Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Lemon Bundt Cake

Something nice today on this posting. My last couple of postings have been on the heavy and serious side. When I renewed my blog postings about a year ago I made a conscious effort not to be too political or to complaining in my posts. I'll be honest and say it has been a struggle but I think there are more than enough political and complaint blogs. While I cannot totally avoid politics or complaining, I think I have maintained a mostly positive blog that is enjoyable to me to write and for others, who are interested in my little corner of the world, to read. Thus, it is with great joy that I share one of my favorite recipes with you.

This is my recipe for Lemon Bundt Cake. It is not my original recipe but of all the recipes that I have tried for lemon cake, I have found it to be the best. It stays moist, freezes well, and gets the most compliments when I share it with friends and neighbors. I got the recipe from the Internet via Woman's Day magazine. It is as follows:

Lemon Bundt Cake
By Woman’s Day Kitchen from Woman’s Day/ September 16, 2008



1 cup plain low fat yogurt
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
4 large eggs
2 ¾ cups cake flour (not self-rising)

Lemon Syrup

½ cup each lemon juice
2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
¼ cup water


1 cup confectioners’ sugar
4 to 5 tsp milk


Heat oven to 350 degrees F. You’ll need a 10-in bundt pan coated with nonstick spray and flour.


1) Whisk yogurt, lemon zest, juice and vanilla in a small bowl.

2) Beat butter, sugar, baking powder and soda in a large bowl with mixer on medium speed 3 minutes or until creamy.

3) Add in eggs, one at a time, until blended. On low speed, beat in yogurt, then flour just until blended. Spread into prepared pan.

4) Bake 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack 12 minutes before inverting on rack.

Syrup: While cake is cooling, bring syrup ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to medium, simmer, uncovered, 12 minutes or until syrupy. Brush over warm cake; let cool.

Glaze: Mix confectioners’ sugar and just enough milk until smooth’ spoon over cooled cake. Let stand until glaze sets.

Monday, June 29, 2009

AARP TV: Stonewall 40 Years Later

Yesterday was the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Thus began the gay liberation movement in this country.

This video is for my gay friends who are still in the closet, ashamed of who they are and thus permitting the oppression of the GBLT community of which they belong. Wake up my friends! Do not be afraid. There is nothing to fear but fear itself. The world will not end if you come out as who you are. If you do nothing else in your life, at least have the courage to be honest with yourself and your friends, family and co-workers.

Do not ask me to enable you to stay in the closet. If you are ashamed of your association with me because I publically identify myself as gay, then perhaps you should discontinue your friendship with me because your lie is more important than your friendship with me. I will not assist you in condoning your self-hatred as a gay person. It is your choice.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Day at the Beach

Today I decided to visit the beach in Rehoboth Beach. I live so close but rarely go to the beach. One of the reasons is that I am susceptible to a precancerous skin condition so I don't lie on the beach anymore seeking that sexy, healthy tan. But I do love breathing in the sea air and walking the boardwalk on a beautiful summer day like today.

On my way in I took along some of my neighbor's backyard vegetable bounty to deliver to a friend who has a place in Rehoboth Beach. This is a friend that I had dinner with last night. When I arrived, I noticed that he was edgy. Something was on his mind. It didn't take too long to find out when I asked to take a picture of him and his friend. He was angry and demanded "Why do you have a blog? Why do you do it?" I could see he was very agitated. What was his problem? I soon found out. His picture was on my blog. Now why is this a problem? He said he thought my blog was only read by a few of our friends, he didn't know the world had access to reading my blog. My friend isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. I explained to him that anyone could read the blog. Then he demanded again "Why do you write it?!" This took me back a bit but I responded that I write about my life. He quickly got to his source of agitation; he didn't want me putting his picture on my blog. His friend also stated the same request. I told them that wasn't a problem. I would not put pictures of them on any of my future blog postings.

I left this rather uncomfortable encounter with my friend to take a walk on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach. Today was a perfect summer day for the beach. A gentle breeze flowed in from the ocean. Hundreds of colorful umbrellas dotted the beach. The sounds of the sea gulls blended in with the gentle rush of the waves and the distant voices of the families sunning themselves on the beach completed the picture of summertime fun at the beach. While walking I found that I was still bothered by my friend's request. Why would it bother them that their pictures appeared on my blog? Then it hit me. It bothered them for the same reason as it bothers many of the gay men and women who travel from Washington D. C. to Rehoboth Beach and have their pictures appear on the Internet website of the local gay publication "Letters." They don't want their pictures on the website for the world to see. Someone might think they're gay. They might have to come out of the closet. As side note, I think it's ironic that many of the same people who don't want the world to know their gay are usually the gayest acting and their family, friends and co-workers already know they're gay. No one would be surprised by the revelation that they are gay. It is old news.

Yes friends, that's probably why my friends don't want their picture on my blog. I identify myself as gay and they don't want that association. Personally I am against outing anybody; gay, straight or bisexual. However, those gays who continue to stay in the closet are the gays who permit the oppression of gay men and women to continue. That's why I decided to come out in 1963, way before it was fashionable to come out. I've paid a heavy price for coming out. In fact, just tonight my partner told me a friend of his will not continue his close friendship with him as long as he "continues to live with the devil." That would be me. I am the "devil" he refers to. Why? Because I do not apologize for being gay and I am not ashamed of being gay. I never have been ashamed of being gay, unlike many of my gay friends many of whom are still in the closet. The simple fact is they don't have the moral courage to come out and be who they are. They would rather have their oppressors define them. That's more convenient for them. They are embarrassed and ashamed of being gay.

I'm not one of those gays who are in your face with "I'm queer, I'm here, get used to it." But, by the same token I don't hide my sexual identity. either. I don't make excuses, I don't substitute she for he when talking about events in my life. In a way I feel sorry for my friends who have permitted their oppressors to define their lives. Ironically, some of my friends who are deepest in the closet are the most sexually active even in their advanced years. The word that comes to mind is hypocrite. I think it is ironic on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that was the beginning to tossing the yoke of oppression off of gays, there are still self-hating gays who permit that yoke to stay on their necks.

This week we had one of the prominent family values politicians, Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina come out and admit that he couldn't keep his pants zipper up. Sanford, one of the first and most vocal critics of former President Bill Clinton's morality, fessed up to being unfaithful to his wife and children by his affair with an Argentine woman named "Maria." The word that comes to mind is hypocrite. Sanford is just one of many politicians, of both parties, who have been exposed as hypocrites. Sanford is a straight political hypocrite. Then there are gay hypocrites. They are comfortable in the closet and don't want to be exposed to the sunlight of honesty because they don't have the courage to face that life. Harsh words from me but that is the way I see it. Unfortunately I know too many of these people. Most of them are very nice, respectable people but they are scared to death of the truth. They will go to their grave never saying the words "I am gay" to a straight person. Those words may cross their lips while on the prowl for a sexual conquest but never in another context. These are the type of people who would permit a "fag" joke to go unchallenged in their presence. Early in my life I used to let the "fag" jokes go unchallenged until one day I had enough and after the joke was told I said "I'm gay and I don't see the humor in your offensive joke." I still remember the look on that individual's face when he heard what I said. He literally was speechless. As the Master Card commercial says, "Priceless."

I may be many things but one thing I am not is a hypocrite. I'll honor my friend's request and not put their pictures in any of my future blog postings. But one thing I want to let those friends know is that my blog postings are about my life. That is my honesty. If they are ashamed of their association with me because I have the word "gay" in my personal description on my blog, well then maybe they should stop being hypocrites and reevaluate their friendship with me.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Night Dinner With Friends

The past two weeks I've been a hankering for either a char grilled hamburger or Eggplant Parmesan. Since Bill (my partner) doesn't like to eat out, I have to persuade some of my very small (and select) circle of friends to go out with me. I've tried eating by myself (and have done it many times) but it's not the same as enjoying a night out with friends dining.

Tonight I got lucky. My longtime friend Ed (since high school ) came down from his home in Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with another friend at his place in Rehoboth Beach. They usually go out to eat on Saturday night. I invited myself along. One has to be aggressive in these matters sometimes.

We had a very pleasant night at a local restaurant in Rehoboth Beach (Zorba's) that welcomes the gay crowd but is open to all. That the restaurant is "open to all" I found out quickly when, while waiting for my friends outside Zorba's, I watched as two dads unloaded three kids and a two month old in a bassinet into Zorba's. Thus, dinner was guaranteed to be punctuated by a crying and screaming two month old baby. When my friends arrived I suggested that we go elsewhere because I did not care to pay money to dine next to a squalling baby. My friend Ed told me to "relax and go with the flow." Oh yes. I took his advice. It didn't take long until after we were seated that the baby starting to cry. I have to give the dad credit though, he did quiet the infant down which is more than I can say for other parents who usually let the little darlings squirm, scream and generally make the dining experience very unpleasant for the other diners in the restaurant. My friend was right, it wasn't too painful. Still, I would prefer to eat in a restaurant and not a day care center.

