Extraordinary Stories

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Sunday, April 30, 2017

The "Sometimes It Gives Me The Heebie Jeebies" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Doing some searching online about something known as an "idiom".  Every heard of an "idiom"?  I have been hearing them and using them just about all my lifetime, but wasn't sure what they were called.  I'm sure when I was a public school student I knew what the word "idiom" meant, but over time I tend to forget the meaning of words unless I use them all the time.  So, what does it mean when you say ... "You're giving me the heebie jeebies"?  Well, it means you're making me uncomfortably nervous.  And, the heebie jeebies is an American English idiom.  I've never found if it may be used in other languages other than American English, but if so, it may perhaps mean something entirely different.  So, how about saying to someone ... you're scaring the bejeebers out of me.  In this case it means to shock or frighten someone very suddenly and/or severely.  Same goes for the idiom screaming abdabs which means you are inducing an attack of extreme anxiety or irritation in someone.  Therefore when you say, "You're giving me the screaming abdabs," you mean you're giving me an attack of delirium tremens.  OK, I realize you have no idea what delirium tremens might be.  It is a rapid onset of confusion.  Now, I could give you a few idioms that you may recognize such as: Mumbo jumbo which denotes confusing language; Hocus pocus which means bringing about some sort of change; Let your freak flag fly which means to let others see your uniqueness; Stick to your guns which means to refuse to compromise or change you mind; Pound the pavement which means to walk the streets looking for a job; Leave no stone unturned means to do everything you can to achieve your goal; Cut somebody some slack which means to give someone a break or not judge them too severely; Once in a blue moon which means when something rarely happens; Go down in flames which means to end or fail suddenly and spectacularly; Hang in there which means wait and be patient; Running on fumes which means to continue to stay awake when feeling exhausted; Blow smoke which means to exaggerate or say things that aren't true to make you seem better: Be tickled pink means to be excited by all the compliments you've received; A Baker's dozen which means thirteen; Skeleton Crew means the minimum number of people needed to do something; No-Brainer which means an easy decision; and Piece of Cake which means having a piece of cake ... and ice cream.  Nah, it really means when something is extremely easy to do.  Then there are funny English idioms that you may not know such as: Do a Devon Loch which means you suddenly fail when everybody expects you to succeed, since Devon Loch was a racehorse that collapsed just short of the finish line in 1956; Bob's your uncle which means 'everything is alright' or something will be done, sorted or successful; Do a runner which means leaving in a hurry to avoid having to pay for something; Hairy at the heel which means a person is ill-bred, dangerous or untrustworthy; If you'll pardon my French means you are apologizing for swearing; Cat got your tongue which means you are unable to speak; More holes than Swiss cheese means something has a lot of problems; and When pigs fly means it will never happen.   And, have you ever had the collywobbles?  This idiom refers to a feeling of fear or nervousness.  So now my good readers, you have had your language lesson for the day.  I was a "C" student in English when I was in elementary, junior high and high school.  Oh yeah, add college to that list, and haven't progressed much beyond that after school, as you can see.  But, when it comes to telling stories, I have the Whole Delfrunken!!  And, you can make up whatever you think that means ... since that's exactly what I did.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The "So What Are The Chances Of This Happening?: Part II - Another Meeting" Story

