Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Census Training - Day Two




Now I have a headache. Talk about overload. Plus, I realized that the old biddy who chose to sit next to me on Monday is putting the moves on me. While I’m trying to listen to the instructor, this one is talking to me. Then she asks me a question about something the instructor said. So I’m getting stereo sound. The instructor is talking in one ear and Miss On The Make is talking in the other ear. She wasn’t taking any hints so I finally had to get rude and ignore her. I think she got the message. She turned our seat so the back was to me then she left early.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had to put up with this kind of nonsense. I probably got lulled into a sense of compliancy living in Gayberry (AKA Rehoboth Beach area.) Many of the women down here are either gay themselves or know that I am gay. Miss Marple today obviously doesn’t know I’m gay. This reminds me of all the years I commuted on the train back and forth to Philadelphia from Downingtown (eleven years) and would frequently have female passengers sit next to me and attempt to talk to me even as I had my Walkman earphones one. Did any nice looking guys ever sit next to me? Not really. Only when there were no other seats and then they would get up and move as soon as another seat was available. But the women? The train could be almost empty and one would invariable plop herself down next to me and try and start a conversation. I don’t miss those days. Talk about harassment.

Day Two of Census address verification training didn’t go as well today. My HCC (Hand Held Computer) refused to connect to the Internet. Thus, my crew leader had to take me outside the metal church building where we are housed to try and get a signal. We finally got one. However, by the time I returned inside the classroom, I was already behind in the lessons. Attempting to catch up, my HCC froze again. Just like old times here at home with this computer. Good old Mr. Softee (Bill Gates and Windows) came through again. I had to go back to my crew leader and another trip outside. This time she called the Help desk. I could hear the conversation on the speaker cell phone. It wasn’t India. That was a good sign. The problem was solved by resetting (rebooting) the HCC. Back in side to Old Lady On The Make. She decided to leave early. Good, don’t let the door hit your behind on the way out.

This census address canvassing job looks interesting. There is a lot to learn in just a few days then the pressure is on. Our job has to be completed by Memorial Day. I have to juggle my new census job with my regular job at the Inn. Of course as luck would have it I’m scheduled to work at the Inn this Saturday. This morning the regional Census manager came into our training group and announced that he would like all of us to start this Saturday. He would pay us overtime, which is time and a half. Unfortunately I can’t take him up on his offer as generous as it is because I am working Saturday 7 to 3. I’m also working Monday 7 to 3. Nice way to start of my new Census job. I talked to my crew leader and she said I can work around those hours. I have a feeling the next two months are going to be crazy. One good thing, tomorrow is the last day I have to put up with Spider Woman.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day One at Census Training




Today was my first day as a U.S. Census Bureau worker. The location of the training was at the Lighthouse Church in Laurel, Delaware. I got up early and left early to make the 23 mile trip down Route 1, through Georgetown, Delaware. I didn’t want to be late. I wasn’t. I was an hour early. In fact, the church doors were still locked.

It wasn’t too long before the Census officials arrived with cartons of material for the trainees. I helped the women unload the boxes. One of them thought I was one of the trainers. I told her that I was one of the trainees who arrived early. I got a knife from the church kitchen and sliced open the tape that had secured the cartons of training material. After I was done, I selected a seat next to a window and waiting the arrival of the rest of the trainees.

Nine o’clock arrived soon enough along with about sixty more trainees. We were to be a consolidated training group. I was told this was the reason for the location in Laurel, it was the halfway point between the two districts. The materials were passed out. The first thing the instructor did was ask us to rise and take the oat of office. After we took the oath, she asked us? "Did that oath sound familiar?" Yes, it was very similar to the presidential oath. So now I'm an official government worker. My resume expands.

After administering the oath of office to us, the instructor explained to us our duties. It wasn’t too long before I realized that I wouldn’t be working on the census as I originally had thought. Instead we’re doing the preliminary step to the census count. We are called listers. Our job is address canvassing. That means we are given a neighborhood or an area and go out and verify the addresses. We are to identify structures that are listed as living quarters. This includes checking buildings, trailers, sheds, tents and even caves. Yes, caves. That should be interesting to see who is living in a cave. Anything that is a structure, we are to check.

We will be working with hand held computers. Perhaps this sounds easy but it is actually more complicated than it sounds. There is a certain protocol to be followed. Our official title is “Census Enumerator.” What we’re doing is counting and identifying where people live. We have a U. S. Census badge that we wear around out neck identifying us. We have to identify ourselves when wandering through neighborhoods clockwise canvassing structures for addresses. We have to indentify ourselves everywhere we venture, even the caves.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the day was when we got fingerprinted. Yes, fingerprinted. Again, it was not as easy as it sounds. No, we didn’t have to get mug shots. The fingerprinting is necessary because that is how we sign on to our hand held computers, heretofore to be known as our “HHC.” Lots and lots of acronyms were tossed at us today. We were told by our instructor that by the end of the week we will be masters of those acronyms. Ah, brings back memories of my Army days (AOL, TDY, etc.)

At the beginning of the day I was unsure if I would like this job. That uncertainty is gone now. I can see where this job will be interesting. My only concern now is working around my hours at the Inn. I’m scheduled to work four days next week and the following week. I think this should be manageable because there are no set hours. One of the big rules is that we’re not allowed to work more than 40 hours in any given week. The other Big Rule is that all the information we accumulate is confidential. We are not to divulge any of this information now or after we leave our temporary employment with the U.S. Census Bureau. Again, brings back memories of my time in the Army when I worked for the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland.

Most of my fellow trainees were older women. The ratio of women to men was about 70/30. There were very few young people. I counted only four in the total group of about sixty trainees. I initially counted myself among the young (a frequent mistake I make until I look in the mirror in the morning) until I realized at 67 years of age, I’m in with the rest of the group.

