Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!
Frazzled Marc, half way through my 40s!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Endorsement! Burt's Bees Lemongrass Insect Lotion

I LOVE Burt's Bees Lemongrass Insect Lotion! I mentioned it on my Facebook page the other week and I felt I needed to give it a "shout out" here. For one thing, it is a non-toxic, naturally safe pesticide. For another thing, it has a wonderful lemony scent! Ingredients include grape seed oil, lemongrass oil, citronella oil, eucalyptus oil, vitamin E, and rosemary oil. THAT'S IT! You would think it would have an overwhelming oily texture to it, but it doesn't.  Don't know what they do, but it is very easily rubbed in. First scent I smell is the lemongrass, then citronella. Sometimes citronella can be overpowering, but this is a nice "addition" to the lemongrass scent.

I wore it while I worked in the yard the other evening weeding my flower beds. I was right down in the grass and noticed that there were an awful lot of bugs around. Gnats, ants, earwigs, spiders, bees, flies, and a bunch of other flying things I didn't know the names of. But I had no problem with any of them!  I don't know if I would use it to while camping as I usually camp in deep woods where I need strong insect repellent such as Deet. But it is perfect for gardening in the early evening when all those pesky buggies tend to start coming out. 

The best part yet is that it has no heavy chemical scent.  After doing light yard work for an hour, I washed up my hands and face and headed out to run a few errands. I didn't smell like a pesticide factory walking through the store. I even ran into a friend who asked me what scent I was wearing! After I told her, she just laughed and said I may be able to start a trend!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Meeting Julia Child

During most of the 90’s, I worked in the hospitality industry, formally at a luxury hotel, and informally for a catering company. My day job was at the hotel and my night job, the fun casual gig, was with a private caterer who serviced the wealthy families of Philadelphia and the blue-blooded Mainline. I miss the people I worked with and miss the fun that I had at these two jobs. I do not miss the long demanding hours and the occasional snobby wealthy people that one had to put up with. In fact, they were two of the reasons that I left the business. I was fortunate enough, though, to have many chance encounters with celebrities.

Over the course of my 19 year hotel and restaurant career, I figure I have met dozens of popularly recognizable figures from fame and fortune. These include political figures, the infamous, sports stars, musicians, famous cooks and authors, and of course the Hollywood celebrity. Julia Child was a American chef who taught America how to cook French cuisine. From 1951 until her death in 2004, she became one of the most respected chefs in the world.

Back in the late 1990’s or very early into 2000 or so, I had the pleasure of meeting Julia Child at an event that I was catering for the well known woman’s group Les Dames d'Escoffier. I didn’t know much about this group when I accepted the catering gig. I later learned that they are a society of professional woman who have achieved success in their culinary fields. The event too place in a sky high penthouse apartment on Philadelphia’s tony Rittenhouse Square. I really had no idea what to expect. For me, it was just another event to have fun working and observe the wealthy in their own environment.
I arrived at the event and was escorted by the hostess whom I will call Mrs. Society, into her small galley kitchen after a very quick tour of the grand apartment. She showed me the areas where guests were allowed and there was to be absolutely no smoking! I asked her what should I tell them if they try and light up? She replied, "You can send then onto the balcony and then lock them out there."  Okaaaay.

I also learned that this was to be a "Meet and Greet" event featuring Mrs. Child with Champagne and high end hors d'oeuvres.  I wasn't really paying attention until I heard the word Champagne! I love the stuff. Half of the already small kitchen was taken up by case after case of Champagne which needed to be chilled quickly for the 40 guests arriving in an hour and a half!  I set to work immediately after first tripping over the cases. A quick scolding by Mrs. Society was in order, "CAREFUL! That is Veuve!" (As in Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, my favorite champagne!). I glared at her. Yes, Mrs. Society, I know my Champagne. Oh, and thank you for asking about the swelling bruise now the size of an egg protruding from my shin, I truly appreciate it. 

I had been working diligently with my catering coworker, whom I will call Betty, for about an hour when all of a sudden the galley kitchen door opened and in strode a dozen of Philadelphia's finest restaurant and hospitality doyennes. Now this was a galley kitchen it was already cramped with me, Betty, Mrs. Society popping her head it all the time, and several cases of the bubbly stuff. After putting up with the increased crowding for several minutes, I turned to these lovely ladies and stated, "Ladies, we need to get ready for Mrs. Child's arrival, so could you please take this out to the living room, at least temporarily? That would really help Betty and I get ready."  No response and continued talking, cackling, and annoying chattering.  I waited one minute and then exclaimed, "THAT MEANS ALL OF YOU!"  After a number of "Oh my!'s, Who is that young man?, and Well!" they finally all shuffled off to the living room area. Mrs. Society turned and gave me an icy stare before retreating with the rest of them.

