Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy New Year

Last night several of my friends agreed to join me for Mumbo Jumbo Burger night at the Purple Parrot restaurant in Rehoboth Beach. This was our New Year's Eve celebration. We're too old to stay up for tomorrow night's standard New Year's Eve celebration. We'll all be in bed by 10 o'clock tomorrow night except me, and I'll be working at the Inn until 11 PM. I will get home in time to watch the countdown but it will be in the comfort and quiet of my own bedroom. I prefer that alternative than to paying some outrageously high cover charge to bring in the New Year's at some eatery and then take my chances getting hit by a drunk driver on the way home.

We discussed New Year's Eve celebrations of the past and we all agreed that New Year's Eve is perhaps the most overrated holiday of the year. Big whoop. The best times I had on New Year's was back in the 70's during my peak bar hopping and socializing days. I'm long past those days both mentally and physically. I have no regrets. I've had my share of good times. (This is beginning to sound like a Frank Sinatra song.) Now it is the turn of much younger folk. I hope they are lucky enough to experience the adventures that I did in my youth. They should only be so lucky.

Normally, I'm not off on Monday nights. My work schedule is Monday and Thursday nights. However, this year my co-worker Bob, who works Tuesdays and Wednesdays, asked me to trade with him on New Year's Eve so he could attend a family function. Sure, why not? I have nothing planned for New Year's Eve. I would be glad to trade time slots with him.

Usually, my friends and I gather on Sunday nights at the Purple Parrot (or as we call it "The Feathered One") for a festive time. The Purple Parrot runs specials. Sunday nights are Prime Rib night. Mondays, are "Mumbo Jumbo Night." That's a pound of char grilled hamburger boys and girls with your own fixins. One pound. That's a lot of meat to eat at one sitting. But, the burger is so good that most of us dispatched that one pound hamburger down our pie holes. All except Wayne and myself. I can be a pig, but one pound of hamburger is a bit much for me. Wayne also had a some left on his plate too before the waiter took out plates away.

The video shows a little gentle joking about my rhinestone embedded Basic Back Shirt . I like dark solid colors but I also like color. A few weeks ago I was in the cloth section at the Dover Wal-Mart and a package of sparkling rhinestones caught my eye. Years ago I had sewed some flowers and bluebirds on my Dad's western shirt. I liked it so much, I sewed some of that same embroidery on one of my "going out to the bar" western shirts. It was always a hit. I got lots of attention. So, I thought, why not? I'm all about getting attention and spicing up life for myself and friends around me. I wasted no time in purchasing the most glittery packet of rhinestones that I could find. Yesterday, while trying to decide what to wear, the influence of the Philadelphia Mummer's Parade came out in me. All those years in the 70's when I trudged into center city Philadelphia to shiver in the cold and watch the Mummer's Parade and dart in and out of the Westbury and Allegro bars to keep warm, was coming to the fore now. Ah, to relive those memories of the past. So it was that last night, with my glittery applications, I relieved those days of yore when I was young, pretty and full of energy. If only for an hour or so. Today it is back to reality. Wrinkes, gray hairs, and an aching back.

Last night it was good to get together again with friends. To gently poke fun at one another and have a good laugh. We can never bring back yesterday but we can make today special. We did that last night. Happy New Year to one and all.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Week In Between

Christmas is over. Santa is gone back to the North Pole and the carolers have hung up their coats and scarves. In only a few days, the New Year will be celebrated around the world. This is the week between Christmas and New Years that is effectively a No Man’s Land. Almost all of the original TV programming is gone from the tube. The talking heads are, for the most part, off to sunnier climes. Not for them the cold winter chill of New York City or Washington, D.C. Reruns of old and tired programs contaminate the airwaves. We don’t have a choice. You will watch that umpteenth running of “Lockup!” on MSNBC whether you like it or not.

Having just come off of a five day stint of working at the hotel, I am exhausted. Not that the hotel was full, it wasn’t. However, whenever one is behind the front desk one is on call for the strangest questions and requests. This year it was to arrange silk flower petals on the wedding night bed for two of the hotel’s guests who were married earlier in the day in Rehoboth Beach. You think arranging flower petals in the shape of a heart on a king size bed is easy? Try it sometime. It took me about three times to arrange those flower petals so the heart didn’t look retarded. Do they teach this skill in hotel hospitality school? I must have been off that day. Arranging the white flower petals leading to the Wedding Night Bed was a much easier task. That only took two tries.

Today is Recovery Day. I don’t go back to work until New Year’s Eve. Last year it wasn’t bad at the hotel, unlike when I worked at the Hampton Inn in Exton, PA. That was an adventure on New Year’s Eve (possible subject for a future posting when I’m in a reminiscing mood.) Recovery for me usually means either eating or spending money (notice how sexual activity is not involved in Recovery – I’m past that.) Today it was shopping. Bill and I first hit Loew’s and did out part to get the economic recovery going. Next it was Staples. I needed a flash drive for my new computer and I wanted to get laser labels for my hanging files. The Big Story this year is that I’m finally organizing my files. No more piles and piles of paper that I have to dig through when looking for a bill or receipt. I used to keep things in great order but that got knocked out or whack when I moved from PA to DE. This is the year I get back on track. Staples had flash drives but they cost too much, as do most of the items in Staples.

Next store was Radio Shack. I got a flyer advertising flash drives with 40% off. The Rehoboth Radio Shack is located in the same shopping strip as Wal-Mart. Next stop, Radio Shack. Upon entering Radio Shack, it didn't look too promising. The Bored Clerk cast his sleepy eyes at me and grunted "Uh." I kid you not. He grunted at me. I asked him if he had flash drives. He did. He came around the counter and I took my measure of him. He was about 19 years old, skinny as a rail (about 5'8" and weighing in at maybe 120 soaking wet.) His pants were hanging fashionably right below the crack of his ass. He had a dingy white shirt and a cubic zirconia earring in his left ear. He slinked over to the display rack on which the flash drives were securely secured lest someone make off with them (does Winona Ryder shop in Radio Shack?) He seemed to become more antimated when I asked him if my 1 MB USB port could handle a 2 MB flash drive. But alas, it was only a temporary condition. After I chose the flash drive I wished to purchased, he unsecured it and took it off the rack. He slide back to the check out register (I swear, I didn't see him lift his feet when he "walked" back to the counter) and checked me out. Satisfied with my purchase, I left him to his own private hell standing behind the checkout counter of the Radio Shack store which had no customers. I guess the economy is also affecting the drug business, thus forcing Mr. Lethargic to take a job working for The Man.

Then, it’s off to Wal-Mart. What shopping day can ever be complete without a trip to Wal-Mart.? The store shelves were pretty well picked over as far as the selection of Christmas merchandise at 50% off. I don't need anything anyway but you never know. It might be “ON SALE” and who can resist a SALE? Not me, that’s for sure.

I went back to the photo department to pick up a photo mouse pad I had ordered a few weeks ago and also some reprints. The tired old queen who was working back there saw me coming so he positioned himself behind the photo processing machine so he couldn’t see me and thus have an excuse not to wait on me. This is an old trick often used by bored and lazy retail clerks who hate their jobs. I took out my receipt and waited patiently. I would wait him out. I saw him take a slight peek around the corner of the machine a couple times. He saw that I was there but I was determined to wait him out without the expected usual histrionics or drama.

I know the drill. Another store clerk, one more responsible, came by and said “Are you being waited on sir?” I told her “No.” She went back and got Old Nellie. He comes around the corner with a scowl on his sour face. He asks “Can I help you?” I told him I was picking up pictures. He asked “1 hour turnaround?” I know why he asked because he wanted the opportunity to tell me "THEY’RE NOT READY YET!" I said “No, it is an order that was sent out” and I handed him my receipt. He took it and, as he turned around to check the filing cabinets of processed orders, threw an unmistakable I Hate You Look at me. He came back with the envelope with the pictures. I told him I also had a mouse pad that I was picking up. He gave me an “Aha! Look" and said triumphantly “It’s not on this slip!” As sweet as I could (think Olivia DeHavilland in “Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte” when she tells Bette Davis that she isn’t crazy after Bette just saw a severed head of her lover bounce down those dusty southern mansion steps), I said “No, it was on another order. You have it here.” Again, as he turned I get the Evil Eye from him and he returns to the cabinet containing the finished orders. He finds it and brings it to me without saying a word like, uh, I don’t know, maybe “Yes sir, here it is. I found it.” No, nothing. I slide my credit card through the machine. I slide it through backwards. Why not? Just a little sly aggravation on my part. I can play the game as well as la Cage Folles can.

I was just too tired to do the Angry Customer Being Mistreated By A Rude Employee routine, I just want to get my mouse pad and get out of there. I just want to go home. However, not before making a quick stop to Food Lion to get some bananas and buy my week’s supply of Power Ball tickets.

