Tag Archives: Mason Loika

Additions to Virgil’s Story

Over the last couple of weeks, I added two additional parts of Virgil’s story as chronicled by my mother, Thelma Johnston Loika.

The latest addition to the Loika family, brother Jonathan Virgil Loika, pictured above, would need less wintry gear in the new Florida climate.

Part VI was added two weeks ago; the latest, Part VII, earlier today.

Only one more part of my mom’s chronicle remains, and it ends with a final addition to the Loika family, Robert Christopher.  Perhaps he will feel inspired afterward to add his own two cents worth.

 

 

Our Move Is Complete

Over the last two weeks, Alice and I – with the help of two freelance movers – transferred the entire contents of our two-bedroom, two-bath apartment from Hillsboro to the Tanasbourne section of Portland.  The two of us are now officially Portlanders.

The distance involved (five miles) was relatively minor, considering the nearly 3,000 miles our initial move from Pennsylvania entailed during the fall of 2014.  However, the cost of relocating from Hillsboro was considerably more than projected, and the two-week-long move required a great amount of work on our part.  We’re not as young as we once were.

The Quest, an outdoor marble sculpture and fountain, was carved from a single 200-ton block of marble and situated in front of the Standard Insurance Company's building at 900 SW Fifth Avenue in Portland. The sculpture, carved in Italy from a single 200-ton block of white marble quarried in Greece, was installed in 1970. According to its artist, Count Alexander von Svoboda, the figures represent man's eternal search for brotherhood and enlightenment.
The Quest, an outdoor marble sculpture and fountain, was carved from a single 200-ton block of marble and situated in front of the Standard Insurance Company’s building at 900 SW Fifth Avenue in Portland. The sculpture, carved in Italy from marble quarried in Greece, was installed in 1970. According to its artist, Count Alexander von Svoboda, the figures represent man’s eternal search for brotherhood and enlightenment.  Not all Portlanders look at it this way, though.

The price of progress in Portland

Portland is booming.  The number of people moving into the area has been overwhelming the city’s resources, although real estate speculators are hungrily maximizing sizable financial rewards.  No one argues with the proffered observation that the “Rose City” – also known as the city of bridges – is being San Francisco-sized.

This hookah bar and restaurant on Belmont Street appears built like a gingerbread house.
This hookah bar and restaurant on Belmont Street appears built like a gingerbread house.

Everywhere one travels appear massive construction projects.  Part of the allure can be attributed to stunning scenery as well as marijuana retail outlets that are popping up to market the wacky tobaccy’s mind-altering products starting October 1.  Traffic snarls continuously challenge long-term residents’ commutes and exasperate newcomers.

But back to Alice and me.  Only two days ago, our new apartment was so crammed with possessions that boxes were piled to the ceiling.  I felt depressed and worried.  Fortuitously, a newly vacant nearby garage was a godsend, but our overflow of goods had to be taken there before the apartment complex’s parking lot was repaved – Sept. 5, as it turns out!

As I look around our 40-year-old rental townhome and walk through its two-story layout, the aesthetics of Alice’s arrangements are striking.  In addition, the landscaping here is not sterile as was the case at the Commons at Dawson Creek.

Living in a multi-ethnic housing complex

Our new neighbors represent a true mix of ethnicities, many of whom are working people.  Yes, Virginia, many are Mexicans, but we represent a true melting pot that abhor the divisions being exasperated by a certain Republican candidate for U.S. President.  More about my feelings on that subject in a future post.

Our new digs should serve as an ideal window on life in Portland while I continue to explore my ancestry.  The photo atop this post shows Alice’s arrangement of the home office from where I write.

Writing is as important as ever.  Trusted, valued family members already archived voluminous records of my mother’s side of the family, but much is unknown about my father’s side.  To remedy this mystery, I submitted a DNA sample to ancestry.com yesterday to see where that might lead.

Looking back

Alice and I dealt with a variety of challenges; we accomplished them because I drove for Uber often over the last eight weeks, leaving Alice alone.  If Portland had not allowed Uber into town, we would not have had the necessary resources for a second move in less than a year.

Room arrangement by Alice McCormick, whose sense of aesthetics knocks me out.
Our living room arrangement by Alice McCormick, whose sense of aesthetics knocks me out.

A word of thanks …

goes out to our Farmers insurance agent, Jasper Torrence.  She and husband Zack treated us to dinner and wine at Golden Valley Brewery’s Beaverton restaurant immediately after the move was complete, and both pledged help in case an emergency arose.  Jasper even greased the wheels so we could donate a carful of non-essentials to a nearby Goodwill outlet.