Betty left the kitchen and was now out in the middle of 40 ladies trying to pass Champagne. I think I had lost her in a sea of perfectly coiffed and blown out helmets.  Just then, another group of about six women burst into the kitchen. I said under my breath with my backed turned to them, "For the love of God, who is it now!!!!" I whirled around with a bottle of Champagne in each hand getting ready for battle and an older much taller woman asked me, "Boy, can I get a glass of Champagne. Oh I just LOVE Champagne!"  JULIA CHILD!

Julia Child was standing right before me ... or rather, right over me!  At an advanced age, she still was a physically large woman. I handed her a glass of bubbly in a daze and she thanked me and turned to her friends and resumed talking about restaurants, the state of cooking in America that year, and other culinary topics. She did look much older than any recent pictures I had seen, but was very sweet, giving time to the seemingly never ending questions being tossed her way by fawning admirers.

I began to move away to pass Champagne to the ladies in the rest of the apartment and Julia reached out to me, and said with her familiar laugh, "Boy, make sure you come back, I may want more Champagne!"  I replied, "Yes of course Mrs. Child!" 

After circling the affair, I entered the kitchen and there she was, the Grande Dame of the culinary world, holding court in one place where she was probably always most comfortable, the kitchen. She saw me and motioned me over with her glass, "Boy! More Champagne over here please!"  So I was the Champagne Boy. Well, I can tell you I have been called alot of things at these parties, but that is one title I kind of enjoyed. Julia Child's Champagne Boy.  The rest of the "Meet and Greet" event went smooth. I really didn't talk to Mrs. Child. It wasn't my party to socialize with her.  The host, Mrs. Society, was happy because I kept Julia Child happy. Julia was kept busy with lively conversation by the guests, but she did take the time say thank you and good bye to me which I greatly appreciated.

Farmstands and Farmers Markets

Farmers markets and roadside stands are a great place to take in the local scenery, color, and flavor. Where else can you get the freshest of farm produce, dairy products, and eggs for a fraction of the price at a supermarket. Not only that, you are supporting the local economy down to the basic level of production, the farmer himself. I grew up in South Jersey (which to the folks who aren’t in the know, is “southern” New Jersey). My family would take the back roads down to various bay and beach side towns such as Fortescue, Ocean City, Strathmere and Cape May. Along the way, passing the cranberry bogs, the Pine Barrens, and eventually smelly salt marshes, would be my first introductions to the roadside farm stand.

At these roadside stands we would find specifically what that particular farmer was growing. Mom would buy apples, blueberries, peaches, heavy softball size Jersey tomatoes, white “Silver Queen” corn, asparagus, and other farm products which grew well in the sandy soils the closer one got to the Jersey shore. You would also find some local honeys and locally grown flowers for sale. I would ask Mom and Dad at each stand, “Why doesn’t this farmer have lettuce or apples?” They would instruct me that this wasn’t like the supermarkets at home and that not every farmer had every type of fruit or vegetable.

There is a wonderful farmers market in Sewell, South Jersey by the name of Duffield's Farm Market. They have been open since 1953. Adam, Sheryl, and I would go there with Mom and Dad throughout the seasons. One of the best memories was pumpkin time! We would pick out our pumpkins to carve for Halloween. Mom would buy some mums, mini jack-o-lanterns, and Indian corn for the front door. A special treat was their apple cider, candy apples, and then visiting the petting zoo. I specifically remember being bit by a goat. I screamed. Otherwise, all of the other memories were great!

My family also would take Sunday trips out to Lancaster, PA and visit the Bird in Hand Farmers Market in the town of Bird in Hand, Lancaster County, PA, where over 20 vendors sold (and still do) their wares. There are other farmers markets in Lancaster County but this is the one I always remembered traveling to with my family. Here, you can buy all sorts of homemade and farm products such as chow chow, pepper jam, shoo fly pies, AP cake, rhubarb pie (in season of course), all sorts of other PA Dutch bakes cakes and goods, old fashioned candies, herbs, spices, smoked meats and cheeses, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and Amish and Mennonite crafts such as quilts, wrought iron and wooden furniture, and souveniers. Adam and I would always love the sugar rock candy sold here.

