Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

Cat Scratch Fever

I remember picking up our tabby cat Millie, intending to settle her upon my lap.  Then something unexpected happened.

Alice and I had been watching TV, and as she rested her feet atop a pillow strategically set on the coffee table in front, I made myself super-comfortable.  Lying full length, I stretched my legs across Alice’s lap.  Then I unfolded a soft blanket and wrapped it around the two of us.  Millie ambled over, seemingly because a cozy resting place with a soft blanket could be used to knead her paws.  Our feline companion looked up enviously, and I surmised she needed a lift.  So I picked her up.

Bad move.

As I brought her atop the blanket – surprise, surprise – the independent animal objected.  Wresting furiously away from my grasp, a claw from her left paw sank deep inside my left pinkie finger.  I shrieked in pain as the cat’s full weight bore the intruding object downward.  Somehow, I managed to collect enough common sense to lower Millie down toward the floor, whereupon the claw loosened and receded, and I sank into a peculiar delirium.

* * *

Millie’s Point of View

Man oh man, the things I have to do to maneuver these humans into acts of submission.  Millie the cat here, and six months have gone by without Mason making any mention of me on this website.

The humans changed their password on the computer, so I have been unable to hack my way back here.  But my maneuver put the old man out in dreamland.  He looks funny with his eyes twitching, you know?

But enough of him.  This post is about me, me, me!


Some cats get along with Millie

Over the past few months, I made a friend.  Her name is Myrtle, and she lives on the other side of an eight-foot-high wooden fence that separates our apartment complex from a residential area.  My buddy can jump all the way to the top of the fence, able to visit me at the slightest whim, while I used to be stuck on the apartment building side.

But I’m no dummy.  Over time, I dug a little passageway under the fence, so now it’s no problem commiserating with her.  Plus every morning, I pester Mason and Alice with some obnoxious meowing at 4 am.  They relent –almost sleepwalking – and let me out.  I really enjoy manipulating those two humans.

Don’t call Millie a snob

I tell Myrtle about my days and nights, and she thinks I’m cool.  Lately, though, we discovered an interloper cutting through my side of the fence.  And we don’t care about his name; we just call him Simpleton.


If I look at him in a certain way, he gets nervous.  That’s almost as much fun as messing with Mason and Alice.

Now that I got readers’ attention, I must admit that sometimes I get bored, so I have to find new places to enjoy the day.  As you can see from the top photo, I’m not camera shy either.  I’m drawn to a puppet-like creature that reminds me of a Raggedy Ann doll that Alice puts on top of the cable TV box.  I love hanging out with him.

I have an uncanny sense of what causes humans to gawk when I pose in a super-cute setting, so the doll sets a perfect tableau.  Do you think I should audition for a cable-TV show?  After all, I could become more popular than the Kardashians.  Just a thought!

And look at this.


The sink in the master bathroom offers another good photo op.  I like this picture a lot.  I call it “Sink or Swim.”  And, please, please, don’t let Mason take credit for the photo.  I had to prompt him to take the shot.

Oops, gotta go.  I believe Mason is beginning to snap out of it.  I bet he really will be surprised to discover I write better than he does!

* * *

Awakening from a cat’s fantasy

Boy, do I feel weird.  I don’t know what a cat scratch can do, but as I read my latest post it appears I became delusional.  I managed to proofread this post, and it appears humorous and utilizes some Millie photos that have been sitting around.

So maybe I’ll copyright it.  But don’t you think it stretches the imagination too much?  Who would believe a cat could type, or be able to communicate so much mischief?

Nah.  Simply no way, José.  Unless the cat got my tongue.

Goodbye, Luther Bates


photo of man

Remember Luther Bates?  Remember the anxiety we shared on this website about our Pod?

If the answer is “yes,” he finally settled up Monday, May 18.  Finally.

If not, Luther Bates was Alice McCormick’s former neighbor in Doylestown, Pa. whom we entrusted to pack our possessions and ship them out to Oregon in a rental Pod.  Because of Alice’s longtime “friendship” with Bates, I acceded to his demand for upfront cash payment of $4,400 with the promise our furniture, keepsakes and valuables would arrive shortly after we took possession of our rented apartment in Hillsboro in late September.

Landing in Hillsboro

Three weeks after our arrival, our apartment was barren, and he was not returning our phone calls.  I wrote about it on this blog, and you can read it here.

We then learned from Bucks County’s (Pennsylvania) Prothonotary Office that Bates had a criminal record for bilking others, including an elderly widow and Vietnam Veterans of America.  Now we were desperate.  Two more weeks of continued silence followed, and we filed a complaint with Bucks County’s Office of Consumer Protection, speaking with investigator Lynn Hanes.

Bates may have had no criminal intent, but he did commingle our upfront money to take care of his own bills.  Only after Hanes’ office served our complaint – and Bates’ own probation officer added an admonition in person – did Bates finally make a substantial down payment with Pods.  Here’s the post on that development.

Where’s Our Stuff?