While I was waiting for my friends to arrive another man got out of his car and strolled by me and gave a knowing "Hi." Uh oh. I'm being cruised. Strange straight men don't say "Hi" to me. It just doesn't happen. As charming and good-looking as I am (at least I think so), straight men look right through me like I'm invisible. Only a gay man would attempt to start something with this 67 year old geezer. After observing the two dads and the kids and the bassinet baby, I wasn't in the cruising mood. In fact, I'm never in the cruising mood these days. Just not interested. Thus, it wasn't too much of a surprise when my fried Ed told me a "friend" of his would be joining us and pointed to the guy in the armless T-shirt. I said "Oh him. He was just cruising me." Oh for the days of yore when I was all sexed up and went in for something like that. Those days are long behind me. No complaints and no regrets from this one.

The four of us went in, were seated, and were given a board with the specials. My friend Ed saw the calves liver and ordered that. I ordered the Eggplant Parmesan and was not disappointed. I got my eggplant fix. I should be good for at least a month now. Monday night I get my char grilled hamburger fix when I dine at the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach with my friend Harvey.

We had a very pleasant dinner. We engaged in some gentle teasing of Ed of the times when he had a breathalyzer device installed on the steering wheel column of his car due to a DUI. Poor Ed, he had to blow into that device every time he wanted to start his car. Many times he couldn't get it started because he was too nervous. If it didn't work then he had to wait a period of time before he could try it again. He told us of the time he spent the afternoon in a mall parking lot because he couldn't get his car started. The parking lot security guard came by and pointed out to him that he was spending a lot of time in the parking lot. Oh the good times. I don't know if the authorities use such draconian measures now to deter drinking and driving but it sure did work with Ed. He doesn't drink and drive at all now.

We stayed so long at our table that the waitress came by and suggested that she was going to have to charge us rent for using that space. Oops. We overstayed out welcome. Not a problem. We left a big tip and ventured out into the early Saturday night with the sun still shining at 8 pm. Oh how I love these long summer days with friends. It took a lot of years to get to this point in my life that I could enjoy a summer Saturday night out with friends. Who knew a bunch of old guys could have so much fun just talking?

Glorious Summer Days

Yesterday was a glorious summer day. Today is starting out to be another wonderful, carefree lazy, hazy day. After a very rainy spring I'm ready to indulge myself in summertime. I love all the seasons living down here in this southern most county of Delaware but I especially enjoy the long summer days. Waking up to the sun at around 6:30 in the morning and not seeing the sun set until 8:30 or so in the evening is almost the ultimate luxury to me. What's even better I don't have to get in my car or board a plane and travel long distances to soak up summertime. I'm right here in the heart of the east coast summertime vacation destination for the Washington D. C. crowd as well as travelers for the nearby state of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. As I often tell guests at the hotel where I work the front desk, living here in Delaware in the Milton/Lewes/Rehoboth Beach area I feel like I'm on permanent vacation.

However, there is one downside to living here in the summertime, and the height of the tourist season. It is the traffic. The traffic in Rehoboth Beach, especially on the weekend is a nightmare. And, as is usual, Del Dot (the Delaware Department of Transportation) is doing roadwork on a major traffic artery. The past two years they were widening Route 1, thus backing up traffic for miles on Route 1 during the weekends. Yesterday I took Bill for a ride into Rehoboth (what was I thinking?) at noontime. I felt a need for a charbroiled Wimpy hamburger at the Purple Parrot in the heart of Rehoboth Beach. As I turned off of Rt. 1 onto Rehoboth Avenue I saw the familiar orange traffic cones. Oh no, they're working on the road. Of course there were a bunch of workers standing around doing nothing (what's with that anyway? Rarely do I see anyone actually working during these road projects.) Ah yes, they're doing something with the road leading into the traffic circle into Rehoboth Beach. "Merge Left" the sign said. This right after I was in the right lane as the sign says when entering Rehoboth Beach. Get me out of here.

I was already committed to going into Rehoboth. I told Bill if I found a parking space I would go to the Purple Parrot and get my charbroiled hamburger (well done.) HA! Forget it. Traffic down Rehoboth Avenue during noontime on this Friday was heavy. I made the loop down to the beach front and back up the other way on Rehoboth Avenue and out of Rehoboth Beach. Sorry.

I don't do crowds, I don't do congestion. As my friend The Cajun says, "The horde has descended." I will stay here in my idyllic one acre paradise here east of Route 1 half way between Lewes and Milton, Delaware. Me, my birds, my plants, good neighbors and Bill. I'm good. I'll get that Wimpy in the fall.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Governor Mark Sanford

Yet another conservative Republican "family values" politician from the Bible Belt fell from grace yesterday. South Carolina governor Mark Sanford emerged from his lie that he was hiking on the Appalachian Trail. At a dramatic, rambling, impromptu press conference in the hallways of the state capital in Columbia yesterday he confessed that he was really in Argentina with his paramour. With the bizarre backdrop of some giggling teenage girls behind him, he admitted that he was unfaithful to his wife. He admitted that instead of taking a solitary hike through the Appalachian Mountains to clear his head after a tough legislative session, he was instead in Buenos Aries, Argentina, in the arms of his "dear friend" Maria.

Affairs of the heart happened. I understand that. Lord knows I've had a few myself. Where the difference is that Governor Mark Sanford is a public figure. He is a conservative Republican politician who espouses "family values." When he was a congressman he was one of the first to criticize former president Clinton for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Sanford, along with his fellow conservative Republican Christian politicians opposes same sex marriage. He claims that same sex marriage would "destroy the santicity of marriage." In fact, Governor Mark Sanford also opposes same sex civil unions. Governor Mark Sanford is a hypocrite.

While there is a growing list of politicians of both political parties who have been caught in sex scandals, only the self-righteous Republican politicians insist on holding onto their office. Democratic New Jersey governor James McGreevy resigned about his homosexual affair was revealed. Democratic New York governor Elliott Spitzer resigned after he was discovered to have frequented a hooker in a Washington D.C. hotel. Not so for Republican Louisiana Senator David Vitter. He refused to resign his office even after his name was found on a Washington D.C. madam's list. Republican Arizona John Ensign hasn't resigned his office after admitting an affair with a woman. Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig refused to resigned after being arrested at a Minneapolis airport bathroom for playing footsie with a male vice squad officer.

The hypocrisy of the Republican politicians is standard. They claim that same sex marriages would threaten the santicity of marriage. I ask, how exactly does that work? How does the formal union of me and my life partner of 45 years threaten the "santicity" of straight marriages? Here is my take, hypocritical politicians like Sanford, Gingrich, Guiliani, Craig, Vitter, McCain, and all the other family value conservative Republican politicians do more to destroy the "santicity" of marriage than me and my life partner Bill getting married. But then I understand that the conservative Republicans have raised a lot of money and gotten elected to office by pumping up the scare factor of same sex marriages.

The one thing I can give Governor Mark Sanford credit for, at least he didn't trot out his wife to stand next to him during his humiliation. But then, I understand she threw him out two weeks ago when she found about about his affair. Good for her.

While Governor Sanford seemed a very sympathic figure at his press conference yesterday with his tears and emotional plea for forgivness, the true victims of his selfish indulgence is his wife and four young sons. That is the real tragedy of this latest episode of soap opera that is the conservative Republican Party today. Where is their Christianity?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another Day Ends

As I was getting ready for my daily walk at the end of the day, I looked to the for horizon and saw this wonderful sight of the sun shining rays through the clouds. That's what I love about living where I do, out in the open. In Pennsylvania I lived in the middle of the woods, which has its advantages but one of the big disadvantages was that I never saw a sunset. Oh how I missed seeing sunsets. For the twenty five years I lived at the Crawford Road property the only way I could see a sunset was through a forest of trees.

What sold me on this property was its position to see sunsets. In November of 2005, as I was leaving Delaware, I stopped at this Ryan Homes development on the east side of Route 1 to check the available properties for sale. At the sales office I saw a corner lot on the map. I asked if I could see it. Jerry, the sales representative, told me how to get to it. It was about 5:30 pm. I had to rush to the lot before it got dark. As I arrived at the lot the sun was just setting. I was sold. The lot was in the perfect location to view sunsets. It was ideal.

