Extraordinary Stories

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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The "I Want That In The Will" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished celebrating the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander who succeeded to the throne in the Netherlands, replacing Queen Beatrix who abdicated the thrown.  The event took place in Amsterdam, but the Dutch side of St. Maarten, which we are currently visiting and which is part of the Netherlands, had a series of programs to participate in the celebration.  As far as Carol and me, we celebrated by shopping at D&K Gems on Front Street for a new ring for Carol.  Jeff, son of the founder of D&K, and our "official island jeweler," helped put the special inaugural ring on her finger.  Now, before I go any further, I need to tell you what transpired before we arrived in St. Maarten for our annual vacation to the Caribbean island.  I found that our laptop computer that I had been using for quite a few years was just about shot.  No longer held a charge and ran sooooo slow that I would probably miss some of my trips to the beach if I were to stay at the villa and post stories on my blog.  So, I told Carol that if I bought a new MacBook Air, which would coordinate with all my desktop Mac  programs, she could look for a piece of jewelry during out trip.  She oiginally told me to buy the computer for Christmas for myself and she would get something she liked, but I needed a new lens for my camera, so I dropped the computer idea.  But, I still had it in mind before vacation, so we made the deal.  But hey, the jewelry cost more so as of now, I need something to catch up.  I'm sure I'll find something sometime soon.  
But anyway, Carol and I visited the culinary capital of the island, Grand Case, tonight for our evening meal.  Great meal at Il Netuno with my favorite spinach and cheese  stuffed ravioli in sage butter sauce.  Actually just about anything on their menu would taste great in the sage butter sauce.  While at the restaurant I took a photo of Carol with her new purchase.  We later emailed the photo to our daughter in Maryland.  Shortly after, while typing this story, on the top of my screen appeared a new email that had just arrived.  She replied by saying, "I want that in the will!  Love You."  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The "Dare I Take That Photo?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  And on many ordinary days I'm out taking photos.  Photos of just about anything and anybody.  Photos for sale, photos for my blog and photos for personal use.  But, the more I read about current laws, the more I am concerned that when I push the shutter release I may be infringing on some one's rights.  As a rule I almost always ask someone if they would mind if I take their photo.  I have been turned down very few times.  To me it's only common courtesy to ask first.  The Amish culture tell me that if I ask them if I can take a photo they must say no, but if I am discrete I can take it without asking.  Tough at times to make the correct call.  Right now I am on a Caribbean island that shares dual nationalities; being half Dutch and half French.  Sint Maarten is the Dutch side of the island while St. Martin is the French side of the island.  And, as far as I can figure, each side gives different rights to their citizens as far as having their photo taken while in public.  In France, "Everyone has the right to respect for his private life," states Article 9 of France's civil code.  But, it seems that the law is open to a judge's interpretation, because legislators have refused to define the concept of privacy in clear terms.  Since St. Martin is a French territory, the laws of France apply which means Article 9 is in effect as I roam the streets of the capital city Marigot or walk the world famous beaches with my camera.  And, as in France, the beaches are very liberal as to how and what to wear while bathing.  On Orient Beach, many times considered one of the best beaches in the world, topless bathing is the norm, yet I enjoy taking photos on the beach for both recreation as well as to document my vacation.  Now I should tell you that in the United States we do not have photography laws as does France, but at times photographers have been arrested for disorderly conduct for snapping a particular photo. On Orient Beach it is next to impossible to tell who may be a French citizen or who may be another nationality such as American.  I do make sure, as best I can, that I do not include topless women in any photos I take to make sure I do not violate any one's rights or morals.  On the far south end of Orient Beach is the au natural resort called Club O.  As you approach this beach there is a very large sign telling you that you are entering the resort. On the sign they show the universal sign for no  
Click to enlarge
photography.  In years past they even displayed a placard with confiscated cameras which had a nail driven through them.  There are security people who patrol this section of the beach to make sure no photos are taken.  I do believe that people who frequent this beach do have the right not to have their photo taken and displayed all over the globe, but all beaches on the island are public, therefore, being a photographer, I believe I also have rights.  Recently Aurelie Filippetti, minister of culture, argued that it it was unacceptable to prevent professional photographers from sharing their vision of the world with future generations.  What would history be without photos to observe?  Would you dare to take that photo?  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The "Hey, take it easy .......... there's enough sugar for everyone!" Story

The Sugar Bird
It was an ordinary day.  Can't take my eyes off the myriad of little black and yellow birds that line the concrete wall on the deck of our villa in St. Martin.  When we arrived we noticed two small brown saucers on the wall at the edge of the concrete deck.  Right away we knew what their purpose was.  For years we have been feeding the sugar birds during our vacations to the island.  The sugar bird, also known as the Bananaquit, is a small bright colored tropical American songbird with a curved bill for sucking nectar.  And, they love granulated sugar.  Actually purchased a 2 1/2 pound bag of sugar on our first trip to the grocery store the second day we were on the island.  Five days later we found we were going to need more sugar.  Seems the few sugar birds that showed up when we filled the saucers after arrival must have spread the word or chirped the notice that the sugar had arrived at Villa Jeluca.  In no time we had over a dozen or more birds.  We then put a small clear glass cup next to the plates to supply the birds with water.  Shortly Carol noticed that they must have tipped the cup, since the water was all over the wall.  She refilled it and soon we saw why the water was on the wall.
Waiting in line for a bath!
They were using it to take a bath.  Water was flying in every direction as they washed their feathers.  Naturally had to be clean in order to eat the pure white sugar.  Then the small black birds with red breasts arrived and fought their way onto the plates of sugar and the cup of water for bathing.  And then ........ as I was relaxing in a chair next to the wall I noticed all the birds had disappeared.  I then saw the reason.  There sitting on the wall was a rather large thrush which was almost three times the size of the smaller birds.  He tried the granular sugar and realized he also enjoyed it.  After feeding and drinking he took flight and the sugar birds returned.  They didn't want to contend with any bird that was probably higher up the food chain then they were.  We have been thoroughly enjoying our constant companions, but find we will need to make a few more trips to the store for sugar.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The "It's as if God created the devil ......... gave it JAWS!!! Story

