Extraordinary Stories

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Monday, May 31, 2010

The "Shedding a Few Tears on the Canal" Story

It was an ordinary day. My mom, dad, brother Steve and I are riding in my Uncle Paul's 1954 wooden Chris-Craft luxury boat with him and my Aunt Doris. Really neat boat. Made with mahogany and polished to a high shine. Christopher Columbus Smith built his first boat in 1874 and was soon joined by his brother Henry in making wooden pleasure boats. They named their company Chris-Craft in 1924. Chris-Craft is one of the world’s most renowned and universally recognized names in boat building. Some dictionaries even list the word Chris-Craft as a synonym for pleasure boats. Today we are on the Chesapeake Bay traveling up the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. Uncle Paul loved to share his boat and always took us for rides when we would come to visit my Aunt and Uncle at their summer cottage in Locust Point, MD. We are traveling slowly along the banks of the canal looking at the houses and other points of interest. Suddenly, the boat jumps slightly out of the water and Uncle Paul seems upset. Seems he hit something submerged and scraped the bottom of the boat and damaged his inboard engine. NOT GOOD!! The boat is only a few years old and I'm sure it cost him a pretty penny. Not what do we do? Uncle Paul's boat has no radio so we couldn't call for help. We started floating into the center of the canal where all the freighters and barges make their way from the Chesapeake Bay to the Delaware Bay. By now my mom is crying. And .... here comes a BIG ONE! Uncle Paul seems as cool as can be and tells us that they won't run into us. I'm not sure he has himself convinced. The big ship is getting bigger by the minute. And then, it slowly passes us and there can't be much room between us and the ship. We are pushed back by the wake of the ship. Pretty scary!! Finally a passing boater comes to our aid and tows us back to a marina where Uncle Paul calls the cottage. His brother is at the cottage and brings another boat to tow us home. After pulling the boat onto a trailer, Uncle Paul finds that there is little damage to the boat, but the propeller is ruined. Results could have been MUCH worst had the big ship decided to run into us. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The "Fair Weather Sprite" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are headed to Ephrata to visit one of my high school friends, Dick W. Hadn't seen him in a few years and found out he lived in Ephrata so off we went. Using Carol's 1965 Austin-Healey Sprite for the trip. Carol got the Sprite as a high school graduation present in 1965 from her parents. They put down the deposit and she had to pay off the car. Pretty neat idea and way to buy your son or daughter a car and make them responsible for the car. The car was a Mark III edition and had a 59 horsepower, 4 cylinder engine. Four speed on the floor with red interior, black top and a beautiful red exterior. Rather small car, but we both fit in comfortably. Not really built for long distances and certainly not built for bad weather. Seems that when it rained the water would splash up on the engine and would drown out the spark plugs, stalling the car. Happened quite a few times, but we were always close to home and we would pull the car to the side of the road, walk home and go back later to get the car. Well we stopped at Dick and his wife's house in the center of Ephrata and after a time saw the approaching clouds. Trouble!! It was starting to get dark and the storm clouds made it even darker. We hopped back in the car and headed back to Lancaster. And then the rains came. And then it happened again. The car stalled on Route 272. I found a neighbor who allowed me to use the phone and I called my parents. They knew the procedure by now. "Where are you?" they asked. After giving directions we waited in the car until they got there. We pushed the car into a parking lot and headed to our place. The following day Carol and I drove our Pontiac back to Ephrata and drove both cars home. The car was a fun car, usually. We eventually sold the car to a student I had in class who rigged up some sort splash shield under the car to prevent the engine from getting wet. Or so he thought! He kept the car for about a year and unloaded it on the next victim. Car still looked great, but it was a fair weather car. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The "Homerun That Never Was" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are playing in the quarter-finals of the 1959 New Era Tournament. I'm playing for the Grandview Heights midget baseball team this year. We have played a total of 39 games this summer and are hoping for two more after this game. I played for the Schick midget-midget team and the Young Republicans Jr. Midget team, but I am finally playing with friends from my own school. I enjoyed the other two teams because they had some of the best players from the county on them, but I thoroughly enjoyed playing this year with friends from my own high school. I played third base and pitcher this year and ended the year batting .374, second on the team. Third on the team in RBIs as well, but also third on the team in errors. Oh well, still a successful season. Today we are taking on Saint Anthony's Midget Team in the New Era Tournament. This tournament is sponsored by the local newspaper and is for teams that have won their league divisions during the regular season. Pitching for us tonight is a fellow by the name of George Healeyand for St. Anthony, a player by the name of Don Sourbaugh. Last year Don was one of my teammates on the Young Republicans and he helped us win the State Jr. Midget title as well as the North-Eastern US Jr. Midget Title. We each scored a run in the second inning and in the fourth inning to make the score 2-2. No one scored in the 5th and final inning, sending the game into extra innings. St. Anthony's scored two runs in the 6th inning on four straight singles, bringing our team to the bat in the bottom of the inning, losing by two runs. Our team made two quick outs before Donnie walked two batters, bringing George H. to the plate. He followed with a triple down the left field line. We were playing on our home field at Schaeffer Elementary school and the outfield has no fence. George gave it a ride and came in to third base standing. Bob Beitzel, our coach held him at third. Now it was my turn to bat. Bob has me batting clean-up tonight and I hope I don't disappoint him. Bob looked at me and pointed to the outfield. Yeah right, I thought to myself. Well, Donnie put one right down the middle. A fastball, and he can really bring it. I was swinging at the first pitch no matter where it was. I knew from last year that he liked to get ahead in the count and was going to put the first pitch over the plate. Made great contact and drove it well over the centerfielder's head. We had won and advanced to the Semi-Finals of the tournament. One of my biggest thrills in baseball as I reached first base and saw everyone running towards me to jump on me. My only disappointment .......... I only had 1 homerun all season and this surely would have been another. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The "Clothing Optional" Story

