Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The "99ers" Story

It was an ordinary day. Heading to work at the gallery where I work part-time and passed a lawn sign, much like the signs you see during an election campaign. Plastered on it in bold letters was "I'm a 99er". This is in reference to the 99% of the population that are hoping that the 1%, or the wealthiest people in the country, will pay their fair share of taxes so the 99% doesn't have to suffer from another tax increase or lack of services and health care. I knew there was an Occupy Wall Street encampment in downtown Lancaster and decided it was time to go and talk to some of the 99ers who are camped out on the area next to the Lancaster Police Station. Headed in Prince Street and arrived at the corner of Prince and Chestnut to be greeted by a guy holding a sign; "Value All Life, Love All Lives". Parked, put enough money in the meter for 30 minutes and headed toward the tents. Maybe 15 to 20 tents in various colors occupied the corner strip of straw-strewn grass that was next to the police station. Ground belongs to the city of Lancaster, but the protesters have an occupancy permit for the area. I approached a fellow about 25 years old who said his name was Hafid, although I'm not sure I believed him. After teaching for as many years as I did and raising threechildren, you can usually tell when someone is lying to you. He told me he had moved to the Lancaster site from the Occupy site in Harrisburg. Has found that this city is less sympathetic to the protesters. Many yell obscenities at the as well as "Get a job"
as they pass by in their cars. I asked him if he has a job and got a negative response. Then I asked if anyone who occupies the tents has a job. He told me many do and some work more than one job. My next question for him was, what do you expect to accomplish with this protest? Answer to me was to show the inequality in the classes of the population in the US. Not sure how he plans to do that by camping out on public property for weeks on end. They had no specific leader among the group, but I was led to a large tent and asked to visit with the people inside. After being offered a chair, another young man in his early 20s by the name of Kavy, again not sure I believe him, spoke to me. He had just returned to Lancaster from New York, after that encampment was terminated. He had been there from the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. About half a dozen young people occupied the tent with he and I and I asked what they did with their time. Played music most of the time and talked. To me it seemed almost like camping out with your friends. Other than the one fellow holding the sign when I arrived, I did not see any involvement with the public to tell them about their beliefs; no literature to hand out telling about their cause. I really wasn't impressed. I'm not sure what I wanted them to do, but maybe spread the word about the plight of the lower and middle class in the US would be a starting point. Tough to do that while sitting in a tent on a beautiful sunny day. I was invited to spend the night, but declined since I never enjoyed camping, even as a child. I was told of
a city meeting that evening they were going to attend to see if they can extend their permit beyond the end of the year to occupy the city land they are on. Has to be cold in those flimsy tents! I too feel for the unemployed and homeless. My way of protesting is by casting my vote on election day. I did not question the young people I had talked with, but certainly hope they also visited the polls on election day. I do admire their determination to show the city of Lancaster how they feel about social and economic inequality, greed as well as corruption in our government and the undue influence of corporations, but I'm not impressed with the way they are doing it. Seems there just has to be a better way. Maybe I just missed something! I hope!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The "It Had To Happen!" Story

