Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, April 30, 2012

The "Le coeur de la Caraibe" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Met a few extraordinary people in St. Martin today.  The first two were patrons of the Super Grande Marche, as were Carol and I.  While waiting at the deli counter, I encountered Adrian who was also waiting for a clerk to slice his ham and cheese for him.  He was provisioning his boat, for his next stop in Anguilla later today.  We got to talking and he told me he is in the process of building a hotel on the island of Nevis in the Caribbean.  It was started about a year ago and he expects it to take about a year to be up and running.  It will be the second largest on the island.  Called the Tamarind Cove and will have not only hotel rooms and villas, but a full marina.  Even invited us to visit with him in the future.  Told us to email him and he will make arrangements for us to be picked up at the airport when we arrive.  Even wrote down my name!  Didn't even ask what that might cost me, even though I was his new found friend.  As he received his deli items and paid farewell, I saw the look on James' face.  James, who was standing on the other side of me,  said his offer to me sounds great, but not sure he could afford to visit.  He then went on to tell me that he plans to start a new radio station on St. Martin that will play all jazz music.  Already had the airwaves license for channel 97.7 and is constructing his new building for his station.  Assured me that it will be nothing like the hotel we both had just heard about.  His station may take longer to build than the hotel, because it is being built on island time, and that doesn't move fast.  Then, he said, I will be able to listen to something other than the rap and other junk that now fills the airways in St. Martin.  I agreed I can hardly wait, and wished him well with his project.  The last islander I met was George who made a pizza for me at Tap 5 in Orient Village.  Checked the pizza titles on a list on the window where I met him.  George didn't want to talk much at first, maybe because we spoke different languages, but after watching him put the finishing touches on my Cannabale pizza and popping it in the oven, he was more willing to talk about his many years making pizzas.  I'd relay some of the story he told except I'm not quite sure what he said.  He's a real pro at what he does, though.  After about 5 minutes he opens the big oven, uses his wooden paddle, and pulls out the best looking thin crust pizza you ever saw.  Popped it in a box and handed it to me.  Where do I pay I asked him.  Motioned for me to go through the next door and pay for it.  The automatic door opened and I entered Tap 5 and went to the counter.  A smiling George came from around the corner and took my money.  I questioned him about the new conveyor belt that was next to the cash register.  Never saw it there in the 10 years I have been a customer at Tap 5 when we visit for vacation.  Told me it was moved from their store at the other end of Orient Village in the old Le Chapell Sports Bar building when they closed it two months ago.  We talked about the store and how it was losing money so they decided to close it.  Moved the belt to the old store on the main street into the village.  Told me to enjoy the pizza and I thanked him for the both it and the info.  I'll return soon!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - for those who cannot decipher french, my title reads: The heart of the Caribbean.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The "Artistry Of Flight" Story

It was an ordinary day. Heading to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport for our trip to the Caribbean. Sometimes we leave from BWI while other times we leave from Philadelphia International Airport. All depends upon where we can get the best buy for our airline tickets. No matter where we leave from, we try to fly with American Airlines. We have had fewer problems with AA than with any other airline. The BWI terminal is a nice airport, but certainly not like some that we have made stops at. The Miami International is very ........ well "Beachy." Love all the sea animals and shells that are etched into the walls and floors. Miami International is American Airlines hub and when we fly to the Caribbean, it is our first stop on our journey. But, recently I saw photos of other airports from all over the world and was amazed at the architecture and beauty of the airports. I have included a dozen or so photos and descriptions of some of these airports so you can see what can be done with a building which welcomes you to a country or a city. Enjoy! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

MALE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Land in the heart of Maldive's paradise. Surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean's, Maldives's Malé International Airport is located on Hulhulé Island right next to the capital Male.
BARAJAS AIRPORT
This sweeping space, which was designed by Antonio Lamela and Richard Rogers and opened in 2006, was built to provide the 50 million passengers who pass through it each year with an airy, stress-free zone through which to begin or end their journeys.
CHANGI, TERMINAL 3
The “butterfly” roof has 919 skylights and corresponding reflector panels that adjust to allow just the right amount of daylight inside. At night, these same skylights glow with lighting carefully concealed below the panels. The terminal’s most dramatic feature, however, may be the 5-story vertical garden (aka “The Green Wall”), which has 4 waterfalls and spans nearly 1,000 feet across the main building.
TWA FLIGHT CENTER AT JFK
Designed by Eero Saarine, The TWA Flight Center or Trans World Flight Center, 1962 as a standalone terminal at NYC's JFK International Airport for Trans World Airlines. Today, after renovations, the old and new buildings comprise Jet Blue Airways' Terminal 5.
DENVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
One of the most innovative-designed domestic airports, DIA's Teflon-coated fiberglass roof resembles the area's famous Rocky Mountains.
CARRASCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
The beauty of this new terminal, designed by Uruguayan-born architect Rafael Viñoly, is in its grace and simplicity: The entire structure is housed under a gently arching rooftop that sweeps 1,200 feet across the landscape.
LYON SAINT EXUPERY
Whether its twin steel arches remind you of a bird in flight -- or something that alighted in Lyon from a universe far, far away -- you can definitely spot some kind of avian-theme in France’s fourth busiest airport, designed by architect Santiago Calatrava.
MARRAKECH MENARA
Where traditional Islamic design meets sleek ultra-modern architecture you’ll find Terminal 1, a beautiful study in the confluence of cultures and artistic sensibilities.
INCHEON, SOUTH KOREA
Conceived by renowned airport architect Curtis Fentress, Incheon publicly spotlights the best of traditional Korean design -- while still emerging as a futuristic model of efficiency.
KANSAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Located on a purpose-built, man-made island off the coast of downtown Osaka, Japan this mega-hub took over all international and some domestic flights once handled by the city’sItami Airport. Created by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Renzo Piano, the ultra-modern, mile-long terminal resembles the interior of an airplane fuselage with corridors shooting out like wings from the main hallway.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The "Please Forgive Me Leslie!" Story