It was an ordinary day. Kind of! We are sitting on the beach at Club Orient. Club Orient is a naturist resort on the northern end of Orient Beach on the french side of St. Martin. Place has been here forever it seems. We started coming to St. Martin ten years ago and it was here at that time. The Club is a resort which has a variety of accommodations situated on or near the beautiful white sand beach that fronts the azure blue Caribbean Sea. For years Carol and I walked the length of the beach in the mornings and often wondered what it would be like to be on a nude beach. We would always see the sign that declared it was Club Orient and that you were not allowed cameras or cell phones on the beach. Well, today we are headed to Club Orient to give it a try. We talked it over and decided that what are the chances that you would meet someone you knew on a nude beach thousands of miles from home. We follow the signs to the parking for day visitors and find a space for the car. After passing the guard station, we walk through the beautiful resort. Villas and chalets are very nice. the grounds are kept immaculate. Soon we arrive at the beach. Yep, this must be the place. Most are nude! But, we were expecting gorgeous, muscular tan bodies. Seems that most everyone is in their 50s, 60s, 70s and some in their 80s. The very few who look younger seem almost out of place. Wow! We will fit in nicely. The chairs are orange and the umbrellas yellow. We find two chairs, pay the "clothed" attendant and decide what to do next. Well, I guess the next thing to do is take off our swimsuits. You can't imagine how hard that is to do when you have never been to a beach where everyone is naked. Off they go and we quickly sit on our lounger. Easy so far. Actually, very few can see us parked in the back row. But, the sun is baking us and we now face the problem of getting in the water. We head toward the water, watching to see if people are staring at us. Nope! They are talking, reading or napping. It's as if we aren't even there. Pretty easy and the 85 degree water matches the 85 degree air temperature. It feels so different without a bathing suit both on the beach and in the water. Kind of like a new found freedom. Something like the bold and the beautiful. No, no, no ........ make that the bold and the old. Now, our next problem. Fish!! All those extra dangling parts which are not covered with textile seem to be bait for the fish. Luckily the water is crystal clear, even at 10 feet, so you can see if you have attracted any fish. It seems that if you talk to someone, protocol says that you should be making eye contact, so when we start talking to a couple in the water we keep this in mind. Their names are Larry and Mimi and are the same age as us. And ...... they live about 40 miles from us. OK, getting too close for comfort. We talk about things old people talk about and part ways. And then we face the next big problem. Time to get out of the water! And after an hour in the water, "shrinkage" is a major problem. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are: sign on the beach as you enter Club Orient, walk from the car to the beach, aerial view of the resort and beach, and chairs and umbrella at the resort.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The "It has to be a REAL Tree" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was getting the Christmas tree out. Thanksgiving was a week ago and it is now time for the next holiday. Carol and I have been married for over 40 years and we always had a REAL tree. Some were small, some were big, some were shaped really neat while others were flat on one side. But that's OK, since we always put it against the wall anyway. But, they were always REAL. Well, we decided to buy an artificial tree. Weren't going to tell anyone since we always complained about people who had artificial trees. We found this really neat 12 foot tree at Costco. Wasn't cheap, but it really looked like a REAL tree. Had a gadzillion lights on it and came in four parts. Looked like the tree for us. Must have weighed close to a hundred pounds. Took all we could muster to get it in the back of the car. Box just fit in our Mountaineer. Got it home and it did look great. After decorating it and turning on all the lights, it looked REAL. And most people didn't know the difference. Great! Well, Christmas passed and the dreaded day came when we would have to take it down. Carol was OK with leaving it up year-round, but I could hardly wait to get it down. Actually, I am in favor of taking it down on New Years' Day, but I always get outvoted by Carol and the cats, who love to lay under it. They do miss not having the water to drink from the tree stand. The cats, I mean! Pack up all the ornaments and then put the tree back in the box. Now what!! Where so we store the box? Haven't a clue. Won't fit down our basement stairs and the two cars fill the garage. Didn't plan ahead, did we? Then I got this brilliant idea. We will store it above our garage in the storage space. We have stairs in the garage that lead to the storage space and we have other items stored there, but I'm sure we can make room for the tree. Next, how do we get it up there. I had to remove the railing that was on the side of the storage space to keep you from falling off. I then sketched a few ideas and went and bought the parts. I rigged a pulley system to the ceiling of the garage and used nylon straps around the box to haul it to the top .... with my car! Pretty neat idea, if I can say so! Now every year after Thanksgiving I take the railing down, hook up the ropes and haul the tree down from the storage area with the car. Works great!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The "River Survival" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are rafting down the Susquehanna River. A few months ago I was talking with Tim K. and Sam M. after a scout meeting and they (mostly Tim) thought it would be neat to build a raft and float down the Susquehanna. Our sons were all in the scouts together and they would help build the raft for the adventure so that they could earn another merit badge. Tim wanted to know if Tad and I were interested. Tad was ready for the adventure as soon as he heard the proposal, so we met at the crack of dawn in Tim's driveway a few weeks later and built the raft. It was about 6'x10' and made out of landscaping timbers covered with a variety of plywood and pine planks. Whatever we could round up from our garages. Had to float, it was wood! Tim was in heaven! By lunch we were finished with the raft and loaded it on to a trailer that Tim had rented. Off to the river. Felt like I was in a Tom Sawyer story. This summer Saturday afternoon was scorching. No breeze blowing, and the river was low because we had had very little rain for the past few weeks. Tim backed his car to the river's edge under the bridge which ran from Columbia to Wrightsville. We all pitched in and unloaded the raft and before long it was floating by the shore of the Susquehanna. OK, what's next? Well, this is as far as anyone had planned. If we all get on the raft, what will be do when we float down the river and decide the trip is over? Well, Tim didn't want to miss out on the floating part, so he asked Sam to drive his car and trailer down the river to a location that he knew we could reach in a reasonable amount of time and wait for us there. Sam was delighted to do that. Smart man! We all put on our life jackets that Tim had brought along, hopped on the raft and pushed it out into the current. We did have two paddles from Tim's canoe so we had something we could use as a rudder if necessary. We sat there and sat there. "Where is the current?" I asked Tim. Because of the low river and no rain, there was very little current. Like NONE! The paddle wouldn't be needed for a rudder, but rather to power the raft. Since the raft was rectangular and had no point in the front. It was slow going and hard to paddle. Now, this is the Susquehanna River. Maybe the most powerful and scariest river in the State of Pennsylvania. And we are sitting still as can be on a 6'x10' raft with three cub scouts on a 90 degree day in the roasting sun. We can't leave them jump in the water to cool off, because you never know what could happen on this river. Boy, they are really earning this badge. After a half hour I realize the badge they will earn will be the survival badge! I man one paddle and Tim man's the other paddle and we work our way down the river. It seemed like two days later, but probably wasn't more than two hours, we saw Sam along the shoreline waving to us. We had made it!! Sam looked as refreshed as could be. Tad, Alex, Ben and I were glad we survived. Tim wanted to know if Sam wanted to hop on the raft and go a little farther down the river. He passed on the offer. Smart man! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The "Bye, Bye Birdie" Story

It was an ordinary day. It's 6:30 AM and I'm sitting here reading the rest of Stuart Woods' Deep Lie. Great novel, but I'm prejudice, since I'm not sure yet if I'm a relative or not. I'm almost certain I'm not related to Tiger, but I've emailed Stuart and haven't heard back from him yet. I'm looking out the window of our villa on St. Martin while I'm reading. Then ..... crash! A small bird flies into the big sliding glass door. I watch as he kind of recovers, but he is having trouble with his one leg. He pulls himself under the table on the back porch and just sits there. Now what do I do? I can see that it literally scared the crap out of him. Then his buddy shows up and sits next to him under the chair next to him, encouraging him to follow him. And then the second bird takes flight an the injured bird suddenly drops his head and doesn't move. Oh my gosh! He's dead. Poor guy. And then I see it. A stray white cat is moving toward him. Very slowly, across the deck, not knowing what to expect. The bird doesn't move. He's PLAYING DEAD! I've never seen this before. Great acting, but of course, it's the difference between life and death. I've seen the white stray on several other days. Looks like he could use a good meal, but I don't think today would be a good time. I get out of my chair and the motion of my moving startles the cat. He turns and looks in the window at me and scatters. Shortly the other bird returns and sits by the chair and starts to make noises. The "dead" bird puts his head up and starts to move. I walk in to the bedroom to tell Carol about what is happening. She is thrilled to hear all about it at 6:45 AM. I return and the bird hops onto the seat of the chair. Looks better. Than he turns his head toward me, moves it like he saying "thanks" and takes off. Wow! He started my day off on a positive note! All except the poop that I now have to clean up. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The "Open Air Caribbean Market Day" Story