It was an ordinary day.  7:00 am and I'm sitting in a car dealership waiting to have the oil changed in my Mountaineer.  Bought the car in 2006 at the dealership and with the car came free car washes whenever I wanted, free oil changes when they were due and free state inspections.  All this for as long as I own the car and they are still in business.  Scared me a few years ago when Mercury stopped making cars, but the dealer changed to Mitsubishi and still offers the same freebie deals on those cars.  As I'm waiting, I picked up a copy of Reminisce, the magazine for us older folks who enjoy reminiscing about the good old times.  There on page 63, I know that's the page since I have it in front of me, is a story about "Hitchcock & Spielberg".  No celebration of Universal Pictures would be complete without the contributions of these two.  In 1963, The Birds attacked and in 1975 Jaws scared the crap out everyone.    I remember The Birds, which was in black and white, as being exciting and scary, but I remember in full color the panic that was created by Jaws.  For years I was half-afraid to go in the water when we ventured to the Chesapeake for vacation in the summer.  My wife tried to assure me that there were no great white sharks in the Chesapeake.  But when we started traveling to Hawaii and the Caribbean it was a another story.  I still scan the water for fins every time I head in for a dip when we are on vacation at one of the islands in the Caribbean.  I know the chances are pretty slim that there could be a great white shark in the water, but we do see other species of sharks when we snorkel, but I am still on the lookout for bigger fins.  It wasn't long after I read Peter Benchley's novel of the same name that I went to see Steven Spielberg's production of Jaws.  A giant human-eating great white shark was attacking beach goers on Amity Island, a fictional summer resort town in New England.  The local police chief, Roy Scheider, enlisted the help of marine biologist, Richard Dreyfuss, and local shark hunter, Robert Shaw, to find the great white.  The movie was shot mostly on location on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts and I'm sure after seeing the movie, the residents of that island had to be scared s#*tless when they went to the beach featured in the movie.  I'll bet there are still some people, even after 38 years, who won't venture far into the water.  I know I wouldn't. Even hearing the music still send chills and shivers down my spine!  The scene where Scheider kills the great white is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes.  Jaws became the highest-grossing film in history at the time.  I know I was certainly grossed out by it in a few of the scenes.  It won several awards for its soundtrack and editing, and it is often cited as one of the greatest films of all time.  I later saw a documentary on how they made the mechanical shark and made it look so realistic.  Even watching the documentary was kinda frightening, but then again I fear most all fish that try to eat me.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - There were a few other pages missing in the Reminisce magazine before I even took it out of the rack! Also, click on the link to see some scary scenes from the movie ....... http://youtu.be/0zkYRD51I34

Friday, April 26, 2013

The "OK, Now It's Getting Scary!!" Story

Scene we experienced on our trip to Philipsburg.
It was an ordinary day.  Pulled up today's island edition of the Daily  Herald  newspaper and started reading about the crash of a Jet Ski in the capital of Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.  Seems a female crew member of one of the four humongous cruise ships in port yesterday lost control of her Jet Ski because of excessive speed and crashed into a pier fracturing her leg and arm.  Lucky, I guess, that was all that happened to her.  As Carol and I were leaving the parking area near The Greenhouse Restaurant yesterday afternoon in Philipsburg, an ambulance, sirens screaming to everyone, zipped across in front of us.  Well, maybe not zipped, since the traffic in that area was quite snarled as usual.  I mentioned to Carol that I wondered if it was someone from one of the cruise ships, since last year a passenger had to be transferred to the hospital because of a heart attack while on the ship. The passenger eventually needed better medical services and had to be taken to another island to obtain the help.  That person, as well as the pilot and accompanying doctor, eventually died in a plane crash off the island of Pinel.  I watched the extensive sea recovery attempts from our villa patio early in the morning after the crash.  Today's online newspaper told the reason for the sirens and flashing lights we saw yesterday.  But, as I read on, I saw the reason for another disturbing event  we witnessed yesterday.  On our journey to Philipsburg from our villa in the hills over Orient Bay, we passed a scary scene in French Quarter, about 10 minutes from our departure.  On the right of the narrow road stood a large blue police vehicle parked as best it could on the edge of the road, up on the pavement.  As we got closer we saw four Gendarmes (French police) with automatic weapons pointing them at who-knows-what.  These young policemen looked scared half to death with the situation.  The streets were lined on both sides, near the house where they were parked, with people pointing, talking and in one case yelling at them.  I had the notion to ask my wife to grab my camera and start snapping photos of the event.  My camera was set to record frame after frame as long as you held the shutter release down.  Then it occurred to me that it probably wouldn't be a good idea, so we drove slowly past the site as just witnesses to the event.  
As we passed we saw a small red car that was riddled with bullet holes, some as large as a baseball.  "I wonder if this is the place where the two people were shot yesterday?" I asked Carol as we passed.  Late evening, two days ago, a young woman was shot when a gun was fired through a bedroom window of a home in the French Quarter.  Allegedly the gunshot was meant for her boyfriend.  The woman had to be evacuated to either Guadeloupe or Martinique for additional medical treatment.  Then, several hours later, in the early morning of the next day, it was stated that friends or family of the injured woman took revenge on the original shooter by shooting him in the leg and setting fire to his truck.  The shooting of the car that we saw is said to also be related to the other two previous shootings and possibly related to a dispute between individuals or a gang and may be all tied to drugs.  I guess we were lucky to have gotten a late start on our trip to Philipsburg or we may have been in the line of fire.  Almost like living in the wild, wild West years and years ago.  May have to take the long way to Philipsburg the next time.  It was an extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - photos are from the Herald website.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The "Lancaster's Square" Story