I went back to Jerry, borrowed $50 from him to put as a down payment on the lot and thus began one of the greatest trials of my life, selling our home in Pennsylvania and building a new home in Delaware. That story will be a book someday. The whole ordeal of selling our home in Pennsylvania was the most traumatic thing to happen in my life, short of a terminal illness.

Now, three and a half years later, I'm settled in (albeit with a mortgage that won't be paid off until I'm 95 years old) and I'm loving this home. Today, looking at those rays of sun shining through the clouds, was just another verification that I made the right decision. I am supremely happy.

Car Repairs

It's late and I'm way past my bedtime but I did want to get this post in. Early this morning Bill and took a ride down to The Garage. A place I've been visiting a lot lately with my ten year old red Subaru Forester. My Check Engine light came on again. I figure I better get this checked out. Fearing the worst (that I would need a new catalytic converter) I turned the keys in at the front desk at The Garage (don't you just love that name for the garage that I go for automobile repairs?)

Half an hour later I got the verdict. I know I'm screwing this up but it had something to do with my spark plugs and the "knock"? Anyway, it wasn't the catalytic converter. I still have to put the car in for repairs but the cost will be a third less than I was anticipating. I take the buggy in tomorrow and drop it off to get it repaired. Then I'm ready for the next unexpected financial expense.
I have found one thing to be true since I've retired, expect the unexpected.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Missing My Monday Nights

This is the second Monday night I'm not working a the hotel. I don't work next Monday night either. I was asked to fore go these Monday nights so a co-worker could have the Fourth of July weekend off so she could spend time with her son before he ships out to Iraq.

I'm always willing to help and being flexible with my work schedule was one of the offers I made to my employer when I first applied for the job of part-time front desk clerk way back in April of 2007. I knew there was a need for flexibility for the position I was applying for. I found that out when I worked at the Hampton Inn as a part time night auditor back in 1998. I was frequently asked to fill in for my co-workers which I was glad to do.

This is the longest stretch of time that I'm not working at the hotel. By the time I go back to work on July 2nd I will have been away from the job for three weeks. The most I've been away before was a week and half. Even with that short layoff I noticed that my rhythm was off when I got back to work. Working the busy Fourth of July weekend should be interesting because it will be very busy that weekend.

Not working three weeks has also thrown of my rhythm at home. At first I was working Monday and Thursday nights, from 3 to 11 and every other weekend. One weekend I would work 7 to 3. Then I would have a weekend off and then work 3 to 11. That stopped several months ago. Now my hours have been cut back to only Monday nights because of the poor economy.

Working once or twice a week was the pefect schedule for me. I worked and then I had plenty of time off. I'm not at the point in my life when I want all of my time off. I feel like I'm without an anchor if I don't have a job to go to, if only part-time. I would never work full-time again. That is completely out of the picture. Working full-time at this time of my life I would feel trapped. No, working part-time is perfect for me. But, this three week layoff, it isn't working.

Well, one good thing about not working at the hotel, I don't have to apologize to the guests for all the rain we're having in Lower Slower (aka Sussex County, Delaware.) I just know the sun will be shining all five days when I'm working again. Murphy's Law.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day 2009

April 18, 1920 my Father was born in the hills of western North Carolina. His name was Isaac Walter Tipton. He was named after his maternal grandfather, Isaac Ledford Lewis. His middle name of "Walter" was taken from the doctor who delivered him. My grandmother named the middle name of most of her sons after the doctor who delivered them. My Father was born and brought up in an Appalachian community, or as it is more commonly known, "hillbilly country."

He and his parents and eight of his brothers moved to southeastern Pennsylvania in the late 1920's to seek a better way of life. The family was hired as migrant farm labor on my grandfather's brother-in-law fruit and vegetable farm near Unionville, Pennsylvania. Two more of his brothers were born in Pennsylvania, for a total of eleven Tipton boys to pick the fruits and vegetables on their Uncle Don Byrd's farm.

My father met my Mother when he was 19 years old (she was 16 years old.) It was love at first sight. They eloped and got married a few months after they first set eyes on one another. The year my Mother was to graduate from school, 1941, she instead delivered a fine and healthy baby boy. That fine and healthy baby boy is the writer of this blog. In subsequent years my parents produced two more children, my brothers Isaac, Jr. and John.

In August of 2000 my Father died from complications of lung cancer. He was a lifelong smoker and it finally caught up with him despite the many warnings from his doctor.

When I got the news of my Father's death I was shocked. He was a major force in my life and now he was gone. Hearing my sister-in-law tell me over the phone "Ronnie, Pop died last night", I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. All the air went out of me. I didn't immediately feel sadness, only a sense that my life would be forever different now that this towering and intimidating presence was gone forever from my life.

My Father and I were never close. I'm not ashamed to admit that nor am I proud to make that statement. It is just a fact. While I envied some of my classmates and friends who had close relationships with their fathers, I knew it was never to be with me. Sure, I would have liked to went to a ball game with my Father. He was a big Phillies fan. It never happened. I can still remember the pain of participating in high school activities like band, chorus or high school plays and being one of the few students who did not have a parent attend the event. My father didn't even attend my high school graduation despite the fact I was the first person in our family to graduate from high school. I could cite many more instances of his neglect and indifference to me but it would only be redundant. I felt that my Father wasn't interested in me.

I think the greatest hurt I ever felt was sometime after I had left the service (U.S. Army, 1960-1963.) My Mother casually mentioned to me one day "Pop was surprised that you made it though." I said "What? Made it through what?" She said "The Army." I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart. While I did have some initial problems in basic training (mainly due to a malfunction rifle which caused me not to qualify on the rifle range), it never once entered my mind that I wouldn't "make it" through the Army. I never debated it because the question never came up in my mind. As a matter of fact, once I got over my initial problems in basic training, I did quite well. I left my three year tour of duty with the U. S. Army with the rank of E-5 and had served 2 1/2 years in the Army Security Agency at the National Security Agency in Ft. Meade, Maryland. One month I was even selected soldier of the month. And my father didn't think I would "make it." I was very disappointed when I learned of his lack of confidence in me. I didn't know it went that deep.

Sometimes I'm surprised I have done as well as I have in life. I certainly didn't get any encouragement from my Father. In fact, he often told me that I was stupid and had a big nose. The one thing that was consistent on my report cards in grade school has "Lacks confidence." Gee, I wonder where that came from? It wasn't until I got away from home that I realized that I wasn't stupid and had some worth. I even found out that my nose wasn't all that big and some people even considered me attractive (remember, this was when I was young, not the old geezer I have become approaching my 70th year.) As the years rolled by I gradually gained more self confidence and lost my sometimes crippling shyness.

The purpose of this Father's Day blog posting is not to complain about my Father but to tell the reader what my dad was like. In many ways he was a good Father. By the way, we (my brothers and I) never called him "Dad." We called him "Pop." I don't know where that came from but that's what we all called him, including my Mother. My Father raised me and my brothers in poor but comfortable circumstances. We had a good childhood. No one was abused. Oh sure, we got the occasional whipping as did most kids who misbehaved themselves did back in the 40's and 50's before political correctness forbade parents using corporal punishment to discipline their children. My Father only punched me once and that was when I was 17 years old and wanted to borrow his car for my Senior Prom. He said "No" and I gave him some lip back. I got it right across the head with a closed fist for that remark. I remember I was cleaning the bathtub and almost fell in the empty tub when he whacked me. I decided then and there I would leave home as soon as possible and never be under his control again.

Over the years since I left home there were some tense times (like the time I came out about being gay), and other less dramatic events. I never argued with him again. If we had a difference I would walk away. I found out many years later, after his death, that he was quite proud of me and what I had done with my life. My Mother told me this. I asked her why didn't he ever tell me. She said "Pop couldn't say those things." Of course he never said he loved me either. Nor did I tell him I loved him until the last time I saw him alive, the Saturday night before he died.

My father was alone in his hospital room, hooked up to an IV and oxygen breathing apparatus to his nose. I was visiting him. I don't know what we were talking about but I do remember it was awkward as it always was all during my life whenever I talked to my Father. After awhile he had to get up to go to the bathroom (his pride wouldn't permit him to use the bedpan.) I turned away. After his finished (a Number One by the way), he sat on the edge of his bed looking out of the hospital window at the lights in the parking lot on this Saturday night. I remembered all the many previous Saturday nights when I lived in Center City Philadelphia, and seeing those Saturday night lights indicated that it was my time to go out clubbing at the gay bars. This was a different Saturday night. I was with my Pop near the end of his life. I knew it and I think he knew it. He was exhausted. I came up behind him as he sat on the edge of his bed and lightly kissed him on the back of his head and said "I love you Pop." He said nothing but he didn't push me away either. I think in his own way he wanted to tell me he loved me but was unable to do so. I understood.

