Above: On the wall behind me is an artist’s impression of a pianist tickling the ivories next to a photo of my father performing in a big band during the 1940s. I once played Mozart for Louis Armstrong.
Once upon a time, I rushed to create new posts each week on this website to increase the number of visitors it receives. The idea was to create anticipation for the book everyone is waiting for.
Well, last week some stupid shit hit the fan, and I’ve been spending a good amount of time and effort wiping it off my psyche. This spurred the realization that each consequential distraction interrupts the focused madness necessary to writing a complete book.
(You can anticipate what’s coming next, right?
Well, congratulations.) This website is going on hiatus for a little while.
Don’t be sad. If you want a further taste of who I am, peruse this website. A tribute to Danawa Buchanan can be found, a cross-country journey with a CHECK ENGINE light may humor you, and how my immigrant father emigrated here cum laude after arriving 101 years ago should comfort subsequent immigrants.
AT&T has managed to incorporate an amazing library into its HBOMax service, but the technological metamorphosis in how we watch television currently is overshadowing the life-changing creative accomplishment of one particular singer: Bruce Springsteen (Alice’s other heartthrob).
With little fanfare, HBO (Home Box Office) acquired Springsteen’s life achievement film, “Western Stars” from Warner Bros. Then to obscure (unintentionally, I assume) a prospective masterpiece, AT&T incorporated a vast amount of copyright-protected works to its on-demand subscription library a few weeks thereafter.
Once you locate the movie that Springsteen co-directed with Thom Zinny, “Western Stars” must be seen and heard to be believed. He invited 30 orchestra members to perform his insightful songs inside a spacious New Jersey hay-barn that holds up to 100 people. The acoustics in the barn are top of the line, and my Bose system delivers perfectly. You will notice the “Boss” doesn’t perspire at any time; he is completely attuned to the blend of sound inside the barn.
In the film, Springsteen himself explains, “‘Western Stars’ is a 13-song meditation on the struggle between individual freedom and communal life.
“There are two sides of the American character: One is transient, restless, solitary, but the other is collective and communal in search of family, deep roots and a home for the heart to reside. These two sides rub up against one another – always and forever – in everyday American life.”
Springsteen gleans insight from his own past behavior, and expresses it in deeply personal songs. None of his words appear inflated; if anything, his inner emotional state appears muted. Although one critic panned it, “Sleepy Joe’s Café” is nothing like the place the Coasters sang about.
If you are over-saturated with the defugalties this country is putting up with, you could do a lot worse than watch “Western Stars,” co-directed by Springsteen and Thom Zimny. You may not jump up and down, but you might shed a tear for an America that is rapidly being lost.
“Western Stars” is available through subscription to HBO/Max or Hulu. It can also be viewed through Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, Microsoft, iTunes, Fandango and Amazon, or purchased at Bruce Springsteen’s website.
I participated in the American Boychoir School’s 75th anniversary concert at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in 2013.
In a July 2016 post, I wrote about my unwanted encounter with a pedophile in this heart of cultural civility, Princeton, New Jersey, in the mid-1950s. Anyone who wishes to read that post can find it here: sexual-predators.
The American Boychoir School never offered an open, frank discussion about rumors about its past. People whispered and wondered what had gone on, and the School continued to stick its head in the sand. I was there when a children’s show on Public Radio called “From the Top,” a showcase for young classical musicians, used the school as a setting for one of its young artists’ shows.
In 2014, Dustin Hoffman starred with Debra Winger in a movie called “Boychoir” that used the American Boychoir School as a backdrop; however, it only received limited release to tepid reviews. Hallmark Cards bought the movie, retitled it “Hear My Song” for national exposure on CBS-TV until the company learned of the New York Times archived exposé of the school’s sordid history, and the showing was quietly shelved. TV Week revealed the reasons Hallmark backed away in an article available online.
Here’s an update. The school is coming to an ignoble end. The American Boychoir School is abandoning its efforts to emerge from Chapter XI bankruptcy. It will close down. You can read about it here: boychoir school to close.
There is no joy in seeing the American Boychoir School go bust. But there is a high degree of poetic justice. This chapter of my childhood has reached its ultimate end.
My hair is coming back! And my surgery takes place tomorrow morning, Tuesday, Nov. 29.
So what’s a one-time author and former lifestyle journalist to do? Wax philosophical?
