Category Archives: Longview

Reconstruction: Longview Style

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.

Second-floor view of inside stairs

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.

Carpeting on stairs was removed after an area was smoldering.

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.

Only a tarp separates the empty space beyond the utility room’s water heater.

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.

Onward and upward!

Displaced by a Fire

It could have been worse. Much worse.

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.

Professor John White at Lake Sacajawea..

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.

The fire is extinguished, but the carpet inside shows how close disaster struck.

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!

A wheelbarrow holds the damaged pieces of my townhouse.

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.

Up and at ’em!

Happy Valentine’s Day

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.

Big difference.

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.

Although taller than me, Alice happily rested her head on my bony shoulder.

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!

Life in Longview

Life is good.  And opportunity is at hand.

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.

Most snow has melted atop Mt. St. Helehs.
Mt. St. Helens is 90 minutes away from Longview.
Alice meditates at Cape Disappointment.
Alice goes crazy over lighthouses. This one on Washington’s Long Beach peninsula known as Cape Disappointment provides a view for thought.

Positioned midway 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.

Serene lakeside concert
Longview provides free summer concerts with room to stretch out by Lake Sacajawea.
What does that darned cat want?
Two clever sculptures greet patrons at the Longview Public Library.

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.

For almost 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 products.

Is this what they mean by "fresh air?"
Alice poses next to the mascot of the Freedom Market in downtown Longview.

It’s legal 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.

You never know quite what is in a hot dog.
This concession stand at a Longview outdoor concert piques curiosity.

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.

Pacific Coasters endure unpleasant weather with style.
Friends at the Aphasia Network pose shamelessly when the Coast is rainy and chilly.
Gazing at the beach is relaxing to one and all.
When it’s sunny and warm on the Coast, a bonfire on the beach feels perfect.

Alice 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.)

Prof. John White is unique in more ways than one.
Professor John White of Pacific University stands tall on the beach.
"Let there be light."
Prof. White shows perseverance by holding sheet music in the light.

Looking 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.”

Onward!

Alice Leaves the ‘Y’

It didn’t take long.

After beginning childcare duties on May 15th with the YMCA of Southwest Washington in Longview, Alice McCormick received the following email from the facility’s executive director on June 7th:

The Y’s Rainbow Corner “has some concerns about your communication skills with kids and parents [emphasis added]. Because you are still in the 90-day probationary period, she [the Rainbow Corner’s director] is letting you go because she does not feel like this is a good fit for our members.”

Alice never returned an invitation to speak further to the Y about its decision, so I pressed Alice to forward me the terse communiqué.  Once she did so (after two months), I wrote directly to the Y’s executive director who in turn refused comment to me, her life partner, or to anyone other than Alice.

My wife, Alice, can hold a conversation, but lacks the verbal pathways to do so eloquently, which self-explains her recalcitrance to hold a formal conversation with Longview’s YMCA about such an important matter without my participation.  Therefore, no further communication is anticipated between us and, accordingly, I spoke with Alice to relate her impressions, and here are some of them.

The Southwest Washington YMCA in Longview

Inside Longview’s Y

The childcare room in Longview’s YMCA was touted as a “Rainbow Corner,” but painted only with a stark white color.  No accompanying artwork, such as that appearing in Doylestown, PA.’s YMCA (where Alice once worked), is part of the color scheme.  Half of the children’s toys were, in some way, in a state of disrepair.

The Rainbow Corner’s director expected Alice to continually consort with a mentally challenged co-worker, whom the Y was proactive enough to hire.  However, the assignment convinced Alice that her speech aphasia was considered by her superiors as another form of mental incompetence.  Not one person volunteered to be Alice’s trainer or a confidante.

I could go on, but Alice and I have no plans to be mean-spirited.  But something happened here, and we won’t be silent about it.

Alice excelled in the field of special education and served as a substitute teacher for four years in the Philadelphia School District, no mean feat.  She is an elder, an experienced parent who nurtured five children and one grandchild through childhood, teenage angst and later development.  These skills remain intact.

Alice’s speech suffered significantly after her stroke in March 2015, and she found out what anyone here who does not speak American English fluently innately knows: She has become a second-class citizen.  As I once quoted Hungarian film star Paul Javor in my book, Gulag to Rhapsody: A Survivor’s Story, “The less English you know, the more likely it is that people will spit on you.”

Alice deserved better than what the Y’s mission here exudes.  Working with infants and toddlers provided Alice an opportunity to offer attentive caring, a safe atmosphere and love.  This mission doesn’t require her to speak much.  When wide-eyed children look up at her (because Alice is considerably taller than her peers), they feel love.

Lynn Fox, founder of the Aphasia Network, greets Alice.  The woods in the background accentuate a majestic lake.

The Aphasia Network is our advocate

People with aphasia are not mentally deranged or incompetent.  This is plain wrong.  The pathways through her brain were interrupted by a stroke and must be rebuilt through years of therapy and practice so she can feel confident to communicate as well as the rest of us.  Alice manages me, and I’m not easy.

