Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, October 20, 2017

The "Alphabetical Architecture: Part I Of IX" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with my long-time friend Jere about one of the professors we had while students at Millersville State Teachers College.  His name will remain unpublished, but some of his trademarks, or quirks, will be revealed here.  I remember him most for wearing the same tie every day of the semester I had him for Architectural Drawing.  Course was developed to teach those in the Industrial Arts curriculum the basics of architecture, be it home or industrial architecture.  Mr. X would walk up and down between the aisles to examine each student's work and you couldn't help but notice he was wearing the same tie every day of the semester.  But, what I noticed more than that was the tie clasp that he wore with the tie.  It was meant to be fastened to your shirt through a button hole  and have the tie go through the chain attached to the clip.  Instead, he would use the entire clasp to clip his tie to the shirt.  Jere noticed that he seemed to wear the same shirt also, and you could see the stains on the shirt appeared the same place everyday.  But, that's not really the gist of my story today.  I did learn quite a bit about architecture during the class and would like to give you some basic words of wisdom to help you identify what certain structures or parts of that structure may be called.  My local newspaper did something similar by offering architectural elements based on letters of the alphabet.  Took the newspaper over a year to complete the series of stories.  I really enjoyed the articles, but wish they had done what I have decided to do and offer three letters in each edition of "Alphabetical Architecture."  And, my photographs will all be taken in the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, my home town.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

"A" - Arches - Needless to say, this may be one of the easiest letters to be able to identify and illustrate.  I have picked two locations in the city which shows examples of arches in their architecture.  An arch is a curved structure that spans an opening and supports weight above by deflecting it to the sides.  The Romans have been given credit for this architectural design, but they really didn't invent it.  Remember the famous aqueduct arcades that transported water long distances across varied terrain?  The eight basic arch designs are: semicircular, segmental, lancet, jack, trefoil, elliptical, horseshoe and Tudor.  Arches allow masonry to span great distances and are typically constructed with brick or cut stone.

The arch, made out of both brick and stone, is part of Lancaster's Police Station.
Arches abound at my home church, St. James Episcopal.

 "R" - Roundel - The roundel describes a round window or small circular panel.  The roundel can be found on walls, windows, dormers, doors, transoms and sidelights.  Roundels are at times called bull's eye, oculus, oeil-de-boeuf, oxeye and circular.  The roundel can also be an opaque disc or circular shape found on a building's facade.  Both of the following photos show the round panels on the top of them.  Both are multi-floor buildings that housed stores at one time.

"T" - Tympanum - This architectural word is pronounced "TIM-pe-nem" and is a rather unusual word for a common architectural and anatomical element.  Tympanum is the decorative wall surface or "filler" found in the triangular or semicircular space above building entrances.  They are mostly found in the pediments of Greek and Roman architecture and may include religious imagery that depicts a story or historic event.
Lancaster County Library on North Duke Street shows the Tympanum on the top of the building.
Decorative filler is found above the front door of Franklin & Marshall's Shadek-Fackenthal Library.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The "Got Milk? Probably Not From Lancaster's Plain Sect!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  The headline in the Sunday News read ... "Milked", and got my attention right away.  Began reading and found the story to be a warning for Lancaster County that plain sect farmers (Amish and Mennonite) fear they are being forced out of the dairy business.  Can't be good!  
Bus trip through the cow barn.
Last summer I visited a large dairy farm in nearby Manheim, Pennsyl- vania and told of the impressive mechanized collection and distribution systems of milk from the hundreds of dairy cows the farm had on their property.  Lancaster County is the largest producer of milk in the state of Pennsylvania.  But, many fear that the milk cooperatives that have formed might put many plain sect farmers out of business.  The plain sect milk farmers have come together, and have taken legal action over the way milk is controlled, priced and sold after leaving their farms.  
Everything on this dairy farm is mechanized.
These farmers claim that they lack representation within the milk coopera- tives that are assuming control of the dairies and milk processors.  The coopera- tives deduct the costs of transportation and marketing from dairy farmer's checks and show no transparency as to where that money goes.  And, the Plain sect farmers don't like it one bit.  "Got Milk", the age old slogan may be slipping away from many farmers in Lancaster County in the near future.  From 2006 to 2016 the amount of dairy cows in the county has decreased 4.8% and the number of dairy farms has decreased 22.8%.  An alarming number to say the least.  But, the total milk production has increased .7% in the same time period.  More than likely due to milk producers such as the dairy farm I visited last year.  Milk has increased in price 15.3% during the 10 year time period I listed with the farmers receiving 16.1% more for the the milk they produce.  But, the Plain Sect farmers claim they haven't seen much of that 16.1% increase, since some of the milk cooperatives have kept the money for themselves.  
A bucolic scene from a Plain Sect farm in Lancaster County.
In Pennsylvania consumers pay 17 cents a gallon surtax on milk, but out-of-state milk producers don't have to pay the tax even though they sell their milk in Pennsylvania.  Make sense to you?  In 2015 a bill was introduced in the PA state government that would require more transparency from the milk cooperatives on what they are doing with the milk money collected from consumers to benefit the farmers.  All of Lancaster County legislators supported the bill, but it died before a vote, since it was supported buy the dairy cooperatives.  So ... what's up?  Sound like a whole lot of skimming milk to me.  
These cows seemed to be interesting in what I was doing.
Plain Sect farmers are finding it hard to hold on to their businesses with the way pricing and distribution is handled.  Many are building broiler houses just in case.  Many also complain that milk consumption is down, especially with almond milk, soy milk and rice milk taking up much of the market for milk.  But, these products aren't technically milk since they do not contain "the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows."  The exodus of Plain Sect farmer's may have already started.  Dairy farms are going on the auction block as well as farmers selling their herd of cows is increasing.  This past year six dairy farms in Lancaster County have been sold.   These farmers are switching to produce or renting out their land to other farmers.  Small milk producers, such as most of the Plain Sect farmer are, aren't wanted by the large cooperatives.  What can be done?  The Plain Sect farmers wish they knew.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The "Everybody's On The Phone - JB" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking on my smartphone.  Doesn't everyone talk on the phone ... all the time ... everyday!  It sure seems like it to me.  You do realize that it's been 10 years since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007.  The smartphone has become the friend, perhaps the best friend, of so many individuals of all ages.  Good or bad?  For many it has been a godsend.  If you know how to use the GPS on your phone the chances of getting lost are pretty slim.  But, that's if you know how to use it.  Just when I think I know what I'm doing, I hit the wrong key and presto!  I end up on a dead end street. Now, I'm pretty good with the camera part of my smartphone and I enjoy using the set of gadgets I purchased that give me either a fisheye, wide angle or closeup photograph through the use of an adapter that I clip on my smartphone over the camera lens.  Takes a few seconds and they are sent to my laptop so I can share them with you.  Also use it for taking panorama shots and plenty of photographs while on vacation.  Someone asked me if I hold my smartphone horizontal or vertical when taking photographs.  Do you know that 94% of people hold their smartphone vertical when taking photos and videos.  Do you also know that filmmakers in Hollywood generally hold their cameras horizontal.  Been doing that since the 1930s.  So why don't people shoot video or take photos holding the smartphone the same way?  Hollywood says that vertical is great for capturing personality while horizontal is good for most other items.  Also know how to use my timer while cooking steaks on the grill and how to turn on the flashlight, but there are still many features on my smartphone that have outsmarted me for as long as I have had the phone.  I understand that the new version of the smartphone will be able to recognize my face or my fingerprint when I want to turn on my smartphone, but why do I need my phone to know who I am?  Starting to get a bit too personal.  All this smartphone stuff has begun an entire new generation known as the iGeneration.  Duh!  People no longer talk to one another face to face.  They would rather sit in a room by themselves and text or talk to others without human contact.  They do it all day long and into the night, stopping to eat a bite or get a few hours of sleep.  And, that's where the problems begin.  Fewer hours of sleep, too much time on the phone and we are growing into a society of hermits.  And this App thing ... there's apps for everything.  An app for the weather, an app you can use to buy groceries online, an app that will help you understand how to get an app, etc.  Many use their phone continuously while driving the car.  I love to blow my horn when someone obviously is using it when the light turns green.  Scares the crap out of 'em.  And, someone using their phone more than likely hit my mailbox with their car and took off.  It was back in 2006 when Jimmy Buffett recorded his song "Everybody's On The Phone".  Boy, how did he know what was going to happen?  Interesting lyrics that makes me wonder if he really knew over 10 years ago what was going to happen.  I will end with the lyrics for you to check out and also a YouTube video so you can listen to the song.  Think you can stay off your phone long enough to read and listen to the song?  I certainly hope so.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

