After moving to Longview, I found ample opportunity to patronize the area’s eateries. Most of them are forgettable, but a few stand out. It’s only right they be recognized:
Top dog for dinner: Parker’s Steakhouse, Castle Rock, at the I-5 Mt. St. Helens Way exit. Owner/chef Tony Parker pulled up stakes from Longview 10 years ago to a larger facility adjacent to the I-5 turnoff for Mt. St. Helens. Some people may opt for family dining in a large dining room, but I prefer to dine in the restaurant’s ornate bar. Top-end entries at low-end prices enables Kim Stiles (shown above) to serve the best prime rib around.
And if Kim isn’t around, you may spot Parker’s outlandishly handsome bartender, Guido Smith – yes, Smith – who knows finesse rarely seen in these parts.
Honorable mention: The Office 842 on Washington Way, a franchised outlet from Portland. If you want a specialty drink or an inventive late-night appetizer, this is a hip spot. It’s pricey, though.
Top dog for breakfast: Longview’s Pancake House, a locally owned institution on California Way that’s jam-packed till 1:30 pm.
What caught my eye are the waitresses. None of them wants to quit; they thrive by working at a brisk pace. The pleasant camaraderie attracts regulars and newcomers alike, and the food – especially the Navy bean soup – ain’t bad, either.
Top dog for occasional live music: Teri’s Restaurant. When Tony Parker moved north from West Longview, Teri Weir took over and engaged a host of local musicians to entertain diners in the Old-West-themed saloon and bar. And when the second floor is open, the fun is contagious. A roomy elevator gives everybody access, including misbehaving couples.
Update: Teri’s New Digs
I touted Teri’s Restaurant for its musical bill of fare, but I have discovered its location – for the first time in 10 years – is changing. Teri Weir’s version of hospitality is moving into the heart of Longview.
Officially named the General Mortgage Building, the site once boasted occupancy by a fine-jewelry company promoted by the late heavyweight champion Joe Louis. The space is an acoustic marvel, with sound echoing around the room. Originally occupied in 1926 by the Washington Gas and Electric Company, the 1333 Broadway building has plenty of adjacent parking.
Let’s hope Teri’s injects a little spark into downtown.
Look at this guy. The protest sign he displayed in Longview, Washington’s busy intersection suggests the stance of a one-time Trump supporter. Without anyone protecting him, his act of singular courage gives me comfort.
While strolling around Lake Sacajawea two days ago, I came across a sight to be feared: a Burmese Python. Its handler, named Franklin, sat comfortably in the grass, showing no trepidation as the snake slithered all around his body.
That’s a real change from idyllic ambience at the Japanese Garden.
What’s out of order? Aren’t Burmese pythons the scourge of Florida’s Everglades? This female is 12½ feet long and growing every day. And already in Longview, Washington, according to Franklin, there’s one snake larger.
Egad! I didn’t bother to tell Franklin how many eggs this female expels. That’s because he told me the name he’s given this snake:
Thanks to everyone for your enjoyable birthday remembrances. Facebook is, indeed, a social medium.
The photo above was made possible by my one-time sister-in-law, Mary Schenck, who called a Longview bakery on Commerce Avenue named the Sugar Pearl. Mary asked if they could prepare an Amaretto liqueur cake to make my 80th milestone birthday a special one to remember.
Boy, did they! Not only did I receive a VIP-worthy delivery from the bakery’s owner, but this sweetheart of an all-natural-ingredients marvel measures 8 inches in diameter and 4¼ inches in height. That’s mammoth!
I attempted to take a selfie sitting next to the cake, but it doesn’t do justice to either of us. I’ll post it anyway, because the pressure now is on. I must make a dinner worthy of this sweet introduction to my dining room. What about spare ribs? And what about a sauce that celebrates my father when he functioned as a sous chef at the Waldorf-Astoria? Over egg noodles, of course.
I haven’t left this plane of existence, yet. I’m sticking around, because I have to finish this book-length homage praising the pitfalls of life. I survived because of some dedicated women who loved me, and it’s time I give something back.
Ten minutes before sunset on Christmas Day, I was treated officially to a White Christmas, and the photo taken the next morning depicts a bird’s large footprints outside my townhouse. Lovely, right?
Well, reiterating a conversation at our Christmas gathering two weeks ago, all is no longer peachy. I was warned not to give any of this condominium association’s officers any publicity, even if it’s favorable.
Two of them cite fear of the Internet for choosing to shun attention, but it causes this experienced journalist to wonder why. Or could it be because I am now an East Coast widower in their closed circle?
So much for hometown hospitality.
Since the portrayed happy mood of the pre-Christmas gathering is inaccurate, I am removing that post. But thank you for reacting positively.