This story is getting too long so I’ll shorten it up a bit. In Food Lion I was in line behind a man who had to be at least 95 years old. Mother of God, save me. Talk about having one foot in the grave. This guy not only had one foot in the grave, he was sliding in and hanging on by his his fingertips to the grave's edge and the dirt was slowly crumbling away. He didn’t know where he was or what planet he was on. The cashier totals up my few items. She asks me how I want to pay. I say "By credit card." She looks at me with a big question mark across her face. I'm about a foot from credit card reader but Lazarus is standing right in front of it, still trying to figure out where he is. I tell her, "As soon as he moves I'll slide my credit card." She gives me a tight smile and we wait until Moses decides to part the Red Sea. Eventually, Methuselah moves, walking out of the store spladle legged, like he had a load of poop in his pants (which he probably did.) Get me out of this store and home, please God.

I'm home now. Safe from most forms of aggravation (there is still Bill and the random annoying phone call - and I just got one while typing this posting.) All I have to do now is write this blog, eat lunch, take a nap and hopefully I will be calmed down enough so I won’t be that irritable when I meet my friends at the Purple Parrot tonight for Burger Night. I plan to have one or, perhaps two apple martinis. Usually one apple martini relaxes me and mellows me out. For me and the sake of my friends, I’m hoping that I’m Mellow Ron tonight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tis Christmas Eve at the Inn

It is all quiet in the hotel now. The guests have departed to visit their children and grandchildren, bearing their gifts as they go. The silence of the lobby is punctuated by the clatter of the ice machine turning over new ice cubes and Christmas music playing on CD’s in the background. And here I am, exactly where I want to be on this holiest of all days in the Christian calendar, by myself.

Many years ago I discovered the special peace of Christmas Eve. When I was young I was all caught up in the tradition of our culture to rush about getting just that right Christmas gift. I would be oh so careful in wrapping the presents in appropriate Christmas paper, just like I saw in the movies and on TV shows about Christmas. I would take my profit sharing bonus from the bank where I work, and spend it all on Christmas presents for everyone from the mailman to my nieces, nephew, friends and coworkers.

These days I only buy Christmas presents for my Mother. Her 85th birthday is today, one day before Christmas. My Mother’s mother died when she wasn’t quiet two years old, shortly before Christmas Day. My Mother has told me many times that when she did receive a gift, it was usually lumped together with the explanation “This is for your birthday too.” Her mother wasn't around to protect her from such insensitivity. I always make a special effort to separate the two days. That is why I have always taken special care in selecting gifts for my Mother, one for her birthday and all the others for Christmas. I always made sure her birthday present would be wrapped in birthday paper.

This year I wasn’t able to visit my Mom this week to deliver her Christmas presents AND birthday present in person because of the weather. However, I did call her this morning and sing “Happy Birthday” to her, which has been our tradition for more years than I can remember. First nice sunny day, I’ll be on the road to take that 2 ½ drive to Pennsylvania to deliver her presents in person.

For now though, I will take in the special pleasure this night affords me. Working or not working, I have always been able to experience the promise of peace of this one time of the year. I believe that promise. Those Christmas Eves, when I did not work, I would turn down invitations to visit or party and instead I would stay at home alone. That is my way of celebrating Christmas.

In the past, when I was at home, I would stay up until midnight. Shortly after midnight I would look out of my bedroom window to the cold, dark night sky. Sometimes the stars would sparkle like sequins on a flasher entertainer’s jacket. On other nights, clouds would roll across the nighttime sky. But, even on those cloudy nights, the clouds always seemed to part and the moon would shine through, illuminating the cold landscape below. And, if I looked hard enough I could see one star that shone brighter than the others. Perhaps that star is Venus , perhaps not. But it is there, shining brightly, silently beckoning to me.

Tonight, as I drive down the road to my nearby home, I will look again up at the cold, December nighttime sky and feel that inner peace that I only feel this one time of year. That is the gift He has given me. I am at peace.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Celebrating Chanukah at Harvey's

This is the time of the year for religious celebration. While many celebrate the birth of Christ with the observance of Christmas, there are others in our community of the Jewish faith who celebrate their religious holiday of Chanukah. I am fortunate to have a friend who is of the Jewish faith. He (Harvey) invited me to his home again this year (as he did last year) to help him observe his religious observance along with his other friends.

My friend Wayne and I arrived at Harvey’s home last evening a bit early. Harvey answered his doorbell in jeans and bare chested; fresh out of the shower. We were too early. Oh well, we’re all friends. Later we found out that another couple, Tim and Miles, arrived about an hour earlier than we did. So we weren’t the first. Just goes to show how anxious we were to participate in this annual event.

On this special occasion Harvey prepares his special latkes. Last year was the first time I ate these fried potato, onion and garlic pancakes. They are delicious. This occasion is also treated like a potluck. Everyone brings their own special dish. I made my specialty, tarragon potato salad. Wayne expressed concern with a raised eyebrow that there would be two potato dishes at the occasion. However, that did not appear to be a problem when the guests started to dig in the food arrayed on the table. Miles brought a delicious chicken dish that was tenderized in some kind of sweet marinade that contained many different types of olives. I took some of the leftover home with me and I will have to reconstruct that recipe. I thank you Miles.

The main event of the evening was Harvey lighting the Menorah. Having been raised in the Baptist faith, I am ignorant of Jewish religious ceremonies. Even though one of my good friends (Stuart) when I grew up in Downingtown, Pennsylvania is Jewish (we still remain in contact by e-mail), I never observed any of his Jewish holidays with him. The most I did to acknowledge his holiday was to be careful not to send him a card saying “Merry Christmas.” Stuart was the only Jew in our class. I did notice that his Mother prepared fish (I think lox) for him for breakfast which was far removed from my typical breakfast of scrapple and bacon. I don't know how he observed his holiday back then in the Fifties. I only noticed that he didn't have a Christmas tree which caused me to feel sorry for him. Stuart is a pretty cool guy and he never seemed sad because his home was lacking the usual Christmas decorations. Now I understand why he never seemed sad. He had his own holiday celebration.

Most of us attending last night’s gathering are retired. I think all of us were gay and lesbian but I cannot vouch for that 100%. There may have been one or two bisexual and/or straight folk there last night too. It really didn’t matter. Our group is a diverse group where all are welcome.

This gathering of friends last night at Harvey's home is another reason why I am glad I retired to Delaware. I am part of a community here in the Rehoboth Beach/Lewes/Milton area. While I had many very nice neighbors and friends in Pennsylvania, I was never part of the community.

I thank my friend Harvey for including me in his group to share his holiday. Maybe next year my childhood friend Stuart can leave his warm comfortable home in Ft. Lauderdale and join us.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Party 2008

Tonight was our annual Christmas party for all of us Inn employees. I’ve worked at several hotels over the years (Pittsburgh Hilton, Hampton Inn, Marriott Inn) but I have never worked for a hotel that treated its employees as well as the small boutique hotel that I now work for in Lewes, Delaware. The reason is because the owner of the hotel takes a personal interest in his property and employees.

This year the Christmas party was held at the Second Street Grille, an upscale eatery on Second Street in Lewes. While I frequently recommend the Second Street Grill to my guests in the hotel, I’ve never eaten there myself because of the price range. My budget is more Bob Evans than Second Street Grille.

Everyone was there tonight. Many brought guests. I took my neighbor Barbara. She is always delightful company. The restaurant set up two tables for our private party. I’m not sure, but I think we were seated at Table B. The owner and the manager, assistant manager and sales director were seated at the owners table. That had to be Table A. How did I miss that? Oh well, I had great company at my table.

I was working on my second Apple Martini when our entrees arrived. Most of the folk at our table ordered the prime rib which looked wonderful. The Second Street Grille’s reputation is well deserved. I had Chicken Palliard (or something spelled like that – it was grilled breast of chicken with some kind of fancy mushrooms and a delectable sauce over mashed potatoes and broccoli.) DEELICIOUS! Maybe a $21.95 entrée is worth it.

Yes, I did eat the whole entrée as did both of my fellow diners on either side of me finished their prime rib steak. Dessert was a warm apple crisp served with ice cream. This was a palate pleasing ending to a perfect meal. Coffee was also served and was excellent. Smooth and soothing; something to take the edge off of the two apple martinis (I was driving.)

The owner addressed us briefly. He thanked us for our work this year and told us of the challenges we all would face the next year. Yes, the recession is also affecting our business at the hotel. Not as many travelers are making the trip to Lewes, Delaware to spend a relaxing time in our historic town shopping in its quaint shops and dining at our many fine restaurants. There are less than 20 of us employed by the hotel but we are a diverse group. From the housekeepers, to the maintenance man, to the sales director, to the plant lady (Kerry would love me calling her “the plant lady”), to the lady who gets out supplies, and finally to the four of us who work the front desk. Oh yes, I can’t forget the manager and assistant manager. We all keep the place going by teamwork and genuinely liking one another. I’ve worked at many places during my long career. I never thought I would consider working for a small hotel one of my better work places but I do. I genuinely look forward to going to work.