Yes, indeed, so here goes.
Recruited to Be a Christian
After I opted for surgery a few weeks ago a few weeks ago, my brother Chris phoned and asked, “Have you accepted our Lord, Jesus Christ, as your personal savior?”
I did not take the question well. I responded by saying I went through the Christian born-again process at the age of 5. My conversion to matters about the Cross took place in 1948 in a Hialeah, Fla. assembly hall on a Sunday evening. My mother from English and Scottish descent, maiden name Johnston, had taken me to a Billy Graham crusade in a town infamous during the ’40s for notorious KKK-leaning denizens.
Graham’s ministry partner/music director was Cliff Barrows, who routinely set a tear-provoking introduction. Well-rehearsed words and background music inspired me to walk down an aisle along with others to dedicate our lives to Christ. With my penchant for singing in the shower, I eventually became a featured boy soprano on some of Miami’s more-notable, South Florida-produced religious TV programs.
At the age of 11, I attended the Columbus Boychoir School (now American Boychoir School) in Princeton, New Jersey, and played the piano for the First Presbyterian Church of Hialeah’s early-morning Sunday worship service. Without question, I was regarded then as a Christian.
But eventually, my spiritual practice metamorphosed during my hippie years in Los Angeles at the same time I became a deejay for K-POT, where “you’re always one hit away from another hit away.” I had my share of experiences in Southern California environs, some of which I’m planning to relate in my book, including becoming pals with three witches, one of whom worked in the district attorney’s office during Charles Manson’s reign of horror.
Looking Forth, Looking Back
Tonight, though, I come face to face with mortality, and I ask nobody in particular, “Was the promise of future everlasting life predicated on one Christian moment of testimony when I was a child? That’s what Billy Graham promised the assemblage – and me – back then.
But looking back at what I became, a few childhood experiences where I witnessed men and women being denied basic human rights because of their skin color, or religious practices, affected me greatly. It offended me even more than the pedophile encounter in Princeton. And as I grew up, I shuddered when my peers uttered crude remarks to people unknown to them. Unlike my brothers, I turned as brown as a berry on weekends on South Beach in the 1950s. That physical characteristic taught me plenty before my tan faded.
My family still related to me back then as a fellow Caucasian. Yet my musician father, Virgil, instructed the family to never make eye contact with an inhabitant of Miami’s Central Negro District when he drove us downtown. This was at a time when he wrote arrangements and played trombone for Louis Armstrong!
After Virgil’s suicide, in 1960 a Native American Mohawk, Ed Walters, tried to court my mother and catered to my brothers and me. Nevertheless that proud Mohawk was mercilessly humiliated in front of me and my brother, Jon, by two Village of Medley cops as we set off on an Everglades camping trip. Granted, Ed was full of “fire water” at 9 in the morning, but yes indeed, I saw enough cruelty to turn my blood red.
Over 40 years later, I enthusiastically auditioned as an extra for the 2013 movie “The North Star.” I wanted to portray a Quaker, but was cast instead as a cruel slave hunter, circa mid-1850s. The historical movie was shot in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, the northern end of the Underground Railroad.
(I hate to admit what a bad actor I was, because saying the N-word with bigoted passion turned out to be contrary to my Quakerism, even with a mostly black production crew urging me on. The movie was released on schedule and, although you cannot identify me in the film, my name does appear in the credits. I know, because I bought my own copy of “The North Star” through Comcast.)
Putting It in Perspective
But that’s all history. As an openly professed devotee to meditation, I tell prospective joiners whereas prayer is talking to God, meditation is listening and opening oneself to a higher power. I find contemplation without any set agenda to be a pure spiritual practice, capable of raising one’s self-awareness. Albert Einstein’s spiritual leanings, I believe, are superior to much of the blather served up to spiritual wannabes.
That’s all the time I have left for musing, though. In a few hours, urologist Daniel Janoff and his surgical team will perform a six-to-seven-hour operation – beginning at 7:30 am – to remove my bladder and prostate at St. Vincent Hospital in Portland. I believe Creator will guide those hands to cut out the offending body parts and put the rest back together.
And if I’m approached by any more fervently proselytizing evangelicals as I face after-life issues, I will be tempted to tell them, “Please don’t bother me. I’m Jewish.”
