Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The "Confessions Of A Latent Writer" Story

It was an ordinary day.  8:36 am.  Overcast.  I'm standing along Market Alley talking with some guy wearing a trench coat that's two sizes to big for him.  Has his left hand in his coat pocket, moving something around when he tells me to be careful what I say cause somebody is watching us from the window above.  Asked me my name and I tell him my friends call me LDub.  "You know ... like the letter "L" with a "Dub" after it.  Got my hush-puppies on and I never was meant for glitter rock and roll."  His voice is gravelly when he says, "They call me when they need me ... and I'm gonna head inside the market house.  Give me two and a half minutes and you follow me in.  I'll be standing in line at the first stand inside waiting to buy a long john.  Peanut butter.  That's my favorite.  Don't say a word to a soul and head to the upper tier and wait."  Or, do you like this better ...  It was an ordinary day. The silence is deafening. Then another bullet explodes, sending shock waves through the misty morning air behind the market house.  See a guy running east along Market Street with his hand in his trench coat pocket.  I knew something was fishy when I saw him stop at the trash receptacle and throw a wrapper from a peanut butter long john into it.  OK, which one of these two openings should I use for the start of my first novel?  Haven't decided what to call it yet, but I knew I had to start somewhere and I figured I could write a mystery novel about the back streets of downtown Lancaster, since I've been acquainted with the area most of my life and someone told me years ago that you should write what is most familiar to you.  Lady by the name of Mrs. Eisenhart;  Mrs. Clair Eisenhart.  Bless her soul!  Was my 10th grade English teacher.  "Write something that will make the words flow from your head onto the paper," she used to say to me.  Miss that old lady who at one time scolded me for using the word "ain't" in a sentence, since "that isn't even a word," she said.  "So, today we headed" ... now that's something else she said never to use to start a sentence; you know ... the word "so".  And, by the way, do you leave a space after the word before you use ..., or do you place the ... directly after the word?  You have perhaps been reading my stories for the past eight years now and may have wondered what type of writing style I've been using.  Betcha can't figure it out yet, since I'm not sure I have a particular writing style.  As I may have told you before I barely passed English in college; actually barely passed English in high school, something Mrs. Eisenhart would testify to if she were still alive.  Bless her soul!  English is still something I'm not real good at.   Ah, there I go again using a preposition to end a sentence.  The other day I picked up a copy of "The Fishwrapper," which is a semi-religious pamphlet, at our local Stauffers of Kissel Hill Supermarket.  Right there on page 4 was what I've been searching for all my writing life.  Something called "Important Rules of Writing."  23 rules to make your writing better it said.  So, from now on I plan to use these rules.  I'm sure Mrs. Eisenhart would approve.  Bless her soul!  Hope you will have an easier time reading what I write from now on.  Just so you know ... here are the rules that will from now on be my writing "Bible."  Did you ever notice sometimes I place the "." before the " " " while other times I place the "." after the " " "  Not sure which is the correct way, but no one ever seemed to mind.  Without further adieu, here are the rules ...

  • Each pronoun agrees with their antecedent.
  • Just between you and I case is important.
  • Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  • Watch out for irregular verbs which have crept into our language.
  • Don't use no double negatives.
  • A writer mustn't shift your point of view.
  • When dangling, don't use participles.
  • Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
  • Don't write a run-on sentence you have to punctuate it.
  • About sentence fragments.
  • In a letter themes reports articles and stuff like that we use commas to keep a string of items apart.
  • Don't use commas, which aren't necessary. (now, I have a tough time with this one)
  • Its very important that you use apostrophe's right.
  • Don't abbrev.
  • Check to see if you have any words out.
  • As far as incomplete constructions, they are wrong.
  • Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.
  • The active voice is preferred.
  • Use of the passive voice is to be avoided.
  • Eschew obfuscation.
  • It is important to never ever under any circumstances split an infinitive.
  • Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  • Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.
OK, ready for the new me?  See what you think tomorrow ... and hey, which one of the two starts for my new novel do you like anyway?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The "Class Of 1962 Celebrates All Night Long ... Until 10:00 PM" Story