The "Soldiers and Sailors Monument" in Center Square
in downtown Lancaster in 1874 on the
day it was dedicated.  The original stockade
fencing can be seen surrounding the monument.
It was an ordinary day.  Just passing through the center of Lancaster on my way home.  I do this a few times a week and so often never take the time to look at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument which stands in the center of Penn Square.  The monument is a 43-foot tall Gothic Revival memorial which was dedicated on July 4, 1874.  The original intention of the monument was to pay tribute to Lancaster's Union soldiers who were killed in the Civil War, but now honor all military who have served in any American conflict.  At one time Lancaster's old courthouse stood on the same site and it was there that the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster between the British and Iroquois was signed.  The old Lancaster Courthouse was also the site where on September 27, 1777 the Second Continental Congress met during the American Revolutionary War.  The historic courthouse burned to the ground in 1784 and was eventually replaced with the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.  The monument is made of Rhode Island granite topped with a statute of a robed woman on a pedestal known as the "Genius of Liberty".  She holds a drawn sword and a shield and carries a crown with stars on her head.  The woman faces north to signify she is facing away from the former Confederate States of America which were defeated in the Civil War.  Around the woman are statues of four men who represent the four branches of the armed services: U.S. Navy, U.S. Army, U.S. Cavalry, and the Artillery.  Carved in the granite pillar which supports the woman are inscriptions that include the Battle of Antietam, Battle of Chickamauga, Battle of Gettysburg, Battle of Malvern Hill, Battle of Petersburg, and the Battle of the Wilderness.  At the base of the monument is carved the inscription "Erected by the people of Lancaster County/To the memory of their fellow citizens who fell/In defense of the Union/In the War of the Rebellion/1861-1865".  Since 1874, other bronze plaques have been added to commemorate the role of African Americans in the military, those killed in World War IWorld War II, the Korean WarVietnam War and the Persian Gulf War.  The monument was commissioned on November 4, 1872 to stand on Center Square which is the present day Penn Square.  It was originally surrounded by stockade fencing with dirt streets passing around it on all four sides.  The monument was officially dedicated at 1:00 PM on July 4, 1874.  The "Genius of Liberty" was draped in an American flag.  in 1877 an iron fence replaced the stockade fencing.  In 1931 a plaque containing the Gettysburg Address and a likeness of Abraham Lincoln were added.  Numerous times it was suggested to move the monument to alleviate traffic congestion, but it still remains on the same site as it did in 1874.  The iron fencing was removed to allow better traffic flow, but granite curbing was added to protect it from collisions.  In 1978 a woman committed suicide by crashing her car into the monument and damaging the sailor statute.  The statue was later repaired with cement.  I often walk past the monument and marvel at the history it exudes.  Love to touch the monument and statutes and think about all who have touched it before me.  Lancaster is deep in historical sites and the Sailors and Soldiers Monument is at the center of it all.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The stockade fencing was replaced with iron fencing seen here.
Another view of Center Square with the monument on the right.
The monument as it now appears in Penn Square with concrete around it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The "Faces of Strangers #12" Story

Paolo working on his jewelry.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing in the Murano Glass store in Marina Royale on the island of St. Martin talking with Paolo.  Neatest guy who, along with his wife, owns and runs the business that sells just about anything from picture frames to collectibles to jewelry made from Murano Glass. Carol and I have purchased a few pieces from the his store over the last 10 or so years.  Murano Glass is made on a tiny island off the coast of Venice, Italy.  As Carol and I talked with Paolo about Italy, he told us he was born in Rome and his wife was born in Venice.  I told him that Venice was one of my favorite stops while visiting Italy a few years ago and that if we ever made our way back to Italy, I want to stay a few nights on the island.  He told us that he and his family travel every year back to Italy to visit with their extended family and to view the current Murano selections.  We also talked about the concerns of global warming on the islands of Venice and Murano and he assured us that there is a method that can be used to prevent the island from being inundated with water.  Paolo told us that he is closing his shop on St. Martin soon and moving to Los Angeles with his wife and daughter so that his daughter can go to school in the United States. 
Paolo showing me his classic car shirt.
 He has a brother who lives in Seattle, Washington and he will be closer to him as well.  His business is offered for sale on Facebook and he hopes to sell his Orient Beach home with rental units soon.  I then questioned him about the 1955 Pontiac convertible that was embroidered on his shirt.  "Ah, you like it?" he said.  Well, that got the two of us going on our love of classic cars and he revealed that his brother has a '55 Cadillac convertible.  After another 10 minutes I could see that my wife was tiring of the car stuff so we wished him well in his new life in the USA and left his shop for what will probably be the last time we will ever see him.  St. Martin is listed in all their literature as "The Friendly Island" and with good reason.  The island will have a hard time finding a replacement for one of their most likable ambassadors by the name of Paolo.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The "I'm Gonna Live My Life Like A Jimmy Buffett Song" Story

 It was an ordinary day.  First evening on the Caribbean island of St. Martin and we are making a change in our seating at Le Piment Restaurant in Orient Village.  Seems likes the rain is blowing just enough to make our French bread turn to mush and our Lipton's peach tea taste even more watered down that the glass of ice.  Our waitress grabs our salad while we head into the interior of the restaurant, away from the blowing wind and rain on the outdoor seating area.  We sit down next to a younger couple who seem to be in their .... well they are much younger that we are.   I immediately notice that the girl is texting.  And, texting.  And ..... I think you get the idea.  Nothing bothers me more that being with someone who constantly has a cell phone in front of their face or attached to their ear.  How anti-social can you get?  Anyway, after our meal Carol and I start talking about the old Village Night Club in Lancaster, PA.  I told her it was on the corner of Christian and Chestnut Streets in downtown Lancaster.  As we continued our conversation our neighbor, who was with the cell phone girl, asked us if we were talking about Philadelphia.  He was from Philly and was a bartender in a club, but didn't think Christian and Chestnut intersected in the city.  After telling him we were from nearby Lancaster, we had a nice conversation about his life, and yes, about his girlfriend's life.  The more we talked and I listened to his young life's story, I thought I had heard this story before.  Later that evening, after returning back to our villa, I picked up the book I had started reading around the pool a few hours earlier and realized our dinner conversation with the young couple matched the book I was reading.  I'm Gonna Live My Life Like A Jimmy Buffett Song was written by Anthony Bjorklund and his title character, Jack Danielson, reminded me so much of our dinner partner and his girlfriend.  In the book Jack, a former bartender, works for a Public Relations firm and hates his job.  
Anthony Bjorklund
 He has a girlfriend who he is living with who loves to spend his money and Jack is tired of his life.  After a near-fatal auto accident, he decides it's time for a change in his life so he quits his job, sells his possessions, dumps his girlfriend and follows the titles of Jimmy 
Buffett songs to lead his life in a new direction.  Wow, why didn't I think of that?  I'm a big fan of Jimmy Buffett and since becoming a fan about a dozen of years ago, I have often wondered what it would have been like to live in the world he sings about in his songs.  My only problem would be that I'm not the heavy drinker that is portrayed in quite a few of his songs.  With chapter titles in the book such as - It's Monday, and it's not all right; One Peculiar Harbor; The Weather Isn't Here, But It's Still Beautiful; Mistakin' Jamaicans; and Ragtop Night, Jack ( Anthony Bjorklund) takes you on a trip that makes you wish you were with him.  I finished the book the next day, probably in record time for me.  When I reached the end I was pleasantly surprised to see that he has a few other books, with Jack And Di Rum Song being next in line.  Already on my Kindle.  Makes a great read while sitting under the yellow umbrellas of Orient Beach, St. Martin.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.The