I remember Dad would sometimes got lost driving around the surrounding countryside. I am not sure if he meant to get lost, but we would spend hours criss-crossing Amish country passing by quaint school houses, large farms, men plowing fields with teams of 10 or more mules or horses, and horse drawn buggies with traditional Amish families squeezed inside. Fun special memories from quieter times.


After I grew up, I moved out to Berks County, another country-county of rolling farms and hillsides that Pennsylvania is so well known for.  There is also a smaller Amish and Mennonite community in Berks County and luckily, I still found the farm stands I grew up loving. One of the largest farmers markets in the area is Rennigers Market in Kutztown, PA.  This farmers market has it all! There are over 200 vendors available which have almost everything that the Bird in Hand Farmers Market has plus so much more. You can find several vegetable stands indoors, as well as fresh poultry stands, bakeries, seafood peddlers, and butchers. If antiques and collectibles are your thing, on Saturdays, flea market and antique venders set up outside sellling all types of cool and unique antiques, bric-a-brac, and collectibles. Inside of the indoor market are vendor after vendor of dealers in two very long hallways. Some of my best treasures have been bought at this place! It is a great place to shop, have lunch, and get your self lost in for the afternoon.

Lastly, I want to tell you about a small Mennonite farm stand outside of Myerstown, PA in Lebanon County. It has become a favorite of mine to travel to on the weekends. It is right off of Swatara Creek (also known as the Swattie Creek). It sells raw milk, raw cheese, their own honey, pies, breads, eggs, jams, jellies, fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Last time I bought my produce there, I was helped by a very knowledgeable 12 year old girl and her 5 year old sister, both dressed in the prettiest purple homemade dresses.

The best part though, is that this Mennonite family operates the stand by way of an "honor box."  For those of you that don't know what this is, it is very simple. There is a scale to measure your items and figure out how much you owe. You put the money you owe into a box with a slit. You don't ask for change. If it comes to $4.75 and you don't have exact change, be a generous trooper and put in a $5.00 bill. Chances are that the Mennonite family selling these items are more in need of the quarter than you! And I guarantee you that it will be the best eggs, vegetables, honey, or shoo fly pie that you have ever had! That is ... if you find that little farm stand next to the Swattie Creek.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

39 No More

I recently had the pleasure of seeing the exhibit of this artist photographer's blog "project" at the Morris Graves Museum of Art in Eureka, CA., while I was out visiting with my parents, Robert and Martha Haynes for my 41st birthday in June of this year.  Coincidently, my father is on the board for the Morris Graves Museum of Art and the Humboldt Arts Council. If you are ever in Eureka, check out the Museum. It is a wonderful jewel in that small Northern California city.

http://39nomore.blogspot.com/

Mia Semingson is the artist photographer. Her statement off of her blog is as follows:

"I turned 39 on May 7th, 2009. I am documenting my 40th year of life by photographing everyday and posting it on this blog. Each day will in some way reference the previous day's image either visually or conceptually. The project will end on my 40th birthday."

Here is some more information about Mia's exhibit which was featured at the Morris Graves Museum of Art from May 4th through June 19th, 2011. Although it is no longer at the Museum, please check out her blog for her vision.

***This information is off of the website for the Humboldt Arts Council in the Morris Graves Museum of Art, Eureka, CA. I do not claim ownership of it and it is for information purposes only.

"Prior to Semingson’s 39th Birthday, she had confronted herself many times with the concept of living in the present moment instead of looking to the past or the future as the present moment ticked by. She has since decided to change her thought process, to slow time down with the aid of a digital camera, and become sensitive to the present moment by literally seeing and photographing what is in front of her each day. As part of this project, each day’s image references the previous day’s either visually or conceptually."

I truly enjoyed the exhibit and wanted to share it with you via her blogspot.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lost on the Ocean City Boardwalk

I was in Walmart yesterday picking up some not so important stuff, crisscrossing aisles not particularly looking for anything.  it was just the mindless shopping that one does when you just want to shop. No, I don't really need a new set of dish towels, but after a long day at work, for $8.00, a set of new dish towels was reasonable if not cheap. Suddenly at the end of the aisle was a crying little boy. I turned and realized that he was alone, looking around, and crying. Interspersed with his sobs were the cries of "Mommy! Mommy!" A frantic little boy was lost in the big cavernous store of Walmart.  I started walking over to him to see about finding his parents on the loudspeaker system when his Mom swooped in like a mother bird, grabbed him, and continued her shopping. His sobs of panic and fear were replaced with sobs of relief. I think each of us has experienced that panic and fear at one time in our lives.