"Everybody's On The Phone"

Message in a bottle, rhythm of a drum
Smoke signals and telegraphs make the airwaves hum
But that's all ancient history like bongs and Lincoln Logs
Now we livin' like the Jetsons in a wacky wireless fog
Talkin' squawkin' hawkin' who knows if anybody's gettin' through

Toasters talk to crackberries, Boston to Bombay
Teenage schemes and Ma-bell's dreams as minutes tick away
We act like crazy people talking to ourselves
Crashing cars in conversation while that shit flies off the shelf
The information superhighways locked up like a L.A. traffic jam

Everybody's on the phone
So connected and all alone
From the pizza boy to the socialite
We all salute the satellites
Let me text you with your master plan
You're loud and clear but I don't understand
I'm a digital explorer in analog roam
And everybody's on the phone

Do you remember dialing up?
Yes I remember well
Now I just can't go anywhere with out that sacred cell
I think that I might die if I miss anything at all
Text me, send me an e-mail, link me up, give me a call
I'm ADD on AOL tryin to read the writing on the wall

Everybody's on the phone
So connected and all alone
From the pizza boy to the socialite
We all salute the satellites
Let me text you with your master plan
You're loud and clear but I don't understand
I'm a digital explorer in analog roam
And everybody's on the phone

Now I'm a real jungle jumper
I'm a megahertz man
I swing from tree to tree on the very latest plan
On the download In the dropout zones
In every major city 'cross the land
I got my Marley on my ringtone, get up, stand up, reach out, touch somebody man

Everybody's on the phone
So connected and all alone
From the pizza boy to the socialite
We all salute the satellites
Let me text you with your master plan
You're loud and clear but I don't understand
I'm a digital explorer in analog roam
And everybody's on the phone

Can you hear me?
Can you hear me now?
I gotta get over by the beerstand
Oh shit my batteries are going
I'll call you back