Monday, April 22, 2013

The "Murder in Paradise" Story

Victims Michael and Thelma King
It was an ordinary day.  Following the trial of the three men who were accused of slaughtering US citizens Michael and Thelma King on the island of Sint Maarten.  The Miami Herald island edition has been following the trial and it looks as though the three defendants will all serve jail time for their crimes.  One of the defendants committed both of the murders and he is facing life in prison while the other two will face time as accessories or accomplices.  The South Carolina couple, who own real estate on the island, were found dead September 21, 2012 in their Ocean Club Resort apartment  home in Sint Maarten which is on the Dutch side of the Caribbean island.  The three defendants, 29 year old MKJ from Guyana, 18 year old JCM from Sint Maarten and 21 year old JJW from Guyana allegedly committed two robberies that day.  First they robbed Happy Star Chinese Restaurant at 7:50 pm, then the King's apartment at 11:00 pm.  At the first robbery the restaurant owner was forced to give them money and as they were leaving the police fired several shots at their getaway car.  One struck the trunk.  The defendants then changed the license plates and drove to the Cupecoy area of the island.  They walked along the beach toward the Ocean Club Resort and found lights on and the hurricane shutters up at the Kings apartment.  Michael King had fallen asleep watching TV while his wife was asleep in the upstairs bedroom.  MKJ placed a knife to the throat of Michael after waking him with a tap to the head with a BB gun they had stolen earlier.  They demanded money and he told them it was in the safe in the bedroom.  They JCM and JJW forced Thelma to open the safe then led her downstairs where her husband was with MKJ.  When Michael saw they were tying her to a chair he made a sudden move and got cut.  A few more cuts were administered and Michael was dead.  While his wife was tied to the chair, MKJ killed her with the same knife on his way out of the apartment.  In early October the police had arrested three suspects, the same three who are now the defendants.  All three were accused and finally one started make statements about his involvement.  MKJ confessed to everything and confirmed that the other helped him.  On March 8th the three were taken to the crime scene for a re-enactment of the crime.  Since that time MKJ has told the police that he can't remember anything happening.  MKJ is accused of the murders with JCM and JJW being accessories.  They hopefully will get more than 20 years while the murderer should get life.  The Prosecutor's Office used a strange, but very beneficial strategy during the trial.  They presented the case in English rather that Dutch.  They did that for the news reporters from the US as well as friends and family of the victims.  Judge Tamara Tyghuis made every attempt to make sure the relatives of the deceased understood the proceedings.  Hopefully by the time Carol and I land on the island the three will be convicted and placed behind bars.  I know murders like this take place all the time in the USA, but because the victims were US citizens on a foreign island, the publicity and court proceedings were thoroughly scrutinized. Justice must prevail!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

PS - After recently arriving on the island for vacation, Carol and I traveled from the Dutch side of the island (Sint Maarten) to the French side of the island (St. Martin).  Or journey took all of 20 minutes, but at times it can seem as if the two sides are light years apart.  We asked our realtor, who was showing us to our villa, what she knew of the trial in Philipsburg and she had no idea what had happened or when it had happened.  Evidently it takes more than a year for news to travel less than half an hour in the Caribbean.  Known as "island time" I guess.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The "Fort Amsterdam is under siege!" Story