Today was a good day. The trainer was knowledgeable and had a sense of humor. She conducted today’s session with an easy authoritarian manner. We learned something in a friendly collegial atmosphere. A bit of overload with the information but I’m sure we will be more comfortable with it by the time we finish our training session this Friday. The only downside was my lunchtime excursion to Hardee’s. Why did I think I could eat a fast food hamburger? Fast food is the meal that keeps on giving. I’m still digesting that 100% Black Angus Thickburger. Tasteless.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Embarking on a New Adventure




Tomorrow I embark on a new adventure. I begin classes for training as a census enumerator for the 2010 census. Classes are at the Light House Church in Laurel, Delaware, 23 miles from where I live. Classes will be for one week, 9 to 5. The first three days are classroom training. The remaining two days will be in the field. When I first was told that classes would be held so far away, I told the Census Bureau representative I wasn’t interested. Part of the reason was my fear that I would be assigned to conduct census training to far away from my home. Late on Friday a higher up in the bureau called and assured me that they would make every reasonable effort see that my area of responsibility would be in the Milton-Lewes area. I was persuaded. I’m easily persuaded. So, we will see.

I’ve held many different jobs in my lifetime. But I’ve never been a census taker. Somehow this is fitting because for years I’ve worked with old census records in doing my Tipton family genealogy research. I’ve looked at those old census records and noted the misspellings and thought “why couldn’t they be more careful?” Now I will have a chance to correct that error for future generations of genealogy researchers. Maybe this is my legacy as an amateur genealogist.

Life’s patterns do work in strange ways. I started out my work career as a five year old child running errands to the local grocery store for relatives and neighbors. From there I progressed to newspaper boy, office cleaner, dishwasher at local restaurant, meat counter clerk at local farmer’s market, soldier in the Army, hotel night auditor at the Pittsburgh Hilton hotel, accounts payable clerk at Lipsett Steel Products, remittance clerk at Girard Bank, trust operations manager at Mellon Bank, research project reconcilement and control manager for Fidelity Bank, gardener on private estate, trust operations manager (again) at Downingtown National Bank, front desk clerk at Hampton Inn (hotel work again), trust operations consultant at First Financial Bank, front desk clerk at Marriott Hotel (again), front desk clerk at the Inn at Canal Square, and now U. S. Census Bureau enumerator. Along the way I took no acting jobs.

For the past sixty years I’ve always had one kind of job or another. I’ve always had to keep bringing the money in. I wasn’t one of those fortunate children whose parents were committed to putting me through college (although I wanted to go in the worst way.) I didn’t have enough self-confidence to work my way through college so I joined the Army, perhaps the best decision I ever made in my life. I learned more in the Army that I ever would have in college. I matured immensely and gained a level of self confidence one I got away from the environment that did little to nurture self-confidence.

Through the G. I. Bill I gained a college degree (associate degree in business management from Peirce College in Philadelphia.) Also, because of my service in the Army I am now receiving lifetime care from the Veterans Administration. All the years I had complete medical coverage from my banking jobs, I never used it once. It wasn’t until I lost my job with the bank that I was in need of medical care. The care I received from the Veterans Administration Medical Center was the best I’ve ever received in my life for which I will be ever thankful. Socialized medicine work for me, so there Harry and Louise.

The only serious medical care I received before was when I was 17 years old. I had failed my medical induction exam to join the Army. I was informed that I was born with a hernia. The Army would not take me until I got it fixed. I had the operation. The operation went fine but I caught a staph infection from the hospital which almost killed me. I had the staph infection for six months. After a series of operations, the staph infection finally disappeared. I took the medical examination again. This time I passed and I joined the Army January 27, 1960.

Someday I will sit down and write the story of my life. My story may be of little interest to most people but I would like to do it for myself at least and for those future Tipton family genealogy researchers. Fifty or a hundred years from now some researcher may pick that book of my life story and be encouraged to write their own life story. In the meantime, my life story isn’t over yet. I have a whole new chapter to write starting tomorrow. The adventure continues.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Census Training



This morning I called the Census Bureau to find out the location of my classes which are to begin Monday, March 30th. Two weeks ago they called me and offered me the job. At that time they told me when the classes were to begin but they didn’t tell me the location. I patiently waited two weeks for a call from the Census Bureau and heard nothing. This wasn’t a good sign. So, this morning I called. I was informed that the classes would be in at the Lighthouse Church in Laurel, Delaware. Laurel is 21 miles from where I live. At least the training session wasn’t in Philadelphia or Dover. My greater concern was once I finished the classes, where would I be assigned? I told the Census Bureau representative it was too far me to travel and to count me out.

Later today I received a call from the local supervisor of the Census Bureau. She informed me that the classes were being held in Laurel as a combination of two areas to save time for training. She assured me that every effort would be made to assign me to the Milton-Lewes area. I expressed my concern that I didn’t want to be knocking on people’s doors who are not in my demographic area. She told me that the census bureau didn’t want to pay for excess mileage to census workers. After her explanation I felt a lot more comfortable.

The first three days will be class training. The next two days will be training in the field. That sounds interesting. I am looking forward to it. The job comes at a good time since my hours have been cut in half at the Inn. I continue to spend money like there is no tomorrow. Just this morning I made a pit stop at Loews’ and purchased several forsythia plants. Spring is just around the corner and I do consider it my personal responsibility to keep Peppers (a local nursery) in business. In the past two weeks I had my 98 Subaru overhauled when my odometer hit 111,000. That set me back over $1,700. I’m shooting for 200,000 miles on my old reliable red Forester. Last summer I briefly considered buying a new car but when I was only offered $1,600 as trade in (book value was $3,800), I decided keeping my car was worth more than a hefty commission for the Subaru auto dealer.

Wednesday I was fitted for a partial plate at my dentist in Dover. That little baby set me back another $1,049. And that’s with insurance. I only had to pay half. Of course when I was in Dover I had to stimulate the local Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Tomorrow I’m going to stimulate a local author and buy up a passel of her very funny books as gifts for my friends. I’ve also made several charitable contributions (local theater group, local fire company) in the past week. Then there are my regular monthly bills for Discover Card, Master Card, propane gas bill, electric bill, water bill, and the combination telephone/satellite TV/DSL computer connection/wireless phone bill from Verizon. It still boggles my mind how my hillbilly ancestors in the hills of western North Carolina managed without these “necessities” of life. Oh yes, I’m high maintenance.