My father’s origins are wrapped in mystery, so it could be true.
Meanwhile, I live in the present. Alice will keep my family and friends up to date with post-operative progress, and eventually I will write more – at least, I hope I do. I continue to tell friends that I deserve to survive longer so I can irritate people for a substantial period of time.
With age, I evolved, and I trust my closest allies will entrust St. Peter to welcome me through the pearly gates when my time is up. Personally, I will not deny Christ, but I intend to walk with arms outstretched welcoming the primordial ooze from whence I came.
Bodies might decay, but our spirits reign supreme forever. The only request I have about my demise is that, when it’s time, the end shall be simple, straightforward and as painless as possible.
Like Danawa, Grandfather Many Crows, and others before me, the spirit in this body identified as Mason Loika will never die. It shall pass over.
On April 16, the CBS network was scheduled to telecast a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie entitled “Hear My Song,” based upon life at a school for musically gifted boys, a la the American Boychoir School in Princeton, NJ. The feature-length film, whose 2014 theatrical distribution carried the title “Boychoir,” starred Dustin Hoffman, Kathy Bates, Debra Winger, Kevin McHale and Eddie Izzard.
With no fanfare, the TV version was shelved in lieu of a repeat broadcast of “NCIS: New Orleans.” When asked why, Hallmark explained the cancellation on its Facebook page as follows:
“While the movie and actors were not intended to depict any particular individual, organization or institution, Hallmark was recently made aware of serious allegations of misconduct made many years ago at a school similar to the one depicted in the movie. After careful consideration, it was decided that the movie will not air on CBS, Hallmark Channel or Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.”
The serious allegations of misconduct refer to an April 16, 2002 exposé printed on the front page of the New York Times metro section about years of sex abuse at the American Boychoir School, known then as the Columbus Boychoir School.
After the cancellation of “Hear My Song,” filmed at the American Boychoir School that now touts itself as creating a “safe” environment, the school issued a statement on its Facebook page that said, “We do not seek to silence criticism.”
If that were so, the following story that I authored in January 2013 would have appeared in the Bucks County Herald. Instead, my editor killed it, citing the New Jersey school’s reputation for threatening legal action against stories of this sort.
I present it now, for the readers of this website. My motive for telling the story? At the time I was sodomized, I observed there was no mention – either in newspapers or “polite” conversation – of this kind of activity, other than general allegations of “molestation.” I was so ignorant that I thought “molesting” related to a poisonous burrowing animal: mole-sting, get it?
Now, 62 years later, I will no longer remain silent about this. Perhaps then the American Boychoir’s strategy of waiting for its past controversy to go away will change.
Many benefactors’ hopes were dashed when anecdotal stories were heard by “Hear My Song’s” distributors, and its airing was canned. It’s time to let some fresh air inside.
The photo above was taken of Albemarle in 2009, where boys resided until three years ago. As hard times beset the school, the stately home of the Boychoir was sold to be turned into condominiums. As an alumnus, I revisited the site of my youthful betrayal.
Sexual Predators Among Us
In 2013, a well-meaning, dewy-toned Quaker stood up during Buckingham Meeting’s silent worship to bemoan the sexual abuse at Penn State that has filled newspaper pages since its public discovery in 2011. She wrung her hands and cried, “If only we had known, if only we had known, we could have done something about it.”
Oh yeah? Is that right?
Something dramatic is necessary, because pedophiles are like cockroaches. You turn on the lights, and they scatter.
My first sexual experience, at the age of 11, was at the hands of a charismatic predator in Albemarle, a small palace with colonnades built by the founder of Warner Lambert Pharmaceuticals. After the perpetrator sodomized me, he “voluntarily” resigned his post as guidance counselor.
(Yes, it’s true. America’s premier training ground for musically gifted boys offered unchecked opportunities for vile rampages during the sexually repressed 1950s. I was there because of my boy-soprano voice and budding child-prodigy piano work, the oldest son of a professional musician who played trombone and wrote arrangements for each of the Dorsey Brothers’ bands.)
Even as dawn broke and news spread of his impending resignation, each and every one of the choirboys in residence that 1956 morning wept openly, as the guidance counselor said his personal goodbyes while his index finger twitched its usual invitation against the inside of my young hand.
The sexual violation occurred only once, but that was enough. You never forget your first time.
