiday was to find an open Chinese restaurant.  Fortunately, Hillsboro has plenty, so that was no problem.  Besides, we had plenty of questions posed by “Force Majeure” to chew on.

A Christmas Referral from Margaret Bye Richie

Margaret Bye Richie, 12/21/1913 - 12/30/2013
Margaret Bye Richie, 12/21/1913 – 12/30/2013

Of all the articles that appeared on this website,, none inspired more reaction than the time Alice and I wore blue jeans to the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Washington County (UUCCWC), because those were the only clothes we had.  I didn’t feel guilty wearing them being part of the choir; our Pod was in no-man’s land.  Besides, Buckingham’s Quakers regarded blue jeans as appropriate attire in its historic meetinghouse.

Nevertheless, the UUCCWC minister made it a point to tell Alice and me not to wear jeans, even while Alice and I were nervously awaiting our stuff.  We were flabbergasted by the ludicrousness of that admonition, and Alice does not attend church services there any longer.

I’m wary of not appearing to be a hypocrite, but I’m singing in the UUCCWC choir for Christmas Eve service.  So why am I involved?

One person deserves the credit:

Margaret Bye Richie, who actually should be referred to as Dr. Margaret Bye Richie, even though she preferred that I call her “Margaret.”  Doctorates run in the Bye family; they are direct descendants of landowners who personally bought their property from William Penn.  Dr. Richie was regarded as a stalwart Quaker, as well as the acclaimed author of Bucks County Stone Houses.

The Bye family name is historic in that part of Pennsylvania.  And Dr. Richie was one of the sweetest, accepting personages you could ever hope to meet.  Her longevity matched her reputation; she celebrated her 100th birthday before passing peacefully in her sleep nine days later.

Because joining the Quakers was one of the first moves I made after arriving in Bucks County in the summer of 2003, I felt the historic meetinghouse had become a second home.  But that was before I got into a terrible tiff with them in April 2006.  In the midst of my own self-doubt, a Quaker Friend steered me to Dr. Richie, to whom I described how Buckingham Meeting adopted a “consensus” while I was serving the meeting as recording secretary and ignored my dissent afterward.

I told Dr. Richie how I stood apart from the rest of the Quakers after a widower named Eugene Messa attended a Meeting for Worship.  His motive for attending was to ask permission for his newly deceased wife, Jackie, to be buried next to her grandmother in the Quaker graveyard.  Jackie Messa was musically astute, and became a vital force in the Bucks County Opera Association.  The Meeting was not moved, and said, “No.”

After discovering Messa’s son had been flying former Vice President Dick Cheney around on Air Force 2, even though I embrace liberal causes, I believed political impartiality colored the Quaker decision and was basically unfair.  I reported my stand to a personal email list that had grown in popularity, one where I attained some supporters.

I then reported on a Quaker’s subsequent objection to a newspaper photographer at the Meeting, and how it appeared to be intolerant.  I was a freelance journalist, after all.  That was the last straw as far as Buckingham’s Quakers were concerned, because an email blast followed with the subject line: “From Karen Kay to Mason Loika in response to your continuous criticism of Quakers.”

When I showed Dr. Richie the offending email I wrote to my Friends and Supporters, and the scathing response by the clerk of Buckingham Quaker Meeting, she said, “Well, that’s not right.”

Dr. Richie lived up to her bloodline’s reputation right then.  She became the ultimate Quaker in my eyes.  That’s why I felt Margaret Bye Richie was a true Friend.  That makes me a lucky guy.

(In fairness to Katherine Kay, I acknowledge the wisdom of her later personal decision to sacrifice her own gravesite and donate it to Eugene Messa’s wife.  For the Buckingham Quakers, “good will to men” did carry the day.)

After I started to attend Pebble Hill, I became one of four facilitators for Pebble Hill’s meditation service.  Then I saw Dr. Richie one last time.  She was leaving Pine Run, a respected premier care facility for the aged, and moving to Cape Cod.

Dr. Richie confided that she found a spiritual home in Unitarian Universalism, and thought I would enjoy the practice.  I forgot about her advice until three months ago when Alice and I moved to Hillsboro, Oregon, where we ran into a signpost noting a prominent UU church within a 10-minute drive of our apartment.  This might be the place for us, I thought.

Besides, the only church promoting itself as “Quaker” here says the Bible should be taken literally and scriptures studied regularly.  That’s not my cup of tea.

