Extraordinary Stories

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Friday, May 31, 2013

The "That Lady Wants To See My A**!!" Story

Sue spinning the big wheel after the show
It was an ordinary day.  Watching "The Price is Right" on TV and trying to see if I can find my friend Sue in the audience.  Sue works with my wife Carol at the Parish Resource Center in Lancaster and recently traveled to the west coast on vacation with her husband.  One of her stops was at CBS Television City in Los Angeles to see "The Price is Right."  The show has been on her bucket list for years and she finally had the chance to cross it off her list.  When I found out the date that the show she visited was going to be on TV, I had to tune it in.  For years I also have dreamed about being a contestant on the show.  I know I could win if they would call out "LDub, come on down!"  I have been memorizing prices of just about every item they have on theshow and since they use quite a few of the same items more than once, I know I could win.  Anyway, one of Sue's good friends has a daughter who started working at the studio right out of college and is allowed to invite guests to be part of the audience.  Since Sue and her husband had an employee's letter with them, they got to park where the employees park, enter through the VIP entrance, and had reserved seating at the show.  Only problem for Sue was that since they knew someone who  worked at the studio, she wasn't able to participate as a contestant.  Sue also told me a few other pretty neat things about the show such as: (1) Most of the audience had on some sort of clothing to draw attention; (2) The studio is about the size of a movie theatre with chairs like you would find in a theatre; (3) The show's atmosphere is as Sue says "Nuts!" People jumping up and down, doing anything they can to get attention; (4) Depending where you sit, the cameras can get in your field of vision, but they have plenty of monitors that you can watch; (5) Contestants are chosen from interviews that are conducted as the audience stands in line outside the studio.  People get name tags and have photos taken at the same time they are interviewed. Sue believes that folks that the staff think would make good contestants have their names put in a pot and are drawn during the show; (6) It's fascinating to watch the crew change the games during the commercials.  It's a beehive of activity for the 20 or so workers who move all the props; (7) Cell phones and cameras are a No-No and are confiscated before you are allowed into the theatre.  You must get them after the show; And, (8) there are lots of people on the stage waving their arms to encourage you to yell and make noise during the hour.  "Drew Carey was terrific," Sue told me. "He stayed on the stage during the entire show, was funny, engaging and has a very quick wit.  He used a teleprompter for some things, but mostly ad libbed his way through the show."  During the commercials, while the stage was being changed, Drew would interact with the audience, telling jokes, stories, and asking people in the audience questions. During one such break a girl in the row in front of Sue told Drew that it was her Aunt's birthday.  Drew asked the aged woman to stand and after she struggled to stand, Drew asked her if she had any questions for him.  She told him she wanted him to turn around.  Drew shouted, "This lady wants to see my a**."  He walked to the center of the stage, turned around, lifted his coattails and wiggled his butt. The sign reading "SCREAM" wasn't needed after that!  The girl who won the "Showcase Showdown" sat in Sue's row.  She also hit the $1.00 on the Big Wheel and then won an extra $10,000 on her bonus spin.  As for Sue, her favorite game is the "Showcase Showdown."  After the show she was lucky enough to get to go on stage and spin the big wheel.  Said it was extremely heavy and hard to spin.  And, she reported to my wife that she wore her name tag the rest of the day!  Wow, how neat an experience.  I'm envious, to say the least.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - a few more photos taken by Sue and her husband follow.

Sue took this photo when she was taken on a tour of the studio and set.
Photo of stage taken after the show
Photo of her name tag she wore during the show