It was an ordinary day. Talking to Andy on the phone to see when he can drop off the CD with all the Middle School sports teams. I have been contracted to do the Manheim Township Middle School yearbook for the past 12 years. We always put the photos of all the sports teams as well as clubs and activities. Andy takes the photos for the MT Booster Club and told me one year that there is no sense in both of us taking the photo, so he offered to give me all the photos that he takes. How nice is that! I knew he had just finished the fall team photos and had phoned him to ask when I can get them. After making the arrangements he asked if I saw in the newspaper that I no longer have the distinction of being the only coach who had a team that won a State title at the high school. The 2011 Golf Team, coached by Skip Walters, won the state title two weeks ago. Shot a two day total of 622 to best Upper St. Clair by 3 and third place North Pocono by 18. Wow, how could I miss that!! Happened while I was away on vacation I found out. I had canceled the newspaper so I was clueless when he mentioned it to me. My high school rifle team that I coached at Manheim Township had won the 1972 State Championship by defeating Churchill and Pocono Mountain at Penn State University after going undefeated in league and regional competition. It was the first team to ever win a state title for the school and until two weeks ago, the ONLY ONE. Manheim Township is rich in athletic ability and has had numerous individual champions such as professional golfer Jim Furyk. Many teams came close, but never ever won the big one. Hanging in our gym are banners listing all the individual champs on several banners, but the only team listed on the State Championship banner is the Rifle Team. Guess that is going to change. I often thought I would never see someone match my team, but I guess I knew that had to happen sooner or later. Baseball, Lacrosse, and Soccer teams made it to the state finals, but all lost. Got on the phone and called Skip to congratulate him. He told me he heard that his team was only the second in the history of the school to win a title. I asked him if he knew who the other team was. Told me the rifle team, but that was four years before he started teaching at the high school. Told him I had coached that team. Silence!! Finally he spoke again and congratulated me. He had no idea. I told him we need to get together sometime for a photo. Wished him good luck next year and hung up. A few hours later Andy called me again and said I needed to be at the school tomorrow at 3:00 PM for a photo with Skip. School wanted it for some reason. Had to get the trophy out of the show case so we both could hold our trophies. Wow, reliving an event that happened just about 40 years ago is awesome. Oh, the memories!! ALMOST makes me feel young again. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - top photo shows Skip and me while the bottom shows my 1972 State Champion Rifle Team.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The "A Note of Thanks" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just opened a Thank You card from Sally. Sally used to be the Director of the Parish Resource Center (PRC) and my wife's boss. She has become a good friend over the years and can really write a great thank you note! English major in college and it shows. And ...... her cursive writing is fantastic. Flairs and swirls make her notes fun to read as well as receive. Years ago I had her daughter in my Graphic Arts class in high school. She was equally talented and was picked to win the "Steve Humphreville Award" given to the most outstanding student in the Industrial Arts curriculum. First girl to win the award! She went to RIT to major in graphic arts. She now has her own art studio near Philadelphia where she does art therapy. Getting back to my card, it thanks me for taking memorable photographs of the 35th Anniversary of the PRC. It was a two day affair starting with an evening program for past employees and donors to the center. The founder and past President, Douglas was so excited and enthusiastic with all the people that poured through the doors that evening. I was impressed myself with the turnout. Took photos the entire evening of the guests, the program, the unveiling of the "History Wall" sculpture and the food table. Now that was a spread!! Sally's daughter-in-law is a caterer and she makes the best desserts and crab dip. Everything looked like a piece of art. Made sure I had plenty of stops at the table for photos. The following afternoon was another program for the churches that were charter members during the first year that the PRC opened. Close to 40 churches were represented by their pastor, priest or layperson to receive a certificate naming them as a charter member of the PRC. Again I documented the affair with photo after photo. Took close to 200 shots until I was finished. What I was most excited about during the two days was meeting Sally's pastor at Leola United Methodist Church. I approached Sally and him for a photo and when I asked Sally if she would mind a photo taken with her pastor, she said, "Do you remember Tim?" I studied his face for a few seconds and when Sally saw my blank face she said again, "He had you for photography in the late 70s. Wow!! As a teacher you always remember the worst students and the best, but the in-between ones sometimes escape your memory. Tim was one of the in-between students I'm sorry to say. Tim and I talked and talked and I found that he loved photography so much after taking the course that he had made it his hobby since high school. He also took my Graphic Arts course during his senior year. I can't believe he recognized me after all those years. Maybe it was the name that did it. It certainly wasn't the haircut!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are: Front of the PRC with the fountain, Douglas and Sally, crowd gathered for the program, the "History Wall", former student and pastor Tim, the food, evening photo of the fountain.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The "Toy for the Ages!" Story

It was an ordinary day. Searching the web for a verse that would go with the story I have for today. Found it ...... Corinthians 13:11 - When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. It's the deal about putting away childish things. Still haven't done that! Years and years ago, no, make that more years than that ago, I had an inclined marble run. Loved it. Put the marbles in the chute at the top and by the time they reached the bottom you caught them in a basket. So simple yet so much fun. I played for hours with that toy. Did cause some accidents when I would leave a few marbles on the hardwood floor and mom and dad would slip on them. Used to have marbles of all colors and kinds. Loved the cat's eye marbles the most. I never knew what happened to that toy that I had whenI was a child. Got lost or thrown away when we moved into another house when I was 19. Didn't play much with it at that age so mom and dad probably got rid of it. I KNOW HOW THAT IS! When I had children I was always searching for inexpensive toys for them. Watching The New Yankee Workshop one Saturday morning and the host was making an antique marble run. Later that day I was in the woodshop at school making one for the kids. So simple to make and so much fun to play with. Naturally had to try it out when it was finished and I had purchased a big bag of cat's eye marbles. Wow, did that bring back memories. Played with it all evening after the kids went to bed. Next morning I was the best dad on the block. They didn't even have time to get dressed before they were playing with it. Hours and hours of fun!! Well, when the kids were grown and Carol and I moved in the late '90s, the marble game bit the dust. Have no idea what ever happened to it. And then ...... yep, grandkids came along. Back to the shop to make another marble game. The grandkids are 9, 7 and 6 years of age, but guess what they play with every time they come to visit with Amah and Tampah; the marble run. They tire eventually of the computer games and the Wii and Nintendo and off they go to get the marble run. Play with it at the same place in the living room every time they use it. And sometimes they lose a marble and ... yep, Amah or Tampah will slip on it. Have to remember not to throw it out this time. It really is a game for the ages! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - top pix shows my son Derek and daughter Brynn playing in our dining room about 1977 while the bottom photo shows Caden, Camille and Courtney playing in our living room in 2011.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The "Game of 2011" Story