It was an ordinary day. Saturday. Market day in Marigot. Marigot is the capital of the French side of St. Martin and every Wednesday and Saturday the open air market is in full swing. Today there are about a half dozen food stands open which feature everything from fruits and vegetables to speciality spices to flavored rums. There are also about a half dozen fish vendors open with fish right out of the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans. Fish of all colors and sizes. Pick what you want, pay for it and take it across the street to the couple guys who will clean and fillet it for you for a couple bucks. There are also vendors who sell all types of trinkets, jewelry, shirts and hats, paintings and anything else they believe someone will buy. The vendors rely on the cruise ships to bring customers over from the Dutch side where the ships dock. Today is a very slow day, since there are no ships in today. Been a rough year they tell me. The economy throughout the world even affects their business. Carol and I bought a shirt for our grandson Caden and bracelets for our granddaughters Courtney and Camille. Also picked up a shirt for me and ordered a painting from an artist who paints beach scenes on pieces of palm tree. She had a really neat painting illustrating her stand which we really liked and asked if she could reproduce it on a smaller scale on a piece of canvas before we leave. Told her how much we could afford and she agreed to have it ready on time. After visiting the market we walked over to the bakery for a snack. Didn't realize they had gelato so we changed plans and each had one of those. Walked around the streets looking in a few shops and headed back to the car. Heat is starting to tire us and the villa pool is calling our names. It was another extraordinary day in the life of anordinary guy. PS - pixs from the top are: market vendor with her wares, customers looking at the catch of the day, fish of all colors (naturally, it is the Caribbean), clothing and trinkets, barrels of spices from the islands and a scoop of gelato to go.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The "French Connection" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was in French class at MTHS and we were reading letters sent to us by our exchange student. My French name is Raoul and my French pen pal's name is Monique. Pretty neat french name for a girl, isn't it? I'm in my second year of French and I have never carried on a conversation in the language. I took two years of Latin and never spoke a single sentence in Latin in those two years. I chose to take the languages because my parents wanted me to go to college and you had to have two years of two languages to get into most colleges. Why? I don't know, but that's what the guidance counselors told us. They needed to keep the foreign language teachers busy, I guess. At the time I thought maybe there were lots of French people or Latin people going to college and I would have to talk to them. Hey, I was only 14 years old at the time I took Latin. Now I know better. I should have taken Spanish and Russian. Well, Monique sent me a photo and I have to meet her. Pretty hot! Remember now, I'm 17 at the time and somewhat of a nerd. I'm not sure that has ever changed except for the age part. I kept up the correspondence until I graduated and then found out she was going to visit friends on the east coast the summer after I graduated. I was going to meet her. She wrote and told me she was going with a friend to Atlantic City for a day and maybe we could meet on the beach. You bet!! I talked my friend Terry D. into going with me and everything was set. On the big day we left Lancaster early and got to Atlantic City by 10:00 AM. Found our meeting place and waited on the beach for the girls. "Here they come," I said to Terry when these two girls headed our way. They just looked French! Sure enough they were Monique and her friend Sylvie. Not quite what I had expected, but then again, we probably weren't what they had expected. I was 6 feet tall and weighed 150 pounds. Skinny as a rail and wore black glasses an had a really short haircut. Terry wasn't much different except he weighed about 100 pounds more then me and talked with a lisp. Well, we had fun on the beach that day, I think! They talked mostly in French to each other and laughed a lot when they looked at us. I recognized a few words, but how I wish I had known how to speak conversational French. We parted late afternoon after exchanging phone numbers, but I knew we would never hear from them again. And that was OK. I could never have understood what the girl was talking about most of the time anyway. Kind of like it is today with my wife, but that's because I'm getting older and can't hear very well. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

The "Heavy Duty Washer" Story

It was another ordinary day. I have just finished washing the boy's basketball uniforms. Game was last night and I had to come in early today to get the uniforms washed. I became the equipment manager three years ago when the last one quit and Mr. H., the high school principal came and asked me if I could take over the job. He knew I would say "yes", since I owed him a favor and I had a growing family and could always use the extra money. Not that tough of a job. I come in early before school, pop the uniforms in the big washing machine, add the detergent and bleach and push the button. During homeroom I head back down to the equipment room and load them into the dryer. After lunch I head down again and fold the uniforms, getting them ready for the next game. During football season I have to hand out all the pads, practice uniforms and helmets before the season starts and wash the jerseys and pants after each game. During my first year as equipment manager I mistakenly put a few of the white jerseys in with the blue pants and when I went down to take them out, the jerseys were a neat light blue color. No one told me not to do it, and my wife does the wash at home, so I didn't know the difference. Well the coach didn't like the shade of blue so we had to order new game jerseys before the next game. Luckily, I only had a few in with the pants, so the expense wasn't that great. Never happened again!! Until ...... ! I retired 11 years ago from teaching and became the head washer at home. And .... a few weeks ago I put my new light orange Bankie Banx shirt in with my blue jeans and VIOLA! Shirt looks like it is tie-dyed. I'll bet he could sell more shirts if he made it like my new shirt I now have. It's really neat now!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, May 21, 2010

The "Missing Part" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are headed into Marigot for the day. Marigot (the "t" is silent) is the capital of the French side of St. Martin. We are staying at the Alamanda Resort this year and Marigot is about 15 minutes from the Alamanda. If ....... you know the shortcuts. The car we have rented this year is from Thrifty Car Rental. Saw it on a web page and thought I would give it a try. Price was good and they would meet us at the airport and take us to the rental agency. All went smoothly and we ended up with a small 4-door vehicle. Wasn't in the best of shape, but the price was right and all we were going to use it for was transportation, not to enter it in a car show. OK, now we're off to Marigot. No CD player in the car, so we tuned to a local reggae station. We passed by the turnoff to go to Pinel Island, past the turn off to Grand Case, the culinary capital of St. Martin, and past the turn off to Happy Bay. Next up the hill at Rumbard and down the other side towards Marigot. As we approached the round-about on the north end of the city, I took the far right exit from the round-about because it cuts off about 5 minutes of the trip. We were told about this short-cut, but ....... not about the huge 8" high speed bump that was shaded under a gigantic tree about 200 yards from the round-about. No sign telling it was coming. Not painted yellow or with white stripes. Blended in very well with the road. And, with no other cars in sight to help us identify where the speed bumps may be in the road. We hit it going about 35 MPH! Hit it maybe isn't the best word for it. Smashed into it and flew over it. As we came down we scraped the bottom of the car on the bump and heard something fly off the back of the car. I pulled over and by now everyone nearby was looking at me and laughing. Looked all over for ...... maybe a bumper; nope, have both of them. How about the hubcaps; nope, car didn't have them to start with I remembered. All doors and trunk lid are accounted for. OK, got back in the car and continued on. Car was still running with no steam or smoke so I knew it wasn't part of the engine. Then we realized what fell off. Seems we lost our reggae station. The aerial on the top of the car was missing. Now there was a big hole on the roof. On our way home from our trip to Marigot I stopped and searched everywhere for it. No luck. Someone had a new aerial for their car. Put some duct tape over the hole and when we returned it asked it there was an aerial when we left the rental place. They weren't sure, so they told us not to worry about it. No problem, mon! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - photo shows the tree where the bump is located. We approached it from the opposite direction and at a time of day when the tree shaded the road. Hard to see it, isn't it?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The "You're In Charge" Story