Many years ago when I first began working at Girard Bank in Philadelphia, I assumed this would be my job until I retired. Well, life didn’t work out that way. I’ve worked at many banks and now I have returned to the hospitality industry, where I first began working when I was discharged from the Army in January of 1963. At that time I worked as a night auditor for the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel. After three months I found out I would have to work holidays. That’s when I decided to quit working for a hotel. I chose a new career, working for a bank. No working holidays at the bank, that was for sure. However, after a 37 year career in banking, I decided to go back to hotel work. Now, for a reason I can’t explain, I don’t mind working holidays. Interesting how time and age changes one’s priorities.

So here I am in my 67th year, officially “retired” but really working part time at a local hotel and loving it. As the current slang says “I’m good.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Having just got off of a five day stretch of work at the Inn, I was looking forward to the next week and a half of doing what I want to do. My first plan to visit my Mom in Pennsylvania went awry the first day. I had planned to spend three days visiting Mom. Monday, my first day off, was bright and sunny. But alas, the rest of the week rain was forecast. Since Pennsylvania is in a colder temperate zone, there was a good possibility that rain would be freezing rain. Thus I postponed my trip until this Friday or Saturday, when sunny skies are forecast again.

My next plan was to work on my new computer, building my genealogy files. But first, I wanted to print out a few pictures as a Christmas gift for my neighbor Barbara. An innocent enough task one would say. Ha! You know how little things turn into big things? That is just what happened. For the third time my HP Photosmart All-In-One printer had disappeared again from my computer. I try to print and I get the message “Cannot detect an HP device.” What? This has happened before. Last week I took the best part of a morning to install and reinstall the HP software. It worked. Now it doesn’t work.

I think I know what the problem is. Periodically, every week or so, I get a pop up message from HP asking me if I want to search the Internet for the latest updates. Well, NO! I like my printer just the way it is. I am very reluctant to jump on every download because too frequently these update downloads cause a software conflict with my computer. This is only a way for the software companies to make more money because software doesn’t wear out like a car. The only time I will consider a download is if it improves or corrects a problem I’m having. With my HP Photosmart All-In-One, I hardly use it. I only use it for photos and then every time I turn around it gives me a message I have to replace another cartridge. At $14.97 a cartridge, this gets to be a pretty pricey procedure after a while. I notice that when I answer “No” to the request to update a download, I no longer have my HP Photosmart All-In-One operating on my computer.

I have no idea what I’m doing to cause this. I think the HP programmers have a program in the software to disable my program on my PC. I visited HP’s web site for help. You know how much help that was. After plowing through that web site, my hair (what’s left of it) hurt.

Then, just to get away from this frustration I went on my other computer to do some relaxing data entry on my genealogical records. I use Ancestry.com. So I’m checking one of the Federal census records and I get the message “Would I like to download and enhanced version of the Adobe reader” so I can read the original census records. I thought “Sure! Why not?” HA! So I download. Then I get a message that my computer needs to know which program to read the DOWNLOAD. I give up. I put a call into my Computer Guy. He’ll be here tomorrow. At least I’m keeping someone in business.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Afternoon Nap

Growing up, my Mother often talked of her grandmother’s fond habit of taking an afternoon nap. I thought at that time, that’s what little kids and old people do, take afternoon naps. Because I missed kindergarten (I went straight to first grade, my Mother didn’t know to sign me up for kindergarten), I wasn’t introduced to concept of a nap.

Fast forward about 35 years (1980) to when I worked full time as a 40 year old bank operations manager. I was in the process of having a house built in Downingtown, PA. I had sold my previous house and thus didn’t have a place to live until my new house was completed. My partner Bill retired early from his job and lived in the basement of the new house while the men building our new house worked around him. I rented a fourth floor walk up apartment so I would have a place to live while I worked at the bank.

One afternoon I had a cold that I just couldn’t’ shake. I left work early. After walking up the four flights of stairs to my apartment, I was exhausted from the body weakening effects of my cold and the physical exertion to climb those stairs. I opened the door to my small apartment that was located on the top floor of the old Victorian building at 2224 Walnut Street. To my left I could see the afternoon sun streaming through the windows to the back bedroom. The sun drenched room looked so peaceful. I had a small, comfortable platform bed in that room. I was so tired from my usual stress filled day as a back operations manager at the bank. Ringing phones to answer, urgent questions requiring immediate responses, and deadlines to meet. I left that all behind me at the bank and I was ready for a serious wind down. I took my off shoes and collapsed on that incredibly comfortable platform bed tucked into the corner alcove of that small back bedroom, only intending to lie down for a few minutes to regain my strength.

An hour later I woke up, totally refreshed. My body was refreshed. I was like a wooden soldier with a big wind up knob on my back that had wound down. After my nap this wooden soldier was rewound. I was ready to go.

From that day on, when I had the opportunity, I would lie down in the afternoon. Sometimes I would drift off to sleep, and other times I would occupy that sweet land between consciousness and unconsciousness. Because that first adult nap took place in the middle of the afternoon with the bright sun streaming in the window; that became my preferred time to take a nap. I don’t take naps in the late afternoon or early evening. I have done so occasionally over the years, but taking naps at those times either left me groggy when I woke up or I slept right through to a few hours before I would go to bed at my normal time. So, my nap was and is officially an Afternoon Nap.

This afternoon I had another good afternoon nap. Originally, today I was supposed to go to Pennsylvania to visit my Mother for my annual Christmas Visit. While visiting my Mom, I was planning on taking her to visit her older sister who resides in the dementia unit of a Downingtown nursing home. Hopefully, I could squeeze in some visits to some other older relatives that my Mom hasn’t seen in a while. Mom doesn’t drive or get around too well these days. On December 24th she will be 85 years old. I planned to stay at Mom’s two or three days. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for this week did not look promising. Although the sun was out today, rain and snow showers were forecast for the rest of the week. I don’t like to make that 2 ½ drive to Pennsylvania or back to Delaware in this kind of weather. I’ve done it before and it is not a pleasant experience. In fact, it is dangerous. The last time I visiting Mom, I got away later than I had planned and drove back in the dark, light snow, and fog. I might as well have had a blindfold on me with little pinholes in the blindfold for my line of vision. Bill and I arrived at our home in Delaware, thankful that we survived the journey. My trips to and from Pennsylvania are meant to be pleasant experiences, not a Trial by Fire. I decided not to make the trip to Pennsylvania today. In retrospect it was a good decision. I didn't know how bone tired I was. I keep forgetting that I'm 67 years OLD. In my mind, I'm always that 40 year old, full charge ahead manager, who can go all day long.

I just got up from my afternoon nap. I was knocked out! Every now and then I am so exhausted that my afternoon nap is a necessity. Today was such a day. I must have napped for a good hour and a half today. I was way off in Never Never land. I didn’t realize how tired I was. I feel like I was rebooted.

Having just come off of five straight days of work at the Inn, I should have realized that I was bone tired. The past five days at the Inn were busier than usual. We have a contingent of lawyers in the hotel for a case in Georgetown, Delaware which is the country seat of Sussex County. They are not only using our hotel as sleeping quarters as their “war room.” That is they are using one of our conference rooms as their temporary law offices. My job, when I’m on shift, is to provide the setup and cleanup for the food catering that they require. I also provide directions, restaurant reviews, replace burned out bathroom light bulbs, forwarding incoming phone calls, and fixing cable TV channels that whistle, among other things. Suffice it to say, I’m kept jumping during my eight hours shift. Particularly grueling was Thursday when I worked until 11:30 pm and had to be at work in the morning in time to have their breakfast set out by 7 am. That was a long day. The next two days I worked the 3 to 11 pm shift. On my feet most of the time, answering phones, cleaning up dishes, folding laundry, mopping the lobby floor, vacuuming the lobby rug; yes indeed, it’s been a long five days.

I am now off until December 24th, when I do another five day stretch. My original part-time work schedule was Mondays and Thursdays at 3 pm to 11 pm. During the holidays I work different shifts to accommodate my co-workers who have family related activities. I don’t mind working the holidays. It is not as much a hardship for me as it is for others. I don’t even mind working five day stretches. I don’t even mind working for the lawyers (actually they have been quite nice to me.) As long as I can have my afternoon nap I’m happy. I had a good nap today. Oh yes, it was a good nap. I'm good now.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Night I Saved Six Lives

On a recent blog I answered 100 questions about myself. One of the questions was “Have you ever saved a life?” I immediately answered “Yes.” I didn’t hesitate to answer “yes” because I knew I had saved lives (plural.) A reader of my blog posted a comment suggesting that I use the answer to this question as a future blog posting. I thought “What a good idea.” Then I tried to think of the lives that I had saved. Not just lives that I had influenced but lives that I had directly saved. For example, such as by yelling “Fire!” in a burning building, thus warning the residents of that building to escape for the flames engulfed them and ended their lives. Curiously, I couldn’t remember the exact details of the circumstances where I was directly responsible for saving these lives.

