Tag Archives: Townhouse fire

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!