Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, June 30, 2014

The "Crazy Susan Creations" Story

Crazy Susan's at 1345 West Ave.
It was an ordinary day.  Elaine is weighing the two cookies that I just selected from the cabinet in front of me while Stephanie is nearby preparing cookies for the oven.  Today I'm standing in a store at 1345 West Ave. in Ocean City, NJ that is called "Crazy Susan's Cookies."  The smell is amazing with such odors such as peanut butter, oatmeal, mint and naturally chocolate.  The glass cabinets are filled with cookies named Cranberry White Chocolate, Heath Bar Crunch, Peanut Butter Fluff, Almond Joy, Crazy Turtle and Double Chocolate.  Standing in front of the oven near the rear of the store is
Elaine weighs my cookie selection.
Susan, the owner of the store who shares ownership with her sister Linda.  As she walks toward me with a tray of cookies, she notices the camera pointed at her and strikes a pose for me.  "You must be Susan," I say to her.  "And, you would be right," she replies.  She puts the tray of cookies on a large rack and comes forward to greet me.  Susan introduces herself and begins telling me about her store that was under three feet of water after Hurricane Sandy struck the Jersey coast in October of 2012.  
Susan with a tray of fresh-baked cookies.
"The only thing that still is the same is the floor, and we plan to replace that sometime in the future.  We opened this store in 2006.  It is our second store with one in Voorhees, NJ.  Everything you see in here is new to the store, although some of the tables  came from our other store after we closed it."  A few years ago "Crazy Susan's" was featured in a Food Network series titled "Tough Cookies" that was filmed on the Ocean City Boardwalk where Susan opened a kiosk at 980 Boardwalk.  Eight programs were filmed around a plot that featured the family planning an 88th birthday party for Susan's father.  
Food Network photo showing filming on the Boardwalk.
Susan and Linda were attempting to create a banana split cookie in his honor.  Susan told me that she decided to close the Boardwalk store due to the intense humidity and heat on the Boardwalk.  Wreaked havoc on all the chocolate cookies they make.  Susan wasn't always a confectionery cook.  
Cookies in the case.
Her first career was as an Executive Secretary at Cooper Hospital in Camden, NJ., one of the premier trauma hospitals in the United States.  After 15 years at the hospital she was ready for a career change and chose the cookie chef route for her next career.  Susan had her first brush with television previously when she was on the Rachel Ray Show when Rachael featured Susan's Crazy Turtle Cookie as the snack of the day.  
My selection:  Snickerbar on the left and Crazy Turtle, my favorite.
The shop's name was chosen when a family member asked who created one of the cookies and cousin Pete said, "Crazy Susan."  Well, the cookies that just came out of the oven were Blueberry Pie cookies, a speciality concoction that Susan invented and one that filled the store with another great smell.  The timer on the oven started beeping so I bid farewell to Susan and the girls and thanked them for the information, photos and cookies that I was taking back to the rental to share with my wife.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The "Myelogram" Story

