Extraordinary Stories

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The "He Set My Drink On Fire!" Story

Night-time photo of Il Nettuno
It was an ordinary day.  Visiting one of our favorite restaurants in the village known as Grand Case which is located on the French Side of the dual island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  Grand Case is known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean and with good cause since it has some of the finest eating establishments on earth.  Restaurants line both sides of the small one-lane street that winds its way through Grand Case.  Carol and I have tried many of the usual favorites, but over the years have enjoyed one particular restaurant known as Il Nettuno.  Not necessarily best overall, but we enjoy it for one particular reason ... Pierre!  Pierre began working at Il Nettuno in 1993.  
Longtime waiter and friend, Pierre.
He was born in France and came to St. Martin to begin working in the culinary trade.  We first met him in the early 2000s when we visited Grand Case for the first time.  He was so welcoming and made our evening meal a delight.  We have made return visits every year to the restaurant and he treats us as family when he sees us walk in the door.  Knows my favorite meal by now and what we enjoy to drink.  This year we made a few visits to Il Nettuno and were greeted once again by Pierre.  Seats us right along the water's edge and makes sure I have a great view of the sunset.  We talked about a variety of topics during our visit and on our final evening in Grand Case had to talk to him about his native France and the recent election that was held.  
My dish of ravioli.
After our main course he knew what was coming next and asked us if we were ready for our Apple Pie.  Wow, the stuff is fantastic.  Round warm apple pie with small dab of whipped cream on the side as well as a small scoop of ice cream.  But the best part was the small cup of caramel sauce that we enjoy pouring over the apple pie.  What a dessert.  After our dessert, Pierre asked if we would enjoy a shot of Limoncello.  Carol and I have tried the Italian lemon liqueur a few times and don't care for the taste of it.  We asked about any flavored rum drinks they may have and he suggested we bypass that and try the Sambuca.  We had not heard of it before and asked him about it.  
The delicious apple pie with whipped cream,
ice cream and caramel sauce.
He put his fingers to his lips and kissed them as he promised we would love the Italian anise-flavored liqueur.  A few minutes later he was back with two small glasses of the clear liqueur with a few coffee beans in each glass.  Took a sip and ... wow!   Evidently took too big a sip.  The licorice flavor was almost too much, but the alcohol content was truly overpowering.  I only could handle about half of the glass and when Pierre returned asking about it, I asked him about the alcohol content.  
Burning the alcohol from the Sambuca.
He took the glass, turned it so the liquid was close to the top, pulled out his cigarette lighter and lit the liquid.  It glowed a beautiful blue ... for almost half a minute, before the flame was distinguished.  I said to Carol, "He set my drink on fire."  Stuff had a very high alcohol content.  Will add that to my list of not to drink in the future.  Our evening was a very enjoyable culinary experience.  Hey, what's not to enjoy about a meal on a Caribbean island while watching the sun set.  Oh yeah, having Pierre as our server was the icing on the cake, as they say.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The "My World In Photographs: Part III" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Posting my final edition of photographs I have taken while on vacation in the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin.  I took 1,486 photos during my time on the island and narrowed it down to 64 for my three day photo adventure with you.  If you have been looking at my posts during the last couple of days, you have seen many more of the my photos which I have included in my stories about the island.  Once again, I hope you enjoyed the photographs as much as I have enjoyed taking them.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Once again, click on photos to enlarge them.