It was an ordinary day. I am heading to Penn Manor High School for my last day. I have been student teaching there for almost a semester. It is my senior year at Millersville State Teacher's College and I have to complete a semester of student teaching if I want to become a teacher. My cooperating teacher, Mr. Milton R. is a huge, burly man in his 50s who grew up on a farm in the same area as the high school. His hands are immense and he has a grip like a vise. He is the wood shop teacher and I have spent the last 3 months in his shop. I am a skinny, tall kid of 20 and am easily intimidated by him, but he has given me much insight into the field of teaching, both good and bad. A few weeks ago he told me he was going small game hunting for a few days and I was in charge of the classroom. OK. Told me just to let the students work on their projects and to finish a chapter in the shop math study guide. Didn't know any better at the time and I did what I was told. A week after he returned, he told me he was leaving the day after Thanksgiving for the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania to go deer hunting for a few days. Hey, I'm supposed to be the STUDENT teacher, not the fully paid teacher like he is. But, what do you do? Shut up and do what you are told, I guess. I want a good recommendation, after all. Tuesday after Thanksgiving I am visited by the principal of the high school as soon as I arrive in the morning. Seems that Mr. Milton R. died!! Had a heart attack while hunting in Northern PA. I was now the official wood shop teacher until I finished my semester in mid-December. Naturally, without pay! Thursday my supervising teacher from Millersville made his infrequent surprise visit to see how things were going. Saw me leading the class and congratulated me on doing a good job. Wanted to talk to Mr. Milton R. He hadn't seen the paper or gotten the news about his untimely death yet. He was stunned when I told him. "Who is your new cooperating teacher?" he wanted to know. "I don't have one. They told me I was in charge," I replied. Well, shortly after, I was visited again by my supervising teacher and told I was going to end my student teaching early. I was not allowed to be in charge of anything. I had no liability coverage as a student teacher if something should happen (hey, we're using big equipment) and Penn Manor could be in big trouble if something should happen in the class. They were going to have to have a fully paid teacher in the shop. My supervising teacher gave me a glowing recommendation and I was finished two weeks early. Shortly after, I received a series of job offers for a teaching position. I hadn't even graduated! Industrial Arts teachers were in short supply and if I was good enough to finish my student teaching early, they wanted me. I received an Emergency Certificate and took a job at Eastern York School District as the wood shop teacher. Now I was officially in charge and getting paid. I finished my course work the following summer and got my degree in August. Because of what happened to me during my student teaching, Millersville implemented new rules governing what a student teacher was allowed to do. One thing was they were never allowed to be unsupervised or unattended while doing their student teaching. Too risky! Student teachers throughout the state today no longer can be used as replacements for the teacher unless there is a paid substitute who holds the responsibility for any actions in the classroom. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The "Upgrade" Story

It was an ordinary day. We had just picked up our car at Panoramic Car Rentals. We started renting our car from Mohamed five years ago. He used to meet us at the airport in St. Martin in the parking lot. I would sign the lease, charge it to my Master Card and off we would go. Two years ago, with the completion of the new airport, he is not allowed to do this anymore. He sends an employee to the airport who stands outside the luggage area and holds up a sign with our name on it. Pretty neat seeing your name when you exit the airport. Looks like you're important, instead of just ordinary. The employee loads our luggage into his van and takes us to the rental agency which is about a quarter mile away. Check in there and then we're off. Usually gives us a great car for a fantastic price. First year he gave us a Hyundai Accent with only 91 miles on it for the week. Then, it has gotten progressively worse. Car with a couple thousand on the next two years and then last year, a car that we didn't even have to go around to mark where the scratches were on the contract. The whole car was a scratch. I still document the exterior with my camera so there are no questions when we return. His employee last year had the keys in the ignition when we arrived and after a few photos, we took off. By the time we arrived at our villa, I noticed that the hood wasn't latched correctly, so I pushed the hood down tightly. I decided to lock the car while we were in the villa getting our luggage unpacked and at that time I noticed that the key wouldn't go in the lock on the passenger's side door. I guessed they knew about that at the rental agency. My mistake!! Next day after driving, the same thing happened to the hood. Should I take the car back or not. I decided to get some wash lineand tie the hood down until the end of vacation. No other problems and it was great having a car that was all banged up since anyone looking for a new car to break into wouldn't be looking at my rental. Vacation went smooth and we got fantastic gas mileage with the Hyundai so there were no complaints. Upon return, the employee started to look over the car and announced that someone had broken the lock on the passenger's side while trying to get into the car. Funny how he went right to that lock. Now I get what is going on here! OK, now he has my attention. "Where is Mohamed?" I asked him. "He's not here today," he shot back. "Well, when we picked up the car, that's the way the lock was, since I tried to lock the car at the villa and the lock wouldn't work," I responded. He then told me I would have to pay for the lock. I knew I wasn't going to get anywhere with him so I asked for a piece of paper and described the problems we had with the car, including the damaged lock. Had him make me a copy and stapled the credit card form to his copy. I told him as soon as I get home I will call Capital One and tell them not to pay the charge. He had me sign the receipt and then another employee took us to the airport. No sooner were we home than I had an email from Mohamed. He said he was so sorry for what happened and he tore up the charge for the lock. He said to contact him if I need a car again and he will make this problem right. Well, I thought I would give him one more chance this year. I emailed him and he returned it immediately with a price for 18 days at $300 which included the taxes and the insurance. Wow! He really was trying to make it right. But, I wonder what the car will look like that he gives us. We have now found out! We were told it would be another Hyundia Accent, but when we got to the rental office, the new girl there said we were getting an "upgrade" this year. Wow! Signed the papers and went out the door to our "upgrade" car. Sitting there in front of the agency was a Toyota Corolla with even more scratches than last year. An "upgrade"? Do they know this car might accelerate by mistake when I'm heading down one of the steep hills leading to the Caribbean? Both Carol and I went over the car this time. Lock looked bad again on the car, but the attendant tried it and it worked. Aerial was broken off, but he showed me the radio worked ...... and he got me a full tank of gas! Off we went. While driving to our villa, we got tired of the reggae music on the station he had on so we changed it. And ...... realized the only station you could get without an aerial was the local station that had the reggae music playing. No problem, man! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - top pix is car from last year while bottom one is our "upgrade" from this year.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The "Rifle Sickness" Story

aIt was an ordinary day. We were getting ready for the State Championship. Didn't sleep very well last night. Anticipation is getting the better of me, but I can't let the kids know. I found a restroom near the range and am clearing my nervousness! I have my rifle team at Penn State University for the 1972 State Championship (read about the season in my November '09 The "State Champs" Story). I know if I eat too much for breakfast it will come out of me one way or another before the meet. Always happens!! During the season our rifle meets were always at 4:00 PM, after school had ended for the day. If it was an away meet, I was in the bathroom for at least 15 minutes before the bus would leave for the meet. Kids thought I was getting my score book or ammo. Lunch that day would find a way to get out of me, and then I was set to go. I would look and feel calm and collected and the kids would pick up on that and feel the same way. For a marksman, the worst thing that can happen to you is to have a bad case of nervousness. Forget the match that day! One of my main jobs as coach was to stay upbeat and keep the kids the same way. On days when we fired at home, I would head down to the range as soon as my last class was over and get ready for the match. As soon as the first shooter would show up I would head to the restroom in the upstairs hallway and lock the door. Always empty that time of day and I would get over my nervousness without a crowd. This was my third year of coaching rifle, so I was getting good at it. I had my team so relaxed today that we won the big one!! And now I was hungry!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The "A la Mode Dentist" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had just returned from the dentist. Never looked forward to it until a few years ago when I started going to my wife's dentist, Dr. Rowen. Old school dentist who had an office in downtown Lancaster across from what used to be the YMCA on Orange St. My visits now are always an adventure. You enter on the first floor and go up a narrow stairwell and are greeted by a very large ornate door. Really neat. Gold leaf lettering on the frosted door that said Dr. Robert Rowen, DDS. Enter and you are in his office. HIS OFFICE. Never saw anyone working in the office but him. He did everything. Gave appointments, did the cleaning of the the teeth and performed all the necessary procedures. In his waiting room was an outdoor swing set for children to play on while they waited. Not fastened to the floor so children would make the posts raise from the floor as they would swing. He calls my name. I enter one of his two exam rooms and sit in the ancient chair. This room is used for exams, filling cavities and removing teeth, while the other room was used to take xrays when necessary. Nice view from the second floor windows of the parking garage across the street where the YMCA used to stand. Windows in the room must have been five feet tall since the ceilings were at least 12 feet tall. Sitting next to me on the floor was about the only fairly modern device in his office. A unit that supplied water into a cup and a bowl you could spit into. Wasn't quite sure how many germs hung out in it, but it always worked. Tended to squirt you with water when he filled the cup. Dr. Rowen was right-handed so he stood next to my right shoulder. Behind him, to my right, was his trusty red Sears tool cabinet. The kind that mechanics use for their tools. The kind that the top would open to display his tools or he could pull out drawers if he needed another utensil. He kept all his drills in the drawers. Behind me as I sat in the chair was a small table that held a unit that he would mix his silver fillings. But, the most impressive part of his practice was the aluminum pie plate that he would use to gather together all the tools he thought he would need for your appointment. He sat it on the round glass shelf that was connected to his light that he could maneuver over you for the exam. He would use the tools from the pie plate and return them to the plate when he was finished using them. And, the pie plate looked like it had been used for at least a couple of years. You got a full dental treatment a la mode. And ........ it was cheap! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The "Only the Chimney can be seen" Story

