Friday, July 31, 2009

Zucchini Boats

I have had a couple requests for my Zucchini Boats recipe. Here is it below. I got the recipe from Taste of Home. Please fell free to add or subtract any ingredients that you feel will enhance the recipe to your individual taste. I find this recipe a good way to use those large zucchini that are so abundant in backyard gardens this time of year:

TIME: Prep: 35 min. Bake: 25 min.
2 medium zucchini (about 8 inches)
3/4 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup large fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
2 tablespoons ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste
Trim the ends of zucchini. Cut in half lengthwise; scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/2-in. shell. Finely chop pulp. In a skillet, cook beef, zucchini pulp, onion, mushrooms and peppers over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Remove from the heat. add 1/2 cup cheese, ketchup, salt and pepper; mix well. Spoon into the zucchini shells. Place in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 25-30 minutes or until zucchini is tender. Yield: 4 servings. When scooping out the pulp for Zucchini Boats, a teaspoon is just the right size. Use your food processor or blender to finely chop the pulp quickly.

A Good Run

For sometime now I’ve noticed the mental decline of a good friend of mine. I will not identify him in this blog posting out of respect for his privacy but those who know me know who I am talking about.

Yesterday my friend called me and confirmed what I had suspected for a few years now, his mental decline. He said he had a brain scan and the doctor determined that he had “partial dementia.” The doctor also told him he had the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. I had also noticed that my friend’s right arm and hand had been twitching with increasing frequency.

Both my friend and I use the Veterans Administration facilities. When my friend first noticed his increasing memory loss and twitching of his right arm he brought it to the attention of the VA. They dismissed his concerns outright saying that his loss of memory was normal for a man of his age (early 70’s) and the twitching was “nothing.” I cannot be sure that this was actually what the VA told my friend since I wasn’t there when they told him because in the past he has gotten information confused. However, over the past few years his condition has steadily worsened so he decided to go to his private doctor. He didn’t have a private doctor until last year when urged him to sign up for Medicare Part B and to buy supplemental insurance (through AARP) because of my medical emergency which resulted in a $5,000 emergency room bill when I couldn’t make it to the nearest VA facility in Wilmington. At our age, the chances of another medical emergency were very likely so I decided not to take any chances and I signed up for both Medicare Part B and the supplemental insurance. I’m glad he took my advice or else he would not have got this accurate diagnosis of his condition.

His doctor told him that his Parkinson’s can be controlled by medication and he could also take medication to slow down the progress of his dementia. I wish my friend the best. I’ll always remember the times when we were both young and full of vigor and adventure. The times have changed, even for me.

Too many of my friends and former co-workers have developed medical problems and some have died. Sometimes I feel as if the world as I knew it is closing in around me. I am not writing this blog for sympathy but to acknowledge that my life is entering into a new phase. I notice that I am more forgetful these days. I also find that I need a nap almost every day, especially after work like I did today. I am thankful that I don’t have any serious medical conditions now but I know that it will eventually happen.

About fifteen years ago, my friend and I were sitting in his pickup truck on a cold and windy winter’s day in Rehoboth Beach discussing the loss of many of our mutual friends and acquaintances to the HIV-AIDS virus. At that time we realized our network of friends was changing and would never be the same. We both agreed if we died the next day, that we had a “good run.” Fortunately, neither one of us contracted the AIDS virus and went on to live many more years. However, the times seem to be catching up with us. But I will say now as I said then to my friend, whatever happens tomorrow we have no regrets. We have had a good run.

Note: The picture on this blog is of me (on the left) and my friend (on the right) at a 1979 Halloween celebration at the Venture Inn, a gay bar in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Walking at the Bottom of the Pool

On hot, humid days like today I feel like I’m walking on the bottom of a pool. We’re going through a period of hot and oppressively humid days punctuated by ferocious thunderstorms in the evening.

My boss called me yesterday afternoon to ask me for a “big favor” (his words.) He wanted to know if I could come into work the second shift (3 pm to 11 pm) yesterday. I checked my calendar and I had those hours open (no surprise) so I told him I could come in. Even though I was cut back to one day a week last month, I’ve been called on frequently to fill in for my co-workers, who are either on vacation, sick or on personal business. Tomorrow and Saturday I’m filling in on the 7 am to 3 pm shift. My regular schedule is Mondays 3 pm to 11 pm. When I got into work yesterday my manager asked me if I could also work Tuesday 7 am to 3 pm. I’m glad I have the opportunity to earn the extra money but I’m starting to feel like my friend, The Cajun who works almost seven days a week at his two jobs. If I’m not careful, with all my traveling back and forth to work, I’m going to get rear-ended by one of these crazy drivers who have descended on our beautiful seaside resort. He’s been rear-ended twice in the past month traveling on Rt. 1 to work. I only have to travel on Rt. 1 for a short distance before I make a left turn on New Road. However, just last week a crazy driver who was impaired and speeding at 90 mph rear ended a van which resulted in the death of a 64 year old passenger. That accident happened near Cave Neck Road and Rt. 1, a short distance from where I live and before I turn off on New Road. This is proof that danger lurks everywhere, not just in the heavily congested stretch of Rt. 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. The more I'm out on the road the more I increase my chances of being involved in an accident. I would like to keep those chances at a minimum.

When I left for work the sun was out but I’ve learned I can’t count on the sun staying out. A short time after I got into work yesterday afternoon, the skies opened and a heavy thunderstorm dumped about five inches in half an hour. I had to call Bill and ask him to bring in my rain parka. One of my jobs last night was to clean up the Waterview Room after a meeting of a business group that has been in the hotel for the past several days. It’s no fun carrying a bin of dirty glass and meeting paraphernalia back to the main building and getting soaked in the process. My Eddie Bauer rain parka with a hood helps to keep me dry so I don’t look like a drowned rat after several trips back and forth between the Waterview Room and the main building. I have to look my best behind the front desk. First impressions you know. Thunderstorms are forecast for the next ten days. That’s good for the farmers but not so good for the hotel business. My parka will go into work with me every day now.

Business has finally picked up at the hotel. Last night we were almost full. This weekend we are sold out as we were last Saturday night. That is good. I can feel that the economy is starting to take a turn because more potential guests are calling the hotel to inquire about availability of rooms. But now there is a change because almost all of the callers are shopping around for the best rate. I don’t blame them, I would probably be dong the same thing if I needed a room. However, even at a discounted rate, I couldn't afford a hotel room.

Another sign that the economy may be improving, albeit slowly, is that more For Sale signs are going up for houses in my development. I wish them the best of luck. I’m still not over the nightmare of selling my house way back in 2006. Someday I will write a blog posting of that worst time of my life when I was carrying two mortgages at $3,998 a month from April to November of 2006. I was standing on my financial precipice. It was close but I survived by getting a mortgage for the difference in the purchase price of my new house and the sale price of my old house. This was my first mortgage since 1976 which I will pay off when I’m 95 years old. I would prefer not to have a mortgage but I am thankful I found a way out of avoiding foreclosure on my new house. It was real scary there for awhile. I hope I never go through an experience like that again in my life. I'm still recovering from PTSD from that nightmare.

This morning I ventured out to do some weeding of the flower bed in the front of my house. It wasn’t too long before I was sweating. Working outside on a day like today is like walking in the bottom of a swimming pool. I hear heat and humidity like this is normal summertime weather for Florida. That’s why I would never live in Florida or any other southern state like Georgia, Tennessee or South Carolina that has energy draining heat and humidity like we’re having now in good old coastal Delaware.

A friend in Pennsylvania sent me an e-mail a short time ago telling me he is on his way down to Rehoboth Beach for the weekend. He is staying with a friend in Rehoboth but is stopping by here first. We’ll take lunch today at my new favorite restaurant, The Flying Crab. That will be a nice interlude before I jump back into the (work) pool.

