Every time something good happened in my life I bought a lottery ticket. When I solved a nasty computer problem at work I bought a ticket. When I got my car repaired and it cost less than I thought it might I bought a ticket. When my grand-niece was born I bought a ticket. I suppose being Buddhist this was a perverted way of playing on my karma.
It paid off. I won the Illinois Mega-Millions game as the single winner for that drawing. The twenty-year payout was for forty million dollars. After the tax man bit me in the ass I found that I would receive twenty one million dollars spread out over twenty years. Yep, I could live on $1,005,000.000 dollars a year tax free, no problem!
I was bleeding money through the hole in my credit card. My first action was to get Citibank's clutching fingers out of my wallet. Next I cleaned out my poor fourteen-year-old Jeep Wrangler. Its soft top was in such poor condition that the zippers were splitting from age and shrinkage. I traded it in on a Range Rover Sport with a sturdy frame hitch and trailer light connection. I wanted a utility vehicle that was better made than the jeep. I never even considered a hummer because every time I saw one I felt a deep clawing need to reach for a can of white spray paint and write "I'm an asshole" on it. I spent more than I thought I should on a large box trailer then half filled it with large lidded storage containers. I didn't want to stick around the Chicago area any longer than I had to. It was early spring, almost May in fact. The grass was brilliant green and lush after the brown mess of spring. The punishing spring storms hadn't materialized yet.
I gave my notice at work. Since I was the only tech in the place my boss' eyes showed that he wasn't happy. (That panic-stricken look was quite distinctive.) I turned over all my passwords and contacts, patted his shoulder and left him slowly rocking in the corner. (I had been doing two people's jobs for a few years, ever since my supervisor retired, plus added fingerprinting duties. Let's see how HE liked it.)
It wasn't only the weather that made me want to move. Before leaving high school my family travelled across the United States and Canada dragging a camping trailer behind us. I saw some pretty amazing things in our travels but what hit me the hardest were the oceans. I sat in wonder watching the tide at the Bay of Fundy despite a fog so thick that I could barely see twenty feet. I thirsted to live where I could hear the slap, crush and churn of the waves against the shore.
My online research suggested that I not try for the west coast because of the over-population of the entire seaboard. I did not tolerate damned fool crowding well. I held great respect for hurricanes and did not want to get "up close and personal" with one. Thus the southern and south-eastern seaboards were eliminated in one pass. I'd been to the greater Boston area on our trip as a teen. I felt it was a great place to shop but it wasn't my cup of tea--it was too 'big city'. I used Google maps to explore southern coastal Maine. Hmm. Portland. The climate was similar to that of the Fox river valley west of Chicago yet tempered by the enormous heat sink of the ocean. Cape Elizabeth looked promising. It was closer yet to the sea and was close enough to Portland to easily accommodate shopping or dining. I contacted a realtor in the area and made some inquiries. Hurricane Irene had just blown through the area. I gambled that they'd had their ration of crap and wouldn't get another storm of that scale for a good long while.
At the end of Zeb Cove Road sat a newer ranch-style home with four bedrooms and three baths. It featured an open floor plan, an attached two-car garage and best of all, the sea was visible from the rear of the house. The property ended at the shore line. It wasn't a sand beach--no, far from it. It was shelved metamorphic rock that guaranteed to tear the bottom out of any boater unwise enough to attempt a landing. There was a small flat rock beach (a scarf?) where a boat could be taken in or out just to the north of the house, but the rear approach directly behind the house was very rough and shielded by a very small island. Hurricane Irene had taken out two of the neighbor's houses. The previous owners of the place I was interested in had bought up those properties. The owners of the remaining house had perished in a car accident several months before while returning from a post-Christmas excursion to Boston, some one hundred and twenty miles down the coast. The asking price was $645,000.00 for the house and the four acres it sat on. I arranged for a five year loan that wouldn't penalize me for an early pay-off then counter-offered $600,000.00 with a $100,000.00 down payment. A month and over seventy thousand dollars in fees and insurance later I owned the title to a house.
I picked through my possessions for anything worth keeping. I planned to get the house furnished in mission-style oak regardless of what the place looked like inside. My existing furniture was dismal. That was being generous. The kitchen goods got packed along with all the tools, my clothes, computer stuff and books. Some camping gear and collapsible camp or 'campaign' furniture came along as well as my bedding, towels, vacuum cleaners and cleaning supplies. I had a big, heavy oak two-drawer filing cabinet that damned near killed me getting it into the trailer. The last things I packed were a radio, several small desk lamps and the few fans I had. Everything else was taken away by a removal company. I paid "Merry Maids" to come and work the place over while I headed over to an army surplus store for a cot, a sleeping pad and a couple of olive drab U. S. Army wool blankets. I was too old to be happy sleeping on the floor. I found a French medical litter that I could prop up on a couple of storage crates. It would do fine as a cot.
I spent the first night in Carmel Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. It had been a long day's travel. My lower back ached, my right hip was frozen and my right knee had me in misery. I checked into a hotel with a spa. I got some Advil inside me and spent an hour in the Jacuzzi before I even considered dinner. The rest of the trip was going to be taken in smaller stages, with rests and a bit of walking about in between. I was over fifty. I no longer could do what I did when I was thirty!
After an early breakfast I drove through Cincinnati and on to Cleveland, Ohio. There I stopped for the day. I had dinner at Ruby Tuesday's, a chain restaurant with decent grub. The next evening I found myself in Rochester, New York where I ate at a Golden Corral restaurant, known for its extensive salad bar and better-than-usual steaks. The fourth day I stopped in Springfield Massachusetts, original home of the near-legendary Springfield Armory. In the United States the Springfield name rivals that of Skoda Arms in Europe.
It was a nice, easy three hundred mile day that saw me in Portland in time to find the realtor's office before closing, where I took possession of the keys and a sheaf of documents that they'd been holding for me. I felt strange with that key in my hand. It was the first home I'd ever owned. I forced myself to wait until morning to find the place. I took a room for the night in a run-of-the-mill motel, had a very nice locally-caught fish dinner and went to bed. It took a long time getting to sleep as my expectations both fair and foul bedeviled me.
When I rose the next morning I had a light breakfast then investigated the local furniture stores. None of them had what I wanted on display but one store had good photographic illustrations of what their vendors stocked. I bought and paid for a kitchen set (featuring an old-style, farm kitchen work table), a living room set (including a well-padded couch, an over-stuffed chair and an ottoman) and two bedroom sets (with queen-sized beds to match my bedding) and two broad library tables with captain's chairs, all to be delivered and assembled within one week. I then bought a cell phone and service plan from a local vendor and called the utility companies to insure that the services had been turned on in my name. My next step was to determine what cable TV/Internet vendor serviced my home and get that turned on as well. I prepaid to get my LP gas bulk tank filled then bought a 2-wire DSL modem and arranged for its activation. The last thing I did in town was to buy a half-dozen steaks, some sandwich fixings, a case of beer, a big sturdy cooler and ice. I headed home.
.... There is more of this story ...