Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hurricane Irene

A week after our little East Coast earthquake, Hurricane Irene barreled up the coast. Luckily, Schuylkill County, where I live, did not get a direct hit. Just wind and lots of rain. I still prepped for the hurricane by taking down hanging plants, birdhouses, feeders, and windchimes; putting away chairs and lawn furniture; sheltering tons of mums that I had just bought; and tying down various items which might go flying.
John and I were worried about trees coming down as the property abuts the woods behind us. Luckily, no trees were lost in our yard. Our neighbors two doors down, Lisa and Jacques, lost a huge old oak tree. It fell lengthwise across the yard but thankfully did not fall onto their house. The only damage, besides the tree, was that it fell across Linda’s long, long flower bed at the back of the yard. I wasn’t too upset at that as it took out a dozen or so concrete lawn ornaments and bric a brac which dot the bed. Gargoyles, fishing boys, benches, glass balls, fairies, and fake animals were all taken out in one good swoop. It was a concrete massacre. I have nothing against Lisa and Jacques but their flower beds look like a tacky garden center threw up on them.

Our two butterfly bushes were trashed by the winds. I removed the broken and split branches and then stabilized what remained of the two bushes. Each bush lost a good third of its foliage and branches. Pretty sad considering they each stand at least 10 feet tall. Luckily, these bushes do grow back quickly so I expect them to make a full recovery through next Spring. Except for branches down here and there, we were very fortunate at our home. We lost power for 12 hours but considering some people in Pennsylvania won’t have power until this coming Saturday, it is not a big deal.

I didn’t even get rained on by the storm. Well, not if you don’t count opening my front door. The rain had stopped for at least 2 hours and I figured I would walk outside and survey the damage. Attempting to open the front door, I noticed it was rather stuck. OK, I thought, some water must have seeped in and created a little bit of a seal. So with some effort, I pulled it open and was immediately drenched from head to toe by what seemed like a bucket of water being thrown at me. Water was all over my entrance hall. I hadn’t even stepped outside! Apparently rain was forced in between the storm door and front door by the hurricane winds building up pressure until some unsuspecting putz would open the front door and immediately get drenched. That putz … would be me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Adult Truths

Hi friends and family!
My sister Sheryl turned me on to this hysterical list and I had to pass it on to all of you! We did not write it but thank you to whomever did! I could not stop laughing at several of them. Enjoy! :)


1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.

2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.

3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.

4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.

5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?

6. Was learning cursive really necessary?

7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.

9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.

10. Bad decisions make good stories.

11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive for the rest of the day.

12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection...again.

13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.

14. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.

15. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.

16. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.

17. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.

18. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.

19. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?

20. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!

21. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.

22. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.

23. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey - but I'd bet everyone can find and push the snooze button from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time.

24. The first testicular guard, the "Cup," was used in Hockey in 1874 and the first helmet was used in 1974. That means it only took 100 years for men to realize that their brain is also important.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Let Them Have Quake!

Yes, it's a pathetic attempt to humorously use Marie Antoinette's commonly attributed exclamation "Let them eat cake." These days historians say she didn't even say it. Whatever. I felt it fitting for my blog post on the the Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011!  As all major world events which happen during our life time, this will be included with that question: "Where were YOU when the quake struck?" 

I was in my office when the entire building began shaking. I heard through my paper thin office walls my good friend Cathy exclaimed to our coworker, "Did you feel that!?"  I knew I wasn't dreaming. I ran out of the office yelling, "Oh my god! I felt it! I felt it!!!"  I think Cathy followed that up with something like, "I'm not sticking around!" and with that, I was eating her dust as she bolted down the hall. I soon followed, but like an idiot, went back for my messenger bag. Yes, people, I KNOW you are not supposed to. I hear all of you yelling at me, "You are supposed to leave that stuff behind!" But this being my first earthquake and all, please forgive me.

Cathy and I also went out through the wrong exit door, for some reason opting to take the employee exit 100 feet away when we had an emergency exit 5 feet away next to our two offices.  I guess what I am saying is in a situation of panic, don't look to me for guidance because most likely I will lead you in the wrong direction.

I honestly thought it was either a sink hole under our building or a gas explosion in town, this being Allentown, PA. Several years ago, a government building was swallowed up partially be a sinkhole and they had to make a parking lot out of it. Allentown is also know for gas main explosions due to an antiquated natural gas pipe system citywide. Come and visit me at work real soon now, OK? Just bring a hard hat, a long rope to pull yourself free of rubble, and a first aid kit.