Unitarian Universalist Church, 22785 NW Birch St., Hillsboro.
Unitarian Universalist Church, 22785 NW Birch St., Hillsboro.

Unitarian Universalism prides itself on seven tenets: “The inherent worth and dignity of every person; justice, equity and compassion in human relations; acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; a free and responsible search for truth and meaning; the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all; and respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”

Noble ambitions, for sure, but don’t all religions strive for nobility?  How accepting is this church when the chips are down?  Does their service bring me closer to my concept of who or what God may be?

The quality of UU hymns embraces the poetry of great thinkers.  “Spirit of Life, come unto me, sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion” is one that is sung every service.  And in my heart of hearts, music is the defining form of communication that causes my being to soar.

For Alice and me, the jury is still out on Unitarian Universalism, but I’m giving it a shot, its local minister notwithstanding.  On Christmas Eve, I will raise my voice in harmony to help those who attend service find inspiration and a place for the soul to soar.   Service begins on Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 7 pm.

December 21st marked the 101st anniversary of Margaret Richie’s birth, while December 30th denotes the first anniversary of her passing from planet Earth.  These are the holidays, and I wistfully say, “Happy birthday, Margaret.”

Anderson Cooper Discovers Mindfulness


An idealized vision of meditation.
An idealized vision of meditation.

Every Sunday morning, a group of free spirits gather at 9 am upstairs in the Yellow Barn at Pebble Hill Church in Doylestown, Pa., to practice mindfulness and be present in silence and nature.  Almost immediately after attended my first session, I proselytized its practice.   (You can read more about that here.)

After a gong was sounded, we would meditate , being careful that if the mind ran away from itself, to come back to the present.  We accomplished this by concentrating on breathing and staying attuned to the diversions nature offers, including the skies above.

When I found out no regular Sunday morning meditation service is offered in the Greater Portland area, I wondered if the Pacific Northwest was as liberated as first imagined.  (A Monday evening meditation practice is held at the Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Portland, but only to serve as a warm-up to a discussion of Buddhism.  That’s hardly an interfaith observance.  Meditation is not an appetizer; it’s the main course.)

60 minutes logo2

Then last Sunday, Dec. 14, CBS ran Anderson Cooper’s piece about mindfulness on 60 Minutes.  His orientation occurred at a meditation retreat in the mountains of Northern California.  Man oh man, did he receive the right advice, and he now appears to be a convert.  It’s about time mindfulness joined the mainstream of self-awareness in the 21st century.

Cooper’s report is a first-person account.  He presents a full flavor of what meditators undergo.  Therefore, here’s a link to the CBS Overtime website’s full report on what you may be missing.  Enjoy!

And if you want some helpful hints on meditation, there are plenty of websites that will lead you the right way.  Check this one out.

A Christmas Card

Barbara McCormick Savage
Barbara McCormick Savage

I received a lovely Christmas card yesterday from cousin Barbara Savage.  Enclosed were recipes written by Grandma Grace Johnston in longhand.  After my self-indulgent post of yesterday, I decided to pay penance by creating a Family Album page and posting the recipes on this website.  I scanned some old photographs to create the feel this theme is meant to exude.

My page theme will expand as I create other pages subordinate to the Family Album main page, all as a tip of my figurative cap to the fine heritage with which I was born.  Here’s a link.

Self-indulgent post deleted

I have moments when my writing prowess gets the better of me. That’s the only excuse I can find for yesterday’s post.

It’s been deleted, but not to worry.

I’m rehearsing something meaningful, and I’ll write about it.  If the music is as good as I think, I might be able to resuscitate the Christmas spirit.

Evolution of a Victim

mason in hollywood-lr

From a previous post, you might have gasped as I detailed – in polite terms – how I lost my sexual innocence at the hands of a pedophile.

I remember how women, in person, would react to that disclosure.  There would be a change of countenance, followed by words of, “I’m so s-o-r-r-r-y, Mason,” as if she was responsible in any way.  And the male listeners, they could hardly speak.  Mostly, they turned away.

After observing my share of similar reactions, I learned not to judge others by their reactions to unexpected intimacy.  After all, what could be more unexpected – and intimate – than hearing about someone’s childhood experience of sexual battery, especially when that experience came at the hands of a trusted authority figure who was meant to expose secrets – and instead was hijacking innocence.

I can tell you what I did after it happened.  I picked myself up, dusted myself off and started all over again.  Life is a boomerang; you don’t know what ecstasy is like until first knowing betrayal.

