My Nash Rambler

A classic moment as Chris sneaks into a photo shoot.
A classic moment as Chris sneaks into a photo shoot.

I came across a photo that reveals Brother Chris’ impish side. It also showcases my fondest key possession long reputed for use by a would-be lothario.

Yes, it’s a Nash Rambler, the automobile whose front seats reclined all the way down.  What’s more, it’s a convertible.  The 1963 vehicle was purchased from a dealer on the Miami mainline side of the Venetian Causeway.

Chris is peeking above the passenger side, a surprise contained in the photo that only he knew would appear.  Of all the attributes that need be mentioned about my surviving brother, it’s his sardonic sense of humor.

I drove my Nash Rambler around Miami in the early 1960s, but not for long.  One early afternoon, while stopped at a traffic light on Biscayne Boulevard at 54th Street, my pride and joy was rear-ended.  A woman’s vehicle smashed into the back end of the Rambler, the aftermath of driving through a deep puddle from a passing thunderstorm.  During those days, conscientious drivers would dry their brakes after a car’s wheels were inundated from standing water.

Her auto insurance paid for the damage, but the convertible top never operated as before.  Soon thereafter, I parted with the Nash Rambler for a 1966 Ford Mustang fastback – fire-engine red, no less.

Jon Loika (left) and Chris Loika Englert.
Jon Loika (left) and Chris Loika Englert.

Another photo I scanned is fading in quality, but it’s one of the few showing both my brothers, Jon and Chris, together.

Jon passed away in early January 2010 in Greenville, SC, at a time when brotherly ties had been torn.  Below is a photo chronicling the time Chris and I mourned his demise with Jon’s longtime girlfriend, Lynn King, who kept his pit bull afterward.

jon's mourners-lr

Both Chris and I drove to South Carolina to say goodbye to our brother and safeguard possessions that meant the world to him.  Of all the cold-weather clothes I own, Jon’s London Fog jacket is one piece of apparel that means the most personally.

Family memories can be humorous, others solemn.  Somehow, they all work together, giving depth and meaning to siblings we’ve known and loved.

A Challenge From My Brother

Chris Englert takes much pride in the appearance of his backyard in Nacogdoches, Texas.
Chris Englert takes much pride in the appearance of his backyard.  Photo taken 4/20/2010.

My brother, Chris Englert, of Nacogdoches, Texas, took me at my word when I invited him to check out this website.  I urged him to comment if he felt inspired, and he did so.  Not only that, he chose to comment about the plan to nationalize Oregon’s waterways.  (You can read the post and Chris’ comment here.)

Chris wrote, “The best way you can protest in a meaningful way is to turn off your power to your house; then you won’t be contributing to those satanic energy companies.”

At first, I interpreted the comment to be symptomatic of a conservative bias, and I didn’t answer it.  Then I realized the comment could be construed as offering a challenge.  Wow, this could be fun, and it’s from my brother, no less.

As I publish this post, Chris is under a surgeon’s cutting expertise to repair the rotator cuff of his right shoulder.  Everything seems to going as planned, and it’s fair to honor him by respectfully answering his challenge.  Brothers often disagree, but it’s important they do so honorably.

I accept the gauntlet without reservation, because I’m already in the winning column.  When Alice and I moved to Hillsboro, our only option for electric power was Portland General Electric Company.  The local company offers a novel approach for environmentally green citizens who choose to make a difference.

Portland General Electric asks customers if they want to commit to receiving green energy under its “Green Source” program.  I thought about it, and said, “Yes.”  It costs us a bit more – just a tad – than energy for regular customers.  But that selection means all our energy comes from “renewables,” 3% designated “biomass,” another 1% solar but then an amazing 96% from wind.

By making this voluntary electricity choice, one earns the right to protest and take a stand along with thousands of other Oregonians committed to renewable energy.

By the way, there’s something else Alice and I chose that reduces our carbon footprint.  We live in an apartment complex conveniently located less than a mile from a Tri-Met rail station.  Consequently, whenever we savor the taste of something special in City Center, we hop onto a clean futuristic train that speeds us downtown.

