Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jane Lampton (The Mother of Samuel Clemens) sounds much like my Mom Sally Casey

        In my last post I wrote about receiving a copy of The Autobiography of Mark Twain for Christmas. I have read a couple of chapters each night before going to bed, and Chapter 7 of the book has Clemens recalling his relationship with his own Mother.  When my Mom died, I was told I gave a touching eulogy, but I have never found quite the words to describe my Mom, and how she related to the world around her. I found the very words I was searching for on page 33 of the Autobiography.

   "She had a slender, small body but a large heart ---a heart so large that everybody's grief and everybody's joys found welcome in it and hospitable accomodation."

    Further on Clemens writes:

     Her interest in people and other animals was warm, personal, friendly. She always found something to excuse, and as a rule to love, in the toughest of them --even if she had to put it there herself."

       Those words make me think of all the hard cases like me that Sally Casey took in as a Foster Parent and turned something good out of.  Sally Casey would have turned 94 last Wednesday, and it has been 10 years since her death in 2000.

        It took ten years, but Samuel Clemens, in describing his own Mother, Jane Lampton of Kentucky, is just as easily describing my Mom, Sally Casey, 100 years after HIS death. Thanks Mark Twain, for reaching across the century and doing it for me.

       I highly recommend The Autobiography of Mark Twain as edited by Charles Neider to all my friends out there. It is a wonderful, glimpse into an America before, during, and after the Civil War, and into the early 20th century. Clemens recounting of his childhood and an 19th century American society built on everyone knowing their proper place in social stature is a must read.

Friday, December 24, 2010

What Christmas is supposed To be

      I haven't posted for over two months. I received numerous emails asking why, and if I was okay. To  paraphrase a famous writer whose name currently escapes me, "rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."
      It has been a very tough year. Work has been hard to come by, but I kept busy, and managed to make enough to get by, taking whatever gigs happened to come up, sometimes at the most opportune of times.
    So here it is, Christmas Day, and I have to say, I feel I am incredibly blessed. I have a lot of comforts that many do not, and I appreciate them.

    But it really tweaks me how self indulgent and narrowly focused much of our society has become.

    To put it in perspective, I want to tell you about a maintenance guy named Eddie. This guy has a wife and four kids in Harrisburg, but three years ago took a job in Allentown to feed his family. He works here all week, then takes the Bieber Bus home Friday night, then back here again on Sunday. He stays in a flop house with a dozen other men during the week.

     I don't want to give too much away to expose the people who helped him, because they wanted to stay anonymous. But Eddie cleans the offices where they work, and does a pretty good job. He's not the smartest guy, but he is polite and well mannered. They asked Eddie what he would like for Christmas, and he told them that he could really use a warm coat. It was cold waiting at the bus stop, and he didn't have a decent coat to wear.

    That's all the man wanted for Christmas. A Warm Coat. They didn't know his story, but they did some investigating and found out how hard this guy worked to take care of his family. So for Christmas the folks in this office got together and purchased a few things for him, including a new pair of shoes, socks, a Christmas tree, and of course, a WARM COAT. They also threw in some other gifts for his family

    When they gave it to him this past week, he burst into tears. They delivered the Tree to his home, and witnesses say he didn't seem to know what to do with it, he thought the ornaments were supposed to be toys for his kids.

     That's Christmas

    That is what it is supposed to be about, sharing something you have with someone who may have less than you, and in many cases, a lot less. The man didn't even own a cell phone.

     I am sick of people expecting certain things at Christmas time, as if they have a God given right to be showered with a bunch of stuff they really don't need, but want because the iphone or I pad or whatever is the latest status symbol. And for a few generations now, parents have been teaching their kids to expect the "must have" toy, under the tree.

   This culture of entitlement is disgusting

    A man got a coat, and cries in gratitude, while a 14 year old somewhere cries, screams and throws a tantrum because her phone isn't the pink one she wanted.

   This is the world we have made, and we have to live in it.

    When did we lose what made it so magical? Why is the Christmas I experience in my 50th year so far removed from the one I had at age 10?

     Most people no longer give out of a sense of genuine generosity, but out of a sense of obligation.

     And to me, the spirit has been lost.

     Having written all the above, our family exchanged gifts tonight. When asked what I wanted a few weeks ago, I asked for two simple things, and I got them both. One was the Autobiography of Mark Twain. I am going to put down Ken Follett's "Fall of Giants", and read this instead.

    I am grateful for my gift, from a very thoughtful niece. There is still some spirit left to Christmas after all. I hope some of it survives to next year.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I am not a big fan of Funerals

    I attended the funeral of my wife's best friend today. They are the same age. Her friend was diagnosed with cancer in June, and died last Thursday. It was only two months after her husband died of cancer. That was only 18 months after he was diagnosed.

    Having to attend two funerals in just over 60 days for a couple that is the same age as my wife and I was difficult. They were our friends, and the idea that they were taken in such a short time is hard to rationalize. It just doesn't seem fair.

    I don't need the NFL to tell me about Cancer Awareness. I don't need to see a pink ribbon everywhere I go. All I need to do to be aware of the toll Cancer has taken is think about the two funerals I attended since August. I think about the children, grandchildren, brothers, Sisters, and even parents who were left behind, and the tears that were shed at the graveside today for a life that was cut short, and I can't forget what we have all lost.

   I am tired of attending Funerals for people my own age. I am too damn young for that.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Butterflies as far as the eye can see

Last Weekend I was down at Cape May Point New Jersey for several days taking care of some chores. Saturday Afternoon I took a break and rode my bike over to the Lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park.

     I took my digital camera and headed out onto the nature trail. Mid-September is a magical time in the wetlands along the shore, because THOUSANDS of Butterflies all come out at once.

     A digital camera makes it easy to shoot pictures of the Butterflies literally flocking around you.

I posted one of my pictures here that had a half dozen monarch butterflies grazing on one of the native plants.  Their life cycle is so short, but they possess such beauty. I enjoyed watching the eyes of small children light up as the monarchs fluttered in the air around them. There are some amazingly beautiful moments in life that really defy words. Saturday afternoon was one of them. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coping with Grief is never easy.

In late winter 2010 one of my old Army pals lost his wife in a car accident on an icy road. I didn't find out until about a month after it happened, but we had shared several emails and talked about how he was doing.
  I thought of him today when Yahoo's home page ran a e-news story about the widow of actor Patrick Swayze and how she still sent text messages telling him she loved him a year after his death.
     My friend and his wife both have Facebook pages, and in the Fall of last year they had both gotten hooked on the "Farmville" application. (I have one too, but nothing like theirs) Since she died, he has kept her farm going. He does it because he doesn't want her dog to die. Because she had allergies they couldn't have a real dog, but the dogs had just came available on the application before she died, and she had used her credit card to get Farmville cash and purchase a special one.

    After a certain point, you don't have to feed the dogs at all, but he goes on her Facebook page everyday and feeds it anyway. It's a piece of her he doesn't want to let go. I have wrote about this before, but I checked with him today, and he is still doing it.

     Back in the early 1980's when we were in the Army together, VCR tapes were just getting started. One movie that we rented and made a copy of was the Clint Eastwood Classic, "The Outlaw Josey Wales."

    There were times when things were difficult, and as Demolition guys who worked with explosives, we would quote movie lines to help us cope. At our scariest moments, it seemed like someone would always say, "Dying is Easy, Living is hard."

   That's how we coped with our fear of dying. Living with the death of a soul mate is a pain I wouldn't look forward to dealing with, but I admire my friend for coping whatever way he can. He feeds a cartoon dog that only exists on a computer screen, because it meant a lot to his wife, and still means a lot to him.

     That's Love.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My name is (Tropical Storm) Earl and I'm passing Cape May Point

Greetings from Cape May Point New Jersey. I drove down Thursday and spent the day preparing for the worst. At Sunset I rode my bike down to Stites beach, on the Delaware bay side, and digitally shot the 4 minute Sunset, which was spectacular. This morning at dawn I rode over to the lighthouse and taped the surf pounding in from the Atlantic side by the old Army Bunker.
   I tried to upload those files to blogger but they keep failing, so here's a picture of the crazy surf along the jetty last night.