Two posts ago, I wrote about an adjacent neighbor who set fire to my condo while utilizing a mini-blowtorch to kill weeds, then went back into his unit to watch TV while mine smoldered. The front of his apartment is pictured above. To this day, I remain astonished why the town of Longview didn’t cite him for criminal negligence.
To put my discovery of the fire in perspective, in late April I was appropriately convalescing from a four-hour hernia operation at Kaiser Permanente’s Sunnyside Hospital, courtesy of cousin Margaret Johnston within her natural-beauty surroundings in Tigard. Before walking into my condo, I strolled around Lake Sacajawea with distinguished Professor John White, recently retired from Pacific University.
I unlocked the condo door and stepped into a dwelling filled with smoke. My fortuitous discovery prevented a smoldering carpet from blossoming into flame, thus saving all my memories, my condominium, and five other units.
After five months and 10 days being confined inside Quality Inn Room #101, my townhouse – at long last – was ready for re-occupancy. The work was performed by ServPro, a national organization that works hand-in-hand with three national insurance companies – Allstate, State Farm and Farmer’s. Most of the delay is taken up by insurers’ paperwork for their bean counters. By the way, I have Allstate, and adjuster Michael Broszczak treated me right.
A couple weeks later, most relevant items are unpacked, and I’m trying to figure out the appropriate wall hangings, while the good Professor promises to visit and celebrate Alice’s epicurean tastes so this place doesn’t turn into a museum.
But enough with all that.
For the first time, this post contains the name of my next-door firebug: Ned Rauth.
And here is why his identity can now be known.
On the night of October 26, Rauth was transferred by ambulance with a blood oxygen count of 40, and designated another victim of Covid.
At the hospital, he didn’t make it. Ned died.
How did it happen?
The spirit of my all-powerful late wife, Alice McCormick, could have caused him harm, because the day Rauth had to be transported from his townhouse – exactly adjacent to ours – was October 26, precisely six months from the day he set OUR apartment to blaze.
Creator continues to bless me.
Keeping in mind I am a Quaker, I ask, “How should I feel?”
Why do I look so happy? How have I survived misfortune?
In my last missive on this website, I reported that a fire impacted my Longview condo four months and five days ago. As aggravated as I steadily became, I kept my impatience quiet, because waiting for insurance to take effect magnifies the tedium. While adjusters battled to save every last penny, it would have been premature to describe my fly-by-night, day-to-day existence at a local Quality Inn as the future.
During my four months of unplanned isolation, only one person made the trek to my apartment to supply companionship and some semblance of normality: former occupational therapist for Pacific University, Professor John White. He prepared some vegetables for side dishes, plenty of tomatoes, peppers and squash to inspire healthy eating and satisfy my palate. Pear jam, too! We also strolled around Lake Sacajawea. John is not a relative; he is a friend. Thanks, John.
More relief was supplied by my cousin, Margaret Johnston, who picked me up at the Quality Inn for day trips to Mt. St. Helens and Astoria. Her thoughtfulness is appreciated. Thanks, Margaret.
But the big news: On Sept. 1st – finally, finally, finally – I received word that the check required by the contractor – ServPro – was deposited in the condominium association’s account and is now accessible for the required cash deposit. Later this week, reconstruction will begin, which will include a complete repainting of the entire interior and re-carpeting of both floors of the townhouse and inside stairs. Smoke damage is pernicious and is not easily removed.
I acknowledge help from Allstate Insurance’s local Joe Cleveland Agency – specifically Kyla Rose McCoy – and Philadelphia Insurance Companies of Bala Cynwyd, where tourists struggle to correctly pronounce its Pennsylvania location. I had to fight to have proper restoration work promised, and I empathize with anyone who has to undergo property repair from Hurricane Ida and now must wait for losses to be specified, validated and confirmed.
While trying to remain sane, I finished two more chapters of my book concerning the five years (1968-72) in Hollywood, Calif., where I was told how blues icon Janis Joplin was murdered and my stint as a deejay for L.A.’s only pirate radio station. That part of my story is now written, and now I must describe my return to Miami where I began my journalistic career 30 years ago as a full-fledged writer for two metropolitan daily newspapers.
I must relive those years in my head and clippings, then describe the remarkable events of that time, including meeting Mary Jo Vecchio, the woman famous for standing over a fatally shot student at Kent State University. It’s a sad observance how an ordinary young woman was affected while in the media spotlight.
I will be leaving Longview as soon as I can, prepping for the release of my re-titled full-length tale, “Confessions of a Boy Soprano.” Alice McCormick made me promise to write this tale, and I look forward to announce the book’s release. Once upon a time, I lived a life unforeseen. I promise you will laugh at some events, shed some tears for lost innocence and remember times that were greener than today.
Instead, my remarkable recovery from abdominal surgery – repair of a distended hernia – and an occupational therapy professor’s oversight probably saved my life.