For the past few days I’ve been racking my memory, trying to remember when I saved these lives. I thought to myself, “Am I deluding myself?” But I knew that I had directly been responsible for saving several lives. Then, this morning, it all came back to me. Perhaps the reason I didn’t’ remember was because the event happened 48 years ago. I remember at the time that if I never do another thing of significance in my life (I was 18 years old at the time), I knew my existence on this early plane had meaning. I had saved the lives of six young men in the prime of their life.

I remember clearly at that time, after we narrowly averted certain death, the total feeling of well being and peace. It is the same feeling many people who have experienced near death used to describe their feeling upon seeing the “white light.” I don’t remember seeing a “white light” but I do remember the feeling of peace. Maybe it was my guardian angel or some other supreme power. I don’t know. I only know that something caused me to wake up and yell a warning to the driver of the car we were all in that Sunday night in April of 1960.

There were six of us in the car. All of us were stationed at Ft. Devens, in Ayre, Massachusetts. We were attending ASA (Army Security Agency) school. Most weekends we would leave to spend time with our families in the Philadelphia area. The driver of the car, Richard Kley, lived in Chester, PA. My good friend Bob McCamley lived Norwood, PA. Two other of our friends lived in New Jersey. I only remember them by their last names, Hanson and Cresson. We called them the “Gold Dust Twins” because they were always together. They were friends since grade school and had joined the Army together. I don’t remember the fifth guy, only that he was married to a former Miss Pennsylvania, Barbara Sue Nager, third runner-up to the 1955 Miss America contest. Lee Ann Merriweather won that year. It was the first year that the Miss America contest was televised. I remember how beautiful Miss Pennsylvania was in her huge, white, fluffy, crinoline gown with her dark hair. I was sure she was going to win. We were all very impressed to have her husband in our presence, bookended by me and Bob in the back seat of Richard's car.

We were headed back to Ft. Devens on the Merritt Parkway in Connecticut. It was late Sunday night. The drive normally took about eight hours one way. We were all tired from the long ride. We were almost “home” at Ft. Devens. We were only about two hours from our beds in the sparsely furnished brick barracks of Ft. Devens, Massachusetts.

Richard Kley was driving (it was his car, a 54 Ford), Hanson and Cresson were also seated in the front seat (they were always together.) Bob was seated on the left side in the back seat; I was on the right side. Miss Pennsylvania’s husband was seated between us (he was small, Bob and I were big.) Since it was such a long drive, we would sleep during much of the ride because we knew we would be getting in late at Ft. Devens. Our goal was to get there before sunrise (a goal we have missed on more than one previous occasion.)

I was sleeping but I suddenly woke up for some unknown reason. I looked ahead through the driver's window and I saw where we were on the grass medial strip, headed directly for a concrete wall at 70 miles per hour! Back then (1960) the Merritt Parkway has two lanes going north and two going south. At one point we had to go into a tunnel. The tunnel entrance had a solid concrete wall separating the east and west lanes of traffic. Richard, our driver, had fallen asleep. His head was resting on his steering wheel. We were headed for the concrete wall! I yelled “Richard!!!!!” He groggily raised his head, and opened his sleep induced eyes and saw where we were headed, to oblivion. He yelled “Jesus Christ!” and swung the steering wheel sharply to the right. Another car in the lane we swung into angrily beeped its horn as we narrowly missed hitting it. The rest of the guys were now awake. Someone yelled “What the fuck are you doing Kley?” Someone else heaved a sighed loudly “Goddamn!”
We all knew we had just missed out appointment with the Grim Reaper. We were given a reprieve. On this dark Sunday night on the Merrit Parkway in Connecticut, we all had just used up one of our nine lives.

No one said anything the rest of the way back to Ft. Devens. No one slept either.

It is interesting how I had placed this event in the very back of the recesses of my mind. I’ve always felt that my existence on this earth has been a gift. In the 48 years since that near death experience, my life has seen many peaks and valleys. At times I have despaired. One time I had even seriously considered suicide. The fact that I did not commit that ultimate act, I contribute to a good friend of mine who saved my life. Ironically, it was her suicide that showed to me the futility of suicide. Suicide doesn’t solve problems, it only creates more problems. But that is a subject for another blog.

I want to thank Jim Rossingale for suggesting that I tell this story. It is not something I want to brag about. It is just something that happened. For some inexplicable reason I woke up that night. I don't know what caused me to wake up. I only know that we had narrowly averted an almost sure death. We would have been another tragic highway fatality statistic that night. The newspaper headlines the nest day would scream "Four Young Solders Die in Fiery Crash." However, we didn't die and we all would live another day. It was not our time. Our mission on this earth was not finished yet.

We all eventually went our separate ways after school at Ft. Devens. I don't recall that we ever talked about that incident again. We all knew we had come close to Death. I continued my close friendship with Bob McCamley. He is a neighbor of mine to this day, retired in Delaware. After school I lost touch with the other guys in the car that night; Richard Kley, Hanson and Cresson, and Miss Pennsylvania's husband (lucky guy, just how did he snag her?) What I do know that I appreciate every day I am on this earth. I consider my life a journey. It is an adventure on a path that I have been given the opportunity to navigate by a greater force than I. I truly do feel blessed to be alive.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wal-Mart Redux

My blog posting on Wal-Mart generated quite a few comments. Instead of responding by way of the "Comment" section of the blog, I am responding by another blog posting, because my response is that long. Specifically, I am responding to the coments that Jim Rossingale, who differed with me on patronizing Wal-Mart stores.

I always like a good, well thought out and mutually respectful discussion of a topical issue. I am glad Jim has engaged me in this conversation. My longtime friend, Nitewrite has also joined in the discussion. For years Nitewrite and I have engaged in discussions, usually disagreeing with one another. And yet we remain good friends. Isn't that the way it's supposed to me?

I am always willing to listen and sometimes I even change my mind. However, on this issue I will continue patronizing the Wal-Mart stores even though I know they are giant behomoths who are out to wipe out every mom and pop grocery store they come across. Below is my response to Jim's comments:

Oh, I do enjoy a good and healthy discussion of issues. I am so glad you brought up your concerns about Wal-Mart to me Jim. Both you and Larry (, Nitewrite, my longtime friend who I used to trade comic books with and who took over my paper route when I was 15 years old) bring up valid points as to Wal-Mart's behavior. To your point Jim, about Wal-Mart aggressively going after the woman's settlement with her insurance company; I had forgotten about that aspect. I remember now. Keith Obermann, on his show "Countdown", featured Wal-Mart's outrageous behavior on his show until they finally came to their senses and dropped their claim for the woman's insurance money. When I learned of Wal-Mart's behavior, I was very disappointed. To me it was just one more example of Corporate Bureaucracy run amok. Personally, I have been caught in this tangled web twice in my life which resulted in me losing my job (a subject I will cover in a future blog posting.) Wal-Mart was totally wrong in going after the woman’s settlement but they did correct their mistake, albeit after a lot of negative publicity.

As to your other points Jim, yes, Wal-Mart does go into communities and push out other businesses. I don’t have a problem with this. Even though I consider myself a liberal Democrat at this time of my life, in my previous life I was a conservative Republican. Perhaps my view on this business aspect is a result of some residual conservative Republican principals left in my political outlook. To my way of thinking, competition is good. That was exactly the point I was making with Comcast. For too many years Comcast was the only game in town when it came to cable and Internet connection. When I moved to my new house here in Delaware, my house was already prewired for Comcast cable. Uh, wait a minute. I don’t remember giving approval for the hookup. Again, the arrogance of a company used to practicing a monopoly. I tied Comcast for a while but I decided to leave after the way they treated me. Their bills were too high and rising almost every other month. Their customer service was atrocious. That’s when I decided to go with the competition, Verizon. I got a better price for more services. Initially, I also had trouble with Verizon’s customer service but when I threatened to go back to Comcast, they sent out a high up to take care of my problem personally. Yes, competition is good. It’s called capitalism. Sure, capitalism has it’s downside but so does every other system. However, in my opinion capitalism is the best system to ensure that the majority of the populace enjoys a higher standard of living.

To your point Jim of the “the bigger problem ……………....when the day comes (and surely it may) when Wal-Mart has run practically every major business out of town and we’re left holding the rope?” A valid concern but I doubt if that day would ever come. There will always be small stores and other specialty stores. There will always be people like my neighbor Barbara who wouldn’t be caught dead shopping in Wal-Mart because of class. Wal-Mart will never put all the stores out of business. The stores who feel threatened need to get more competitive.