It was an ordinary day. Hurricane Agnes is starting to make it's way up the east coast. Not really a windy storm at this time, but it sure is raining. Lots of flood warnings out for our entire state as well as states to our south and north. Then, I get a call from my Mom and Dad and ask if I can head out to my Aunt Lillian's house to help move everything out of the house. She lives along the Conestoga River and it is starting to rise. My Uncle Bud died a few years ago and my Aunt stayed in the family home on Pitney Road. My uncle had a body and paint shop and the river was about 50 yards from the shop and their house. I headed out and when I got there the rain was starting to ease up, but the river was just starting to rise. Getting pretty close to the house and shop. My cousin George, who took over the garage from his dad, was moving some of the most expensive equipment from the shop to higher ground and my aunt and a few of her neighbors were moving furniture and belongings from the house. I pitched in as well as others who were arriving. In an hour the river was coming into her basement. Never saw anything like it. You could watch it rise every time you made a trip with something and returned. In no time at all it was to the top of her basement steps. Wow, one last trip is about all we are going to make. The house is a rancher and it doesn't look good. Everyone moves their cars and trucks to higher ground as we watch the fast moving Conestoga start to rise in the house and shop. A few hours later all that can be seen is the top foot of the chimney in the house. The shop is totally covered with water. Large logs and other debris are floating down the river. Everyone seems to be in shock. My aunt and cousin stayed with neighbors that night and the next day the river started to recede. The damage was unbelievable. What a chore is in store for the neighborhood. Locally, a large bridge that goes across the river at Engleside was washed away, stopping traffic on southbound 222. There were over 50 deaths in Pennsylvania and over 2 billion dollars of damage in the state. Lots of it was in the Susquehanna River Valley. Months passed and things started to get back to normal. My aunt had all the interior walls removed and replaced and had an exit door put in the basement. Everything in the basement was put on rollers for easy removal. The heating system, hot water heater, freezer and fridge all could be moved quickly if needed. My cousin Judy's husband Lance and I redid the siding and did some painting and the roof and windows were replaced. The auto shop received a new coat of paint and a good cleaning and my cousin was back in business again. Time passes and life returns to normal. Almost! The memories and horrors of Hurricane Agnes will always remain with those who witnessed it. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - I'm sorry I have no photos to show of the devastation of my aunt's house, but everyone was so amazed at the strength of the river that we didn't take photos.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The "Hole in the Heart" Story

It was an ordinary day. I was laying on a table at the Health Campus of Lancaster General Hospital looking at my heart. Pretty neat what they can do with technology. A few weeks ago I went to my family doctor, Dr. Carlos S., for a physical. When you go on Medicare you are allowed one (1) complete physical for the rest of your life. It must be taken in a certain amount of time or you lose it. We'll I didn't want to miss it so I did it a few weeks after I started Medicare. Everything was going smoothly, blood test was fine, reflexes were good, heart .... what's the matter doc? Can't you hear it I asked as he was listening intently to the bottom left side of my chest. I hear something irregular. Nothing to be alarmed about, but I am going to order an echocardiogram to be safe. An echo bounces harmless sound waves (ultrasound) off the heart. A device that looks like a microphone is used. The test helps show the size of your heart and the health of the heart's chambers and valves. Before I was finished in his office he had his nurse do an EKG to check against the one I had a few years ago. He did some checking and told me he would be in touch with the results of the Echo after he received them. My date came and I headed to the Health Campus. I check in, fill out the 10 page life history, sign my life away and wait to be called. Didn't take long before a young technician came to get me. She was doing my test today. Had to take off my shirt and lay on my back on a table that has a padded section under my left side that can removed to make it easier for testing. The tech smeared this cold slimy stuff on me and started moving the microphone (transducer) over my left side. Kept taking photos or videos of my heart as she did it. Then I had to lay on my side and she ran the mic over my left side. Did it over and over and over ..... kind of annoying. Now what I described took about half an hour. Then she tells me that she is going to get a nurse who can put an IV in my arm so that they can do an additional test. A few minutes later they both enter and go through the cabinets to find all the items they need. The nurse is even younger than the tech. Neither looks older than maybe ..... 15 years old. I asked them, "Do you two know what you are doing? Should a doctor be here to watch what you're doing?" They kind of laughed and said they do this all the time. Hey, I'm typing this so they must have been right. The nurse puts the IV in my left arm and connects a bag of what she said is saline solution with some fizz in it. Something like carbonation in it so they can see if I have a hole in my heart. The tech pulls her monitor closer to me and tells me to watch the screen. Then she says, "See your one heart chamber filling with the fluid." Yeah, pretty neat. Then as it is almost full I see a few, very few, bubbles pass through into the other chamber. "That's the hole we were looking for in your heart. Extremely minor. My son who is 5 years old has a bigger hole in his heart than you do. A lot of people have minor holes in their heart." "You have a 5 year old son?" I asked her. She must be older than 15 than. Fascinating to watch what just happened in my heart. I get dressed and she tells me that she doubts the doctor will recommend I see anyone for a minor problem like that. And .... she was right. Doctor S. called in a week and told me the results and that He'll see me in a year to recheck the problem. I guess the tech and nurse really did know what they were doing. And I didn't feel a thing!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The "Lost Key" Story

It was an ordinary day. Carol and I are taking an early morning stroll on Orient Beach in St. Martin. We are staying at the Alamanda which is a resort about in the middle of Orient Beach. The beach is a 2 1/2 mile long stretch of soft, white sand along water which has all the shades and hues of cyan. We exit the resort and turn to our right and head towards the south end of the beach where Club O, the naturist resort is located. This is a 30 acre resort which opened in 1981 and is packed all the time. Eat, sleep, drink and suntan in the nude. Don't need to bring a suitcase if you are staying there. We enjoy walking along water's edge since the sand is more firm at that point. Very few people walking today. It is the off season and most people like to stay in bed while on vacation. The sun just came up and the sky is beautiful. We notice that the majority of the people walking the beach at this time of morning are nude. Both men and women. Some really should have a sit on!! We walk another 100 yards and cross into Club O. Can tell by the sign warning about no cameras beyond this point and I tell Carol I'm going to try that, also. She just looks at me kind of funny and I say, "I don't want to look out of place and hey, no one knows who we are anyway. You only go around once in life, so why not." I was never one who, when growing up, would try or do things that were bold and daring. Never did drugs or alcohol, but I did smoke. About time I did something bold and daring!! And boy do you feel different walking along the beach in your birthday suit. I had my suit in my hand along with the door key from our room at the Alamanda. Only other thing I had on was my hat. We walked the entire way to the end of Club O. I put my hat, suit and key on a lounge chair and we both hopped in the water to cool off. After a short dip, I gathered my stuff and we headed back down the beach. When we came to where our resort was we decided it was time for breakfast. We had many more mornings to walk the entire beach. I got back into my suit and we headed up to our room to get some cash so we could get some French pastries at the Tap 5 convenience store. When we got back to the room I suddenly realized that I didn't have the key. Checked the liner of my hat, but no key. OK, guess I was heading back down the beach to check where I had placed it. When we re-entered the Club O property we saw that they were raking the beach where I had placed my hat, key and suit. Looked anyway, but no key. We returned and I went to the desk and told Geraldine, the desk clerk that I had lost my room key on the beach. Didn't add the part about not having a suit on though. "Mr. Woods, we usually charge $50 for a lost key, but I have an extra one back here and can give that to you without a charge." Carol said, "Tomorrow morning I will carry the key. Seems you can't walk naked and carry a key at the same time!" "But, who is going to carry the key the next day when you are naked also?" I said to her, seeing the look in her eye and knowing that she was up for something bold and daring also. Did that happen? I'm certainly not going to publish that!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The "Getting Your Money's Worth" Story