    Power has flickered a couple of times in the last hour because of the gusty winds. It was weird, because I got up at 6 AM and went out and the air was very still. To use an old cliche', "the calm before the storm." I got coffee at Mc D's this AM and checked my email and the news forecast.
       The weather wonders say the worst will come this evening. I can't get internet on the point, so I have to drive across the causeway to North Cape May and use the Wireless in the MicDonald's here. For a Labor Day weekend the place is pretty much empty. This is what it looks like offseason in November when we come down.  Even the parking Lot at the Acme behind us is maybe a third full, and that is mostly local employees. Rental turnovers usually take place Saturday at noon, but many people left last night. We have had a few rain squalls, but nothing major.
    I have fully charged up the digital camera and borrowed Flip cam, I will be out first thing in the AM after the storm passes to see what the waves did to the beach I was down there last around 10:30 and there were two life guards and one lady in a chair watching the waves roll in. If I could load a U-tube video, I would put up Otis Redding's "sitting on the Dock of the Bay."

    Catch you guys later.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eating Mutant Chicken Eggs

I tried to find a picture at Google images of eggs with multiple yolks, but this is all I could get.
People are always asking me what makes me think the way I do, and I really can't tell them, because I don't know. I would ask all the people in my head, but every time I try they go on conference call and ignore me.
   But the recent recall of a half a billion eggs has me wondering. I eat pretty many eggs, as the Dutchies' around here would say. I don't know what my cholesterol is and I really don't care, But I buy my eggs at Redners, and I usually buy a dozen of the jumbo size about every ten days.
   I have noticed recently that just about every time I make eggs over easy at least one of my eggs has multiple yolks. I'm no expert on genetics, but doesn't that mean it would have been a two headed chicken?
    So am I eating what would have been two headed chickens regularly? I am really curious about that. There's something for the FDA to study, the long term effects of eating eggs from two headed chickens.
    I hereby volunteer, call me, I'm ready. So are the rest of the people in my head. Now if I could just get the IRS to allow me to claim all the voices as dependents.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Funeral for a Friend

  Last Wednesday I attended a burial service for a friend, a guy barely over fifty. While we were standing at the grave around 11:00AM, I thought back to all the funerals I had attended as a kid. My Dad was heavily involved in Catholic church activities, and I was an altar boy. I only lived a block from the church, so I naturally got the call to serve mass and carry the incense at graveside services during the summer months when school was out. You might think that sucked, going to funerals for people you don't really know, but I got paid by funeral directors, and I didn't complain after the fact. (Yeah, I got my first tips as an altar boy, serving weddings and funerals, go figure.)

      The funeral last week was not a Catholic one, but it was a nice service, nonetheless. While we prayed my mind wandered back to an observation my Dad had shared with me many times, and has stuck with me.
     Jim Casey told me that you could tell much about a person's life by how many people attended the funeral.
    He believed that the more people that attended, the more debts of gratitude the deceased was owed, the fewer that attended, the more debts the deceased owed.
     I have to say, if those are the parameters to judge, then my friend last week had a lot of people who owed him debts of gratitude. The Church was close to SRO, and the graveside had everybody bunched around in a hot sweltering sun. Yet they came and stayed to show their gratitude.

    At both funerals for my elderly parents, I was heartened by the sheer number of people who came forward to share the positive impact my parents had made in their lives. It says much about a person by how those who survive them reflect on the contribution the deceased made to their own well being.

   I have been to sparsely attended services, and it always bothers me. In my opinion Funerals are not so much for the dead, but for the living. We need them to help us transition, and they fulfill that purpose.
    If only a handful show up for a burial, what does that say to you?
 It is a failure of the living, or a failure on the part of the deceased? I think it is both. I feel fortunate to have had the acquaintance of my friend in my life. I guess I should hope that someday  people will feel the same about me. But I live with the knowledge that 100  or even 10 years from now no one will remember who I was or where I lived, and the only thing that I can hope to pass on are that my actions are emulated, and they are for the good.of my community as a whole. That is Life and Death, in Trexlertown.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Let the Penguin Dance"

When I was twelve years old, we had a 8 year old boy come to stay with us for about three months. This was in addition to the regular daily collection of ragamuffins that hung out in our home. The best way to describe this kid was to say that he had behavioral issues. In 2010 he would see a counselor and get prescribed Ritalin, after being diagnosed as being ADD. In 1973, My mom would tell him to stop acting like a brat and take a paddle to his backside.

You have to wonder which treatment would be more effective today. There's a few people in local government I would like to try that theory on.

But to get to the story, this kid had issues. He always wore white shirts and black pants. That is what he came with, and he wouldn't change even though my Mom gave him other clothes to wear that would have made him look normal. He also had a black bow tie. He wore this outfit to school every day he could. You remember what it is like to be twelve, prepubescent kids can have a mean streak a mile wide. And the Batman show was on syndicated TV. So no one should be surprised that we started calling the chubby brat “Penguin.’

The Penguin was the biggest tattletale on the planet. He was always ratting us out if we even thought about mischief. He also threw stomping, screaming tantrums when he didn’t get his way. When no one picked him for a team when we played baseball, he would storm off for home and tell my Mom we were picking on him

Eventually. My Mom started doubting his word, and punished him for making stuff up. And yes, we laughed at him standing in the corner and made fun of him when she wasn’t looking. What can I say? We were average kids.

One afternoon before Youth Services came and took him to the State Hospital for commitment, he got really upset because my Mom said he couldn’t have ice cream. The rules were that you had to make your bed and do your chores, and he refused. This was about a week after he stole a pack of matches and set the cats’ tail on fire. My Mom had given up any hope of trying to correct his behavior, she was concentrating on keeping him from hurting himself or one of us.

So the Penguin threw the greatest tantrum in the history of tantrums He was throwing himself around on the floor screaming and crying in a language that made no sense, kind of like Linda Blair on the bed in the Movie "The Exorcist", but without his head spinning around. (Well, maybe it did and we didn't see it.) It was really annoying because he was throwing it in front of the TV and we were trying to watch a Cleveland Indians game, one of the few on during the day in the Summer.

        We complained to Mom, and she came in and just stared at him, with her hands on her hips. Finally she shook her head and walked away, but not without giving us some stern instruction.

“Don’t touch him, just let the Penguin Dance.”

        We don't realize it when we are kids, but our parents are a source of great wisdom. They know that the best way to deal with obnoxious people is to ignore them. They also teach us that what we say about others speaks more about the kind of person we are than anything someone else says. If you go around spouting rumors and innuendo, hurting other people, Others will see you for the jerk you are. But if you go around paying sincere compliments and treating others with respect, that is what you get back.

      So don't let the Penguins in life who are throwing tantrums and blaming all their problems on you get you down. Don't get up and try to dance with them, because nobody wants to be known as having a fool for a dance partner.
      Just. "Let the Penguin Dance" and let them dance by themselves.

Monday, August 2, 2010

25 Years later, an Anniversary I would rather forget.

          For most people, a 25 year anniversary is a reason to celebrate, but for me, the memory of August 8 1985 is one I wish I could forget. I was an enlisted man in the United States Army, stationed at Kelly Barracks in Darmstadt FRG. That was about an hour south of Frankfurt by train. My MOS (military Operating Specialty) was 12B,Combat Engineer, and I was assigned to Charlie Company of the 547th Combat Engineer Battalion.

          One of the duties that our unit rotated doing was checking vehicles as they came on our post for bombs. In the 1980s there were several attacks by terrorist against NATO military installations, and we regularly heard about incidents at other bases. In the years I was there, we had three incidents where buildings had to be evacuated because of devices that were discovered.

          On Wednesday morning August 8 a couple of my buddies and I convinced our Motor Sergeant to let us go to Rhein Mein airbase outside Frankfurt to purchase tickets for a rock concert. We took an early train, and after several station switches, we showed our military ID’s and passed through the main entrance We were walking across the parade grounds near the HQ of the Rhein Mein base commander when a VW minibus exploded about a hundred yards away. We were trained Army Demolitions men, and we ran towards the carnage.