So we’re winners, in the best possible way.  As I read over my brother’s comment, I think Chris is trying to make the following point: “Choose what you want to believe; just don’t be a hypocrite about it.”

His point, which I clarify as good down-to-earth Texas advice, cuts across the full political spectrum.  Therefore, I’m happy to agree with him.  We’re brothers, after all.

Welcome to the Coast

Seaside is  where a long beach welcomes casual strollers to enjoy the Coast. One problem, though. It's smack-dab in the heart of a tsunami zone.
A long beach welcomes casual strollers to the Coast at Seaside, Oregon. One problem, though. It’s smack-dab in the heart of a tsunami zone.

Four weeks ago while the East Coast began shivering in earnest, Alice and I fulfilled the realization of her mind’s dream: a visit to the Coast.  If this is a dream, it’s the sweetest kind of reverie I’ve known.

First of all, let’s get some jargon straight.  Whereas East Coasters call a trip to their ocean beaches “the Shore,” out West it’s called “the Coast.”  The difference in mindset is expansive.

A highway viewing point between Portland and the Coast reveals a snow-capped volcanic peak.
A highway viewing point between Portland and the Coast reveals a snow-capped volcanic peak.

Westerners drive on sections of road built by highway pioneers whose imaginations engineered scenic drives.  These auto explorations showcase dramatic cliffs and dazzling sun-drenched views interspersed with dreamy forest incursions draped in an ever-changing fog.  This is how a stimulant is supposed to work.

The world around me affects how I connect the dots on my adventures and put them in written form.  For Alice, the surroundings cause her to hoist up her trusty camera and take more photos.  Her accomplishments become self-evident as I splash them between the paragraphs of the posts you read.

You bet I love her, and it thrills me to see Alice receive long-overdue professional recognition.  And I’ll tell you a little secret.  I married the woman whose skills were denigrated by no less a living legend than Renaissance’s own Annie Haslam, dissolving whatever admiration I once had for her considerable musical skills.

Alice embraced my heart and watched me levitate my honor by defending Alice’s artistic vision against Annie’s insults, and today I realize I’m better for having championed Alice.  But enough of Haslam, please!

This story commemorates Sunday, Jan. 25th as the outrageous pinnacle to Alice’s and my West Coast journey.  Viewing the ocean for the first time here compares with my hippie years in Southern California.  Furthermore, watching a wave wash across Alice’s feet was way beyond expectation.  And it was 63 degrees (the air temperature, not the water)!

What a joy to witness Alice’s love of the art of photography feed itself as she captured first impressions while strolling onto the sandy beach.  One particular photograph exudes the sheer brightness of a sun ablaze shining onto the misty Pacific Ocean.

The sun blazes across the misty mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
The sun blazes across the misty mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

This is Seaside, Oregon, and as long as you’re away from the touristy crowds, an impression of isolation and stark beauty allows a body to breathe.  To comprehend the moment is to realize the partnership of sun and Pacific Ocean.

A taste of the development around Seaside. Fortunately, Oregon believes the ocean belongs to all.
A taste of the commercial attraction of Seaside. Oregon doesn’t let development encroach upon its beaches, though.

We quickly found the crush of eager beachgoers too raucous for our taste, so we soon drove north and an hour later emerged into Astoria, where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean.  A quick trip to a picturesque restaurant called Bridgewater led to a chance meeting with Ron Craig, a Shakespearean-looking bon de vivant who serves as executive director for Astoria’s international film festival.

Astoria's bridge to Washington was built in the 1950s.
Astoria’s bridge to Washington was built in the 1950s.

What a wonderful end to our first day on the Coast.  (There’s more to tell, specifically how a living, breathing mist that morphed into thick fog caused a white-knuckle drive home.)

Looking back at our introduction to northern Oregon’s coast, I can’t help but reflect back to our journey’s beginning on Sept. 12, 2014.  Yes, I anticipated there would be adventure as Alice and I began our trek west, and there were the usual suspects.  But I didn’t reckon on a car named Betsy, or a neighbor called Lou, or a disabling fear that all our worldly possessions would wind up in limbo.