It was an ordinary day.  Travel day.  Smooth, uneventful travel day ...... until the last link.  Plane ride from Baltimore/Washington International to Miami went smooth.  Plane ride from Miami to Sint Maarten (SXM) also went smooth.  Even waiting on an entire plane load of people to disembark, then going through the wrong line at immigration went smooth.  At last, waiting and waiting on our luggage at the airport carousel went smooth.  But, getting transportation once outside the airport was challenging.  Nine months ago ...... you did read that I typed NINE MONTHS AGO ..... I made arrangements for our car rental through a fellow that we had rented from for maybe half a dozen trips to SMX. Met him on many of those trips and found him to be a real entrepreneur as well as a truly nice guy.  Mohammed first ran a car rental under the name of Panasonic Car Rentals.  Would meet him at the airport and after signing a few papers, off we would go.  Then he merged and changed the name and we had to be transported to a small shack near the airport to pick up the car.  We stuck with him, but weren't as impressed with the rental agency.  Then he changed the name again.  Still had to be picked up and taken to the new shack, but never got to see Mohammed again. Only "talked" to him via email.  People at the shack were rude and obnoxious at times. Upon returning the car the final time, they tried to charge us for a broken lock.  Said someone tried to break in the car and we were responsible for the lock.  I told him I called the rental agency when we got to our rented villa and told them we couldn't lock the car with a key, since the door lock wasn't working.  They naturally had no record of that.  I agreed to pay so I could escape the shack and headed to the airport.  Upon returning home I called the credit card company and filed a complaint so they would not pay the charge fee.  Then I emailed Mohammed.  He said he was sorry for the way I was treated and I would not be charged for the lock.  And, I wasn't.  The following year we found Leslie who ran another rental agency on the island and who had fantastic references.  So, for three years we rented from him.  No problems whatsoever.  This should be the end of my story, but dumb me ...... read on.  Then I heard from Mohammed that he had a new car rental franchise and after seeing the rate he gave to me for my next trip, (less than half the other quote) I decided to give him one more chance.  He assured me that I would get a nice car and the insurance and tax was included in his quote he gave me.  Well, after we left the carousel at the airport and headed to the Rent-A-Wreck stand, I knew I was in trouble.  I guess you're thinking that with a name like that I was nuts for renting with him.  I showed the fellow at the airport stand my email from Mohammed and he pointed to a long lone of people waiting outside.  Told me to get in line with them and someone would be there shortly.  We were line-members 17 and 18.  All had rented from Mohammed with the same guarantee of good service and good price.  So, now he needs NINE cars to take care of all these people.   Wonder if they go back as many years with him as we do.  The shuttle driver shows up and looks at the line.  "How many people are here for Rent-A-Wreck?" he asked.  All raised their hands.  He knew he was in trouble!  "I don't know who made the reservations for everyone, but we only have TWO cars left." he said.  Everyone started complaining and harassing the fellow, to put it mildly, except one person.  She shouted loudly, "I'LL TAKE ONE OF THEM!!"  Way to go Hon.   He told us to hop in the van and off we went, leaving the others to fend for themselves.  He didn't talk the entire way to the rental office, but kept shaking his head.  Upon arrival he took my credit card info and had me fill out the standard rental form.  Two minutes later a tall islander entered and walked behind the counter, looked at me, and said, "Don't I know you?"  "You're Mohammed, aren't you?" I questioned.  "I look something like him, but Mohammed has gone astray, again."  He went on to tell me he had some personal problems and left the island.  I was now dealing with another company who so nicely honored Mohammed's email quote, gave me a car (not quite what I was expecting), and off we went, just as 16 others were filing out of a couple of taxi's in front of the rental shop.  So, good luck to all and to all a good vacation!  And, Mohammed is finally off my list for good!   I hope he can get his act together again.  I only hope Leslie will forgive me for my stupid mistake.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The "I Will Overcome" Story