The HIgh School Yearbook on the left and tonight's program
on the left with tonights program shown on the right.
It was an ordinary day.  Our friends Jere and Sue arrived in Lancaster from State College, PA mid-afternoon in order to attend our 55 high school class reunion.  Jere, Sue and myself were all in the Manheim Township High School (MTHS) class of 1962.  My wife Carol is a few years younger than the three of us and graduated from another high school in Lancaster County.  Jere and I grew up together, living just a few blocks from each other on the north end of the city of Lancaster.  After graduation he entered the Navy and I entered Millersville State Teachers College.  Four years later I was teaching at my high school Alma mater while Jere was now a student at Millersville.  He too returned to teach at MTHS for a few years before beginning the job of Plant Manager for the entire school district.  We both retired in 1999 and along with our wives began to travel together.  Our high school class had about about 180 members when we graduated in 1962.  Tonight's class reunion will have about 35 of those members in attendance along with quite a few of our spouses.  
Appetizer table on the left at the Lancaster Tennis and Yacht Club.
The four of us arrived at the Lancaster Tennis and Yacht Club at 6:00 PM, just in time to get in line for check-in and appetizers.  After collecting a plate of appetizers the four of us found an empty table and sat to enjoy the Penn State vs. Pittsburgh football game on the big screen TV directly next to our table.  Wasn't long before another couple and a female classmate joined us.  Surprisingly, we all recognized each other after all these years.  I quietly said to Carol, "Why do all these people look so old?  We certainly don't look that old, do we?"  No comment on her part.  We talked amongst ourselves and then an announcement was made by the star football player in our class, Jody, that it was time to eat.  He ushered all of us, table by table, to the buffet line and after all were fed, he made a few announcements and then announced it was time for dessert.  
Rick, with the steering wheel, leads his Barbershop
Quartet in one of the many songs they sang for us.
More commotion with everyone enjoying desserts from Costco.  It was then time for entertain- ment.  One of our classmates, Rick, is a member of a Barbershop Quartet and they took the stage and performed for about 20 minutes.  Rick then made the announcement that one of the class in attendance was celebrating his birthday today and they would lead everyone in singing Happy Birthday.  Well, after the song ended, I felt it appropriate to stand and thank everyone for singing to me!   The rest of the evening was spent listening and dancing to oldies as well as making the rounds of the tables, meeting and talking with friends that most haven't seen since our last reunion five years prior.  One member of the class, Tom, traveled the furthest, arriving from California for the reunion.  About half in attendance traveled from a variety of States, with the other half being Lancaster County residents.  A few of us became teachers and returned to our Alma mater to teach.  Our table had Jere and myself as well as Pam who went to elementary, junior high and high school together as well as returning to teach in the high school.  
Class members dance the Electric Slide.  Many probably
had a rough time getting out of bed the next day.
Nancy made a visit to our table and reminded me that she too was a teacher and substituted for me from time to time.  We did talk of those who couldn't be in attendance due to other commitments or sickness.  And, naturally had to talk about all those who had died since we graduated together.  Norm was remembered for his service in the military and dying for his country.  We talked about Ted whose wife returned the reunion notice telling us that he has been ill for sometime and couldn't attend tonight.  In all we have lost about 30 class members.  The evening was a huge success and I for one enjoyed the chance to dance once again with my sweetheart who has been my wife for the past 50 years.  The only sad part of the weekend was opening the morning newspaper the following day and reading the obituary for our classmate Ted who had succumbed to brain cancer.  We all agreed that we should keep the date open for 2022 and another evening of trying to figure out who was who in the class of 1962.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Four members of the reunion committee stand next to the appetizer table before the evening's festivities began.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The "The Magnificent Clydesdales Of Budweiser" Story