Let’s review the past 15 days. On April 21, I underwent the uncertainty of surgery, the expectation of an invasive operation, with surgeon John M. Roberts in charge. The threat of complications was on the table, requiring overnight medical observation in Kaiser Permanente’s Sunnyside Medical Center.
The preparation was easy, though – full of promise. No awful goop to drink in advance. The only requirement: nothing to eat or drink for eight hours preceding my date with a scalpel at 5:30 am. Once I was cleared to go upstairs and an IV administered in a surgical pre-op room, I felt reassured, especially after my surgeon arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, full of vim and vigor.
I looked around at my surroundings. I counted at least 30 pre-op rooms like mine, all in use simultaneously, turning this section of Sunnyside into a virtual factory. Welcome to Advanced Medical Care in a Time of Covid-19.
Anesthesia was applied so precipitously that I never got a chance to count down from 100. And four hours later, I was awakened by the anesthesia team with great news. The mesh that now held my hernia’s unsightly distension was inserted laparoscopically during a marathon procedure. Because surgery was mostly non-invasive, recovery promised to be a snap.
And it was. I received a modest supply of oxycodone from the hospital’s pharmacy (after responding to four separate text notices the prescribed pain pills were ready for pickup). I took two of the tablets at six-hour intervals in the hospital, and one pill a day later. Otherwise, I avoided them completely, having been pre-warned about its constipating side effect. Furthermore, I don’t like the blurry aftereffect when the pills kick in.
Once Kaiser released me, I was on the mend. Two days later, I walked briskly for a half-mile under the care of my cousin Margaret and her cairn (a breed of dog) around a tony Tigard, Oregon neighborhood. I was recovering rapidly. No sweat!
Three days later, John White, former occupational therapy professor at Pacific University, transported me 50 miles to my Longview, Wash. townhouse. The good professor brought a sleeping bag on which to stay overnight, along with his trademark guitar, and we enjoyed a smashing good time watching the 2012 Oscar-nominated movie, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” The next morning, after White fried up two eggs, a sizable portion of hash browns (and spicy pork sausage for me), we journeyed to Lake Sacajawea to traipse along the park’s tree-lined gravel paths.
Three hours later and two miles under my belt, with my body feeling fit as a Southern fiddle, White pronounced me in perfect condition and we drove back from the park. Upon entering my townhouse, I walked into a smoke-filled maze, looking around to find the cause of the smoke, and discovered the outside southeast corner of my apartment was smoldering.
My next-door neighbor, Ned Rauth, immediately appeared, admitting culpability by using a hand-held blowtorch to kill weeds adjacent to my apartment. Hmmm, stupid is as stupid does, but why did he ensconce himself inside his apartment to watch TV and fail to extinguish the fire?
He tried using a garden hose, but why was it still smoldering, emitting toxic smoke throughout my apartment? Why did he leave the scene of the fire? Had he called the fire department? Or was he just avoiding the aftermath of what he had done?
No matter; I called the fire department. Within 10 minutes, an engine company showed up to put out the smoldering mess, stabilizing my living quarters and the contents therein.
What if Professor White had not accompanied me? What would have happened if my rehabilitation proved to be troublesome, and I went to sleep inside my apartment instead of walking around the park?
The fire department determined my hard-wired smoke detector wasn’t working. Knowing that smoke inhalation is the No. 1 killer from a house fire, I readily admit I am lucky!
But let’s imagine I waited a day to return home. Yes, I would have survived, but all my personal records, data, pictures and memorabilia would have gone up in smoke. So much for the book!
As far as recovery is concerned, ServPro is on hand to clean my clothes, possessions – as well as everything my late wife, Alice, used to appoint and decorate our dwelling. Most everything of sentimental value looks to be recoverable.
Industrial-strength fans have been in force since April 27, constantly scrubbing the air inside, but at night it’s cold inside (upper 40s to low 50s) since all the windows must remain open. I’ve learned to close off one room – my office – and put on the heat to temporarily avoid the outside chill. Looking ahead, only some of my three-year-old plush carpet may require replacement, especially the living room, but I suspect (hopefully) my furniture and electronics will remain undisturbed.
Until the recovery is complete, I spend nights inside a Quality Inn room, and may stay there as long as four more weeks.
So am I complaining? Nah!
That’s all the belly-aching I can withstand. I could feel sorry for myself, but what would that accomplish? No sir. It’s back to work on Chapter 10, “Square Grouper,” because that’s the next integral part of my true-life love story, She Danced on Bandstand.
Maybe you heard about the snowstorm we experienced two days ago. Down in Portland, precipitation fell as ice, up to a full inch! Fortunately for southwest Washington, we received more than six inches of snow and no ice as temperatures remained below freezing.