Nevertheless, Pods still would not ship our stuff unless a balance due of over $1,500 was paid.  Since the account was established in Bates’ name, he had the power to divert the shipment back to his home, and maybe pocket the unused funds.  Anxiety ridden, I waited until two days before the scheduled shipping date, then took a leap of faith.  Three more posts describe what happened.  Here’s one:  And another.   And the final one.

handwritten note and money order
Bates’ final money order and the note he enclosed.

Settlement at Last

Our friends and family followed the posts closely and offered words of comfort.  But how to recover the extra money we shelled out to get our stuff?  Bucks County’s Hanes followed through, even though Bates took his sweet time – eight months – to settle up grudgingly.

I paid a dear price in sleeplessness and peace of mind, and never want to go through anything like that again.  But we must acknowledge the professional guidance given us by Lynn Hanes and Bucks County’s Office of Consumer Protection.  And we must acknowledge how it settled this unpleasant affair.

Thanks, Lynn.  We never would have recovered without you – and glory be, in full.

Alice Experiences the Willamette River

Pauletta and Alice salute a delightful day on the Willamette.
Pauletta and Alice salute a delightful day on the Willamette.  Alice was concerned the wind blowing through her denim blouse made her look fat.

When Alice and I moved to northwest Oregon in September 2014 from Doylestown, Pa., two dear Bucks County friends made us an offer we could not refuse: Remain in close contact via two like-minded folk in Portland.

How lovely!  That’s how we stay close to Harry Georgeson, a world-class sculptor and talented architect, and Joan Perkes, an accomplished gallery manager/owner.

We followed up on their offer, and the fortuitous consequences are clearly evident throughout this photographic essay.

Pauletta Sagen Hoffman and husband, Terry, have been in frequent evidence about our lives ever since we arrived.  And after Alice endured her stroke on March 11, they have been Johnnies on the spot.

A good captain sees to the comfort and goodwill of his passengers.
A good captain sees to the comfort and goodwill of his passengers.

On Sunday, May 3, Pauletta and Terry offered a unique excursion: See Portland from a waterway perspective aboard their 36-foot Chris-Craft yacht to celebrate Cinco de Mayo two days early.  It’s safe to say we didn’t need any urging.

At noontime on Sunday, May 3rd, Alice and I ventured forth to Portland’s RiverPlace yacht basin where we joined our hosts and plus fellow guests of honor, Scott and Diane Chill.

The Italian Renaissance towers of the Burnside Bridge, built in 1926, salute boaters as they pass below.
The Italian Renaissance towers of the Burnside Bridge, built in 1926, salute boaters as they pass below.

What a divine day!  Skies were sunny, winds were relatively light and temperatures hit the mid-70s, as Terry carefully piloted the yacht into the popular watercraft-laden Willamette River where the vessel’s propellers eventually splashed downriver with a Jolly Roger flag leading the way.

The Jolly Roger leads us to the Steel Bridge, built in 1912.
The Jolly Roger leads us to the Steel Bridge, built in 1912.

On the water, Terry taught us how boat owners must constantly keep themselves alert to prevailing wind, water currents and impatient drivers to assure all passengers of a smooth, uneventful passage.

The Fremont Bridge (1973) carries Interstate 405 and US 30 above.
The Fremont Bridge (1973) carries Interstate 405 and US 30 above.

During the five hours we spent on Portland’s notoriously polluted Willamette River, the lyrics of a 1949 song resonated appropriately inside my head:

Cruising down the river,
On a Sunday afternoon
With one you love, the sun above
Waiting for the moon.

Scott Chill assists in the captain's chair while wife Diane provides the camaraderie.
Scott Chill assists in the captain’s chair while wife Diane provides the camaraderie.

The old accordian playing
A sentimental tune
Cruising down the river,
On a Sundy afternoon.

All sorts of watercraft enjoy Portland's river scenery.
All sorts of watercraft enjoy Portland’s river scenery.

The birds above, all sing of love
A gentle sweet refrain
The winds around, all make a sound
Like softly falling rain.

What's that rumble?  Why, it's the Burlington Northern Railway train passing overhead!
What’s that rumble?  Why, it’s the Burlington Northern Railway train passing overhead!  The bridge was built in 1908.

Just two of us together,
We’ll plan our honeymoon
Cruising down the river,
On a Sunday afternoon.

Terry keeps his attention focused even when the water ahead appears placid.
Terry keeps his attention focused even when the water ahead appears placid.

With the cruising done, I can’t help but think: If any group can make changes to address the health of our waterways, Portland Rising Tide could.  This Friday, a folk benefit concert will raise funds for the organization to accomplish some lofty goals, including resistance to climate change.

Pauletta cheered when she heard Portland's mayor withdrew his support for a propane terminal in the heart of the city.
Pauletta is a gracious host while Terry pilots the yacht.  After she heard Portland’s mayor withdrew his support for a propane terminal in the city, she cheered unabashedly.

The night kicks off with cellist and folksinger Anna Fritz of the Portland Cello Project, heats up with bluegrass shredders The Wild Wood, and finishes off with a rocking set of Johnny Cash cover songs by a band named Counterfeit Cash.  The venue: Ecotrust at 721 NW 9th Ave Ste 200, Portland.

Here’s a link that gives more particulars.   Maybe we’ll see you there!