Pacific University professor John White, musician extraordinaire, leads a hootenanny on the Oregon Coast.

Two weeks ago, I broke this sad news to over 100 stroke survivors, care partners, occupational and speech therapy students and instructors at our Aphasia Adventure Weekend on the Coast.  Now I share it with the readers of this blog.

Today, Alice freelances by occasionally cleaning people’s apartments.  She only works for those who treat her (and me) the same way.  Unfortunately, Longview’s YMCA does not meet Alice’s standards.  The neighbors in our condo association do.

We remain hopeful that an aphasia awareness campaign will open new doors for people who suffer the debilitating effects of a stroke.  For survivors and their care partners, more education and interaction with the outside world needs to be done.

As much as I expressed love for Alice when entering our civil ceremony seven years ago, I love her in a deeper way now.  All her struggles inspire me to match her courage.  Every little thing she does for me behind the scenes gives me an air of organization.  Alice’s dedication to my wellbeing is akin to the Portland (Oregon)-based Aphasia Network’s ever-expanding programs.

When student therapist Megan Bravo hugs you, it’s impossible to keep your eyes open.

Yes, we are exceedingly grateful, and our gratitude is only matched by the unmitigated embrace of support offered by our delightful extended family.

Feeling Thankful

Thanksgiving is a time when one is supposed to feel grateful.  This year, though, I believe my gratitude is far more abundant than at any other time in my life.

One particular cause of such supreme gratitude is our condominium unit and the community we now live in.  Alice and I thank my cousins, Margaret Johnston and Carolyn & Jeff Levin, for investing in our vision, transforming us into stewards of a beautiful property overlooking the mountains of Washington.  If it were not for them, our place would not be as spectacular as the view.

24-unit condo community with a view

We love Washington!
The hills of Washington underneath a sullen sky.

Take a peek outside my second-floor writer’s office window.  That’s one of several mountain ridges in the distance where a few developments punctuate the landscape.  Frequent rain events during the fall/winter obscure their top-of-the-mountain view more than ours, which encourages a certain personal, snobbish feeling of superiority.  And during an occasional burst of heat during the summer, a smaller ridge to the southwest shades our valley community an hour before dusk.

Inside the Loika/McCormick home

What an ideal surround room.
After DishTV installed our TV on a wall mount, the workmen insisted their sound system is better than Bose. I turned them down, and I’m glad I did. Check out the stonework for the fireplace.

Our living room has become an audiophile’s wet dream.  The television is mounted on the wall and the audio connected to my Bose surround-sound system.  Before we moved in, Reid Rasmusson, a local Longview painter and stalwart resident who has knowledge of our building’s architectural history, applied several coats of paint to the entire apartment.  What stands out is how Alice directed Reid to reinvent a cranberry-red wall into a more-aesthetically pleasing olive-brown accentuation to an artistically constructed fireplace.  An added attraction, thanks to Bose: the acoustics are outstanding.

Great colors, eh?
Instead of watching MSNBC, Alice now loves quiet time early in the morning before I awaken.

Therefore, one wouldn’t blame Alice for reclining on our six-month-old sofa toward the entertainment center.  But that’s not her usual position.  Alice lies in the opposite direction, sharing my outside view, but the downstairs window position aligns her 6-foot frame next to a riot of greenery.  Already, Alice is adding her creative touch to the outside backyard.

(Our cat, Millie, complains loudly every day of wanting to go outside and explore.  But we hear that bobcats, cougars and coyotes prowl about, so we admonish Millie for expressing reckless desires and keep her inside.)

After Reid finished painting, the carpet people showed up to execute our carpet and flooring plan.  Every old piece of carpet was discarded in favor of a tan-colored replacement, with a luxurious feel and look we enjoy today.  The carpet installers were finishing up barely moments before our movers were scheduled to arrive.  The movers?  That’s a different story, and a future post will detail the story of that near-disaster.

Light streaming from above.
Never before saw a light shaft like this.

One particular view of the upstairs railing reveals light shining through the upstairs bathroom.  (We have 1½ bathrooms, by the way.)  That’s sunglare coming through the bathroom skylight.  That’s cool, isn’t it?  A skylight for the bathroom?  Oh yeah, try to get that in a condo in Portland!

A feeling of community

Never know about the legitimacy of people you meet.
If you get accosted in a Mexican restaurant, can ICE deport you?

Our digs are so splendoriferous that I hesitate to include the generosity of spirit from our neighbors.  Nevertheless, I’m dutybound to report our next-door neighbors meet two criteria: quality and congeniality.  Terry and Carole Sumrall introduced us to a restaurant they favor: Fiesta Bonita Mexican Grill and Cantina.  Of course, our journey turned out to be a late afternoon on Halloween, so the tradition in town conjured up a wannabe for the Village People instead of a waitperson.