It was an ordinary day. Gary and I are taking our oldest sons Eric and Derek to play golf for the first time. Actually it is the first time for me to ever play golf. Now, I have played miniature golf and the par 3 courses, but this course near Elkton, Maryland looks like fun, and how hard can it be? We are on vacation and staying near Locust Point on the Elk River. We noticed this course, because it is located near our turn-off on Rt. 213S. We get up early and get to the course by 6:30 AM. Have to rent equipment so our first stop is in the pro shop. Derek is the only lefty and luckily they have a set of youth clubs for him. He and Eric are 13 years old and don't need an adult set of clubs. We get a map of the course, pay our fees and head to the first tee. Decided to walk today, since they told us Wednesdays aren't busy and the cost of the clubs, balls and greens fee was higher than we expected. Off we go. And go. And go. I'm really getting to see every square inch of the course. By the halfway point, nine holes, I have close to a score of 100. I'm a good baseball and softball player, but that doesn't translate into being a good golfer. Seems my baseball swing is sending the ball into everywhere imaginable. After the 10th hole I have to walk back to the pro shop for another dozen balls. We have lost 10 balls already and they won't let us take turns with the balls like we do in miniature golf. I can't tell you how many people have played past us already. Some seem amused while others seem annoyed. Hey, we're having a good time. Almost!! Finally, on the shortest hole, number 17, I start to take my time and swing a little different. It takes me two shots to get the ball onto the green. Now, it's just like miniature golf. One shot and I have my first par! Par for the this gorgeous course with all the lakes, ponds, pine groves, and sand traps is 72. Wow, by the end I find myself on the losing end of the foursome with a 216. Derek wins the 1st Annual Bay Tournament with a score of 142. They are so glad to see us leave. I don't know why, since they made extra money on us. We make our way back home for lunch. Maybe that should be supper. Seems it is 3:30 PM. The wives seem genuinely worried when we pull up at the beach house. "You really got your money's worth, didn't you?" Carol said. And then she continued with, "I bet they'll never want to see you again!!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Story in memory of Gary H.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The "Are You A Beezer?" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are sitting in Beezers. Had a light breakfast this morning then headed to the north shore of Kauai, Hawaii for some sightseeing. Saw the Products Fair outdoor market, the Kilauea Lighthouse and the rarest goose in the world, the Nene. Found in Haleakalia National Park. We then find our way to Beezers. What is a beezer? Good question! A beezer is ...... somebody that LOVES ice cream. Jerry, Just Sue, Carol and I must all be beezers because we are now in Beezers. On the inside flap of their menu is this : Do you remember when "The Madison" was the hottest dance on American Bandstand? Remember when you ate creamy sundaes out of REAL sundae glasses? When a malt was thick and the extra tin-full was put in front of you at no extra charge? Root beer floats? Egg cremes? Chocolate sodas? Whipped cream and cherries? Well, grab your poodle skirts and saddle shoes and come on over to Beezers Old Fashioned Ice Cream on the corner in the Kapaa Trade Center ... just down from Bubba's and c'mon back to the '50s. Yep, that's what it reminds you of. The "Good Ole Times." Black and white tile floor, red vinyl stools and a fabulous 16 foot-long Honduran Mahogany Bar. The owners are Kriss Erikson and Cathy Zadel and they are great. This place opened 8 years ago, but it looks like it has been here forever. Kriss is our waiter today and we get his full attention, since we are the only customers in the place. Carol and I have the June Cleaver BBQ. I'm not sure what our traveling companions had, but we all had ice cream. Jerry and I had the Old-Fashioned Banana Split while Carol had the "Mustang Sally" and Just Sue had the "Howdy Doody." Mustang was a brownie on the bottom with two scoops of ice cream then hot fudge, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry while the Doody was vanilla and strawberry ice cream with hot butterscotch and marshmallow topping, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry. Buffalo Bob would have loved it. Enjoyed the next hour or so reminiscing with Kriss. Had to buy a T-shirt for a souvenir. And .... as in the old days, no credit cards, only cash rung up on the old register! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Photos from top are: "Beezers" logo, from of soda shop, Kriss preparing out desserts, the Old Fashioned Banana Split and the cash register.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The "Johnny U." Story

It was an ordinary day. We are getting ready to leave the Lancaster Ice Rink on Harrisburg Pike. Tad has just played a hockey game against a team from Baltimore. Tad is our youngest and has played youth hockey since Middle School. He wanted to be as good in a sport as his older brother and sister and decided ice hockey was his sport. And ....... he excelled. We travel all over the east coast for games, mostly on weekends. He did travel to Canada for a hockey exchange, but Carol and I did not travel with him. Well, the team we are playing today had to make the journey from Baltimore for the hour and a half long game. I have learned so much about the game of hockey from watching Tad play, but it has not helped me learn to skate. Just can't do that. Can't rollerskate or rollerblade either. As I am sitting in the stands today I look over to the away bleachers and recognize someone. Someone famous! Johnny Unitas! Played for the Colts when the Colts were still in Baltimore. I found out that his youngest son is playing against my son today. I just have to go over and meet him. I tell my wife, "I'll be right back. I'm going over to see Johnny Unitas. He's sitting in the stands on the other side." She just sits there and looks at me and says, "Yeah, right!" And, then I walked over. Now, Johnny Unitas is one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game. He epitomized the position with his leadership skills and his ability to perform under pressure. Nicknamed "Mr. Football." #19!! Almost didn't recognize him because his hair is long. He always wore hightop black shoes and had a flat top haircut when he played. I walked around the end of the ice and made my way into the stands. Introduce myself and shake his hand. Funny, we didn't talk at all about football, but about our kids and hockey. Neatest guy in person. And .... we beat the team from Baltimore today. Perfect Saturday morning. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Johnny U. died in September 11, 2002 of a massive heart attack in Baltimore. He was survived by his wife and 6 sons. This story is in memory of him.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The "Shower With A Jolt" Story