That much snow is rare in the Pacific Northwest valleys tucked in between the Cascades and the Coast Range. When any frozen precipitation occurs, the whole area virtually shuts down. That’s because Oregon and Washington have few snowplows and a fraction of the salt elsewhere in the country. Portland would rather use de-icer, accounting for stranded vehicles attempting to traverse hilly areas and increasingly vocal complaints from East Coasters.
So our snow was the most reported in over nine years. Tonight, the weather forecast suggests as temperatures begin to fall, we may get some ice, but nowhere what Portland received. In the week ahead, temperatures should rise and stay in the mid-40s with rain, allowing streets to fully recover in short order. Nevertheless, I felt obliged to shovel a path from my townhouse’s garage to access a navigable street a few feet away.
As I was midway in clearing a paved area where I could freely back out, a little girl, whom I will identify as Penelope, with resplendent red hair and an ear-to-ear smile asked if she could help. I noted she did not ask if I NEEDED help, she asked if she COULD.
I directed Penelope’s efforts, and 20 minutes later told her we were finished, she prepared to run off, yelling “Happy Valentine’s Day!”
No snow melted then, but my heart did. I gave her a five-spot, and told Penelope to share it with her brother.
This was my first Valentine’s Day without Alice supervising me, but I know she would be proud.
I think you will, too. From the Rose City (Portland) where my wife and I first moved, then discovering a modest Washington town 60 miles away where residents happily grow up with small-town values, Happy Valentine’s Day!
Five and a
half years ago, I, Mason Loika (climate-change refugee from Miami), and life
partner Alice McCormick (a true Philly girl) moved “Westward Ho.” We
left a historic Pennsylvania town — Doylestown – to wind up in Longview,
Washington, 50 interstate miles north of Portland, Oregon. Longview has quite a history, but currently the
sleepy town remains below the radar.
between Mt. St. Helens and Washington’s spectacular Pacific Coast, the
self-contained industrial-residential town runs alongside the Columbia River,
and was founded by timber-baron R.A. Long. Next to downtown is a magnificent, Japanese-styled,127-acre
Lake Sacajawea, where residents wear their casual best to stroll – or show off
their dogs’ pedigree – around a 3½ mile maintained gravel trail. (Lake
Sacajawea is named after a Shoshone woman who guided Lewis and Clark west.) Longview’s
population and that of sister town, Kelso, totaled 50,000 in 2017.
In September of
that year, Alice and I bought a roomy two-bedroom condominium in Longview next
to a manicured golf course, leaving three years of price-predatory apartment developments
and unforgiving traffic in Portland, Oregon.
The Portland metro
area incorporates Vancouver, Washington (not Canada), and has obscenely grown –
over 2.4 million residents. Once, pedestrians
felt safe crossing city streets, but today population centers all over the West
are bursting at the seams. Everywhere, people are increasingly crowded together. Much of what ruined Miami when I grew up is
happening today in Portland, and an unexplained number of Florida license
plates can be observed.
five years, I kept the financial wolves at bay by driving for Uber and Lyft in
Portland. Nowadays, Alice and I live a
better life in Longview, although I continue “ride-share” work in
Oregon. We have good neighbors in our newfound socially interactive community, and,
after closing my garage at night, a neighbor offers me a solid toke from a
well-stacked pipe containing some of the finest locally grown agricultural
here, y’all! So we don’t have to lead
double lives to protect our right to partake.
Surrounded by the greenery on a nearly 1,000-foot-high, properly populated
hill north of our development, this could be our forever neighborhood, limited to
whatever Creator decides to gift us.
And mercy of
all mercies, musicians get work here.
I’ve already touted Teri’s Restaurant, which keeps getting better. Teri now reserves Friday nights for local
bands to perform in her two-story saloon-style roadhouse, just perfect vibes
for performing musicians to jam together. And on the coast recently — Long
Beach, Washington – a recent weekend event celebrated “Oysters and
Jazz.” Mmmmm. Sustenance for the
body and soul.
continues to manage me, occasionally making progress with her stroke-affected speech.
Each year our closest buds in The Aphasia Network host two weekends at a Methodist
church camp on the tip of a scenic peninsula on Oregon’s pristine coast. We
attend regularly, and – especially – treat each other like family. (During
breakout sessions, caregivers discuss relationship concerns with their group
apart from their respective stroke survivors who simultaneously participate in
activities designed to simulate everyday chores and challenges.)
around at the Aphasia Network staff – nurses, professors, occupational
therapists, speech therapists, students, and executives (who don’t act that
way), – we delight at how one musically astute professor appears to be attached
by the hip to a guitar, with which he schedules bonding hootenannies with invited
amateur musicians. This is, simply put, glorious territory for an elder inhabitant
of Planet Earth to traipse about.
There is still much to share with readers. While Alice and I cocoon to avoid the coronavirus, Creator has decreed this time of fear and worry as a prospective blessing. Or as Jim Morrison once sang in “Light My Fire,” there’s “no time to wallow in the mire.”