I gathered my things up and left him alone in his hospital room still sitting on the edge of his bed. That following Monday morning as I unlocked the office door to the bank where I worked in Downingtown, and rushed in to answer the phone which was urgently ringing. I knew it was bad news. I picked up the phone and heard my sister-in-law say "Ronnie, Pop died last night. Could you come home and tell Mom?" I caught my breath and then said "Thanks Barbara. I'll be right home."

I called my boss and told him that my Father had died and I had to leave immediately. I arrived home and there in the kitchen she and my Father shared for over sixty years was my Mother, my two brothers and my sister-in-law. I broke the news to Mom. She nodded her head as if to say "It is finally over." She had been through a lot the past eight months with his health problems. She was near a nervous breakdown herself. His death was a relief in a way and yet she knew her life would never be the same again.

Every year at Father's Day I remember "Pop." I used to make him his favorite cake for his birthday. It was German Chocolate Cake. I haven't made it since. Whenever I see a jelly doughnut I think of him. Raspberry filled jelly doughnuts were his favorite. I used to bring him left over ones from the Hampton Inn where I worked. That was one of the few times I would get a smile from him. I treasured those moments.

I have to honestly say I miss my Father. There are times when I would like to talk to him. His interest in gardening was as great as mine. While he didn't have much of a formal education he was a very intelligent man. While he could be very selfish and mean spirited at times, other times he was very generous and funny. If you caught him in the right mood, your day was made.

Now that I am older and losing whatever boyish looks I use to have, more and more people are telling me "You look just like Ike." They tell me that not only do I physically look like my Father but that I have many of his same mannerisms like the way I leave my mouth open or grind my teeth. Even the way I walk. So there you go, the final irony. I'm turning into my Father. He would like that.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Keeping it Real

Recently, a friend and regular reader of my blog sent me an e-mail with a link to an article about "Secrets of Productive Bloggers." Basically what the article said was that most of the productive bloggers make it up sometimes. Well, initially I took some offense to being sent that article. Was she insinuating that I make up some of my blogs? I don't mean to be too defensive but I'm here to tell you that anything you read on my blog is not made up. It is the whole, unvarnished, gospel truth. To me it's too hard to make things up. Anything that appears in this blog is the real deal. There is nothing artificial in this blog.

Another friend of mine likes to write stories. He tells me he writes often about his childhood experiences but substitutes made up names for people and places. I asked "Why? Is someone going to sue you?" He says that John Updike did the same thing with his novels. Maybe that's what the famous writer John Updike did, but if I ever got around to writing my Great American Novel it will be with real names of people and places. Events would not be made up. There would be no exaggerations (like the author who got into trouble with Oprah Winfrey.) To me real life is so much more interesting and, sometimes unbelievable than anything we can make up.

Such is the case with my daily blog. Of course there are things I cannot write about out of respect for privacy of my friends and relatives. I don't post that information on my blog. Once I did about a good friend of mine who is slipping into dementia but I was reminded by another friend that I wasn't being fair by making such information public. I agreed with him and deleted that blog posting. Occasionally I slip into revealing too much personal information (such as my recent visit to my Mother in Pennsylvania) but I usually catch it before I publish the posting.

What the readers of my blog see is all real events in my life. They may be interesting to some people and other people may find them a snooze fest. I can't do anything about that. In fact, I'm not even concerned with those who don't find my blog interesting. I write my blog for my own benefit as a form of therapy. Of course I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog who find it interesting. Who wouldn't like that compliment. I'm no different than most people, I appreciate attention for my efforts. I thoroughly enjoy writing my blog. I don't feel my day would be complete without my blog posting.

From a young age I've always liked to write. As a teenager I had at one point sixty seven pen pals. What did I write in my letters? Probably much of what I write in my blog now, events in my daily life and how I react to them. In fact, I still have some of the letters I received from my pen pals of over 50 years ago. I may publish some of them in future blog postings. I don't know if I have any of my old letters though. If I do, it would have been one that was returned for a bad address. It would be interesting to see what I wrote at that time.

There are some pre blog postings that I have lying around though. Over the years I have kept journals off and on. One such journal I found recently. Reading it now, it sounds somewhat immature but hey, that's where I was back in January 1, 1986. I offer no apologies nor do I make excuses. It is what it is. Enjoy:

January 1, 1986

A bad day. I feel on the edge of losing control. I bore everybody - nobody is interested in me.

I must make a resolution to concentrate on my work and stop spending my time on unproductive activity.

I am my own best friend. I am on the threshold of achieving what I want. Can't let carelessness prevent me from obtaining my goals.

The ad isn't working. Just a bunch of loser(s) that I'm wasting my time, stamps, and telephone bills on. But I don't know what else to do. The bars are not a viable alternative, I go crazy in them. Joe is supremely indifferent to me. The arrogance (or is it immaturity) of youth. Forget that.

Perhaps I should just keep my mouth shut and go about rob-like ways - that seems to please jut about everyone (except me, and after all what do I matter?)

Time for a retreat Ron, at least temporarily. Go to it Ron!

Reading over this entry now twenty three years later it sounds like I was feeling mightily sorry for myself. I don't remember who this "Joe" was so he couldn't of been that important. The "ad" I referred to was a personal ad in the Philadelphia Gay News. I could write a book about that experience. Talk about people crawling out from under a rock.

One thing is for sure, I don't feel sorry for myself like I did back then. I have a different perspective on life now that I am older (approaching my seventh decade on this earth.) I'm thankful that I'm in reasonably good health, I am somewhat financially secure and I have a small but loyal and faithful circle of friends who like me just the way I am. All things considered, I am a pretty lucky guy. Still, it is interesting to go back in time and visit that other guy I call "Ron." What an interesting life he led.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bird Rescue

About an hour ago while I was doing some yard work out back I noticed that the Purple Martin house was very quiet. That usually indicates a problem. I looked up and saw the Taliban House Sparrow barrel out of one of the gourds. He’s back. I went over and pulled down the Purple Martin house (as I have done many times this spring) and checked all the apartments. All apartments had either baby Purple Martins, eggs, and one had Mom sitting on her eggs (she wasn’t disturbed by me.)

In one of the apartments one egg was in the forefront. I felt it and it was cold. The nest in the back held four warm eggs. I took the cold egg out. I don’t know how it got to the front of the apartment but it obviously was abandoned.

I checked both gourds. One held a neat nest which was obviously the former swallow nest. The other gourd was stuffed with just about every kind of weed and trash that you can imagine. That’s a Taliban Sparrow nest. I checked it for eggs. None were there…..yet. I left the nest. I’ll wait until Taliban lays its eggs then I’ll get rid of the whole thing. That seems to be the only way to keep this varmint under control and out of my bird boxes and birdhouses.

As I was raising the Purple Martin house, I noticed a broken egg at my feet. Then I noticed a live, naked baby Purple Martin on the ground. I have no idea how it got there. Maybe it was one of those eggs hatched near the entrance to one of the apartments. A week ago I noticed there were two eggs at the front of one of the apartments but I left them there. Thank goodness I didn’t step on this defenseless baby Purple Martin. It surely would have died if left on the ground. The poor thing didn’t even have its eyes opened yet.

I gently lifted it up and put it in the nest with the other naked baby Purple Martins. I’m not sure if it belonged in that nest. If not, I hope that the mama Purple Martin doesn’t mind an extra mouth to feed.

I didn’t think to take a picture because I was anxious to get the baby Purple Martin back into the safety of a nest. Actually, I wouldn’t want to post a picture anyway of the poor thing lying on the ground. I did take some pictures of the activity around the Purple Martin house after my rescue, one of which I posted on this blog.

Whenever I rescue one of nature’s critters in harm’s way, I feel a complete sense of fulfillment. There were a lot of other things that happened today, some good, some bad. But the day ended well. My day is complete.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Then There Were Four

First thing when I returned home from Pennsylvania yesterday was check my bluebird box. Ah ha! As I suspected, it now contained four perfect blue oval eggs. The second batch of bluebirds is on its way!