So what to do? Cut back and hibernate in my house or work more and continue my lavish lifestyle? Oh yes, I do like to eat out. This Sunday I have a date with my friends at the Purple Parrot in Rehoboth Beach. We won’t have too many more of these Sunday night get-togethers once the horde of summertime tourists descend on our quaint little beach resort. I don’t think there is any question as to my choice. I will make the laborious trip next week to Laurel for my census training classes. It’s only for a week. Compare that to the eleven year commute I made from Downingtown, PA to Philadelphia which I paid $280 a month for the privilege of doing so. Of course there is no comparison. I have gotten spoiled since I moved to Delaware. I’m glad that the Census Bureau has offered me a job and is paying for my training. I am very fortunate. The adventure continues.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Another Full Plate Day




So whatever happened to retirement and all this free time I was supposed to have? I often talk with some of my other retired friends about how we are busier than ever in our “retirement.” The common refrain is “How did we have time to do all that we do now when we were working fulltime?” To think that at one time I was commuting to my job in Philadelphia spending at least two hours a day on the train doing nothing except reading, listening to my Walkman (yes, it was that long ago) and napping.

Today’s schedule looks like this:

9:40 Appointment at the Georgetown VA
11:00 Go to work at the Inn to fill in for Mike who is going to a food fair for Sysco (Slower Lower couldn’t survive without Sysco)
3:00 Return home and update my address list for my 50th high school class reunion

Yesterday Bill took me to my dental appointment in Dover. It was for a fitting of a new partial plate in the upper left side of my mouth. That set me back another thou. While we were up in Dover we stimulated the economy by dropping dollars in Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Say what you will about Wal-Mart but they do offer the best prices for the best products. I don’t lay awake at night racked by guilt because they don’t offer domestic partner benefits. I shop where my dollars go the farthest. Just as I’m not moving out of the state of Delaware because they won’t pass the anti-discrimination bill nor offer same sex marriages, I will not discontinue shopping at Wal-Mart.

At lunch yesterday I read in the local newspaper (the Cape Gazette) where the town of Lewes is raising property taxes 25 percent. Now there is a way to stimulate the economy. Kick the peeps when they’re down. Talk about squeezing blood from a stone. Also in the paper was a story about the town of Milton beginning a property reassessment. You know what that means, higher taxes. Sure, they say some reassessed properties will have a lower tax bill. Uh huh. When is the last time you heard of a local municipality lowering property taxes? And just for good measure, Tidewater, our local water company will conduct public hearings in regards to their proposed 33 per cent increase in water utility rates. Yipper. That’s what you do when the economy is down……raise taxes and utility bills. God forbid that the employees of the local government and utility companies might have to pay part of their medical insurance coverage.

I still haven’t heard anything from the Census Bureau as to where I am to begin taking census class training. When I was offered the job of census enumerator a couple of weeks ago I was told classes were to begin March 30th. I haven’t heard a thing since. March 30th is this Monday. I don’t have a good feeling about this. While I could use the extra money and the job sounds interesting, I don’t know if I want to go chasing after some minion at the Census Bureau to find out where I am to begin training. I could probably make better use of my time around the house unpacking the remaining boxes from my move down here a year and half ago. And then there is the springtime yard work. So far this spring we’ve had very few warm days. This morning the temperature was 28 degrees. Not conducive to yard work, especially when the wind is whipping around my head and shoulders.

Time is running out, especially this morning. I have to end this posting and get ready for my semi-annual visit to my nurse practitioner at the VA. If I’m not mistaken, I think it’s time for the prostate exam. What a way to start a day.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Diet Time




After dinner yesterday at the Rehoboth Diner, I was stuffed to the gills with Eggplant Parmesan. In addition to the main course, I also had a side order of French fries. Usually I can get away with this diet and not put on weight. But something interesting has been happening the past few weeks since my hours were cut back at the Inn. I started to put on weight. I can tell; my pants start shrinking. Same thing happened when I was in between jobs back in 2001 when I left the Hampton Inn. In that three month interval until I started my new job at the First Financial Bank, all my clothes seemed to shrink. However, after starting working my weight dropped. I think what the problem is that I’m finding solace in food. I was bored and food is my friend. I been through this routine before.

My weight is now 170 lbs. My height is 6’3”. I used to be 6’4” but I’ve shrunk over the years. I’m most comfortable with a weight of 155 to 160. When I hit 170 I’m uncomfortable. When I graduated from high school in 1959 by weight was 160 lbs. The most I ever weighed was 202. I hit that weight as a result of inactivity from my series of operations in 1959 for a staph infection. It took me about a year to get my weight down to 160 which I did mainly by avoiding bread and ice cream. Over the years my weight has fluctuated from 145 (too low) to 180 (too much.) I’m at a weight now that I am not comfortable. This is the time to make changes. No more cheesy dishes. One thing I can do is exercise self discipline to lose weight. Watch me. The pounds will melt away over the next few weeks.

This is going to be a busy week. Tonight I work at the Inn. Tomorrow I shoot up Rt. 1 to Dover to the dentist to get fitted for a new partial (“Getting old isn’t for sissies.”) Wednesday is my semi-annual medical checkup appointment at the Georgetown VA Medical Center. Of course (Murphy’s Law here) I was asked to come into work that same day of my VA appointment. It never fails. I can make an appointment six months into the future and without fail someone will call me from work two days before my appointment and ask if I can work for them that day.

Last year I planned to attend the Polka Festival at the Rehoboth Convention Center. I knew about it nine months in advance. I warned every one at work that I wouldn't be available that week. So, sure as rain, one of the front desk clerks becomes pregnant and I'm working full time that week in September. Never fails.

This past weekend was very productive. I finally moved all those orphan daffodils from the former site of a house at the end of the lane behind my property. I meant to move them last year but I waited too long. By the time I was ready to move them in July, they had disappeared below a tangle of weeds and vines. I didn’t make that mistake this year. I’m always reluctant to move daffodils that are in their full, fresh, yellow bloom. I was very careful to dig up a big enough ball of dirt around the roots that didn’t disturb the daffodils. I was successful and those daffodils now have a new home by my front door. Spring just isn’t spring without a fresh bunch of yellow daffodils dancing in the brisk wind.