(Note: pictured is a Swallowtail butterfly pupu. This is the last one in my garden. They love parsley plants. I planted extra parsley plants for them this year and about a month ago I had a number of Swallowtail pupu on those parsley plants. But alas, I think my backyard population of birds (Purple Martins, swallows and bluebirds) found the pupa and they are no longer. Bill and I are carefully monitoring the safety of this lone pupa. I hope he/she survives.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Hump Day

The day started out quiet enough. I decided to take advantage of the early morning cool temperatures and bake a couple of dishes. One was zucchini boats and the other was a cornbread casserole. We had dinner at a friend’s house last week and we just had to have that recipe. I sound like the beginning of the song “MacArthur Park.” Whatever happened to Richard Harris’s singing career anyway?

Bill came back from Lowe’s and wasn’t too pleased that I had heated up the kitchen. His solution was to open the oven door to let the heat escape. It old him there was a fan in the oven that cooled off the oven but Bill dismissed that outright. So we heated up the kitchen some more while he “cooled off” the oven.

It wasn’t too long before this quiet hump day turned into something else. My boss called me and asked if I could come into work this evening. Monica, the assistant manager who was scheduled for tonight, has food poisoning. I checked my calendar (like I have a full dance card) and I found that I was free. So I’m going in tonight plus Friday and Saturday on the 7 am to 3 am shift. When I applied for this hotel front desk job I said I was flexible and would be available on short notice for emergencies and to fill in when my co-workers needed time off for vacation or other activities. When I worked at the Hampton Inn in Lionville, PA I was frequently called on to fill in for my co-workers. I don’t mind and in fact like this kind of work schedule. I just don’t want to work full time, five days a week, 50 weeks a year. I like this “fireman” type of job in which I’m called on in emergencies.

After heating up the first floor of the house I retreated to my home office and got caught up on reconciling my bank accounts and paying bills. There are always bills to pay. When I see all the bills for the services that are necessary to keep this small modest household going (without children or pets), I often wonder “How did our ancestors manage?” Plant some corn and can up some vegetables and fruit for the winter and use an outhouse. It always amazes me the high cost of maintaining a basic lifestyle these days. And of course, the bills keep going up while my income goes down. This is called “The Squeeze.” I am so thankful that I have a job that I like and I get paid well.

While I was paying my bills this morning, I heard my Westminster chimes doorbell go “bong, bong.” My neighbor Shannon was at the door. She was with her adorable little baby, Rylie. As I opened my front door I could feel the heat and humidity rush in. Shannon wanted to ask me if we were having trouble with our air conditioner unit. We weren’t. She said hers had conked out and they were quoted $1,600 for repairs. And it make matters even worse, their air conditioner wouldn’t be operative until next week. Her husband works the night shift at the local hospital and sleeps during the day. What we call the “Vampire Shift.” I used to work that shift as a night auditor at the Hampton Inn in PA. I hated it. She said he has to sleep downstairs in his office because it’s too hot in his second floor bedroom. I would think so.

Shannon’s concern was that the houses we live in this development (Ryan Homes) are only four years old. She said some of the other neighbors are having similar problems with their air conditioning units. Thank God we don’t have a problem with ours, yet. She brought up a good point, these air conditioning units should last longer than four years. At our previous house in Pennsylvania, our air conditioning unit was twenty five years old. Something doesn’t seem right here.

We talked for a bit. I told her of my initial problems when I first moved in here and the toilets didn’t flush all the way. I called about it and was told that they were “short flush toilets.” Well, that’s all good and well but I needed the toilets to FLUSH ALL THE WAY. I did get that problem resolved after some back and forth. Since then I’ve had a few minor problems but nothing major like the neighbors on either side of me. My other neighbor had horrendous problems with his heat pump when he first moved in. He was receiving $900 monthly electric bills because his heat pump was running continually. He finally got that resolved and the builder reimbursed him for his electric bills.

So now I'm back at my computer updating my blog before I eat and take a nap prior to going in to face tonight's guests at the hotel. "No we don't have a pool and yes, breakfast does come with the room." I can say this mantra in my sleep.

To quote Mr. Rogers, “Just another day in the neighborhood.”

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trip to Milford

This morning Bill and I made an early morning trip to Milford. Now his check engine light was on (remember mine was on several weeks ago.) Bill wanted to use a new garage because he lost faith in the garage (called "The Garage") I was using in Rehoboth Beach. Last week Bill took his car in to have the check engine light checked and get some other work done. He wanted an appointment to get his car fixed but The Garage said they don't take appointments. They take all their jobs on a first come first serve basis. After a frustrating two day wait, Bill finally went down and waited half a day until they finished the repairs on his car, vowing never to go back. On the way home he discovered.....yes....the "check engine" light was still on. Well, there was no way he was going to take his car back there. One gets jerked around just so many times before one loses faith.

Bill discussed his situation with our friend Bob C. Bob advised Bill to use the auto repair garage he used in Milford called K & S (for "Kent and Sussex County - the garage owners down here in Lower Slower are nothing if not original in naming their businesses) Repair. So off we go this morning to Milford. While we were there we would stop at the Super Wal-Mart in Milford, which was just a block away from the garage. A Dairy Queen was just across the street but we've sworn off Dairy Queens ever since we found out that the Banana Cream Pie Blizzard shakes we like have 1,100 calories. Slurp one of those babies down and you don't have to eat for a day

Bill doesn't like to travel long distances. Milford is only 12 miles away but to Bill that's like 30 miles. He's used to everything being in the range of 3 miles from home. Perhaps he had that luxury in Pennsylvania but one of the joys of living in Lower Slower is that to utilize just about any service from a grocery store to a fruit and vegetable stand, you're going to have to travel at least 6 miles and encounter a truck loaded with eight week old chickens who are unaware they are headed for their Final Journey to one of the local chicken processing plants. Delaware is the number one producer of broiler-fryers in the nation. Or used to be anyway.

So we're off to Milford which is a straight shot up Route 1. We turn at the Milford High School and we're on Rt. 13 (or is it 113? I always get them mixed up.) Bill drives in, parks his 90 Jeep Laredo and saunters in K & S Auto Repair. Bill goes up to the Indian owner (from India, not the local Nanticoke Indians) and tells them of his problem. I'm waiting in the Jeep. A young grease monkey comes out to drive Bill's Jeep around to a back bay to check it out. I have to get out. The picture you see on this blog is me shortly after I was evicted from Bill's Jeep. The famous Milford water tower is behind me. A landmark known well to the frequent summertime visitor to the shore points and beach areas of southern Delaware. Once they see the Milford water tower they know it's not long until they reach the white sands of southern Delaware's famous beaches.

Twenty minutes later the young mechanic (probably a graduate of Del Tech) turns in his evaluation of the problem with the Jeep at the front office. It turns out that the check engine light was programmed to come on automatically after so many miles (70,000) in order to get the owner to take the Jeep back to the dealer for maintenance. In other words, there was nothing wrong with Bill's Jeep. Total bill: $70.00. Nice touch from the American automobile manufacturers. No wonder they went out of business.

Needless to say Bill won't be going back to The Garage in Rehoboth Beach. Now he says his challenge is to convince Old Stubborn not to go back too and use this new garage, K & S Auto Repair. Old Stubborn, that would be me. Maybe. I'll have to think about it. It's a long trip to Milford.

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Sunday Phone Call

Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call from a woman named Lisa. She identified herself as Tom Davis's daughter. I never talked to her before yesterday but I knew immediately why she called me. She told me that her dad, Tom Davis, had died.

Tom Davis was one of the few people who was instrumental in my life. I probably wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for Tom Davis. Back around 1968, when I was working for the old Girard Bank in Philadelphia (now Mellon Bank), Tom plucked me out of the trust department remittance clerk pool to ask me to work on a special project for him and his new unit. Tom was in charge of the input control unit. In his capacity as supervisor of the input control unit he saw my concern for accuracy and asked me take the summer and review all the trust department customer addresses for accuracy. I was flattered by his attention and accepted this new job.

To make a long story short, this small step began my job career progression from just being another faceless clerk in a large pool of workers to someone who cared and made a difference. From that job flowed other jobs which eventually put me into supervisory and management positions. Along the way there were other kind and caring people who recognized whatever talents I had and asked me to work for them. Some I accepted and some I turned down. But Tom was the first.

Over the years Tom's wife has always sent me Christmas cards to let me know how she and Tom and their three daughters were doing. I always looked forward to receiving those notes from his wife Irene. Thus it was with great sadness that I received the news of Tom's death yesterday. Part of me died when I heard this news.