This couple’s Christian spirit went beyond the call of duty.  (Jasper was born into a minister’s family.)  We shall remember their hands of friendship for a long time, and we hope to reciprocate.

During the next two weeks, I will add more segments of “Virgil’s Story,” and more posts will appear on this blog, too.  To those who stuck with us, I say, “Thanks.”  It means a whole lot to Alice and me.

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.

An Uber Driver Through and Through

Five weeks ago, I began Ubering.  I take fares to, from and around Portland, Oregon in the 2010 Ford Escape that Alice and I maintain in peak mechanical condition.

In order to drive for Uber, I was subject to an extraordinary background check.  Although I have no criminal nor sex offender record, my application did not pass muster for over six months.

Why?  There was a problem confirming my out-of-state driving record.  Over the seven years I chauffeured upscale VIPs for limousine companies in the Philadelphia suburbs, I prided myself on a clean driving history.

After much gnashing of teeth, my Pennsylvania record was checked, and I became a bona fide Uber driver.  [A company named Checkr still has problems with my clearance.]  I observe Oregon’s rules of the road religiously, constantly checking for bicyclists and pedestrians while shepherding a host of passengers.  I no longer wear a suit and tie, nor do I subsist on starvation wages.  Heavens to Betsy, I wear jeans!

If not for Uber, the financial situation for Alice and me would have deteriorated into catastrophe.  My preoccupation remains a deft juggling of available funds.

The Rose City highways

Portland’s city planning and roads appear futuristic, many with multilane turning options.  Light-rail rapid transit trains for a system popularly known as the “Max” are a mainstay for commuters.  Truck-driver unions are not as strong as back East, so it’s usual to find tractor-trailers on the road on Sundays and holidays.

Portland’s City Center is ringed by freeways, so where Interstates 5, 405 and 84 converge, along with the US-26 multi-lane freeway, traffic backups test the patience of usually placid Portlanders.  Get in the way of a Portlander with rosy expectations of traffic patterns, and you might experience the underbelly of road rage.

Everyone here is not mellow, that’s for sure.

Cabbies Despise Uber

Before Uber made the local scene, cab companies were a disgrace.  One of my downtown fares related a horror story how he tried to get his mother to the hospital for a follow-up appointment after she experienced a stroke, but with far more dire consequences than Alice’s.

After half an hour, my confidante received a phone call from the cabbie who apologized that he could not pick her up for another two hours.  Two hours!  Many of my passengers share similar stories of distress before Uber came to Portland.

As I told the Portland City Commission on July 15th, I don’t compete with cabbies.  They’re supposed to specialize in white-knuckle drives.  As a former limo driver, I keep my passengers relaxed and carefree.  That’s what I like to offer as the Uber experience.  “Ride with an author,” I sometimes boast.

Nevertheless, cab drivers and their companies bitterly complain about Uber.  I understand their plight; they are losing money, and rightly so.  With all the technological advances since popularization of the automobile, why haven’t they modernized their systems to head off future competitors?

The Uber revolution

These days, Uber is revolutionizing the way people travel around the country.  Some tourists candidly tell me they would not travel to this city if Uber was not available.  That’s how happy tourists are with the service.  Mayor Charlie Hales and city councilors need to pay attention.

Through careful oversight of drivers for hire, cities have raised the number of fee categories in ever-burdensome licensing regulations.  The maze of regulations bring in money for the general fund – and in certain cases, slush funds.  Those are two revenue sources that help create opposition to Uber.

Jeb Bush saw the possibilities, though, for accentuating positive change, and as a consummate politician, he jumped all over the issue.

Looking Ahead

I can’t predict the future.  I have no idea what will happen here in Portland, but I do know a lot of people will be extremely unhappy if Uber is saddled with unwelcome restrictions or kept out of the metropolitan area.  Businesses outside the downtown area as well as familiar hot spots are flourishing as curious sightseers can check them out without the legacy of unreasonable delays.

Uber continues to recruit new drivers, and eventually the market may become diluted, lessening driver earnings.  Nonetheless, a true revolution to transportation has been effected through the Uber cellphone app, and the San Francisco-based company now secures the financial well-being of its 160,000 freelancers, oops, “partners.”

Until a better opportunity arises, Alice’s and my future hang in the balance, along with other Uber drivers.

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.