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The "Episcopal Churches Struggle With Social Problems" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading that the Episcopalians, which I count myself as one, are struggling with historical Confederate symbols.  So what else is new.  
A tombstone in the church's graveyard.
Seems that all that has been happened recently in the USA with towns, cities and states in the south, as well as north, deciding to remove Confederate flags and sculptures has led to debates as to what to do with tombstones and emblems that dot Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, South Carolina.  Many churches in the south date back to the Civil War times and beyond and have found themselves on the side of the pro-slavery South when their sons marched off to war.  After the war ended, so did slavery, but it seems racism didn't.  So, what to do about the tombstones, flags, monuments and Confederate emblems that still remain at the churches.  Trinity Episcopal Cathedral prayed for the president of the Confederacy, and not the Union, during the Civil War.  They had built an attachment to this national identity into their church and church doctrines.  And now, they are wrestling Confederate ghosts and what to do with them.  Seems the South's General Wade Hampton and its poet laureate, Henry Timrod were members of the church and were buried on the parish's grounds.  To top that off, a plaque in its sanctuary honors members who died in the Civil War.  These members more than likely fought for the Confederacy.  At present they do not allow any Confederate flags to be flown in the church yard, but what do you do with the tombstones?  The minister at the church, Very Rev. Dean Timothy Jones, said, "I care deeply about how historical symbols can create hurt and communicate a message of discrimination.  We believe in redressing the terrible wrongs of slavery and affirming the dignity of every human being."  The national Episcopal Church called for removal of Confederate flags from all Episcopal church yards as well as removal of the images from iconography, like plaques and stained-glass windows.  The National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is Episcopalian and has announced plans to remove Confederate battle flags from two windows honoring Confederate generals Lee and "Stonewall" Jackson.  The windows were to be removed and stored until a future decision on their future was made.  St. Paul's Episcopal in Richmond, Virginia was the home church of Robert E. Lee as well as Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.  During the 1890s it was popular to memorialize family members with sanctuary wall plaques and naturally there are several in the church with battle flags as part of them.  They also have kneelers with needlepoint that display Confederate symbols and flags.  These as well as the church coat of arms was retired.  In the northern city of Cincinnati, Ohio there are a pair of stained-glass memorials to Lee and Episcopal Bishop Lionidas Polk who served as a Confederate General.  At present they are considering what to do about them. In Lexington, Virginia the R.E. Lee Episcopal Church, voted to change their name in 2015.  Confederate emblems and icons have their defenders who speak to an indispensable episode of American history.  
Plaque standing in the churchyard in North East, MD.
But they may be ultimately defeated.  There are also many other denomin- ations that are now going through the same problems at present.  Removing plaques and flags seems to be what most are doing.  Someone wondered why it took the murder of nine black people in a Bible study class in an African-American parish in Charleston, South Carolina to force this all to happen.  
This flag no longer flies in the churchyard.
A few years ago I wrote about an Episcopal Church in North East, Maryland called St. Mary Ann's Church.  It was built in 1742 and was one of the oldest churches in Cecil County, MD.  As I wandered about the graveyard I noticed Confederate flags flying on quite a few graves.  On a recent visit to the town for a good crabcake at Woody's, I stopped once again and found they have all been removed.  Some things are hard to understand why they were done in the first place, but they seem to always work out for the best.  After all, we're all Americans.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The "Do You Really Like Being Old?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just opened my email and there was once again a letter from my good friend Bill whom I knew as a child.  His mother moved he and his sisters to a nearby town when he was in third grade, but we managed to keep in touch with each other throughout our entire lives.  When computers were affordable for both of us, our task of writing to one another became so much easier.  Well, we are both in our mid-70s now and still keep in touch.  Bill lives in Arizona and I live in Pennsylvania, but through the use of our computers and iPhones, we share our thoughts with each other often.  He recently sent me a very interesting and moving novella on "being old."  For those who are in the same age bracket as Bill and me, you will see yourself in the novella, while those who are much younger will get a chance to see what we old-timers think and feel about getting and being old.  Print a copy of the novella and share it with your friends.  I'm sure they will see themselves in the novella as I did.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Do you really like being old?

I have seen too many dear friends leave this world, too soon; before they understood the great freedom that comes with aging.  Aging in body, mind and soul.  And, whose business is it, if I choose to read, or play on the computer, until 4 AM, or sleep until noon? I will dance with myself to those wonderful tunes of the 50s, 60s & 70s, and sing at the top of my lungs if I care to and not care if I’m out of tune.  I will walk the beach, without a swim suit if I so care, and will dive into the waves, with abandon, if I choose to, despite the pitying glances from others. They, too, will get old.  I know I am sometimes forgetful. But there again, some of life is just as well forgotten. And, eventually, I remember the important things.  Sure, over the years, my heart has been broken. How can your heart not break, when you lose a loved one, or when a child suffers, or even when one's beloved pet dies?  If I, at the same time, wish to weep over a lost love, I will cry, unashamed, my heart out.  But broken hearts are what give us strength, understanding and compassion.  A heart never broken, is pristine, and sterile, and will never know the joy of being imperfect.  And, who among us is perfect?  I am so blessed to have lived long enough to have my hair turn gray and disappear and to have my youthful laughs be forever etched into deep grooves on my face. So many have never laughed, and so many have died before their hair could turn silver.  As you get older, it is easier to be positive. You care less about what other people think. I don't question myself anymore.  I've even earned the right to be wrong.  So, to answer your question, I like being old. It has set me free. I like the person I have become. I am not going to live forever, but while I am still here, I will not waste time lamenting about what could have been, or worrying about what will be.  And I shall eat dessert after every meal ... every single day (if I feel like it).