A few flowers still remain from a wedding that was held on Orient Beach.
A common sight on the island of St. Martin is the crossing of the goats.  Never know when they, or perhaps a herd of cows, may think it's time to cross to graze in a new site.
I think I take this same photo every trip I make to Philipsburg.
Massage therapy is popular on the beaches of St. Martin.
Colorful decorations by an Orient Village restaurant. 
Ready for customers.
A door in Marigot, the French capital of St. Martin. Looks as if there have been years or advertisements that have hung on this door 
You can go either way in this building.
Another beautiful parrot.
This beach walker was overcome with the spirit of St. Martin while walking on Orient Beach.
Small carving for sale in an art gallery. 
Colorful hotel on the island. 
Not quite sure what was in the bottles, but they certainly are colorful.
Island flower.
A car passes as two young women talk outside Il Netuno Restaurant.
Art Gallery in Grand Case on the French side of St. Martin.
The note in the glass says "Reserved."  Perhaps for one of the arriving ferry patrons to Pinel Island.
Don't you just love the colors.
A wooden walking bird.
One more ancient relic from the past.
My $10 close-up lens for my iPhone gives remarkable photos.
I love the tiles on the roof of this villa in Orient in St. Martin.
Every year I travel to Pinel Island, a small island off the coast of St. Martin, I climb the hill of the island with my wife to take this same photo.  I have close to a dozen of them and every one is different, since the tides constantly change the sandbar where the beaches for the island are located.
A selfie on our return trip by ferry from Pinel for LDub and his wife Carol.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The "The Real Heroes! I Salute You!" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Wasn't more than two minutes ago that I felt compelled to hang our American Flag from the pole on the front porch of our house in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA.  My story began to develop a few minutes before as I read the LNP Sunday newspaper.  Janice was 88.  Gladys was 88.  Doris was 94.  Margaret was 97.  Rita was 102.  Warren was 96.  Erna was 93. Carol Ann was 79. Lester was 87. Dorothy was 95.  Brandon S. was 19.  Brandon H. was 25.  The obituary page of the paper gave me the stories of the first 10 names I just listed, but it was the Perspective Section of the paper that gave me the final two names.  For, you see, those final two names, died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.  They died for you and me; years before they should have! And today, on Memorial Day, we celebrate their lives and all who died as well as served in the United States of America's Military.  I never knew these two fine young gentlemen or their parents, but as I read their stories on the front page of the Perspective Section, I now get it!!  Why would two patriotic young men give their lives for me?  Because they lived by the same philosophy as American Revolutionary soldier Nathan Hale, who proclaimed: "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."  They wanted me, and all United States citizens, to have the freedom which at times requires some to die to preserve that right.  And, why where these two men sacrificed for you and me?  We will probably never know, and if we did, we more than likely could never have changed the outcome.  
Brandon Styer gave his life for you and me!
Pfc. Brandon Styer served in the U.S. Army leaving for basic training a few months after graduating from high school.   He was sent to Iraq the following year and then to Kandahar, Afghanistan after six more weeks.  His assignment was to search roads for improvised explosive devices (IED's) and detonate them to ensure safe passage for the rest of his battalion.  On October 15, 2009 his vehicle was hit with a detonated IED and all four servicemen aboard were killed.  Nine days later he was escorted to Lancaster by the Lancaster City Bureau of Police Honor Guard and was buried in Conestoga Memorial Garden.  Cpl. Brandon Hardy wanted to join the military as far back as 1996 when he watched TV footage of soldiers fighting in Desert Storm.  
Brandon Hardy gave his life for you and me!
He too graduated from high school and left a month later for Air Force basic training.  
During his leave after boot camp he was sitting in Lancaster with his mother when he told her, while reading his training manual, "This is me, this is what I believe."  The manual read:  I am an American fighting in the armed forces which guard my country and our way of life.  I am prepared to give my life in their defense."  He spent five years in the Air Force and was deployed to the Middle East three times during that period.  His drive to be a soldier was so strong that he dropped out of the Air Force and joined the Marine Corps.  Ten months later he died  on April 28, 2006 while riding in a Humvee near Haditha, Iraq while serving his country.  A tearful farewell followed by his fellow Marines.  So, who are they two young men?  Why were they singled out to die for you and me?  Who were their parents who suffered through the ordeal of death?  We will never know, but we can do something about it!  On this Memorial Day, single out someone who was in the service and survived.  Doesn't matter how old they may be or how many years they served.  Look them in the eye and say to them, "Thank You for your service to our country."  That's the least you could do on this Memorial Day.  Remember, if it hadn't been for Brandon Styer and Brandon Hardy, we may not be here today to celebrate these fallen soldiers and those who managed to return.  Some may not be with us anymore, but those that served and lived still deserve a special "Thank You" today.  Just do it!!  You'll probably feel so much better for it and they will know how much their service to their country really meant.  Happy Memorial Day!  Now, go hang up your flag as I just did if you haven't done so.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The "My World In Photographs: Part II" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Exploring the island of Sint Maarten/St. Martin with my camera.  One of my favorite things to do on vacation.  Gives me a chance to relive my vacation when ever I care to look through my iPhone file or my iMac.  I will take you along with me once again as I travel from Philipsburg on the Dutch side of the island to Marigot on the French side of the island to Orient Village where we are visiting for a couple of weeks ... and all points in between.  Hope you once again can find a few you enjoy.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Please remember to click on photos to enlarge them.

Colorful architecture at Paradise View.
Walked in on a wedding shoot taking place on Orient Beach.
Neat old "Massage" sign.
How Caribbean can you get?
Small store in Orient Village.  Just had to have one of their t-shirts.
Catholic church steeple in Marigot.
A beautiful ring-necked parrot.
I know I should remember the name of this island flower, but ...
Early morning visitor in front of our villa.
True Caribbean colors in front of Pedros Beach Bar on Orient Beach.
Sailing store in Philipsburg featured clothing with USA themes to them.
These colorful pyramids are actually pocketbooks. 
Colorful fabric.
Small doll that looked as if it were crying.  Really freaky!
Staircase in the new section of the Pasaaggram Hotel in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten.
View upon arrival by ferry on Pinel Isaland.
Clothing store wares.
Can't imagine how old this armored beast may be.
Another flower photo taken with my iPhone and close-up lens.
Looking over the rooftops of Orient Village toward Orient Beach.
If you look closely you will see the name of the street we have just passed.  An entire region carries the names of different types of cacti.  My wife took this shot as I drove past the intersection.  
This edition of photographs will end with this one.