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The "Rights to Own ...... or not?" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Today I wanted to buy a new book for my Kindle.  I did what I usually do ..... Went to "Shop in Kindle Store", typed in the name of the author I was after and hit Search.  Then I found the title of the book I wanted and clicked on "Buy."  It was at that moment that I remembered I really couldn't buy the book because Kindle books can never be bought, I can merely earn the right to view the work on my Kindle even thought that black button with the white "Buy" says otherwise.  I recently read a one page article in Wired Magazine that told me that it was true that I technically couldn't own the books I purchase for my Kindle.  After reading the article it got me to thinking more about the subject and when I "Googled" it I found more stories telling me the same thing.  During the night of July 16th 2009, while Kindle owners slept, Amazon deleted copies of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm from their Kindle's because Amazon hadn't the right in the first place to sell them e-copies of the books.  So, did they give them their money back?  Didn't mention that in the story.  Now that I know that Amazon can delete copies of my books whenever they want to, can they also go into my library and remove a book and substitute an altered version in its place?  I guess if I really want to buy my own book, I should buy one that had been physically printed.  Not only that, it would help keep my sons at work since they both work for printing companies.  Seems like all e-reader book companies have structured their licenses to protect themselves.  If there was ever a catastrophic site failure on their part that makes access to my books impossible, I could probably sue them for the return of my property.  The companies have built into their e-reader books that consumers buy something that is known as DRM or Digital Rights Management which will not allow you to make back-ups or sell copies of the books you purchase from them.  I'm sure that Amazon would cut off my account if they found I had come up with a way to make copies of my books.  But, you know, I don't mind that I'm only "renting" because what can you do with a book after you have read it.  I know ..... loan it to a friend.  You can do that with your Kindle book anyway provided your friend has a Kindle.  So, I'm happy with my Kindle account and what printed book can I buy where I can increase the size of the type three times its original size!  And, if I ever write a novel I will be glad that people will have to actually buy it and not just make copies of it.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The "Colors and Textures of the Caribbean" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Have one more set of photographs that I would like to share with you from my recent trip to St. Martin.  These photos are somewhat abstract in that they are photos of the beach, scenics, food, water, etc., but yet they aren't.  I have moved in close to my subjects and taken close-up photos so I can share with you the colors and textures of the island.  Some you will be able to tell that they are while others you will not, but that's OK, since colors and textures are all I really want you to see.  Enjoy!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The "Island Tales of Soualiga" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Heading into Philipsburg to see if I can catch a Little League baseball game before I have to head home to Pennsylvania in a few days.  I arrived at the capital city of the Dutch side of St. Maarten from the west end while driving on Sucker Garden Road.  I entered the roundabout and travel toward the east on Walter Nisbeth Road until I reach the next roundabout.  It is here that I have to bear right to the baseball stadium or continue straight on Pondfill Road to the west end of Philipsburg.  On most roundabouts on the island are displayed monuments depicting historical or memorable statues of events or people on the island.  The last roundabout I encountered before the stadium turnoff has a monument titled "The Salt Pickers."  Interesting name for the beautiful grouping of five coal black statues that grace the circle at the roundabout on Walter Nisbeth Road (Pondfill Road) and D.A. Peterson Street-Soualiga Blvd.  It is also right along the Great Salt Pond that runs parallel to the city of Philipsburg.  On one of our first visits to St. Maarten's capital city, Carol and I parked along the Great Salt Pond and walked the three blocks to the boardwalk along Great Bay Beach.  As I parked the car I saw white crystals gathered along the edge the salt pond.  Picked a few of them up to examine them and at the time didn't associate them with the name of the pond.  Duh!  After putting them down I noticed a smell on my fingers and after a quick taste of one of my fingers realized that it was salt I had just picked up from around the edge of the pond.  The name of the boulevard should also have given me the clue that I needed at the time, since Soualiga means the "Land of Salt."  The history of the island of Sint Maarten/Sint Martin is centered on the salt industry.  The Dutch originally settled in the southern half of the island in order to work the deposits that were found in three large salt pans.  Enough salt that if provided hundreds of boat loads of salt for the mother land each year.  The largest and most productive of the salt pans was the Great Salt Pond in Philipsburg.  A Dutchman named William Beukelzoon determined that could use salt to preserve herring that was caught on the seas and when the Dutch discovered Sint Maarten the problem of where to obtain the salt was solved.  The original salt pickers life was a slave-like existence.  It all began in 1631 when the workers had to harvest the salt with shovels and then transport it to the waterfront to be loaded onto boats.  The Dutch eventually stopped production of salt in  1949 and, thus, the salt industry came to an end.  Salt was still harvested until the 1960s, but with very low productivity.  Finally in 1994 one of the ponds was filled in so that the

 airport could be built.  Recently three skeletons where found buried along the edge of the Great Salt Pond under Zoutsteeg (Salt Street).  They were identified as people from Africa who were buried in a crude grave site and probably had been on the island to harvest the salt.  I still have a few of the salt crystals that I picked up that day along the salt pond.  Have them in a Ma Doudou rum bottle with sand from some of the beaches of the island.  Carol was worried that if it were discovered in our luggage at the airport, I would be accused of drug trafficking.  Never happened and if they had found the salt crystals, all they would have to do is moisten their fingers, touch it and taste it to know it was salt.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The "Remembering Memorial Day" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Searching back through my stories for the photo I have of my dad in his military uniform.  Thought it would be appropriate to post it on one of our countries special days; Memorial Day.  Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in military service.  I also remember this day as a time to say thank you to all the living members of our Armed Forces, both on duty as well as past members of the services.  Today I would like to thank family and friends of mine who have helped make this great county a safe and prosperous place to live.  My dad served in the United States Army during WWII.  A big THANK YOU to dad.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