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The "I'd Vote For Him!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Sitting next to a young man by the name of Giovanni Corrado, drinking Maui Smoothies.  This story began about a month earlier when I read an account of Giovanni's life either on LancasterOnline or in the printed Lancaster Newspaper.  For some reason I noticed his photograph and began reading his story that was published that day.  Started with: "I was 16, I would wake up when the sun was still asleep.  Get dressed, eat breakfast and walk to the nearest bus stop." Wow, when I finally reached the end of his story and saw his email address published, I knew I just had to meet this young man.  Shortly, we had made a time to meet at Blue Line, a small cafe on the campus of Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Giovanni was sitting at a metal table in front of the Blue Line when I arrived.  Recognized him immediately from his photograph in his published story.  After a friendly handshake and a trip inside the cafe for a Maui Smoothie, we settled around the outdoor table for the next hour during which I learned about one of the most industrious and brilliant young men I had ever met.  
Giovanni Corrado in front of the White House.
I wasn't sure what to ask him for fear I wouldn't understand a single word he was telling me.  Where do I begin, I thought to myself.  Well, Giovanni made it easy for me when he began with his early education in a small town by the name of Leivi which is a farming hill in Italy.  His first four years of education were spent in a Catholic school in his home town.  Then a medical emergency forced him to spend a year in a hospital in Genoa, Italy recuperating while having private teachers, courtesy of the Universal Health Care System in Italy.  
His next few years of education were spent in a variety of locations, including a year living with his Grandmother in Miami, Florida.  High school saw him choose the Classical School curriculum in Italy with a trip back to Miami once again for his final year where he received a scholarship to Gulliver Prep.  Giovanni was an accomplished tennis player throughout his schooling and was recruited by the tennis coach at Franklin & Marshall.  Being the school wasn't allowed to offer athletic scholarships, he was offered academic scholarships to attend one of the best Liberal Arts colleges in the nation.  In the online story about Giovanni he tells that he believed in his dreams and never let his physical location define what he could and couldn't do.  
The farming hill in Italy known as Leivi.
He fell in love with the U.S.A., the country that gifted him the tools to unleash his potential and creativity.  He has nothing but praise for his choice of college, Franklin & Marshall.  He says that F&M allowed him to discover himself, his passions and his self-worth.  Last year he founded "New Politics Now", an online organization driven by a desire to empower other students and give them a voice.  His passion for his new business can be seen in his eyes as he tell me about how he is giving his generation a chance to self-publish their opinions on national topics of concern.   The website will allow discussions and thinking on world news and current events. You can access the site at http://newpolnow.com/.  This past summer Giovanni had the opportunity to be part of the press corps in the West Wing of the White House.  Security checks on his background were extensive, but he qualified to me one of the interns.  Meeting the president as well as other top officials was part of his daily schedule. He had the chance to collaborate with outstanding officials and staffers on a daily basis.  He attended White House press briefings and Rose Garden ceremonies.  
Giovanni on the campus of F&M.
He lived in Washington, D.C. during the summer where he would start his day analyzing daily news publications from the north-east of the country and then report his findings to the press office.  It was at this point that he told me that Lancaster's daily newspaper, LNP, has the third largest circulation in the state of Pennsylvania behind two Philadelphia newspapers.   At present he is working toward his degree at F&M as well as being a Fellow for the United Nations Global Health Initiative with hopes of helping to solve global health problems.  As far as his dreams for the future, he has high hopes for his new business he founded and hopes of returning to Florida to run for a political office, much like his mentor Marco Rubio.  This young man has accomplished more in his life than most have done in their lifetime.  His ambitions are monumental, but I hope I get the chance to vote for him someday.  No question in my mine he will be successful no matter what he does with his live.  A life in public service is within his reach.  My wish for his success will happen sooner than later.  Just wait!  How about President Corrado.  You heard it here first!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The "I Finally Solved One Of Life's Biggest Mysteries" Story

The plaque on the Bowman Technical School.
It was an ordinary day.  Surfin' the web, checking out a few of my favorite Facebook pages.  One of the pages, "Remember when....in Lancaster, PA", deals with events and happenings, both past and present, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  As I was checking out the photographs that had been posted by viewers, one photograph caught my eye.  It was a photo of a clock's face on a plaque that was on the exterior wall of Bowman Techincal School at the corner of North Duke and East Chestnut Streets in downtown Lancaster.  The poster, Cory, asked this question: Does anyone know why the clock on the plaque at the old Bowman building is set at 8:20?  A few years ago I wrote a story about my father, Paul, who attended the Bowman Technical School after returning home from his service time in the U.S. Army in the mid-1940s.  The school was one of the best on the east coast at the time and attracted students from all over the country.  My father graduated and went to work for Meiskey's Jewelry store in downtown Lancaster as a watchmaker, helping repair watches and selling watch parts.  He never once mentioned the time set on the plaque's clock, perhaps because he to had no idea there was a clock on the plaque.  And, maybe there wasn't even a plaque on the building when he was a student.  Anyway, another reader of the Facebook site wrote in part that: you'll see the 8:20 setting on some clocks or watches where the manufacturer's logo is at the bottom of the face above the 6.  Well, I just had to find out for myself about the time set on the plaque.  One theory stated that the hands were set to 8:20 since that was the time Lincoln died.  But, he was actually shot shortly after 10:00 pm and died at 7:30 the next morning.  Then another theory stated that the hands were set to that time since that was the time John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas, Texas.  Not so ... since that happened at 12:30 pm and he was pronounced dead 30 minutes later.  So there is no logical reason why it was set at 8:20.  
Advertisement showing the watch set to 10:10.
Then I read that most manufac- turers of watches and clocks set their watches, clocks and timepieces to approxi- mately 10:10 and you set the correct time when you buy the watch.  The theory behind that time was that it was the time that an atomic bomb was dropped on either Nagasaki or Hiroshima and the setting was in memory of the causalities.  But, that bomb was dropped at 11:02 a.m., so there goes that theory.  The real reason for the 10:10 position is AESTHETICS!  Now, that makes sense since: (1) the hands are not overlapping and are clearly visible, (2) the arrangement of the hands is symmetrical, (3) the manufacturer's logo is usually in the center of the face under the 12 and is framed by the hands, (4) additional elements of the face are usually placed near the 3, 6, or 9 and won't be obscured.  Now, I found the major reason that clocks are no longer set to 8:20 (which they really were at one time in history).  Another poster told that setting it to 8:20 made the face look like it was frowning.  So, they flipped the hands to 10:10 to make it look as if it was smiling.  Another mystery of the ages solved! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