I’m not anti-union but I can always tell when I’m in a store with union employees. Their attitude towards the customers is different. They act like they’re doing you a favor. I grew up in a union household and witnessed union abuses first hand. That is why I became a conservative Republican at a young age. My first presidential vote was cast for Barry Goldwater. Unions have had a positive impact on the work place. They have kept in check corporate abuses. Oh yes, the corporations would have you working for slave labor is they had their way. I’m not totally naïve. But I have to be realistic. I prefer a non-union work place over a union work place. I’ve just seen too many abuses by unions to feel any other way.

I do have to agree with you Jim that, at times, I sounded like a commercial for Wal-Mart in my blog posting. I had to stop myself and tone it down a bit but apparently I didn’t tone it down enough. I’m not enamored with Wal-Mart or any big behemoth corporation. They will all screw you if they had the chance. Been there, had that done too me. Your comment to me “Sorry to go off like this on one of your treasured institutions” did sting. No way is any institution a “treasured institution” to me. Your apology is accepted. I look at all institutions with a jaundiced eye. You know the definition of a liberal don’t you? That’s a conservative who has been mugged. Well, I was mugged (several times) by big corporations that I had put my life into. I’m not alone in this experience as you well know. However, the fact that I was “mugged” hasn’t affected my belief that capitalism is the best economic system for the majority of the people. In this opinion I agree with my friend “Nitewrite.” Lately, we seem to agree on little even though we had a common background where and the way we grew up. Both of us even worked for major banks and were canned because we got too old but Nitewrite still holds his conservative principals both in the economic and social area. My conservative views are only in the economic area, not social. The 1992 Republican Convention in Houston Texas threw thousands, if not millions of gay conservatives like me out of their tent with the hateful speeches of the two Pats, Buchanan and Robertson.

Your comment “There is no doubt that Wal-Mart serves a purpose and not all of it is bad” is very accurate. Wal-Mart provides jobs for thousands, if not millions, of people who otherwise would be unemployed. One good example is Cathy, a former co-worker of mine from the Hampton Inn in Exton, PA. Cathy was the breakfast hostess for many years. For about 10 years she would arrive five or six days a week at the Hampton in at 4:30 in the morning to set out Hampton Inn’s breakfast. Cathy lived about 20 miles away from the hotel in a double wide trailer with her invalid husband who was on disability from his Navy service. She would get up at 3 am in the morning in order to be at work on time. On those days when there was bad weather, she would stay overnight at the hotel so she would be there to set out breakfast.

Over the years she worked her hourly pay up to the maximum. After two years without a raise because she was at the maximum of her pay grade, she was called into the office by the new manager. She thought she was getting a raise for her exemplarily and dependable service. Instead, she was told she was being let go. “Why?” she asked. She was told that the hotel was going in a “different direction.” So there she was, without a job at 59 years of age, and an invalid husband to support with the help of the VA system. They couldn’t survive on his VA disability and Social Security payments. Where was Cathy going to get a job? I think you know where this I going. The only place Cathy could get a job was Wal-Mart. Granted, she’s not thrilled to be working in the shoe department and her hourly pay is less that she received at the Hampton Inn, but she is working. Also, her workplace is closer to her doublewide so she doesn’t have as far to travel now. Another benefit is that she doesn’t have to get up at 3 am in the morning to go to work. She now has more time to volunteer at the local Veterans Administration facility, which is one of her favorite activities. I wonder how she and her husband would have survived if there was no Wal-Mart to provide a job for her and other countless older people who have no special skills or education but who want to work and need to work for a living. I would not feel good if Wal-Mart went out of business because of a boycott of their business and women like Cathy didn’t have a job.

Another reason to not boycott Wal-Mart and put them out of business is that Wal-Mart provides a wide range of products at low prices which enables the Great Unwashed to live a higher standard of living. That includes me.

Now that I’ve had my say about boycotting Wal-Mart, don’t think that I’m against boycotts. I will not guy gas at Exxon for two main reasons. The first being their total irresponsibility in the way they handled the Exxon Valdez oil spill. They are still contesting that court judgment. To me Exxon is reprehensible. Oh, they are also the only major oil company not to have domestic partner benefits. That is just another reason not to do business with them. Perhaps the biggest reason is, have you noticed but Exxon gas is almost always the highest priced on the block. I don’t need to contribute to Lee Raymond’s pension plan.

Other businesses I boycott are businesses that are overprice and provide poor service. They are many, sad to say. Especially down here where I live in this resort community. High prices and poor service must be endemic to resort communities.

There are foods I do not eat, thus I do not support those companies that produce that food. I will not eat veal or lamb. I’ve eaten veal (a long time ago and felt very guilty about it), but I’ve never eaten lamb. I don’t eat baby animals. Recently, I saw how turkeys were being mistreated (a secret video by PETA) and I considered not eating turkey. My neighbor Barbara tells me she doesn’t eat chicken because she sees how they are processed. But where does all this stop? I have to eat and I like some meat. I don’t eat beef anymore just because it doesn’t agree with me. I like pork but I rarely eat it because it sometimes doesn’t agree with me. I’m not ready to go totally veg yet though. So I keep the chicken processing factories in business by eating boneless breast of chicken.

Well, I’ve went on quite a bit about my response to your comment about Wal-Mart. I may have wandered of the subject a bit but I think you understand my style of writing now. I summarize, I understand your concerns with Wal-Mart and I agree that they acted reprehensively when they aggressively went after that injured woman’ settlement. That was so wrong and they finally “got it” and reversed their decision (probably because of all the bad publicity and not so much out of altruism.)

My good friend Nitewrite brings up a very valid point about going after the lawyers who sliced off a good bit of that woman’s settlement. Where was their heart? Nitewrite is correct when he says “Frankly, if we decided we would boycott businesses whose behavior was sometimes less than sterling, we wouldn’t shop anywhere and we wouldn’t work anywhere. But that said, it is also perfectly fine to not give business to a company they feel is doing wrong.” I agree with my old comic book trading friend 100% on this point.

Now, I have to get ready for work at the Inn. I’m working until 11 pm tonight and then I have to get up at 4:30 am tomorrow to have breakfast set out by 7 for the lawyers who are in the hotel for the next week for a big court case Georgetown. They have to leave at 7:30 am to be in court.

Note: I’m not the breakfast hostess; she usually comes in about 7 to 7:30 am after she drops her kids off to school. The lawyers informed me last night that they need to have breakfast at 7 am. The regular hostess can’t drop her kids off to school earlier so I will come in and get the breakfast out. Sometimes one does what one has to do. It is ironic that I’m setting the breakfast out early for lawyers who have to go to court early. There is a Super Center Wal-Mart in Georgetown. I wonder.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Domestic Partner Benefits at Wal-Mart

Today was another Wal-Mart day for me and Bill. Bill is making custom curtains for our sun room and he was looking for trim to put the finishing touches to his curtains. He wanted to check out the cloth section of the Georgetown Wal-Mart.

We have four Wal-Marts and one Sam’s Club within striking distance of us. Each one offers something special. All of them offer the best prices for food and other products. I may sound like a commercial for the Wal-Mart chain but I have nothing but praise for their prices. For instance, I can buy a box of Ralston Purina Corn Chex at the local Food Lion for $4.34 a box. This week they had a “special” on; two boxes for $6.00. At the Georgetown Wal-Mart I brought four boxes of the Ralston Purina Corn Chex for $1.88 a box. That is savings I can understand.

One Wal-Mart is in Rehoboth Beach. That is not a Super Wal-Mart, which means they don’t have a full grocery section. If they did, they would quickly put out of business the local Food Lion, Safeway, Super Fresh and Giant stores. The Wal-Mart’s in Georgetown and Milford are what they call super centers. They carry everything including a full supermarket with prices that beat the standard supermarkets. The Wal-Mart in Dover is next to Sam’s Club. It is a huge Wal-Mart but doesn’t carry a full super market (meats) section. The Sam’s Club within walking distance of that Wal-Mart carries meats, groveries and other speciality items in bulk and hard to resist prices. Their rotisserie chicken can’t be beat at $4.97. It is fresh, big and tasty. The local supermarkets offer a skinnier chicken at $7.97, and it’s usually dried out and a couple days old.

Do I sound like I work for Wal-Mart’s marketing department or what? All I am doing is speaking is the truth. Like computers, what did we do before we had Wal-Mart’s?

I live right off of Route 1, which is the major artery to Sussex County, the southern most county in Delaware. Every day, as I look out from the windows in my sunroom, I can see the huge tractor trailer trucks bearing the Wal-Mart logo barreling down Route 1 to replenish the Wal-Mart stores down here.