The remains of Fort Amsterdam
It was an ordinary day.  Reading an online account about Fort Amsterdam which is a historical military installation on the island of Sint Maarten.  What is disturbing to me is that the account is posted on the Divi Little Bay Resort webpage.  There is a bitter battle ongoing at present between the Divi Resort and the citizens of Sint Maarten regarding who has ownership and the rights to this centuries old fort.  The Divi talks about being able to have one of their bellmen drive you to one of the most historic sites on the island and while surrounded by tiki torches, be wined and dined with an elegant 3-course Dutch meal as your waiter, dressed as a pirate, tells you about the history of Fort Amsterdam.  The story goes like this: Fort Amsterdam was constructed in 1631 by the Dutch who were the first European settlers on the island.  The fort was built on the peninsula between Great Bay and Little Bay.  In 1633 the Spanish invaded the island.  The Dutch on the island at the time consisted of 95 men, 2 women, 20 Negro men and 10 Negro women.  Needless to say the Spanish captured the island and remained there until 1648.  During that time they expanded the fort.  In 1644 the Dutch made an attempt to recapture the island.  It was during this battle that Peter Stuyvesant failed as well as lost a leg.  The reason for trying to recapture the island was the valuable salt ponds that were located in the area near the fort.  The island eventually changed hands many times between Holland, England and France.  In 1987, Jan Baart, an archaeologist from the city of Amsterdam, excavated the area around the fort and unearthed the skeleton of a Spanish officer who had died in 1644 at Fort Amsterdam.  The fort has not been a military  installation since the 19th century, but had been used as a signaling and communications station until the 1950s.  After that time the fort was neglected which has led to it's dismal state today.  A few walls of the original Fort Amsterdam still remain, but the majority of the fort has fallen.  On January 29, 1995 five of the original cannons and their carriages were removed from the area.  One cannon had the King George coat of arms engraved into it.  All were in a bad state of repair.  The Governor of the Netherlands Antilles and his Brigade General F.E. van Kappen of the Roiyal Netherlands Marine Corp, on a visit to the island, saw the cannons and offered to restore them for the island.  The cannons were transported to the harbor and loaded onto a Dutch Navy Supply Ship and taken to the Curacao navy Base for restoration.  After almost two hundred years on location at Fort Amsterdam, the cannons will be restored and finally transported back to their original place at the bulwark of Fort Amsterdam.  The Government of Sint Maarten, as well as the Heritage Foundation, has been trying to preserve the cultural heritage of Sint Maarten for years.  Now for the part that the Divi has been playing in all of this.  In order to get to the fort, islanders and tourists must travel an access road which the Divi seems to have included in their property rights.  Was this road part of the original deed of transfer to the Divi?  The Divi claims it belongs to them.  The Divi has taken it upon themselves to erect a chain-link fence and banned entrance to the fort.  A sign that says "No Unauthorized Admittance-Hazardous Area - Dangerous Cliffs, May obtain written permission from Divi Little Bay Beach Resort," was placed on the road as a safeguard for the safety of visitors, says the Divi.  Jadira Veen, President of St. Maarten Pride Foundation said it proves that they are playing hardball in trying to get what they want and are dead set on holding Fort Amsterdam hostage.  The Divi wants to build more units on the area where Fort Amsterdam is located.  Fort Amsterdam is the sole zoned heritage site on the Dutch side of the island and it appears that Divi Hotel is keen on making the islanders suffer because they would never be able to build hotel rooms and other facilities on this historically valuable location.  The Miami Daily Herald, in an editorial, said the Divi should be allowed to build because they may have the rights to the land.  The people of the island want to preserve the sole location for the future.  The saga will certainly continue, but for now Carol and I will not be able visit the historical Fort Amsterdam unless we agree to eat a meal and be serenaded by a Pirate.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The Divi Resort with the red rooftops in the center rear with Fort Amsterdam above it.
The chain-link fence and sign erected by the Divi Resort.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The "Gilders, Euros, US Dollars or Credit Card?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Shopping on the Dutch side of the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin which is an interesting experience.  Reason: the official currency on the Dutch side is the Netherlands Antilles Gilder while the official currency on the French side of the island is the Euro.  Luckily for me, both sides happily accept the US dollar.  The Guilder is pinned to the US Dollar so the rate of between 1.78 and 1.80 remains constant, but I must check the Euro/Dollar exchange rate before buying items on the French side of the island.  When Carol and I first started to travel to this dual nationality country in the Caribbean, we decided it would be easier to exchange our US Dollars for Euros at our AAA store in Lancaster, PA.  On the first trip after that we found it to be a mistake.  Some stores and restaurants on the French side of the island honor $1=1 Euro so we ended up losing money being that the Euro is valued higher than the US Dollar.  ATM machines usually dispense Guilders or US Dollars on the Dutch side while dispensing only Euros on the French side.  As of this writing, the US Dollar is valued so that one Euro is worth $1.30; an item purchased for 1 Euro would cost me $1.30 in US Dollars.  Starts to add up by the end of vacation.  On our trip today to shop at the Grande Marche for groceries for our vacation, the bill amounted to $286.38 Guilders, but after handing the clerk my Visa credit card and telling her I wanted to pay in US Dollars, she showed me the cost to my card as being $159.10.  Every item in the store carries three prices; one each for US Dollars, Guilders and Euros.  Not to hard to get used to after you have shopped at the grocery store several times, but at first it was a challenge.  And, the prices aren't that much different from the US for the products we purchased, and considering that most items are imported on the island, the prices are reasonable.  I did buy a container of ice cream that was made in St. Thomas, USVI for almost seven dollars, but the St. Thomas Dairy orange pineapple has a great taste that you can't find in the states.  I paid my bill at the Grande Marche with my Capital One credit card, making sure to tell the clerk one more time that I wanted to pay it in US Dollars.  Paying with my Capital One Visa card is not a big   
deal, since Capital One is probably the only company that doesn't charge an exchange rate for out of the country purchases that are charged in currency other than US Dollars.  Not only that I build up points I can use to pay for other items such as airfare of car rental.  In comparison, for our evening meal we traveled to Little Italy Restaurant in Orient Village, which is close to our villa on the French side of the island, and was charged 42.54 Euros for the meal which cost me $53.39 in US Dollars.  Traveling out of the country on vacation is both interesting and enjoyable for Carol and me and after the first few times I found that currency rates don't create a problem as they once did.  Oh, the joys of international travel!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The "Waitin' for '42'" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Watching "Meet the Press" on NBC and found the small segment featuring Ken Burns, Harrison Ford, David Gregory and Rachel Robinson to be extremely interesting.  Since baseball has always been my favorite sport, watching Rachel talk about her late husband was immensely enjoyable for me.  In case you don't know by now who Rachel Robinson may be, she is the wife of former baseball star/civil rights activist Jackie Robinson.  The movie "42" is going to be released soon and quite a bit of hype is preceding the opening of the film.  Harrison Ford played the owner of the Brooklyn Dodgers who signed Jackie to a contract in 1947.  At the time I was too young to realize what impact that would hold for the sport, but as I grew in age and in the sport, I gained more insight into what that momentous occasion really meant to not only baseball, but to the civil rights movement.  As I have rehashed a few times in other stories, my first involvement with baseball was in 1956, nine years after Jackie had signed with the Dodgers.  At that time my dad took me to the south end of the city of Lancaster for tryouts for the Schick Midget-Midget baseball team.  Little did he realize that the team consisted of mostly black players.  To me, it was no big deal, since they loved baseball as much as I did.  I had one of the greatest experiences that year while playing the game I love so much with a great bunch of black and white guys I grew to love.  To me it was a natural to have any color player on the team, as long as they loved the game and could play on the same level.  As I grew and started to realize that Mr. Robinson had broken the color barrier in the Major Leagues, I found it hard to believe that it hadn't been like that forever. I don't believe that today's black and Hispanic children appreciate what Jackie did for them back in the late 40s.  They have, just the same as I did, grown up in baseball with no racial barriers.  Too bad that the sport of baseball can't be carried over into the rest of our lives as well.  I realize that there are still many barriers for the black and Hispanic cultures that haven't shown the progress that sports has accepted.  Maybe I never will see racial injustice be corrected in my lifetime.  Pretty hard to believe that to be true.  As for the movie "42", I can hardly wait to see it.  Written and directed by  Brian Helgeland, "42" is said to be mostly an  unexceptional film about an exceptional man.  The movie is said to remind us that black Americans fought and died for their country in World War II, but returned home to a country with separate drinking fountains and a ban on Negroes in the major leagues.  The movie depicts Jackie Robinson's first year in the majors and all the turmoil and racist fans as well as players and managers which he has to maneuver through in order to succeed in the game of baseball and life.  He is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time.  Not just black players, but baseball players.  I can hardly wait to see the film. I'm sure I will have more memories to share after I watch the film.  It was an ordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The "Random Act of Kindness Day" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with my wife's friend Marg on the phone about something really neat that her daughter and grandkids did the other day.  Marg's daughter's name is Alice and she has to children, one boy and one girl.  Both are in elementary school and both children, along with their mother participated in a "Random Acts of Kindness" day that took them from a nursing home to a free medical clinic, all in one day.  Alice wanted her children to know how fortunate they are to have everything they have, and that there are less fortunate people who could benefit from a "Random Act of Kindness."  Alice works for the Berks County, PA Intermediate Unit program as an elementary teacher of children with disabilities, so she first had to coordinate the day that she had planned for her and her children.  She first went to her children's elementary school principal and explained what she wanted to do and the principal thought it was a great idea.  The night before the family's special day, they baked cookies that would be used for the first two stops the following day.  First stop on the "Random Act of Kindness" tour was at a nursing home near their house.  They presented the residents with some cookies and conversation.  Later they would receive a note of thanks from the nursing home for their "Random Act of Kindness".  Next stop was at the Denver Elementary School where the children were students.  Dropped off some cookies in the faculty room with a note to tell the teachers how special they really were.  I'm sure some teachers saw them and told them how special they were.  Next stop was a laundromat in Ephrata, PA to leave bags with quarters in them so the patrons of the laundromat could have their clothes washed for free that day.  A note was included in the bags to tell them about their "Random Act of Kindness" day.  The Dollar Store was next on the agenda where they left small bags with a dollar in them and a note telling the finder to use the $1 to buy something that would brighten their day.  Can you imagine by now the excitement and good feelings that the children as well as Alice must have felt by creating all the "Random Act of Kindness".  Next stop was at an animal shelter where they dropped off kitty litter and food for the animals.  I can just imagine how thrilled the workers in the shelter must have been with the donation and their "Random Act of Kindness".  I know the high that I feel when Carol and I drop off bags of cat food to a very kind lady on the island of St. Martin who cares for the stray cats on the island.  In Hershey, PA is located the Penn State Hershey Medical Center where children with cancer are treated and a Ronald McDonald House is nearby for the families of those children to stay.  The next "Random Act of Kindness" was dropping off toys for the sick children at the Ronald McDonald House.  Not just any toys, but Margaret's children's own toys that were still in great shape and would be better used by the children with an illness.  The next stop during their busy day was to the Ephrata Library to donate still usable books to the children's room in the library.  For the final stop of the day Alice did some previous research online to see what the Lebanon, PA medical clinic could make use of in their care for the less fortunate.  Aspirin was one of the top items on the list so the three good Samaritans made their last donation of Aspirin to the Lebanon Free Clinic.  What a great "Random Act of Kindness" day this family experienced.  I'm sure that not only the two children, but their mother learned more today than they would have at work or at school.  What a neat idea, Alice.  I'm impressed with your parenting.  Bravo, job well done!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The "Vacation Jitters? Nah!!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Packing!  Soon time for Carol and me to head back to the islands as Jimmy sings in his song.  Have my date book colored in according to the color of the sky and water that will await us when we land in St. Martin.  Days and days of yellow umbrellas and orange beach chairs are in our future.   Now all we have to do is hope that the skies cooperate and the airplane lands on the runway as it's supposed to do.  We had to buy new suitcases since the old ones were getting pretty shabby.  Mine had a few tears as well as one of the outside pockets had been dislodged by a baggage-handler in one of the airports we travel though.  Carol's suitcase had the metal framework compromised  and it bent inward toward the luggage compartment rather then along the sides as it is supposed to do.  Oh well, they lasted for a few years.  We don't spend hundreds on luggage, since no matter how careful we are with it, the airports seem to use it for target practice.  New suitcases weigh only about 4 pounds each with hard molded sides.  We'll see what happens to them after departure from Baltimore with a stop in Miami and then on to St. Martin.  Hope the sides are still molded in a suitcase shape by our last carousel stop.  I recently found a photo online that shows the airport runway in St. Martin.  This runway is usually in the top 10 on just about any survey taken which talks about scary runways.  As the pilot prepares to land he or she must plan to catch the front end of the runway as close as possible to the start because of the short distance of the runway.  To top that off, there is a beach with people, chairs and sand on it directly in front of the runway separated only by a 10 foot high chain-link fence.  I stopped worrying about the landing years ago.  Figure the plane is bigger than anything in front of it as we cross the azure blue water leading up to the pure-white beach.  The photo that I found shows the far end of the runway after the planes land.  There is only one runway so after planes land they must turn around at the far end, head back up the runway halfway, then turn in towards the airport common.  No problems as long as the air-traffic controllers don't allow another plane to land too soon or one to take-off too soon.  This photo below shows an American Airlines plane that had just landed and has turned around to head to the airport while a KLM Jumbo Jet if preparing for take-off.  Neat shot!!  I can' wait to be in the American Airlines Jet that is just arriving.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.
Four engine Jumbo Jet landing over Maho Beach.