The "Do You Really Know About Opioids? - Part II - My Personal Experience" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from the gallery where I worked three hours this morning matting 17 black and white photographs of industrial machines that I plan to cut glass and frames for tomorrow.  Grabbed a plum from the fruit dish in the kitchen and two Tramadols from the medicine cabinet before settling in my recliner for "The Price Is Right."  Wasn't long before the pain in my back subsided and I could enjoy the plum.  My journey through pain with Tramadol began about six years ago when I was told I would need surgery to correct my back problems.  At the time I was taking Tylenol quite a few times a day and my family doctor told me I may be able to control my pain better with the next level of pain meds, thus the Tramadol.  When I finally had back surgery I was able to eliminate the Tramadol from my life without any trouble.  Then a few years later the pain returned and so did the daily doses of Tramadol.  
My bottle of Tramadol with the No Refills on the label.
I guess I should tell you that at no time was I told the risks of taking Tramadol which is an opioid pain medication that is used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain.  It wasn't until TODAY that I realized it could be addictive.  Then again, I never asked.  I guess I just assumed that I was being given something for my pain that wouldn't hurt me.  Now, I said TODAY because I was reading a story in the morning newspaper and there was a story titled "Opioids a problem for all ages."  Right next to the article was a photograph of an 83 year-old man from Lancaster who had taken Tramadol for five years and had to endure frightening hallucinations until he finally stopped taking the drug.  The article told about a nurse in a senior living facility who told of senior citizens (I'll call them old people since I am now one them) who went to their doctors for a variety of aches and pains and the answer for all of the people was a pain pill; an opioid pain pill.  Therefore, there are many old people who now rely on opioids to get through the day.  They have become addicted to the drugs.  And it seems to be a staggering number of old people who have become dependent on opioids.  It no longer is just the teenage kid or 20 something who is getting hooked on drugs, but an entire generation of oldtimers who are suffering.  
The city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
And, last year in Lancaster, a county of about 500,000 citizens, nearly a quarter of the 117 opioid overdose deaths were people over 50 years old.  Drugs such as Vicodin, Oxycodone, Perocet and Morphine were abused and led to their deaths.  Just two years ago it was reported that nearly 3 million Americans over the age of 50 were abusing pain meds.  For those over 65, hospitalization for opioid abuse has grown five times what it was 20 years ago.  And, it is now reported that opioids really don't help with chronic pain which is what most old people seem to have.  Opioids are best suited for acute pain instead of chronic pain.  As for the 83 year-old fellow on Tramadol, he became so addicted that he had dreams that had him running for his life from people shooting at him or being trapped in a room where he couldn't get out.  He also dreamed he was responsible for the end of the world.  He was pretty sure he knew what was causing the bad dreams and frightening hallucinations that tricked him when he was awake: Tramadol.  He first began the drug five years ago and had his dose increased over that time from one 50 milligram pill per day to four pills per day.  It was needed to control his carpal tunnel syndrome, neuropathy in his hand and feet, arthritis and cellulitus.  He never used more than prescribed, but his side effects were overwhelming.  He got a new doctor and decided to quit taking Tramadol; cold turkey.  He now controls the pain through physical therapy and has noticed a marked improvement in his health.  He can now taste the coffee that he drinks and smell the cream he uses on his legs.  The Tramadol had caused his lost of taste and smell and his dreams are no longer frightening.  Wow!  How many of you are on opioids and aren't aware of it?  I now know and will make sure I never overuse the Tramadol.  One good thing is my family doctor made sure I knew that it was a prescription that could not be refilled.  I'm hoping to have one more back surgery in the near future and won't need the Tramadol anymore.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The "Do You Really Know About Opioids? - Part I - The Crisis" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Making a visit to the hospital in Ephrata, Pennsylvania to have an EMG.  I recently had an appointment with a neurologist who happened to have his office near the hospital.  My reason for the visit was numbness in my left foot and leg and the start of numbness in my right foot.  After my visit and a manual examination, Dr. Fisher ordered the EMG (electromyography) to see if my problem might be neurological.  The test went well and after ruling out a neurological problem, he set up a MRI appointment for a later date.  As I was leaving the hospital, an ambulance arrived, the rear door burst open and the two EMT's pulled out a gurney that had a lifeless young man covered with blankets on him.  He was rushed past me into the emergency room.  Didn't think much about it until two days later when the local newspaper featured a series of stories on the opioid crisis in the small town of Ephrara which lies about 16 miles to the north of Lancaster, PA.  The main headline cried out "Fighting A Familiar Enemy" and told the story of the Ephrata Mayor who declared a heroin crisis twenty years ago in his town, but was faced with citizens that complained he was putting a black mark on the town and it was hurting business.  Anyway, most thought he didn't know what he was talking about.  Seems the Police Chief in the town had told the Mayor in 1997 that drug overdoses had tripled from two years prior.  His warnings and efforts were pushed off and now the town has a major problem.  Eventually, the drug problem did subside somewhat, but now, it has returned with a vengeance.  Not just a heroin epidemic, but a full-blown opioid crisis.  
The hospital where I just visited is now treating about 300 overdoses a year.  That's almost one a day.  And, perhaps the gurney I saw today was carrying the next victim.  Ephrata, as well as many other cities and towns all over the world are faced with an opioid crisis.  People of all ages, races and wealth are effected.  Do you know what opioids are?  Do you happen to have some in your medicine cabinet?  My guess is you do.  May not realize it, but I'll bet many of you do.  Opioids are drugs that act on the nervous system to relieve pain.  You may have had a tooth pulled or had a medical procedure done at your doctor's office or local hospital and were given pain pills to help with your pain.  Those pills were probably opioids.  Recognize these names: Robitussin A-C, Tylenol with Codeine, Empirin with Codeine, Demerol, Percocet or OxyContin to name a few; all listed as opioids.  Today these drugs carry street names such as: Captain Cody, Schoolboy, Doors & Fours, Pancakes & Syrup and Loads.  I had a few containers in my kitchen cabinet a few weeks ago until I went through the cabinet and took all the unused pills to my local police department so I could deposit them in a secure place they have for them.  After each of my three back surgeries I was given opioids.  After each of my hand surgeries I was given opioids.  After I had my kidney stones removed and after I had my prostate cancer procedure I was given opioids.  And, I'm one person!  Can you imagine how many containers of opioids are in your medicine cabinet the cabinets of your neighbors.  And, how many of their children, friends and relatives might grab the containers figuring they will never miss a few of them.  
And now we have an opioid crisis throughout the world.  Big money is involved in the making of synthetic opioids and sold to just about anyone who can afford them or who can offer their services to get them.  When will it ever end?  I, for one, have no idea what to look for to tell if someone is an abuser of opioids.  All I know is what I read and needless to say if you are reading this story you see I have absolutely no idea how big a problem it may be.  I only know what I read.  Lucky for me I was able to bypass the use of all those prescriptions I was given over the years and have dispensed of the opioids at the police station.  Have you?  What's next?  More suffering and pain for those addicted to opioids?  Some problems never seem to go away do they.  I'm afraid this may be one of them.  And, I hope it doesn't affect any of you reading this story today, but I know that's not going to be the case.  It could be any one you!  So sad!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The "United States President For A Day!" Story