          There is a smell to an explosion, and that of burned flesh, that intermingled you never forget. According to what we later read in the military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, two people were killed, and more than twenty injured. I was there, and I was sure there were more than that, but I wasn’t one to question the reports at that time, I have never forgotten what I saw that day. The van was parked in a lot that many civilian employees and the dependent family of service members used. The attack was intended to inflict mostly civilian casualties, and it did. Small children were among the wounded.

CNN was in its’ infancy, and while the Military used the Internet for communication purposes, it had not evolved anywhere near to what it is today. The attack was carried out by a terrorist group called the Red Army Faction. Two people were eventually apprehended and sentenced to prison for it. The terrorists had managed to get the bomb laden VW on the post using the stolen ID of an enlisted man they had murdered the night before.

So here we are 25 years later, and the name of the terrorists group is Al-Queda, not the Red Army Faction. We are fighting them in Afghanistan and Pakistan instead of Western Europe. The enemy’s face has changed as well as the field of battle, but I still see the same old conflict, just bigger, but definitely not better. In a few short years after the 1985 attack, the Berlin Wall fell, and less than a decade after that in 1998, The Red Army Faction announced it was disbanding. Then came 9/11, and it all started over again with Al-Queda. The more things change, the more they stay the same, except this time the enemy is more organized and better trained, but then, so are we.

Today a small granite marker stands on the site at Rhein Mein where the bomb exploded, in remembrance of the victims. Someday I will get around to traveling overseas and viewing it. In all probability 25 years from now there will be American men and women veterans observing their own anniversaries, and thinking about their experiences the same as I do now. They will probably ponder going to visit the granite marker at the site of their personal memory. I wonder if someday we will run out of granite for all the markers?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

"Don't Poke the Bear"

 When I was growing up, my Mom told us many stories that she relayed from her time as a young girl growing up on a farm in Southwestern Ohio.
     My Mom was born in 1916, so many of her stories relate to the early 1930's and the great depression.
     But one of my favorite stories is one she told every time there was a fight in our house. My parents were foster parents to several hundred children over thirty years, from 1948 to 1980, so with the constant mix of kids, there were plenty of disputes.

What usually happened is that after she broke up the combatants and cracked their rears a few times, she would gather all the kids around and tell this particular story. Here goes:

            Down the road a ways lived an ornery old farmer who didn't have much of a farm. But he had real fertile land, so he didn't have to work all that hard to get a good harvest. He had lots and lots of acres, but in the middle of his farm was a group of real rocky hills covered by lots and lots of trees. It was so rocky and so wooded that the farmer never tried to grade it flat or plow it. He just let it be, he made enough money and fed his family pretty well off the land he could use.
      Now up in the rocky hills there was a cave, and in that cave there lived a bear. The bear didn't care much for people, but he had enough berries and other critters running around nearby that he had a pretty good life.

    So we had a farmer and a bear, who both had pretty good lives, and left each other alone. But the farmer was a proud man, and he didn't like the bear. He felt the bear was free loading on his property. The bear, on the other hand, felt the farmer took advantage of him. Whenever the bear started chasing the deer herd, the farmer would wait until the bear had the deer heading towards the farmers house, and shoot one. Then when the bear went to get a deer, the farmer would shoot at the bear as well.

     The farmer and the bear didn't realize it, but the farmer not cutting down the forest gave the bear lots of fruits and nuts to eat, and the bear chasing the deer gave the farmer fresh meat. They had a pretty good thing going, but both were too stupid to see it.

     Well one day it happened that the farmer was out hunting rabbits when he saw the bear walking along at the edge of the woods, minding his own business. The bear wasn't bothering anybody, he was just getting some exercise, and he didn't see the farmer. The farmer, being a mean old bastard decided he would get rid of the bear once and for all, so he aimed his gun and fired. The bear was hit in one of his legs, but he managed to run away and hide from the farmer.

     But the farmer wasn't done. He headed up into the woods with his trusty hunting dog Boo, to try and finish off the bear. The Bear was badly hurt but he smelled the hunter coming. So he laid down in the tall grass and lay very still, as if he was dead.

    Now Boo the dog smelled the bear, but he wasn't stupid enough to go up to him, he froze and pointed the bear out to the farmer. The Farmer crept up to the bear, and seeing him lying there bleeding laughed at him.
   "I finally got you, you fat bastard!' The farmer took the barrel of his gun, and poked the bear hard right on his wound. The Bear jumped to his feet and knocked the gun away, and then mauled the farmer horribly, ripping his claws against the farmer's body again and again, until he was too tired to stand.

    Boo the dog ran off for home, where he got the attention of the farmer's wife and the hired men, and lead them back to the farmer, who lay dying on his own land. They carried the farmer back to his house and put him to bed. The game warden and the pastor were both called.

     On his death bed the farmer confessed what he had done in shooting the bear. After hearing the story, the game warden picked up his rifle and headed out to the scene. He tracked the bear to the mouth of the cave, where he lay dying as well. When the warden walked up to him, the bear could barely lift his head, he had lost so much blood. The warden shook his head and started to cry as he raised his rifle. "I'm sorry old bear, it doesn't matter who started it, but the law is the law." Then he shot the bear dead, putting him out of his misery.

       Some might think this is a bit harsh of a story to be telling little kids, but it has a good morale to it.
      It is the idea that we shouldn't go picking a needless fight with someone like the Farmer did just because we can. That's not a good reason. When you think about it, there are no good reasons for picking a fight.
      And the other lesson to be learned is that when you pick a fight, you might be getting more than you bargained for, and there are no guarantees that you will win. Just ask the farmer.  He had shot the bear, and won the fight, but then he went and poked him when he didn't have to.

    So the lesson of the story is: "Don't Poke The Bear."

Monday, July 19, 2010

If Stephen Vincent Benet were alive today....

July 22nd would have been Stephen Vincent Benet's 112th Birthday. Unfortunately, he died in NY City in the early 1940's, but many people don't realize that Benet was born, right here, in the Lehigh Valley, in Fountain Hill.

How about that? A Pulitzer Prize winning Author born right here?! Think it's something we should be proud of, and maybe celebrate? I do, but it seems no one else does. Benet was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes, his second posthumously for his unfinished collection of poems detailing the plight of native Americans during the settling of the American western Frontier. It was titled "Western Star" and Author Dee Brown was inspired to write "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" by it.
Benet also is credited for the original text that inspired the Play and movie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, but is most famous for his short story that also inspired a Movie, "The Devil and Daniel Webster."

Anyway, as a frustrated, unpublished would be novelist, I tried to imagine what would happen if Benet were to submit his works to a literary agent in this day and age. Follow me now, as I give my vision of the conversation of what happens when he discusses his signature work, "The Devil and Daniel Webster"

Literary Agent (LI): "Thank you for your submission Mr. Bennett, it's fascinating."

Stephen Vincent Benet (SVB): "Excuse me, my name's Be-Net, pronounced Ba-Nay, if you don't mind. So are you interested in publishing it?"

LI: That depends, do you have an Internet presence? Do you blog? are you on Facebook? Have you ever Tweeted?

SVB: Internet? Tweet? What are you talking about? I am not a vain man, I would not require my face on the cover of my book. Will you agree to publish it or not?

LI: "It isn't much, Mr. Ba-Nay, This Daniel Webster, is he related to the guy who writes the dictionary, by chance?"
SVB: "as a matter of fact yes, but he was also a great U.S. Senator.."

LI: "Oh, you mean like Hillary Clinton, could you rewrite this and make Webster a woman?"

SVB: "I don't think so, I wrote it as a tale of warning, and..."

LI: "I don't care what you wrote it as, what I care about is can I make money from it. Now I might be able to sell this if you spice it up a bit. Could you rewrite it to make say, Lindsay Lohan the defendant? Then you could put The Spears Sisters and Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie on the Jury of her Peers,
Now that, People will want to read! Do you get my drift, Mr. Banay? Oh wait, Could you make Brad Pitt the Judge? Anyway you can work Angeline Jolie and Jennifer Aniston in would also help the marketability!

The Devil and Lindsay Lohan, now that, Disney would want to make a Movie about! What do you say, Mr Benet, interested? We could make a lot of money!"