It was an ordinary day.  And, I'm really PO...ed.  Yesterday I opened my bookmark for It was an ordinary day.  And, I'm really PO...ed.  Yesterday I opened my bookmark for "Blogger" and I didn't recognize it.  Thought I had the wrong page so I deleted it and tried again.  Yep, same results.  I have opened this bookmark maybe 3000 times since I started writing stories on "Blogger" and never had this happen.  About a year ago "Blogger" informed its online bloggers that it had a new editor for you to use that had newer and better features to it.  I gave it a try twice, when asked to do that.  But, found that it was harder to add photos and I couldn't move them around in the story like I could with the old editor that I had used from conception of my blog.  So I always switched back to the old editor.  Today I was not given that chance.  I evidently have to use the new editor or close this account and open a new one elsewhere.  Don't want to do that since so many of you have bookmarked this read and prefer not to have to do it again.  At least that is how I would feel.  So ....... I, for the time, will only be able to incorporate one photo into each story.  I think I can add multiple photos in a row with a sentence between each one, but have not figured it totally out yet.  I "Googled" the problem of only one photo and found that no one else has the answer.  Why did they do that when the old editor was fine?  I like some of the new features that I now have on my screen such as being able to go backwards through what I have done in case I happen to delete something by mistake and don't realize it immediately.  I can keep hitting the backward arrow and I can go back to when I made the problem for myself.  Also like the easy way to link something from another source to my story so you can click on it and go to the source.  And, the preview button in the tool bar at the top allows me to see what my story looks like as soon as I am done.  In the past I actually have to publish it and see if it looks OK, then go backwards and place it in my library for future use.  At times I wonder what happened when I did a practice run and put a story on my blog to check it and then removed it.  If someone happened to be reading it, did it instantly disappear?  I still don't kn ow that answer.  I did like on the old editor the fact that as I typed a new name for a story, if I had used the name before, it would show me that and I could change the name.  Now I may use the same name over by mistake so if a story title reminds you of something you may have read in the past, read it anyway since it probably is the same story title used over again.  Well, I have something I need to tell you about Spam with Bacon so I will finish for now.  Keep checking back though, for I will eventually beat the system and be able to put photos all over the place.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy."Blogger" and I didn't recognize it.  Thought I had the wrong page so I deleted it and tried again.  Yep, same results.  I have opened this bookmark maybe 3000 times since I started writing stories on "Blogger" and never had this happen.  About a year ago "Blogger" informed its online bloggers that it had a new editor for you to use that had newer and better features to it.  I gave it a try twice, when asked to do that.  But, found that it was harder to add photos and I couldn't move them around in the story like I could with the old editor that I had used from conception of my blog.  So I always switched back to the old editor.  Today I was not given that chance.  I evidently have to use the new editor or close this account and open a new one elsewhere.  Don't want to do that since so many of you have bookmarked this read and prefer not to have to do it again.  At least that is how I would feel.  So ....... I, for the time, will only be able to incorporate one photo into each story.  I think I can add multiple photos in a row with a sentence between each one, but have not figured it totally out yet.  I "Googled" the problem of only one photo and found that no one else has the answer.  Why did they do that when the old editor was fine?  I like some of the new features that I now have on my screen such as being able to go backwards through what I have done in case I happen to delete something by mistake and don't realize it immediately.  I can keep hitting the backward arrow and I can go back to when I made the problem for myself.  Also like the easy way to link something from another source to my story so you can click on it and go to the source.  And, the preview button in the tool bar at the top allows me to see what my story looks like as soon as I am done.  In the past I actually have to publish it and see if it looks OK, then go backwards and place it in my library for future use.  At times I wonder what happened when I did a practice run and put a story on my blog to check it and then removed it.  If someone happened to be reading it, did it instantly disappear?  I still don't kn ow that answer.  I did like on the old editor the fact that as I typed a new name for a story, if I had used the name before, it would show me that and I could change the name.  Now I may use the same name over by mistake so if a story title reminds you of something you may have read in the past, read it anyway since it probably is the same story title used over again.  Well, I have something I need to tell you about Spam with Bacon so I will finish for now.  Keep checking back though, for I will eventually beat the system and be able to put photos all over the place.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The "Skunks: The lePew Family: Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finished talking to Jack Hubley, WGAL-TV naturalist and producer and host of "Wild Moment." I gave Jack a call a few days ago about a problem we are having with skunks. Kind of a smelly problem! So here's how the story goes ....... evidently we have a few skunks that have decided to move in with Carol and me on Harrington Drive. They dug an entrance way at the side of our rear deck and have called it "home." Now, Carol and I love animals, but ..... If they only would be good tenants, we wouldn't mind, but sometimes they discourage others who roam with them at night in the neighborhood from visiting with them under our deck by spraying them. And, they must do this deed while under or close-by the entrance way of their home. One half of our house has a basement while the other half has crawl space. The part with the crawl space has openings covered with wire for ventilation that open under out deck. It keeps the crawl space well ventilated, but also allows the odor from the skunks to enter under our family room and kitchen. And, that area is near our return vents into our heating and cooling system. So, when the skunks decide they don't want a certain visitor in their "home" under our deck, they spray and that smell travels towards the return vents and into our heating/cooling system, and naturally all through out house. A few weeks ago, after unwanted visitors arrived at the lePews "home", I awoke at 5:27 AM. Could hardly breathe. Shook my wife and said, "Do you smell that?" By now my eyes were watering and I sat up in bed and looked around the room. I swore there'd be skunks at the bottom of the bed. Everything smelled; our clothes that we wore to work that day, the inside of the cars, the lunch bags. And when we came home from work that day and opened the door from the garage into the house ......... holy cow!! I had our heavy duty air purifier going at top speed and about a dozen different deodorizers sitting around the kitchen, but they did little. It was too cold to leave the doors open, so we just suffered. Was almost afraid to turn on our gas fireplace in the family room for fear of an explosion. In a day or two the smell eventually went away. Then ...... more unwanted visitors. After a few more times I told Carol I had enough and was going to trap them. But what would I do when I got one in the trap. Put it in my car and drop it somewhere? I don't think so. What if it sprayed the trunk of my car. So I called an animal control company who told me he would pick up the skunk if I trapped it. Cost: $129.95. What else could we do? So, I set the trap on the back deck after sunset. Covered it with a blanket so if we caught something it wouldn't freak out and spray us. A few hours later, while watching TV, we heard this noise outside the rear door. Carol and I looked at each other and realized what had happened. We caught something! Up, out of my chair and to the door. I flicked on the light at the rear of the house and stepped quietly out the door to the trap. I certainly didn't want to scare what was in the trap and face a bath in tomato juice tonight. Carefully I lifted the blanket at one end; nothing at that end. Then lifted the other end; same result! There was nothing in the trap!! How can that be. They tricked us! Too much excitement for one night for me, so I headed to bed. Shortly, Carol came to bed and after turning off the lights and heading to the window, told me to look out back. When I did we could see both skunks under the birdfeeder, eating the seeds that had been knocked to the ground by the birds. Ah, Ha! I can close off the entrance to their "home" while they eat. I quick put on a dark pair of sweatpants, a dark hooded sweatshirt and headed back downstairs. Quietly went to the garage, grabbed my heavy metal tool box, turned off the alarm, snuck out the front door and worked my way around to the back. Just as I put the box in front of their hole they had dug, they saw me and scurried under some pine trees. I ran back in the house, reset the alarm and headed back to bed. Told my wife, "I hope that no one saw me sneaking around the house with a hood over my head carrying a tool box at 11:30 at night when all the lights are off in the house. The next day, after checking to see if there was another hole leading under the deck, and finding one at the other end, knew I was in over my head. We finally decided it was time for big-time help, so I placed a call to Jack Hubley at Channel 8 Studios in Lancaster. He called me today and started with, "Is this the guy that has a couple of skunks for sale?" I replied, "Hi, Jack. I really think you would love this one that is almost entirely white with a black strip down his head and back." OK, the formalities of greeting each other are over and I start to ask him how I can get rid of the house guests. I told him about the empty trap and he said that they are pretty sharp animals and may have reached in from the side of the trap to get the food I had on the trigger plate instead of entering the trap. It may have pushed too hard on the plate and set off the trap. He told me that if I hire someone to remove them, they will destroy the animal since they are licenced and MUST destroy any rabid-vector species animal. These include skunks, foxes, bats, raccoons and groundhogs. For some reason the possum is not in that category. So, if I don't want the skunks killed, I have to trap and release it myself. I may legally take them to any State Gameland and drop them off. He told me that he has done that in the past without any problems. "But, what do I do if it sprays the inside of my trunk?" I asked. "Tell you what, if that happens you call me and I'll do a story for TV about that!" So, that's where it stands right now. I now have to build up enough courage to re-set the trap and chance catching the critter, loading it in the trunk of my car and driving 30 minutes to find a place to release it, then do it all over a second time; or we can buy a couple of gas masks to wear to bed. I'll let you know how it works out. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top: Jack Hubley talking with an owl, the culprit, trap set with blanket over it, toolbox blocking the skunk's entrance, and second hole I discovered the next day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

