Dressing a Woman: A Tactile Adventure

How can a man live as long as me without experiencing how deliciously suggestive it is to go clothes shopping with a woman?

Two weeks ago Alice and I made our way back to Portland’s 23rd Avenue.  My palate enjoyed the avenue’s delights before, and I was lured back once my taste buds demanded new adventures.

We found the pizza at Escape From New York Pizza as satisfying as our first, second and more tastings.  A triumph for consistency, that’s for sure.  And the price of a large New York-style pie was the same as before, $20 plus $1.50 for each topping.

Not the case, though, for Kornblatt’s Delicatessen.  The “authentic New York style” establishment is now owned by Daniel Sohn, and he relegated the delicious ricotta-laced cheese blintzes to a mere mention on Kornblatt’s takeout menu.  In addition, Sohn raised the price for his previously featured blintzes to $8.95, up from the bargain $5 advertised in a shop banner three months ago.

I began to feel seriously bummed, but Alice and I walked over to Portland’s retail outlet of Carlsbad, California-based prAna (635 NW 23rd Ave.), which specializes in women’s and men’s leisure wear.

Alice admired a long summer dress’s color inside prAna’s display window.  How appealingly unconventional it seemed.

Alice walked in as I dutifully followed.  Once inside, a lithe salesperson named Meghan Callaghan sauntered up to us and unknowingly opened the portal of a fantasy world.

Meagan Callaghan turns a uniquely patterned summer dress into a hands-on tactile experience.
Meagan Callaghan turns a uniquely patterned summer dress into a hands-on tactile experience.

All of a sudden, I was encouraged to feast upon the vision of my woman wrapped inside a celebratory subtle summer dress.  I had no choice but to let my mind go, and tactile bursts of sensation ignited inside my fertile brain.

A few words of explanation here.  Understand that while creating, writers live alone – at least, in their heads – and I routinely disappear from Alice for hours on end while at home.  I appreciate it when she wears the same garments, because routine appearance allows my mind to ponder upcoming subjects for my writing.

But inside this chic clothier, I discovered how a woman rules my world.  Provocative images of how the dress with a flowing skirt would fit snugly in and about Alice overtook my gray matter, and I readily submitted.

This saleswoman Callaghan was something else, too.  As she absentmindedly caressed the skirt’s fiber, I imagined doing the same, but with Alice inside of it.  Callaghan was tempting me with my own woman; what a thing to do!

Is this a specialty of salespeople in apparel shops?  Do they wear nothing but trendy outfits utilizing model-like swirls and twirls?  Are Alice and I supposed to channel Callaghan’s desirability into our own exclusive whirlwind if I buy the dress?

What is motivating me?  Is this saleswoman a specialist in giving other women the means to hypnotize would-be paramours?

Well, I bought the dress, promising to write about the experience in exchange for a substantial discount on its $80 price.  The deal was made right there, and Alice left the store with a new way to bedazzle me and our friends.

I’m proud of the dress.  But as a man, I’m ashamed to admit this is the first practical piece of apparel I bought for a woman.  Other than shopping for Victoria Secret unmentionables, I never knew the erotic thrill attendant to buying something less explicit that the woman in my life could wear.

I guess I’m a bit of a cheapskate.  Also, I’m dense.  But no wonder Callaghan has become prAna’s Portland assistant manager.

She has the power to cloud men’s – and women’s – minds.  And we both left Portland’s Northwest 23rd Avenue with more good memories to share.

One day later after I bought the dress for Alice,  this photographer admires being rapt in attention to friend Pauletta Hoffman.
One day after I bought the dress for Alice, she looks fashionable while rapt in attention to friend Pauletta Hoffman.

A Reprieve of the Uber Kind

The night is darkest before the dawn.

After a post headed “Alice Is Out of Work” written ten days ago, darkness enveloped me.  Everything seemed bleak, hence our GoFundMe post.

Ten days since, light surrounds us, and I am ready to remove the GoFundMe appeal.

GoFundMe post brings contribution

To bring you up to date, an almost immediate response to our cry for help came from a dear friend in Bucks County who gave a $200 contribution.  Alice and I are overwhelmed by his generosity, and plan to respond in kind by writing a firsthand account of nearby pinot noir wineries.