My thoughts go back to one particular summer on the Ocean City, NJ, back when I was just 4 years old in 1974. It is amazing how clear certain memories remain forever etched in your mind. I was with my family and my Uncle John, walking down the boardwalk one crowded hot summer day.  The scent from the fudge factory was thick in the air mingling with the smell of the sea spray off of the ocean. Before I knew it, I had lost sight of my family! I still can feel the fear that overtook me. As I looked around, I did what any 4 year old would do, tears welled up in my eyes and I cried! Actually, I probably wailed. I frantically glanced back and forth, searching for my parents. I just couldn't see them in the crowd. People towered over my young frame. Just then, a beautiful tan girl with long sandy blond hair and in a white bathing suit stopped and leaned down to ask me if I was lost. I looked up into her kind blue eyes and just cried  and cried. I specifically remember that she said that she would stay with me and help my find my family.

The tan blond girl looked around into the crowd asking if I saw them when suddenly my Uncle John grabbed me and lifted me into his safe arms yelling "GOTCHA!" I remember him running down the boardwalk for what seemed like forever back to my parents and passing me to my father. I was so relieved and just sobbed.  I said to my Mom, "Where is she? Where is she?" Mom replied, kissing me, "Who honey? Who?" All I could get out between sobs was, "The girl who helped me, the girl!" We looked around into the crowd and saw a sea of summer faces. We couldn't find her to thank her. For some reason, though, I never forgot her. Her long sandy blond hair. Her beautiful smile. Her reassuring words. But most importantly, her kindness she showed me when I had never been more scared in my life.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Antiques and Heirlooms

As young as I can remember, my mother and father instilled upon me the value of family heirlooms and antiques. Maybe it’s because we didn’t have much when I was growing up in the 70’s and therefore, whatever heirlooms and antiques that my parents had, they held dear to their hearts. As an adult, I now cherish the heirlooms that are from my grandparents, mother, and father.

I remember my Nana giving me 2 very worn British pennies from the early 1900’s. I held onto them as if they were gold and still have them. She also gave me a metal heart hanging from worn piece of purple yarn. I do not remember the significance of it to her, but to me, as it was my Nana’s, I will keep it in my cufflink box forever. The same concept goes with my Grandpop’s encyclopedia set from the 1930’s. I may not seek out up to date knowledge from them but just knowing that for decades, they were in my Grandpop’s den, and then his office, and now on my bedroom shelf, makes them an heirloom set, at least to me. I remember sitting on his cold wooden parquet office floor looking through them with the eyes of a 6 year old.

My mother and father had an extensive collection of antiques, modern art, and bric-a-brac. With Mom’s keen sense if decorating, it all worked. From each family trip and vacation that we went on, one or two items were carefully selected and bought for the Wenonah house. Of course we picked up the touristy postcards, but these other items, which were hung in the living room or were placed in the dining room hutch, brought back memories of the trip in which they were acquired. I look at a particular ceramic tile tray from Mexico and although it was bought in the 1970’s by my parents, this has now become a family heirloom, reflecting happy times of a newlywed couple's trip to Mexico.

I often buy antiques on my travels for my own various collections. My family knows that when I come out to see them in San Diego or Arcata, California, or even back to my second hometown of Philly, I hit the various antique shops and flea markets looking for treasures. I used to collect Art Deco ashtrays until I reached about 50 of them and thought to myself, “OK, now what?” I sold off some, gave away others, but kept about a half dozen special ones. I am now also collecting Art Deco chromeware, Art Nouveau antiquities, Asian antiquities, modern art, transferware, vintage barware, old photographs, small oil paintings, and pretty much anything else that catches my eye. I am starting a collection of antique glassware, specifically from the last 1700’s to early 1800’s. They are used only for very special occasions and I have yet to have one of those occasions!

The difference between the items that I collect and the family heirlooms that I have kept is that I continue to buy, sell, trade, and gift away my collections once I tire of them. I don't mind moving the items on as I know others will eventually enjoy them as much as I did. The heirlooms are cherished and precious to my heart and soul. They will never be given away, except to my sister, brother, or cousins. A simple 1970’s cracker jar with a garishly patterned top will be kept longer than a flea market-bought Art Deco cocktail shaker. I may not display that cracker jar, but it came from my mother and reminds me of my childhood in Wenonah, NJ. It is carefully wrapped up and kept away for me to look at, perhaps while spending a rainy day reminiscing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Springtime is for the Birds


With the official beginning of summer just around the corner, I had wanted to reflect on the birds which have appeared in my yard this springtime. It was a treat to finally see the robins come back. At one point, I counted 20 in the yard. Now I have an average of six at any one time. They look for worms and don’t really use any of the feeders. The feeders are attacting Baltimore orioles, finches, a cowbird or two, catbirds, one or two mockingbirds, lots of wrens, titmouses, mourning doves, and downy woodpeckers. Unfortunately, my dozen juncos which remained for the winter have moved on.