The "Guavaberry: Folk Legend Liqueur" Story

It was an ordinary day. But, this story really starts as darkness arrives ...... every evening when Carol and I head up the stairs to bed with our cat Otis, we pass it. We bought it at a market stand in the center of Marigot, on the island of St. Martin. The vendor rolled it up for us and after returning home I stretched it, wrapped it around the edges, and put a few staples in it to hold it tight. Those nights when the spotlight is on as we reach the top step, it looks so neat. Other nights when the stained glass table light that I made is on, it has a soft glow to it. We have had the canvas print for maybe eight to ten years now and never tire of it. The painting features locals harvesting Guavaberries to make the national liqueur of St. Martin/Sint Maarten. It was painted by a St. Martin islander by the name of Francis. St. Martin is the French side and Sint Maarten is the Dutch side of this rather small island in the Caribbean with dual national ownership. The liqueur was first made centuries ago in private homes and soon became a part of local culture and tradition and was a featured drink during the Christmas season. Guavaberry liqueur is made from aged rum, sugar and naturally Guavaberries. The Guavaberry fruit is found primarily in the hills near the center of the island where there are more Guavaberry trees than anywhere in the world. At times the fruit rots on the trees, unharvested, because the Guavaberry is not as popular as it was 100 years ago. The fruit, which is about the size of a cranberry, is anywhere from yellow-orange to dark-red and has the tanginess taste of a guava, but also has a fair sweetness. I have found that you need to acquire a taste for the Guavaberry, but when you do, it will be a favorite. The Guavaberry fruit is hard to harvest, there is no traditional harvesting season, even though the Christmas season is when most harvesting is done, and the berries have very little flesh. The berry also has a very small or no stem and grows attached directly to the branch. Filling a five-gallon bucket during a picking day is a real chore. The Guavaberry is used to make jam, drinks, and for medicinal purposes. On the Dutch side of the island lies the capital of Philipsburg. It is here on Front Street that the Guavaberry Emporium can be found. Here they sell the rare "island folk liqueur" that was originally made 100 years ago in private homes on the island. At the Guavaberry Emporium you can sample the varieties that they sell in square bottles; flavors such as the original, lime, and mango. To me, the original has a fruity, smoky, bittersweet tang. I enjoy it better when added to coconut as a Guavaberry colado. The Emporium is a charming Creole cottage painted in bright red, white, and yellow colors with a huge square Guavaberry bottle featuring Old Man Guavaberry by the entrance. Inside you will find Claudine who was featured on the Family Living Network show "Three Sheets." Neat lady who can tell you anything you want or need to know about the Guavaberry as well as sell you a large variety of products that are featured in the store. If you're ever on the island, look for me at the Guavaberry Emporium and I'll treat you to we can toast a Guavaberry coloda. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are: our painting of Guavaberry harvesting on Sint Maarten by Francis, the Guavaberry, bottle and glass of liqueur featuring Old Man Guavaberry, LDub in from of the Guavaberry Emporium on Front Street in Sint Maarten, and Claudine posing for a photo in front of her shelves of liqueur.




Sunday, April 22, 2012

The "They're Falling Like Flies" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading in the paper "MT Kreider Ends Long Run." Might not mean too much to some, but to me I could see it coming.  Jim Kreider, long time friend and coach at Manheim Township when I was still a teacher, just retired from the boys' head basketball coaching position after 40 years.  Seems like it was time, but that's what it looks like on the surface.  To me it goes much deeper.  I should support my thoughts by telling you that the head football coach at MT reitred this year after a long tenure at the school with winning season after winning season and the head boys' soccer coach did the same thing.  Matter-of-fact, the soccer coach, Dave A., was in my older son's class and I coached him a few years when he played little league baseball.  Great guy and a fantastic coach.  The kids loved him!  But, he decided to give it up like the rest.  Why?  One of the reasons is family and time spent away from it, but I believe that the main reason is the raw deal that the coaches at Manheim Township got last summer.  Seems that the coaches and extra-curricular advisers salaries were taken out of the bargaining unit that included the salaries of the teachers.  Smart move on the part of the administration and school board.  Bad move as far as the athletes in the school district.  Last summer the salaries of all coaches and extra-curricular asdvisers were cut in half.  Reason: to try to make up the large loss of money the school district was losing because the Republican Governor of Pennsylvania cut millions and milions from education and therefore was giving less to the public schools of PA.  He was voted into office by many of the same people who now condemn him for doing what he said he was going to do.  Republicans in office are known to be a detriment to education in PA.  Always have been, always will be.  But, now it means something.  How can you take a cut of $3,000, $4,000, or $5,000 a year and still give yourself to the program.  Can't do it!  The head baseball coach at MT, after 29 years of coaching, was making about $9,000.  Family of six who counted on that salary to live.  Cut that in half and what happens?  You spend less time coaching and more time trying to make up that extra money.  Have to!  And, how can they replace these fine coaches with the little amount of money they will offer.  Who wants to spend every waking moment during the your sports season and half your waking moments in the off-season when you are getting less than a $1 an hour for it.  Certainly not most, as is starting to show.  What can be done?  Nothing for another few years until Pennsylvania can elect a new Governor who is pro-education.  Now, I know these are my thoughts on the subject, since I was a school teacher for 35 years and coach for some of those years.  I actually stopped coaching because I wanted more time with my family.  I was happy with the salary I got and deserved.  But, today is a different story.  I wonder who will be next.  Those that suffer are the fine young students who choose to play athletics at MT.  So many of them have prospered and gone on to great heights because of their abilities on the field as well as in the classroom.  And they have their coaches to thank for that.  At least they used to!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Faces of Strangers: #1" Story