Earlier in the week I also received news that my favorite high school teacher had died. His name was Raymond DiSerafino. We called him "Mr. D." When I had him, he was my science and health teach and also the track coach. During my school years I had a very low self esteem (mostly as a result from my father constantly belittling me.) Mr. D asked me to join the track team as a long distance runner and high hurdles. I joined but never did well. I always came in last on the mile run and when I ran the high hurdles I knocked down more than I jumped over. However, Mr. D kept me on the track team. Then there was one day that the best of the track team were selected to go to the Penn Relays held at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Naturally, I assumed I wouldn't be going since I never finished better than last in any of my track races. Imagine my surprise when I saw the list of track team members who were going to the Penn Relays and my name was on the list! I asked Mr. D why was I on the list. He asked me "Don't you want to go?" I said "Oh yes! I do want to go." He said that they needed someone to help with the equipment. He asked me if I could help. Could I? Absolutely! This was the best of both worlds. I would get to go to the Penn Relays but I wouldn't be making a fool out of myself by coming in last.

The day of the Penn Relays came and I happily help to load the equipment on the buses. I noticed that there were already students handling the equipment. They really didn't need me but I helped anyway. Thus I had one of my first experiences with someone doing something totally unselfish for me. It was obvious that I wasn't needed to help with the equipment. But that was alright because I was part of the team and helped unload the equipment and load it back up again.

I am 67 years old now. I have forgotten a lot over the past years. However, there are some things that made such an indelible change in my life, I have never forgotten them. One is Mr. D's kidness towards me. Mr. D later became the principal of the high school I attended. The athletic field was named after him. Mr. D died last week a much loved teacher and human being. I will never forget his kindness towards me nor will I ever forget Tom Davis's kindness. Both of these men were part of who I am today. I learned much from them.

In later years I also plucked individuals out of obscurity and gave them a chance for a new direction in their lives. I did this because of what I learned from these two men.

I'm not a religious person. I used to faithfully go to Sunday school when I was a little boy but got quickly turned off to the fire and brimstone brand of church that I was attending (Pentecostal.) In my later years when I was subjected to anti homosexual harangues from preachers of the many different churches I attended, I gave up on formal religion. I learned more about how to treat my fellow human beings from men like Tom Davis and Mr. D than I ever did in a church. I'm not condemning churches as a whole. I'm only saying that as a gay man, organized religion doesn't work for me. They seem to be more interested in condemning me and putting the fear of God into me than teaching me Christian principals. I've also attended a few gay churches but they don't work for me either. They seem to be more of a place to meet and socialize. That is all fine and well for many and I do not condemn them for performing that function. But I never had anyone do something for me that was as totally unselfish as these two men did. The churches I attended wanted my contributions and time. They never did anything to help me other than to tell me to help myself. Sometimes we need a little kindness from other human beings. I've been told that I'm too cynical but that has been my personal experience.

Over the years I have encountered other people who were kind and unselfish towards me and taught me the goodness of people's souls. They have been both men and women, straight and gay, white and black. Kindness comes in all colors and sizes. I have always tried to repay the kindness and unselfishness of these people over the years by doing the same myself. There have been times when some people have viewed this as a weakness and sought to take advantage of me. But thankfully, those people have been few and far in between. I still believe in the basic goodness of most of my fellow human beings.

To me life is a learning experience. Two of my early teachers are gone. I will miss them. But I will never forget them.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Enjoy Life!

The hot and muggies have descended upon us down here in Lower Slower (aka Sussex County, Delaware.) While there is enough bad news to go all around from the high unemployment rate, to folks who can't sell their homes, and the too many people without adequate health care, there is good news. It seems no matter how bad things get, some people will always find the good in life. They will always find the joy in just living and making others happy.

Previously, I posted a video of a young couple who took the non traditional route to making their entrance into the church for their wedding. No and, and I mean on one but the most absolute prude could fail to break into a face hurting big smiles when they see the pure joy in the bridesmaids and groomsmen as they boogie on down the aisle to Chris Brown's "Forever." Especially heartwarming is to see the beautiful bride make her sole entrance down the aisle to her waiting groom with a huge happy smile on her face. That is the way weddings are supposed to me, joyous events.

Recently my cousin Stevie Tipton took some time for himself to visit a bluegrass festival in Virginia. There he met blue grass star Jesse McReynolds, who is married to our cousin Joy (appropriate name) Tipton. He also met another blue grass star Rhonda Vincent. Check out the picture of Stevie and Rhonda. His smile says it all.

I've also included some pictures Stevie posted to his Facebook account of him celebrating his daughter's graduation. Now this is some dad.

Would that we all could embrace life like the young folks at that Minnesota wedding and my cousin Stevie Tipton. We are constantly bombarded with bad news that we're all going to do unless we do this or do that. Impeach Nancy Pelosi! Barack Obama isn't an American citizen. The sky will fall in if we have national health care. The terrorists are going to get us unless we keep pouring billions of dollars in that rat hole called Iraq.

When all is said and done, let us appreciate our best and brightest who are putting their lives on the line by protecting our freedoms to enjoy life. Don't listen to the naysayers and dooms days predictors. We are a wonderful country full of many people who know how to enjoy life. While we may not all agree politically, let us rejoice in that reality and be thankful that we are so fortunate.

JK Wedding Entrance Dance

I was going to write a blog posting today complaining about the dangerous, murderous drivers on Rt. 1, the heat and humidity of the last two days, and the crazy wing nut birthers and their supporters who are questioning President Obama's legality as a citizen of these United States but I decided instead to post a video which will make everyone feel good. But, after I saw this feel good entrance to the beginning of a wedding ceremony in Minnesota I thought this is what life is really about. Life is so short and full of disappointments, pain and suffering. Why not take those times of celebration and make the most of them? This wedding video illustrates that point better than I ever could with words. Enjoy!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Wayne!

My friend Wayne celebrated his hmmmmmm (over 40 under 70 )birthday yesterday. We had a delightful dinner at a new restaurant just down the road from where we live (Wayne and I are neighbors.) The restaurant is called the Surfing Crab. While I'm not a seafood or shellfish aficionado, Wayne tells me the crab cakes are to die for. In fact, I made a bit of a pig out of myself yesterday by not only having dinner with my friend Wayne at the Surfing Crab, I also had lunch with my friend Big Bob. For lunch I had their blackened chicken. It was delicious! For dinner I had their chargrilled Black Angus hamburger. Again, delicious!

This may sound like an advertisement for the Surfing Crab, and maybe it is but I'm telling you this restaurant is a find! The eating area consists of many long picnic tables in a large screened in porch. While you're close to the traffic on Route 1, it is not a negative. The service is excellent, the prices are reasonable and the food is great! I think I discovered a new hangout for our gang.

During the off season a group of us usually meets at the Purple Parrot restaurant on Sunday nights for our weekly gathering of camaraderie. During the summer months (when the horde of locusts, er tourists descend on Rehoboth Beach) we avoid going downtown to Rehoboth because of the crowds and the expense (metered parking.) We don't usually renew our Sunday night get togethers until October. I'll send out e-mails today and see if the gang wants to meet this Sunday at this new wonderful restaurant.

I thoroughly enjoyed dinner last night with Wayne. Now this is the way to celebrate a birthday, take a friend out to a restaurant that serves his favorite food. Wayne had the crab cakes (broiled) and said they were the best he has had since New Orleans (his original home.) Now that's saying something.

Life is so short and transitory. Earlier this week, near this restaurant we had a fatal car accident caused by a drunk, overly aggressive driver. In fact, traffic on Route 1 was held up yesterday for a couple of hours while the authorities surveyed the area where the accident occurred. I assume this was for the court case. The driver who caused the fatal accident is now at the Sussex correctional institute. At least that is one less dangerous driver off of the road. But I couldn't help thinking last night that either Wayne or I could have been the victim that this drunk driver rear ended. In fact, Wayne has been rear-ended twice just within the past two months on Route 1. One just never knows when our time is up so it is best to make the most of the time we have on this earth. Yesterday was one of those times. We had a wonderful time and a memory to last us a lifetime.

“Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Crazy "Birther" Challenges Obama's Citizenship

By now most of you have heard about the crazy nut bag lady at the town hall meeting of Delaware's representative Mike Castle that was held in Georgetown, Delaware. I live a few miles from Georgetown and thus not far from this crazy lady and the equally crazy folks who cheered her on after she made her demand "I want my country back!"

I retired to Delaware a few years back for several reasons, the main one being a more tolerant attitude towards me and my life partner of 45 years. Prior to moving to Delaware we lived in Pennsylvania. For several years we lived next to a homophobic neighbor who made life miserable for us even going to the extent in calling the police to have us arrested for just being gay. Yes, that is the reason she gave to our township police chief. She said "Isn't it illegal to be gay?" The police chief told her to leave his office. She did but continued to be the Neighbor from Hell until she eventually moved. Seeing the video of this crazy woman at Representative Mike Castle's meeting reminded me of my former neighbor.

When I decided to move to southern Delaware (Sussex County) I quickly discovered there are two distinct part of Sussex County. There is the more liberal and heavily populated gay area of Sussex County which is east of Route 1 with some spillover to the west side. However, the farther you get into the western side of Sussex County (Georgetown, which is the county seat); you will encounter people like this crazy nut bag and her equally crazy nut bag neighbors who think this country belongs only to them.

A longtime friend of mine lives on 22 acres of woodland outside Georgetown. He and his partner are gay. They live in their doublewide with there doors always locked. They live in fear that their neighbors will find out they are gay and burn down their home. This is not an unfounded fear. A few days ago I visited my friend and he was very upset. It seems that his neighbor is encroaching on his land. He discovered this while walking the perimeter of his property and his neighbor confronted him and warned him not to walk "back there" any more. My friend is scared to death. He wants to move. I can understand. He is in Crazy Land. He lives in the same area as the people at this meeting who cheered this crazy birther lady on. I would be scared too. In fact, I am. I thank God I live on this side of Route 1. At least I have some protection from these people who "want their country back." What they really mean is they want the country they knew which was all white and all straight.

I remember seeing a movie many years ago called "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers." That's what people like this remind me of; you never know where they are going to show up. The really scary thing is they are among us. God help us.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fifty Eight Years Later

My last post I displayed a picture of me taken at my graduation from Downingtown High School, Class of 1959 and the 50th anniversary class invite I received to this year's DHS Class of 2009 graduation ceremonies. The contrast was remarkable and scary, given how fast the past fifty years has flown by.

On this posting I'm showing a picture of me with my cousin Bud (Edward) Tipton at the West Chester Fishing Rodeo. This picture was taken September 1, 1951 at the West Chester, Pennsylvania reservoir. The big smile you see on my face is the fact that I won the fishing rodeo by catching the biggest fish of the day. It was a 13 inch rainbow trout. It was ironic I won because I wasn't the sportsman in the family. If anyone was, it was my cousin Bud (who, coincidentally is the same age as I am and is also unmarried as I am today.) Bud went on to to fish many more days and even deer hunting which I never did in my life. I never went fishing since that day in 1951. I figured I would quit while I was ahead.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fifty Years

Fifty years sounds like a long time and it is. This year the Downingtown High School Class of 2009 invited me along with my classmates of the DHS Class of 1959 to attend their graduation ceremonies as special guests celebrating our fiftieth anniversary. I thought "Why not?" I took them up on the invitation and had a wonderful time. I didn't want to miss this event because there is only one fiftieth anniversary. As we were getting ready to enter the same field where I graduated fifty years ago, I noticed that I was standing in just about the same spot as I was fifty years ago this June when I graduated. I asked my friend Pat to take my picture. The two pictures you see on this blog are first of me when I graduated June 2nd, 1959. The second picture is of me as I was preparing to enter the football field on June 16th, 2009. Not much change eh? Well, perhaps a little bit. All I can say, that was a fast fifty years. The old boy did some serious living and he isn't done yet.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Swallowtail Butterfly

This is a longer video of the Swallowtail butterfly feeding on the butterfly bush that leads to my deck. I sent the wrong video before. However, both show the beauty that is nature. That's what I love about living where I live. I soak it up everyday. Even today when I have to go to work this afternoon. Then the rest of the week off!

Swallowtail Butterfly on Butterfly Bush

This is the sight that greeted me this morning. A graceful swallowtail butterfly feeding on the butterfly bush at the entrance to my deck. I'll take this any day over an in ground pool.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Scream, You Scream

For ice cream. Yes, Bill and I returned to the scene of yesterday's uncomfortable situation. Not that we were looking for trouble. It's just that the ice cream at this place is just so damn good and cheap. The families and the kiddies were there again tonight but we didn't hang around after we got our ice cream. Instead we headed down to visit out friends Big Bob and Jim at their home in the woods on Anderson Corner Road, right outside of Georgetown.

Neither Bob or Jim were feeling well. I suspect a lot of their disposition had to do with their neighbor who encroaching on their 22 acres of wooded land. Bob and Jim like to walk around the perimeter of their land but their neighbor chased them away. Big Bob has lived on that land since he purchased it in the early 70's. I used to visit him often. Big Bob is the reason I moved to southern Delaware. I grew to love this area of the country and decided this is where I wanted to live when I retired. I am so glad I made this decision. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.

Now I feel bad for Big Bob because he's not comfortable in his own home. He has already had one home invasion by a druggie (who is now in prison.) He keeps his door locked all the time now. Unlike Bill and I who almost always have our garage door open in the beautiful, peaceful Ryan Homes development we live in on the east side of Route 1. Route 1 is like a moat around our castle. It keeps out all the bad elements. Anybody strange wandering around in our neighborhood is very noticeable.

Bob asked me about the tax consequences of selling his land and buying or building a new smaller house with a basement and enough room for a small garden. He is 72 years old now and he says that is all he wants. A small house that is easy to care for and none of the stress that he and Jim are now enduring. I explained to him the $250,000 capital gains tax cost exemption which I think Bob would qualify. Unfortunately for Bob, he has two problems. First this is a terrible market to sell a house or land even if it is a prime 22 acres of woodland that is easily cleared. Secondly, his neighbor has been encroaching on his land for years now and Bob has not contested it. He knew it was going on but did nothing because he wanted good relations with his neighbor. It isn't the way I would have handled it but to each his own. I can't tell someone else how to live their life. I think if he does get a buyer for his land, he will have problems establishing his land borders. He may have to get legal help. That could prove costly.

I wish Bob and Jim the best but I don't think they will do anything. It's a shame they didn't sell their land when the real estate market was hot. I advised him to do so but he wasn't ready to sell at that time. Big Bob's situation makes me appreciate even more the beautiful and peaceful place where I live and my wonderful neighbors. I've been through the Bad Neighbor experience and it wasn't fun. It was one of the most stressful situations of my life. I felt trapped. I am so glad that in my twilight years Bill and I can live in relative peace and comfort without having to worry about bad neighbors. We may encounter rude teenagers at a local ice cream stand but we can always return to our safe haven home were we can live in peace and comfort. For that I am so thankful.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Reality Check

Bill and I have been treating ourselves the last week or so by frequenting a local dairy farm that offers fresh ice cream. The farm isn't located to far from where we live. The good part about it is that we don't have to travel down the traffic congested Route 1 into Lewes or Rehoboth to avail ourselves of this treat. Another positive thing is the ice cream is totally natural and thus tastes good and I don't have digestion problems as I so often do when I eat the usual artificially flavored,fructose sweetened and chemically laden overprice concoctions that pass for ice cream at the tourist traps in Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. Perhaps the only downside is if the wind is blowing in the wrong direction, we get a healthy whiff of cow poop while we're devouring our ice cream cones.

This evening we found another downside to patronizing an eatery off of the beaten summer tourist track. Good old homophobia. This was the first Saturday evening we went to the dairy farm ice cream stand. It was crowded with straight folk or at least what seemed like straight folk. Nary a same sex couple was to be seen. That wasn't a problem for me or Bill. In fact I didn't think too much of it until I was standing in line and saw that my line was being held up by a couple who were sampling ice cream flavors. First the girl would ask for a sample of one flavor while her boyfriend got a teaspoon of another flavor. Then they traded teaspoons. How cute. All this cutsie poo activity was going on while we were all waiting patiently in line. I could just imagine the reaction if Bill and I did that, especially her putting her spoon in his mouth and him putting his spoon in her mouth. For a couple of seconds I thought they were filming a commercial.