An unusual occurrence this morning happened with the morning light coming through the front door. Through a combination of the early morning sunlight reflecting off of the hallway mirror onto the column in the sunroom, a rainbow appeared. Was this a sign from Above? “Angels in America” maybe? Ever ready for an opportunity to take an unusual picture, I asked Bill to take my picture with the rainbow over my face. And just like that, the rainbow was gone. I can’t help but think that something good is in the future from Ron. Maybe I finally will win the Powerball.


Friday, March 20, 2009

Pooped Out




So how am I managing working only one night a week at the hotel? Not surprisingly, my activities have easily filled in that time. Sure, I would prefer working my previous two nights a week schedule (Mondays and Thursdays 3 to 11 PM.) It was a schedule which I constructed my week around. The money I earned from this part time job paid my monthly mortgage payments with enough left over to treat myself to a couple of dine out nights with friends. Now I will have to watch my expenses much more closely.

However, the upside is that I now have more time to myself and with friends. Also, the many activities I used to miss on Thursday nights are now available to me. Last night I attended a local production of a revue of Cole Porter music. Prior to my hours being reduced at the hotel, I wasn’t able to do things like this. Last week Bill and I attended a dinner at a friend’s house. With my old schedule, we weren't able to accept dinner invitations on Thursday nights.

The past few days have been very busy. Yesterday I cleaned out flower beds. While cleaning out the beds I noticed that the bluebirds have returned. They’re getting it sorted out now who will occupy the bluebird house. I'm looking forward to the purple martins returning. Their scout should be here any day now. That's when I will know spring has officially arrived.

Yesterday I dropped my car of at a local garage for an overhaul. I just passed 111,000 miles on my 98 Subaru Forester. Briefly I considered purchasing a new car but decided against it when the dealer I visited only wanted to give me $1,600 in a trade in when the Bluebook value is $3,800. That ended my consideration of doing a trade in. I picked up my red Subaru this morning. As expected, the bill was large. However, it is a lot cheaper than buying a new car. If I can make 200,000 on this car, I will consider myself well ahead of the game.

This morning Bill and I dug up three azalea plants from the front of the house and gave them to a friend. Bill and I love annual flowers in the front of the house so there was no room for the trio of red azalea plants. They will have a new happy home with our friend. Now to find a home for the two gardenia plants who haven't lived up to expectations in the front of our house.

Today is the first day of spring but you wouldn’t know it by the temperature (30’s). We’ve had a couple of teases with the spring like weather but today apparently isn’t one of them. The sun is out now so hopefully the temperatures will rise with the warmth of the sun. These cold days are on borrowed time. Spring is just around the corner!

My census training is to start next week. I was told I would be attended classes for a week from 9 to 5 PM. What I haven’t been told is where these classes will take place. A friend of mine who is a local census taker in Pennsylvania told me that he was told those classes will take place in Philadelphia. If that is the case, this is one potential census taker who won’t be going to Philadelphia. I hope that’s not the case but I don’t have a good feeling about this. If I don’t take the job I will have more time for my yard work. That’s not a bad alternative. I love working in my garden. I may have less money this year but believe me, I won’t be sad. I’ll just be spending more time at home. And that would be a good thing. I love my home and back yard. I'm good.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

AIG




About an hour from now Edward Liddy, the CEO of AIG is going to testify before Congress. He will be answering questions about the $165 million in bonuses to AIG employees. Like most of the country, I am mad as hell about this whole mess. What is it that AIG and Wall Street doesn’t get about giving out bonuses when their companies have failed? WHAT DON’T THEY GET?

While everyone I know who has jobs has taken a hit in this economy, the Wall Street greed monsters continue on as if nothing has happened to our economy. I also fault the new Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner. He and his ilk are all a part of the Wall Street greed monsters. They are totally out of touch with the real America.

Their excuses are “We have to keep good people.” Another excuse is “They have contracts which we can’t break.” Hey, they had no problem changing the contracts of the UAW auto workers. That didn’t seem to be a problem did it?

For the past ten years I have come to the conclusion that our country has been systemically looted by the greed monsters of Wall Street. From the popping of the Internet bubble in 2001 to the popping of the real estate bubble in 2006, I lost an embarrassingly amount of money. I fell for the switch and bait I’m ashamed to admit. Fortunately for me I have managed to hold onto my new home even as I narrowly avoided foreclosure by taking on a 30 year mortgage which will be paid off when I’m 95 years old. I blame no one but myself for falling prey to the false promise of riches and the good life. I should have known better. I was lucky that I didn't fall prey to the system that robs ordinary, hard working Americans like me.

Unfortunately for many in this country they were not as fortunate. Many of them have lost their homes. Many have lost most or all of their life savings. Many have little or no health insurance. And yet, in the midst of all of this the executives at AIG continue business as usual and feel that they don’t need to sacrifice but to continue business as usual. These people are criminals. In my mind they are no better than bank robbers because that is just what they are doing. They are robbing the bank. They are looting their company before it goes under. For too many years these Wall Street criminals have gotten away with obscene profits just for manipulating profits. Just as the French Revolution put an end the excesses of the Bourbon dynasty, the outrage over the AIG green will hopefully put an end to the obscene profits that the Wall Street has been raking in for too many years.

By the way, we don’t have time for the Republicans running around now trying to lay the blame on Obama and Geithner. We have enough with the political game playing. The Republicans don’t get it either. They lost. Get over it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Class Reunion


This week I met with my some of my classmates from the Downingtown High School Class of 1959 for a 50th class reunion committee meeting. I am still amazed that we have arrived at our 50th class reunion so fast. It just seems like a few years ago that we graduated from good old DHS. Our class had the unique distinction of being the last class of the Fifties. We were also the last class to graduate from the old Downingtown High School building on Manor Avenue in Downingtown. The class after ours would graduate from a new high school building. I remember at the time that I regretted that we were not able to spend a year in the new building. However, looking back from this vantage point, I am now glad we were the last to graduate in that grand old building on Route 322.

Our class is fortunate in that we have almost always had someone in our class to organize a class reunion. The first class reunion I attended was the 20th which was held at St. Joseph’s in Downingtown, the site of our graduation party back in 1959. Our 25th class reunion was held at the Waynebrook Inn in Honeybrook, Pa. What I remember about that class reunion was that the disc jockey was so loud (or I was sitting too close to him), that I couldn’t hear my fellow classmates when I tried to talk to them and catch up on old times.