SVB: "I Don't know, it seems sort of like I'm selling out my true story, I'll have to think about it."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

One of many things my Dad taught me

         I have read some things on the Internet and in the mainstream media the last few days that have me pretty ticked off.

 I am going to relay an event that happened almost twenty years ago. I was twenty eight years old and was living in a house I had purchased from my parents. It was November of 1990, right after Thanksgiving. I was at home on a Saturday afternoon watching College Football when my Dad rang my doorbell. I lived next door, so in his mind it was easier than calling on the phone.
        My Dad was an officer in a church organization that went out whenever they were asked and delivered food to needy families. A call had come in that a family had been overlooked in the need for Thanksgiving baskets, and had no food or money. He needed someone to go with him, and asked me.

     First we went to the church and made a basket from the goods in their pantry. We took a Turkey from the Church basement freezer that was extra from the big basket delivery that had been done on Wednesday. Then we went to a market and purchased milk, fresh bread and vegetables.
       I drove us to the home of this family, in a real crap hole of a neighborhood a few miles from ours.
     The paperwork said there were four children ages 3 to 9 in the home. At the door a large Jabba the hut like man started screaming at us that he could feed his own damn family and get the f**K off his property.
     Then he turned to the woman and started beating her, chastising her for calling for help, and he stated that it was good he hadn't left for work yet.
      I wanted to intervene, but my Dad stopped me, and told me to get back in my truck. We drove away, and he had me pull into a fast food drive thru and get him some coffee and I got myself a soda. He had me park and he turned on the radio. We listened to a football game for a few minutes, and then he turned it off.
    "Let's go back" he ordered.
  "Why?" I asked.
   "You heard the fat man, he was about to leave for work. He might be gone by now."

  So I drove back, and the nasty bastard was gone. The mother looked like hell but I kept my mouth shut. She had enough problems. The kids asked us many questions and thanked us for the food. The oldest girl was especially happy to get chocolate pop tarts.

      As we drove home, I asked my Dad why he bothered going back, after the way the so called Father had spoke to him, and he told me something that I never forgot and I remember to this day.
   "I won't let kids go hungry just because their dad's an asshole."

   I translated that as I should never hold what a parent does against the children.

   You can think what you want of me, and whatever actions I should have taken and did not that day, but it was a different time and place. I have not forgotten the lesson.

    And that is why when I see people posting comments on blogs, facebook, or other social media disparaging children because  a parent or parents has done something imbecilic I shake my head in disgust.

     Whether it is the kids of Russian spies or the kids whose mother faked their kidnapping to cover her embezzlement, we can never deride the children or hold their parents sins against them.

    It is wrong to ostracize any child of any creed, race or color that way. And that's what I think of the matter.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Does my dog Lucy have a "Bucket List?" She does now!

   Everytime I log onto the social networking site of Facebook, I am greeted with an advertisement for the "Allentown Bucket List." even though I live in Trexlertown. Last weekend, while I was visiting Brown University in Providence Rhode Island, when I logged on I was entreated with a "Providence Bucket List."
    I found it fascinating how that changed by location, I know why, but that is for another blog entry on another day.

     What's bothering me today is that Lucy, my little Black shadow of a Cocker Spaniel, appears to be nearing the end of her life. She will be 14 in October, or about Betty White's age in human years. Dogs can't tell us directly if they are suffering, but her tail constantly wags and she still has moments where she will grab her toy and want me to play with her.
    But the seizures are becoming more frequent. I pick her up and hold her until they pass, and then she acts as if nothing happened, before she lays down and sleeps for awhile.

   I know what's coming, but in the meantime, I have made a Bucket List for her:
       1. Let her sleep on the end of the Bed

       2. Let her ride in the car with me to the bank, so she can get the free dog treat from the Window teller.

       3. Stop at McDonalds/Burger King/Wendys and get her a plain Hamburger on each ride. It's not like it will kill her, right?

       4. She doesn't leave the yard as long as I am in it (Never has, really), so I took off her Invisible fence collar so she doesn't get zapped unnecessarily. I figure at her age, she probably has enough pain, why give her more?

       5. Make sure that her bed is within arms reach of me when I am working on the Computer. Lucy is truly my shadow, she follows me everywhere when I am home, and lays as close to me as possible. We recently purchased a separate, extra dog bed that is next to my chair so I can reach down and scratch her head when I am working. She laid there anyway, so we figured she might as well be comfortable.

     I don't know what five things Lucy would want to do before she goes to the great puppy playtime in heaven, but these are the five I have to offer. Any Suggestions? What would you do for your "Shadow?"


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Does God need me and my riding lawn mower in Heaven?

I hope so. It occured to me that maybe God didn't need groundskeepers, but that doesn't go along with the whole great plan of giving us free choice.

  As a fallen away Catholic, if the Pope has any hope of ever getting me back in the fold, he needs to let me believe that there is more to do up there than play Bingo, say the Rosary, or Bowling and Golfing with Jesus. Some of us need something else.

  Anyway, what brought up the whole lawn mowing in Heaven subject was a dream I had the other night.

   I was mowing the lawns in the neighborhood where I grew up on my riding mower. Now I know it was a dream, because my Dad thought it was the law to make you push an old mower that took half an hour to start. I would never have had a riding mower in my old neighborhood.
   So there I was mowing away, with a Yuengling in my cup holder and I happen to look over at the big yard on the church grounds. There I see my parents and all these other dead people I knew in real life smiling and waving at me, telling me to come on over, and they will open the gate and let me in. Even all the dogs I had in my life are running around in there.
   The thing is, I realize they are all dead, and I'm wondering if once I drive my lawn mower over, that's it for me?  Or is God just trying to ease my fears, and let me know that one, I'm getting in, and two, he's got a job for me. What do you guys think?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A "whisper Close" Toilet seat?

There comes a time in every home owner's life, when you have to replace a toilet seat. No matter how comfortable it might be, if you are getting splinters in unwanted parts of your body, you gotta do what you gotta do. Some things you just can't fix with duct tape.
  And even if you try, your wife is not going to be happy about it.

   So off we went to the home improvement store, where Mrs C. made her choice.

  She chose the Bemis "whisper close" model, pictured here.

   Changing the seat was not hard at all. But I have a question about the marketing of toilet seats.
  Who really sits around thinking up the marketing campaign, and where do they sit to do that thinking?

   Also, on the box it proudly tells you that you don't have to worry about pinching your fingers with this seat.
   I suppose if you have small kids that is something to worry about.

  I just can't help but wonder if I will have to start worrying about hearing whispers in the bathroom.
   "Don't forget to put me down when you are done Chris. I don't like it when you leave me up."

   And here I thought the people in my head talked too much, now I have to worry about whispering toilet seats?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Great moments in Lawn Mowing History: my first (and hopefully last) Riding mower.

I had an early Morning Breakfast with some Friends Saturday, but I got home in time to take a very important call from LOWES. About 8:45 AM the phone rang. "Mr Casey, Your delivery window is 10 AM to 1 PM."
  Oh yeah, it has been 6 long years of pushing the lawn mower around, but now I have a riding mower, thanks to the love and generosity of Mrs C.  Kathy Frederick at the Junk Drawer Blog might love her new Dyson Vacuum cleaner, but there are no words to describe how I feel about my Bolens model 762 Lawn tractor.

   Here she is, before I backed her into the garage and her personal parking spot. After they delivered her, and before I took her out for her first spin, I sat in the kitchen and carefully read over the operating instructions. I want her to last a long time, and I want to take care of her. (Don't worry, I do feel much the same way about Mrs. C) So it is vitally important that I know how to operate her properly and maintain her in tip top shape. I checked the oil, the battery cables, and gave her a good look over before I added fuel to the gas tank. It warmed my heart that she fired up on the first try. She even has a large bright headlight for mowing as it gets dark.
She has a great safety feature in that she will not run in reverse if the power transfer to the blades is engaged. I had a blast mowing my yard..... and a neighbors..... and then maybe another neighbors, I hope they didn't mind. But she has one feature that is the most wonderful of all, the kind a real man loves. My lawn mower has.........
A Cup Holder!
Is that not the greatest idea in Riding Lawn mower history? I loved mowing my lawn so much on Saturday that when my wife pointed out I had missed a spot I had to mow the whole thing again on Sunday.
Eat your heart out Kathy Frederick!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A man holding on to what he can....through Farmville

    Over the past three weeks one of my old friends from the Army that I had not heard from in close to twenty years reached out to me on Facebook. We started trading messages and over the course of time he told me about how his wife had been killed in a car accident caused by the bad weather in February.