The Purple Martin house is fully occupied with Purple Martins raising their young. One of the other bluebird houses is occupied by a swallow and her four perfect white eggs, which will hatch any day now. The house sparrows have found nesting places on nearby properties because I see them all around. I saw several dozen flitting about in their normal raucous activity as I took my walk a few nights ago. All is well in the bird habitat in our little corner of the world here on the Delmarva peninsula.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Golden Anniversary Class of 1959

The DHS Class of 1959 50th Anniversary Portrait

Last night at this time I was sitting on a folding chair in the middle of Walter E. Kottmeyer Stadium in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. The occasion was the Commencement Program for the Downingtown High School West Campus class of 2009. I, along with seven of my classmates from the Downingtown High School Class of 1959 were the Golden Anniversary Class and guests of the current DHS Class of 2009.

Tonight as I type this blog, another ceremony is being conducted for the Downingtown High School East Campus class of 2009. Although I was invited (and I said I would attend), I opted out. While I enjoyed last night's ceremonies, I didn't want to repeat sitting out in the cold breezy evening with only my yellow shirt for warmth. If I was smart I would have worn a suit or a sport jacket (which I don't possess) but I thought the evening would be warm. I actually debated wearing a short sleeve shirt of a jersey. Boy I'm glad I didn't make that decision.

Instead, I journeyed back to my lovely home in the wide open spaces of southern Delaware. Am I ever glad to be home! I like Pennsylvania but it's just too crowded for me at this time of my life. Too much traffic on the roads (including a lot of school buses) and too many winding roads. I'm very tired right now so I'll make this a brief blog entry. I have many more pictures to post and a few videos.

The trip was well worth it for the once in a lifetime experience. I'm glad I went.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Class of 2009

Well, here I am at my Mom’s in Pennsylvania. I arrived this afternoon to attend tonight’s Downingtown High School’s class of 2009. Each year the graduating class invites the class celebrating their 50th anniversary as guests to their graduation. I am a member of the DHS Class of 1959 of fifty long years ago. It is a cliche but it hardly seems like fifty years. I know that all of the members of tonight’s graduating class don’t realize how fast the next fifty years will fly by. They will find out, oh will they ever.

I wasn’t sure how to dress for tonight’s occasion. So I wore tan Docker pants and a yellow Eddie Bauer shirt. I considered a suit but thought that would be too much clothing on a summer night. Oh was I ever wrong. First of all, tonight was overcast (thank goodness it didn’t rain because we were sitting outside in a football stadium) and chilly. The temperature hovered around 58 degrees. Five members of my class also attended tonight’s ceremonies and were dressed in suits. I told them I was retired and I don’t wear suits or ties anymore. Still, I felt underdressed. Which is a shame because people do judge and react to you on appearance and I do look so good in a suit and a tie.

I took many pictures and a few videos of the occasion which I will post on future blogs, Facebook and You Tube. I can’t post one of my original pictures on this blob posting because I’m at my Mom’s computer and she doesn’t have my camera’s software for downloading my pictures.

As members of the 50th anniversary class we wore ribboned sashes. Yes, I have a picture of two of me in a sash. That is one thing I never had draped over me before, a beauty queen type sash. There is always time for a first, even at this late stage of my life.

I must say that we were treated very kindly and with respect for the organizers of the event, especially the superintendent of schools. She corrected the program that had my name as "Walter Tipton" (where did they get that?) instead of my name "Ronald Walter Tipton." She wanted to correct my name because she would be announcing it at the ceremony which she did. I was very proud to stand up when she called my name (along with the other members of our small contingent of the DHS Class of 1959.) I thought we might be shunted aside like some old relic but they actually did treat us with some deference. They even supplied us with a bus from the cafeteria where the reception was to the football field, the site of the graduation ceremonies. We really didn’t need a bus. It was only a little over a block away. But, it was a nice gesture.

Tonight’s graduation ceremony was for Downingtown West Campus. I was also invited to the graduation ceremony for the Downingtown East Campus (held tomorrow night at the same location) but I think I’ll pass on that one. While tonight’s ceremony was fun and interesting, once is enough. I have no desire to sit through another two hours valedictorian speeches and of award and diploma presentations.

After the graduation diplomas were all handed out and the mortar board caps were tossed in the air with a mighty cheer, we 50th anniversary Old Folk exited the field first through an honor guard of students of this year’s graduating class. Passing all those young faces that bore nary a wrinkle I couldn’t help myself when I said to one astonished redheaded young man "See you in fifty years!" Upon hearing that his face broke into the broadest smile I’ve ever seen. Oh young man if you only knew what you’re in for. He doesn’t know that the next fifty years will go by so much faster than the last twelve. But he will find out then he will be standing in the spot I stood in tonight. Perhaps he will remember me and then understand what I meant when I said "See you in fifty years!"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Ah One and Ah Two!

My resident bluebirds have begun their second batch. Yesterday the first egg was laid. This morning another pastel blue egg was added to their neat nest. By the time I get back Thursday I expect to see two more additional eggs in their nest.

Tomorrow I'm going to Pennsylvania to visit my Mom and attend the graduation ceremonies for the DHS Class of 2009 as a 50th anniversary guest. In a way I really don't want to go because I love my home here in Delaware so much I hate to miss even one day. But I do have some business to take care of in Pennsylvania and I would like to attend that graduation ceremony. There is only one time that I have the opportunity to be a 50th anniversary guest (DHS Class of 1959) and I don't want to pass up the opportunity. I'll take pictures and maybe even a video or two. We'll see. I just hope this isn't a bust and I'm viewed as some ancient fossil. Actually, I don't care if I am. I just think it will be interesting. Of course I'll probably be the only member of my class who attends.

This morning I found a new plant place. It's called the Sandy Hill Greenhouse and it's on Sand Hill road, about ten miles from where I live. I loved it. This nursery is my new plant center. Mark the owner was talking to me and he said this is his second year in the retail business. Prior to this he was in the wholesale business but decided to make a go of it in the retail trade. He said so far this year business has been slow but I predict he will do very well. He has a big nursery with a large selection and all his plants are healthy and vibrant. I told him his business will build by word of mouth. When we Plant People find a good place we put the Word out. I was advised by my friend MJ in Milton to check out this garden center. Thank you MJ!

I took the drive this morning to see if my check engine light came on again. It did. In fact it was on the whole time I went up and came back. When I got home I called my garage and told them of the problem. They told me to bring the car down. I go out to my car, turn it on and the check engine light isn't on now. This is going to drive me crazy. So I called The Garage (yes folks, that is the name of my garage) and told them that the check engine light wasn't on now. Hmmm.

There always seems to be some little nagging thing like this to get on my nerves. I'm going to have to put this out of my mind and enjoy my trip to PA tomorrow. What's good about my trips to PA is that I always come back here, my beautiful home in Delaware. To me each day I spend here is like a vacation day. I love it!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Video of Bill and swallows mowing lawn

Bill mowing the lawn this afternoon with the swallows following him look for a meal.

Lazy Sunday

"Stormy", my friend Big Bob's cat

Today is another overcast day on the Delmarva Peninsula. No complaints from this quarter. After the past two years of almost no rain during the spring and summer seasons, the farmers of the area are finally getting a decent growing season. Everything is so fresh and green. While it would be nice to have more sun, this isn’t a bad trade off. We have still gotten enough sunny days for my tan to return.

My tan, that’s ironic. All the years I laid out in the sun trying to get a tan and it never worked. I never lay out in the sun now and in fact, try to avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, lest I reactivate my precancerous skin cancer condition. I have yet to put my toes in the sands of any of the beaches here on the eastern coastal shore. The closest I came to a beach was last year when my brother John visited me from Greenville, South Carolina and he walked the beach (in his brown dress shoes yet.) I stood on the boardwalk and watched him. Now I’m covered in a healthy tan all summer long without any effort. I never got a tan like this living in the middle of the woods in Pennsylvania. It must be the ocean breeze that produces such a tan.

I haven’t taken my car out for a ride yet today, but I’ve been assured by a couple of friends that my check engine light was probably caused by me not screwing on my gas cap tight enough. The check engine light came on immediately after I got gas yesterday. In fact, even before I turned on my ignition, I was aware that I had not tightened the gas cap as much as I usually do (four turns.) Both of my friends said they had the same thing happen to them. They said they took off their gas cap and put it back on again but that it did take a few days for the check engine light to go of. I’m hoping that is my situation. I can’t afford any more big expenses at this time. It seems as if once I get my spending under control, some unexpected emergency always pops up. The unexpected seems to be expected.