Once outside, none of my coworkers and I could get good cell service, it was spotty. I was able to get online and saw the 5.9 earthquake was centered in Virginia and was felt from North Carolina to Massachusetts with the western areas being Illinois and Ontario, Canada! It was the largest quake in the Virginia area for 7 decades! Thankfully I was able to get through to my sister Sheryl and she was fine:  shaken, but not stirred, in Wilmington, Delaware.

Soon after, all sorts of comments from West Coasters were showing up on all of the blogs and news agencies, not to mention on Facebook and Twitter telling us East Coasters to get over it.  The earthquake was not a big deal. It was small and we shouldn't be wasting so much time on it. Excuse me? Yes we know you have earthquakes like this far more often and stronger than this but come on! Let us have our quake!  Yes we have the occasional flooding, hurricane, snow storms, or twisters, but never earthquakes like this! This was unprecedented!  I say let them have quake! I like living in Pennsylvania because NOTHING HAPPENS! And I like it that way! We don't have mudslides. We don't have dust storms. We don't have blizzards of 10 feet. We don't have wild fires. We don't have long term droughts. We don't have El Nino. We don't have homes falling into the Pacific. We don't have Tornado Alley.What do we have? Amish people, lots of deer, great Fall weather, and lots of bunny rabbits.

So do me a favor my West Coast friends and family, LET THEM HAVE QUAKE! It will probably be another 70 years until our next big one. I promise you that you all can have the earthquake spotlight until then.

Happy Birthday Mom, I miss you.

Today is my dear Mother’s birthday. She passed away on April 10, 2009. It is so hard to believe it is already over two years since she left us.

Mom, not a day goes by where I don’t think of you, miss you, and love you. I know you are looking down on me and hope that you are enjoying your reunion with the other members of our family that have passed on.

Mom would have loved the earthquake drama from the big East coast quake of August 23, 2011. She would have said it was fitting it happened around her birthday. Mom never let us forget that Hurricane Andrew struck southern Florida and the Keys on her 50th birthday! She would have been glued to the TV for all the latest updates on the quake and calling us every hour to see if Adam, Sheryl, and I were alright.

Mom's birthdays were always special. No matter what you gave her:  a homemade gift or card, Jean Nate bath splash 10 years in a row, chocolate covered cherries, one of her favorite CD's, or Monet earrings year after year, she treated each gift as her most favorite. She made the us kids feel like the gifts were gave her were diamonds and gold.  Love her for that.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rest in Peace Gypsy

On Friday, August 12, 2011, my sister made the extremely difficult decision of having to put her beloved dog Gypsy to sleep.  I wrote some time ago of my brother’s decision to put his dog Bingo to sleep and I felt I needed to acknowledge my sister’s pain with the same task. It is such a hard decision to make. Should we let our animal companion suffer or free them from the pain of disease, injuries, and or old age? I have lost three pets this way: our collie Puffy, to cancer, when I was in my early teens; our German Shepherd Gretchen after an accident; and my cat Smokey, who suffered from painful renal failure brought on from old age. Each time was just as painful as the time before it. If anything, the pain of making such a difficult decision reaffirms how much this animal companion truly meant to us. The pain we feel really just sucks though. It seems to terribly unfair to have to make such a decision.

Gypsy was a grand old dame in doggie years. She was a black lab/shepherd mix. My sister adopted her after finding her as a weeks old puppy in a baseball field across from her old apartment building in Philly. She was so small she could fit in one of my sister’s sneakers. I remember walking her for my sister during the winter around the field. It would become a sheet of ice and snow and Gypsy would drag me across! She was such a playful pup. She was the perfect pooch, never complaining, always wagging her tail; extremely happy to see whomever would give her some time.
Gypsy giving Marc a kiss in the ear.
Gypsy was such a sweet good natured dog. Always a little lick of a hello or just a lick of love/friendship. Even in her advanced age, she would struggle to get up and say hi to Uncle Marc. I would rush towards her to try and get her to stay put. All she wanted to do was get up on her wobbly legs and come over and say hi to me, licking me in my ear or side of the head. I loved giving her treats, too. She was just such a loving dog. I have never met a sweeter animal. Rest in peace dear Gypsy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Good Deed?

I stopped at a truck stop for fill up my tank on my way home today. Just a routine stop. While I was twisting open the gas cap, out of the corner of my eye did I spy a young guy walking with a plastic red gas can from person to person at the gas pumps asking for a couple dollars of gas. Just great, I know he's gonna make his way over to me! I thought. I prayed someone would give him gas to he wouldn't have to come over. One by one, people turned him down. "Who is this guy asking for gas? This is going to be annoying," I muttered. I just had a long day and just didn't want to be bothered.