My dad, Paul H. Woods

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The "Another Banane-Vanille, Please!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished our evening meal at Le Piment which is located in Orient Village on the island of St. Martin.  "Ah, here comes Crystelle with our rhum.  I hope it's the banane-vanille again," I mentioned to Carol. Crystelle is the manager of Le Piment and does it all from hawking the customers to waiting tables to writing the daily specials on the menu board.  We have known her for about half a dozen years, since she took over Le Piment.  But my story isn't about Crystelle or even Le Piment, it is about the rhum!  The Ma Doudou rhum to be exact.  Ma Doudou was founded by Madame Corrine Burgaliare some years ago and is located in the French Cul de sac area of St. Martin.  Her "factory" or cottage is somewhat hard to find as Carol and I discovered four years ago when we decided to buy Ma Doudou rhum right from the founder.  After a few turns and heading the wrong way on a few different roads we found the bright pink cottage with the lime-green door.
 Talk about Caribbean!!  The store was packed with bottles and bottles of all flavors of Ma Doudou rhum in a variety of sizes.  Even had painted shot glasses as well as spices for sale.  Most were painted with designs which featured sailboats, palm trees and flowers, island houses and island beauties.  Had to have one of each of the designs naturally.  I wanted the bottles to display sand that I had collected from many of the beaches in the Caribbean.  But, the real star of the bottles is the flavored rhum which is contained inside.  Considerable time was spent perfecting the process to combine natural fruit and spices with white rhum from the Dominican Republic to make the perfect mixture that is both pleasing to view as well as taste.  Ma Doudou offers quite a few varieties such as Coconut, Ginger, Ti Punch, Passion, Coco, Guavaberry and my favorite Banane-Vanille.  The mixing of the rhum takes place in the small white cottage behind the bright pink store.  After the rhum has been steeped in the tropical sunlight, the bottles are lined up on the table and painted.  I'm not a beer, wine or hard liquor drinker, but Ma Doudou rhum has been blended and aged just right for my palate.  Matter of fact here comes Crystelle with another round of after-dinner banana-vanille.  She's a real sweetheart!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   PS - Watch the YouTube video as Madame Burgaliare shows how the rhum is bottled and the bottles are painted. 

The Ma Doudou "factory" tour (click on link):    http://youtu.be/jh7fbF_nguw

Paying for a recent purchase
Label on one of the bottles
A few of my bottles filled with sand
My last full bottle with a Ma Doudou shot glass

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The "They're Counting On Me" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Phone is ringing!  I know I shouldn't answer it, since I don't recognize the caller ID number, but I do anyway.  And then when they didn't talk to me when I said "Hello", I should have hung up, but I didn't.  "Hello, LDub, this is Arbitron calling to see if you could help us by filling out a rating form for radio broadcasts in your local area," the voice on the other end of the line said to me.  Hey, I never had been one of those people who they say - three out of four people do ...... - so they had my interest right away.  "Do you listen to the radio during the week?" she asked.  "Yes," I said.    "Then all you have to do is fill out a diary for one week telling us which radio stations in your listening area you listen to."  Simple enough I guess.  "So what's the catch?" I asked the girl on the other end.  "That's all you have to do, sir," she told me.  Stills sounds simple.  "We will mail you the instructions as well as a diary along with a gift for participating in our survey," the voice said.  "How much time does it take to fill out the survey," I wanted to know.  She responded with, "You have to log the time you start to listen to the radio and the time you stop.  If you listen several times during the day, you should add all of them to the diary.  Then you must list the station and if you were in your car, at home or at work.  Simple!"  "OK, I think I can handle that," I told her.  Within a week a package arrived from Arbitron that had two diaries, instructions and a gift of two crisp $1 bills.  I was to start recording information on May 23 through May 29.  Letter told me that someone would call to make sure I got the package and to answer any questions.  Sure enough, the following day someone called and I answered again.  Still didn't recognize the ID, but I answered again.  You would have thought I learned my lesson by now.  Speaker asked if I had opened the package and looked at the information.  I told them I was set to go and thanks for the two bucks.  Next day another letter with the Arbitron return address in the top left-hand corner arrived checking to make sure I got the survey.  Oh yeah, they added another $1 bill in it.   Well, today is the third day of the survey and I'm doing great.  Yesterday in my diary I logged the 10 minutes it took me to drive to my wife's place of business to help her with a project and the 10 minutes it took me to head home.  In the afternoon I logged in the 5 minutes it took  me to go to work at the framing gallery where I work, the 2 1/2 hours I was at work listening to the radio, and the trip home.  That's it.  Today my wife is off work so we took a few trips together in the car she drives and listened to CDs the entire time.  Nothing to log.  Matter of fact, she is off work for 4 days so I won't be listening to the radio for 4 days.  After the final two days I drop the diary in the pre-paid envelope and drop it in the mail.  Simple, just like they said.  I probably will have listened to the same oldies station for maybe 8 hours total, but they said they were interested in each log, regardless of my handwriting, whether I listen a little, a lot, or not at all.  And, I'm $3 richer for the experience!  And, I probably will still answer the phone, even if I don't recognize the caller ID, so give me a call anytime you want.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