A friend of mine is boycotting Wal-Mart because they don’t offer domestic partner benefits. I would say this is a case of someone cutting off their nose to spite their faces. From what I have observed, Wal-Mart employs gay people and pays them a salary. For most of by adult life, I’ve worked for banks. Before that time I worked for a hotel, as I do now. During my high school years I worked a variety of jobs. In all the jobs I’ve ever worked, none of them have ever offered domestic partner benefits. Should I not have worked at these places? I don’t think so. Would I have liked to have had the option of choosing domestic benefits at any of these places? I absolutely would. So what would my options be if I boycotted Wal-Mart? They would be paying higher prices for a lesser variety of products. That doesn’t make sense to me. Should I boycott the local hospital emergency room (which I used last January 3rd) just because the hospital doesn’t offer domestic benefits? Again, that doesn’t make sense.

So, I continue to shop Wal-Mart, with my domestic partner. He’s happy and I’m happy. Even the Chinese people are happy. We made them a little richer today.

Monday, December 08, 2008

100 Things I've Done

I'm at it again, stealing ideas for lists. This idea of "100 Things I've Done" I absconded from my friend's blog "On Transmigration." I've made a few changes to the list, some of the items were a bit too self serving like "Selling Girl Scout Cookies", "Giving too much to charity" and "Buying a stranger a meal at a restaurant." These things are so patently ridiculous that I could not in good faith include them in a credible list. That said, here is my corrected list of "100 Things I've Done." The bold items are the things I've done. The items not highlighted are still on my Bucket List.

1. Started my own blog

2. Acted in a play - grade school and high school

3. Played in a band - high school and I loved it

4. Visited Hawaii - got close one year

5. Watched a meteor shower - if I did I didn't know it

6. Had a paper route - favorite all time job

7. Been to Disneyland/World - late in life - won a trip at age 59

8. Climbed a mountain - almost killed me

9. Held a praying mantis - frequently

10. Sung a solo - I sing worse than Roseanne Barr.

11. Bungee jumped - absolutely no desire to do this

12. Visited Paris

13. Watched lightning at sea - isn't this dangerous?

14. Caught a football (or baseball) - incapable - gay gene - which hand do I hold up?

15. Adopted a child - something I always wanted to do but probably best I didn't. One of the lives I saved.

16. Had food poisoning - bad hamburger, only my kidney stone was more painful.

17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - I walked to the top of the Washington Monument once and the Monument in Provincetown, Mass.

18. Grown my own vegetables - cheaper to buy them at the store.

19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train - tight quarters - lost my pajama bottoms

21. Had a pillow fight

22. Hitchhiked – when I was in the Army - the uniform guaranteed a ride

23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill - never had the nerve

24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb - I've held a lambs wool sweater, very soft.

26. Gone skinny dipping - only once and it was very invigorating to be that free in spite of the shocking shrinkage exposure

27. Run a Marathon - no thanks - all that banging and being out of breath - why?

28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice

29. Seen a total eclipse - yes and thought is that all there is?

30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - almost daily, hundreds of pictures

31. Hit a home run - are you kidding? The gay gene again.

32. Been on a cruise – no but I would like to someday - a Bucket List item

33. Seen Niagara Falls in person - yes and I was surprised at how big it is. Big impresses me.

34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestor - yes, the best experience of my whole life

35. Seen an Amish community - many times

36. Taught myself a new language - no, another Bucket List item

37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - nice while it lasted

38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

39. Gone rock climbing

40. Seen Michelangelo’s David

41. Sung karaoke

42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt

43. Rode a horse (or pony) - always wanted to, never had the chance

44. Visited Africa

45. Walked on a beach by moonlight - is cruising the same?

46. Been transported in an ambulance - several times - very dramatic, always fun

47. Had my portrait painted - yes, it didn't look like me

48. Gone deep sea fishing - my Pop used to but never took me with him

49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person

50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - I've been to the top of the Empire State Bldg.

51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling

52. Kissed in the rain - I've kissed a lot of other places though

53. Played in the mud - I'm way too fastidious for this kind of activity

54. Gone to a drive-in theater - many times, I am that old

55. Been in a movie - what kind of movie?

56. Visited the Great Wall of China

57. Started a business - yes, hard stuff, didn't last long

58. Taken a martial arts class - someone could get hurt doing this.

59. Visited Russia

60. Served at a soup kitchen

61. Had a gun fired at me - they missed. Scared the crap out of me.

62. Gone whale watching - again, very impressed like I was with Niagra Falls. Whales are big.

63. Got flowers for no reason - who would do that for me? Surprise me.

64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma – no, I like to keep my punctures to a minimum

65. Gone sky diving - again, are you kidding? Splat!

66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp

67. Bounced a check - I've missed a few credit card payments by accident

68. Flown in a helicopter

69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - Viewmaster, I'm still impressed by 3-D

70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - big, I was impressed again

71. Eaten Caviar - I've eaten roe, does that count?

72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square - no, New York City doesn't impress me

74. Toured the Everglades

75. Been fired from a job – oh yes, I'm claustrophobic. I don't like closets.

76. Seen the Changing of the Guard in London - Bucket List item again - all of England

77. Broken a bone - dislocated my knee once. Does that count?

78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - added at least 5 years to my life.

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person - saw it from the air once

80. Published a book - no but my next grand goal which I will accomplish - a family history book

81. Visited the Vatican

82. Bought a brand new car - twice so far, maybe one more time

83. Walked in Jerusalem

84. Had my picture in the newspaper - the neighbors were impressed

85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House - nice but I wasn't all that impressed. Wasn't that big

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - my Pop made me do it

88. Had chickenpox - no fun at all, sick as a dog

89. Saved someone’s life - several

90. Sat on a jury - never, always wanted to

91. Met someone famous - Milton Berle coming out of an elevator with a wet towel on his head

92. Joined a book club - who hasn't?

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby – not likely. It takes two to Tango and I don't Tango with women

95. Seen the Alamo in person

96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake

97. Been involved in a lawsuit - yes, because of the gay discrimination job loss

98. Hit an animal with my car - unfortunately several times, unavoidable

99. Been stung by a bee - and a wasp, and yellow-jacket

100.Built a house - two.....so far

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Visit To Pennsylvania

Yesterday I made my long put off trip to Pennsylvania to visit Mom. The trip is a 2 ½ hour drive one way for a total 5 hour plus trip. I always come back the same day. Yesterday posed a problem because it gets dark at 5 PM. I didn’t want to drive back in the dark. I don’t do well driving in the dark. Everything is headlights and taillights. I find the older I get the more difficult I have navigating the multi lane highways. Thus, the goal yesterday was to leave by 2:30 PM. That didn’t happen.

Listed below are the six things I wanted to do:

1. Return my elderly cousin’s pictures to her that I had borrowed to scan in my genealogy reports
2. Take pictures of some family graves at the Hopewell Methodist Church Cemetery and the Northwood Cemetery.
3. Visit Mom and give her Christmas presents to her.
4. Have lunch at the Brickside Grille (they make the best Chicken Quesadillas.)
5. Stop at a fabric store to pick out ribbon to finish the curtains that Bill made for the sunroom.
6. Shop at Wegmans.

My cousin’s home is located just off of Rt. 896 (Jennersville Road) on my way to my Mom’s. Originally I told her I would see her at 2 in the afternoon (her suggestion) but I thought I would see if she was available in the morning. I was by her place at 9:30 AM. I called. No, she said she wasn’t even dressed and said 2 in the afternoon would be better. Already I knew that I would have a hard time keeping that schedule.

Barreling on down the road to Rt. 10, then the Rt. 30 bypass, we soon arrived in East Brandywine Township. As we always do when we visit my Mom, Bill and I take a ride past the “old props” (as we call where we used to live.) We can’t see the house from the road (that’s the way we designed it but now it is to our disadvantage because we can’t see the house.) Our house is located one road over from my Mom’s house. Bill and I drive down the beautiful Crawford Road, which has now been repaved. First thing we see are two large trash cans. The new owner keeps two trash cans near the entrance to the property so he doesn’t have to haul them down every week like we did. I am immediately disappointed because I see the bank that I lovingly cared for over the years by planting ivy, pachysandra and vinca minor, is now covered in dead leaves and branches. What a shame. I had a multi-year goal of eventually covering the front bank of the seven acres of woodland that comprised our former property in neat ground cover instead of the former mixture of poison ivy and weeds. It is what it is. Bill and I would love to see our old house and the landscaping surrounding it but we dare not venture up the driveway. I don’t think the new owner would appreciate it. Judging from the way he has treated the front bank of the property, maybe it’s just as well we don’t see the house. It’s probably best that we remember it as it was. I’ve often thought of what happened to my wintering over goldfish in my three ponds. Some of those gold fish were 5 years old. So sad.