The Clydesdale to the left is having his legs combed while
the one to the right is having his tack put in place.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing next to over 2,000 pounds of magnificent animal behind Lancaster's Clipper Magazine Baseball Stadium.  He has just been fitted with his tack which weighs over 130 pounds.  The tack, or harness, is handcrafted with solid brass, patent leather, and stitched with pure linen thread.  It is made especially to fit any Clydesdale; however, collars come in various sizes and must be individually fitted to the Clydesdales like a finely tailored suit.  
One of three trucks carrying the world famous Budweiser
Clydesdales and the easily recognizable beer wagon.
The tack for each horse can cost as much as $10,000 to $12,000; perhaps much more than a finely tailored suit.  I read in the newspaper a few days ago that the famous Budweiser Clydesdales were going to appear at The Clip over the weekend.  Knew immediately that Carol and I would be in attendance since she owned a horse while growing up and just loved viewing the steeds of Budweiser.  We arrived just as the famous red tractor trailers began to open on the south side of the ballpark.  
A 2,000 pound Clydesdale is led from his stall in
the trailer to prepare for the eight-horse team.
Place was already crowded in the front awaiting the team of horses.  We parked and I told Carol we may be able to watch the horses being hitched to the beer wagon if we walk around to the south side of the ballpark.  Sure enough, we rounded the stadium and there was a big crowd lining one side of the driveway, waiting for the horsed to exit the trailers.  Clydesdales originated in the early 19th century when farmers who lived along the banks of the River Clyde in Lanarkshire, Scotland imported a few Great Flemish horses and mated them with local mares.  Thus, the Clydesdales were born.  
The Budweiser beer wagon.
In order to be a Budweiser Clydesdale a horse must stand at least 18 hands high (6 feet tall),  be a gelding (a neutered male) at least 4 years old, have a bay coat, four white stockings, a blaze of white on the face, a black mane, a black tail and weigh between 1,800 and 2,300 pounds.  Now, I know these facts since the fellow standing in front of me with the microphone, dressed in the neat red uniform, is telling all of us who gathered in front of the trailers to get a look at the horses.  He also told us that each horse consumes 20 to 25 quarts of whole grains, minerals, vitamins, 50-60 pounds of hay and 30 gallons of water each day.  
This guy is all ready to be placed in
his spot to transport the wagon.
The trailers we see in front of us are one of three traveling hitches which are based in St. Louis, MO; Fort Collins, CO; and Merrimack, NH.  Each traveling hitch consists of ten horses, the red, white and gold beer wagon and other essential pieces of equipment which are housed in three 50-foot tractor-trailors which have air cushioned suspension and thick rubber flooring.  This hitch has been traveling in the local area with nightly stops at a local stable so the horses can rest.  As we watched each horse exit their trailer we were told their names and how much they weighed.  After having their entire body brushed and the long white hair on their legs combed, the tack was placed on them and they were led to the wagon.  Their position on the wagon was based on their age, weight and training.  Wasn't long before "Barley", the wagon's Dalmatian was led from the trailer to a grassy area and then to a spot where his harness bearing the Budweiser symbol was place on him and he was lifted onto the wagon where he took his spot next to the two drivers.  
The first of eight spots has been filled with the first horse.
The fellow with the mic told us that driving the hitch required quite a bit of physical strength since the leather lines weigh 40 pounds and the tension of the 12 tons of wagon and horses creates over 75 pounds.  Rigorous training is required to be able to sit on the wagon seat and assume the prestigious role of "Budweiser Clydesdale Hitch Driver."  Well, the hitch has begun to move and I have my camera ready.  So exciting to watch these eight magnificent Clydesdales pull the shining cart with driver's and "Barley" sitting proudly on the seat.  I hope my photographs can show half the excitement I feel at the time.  Gotta go ... here they come.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Decoration on the harness can be seen in this photo.
The Budweiser logo is on everything including the horse's blinder.  
A Farrier is only a phone call away if one is needed.  The horseshoes measure 20 inches end to end and weigh about five pounds each.
This guy is ready to be part of the team.  Notice the roses that follow his mane.
The first two horses in the team of eight are now in place.
One of the trainers prepared yet another horse.
This horse is having the very heavy collar put in place.
"Barley" is preparing to ride on the wagon.
View of one of the trailers with an image of a Clydesdale on the cab. 
And ... here they come!
What a wonderful view of the hitch.
Passing by me are the first two of eight horses.
Final few horses ready to pass by.  
The proud drivers and just as proud "Barley".
What a great time we had.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The "Sadness And Concern For The People Of SXM: Part IV - Lifeblood Of Tourism/PJIA" Story