It was an ordinary day. Everyone has finished taking their showers. We have been on vacation for 3 days now with the Howry family and are having a ball. Fishing, swimming, water-skiing and tubing and of course eating. Everyday is the same, but we never tire of the same thing, because WE ARE ON VACATION. This is the third year we have come to my Aunt's family house along the Elk River in Maryland. House has four bedrooms. Gary and Sandy take one, Carol and I take one, the two girls take one and the four guys sleep in the bedroom at the end of the porch that houses two bunk beds. Everyone gets along and we usually end each day with games and TV or a movie. Gary brings along about 50 movies each year that he taped from the pay channel on his TV. Always something to do until you collapse at the end of the day. The only thing that creates a little problem or stirs up some worry is the shower. Seems that when you take a shower and go to turn on or off the water, YOU GET SHOCKED! Not sure why and my Aunt doesn't have the answer either, but when you enter the lower level of the house next to the garage to take your shower, you know that you are going to get zapped. Gary and Sandy have taken to showering together so that only one of them gets shocked. At least that's the reason they gave for showering together. You know that as soon as you touch that metal faucet handle you're in for a good time. We did find that if you take a wooden dowel rod and place it through the handle and turn the dowel rod, you didn't get the shock. But, after showering, most ever one forgets and reaches to turn off the water. Yap! When we reminisce about out trips to the Elk River, what do you think we always talk about first? Yep, the shower. For me, it's a great way to get recharged after a long hot day. Thinking of maybe having my shower at home wired to do the same thing. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pix is of Carol and Sandy trying to get in the big tube so Gary can tow them. This story is in memory of Gary H.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The "Whoa! I Finally Got Caught!!" Story

It was an ordinary day. We had been back from our latest trip for about a week and today in the mail we got a letter from the Manheim Township Police Department. They're telling us we need a license to have a home security system with an alarm. Now how did they know that we had one of those? My friend Wayne, who is a township police Detective, knows that we have a home security system, but would never say anything in at the station. Actually, I didn't know that I needed to tell the police department. Do they walk around the township and see who has a sticker on their door from a security company? And to get the license we must pay $25! Luckily it is not a one year deal. At least I hope not. OK, let's do a little investigation, I thought. First I called Wayne and said, "Hey Wayne, when you go in to work tomorrow can you check to see how you guys know I have a security system?" "Sure, I'll see what I can find out," he says. Well, the next day he calls me from the station and says that last week while we were on vacation, the police made a emergency visit to my house because my alarm went off. Yarnell Security, who I have the system with, called them immediately after no one called with the security pass word. Then I thought, who was at my house ........ oh yea, my parents were pet sitting while we were on vacation, but they always disarm the security system when they go in the house and when I got home they said everything went smooth during our vacation. I called Wayne back and asked him if he knew anything else about why they made the call. He let me talk to the officer that was at the house and he told me that my parents set the alarm off and must have panicked and forgot the code, because when he got there it was still going off. The cats must have been going nuts, as well as my parents. The officer called Yarnell and they told him how to disarm the system, which he did. If they are called to the house they check to see if you have a license for the system displayed next to the keypad, which I did not, so hence, the letter. And now I have 30 days to pay or I'm subject to a $500 fine and or imprisonment. Whoa! Sent in my check and never said anything to mom and dad who were probably so embarrassed by the whole thing that they didn't want to tell us. I now have my license displayed right next to the keypad in my house. The one good thing that came out of the encounter was that I know that the alarm system really works!! It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The "Caribbean Town with Color" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are walking the streets of Philipsburg. Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch Sint Maarten in the Caribbean. St. Martin/Sint Maarten is the only sea island divided between two nations; France and the Netherland Antilles. Seems years ago a Frenchman and a Dutchman set out in opposite directions from the same point to see how far they could walk around the edge of the island. When they met, they would draw a line across the island to where they both reached and that would be how the island would be divided. Well, the Frenchman was drinking wine while the Dutchman was drinking beer, a much heavier beverage, so the French side of the island is larger. The Dutch accused the Frenchman of running, but the whole story is just folklore anyway. We cross over the border without any trouble since it is only marked in two places with a monument. Philipsburg is located near the cruise terminal and therefore is much busier on a day when cruise ships dock. Today is not one of them and the streets seem deserted. Great for us, but bad for the store owners. The town is located between a large salt pond which has large crystals of salt around the edges, and the ocean. It has two main streets, Front St. along the water and Back St. along the salt pond. A few years ago I filled a bag with the salt crystals to bring home. Carol was worried that going through security at the airport we would be stopped because they would think it was drugs. Hey, let them try the crystals and they'll know what they are. We park at the one end of Front St. and follow their new boardwalk along the water. Really made of concrete,
since a wooden boardwalk probably wouldn't withstand a hurricane. Beautiful white beach call Great Bay Beach lines the water. When we reach the end of the town we head back one block to Front St. and walk toward our car. Store after store of jewelry and t-shirts. A few casinos are spread along the way to help get rid of your money. Actually have a Subway and a McDonalds on the street. The street is line with concrete pavers of different colors and is really neat. We pass the Guavaberry Emporium where they sell flavored rum and was featured on an episode of Three Sheets. We pass the courthouse which for the first time, since we have been visiting, has the front door open. Naturally I have to walk in. Big sign inside the door proclaims, "This is not the postoffice", so we leave. We also pass a fantastic restaurant, painted with bright colors called l'escargot. Part way back we head back to the water to eat at The Barefoot Terrace. The smoothies really cooled us off. Had a Strawberry / Raspberry while Carol had the Coconut / Mango. We finally made our way back to the car and headed back for a cool, welcome dip in the pool at the villa. Great day in a truly Caribbean town. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Photos from the top are: beach chairs on Great Bay in Philipsburg, umbrellas on Great Bay beach, Guavaberry store on Front Street, Courthouse on Front Street, restaurant l'escargot and Barefoot Terrace restaurant on the boardwalk.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The "Red makes it look like you're going faasssster" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were out for a ride in the Vette. Didn't have the top off because it is a little cool today, but not that cold that we can't have the windows open to feel the wind in our hair, ..... or at least Carol's hair. Decided to head toward Millersville where Millersville University is located. Haven't been there for a while so we'll see if anything has changed. Millersville is a very small town which has the University as the center of the town. But, today we also plan to visit Funk's Farm Market. They have some of the best pastries. Their cinnamon rolls with huge amounts of vanilla cream frosting on top with raisins on top of that are great. Can make a meal of one of those. We stop and visit Funks and put our purchases in the back of the Vette and head south towards the Susquehanna River. Take a nice tour of the country side and stop at Safe Harbor Dam for a walk to the far end of the dam. Check out the fishermen and their catch and head back towards the car. Time to head back and we decide to take the same scenic route home that we just traveled. As we approach Millersville from the south we get in a line of traffic which is about 4 or 5 cars long. Everyone going the 35-40 MPH. Speed limit in the area is 35, or so I thought. Ahead about 2 miles is Funks and we are still traveling in the same line of traffic. We pass a property which houses a body shop and car repair and notice a police cruiser sitting in the driveway. As we continue he pulls in line behind me and after following the line of traffic for a mile he puts on his flashing lights. The line of cars all see him and we start to pull to the right as far as we can. He starts past me and then ....... looking over at me, motions me to pull over. Geeze, what did I do? I wait as he sits in his cruiser, admiring the back of my vette. Then he opens his door and comes up beside my window. I greet him and he tells me he timed me at 41 MPH. I responded that I was just following everyone else and I guess we were all going the same speed. He then assured me that I was the one going the 41 MPH and the speed limit is 25 MPH. "Where is the sign that says 25?" I asked him. Now I'm starting to get annoyed. He said I must have missed it. Carol taps me on the leg and tells me to keep my mouth shut at this point. Which I do! He then walks back to sit in his cruiser and write a ticket while the smoke is coming out my ears. I then have a pretty neat idea. I ask Carol if she thinks he could catch us if I take off. She only stares at me! Then I say, "How about taking the camera we brought along and when he comes back with the ticket, get out and take a photo of him next to the car giving me the ticket." Great for the scrapbook. She still only stares at me. Oh, well! I do check to see if there is a 25 MPH sign and there is. I then think maybe I should protest the ticket because he was singling me out because I was driving a Corvette. I eventually got over it and paid the ticket. Was telling my friend Wayne, who is a MT policeman, about the experience and he said, "Millersville cops are famous for doing that, and besides, I told you when you bought that red car that everyone will be out to get you!!" It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - top photo shows me driving way fassssster than 41MPH and bottom is what the cop saw when he stopped us. Pretty neat view, huh.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The "Arrivals are more fun than departures" Story