It was an ordinary day. Watching one of my favorite television shows, "Mysteries At The Museum".  Stories that are both interesting and educational.  Had just watched the episode telling about the young couple that moved into a new house and found it to be filled with frightening paranormal events.  They eventually sold the house and gave their story to Jay Anson who then wrote about the house in his book, "The Amityville Horror."  Claimed that it was a true story, but found out later that the owners of the house who sold their story to him had made up just about everything they shared with him.  Well, after that episode of the show ended another began that totally baffled me.  Now, I was certainly not the best history student in high school, but I wasn't the worst either.  So, when I found out that our 12th president of the United States served for only one day, I was floored.  Did most of you know that?  We all know the names of some of our earliest presidents such as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Atchison.  
President David Rice Atchison
Who you may ask is Atchison.  I know I did.  It was in early 1848 that America prepared for a change in administrations in our White House.  Inauguration Day was March 4, 1849 and outgoing president James K. Polk would end his term and Zachary Taylor would be sworn into office.  But, the day happened to be a Sunday and Taylor refused to take the oath on the Sabbath so he and his vice-president wouldn't take office until Monday.  Who would be the 24-hour commander-in-chief?  For as long as I have been studying history, I never knew anything about this.  Neither did my wife!  Missouri Democrat David Rice Atchison had been sworn in as president pro tempore of the Senate on March 2 and according to the 1792 law in effect at the time, the Senate's president pro tempore was directly behind the vice president in line of succession.  Therefore, Atchison would serve a day in between Polk and Taylor.  But, Atchison's term as senator also ended on March 4 and he wouldn't be president pro tempore until March 5.  So now what?  Some stories I read said our presidency was vacant for a day and Atchison never laid claim to the office.  But, "Mysteries At The Museum" told the story and said that Atchison assumed the position of President of the United States for that one day.  
Plaque displayed in Missouri telling of President Atchison.
What did he do that day you may wonder.  He stayed in bed the entire day!  During the day someone (can't believe I don't remember who it was) came, managed to get into his bedroom, and wanted to be given some high-ranking job.  He was chased out of the house.  As the episode ended I looked at my wife and asked her if she had ever heard of Atchison.  Nope!  Wondering if one of my favorite shows had made up the entire episode, I turned to my laptop and found it to be true.  So, why didn't Mr. Berkheimer, or Mr. Kilkuskie or even Mr. Hoover, a few of my history teachers in high school, never tell me about this?  Was I absent that day?  I had to take American History twice in college, since I didn't fare well the first time around, and I never was told about Atchison in either year.  Someone was trying to hide something.  And, I'm going to have to get to the bottom of this mystery.  Oh, yeah, the TV show just did that.  It was another extraordinary day in he life of an ordinary guy. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The "Anabaptists Arrival In Lancaster County: Part lI - The Mellinger Congregation; Angels On Earth!" Story