ABS strategy damages its reputation
Although future classmates in later decades won undisclosed settlements, I never filed suit against the Boychoir for several reasons. First and foremost, I never wished to sign away for money my right to speak about what happened. I could bide my time until what I say would do the most good. Now that I’m 73 years old, the time is right.
More importantly, though, was the quality of the education I received in Princeton. I learned at the American Boychoir School that it was acceptable to learn as much as you can as fast as you can. Our student-to-teacher ratio was often 6 to 1. Our teachers were the best of the best, and I thrived on the atmosphere.
As a prima facie example, I was able to attend a private Princeton University outdoor science lecture where Dr. Werner von Braun demonstrated how the three-stage rocket would work, long before Sputnik went into orbit. As I walked around Princeton’s Nassau Street, I often imagined what to do if I caught sight of Albert Einstein; he loved the town. While rehearsing, we boys learned how to stir an audience and, as a result, ourselves.
Ordinary was never good enough. How could I sue a school that did that – for me, or my classmates?
I slept in a room with five other boys. I believe one of them chose to become a whistle-blower after the institution’s guidance counselor fetched me for his self-indulging moment at 3 am. In return for confidentiality, one of my roommates could have told a teacher, or perhaps Columbus Boychoir founder Herbert Huffman himself. Why else did this pedophile resign so soon after my monstrous encounter? (In a letter to parents dated February 24, 1956, a letter from Huffman said the guidance counsel “had to take an indefinite leave of absence from School because of illness.”) Some unknown comrade probably saved my butt, figuratively and literally.
In 2008 as part of my alumni experience, I spoke with then-Boychoir president Dr. Charles Bickford about what happened to me in 1956. Bickford left the school soon thereafter. He and members of his staff never denied the plausibility of what I related to them. Leadership heading up the school continued to change, Albemarle was sold, the school changed location to St. Joseph’s Seminary in Plainsboro, NJ, and eventually left those auspicious grounds because of financial difficulty.
The American Boychoir’s position remains as it ever was: Its head is in the sand. Maybe the controversy will go away, they seemed to think. But such a position seems really stupid. How can such an esteemed institution in the education-rich environs of Princeton refuse to use its mid-20th Century history to heal survivors from unwanted sexual attention, not just from Princeton but from schools all over the country?
Keeping the system as is may work well for lawyers, but not so well for the survivors.
In June 2012, I drove past the bronze statue of Joe Paterno outside Penn State’s monstrous 104,000-plus-seat stadium at State College where former alumni gather to reflect on some of the newest revelations spewing forth like poisonous volcanic fumes. At home as I looked into the videotaped face of Penn State’s ex-assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, the tape’s audio reminded me that the perpetual, generational cycle of cover-ups has yet to be broken. Countless lawyers profited from the generosity of the school’s historic benefactors and more young people considered themselves to be lifelong victims with little hope of regaining their tantalizing road to glory.
Legalized silences cause future slimy pedophiles to proliferate, and a new generation of brave whistleblowers find themselves poised to lift the cursed veil of politeness to once again peer into the seamy depths below.
How do we break this vicious cycle?
I think back on my behavior after that unwanted encounter, and I instinctively blamed a society that relegated conversations about sex to the darkest rooms and refused to turn the lights on. I began to rail against censorship. After all, the more you cover something up, the worse it becomes.
Predators thrive in darkness. My metaphor using cockroaches is apropos.
Statistics I recall about growing up in America purported that one of every three women is molested while growing up. For boys, the figure: one in four.
Do the math. That adds up to a lot of people keeping their mouths shut, whether for reasons of shame or convention. I believe keeping it all inside is far worse than letting it out, because victims of abuse face an ever-increasing toll as life goes on.
Those of us recovering from unsolicited sexual attention deserve a future where frank discussions about sex are no longer taboo. Sticking heads in the sand exasperated this whole mess in the first place.
In the Northeast’s hallowed corridors of high learning, good education is revered. Let’s heal the wounds of the past by coming out of the shadows.
So long, T.J. You finally received an all-star send-off.
Two weeks ago, the musical legacy of T.J. Tindall was celebrated in a musical jam in the City of Brotherly Love, most notably by Duke Williams and his life partner Annie. Perhaps now T.J.’s prolific spirit can reverberate across the universe.