It was an ordinary day.  10:00 am and I'm sitting in the waiting room at Lancaster General Hospital while my wife preps for breast cancer surgery.  A few weeks ago, during a routine mammogram, she sensed an uneasiness in the exam room.  Wasn't long before she got the news that she was going to need a biopsy to determine if the two lumps in her breast were malignant.  After the biopsy, and the news that one lump was cancerous, test after test and doctor's appointment after doctor's appointment followed.  Finally it was time to shop for a sports bra as her surgeon had suggested for post-op support.  If you read yesterday's story, you got a chance to meet Mary as my wife did during her search for the sport bra.  Well, after their meeting and the remarkable circumstances they shared, I was anxious to meet her husband, Ronnie.  We arrived about 9:30 am for her 1:00 pm surgery.  She first needed to have a needle inserted into her breast showing the exact location of the lump that was to be removed.  After she changed into her hospital gown an IV was inserted in her right arm and she was wheeled to the next location, across the street to a different facility, for the insertion of the needle to guide the doctor to the exact spot where the cancer cells were found.  Then she was given an injection of nuclear material into the breast which would drain into the sentinel node which the doctor was also to remove.  10:00 am now and I am sitting in the waiting room.  I figured that Mary and her husband might have arrived by now, since her surgery is immediately after Carol's surgery with Dr. Beyer.  Had no idea what Mary's husband looked like so I went to the check-in desk and spoke to the same young woman, who had helped my wife an hour ago, to ask about Mary's husband Ronnie.  "A woman by the name of Mary is going to be here soon.  My wife met her a week or so ago when they were both shopping for sport's bras.  Her husband's name is Ronnie and I was wondering if you can tell me what he might look like."  She asked me, "What's their last name?"  I responded, "I have no idea!"  The young girl at the next check-in station asked if my name was Larry and I told her yes.  "I just checked Mary in and her husband asked about you.  He's wearing a tan top with a green sweater and two gold chains around his neck.  Shouldn't be hard to find!" she said to me.  I began my search and before long I was standing close to a guy who had the two gold chains around his neck.  We looked at each other and he said, "Larry."  I responded, "You must be Ronnie."  We spent an hour together until I was called back to the pre-op room to be with Carol until she was taken for her surgery.  I told her all about our meeting and how we are also so similar.  "He's a retired policeman.  They live in Mount Joy, not far from where our sons live.  He's into watching Mecum and Jackson-Barrett Auto Auctions on TV and I told him about seeing Wayne Carini from "Chasing Classic Cars" in the airport a few years ago.  Told me they had a Ford Coupe and I told him about our Vette.  Then we talked about cars we recently had and we found out we both had Mountaineers.  Talk about having things in common."  After I returned to the waiting area and Ronnie returned from his visit with his wife, we resumed our talk, much to the astonishment of his daughter who was with him.  She sat amazed as we talked as if we had known each other for years.  We both agreed we have to get together to share more stories after our wives have recuperated from their surgery.  We parted when I was called back to Carol's room after her surgery.  I spent the next half-hour or so with Carol as she recovered in post-op.  She was finally cleared to leave so I headed to the parking garage to get the car.  When she finally got into the car she said, "Just after you left, they wheeled Mary down the hall right past me where I sat in the wheel-chair.  I called, 'Mary, is that you?' and we wished each other a speedy recovery as they continued down the hall with Mary on the litter.  I have to call her in a day or two to see how she's doing.  We'll have to get together and see what else we have in common."  I agreed.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The "So What Are The Chances Of This Happening?: Part I - The Meeting" Story

Foreword: I recently posted several stories in which I took you with me on my journey through prostate cancer.  I hope the stories may at some time in the future lend a hand to another person who will face the same as I did.  What I never published before was the fact that about three weeks after I found I had prostate cancer, my wife found she had breast cancer.  We renewed our life-long bond as we began our journeys to be cancer free ... together.  Today, Carol is having her lumpectomy which I will write about in the near future.  Today's story will give you a look into a remarkable friendship that she, as well as myself, have developed with another couple that until our illnesses struck, we never knew.  Follow with me and see if you agree it was ... well, meant to be!

It was an ordinary day.  Sitting in the waiting room at Lancaster General Hospital talking with Ronnie, my new friend.  I had never met Ronnie until I found him looking at me in the waiting room a few minutes ago.  Story goes like this ... Carol was told by her surgeon that she should buy a sports bra to help her with maximum support after her surgery.  A few weeks ago she headed to the local mall to do her shopping.  She entered one of the anchor stores and found the bra section.  After looking at a few samples she walked to the other end of the department to see if they had other choices.  Not finding any, she walked back to the original counter to buy one.  There stood a petite woman a few years older than Carol, holding up two sports bras.  She mentioned to Carol that she was searching for a sports bra.  Carol told her she was also.  Then she said she needed one since she was going to have breast surgery.  "That's why I'm looking also," Carol told her.  "I'm having my surgery on April 5th," the woman mentioned.  "Me too.  My surgery is scheduled for 1:00 PM," Carol said.  The woman looked astonished as she said, "My surgery is at 2:00 PM and my surgeon is Dr. Beyer."  Carol told me she was getting freaked out, but said, "He's my surgeon too."  What are the chances of all this happening?  They talked a bit more and Carol sensed that her new friend was very anxious so they talked about the surgery and what they could expect.  She found out her new friend's name was Mary.  They agreed that they should exchange names and phone numbers so they could support each other through their journey with breast cancer.  As Mary reached into her pocketbook for paper to exchange information, she pulled out a circular piece that already had her name and phone number on it.  "I have no idea why this paper is in here."  Looking at Carol she said, "This meeting was meant to be!"  After a few tears and a big hug, Mary told Carol she must go, since her husband was waiting in the parking lot for her.  Carol said I would have come with her, but I just had prostate surgery and wasn't up to the trip.  Mary said, "My husband also had prostate cancer a few years ago. His doctor was Dr. Seiber."  Wow, now it's really getting creepy as Carol told her, "That's who just did my husband's surgery."  Mary told Carol that she is Catholic and after crossing herself told her she would say a prayer for Carol.  Carol said, "I'm Episcopalian, which is pretty close, and I'll say a prayer for you, also."  Well, today as I sat in the waiting room, I tried to figure out how I could find Mary's husband, Ronnie.  Follow along tomorrow for more amazing circumstances.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The "Was This The Breaking Point? Story