    We share things with other people for all kinds of reasons. sometimes it is egotistical, to show what we think is our superiority, and sometimes we do it when we are searching for someone to commisserate our troubles with. In his case, he was searching for someone to share his burden with.

   I did what friends do, I read his words and I responded as supportively as I could. I don't want to go into too much personal detail, but I realized as I was reading that his sense of loss was profound in a way I could not imagine.

  He and his wife worked many miles apart in different industries, but they both worked at a Computer. He told me how they had regularly communicated during the day via Facebook. Since her death, it had been difficult for him at work, because he missed her regular messages.
   But he couldn't stay off Facebook, because he felt an obligation to take care of her cyber farm on Farmville. It had been an ongoing competition between them, to get the craziest and wildest things on their Cyber farms. He asked me if I thought it was stupid that he do this, go to her farm each day and feed her animals, and harvest her crops. Farmville let people get puppies this week, and he got one to keep her avatar company while he is working. He thought she would like that.

   I don't think he is stupid. I think he loved her so much that he is holding on to whatever he can to keep her in his life.

   My point in writing this is that sometimes I have made fun of people who spend way too much time online, and I tell them to get out and get a life. Yet here I find someone who goes online during the day to try and hang on to one that is gone. Who the hell am I to judge?


Sunday, April 4, 2010

What I did for Easter: I took down the Christmas tree!

This is not our Christmas tree. It's a picture I pulled off Google images.
I know, I know, Christmas was what, 15 weeks ago? I have been busy, blogging and stuff.
    Anyways, I got up around 5 AM, left at 6 AM. and drove the three hours home. We were at the annual Saturday night family Easter dinner gathering and I came home on this beautiful spring day with the express purpose of getting some yard work done. Mrs C is arriving later.
   Imagine her surprise when she sees the artificial tree is put away and the stand back in the basement.
  I figured if I have to carry stuff up OUT OF THE BASEMENT! I might as well carry stuff down too!
   I would like to try and claim that my tree has a different meaning for me, but that is B.S. I could claim that I put the tree up for Christ's Birth so naturally I take it down when he rises from the dead, because....
   maybe they needed the wood for the cross?!!!
        So I have accomplished something this Easter, I put away the christmas tree! I retrieved the dogs from the kennel, and I cleaned all the carpets and floors. Now I have to go shopping for a new lawn mower.
   For a man, that is a just reward!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Man and dead Possum? In Pennsylvania?

  I read the papers around the state everyday at lunch time. This gem was too hard to pass up.

It had all the variables required for a great story. A man. a dead possum. police. Excessive alcohol.

   Read Here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A random Thing that Women do that Baffle guys

Look ladies, we guys know one thing for sure, and that is we love you. But there are many things that make us want to pull what little hair we have on our receding hairlines out.

  So I kicked this around with the guys at work, and here is the first thing that came to their minds:

  Why in God's name do you always wait until the two minute warning to decide that we need to go shopping NOW? Would you like it if we waited until the last thirty minutes of that Lifetime Movie and demanded you make us dinner? That wouldn't fly, and we know it. So why do it to us? You also do it with two minutes left in an NCAA basketball tournament game.  You have done it in the bottom of the ninth with two outs, the bases loaded, and our teams best hitter at bat with the Phils down 4 to 3.

   We are men, we live vicariously through professional sports. We no longer get to go out and do the hunter gatherer gig, so you have to let us at least watch some form of competition that gets our adrenaline going.

  Okay, I'm done here. Just remember, we do love you, and we do enjoy the thrill of the hunt occasionally as it pertains to seducing you and dragging you off to the bedroom. That's why we buy roses. That's why we kiss you behind your ear while whispering in it how hot you look in that little black dress.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

White people working at Dunkin Donuts? Time to be politically incorrect!

I visit Dunkin Donuts at least four times a week. It is to the point that when I pull into the drive thru and lower the window, the guy says "Good Morning, pull ahead."

  Okay. the guy is an Immigrant from India. He has a family with children, and from my almost daily interaction with him in the last three years since that particular Dunkin Donuts' opened, I have learned that his relatives own and operate several franchises.

It's the Freakin' American dream. God bless'em for being willing to put forth the effort. What had me laughing this weekend is that while watching the NCAA basketball games on CBS I kept seeing a Dunkin Donuts commercial where all the people working at Dunkin Donuts WERE WHITE!

   This came on the heels of my walking into the DD on Hamilton Boulevard in Trexlertown Saturday morning and getting waited on by a young white guy. The other seven employees were all of a minority ethnicity, but here was one white guy, working side by side with OTHER AMERICANS, who happened to have a different skin color.

   My point here is that I could not help but notice the irony of who is working for who. (I've always had trouble using WHOM)

   But when is the last time that you saw a white person working at Dunkin Donuts? Really? Is the economy that bad? And I have a question or two for the folks running DD and approving the commercials.

   Have you actually been in one of your buildings recently? Where is this DD with all the White Employees located, FANTASYLAND?

  That's my politically incorrect observation for this week. My next post will be a complimentary one to a post from Redhead Ranting about TEN THINGS she hates about men.
  I have ten things that women do that drive men nuts. It is not a top ten list, just ten random things that women do that make men want to bang their heads against a wall. Come back Thursday, I will have the list gleaned to ten by then.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Casey's Big Adventure!

Every once in awhile circumstances occur that demand I take an unexpected Road Trip!

  On Tuesday, Fate reared her head and set things in motion.

  Yesterday morning Mrs C left for St. Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands on a mission. She comes back next Tuesday. But to be allowed back on the United States mainland, she needs to produce proof of citizenship. We have traveled many times to St. Thomas USVI and never before did we need these things, but last year the rules changed.

  Guess what we could not find? Mrs C's birth certificate. You can leave the country without one, but get back in? Not happening! (I told her to get a passport, but NOOOOOO!)
  So this predicated me making several phone calls, and kudos to State representative Jennifer Mann's office for steering me in the right direction.
  I went into work at 5 AM and worked until 11 AM. Then I drove two hours from Montgomeryville to Harrisburg and visited the Department of Health at 645 Forster Street room 129. I went in, filled out the forms, and presented them at the window.

   Did you know that Military veterans can get two copies of their birth certificates and that of their immediate family members for free? You do now! The nice lady handed me back a slip telling me to come back in about ninety minutes to pick up the birth certificates.

   I had time to blow, so I went for a walk. I visited the nice new shiny judicial records building. I went up to the fifth floor and suite 5600, where I spoke to some very nice people and showed them some emails I had received from the lawyer of another blogger that were not very nice. They gave me the forms I needed to file a complaint with the Disciplinary board concerning said lawyer. Lawyers have to behave in a civilized manner, even if their clients don't. They agreed that Mr. Lawyer wasn't the SHARPEst tool in the shed and should behave better. I got all kinds of great contact info to use. I would never have thought that the disciplinary body for Lawyers in the Lehigh Valley was in Pittsburgh, but hey, that's state government!
  I'm not all that confident they will do anything about Mr. Lawyer, but at least there will be a complaint in his file for now on.

  I was in and out of there in 20 minutes, so I moseyed over to the State capitol where the legislature was in session. I ran into my friends State Reps Steve Samuelson and Joe Brennan, and Steve walked with me to Jen Mann's office where I personally thanked her staff for quickly facilitating the process for getting Mrs C's birth certificate. Usually the process takes ten days by mail. That would have been a problem!

  All in all, I arrived in Harrisburg at 1:15 PM and departed at 3:00 PM. I was home by 4:45. Not too bad, huh?!  So that was my big adventure Wednesday. Now I am looking forward to big adventure Saturday. Can't wait!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Jeopardy Theme: The music of a man's life!