It was an ordinary day. 6:30 AM and I'm sitting by the pool at Villa Jeluca on the French side. Another great choice for our yearly vacation to St. Martin in the Caribbean. Arrived two days ago in mid-afternoon and made our way through customs. Barely! Seems like I talked Carol into getting into the shortest line so we would get our luggage faster. Worked well until we got to the front of the line and the sign over the customs girl Transfers Only! Our turn. She looked at the form we filled out on the plane and told us we were in the wrong line. Then, my wife went to work. She said that the sign is so hard to see from the back and we just got in the wrong line. Can't she just stamp our passports? I kept my mouth shut, since I picked the line. Smash, down the stamp and we were on our way. Way to go dear! Bugs are bad at 6:30 AM by the pool. Seems I'm sharing the keyboard with quite a few mosquitos and many more are trying to read this on the screen as I type. Have no idea where the bug spray is and since my wife is sleeping in this morning I will just have to swat 'em. We made our way to the realtor and followed Stephane up the hill to our villa. Fantastic view!! Can see Orient Bay and the island of Pinel with the colorful umbrellas is right off shore. In the distance is the island of Anguilla which we plan to visit for a day this year. Stephane helped get us set up. TV, BBQ grill, AC, wireless connection, and all the other essentials for a great vacation. Even left a basket of food for us. Yesterday we had to call Stephane. Help! AC isn't very cold, TV won't come on again and the wireless connection isn't working and I already missed one day of stories on my blog. He was there in 10 minutes. Pushed the wrong button on the remote. You must turn it on by pushing the button on the TV and not the remote. Seems someone took the remote home with them that is used to turn on the TV. OK. AC was actually working, but we figured out that some of the small windows were open and the cold air was escaping. And the internet ........... he had to go get a new router to correct that problem. Now we're set. Ready for some more stories. And, the sun is starting to cook me. Have to hop in the pool and then find the sunscreen. I'm letting the Toshiba for the bugs. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The "Four Generations" Story

It was an ordinary day. We were on the back porch at mom and dad's house for a picnic and decided it was time for some family photos. We had everyone together for dinner and it was time to document history. Four generations were here today. First we lined up the girls. Mom wanted to take the photo in front of the baby carriage that she used to push me from the 6oo block of South Prince Street to Central Market in the center of Lancaster. Lined everyone up and I took the photo. Picture included my mom Dottie, my wife Carol, our daughter Brynn and our granddaughter and Brynn's daughter, Courtney. Next it was time for
the guys. I stood to the left and next to me was our son Derek who was holding our grandson and Derek's son Caden and then my dad Paul. These pictures feature four generations on my side of the family. My wife's parents died when they were in their 50s. We have, and so have our children and grandchildren, missed them so much for many years. Two years ago my dad died so I thought it was time to publish the photos now so all can see them. They have all been part of the extraordinary stories of an ordinary guy that I have told over the past 8 months. Story in memory of my dad Paul.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The "Guillotine Debacle" Story

It was an ordinary day. I had just returned from school with a carton of paper that needed to be trimmed. I have a big, no make that a REALLY BIG, guillotine papercutter in my garage. Use it all the time for jobs I do at school. The papercutter used to be in room 308, the graphic arts room, at the high school. It was in the high school when I was a student there and then for the 32 years that I taught at the building and then for 6 more after I retired from teaching, but still did the in-house printing. Then, when the high school was renovated, it was moved to a single family house next to the campus which the school district owned and was planning on some day demolishing for more parking. The entire printing shop was moved along with the paper cutter. And then ........ one day during the summer I went to work at the building and noticed something different about the room when I walked in the door. There was no papercutter! OK, no one can steal something that takes a tow motor to move. I called the maintenance garage which was right next to the house and asked if they knew anything about the papercutter. Yep, they knew. The school district sold it for scrap!! Made as much sense to me as it probably does to you right now. Called the head of maintenance and asked what's up with my papercutter and he told me he was told to get rid of it because the insurance carrier said it was too dangerous for students to operate. "But, they used it for 32 years when I taught school and never had one accident," I told him. "Not only that, I'm hired as an independent contractor now to do the school printing and I need the papercutter!" He said he would check and get right back to me. Five minutes later he told me it was sold by mistake. "Yeah, right," I said. "Well go get it back." A few minutes later I got another call and was told it was not destroyed yet, but the only way I was getting it back was to pay for it and I had to have it on my property. I had to pay $250 for something I had used for years without any problems, and I now have it in my garage, and every job I trim on it I charge an extra fee to the school district for it's use. That was over three years ago I bought it and many, many jobs trimmed on it. Guess who's getting the better end of that deal now? It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The "View from the Top of the World" Story

It was an ordinary day. We are heading up the volcano! Yep, Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii. We wanted to see the sunrise so we checked the charts for the time of sunrise today and found out it was 5:38 AM. We set the alarm for 2:30 AM, struggled to get out of bed and met Jerry and Just Sue in the parking lot. Jerry is driving today so he doesn't get car sick on the way up the volcano. From the bottom to the top of the volcano is 27 miles. The volcano is located in the eastern part of Maui in Haleakala National Park which is a 30,183 acre park that includes the summit and the Kipahula Valley area. We pay a $10 fee when we enter the park and head up the hill. Extremely winding roads which are two lanes , but seem to be made for extremely skinny cars. It is still dark out when we started and not getting any lighter. A mist is falling, but we hope when we reach the top, which is above the clouds, it will be clear. There are many blind curves and areas where the outside lane is very close to the steep dropoffs, but being it is still dark and cloudy, we don't see that. If the clouds had lifted we probably would be more scared then we are now. At times the clouds and fog make it hard to see the lines on the road. It would be nice if the line of traffic was in front of us instead of behind us. We could just follow the lights. But, Jerry likes to drive very slow. Then, all of a sudden we rose above the clouds and the sky is brighter, but still misting. As we reach an observation area, we see all the trailers that carry the bicycles to the top for people to ride them to the bottom. Can't imagine how much that must hurt to ride 27 miles on a skinny bike seat. I know that it is all downhill, but you don't stand the whole way!! Then the sky starts to really brighten, but we can't see any sun. What a disappointment. We park and walk to a view area. Great time for a shot showing the sign saying we have reached an elevation of 10,023 feet. And ...... it's freezing! 40 degrees. The gloves and hats we packed in our suitcase for our June vacation really come in handy today. We stayed for an hour or so and finally the sun came through. Warmed us up! The Hawaiians call the summit the "House of the sun." Fantastic views of the massive depression which is the 7 miles across and 2 miles wide. 800 feet deep abyss which is primarily barren terrain. It was thought that the last time the volcano erupted was in 1790, but tests have shown that is was really in the 1600s. Close to the summit the US Government has constructed a neat
telescope. Great place to have one since there is very little interference from city lights up on the summit. Time for the ride down. We continue to the east as we descend and stop at the Sunrise Market and Protea Farm. Proteas are huge flowers that are very colorful. We end our day trip with a stop in Paia for breakfast at Charlie's. Biggest pancakes I ever saw. All I needed was one! Covered the entire plate and was darn near an inch thick. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. PS - Pixs from top are: Carol and LDub high on life, massive amounts of bicycles to ride 27 miles down the volcano, beautiful view showing roadway, flower at Protea Farm and Ldub eating a HUGE pancake for breakfast.