The Mellinger Mennonite Church on Lincoln Highway East.
It was an ordinary day.  Snapping a few photographs of Mellinger Mennonite Church at 1916 Lincoln Highway East in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  The Mellinger congregation was established in 1717 when a number of Mennonites settled near Mill Creek, southwest of Lancaster City.  One cluster of Mennonites was in the Millstream watershed, and that's what evolved into the Mellinger congregation.  The "Mellinger" name came from Martin Mellinger who was a prominent member of the church.  
An early photograph of the Mellinger Mennonite Church.
He arrived in the United States in 1772, five years after the first meeting- house had been built near the site of the current church.  He was soon ordained as a deacon in the church and became a well-known leader in the Mennonite church.  He was credited with helping coordinate the hymnal - Ein Unpartheyisches Gesangbuch - which was published in 1894.  Old Order Mennonites still use this version of the hymnal.  Tragedy struck his personal life when both his wife and child died.  The farmland that sits next to the church I am standing near was where the first meetinghouse, known as the Mellinger Meetinghouse, once stood.  
A series of date stones tell the story of
the Mellinger Mennonite Church.
Then in 1812 a group from the Mellinger congregation broke away and formed a new congregation known as the Longenecker Meetinghouse.  Mellinger congregation still is strong today with 370 members and it, along with the Groffdale congregation, is celebrating 300 years of existence.  The congregation has a Parent and Preschool Center along with the Emmaus Road Cafe which is part of the church's outreach program.  The cafe was started to share the good news of Jesus and to be a Christian presence in the community.  Mennonites left Europe years ago because they were persecuted for refusing to be part of the Swiss Reformed Church which insisted on infant baptism.  Anabaptists believe that baptism is valid only when a person confesses his or her faith in Christ.  In the past few years there has been healing between the Anabaptists, Lutherans and Catholics.  
The side of the church away from the highway shows
beautiful windows and stonework.
The Mennonites realize that they need to recognize their history of perse- cution, but also need to recognize there has been reconcilia- tion to move forward.  The Mellinger Mennonite Cemetery is located at 11 Greenfield Road, across Lincoln Highway from the church.  It holds many generations of Mennonite families, but it also holds the bodies of the "unclaimed" in Lancaster County which I find to be a remarkable gesture of compassion and spiritual giving to the community of Lancaster County.  
The stone tells the story of the cemetery.
In the Sunday, August 27, 2017 edition of the local newspaper was a story telling of Noah and Pauline Zimmer- man, a funeral director and a few men who had backed a truck carrying 600 bags of cremated human remains to the edge of a freshly dug hole in the cemetery on Greenfield Road.  600 bags of cremated remains that no one had claimed as family or friends and who were going to be buried along with others who also were unwanted for one reason or another or whose relatives or friends couldn't afford to have them buried.  But yet the Mellinger congregation was willing to allow these bags of human remains to be buried in their cemetery.  
The plot where the unclaimed remains were buried.
Until the remains are buried in the cemetery they are stored on shelves in the Lancaster County morgue where they sit, in black cardboard boxes, on shelves arranged according to year of death.  No tears shed and no family watching as the dirt is thrown on the remains.  How hard it must be for those who dig the hole and place the bags into the ground; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust!  My guess is that the Mennonite operators of the cemetery say a silent prayer for those lost souls that will be put to eternal rest in their cemetery.  After all, anyone with a name such as Noah, would have to say a graveside prayer before shoveling the dirt into the hole.  Those from the Mellinger congregation who give of their time and effort to those in need are true Angels.  God Bless Them All!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Monday, October 9, 2017

The "Anabaptists Arrival In Lancaster County: Part l - The Groffdale Congregation" Story

Preface:  At times it amazes me how very little I really know about the community in which I have spent my entire life.  This blog has caused me to discover an entirely new world that I didn't know existed.  Today and tomorrow my stories will deal with the Anabaptist movement, or Radical Reformation, and its entrance into Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  I must admit I learned so much while researching information needed to tell the story of the 300th anniversary of the Mennonite Church in Lancaster County.

Groffdale Mennonite Church in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
It was an ordinary day.  Standing along North Groffdale Road taking a photograph of the Groffdale Mennonite Church.  The area surrounding the church in Lancaster County is at its best...fields of sky-high corn shocks and soon to be harvested soybeans.  Throw in a couple of Amish buggies passing by and a Plain sect young woman riding by on a bicycle and I was ready to take my photos of the church.  
Date stone telling that this church was built in 1909
after the previous frame and stone church was demolished.
Groffdale Mennonite Church is one of two celebrating their 300th anniversary this year.  You read that right...300 years!  It was in the late summer of 1717 that three ships sailed from a Dutch port to the New World.  On those ships were 363 Mennonites from the Palatinate which is the German region just north of Switzerland that was home to several generations of Mennonites.  Eight years prior Mr. Martin Kendig had arrived in Lancaster County and purchased land.  
A young church member is headed to the church after
parking her horse and buggy near the church cemetery.
When the ships arrived in 1717, the majority of Mennonites on the ships that landed in New Castle, Delaware and Philadel- phia, PA headed west to Lancaster County, settling in an area bounded by New Danville, Strasburg and Weaverland.  Many congregations of Mennonites came from those immigrants with two of the congregations, the Groffdale and Mellinger congregations, now celebrating 300 years of religious celebration.  Mennonites are Christian groups which belong to church congregations of Anabaptist denominations named after Meno Simons of Friesland, a province of the Netherlands.  The early teachings of the Mennonites were founded on the belief in both the mission and ministry of Jesus which the original Anabaptist followers held to with great conviction despite persecution by various Roman Catholic and Protestant states.  
A windmill stands behind the Groffdale cemetery.
Mennonites have long been known for their commit- ment to pacifism and one of the historic peace churches.  The oldest Mennonite meeting- house in the United States is the Hans Herr House in West Lampeter Township.  Today there are over 2 million Anabaptist's worldwide which include Amish, Hutterites and a variety of Mennonite congregations.  The Lancaster Mennonite Conference is an organization of more than 170 congregations.  I made visits today to both the Groffdale and Mellinger congregations, taking photographs of their churches and graveyards.  As stated in the beginning of my story, I first visited the Groffdale Church.  The church looks much like any other red brick church except for the buggies that stood along a nearby railing.  The graveyard behind the church dates back nearly three centuries to when the congregation began by accident.  It was back then that horses owned by Hans Groff of nearby Strasburg, PA ran away and when he and other Mennonites searched for them, they found them in an area northeast of present day Leola.  
Many of the tombstones bear the name "Groff."
They noticed that the land had large trees and extremely fertile land.  Groff bought 1,500 acres of the land and was soon surrounded by others who were also attracted to the land.  The area became known as Groffdale. A Mennonite congregation was soon formed and met at members homes for services.  Eventually a log meeting house, church if you will, was built and used until 1823 when it was replaced by a stone church.  50 years later a frame addition was added for additional seating.  In the spring of 1909 the old stone and frame building was demolished and the  church building I am standing near, known to some as Groffdale brick church, was  built.  In 1936 an addition was added to the west end of the building and has been updated several times since then.
Another church member leaves the parking lot on her bike.
The nearby cemetery has been enlarged several times with the oldest section containing the graves of Hans Groff and other Groffdale pioneers.  300 years ago the vision of the Mennonite congregations was to be separate and keep to themselves with a vision to serve and bless their community.  The church now has 170 members with a Learning Center, children's school and mental health center for members of their congregation.  Their webpage proclaims them to be a Christian church who worships Jesus as Savior and Lord and through the empowerment of the Hold Spirit, to live as Jesus taught us.  They list their ten values along with an invitation to come and worship with them. Check their webpage: www.groffdale.com for more information about the church. Tomorrow I will take you with me to the Mellinger congregation church and cemetery and tell about a special service that the congregation has given to other citizens of Lancaster County, PA.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   