In many public places there is background music playing in the restrooms. We don't have any music over the PA system at work, but yesterday I was washing my hands and heard someone humming the Jeopardy theme music from inside a stall.

  What made me laugh out loud was that as they hit the last note of the theme, they flushed the toilet.

   Which got me to thinking, what if the person was obsessive compulsive, and had that song stuck in their head? What if they could not stop doing anything until they hit the last note?

That would be al l right doing dishes, but what if you are walking the dog or jogging? Wouldn't it be hard to hit the right note everytime as you got home?

What if you were with a member of the opposite sex? Wouldn't humming that tune really put a damper on things? Think about it.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Every Life Story has an Ending

  Tuesday Morning there will be a gathering of mourners on the East Side of Allentown. They will be paying final respects to a Father and a friend. He was also a de facto Godparent to my wife. Last Spring my wife and I were in the room when the gentleman had the doctors disconnect life support after his wife of sixty years had suffered a brain aneurysm. We were privileged to see him take that last earthly act of unconditional love. If you truly love someone, you set them free, and he did that. It has been less than a year, and they are reunited.
  Last week the man's son made the agonizing decision to stop treatment on his father. The breathing tube was removed, and later that day he passed peacefully in his sleep.

   The son agonized over his decision, and I went to the Hospital the night before and talked to him for a few minutes, for which he was grateful. It is hard to let go. we beat ourselves up and think of all the things we should have done, and in many cases we focus on everything we did wrong. I felt compelled to remind the son of everything he did right.  That's all I have to say tonight.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Visitor this Morning

We have a lot going on at work, but this morning several deer cut across our parking lot and ran into the woods beside our building. Later when UPS came I grabbed my camera and took some shots of one of the deer watching us.

It's been a hard winter for us, how do you think the wildlife are handling it? They don't know to get to the grocery store and stock up, they get by on what they can get. It makes me feel pretty lucky.

  But when I think about it, they don't get all excited over inaccurate idiot weather predictions either.

(Click on picture to enlarge)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Driving with Hot Flashes

Saturday morning I took my wife to lunch at a local place we frequent regularly. A large part of the regular clientele comes from nearby assisted living centers.

We were sitting in a booth at a window when two women who were both on the far side of 80 years of age came in. One using a walker, the other using a cane. They were seated in the booth behind us.

Neither had a hearing aid. Which precipitated my wife and I being privy to every word they spoke.

  The truly terrifying part of what we heard was that the lady using the walker, who also wore big thick black sunglasses INSIDE the diner, was the one who DROVE them there.

Walker Lady: "I'm glad you could come today. I have trouble seeing the driveway."

Cane Lady: "I can see the driveway, I just can't turn my head to drive."

  Does that scare you? Wait, there's more.....

Cane Lady: "I have been so hot at night. I had to get up and turn on the air conditioning in my unit and stand in front of it. I can't believe I'm still gotting flasshes at my age."

Walker Lady: "I don't think we ever get over menopause."

   That's just what I needed to hear as I was eating my Tuna salad sandwhich and Crock of French Onion soup. We weren't the only ones who could hear this either. The Senior Couple on the other side of us started discussing the old ladies' problem.

   Wife: "She should see her Doctor."

  Husband: "What did you do about your hot flashes?"

  I almost spit soup on my wife. There are some things I just don't want to hear. We left very shortly after that.  There was a small white sedan parked sideways in a handicap spot outside, and partially blocking the driveway. Any bets on who it might have belonged to?

  All humor aside, I drove my parents everywhere they needed to go for about 6 years before they both passed away. I know how tough it is to restrict their freedom of movement to insure the safety of others around them. You have to weigh whether you want to risk getting a call that they had an accident and were killed or caused the death or injury of someone else over allowing them their freedom of movement.

  I don't envy anyone who faces that choice.

Friday, February 19, 2010

I knew those damn Groundhogs were out to get us.

 (I've had this in drafts for a while, and I needed a laugh.)

Punsxutawny Phil was just the beginning. You think the snow is bad? Who knew the varmints were training in the woods for a military strike?

   Fortunately I have two vigilant Cocker Spaniels guarding my home. I bet the Pennsylvania Lottery is rigged, That Damn Groundhog Gus is probably their leader and sending out secret messages to them in those mindless commercials.

   If I were a paranoid you should be worried, but I'm not.

  I just thought the picture funny and thought I should share it. It sure would make hunting season interesting if the animals shot back, wouldn't it?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Snow Visions of the Future?

Does this look like the end of your Driveway? it sure seems that way to me on my street. It took me two hours just to shovel one side of my driveway wide enough to get one car in. I think I spent a total of five hours in all clearing it from curb to curb.

Over the last few days I picked away at it a few feet at a time.

I think the unofficial motto of the Snow Plow drivers in my Municipality is: "If you can still get out of your driveway, then we haven't done our job."

A family member had made me aware that The Farmers Almanac has been pretty spot on with its predictions for this Winter. It also says the worst is yet to come around March 8.

Personally, I have had enough.

Monday, February 15, 2010

As if we did not have enough Snow......

....there is more on the way.
Yesterday I spent more than two hours clearing the ice and snow out of all my rain gutters. I also cleared all the snow I could away from the foundation of my house.
This is some friendly advice and a reminder to many of my friends that you need to give the water someplace to go once the snow starts melting, unless you want the water in your basement. Even worse, uncleared gutters could cause Ice jams that lift up shingles and allow water to penetrate within the walls of your house.
I cleared my deck as well, because I don't want that water pooling near my foundation either. The cycle of thawing and freezing by water around a house may not cause immediate damage, but the cumulative effects over many years can add up. It may not be an issue today, but five or ten years down the road, it might. One more thing, I cleared the snow off of and from around our Air Conditioning Unit. Even if it has a protective cover, you should keep it cleared of snow. That's Casey's helpful hints for today. Keep Your Snow Shovel Handy, it is coming again!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Is Death good for the Olympic TV ratings?

When Someone is killed participating in a sport at the World wide level, it is going to be news. . I personally feel that sudden unexpected death is the hardest to cope with.

What's got me up on my pulpit is the media morons and their handling of it. How many times do we have to see the footage of him slamming into the steel pillar at 90 MPH? Tonight CBS news had a reporter trying to get the grieving father to look at the footage. He did not want to watch his son die, and I had an impression that the reporter only cared about getting the poor man's reaction on tape.
Right after it happened I was watching a Sports News show, and one of the commentators offered the opinion that the tragic accident had a silver lining. He opined that this would give NBC's anemic viewer outlook a boost, because more people would tune in to watch.
I think he was right. We Americans love to slow down and stare at car wrecks. We watch NASCAR just to see that spectacular four car crash replayed 100 times during the twenty minutes it takes to clean the track and keep racing.
I watch the Ski jumping and Downhill racing at the Olympics because I thrill at the incredible speeds some hit going downhill. The thought they could wipe out has me on the edge of my seat. I smile and cringe when they blow a landing, just as I laugh out loud when someone misses a turn on the downhill and rolls into that red restraining fence.
It's all part of how they sell it to us. Lindsey Vonn is going to be skiing in pain. They are selling us at how tough these athletes are and I am buying that. But I don't buy profiting on their death.
It is one thing to think it, it is another to just come right out and say it.
Are we that desensitized as a people that we can shrug and ooh and aah at such a horrific sight? I turned the TV off last night, and I did so again tonight when they started to roll that video of the crash again. I can't help but remember that Russian diver a few years back who cracked his head on the side of a pool and died. The comedians made Russian diver jokes for months after that. How soon until we hear the first Luge joke? And will we laugh? I bet we do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Writer's Block here!