It was an ordinary day. And in six more days we will be off to Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium for the finals of the 4A High School State Championships. Quince Orchard (13-0), #3 in Maryland's Washington Post rankings, will take on #5 Old Mill (13-0) for the title. What makes it so special is that the coach of Quince Orchard is my son-in-law. His 2007 team won the State Championship on the same field. Players eventually graduate, but the coach stays the same at the high school in Montgomery Co., MD. Must be something pretty special about the coach, don't you think. The players love him, and he returns the favor! But ........ the players work their butts off if they are going to play for this coach. The coach has graduated players who now play at various Division I colleges. A visit to their home in Maryland usually finds him during football season with the remote in his hand, surfing for games that feature his players. Loyal coach as well as loyal players. Even has a player, Bani Gbadyu, playing for the Oakland Raiders. My wife and I haven't been able to see any of the 13 wins this year because of my back surgery and re-occuring leg pain, but we will not miss the championship. Will head to Maryland early on Friday afternoon to meet with our daughter Brynn and two granddaughters Courtney and Camille for supper and then head to the stadium for the game. I'm sure Coach Dave will have his team prepared and excited for the game. Play your hearts out guys, for your great coach! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - If you care to watch highlights of this weeks semi-final 23-12 win over C.H. Flowers, copy the link below and place it in your address bar. There is a 30 sec. ad you will have to watch first.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/quince-orchard-beat-ch-flowers-23-12/2011/11/26/gIQAssajxN_video.html

Friday, November 25, 2011

The "It's in the Eye of the Beholder" Story

It was an ordinary day. Reading online about the beaches that have the best sand. Gave a list of the top 4 and I couldn't believe that I had never been to any of them. The list consists of Paradise Island in Nassau, Playa Zoni in Culebra which is in Puerto Rico, Barbuda, and Tulum Mexico. I pulled all the sites up on Google and read about them. Looked at photos of the beaches and all were really nice. Then I asked Carol about some of the beaches we have been on that were her favorites. Seems we both agreed on 7 beaches that we thought were as pretty as the four that the website said were the top beaches. Following are photos of the 4 beaches that were considered the top by the online website, followed by our choice as best beaches. After seeing all photos, make your choice! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Paradise Island, Nassau. The web site I visited ranked this as the #1 beach because of water visibility, sand color and texture and ease getting in the water. By looking at the photo, I can see why. Must make this a priority on our list of places to visit in the near future.

Culebra Beach, Peurto Rico. Photos show beautiful white sand and great water. I'm sure their ranking is justified, but we have never visited the beach.

Eleuthra, Barbuda. The pink sand gives this beach its high ranking.

Tulum, Mexico. We visited the ruins and saw the beach, but never had the opportunity to spend time on the beach. It certainly was a beautiful beach.

And now for our rankings:

Grace Bay Beach, Provo, Turks and Caicos, BWI. The softest, whitest, finest sand you will ever see. So fine it sticks to you like talcum powder. This beach rates LDub and his wife's #1 ranking in the Caribbean.

Shoal Bay East Beach, Anguilla, BVI. Soft, cool sand and beautiful water make this a great beach. Usually very few people on the beach in comparison to other beaches. Our #2 pick.

Orient Beach, St. Martin, FWI. Orient Beach is frequently on the top 10 list of many rating services. The great sand, water and sun combination as well as then many beach bars along the beach make for a fabulous atmosphere and one of the top on our list.

Bottom Bay, Barbados. Traveled to the beach twice and it is one of our favorites. The coral cliffs that surround it make it even more remarkable.