The "Oldies Background Music" Story

The Mt. Gretna Playhouse
It was an ordinary day.  Ordered my tickets for the Cicada Festival at Mt. Gretna a few weeks ago and now see in the newspaper that it will be a noisy concert series.  Mt. Gretna is located in Lebanon County, PA.  It has a population of 242 and is a popular place in the summer with a nationally-ranked juried art show, jazz and chamber music concerts, lectures, book reviews, and an annual tour of historic homes and cottages.  The small wooded community also sports a roller rink, lake, open-air playhouse, miniature golf course, several restaurants, playgrounds and an award-winning ice cream parlor known as the "Jigger Shop."  The surrounding area, which includes seven neighborhoods, has a year-round population estimated at about 1,500 with a summertime population of about 2,500.  I guess the small wooded community would be what my story is all about today.  Carol and I as well as our friends Pat and Dale hold tickets to the 19th Annual Cicada Festival.  Our tickets are for concerts performed by Phil Dirt & the Dozers on August 5 and The Bronx Wanderers on August 13.  We have heard both groups before and both seem to be Sell-Outs every year.  Oldies Rock and Roll is their forte.  This year will feature a slightly different atmosphere since the 17-year cicadas will be out to serenade us along with the keyboard, percussion, horns, guitars and vocals of our favorite groups.  
Cicadas emerging from the ground
About 30 BILLION of the insects are expected to emerge from the ground in the eastern United States, including Lebanon County where Mt. Gretna is located.  It is a natural wonder that happens in eastern United States and nowhere else in the world.  The Brood II periodic cicadas emerge from undergorund burrows every 17 years and should start their noisy entrance soon.  Hatching usually happens in localized areas and wooded areas are a must.  The insects don't emerge until the ground temperature reaches precisely 64 degrees.  They probably won't appear in massive numbers until June and may or may not still be around in time to enjoy the festival music for which their event is named.  When they do appear, the males make a daytime deafening racket for a few weeks as they look for mates.  After mating, the males die and the females lay eggs on tips of twigs.  The new cicadas then burrow underground for another 17 years.  They feed on tree sap, but usually don't cause tremendous harm to foliage.  The cicada is different than a locust which is related to the grasshopper and the cicada alledgely doesn't bite or sting.  The cicada had numerous predators including birds, squirrels, and even humans.  The female is considered meatier and their fine taste is due to the fact that they do not carry any defensive chemicals as other insects do.  They survive primarliy because of sheer numbers.  I will tell you that they are NOT on my wish list of things to eat.  There are eight different broods of 17-year cicadas, with Brood II being considered one of the largest.  For many of us, it may be the last time we get to be serenaded by the insect.  I wouldn't even mind if they are background music, or noise as it may be, when we arrive for the Cicada Festival concerts.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.
Peanut Butter Cup Cicadas, Yum