The first step about healing oneself – and transforming into a non-victim – is to realize that difficult experiences are all a part of life.  Let them take you to higher ground.

There’s much to say on the subject, and I shall continue.  But it’s time to relate some adventures in Hollywood, Calif during my hippie years from 1968 to 1972.  You can say enough women had come into my life to turn me into a different animal.

The above photo should give you an idea what I looked like then.

Apartment Bedroom Revisited

Our master bedroom after Alice put it together.
Our master bedroom after Alice put it together.

Take a new look at our master bedroom.  It’s a wonder what Alice McCormick can do when she has time and the opportunity.

I’m touting her talents today while she puts in her first day at work taking care of other people’s kids.  Based on her track record at Doylestown’s YMCA and her work history as a special-education teacher, those youngsters are in good hands.

Check out the page dedicated to her and read more about what those gifted hands can do!

Privacy Died on 9/11


Considering the depth of response I received from my last post, it confirms justification to hold varying degrees of skepticism at those who preach the moral high ground.  People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at the rest of us.  Each person rightfully dances to the beat of a different drummer.

Much of the feedback on previous posts found humor in my writing, and there is more of that to come.  But know this, great comedians have a serious side.  I don’t claim to be a GREAT comedian, but the comedian known as Mason Loika can be intensely serious.  Just ask my partner, Alice McCormick.

For anyone who believes my last post was too personal or private to reveal publicly, I submit that privacy no longer exists.  When fundamentalist Muslim terrorists executed heinous suicide missions on 9/11 of 2001, they killed more than almost 3,000 people who died in New York’s twin towers or on the airplanes that crashed into them and other iconic buildings.  Those animals ended our right to privacy.

Good governments have an obligation to protect their people, and our privacy is regularly infiltrated to root out those with criminal intent.  That’s part of the toll extracted from us day after day.  Having secrets is only an illusion.  That’s why legalizing the counterculture’s use of marijuana is important; we’re all in this together.

I revere the new generations who will function in our brave new world and make it work for people whose skin color, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or national origin is different.  All these differences make up the organic stew that will constitute the society in which we love and can thrive.  We must stand guard against creeping gentrification too.

Therefore, with all due respect to our citizens of the future, I will continue to speak openly and honestly on this website.

My family, friends and curiosity-seekers, as well, deserve nothing less.

Censorship Breeds Sexual Offenders

multifaceted illustration

A mother hears an unexpected noise in her daughter’s bedroom, and her husband interrupts a kidnapping in progress.  A child is snatched on a suburban street, and an Amber Alert is posted electronically across interstate highways.

Whenever we turn on the TV, radio or check out news on the Internet, we’re regularly exposed to sordid encounters involving a suspected pedophile.  With each encounter, we’re shocked by the boldness of such perpetrators and share our alarm with young children.  Certain societal conditions cause these animals to breed, and the time is right to institute changes that eventually expose and root out this evil.

I state my premise because of personal experience.

Almost 60 years ago, I had an unwanted encounter with a pedophile posing as a guidance counselor at an internationally acclaimed boychoir school in Princeton, New Jersey.  Over the years, this perpetrator had accumulated credentials from well-regarded schools in the Northeast, and had won the trust of school administrators.  Deep inside, though, he harbored a secret obsession: young, musically gifted boys.

After he was hired at the school in the fall of 1954, he started to focus on me once the Christmas holidays were over.  “You appear to be suffering from too much tension,” he chided thoughtfully.  “You need to work on that.”

“Oh, really?” I thought.  At 11½ years old, I became self-conscious about possible physical affectations, but didn’t concern myself with anything more.

My parents lived in Miami, Fla., so I had become a resident at this distinguished Ivy League preparatory school for boys.  The halcyon atmosphere and architectural splendor matched the school’s academic excellence, but did little to shield me from an imminent dark force.

I slept on the bottom rack of a double bunk bed in a small dorm room that housed five other boys, but one middle-of-the-night February morning around 2 am, I was roused by the guidance counselor, who put a forefinger to his lips cautioning me not to awaken anyone.  Dutifully, I followed him out of the room, and he led me down the long hallway to his room.

It took the pedophile less than 10 minutes to pull down my pajamas and accomplish his dirty deed of sodomy.  I never made a sound, afraid to anger or encourage my newfound nemesis.

Fortunately, he quickly reached an orgasm, which ended the encounter, and he told me to go back to my room and keep quiet.  After obeying his instructions, I wondered what just happened.