Prelude: Last week I saw an article in the local Sunday News titled "100 Strangers." It told of people who have joined a "group" on Flickr (online photo site) that plan to try to take photographs of 100 strangers as well as publish a small story about them. Wow, right up my alley I thought. So, I began with my first photo and story this past week. Then I realized that there was no way I could spend time searching for 100 strangers and writing stories and taking photos of them. Especially if I want to continue to write a story a day on my blog.  So, today I will publish my first photo and story of however many I end up taking on my blog instead of concentrating on doing it for Flickr. Hope they don't mind!

It was an ordinary day. My oldest son Derek's birthday. Won't tell you how old cause it will make both he and I feel old. He wanted my wife and I to join him and his wife, Barb, and my grandson, Caden, for supper at the Italian restaurant "Carrabba's" which is near our house. We met him at about 6:00 PM and were shown to our seats in the restaurant. First time for all but my wife to eat at this place. After being seated, we were greeted by our waiter who took our drink order. Menu was packed with Italian dishes, as can be expected. Drinks arrived and we placed our order with Carlos. Interesting guy, to say the least; you'll see why soon. I looked at Carol and said, "I brought my camera! This guy looks like #1 on my list" She agreed with me. We finally received our food with much fanfare from Carlos. I had just about finished my lasagna when Carlos brought me a refill of my pink lemonade. "Thanks, and do you mind if I ask you for your name," I said to him.  "Carlos," was the reply. "Do you have a minute to talk to me about yourself," I asked him.  Boy, his face lit up with the biggest smile. I pointed to the empty chair next to me and within 10 seconds he was sitting in the chair as we finished out meal. I started with, "You ddefinitely are Italian, so what brings you to Lancaster County?"  He started his story in 
his fantastic accent with, "I'm 64 and was born in Spain and for the first part of my life I moved back and forth between Spain, Italy and Sicily. My first job was as a bull fighter. I was speared four times!" We are all listening intently to him as he motioned with his hands and arms as he talked as if he was still fighting bulls. "I them moved to Argentina, then Chile, then to Puerto Rico and finally my first trip to the United States when I moved to Miami. I got married, then divorced. Did that three times. I have five children. I moved from Florida to Massachusetts to Raleigh, NC and then to Lancaster. Hang on, I'll be right back!" He fled to the table at the end of our row. Had to get them their check and help clear the table. He returned soon, cleared our table and found his seat again. He was having the best time with his new found friends.  Told us he had a few stories he would tell us.  "When I was a child in school, the nun grabbed a chicken and chopped it's head off, held it up and left the blood fly everywhere." That's about all I got from the story before he started the next one. "Then there was the time when I drove three Mexicans from New York to Mexico because they were afraid to take the plane. We got as far as Arizona when I saw all these red flashing lights up in front of us. It was a road block. They came to the car, shone their flashlight on us and made us all get out of the car. Put handcuffs on us and searched the car. I guess they thought we had drugs or something. Finally left us go and I got them to Mexico. I'll go get your check for you," and off he went again. When he returned he had a dessert sampler for everyone at the table; all his new found friends. I asked him if he would mind if I took his photo. He grabbed the empty chair again and smiled for me, but when he began with another story I took a few more photos of him as he narrated the story with his hands and arms. Well, we finally paid our bill, with a nice tip for Carlos, and as we passed him we all shook hands with him. It told him I'll be back sometime and we can talk some more. He smiled and said, "I'm ready!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The "Drivin' The Merc" Story