While living in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I covered the music scene for the Bucks County Herald. Until September 2014, I witnessed and reported on triumphs – tragedies, as well – including the Marshall Tucker Band’s headline appearance at the Stockton Inn and the all-star wake for Danny DeGennaro after his senseless murder in December 2011.
Introducing a Rising Star
One highlight during those years was covering T.J. Tindall’s February 2013 concert at Jon and Peter’s in New Hope. He crammed an all-star ensemble inside the historic nightspot and featured a breakout starring role for a chanteuse named Jessi Teich. Her sultry moves and rock-steady vocal solos highlighted the night’s blues repertoire, and raised an appreciative audience’s temperature to long-forgotten heights.
After hearing some of Teich’s cuts from a promotional CD, I learned she was far more than a great voice in a killer body; she is a master musician. Some of her chord changes were inventive and worked so well that I was astounded. No wonder T.J. used his long-awaited appearance to serve as a springboard for Teich’s career. After all, musicians cannot help realizing how timeless great music is.
T.J. left this overrated plane of existence on Jan. 26 after succumbing to a self-imposed, undisclosed ordeal with cancer. Friends and fellow musicians were stricken with grief, and their mournful plaints are understandable. The impresario/musician who entertained countless audiences has a long list of credits detailed on various websites.
Nevertheless, what needs to be said at this dark hour is how to honor T.J.’s passing without tears or gnashing of teeth. I emulate how blues and jazz musicians honor their compatriots in New Orleans.
My Way to Commemorate
I will celebrate T.J.’s musical ear by playing Jessi Teich’s music, because the universe is cyclical. To see what she has been up to, check out her website at www.jessiteich.com. I think T.J. would be pleased. Is it any wonder that the initials of her name – J.T. – reorganize T.J.’s?
With death comes birth, and it’s time to let him go to that parallel primordial ooze where all great musicians jam together. I hope to see him on the other side. Because of T.J. Tindall, a new generation of star-crossed musicians is making Planet Earth a far better place.
All photographs on this post, except for ones in which Alice appears, were taken by Alice McCormick. She’s a real talent, if I say so myself.
I once experienced serendipity in 2000 while driving from San Francisco to Ashland, Oregon. What a treat! Every town where I stopped was hosting its own music festival. That’s serendipitous.
My second encounter? Alice and I were chosen to participate in The Aphasia Network’s Couples Retreat weekend with 11 other couples on the Oregon Coast from March 4th through the 6th. But wait, when did I realize Alice’s 72nd birthday would coincide with the glorious finish of this pilot program?
In a bona-fide camp environment, the roaring ocean only a few hundred yards away provided a healing sound experience.
What a concept.
On Sunday morning, Alice received a slice of birthday cake – only one candle atop representing a life brightly burning – and over 50 staff members and students, plus survivors of aphasia and their respective caregivers, sang out Alice’s praises in the time-honored “Happy Birthday to You” refrain.
The meaning of that emotion-packed morning brought tears to many students’ eyes, and I vowed then to salute The Aphasia Network with this website post for giving my dear one the greatest birthday gift of all: unqualified love.
A little history should add perspective to Alice’s birthday weekend. Immediately after Alice McCormick endured her stroke a year ago (March 11, 2015), one of her children wanted to fly out here and size up the situation. Alice feared such a visit could threaten her independence. And as Alice’s caregiver, I am duty-bound to defend her. She manages me very well, so her wishes become my commands.
Many people consider the loss of instant coherent speech to be a sign of incompetency. That’s not true. Yes, aphasia affects the brain, but only the interior pathways. Mature, informed thoughts must blaze new trails to communicate themselves in speech or writing. That’s why Alice’s nonverbal command structure today uses gesture more than ever. Survivors of brain injury must skirt ill-informed behaviors of well-intentioned family members who can turn an agile mind into a vegetable garden.
It’s up to me to keep a protective shield around her. That’s my role as caregiver. (And if there should be any doubt as to how together Alice is, take a careful look at the photos gracing these words of mine. Her talent as a photographer is well on display, with the caveat that students at the Retreat took photos of the two of us together.)
Off to the Coast
After a frenzied bit of packing Friday afternoon, March 4th, I drove the Ford Escape affectionately known as Betsy toward Tillamuck and the rugged Coast beyond. After we turned onto the main Coast throughway, the pavement swept us through an Oregon fishing town perched next to a placid bay. Looking beyond the bay, we could make out ever-building waves of the ocean beyond.