But in the end, Alice and I both did what had to be done, and we made it, although Alice refuses to call it “the hair of our chimney-chin-chins.”  We’re thankful to be here because members of both our families gave some necessary support that allowed us to make a soft landing in Hillsboro, Oregon, about 15 miles west of Portland.

The Cannery Pier Hotel is a perfect nighttime juxtaposition to Astoria's Columbia River bridge.
The Cannery Pier Hotel is a perfect nighttime juxtaposition to Astoria’s Columbia River bridge.

And as I reflect on the photos adorning this post, I’m grateful that I wound up with an Amazon, who seems to be reaching the apex of her retiring years.  Oregon is the place of Alice’s dreams, and I’m glad to be the person she chose to accompany her as she explores this fairytale land.

Yet she says we came out here so that I can write.  Glory be.

A taste of Spring

Blue skies in Oregon appear punctuated by a dash of cirrus.
Blue skies in Oregon appear punctuated by a dash of cirrus.

We started the day trying not to gloat about how severely cold it turned back East.  After all, our hearts are close to friends there.

But red buds now adorn the 20-foot deciduous trees surrounding our aesthetically agreeable four-unit building.  West-coast designers use such low-impact trees so their fiery-red leaves will descend onto the constantly green grass in the fall so the sun blazes upon dwellings during the chilly winds of winter.  By contrast, born again leaves surge through the trees during warm summers and ward ol’ Sol away.

I strolled onto the patio to settle onto our recently acquired glider and absorb some unseasonably warm Oregon valley winter sun, commenting absentmindedly to Alice, “You’re always so open with me.”

Obviously, I was talking before putting my thinking cap on, something I’m prone to do when I favor stream-of-consciousness.  “Why did I say that?” I worried.

Alice responded, “Whom else would I be open with?  You know all sides of me, as I know all sides of you.

“There are people – such as best friends, relatives – that we love or who love us, but they only know one side, maybe two sides.  You and I know each other intimately, and that covers a multitude of sides.”

Our conversation must have been a perfect reflection of Spring, because why else would love become a hot topic?

As we approach our seventh 60-degree-plus day in the Northwest for 2015, we look in horror at the 5-below-zero temperature in Doylestown, PA forecast after a 2-below-zero thermometer reading there last Sunday.  No wonder Alice thanks St. Jude and St. Joseph, whom she planted in the ground before we left.

How would we have afforded the cost of heating and eating if we had stayed back East, notwithstanding the misery index?

Perhaps that’s why talk of love and a Spring yet to come fill our luxurious days of unseasonable warmth and shared affection.

A Plan to Nationalize Oregon’s Waterways

The view from Portland's light-rail Tilikum Crossing will change radically if the oil and gas industry has its way. Photograph by Alice McCormick.
The view from Portland’s light-rail Tilikum Crossing will change radically if the oil and gas industry has its way. Photograph by Alice McCormick.

A good friend who is a die-hard Portland resident married an upstanding guy on New Year’s Eve before 2014 turned into 2015.  The water on which their boat motored is designated as the Vancouver Upper Turning Basin on the Columbia River, located underneath Interstate-5’s imposing bridge that links Washington to Oregon.

After I saw the video of the sublime heartfelt, sometimes humor-filled, ceremony, I wondered how much time local Portlanders have left to celebrate their longtime connection to clean water, one of the few precious gifts left on Earth.  If the newly Republicanized U.S. Congress has its way, Portlanders’ supposed “green city” will have to yield its waterways to what politicians regard as “the national interest.”

Portland mayor Charlie Hale appears unyielding in his enthusiasm.  He already is touting mammoth social programs to benefit the citizenry.  And, as a whole, the local populace doesn’t appear to have much money, so the welcome mat for a propane export center is being laid out.