Pinel Island Beach, FWI. The water is fantastic. You can sit in the water with a drink and relax for hours. No waves at all. Easy entry for those who have trouble getting into the water.

Happy Bay Beach, St. Martin, FWI. We picked this beach for the soft, warm sand and also because it is hard to reach and a great beach for privacy.

Magen's Bay Beach, St. Thomas, USVI. A sentimental favorite since this is the first Caribbean beach that we visited. Beautiful cool white sand with barely no waves.

Crane Beach, Barbados. The pink sand makes this a beautiful location. Located on the east coast, on the Atlantic Ocean.

Trunk Bay, St. John, USVI. Great crescent of white sand with great snorkeling.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The "Parable of the Pencil" Story

It was an ordinary day. And to all of you ....... Happy Thanksgiving! Recently my youngest son emailed me a very unusual message. Story about a pencil maker who gave his pencils 5 important lessons just before putting them in the box. Here is his parable:

1. Everything you do will always leave a mark.
2. You can always correct the mistakes you make.
3. What is important is what is inside you.
4. In life, you will undergo painful sharpenings, which will only make you better.
5. To be the best pencil, you must allow yourself to be held and guided by the hand that holds you.

How True! How Really True!! This parable may encourage you to know that you are a special person with unique God-given talents and abilities that only you can fulfill. Always remember that the most important part of who is what's inside of you and allow yourself to be guided by the hand of God. The following photos accompanied my son's email. UNBELIEVABLE! The fellow who had the patience and ability to carve the pencil lead is truly amazing. He is certainly using his God-given talents! Enjoy the photos. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The hands of the master at work!

A sampling of his carvings. I'm sure you will be fascinated by his amazing talent.

The letters of the alphabet














Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The "Banks: The Beer of Barbados" Story

It was an ordinary day. While planning our trip to Barbados, we decided that we wanted to visit and tour the Banks Beer Factory where they brew and bottle Banks Beer, the "Beer of Barbados." In 2008, during our first trip to the island we learned about all the products that Banks Brewery produced and thought it would be an interesting day trip. Banks Beer was started as an idea formed by Peter D'Aguiar, a Guyanese entrepreneur. On September 7, 1961 Banks (Barbados) Breweries opened for business.At the beginning the company only produced Banks Beer but by 1963 the company added two other products to its portfolio: Milk Stout and Tiger Malt; the latter of which can be found on grocery store shelves in the Caribbean, South America, Asia, Canada, Europe and the United States. The signature Banks Beer is a premium pilsner style lager brewed from malted barley and flavored by aroma hops. However, it is the naturally filtered water, along with a special strain of yeast, which gives the beer itsexceptional Caribbean character. Other products that Banks produces are: Extra Strong Beer which is 7% alcohol content, Legends Premium Lager launched in 2003 which has a
slight bitterness to it, and Guinness Stout which is bottled under license from the parent company. They also produce three "Twist Shandies" which is a refreshing blend of Banks Beer and natural tropical flavors. Lemon Shandy, Sorrel Shandy and Ginger Shandy all
are light alcohol beverages that refresh while not having a high alcohol content. They also produce a Coconut Cooler which has an even lower alcohol content. Finishing out the Banks' line of products are Tiger Malt which has a large B vitamin content and Plus which is an action drink. Both products are non-alcoholic. They used to produce one of my favorite sodas, Ting, which is a Jamaican grapefruit beverage, but no longer produce it. Getting back to my story about our visit to the plant. We paid our entrance fee and were greeted by our guide who took us to the main building where they originally made the beer in copper tanks which are on display at their original locations. Viewed a movie then were taken outside to see the many tanks that are used to store the water and to help ferment the beer. When we entered the bottling plant area I noticed all the machines were covered with plastic. Seems they were moving the plan to a new location during the week of our visit. Wow, what a rip-off. Paid the fee to see some copper kettles and a few tanks outside! Pretty disappointed, then we were led back to the testing area and told we now had an hour and a half to taste test the beer. Not bad EXCEPT ...... I don't drink beer!! Never did and probably never will. I did like the Shandies and the Cooler, but certainly couldn't drink my money's worth of them, especially since I had just finished off some eggs, sausage, and toast for breakfast about an hour before our tour. Anyway, I'd rather have a good coconut smoothie any day! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are: bottles of Banks Beer, the product "Twist", front of the Banks Beer Brewery, holding tanks in the yard at the rear of the brewery, photo of Carol and I celebrating something (what's even more funny is the fact I had to borrow the bottle from a friend, since I don't drink beer), and Carol and I enjoying our coconut smoothies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The "Things I really don't need after 65" Story