It was an ordinary day.  Standing in front of the exhibit which tells the story of the Christiana Riot in 1851.  The display is located in the LancasterHistory.org buiding at 230 West President Ave. in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Making my second visit to the display to make sure I had all the facts about the riot before I tried to understand it as well as write about it.  The more I read about what happened on September 11 of that year the more I wonder how important the event was to the start of the Civil War.  The display is titled "Freedom: To Secure The Blessings of Liberty" and is the second display they have presented to the public in their new building since opening it.  There are a few artifacts that remain from the riot that are on display in the museum.  Posters showing some of the scenes in the riot tell the story of William Parker and Edward Gorsuch, the two principle characters in the riot.  
William Parker's farmhouse in Christiana, Pennsylvania
All started in 1850 when the federal Fugitive Slave Act strength- ened the position of slaveowners seeking to capture runaway slaves.  Mr. Gorsuch, a Maryland farmer, had lost four slaves when they fled over the Mason-Dixon line into Pennsylvania.  They found their way to Parker's farm in Christiana, Pennsylvania.  Parker was a former slave who had himself escaped to Pennsylvania where he became an abolitionist and anti-slavery activist as well as a leader of a black self-defense organization.  By that time in history, some 3,000 free African Americans and fugitive slaves lived in Lancaster County, which was one of the easiest routes north for slaves to escape slavery from the south.  Lancaster had a highly organized Underground Railroad with close to fifty permanent safe haven "stations" scattered across the landscape.  
Abolitionist and Temperance leader William Whipper
was born in Drumore Twp., entered into partnership
with Stephen Smith of Columbia, PA, to create one
of the most successful lumberyards in PA.  He was
an operative on the Underground Railroad leading
many slaves from Virginia and Maryland to freedom. 
Parker was known well in Christiana for his bravery and for providing safe haven for escaped slaves.  His place was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad.  Also, in the area was a fairly large population of Quakers who were also in favor of freedom for the slaves.  At one point, he gave aide to four slaves in his home.  Eventually Gorsuch led a party of slave catchers into Lancaster County.  After hearing they were on the farm of William Parker, he and his son Dickenson, as well as Deputy Marshal Henry Kline and a few other helpers headed to the farm.  Word spread and Parker knew of what was coming.  His wife Eliza blew a horn out the window of their home to notify the neighbors and members of the self-defense group of the emergence of the group that was coming.  Some fifty to one hundred African Americans, as well as Quakers, armed with guns, pitchforks and other weapons ran to the house. Among the first to arrive was Castner Hanway, a white miller and Parker's closest neighbor, who, after the slave catchers arrived, tried to calm the mob and warned Gorsuch and Kline to leave before things became violent.  
Artist rendition of the tragedy at Christiana.
Gorsuch refused to leave without his "property" and the slaves refused to surrender.  So, "all hell broke loose" as they say.  As the gunfire began Gorsuch fell, mortally wounded.  Then, as his son ran to help him, Parker's brother-in-law shot him.  Deputy Kline and the rest fled for their lives with the mob in hot pursuit.  A few days later vigilantes tried to round up Parker and his brother-in-law, but they already, along with the slaves, fled to Canada.  
Peter Woods, left, and Samuel Hopkins pose with the corn
knife used in the Christiana Resistance in front of the ruins
of the home of William Parker.
The law was swift with 38 men indicted on 117 counts of treason inclucing Castner Hanway, whom Deputy Kline accused of leading the mob and refusing to aid, as the federal law required, in the recapture of the escaped slaves.  It was at this point that Thaddeus Stevens, Pennsylvania's Congressman and lawyer, defended Hanway.  The eighteen-day trial, which began on November 24, 1851, found Hanway, and all others, not guilty of treason due to the fact that Deputy Kline, the leading witness, was shown to have been hiding in the cornfields and didn't see a thing.  
This knife was primarily used for harvesting corn
on Pennsylvania farms, but became a weapon
during the battle with Gorsuch and his men on
September 11, 1851.  This knife and the above
photographs are on display at Lancaster's Museum.
In the riot's aftermath tensions and violence escalated along the Pennsylvania and Maryland border.  Castner Hanway became an abolitionist after the trial and inspired others to join.  The Underground  Railroad continued to help fugitive slaves escape to freedom.  Then in 1857 another fugitive slave law trial, the Dred Scott case, once again stirred up public opinion on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.  The Civil War did not officially begin for another ten years after the Christiana Riot, but I wonder if the Christiana Riot wasn't one of the main reasons the war began.  The display in the museum leads one to think that may have been the case.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.     