It was an ordinary day.  9:00 PM and I'm finally allowed to sit.  Have been laying down since I returned home around noon.  A few months ago my back problems returned.  After two back operations I thought everything would be fine, but that wasn't the case.  I began having leg pains when I had to stand for more than an hour and then I began feeling numbness in my left foot.  I thought the numbness was due to my bout with shingles I had a couple of years ago, but found that wasn't the case.  After visits to a pain specialist who put me on large doses of Lyrica, then a visit to a doctor who said I had tarsal tunnel syndrome, and one more visit to a foot doctor who gave me a shot of steroids in the foot, it was determined it was my back that was to blame.  So, I asked the pain specialist to recommend the best neurosurgeon in Lancaster, since my previous neurosurgeon had died since my last operation.  She placed a call for me and set up an appointment, but it wasn't for 3 months.  Did manage to stay working as well as take a three week vacation during my wait.  Finally went for my visit with Dr. Kuhlengel who is one of the top 100 neurosurgeons in the United States.  Fantastic person who has great compassion for his patients. I felt totally at ease throughout my appointment with him.  He told me, "Some people I can help and some I can't.  In your case I can make you better."  That's all I needed to know.  My first step was to have a myelogram done so he could better analyze his approach to my surgery that I had told him I was willing to have for the third time.  The myelogram uses X-rays and a special dye called contrast material to take pictures of the backbone and the fluid filled area in the spine.  My appointment was set for two weeks from my doctor' visit and directions were given to me for preparation for the test.  One of my meds had to be stopped two days before the test and Carol had to provide me transportation to and from the health campus.  Two days before the test I got a call from the surgery center, where the test was to be done, reminding me to stop the one med.  Then the next day I got the same call.  The nurse and I talked some about my arrival and when I was about to hang up she said, "Good luck!"  I responded, "Am I going to need it?"  She didn't know what to say, but I broke the silence with, "Just kidding."  Today arrived and Carol took me to the surgery center and we entered.  Got directions to the center when we entered and on our way to the elevator passed a beautiful fountain.  "Wish I had brought a few coins so I could have thrown one over my shoulder for the good luck I may need."  Secretary checked us in and I joked with her about the call I had yesterday and the wish of good luck I received.  She laughed then began asking me questions.  When she asked if my church was still St. James Episcopal, I said "Now you're really freaking me out! Am I going to need them?"  She looked at me and assured me it was only a question they ask everyone.  I was given my new wardrobe for the test and taken to the room where I was given a series of X-rays.  Then I met my doctor who performed the procedure.  I had to lay face down on a table with a hard, round pillow under my stomach to help open the lumbar vertebrae which house the spinal cord in it's spinal canal.  He scrubbed my back, gave me a shot to numb the back and placed a needle the size of a human hair into one of the joints.  Felt a slight twinge, but no pain.  He did all this with the use of a device that was over top of me and guided his movements from a screen over me.  He then injected the dye.  After a minute or two he removed the needle and took X-rays of me laying flat and on while laying on both sides.  Then I was pushed into a room where I was given a Cat-Scan.  Total time for all of this was about 1 1/2 hours.  Met about half a dozen technicians who were all fantastic and told me exactly what was going to happen and what to expect.  They were right on with all their explanations.  Then I was taken back to the original room where I had changed into my hospital gown and placed on a reclining chair so I could lay flat for the next two hours.  Had to drink two small bottles of water and offered snacks, since I wasn't able to eat any breakfast.  The water was to flush the dye from my body.  I was then allowed to have Carol take me home and told to lay on a flat bed or on a reclining chair with no more than a 15 degree incline. I was given instructions what to do if I got a severe headache which would be the result of the spinal fluid leaking out the opening where the needle was placed into my spinal cavity.  The loss of the fluid in the spinal cavity would trigger the severe headache and I would have to call my doctor to get instructions as to what to do.  I guess the good luck wish must have worked!!  Now have to wait for my neurosurgeon to read the results and call so I can set up an appointment to go over what he will do.  Surgery will then be scheduled.  Am I worried?  Nah.  I don't want to live the rest of my life with the pain I now have from the severe stenosis I have.  I'm convinced this doctor will perform a remarkable surgery and I will once again be pain free.  You gotta have faith, and a little bit of good luck, you know!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The "Double Shot" Story

Foreword:  Today I have posted a story that my granddaughter Courtney has written for me.  She enjoys reading my blog and has written stories in the past to post.  Today you will get a chance to see through a story what a 12 year-old young girl thinks about her favorite amusement ride at the shore.  I'm sure you will enjoy it!