This morning I got up early to make my favorite Quiche Lorraine. I like my version best. I’ll have this for lunch all week. I also baked some cinnamon muffins for Bill’s sweet tooth. Actually, my sweet tooth too but I’ll be gone for at least two days this week visiting my Mom in Pennsylvania and attending a couple of graduation ceremonies. Yes, I will go up to PA with my check engine light on. I’m confident that my gas cap caused the problem. If not, well I have Triple A. I’ve had it since 1982 and never used it. If my buggy does conk out I hope it’s not in the middle of Newark, Delaware. Now wouldn’t that be an adventure?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Check Engine

The actual picture of the message on my dashboard

Right after I gassed up at the Wawa in Milford, I turned the ignition to my 98 Subaru Forester on and I immediately noticed something new on my car’s display behind the steering wheel. Two letter in orange glow that said “Check Engine.” Gee, I wonder what that means. Actually, I know what that means. That means I’ll probably have to put out some more bucks on my faithful Subaru. I guess I should count by blessings because I have over 113,000 miles on my car. This is the absolute first time I’ve seen that message. To be honest, it’s a message that I didn’t want to see.

Reading my Subaru handbook, it tells me there are two possible reasons for the “Check Engine” message. One is the emission controller is shot (catalytic converter.) The other is that I didn’t put my gas cap on correctly and that the “Check Engine” message will go away all by itself after a few more drives. I’m hoping for the second reason. I don’t need any more problems right now and I definitely don’t need to put out more bucks for car repairs. A few months ago I spent over $1,700 to a new air pump, rear window shield motor and some other motor parts that were starting to wear out. My old buggy has been riding smooth since then. I was sort of hoping to get at least 250,000 miles out of this car.

So, I will take my friend out for a couple of rides tomorrow and hope the “Check Engine” light goes out by its self. One thing in my favor, the light came on immediately after I put the gas cap on it. I remember that I didn’t tighten it up all the way. That was before I saw the “Check Engine” light. But then, about a month ago I lost my gas cap and the “Check Engine” light didn’t come on. Maybe it has something to do with the way I tightened it. I hope so. I was planning on going to Pennsylvania on Monday (or Tuesday) to visit my Mother and to attend two graduation ceremonies of the Downingtown High School Class of 2009 as a class 50th anniversary guest. But I can’t see myself driving the 125 miles to PA with my “Check Engine” light on. I’ll be looking at it all the way up to PA.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Thoughts on a Late Spring Night

Ronald Walter Tipton, Downingtown High School Class of 1959

After a good day at work, things fell apart at home this evening. Bill came in from mowing the lawn (which has to do every three days with the weather we're having down here on the Delmarva peninsula) and I told him he was "stinking." I guess I could of been more diplomatic (you think?) but I apparently wasn't thinking. Why Bill got mad was that he had just taken a shower but apparently was wearing the same shirt that we was wearing when he mowed the lawn. He wasn't really "stinking" but did smell of sweat. As I age I am losing some of my faculties but one that I have not lost is my sense of smell, much to Bill's displeasure. I apologized to Bill but he's mad and probably won't speak to me for a while. That's how he deals with his anger. I sometimes lose my temper but I quickly get over it. Bill is different. I hurt his feelings and it will take him a while to get over it.

This episode tonight just shows you how fast things can go awry after a good day. I was working today filling in for a co-worker who had other plans. I am not scheduled to go back to work until the Fourth of July weekend at which time I'll be working three days in a row. Normally I work every Monday night but another co-worker wants the Fourth of July weekend off so she can be at her son's graduation from infantry school and see him one more time before he ships out to Iraq. This means I have the next three weeks off.

Next week I was planning on going to Pennsylvania to see my Mom and attend the Downingtown High School Class of 2009 as a special guest. Each year the Downingtown High School invites members of the 50th anniversary class of Downingtown High School as guests to their graduation ceremonies. It doesn't seem like that long ago that I graduated but it has been half a century. Hard to believe. I'm not sure that if the kids of today's graduating class is even interested in seeing old fogies like us but I'll go anyway. It will be interesting for me. The picture on this blog is of yours truly 50 years ago when I graduated from Downingtown High School. My Mom took the picture. I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school (also the first to graduate from college.) This is the only picture of me at my graduation. So young and innocent. So much ahead of me. So fast the time has went by. And now I'm here, checking the weather forecast for next week because I don't want to make the 2 1/2 drive to Downingtown, Pennsylvania in the rain.

A few years ago I decided I don't like to drive in the dark. Now I avoid driving in the rain. I doubt if any of the members of the Downingtown High School graduating class has even given one moment's thought to those self-imposed driving restrictions. If anyone asks me to speak, I'll tell them this is just one of the "benefits" they can look forward too when they are guests at the DHS graduation of 2059. One thing is for sure, I won't be there.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New Bluebird Nest!

New bluebird nest

Purple Martin eggs

We have a new bluebird nest! After a delay of about ten days, mama and papa bluebird have built a new, neat nest. The bluebird pair is apparently the same because the Biggest Bluebird I’ve Ever Seen, is again perched atop the bluebird box. Of course there were a few forays into the bluebird box by the errant house sparrow but the Biggest Bluebird I’ve Ever Seen quickly took care of that unwelcomed intruder.

In a day or two I expect to see four small blue bluebird (what other color would they be?) eggs in the new bluebird nest. In about a month the new baby bluebirds will be grown and out exploring their new world just like their sisters and brothers are doing now.

The swallows have built a nest in one of the other bluebird houses. Their pure white eggs are nestled in another neat nest lined with white feathers. It’s interesting that each bird has its own unique nest. The Purple Martins don’t build so much of a nest as they line the bottom of their aluminum compartment with broad pieces of straw. The Purple Martin eggs are also pure white. Only the house sparrow eggs are a tan with brown dots. The house sparrow nests are a mess. Everything and anything is in their nest from trash to straw and plastic.

The Purple Martins quickly claimed the last compartment in their tall six apartment birdhouse when I removed the sparrow nest on Monday. From what I can tell the Purple Martins have already raised one batch of young ones and are now working on the second batch. I think the Purple Martins only raise two batches of young ones before they leave for the season.

This year, for the first time, both of the gourds hanging beneath the Purple Martin house area occupied by swallows. One gourd was occupied by another Taliban sparrow but it only took two cleanings to get that sparrow out of there. I think the house sparrows took up in my neighbor’s birdhouses.

Each evening Bill and I sit out on our deck and watch the Purple Martins sort out their pecking order. We enjoy their graceful swooping of the swallows over our back yard looking for a meal. The bluebirds seem to be more preoccupied with guarding their nest and feeding their young. They make no noise at all whereas the Purple Martins are always squawking about something. We will miss them all when they leave later this summer. Then the quiet in our backyard will be deafening.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Plants or Travel?

Me at Pepper's greenhouse in Milton, Delaware

One of my two new raised flower beds

Yes, I purchased more plants today. I wasn’t planning on buying more plants but when Bill and I were at Lowe’s this morning, I saw forsythia plants at a price that I couldn’t pass up. After I purchased the forsythia plants, the floodgates were opened to filling my cart. I couldn’t leave Lowe’s with a half empty cart. I also purchased a variegated barberry bush, a burning bush and a couple sage herb plants.

Then what did I do when I got home? I unloaded the plants and then took off to Peppers to buy some annuals for color in my new raised flower beds. So I’m thinking “Ron, aren’t you spending a lot of money on plants?” I answer “Yes, you are Ron.” Then I asked myself “What would you rather do – spend a couple thousand dollars taking a trip or spend a couple hundred dollars stuffing my backyard with plants?” The answer was easy, the plants won.

I haven’t traveled since 9/11. The last time I took a plane, I didn’t have to take my shoes off before I boarded the plane. I don’t want to take my shoes off to board a plane. In fact, I don’t plan to fly again until they get rid of that ridiculous requirement. It’s phony. It's a feelgood measure by those in charge of security to convince themselves they're doing something. How many potential shoe bombers have they caught? No thank you, I'm not going to subject myself to air travel these days.

Travel these days is such a hassle. While I would love to visit my brother and his wife in South Carolina I can’t bring myself to jump through all the hoops it would take me to visit them. I would love to visit Johnson City, Tennessee and the western North Carolina mountains where my father spent the first 10 years of his life. I haven’t been there since 1996. To visit would be so difficult. I would have to either drive my car or connect with a series of flights and rent a car. I just don’t have the energy. What I do have the energy for is working on my backyard to create a natural habitat for the local birds and insects. I get immense satisfaction from working in my backyard. I love listening to the Purple Martins training their new young to fly. I love seeing the swallows gracefully swooping down on my backyard scooping up mosquitoes. What I don’t like is the stress and aggravation of travel. While I would enjoy seeing the people I visit, getting there is the problem. I also have to consider the expense. Now that my hours have been cut back to once a week, I don’t have those extra discretionary funds. My choice is obvious.