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The "A Visit to The Green Dragon" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Spent the past hour or so visiting the Bollman Hat Company in Adamstown, Pennsylvania with my brother Steve.  Had an interesting tour, but what happened afterward was just as interesting.  Told Steve a few months ago about my visit to Bollman and he asked if he could go along.  
Sign on PA Route 272 telling of the Green Dragon.
He said, "After we stop at the hat place how about we have lunch at the Green Dragon."  Hadn't been to the Green Dragon for years so I thought it would be a great idea to spend some extra time with my brother.  Steve is a frequent visitor to the Green Dragon which is about a ten minute drive from Adamstown in Ephrata, PA.  Green Dragon Farmer's Market and Auction is open year round on Fridays, 9 am to 9 pm.  
Aerial view of the grounds of the Green Dragon.
The atmosphere is similar to that of a carnival and state fair all rolled into one.  The Green Dragon is part flea market, part souvenir haven, part food market and part auction house with over 400 vendors located on 30 acres in Pennsylvania Dutch Country.  Green Dragon is one of the largest Amish-run and regulated farmers markets in the United States.  You will be sharing the 20 acre parking lot with Amish buggies and will find many of the stands are Amish-run.  
Amish buggy parking lot.
Our journey to the Green Dragon today is to visit the auction house as well as take advantage of the multitude of eating places.  We first stopped at the auction house where Steve spends many a Friday, buying boxes of items that he re-sells on eBay.  Funny how people from all over the world love to buy items from Amish Country.  Steve walked the perimeter of the indoor auction, looking to see if he might want to come back when the auction begins.  
Items for sale at the auction the
day or our visit.
Found a few boxes that had baseball cards and other collectibles in them, but didn't seem to be too interested.  Left that auction house and entered the small animal auction house to see what animals were to be auctioned today.  A few crates of rabbits, guinea pigs, homing pigeons as well as a few boxes that had fantail pigeons in them.  Then the whiff of the food finally got to us.  Wound our way past the chocolate-covered bacon, apple dumplings, whoopie pies, cream-filled donuts and long johns, sticky buns and home-made pot pie to Steve's favorite stand that sells sandwiches with just about anything in them.  He ordered a turkey sub and I had an double oyster sandwich.  Naturally had to get some fries and a drink to go along with the sandwiches.  
Firemen work to control the fire at the Green Dragon.
Found a place to sit and eat and Steve told me a few more facts about the place.  The Green Dragon opened in 1932 and has 20,000 to 25,000 people visit every Friday of the year, unless Christmas falls on a Friday.  There have been very few times it ever had to close, but on Saturday, September 13, 2014 at 8:20 pm, a devastating fire leveled the main building which left the market unable to operate.  Within a week the Green Dragon reopened, with the main building staying closed until it could be rebuilt.  
Some of the many outdoor stands.
Those vendors who lost their spot in the main building found space elsewhere on site.  As we ate lunch Steve told me he would like to have a stand in the near future.  I asked him what he plans to sell and he said he might like to sell stained glass pieces.  It was at that time he told me I was going to make stained glass pieces for him and he also wanted me to show him how to make stained glass pieces.  Well, if you have been reading my stories, you probably read the one about my getting back into teaching once again.  Can't wait to see how well they sell.  May have to begin to make stained glass pieces once again.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy. 

Produce primarily grown in Lancaster County.
You can purchase just about any item you may need or want.
Pigeons for auction the day Steve and I visited.
Rows of vendors line many acres of the Green Dragon.
Another vendor selling stones and gems.
An outdoor hay auction was taking place.
Made a stop here before trying to find the car.
Old Black and White showing the entrance into the Livestock Auction.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The "Speak Softly: Revisited" Story