I only have one cardinal couple that I have seen. The male seems to be a bit of a territorial brute as I have had to put up reflective decals on the windows to prevent him from crashing into them. He seems to think he is not the only one in the yard! The cats were enjoying it though, constantly jumping up to the sink when they heard the familiar sound of Mr. Cardinal knocking his head into the glass.

My hummingbird feeder went up in early April this year. In the middle of hanging the feeder, the female buzzed down to me hovering within 2 feet from my face. I think she was just checking me out to see what I was doing. I remember last May putting it up only to be greeted by two angry hummingbirds buzzing around me as if to say,"We have been waiting!!!" I finally saw the male about a week after the female. They usually have a couple babies, one at a time, each year.

The red crested pileated woodpecker is back again and has been heard squawking in the woods but not yet seen. He swoops in dramatically and attaches himself with his strong clawed feet to the small suet cage, winging madly back and forth, as he helps himself to a meal. He’s about the size of a large raven. Just amazing. Can’t wait to see him again this year.

So far I have seen at least seven nests. A couple were completed and then abandoned. I always wonder why. Maybe poor location? The same titmouse built three nests on the same eve on the underside of our deck, each right next to the other. She moved from nest to nest each day but after two weeks abandoned all three! Well … at least the deck can now be powerwashed without disturbing her and her potential brood.

I also had a robin’s nest in the holly tree by the front door. Not exactly an ideal location either. Nevertheless, mama robin laid four gorgeous blue eggs in the nest. For some reason then, she stopped sitting on them. I was baffled. I spied into the nest later in the week and the eggs broken! Maybe another bird ate them? Maybe a squirrel or cat? Several websites stated that the eggs may have been infertile and subsequently eaten by a predator. Other sites stated that robins will abandon their eggs when they decide there is a poor chance of success with the location and eggs. And one other website stated that the mother could have been injured, eaten, or killed, and that is why she never came back. Questions questions. That is nature though.

I am not sure if it is the same robin since we have so many steady visitors these days, but we have a nest about 5 feet up in one of our evergreen trees. There are three babies and the mother has been feeding them each day. It's always fun to watch them grow from hairless little strange looking babies to standing in the edge of the nest on their own with developing feathers. They still have fuzz on the tops of their head, looking like little senior citizens sitting there. And lastly, we have a catbird which has taken up residence in a log cabin bird house hanging from the corner of the deck. She is quite the loud mouth. Very protective as well.

I am happy to see all of the birds. I still put out birdseed, nuts, and suet cakes during the spring and summer. It relaxes me just watching them interact and eat. They all seem to be quite boisterous and noisy at the end of each day while finding their roosts for the evening. We have two lush maple trees in front of the house. From the deck some nights, it seems as if an unseen WWF cage match is taking place behind the leaves with all of the branches and leaves wildly moving all about. Then suddenly it grows quiet. They go to bed, and I go to bed, until I am woken up again by the first couple birds chirping awake at 5:00 am. And then it begins anew.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gardening Tip from my sister Sheryl

Here is a great gardening idea from my sister Sheryl. I love gardening but it is can be so expensive. Some people have told me that I should grow plants and flowers from seed packets and that will save me money. The problem with that is that I also tend to be a bit impatient (no pun intended as I don’t care for impatients) and don’t want to wait for seeds to sprout. Well, if you have a basic green thumb and can water a plant that you won’t spend a lot of money for, check out the bargain and clearance shelves at your local big stores such as Walmart, Home Depot, and Lowes! They have great deals on plants which have been moved to the back of the garden center off of the front shelves if favor of the new plants. You can also request discounts at nurseries for plants that look a little weather worn or dry. It really never hurts to ask! Sure, some may be half over their blooming cycles but you may still be able to get a couple weeks of blooms after you show that ,dried out, hanging plant some TLC.
I went last week and bought two hanging plants at Lowes for $5.00 each. The original price was actual $25.00 each!  I bought a daisy-type plant and a some other flowering plant with little blue and white flowers. I don't profess to be a master gardener so I am definitely not sure at this point what they are. I may have bought poison ivy for all I know.  After a weeks worth of watering, both have rebounded and new flower buds are emerging. I also pick up plants at yard sales and flea markets. They are usually at least 50% cheaper than the nursery. Make sure you also ask your friends if they have any extra flowers or plants and maybe they can split you off some bulbs or bunches. I was able to get a dozen iris bulbs from a coworker as well as a bucket of ornamental grass and two hosta plants from friends for free. Sure, your neighbors may have a huge marble fountain which cost a bazillion dollars sitting in the center of their yard surrounded by expensive topiaries in the shapes of African plains animals, argh! …. (take a deep breath Marc) … But they will marvel over the variety of plants you have in your own yard. Best of all, you will never have to tell them you saved it for a cheap price from impending death on the garden shelf at the local superstore!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

