A Statement of Purpose

Take a good look at the photo above.  In 2002, I wrote and co-published my first book, Gulag to Rhapsody by Paul Tarko, and appeared with Paul at book signings.  My name appears on its cover below his, because Paul Tarko’s life mirrors an ideal protagonist for my narrative nonfiction account entailing more than 300 printed pages.

Because my father, who took his life when I was 16, had an honorable lineage in Hungary, writing about Paul – 43 years later – reconnected me with my Hungarian/Romanian heritage.

The picture above is apropos, because my purpose in Oregon is to reappear in a similarly posed photo – this time, alone.  Alice brought me here to write another book – this time, about my own life.  “Write what you know best,” I once was coached by a writing instructor.  My life is what I know best; accordingly, I am destined to be its sole author.

I am here at the behest of Alice McCormick, who shed tears upon reading my early poetry, calling me a good writer.  Considering how writers/authors must endure a modest existence as part of their nature, I need to use my new location well.

Throughout all our struggles, Alice sees the best in precarious situations, and this attitude tempers my dark depression when it comes to our finances.  Whether it’s blissful unawareness or an unwillingness to comprehend simple math, she answers frequent moods of bottom-line depression with the kneejerk retort, “Well, everyone is in debt.”

I find her logic difficult to refute.  Her steady, rosy attitude snaps me out of darkness, because I am forced to dampen a torrent of fierce impatience.  Brightening my mood remains a constant challenge for her.

Frequently, I become so preposterous that Alice cracks up.
Frequently, I become so preposterous that Alice cracks up.

Sometimes, I make her laugh.  Other times, I frustrate her and exasperation leads into loquaciousness; on occasion, she expresses an emotional soliloquy without the usual speech aphasia frustrations from her stroke in March.  Whenever she appears to take one step back, she advances two steps.  And I rejoice!

I unintentionally piss her off for such breakthroughs to occur.  But I fervently wish our exchanges would not be so tempestuous, because emotionally they’re hard on me.

The last five weeks were a challenge.  I spent five days a week as an Uber driver beating the bushes for passengers in Portland, and at times its well-publicized phenomenon appeared to be slacking off.  Uber continues to seek more drivers, diluting demand; in its defense the “ride-sharing” service is also lowering the wait time for passengers who order its transportation on their smartphones.

The influx of revenue has enabled us to build up the required security deposit to move to an affordable apartment with a year-long lease.  And last week, I secured the funds to hire someone to move our possessions.

These added resources come with a heavy price, though.  Most days I am no longer home to work with Alice on speech exercises, so her path forward becomes lonely and treacherous.  She misses our camaraderie and stays to herself.

Creator gave me Alice.  Every time I get too full of myself, she brings me back down to size.  My head often gets too big for such a fragile body, so it seems like it’s her mission to make my personality tolerable.

Alice brought me to Oregon with a purpose: She would work in childcare, and I would write my next book.  Two weeks ago, the Hillsboro manager of KinderCare gave Alice a regular two-hour-a-day morning shift five days a week, and she began managing the babies and infants there with playful enthusiasm.

We are trying to lessen how much I drive, so I can be here to support Alice’s recovery while renewing a regular daily writing schedule.  There is much work to do to create a book about myself and my family background.  The pages on this website entitled “Virgil’s Story” are a sample of what is to appear in print.

In early August, Alice received a financial token of support from her best friend to help us.  We acknowledge the feelings expressed, and we promise to keep moving forward.

I have a working title for the book, which has been shared with only a few.  My close confidantes express support for the project, but it’s up to me to write the book and get a prospective publisher excited.

I wish I could wave a magic wand and proceed with the confidence that comes with following a well-traveled plan of action.  But every day offers a new challenge, so both of us keep putting one foot in front of the other.

For the next couple weeks, this website will not be updated until our move to new digs is complete and Internet service reestablished.  Stay tuned.

Ode to Washington, DC

For those who don’t subscribe to HBO, you probably missed John Oliver’s August 2nd hilarious take on the news.  Oliver is executive producer and star of “Last Week Tonight,” a witty roundup of outrageous acts by U.S. and foreign government officials that masquerade as news.

In the 8/2 program, he ended the program with a sing-along delivered by 19 boys and girls who seemed to understand all the song’s nuances.

The sing-along followed Oliver’s lengthy exposé of how the U.S. Congress routinely attaches riders to legislation that usurp the will of Washington, D.C. voters.  Recent referendums authorized needle-sharing programs to combat the spread of deadly infectious diseases and said “yes” to the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Congress nixed both.