Abraham Lincoln speaks in Lancaster in 1861 at the Imprerial Hotel.
It was an ordinary day.  Reading a blog on the Lancaster Historical Society's website which is written by Marianne who is the daughter of friends Carol and I have from St. James Church.  In the story she posted titled "Speak Softly...", she tells of the visit to Lancaster in 1912 by former President Theodore Roosevelt.  
Lancaster Train Station in downtown Lancaster.
Wasn't too long ago that I wrote of a visit to Lancaster by Abraham Lincoln while he was on his way to Washington, D.C. for his Inauguration in 1861.  He rode into Lancaster on the train and stopped downtown at the train station.  Directly across the street from the station was the Imperial Hotel.  He stood on the balcony of the hotel, along East Chestnut Street, and addressed the crowd before boarding the train and heading toward D.C.  
Ex-President Theodore Rossevelt speaking at the same location.
As I read Marianne's blog story, I realized that the balcony at the Imperial, later renamed the Brunswick Hotel, was also the platform for Roosevelt on April 10 in 1912.  After exiting the train at Queen and Chestnut, the ex-President made his way through the gathering crowd of several thousand Lancasterians.  
Hotel Brunswick at the corner of Queen and Chestnut streets.
It was first named the Imperial Hotel.
After he reached the balcony he waved his hat to the crowd and began his twenty-minute speech which was, in part, as follows:  "If I were asked to put in a single sentence the progressive creed, I should say that it is a realization of the fact that this country will not be a good place for any man to live in unless it is a pretty fair place for all men to live in.  I know perfectly well that each man's character must ever-remain the fundamental fact determining success in life, but I ask that so far as possible, by law, in every way necessary, we secure equality of opportunity for every man; that we shape our social and industrial conditions so that every man and every woman shall be able, if he or she are of the right stuff to have the conditions of life and work such as to enable them to rise to the exacting duties of American citizenship."  
Richard Nixon was greeted by hoards of Amish on his visit.
Just as when Lincoln passed through Lancaster, Rossevelt exited quickly, getting back on the train and heading west, out of Lancaster.  And then, as I continued reading Marianne's stories, I learned a bit more about Richard Nixon's trip to Lancaster County in 1960.  He was greeted by the Pennsylvania Amish who all wanted to shake his hand.  He too spoke from Lancaster's Brunswick Hotel.  The crowd of thousands greeted him with red roses (the historical flower of The House of Lancaster) and shoo-fly pies.  That year he swept Lancaster County, but lost the presidential election.  Marianne says in her final sentence: "In hindsight, knowing all the Watergate shenanigans, these photos just seem downright creepy."  I agree!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The "Seasons Of Farming In Lancaster County" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Just finished snapping the final photo that is needed for my story today.  All began over two years  ago when I found a beautiful Lancaster County farm to the south of the city and took a photo of it during the fall when the corn stalks were at their fullest and pumpkins were scattered on another field.  Then I made another trip to the exact same farm in the winter and spring for more photos.  Loaded all the photos into a file in my iPhoto program and then ... presto, somehow all were deleted.  Thought it would make a neat story showing everyone the four seasons in Lancaster County farming,  but I decided to choose a farm closer to my home so I wouldn't have to drive close to an hour to take the photos once again.  Ten minutes away was the perfect farm and I began the photo assignment all over again.  Today I took the final seasonal photo and am ready to share them with you.  But first, a bit about Lancaster Co. farms and the seasons we go through during the year.  Lancaster, Pennsylvania has been called the "Garden Spot of America" and has some of the best farm land, rich in all minerals necessary for farming, in the United States.  And, quite a bit of that farmland is owned by the Pennsylvania Amish.  They don't believe in using modern technology, such as tractors, and thus they farm with methods used before technology existed.  Mule drawn farm equipment can be seen on just about any rural road in Lancaster, making it feel and seem as if we are living in another era in history.  But, the farms are beautiful and the farming methods, though from by-gone times, make the most of the land.  I chose a farm that was in a small valley to make it easier to photograph.  Made trips to the farm in the spring, summer, fall (autumn) and winter and attempted to take a photo from the same exact location.  Not sure I accomplished my goal, but I believe you will be able to get an idea of the seasons in Lancaster County farming.  Follow along, using the photographs as a guide for my story.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - click on photographs to enlarge.
Summer - In summer the farms in Lancaster County look like a patchwork quilt with fields of tobacco next to fields of corn, wheat or even soybeans.  Summer is traditionally very hot and humid with periods of rain making it perfect for good crop production.  Summer runs from the March Equinox to the June Equinox.  This photo was taken on Wiindy Tor Road which is directly off of Snake Hill Road.  If you notice, there are no electrical lines running to the farm, since it is an Amish farm and they do not believe in any form of technology that connects them to the outside world.  Fields of corn are beginning to show tassels which means the ears are developing.  The lower field in the foreground may be filled with soybean plants, but from my photo is hard to determine.  The farm has double silos which hold the feed for the livestock on the farm.  on the far right of the photo you can see a line of clothes drying in the summer air.  Amish usually have a pulley system for their washlines.