Click on photo to enlarge.  American Airlines jet in the foreground while the KLM jet prepares for take-off at the far end at Maho Beach.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The "Memories of a Best Neighbor" Story

Duane H. "Hank" Harvey
It was an ordinary day.  That was until I opened the newspaper and saw that Duane H. "Hank" Harvey had died a couple of days ago.  Hank was my neighbor.  But, Hank was more than that.  He was a good friend who would do just about anything for you.  Nah, make that he would do everything for you.  I caught some of the neighborhood critters in Hank's trap.  Returned the trap and he told me to keep it, since I did much better than he did with it.  I painted my house with Hank's ladder. I cut my grass with Hank's lawn mover a few times when mine was on the blink.  Starting to get the idea of how nice Hank really was.  Hank lived in the house next to Carol and I when we moved in to our "Beach House" almost 20 years ago.  Big burly guy that looked like a surfer with the tan skin and blond hair.  Oh yeah, he had the biggest smile to go along with his appearance.  We talked about everything including our families and other neighbors.  After finding out that Hank held a captain's license to sail a catamaran I asked him if he would be willing to captain a boat in the Caribbean for Carol and me and a few of our friends.  Wasn't long before he was in my kitchen cooking a meal for eight to show us what we could expect with him as the cook and captain.  Answered all the questions and even showed us a photo of himself cooking a meal on deck with nothing on other than his apron!  Wow, going to be a great trip.  Week or two later two of the couples backed out and we were never able to take the trip, but I'm sure it would have been one of the best adventures we would ever experience.  Hank loved cars and when I told him I was going to sell my Corvette he got out his check book and gave me a check for the car.  Had the perfect place for the car in his lower level garage he told me and to top that he said I could drive it whenever I wanted to.  Now that is a good neighbor!  Hank and his wife Judy visited with us for supper several times and we did likewise with them at their home.  Then Judy died a few years ago.  Hank was strong, but I knew he missed her.  Told me he met her one day when he was riding his motorcycle and pulled up next to this car that had the top down and Judy driving.  Looked over at her and told her he was going to marry her!  And he did!!!!!  Few years later he told me he was going to move to Detroit to take over a foundry business.  Talk about disappointment on my part.  Stopped to see him the day before he was scheduled to leave for Detroit and he was busy in his lower level garage.  Had some of his tools and ladders still on the floor.  Asked me if I was interested in them and I said I would buy the aluminium extension ladder from him.  I asked him how much he wanted for it and he asked me how much I had in my pocket.  Reached in and pulled out $20.  After seeing what I had in my hand he said, "The whole works is yours for the $20.  Hank did meet his second wife while working in Detroit and stopped to visit with us in Lancaster when he returned to see his daughters.   Seems he always stopped to visit on his trips back to Lancaster.  Then a year ago he told me he was going to buy a home in Venice, Florida and someday retire there with his new wife Lorraine.  I told him he would never retire, since he loved his job so much.  "You retire and it'll kill you," I remember I told him.  It did!  He retired this past December and shortly after he died.  He was 70 years old, still looked like a surfer the last time I saw him, and the best neighbor a person could have.  RIP Hank!!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The "Two Down and One To Go" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just got back from the hardware store with the bad news.  My Black and Decker 8" power saw just bit the dust.  I was using it last week to rebuild the top of a picnic table that is part of our deck behind our house when it just wouldn't turn on.  Took it to the hardware store for what I thought was a new set of brushes, but they told me the problem I was experiencing wouldn't be corrected with brushes.  They could take it apart and see what the problem might be, but that would cost me $50 for the service.  Now I might have done that with a fairly new saw, but this one was a gift from my wife in 1967 and parts might not be available anymore to repair it.  That was the first Christmas we shared together as husband and wife in our apartment at Manor House in Lancaster, PA.  We agreed to buy each other one big item and very little else, since we were just getting started in our marriage and needed the money for other items.  Carol bought me the saw and I got her a Viking sewing machine.  But, by buying the sewing machine I also got a bonus.  A free Husqvarna gas chain saw.  Wow, I snapped 
 that up pretty fast.  Carol loved the sewing machine and I got a really neat saw that lasted almost 50 years to go along with a chain saw that cut many a tree branch off and damaged a few more items that I didn't know were in my path as I operated the chain saw.  The chain saw lasted at the most 10 years before it ran out of steam, but my power saw lasted almost my lifetime.  And, I used it for just about everything.  Used it when my cousin's husband and I installed siding on houses in the late 60s and 70s, for building a porch on the side of my home on Janet Ave., for taking the 3rd floor of that home and making it into a bedroom/bathroom/closet combo for our two sons, and for a variety of other construction projects.  As for the Viking, it still works fine, but Carol has decided it is best left in the closet, since she isn' making curtains, baby clothes, etc. anymore.  I guess you could say we got a lifetime of service from our initial Christmas gifts we gave to each other back in '67.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The "Heard You Coming" Story