Through the magic of Computers, I can take a post I wrote Wednesday night, add a picture I took on Thursday Morning, and post!
This is a picture of the sidewalk up to my building at work. I took it from the door looking out.
What's crazy is that the snow blower guy came and cleared the Sidewalk. After he left, the guy plowing the parking lot plowed it shut! I dug some of it out, but then I called the service and bitched. They are supposed to be back, but knowing how things are out there right now, I'm not holding my breath.
The Snowpocalypse has come and all the Dunkin Donuts were closed at 4:30 AM. I'm like a junkie without a fix. Gonna have to rectify that.
I was out for about nine hours shoveling snow yesterday. I have always been too cheap to buy a snow blower. My reasoning was I could do most of what I remove with a shovel by myself. Two of my neighbors have Snow Blowers, and both of those machines failed. I am just tired. I am not broken, but that pinched nerve in my back that acts up if I stay on my feet for hours on end started acting up and my right leg went numb last night. That was in addition to my left hamstring acting up again. That's too much damn fun for one guy to have before he is 50 years old.
I love my direct TV, we have had it five months and had no problems until yesterday. Three times I had to clean the snow off of the Dish, and as soon as I did it worked fine. I will take something I can fix in five minutes by myself any day over waiting on hold with RCN for a half hour or more and getting a person in INDIA who can't speak English or get my cable to work.
So there you have it, a short post meshing last nights bedtime thoughts with this mornings' example of Human stupidity. all the members of my warehouse crew made it in, but no one in marketing/order prep has, and if they don't get in to process orders soon we will likely have to work Saturday to get caught up. That's kind of a good thing, because no one is getting paid for yesterday, and many need the full paychecks to get by. We shall see. Stay warm everybody!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

You want Snow?! You Can't Handle the Snow!

You have to love the weather people in the Delaware and Lehigh Valleys.
The race to give the scariest forecast is on! I don't know for sure who coined the word "Snowmageddon" or even "Snowpocalypse", but I can't wait to see who claims to have been the most accurate in predicting this storm.
As if that is going to matter?!
The Schwartz guy on NBC 10 is my favorite when it comes to accuracy. I can count on him to be honest and explain what happens when he is wrong. When it comes to most attractive to look at, Kathy Orr of CBS 3 wins hands down. I think she would explain what was wrong if she had more time, but CBS has to get all those Katie Couric promos in.
Cecily Tynan on ABC is average, but she is dependable. I don't even bother watching Fox 29, because I did once this past weekend, and that was enough. John Bolaris noted that we hadn't had this much snow since 1996, when Bill Clinton was President.
What the hell did Bill Clinton have to do with the weather? Wait, I understand, the heavy snows are all the Democrats fault. I should have known that was how Fox would report it.
And as for Ed Hanna on WFMZ 69 news? I'm sure whatever happens he will tell us he had it exactly right. He always does, whether he is or not (And he likely won't be close.)
In the meantime, get to the market and get your bread, milk, and pet food before the storm gets here and you are forced into cannibalism, or at the worst, barbecuing the family pets.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spam Email to remember, but I would rather not get

Like everyone else, I get my share of Spam Emails. I occasionally explore the list of emails in the Spam filter to see if anything legitimate accidentally ended up there. I explore the ones that look interesting, and this week I got one that made me laugh out loud:

Dear Chris,

"Have you ever had, or are you considering, having a C-section?"

Yep, that is what it said. Now in defense of whatever Spam program generated this message, my first name is gender neutral. So that did not bother me in the least.

Now that a couple of days have passed, I've been thinking about how inappropriate it is to ask anyone of either sex that question.

How does somebody sitting at a keyboard somewhere justify sending out an anonymous electronic message to possibly millions of people and ask something like that? I kind of think that is a personal thing that gets asked under appropriate circumstances.

But now that I have been asked, I have decided to answer. No, I have never had a C-section, and no, I am not planning on having one. I am approaching that age where men have certain, ahem, bathroom issues, but I am sure that I can wait for my doctor to ask the relevant question. I'm sure my doctor will suggest the right course of action should the need arise.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Dangers of Blogging

Monday Morning my lovely wife sent me an email with this article attached.
It was on MSN and detailed how having a blog can both help and hurt a person's professional career.
In recent months the news has been full of accounts detailing how individuals lost their jobs because of information or opinions they posted on the Internet. "Facebook Firing" is sure to show up next year under new terms in the dictionary.
This has been on my mind much in recent days because last week a Blogger from the midwest made it clear to his readership that he was taking it private. We could still read it but we had to send him an email and get on his "Permission" list. He did this because he has been out of work for six months, and had suspicions that prospective employers had read his blog and possibly had a less than favorable opinion of him.
I personally know of a person whose employer investigated him for blogging at work. He did not, but he had to defend himself. He was fortunate that the IT department could readily prove no one accessed blogger from his work equipment, but he had to explain that he scheduled his essays to post on time lag, and that was how they appeared during working hours.
This prompted his employer to institute an Internet use protocol for all employees to read and sign. I actually think that is a good thing, but personally it also scares me to know that your employer can influence what you write about and in a subtle way also influence your right to express yourself.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Making Profit off the suffering of others

I am all for helping the people of Hait as much as I am people who suffer from any natural disaster.

But there comes a time when I think the motives of some so called "helpers" are purely selfish.

When Gov Rendell personally escorted 40 some orphans on a plane to Pittsburgh, I saw a potential act of kindness perverted to a PR stunt.

Call me a cynic or whatever, but all I saw was a political opportunist looking to enhance a damaged image.

Now lets take this idea to remake "We are the World."

If you are like me, and can remember back 25 years to when it was released, I hope you remember how sick most people became of hearing that song OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN!

I was in Europe at an Army base and the Armed Forces network played the damn thing every half hour. At the time Troops were there to discourage any Russian attacks, but many of my buddies and I seriously considered blowing up AFARTS. (Armed Forces Radio and Television Station.) instead. Yes it was called AFARTS. The Military comes up with the damnedest acronyms, but that is another post some other day.

I am all for helping the Haitians, and I applaud people like Brad and Angelina who give a million bucks to Doctors without Borders for Medical supplies. George Clooney organized a Telethon. There is nothing in it for these people, they always do things like this. Politicians? Not so much.

But then I look at the recording industry, and there's all this speculation of who will work on the remake, as if it is a badge of honor, and the spots will go to the highest bidder. Okay, so they are raising money, that is a good thing. But the media experts on CNN are also talking about how some performers (i.e. Kanye West) can help reform their image by doing this.

That gets me to thinking that some of those who want to be involved aren't doing it for the best of reasons, that there is more self interest than humanitarian gesture involved. I know it is politically incorrect to say this, but I think some of those behind the "We Are The World" remake don't give a damn about helping Haitians, all they are looking for is a few extra bucks and some good PR.

I know that the idea of USA for Africa was to raise money for famine relief, and Bob Geldof got knighted by the Queen of England for what he did. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and "We Are the World" at age 25 is like Route 22 through the Lehigh Valley is at age 50. I'm not sure that redoing it will be an improvement. Route 22 is in regular need of repaving, just as the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

I'm not looking forward to this remake. We will be hearing that annoying song for another generation. It will probably raise hundreds of millions of dollars to supposedly help Haitians and many media darlings will feel good about themselves. More power to them. But every time I hear it on the radio or see it on TV, I will be changing the channel. I am not blind and deaf to the needs of the suffering, but I choose to ignore the pleas of those who would surreptitiously profit from it.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Biannual Check up time!

Last Wednesday I headed over to Valley Sports and Arthritis Surgeons for my biannual check up.
I had my right hip replaced in January 2006, at the ripe old age of 44. I was the youngest person my surgeon had done at that time, and he told me it was one of the worst degenerative joint conditions he had ever seen. My surgery was January tenth of that year, and I was back at work by May.

Every two years I have to stop by the office and let them take X-rays to see how it is holding up.

So far so good. The left hip has a few issues, but nothing like the right one had. It might need work about the time the right one needs replaced again.
I have survived multiple high speed impacts in my life, in vehicles, while skydiving, and a couple while rock climbing/rappelling.

I used to be a risk taker, and now I am paying the price. That's how it goes.

When the surgeon came in to see me he had a couple of residents tagging along. The had me bending my leg all kinds of which ways, checking my mobility and balance. I was the first person under sixty years of age that the one young doctor had met. He asked me what I did for a living that made me need a new hip.

I told him I tested parachutes for a living, and that sometimes they fail.

He believed me.

I am a bad bad man. Yes I told him the truth, but I think he thought that was B.S. Oh well.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Long Strange Guilt Trip over a hearing aid

If you were to play a word association game with me and say "Super Bowl", I would answer, "my Dad died."