Stopping over at my Mom’s, I found she had almost fallen a few minutes before I got in the door. She doesn’t get around well. Christmas Eve she will be 85 years old, bless her heart. She lives with my divorced brother. I have a place for her in my house as does my other brother, who lives in South Carolina. We’ve been trying to talk her into moving to a safer environment but she doesn’t want to leave her home of 50 years. She also doesn’t want to leave her two cats, Molly and Rusty. I understand why she feels this way. She is comfortable in her own home. My brothers and I have to respect her wishes. We’re hoping she will come to realize soon that she will be safer living at my brother’s house in South Carolina, which has a handicapped accessible mother-in-law suite. We’re working on this.

During our visit, my Mom and my brother had just returned from Wegmans. They said it was a “madhouse.” Wegmans; that is the one thing I really miss about moving from Pennsylvania. If any of you readers have experienced a Wegmans, you know what I’m talking about. There are super markets and then there are Super Markets. That’s Wegmans. I know in year’s past, during the holiday the crowds were jammed in Wegmans. Bill and I decided not to go today to save time.

Instead I talked Bill into having lunch with me at the Brickside Grille. Bill would rather eat at the Chinese buffet at Wegmans (which is excellent but on a crowded day, the screaming kids are even too much for me.) Bill doesn’t like sit down restaurants. He says they’re too hoity toity. The restaurant I wanted to eat at is located in Eagleview, a planned community. No traffic highways outside the restaurant. It is located in the heart of the residential area of Eagleview. And, they serve the BEST chicken quesadillas ever. One touch they put in the filling which I love is the toasted pumpkin seed. Also, the fresh salsa served on top of the quesadilla pie slices are fresh and have just enough hotness to satisfy my palate. All this means nothing to Bill. He sits there with his baseball cap on, tolerating the whole situation just to please me. There weren’t many people in the restaurant on this Saturday afternoon. Maybe this was a reflection of the down economy. Even so, we were soon served and I wasn’t disappointed in my Chicken Quesadillas.

On the way back we stopped at the Northwood Cemetery. That’s were our plots are located. Bill had never seen his. I knew the general area but I couldn’t find the “T” granite marker in the ground. Finally, after about 20 minutes of searching I found it covered over with grass. I ditched the grass away with my foot and showed Bill the nice view he would have of the Downingtown valley. The “view” is a family joke. My Mother picked out her grave at the Hopewell Methodist Church Cemetery because of the “view.” Well, the view is now blocked by a row of white pine. The white pine was planted on the border of the Asbury Village development so those nice folks wouldn’t have to look at a cemetery from their back decks. I won’t have that problem with my view. Our plots are located on the side of a very steep hill overlooking Downingtown. Northwood is a very large cemetery and there are many graves between my lot and the road that runs by Northwood Cemetery, which is Rt. 113.

I took pictures of several headstones, recognizing many of the names from my childhood. I think it is so sad that all these people have gathered at this location. Nobody has to ask this gathering to be quiet. They are.

On the way back I stopped at the Hopewell Methodist Church Cemetery and took more pictures. I got just about all the pictures I need for my next posting to Find a Grave.com. That is another one of my new passions, taking pictures of headstones for this web site. For years I’ve been taking pictures of headstones, now I can share my largess with the masses.

Now it was time to head home. Already it was 2:00 and I had yet to visit my cousin and return her pictures. I was also to pick up a picture of her father taken when he graduated from college. We arrived at her place at 2:30 PM. Her niece was there. This was an unexpected treasure because I could gather information from her niece about her mother who died in 1929 (when she was 8 months old.) With Bill waiting in the car, I spent over an hour with the two ladies. During our visit I mentioned that I wondered what happened to that grand old picture of her Mother that was taken around the turn of the century, standing out in front of her house, with five of her small children, in the mountains of North Carolina. The niece told me that another aunt of hers had that picture. This was an unexpected jackpot! She said her aunt was only three miles away. So, out the door we go, with my tote back containing the picture of her father, a copy of his obituary and the guest book from his funeral. I was going to take these home with me and scan them into my computer. I follow her car to her 89 year old aunt’s home down the road. Her aunt was a delight. This was really a banner day for my genealogical research. Bill was out in the car growing impatient (he has no interest in my genealogical research) and it was getting cold. With the knowledge that darkness would arrive in about an hour, I cut my visit short.

The niece got in her car and back out to lead me back to the main road. However, when she backed out, she knocked over her aunt’s birdhouse which was on a pole. This was the first casualty of the day. I try to be so unobtrusive during the genealogical forays, but sometimes it’s hard not to leave damage in my wake. She got out and looked at the now downed birdhouse to confirm that indeed, she did knock it down. What was that bird house doing there anyway? I suspect it was placed at that location so the aunt could see it from her dining room window.

After some confusion (I took the wrong turn out of the driveway – to me left is right, and right is left), I followed the niece’s car out to the main road and thus on my way home. The overcast skies were growing darker by the moment as I entered Newark Delaware. Winding my way through Newark on 896, I exited on the other side, past the now closed Chrysler automotive plant (another casualty of global trade), light snow began to fall. By the time I got on Rt. 1 (which is a straight shot down to my home in Delaware, just off of Rt. 1), visibility was poor. The light snow was having the same effect as fog. My worst nightmare is driving at night in a fog. Many years ago, I brought my first car (1954 Mercury) home from Ft. Meade, Maryland. My brother, who was stationed at Ft. Myers, Virginia, drove the car (his MOS in the Army was as a driver, this was my first car and I didn’t have driving experience). The fog was so bad that Friday night I had to get out and put one hand on the hood (actually, on the unknown chrome plated wing goddess hood ornament) and lead the way through the heavy fog that enveloped Wilmington Delaware. That night is forever branded in my brain. Some experiences you never forget; the first time you learned how to tie your shoe laces and the first time you lead a 2 ton vehicle through fog so thick you could slice it. I felt like I was leading the Titantic through glacier clogged waterways. Now, whenever I drive at night in the fog, I am reminded of that experience. Last night was one of those experiences. An experience that is indelibly etched in my brain for life.

The ride home was Nightmare Alley. Bill is getting more and more nervous about my driving. I’m tired. I can’t see. I can’t judge distances. I’m wondering to myself, “How did I get myself into this predicament?” Finally, after two nerve wracking hours, I drive in my driveway. I get out of the car, stiff of limb. Going around to the back I unload what items I had brought back. Then I notice, I’m missing my tote bag! The tote bag that contained that grand old classic picture of my cousin’s father was missing! That picture was one of the main reasons I made the trip. All the rest were extras except the visit to my Mother. I go into the house and place a call to my cousin. Yes, she tells me that I did indeed leave my tote bag on her kitchen chair.

Ever have that feeling that you just went through the wringer for nothing? Well, that’s the way I felt. But do not dismay. I will turn this sow’s ear into a silk purse. I’m going up again the week after next. I’ll stay overnight at my Mom’s. This way I’ll have more than an hour with her. The next day I’ll take her to visit her sister who resides in the dementia unit at a care facility in Downingtown. She hasn’t seen her sister since I last took her there about two years ago. Her sister is 90 years old now. Her other sister lived to be just two months short of her 90th birthday when she died in 2006. I don’t have a lot of slack time when I’m dealing with my older relatives. Already I’ve missed out on several relatives who couldn’t wait for me. They departed before I departed to visit them.

Maybe during my next visit I’ll call one of my old school friends with whom I am still in touch and we’ll do lunch at the Brickside Grille. I have to stop all this rushing around and make my next visit a nice leisurely visit, enjoyable for all. Of course I’ll have another Chicken Quesadilla.

On my way back I’ll stop at my cousin’s place again and pick up that picture of her father, which seems to have a hex on it. It's almost as if I was fated not to have this picture. This time I travel alone, no external pressures. But I will travel home in the sunlight. No more night driving for this traveler. I’ll leave that to Batman and Robin.


Friday, December 05, 2008

50 Facts About Myself

Recently, I got a great idea for myself after reading another person's blog. On his blog he listed "37 Things About Myself." What a great idea. Many of us want to know one another better. What better way than to list a stream of consciousness thought of facts we, and only we know about ourselves. Below are the first forty that come to mind about myself. There are many more facts of course but this is a start.

1. I descend from English stock. My paternal line has been in North America for 9 generations (1692) and my maternal line 5 generations (1850’s).

2. I am the oldest of 3 boys. I am also the shortest at 6 ‘3 ½” and lightest (by 100 lbs plus) than my younger brothers.

3. My father was born in Appalachia (hillbilly.) His family moved to Pennsylvania as tenant farm workers in 1929.

4. My Mother is from Pennsylvania Quaker heritage.

5. My Father used to call me “half a hillbilly.” I like to think I have the sex appeal of a hillbilly and the sensibility of a Quaker.