The 17-year cicada

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The "A Different Kind of Fish Food" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Temperature was in the high 80s and the humidity made it feel like a sauna.  But hey, being on a Caribbean beach is great no matter what the weather may be.  Air was still with very little movement on the umbrella fringes.  Water was in the mid-80s and crystal clear with nary a wave lapping the beach.  Overall, a beautiful beach day.  It's what paradise is all about.  A native islander works his way up the beach in waist-high water with a rather large plastic bag over his shoulder filled with bread scraps.  Every so often he grabs a handful and tosses it to the parade of fish he has accumulated behind him on his journey from the prude (clothed) section to the nude section of Orient Beach.  Most get out of his way for fear of the sharp teeth and churning waters around him, but some stand at water's edge watching intently.  I often tell Carol that someday I'm going to bring a bag of bread scraps to the beach and feed the fish as this gentleman does just about every day. Well, today was just the day.  I wasn't the only one feeding the fish today.  A woman braved the churning water during the morning and drew a crowd of onlookers as she tossed her bread scraps as far away from her as she could.  After lunch it was my turn to give it a try.  Carol and I had entered the water to try and cool off from the oppressive heat when I told her I was going to go back and get the bread scraps.  She asked if I really wanted to try that being that we were on the nude section of the beach and had noting to protect myself from the fish.  Told her I'd throw the bread crumbs far enough away from me so I wouldn't have to worry.  Well, I found out the hard way that sometimes the fish have a different idea about feeding protocol.  I started by tossing the bait 10-15 feet from me as I stood in waist deep water.  Others gathered nearby to watch the fish feeding and thrashing in the water.  Fish of all colors and sizes joined in the afternoon feast.  Then I noticed a few getting a little too close to me. Realized I should stop what I was doing.  But then it struck!  Something below the waterline took a strike.  I felt it and let out a yelp!  "That hurt," I told Carol.  Threw the rest of the bread as far as I could and grabbed to protect myself from the others swimming around me.  When all the fish had disappeared I removed my hand to take a look.  Uh Oh!  I knew it may be time to get out of the water before the sharks circled.  Hoping it will heal without a visit to the doctor.  How could I possibly explain the damage?  "Yeah doc, a fish nibbled on it when I was feeding bread to the masses in the ocean."  But, I'm sure he has probably heard that many times before!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The "..... from Carnival to Inaugural" Story

Outgoing Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
It was an ordinary day.  Actually, while on the Caribbean island of St. Martin / Sint  Maarten  Carol and I spent quite a few ordinary days.  The days tended to all blend together being that we spent just about all of them on the beach, under the yellow umbrella, on the orange beach chairs, reading our book or Kindle and sipping drinks when needed.  Oh yeah, we did take time every now and again to walk to the shoreline to enjoy the 85 degree turquoise crystal-clear water.  But, during our stay, on the Dutch side of the island or the Sint Maarten side, there were numerous celebrations taking place.  The celebration of Carnival is fast becoming one of the biggest celebrations on the island and lasts almost two weeks.  But, this year it had to compete with the inauguration of King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima on April 30th.  Celebrating the reign of Queen Beatrix and the inauguration of King Alexander is symbolic, significant and historic because it underscores the long-standing bond between Sint Maarten and the Netherlands.  It is historic also because it is the last of Queen Beatrix's 33-year reign and the last of 123 successive years of Queen's Birthday celebrations in the Netherlands and on Sint Maarten.  About a week ago Queen Beatrix bestowed the title of Knight of Orange-Nassau on Sint Maarten residents Angela Dekker, Eileen Healy and Clarence Richardson.  The three received their royal decorations from Governor Eugene Holiday at the historical 17th century Fort Amsterdam.  
Children's bike-a-thon
The following day the children of  Sint  Maarten  celebrated the upcoming inauguration with a walk-a-thon and a bike-a-thon around the town of Philipsburg and a soccer tournament at he Cruyff Court in Belvedere.  On April 30th, Queen Beatrix stepped down from the throne, ending her 33-year reign and passed the crown to her eldest son Willem-Alexander.  There is a time to step down and allow new blood to rule and Queen Beatrix had the wisdom and courage to abdicate the throne while she can still enjoy the rest of her life without the pressures of the  monarchy.  It was a very historical moment for Sint Maarten and all of the Dutch Kingdom.  Willem-Alexander will be the Netherlands' first King since Willem III died in 1890.  Did you catch that date?  Willem-Alexander is 45 years old and father of three young daughters.  His Argentine-born wife, Maxima, will become Queen.  The changing of the guard doesn't happen very often and for some this may be the only change they will ever experience.  To mark the occasion, the Royal Netherlands Navy Ship Friesland, which is at anchor in Great Bay Harbour in Philipsburg, gave a 101-cannon salute which started at 8:00 AM.  33 blasts were fired at 8:00 AM with 35 more blasts at high noon and a final 33 more blasts at 4:00 PM.  Not sure why they chose those time, but I'm sure it must of had some kind of importance.  Carol and I decided not to drive to Philipsburg and get enveloped in the traffic, so we did not see the activities and did not hear the cannons blasting their salute.  I'm sure it was pretty dramatic, not only in Sint Maarten, but in all the Dutch islands in the Caribbean.  Congratulations to the new King and Queen and happy retirement to the outgoing Queen.  I'm sure there will be new souvenir t-shirts for sale tomorrow at all the gift shops on the Dutch side.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.
The new King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima with former Queen Beatrix