So, I will continue to look for that spot in my backyard that needs just the right plant. Gardening is my joy and passion. It’s better than a backyard pool.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Backyard Update

Swallow peeking at me from her nest.

Swallow eggs in birdhouse.

Here is the latest on my backyard bird sanctuary (except for the house sparrows.) The bluebirds have built another nest in the same bluebird house. The first crop of baby bluebirds are now on their own, now it’s time for the second batch of new bluebirds. Last year the bluebirds also raised two batches in this same bluebird box. I'm happy to say it looks like a repeat performance this year.

This year for the first time, swallows have taken up in one of the other bluebird houses. Their pictures are featured on this blog. There is also a swallow nest in one of the two gourds hanging from the Purple Martin house. Last year the only swallow nests were on my neighbor’s porch. They built a mud nest right over his front door. While it was cute and interesting to watch the baby swallows grow, the mess they made wasn’t too cute for my neighbor’s company. This year my neighbor took down the hook the swallows built their nest and moved it over to the side of his porch where the mess wasn’t so noticeable.

One house sparrow pair continues to build a nest in one of the Purple Martin apartments. I cleaned out that last nest about an hour ago and I don’t expect to see them back. I checked the five other apartments and they all have the white Purple Martin eggs in their modest nests. One of the apartments was formerly the house sparrow nest that I had taken out at least a half a dozen times before the Taliban Sparrows gave up. I don't like cleaning out their nest and I hope this is the last time I have to do it. My backyard bird habitat is for native bird species only.

This year we’re getting plenty of rain unlike the past two years in which we watched the farmers’ fields of corn burn up from lack of rain. With all the rain we also have plenty of mosquitoes. I’m food for the mosquitoes but the mosquitoes are food for the birds in my backyard. My backyard is ecology 101 at work. As I type this I hear thunder rumbling in the distant sky now. More rain, just what we need.

My goal when I moved to our new home in Delaware was to create a backyard habitat as a sanctuary for the local natives species birds. Yesterday Bill and I finished putting in the two remaining raised flower beds that border the edge of our acre of backyard. Anchoring each flower bed is a bird bath. The bird baths are probably the main attraction for the birds in our backyard. Now that I have two new raised flower beds, I’ll have to get two more bird baths. That brings the count of bird baths in our backyard to eight. One can never have enough bird baths in their back yard. Believe me, they’re all used. On especially hot days I have to change the water several times. No complaints from this quarter though, it is a labor of love. But there are a lot of dirty birds out there.

Monday, June 08, 2009

No More Blizzards

The past couple of weeks Bill and I started a new habit of visiting the local Dairy Queen in Lewes and ordering a Blizzard. To be specific, we ordered a Banana Cream Pie Blizzard. After yesterday we decided to end that short lived habit. Sure, the Bizzards are good. In fact they are delicious. However, they must have about 5,000 calories because after we devour one of these Blizzards we’re not hungry for at least the next 24 hours. I guess that's what happens when you receive your minimum caloric requirements for the next week.

It was a nice little tradition while it lasted. We got out of the house, took a pleasant ride through downtown Lewes and slurped our Blizzards watching the fisherman and boaters play at Breakwater Junction in Lewes. We can still take our ride and watch the scenery in Lewes, but we will have to do it sans the calorie laden Blizzard.

Yesterday was a wonderful sunny mild day here in southern Delaware. Bill and I headed off early for Loew’s to pick up ten bags of dirt for my new raised flower beds. We will have to go again this morning, ten bags weren’t enough. While I love planting and tending my raised flower beds. It is my favorite outside activity. But I have to face the fact that I’m just too old to be lifting these 40 and 50 pound bags. Right now I am aching all over. I feel like someone beat me up. I feel like the first day after I joined my high school track team and was sore from the first time calisthenics. I’m sore but it is a good sore. Maybe I should be flinging around more 50 pound bags of dead weight dirt to get myself in shape. But on second thought maybe I have to face the fact that I’m no longer a 17 year old getting in shape. My shape has long since left. The strength just isn’t there anymore. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t in shape anymore.

So, it’s off to Loew’s to pick up two more 50 pound bags of Miracle Grow potting soil, bring it back here, struggle mightily to distribute it over the new raised flower beds and then collapse onto my bed. No more heavy lifting for this old gardener. From here on out it’s planting and weeding for this old man...............and no more Blizzards.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Good Neighbors

As I was leaving for my daily walk through the Oyster Rocks development Bill asked me “Don’t you want to take your camera?” Anyone who knows me personally knows that I almost always have my Canon Powershot A560 digital camera strapped across my chest. It was late and would be dark soon and I didn’t think there would be many opportunities to take any pictures. But, as I have learned from past experience, that one time that I didn’t take the camera with me was the one time an opportunity presented itself for a unique picture. I asked him to get my camera for me.

Bill got my camera and handed it to me as I exited our garage to being my daily walk. As I walk down our driveway who do I see but my neighbor Bob walking his dog with his house guest for the weekend. As Bob introduced me to his friend (Gene), I asked if I could take their picture. I told Bob this would be the “June” picture of the photo calendar I have made every year as gifts to my friends. Bob and his friend Gene graciously posed for the picture featured on this blog. Oh yes, Bob’s dog (actually his wife’s dog) Heidi also graciously consented to having her picture taken. Actually, she didn't have a choice.

This friendly neighborly interaction tonight is just another reason I love where I live. In Pennsylvania we had a big house and a lot of land (7 acres) but the neighbors were at best indifferent and sometimes hostile. That has not been our experience with our neighbors here in Delaware. Bob and his wife are also retired. They moved her from New Jersey to escape the high taxes and enjoy the good life near the ocean. Bob is an avid fisherman and his wife loves the beach. We all love the relaxed lifestyle (and the low taxes.)

Earlier Bob and Bill (my partner) were discussing how they were going to put up a decorative fence around the very ugly transformer that borders our joint property. I cannot imagine having a conversation like that with my neighbors in Pennsylvania. Maybe having good neighbors is just the luck of the draw. If that is the case, then I won when I moved to Delaware. Good neighbors, something I will never take for granted and something for which I am very thankful that I have here in this wonderful state of Delaware.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Reflections on a Rainy Friday Afternoon

Yesterday was cloudy. Today a gentle rain falls. While the rain is good for the local farmers it isn’t helping my energy level to do something around this house. Gray skies and rain has a way of doing that to my mood. While I like to hear the rainfall on the side of my house and watch the rivulets of water running down my windows, it doesn’t encourage me to attack my storage room downstairs in the basement and finish unpacking the boxes I moved down here in November 2006. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, but I still have unpacked boxes from our move from Pennsylvania almost 2 ½ years ago. I have to wait for the mood to hit me. That hasn’t happened yet.

I don’t have to go to work at the hotel until Monday so I have the whole weekend off. Unfortunately, rain is forecast for the next five days. Bill and I just about have the two new raised flowerbeds ready to be filled in with dirt. We will have to put that on hold until clear skies appear again over our southern Delaware skies. I also work next Friday at the hotel then I’m off until the Fourth of July weekend in which I work those three days in a row. That means I’m off a whole three weeks! I would love to visit my brother in South Carolina and take a swing up to my dad’s roots in the hills of western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee, near Johnson City, Tennessee. However, I don’t have the money for such a trip nor the energy. I think at 67 I am beginning to wear out.

Yesterday I called my Aunt Mabel who is 87 years old. She’s not doing well. I remember something she told me years ago. She said she knew she was getting old when she was 72. She said that was when she realized she didn’t have the boundless energy she had all of her life prior to that year. My Mother said something similar around the same age. After hoeing eight rows of corn in my Dad’s vegetable garden, she told me “Ronnie, I just can’t do this anymore.” I now understand whereof my aunt and Mother speak. Yesterday I put in a good two hours digging up the area for the two new raised flower beds. It just about killed me. I took a two hour afternoon nap to recoup my strength. This is scary because I’m only 67. There was a time when I thought 40 was old. Of course that’s when I was 22 years old. Now that I’m an Old Geezer I think 67 is young. Ha! Actually I don’t feel bad about getting old but there definitely are more aches and pains now that I’m approaching my eighth decade on this earth.

Not to change the subject, but I will. The bluebirds haven’t set up their new household yet but I think that is because the bluebird parents are still looking after their previous batch. Yesterday afternoon I saw several bluebirds flying around my neighbor’s house. However, as the picture on this blog attests, the Big Bluebird is sitting atop the bluebird house. He has been chasing away all potential tenants such as the Taliband House Sparrow and swallows. I predict within two weeks a new bluebird nest will be full of five tiny blue eggs. This is one my great joys of living where I do so I can have a backyard habitat to provide a safe and secure nesting location for the bluebirds.