We drove past an inviting lake and my GPS turned us onto an inlet-hugging quiet road toward Edwards Lodge, the assigned gateway where a team of dedicated Aphasia Network professionals welcomed us into a slice of heaven that I now call the Haven.
As soon as we walked inside, two charming students – Tiffany Tu (occupational) and Rachael Furtney (speech) – enthusiastically introduced themselves. These two bright motivated souls were to be our constant companions and seemingly cater to our every whim. Alice may have required a full-blown stroke to have such dedicated overseers, but never mind. These two women were shining beacons reigning over our newly opened lighthouse of life.
Our first evening was filled with introductions, and we oriented ourselves to the lay of the land. Tiffany and Rachael easily located our assigned sleeping bunks in the Herron House; then we gathered back into a nearby dining hall and met key staff officials.
An entertainment program was led off by Savel Sobol, a student who doubles as a nightclub comedian, whose humor captured the audience’s breathless attention. We caroused some with Professor John White, Ph.D., who led the entire group into a rousing sing-along. As the evening wore on, we acknowledged our gratitude to Aphasia Network team leaders Suzanne Gardner and Lisa Bodry who share camp administrative responsibilities, while continuing to be feted by a potpourri of support personnel who kept the good vibes flowing. We were treated like VIPs.
Our trip to the Coast was accompanied by mostly cloudy skies, and an onimous weather forecast called for stormy conditions. To Alice and me, though, the sound of a confused sea with breakers rolling across the adjacent beach was a seething, soothing series of rolling sound. On my side of the bunk beds, I dropped off quickly.
A New Day Breaks
However, Alice did not fall asleep until late into the night, due to a barely-there mattress, and as daybreak unveiled itself, she was unable to rouse herself into consciousness. I meandered off to the Carrier Dining Hall for a sausage-and-pancake breakfast, confided in Tiffany and Rachael, who instantly, merrily concocted a wake-up invitation of steel-cut oatmeal and black coffee to gently prod Alice back to the land of the living.
To keep at ease, other staff members reassured me that Alice was happily regaining her steadfast form, and soon Tiffany and Rachael escorted a beamingly happy McCormick partner into my Saturday morning. Lo and behold, the sun was shining, and we sneaked off to the beach to view the glorious Coast in its active ebb and flow. We were elated to discover partly sunny skies. Could it be possible a beach bonfire was still on the afternoon menu?
Back at Edwards, Professor White led a frank, no-holds-barred discussion unveiling a myriad of tools and toys to reinvigorate sexual communion between couples. Hoo boy, the couple across from us appeared shocked, and subconsciously the power of erotica was building in my libido. I looked at Alice lasciviously.
After a back-to-the-basics macaroni-and-cheese lunch, guitars, percussive instruments and voices gave the beach a hootenanny effect, romantically accompanied by a modest bonfire on the beach with only a few nuisance sprinkles of rain to ignore. Yes, it’s true, more than a few random urges of forbidden pleasure were awakened by the female in my life.
Everything that passed from then on seemed like a blur. I joined other caregivers in the Smith House to compare lifestyles while Alice was spirited off to join other aphasia sufferers whose task was to prepare appetizers for all to share. Wary of any needless weight gain, I sampled a few, but didn’t fill up.
That was wise, because we savored a sumptuous teriyaki chicken dinner at the Sherlock Lodge, while our companion music-makers kept the entire company enthralled.
As I said earlier, romance was already in the air, and when we reached our bunk beds, it overflowed. Some mischievous, but sentimental, elves had strewn rose petals (a la the movie “American Beauty”) in and around our sleeping quarters along with a small bottle of champagne. Oh man, was love in the air.
But a practical look around the confined spaces of our bunk beds sobered up this surfeit of romanticism. If we could twist ourselves around in one particular position, I reasoned, we might be able to enjoy naked pleasures. But at what cost? How would we drive back home if my ardor put us in traction?
Cooler heads prevailed, thank goodness. But on Sunday morning, before we left this Haven, I confessed to all within earshot how susceptible I was to “elves” who inflicted the inspiration of unpracticed acrobatic moves in a noisy enough closed space that certainly would have disturbed other couples in Herron House.