Each night on the evening news amid superior graphics, a spokeswoman for the “natural gas” industry pounds out an optimistic forecast – in advertising format suggesting a tech-savvy infomercial – for almost an unlimited number of jobs to be created.  When people get hungry enough, it’s tempting to embrace the devil who will feed your children, a fine legacy to leave the next generation.

Propane is highly volatile, so explosive accidents can and will happen.  In addition, no matter how safely tycoons can convert it into liquefied natural gas, there remains an unknown risk of terrorism.  Whether it’s a radicalized enemy of America or a potential eco-terrorist, Homeland Security must rein in unlimited access to shipping channels.  In other words, say goodbye to Portland’s major rivers.

Republicans have yet to find a tar sands project they don’t like.  In their zeal to give this technology a fast track, they seem hell-bent on converting Portland into another despoiler of Planet Earth.  Yet Sam Avery, author of The Pipeline and the Paradigm, warns the carbon in tar sands is enough “to send Earth’s climate into an irreversible tailspin.”

There’s plenty of reference material available on the Internet.  Sam Churchill compiled a voluminous website listing of projects lusted after by the oil and gas industry whose seemingly interconnected components would convert northwest Oregon into a vast export-import fuel center.  You can check his facts, skim through his research and look at his bibliography by clicking here.

Tar sands are not the only source for propane.  The process known as fracking is well known to Pennsylvanians, because the state’s hills and mountains lie atop the Marcellus Shale.

Three years ago, I reported for a moderate-circulation newspaper about several hundred demonstrators who marched through Philadelphia’s Center City to decry the introduction of methane gas into the environment from drilling.  “Gasland” director Josh Fox spoke to the crowd about what he witnessed, and my later follow-up story suggested fracking’s citizen reporters could find themselves on shaky ground.

I reported that “psy ops” [psychological operations] specialists were being used to sway local communities to oil and gas industry viewpoints.  Therefore, it should be of little surprise that Pennsylvania’s citizen reporters with their own websites learned some nasty methods those specialists use.

National Public Radio discovered that 55-year-old philosophy professor Wendy Lee in Bloomsburg suffered blows to her patriotic sensibilities after taking photos of a gas compression station for her website.  A Pennsylvania state trooper showed up on her doorstep to grill her about any leanings to eco-terrorism.  You can read her opposition to fracking here.

One of Lee’s compatriots in New York State, Jeremy Alderson, 65, found himself under suspicion from two state troopers.  If the effect was supposed to stifle free speech (or the appearance thereof), Alderson is ringing the alarm even louder with videos and reports about the dangers of propane in Watkins Glen.  His website is here.

The story I wrote about “psy ops” intruders from the military appears below.  As far as Portland is concerned, it appears citizens will heed the clarion call and kill the goose that laid the golden eggs of tourism.  What the next generation faces is a dying world that will flounder in irreversible climate change.

The war against what precious resources are left is being won by industry barons, currently identified as the well-to-do 1%.

The surroundings of Astoria, Oregon's majestic bridge to Megler, Washington,  is coveted by oil and gas magnates. Photo by Alice McCormick.
The pristine waterway underneath Astoria, Oregon’s majestic bridge to Megler, Washington, is coveted by oil and gas magnates. Photo by Alice McCormick.

Alice and I want to visit many of the ecologically pure sites lusted after by the oil and gas industry before they’re gone.  We’re pretty sure they will be replaced by locked gates, video cameras and ugly reminders of the scenic violations that usually accompany them.

I lived in Miami, Florida until 2003, where global warming turned paradise into a flood zone; these days, Pennsylvanians suffer their share of extreme cold-weather events.

As I read the tea leaves, Oregon is under the gun, and there’s nowhere left to run.

Penn Physician Explains How Fracking Is Harmful

[The following story reported by Mason Loika appeared in the Bucks County Herald on December 1, 2011.  It appears here to underscore military psychological operatives' ties to fracking in Pennsylvania.]
Hundreds of fracking opponents marched through Philadelphia's Center City in September 2011.
Hundreds of fracking opponents marched through Philadelphia’s Center City in September 2011.