Well soon enough after he was turned down by 4 or 5 people, he shows up right next to me. Ugh. He was in his late 20's, normal looking. I turned to him and rather harshly said, "Yes, what do you want? I see you going from person to person and everyone is turning you away!" OK, so I wasn't the nicest. I immediately acted out against this stranger for coming up and begging for gas. I wanted a reason.

"I, I, I just want a couple dollars of gas, that's all," he stuttered.
"WHERE are you going?"
"I'm just trying to make my way cross country."
"WHERE is your car?"
"Parked across the street," he said quickly pointing to a car stuffed to the ceiling with belongings.
"WHY are going cross country?" I asked. I knew this was getting personal, but what the heck.
"Well, I just want to start over. I just wanna start over man."

I thought back several years ago when I was in dire straits financially. I remember stopping at a gas station and paying for 1 gallon of gas to get me home in dimes, nickels, and pennies. I was so embarrassed.  I actually apologized to the young girl at the counter. "No problem, alot of people are having a tough time with the rising gas prices," she stated trying to make me feel better.

Well right then and there I empathized with this stranger. I was there once, destitute and not having enough money for gas, even to get home.  And it wasn't like he was asking for $5.00 cash which could be spent on drugs or alcohol. He was asking for a couple dollars of gas to be poured into his gas can.  I gave it to him. He was looking around while I was filling up the can.

"Why are you looking about? Are you looking for someone? You look nervous."
"Well they kind of frown upon this thing man. And they may tell me to get lost."
"Oh, you mean truck stop or gas station owners."
"Yeah," he said. "The owners."
"Ok, no problem. I put in enough for a couple gallons of gas. That will help get you down the highway some ways."
"Thank you man, I appreciate it. Thank you so much."

He said thanks several more times. I guess not alot of people have helped him. I wished him well on his journey and he continued on to the next person to ask for a couple dollars of gas.  I guess he could have been a serial killer. He seemed pretty normal. But then again, some serial killers seem pretty normal, too. I'm a pretty good judge of character. I have to be with my job in Domestic Relations. I didn't feel nervous, was in a public area surrounded by others. I just felt I was doing a good deed ... something that I would hope someone would do for me if I needed gas.

I relayed this experience to my big brother Adam.  Older brother that he always is, he warned me to always be careful. I said of course I will Adam. He also said "What happens if you see him asking for gas again at the same station?"  I laughed out loud. "I will tell him off and go get the truck stop manager to get him kicked out of the place."  We both laughed and he asked me to call him next week if I see him.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Endorsement! Brouilly red wine by Chateau de La Chaize

One of my favorite wines is the Brouilly by Chateau de La Chaize. I really like this wine! A Brouilly wine is a red wine from a small appellation in the Beaujolais sub region of France. The Beaujolais sub region is actually part of the larger Burgundy region of eastern France. So now you know where it's from! The wine is made exclusively with the Gamay grape, a very old cultivated grape used as far back as the 15th century.

The Gamay grape is the same one used for the Beaujolais wines as well. It produces a typically good quality wine with soft tannins. Soft tannins means there are little tannins and your mouth won’t pucker like from a Pinot Noir red wine. For comparison, a strong cup of tea has a ton of tannins. This Brouilly is decidedly light, grapey, and fruity. I taste lots of berry flavors in it. It goes well with all types of foods except real spicy ones. You can drink it at cellar temperature or slightly chilled. I also like the bottle, very squat and shaped differently than your typical wine bottle. Love the label too, showing the ancestral chateau.

I can’t tell you which year to buy. I have always bought the most current year and have always enjoyed it. Various wine websites online talk about the best years and other flavors detected. Check them out by doing a web search and decide for yourself if you detect other interesting flavors. I just know I LIKE IT!

Old School Photos and Books

The age of old school photography has pretty much ended. I am not talking about the professional photographer, but instead, the amateur photographer:  the person that goes on vacation and has to have a picture of your travel mate or family in front of every ridiculous monument you visit. I was and still am one of those people. With digital photography, mistakes can now be just deleted with the press of a single button. We are now in an immediate, instant world.