We didn’t have a 30th class reunion. I think that was because no one took the bull by the horns and organized it. A former classmate, Jean Timmerman Swisher, took the reins for the 35th class reunion. Jean was with our high school class until her senior year. That year her parents moved to West Chester and that is the school she graduated from. Even though Jean didn’t graduate with our class she took it upon herself to organize our class and pull off the best reunion we probably ever had. It was held at the Italian Social Club in West Chester. I still have a video of that reunion.

Our 40th class reunion was held at the Downingtown Country Club in Downingtown. This was a momentous reunion for me because it was the reunion that I came out. Every class reunion I filled out the questionnaire which contained the question “Married?” I always checked “Single.” However, this time I checked “Married” and put the name of my “Spouse” as William D. Kelly. Bill is my “spouse”, or Life Partner, since 1964. I have to admit I was very nervous when I entered the building at the Downingtown Country Club that Saturday evening. I didn’t know what kind of reception I would receive. What I did know was that after 40 years, I thought it was time to stop this charade that I was “single.” I wasn’t and I’m not now. Bill and I have been together for 45 years now. The reception I received? I was quite surprised. It was the same reception I’ve always received. I was still the same Ron who was their classmate and continued to be the same Ron. A couple of classmates talked to me after the reunion and said they had “no idea” that I was gay. In fact one of them said “you didn’t act gay.” Oh well, stereotypes will always be with us. She meant well.

The 45th class reunion was held at the Sheraton Hotel in Frazer. That was also a good reunion. I had a chance to reacquaint myself with many of my former classmates plus I took a load of pictures.

This year for our 50th, we’re going to hold it at the Whitford Country Club in Downingtown. Since it is our 50th, we’re eligible to ride in the homecoming parade. I don’t know how many of my classmates will take advantage of that “opportunity” to ride the float advertising that we’re now officially Old Fogies.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Back From PA


Around 12:30 today I arrived back home from PA. I had a good two days in PA. Tuesday night was the first meeting of our 50th high school class reunion committee meeting at Carole’s house in Honeybrook. It was good to see the old classmates again. Our reunion date is set at October 17th, 2009 at the Whitford Country Club in Downingtown, PA. Pat W. and I are the “artistic” members of the reunion committee. We’re responsible for the reunion booklet. I’m also responsible for maintaining the address list and printing the reunion booklet.

Last night Carole and I met at the Brickside Grill for Trivia Night. Carole’s friend Sheila arrived later along with Ben B. I haven’t seen Sheila for a couple of years, since I sold my house in PA and moved to Delaware. We only had four members last night. We decided to call our team “What Happened to My 401K?” Even with a reduced team (we had six members last month), we still managed to come in third. Still, we (at least I did) had a great time. I enjoy these outings with friends. Also, it gives me a chance to do something with all the trivia I have accumulated in my head these past 67 years.

Yesterday was also a good day because I took my Mom to visit her sister at the Simpson Meadows Nursing Home. Even though my Aunt Jeanette has dementia, I think some part of her still recognized her sister and her nephew when we paid our afternoon visit yesterday afternoon. My Mom also seemed to cheer up noticeably. I will have to take her to visit her sister more often. It’s good to her Mom out and I think that it also has to be good for Aunt Jeanette. She will be 91 years old tomorrow, Friday March 13th.

My longtime good friend Bill and his wife offered me the use of their spare guest bedroom which I took advantage of. They have a lovely home and made feel right at home. Even their two cats didn’t seem to put out to have a bearded houseguest in their midst.

I also had a chance to visit my Aunt Mabel and Cousin Bud (her son who takes care of her.) I returned some old pictures she had loaned me for my genealogy research. All went well. I have no complaints at all about the trip. Perhaps the only thing was that it was cloudy the two days I visited. The sun didn’t come out until this morning when I left. Even though I had a wonderful visit it was still good to come home Delaware. All the years I lived in Pennsylvania, I can truthfully say that Delaware is truly my home.

The day was topped of by dinner at my friend Bob C.’s house tonight. Bill and I were met by our other “Bob” friend, Big Bob. We know a lot of Bob’s down here. Our good neighbor is another Bob. Bob M. Bob, Bob, Bob.

Normally I would be working at the hotel tonight but my hours were cut back. Instead of working Monday and Thursday nights, I only work Monday nights now. That’s just fine with me; it gives me more time to enjoy my life. I’ll say it again, I am very fortunate to have the life I have now. I am blessed with good health and good friends. For that I am very thankful.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

In PA


Here I am in PA. I arrived yesterday about 12:30 at my Mom's house. I didn't tell her that I was coming up because she worries if I don't arrive at the specified time. So, my arrivals are always unannounced. Entering her small ranch house, her old calico cat Mollly was performing sentry duty sitting on the windowsill by the back door. She gave me a perfunctory glance, indicating she knew how I was and I could pass safely into the house. Shhe then returned to her vigil for a stray mouse.


Upon entering the house, all was quiet. Both my Mom and my brother were taking naps in the living room. My Mom on her platform bed that I gave to her years ago that she had put in the living room because it was good for her back. My brother Isaac was sleeping on the couch. I normally also take an afternoon nap, but I had a full schedule ahead of me.


I turned on her computer to check my e-mails and my Facebook account. I had to update my status on FB, priorities you know. No new e-mails or FB messages. By this time my Mom woke up and went into the kitchen. I turned the computer off and joined her in the kitchen. She told me she wasn't feeling good. This is our usual conversation. My Mother is 85 years old and feeling the effects of her age. She told me she is dying. Again, our usual conversation. I told her that we're all going to die. We just don't know when. I told her that I was going to Wegmans and asked her of she wanted to go. She didn't. I also told her that I would be staying at a friend's house for the two nights I was in Pennsylvania. My friend has invited me to stay at his place because he has a new guest room. I felt bad about turning him down the last time I was in PA. This time I took him up on his offer.


I left for lunch at Wegmans. I also had to pick up some hummus (their spicy hummus is the best "Mama Mia, thatsa soma spicy hummus!) and some other items for my short stay in PA. Back home, I spent more time with my Mom then I left for my friend's house and dinner. Later in the evening I was scheduled to attend a 50 class reunion committee meeting.