Writing about wine tours was an idea posited by him a month ago, and his donation should enable us to do a creditable job.  Consequently, once it is written, we will send him an advance copy of the story, because writers swell with pride when earning their keep from readers’ help.

But that’s not the biggest news.  In early November, I applied for a freelance job driving for Uber, but was rebuffed by the background-check company that Uber relied upon to validate application data.

The problem?  That company didn’t check my driving record beyond what existed in Oregon.  Even though I am a senior, I was listed as having less than one year’s driving experience.

Uber certification at last

Six months after supplying my Pennsylvania driver’s license information, in addition to attaining a Portland business license, vehicle inspection, first-aid kit and fire extinguisher, I finally received Uber certification to go with the logo we pasted on Betsy, our 2010 Ford Escape.

When?  Last week.  It felt like some kind of answer from a nondenominational heaven after wringing one’s hands in desperation.

Are drivers employees of Uber?

Uber is the result of what happens when technology transforms the car-service business.  The product is called ride-sharing, and unlike a judge’s ruling in San Francisco this week, its drivers are not employees.

I set my own hours: not from a company-mandated list of options.  I have full freedom to determine what hours I work, based upon my own schedule, not the company’s.  What employer lets its workforce do that?

What Uber is doing – community after community – is lowering prices.  Limousines are unnecessarily extravagant, considering what their drivers are paid.  And limo drivers work under horrendous conditions, too.  People at CBS News are still mourning the loss of Bob Simon to a limo driver’s blunder.

Cab drivers don’t compare to Uber drivers

Taxicabs are pricey, too, and their drivers are not exactly pick of the litter.  Meet a few Uber drivers, and you will be able to make comparisons.

This week, I finished working a part-time schedule as an Uber driver and am optimistic enough to write this update.  Hats should go off to Kaiser Permanente who forgave our entire medical debt; that is a huge help.  We’re currently trying to convince Legacy Good Samaritan Hospital to reduce that bill to half its current size.

Here’s the downside of this good news, though.  Alice brought me to Oregon so I could write more, but writing time will now be limited until debts are brought under control.  I hope to add two new entries to the website each week.

Also, I worry about Alice when I’m not home.  Will a new emergency arise while I’m not there?  How can she let me know something’s wrong?

From a positive perspective, being an Uber driver will help me learn more about Portland and Portlanders.  I can explore the area more, and detail findings on this website.

Thanks for all the good wishes and thoughts.  I wish today’s readers had more resources, considering how easy I am self-critical when the cupboards get bare.  But I accept the improved situation as it currently stands.

Stay tuned.  Considering the quality of readers this website has attracted, new entries will continue to appear.

Massive oil-chemical barge launched

Photographs by Alice McCormick.

Amid hoopla and a 20-piece bagpipe band, Gunderson Marine launched a mammoth oil and chemical tank barge into Portland’s Willamette River on Saturday, May 30.  Approximately 4,000 people attended the ceremony to witness a just-completed 578-foot-long container vessel dramatically lowered in 10 seconds by strategically collapsing multitudinous blocks of wood.

Performing was the Clan Macleay Band, a troupe of 20 pipers and drummers from southern Washington and Oregon formed shortly after World War I.
Performing was the Clan Macleay Band, a troupe of 20 pipers and drummers from southern Washington and Oregon formed shortly after World War I.

Speeches and bagpipes fill the air

Named Kirby 185-01, the ship is capable of holding 185,000 barrels, or 7.77 million gallons.  The launching ceremony of Gunderson Marine’s gargantuan floating achievement was bolstered by a work force that grew from 400 people one year ago to a rock-solid cadre of 1,400 today.

The mammoth barge dwarfs a cameraman and tugboat below.
The mammoth barge dwarfs a cameraman and tugboat below.

A challenge from our planet

The effect on the company’s new hires illustrates the single biggest challenge facing environmentalists concerned about global warming: How to keep an energetic, blue-collar work force gainfully employed.

We face increased polarization between concerned activists and hard-working families who face looming unemployment whenever progress can no longer be sustained.  Where are the bountiful jobs that need to be created on the same large scale that the oil and chemical world offers?  Why isn’t there an imaginative investment in manpower being made to save the planet?

The barge descends into the Willamette River.
The barge descends into the Willamette River.
After its descent, the Kirby 185-01 floats toward the middle of the River, where tugboats guide it and a smaller boat wraps a boom to gather up the wood that fell into the River.
After its descent, the Kirby 185-01 floats toward the middle of the River, where tugboats guide it.  A smaller boat wraps a boom around wood that fell into the River during the launch.