My sister Camille is on the far left while I am in the middle seat.
It was an ordinary day. My sister and I were on the Double Shot. It is a ride at Castaway Cove in Ocean City, NJ. The Double Shot is one of my many favorites in the amusement park. It shoots you up in the air about 50 feet and drop down 4 times. You go twice which is why the name is Double Shot. It has 4 sides and seats 3 on each side, so 12 people can go on at a time. Me and my sister had both been on before. I wasn't scared but I could tell my sister was a little bit nervous. We waited in line for 10 minutes, but it was well worth the wait. The lady came to us and put us in our seats and strapped the seat belts on tightly. When they start the ride it is really loud because the air has to build up and gets a lot of pressure and finally it shoots you up.
Double Shot car is halfway to the top.
After shooting up, you can see the whole boardwalk and ocean when sitting on the back side. We sat on the side and I could see the rest of the amusement park and the boardwalk. Facing the front, you can see everyone watching you and the amusement park rides. When you go up you feel like you will keep going all the way to the moon. But when you come down, you feel like your are going to wet your pants. You can hear everyone screaming, but all I could hear was my sister, screaming and laughing. I am glad she rode with me, because she made it fun. I sat in the middle of Camille and another girl that I didn't know. The girl I didn't know made no noise at all, well at least I didn't hear her. Maybe she did but all I could hear was Camille screaming. The first time was over, and it was quiet. Don't worry, that was only the first time. The second time going up is better because you know what to expect. I love the Double Shot and I will keep going on it for the next couple years. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary girl. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

The "Lunch with Friends" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Made a trip from our vacation rental in Ocean City, NJ to the Jersey Shore town of Cape May, which is the farthest point south in New Jersey, and Exit 0 on the Garden State Parkway.  For the past eight years Carol and I have traveled to Ocean City to vacation with our family and every year we have taken a day off from the family to make a visit to Cape May to have some vacation time alone with each other.  Have always arrived close to 10:00 AM in the town that is known as one of the country's oldest resort vacation destinations.  
John and Lois on left with Carol and LDub.
The town is famous for it's Victorian architecture, rich history and award-winning beaches (#7 on Travel Channel's list of top USA beaches).  Carol and I spend a few hours of leisurely walking and shopping along Washington Street and then headed to The Lobster House for a lunch which naturally includes a lobster tail.  We usually reserve the entire day for just each other, but this year we met some special friends for lunch.  My Aunt Lois and Uncle John were also spending their vacation along the Jersey shore the same week and we planned to share lunch together.  
Lobster dinner.
Lois is my mother's sister who was born a year before me.  I'm sure her birth must have been quite a surprise for everyone involved!  More like a sister than an aunt who shared a playpen with me for the first year and a half of my life when my mother and I stayed at my Grandpap's house while my dad served his tour of duty in the Army during WWII.  We have been friends for going on 70 years now and it was fun to spend our special lunch time together while on vacation.  Spent over two hours reminiscing about past vacations we took as a family when we were kids while we dined on lobster tails, baked potatoes, salad and slaw.  Carol and I cherish our time together, but we also enjoyed our meal with family this special time.  Hope to maybe again next year if we happen to vacation during the same week at the Jersey shore.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The "Faces of Strangers: #19" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Talking with the parking lot attendant Shepard that is collecting money from arriving cars at the City of Ocean City, NJ Municipal Parking Lot on 9th Street.  Not busy this early in the morning, since most people are just awakening and preparing for their day on the beach.  Last couple of days I have been stopping to talk on my way to the Boardwalk to get a morning newspaper.  Shep, as he prefers to be called, is a retired cook who worked at Shafto's Restaurant on Asbury Avenue between 12th and 13th Street in Ocean City for many years.  I told him I used to bring my family to Shafto's in the late 70s to eat while on vacation in Ocean City.  Enjoyed sitting on the benches in front of the place while waiting on our table.  Told me he probably cooked our meals for us.  Has lived in Ocean City for over 50 years and enjoys to interact with the many visitors he comes in contact with during the summer.  I told him I know just how he feels.  We talked about retirement and how we both need to do something to avoid the boredom that comes from sitting at home all the time.  He works the early shift, leaving at 2:30 PM.  While I was talking to him a young girl arrived with his work schedule for the month of July and asked how he is doing after his recent hospitalization.  Didn't want to talk much about that with her or me.  Told me he was working tomorrow and would look for me tomorrow to talk again.  Neat fellow who is close in age to me and shares some of the same values and outlooks on life.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The "Proud To Be An American" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing in front of Boardwalk Adventures at 728 Boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ with a few tears in my eyes as I sing the National Anthem with about 100 others who have gathered this gorgeous summer morning for the daily flag raising ceremony that began following September 11th, 2001 to honor those who lost their lives and those who continue to protect our freedom.  
Veterans line up for the ceremony.
Three young employees of the water park/mini golf adventure park are standing on the second level of the ticket office which lines the boardwalk.  Two of the employees are raising Old Glory as the large speakers blast out "God Bless The USA", written by country singer Lee Greenwood in 1984.  Then the crowd joins in singing as the speakers become active again and play our National Anthem.  If you have ever been on the Boardwalk at 9:15 am and have heard and felt the stirring ceremony, you will know how I felt; proud to be an American as Lee sings.  A minute or two before the ceremony begins many veterans rise from their bench seats along the Boardwalk and gather, as if in drill formation, along the Boardwalk in front of the flag poles as they wait for the ceremony to begin.  
The crowd that gathered for the ceremony.
The pride these great veterans show in their country and flag is evident as they stand at attention and proudly salute the flag that they fought for during the many wars that they were part of in their lifetime.  What is just as impressive is all the people who were riding bikes, jogging and walking who stopped what they were doing to participate along with the veterans.  
A final salute!
They too showed their respect for our flag as many joined me and the veterans in singing of the National Anthem.  I saw a couple others who where wiping a tear or two away as the song ended and the past soldiers gave their salute.  I never tire of this ceremony and try to take it in whenever I can along Ocean City's Boardwalk.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The "LDub's Favorite Ride" Story