Dinner was great! We had spaghetti and meatballs. My friend's daughter had made the spaghetti sauce on Sunday. It seasoned well. Hot and spicy, just the way I like it. I had two servings. Delicious. Better than any restaurant meal I've had lately. Especially down Rehoboth Beach way. I don't know what it is with the restaurants in Rehoboth Beach, they're just so-s0. Expensive but not very memorable foodwise. I see a lot of Sysco trucks going down Route 1. Maybe that's the problem.


After dinner Bill B. and I watched a video of Big and Rich. Bill is a fan of Big and Rich. I enjoyed watching the video on Bill's 52 inch TV but he needs to get surround sound to get the best effect of the concert. I beat that horse to death. I kept telling him "You got to get surround sound, you won't believe what a difference it makes." I think he got the message.


After watching Big and Rich we left for the reunion committee meeting. It was good to see our classmates again. One thing is unmistakable, we're all aging. I guess so, after 50 years. Still, we had some good laughs and share some good memories. We still have the sense of humor of 17 year olds. That hasn't changed.


I took videos and pictures but I won't be able to post them until I get to my home computer. A generic picture will have to do on this blog posting.


Right now, I'm going to leave and hit the Exton Mall. A shopping mall, that's something else (besides Wegmans) that we don't have in Slower Lower. I'm going to do my bit to stimulate the economy today. Then I'm stopping my my Aunt Mabel to return pictures that she loaned to me for my genealogy research.


Tonight we have dinner at the Brickside Grill then play trivia. I'm looking forward to that. It's always a lot of fun to get together with friends and test our knowledge of absulutely useless facts. We just missed by one point winning a $50 gift cerificate the last time we played. We intend to win tonight. Especially since we have a new name for our team "What Happened To My 401 K?"
Tomorrow I leave for home in Delaware. I'm also looking forward to that. After all, in the end there really is no place like home. Even if it is in Slower Lower without shopping malls and a Wegmans.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Off to Pennsylvania




I'm leaving today for Pennsylvania for a 50th class reunion committee meeting of my Downingtown High School Class of 1959. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I am THAT old. Maybe in my body but not in my mind. We're meeting tonight at my former classmate Carole's home in Honeybrook, PA.


Tomorrow night we will indulge in Trivia Night again at the Brickside Grill. A few weeks ago we attended our first trivia night since I moved in November of 2006. We almost won! We only missed by one point. I should never have changed the answer to "What pet did John Quincy Adams keep in the White House?" Judy, another former classmate, had the correct answer: crocodile. At the last moment I changed that answer to "snake." Just goes to show that I don't know ALL the answers. Lesson learned.


I'll be staying with another former classmate's home and my best friend during my high school years, Bill B. I'm still pleasantly surprised that I have kept up my relationships with some of my former classmates. It's like we never left school at all. Of course we are much wiser now. No regrets through, I wouldn't want to do the last 50 years over again. Sooooo much water over the dam. Do I have any regrets? Maybe a few but again, all Lessons Learned. Part of the process of living the Life. We each have our Life's Journey mapped out for us. I'm just thankful I have one more day on this earth.


As the days dwindle down to a precious few (doesn't that sound like the lyrics to a familiar song?), I appreciate the miracle that is life on this earth. Our bodies may have more aches and pains, we may have more wrinkles, maybe we can't hear or see as well, and maybe the economy is going down a sinkhole but we have our friends. That is the treasure that life brings to us. For that I will be forever thankful. Riches like this money can't buy.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Books




Yesterday I made three trips to the new thrift shop open by Clear Space Productions. All three trips were made with boxes of books. One box I offered to help a friend and pick up and deliver his box of no longer wanted books. He doesn’t have the space to store them anymore. That encouraged me to finally start going through my books and make the hard decision as to what I no longer want to keep. I’ve been collecting books ever since I started to read books. I always wanted a library with walls of books. The first books I read I checked out of the Downingtown Library. I remember how comforting it was to browse through the library, looking for books I wanted to read. Back in those days (The Fifties), one had a library card. The books were checked out for two week intervals. If it took you longer to read the book (which it didn’t with me) you could extend your borrowing period. It didn’t take me long to fill up my library card. I felt so proud when I filled up one library card and the librarian had to issue me a new library card. I filled up many library cards during my elementary school years.

Over the years I have collected thousands of books. My first collections were paperback books. When I got a real job making real money, I joined the Book-of-the-Month Club (I don’t know if they even exist anymore.) Then I started to seriously collect books, thus building one book at a time that Wall of Books. When I built my home in Pennsylvania in 1981, I had built in bookcases in the living room. It didn’t take me long to fill up those bookcases. Bill persuaded me to part with most of my thousands of paperback books and I agreed. For the twenty five years we lived in Pennsylvania I finally had my own library. Then we moved.

Now I had to move thousands of heavy books. The moving company charged by the pound. This was going to be an expensive proposition moving all these books. It was an expensive proposition. I moved the books to my new home in Delaware. I don’t have a built in bookcase in my Delaware home. In fact, I don’t even have a separate living room which I could call “the library.” The books sat in their moving boxes until Bill started to unpack them last summer and put them in temporary bookshelves in the basement that he built. I had also purchased two unpainted bookcases (which I have yet to paint.) I will fill those new bookcases with the books I decide to keep.

Did I want another Wall of Books? Do I want a library? No, not really. Not at this point in my life. While I still enjoy a good book (I always have one of two books I’m in the process of reading – one at my bed and the other in my bathroom), I don’t need the Library. Thus, it was time to make the Big Decision. Which books are to go and which books are to stay?

Last summer I had began the process of “debooking” by offering many of my Time-Life series of books to Juan, my DirecTV repairman and former neighbor. He has two young children who would benefit from holding a real book with a lot of pictures instead of getting all of their information from the Internet. Yet, as many books as I gave to Juan, there were those books that I couldn’t give to him. His children wouldn’t be interested in these books. Many of those books wouldn’t be appropriate for youngsters such as Juan’s young son and daughter who hadn’t yet reached their teen years.