We hear that Pembina Pipeline Corporation hasn’t dropped its zeal to manufacture a propane terminal in the Port of Portland.  Wooing Pembina would be a horrible mistake and turn this area – that currently enjoys a “green” reputation nationally – into an ecological nightmare.  We can’t relinquish our defense of natural resources to those who would exploit and neglect them.

But neither can we be simpleminded.  These days, it’s not enough to simply oppose further industrialization.  The same minds that fomented vast technological advances in the exploration of outer space during the 1960s need to channel the same loyalty Alice and I witnessed in Portland’s industrial corridor.

Scott Chill (holding baby) works at Gunderson and played host for our entourage.
Scott Chill (holding baby) works at Gunderson and played host for our entourage.

Creating employment out of planetary progress must be Priority #1 for politicians.  Otherwise, we will continue witnessing the ugly game of musical chairs being played when well-paying jobs are eliminated from families who continue to scrimp and save to survive.

My father’s story added

The photo above was taken in the 1940s and shows my father, Virgil; brother, Jon (now deceased); mother, Thelma; and myself around a picnic table.

Website goes international

Google Analytics reveals far more people visit this website from Russia than in the United States.  Whether it’s because of my surname or whether this site is typical of other blogs, I’m intrigued.

Since my father emigrated to America during World War I, we acknowledge the international acceptance of this website by publishing Thelma Johnston Loika’s (my late mother) account of “Virgil’s Story.”

My Father’s Story

Here’s a link to my mother’s biography and a link to Part I.

Alice Is Out of Work

Alice embraces Mason at Rehabilitative Institute of Oregon to ease his premonitions of doom and gloom.
Alice embraces Mason at Rehabilitative Institute of Oregon to ease his premonitions of doom and gloom.

On Monday, June 8, Alice McCormick, who has aphasia, visited Knowledge Universe’s Evergreen Road location in Hillsboro to entertain what she was told would be an offer to resume work.  Instead, she learned no further work is being offered by the corporate parent until she completes a job application on its website and submits a resumé.

In other words, because her longevity there is less than one year, Alice’s status is that of a new job applicant.  With her current inability to speak and write fluently as she continues to recover from a stroke, neither of us are optimistic about her future at KinderCare.

Since medical bills are overdue, and there is a pressing need to keep our heads above water, we started a gofundme drive earlier today.  Here’s a link.

I sincerely wish there was a better way to move forward, but we appear out of options.  I will continue to write and post more items on this website.

Alice Feels Frustration

Aphasia Taking Its Toll

This has been a rough week for Alice McCormick.  Progress, although steady, has slowed down, and Alice has become reticent to begin conversations with anyone she doesn’t know.

After taking out some frustration on me last night, while fighting back tears today, she explained her speech difficulty, “It’s like wearing a muzzle.”  Trying to soothe some hurt feelings, she continued, “I love you, and I don’t want to hurt you.”

Alice’s Ambitions on Hold

Since initiating her return to work three weeks ago, Alice put in two days part-time at KinderCare’s Cornell Road location in Hillsboro – her home away from home – where infants and co-workers adore her.  A 12-week absence due to her stroke, though, required the new director to seek a replacement.

Before one could be found, Alice got her foot back in the door, until the corporate office required Alice’s doctor to certify that she experienced a stroke and recovered enough to fulfill her position’s responsibilities.

A delay ensued, because the doctor’s office required two full weeks to complete the necessary paperwork.  Once faxed to management, last week she was told no opening exists any longer at the location she favors.

Cause for Optimism?

One bright spot exists, but it’s tenuous.  Another KinderCare location a couple miles away posted an opening for which Alice was recommended, and she is invited to visit the center’s manager. However, prospective new co-workers haven’t seen her in action, and there is no assurance they would welcome Alice with open arms.

My partner is sensitive to fulfilling her job duties responsibly, and Alice will not allow herself to be a burden or be viewed that way.

Our medical bills have come due, and dunning notices are coming in.  Both of us are getting nervous, which doesn’t help to ease the difficulties we face daily.  Consequently, we are considering a fund-raising appeal through a reputable company we learned about called “GoFundMe.”  More about this shall follow.