Yesterday I pulled down the Purple Martin house to check to make sure there weren’t any dead baby Purple Martins like I found last year. Two of the apartments had baby Purple Martins. They were so quiet when I open the front door to their apartment. The other apartments had nesting material but were empty of baby Purple Martins. As I suspected, those young Purple Martins had already taken wing. It’s interesting to see them learn to fly. At first they venture out only a few feet before they fly back to the Purple Martin house. Eventually, they soar higher and further out from the house until they’re just a speck in the distance. I don’t know how many Purple Martin batches there are but I do know they make the back yard come alive with their lively cacophony of noise.

The rain is falling against the window like it does in the movies. This is a good time to snuggle up to a good book in my bed and drift off to a Friday afternoon nap. Life is good in southern Delaware, even when it rains.

The Gently Falling Rain

It is near midnight, the rain is falling gently outside and I sit at my computer typing my blog for the day. Earlier today I was complaining about the cloudy and rainy weather but I take that back now. Sure, Bill has to mow the lawn every three days now but this rain is wonderful for the area farmers. Since we moved to Delaware in November of 2006, the area has suffered from a drought. It was so sad the last two summers to see fields of corn withering and drying up because of the lack of rain. Not so this year. The corn, soybeans and wheat are flourishing. And, as Miss Martha says, “That is a good thing.”

Even so, the gray skies this morning sapped all the energy out of me. I wanted to finish up building my two raised flower beds that border our backyard. Instead, I watch one of the DVD’s I had from Netflix. It was called “Yossi and Jagger.” The story was about two gay Israeli soldiers. The movie was interesting but it ended in death and sadness. I’m ready to see a gay themed movie that has a happy ending. Aren’t we there yet?

Later in the morning Bill and I visited our friend Bob in Milton. I love checking out his neighbor’s garden. She has a real eye for garden design and I’m always anxious to see what new plants she has in her garden. I’ll have to take pictures and feature them on this blog. She also has a small pond. Seeing her pond brings back memories of my three ponds I had at our home in Pennsylvania. I wish I could have a pond where we’re living now but that would not be practical. We live out in the open with sun all day (when the sun is out of course.) A pond should be partially shaded. If not, the pond will quickly develop algae which will kill the fish. Another problem is that fish in the pond would be totally exposed to predators, like cranes. Even in Pennsylvania I had a visit from a crane which just about wiped out my fish. I haven’t completely given up on the idea of a pond but not at this time. A garden is not complete until it has the gentle sounds of a pond waterfall.

I called my Aunt Mabel this morning. She recently returned from the hospital and nursing home. She’s not doing well. She will be 88 years old this year. I tried to call my Mom but couldn’t get hold of her. I found out later from my sister-in-law that she had a 10:30 am doctor’s appointment. I’ll try calling again tomorrow. My Mom and Aunt Mable worked for over 20 years in the frozen foods division of Pepperridge Farms. They worked in layer cake on the conveyor belt. They didn’t actually work ON the conveyor belt but they made sure the cakes were properly iced. Yes, they did a Lucy and Ethel thing with the speeded up conveyor belt. Oh the stories they tell. My Aunt Mabel reminded me of the trip I took her to Disney World in 2001. I had won a guest service award from the Hampton Inn where I worked the front desk. One of my prizes was a trip for two for four days at Disney World. I couldn’t get anybody to go with me until my Mother suggested my Aunt Mabel. I’m glad we made the trip because it was her last trip before her health started to fail her. I’m glad I asked her. We had a good time and memories to last us a lifetime.

Lately it seems that so many of my friends and relatives are facing health issues. This is just another reminder to me to appreciate every day I have on this good earth, rain or shine.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Three B's

Bob, Bob and Bill, are the Three B’s I had dinner with last night. I had to redeem myself from the Dinner Disaster of last week with Bill, Bob and Jay. Dinner last night was a success. The only missing ingredient was our friend Jay, who returned to his home in Landisville, Pennsylvania. I’ll make it up to him the next time he drives his new Subaru Imprezza through the flat coastal plain that is Sussex County, Delaware.

The menu was very simple last night – Swiss steak, Smashed Potatoes, and salad. For dessert we had Hawaiian Wedding cake. My Swiss steak recipe is a longtime staple of mine. I measure nothing when preparing this recipe. It’s a little different each time but always good. Last night was no exception.

As is always the case with a gathering of old friends, it was a night of good conversation and gentle teasing camaraderie. Sometimes it is best to have a meal at home instead of fighting traffic to get to a restaurant to face uncertain service and a roll of the dice for food quality. The only thing certain with dining out in the Rehoboth Beach area is that it’s going to cost you a lot. That is my great disappointment about living in this area of southern Delaware, the lack of reasonably priced good restaurants. They just aren’t here.

That said, last night was an enjoyable repast and we will have to do it again soon. As for today, I’m off to my dentist in Dover for a teeth cleaning. I can hardly wait.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dinner Disaster

Last week I had a few friends over for dinner. It was a disaster. Here is what happened. I wasn’t really in the mood for preparing a big dinner. I was more in the mood to do yard work because it was such a beautiful day outside. So, I got sloppy. I decided to make Fettuccine Alfredo. My first mistake was I didn’t cook the fettuccine long enough. They were like rubber bands. I should have set the timer so I would know when the pasta was done. I don’t think I have ever set a timer on cooking pasta. I usually check by eye. This time it didn’t work.

My second mistake was that I didn’t have heavy whipping cream. I thought I could get by with using half and half. Well folks, half and half had the effect of making milk soup. Yes folks, I made rubber bands with milk soup. But, I didn’t think my company would notice. Bill, my partner, is like Mikey…..he can eat anything. Our two guests are not known as gourmands.

First up was the salad. That went well enough. Next up was the Fettuccine Alfredo. The first sign of trouble was that everyone had trouble getting the little rubbery things out of the bowl. Those noodles wanted to go everywhere but the plate for which they were intended. Bill wanted a knife to cut the noodles so he could spoon them out of the bowl. I told him that wasn’t proper protocol for serving Fettuccine Alfredo.

Finally, with noodles on the plates, the dinner social conversation renewed. After only a few minutes, Bill stopped eating and looked directly at me and said “This is awful!" Uh oh. The gig was up. I didn’t think anyone would notice. Someone did. I had fooled myself but there was no fooling Bill. My dinner guests were too polite to voice any displeasure but they were not forthcoming with the compliments that I am used to receiving for one of my diner repasts. The comments I did receive were “Don’t worry about it.” “It’s alright.” Uh huh. Tranlated it meant "WTF?" Disaster.

I gathered up the dinner plates of rubbery fettuccine, bacon bits swimming in the milk soup. I took the plates over to the garbage disposal where I slid the slimy mess into oblivion and turned the disposal on. Those noodles even fought the disposal. "Grind, grind. Chug, chug."

Time for dessert! Tonight the sweet de jour was Tropical Delight Hawaiian wedding cake. I have made this dessert many times in the past and it is almost fail safe. This time was no exception. I happily received expected praise from my dining companions. But the damage was done. The main course was an unmitigated disaster.

This is only the second time in my long cooking career that I bombed. The first time was years ago when we lived in Philadelphia. I decided to make sweet potato pie from scratch without a recipe. After all, how hard could it be? It was awful. I still remember the shocked look on Bill’s face all those years ago when he asked me “What did you do to this pie?” I have always been known for my expertise in making desserts but I missed Big Time on the sweet potato pie. My mistake was that I didn’t add any sugar. I figured “sweet potato”, there’s the “sweet”; it doesn’t need sugar. Well girls and boys, sweet potato pie needs a LOT OF SUGAR. This "pie" was about the blandest piece of crap I ever ate. There was no getting away from it. Tasteless. Mush in pie crust.

Tonight I redeem myself. One of the two guests returns for dinner tonight. I’m making my signature Swiss Steak casserole. I’ve been making this entrĂ©e for years. It is my own recipe and it never misses. It’s a mess to make but oh so delicious with the tender portions of round steak smothered by tomatoes, green pepper, and onions and a bit of salt and just a dash of pepper. I serve it with another one of my tried and true recipes, Squashed Potatoes. Bill usually just heaps his plate with Squashed Potatoes and puts a dab of Swiss Steak on top like ketchup.

Unfortunately for one my guests last week that was his first introduction to my cooking skills. You know what they say about “You only get one chance to make a first impression?” I’ll have a long way to go until I redeem my cooking skills in his eyes. At least I have nowhere to go but up. Maybe I should of told him I was serving him calamari with milk soup.

Caregiver Update

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