Thus it was with happiness and relief when a good friend told me that he and his partner were opening a new thrift store. The new thrift store is called Clear Space Productions Thrift Store. Clear Space Productions is a local theatrical company that trains local high school students in theatrical productions. Because of the economy, donations to their worthy cause have dropped. My friend’s partner noticed that other thrift stores in the area do very well. Thus he decided there was a market for another thrift store, especially a “theatrical” thrift store. And he was right. There is a definited niche in the local market for a "theatrical" focused thrift store.

I feel good that now I have a good home for all of these books that I have accumulated over the past 45 years. These books will enjoy a renewed life with their new owners. Again, someone will find comfort turning the pages of a real book. Maybe some of them will even find a home in a home library. Now if I can just find a home for the hundreds of LP albums that have been sitting in unopened boxes in my basement.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The Recession Hits Home




It was just a matter of time until this recession became personal. That happened last night when my manager at the hotel where I work informed me that my hours will be cut in half. Instead of work Mondays and Thursdays on the 3 to 11 PM shift, I will now only work the Monday night shift. This change in hours will continue until business picks up at the hotel. My co-worker, the other retired “elderly gentleman who works part-time” also had his hours cut in half. I know the owner of the hotel was reluctant to make these changes but he had little choice. My co-worker and I can manage because we have other sources of income (retirement pensions and Social Security.) The full-time employees don’t, their only source of income is their job. Of course I will have to do a little belt tightening. Maybe I won’t go out to dinner as often or buy a new passel of books from Amazon.com. I’ll survive.

Actually, yesterday was a “Bad news, good news” kind of day. I also received a phone call from the Census Bureau. Right now we’re playing telephone tag but I suspect they’re calling as a result of the Census Bureau worker application test that I took last month. Hopefully they’re offering me a job. I’ve always been interesting in the census because of my work in genealogy research. When I read about Census Bureau jobs in my AARP magazine, I thought “Why not?” It seemed like a job I would be interested in and I can certainly use the extra income. I won’t mind working the odd hours (evenings and weekends.) Seems like a no brainer to me. The only downside would be if I would have to work in a neighborhood that is either too far away from me or a different socio-economic group than I am. Not to seem stuck up or priggish, but it would not interest me to travel all way to Milford or Dagsboro and exploring strange neighborhoods with potential unknown dangers. Nor would I be interested in a supervisory position. I’ve had just about all the supervisory positions I need for my lifetime, thank you. It’s just about all I can do to manage myself and Bill.

The snow is still on the ground outside but it is melting rapidly. 70’s are forecast today. Maybe by the end of the day this dirty, nasty snow will be gone. Even though the economy is falling all around us, I am thankful for where I am now. Just a few weeks ago a friend informed us that he had “the big C.” One never knows when one’s number will turn up. I may have lost hours at my job yesterday, thus closing one door. However, another door may open soon for me. As long as I have my health I have hope. I got some aches and pains and I may not look as pretty as I did thirty years ago but I still have few days ahead of me. I have my friends, family and home and health. I am rich.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pictures




For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to take pictures. I was always fascinated by photographs, that magic way to capture a moment in time. Unfortunately, growing up poor in the Fifties didn’t offer the financial resources for such a hobby. Growing up in the Fifties in Downingtown, Pennsylvania my family was like many other families, poor. We lived in a two bedroom rented second floor apartment at 120 Washington Avenue in the white trash section of town (it still is by the way.)

My Mother knew how much I was interested in photography so one Christmas Santa gave me a Kodak Brownie camera. Oh what a treasure that was. Not only because it was one of the few Christmases that Santa gave to me only, but because it was a present that I wanted and I got. “Santa” had a bad habit of giving Christmas presents to me and my two brothers with the proviso it was for “all of us.” I can remember one painful Christmas that me and the bros got a much wanted Lionel train set. Mom told us “Santa said this is for all of you.” I think that’s what I stopped believing there was a Santa Claus because I thought Santa would know better than to give ONE electric train set to three boys, especially brothers who were only a year apart in age. It didn’t work. Being the oldest, I got the engine. My middle brother Isaac; got the two middle cars and my youngest brother John; got the caboose. No one was happy. But I digress.

The Christmas I received the Kodak Brownie camera I was 11 years old, 1955. Now I had a new problem. I didn't have the money to buy and process the film of the pictures I was about to start taking. Fortunately for me I had recently secured a newspaper delivery job. I didn’t make a lot of money (about $5.00 a week), but I sometimes did have enough money left over at the end of the week (after buying candy and comic books) to buy a role of black and white Kodak film. Thus began Ron's Wonderful Adventure of taking pictures.

Taking pictures and getting them developed back in the Fifties was quite an ordeal. Once I took my pictures, I would take them to the Charles newsstand for processing. This was before the 1-hour processing; take it for granted, photo-processing days of many years later. Oh no, when one took film to be processed at Sam Charles (he owned the newsstand – we never called it the “Charles Newstand”), one waited at least a week until the film came back from some unknown mysterious location where they processed the film. I can still remember the butterflies in my stomach the magical day would approach when I could pick up my pictures. Sometimes I could hardly wait until I got home until I opened the enveloped and witness the miracle of capturing these Moments in History.

Now fast forward to today. Almost everyone has a digital camera or a camera phone. We can see our pictures almost instantly after they’re processed. Film that one has to thread in a camera is but a memory of the past. Now we download our digital images into our computers. It doesn’t cost us anything. No more trips to the local photography processing store to wait for the film to be processed. If we want a print we can either do it ourselves on our own printer or go to the local Wal-Mart and have it in an hour. Instant gratification.

What about my old black and white pictures that I took back in the Fifties? Those pictures I lovingly secured them with those pyramid shaped glued photo corners in those photo albums with black pages. Then I put those photo ablums in a closet, never to be seen again.

Later, in the 70’s, the miracle of color photography arrived. Now I had more money and I could take more pictures. Yet, I still had to take them to the local Camera Shop for processing. These photos I secured in plastic paged photo albums. I also put those in the same closet, never to be seen again except, by the administrator of my estate after I die.

Over the years I went through periods of taking a lot of pictures, and then years of not taking any pictures. I don’t know why I did this other than I preoccupied with the different transitions in my life and just didn’t have the time to take pictures nor the money for processing the prints. One such period was when I lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after I got out of the Army in January of 1963. I have no pictures of that important period of my life.