Fall - Leaves haven't changed yet in this photo, but the corn has been harvested by mule drawn equipment and stored in silos to be used for food for the livestock in the winter.  In fall, the weather becomes drier, with comfortable days stirred by cool breezes and nights that begin to get chilly.  Shorts and t-shirts are exchanged for jeans and long-sleeved shirts with a jacket or sweater.  Harvest festivals and winery activities are held throughout Lancaster County.  School is back in session and Friday Night football games dot the landscape.  Fall is called Autumn by many in Lancaster County and it runs from the September Equinox to the December Solstice.
Winter - Had some trouble getting this photo since roads in Lancaster County farmland areas were snow covered for quite some time.  The farmers rely on snow to irrigate the land during the winter.  Winter temperatures in Lancaster County are usually in the high 20s to low 30s during the day with temperatures in the teens or below during the night.  Cold spells can lower both day and night temperatures by 10 degrees or more.  Field farming drops off, but livestock still need to be cared for.  The Pennsylvania Farm Show is held in the winter in nearby Harrisburg which features farm animals and activities.  Farm chores still demand time and equipment maintenance needs to be done.  Mud sales begin in late winter and last into the spring season.  What is a mud sale you may ask.  Well, they are a Lancaster County phenonomon and are held to replentish the coffers of all the volunteer fire companies of Lancaster County.  Farmers lend a hand since they have more time available before spring planting begins. A mud sale is much like a garage or sidewalk sale where you might find just about anything for sale.  Call a "mud sale" since the ground where the sale is held usually gets very muddy and you may need a pair of boots to walk the grounds.  Amish children go to school in one-room school houses which line the country roads in Lancaster County.  Winter runs from the December Solstice to March Equinox. 
Spring - Springtime is a busy time around the farm.  The mud sales are just about over for the season, but quilt shows and home builders shows fill what spare time the farmers may have.  More events around the farm begin to move outdoors due to the warming temperatures.  The mule teams are busy tilling and planting the fields which no longer are covered with snow.  A rebirth of greenery can be seen throughout the landscape.  Evenings still are cool and a light jacket comes in handy.  Baseball games can be found in the fields on Sunday afternoons after Amish Church services have ended for the day.  Spring runs from the March Equinox to the June Solstice at which time everything starts all over again.  The cycle of seasons is a remarkable time in Lancaster County.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The "Totally Gross Tattoo Preservation" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Reading about what I may be asked to mat and frame in the near future.  Since retiring from teaching in 1999, I have worked at Grebinger Gallery in Neffsville, PA matting and framing a variety of items; everything from historical documents and family portraitures to swim caps and sheep's wool.  Now it seems I may be asked to mat and frame ... you ready for this ... human tattoos.  Seems it all started back in 2014 when Peter van der Helm and Judith van Bezu began the foundation for the art and science of tattooing.  The foundation was based in Amsterdam and exists largely to preserve tattoos after a person dies.  These tattoos can be given to relatives or displayed in exhibits of tattoo art.  
Charles Hamm showing his NAPSA certificate
Not much more was heard about the procedure or how it was done, until recently when a Cleveland, Ohio accountant, 60 year old Charles Hamm, formed a new non-profit known as the National Association for the Preservation of Skin Art (NAPSA).  Mr. Hamm has developed a process by which tattoos and the skin surrounding them can be removed from your corpse and preserved, allowing your friends or relatives to literally keep a piece of you forever.  My youngest son has covered close to 75% of his body with skin art and some of it is beautiful.  I wrote a story a few years ago telling of my trip to the tattoo parlor with him to watch him get a tattoo on his leg in honor of his grandmother, my mom.  
My son Tad (left) and and tattoo artist Steve
The artist, Steve, was a former student of mine who was an extremely talented artist in high school.  Just as Steve finished, he handed me his tattoo tool and asked me to put the finishing dot on his work.  I was honored and did just that.  I'm not quite sure what my son would think of Mr. Hamm's idea, but if he chose to have one of his tattoos preserved and passed on to a friend or relative, he would first have to join NAPSA.  There is $115 fee to join NAPSA with yearly dues of $60.  
LDub working on the tattoo
If you have more than one tattoo you want to will to someone, the cost is $100 for each additional tattoo.  If you sign up when you are older, and perhaps your tattoos have begun to wrinkle, your $60 may not have to be paid too many years before you die.  But, for my son who is just over 40, it could cost him plenty for the yearly membership fee.  The beneficiary does get a stipend of $2,000 to defray the costs of preserving the tattoo.  Mr. Hamm, who has invested thousands of dollars on his tattoos, believes his foundation will allow people carrying tattoos on them to will their artwork to whomever they may wish.  So, just how does this procedure work.  Well, after paying your fee to join, and the yearly dues, you take photos of the willed tattoos and upload the images and story behind the tattoo to the NAPSA website.  
This is the framed piece of preserved skin.  Don't
count of me to do this for you.  Totally gross!
After death, your beneficiary contacts NAPSA who overnights a kit with instructions for removal within 60 hours; usually to the funeral home.  The tattooed skin is returned in a prepaid package and within six months the tattoo is returned to the beneficiary.  Now, it becomes my job to finish the job for you.  What color mat and what style frame do you want to display the dead friend or relative's skin?  Pretty gross, right?  And, I have to handle it!  Not sure what I will do when Keith, the owner of the shop and a former student of mine, tells me what I am framing.  Certainly will pull a pair of gloves over my hands.  And, what about the smell?  Does preserved, yet still dead, skin smell?  If so, does it smell like death?  And, exactly what does death smell like?  I'm beginning to freak myself out right now ... so this is the end of the story.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.      