The Boston Tea Party was all about taxation without representation.  How can the U.S. government justify its treatment of a mostly black population in the District of Columbia?


John Oliver’s ode to DC

Alabama and Alaska,
Arizona, Arkansas,
California, Colorado,
Connecticut and more

There are 50 states in total
And we’ll sing their names with glee
But there’s one place that gets shafted
And it’s Washington D.C.

All the rest of us can choose a path
That we think is best
But any choice that D.C. makes
Is easily suppressed

‘Cause some asshole with a rider
Who might live in Tennessee
Can destroy a needle program
For preventing HIV.

Let them have gun laws!
Let them have weed!
Let them decide
The things that they need!

And if you’re totally convinced
That there should be just 50 states
Well then let’s all kick out Florida
‘Cause no one thinks they’re great

Oh yes let’s all kick out Florida
‘Cause no one thinks they’re great.

Do I think Oliver is treating Florida fairly?  Let me answer that with two questions and answers about the “Sunshine State.”

What’s the state flower of Florida?  Concrete.

What’s the state bird?  The extended middle finger.

Those are two reasons Alice and I live in Oregon.

A Freeway View of Portland

When Alice and I moved west to Oregon, we landed in Hillsboro.  We picked a pleasant apartment complex sight unseen, utilizing the guidance of zillow.com.

We thought Hillsboro was a town, but now it’s a city.  And our apartment is smack-dab in a sterile environment owned by Tandem Property Management, strategically situated across the street from computer-chip manufacturer Intel Corp.

Euphemistically called the Silicon Forest, this land originally was nothing but forest.  Today, though, Hillsboro, rapidly approaching a population of 100,000, is clear-cut of virgin timber, as landscape engineers dot once-fertile land into a hodgepodge of cookie-cutter housing developments, franchised fast-food eateries and industrial parks, all pretending to be greener than the rest.

The lure causing an unprovoked blemish upon this part of the planet: high-tech industry, sometimes perceived as “clean.”  But underneath the sanitary veneer is a plague: the promise of quick riches.

This plague is akin to what is happening to the rest of Portland.  An increasing influx of new residents is moving in, and real estate prices are going through the roof, reaching crisis proportions.  That’s why construction is evident everywhere.  What we are personally experiencing is not an anomaly; one of my Uber passengers calls it the “San Francisco-ization of Portland.”

Tandem Property Management sees the increasing demand for housing as a proper opportunity to raise rental rates unconscionably.  When asked for justification for the disproportionate increase, its on-site manager gave a straight-faced reply, “Well, everyone else is raising their rents.”

Anyone who stays here shall bear witness to a future where a landlord ignores resident loyalty in lieu of the almighty dollar.  Too bad they’re ignoring Intel Corp.’s plan to double carbon dioxide emissions across the street.

A different outlook

Thoughtful landscaping exists at our new residence.  Beware of parking where you don't belong, however.
Thoughtful landscaping exists at our new location.  Be careful where you park, though.

Our new apartment, though, will give a true view of Portland: a panoramic window toward the City’s westbound freeway – US-26 – notably called Sunset Highway, because in the late afternoon, driving out of town focuses drivers’ eyes onto a brilliant, blinding sunset.

We’ll be close to friends and near Portland’s Bethany neighborhood filled with energetic, mature homeowners with whom we might share congenial repartee.  We’ll constantly witness the crush of automobiles heading to and from Hillsboro and points west.

Our new abode has an outstanding neighbor: a property manager by the name of Carlos, who has proved so far to be a gem.  Through a few deft maneuvers as well as divine intervention, the amount of our rent increase is reasonable and, after all the toil and trouble that a move entails, offers a realistic view of the real Rose City.

Alice and I will be closer to the heart of Portland, and I will be able to write and Uber here too.  We’re looking forward to the future.

Pinot Noir Wineries Tantalize

All photographs by Alice McCormick.

Two recent weekend trips into pinot noir country served as a primer on savoring great wine.

Four visitor-friendly wineries were chosen at random.  All appeared to put their best foot forward in welcoming curiosity seekers and gourmands with learned taste buds.

Cooper Mountain

Wine barrels and a rock garden adorn spectacular views of the valley below.
Wine barrels and a rock garden adorn spectacular views of the valley below.

Cooper Mountain Vineyards, 20121 SW Leonardo Lane, Beaverton, demonstrated you don’t have to venture far from Portland to discover great wine.  White wine devotees may find its pinot gris, chardonnay and pinot blanc to their liking, but five different pinot noirs gave my palate a complete workout.