Summing Up

When I started writing our narrative about Alice’s stroke, we decided to be candid about our situation without infringing upon our private lives.  We believe there are many myths and biases toward survivors of stroke.

Therapists we know stress that aphasia is a loss of language, not intellect.  We continue to spread the word, and will persevere with our journey and story.  Thank you for the good thoughts and wishes.

We shall survive.

Mexican Food Shines in Newburg

Photographs by Alice McCormick.

After seven months in the Portland area, we learned a few things about Mexican food here.  In fact, because of the large Mexican-American presence in the neighborhood, a few wags refer to the center of Hillsboro as “Hills-burrito.”

Maybe it’s true I resemble CNN’s food commentator Anthony Bourdain.  Is that why Alice calls me a “foodie?”  I have stopped at plenty of Mexican restaurants to satisfy a craving for enchiladas, tortillas, tacos accompanied by the usual Spanish rice and refried beans.

Most of these food offerings are so similar – and bland – they seem to be cut from the same cloth.  It’s little wonder, therefore, that franchised fast-food places like Taco Bell and Taco del Mar represent Americanized versions from South of the Border that capture a disproportionate share of the Mexican food market.

Mexican restaurants in Hillsboro

Alice and I tried to go upscale with Amelia’s Restaurant in the heart of Hillsboro and at Juan Colorado Mexican Restaurant tucked away in a nondescript shopping center off Hillsboro’s main drag.  Amelia’s was diverting with its moles, but again it felt like we ran into “bland city.”  Juan Colorado was definitely better, especially with its over-the-top margaritas, but it’s reputed to be a touch pricey by some of the locals.

We hadn’t found anything inspiring us to return in the next day or two, so I began to imagine all Mexican food tasted the same.  That’s why I was surprised and delighted by what we found in the town of Newberg, otherwise known as the home of George Fox University, ranked among the top Christian colleges in America by Forbes magazine.

After walking into a place offering American fare, a bartender confessed the limited menu offerings were meant to meet minimum requirements that allow the establishment to call itself a restaurant.

Considering ourselves forewarned, we walked out and explored the offerings on the north side of one-way Oregon Highway 99W, whereupon something caught Alice’s eye.

“Look here,” she exclaimed.  “Maybe this will be good.”

gonzalez restaurant-lr

A colorful mural was splashed across a stucco building, touting the name Gonzalez Taqueria [taco shop] y Panaderia [bakery].  The artwork certainly stood out, so we wandered in.

A true find in Newberg

Half of the business serves as an ordering counter with a cash register, while a sit-down area is highlighted by Spanish-style arches on spaciously high ceilings.  Diners appeared to be mostly of Mexican descent who appeared not so much to consume their food, but rather savor the experience.  Hmmmm.

The menu posted offered similar fare – enchiladas, burritos, tamales, chile rellenos, tostados, tacos – to what Mexican food brings to mind, but Gonzalez Taqueria y Panaderia offers 15 different meat choices, including tongue.  I was careful, though.  I ordered a two-item combination of an enchilada and soft taco, opting for a ground beef and vegetable filler.

The truly bilingual cashier invited us to sit down at a table where a waitperson could eventually bring out our food.  It did take longer than expected – about 15 minutes – for our food to arrive because, as we learned later, everything is prepared from scratch.

Good restaurants do not have to be expensive

Upon first bite, I was pleased to mutter, “Bueno!”  What an unexpected culinary experience.  The vegetables did not disappoint: shaved lettuce and sliced radishes stood out.  And the sensation attendant to fine dining – where each bite doesn’t grow old – caused me to smack my lips more than once.

Alice’s bean and rice burrito was larger than expected, but no matter.  She became satiated.  Our Spanish rice was perfect, and the refried beans were prepared vegetarian-style – and without lard.  We ate our fill and didn’t have to worry what the weight scale would report afterward.  The combined bill, including two bottled soft drinks containing NO high-fructose corn syrup, totaled under $20.

For good measure, on our way out, we decided to splurge on something from the bakery: a coconut macaroon!  Yummy.

While taking turns to share bites from the macaroon, we couldn’t stop remarking about well-prepared homemade Mexican food.  Those remarks came only when we could stop chewing on the plentiful coconut in each morsel.