The Princess Juliana International Airport in Sint Maarten
It was an ordinary day.  Posting my final story about Hurricane Irma and the tremendous damage caused by the category 5 hurricane.  As is true with most islands in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, the livelihood of the islands is tourism.  And, when your airport is almost totally destroyed, it makes more of an impact than most other locations on the island.  
Airport as it appeared in 1960
The Princess Juliana International Airport on the Dutch side of the island, known as Sint Maarten/St. Martin, is the vital link between island vitality and tourism.  The airport was first opened in 1942 as a military airstrip and a year later converted to a civilian airport.  In 1964 it was remodeled and relocated, with a new terminal building and control tower.  The facility was upgraded once again in 1985 and heavily modernized in the early 2000s.  It was at this point that we began to travel to what has become our favorite island destination as well as our second home. 
The airport as it appeared recently
This past year, during our visit to the island, we noticed that the upper-floor of PJIA was amazing with new shops, restaurants and the addition a rocking chairs where you could sit while you waited for your plane to load.  Then, on September 6th, all that changed once again.  The roof had been blown off parts of the terminal, the jetways were damaged and there was a significant aamount of sand and flooding on the runway.  
Recent damage from Irma can be seen in this photo.
The airport was in the news a few months ago, as well as on this blog, when a woman was killed while trying to hold onto a fence at the end of the runway while a plane began to fire up its jet engines in preparation for takeoff.  Popular Maho Beach is at the end of the runway where many gather to view planes land and take off.  But, the hurricane is a much bigger story than plane watching.  I'm sure that the island will concentrate on the airport and try to get it back in working order as fast as possible, since the island relies heavily air flight for their livelihood and most tourists arrive by airplane.  I have included some photos to show you what a daunting task the PJIA airport has before it. Here's hoping they can get the construction completed in a timely manner.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Damage to the airport can seen in this photo as well as the following

The Dutch Marines recently arrived to help keep peace on the island

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The "The Mystery: Who Destroyed My Mailbox?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Tuesday morning and I had just returned home after working a few hours at Grebinger Gallery.  Pulled into the driveway and all of a sudden I saw it ... or I should say - Didn't see it!  
Who Did This?
My mailbox was missing; that was until I noticed it broken, sitting along the street.  Now this isn't just any mailbox, but a mailbox that came with the house and had the same cedar siding and paint stain that my house boasts.  And ... it was big.  Stood at least 4 feet high with a sloped top on it and numbers that glowed when your car's headlights struck it.  
LDub getting his daily mail.
During Halloween season it was home to a couple of ghosts that my wife had made and attached behind the top of it.  Then, when Thanksgiving approached, one ghost wore feathers on its head while the other wore a Pilgrim hat.  Not going to happen anymore.  Someone drove past the mailbox who was either drunk or on their phone and took out the large wooden mailbox.  They had to know they hit it, but there was no note nearby with a name or an apology on it.  Should I rebuild it or just buy a normal mailbox?  The cost to reconstruct it was too much and I had no promise that it wouldn't happen again, so I opted for a normal mailbox.  The wooden mailbox has some history to it.  On the first morning after moving into our "Beach House", my good friend and Manheim Township police detective Wayne arrived to pick me up to head to the school where I taught Industrial Arts so we could work on a coffee table for him.  
Our ghosts will finally disappear!
Dawn had just broken and it evidently didn't light up my driveway as well as it should have and Wayne backed right into my mailbox.  Knocked it into the street, but with no apparent damage.  We placed it back in its hole and headed off to school. Which makes me think that whoever hit my mailbox on Tuesday had to have really slammed into it.  Knocked it totally out of the ground and snapped off the four corner supports that held it in the ground.  Woman who works across the street at the dentist's office walked over to tell me she was so sorry and will miss the ghosts each fall.  Also told me no one in her office saw what had happened.  Oh, well.  Whomever did the dastardly deed will face up to their sin someday.  Karma, you know!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The "Sadness And Concern For The People Of SXM: Part III - Then And Now" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Can't seem to be able to turn on my laptop without checking Facebook and TravelTalkOnline for photos of the damage that occurred during Hurricane Irma.  Don't think I will ever forget this hurricane due to the amount of destruction caused by the category 5 storm.  Following are before and after photos which I found while searching the two sights I listed.  At least one, if not both, of the photos has been taken by H. Crisostomo.  If you have never been to Sint Maarten/St. Martin you naturally have no idea what specific locations may look like, so this comparison will give you more of an idea as to the destruction caused by Irma.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Cruise ship terminal
Boardwalk in Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side
Marigot harbor where ferries to other islands land and depart
Grand Case on French side
Another Grand Case scene
Grand Case
Calmos Cafe in Grand Case
Celine too charter boat
Grand Case from the water side 
Not sure of this location
Club O on Orient Beach on French side
Grand Case
Another view of Orient Beach near Pedro's Beach Bar
Dawn Beach 
Another view of Orient Beach
Orient Beach