I got in another line before I went into saccharine overload. I didn't know how long the taste testing by the Cute Couple was going to take. I order our ice cream; a double banana ice cream for Bill and a double vanilla for me. I get the ice cream cones (no taste test necessary) and return to our car. Since there were so many cars at the ice cream stand I asked Bill to hold my cone and I moved my car around the barn out of the way and parked it facing a pasture with picnic tables. Several families were seated at those tables with children playing on the ground. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting.

A few minutes later a SUV pulls up close to us. Three teenage couple pile out of the SUV. I hear one of the guys say "What's this?" looking at me and Bill sitting in our car enjoying our ice cream cones. Reality bites. Our peaceful summer evening entered a familiar place. What to do? How to respond? Well, here is my choice. I could respond thus giving Mr. Teenage Macho a reason to impress his girlfriend or ask Bill to hold my cone while I started my car up and drove home. I chose the latter. I backed the car up and got out of there. I really wasn't up for a confrontation this evening. Besides, where would it have gotten me except to give some teenage kid a chance to impress his girl friend and buddies? I just didn't want to go there this evening.

Actually, tonight was my mistake on two counts. First I should not have went out on a lovely summer night on Saturday. I should have known it would be crowded. Bill and I don't like crowds. Secondly, I had let myself be lulled into complacency into thinking that homophobia didn't exist anymore or was so minimal that it didn't matter since moving to lower Delaware. Homophobia In the Milton/Lewes/Rehoboth Beach area, no matter how subtle, is considered bad form and generally not practiced. However, once one is on the other side of Route 1 (west) into the real Sussex County (read "rural"), then we're talking another whole ball game. It was the political representatives of this is the area of Sussex County that contributed greatly to the 10 year delay of the anti-discrimination bill in Delaware. We gays (and lesbians) tend to think that Sussex County is enlightened towards their GLBT neighbors but we have to remember that is only on the east side of Route 1 with a little spillover to the west side of Route 1. Most of the rest of Sussex County is as redneck as any other area of the south. We tend to forget that sometimes. This evening I was rudely reminded of the shallow waters of same sex couple acceptance by all areas of Sussex County.

A few weeks ago Delaware finally passed the anti-discrimination bill.
Unfortunately the passage of such a bill doesn't end homophobia. Especially at an ice cream stand in the pastoral farmland of rural Sussex County on a warm summer's evening.

Friday, July 17, 2009

And Then There Were None

Bill had a very trying day today. He called The Garage and his car still wasn't ready. He asked me to drop him off at The Garage at 12 noon and he would wait for it. Yesterday was our day to go to the Sam's Club in Dover, thirty nine miles away. We would have to do it today. But first, Bill had to get his '91 Jeep Cherokee out of The Garage. Of course when he went down they hadn't even started on the repairs. They did when they saw he was waiting. Two and a half hours later they told him they were finished. Frustrated, Bill paid the bill and stormed out of The Garage. Note, I refer to "The Garage" that way because that is the name of the auto repair business we patronize on Route 1, across from The Hampton Inn in Rehoboth Beach.

On the way home Bill noticed his "Check Engine" light was still on. They hadn't fixed the main reason he went in! That's why he took his car to The Garage. They found the brake problem when they took his car around the back of their place. A brake hose or something like that blew (I know I don't have that right but it was something drastic like that.) Well, the upshot is that Bill is so frustrated with this place he doesn't want to go back. Thus, in that mood we took off to Dover.

Before we left I wanted to check the bluebird box. I heard and saw more than the usual activity around the bluebird box and as I suspected, all the baby bluebirds were out save one. I took his/her picture before we left for Dover.

On the way to Dover we noticed that the traffic headed south was backed up. Ah yes, this is Friday afternoon when The Horde (tourists, weekenders, etc) descend on our fair beaches in coastal Sussex County. As year round residents we know to avoid travel on Route 1 both north and south on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These are the days of the travel vans, SUV's and car with bike racks full on the back, and the young girls driving shotgun with their flip flop shod feet propped up on the dashboard ("Hey! We're at the beach! Time to relax and let loose and show everyone I'm one cool chick!") Oh how we love it. But, these are the folks that keep the economy going so I shouldn't be complaining. However I did see a cool bumper sticker:

"Welcome to the beach. Now go home."

Shopping at Sam's Club was extra fun today with the late Friday afternoon crowd. We never experienced that before and we don't plan to again anytime soon. Usually we go very early during a weekday morning but our schedule has been thrown all off kilter because of Bill's car getting repaired. On the way back we had to stop at the Super Wal-Mart in Milford because that is the ONLY PLACE in Lower Slower that I can get my Turkey Hill Decaf Orange Diet Ice Tea. THE ONLY PLACE. Again, shopping in Wal-Mart Friday afternoon is an extra special experience. The people, the people. I wonder sometimes do I look as strange and weird to them as they do to me? Man oh man. There are some doozies that shop at the Wal-Mart, especially the Jabba the Huts riding around on those motorized shopping carts in the store.

Returning home we were right in the middle of the Friday afternoon weekend rush to the shore. One thing I've never been able to quite figure out, what is the rush? Why do so many of our out of state tourists feel they have to break the speed limit, weave in and out of traffic to get to the shore to relax? What's THAT all about?

Well, we finally got home. Now it's unwind time. I checked the bluebird box and, as I suspected, it is empty. The last bluebird is out. That puts a punctuation mark to a very interesting day.

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

This has to be my favorite time of the year, these lazy hazy days of summer. The sun is up at 6 in the morning and doesn't go down until after 8:30 in the evening. Days like this seem like they will last forever but I know all too well that the days are getting shorter. They have been getting shorter since the Summer Solstice.

My summer day begins when I wake up about 7 am and stumble into my bathroom to shave. After I splash witch hazel on my face I'm ready to face the world. The kitchen is my next stop. I mix up some fiber blend with grape-cranberry juice to take before my breakfast of Corn Chex and freshly sliced strawberries. For years I had problems with my morning constitution (I was constipated) but not since I began taking AIM raspberry flavored fiber blend mix about five years ago. Maybe this is too much information but it was a wonderful development in my life. Now I'm just a "regular" guy. Smile.

I used to watch "Morning Joe" on MSNBC but I can't take Joe Scarborough anymore and his constant negativity on anything Democratic, Obama and Nancy Peolosi. Scarborough, or as one blogger calls him "Doucheborough", is one of that dwindling variety of Republicans called "wingnuts." They are the part of "NO!" and exclusivity (meaning that minorities and GBLT members of our society need not apply because they are the "real American" -like we're not.) Scarborough's daily hateful diatribes against anything Democratic I can do without thank you. These mornings my TV is silent.

Bill has been up since 4 am (he goes to bed at 7 pm) so he's ready for some chit chat. If I'm in the mood I'll chew the fat, if not then he understands and disappears to his lair in the basement (where he lives.) Warning, I'm not always bright and cheerie in the morning.

This morning we're waiting for a call from The Garage to tell Bill that his '91 Jeep Cherokee is fixed. The brake pads are being fixed and something about the brake hose being blown. I don't know all that mechanical stuff but I do know if the brake hose was blown while we were on Rt. 1 that would have been a BIG PROBLEM. That's another bullet we dodged. Thank you Jesus.

Hopefully we'll get a call this morning so we can make our weekly trek to the Super Wal-Mart in Milford. This is the only store in this area (which we call "Lower Slower") that I can buy Turkey Hill Decaffeinated Diet Orange Iced Tea. Oh sure, the regular Turkey Hill Orange Iced Tea is plentiful at other stores but I can only take so much fructose corn syrup. I'm not on a diet but the Turkey Hill diet orange iced tea agrees with my stomach. Drinking it gets me through the summer (and winter too.) Of course it's not like the homemade iced tea that my friend Larry's grandmother Mrs. Brown used to make. Oh my oh my, that was wonderful iced tea. The only other iced tea that came close was my Aunt Mabel's iced tea. Making homemade iced tea is a lost art.