Three days later, while going to breakfast, I was startled to discover each and every choirboy in tears, sobbing over an announcement that caused shockwaves.  School officials had said the popular guidance counselor was resigning – “for personal health” reasons.  He routinely shook hands with each boy, and as was his custom he used a furtive forefinger to scratch suggestively against each young hand customarily offered.

Later in life, I theorized one of the boys in my dorm room had silently awakened, feigning sleep to safely note what was happening.  Almost immediately afterward, he related his eyewitness account of alarm to an authority figure.

Subsequently, the guidance counselor was confronted, and once he confessed was offered the chance to quietly resign.  Since that time, I felt gratitude toward my anonymous savior, and learned to respect the secret world of children, because good kids need an outlet to look after their peers.

Whom did I blame for my betrayal?  Was it the school?  Was it the miscreant pervert?

No, it wasn’t the school, because the school acted appropriately when the misdeed was exposed.  What wasn’t appropriate, though, is how it hid the cause of his dismissal.  And strangely, I didn’t blame the pedophile, although I continue to view him as a predator, albeit a sick one.

I blame the society of the mid-1950s, where homosexual predators of the young proliferated because such occurrences were only whispered about, never discussed in public.  Those were the days of the McCarthy era, when women were ostracized if they weren’t subservient to their husbands or, heaven forbid, flaunted themselves in public.

The “Father Knows Best” blindness of the mid-20th Century was responsible for the attack on my innocence, and my consistent kneejerk response thereafter has been to rail against censorship.

A short two months after I suffered the ultimate betrayal, the boychoir school embargoed broadcasts of the 1939 movie, “King Kong,” starring Fay Wray, claiming it was too violent for our young minds.  The decision was reached once WOR-TV in New York City began telecasting the classic film twice a day for a full week on its “Million Dollar Movie.”  Each television was monitored to make sure no one was watching at each of the 14 showings.  What a waste!

I believe censorship lays the groundwork as a breeding ground for pedophiles.  If any attire, look or behavior can be banned for being “inappropriate,” such dress code creates an atmosphere that eventually works to conceal aberrant behavior.  “The Bill Cosby Show” was exalted for its clean, wholesome approach.  Look at the awful truth now being revealed.

Some statistics unequivocally state that one out of three females have been sexually molested, most by a family member or authority figure.  The same source adds that one out of four males encountered the same violation.  Why aren’t these victims talking about it?  Is there truth in these numbers or is there a conspiracy of silence in the guise of political correctness?

A preacher’s recent admonition about blue jeans personally raises a red flag.  Underneath it all, I want to shout from the rooftops, “Pedophiles are like cockroaches.  Turn on the lights, and they’ll scatter.”

As an adult, I don’t view myself as a victim.  I see myself as an advocate for meaningful change, and when something causes me to react in disgust, there is usually a good reason.

Humor is our best defense against the serious times in which we live, and I will continue to cause consternation toward those advocating censorship.  We need to keep the lights turned on, because it costs too much to turn them off.

Sex Is Here to Stay

women silhoutted

At a recent choir rehearsal, I heard an admonition – which was instituted as a ban – regarding sexually suggestive appearance.

To honor the ridiculousness of that moment, I shall seize the opportunity and continue writing about sex.

I have another good reason to do so, too.  But let me start with a topical segue:

A couple of years ago, I asked people I just met, or regarded as desirable, the following question, and prefaced it by saying it was personal, “What’s the most erogenous zone of your body?”

Invariably, an alpha female would assert unashamedly, “Oh, I believe, it’s my clitoris.”  Or “vagina.”  Or a sweet lovely thing would coo, “the back of my neck.”

Plenty of mind-massage material, I admit, but eventually someone taught me there was only one right answer.  And I realized my informal poll had become, in reality, a riddle.  The reason why: There is only one correct response.

“The mind.”

What a concept, yet it’s true.  Would you want someone else touching your sensitive body parts before your mind ran in that direction?  You’re not amenable to anyone who walks down the pike, right?

Or are you?

Experience teaches us who floats our boat – and who doesn’t.

As I said, I have two good reasons to continue talking about sex.

For one thing, a preacher started it, and I’m not going to let it drop.   What’s your opinion?  You can either email me privately or add a comment to be seen publicly.

In my memory banks are stored the free love I associated with the West Coast while going through my hippie years in Hollywood, California.  That was the era of rock music’s explosion and free-form rock radio – the late 1960s and early ’70s.

There’s more to come.