Sunday, October 8, 2017

The "Storms May Come And Go...But We Are Here To Stay!" Story

One of my favorite photos I have taken in the Caribbean.  This
photograph was taken on Shoal Bay East on the island of Anguilla,
an island within eyesight of St. Martin. Click on it to enlarge.
It was an ordinary day.  Posting one more story about the Caribbean and the damage that has been the result of Hurricanes Irma, Jose and Maria.  Carol and I are still not sure what we should do in the spring of next year which is the time of the year that we have made a habit of traveling to the Caribbean for a few weeks.  Will they be ready for us to visit?  Will we be disappointed due to all the damage?  Well, after reading a story a few days ago, we have decided that it is our obligation to visit and provide our financial support to help those living in the Caribbean get their life back to normal once again.  The story that influenced us went like this:

Serene scene from Happy Bay, St. Martin.
On October 9, 1780, the Great Hurricane came to the Caribbean.  Huracan San Calixto lasted 11 days in the West Indies, pummeling the southeastern Caribbean with terrifying winds as high as 200 miles per hour, destroying homes and livelihoods.  Almost 22,000 people died across the West Indies.  This terrible tempest remains the deadliest recorded hurricane in the history of the Western Hemsiphere.  Everything was washed away. Or so it seemed.  But, all of these islands are still here. And, they aren't going anywhere.  Because that's the thing about Caribbean people; they cannot be defeated.  They rebuild, they restore and they live again.  It is the cost of the region's unimaginable natural beauty that, by the caprice of fate, there is the periodic risk of ruin, an intermittent reminder of the supremacy of Mother Nature.  But after each storm, after each tragedy, the Caribbean waves its finger at Mother Nature; "storms may come and go but we are here to stay."

Off to the Caribbean!  This photograph, one of my favorite
photos I have taken in the Caribbean, is from Barbados.
I have said enough in this blog about the past storms.  What needs to be done is this: The Caribbean will rebuild.  It will not be easy, it may not be quick, but it will happen.  So what should we do as someone who loves the Caribbean?  Making a donation to help with the rebuilding would help, but the biggest thing we can do for the livelihood of the entire region recently struck by the storms is to keep going back because tourism remains the life blood of the Caribbean and without you and I returning to the Caribbean, the pocketbooks of the people will not grow.  So head back when you can, since it isn't going anywhere soon!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The "Fabulous Tin Lizzy" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Had just pulled into a parking space at the Walmart which is a hop, skip and jump from my house.  My wife had ordered a prescription refill and I volunteered to take her across the street for something to do.  As I got out of the car, Carol said to me, "Do you see that car in the next row?"  Wow!  
The Model T Ford.  You can see the bright
wooden wheels from this view.
Parked closeby was one fabulous Model T Ford.  The sunshine reflected off the bright red paint job and the brass framework around the radiator reflected my image as I stood in front of the car.  I told Carol I'd be in the store as soon as I grabbed a few photos with my phone.  If you have never seen a Model T in person, you have been missing one of the most famous car in automotive history.  It was on October 1st, 1908, that the Model T first went on sale.  Henry Ford's "Tin Lizzy," as the car was known, changed the way Americans lived, worked and traveled.  The assembly-line car, Ford's revolutionary new advancement in car production, made automobiles affordable for a majority of Americans for the first time.  
The rear of the car.
Over 15 million Model T's were sold from 1908 until 1927.  They were built in Detroit and Highland Park, Michigan as well as in Manchester, England and auto plants in continental Europe.  The car was known for its low cost, durability, versatility, and ease of maintenance.  The assembly line dropped the cost of the car from $850 in 1908 to less than $300 in 1925 with about 40% of all cars sold being the "Tin Lizzy."  The car was offered in a five-seat touring car, a two-seat runabout, and a seven-seat town car.  The car was painted black from 1913 to 1925.  The engine was a simple four-cylinder that could maintain speeds of 40-45 miles per hour.  
The car was registered in Maine and labeled as a Horseless Carriage.
From 1908 to 1920 the car was started with a hand-crank.  The transmission allowed the driver two forward gears and one reverse which were controlled by foot pedals rather than a hand lever.  There was a ten gallon fuel tank under the front seat and since the gasoline was fed to the engine by gravity, driving up a steep hill had to be done backwards.  
The interior was brown leather with the horn to the left
of the driver on the side panel of the car.
The car's homey appearance, uncom- fortable ride and incessant rattling made the Model T the butt of many jokes, songs, poems and stories.  The "Tin Lizzy" was the best-selling car in history until VW introduced the 1972 VW Bug.  The Ford Model T was named the most influential car of the 20th century in  1999.  A few days after the car was introduced in October, 1908, 15,000 orders were placed.  
Here I am looking down the side of the car at a metal tool box.
As I snapped a few photos with my phone, a crowd began to gather and we talked about all the neat features that the car had.  The wheels were wooden artillery wheels with steel welded-spokes which were available in 1926 and 1927.  As far as paint color of the car, red was only for the touring cars.  Before that the car was available in any color, as long as it was black.  My only wish, after taking a half dozen photos, was that I would get a chance to see the owner drive the car from the parking lot.  Didn't happen, but I still enjoyed looking at the piece of automobile history.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.
This logo on the front window says Seal Cove Auto Museum in Seal Cove, Maine.