I have nothing against the Super Bowl, I love Football and I am looking forward to a very exciting game this year. I think Peyton Manning is incredible and playing at a whole other level, but I love underdogs and its hard not to cheer for New Orleans. I will be happy no matter who wins.

My problem is that my Dad collapsed while watching the Super Bowl on January 29, 1995. They got him back with the Defibrillator but he went into Cardiac arrest about 1:30 AM Monday morning in the ICU and that time they couldn't get him back.

He was alert and awake in the ER Sunday night and still bitching about how the Forty Niners did not deserve to win for getting rid of Joe Montana. He had been brought back from the dead, and was not the least bit grateful about it.

My regret is that we argued in the ER. My last words to my Dad were words of anger. He wanted me to take his hearing aid home for safe keeping, and I had refused, because I was sure he would need it. I ended up cursing him and his non stop bitching, and I put it in my pocket just to shut him up. It was still there in my pants pocket the next morning when I walked into my Mom's hospital room several floors up to tell her he had died. She had been there almost a month after having a stroke on New Years eve, and was supposed to come home that very day.

This past year I finished several drafts of a novel. The main character is an alcoholic Army vet who has a dog for a best friend. The Vet's relationship with his father is one of resigned indifference. He feels obligated to care for the man despite their constant bickering.

Just like I inadvertently carried my dad's hearing aid around in my pocket after he died, I still unintentionally carry a unmeasurable amount of guilt and grief with me each and every day concerning how badly I treated him in life. This time of year, as the anniversary of his death draws close, I can't help but once again reexamine all that transpired between us.

I keep thinking that somehow someway, I will find that process that lets me put the guilt down, but I am still searching. I thought writing the novel would help, and it has. The burden is not as heavy after 15 years, but it is still there.
No one can do this for me, I have to do it on my own. There is one bright shining star in this, and that is my wife. The life I have had with her since then has made it easier to move on, even if it was only a little bit at a time. Thank you Honey.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Phone Book or Sponge? You make the Call!

When it comes to Home Delivery, some people stopped trying long ago.

I am old enough to remember when someone delivered your phone book by ringing your doorbell and politely handing it to you.

Way back in the summer of 1980, when I had finished my Freshman year of college, I earned $35.00 for every 200 phone books I could deliver. I had a 72 Dodge back in those days, and it could hold a lot of Phone books. I would load up twice a day and do several blocks worth. That's how I paid for My textbooks.

But nowadays you get what you see in the picture above. I came home from work right after the Monday Monsoon, and lo and behold, there at the community mailbox was a pile of new phone books.

There were not any notes inviting you to take one, I guess whoever thought leaving them there was a good idea did not think of that.

If you think those books stayed dry through that rain Monday, you would be wrong.

So I would like to congratulate the purveyors of "LEHIGH VALLEY EASY PAGES" for choosing the delivery system to the customers that they did. I bet all the people who paid for advertising in your publication are thrilled with the result.

I have a second observation, and that is I can't remember the last time I used a phone book. I go on line and search/Google everything when I need to make a call. I looked up my sister in Massachusetts phone number that way, and I do the same for local numbers.

Is the Phone book obsolete? Or is it just a glorified money saver full of coupons that happens to have some relevant phone numbers in it?

Other than the Coupons, there is not anything in this easy pages directory that I can't find out online. So it is pretty much either redundant and or useless, or both?

I know what I am doing with my waterlogged copy. I'm sticking it in the Freezer. I bet it gets as hard as a cinder block. Then I am going to stick it in my catapult and launch it into the swamp.
The possibilities are endless. What would you do with your soggy EASY PAGES?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Meet the new snack machine, same as the old snack machine

We have a new snack machine at work. as well as a new snack vendor.
The old vendor used a machine that you had to put quarters in and turn a dial to use. As you rotated the dial the item you wanted moved to the left and fell down to the access door.
The old vendor complained that the employees weren't buying very much out of his machine.
There was a good reason for that.
You know how stuff has that "Best if used by" date stamped on it?
Mr. Vendor not only used old machines, he use old food. I mean REALLY OLD FOOD. We started betting on whether the over/under on the "best if used by" date was within the last year. One guy kept buying and eating the sticky buns out of it in December despite their use by date being last June.
If you bought a bag of peanut M & M's, when you opened it you found something that resembled multicolored gravel. One guy said it looked like the colored sand in his fish tank.
Another issue with the old machine was the bags of chips would not fall down. At one point four different bags were jammed up in the drop area, and we had to wait a week for the guy to come in and clear it.
Yet he always bitched he wasn't making all that much money, while I had to listen to everyone bitch about there being nothing decent in it, etc, etc.
So finally the powers that be heard us and changed vendors. Hallelujah! The new vendor even gave us a survey to fill out asking us what we wanted in it, and then put that stuff in our machine!
You might think our prayers were answered. Then someone made that very first purchase, and I took a picture of it. Yep, your eyes don't deceive you, he wanted Nacho chips, and they got stuck. What makes it worse is they bolted the machine to the floor, so you can't even shake it.
The good news is I took this picture, emailed it to the vendor's phone, and he fixed the problem pronto.
It just goes to show that no matter how much different you think things are going to be, you still can get the same result.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You know you love someone when......... have been up 16 hours and your wife asks you if you will go get her some Yocco's and you do.
I was willing to go to McDonald's and get her an Oreo McFlurry as well, but this way I got to get an order of Pirogies.
I also got the inspiration for this post. What food inspires the romance in your life? What food do you have a romantic relationship with?
My personal food love is almonds and walnuts in Vanilla Ice Cream, in a sugar cone. That is what tickles the happy of my taste buds. I have been known to put a couple scoops in a blender with Nacho Cheese Chips, when I want to put a "Twist" in it.
So how do you Spice up your food love?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sentimental Journeys: A road to Hell paved with good intentions

Sometimes I get asked what inspired me to write a certain post. Well this post has its roots in posts I read over the weekend that from two other Lehigh Valley Bloggers. The first influencing post was from Renee James blog, "It's not me, it's you." Her post was titled "Winding Down" and she wrote about the generational divide between people who still wear watches and those who don't, but carry blackberry's or I-phones.
The second post that drives my own was by Kathy Frederick, the very funny woman who writes the Junk Drawer blog. In her post on Sunday she opined about saving her best blog efforts for her worldwide readership, and not just her Facebook posse. She admitted that sometimes when commenting on other blogs, great ideas for her own blog jump out.
That is what happened to me. I was commenting on Renee's post, and this one came to me.
I consider myself an observer. I like to watch society as it evolves, and I see a culture that is losing its sentimentality. We have this notion that technology is making our lives better and we are bridging gaps that allow us to communicate in ways never considered. The intentions of the technology are arguably good, but I think we are losing something in the trade off for convenience that we will regret. I think a bit of our humanity and empathy for each other has been discarded.
I feel we are losing our appreciation for those things that are old. Not just goods, such as typewriters, watches, calculators, et. al., but we are losing our appreciation for basic emotional values.
We look at business partnerships, relationships, friendships, as mere things we use to transition to the next, best thing. We discard our friends and lovers as easily as we trade in our old car or go to Home Depot to buy a washing machine.
Too many of us don't do the necessary maintenance to keep our appliances running, because we know we can run down to the store and get a new one whenever we want. It is sad, but we have begun to accept that ideal as okay for all aspects of existence. We don't like our collection of Facebook friends? Maintaining these connections isn't worth the bother! Delete them and start over. It's easy! Get a new batch!
So to borrow from the current hip lingo, I guess I am "Old School." That's why the thumbnail I chose for this post is a wedding band. (IT's just a picture, that's not mine, by the way.)
You see, I am Sentimental. On my left hand I wear a wedding band that has been there for more than 13 years. Before I had it, it was on my Dad's hand for almost fifty. I have this crazy idea that some things are worth doing the maintenance on, and are not disposable. Some data can't be transferred by way of cyberspace, sometimes you have to pass the hard drive on in person. My Mom gave me my Dad's wedding band when I told her I was getting married, a year after he died. I don't know if anyone will ever want my wedding band when I am dead and gone, but at least for now, it still means something to me.