It was an ordinary day. Wondering what we will do after our car wears out. For the last 10 years Carol and I have owned a Mercury Mountaineer. First was a 2002 that we bought from New Holland Ford and was two shades of tan. Great car that gave us very little trouble and had a fantastic ride. After almost 5 years and with about 48K miles on it, we decided it was time to trade it in. I have been told for years that if your vehicle has less that 50K miles on it, and it is in good shape, you can get more for it than if you wait until the speedometer turns over the 50K. In 2007 we bought a 2006 left-over Mountaineer from Lancaster Lincoln-Mercury (LLM) and used the 0% interest rate loan that was offered from Ford Credit. Again, another great car. This model had some changes, but not many. Carol loved the size, since she was in an accident in 2002 when she was driving a small car and the car was demolished. Luckily she wasn't injured, but after looking at the results of having a small car, she felt safer in a larger car. The gas mileage isn't as good, but the safety matters more to us, since we don't drive more than about 10K miles a year. And, we loved the Mercs. Mercury was launched in 1938 by Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford. It was meant to be a model that would fall between the Ford and the Lincoln, both in price and luxury. From 1945 to 2011 it was the Mercury half of Lincoln-Mercury. The name "Mercury' is derived from the messenger of the gods of Roman mythology. The first logo was its namesake, the Roman god of mercury. The side profile of his head, complete with the signature bowl hat with wings. In the 50s the logo simply became the "M" with horizontal bars extending outward from the bottom of its vertical elements in each direction. During the 60s and up to the mid-80s, Mercury used the "Sign of the Cat" logo, then in the mid-80s the logo changed from the cougar to its final logo. Since 1999 the word Mercury appeared on the top part of the logo. The brand was sold in the US, Mexico, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and the Middle East. The Mountaineer is a mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV) that was manufactured from 1997 until the brand's demise in 2011. It shares many features of the Ford Explorer, but has a more upscale interior and the suspension system is more like the Lincoln than the Explorer. It had a 302 c.i. engine which was not found in the Explorer. From 2002 until 2005 the Mountaineer featured a slightly newer design. The waterfall grille and barred tail-lights were changed from the previous models as were the interior luxury features. Again in 2006, a new design was introduced, but the exterior was virtually untouched. The changes came primarily in the frame and interior. In 2011, much to our chagrin, the Mercury brand was phased out as Ford refocused its marketing and engineering efforts on the Ford and Lincoln brands. The final Mercury automobile, a Grand Marquis, rolled off the assembly line on January 4, 2011. Sad day in LDub's family. What will come next we're not sure. We like our vehicle so much that we purchased an additional 3 years of warranty on it. So, in 2015 we will start looking for something we like as much. Maybe Ford will introduce something like say, the Mercury to its line of autos. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photos from the top are: "Mercury," Roman god of Mythology, the current logo that is used by Mercury, A 1947 Town Sedan, assembly line which is making my car, exact duplicate of the car we now drive, the Mountaineer.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The "Rock, Roll, & Remember" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading everyone's remembrances in the paper and watching people tell about  them on TV.  How about you.  You have any special memories of America's oldest teenager, Dick Clark who died April 18, 2012?  Richard Wagstaff Clark was born in Mount Vernon, NY in 1929.  In 1952 he moved to Philadelphia to join radio station WFIL as a disc jockey.  Four years later he replaced Bob Horn as the host of "American Bandstand" and transformed the show from a local audience to a national phenomenon.  I can remember rushing home from school to see the 3:00 PM show on channel 6 during my high school years.  I had my favorites on the show, both girls and couples.  The guys wore coats and ties and the girls wore the latest fashion trend or maybe even created it with their choice of clothes.  In 1961, when I was starting my senior year in high school, our local TV station, WGAL Channel 8, premiered "Dance Party," which was a knock-off of "American Bandstand."  Every Saturday afternoon area teenagers traveled to  Channel 8 Studio "A" to perform on the show.  I got to visit the show when WGAL invited my high school for the week.  It was a "live" show and no films or videotapes of the show still remain, since it was extremely expensive back then to make reproductions.  One of the hosts, Marijane Landis, is still living in the area and is in her 80s, much like Dick Clark was.  The original "American Bandstand" was one of network TV's longest-running series as part of ABC's daytime lineup from 1957 to 1987.  Many a star was "born" on American Bandstand.  Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, The Platters, The Crows, The Jayhawks, and even Madonna gained fame from being on the show.  The South Philly guys such as Fabian, Frankie Avalon, and Bobby Rydell became big names after being on "American Bandstand."  Carol and I have seen the the later three guys, now known as "The Golden Boys," in concert at the American Music Theater.  Matter of fact, Frankie's son plays the drums in the back-up band.  In the 1960s, "American Bandstand" moved from black-and-white to color, from weekday broadcasts to once-a-week Saturday shows, and from Philadelphia to Los Angeles. Although its influence started to ebb, it still featured some of the biggest stars of each decade, whether Janis Joplin, the Jackson 5, Talking Heads or Prince. But Clark never did book two of rock's iconic groups, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Elvis Presley also never performed, although Clark managed an on-air telephone interview while Presley was in the Army.  The show's status as an American cultural institution was solidified when Clark donated Bandstand's original podium and backdrop to the Smithsonian Institution. Since Dick's rise to fame with "American Bandstand," he has appeared in other radio and TV programs such as "The $25,000 Pyramid, "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," and Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve."  1994 saw Dick as the spokesman for the American Association of Diabetes Educators, having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes that year.  In 2004 Dick suffered a stroke which affected his speech.  May the biggest icon in Rock and Roll history rest in peace.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Below are a few more photos you may remember.



Lancaster's WGAL Channel 8 Dance Party Set
Dick Clark in his prime
Dick Clark on Rockin' New Year's Eve Show
email my son received from a friend

The "Captain Bob's Favorite" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just saw Captain Bob's new entry advertising one of the boat trips or excursions that you can take if you would ever visit on the island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten. The trip leaves from a dock within walking distance of the cruise ship pier and does an all day excursion of the island. It departs from Dock Maarten in Philipsburg at 10 AM on a brand-new 36 foot, 500 horsepower speed boat that will hold 13 passengers. Returns about 4:00 PM, in time for people who may be visiting from a cruise ship, to get back in time before the ship sails. It tours the South coast to Simpson Bay, through the Dutch ................ No need to give you the entire itinery, since that isn't the storyline today. This all goes back to a month or so ago when Captain Bob sent me a Personal Message (PM) on TravelTalkOnline (TTOL). TTOL is a travel forum that I read that gives you the updated information on a varitey of islands. Captain Bob is a reader of the forum also, and he eivdently also reads SXM Travel Forum where I have entered a few photo contests with photos I have taken while visiting different islands in the Caribbean. Captain Bob sent me a PM asking me a question. He writes:
Hi, I saw your photo of Pinel on the SXM forum competition.

I think you went with me on Swaliga 2 to Anguilla or St. Barts a long time ago.
I love the pinel photo and I wanted to ask your permission to use the photo for my website to promote our trips that have lunch at Pinel.

Its a great shot and really captures the feeling and beauty of the spot.

I would be happy to give you a photo credit.

Thanks and I look forward to hearing from you.