Savoring the pinot noir while exploring the effect on taste buds.
Savoring the pinot noir while exploring the effect on taste buds.

Ranging in price from $20 to $50 a bottle, the five wines offered subtle differences that elicited reactions from “very nice” to “wow.”  Seemingly unpretentious, Cooper Mountain offers a $15 five-sip tasting as well as Friday “Neighbors Nights,” where residents commune with nature and each other while enjoying music from blues, country folk and progressive rock genres.

One doesn’t become a true connoisseur without practice, though, and we found the hosts at each winery do their best not to overshadow various vintages with their refined sensibilities.


Could this tasting room be appointed any finer?
Could this tasting room be appointed any finer?

Ponzi Historic Estate, 14665 SW Winery Lane, Beaverton, seemed more commercial, albeit on an elegant scale, with pinot noirs topping out at $100 a bottle.  Alice and I found their wines to be pleasant, but the spectacular architecture and décor were overwhelmingly distracting.  Ponzi organizes musical soirees on Sunday evenings from 6-8 pm that feature Latin jazz, Brazilian rhythms and swing, costing $20 per person at the door.

A comfortable sunny day tasting wine on Ponzi's patio.
A comfortable sunny day tasting wine on Ponzi’s patio.

Ponzi’s highlights are its scenic views of surrounding valleys and Italian inspired architecture.  Popular with the smart set, I felt isolated from it all, wondering what it took to focus on a terrific pinot noir.

Raptor Ridge

"Taste the subtle difference in Raptor Ridge vintages," I was told.
“Taste the subtle difference in Raptor Ridge vintages,” I was told.

Dreams of a fine, more informal winery came true atop a mountain range at Raptor Ridge Winery, 18700 SW Hillsboro Highway, which leads south to the George Fox University-based town of Newberg.

The photo adorning the top of this post reflects the subtle grace of Raptor Ridge.

Jonathan Ziemba, Raptor Ridge’s onsite wine connoisseur, displayed a vast knowledge of fine wines.  His presence adds elegance to this winery, where owners Annie and Scott Shull offer a biweekly “summer lunch series.”  For $50 a person, audaciously sublime menus are prepared by renowned regional chefs known for pairing their culinary delights with the winery’s vintages.

Only 20 diners are allowed to make reservations so as to assure Raptor Ridge’s intimate ambience.  An example of fine dining to be served up by Chef Irene Bonn Laney: yellow lentil dumplings with summer vegetable relish, roasted broccolini and arugula salad, lemon butter chicken with spinach and caramelized shallot couscous, topped off with carrot cake with maple cream cheese frosting.



The "no smoking" sign at Dobbes Family Estate bears sad testament to one of Oregonians' bad habits.
The “no smoking” sign at Dobbes Family Estate bears testament to many Oregonians’ bad habit.

With visions of wine tastings running amuck, I could not end our two weeks of sampling fine wineries without a trip to Dundee.  The Dundee Hills are legion for pinot noir, and we haphazardly chose the Dobbes Family Estate, 240 SE Fifth Street, for a quick tour.

Sure enough, Dobbes’ offerings are highlighted by such pinot noir as well as the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon.  The fee for a flight of wine tastings is a modest $10, and the wines range between $45 and $65.  Don’t overlook the quality of pinot noir from the Rogue Valley; there’s a good reason Dobbes imports it here.

Joe Dobbes started his company in 2002, and today the company owns 214 acres of vineyards.  Dobbes offers a “family circle wine club,” priced at three levels with tempting discounts on bottles of featured wines.  The surroundings at Dobbes’ estate are eye-pleasing enough to be a tourist attraction, seemingly part and parcel of each winery in the area.

Wrapping Up

The rocking chair in Dobbes' Family Estate lends opportunity for an ideal pinot noir experience.
The rocking chair in Dobbes’ Family Estate lends opportunity for an ideal pinot noir experience.

Yet isn’t it the wine we ultimately seek?  Our outings encompassed four 4-star wineries, so it’s not premature to suspect plenty of visits await us in future years.  The Willamette Valley south of Portland is rich in pinot noirs, and I hereby confirm the wayward tourist will enjoy the experience.  Some of these grapes are becoming legends in our own time.

Ultimately, it's all about the wine: in this case, Cooper Mountain.
Ultimately, it’s all about the wine: in this case, Cooper Mountain.