It was an ordinary day. Recently I wrote about things I probably will never do again in my life. That was a take-off of an article from the AARP Magazine that told about the things you would probably never do after the age of 50. My list grew a little from that age. Well, this story deals with the things (1) I DON'T NEED, (2) SHOULDN'T BUY or (3) CAN DO WITHOUT or AVOID after the age of 65. Probably won't agree with me on some, but for me, the list is as follows:

• (1) All those cables I have in a box that came with all the electronic items I have bought in the last 10 years. GONE!

• (1) All the old CDs that I bought or was given that I haven't listened to for ages. GONE!

• (1) All the packs of crackers, wrapped mints, ketchup, relish and mustard packs, and sugar cubes and packs that I have saved from restaurants since the turn of the century. GONE!

• (1) The boxes of old doll clothes, Star Wars men, Match-Box cars, plastic bricks that are in the craw-space above my garage. Will give to the kids and grandkids!

• (1) The old place settings with the ugly designs on them and the tableware to match that is also in the craw-space. GONE!

• (1) The 5 rakes with a missing prong or two that I keep, just in case. GONE!

• (1) The 4 suits in my closet that I haven't wore since I retired from teaching. Still thinking about them!

• (2) A bigger flat screen TV. Mine is big enough!

• (2) A 3-D TV. The glasses make you look stupid!

• (3) 700 channels. And not a thing to watch that is worth my time!

• (1) The old bread-maker we used in the 70s. GONE!

• (1) The old eMac computer that sits next to my HD Macintosh. Still has a file of two that I have to save!

• (3) Gas guzzling car. Now that we love and feel safe driving!

• (1) Bikini bathing suit. Too old for that anymore, besides in St. Martin you don't need a suit!

• (2) Coffee-table books. Don't drink coffee!

Hey, I guess the list could go on and on and I'm sure you have a list at least as large as mine. After I helped clean out my parents house when they moved to a retirement home, I was convinced that I would start getting rid of unwanted items now instead of waiting until I can't lift them or carry then. I have pretty much done that except for a few sentimental items I have in the craw-space above my garage. Some day I'll drop that stuff off at one of my kids houses and be done with it. No garage sales for me! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


Monday, November 21, 2011

The "Story Starter" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just got my AARP Bulletin in the mail. So many great stories to read and maybe depress me, but I found one in the rear of the bulletin titled "Power of 50" that made me laugh. Matter of fact it gave me a great idea for our Thanksgiving meal when we have 20 or more people gathered around our dining room table to celebrate the holiday. Story called 50 Thanksgiving Starters. Supposed to get this page out when you have your gathering during the holidays. Instead of offering expressions of gratitude, you can ask everyone to share something about themselves that maybe most people gathered for the occasion don't know. The host could maybe write all 50 on 3x5 cards and put them in a box and everyone would pick two cards. Decide which one of the 2 cards you want to share with the crowd and have a great time. My two "Story Starters" I have chosen from the list are: (1)Something I wish was still sold in stores is ___and (2) I am secretly proud that I can ___. OK, for the answers: (1) Mexican jumping beans which I would buy at a downtown store called Steinfelds in Lancaster. Every Monday afternoon and Saturday morning I would have choir practice at church. I would leave my house, a mile to the north of downtown, and walk to choir practice. Usually had to make a stop at Steinfelds to get some novelty item to share with my friends at choir practice. Many times they were taken from me by Mr. McConnell, the choir master, for being disruptive during rehearsal. Wonder what he did with all the stuff he gathered from the choirboys over all those year. Anyway, the beans were tan to brown in color. They are a seed pod through which the larva of a small moth has chewed. The bean "jumps" because when it gets in a hot place the larva snaps its body hoping to roll to a cooler place. They really worked! Hold them in your hand and those buggers will rally jump. Oh the joys of being a boy in the 40s and 50s. (2) I can sit on the floor, or on anything as far as that goes, and my legs will fit right next to me on the outside of my thigh. Can't sit with my legs crossed, but I can sit with my legs to the side. Not many people can do that. So there, I have answered my 2 questions. I have included a copy of the page from the bulletin in case you want to try it yourself. I had to break it down into smaller sections so you could read it. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.