Clark shoes that squeak when I walk.
It was an ordinary day.  Talking with my cobbler about my Clark shoes and the squeaking noise they make.  Only the left shoe makes the noise, but when you walk it is annoying.  When I used to visit with my mom before her death, she always knew when I was coming.  I'd walk down the hall to her room and when I would enter she would smile and say, "Heard you coming."  Cobbler told me Clark shoes aren't what they used to be.  Told me that the Clark Shoe Company was started in England in the early 1800s by brothers who made rugs from sheepskin that they had tanned.  One of the brothers decided to use the scraps to make slippers and that's how it began.  In the mid 1800s Singer invented the sewing machine and the Clark bothers could produce their slippers and shoes at a faster pace.  Eventually, years later after the brothers had died, the cost of producing the shoes forced the Clark Company to move the production of the shoes to places like China, India and Viet Nam.  Evidently the quality wasn't the same by making them with cheaper labor my cobbler reasoned.  But, he also told me that the way that the rubber soles, which are on my shoes, are poured into a mold can allow pockets of air which can cause the problem that I am experienced.  No way he can fix them so I kind of gave up on the shoes and purchased another pair called Clark Originals which had crepe soles.  I got hooked on Clarks years ago when I saw my friends wearing what were called Desert Boots.  Had a crepe sole that was so comfortable that I knew I would be wearing this brand forever.  As I sit here typing I have my Clark Originals on my feet which I purchased about 3 years ago.  With my Shingles problem in my left foot, the Originals seem to provide me with the best cushion for my foot.  Only problem with this pair of shoes is the small tab on the back of the left shoe at the top of the shoe tends to flip up every time I wear them.  Annoying, but at least it doesn't make any noise.  This past Christmas I told Carol I would like another pair exactly like the shoes I was wearing except without the tab that flips up.  She told me to go try a pair on, buy them and she would wrap them for me for Christmas.  To my dismay, they stopped making them!  In their place they had a new Original.  I tried to tell the shoe clerk that you can't make an Original if you already have one called an Original.  Didn't get my point across to him the way I wanted it to, so I gave up and bought the new Originals.  The crepe sole of the new Original is more firm than the crepe sole of the old Original and I can't wear it for long periods or my left foot bothers me.  I still enjoy the crepe sole and will stick with Clarks until I get another pair that sports a squeak in it.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 
Pair of Clark "Originals" that the back flap always goes up on the left shoe.
My second pair of "Originals" that have a firm crepe sole.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The "Have I Got A Gravesite For You!" Story

It as an ordinary day.  Doing some research on the burial plots that I found that I have evidently inherited from my mom and dad when they died.  Seems that they inherited them from my dad's mom and now I am stuck with them.  Why so gloom?  I have no idea what to do with them.  My "Nannan" (grandmother)  purchased a piece of ground known as lot No. 138 in Riverview Burial Park in the southeast of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.   Lot No. 138, as per survey of the said Riverview Burial Park, contains eight graves, together with all the privileges and appurtenances thereto belonging, and every part and parcel thereof, was purchased by Mrs. Grace Woods on April 26, 1926 from the Riverview Burial Park Association.  She paid $117.50 for the eight gravesites.  I had no idea what appurtenances meant so I "googled" it and found that it meant: an incidental right (as a right-of-way) attached to a principal property right and passing in possession with it.  Help any?  Well, I assume that Nannan bought Lot No. 138 in 1926 in order to bury her husband Joseph whom I never had the honor to meet.  My granddad died in an industrial accident at the Lancaster Post Office where he worked.  He was 42 years old when he died and my dad, his son, was only 6 years old at the time.  Pretty tough on my Nannan, since she had four young children who now had no father.  In a file folder that was among the remains of my mom and dad's belongings I found the deed to the burial sites as well as another letter from the Charles F. Snyder Funeral Home that had a small drawing showing the sites with numbers on them.  In grave #6 is buried my Nannan who died in 1974, in grave #5 is my grandfather Joseph and in grave #7 is my uncle Clair, my dad's brother, who died in an automobile accident in 1931 when he was 16 years old.  Nannan must have been a saint to have been able to survive all the tragedies she had at such a young age.  Also enclosed in the file folder were two notices that were placed in the Lancaster Newspaper notifying owners in the Conestoga Memorial Park and the Riverview Burial Park to contact a number to update their records.  Dad had written the date Feb. 10, 1987 on the one and 2-21-03 on the other.  He always dated everything that he read and kept for his files.  Thanks, dad!  And then I also found receipts for the headstone that Nannan had purchased for the gravesite.  That cost more than all eight gravesites with a price tag of $180.00.  Looking through history is interesting, but now to my dilemma; what do I do with these gravesites?  Carol and I have burial rights in the cemetery of our historical churchyard in downtown Lancaster where my mom and dad are interred. My brother had no interest in the sites and I didn't know what to do with them so I called the number listed on the one notice from the graveyard.  They asked me who purchased the sites and after I told them, they asked if my father had any brothers and sisters.  My dad had the brother that was deceased and two sisters.  I was told that any children they might have would also be entitled to the sites.  My Aunt Doris married and had three step-children and I was told they don't count, since they are not blood relations.  So I guess my Aunt Lillian's two children, my cousins Judy and George, would also have the right to them.  Made a call to both and neither one cared to have them, so I was free to do with them what I wanted.  I am hoping that my church will be able to accept them and pass them on to needy families who may care to have them.  Just going to have to be some legal procedures in order to donate them to the church.  Soon there may be some strangers visiting in the cemetery with my Nannan, Grandfather and Uncle.  Hope all goes well.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Notices in the newspaper

Monument receipt

Notice from the funeral home showing the location of used sites.