Yesterday I took Bill up to a new produce stand eight miles up Route 1, where Billy Bob's used to be. We're both at that point in our lives now that we don't desire a lot of heavy meat in our diets. Fresh fruit and vegetables work just fine for us. Oh, an occasional piece of chicken or even some hamburger but not on a regular basis. Yesterday I purchased cantaloupe, broccoli, corn on the cob, strawberries, watermelon and onions. The honey dew looked scrumptious but I just don't have enough room in my refrigerator. Maybe if I got one of those french door refrigerators I could squeeze all that fresh fruit into it. But Bill won't hear of that. He says our present refrigerator will do just fine and we can save the $2,000 that it would cost for a new refrigerator.

When we got home yesterday I sliced the cantaloupe up for Bill. I even had a piece. The taste of fresh fruit is almost as near to heaven that we can get. This is not your store bought wintertime cantaloupe. This is Summertime cantaloupe. Maybe it should be called "Candyloupe."

This morning I cooked a fresh broccoli cheese casserole with the broccoli I bought yesterday. Our friend Jay gave me a church cookbook which has the best broccoli casserole I've ever tasted. Here is the recipe:

Broccoli Cheese Casserole

1 cooked bunch of fresh broccoli, cut small (I steam mine to al dente - don't overcook)
1 can cream of celery soup
1 cup of mayonnaise
1 chopped onion
2 cups cheddar cheese
2 eggs
1 box Progresso Panko Crispy Bread Crumbs
2 pats of butter

Mix the first six items together in a large bowl. Spread in a 9" x 13" casserole dish. Cover with Progresso Panko (Italian Style) Crumbs. Press break crumbs lightly down on top of casserole. Dot with butter. Bake in preheated oven 350 degrees. Enjoy. This is the perfect light lunch or dinner with a salad. If you wish, you can add cook rotisserie chicken to the mix for a more hearty meal but I prefer the broccoli alone.

I was just outside pulling up some weeds from my flower beds in front of the house. It is humid out there today! This is the kind of day when just a little movement will result in a sweat soaked Ron that has to take two showers today. I did that yesterday. I don't want to do that today so I'll stick around inside. Maybe read a book, maybe sit on the deck and watch the new baby Purple Martins learn to fly. Then again, maybe I'll just take a nap. I'm at that point in my life where naps are very important and enjoyable. I rarely miss an opportunity to recharge myself by taking a well deserved nap.

Tomorrow we will do our usual weekly Saturday morning breakfast at Zorba's then another lazy hazy day just hanging around the house. Maybe I'll do a little yard work and then maybe I won't. That is what is nice about being retired, I can do whatever I want to. I'm no longer a slave to a eight hour, five day a week work schedule, 50 weeks a year. The only relief is that two weeks of vacation. Oh sure, I still work but I work part-time now which is a big difference from full-time. The difference is that I have control over my life and not someone else. For way too many years I was a slave to the Man. The corporate culture that demanded the best days of my life. I've earned my retirement and, believe me, I am enjoying it. Especially on a lazy, hazy day of summer like today.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Making Friends

One of my few disappointments in living in this area of Delaware is the lack of making new gay friends. The Rehoboth Beach/Lewes/Milton area of southern Delaware is supposed to be the gay capital of the East Coast. We are located almost right in the center radius of the Philadelphia/Balitmore/Washington D.C. geographical map. We are a beach resort community without the cold waters and large pebbles of the Provinctown, Massachusetts beaches. Delaware also doesn't have the high taxes of Massachusetts for the brutally cold winters. Thus, one would think that living in this so called "Gay Capital of the East Coast" would be a melting pot of meeting new gay friends. Alas, that is not the case. At least with me, it has not happened. I have made a few gay friends (I can count them on one hand), but after living here almost three years I've just about given up on making any new gay friends.

Ironically, I have made many new friends. Except for that handful of gay friends (Wayne, Paul, Jack, Doug and Bob), all of my new friends are straight. Not that I am complaining. My new straight friends are about the nicest people I have ever met. Some are my neighbors and others are the folks I work with. I have made many new friends from service areas such as our regular restaurant (Zorba's) and our regular grocery stores (Food Lion and Wal-Mart.) Bill and I also keep The Home Depot and Lowe's in business. We've been at those stores so often that the store clerks treat us as old friends. Yesterday (and today) both Bill and I will visit our other favorite service place, The Garage (we both have old vehicles that need servicing.)

Maybe I was being a bit naive when I expected to be greeted with hugs and kisses from my gay brothers and sisters when I moved down here permanently in November of 2006. Actually, I think I was being very naive. Part of the difficulty is that I'm not of the Washington D.C. crowd which seems to comprise most of the gay cliques. From my vantage point (on the outside looking in), this is a crowd of gay folks who have very generous pensions and can afford to frequent the expensive restaurants that I cannot afford. Also, most of these folks seem to already know one another from their previous lives and as I found out many years ago, most gay men (gay women I don't know that much about other than they really stick together and have very little to do with gay guys) stay with their own group of friends. The only exceptions they seem to make is if they are cruising for a sexual encounter and that activity is definitely not on my radar at this time of my life.

So I'm thinking "Is my life less rewarding now that I haven't made many gay friends?" The answer of course is "No." My life is very rewarding. I have a beautiful home and wonderful neighbors. I work at an absolutely lovely hotel with the best co-workers I've ever worked with in my life (and that is no exaggeration.) My boss is a wonderful man even though he's young enough to be my grandson. The owner of the hotel is a generous and delightful man whose only "fault" (if it can be deemed as such) is that he demands perfection from his employees.

The few encounters I have had with meeting new gay people usually starts with the same question "What do you do?" This question hasn't changed since my days of bar hopping back when I was much younger. The"What do you do?" question is invariably followed by "Who do you know?" question. This question apparently is to determine if one fits into the pecking order of the local gay social order. If you don't know anybody, you might as well call for the check and go home because no one is interested in making friends with you. This phenomena isn't unique to the local gay scene, I ran into it when I used to vacation in Provincetown, Massachusetts by myself for many years. I was one of the rare gay men who went on vacation by myself and (with a few notable exceptions) stayed by myself during the entire vacation. I gave up a long time ago trying to break that invisible self protective wall that the gay cliques surround themselves with.

The reason I'm writing about this subject his morning is as a response to an Facebook message I received from two new friends that I have made through my blog. They said they would be delighted to have breakfast with me at my favorite restaurant if they lived closer. Mike and Glenn live in West Hollywood, California so the chances of that happening are close to nil in my lifetime. But it did make me wonder, why hasn't that offer been made to me from any of the local gay Mafia? I do not have the answer to that question.

At one time I thought maybe it was me. Maybe I wasn't attractive enough or maybe I didn't make enough money to qualify. Hey, maybe I wasn't smart enough of (this is one requirement I will never meet) I wasn't "gay" enough. By "gay enough" I mean an stereotypical mincing, bitchy, drag loving queen. That I am not. I'm just a regular, masculine guy who lives a typical suburban lifestyle. Granted, I'm not into show tunes but I do like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

Yes, it will always mystify me why I haven't made more gay friends but I will treasure those few gays friends I have made and my many straight friends. As I have often said, "I have a lot of straight friends, not that there is anything wrong with that." And as for Mike and Glenn of California; I hope someday that we can make that breakfast date. That would be something that I would really enjoy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bluebirds Growing Fast

The second batch of baby bluebirds is growing fast! I haven't been checking this batch as often as I checked the first batch. It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that this bluebird box held four pastel blue eggs. Judging by the knowing eyes of the baby bluebirds this morning, it looks like they will be out of their nest sometime next week. Then the bluebird box will be empty until next year.

The Purple Martins continue to reproduce. I thought I had a problem a few days ago. One of the baby Purple Martins was on the ground at the base of the Purple Martin house but couldn't fly. For about four hours the young Purple Martin tried to fly but couldn't. Except for a few feeble flaps of its wings, it stayed on the ground, waiting for its parents to feed it. It's a good thing I don't have cats because they would have made quick work of that vulnerable young bird.