6. My Father died in 2000, my Mother is 84 and living with my divorced brother.

7. My other brother is a care pastor at a large Christian fundamentalist church in Greenville, South Carolina.

8. I am an agnostic until I get in real trouble, then I pray.

9. I am a reformed spendaholic.

10. I used to be a staunch Republican but George W. Bush cured me of that fantasy. I am now a liberal Democrat.

11. I am gay and have been since my earliest memory (4 years old) when I didn’t even know what “gay” meant. I knew I was different and not to let anyone else know.

12. I didn’t officially “come out” until I was 21 years old (late debut.)

13. One year later I met my life partner. We have now been together 44 years without benefit of a legal marriage document.

14. My best friends since grade school (three of them) are still my best friends. We are in contact almost daily. They are straight, married and have families.

15. I love cats. However, I haven’t had a cat since I was 14 years old. My partner hates cats.

16. My Mother forced me to take typing in high school (when it was not cool for a young guy to take typing) because it would be something I “could always use.” As usual, Mother was right. I have typed every day since and never regretted it.

17. I cannot lie. Not bragging, I just have a genetic inability to lie. That weakness has caused me a lifetime of problems as other less scrupulous people have taken advantage of that weakness.

18. One of the wisest decisions I ever made in my life was to join the Army right out of high school. It matured me and continues to pay dividends to this day.

19. One of my dumbest decisions was to invest in the stock market. It is a fool’s game. Nothing but a giant casino. My last investment was in January of this year. Right before I passed a kidney stone. January was not a good month for me this year.

20. My father was a hunter. None of his sons liked to hunt.

21. My father loved to garden. I love to garden.

22. My father had natural mechanical ability. I do not. Both of my brothers do. They hate to garden.

23. I and my youngest brother have irreparable Philadelphia accents. My other brother talks normal.

24. I don’t wear shoes in my house and always take off my shoes when I enter someone else’s house (unless it’s a dump.)

25. I cannot sleep in the same bed all night with anyone else. Probably because I grew up having to share the same bed with my two brothers then with an older uncle.

26. Growing up I thought I had the biggest nose in the world. Probably because my father always told me so. As I got older my face grew into proportion to my nose and the size of my nose ceased to be a problem.

27. I can’t throw a football or whistle (probably because of my gay gene.)

28. I love to walk. Not run, walk. I figured out long ago that running ruined your joints with all that banging.

29. I am a political junkie. I amaze myself at how I can see through all the smoke and mirrors and see the real issue. I knew from the git go that the war in Iraq was bogus. I have seen through every other political lie of both parties.

30. I delight in schadenfreude. I truly enjoy seeing self absorbed, selfish, evil people get their comeuppance. I especially enjoy seeing former teen idols evolve into ugly old men (or women as is the case with Paul McCartney.)

31. I hate the fact that animals and children are abused and killed on a daily basis in this world.

32. I used to remove road kill from the road until someone told me a car was going to hit me one day while I was doing this.

33. Certain people make me ill when I see them. For instance, Bill Gates, George W. Bush, Joe Scarborough (the list is very long, unfortunately.)

34. Other people make me feel that there is hope in this world. For instance, anyone involved in lessening the cruelty to animals and children. Also, those people who volunteer to clean up roadsides.

35. For breakfast I have two bowls of Corn Chex and one banana every day.

36. I don’t drink enough water, which is why I have kidney stones.

37. I drink Turkey Hill decaffeinated orange iced tea everyday with my meals.

38. My only Christmas activity is sending Christmas cards to my friends and relatives. I eschew all other Christmas activity unless someone wants to invite me to a Christmas dinner, which I will gladly accept.

39. I love taking pictures. I have over 25,000 images.

40. I am obsessed with my family genealogy. It is my lifetime passion. My goal is to publish a book on my family genealogy. Then my life will be complete.

41. I am terminally naive. This has not caused me as much of a problem as my inability to lie. Some think it's cute and take pity on me.

42. I don't eat fried foods anymore.

43. I do not eat fish or any other sea food. A tuna finsh sandwich is tolerable but I haven't eaten one in years.

44. I do not eat baby animals; i.e., lamb, veal, or baby birds. A trait that I inherited from my father who witnessed the slaughter of these baby animals.

45. I love Italian food but rarely eat it.

46. My main protein dish is boneless chicken breast but I get upset when I see the "chicken trucks" headed for the "processing plants" which are in abundance here in southern Delaware.

47. Occasionally I will eat a hamburger, but only if it is char grilled, well done.

48. I love 70's disco dance music (the real club mix disco, not the crap they play on the satellite radio today.)

49. I can't dance. I'm not coordinated. I love to dance though.

50. I've never "been" with a woman (nor do I intend to.)

This is just the first 50 "Facts About Myself." More will follow in future blog postings. Thanks to the Doctor From Phoenix who gave me the idea.

New Photo

It was time to replace my profile photo on this blog. Look to the left and you'll see a candid shot taken of me at a local restaurant where I was dining with friends. If I remember correctly, one of my friends said something really funny and the waitress, who was taking our photo captured my real expression just right. There are very, very few photos of me with a genuine smile.

Ironically, I smile most of the time. I have the cheek wrinkles to prove it too. When I was younger, I wasn't so self conscious of having my photo taken. From the few photos taken of me then you can see that I was genuinely happy. The photo included in this blog is one that was taken in 1951. I remember the day so well. I won first prize at a fishing rodeo. It was the West Chester, Pennsylvania Fishing Rodeo held at the quarry outside of West Chester. Would you believe it, but I caught the biggest fish! What is ironic is that I'm not a fisherman. The boy to the left of me is my cousin, Edward "Bud" Tipton. We are of the same age. What is ironic is that Bud is the fisherman. Just goes to show you who had the Beginner's Luck. I was thrilled to have my picture taken by the local newspaper. Thirty five years later a blurb appeared in the same newspaper noting the event "Thirty Five Years Ago Today." Now here is the final irony, I don't think I've been fishing since that day. But I did get a good picture of myself.

I've been thinking of updating my blog. Not so much the format, I'm still comfortable with that. But I will update my picture from time to time. I'll have to concentrate on being less self conscious though when I do have my picture taken. I'm not one of those guys who can smile on command. Funny thing, most of my friends can. What's with that?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

December Is Here

Christmas is only a few weeks away. I notice that the older I get the faster time passes by. When I was young, very young, it seemed like forever until Christmas arrived. I enjoy the holidays but I just can’t get into all the decoration. I’ll look at others. We do have one of the white pines that border our property covered in multicolored lights. That’s about as festive as we’ll get this Christmas.

Yesterday Bill drove me to Dover for my dental appointment to have my teeth cleaned. For years I had the same dentist in Downingtown and was very pleased with him. This year that dentist and his wife retired. Oh yes, they also retired to Delaware. It was with some apprehension that I went on the search for a new dentist. At work I signed up for an HMO plan. I wouldn’t have my choice of dentist. As it turned out, I’ve been very fortunate. The dentists I’ve at the dental clinic in Dover have all been very good. However, yesterday I received some bad news. My dentist advised me that I would have to have a bridge removed because I no longer had bone support underneath the bridge. Here we go again. I turned down the dental implants option. I’ll have a partial bridge installed. My dentist will call back with an estimate. Just when I think I’m done with the big bills, here comes another one. Life goes on.

My PC Guy stopped by today and just about finished setting up my new computer with all of my old files. What a job that has been. Again, I am fortunate to have such a friend who is able to provide this service. With my new PC I have a new level of comfort and security. My PC will automatically backup to an external hard drive at 1 AM every morning. Now I no longer have to worry about my PC crashing and losing all of my pictures and genealogy software.

The past several nights I have been up late updating my family tree on Ancestry.com. For many years I had dreamed of winning the lottery and having enough money to set up an office and concentrate solely on updating my family tree. My ultimate goal is to leave a book on my branch of the Tipton family tree. It looks like that goal is obtainable now. And I didn’t have to win the lottery to set up my office dedicated to family research. I just have to update recent births. That means a lot of phone calls to first cousins once removed. What is a first cousin once removed you ask? That is the son or daughter of my first cousin. I’m of the age where the first cousins once removed now have grandchildren. You know what that means? I’m getting old.

Tomorrow I will start on my Christmas cards. That is how I really celebrate Christmas. For years I’ve been exchanging Christmas cards with relatives, friends, former school mates, and former co-workers. Most of these people I haven’t seen for years. This is the one time I keep in touch during the year. I usually like to include a picture of myself to let them know how young I look. Alas, that didn’t work this year. I thought I would go for the “serious look.” That was a mistake. It is scary. I look like an undertaker. I held back the hands of Father Time for many years but I fear he has caught up with me. Thus, I created another card with a more distant view of my face. Hopefully I won’t scare too many folks off with my Christmas card. I deliberately didn’t smile because I wanted one of those serious old timey pictures of yore. Be care what you wish for.

By the way, see those bags under my eyes? I earned them.

Caregiver Update

  Bill with his hospice nurse last week Regular followers of this blog have no doubt noticed that I haven't been posting on a regular ba...