Friday, April 21, 2017

The "Wow, Say It Ain't So, Jimmy" Story

A favorite, Jimmy Buffet.
It was an ordinary day.  Reading online about a fabulous idea that Jimmy William Buffet came up with.  You know who Jimmy Buffet is, right?  The guy who brings out all the parrot-heads for a concert.  The guy who is famous for "Cheeseburgers In Paradise."  And the guy who I love to sing along with every time I hop in the car for a trip to the store or even a trip that may take a few hours before I reach my destination.  Same guy that my wife says I don't know all his lyrics and seem to make up whatever I want the songs to say.  Well, it seems that he plans to open a chain of Margaritaville Funeral Homes in a 55-and-older retirement community in Daytona Beach.  Gonna call the place Latitude Margaritaville.  When he opens the first funeral home he will have a place where the parrot-heads can have a cradle-to-the-grave experience; all his fans will be able to die in 3/4 time.  It won't be long before the fad will spread all over the country as well as other parts of the world where Jimmy's fans are located.  A recent story online says that he is excited to bring the funeral experience the fun and escapism that Margaritaville has to offer.  The "Volcano Memorial Experience" will shoot your loved one's ashes into the air from a small model volcano.  
His new Logo!
Now, how cool can that be?  His "The Night (dad, grandpa, etc.) Painted The Sky" fireworks package will place the cremation ashes into a fireworks to be shot off at the memorial service.  You will also be able to have one of his many glassblowers make a large shot glass with some of the ashes inside it.  Each funeral home will have a "Buffett Tribute Band" to play your favorite Buffet songs during the service.  Now, I'll tell you, I don't usually don't get excited about funerals, especially my own, but this is a really neat idea.  I approached my wife about the idea, telling her I wanted our framed picture of Jimmy, and the tickets from the concert that we went to a few years ago, to be ignited along with me when I died.  After telling her all about the new idea that Jimmy Buffet has come up with, she smiled and looked at me saying, "Do you realize what day it is today?  April 1st!  Guess the joke's on you!" I said, "Ah, jeeze!  I really thought he had a great idea and I'll bet he would have made a fortune.  Wait a minute!  Why couldn't I do something like that?"  Carol said, "You don't even know the real lyrics to his songs!"  She's right, as usual.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The "Baseball Played The Right Way!" Story

Grandson Caden who just turned 12 last week.
It was an ordinary day.  Talking to my grandson, Caden, about how well he did in his pre-season game today.  Told me he played 3rd a couple of innings, SS a couple of innings, 1st for an inning and pitched an inning.  Said he struck out two batters, walked one and another hit the ball back to him and he threw him out.  Since I have been having some medical problems, I haven't been able to see any of his preseason games, but all that will change Tuesday evening when his league season begins and the weather is predicted to be mild.  My son, Derek, is coaching Caden's team for the 2nd year.  Had a fantastic season last year and with Caden leading the way on the mound this year, he hopes to have another good season.  I then asked Caden what he thought of the new rule change that has been initiated this year in the Major Leagues.  Rule states that instead of having to throw four pitches to intentionally walk a batter, you just have to declare you want to walk the batter and he just goes to first base.  The rule was changed to attempt to speed up the game.  Caden said he saw it called one time on TV in the pre-season, but not since the season has begun.   I told Caden I didn't think it was going to speed up the game more than a minute or two.  And, it may take the thrill out of walking the batter without making a mistake along the way.  I told Caden I remember a few years ago, while watching a Jr. Midget (ages 13-14) game at Mt. Joy's Kunkle Field with his uncle, and my other son Tad, the Manheim Township team filled the bases with two outs.  The team leader for MT came to the plate with his team behind by two runs.  Then, something happened that doesn't happen very often.  The manager for the other team told his pitcher to intentionally walk the batter, which would give MT a run, but stop the batter from getting a hit and scoring more than the one run.  The pitcher threw three balls far away from the batter, but on his final ball, threw a bit to close to the batter who swung his bat and hit the ball over the fence.  MT won the game.  So, announcing you want to walk the batter without pitching to him will take that slim chance away that something exciting may happen during an intentional walk.  I also remember a World Series game years ago when the manager walked to the mound to talk to his pitcher.  The batter had three balls and two strikes on him and when the manager left the mound it looked as if he was telling the pitcher to throw another ball and intentionally walk the batter.  So, the batter just stood there, waiting to walk to first.  Funny thing happened though when the pitcher threw it across the plate and struck the batter out.  Sort of a trick play, but not illegal.  So, am I in favor of the new rule?  Not at all!  May save 35 seconds during the game, as established by an baseball analyst, but takes away from the excitement of the intentional walk.  Caden agreed with me, but of course he is my grandson who would agree with anything his Tampah said.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.   

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The "How Could They Have Done This?" Story