There is something about holding that photograph in your hands that you waited an entire week for. That feeling of satisfaction gazing down at the photo that you yourself took. I would always love waiting for them to come in the mail from Clark photo labs or counting down the week until they were developed at the local supermarket or pharmacy. I would pray and hope that each one would come out perfect! But more than not, Uncle Charlie would have his eyes closed and Cousin Sarah would have the dreaded “red eye”. My brother Adam's mouth would be gaping open at an inopportune moment ... sorry Adam :). Someone’s little brother would try and photobomb each picture. You would see his head try and creeping into the bottom of the photograph. Or he would just lunge in between you and your best friend. I’d take a photograph of the cat who would jump out of the frame at the last minute and curse him for making you waste the film. Or it would be too sunny or too dark and everyone’s faces would be whited or blacked out. I would try and photograph a landscape while in my Dad’s car and inevitably, it would come out blurry. But every once in awhile, I would have that photograph that comes out PERFECT. It would either go on the fridge or in a frame on the my dresser. I miss that thrill. Today, it is too immediate, too instant. Some of the joy of amateur photography has been lost in the digital age. Our kids will never know a world where they don’t have to wait a week or two to get their photos developed. 

And in the same breath, the Kindle, Nook, or other electronic book readers have begun to revolutionize our attitudes and methods of reading.  Two of my coworker both love theirs. They say the readers are convenient,  easy to use, and save on space, especially when traveling. The memory on each is incredible, the books are cheap, and you can swap the book 'files' with others, or even rent them now at the library.  Books can be downloaded anywhere you can get a "wifi" signal, the readers are light, and can be read in bed or while working out at the gym easier than a conventional book. Both friends interestingly agree that they use theirs for their hobby of reading novels but both say it would not replace purchasing or reading coffee table or photography books

I will always love books. I love their smell, their feel, and their weight. Thumbing through colorful pages of photographs, back and forth, marking where I stop for the next night with a favorite book mark. I am so old school with my books! I love coffee table books which are large enough to encompass your entire lap, ones that weigh like 10 or more pounds. What fun and joy have I always received from spending hours of my youth pouring over pictures of different animals, people, and places. These days, I have about 4 or 5 bedside that I pick from to read for an hour or so before bed.  One night it may be the biography of Thomas Jefferson, another night a travel journal from across the globe, and still another Ernest Hemingway's short stories. Reading before bed relaxes me although I find I need to go over the last couple pages from the night before. I often forget what the heck I last read from the previous night.

When my father moved West with my step-mom Martha, he graciously left me his art book library. I added it to my own library and now treasure each tome. My Aunt Janet was one of my favorite aunts when I was a little kid. She gave me a book each time we visited with her. Now as an adult, I appreciate that. These days, I try and give a book each visit to my nieces, nephews, and kids of my close friends. I guess you could say I am the "Book Uncle." I bring them a book each time I see them ... but usually throw in some cold hard cash in the inside cover for them to buy what they actually wanted. I love books and want to pass that on, but come on now, I was a kid once too!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Skateboarding Anyone?

A couple years ago when John and I were living in Oley, PA, John came home one summer day with a carload of stuff he bought at an auction. Among the old dusty books and antique bric-a-brac was a skateboard with big knobby wheels. It was an “off road” skateboard meant to go down grassy slopes and hillsides. I was intrigued but he wanted to try it out first. Remembering my golden teenage skateboarding years, I grabbed it out of his hands determined to be the first to glide down the lawn!

“I used to do this when I was 16! Let me show YOU how it’s done!” … famous last words.

I stepped on that skateboard and went less than 1 foot … LESS THAN 1 FOOT … and flipped up head over heels in the air and landed on my right wrist HARD. I screamed out in pain. John ran over to me, exclaiming, “Marc! Oh my god, are you alright!” The look on his face was a little panicky as my wrist began swelling immediately.

Sprawled out on the driveway, I grabbed my wrist, now throbbing in severe pain. I couldn’t catch my breath! All I could do was moan and hold my wrist. Suddenly, I got up and lumbered over to the other side of the drive.

John commented, “Wow buddy! Work through the pain big guy! You’ll be alright.” He was impressed that I got to my feet so quickly.

“No... spider ... BIG spider over there on pavement!” was all I could shriek between groans and moans. A two inch long wolf spider was making its way across the drive and I was directly in his path.

Apparently John misconstrued my intense fear of wolf spiders for that of bravery. I hate spiders, especially wolf spiders.

Luckily, my wrist was not broken, just a severe sprain. I wore a cast for a month. My ego and pride were bruised by a two inch long wolf spider.