Bill was getting concerned that the young Purple Martin would die from the heat. He suggested that I put it back in it's nest in one of the Purple Martin house compartments. I wondered if this was the same baby Purple Martin I had rescued a few weeks ago who was also at the base of the birdhouse. The bird I rescued was so young it's eyes weren't even open and it had not developed any feathers yet. I pulled down the Purple Martin house and placed it in one of the compartments with other young birds about its same age. That is the same thing I did with this new baby Purple Martin I found, I placed it back in the same nest.

Alas, the next day there it was again, flapping around at the base of the Martin birdhouse. Bill and I decided to leave it there and let Mother Nature take it's course. Good news. About an hour later there was no baby Purple Martin flapping around at the base of the birdhouse. We missed the takeoff but that is apparently what happened. After a slow start, that baby Purple Martin is now soaring with its brothers and sisters. Mission accomplished!

Harold arrives at his birthday party

A few days ago I watched this video, "Boys in the Band". Harold's arrival at his birthday party plays just as well today as it did when I first watched this movie 39 years ago at the Midtown Theater in downtown Philadelphia, PA. Harold's quote "Life is a goddamn laugh riot" is just as appropriate today as it was back in the Stone Age (before Stonewall.) Enjoy!

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Boys in the Band

Last night I took a trip down Memory Lane and watched the ground breaking movie (for its time) "The Boys in the Band." This was a movie I rented from Netflix. I was reluctant to watch it at first but now I am glad I did.

I first saw "Boys in the Band" at the Midtown Theater in downtown Philadelphia in 1970. At that time it was the first major motion picture with an openly gay story line and characters. I remember how nervous I was going to the movie theater on Chestnut Street with my lover (now called "partner") of five years, Bill (yes, we're still together.) The movie theater was right across the street from the bank where I worked. As hard as it is to believe now I remember part of my nervousness was taking a chance that someone from where I worked would see me going into this movie theater that was showing a gay movie. I decided to take the chance because it was on a Saturday afternoon and the bank was closed and thus none of my co-workers would be at work. Even though I had already come out to my family and friends five years previously, I was still somewhat in the closet at work. Maybe I had one foot out the closet door.

In the cool confines of the Midtown Theater, Bill and I anxiously awaited the start of the movie. Then it started. I have to say we were somewhat shocked because all the characters in the film were realistically portrayed. Bill and I knew people like the overtly effeminate, mincing, nellie queen Emory to the self-hating homosexual Michael. From the two "normal" acting lovers Hank and Larry. And who didn't know an regal, sharp tongued queen like Harold? We all did. It was a revelation to see people we knew in our real life portrayed on the big screen for all the world to see. The straight world. And of course there isn't a gay guy who doesn't know someone like Alan, the so-called straight guy who doesn't know what he wants. Ironically, my first sexual experience was with such a man. A married man with two children who seduced me (yes, at one time I was the neophyte.)

Looking at the movie last night I was now embarrassed by the nellie antics of Emory. Sure, there are still gay guys who act like him but there are very politically incorrect in today's gay liberation environment. Also, the overall tone of the story which is about Michael, the self-hating gay man who doesn't want to be gay but if he is he wants to drag down his closeted former college roommate down with him. Back then (the 60's) there was enough homophobia to make just about any gay man hate himself for what he was.

But what was enjoyable about watching the movie again was the perfection of Leonard Frey's character, Harold. Leonard Frey to me was one of those much underrated character actors who never got his full due during his lifetime. But he did accomplish one thing, he had the one perfect role which was of Harold, the "pockmarked, ugly, Jew fairy." Leonard was magnificent.

The main character, Michael was played by Kenneth Nelson. I never heard of him before this movie and I haven't heard of him since. I think he grossly overplayed his role but maybe that is what he was supposed to do. I found watching his acting this time to be somewhat painful. Probably the reason I didn't feel that way when I first saw this movie 39 years ago was that everything was so new that I forgave actors who chewed up the scenery during their big scenes.

This movie had so many memorable quotes. Some of which are:

Michael: What's so fucking funny?
Harold: Life. Life's a goddamn laugh riot.
Michael: What is he - a psychiatrist or a hairdresser?
Donald: Actually he's both. He shrinks my head and then combs me out.
Emory: Who do you have to fuck to get a drink around here?
[Looking in the mirror]
Michael: There's one thing to be said about masturbation: you certainly don't have to look your best.
Michael: [sings] "Forget your troubles, c'mon get happy! You better chase all your cares away!" What's more boring than a queen doing a Judy Garland imitation?
Donald: A queen doing a Bette Davis imitation.
[to the Cowboy, Harold's "gift"]
Hank: Would you mind waiting over there with the gifts?
Michael: You're stoned and you're late. You were supposed to arrive at this location at eight thirty dash nine o'clock.
Harold: What I am Michael is a 32 year-old, ugly, pock marked Jew fairy, and if it takes me a little while to pull myself together, and if I smoke a little grass before I get up the nerve to show my face to the world, it's nobody's god damned business but my own. And how are you this evening?
Harold: I keep my grass in the medicine cabinet in the Band Aid box. Somebody told me it's the safest place. If the cops arrive, you can always lock yourself in the bathroom and flush it down the john.
Hank: Very cagey.
Harold: Makes more sense to where I was keeping it: in the oregano jar in the spice rack. I kept forgetting it and accidentally turning my hateful mother on with a salad. But I think she liked it. No matter what meal she comes over for, even if it was breakfast, she says
[in his mother's voice]
Harold: "Let's have a salad!"
Harold: You're a sad and pathetic man. You're a homosexual and you don't want to be, but there's nothing you can do to change it. Not all the prayers to your god, not all the analysis you can buy in all the years you've go left to live. You may one day be able to know a heterosexual life if you want it desperately enough. If you pursue it with the fervor with which you annihilate. But you'll always be homosexual as well. Always Michael. Always. Until the day you die.
Michael: Let's do this again real soon.
Harold: Yeah, how about a year from Shavuos?

Well said.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Milton, DE House and Garden Tour Part II

The humidity is back. We had about a week of low humidity, warm summer temperatures here on the eastern coast of the Delmarva peninsula near Cape Henlopen. This morning I did some yard work but I had to come in after a couple of hours because the humidity and heat drained the energy out of me. I am so thankful that the gods yesterday bestowed upon us such a wonderful summer day of warm temperatures, mild breezes and low humidity. It was ideal for the Milton Garden Tour, which I'm still relishing in my mind. This is the first garden tour I've ever done in my life and I loved it.

I'm a naturally nosy person anyway so I like to see other people's homes and gardens and see what their creative minds come up with. Yesterday was not a disappointment. Even though there were only twelve houses and gardens on the tour, most of the house were very different. The houses varied from one built in 1750 to more recent houses built in developments. From cozy enclosed backyards to open area backyards (like mine.) A few of the houses permitted us to also tour their houses which was a special treat for me, an inveterate open house type of person. I always get new ideas from seeing how other people decorate their houses. For relaxation some people go golfing, some go fishing. I love to see other people's houses and gardens.

A pleasant surprise yesterday was the way the Milton Garden Tour was organized. From purchasing my ticket at a table in front of the Milton Historical Society building to the numbered flowered markers of each building; one could quickly tell the people who organized this tour love what they are doing. At each stop we were greeted and offered refreshments and information about the property. As we left, we were thanked for visiting the property. How pleasant to be treated with such dignity and respect and friendliness in this world when such attributes are too often in short supply. Already I am eagerly anticipating next year's house and garden tour.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Milton Garden Tour

Today was just the perfect day for my first garden tour ever. For two years I've been trying to make the Lewes annual garden tour. Last year I had to work at the last minute and this year it was rained out. My friend Bob asked me to join him on this year's Milton Tenth Annual Garden and Homes Tour. This time I waited until the day of the tour before I bought my ticket (there were no refunds on the rained out Lewes Tour.)

Bob and I bought our tickets at the Milton Historical Society building in Milton on this absolute perfect sunny, low humidity, light breeze, Saturday morning. Our first tour was the Historical Society building which was formerly a church. The light steaming trough the multi-colored stained glass windows set the mood for the day. It was absolutely beautiful.