Capt. Bob
Wow, he wants to use one of my shots for his advertising. I know some would want paid for the use of a photo, but in this case, I am more than happy to let him use the photo. I "PM"ed him back and told him he would be more than welcome to use the photo and it
 would be neat to have a photo credit for it. Well, when I opened his site today, there was the photo with my name under it. I'm famous! Not really, but the photo is one of my favorite I have ever taken and it has won a contest and is featured above my fireplace in my famiy room. And, I just might have to take Captain Bob's trip when we visit St. Martin the next time. Oh, and we definitely will be making a return visit to Pinel Island so I can take the yearly photo from the exact same place that I took the one he is using. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an oridnary guy. PS - recognize the photo - I have used it on my blog numerous times.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The "Talkin' About Aphrodisiacs" Story

It was an ordinary day. Finished a story a few weeks ago about a trip to the Chesapeake with friends for dinner. Enjoyed a meal of different presentations of oysters for lunch. Oysters are know as aphrodisiacs, but that knowledge may lie more in the power of suggestion than any magical or medicinal quality. And, they are not the only item that is known to possess that power. I found a few more that are from the Caribbean that may interest you. I have tried a few of these and find they work about the same as the oysters; it's all in your head! But, here are a few concoctions you may want to give a try anyway. If you want the recipes for any of the items below, go to http://www.caribbeantravelmag.com/gallery/caribbean-aphrodisiacs-recipes where you will find them. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sea Moss Drink - What a great name for a drink that is considered a constitution fortifier and an enhancer of male virility by locals in Trinidad & Tobago. A Caribbean classic and is available by the bottle at markets in the Caribbean. I personally never heard of it, but will now try to find it and give it a try.
Conch Chowder - Conch meat, full of lean protein, iron and calcium was thought to be an aphrodisiac by early islanders and is still celebrated as one today in the Bahamas, Trinidad & Tobago as well as Turks & Caicos. When we traveled to Turks & Caicos a few years ago we actually "caught" conch in the Caribbean and our guide made a salad from it. Did it work? It was so gross, I couldn't eat it. Oh, well.
Mango Chutney - This recipe for mango chutney is sweet and slightly hot, and contains allspice. Also is a great condiment for jerk chicken. Was originally credited to the British Virgin Islands. Now, have you ever watched the episode on Seinfeld when they all buy fruit at a nearby fruit market and the mango works better than expected? Carol and I love mango smoothies no matter which island we are on in the Caribbean. Do they work? No comment!
Jamaican Jerk Sauce - This traditional Jamiacian sauce for meat, poultry, and seafood contains cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and hot peppers - all celebrated as aphrodisiacs throughout history. Anything hot is not for me.

Mexican Wedding Cookies - These cookies contain chocolate chips and cinnamon which are both supposed to have aphrodisiac qualities. But, it seems that it's the tradition behind them that make these delicate cookies so romantic. I have never tried one, but I would love to.
Flourless Chocolate-Chile Cake - This Mexican cake features not one, but two supposed aphrodisiacs: Mayordomo which is a Oaxacan speciality chocolate and cayenne pepper for a bit of heat. Being that I don't like anything that is hot, I never tried it, so I won't be of help on this one.
Classic Bahama Mama - Perhaps the most tried and true Caribbean aphrodisiac of all. Has a blend of four rums and grenadine which gives it the red hue. Very tasty if you haven't tried one.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The "Happy Bay: The Novel" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finished reading Happy Bay the Novel by T. Stelma. About a week ago I was visiting "TravelTalkOnline" (TTOL), an online travel forum, and clicked on SXM People Talk and read one of the posts titled "Happy Bay--The Novel." The post talked about a new book that had been published recently that featured the St. Martin beach called Happy Bay. Book cost $3.49 for the Kindle or Nook and over 20 people in the thread said that they had just purchased it and where going to read it. So, I did the same. Within minutes I bought the book and also went to the website of the same name to see what the book may be about. I love reading anything about the Caribbean and this book was said to be a Caribbean adventure/romance set in St. Martin. Not much for romances, but I love adventure and the fact that it occurs on my favorite Caribbean island is a sure read for me. The website had this to say about the storyline: What do a rock singer, a washed up college football star, a free spirited socialite, a drug-addled career woman, a feisty bartendress, and a clothing-optional beach security guard all have in common? The answer is Sandy Bennett; a lonely young woman from a small town who holds a distinct unawareness of her devastating beauty and creative potential. Her ordinary existence will change dramatically when she is transplanted to a place like no other in her experience. There are many words that describe Sandy: Funny, smart, talented, beautiful, serene, sensual, unabashed, and adventurous…no wonder people of all walks of life are drawn to her. Many of these words also describe Happy Bay on the Caribbean island of St. Martin. Furthermore, if you have ever wondered what possesses people to take a “Nakation”, you will fully understand their motivations after reading her story. Follow Sandy’s romantic and inspiring journey as she finds herself on Happy Bay. Well, it took me two days to read it. Could have finished it in one sitting, but my eyelids didn't allow that to happen. For me, it was a great read, since I pictured myself in the story sitting on the beaches along with the characters in the story. I knew exactly where the story took place and the author couldn't have done a better job with his descriptions. My wife and I are heading to the island in the near future and reading this gave me more incentive to start packing. I can't really tell you any more than what I have included from the website or I will spoil it for you should you choose to read it, but if you enjoy light reading with a neat story line, this is a book for you. And, I really didn't mind the romance part of it either! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - I have included the YouTube video that appears on the website for the book. Shows photos of the locations that are descirbed in the book.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The "Walter: The Double-Bubble Man" Story