Another regret I have is that I didn’t take many pictures of people. Back then I was quite shy and reluctant to shove my camera into someone’s face to take their pictures (I have since gotten over that shyness as many of my friends and relatives can now attest.) I also didn’t have many pictures taken of myself. Again, I think my inherit shyness was the cause. And again, I have gotten over that shyness. I now have a lot of pictures taken of myself. Unfortunately, I am in my advanced years now and the subject matter of my face isn’t quite as appealing (if it ever was) but that is a subject for another blog posting.

One of my big goals in my retirement was to scan all my old photographs into my computer for permanent storage and history. The past two years I have scanned some of my old photos into my computer but only on an individual basis of a particular photo that was of some interest. This morning I changed that. I scanned my first whole photo album into my computer. It took me about three hours but it was worth it. I will put those pictures into several photo albums on my Facebook account for friends and relatives to enjoy (and copy if they wish.)

Scanning my old photos into my computer this morning brought back many fond memories of a more innocent time. And then I thought, that’s why we take photos, to bring back fond memories and remember a time that is long gone. It is also to remember those we know and love that are no longer with us. Were they the “good old days” as is so often referred? Maybe not but they were a time and a place which will never happen again.

During my genealogy research, I often request old photographs from my relatives so I can scan them into my computer for a permanent record and for future generations to look back on and wonder how life was back in the “good old days.” I may not write that book about my life that I have planned all my life, but I will leave this rich treasury of photos that I have accumulated during my lifetime. That is my legacy.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Day After




Well, this is different. This is the day after the Big Winter Snow Storm. It brought back all the old bad memories of living in Pennsylvania. Living through those winters got to be an ordeal the older I got. That was one thing I didn’t miss when I moved to lower Delaware. The snowstorms that hit Pennsylvania almost always missed us down here in Sussex County. If we got anything at all, it was a quick dusting that disappeared the next day. Not this time. We got socked. I heard we got five inches of the white stuff. One thing is for sure, we got a lot more than we usually get.

This morning Bill took me to work at the hotel. My normal shift was last night but Blare called yesterday and asked me to work her shift today while she pulled a 16 hours shift yesterday. This way it would save her a treacherous trip over the snow and ice covered roads of this unprepared county. She slept at the hotel last night. When I worked at the Hampton Inn in Lionville, PA I frequently stayed overnight in the hotel to avoid traveling the dangerous ice covered roads. That is one of the big advantages of working in a hotel you have a place to sleep.

Arriving in Lewes, most of the roads were still snow and ice covered. It is quite obvious that the locals aren’t used to this much snow. The road crews weren’t out to clear the roads. One travels very carefully over such roads.

It was a quiet day at the hotel. Even though there were only a few guests in the hotel, the owner had requested that the breakfast be set out which I did. I never thought I would say this, but I do miss the days when the hotel had more guests and there was a lot more activity. Because of the current economic situation, our occupancy is down significantly. Hopefully things will improve when the weather improves. Spring is less than a month away now.

Bill picked me up after work and we stopped at the Food Lion in Lewes for milk and vegetables for the Tipton/Kelly household larder. I don’t like the Food Lion in Lewes; it’s too hard to get into and customers are an odd mix of eccentric women and self-important retirees. I usually shop at the Food Lion in Milton. The store is cleaner, easier to get into and has a quicker check out. I prefer the customers at the Milton Food Lion; they’re in my stratosphere, down to earth. In other words, they’re poor like me. To top everything off, when I got home I found that my gallon of 2% milk was leaking. I wasn't surprised. Same thing happened last time I got milk from that Food Lion.

On the way in the development where we live, I spied causality of the snowstorm, one of my neighbor’s cars stuck in the swale. They didn’t make the driveway. Probably couldn’t see the driveway at night with all that snow swirling around. I’m glad that wasn’t me. I was going to go out with friends for our usual Sunday night foray into Rehoboth Beach and the Purple Parrot restaurant. I opted out when I heard the forecast. I’ve traveled at night in a snowstorm before and it isn’t fun. It’s like driving blindfolded. That car ditched in the swale could very easily have been me. Thank you Jesus.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Whiteout




Well, it finally happened. We got hit with a major winter snowstorm last night. Or, at least what passes for a major winter storm here in lower Delaware. Last night when I went to bed, the sky outside was swirling with millions of perfect white snowflakes. Thank goodness I decided not to meet my friends in Rehoboth Beach for our usual Sunday night outing. I would have been caught in that mess.

Upon awaking this morning, my bedroom was bathed in the bright white light reflecting from the snow covered landscape outside. Looking out my windows, I was reminded of my time in Pennsylvania when many such days greeted me in the wintertime. Not so living in southern Delaware, we rarely get snow and when we do it barely covers the ground. If there is snow, it is usually gone the next day. I have to admit I got perverse delight in calling my Mother and brother in Pennsylvania and brag about missing the snow that they were experiencing. This time we’re both experiencing the joys of snow covered roads. No schadenfreude phone calls to Mom this morning.

I was scheduled to go into work tonight but my co-worker called me this morning and offered to switch shifts with me. This way she wouldn’t have to traverse the dangerous snow and ice covered roads to her home tonight and back again tomorrow morning. Instead she will stay overnight at the hotel. This is one big benefit of working for a hotel. You have a place to sleep if you are snowed in. I remember one year when I worked at the Hampton Inn in Lionville, PA. All the cars in the parking lot were frozen to the ground as a result of an ice storm. I couldn’t get my car out for three days. I lived at the hotel. The only problem is a change of underwear. Then I remember another time when I was stranded at my job when I worked for a bank in center city Philadelphia. There were no commuter trains going out of Philadelphia. I had to stay over night in the bank. Where did I sleep? I weaseled my way into staying at a friend’s house in center city Philly. Either that or sleep on the floor of the bank.

I will admit the snow covered landscape is beautiful. But I don’t miss all those days in Pennsylvania trying to navigate over snow and ice covered roads. That was another advantage of retiring to southern Delaware. We usually miss the brunt of these winter storms. Not this time though, not this time.