The first garden we visited was one after my own heart. It was called "The Orchard Hot House." The owner of the garden and house looks like a biker (tattoos, beard and pony tale) but has been an avid collector of orchids for nearly 30 years. His front yard is an all perennial garden with no green grass in sight. There was everything in his front yard. Not a blank space. Sort of reminds me of my planting technique, cover every spot. However, I do an expanse of green grass. In fact, I have almost an acre of green grass which frequently needs mowed as Bill often reminds me.

We next visited Bob's neighbor who has just about the best small, cozy backyard I've ever experienced. Someday, when I can't handle my present expanse of land, I hope to have a garden likes her. There is a bit of sun, shade and a water feature all just steps from your backdoor. My backyard is more like a field than a cozy backyard but it is what works for me now. I love having an area for my Purple Martin colony, the bluebirds and swallows who need a lot of space.

For the next several hours we toured the rest of the gardens on the tour. Each one was completely different and I thoroughly enjoyed visiting them. What I liked about all of them was that none were professionally done, all were homemade which is the best type. To have a professionally prepared garden on a garden tour like this is like taking store bought food to a pot luck. Somehow, it defeats the whole purpose.

I got a lot of good ideas for my garden from this tour today but I doubt if I'll ever participate in a garden tour. I'm too much of a perfectionist and I would drive myself crazy trying to get every weed out and having everything perfect. It wore me our just touring those gardens today and seeing all the work that went into them. Believe me, the nap I took this afternoon after I got home was one of the best I've had in months.

Yes, it was yet another good day for this old man to be Retired in Delaware.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Irrigation System at Work

Sometimes Mother Nature needs a little help. This is my irrigation system at the end of day helping to keep my lawn from turning brown.

The past several days have been picture perfect summer days, so much so that I haven't had time to sit at my computer and compose a thoughtful blog posting.

I'm taking advantage of this wonderful weather by working, playing and exercising outside as often as I can. I do my cooking in the morning (this morning broccoli casserole and orange cake) and the rest of the day I'm outside.

Guests at the hotel where I work often ask me how I like living in Delaware. I tell them the same thing everytime, "It's like a permanent vacation. I love it, love it, love it!"

Today was no exception. Soon the cold winds will blow across this tiny peninsula and I'll be holed up inside my cozy little home. Even then I love living here on the eastern shore of Delaware. I've worked and waited all my life for this time and it is here now and I am enjoying every moment. For me it doesn't get any better than this.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Purple Martins and Baby Catbird

This is my joy, my backyard. It has taken me two years to get it to this point where it is my oasis. I've created a backyard habitat for the birds, bees and other insects. The only thing I'm missing is a water feature like a small pond with a waterfall. I had three ponds at my home in Pennsylvania and I miss them very much. I will eventually put a pond in when I can figure out how I want to place it where I can hear the water and it is most beneficial to the local wildlife.

My backyard wildlife sanctuary here in Delaware is quite different from the one I had in Pennsylvania. Here my yard is out in the open. I started from a clean slate. In Pennsylvania, I had to make a clearing in the woods. I had to deal with stones and roots and the biggest problem, the deer. I have none of those problems here on my acre of land in Delaware.

Since I'm out in the open I have a different bird population too. Here I have Purple Martins, which require an open space. I also have bluebirds and swallows. None of these species of birds visited me in Pennsylvania.

In Pennsylvania I had the woodland birds such as the Tufted Titmice, Nuthatches, Finches, and Cardinals. I also had the occasional woodpecker. I have none of those bird species here on my property in Delaware. However, I do have robins and my favorite, the catbird. Grackles and other species visit, but the robins and catbirds have made their nests in my backyard.

In this video you will see a young catbird. For the past few days it has been following me around as I refill my birdbaths. It is very tame. Maybe it thinks I am its mother.

As much as I like cats, it's good I don't have one now. A cat would make quick work of a friendly baby catbird.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Purple Martin House Update

Almost all of my bird update blogs are about the bluebirds in my back yard. I also have a swallow nest and a Purple Martin House. The pictures on this blog were taken about a half an hour ago after I made a check of the Purple Martin house to make sure there were no dead baby birds. That happened one time last year. The only way I knew about it was that the adult Purple Martins were acting strangely by squawking and flying about in an alarming manner. I took down the house and found three dead baby Purple Martins, pecked to death in their heads probably by a house sparrow trying to take over their nest.

Thank goodness that wasn't the situation this time. Of the six compartments, four were occupied by baby Purple Martins in various stages of development. Those are the pictures I have placed on this blog. I've lost track of the number of baby Purple Martins born to this particular house but it was to be at least two dozen.

The Purple Martins arrived right on time May 1st of this year. I'm not sure when they depart. I think it is at the end of this month so these are probably the last batches. Then all will be quiet in my backyard again. I'll miss them and their soaring antics as the adults taught the young Purple Martins to fly. Soon they will be on their way to their winter destinations. I bet the mosquitoes in my back yard will be glad to see them go. Then it's just me and Bill against the mosquitoes.

Getting Back Up To Speed

Last night I ended my six day marathon work schedule at the hotel where I work part-time. Whew! I was busier last night that I was on the Fourth of July. There must have been a full moon last night. Multiple phone calls, guests checking in, guest checking out early, making reservations, checking reservations, doing loads of laundry,moping and vacuuming the name it. I was a master of multi-tasking last night. At one point I was beginning to lose it which is a big NO-NO in the hospitality business. I started to get snippy with a guest who was insisting on renting our beer package special for FOUR guests instead of the usual two guests. We don't do four guest because they tend to get too rowdy and thus disturb the other guests in the hotel. You know how it works when more than two young adults get together with a couple of six packs of a brew......PAAAARRRRTYYY! Well, the woman who was trying to make the reservation over the phone wanted to know "Who makes the rule that you can only have one couple in the room?" I told her in a very clear tone of voice "the owner of the hotel." So she decides to try and intimidate me by calling the owner of the brewery who has the arrangement with our hotel and says "I wonder what (blank) will think of that?" Okay honey, you call him. I didn't actually say that but I had to bit my tongue. Instead I put my sweetest, most reasonable tone of voice on and said "If you wouldn't mind, you can call the manager tomorrow and speak with him." She instead told me "Have the owner of the hotel call me!" I told her (still my sweet, reasonable voice) I couldn't do that but "perhaps you could call in the morning." She wasn't too happy with this suggestion but she didn't have much choice. I could sense the road we were going down and knew we didn't want to go there. It solves nothing except to cause both of use to become very defensive and dislike one another. That's not what the hospitality business is all about. The customer may always be right but sometimes they're not going to get there way. This was one of those times.

After this exchange of "focused" words, I had to push my RESET button or else I was going to continue down a path for the rest of the night which wouldn't be good for me or the guests of the hotel. That I did and I was sweetness and light the rest of the night, no matter what curve balls were thrown at me by the guests (and there were a few more, believe me.)

One thing I like about my job working the front desk of the hotel is that it keeps my mind sharp. Oh sure, there are those times which are very trying and I wonder "Why did I ever take this job? Do I need this aggravation?" The answer is "Yes" because if I didn't have a job that stimulated my mind, then my mind would atrophy like my good friend who is slowly sinking into dementia. Your brain is like a muscle, if you don't use it, it will shrink up and be useless. Then you die. In the meantime, you're no good to yourself or anyone else. That is a fate I do not wish to invite upon myself. I look at these sometimes tough situations that I sometimes face at the hotel as a challenge. My goal is to turn around a negative situation into a positive one. I have almost always succeeded and when that happens I feel a positive reinforcement that I am performing a worthwhile function in life. My portion of the world may be small and insignificant but it is of value to me and those who interact with me. I always strive to make those interactions positive for both myself and the people I meet everyday. I love my job. I appreciate every day that I wake up and have a job to go to.

I have the rest of this week off. I don't go back to work until next Monday night. I will luxuriate in that time. That's another thing I like about working, the time off is so much more appreciated. I love my job but I love my time off too. Today I'm meeting my friends Judy and Judy (yes, they're both named Judy) for lunch at Gilligan's in Lewes. Perhaps I'll invite another friend over for dinner later this week. The sun is out, the temperature is warm and there is a gentle breeze. My backyard beckons.

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...