Other neighbors are equally generous with their time and talents.  Already, Longview is full of revelations, and the history of this town is worthy of more national attention than it gets.  This is a true community, and my future writing here may reveal what I call “living in a Gentile kibbutz.”  I only wish I didn’t have to drive to Portland to buy whitefish salad, a proper bagel and latkes.  Or cheese blintzes!  A full story about Longview, Washington will appear in a future post, or perhaps be contained in the book I committed to when moving West.

Teri’s Restaurant is what’s happening

Music on Friday nights.
Teri’s restaurant, 3225 Ocean Beach Highway, Longview.

The photo at the top of this post was taken by one of the employees at Teri’s Restaurant in our newly adopted hometown.  Besides a continuous dedication to provide restaurant fare a cut above the standard, Teri’s is a hubbub for local musicians and their groupies.  (No age requirement to become a groupie.)  We met a dean from Lower Columbia College (in Longview, naturally) who got on one knee in front of us to encourage Alice to return to work for child care.  How is that for a welcome?

A quick apology

Please excuse the delay in getting this post written.  There were plenty of chores for me to take care of, not to mention the time I wasted while being hooked on DishTV during this college football season.  Yes, I am still functioning, sometimes badly, on the aftermath and life after a bladder removal surgery.

But I am far more than just alive, and I’m married to an Amazon woman who sets a pretty high standard for how she looks after me.  That’s why every time she allows herself a genuine smile, my heart continues to go pitter-patter.

Dr. Seuss said, “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep, because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

I agree.  Life is grand, ain’t it?

Longview Condo Is a Done Deal

On her birthday in March of this year, Alice told me, “This year, don’t buy me anything.  Instead, please, please get me a house.”

Alice realized the bloom had fallen off the Portland Rose City.  We started looking around and found a two-story townhouse for sale in Longview, Washington, next to a public golf course.  The photo above shows the crown jewel of Longview: Lake Sacajawea, a former channel of the Cowlitz River turned into a picturesque manmade lake, surrounded by 67 manicured parkland acres.  Live music fills the air on six consecutive Thursday night concerts.

Alice and I were in a difficult spot, because we didn’t have money for a down payment.  We were caught up in Portland’s rent crisis, and each year an increasing amount of money was being squeezed from us to rent a tiny 900-square-foot apartment next to a major freeway.

Eddie McCormick was recently honored as a Navy Seal.

Mason Was a Navy Reservist

Thinking about my Uncle Eddie McCormick, though, led to an overdue realization.  During the early 1960s, Eddie convinced me into joining the Naval Air Reserve.  As far as the Armed Services were concerned, I was not a “man’s man.”  This was especially true after I took the Navy’s aptitude test and set a new record for LOWEST score in mechanical ability.  Eddie suggested I join the Naval Air Reserve’s six-month active duty group known as “Weekend Warriors.”

During that era, I was subject to the draft.  So I enlisted as a preventive move and served six months of active duty – from October 6, 1960 until April 5, 1961, followed by 5½ years of active reserve duty spending one weekend a month at Jacksonville (Fla.) Naval Air Station and serving two weeks active duty during the summer.  Most of those two-week tours took me to Guantanamo Bay, but my experience did not include combat, thank God.

After my discharge, I discovered legislation that disqualified 1960s reservists who served 180 or fewer days active duty from receiving VA benefits.  This was a strike against six-month reservists, and I harbored resentment about the limitation of opportunity and expressed it to Uncle Eddie a few times.

Embracing a Revelation

Eventually, I found my niche as a broadcaster turned journalist, and regarded my military service as irrelevant history.  My military history soon became relevant as I wracked my brain figuring out how to finance a condo purchase.  I don’t remember how a flash of brilliance overcame me, but somehow I started counting my days of active duty from October 6 through April 5.  That added up to more than 180 days, it was 182.

Oh my God, the commander at Jacksonville Naval Air Station must have mustered me out two days late.  I was qualified!

Alice is greeted by the condo association president. We would share this backyard common area with one other resident.

Realtor Tami Cheatley was super-skeptical about VA financing, though, shunning it with a passion, but the Veterans Administration proved it was there for us.  It recognized Alice and me as a married couple, and acknowledged my service.  Oh yes, the VA did exact their pound of flesh, requiring me to document numerous explanations of every black mark our credit suffered over the last seven years.

We needed to get files from years past, copies of court judgments, visit the IRS, give every possible explanation for any bump in the road we experienced in life.   But we did it, and today, on Eclipse Monday, we closed on the sale.

Mason and Alice celebrate with a cold bottle of sparkling wine, just itching to have its cork popped..

As we celebrate our hard-won victory today, I acknowledge what Uncle Eddie did for by getting me into the Naval Air Reserve.  And I dote on his memory.  So congratulate us, for today Alice and I became homeowners in a quiet, desirable neighborhood.

Happy Eclipse Monday.