An Embarrassing Allergic Pullover

One hot July afteroon in 1989, I was traveling up to college at Rutgers University and was pulled over by a New Jersey State Trooper. It wasn’t due to excessive speeding. It didn’t involve a harrowing police chase after a daring bank robbery. And, there was no slow motion OJ Simpson police chase. My first “pullover” by a police officer was the result of an ill-timed allergy attack.

I was driving up to my fraternity house in New Brunswick, NJ. Cruising along in my little red Nissan Sentra, I decided to take Route 295 instead of the the New Jersey Turnpike, most likely because of crazy traffic reported on KYW1060 News Radio. I wanted to get up there as soon as possible because all of the fraternity brothers were headed up for a summer party in the new house on Prosper St that had been just been rented.

I was heading up in the afternoon for a fun evening of beer, beer, and more beer. So here I was traveling up 295 North when I felt one of my summer allergy attacks coming on. I started sneezing. Usually I am a three sneezer but this was something different. I sneezed, and sneezed, and just kept sneezing! Much to my surprise, I heard PHWUMP PHWUMP PHWUMP as I veered into a construction zone. In my rear view mirror three orange cones were doing somersaults off the side of the road like a children’s gymnastics team. And I kept sneezing! By this time, my eyes were watery and I couldn’t see through the sneezing and tears. Thankfully, the construction flag man was quick to jump out of the way. The last I saw of the flagger was him waving and gesturing madly in my rear view mirror. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that he was just almost hit. By his crazy ,I could clearly see he was alive and fully ambulatory.

Less than five minutes later, while cruising in the fast lane and still sneezing from those damn allergies, I noticed a police cruiser coming quickly up behind me. I pulled over into the slow lane to let him pass and realized he pulled up behind me! Oh shit! The cop wanted me to pull over! Damn the flagger and his quick radio to police authority! I quickly pulled over and my sneezing became profuse sweating and not from the July heat!

As my parents had taught me, I pulled out my license, registration, and insurance card, ready to hand over them over when asked. The NJ State Trooper swaggered up to the side of my car. I looked up an him and immediately thought that his hat would be much more comfortable if that hat chin strap went under his chin rather than across it. I refrained from stating this to the officer.

The officer asked if I knew why I was pulled over, I explained to him that I was in the middle of having a very bad allergy attack and quite possibly could have unknowingly meandered over into maybe a sort of construction-looking area. I figured it was better to be vague. He looked at me, got closer to my face and screamed, “Meandered!?!? You took out several traffic cones and almost hit a construction flagger!” He apparently didn’t appreciate my explanation. He stomped back to his police cruiser to check my information. After running my information, he came back to the side of my car.

“Your information checks out, Mr. Haynes. Have you been drinking or are on any medication which would cause you drive erratically?”

“NO! I haven’t had anything! I am having an allergy attack, that‘s all!!” I exclaimed. And with that, I began sneezing again.  Out of the corner of my watery eye, I noticed him rolling his.

Nevertheless, New Jersey’s finest had me step out of the vehicle and go through a battery of tests checking my coordination and ability to touch my toes … all the while continuing to sneeze. No, I wasn't drunk, just a complete allergic mess. I usually can't walk in a straight line anyway much less be tested doing so, but luckily I passed with flying colors ... even with the uncontrollable sneezing.

He stated I could return to my vehicle and remain there until he came back. After 5 minutes, the State Trooper, returned with a warning in hand. “YOU, sir, need to find an allergy medicine that works,” he stated flatly, handing me the warning. "Because when you sneeze, you are a danger and menace to people on the road!!"