It was an ordinary day. Watching Jeopardy with my wife and one of the categories in Double Jeopardy was "Gum." Pretty neat category and I knew most of the answers. Then the contestant chose the $1,600 answer and it was: the rhyming gum that had a paper cartoon rolled in the wrapper. I yelled out, "Double Bubble." Correct! Then Carol said, "Do you think they heard that?" Then she continued with, "Remember Walter Diemer who lived at Lancashire Terrace when I worked there? He was the one that invented Double Bubble." Oh yes, I remember. The stories Carol would tell me about Walter. In 1996, at the age of 92, he married one the other residents at Lancashire Hall. Florence replaced his first wife, Adelaide, who died 6 years earlier before he moved to the retirement village in Neffsville, PA. She also told me many times about how Walter would create traffic problems while riding his big tricycle around the complex. Walter's tale is an amazing one. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Walter joined the Fleer Company in 1926 as an accountant. The company manufactured candy and gum and the original founder of the company, Frank Henry Fleer, had made a batch of bubble gum in 1906, years before Walter joined the firm, which he called "Blibber Blubber", but it was too sticky and broke too easily. Frank eventually gave up on the idea. Years later, Gilbert Mustin, the company's President, after being called to the phone, asked Walter to watch his batch of bubble gum he was trying to formulate, while he was taking the phone call. Walter was fascinated. Mr. Mustin soon lost interest in making the gum, but Walter didn't. In his free time he would wander to the lab and mix new batches and chew a piece from each batch to see if it blew a good bubble. One day he developed a batch of gum that was soft to chew and blew large bubbles and didn't stick to his face when it burst. Unfortunately it hardened too quickly. He solved that problem by adding latex to the batch. He flavored it with wintergreen, peppermint, vanilla and cinnamon. In December of 1928 he mixed a 300 pound batch of the stuff, only to realize that it had no color. Only coloring he could find in the plant was pink, so the legend of the pink gum was born. He had the batch cut into small pieces and wrapped in paper on the machine used to wrap saltwater taffy. His boss, Mr. Mustin named the gum Dubble Bubble. On December 26 of that year, Walter sent 100 pieces of the new gum to a small candy store at 26 Schedectady Street in Philadelphia. Gum sold for a penny a piece. By the end of the afternoon it had sold out! Gum was so successful that the Fleer Company sold over a million and a half dollars worth of the stuff the next year. Replaced the Tootsie Roll as the best-selling one-cent candy. Walter was a success, but the one thing he forgot to do after inventing Double Bubble: patent it! He never received any royalties for his invention which could have made him a billionaire; a Double Bubble Billionaire! He said his reward was seeing all the happy children chewing his gum. In 1970, after being the senior vice-president of the company and a member of the board of Directors, Walter retired. Walter and his first wife, Adelaide, moved to Ocean City, New Jersey. In 1986, both of his children died (I cannot find any cause for their unfortunate deaths). Shortly after his wife's death in 1990, he moved to Lancashire Terrace Retirement Village in Neffsville, PA where my wife was the secretary, and the rest is history as they say. I met Walter a few times and can still visualize him riding his tricycle around the streets of the village with a pocket full of Double Bubble, handing it out to anyone that wanted a piece. Brought back memories chewing away on the stuff. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top: Walter Diemer with a box of his invention, original Fleer ad, eventual logo for Double Bubble.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The "What are you having for Breakfast?" Story

It was an ordinary day. Having my Quaker Oats instant oatmeal. Easy to make. Open a pack into a bowl, heat 1/3 cup of water in the microwave, pour the water into the cereal, add a small serving of light brown sugar to the mixture and stir. I buy the variety packs so I don't have to eat the same flavor every morning. Like the peaches and cream the best. Sometimes I will have my second favorite cereal, Kellogg's Raisin Bran Crunch. And then again, I sometimes eat a huge, fattening Butter Rum muffin dunked in hot chocolate. Eat the whole thing all by myself. And then I feel guilty about it. But, that lasts only until lunch when I eat again. Someone sent me a quiz to take called "The Great Cereal Quiz." Did pretty well on it and thought I would pass it along so you can see how well you do on it. Does help if you are 50 or older in order to remember some of the cereals that are part of the quiz. Here goes - answers are at the end.


1. Which slogan is considered the most memorable?
a. Cap'n Crunch:"Stays crunchy ... even in milk."
b. Wheaties: "The breakfast of champions."
c. Frosted Flakes: "They're GR-R-REAT!"
d. Kix: "Kid tested, mother approved."

2. Who was the first athlete to appear on a Wheaties box?
a. Bruce Jenner
b. Mary Lou Retton
c. Michael Jordan
d. Lou Gehrig

3. What was the first fruit flavored cereal?

a. Trix
b. Fruity Pebbles
c. Fruit Loops d. Strawberry Shortcake

4. Which doctor, who preached the wonders of a healthy diet, invented the first ready-to-eat cold breakfast cereal?

a. Robert Atkins

b. James Caleb Jackson
c. John Kellogg
d. Mehmet Oz

5. What special equipment was created and patented by Dr. Alexander P. Anderson to make Puffed Rice (a precursor to puffed-corn cereals like Kix)?
a. an air gun
b. a tire pump
c. a steam pump
d. a conveyor belt

6. Which cereal below was created before 1900?

a. Grape-Nuts
b. Shredded Wheat
c. Toasted Corn Flakes
d. all of the above

7. What was the first certified organic cereal on the market?

a. Corn Flakes
b. Sunrise
c. Rice Crispies
d. Shredded Wheat

And the answers:
1. C. Frosted Flakes - slogan has been used for 60 years.
2. D. Lou Gehrig - graced the box in 1934.
3. A. Trix - introduced in 1954.
4. B. Jackson - created the ready-to-eat stuff with just flour and water.
5. A. Puffed Rice - made with the air gun.
6. D. All of the above - the birth of ready-to-eat cereals started in the mid- to late- 1800s.
7. B. Sunrise - this sweetened corn cereal was on the market from 1999 -2001.

How'd you do? I got 1, 2, 3, and 6 right, but missed the rest. I think I will stick with the instant oatmeal and the raisin brand, but more likely with the muffins. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.