After the governor of Delaware announced his state’s position opposes fracking, the Delaware River Basin Commission cancelled its Nov. 21 meeting expected to allow gas drilling in the Delaware River’s watershed.

But don’t expect the fight to stop here.  While citizens from the Northeast were focused on the Halloween Snowstorm, oil industry bigshots were conducting another conference — this time at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston.

An environmental activist attended that conference and sent a recording of the event to CNBC, in which Range Resources communications director Matt Pitzarella says his company employs current and former psychological operations (“psy ops”) military personnel to deal with “localized issues and local government.”

The stakes seem to be growing exponentially bigger; many environmental organizations and specialists say the drilling is harmful.

Dr. Pouné Saberi specializes in Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Pouné Saberi specializes in Occupational and Environmental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Pouné Saberi, a 10-year family physician, knows about the potential health risks of fracking. She evolved from a genealogical family of educators and now participates in the Occupational and Environmental Medicine program at the University of Pennsylvania.

She also serves as a clinician at B.L. Johnson Sayre Health Center and became a faculty member at Penn’s Family Medicine and Community Health Department. Her inner enlightenment about potential health impacts associated with natural gas drilling came from interviewing a dozen people exhibiting adverse symptoms in affected areas.

Four years ago, Saberi heard about the Penn’s Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, and jumped at the chance to see her career goals juxtapose with a developing personal philosophy. “When I got started, I was learning contaminants in our drinking water mainly act as endocrine destructors,” she said. “That’s actually how I got involved in this.”

Saberi draws a parallel between the discovery of pharmaceuticals in drinking water and fracking. With the multiple risks inherent in hydraulic fracturing of the Earth’s shale, she warns, “We are going back in time. We are not progressing; we are digressing.”

Fracking is not an acceptable way to mine natural gas, she believes. “For years they have been obtaining natural gas in much more shallow reservoirs,” she noted. “That’s less destructive to the environment, being shallow and vertical. The less you disrupt what is meant to last for hundreds of millions of years, the better.”

The options available for America to become energy self-dependent have lessened, though, and Saberi admits, “We have completely tapped out that reservoir.”

As more federal monies are pledged to repair and build new national highways and bridges in a constricting economy, the codeword “infrastructure” is used to obfuscate how these mammoth expenditures are predicated on increased fossil-fuel usage. And that seems to be why Dr. Saberi became absorbed in the exploratory science posited by the anti-fracking movement about a year ago and found herself an environmental advocate.

Saberi doesn’t shout slogans, though. She speaks in the careful practiced jargon of an experienced scientist who is a respected family physician. She criticizes Dick Cheney’s 2005 exemption for the natural gas industry, known as the “Halliburton Loophole,” from seven environmental laws, “especially the Clean Water Act that makes our municipal waters so safe to drink.”

As a member of the executive committee for Protecting Our Waters, her clinical perspective makes clear what’s at stake to rebuild the appearance of a truly healthy economy: clean air and water.

Before and After

The snow last year in Doylestown was deep and daunting.
The snow last year in Doylestown was deep and daunting.

One year ago, I braved the elements outside Alice’s house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  Even though I took pride wearing my parka shoveling snow, it was bitterly cold.  Alice worried, hearing a myriad of reports about men my age who succumbed to heart attacks after shoveling a lot of snow.

In Hillsboro, it's warm enough to leave the sweater indoors.  After all, there's no wind.
In Hillsboro, it’s warm enough to leave the sweater indoors. After all, there’s no wind.

An hour ago, I took this selfie on our back patio, enduring damp but tolerable elements, although a full week of rain storms predicted to begin tomorrow.  Alice is inside sleeping on the sofa after supervising toddlers all day.

We’re happy.  Alice and I deal better with rain than the frozen stuff.  No snow has fallen this winter in Hillsboro, because the climate is noticeably warmer.  Currently, it’s 5 pm and 48 degrees.

Looking at the before and after pictures, it’s mind-blowing to measure how far I’ve come in a year.  I’m glad you’re taking the ride with me.