Deed to the sites
Riverview Burial Park in southeast Lancaster, PA

Friday, April 12, 2013

The "You're How Old?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Checking to see how many days I have yet until I leave on vacation.  Seems like it's been forever since our last trip to St. Martin in the Caribbean.  I'm a whole 12 months older than I was last year when we went to St. Martin.  Matter of fact I'm 365 days older than I was last year at this time.  So what does it matter?  Nothing, really, but did you ever wonder about time in days instead of months and years.  Most people don't is my guess, since it is to hard to figure in months and days rather than in years.  For me though, I always was interested in numbers like that and at times would get my calculator and do the figuring.  I found a neat site online that will do all that for you if you want to know.  Just for instance, being that today is April 12, 2013, I am 25,052 days old which is the same as 3,578 weeks and 5 days.  Also is 68 years and 214 days, including 17 leap years or 68 years, 30 weeks and 4 days.  In other words, that's 824 months which makes me officially 68.6 years old.  The web site told me that I was born on a Saturday and my last birthday was on a Sunday.  I guess it is more important to know though that my next birthday will be on a Monday.  I'm going to start planning what I want to do on that Monday, providing I reach that Monday.  I know most of this means absolutely nothing to most people, but I always wondered how old I was in days so I "Googled" it 17 days ago, which is 408 hours ago.  This can go on forever which is about as long as I hope to live.  But, we all know that isn't going to happen so I better start to pack my bags if I'm going to be ready in 133 1/2 hours or 8,010 minutes for vacation.  I'll bet some of you are checking to see if my figures are correct, aren't you?  Make it easy and click on this link to help you do some of the figuring.  http://www.korn19.ch/coding/days.php  Pretty neat isn't it, and the color of the link is the color of the water I'll be swimming in sometime soon.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The "Remembering A Childhood Sweetheart" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading in the paper about all the people who have died recently.  My next door neighbor who was a good friend for years and who moved to Venice, Florida this past December after retiring from his business, the tow motor mechanic who died in an industrial accident and worked at the plant where my son is a pressman, and last but not least, one of my "girl friends" from my youth, Annette Funicello.  She died this past Monday from complications due to multiple sclerosis which she had battled for over a quarter of a century.  I never cared much for the Mousketeers on TV, but I sure loved Annette.  I can still remember the puffy hairdo, transistor radios, dancing, and bikinis in Beach Blanket Bingo.  Annette, along with Frankie Avalon, were two of my childhood memories that I will never forget.  I couldn't believe it when Annette married her agent in 1965.  I kind of lost track of Annette for years when she retired from show business to raise her family.  I did know that she had three children, but didn't realize that she had divorced her husband and remarried three years later to a racehorse trainer.  In 1987 she and Frankie staged a reunion with Back to the Beach which at the time seemed kind of corny.  I guess I had outgrown the things that were at one time important to me.  It was during the filming of that movie that she noticed she had trouble walking.  In 1992 she made it public that she had MS and stated that "I think you only have two choices in this kind of situation. Either you give in to it or you fight it.  I intend to fight."  Two years later she appeared in a TV docudrama based on her autobiography and spoke about her MS.  A few years ago she had finally lost the ability to speak.  Published in the paper was a statement from her children after her death which read, "We are sorry to lose Mother.  She is no longer suffering anymore and is now dancing in heaven."  How true.  As I was looking through all the YouTube videos to add one to this story I came across a link that included a few condolences from fans.  One struck me as how I remembered her.  It went like this:  She was so beautiful, good-natured, humble and kind to everyone around her.  And she did it all - TV, movies and music, one of the biggest stars in the world in her time.  Then she walked away from it all to raise a family.  A role model for everyone who works in this industry.  Her suffering was cruel and undeserved, but she handled it courageously.  Now she can RIP.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Check out Annette one more time by clicking: http://youtu.be/9ngTd7SPFCw

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The" Landis Run Intermediate School" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished taking a few photos at the Landis Run Intermediate School which is located on the Manheim Township School District campus in Neffsville, PA.  The school is in its first year of operation and I have a contract with the school district to produce the yearbook for the school.  I can't share too many facts about the yearbook quite yet, since it hasn't been published by Josten's Yearbook Company, but as soon as it is delivered to the students at the end of the school year, I will give you a look at the first ever Landis Run Intermediate School yearbook.  Last year I produced the Manheim Township Middle School Yearbook which was a yearbook for grades 6, 7 and 8.  When the Landis Run school opened the year, the Middle School lost the 6th grade class which, along with the 5th grade, was moved into the new building.  There now sits a vacant building along Valley Road in Neffsville where the sixth grade was housed at one time, but why the district spent my money to build another school is a whole other story.  The new school got it's name because of the small stream that runs near the school called Landis Run.  On August 27 of 2012 the $36 million school opened its doors for the first time to approximately 900 students.  The school's mascot is the Raptor and the students were assigned to four teams - hawks, falcons, osprey and eagles - with 16 homerooms in each grade.  The school day is six hours long which includes the lunch break as well as math, language arts, social studies, science and related arts such as music, art and physical education. The school is geared towards having the 5th grade on one side and 6th grade on the other side of the building with the related arts classes sharing the center of the building.  The neatest feature of the building is the library which the students seem to really enjoy.  My job is to prepare the book with class photos, clubs, extracurricular group photos and a few photos of the new building.  The photos I will share with you now will give you a chance to see what an intermediate school may look like.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Architect's drawing of what the school would look like.
My photo of what it really looks like.
Architect's drawing of the schools' library.
My photo of the library.
Photo of the gym/auditorium directly inside the main entrance.
Photo of the cafeteria directly inside the main entrance.
Long wide hallways.
Outside courtyard.
Photo of the old 6th grade building now standing empty.  This is the school that I attended as a 7th and 8th grader.