Sunday morning breakfast did not disappoint. A full serving of bacon, scrambled eggs, hash browns preceded Alice’s birthday cake celebration with enough get-well wishes to fill the entire Pacific Ocean. Tears seemed to be participants’ only defense against their earnest hearts.
We walked to the beach once again, and admired driftwood brought onshore during high tide. We took one good look before turning our backs on Oregon’s greatest charm to revel more on Alice’s big day.
Alice’s 72nd birthday proved to be something special we never could have created by ourselves. Our hearts were lifted – and so were our spirits – by a glorious weekend on the Coast, all made possible by the guiding geniuses at The Aphasia Network.
We love what they do, and how they support us. Our weekend was serendipity personified.
On July 1, marijuana became a legal recreational substance in parts of Oregon, and the sky hasn’t fallen in Portland. The city is calm, and drug addicts are not running amuck.
That’s because none of the alarmists’ worries about legal weed drew more than a collective yawn from Portlanders. The only newsworthy observance took place at Portland’s Burnside Bridge as the clock struck midnight on July 1, mainly because the Oregonian newspaper encouraged a crowd of mostly well-behaved people to partake.
Portland is not the city of stoners that out-of-towners might assume it to be. Walking the hip streets at different hours allows plenty of opportunity for Alice and me to witness the sight or scent of wacky tobaccy. In over nine months here, we’ve seen nary a toking soul. Whatever pot use there is occurs in private.
Pot sales still are banned, too, at least for a few months. The only legal way to transfer wacky tobaccy from one person to another is via gift or trade. An enterprising event called Weed the People took advantage of a legal loophole Friday by charging an admission of $40. Once a ticket-holder had entered its small venue, the salivating stoner could walk up to tables and meet enterprising suppliers who gave away samples of their products.
A small area was set up outside to partake, where outsiders were blocked from view. There, fun-seekers sampled newly acquired goodies, easily exceeding a fair-market value of $100. The relatively bargain price of admission and publicity given this quasi-public event encouraged an estimated 2,000 people to jam a modest-sized venue in North Portland. A bond was struck there between sellers and purchasers.
Alice and I did not attend; instead, we were making our presence known inside the four-day Portland Blues Festival in downtown’s Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Blues fans were instructed not to bring marijuana into the park. Nevertheless, I expected to see or smell somebody’s newfound pot-smoking freedom.
But no, not one whiff. No passing around of joints. No smoke wafting from the peanut gallery.
Such a muted celebration typified the crowd response to Gregg Allman’s band on opening night: tepid. Only after a full moon rose through the two decks of the nearby Interstate-5 bridge over the Willamette River did the crowd begin to shed its apathy. Have Portlanders become jaded over the city’s reputed weirdness?
The newfound legalization finally was drummed home to spectators on Friday night. While adding a well-practiced rhythm and blues influence to New Orleans funk band Galactic, Macy Gray sought to wake up the beach-chair crowd with a new song, “Stoned.”
Gray inspired vocal approval, but only after urging members of the audience to raise their hand if they had a good experience from being stoned. About half the audience did so, giving Alice and me – finally – our first tangible evidence that Portlanders embraced the practice.
But Gray seemed annoyed. The folks in attendance had earned this legal freedom by living here. Why were they so blasé on Independence Day eve?
Gray ratified my own observation. Portlanders disdain partaking cannabis publicly. Smoking weed here is entirely a private ritual, and the old days of passing the joint seem destined to go into a time capsule as a throwback to the “good old days.”
Portland stands to benefit mightily from weed’s legalization. The Rose City is the first destination allowing legal marijuana where airline passengers are transported effortlessly between the airport and downtown without ever stepping foot in a rental car. The Max – light-rail transport – is the new-fangled futuristic vehicle to move newcomers around with some of the regular folk.
The only safe, yet legal, way for people visiting Portland who intend to partake in Oregon weed is to avoid driving. You can take the Max (also known as Tri-met) from the airport, but know the Uber scene is all the rage. You can let authorized operators of the economical ride-sharing service follow the rules of the road and give you hands-on treatment.
And know that somewhere, somehow, a group of musically adroit visiting celebrants will pass a joint around in this part of the USA to acknowledge that prosecuting pot smokers is no longer a priority. It goes beyond political correctness; it’s the right thing to do.