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Three Meter Zone | JD's Bunker | Poetry | Chapel | American Journal

Thoughts While Running Painting My Basement

J. D. Pendry

I've secured some high ground just below the crest of a hill in Saint Albans, West Virginia. I have an improved position with solid overhead cover, access to shower points, mess facilities, and latrines. For you old soldiers, the latrines are located the proper distance and are downwind from food preparation areas (if you turn on the ceiling fans). I have a defendable position at the end of a cul-de-sac (fancy word for dead-end street) and a clear line of sight to the main avenue of approach. The terrain is hilly, but the fields of fire are cleared. It takes me a little over an hour to cut the lawn since it's on the side of a hill. I cut the back from left to right and then reverse that in the front. That way my down hill leg doesn't get too tired.

The quartering party (Su and Me) entered the sight on July 30 at about 0900 hours and began preparation for arrival of the main body (our stuff) and we're still waiting. Here's some fresh off the press tips for you future retirees who may have lived your entire adult lives in Army housing and are considering buying an existing house:

Have the place inspected by an inspector who is a registered civil engineer, a member of the American Society of House Inspectors (ASHI). ASHI has very detailed inspection standards. Well worth it - my seller had to replace the furnace - considerably more expensive than the $330 I paid for the inspection.

If you use your VA benefit to buy your home get your eligibility certificate about a month or so before you get in the realtor's car, it could save you a couple of weeks processing time (which already runs 45 days on the short side and 60 or better on the long side). A pre-approval letter from a mortgage company is also helpful. Write this down - the VA appraiser is your friend. Make your realtor write the following statement in your contract offer "House must appraise at or above offer price." My agent put that in the contract. When the VA appraisal came in low the sellers had to reduce the price or find a new buyer. They picked the former and saved me a good amount of money - enough to pay for Su's new kitchen.

Speaking of kitchens. The cooking member of the partnership, it turns out (the wife in my case) is very particular about the kitchen. So if you buy a house you both like with the exception of the kitchen, plan on replacing it (if you want to remain happy and eat meals that didn't come from Taco Bell). Quality cabinets (all wood), new appliances (mid-range not the galloping gourmet variety) installed for a medium sized kitchen - about $8,000. Yep, 8K. Of course, if you're Tim the Tool Man you can save a couple grand on labor for this four-day job. Before you do that, read the lock story below.

The Army does not do change of occupancy for your new home. Be grateful for those painting and cleaning skills the Army provided you with early in your career. Also, wives are not good painters and like most good privates will try to find a reason for being in the room where the paint isn't. However, they will occasionally pass by with some tips on how you can do it better and faster. Five gallons of good paint and accessories = $150.

You have to replace locks. Re-keying existing locks - about ten bucks a lock. Adding quality dead bolts is more expensive. Three doors X six locks = $200 (3 re-keyed, 3 dead bolts installed plus labor). The alternative is to do it your self and chance ruining the doors - replacement of doors costs more than locks. Of course, if you're the tool man and have the stuff with you - go for it.

Lastly, remember that you have to pay for stuff the Army used to cover. Garbage pick-up, street cleaning/plowing, etc - $20 bucks a month here. Water and sewage variable, but about the same as garbage. You also have electric and gas. Both expensive, depending on the season, even here in Almost-Heaven.

Take care and buy my book.

© J. D. Pendry 1999