Looking up at the 140 foot high Ferris Wheel.
It was an ordinary day.  Ferris Wheel day!  There aren't many rides that I can ride anymore on the Ocean City, New Jersey boardwalk, because of various medical issues, but the Ferris wheel allows me the chance to enjoy myself as well as enjoy my grand kids.  Last year we waited too long to ride the Ferris wheel and by the end of vacation we had missed our chance when on the last evening they were having mechanical problems and we couldn't ride it.  So, this year we made an effort to head to the Ferris wheel on the first trip to Gillian's Wonderland Pier.  Someone handed me the required 6 tickets and my granddaughters Courtney and Camille along with son Derek headed to the line for the ride.  
Courtney and LDub.
Standing under it looking toward the sky can be unnerving to the faint of heart, but we were all prepared for the ride.  When it was our turn Courtney and I sat on one side of the caged unit while Derek and Camille took the other side.  
Camille and son Derek.
Not long until we were at the top of the 140 foot high ride.  Stopped a few times to board other riders, then the wheel made three trips around giving us a fantastic view of the city of Ocean City as well as nearby Atlantic City to the north and Sea Isle City to the south.  I'm not too afraid of heights, but 140 feet up is pushing my limit.  
Looking over the city of Ocean City, towards the mainland.
My granddaughters were both borderline frightened while my son wasn't sure he had made the right choice to go along with us this year.  Camille was holding onto Derek as tight as she could and Derek was holding onto the center pole the best he could.  Courtney had a good hold of my arm while I was moving in all directions trying to get the best photos I could.  
Looking south toward Sea Isle City.
Courtney wanted to trade places with me on our side of the car so I had her step over me, making the car move.  Mass hysteria was the result of the move!  I was snapping photos down the boardwalk looking south as well as taking photos of things below us.  I
Ocean City High School is directly next to Gillian's Pier.
figured we are in a caged car and the only thing that could happen would be for the entire car to become dislodged and us moving around wasn't going to cause that.  The view is astonishing from that height.  Makes you realize how small the world really can be.  
The boardwalk from the top of the Ferris wheel.
Well, we made three glorious turns around, waving to family members on every turn.  I wish we could have made a few more turns, but our time had expired and we came back down to earth again.  For years I would never come close to a Ferris wheel, but only after trying the ride, and feeling the excitement of the height and the fantastic views from the sky, I never miss a chance to ride what is probably one of my favorites.  Following are a few of my photos to give you a chance to see what we saw from 140 feet in the sky on a beautiful summer evening.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Looking south towards the other ride pier.