Alice and I heartily recommend patronizing this unpretentious establishment, located at 619 E. First St., Newberg.  Even though for us it entails a bit of a drive, I know we will be back.  And soon.

Alice Takes a Hike, Sees Drift Creek Rock Gnomes

As our eyes roamed downstream from Drift Creek Falls, we blinked several times.  What is that?

Were we alone?  Did something untoward happen?  Or had Alice and I stumbled across a West Coast version of Ireland’s “little people?”  Are these miniature characters alive?  Are they descendants of leprechauns, or are mischief-makers deceiving us?

Our drive to Drift Creek Falls

Let’s put this in perspective.  Leaving Hillsboro’s toasty 85 degrees on Friday, May 29th, I drove Alice McCormick and myself south, turning onto Oregon Highway 18 toward Lincoln City.  We eventually turned left onto Bear Creek Road (just west of Rose Lodge and milepost 5, or five miles east of where OR-18 intersects US 101).

covered bridge

Passing the historic Drift Creek covered bridge (originally built in 1914), we headed nine miles into the Coast Range on paved one-lane Forest Road 17, negotiating plenty of switchbacks – no guardrails, either – toward the trailhead where 67-foot, picturesque Drift Creek Falls awaited.  Although elk in the area are prevalent, we saw none.  Temperature was an exertion-perfect 60 degrees.

Sunlight from the west highlights moss hanging from trees along the trail.
Sunlight from the west highlights moss hanging from trees.

Walking at 1,000 feet elevation

The trail itself is rated “easy,” because it’s well-graded, although several drops and rises in elevation can render a novice hiker out of breath by the end of its 1¼-mile one-way distance.  At its terminus, a breathtaking 240-foot suspension bridge, built in 1998 and rated to hold 75 tons, traverses a 100-foot drop below.

Photograph by Alice McCormick.
Photograph by Alice McCormick.

Dogs are allowed to accompany their human guides, although there are tales (and tails, too!) of dogs freezing up while negotiating the slightly-swinging suspension bridge.  But we only support a cat and left her at home, since Millie is loathe to travel contentedly.

Photograph by Alice McCormick.
Photograph by Alice McCormick.

Mountain air can cause the mind to play tricks

The usually rain-drenched trail flanked by ferns, alder trees and vine maple tested Alice nicely, and once we crossed the eye-popping bridge she was game to descend 100 feet for another quarter-mile walk to the babbling water’s edge.  While we appreciated the sight of the suspension bridge and sound of water roaring above us, our wandering eyes crossed downward to the opposite stone-strewn bank.

rock peeps2

Rock gnomes!

Perhaps it was the clean mountain air, but our imaginations turned vivid as we looked down toward our sneakers worriedly.  Could we possibly espy a leprechaun running about?  Who assembled all these rocks in precarious positions?  Did they assemble themselves?  Or are these magic stones?

I could ask Christy Lewis, that’s what.  She’s the Siuslaw National Forest service’s information receptionist, who calls the creatures “rock stacks.”  I bet she would know.  But I don’t want to turn this post into a true journalism piece lest we dash asunder future dreams (something akin to Disney’s “Fantasia”).

Alice was spry and read to go before we set foot in the woods.
Alice was spry and ready to go as we set foot in the woods.

A Spry and Shapely Companion

Alice’s condition snapped me out of my reverie, because she warned it was getting late.  On our way back where we saw a fork designating a northern trail loop (narrower and somewhat longer), she rejected any descriptive narrative of what may lay ahead.  Nevertheless, I get the last word, since Alice’s hike makes it germane to include “before” and “after” photos of her splendid adventure to Drift Creek Falls.

After the three-mile roundtrip hike was complete, Alice shows she's a real trouper.
After the three-mile roundtrip hike was complete, Alice shows she’s a real trouper.

We’re back in our apartment planning the workweek ahead, and I must say: As nice as Portland and surrounding areas can be, a 2-hour-plus drive to Drift Creek Falls produced more than anticipated.  And I’d like to come back, except in Oregon there’s so much more to see.

Now if only those memories of seeing rock gnomes would leave me alone!

UPDATE: Alice suffered a gushing nosebleed the following night, prompting a quick trip to the emergency room on Saturday, May 30.  Fortunately, medical personnel at Kaiser Permanente’s Westside Hospital stopped the bleed quickly, and she was released in less than two hours.  No one attributed the incident to her strenuous hike.