Colored chicks waiting to be sold.
It was an ordinary day.  Time of the year which I have fond memories of from my childhood.  The Easter Bunny leaving baskets of chocolate hidden around the house, Easter Sunday and my chance to wear the new suit to church that I got yearly at this time of the year and ... the colored  baby chicks that my parents bought for me to raise until just about full grown when we would take them to my Uncle's father's farm and release them.  
Advertisement from Lancaster County years ago.
Yep, I was one of those kids who had parents who would allow me to have just about any animal that I wanted, as long as I cared for it.  Anything from a parakeet to a horned toad to white mice and rats to a multitude of guinea pigs which I raised and then sold.  Made enough money selling them that I was able to buy my first car at the age of 16.  But, back then, I had no idea what those poor little chicks had to go through in order to be someone's pet at Easter.  
Baby rabbits were also colored.  I feel so bad for them!
Those colored chicks, or peeps as some call them, were dyed in one of two ways.  The dye is either injected in the incubating egg or sprayed on the hatchling while in a rotating drum.  Poultry farmers say it is harmless, but these are more than likely the same farmers who will eventually chop the heads off the chicken when it is fat enough to eat.  After Easter, many of the chicks will die since the children who receive them, and the parents who bought them, will tire of them and set them free in the neighborhood or just neglect them until they die.  
Magazine cartoon featuring a dyed chicken.
I must admit that I was never one of those kids and my parents were never one of those parents, but we must have been the exception, since half of the states in the United States now have laws against the practice of coloring chicks and quite a few municipalities, in those states that still allow it, now have laws against it.  The outcry from animal rights groups has been swift and continues to be.  Had my parents known what I now do, I'm hoping they would never had bought colored chicks for me when I was a child.  Actually, the candy and new suit were more than enough for any child to have received for Easter.  Soon time for all states to ban the practice, not only with chicks, but with the dyed baby bunnies that I still see from time to time this time of the year.  It really is an unnecessary as well as unacceptable practice which certainly teaches animal cruelty to young children at an age when they should be learning the proper care of pets.  Just my opinion, so it is!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The "Roslyn" Story

My recent photo showing the trimming of the trees on the property.
It was an ordinary day.  Standing at 1035 Marietta Ave. taking a few updated photos of the residence known as Roslyn.  A few years ago I wrote a series of stories telling about Lancaster architect C. (Cassius) Emlen Urban.  His work is well known in the Lancaster area as well as neighboring communities.  
An early photograph of "Roslyn".
Mr. Urban was regarded as Lancaster's most distin- guished architect from 1900-1932,  During those years he designed many commercial properties in downtown Lancaster such as the Central Market House, the Greist Building (Lancaster's only skyscraper until a few years ago), Lancaster Theological Seminary and Watt & Shand Building as well as the Hershey Theatre in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  He was also responsible for the Chateauesque style residence of Mr. James H. Watt at 1035 Marietta Ave. in the School Lane Hills (SLH) area of Lancaster.  
Photo I took a few years ago.
School Lane Hills, Inc. was formed in 1926 with four stock- holders; the most famous stockholder being James Hale Steinman, owner of the local newspaper and radio station.  The regulations of SLH stated: "Your investment in a home site in SLH is especially safeguarded by the high standard of development that is being maintained, but the unsurpassed location of the property and by the environment created by a selected group of purchasers and owners of homes in this distinctive community ... Plan to build at School Lane Hills." Building took place in SLH for about ten years.
Post leading into the property.
 One rule of SLH group was that no more than ten lots could be sold per year.  Being that Armstrong Cork Co. (Armstrong World Industries) and other Lancaster area companies executives wanted to build in SLH, the houses were spectacular, eventually being designed by architects as well-known as Urban.  Architecture involved the Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival, Georgian Revival and Tudor Revival and retains its status as a residential area for the affluent.  
Photo of the front door.
This area is now a Historic District to the west of the city of Lancaster.  Now, back to my photograph I wanted to take.  "Roslyn" was built in 1896 by Mr. Urban.  It was a baronial mansion designed for Peter T. Watt who was one of the co-founders of the Watt & Shand Department Store in center city Lancaster.  Mr. Watt presented the property to his wife, Laura, on her birthday and it remained in the Watt family for over 70 years.  
The Carriage House.
The residence has stepped gables, irregular bays, round turrets having dormers and conical roofs, six chimneys, balustraded portico with swag motif, porte cochere and interior stained glass by Rudy Brothers of Pittsburgh.  The home has 8 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, a library, a breakfast room, a formal dining room and the usual living room and kitchen.  
Interior stairwell as seen on the realtor's website.
The house had been owned since the 1970s by an Eshelman family.  Mrs. Eshelman recently died and the property is being readied for sale.  The Estate has been labeled level-1 high importance and is recognized by the Lancaster County Historic Site Registry and National Register of Historic Places.  Both the house "Roslyn" and the Carriage House have views of President James Buchanan's Wheatland residence on the opposing corner.  
Closer view of stained glass window on the landing.
The first floor of the Carriage House has the original horse stalls and the second floor has 2 bedrooms and one bathroom.  A private garden is included.  So, what do you think?  Interested in this property?  It has 9,320 sq. ft. of space on a corner lot which is 2 acres and includes the 4 car Carriage House.  A true gem.  I have tried to research a price and have come up with this:  Originally priced at $4,999,999, but now reduced to $2,999,999!  Interesting estate with lots of maintenance, but if you can afford the home, I'm sure you could afford the maintenance.  After all, it is one of Lancaster's premier houses. It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Different view from outside the home.
Interior room.
Pond in front of the home. 
Another interior view showing impressive woodworking.
The doorbell system for the entire house.