The view showing part of the Ferris wheel.
The rotation of the Ferris wheel from under it.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The "Penn State Collector's Heaven" Story

Apple Hill Antique Store
It was an ordinary day.   Had just turned into the drive for Apple Hill Antiques in State College, PA.  Spent the weekend visiting with our friends Jerry and Just Sue and had to make a stop at the antique store to find an old bowl to replace the one that I broke at Thanksgiving this year.  The kind of antique bowl that has flowers or pictures of young women dressed in their Sunday finest adorning the side and bottom of the bowl.  Entered the store with Carol and our friends and instantly saw a few offerings of Penn State memorabilia.  Sitting on the self to the right of the main door was a likeness of Joe Paterno done in plaster.  The kind that probably was a give-away at a football game or some other football event.  The next stand had a calendar for sale that featured the 1986 national championship team.  Then came a mug from the 1995 Rose Bowl Game.  Well, I might as well just show you some of the items that were offered for sale as I roamed the place looking for a bowl.  Wasn't successful with the bowl deal, but did get quite a few photos of Penn State stuff even though I didn't hit all the stands in the place.

Poster for $39 
1982 National Champions soda bottle.
Joe Paterno figurine. 
Plenty of buttons on sale at various booths.
Even buttons displayed on a sweatshirt.
Counted about half a dozen snack trays for sale.
This shirt was close to $1000.  Even had his autograph on the back. 
The original Penn State Diner neon clock.  Price: $6,795.  Still works! 
Quite a few pennants for sale.  This one had the most color to it.
This photo shows 2 pewter mugs, one ceramic mug, a replica of the stadium and a Nittany Lion.
A 1999 program when Joe had been coach for 50 years.  That was a nice souvenir 
Of course a Penn State bobble-head doll. 
A variety of Penn State shirts.
A 1950's PSU dink cap.
A variety of programs appeared at different stands.
Framed Happy Valley ?.
1995 Rosebowl Mug 
I assume this is meant to be a male cheerleader from times past. Or is it a player catching a pass?  $12
1994 Big Ten Champs soda can. 
Books on Joe Paterno.
Penn State press guides
Penn State Coke bottles with schedule on them.
 This is just a sampling of the many photos that I took while in the store.  And, this is only one antique store in State College.  If you are a real fan of Penn State sport's teams, the antique stores and markets  would be the place for you to find a treasured addition to your collection.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The "A Good Facebook Friend" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Checking my email and found I had a Facebook message from something called Barbados Handcrafted.  Had a suspicion who might have sent it to me, so I clicked on the link and found I was correct.  Carol and I as well as our traveling friends Jerry and Just Sue have traveled to Barbados twice.  Beautiful island that is known as "England in the Tropics" for its British flair.  Barbados has been an independent nation since 1966 and sports such English influences as driving on the wrong side, oops .... I mean the left side, of the road as well as the nation's passion for polo and cricket.  
One of the more than 60 beautiful beaches on Barbados.
On the island landscape you used to be able to find the world's second-largest number of windmills to grind stalks of sugarcane.  Today many remnants of the mills still dot the landscape. And, the island's most famous export, rum which was first made 370 years ago.  Well, the email was sent to me from Henderson Reece, an artist on the island who specializes in batik.  Carol and I purchased one of his batiks on our first visit to the island in 2006 and again on our second visit in 2008.  
Henderson Reece at work on one of his batiks.
Also got to know this fantastic ambassador of is country as a caring and interesting person.  In 2006 we asked for directions to another location and he was kind enough to draw me a map showing the route.  On our second visit we talked more about family, both his and ours, and got a lesson in his art of batik.  
Would love to have this batik by Henderson Reece. 
I keep in touch with Hendy through Facebook and he continues to invite us back for yet another visit.  A trip to his home is still in the back of our minds as a possibility before our traveling day are over.  Henderson is one of the founders of Barbados Handcrafted as you might have suspected.  He loves to promote his home's vibrant artist community.  Carol and I both enjoy his prints that we have hanging in our home.  Only wish I could purchase the one that graces the top of his Facebook page.  Just love it!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Photos of our two prints we bought from him follow.