And come to think of it, I really sucked at skateboarding when I was 16.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hungry Squirrels, a Stripped Rose Bush, & Crabgrass

Now I know what you are thinking dear reader, Marc's squirrels have eaten the rose bush?! No, not the case. The squirrels have been active but only with the bird feeders. No sooner do I fill up the feeders than a marauding band of 3-5 squirrels come charging across the yard to eat every last speck of bird seed! It is rather aggravating since the birds don't even get a chance at the seed.  I once saw a product at the local nursery that I can mix in with the seed to keep the squirrels away. It contains capscacin from hot peppers and isn't harmful to birds or squirrels. The birds are fine eating it. The squirrels apparently hate it. I think that I am going to try it.

The remains of the rose bush after pruning off empty branches. There is still hope!

The rose bush is another issue. It was growing so well during the spring. I was getting pink roses early! It was even surviving the beginnings of this hot dry summer we are in the midst of. Well I walked out one evening to water it and prune off the dead roses and found it stripped completely bare down to 6 inches off the ground. That means I had a full 3 feet of nothing but thorny branches! Argh! So after a little investigating, I discovered that deer love munching on roses. And sure enough, I found deer tracks in my yard. I often get deer in the night. Hardly ever see them during the day. An online resource recommended the product Liquid Fence but it came with the caveat that even that isn't foolproof. Hope Mr. Deer enjoyed his meal of roses.

What you see in green is crabgrass!
The only vegetation successfully growing in my yard in this hot summer is the crabgrass, I have decided that I am going to embrace it because that is the only green on my lawn. I had once dreamed of calling the property some bucolic grand estate name such as "Foggy Hollow" for the morning fog which settles in the yard, or "Sloping Meadow" for the way the yard gentle slopes downward towards the house. I think I will settle on "Crabgrass Alley."

Dead leaves from my wilting pussy willow tree.

The heat has been horrible! The forsythias are wilting. The trees are wilting. My flowers are done. The pussy willow tree is shedding inner leaves. Some trees have actually started to go into the Fall change from the heat. Ugh! I don't know about you, but I just don't have the money to run the sprinklers 24/7! I am thinking this summer is a bust for the perfect lawn. I hear humming or is it "Mum-ming" around the corner? Come the fall, I am going mum crazy and just gonna plant mums everywhere. Gotta love the mums, they can survive pretty much anything.  But can they survive a marauding band of squirrels and one hungry deer?

Scotch and Whiskey Quotes

One of the first drinks that I ever had was sipping my Dad's Dewar's on the rocks. I think I remember hating it but I eventually started to develop a taste for it after college. These days, I really enjoy single malt Scotch. Specifically, my favorite is Laphroaig.  I love it's smokey peatiness. Always have. When I order Laphroaig, I usually order it neat. This means ordering it without ice or a splash of water. In this way, one is able to get the full effect and flavor of the dram. (A dram is a small glass of whiskey or Scotch.)  Very rarely, if I am in the mood, I have it with one cube or just a splash of water but usually, just neat. Remember to always drink responsibly friends!

Here are some great Scotch and whiskey quotes I have found over the years.
  • "I love Scotch. Scotchy, Scotch, Scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly." - the character Ron Burgandy played by actor Will Ferrel in the movie Anchorman
  • "I love the sing, and I love to drink scotch. Most people would rather hear me drink Scotch." - George Burns, American comedian
  • "Always carry a large flagon of whisky in case of snakebite, and furthermore always carry a small snake." - W.C. Fields, American comedian and actor
  • "Set up another case bartender! The best thing for a case of nerves is a case of Scotch!" - W.C. Fields, American comedian and actor
  • "Whenever someone asks me if I want water with my Scotch, I say I'm thirsty, not dirty." - Joe E. Lewis, American comedian
  • "I like my whiskey old and my women young."  - Errol Flynn, Australian actor
  • "Whiskey is liquid sunshine." - George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright
  • "I should never have switched from Scotch to martini's." - actor Humphrey Bogart's last words
  • "There are two things a Highlander likes naked, and one of them is malt whisky." - Scottish proverb
  • “Champagne's funny stuff. I'm used to whiskey. Whiskey is a slap on the back, and champagne's a heavy mist before my eyes.” - actor Jimmy Stewart in the movie The Philadelphia Story
  • “I’ve been on the whisky diet – I’ve already lost three days!” - British comic Tommy Cooper
  • "For her fifth wedding, the bride wore black and carried a Scotch and soda." - Phyllis Battelle, American journalist
  • The light music of whiskey falling into a glass - an agreeable interlude." -James Joyce, Irish novelist and poet
  • "Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough." - Mark Twain, American author and humorist
  • "Friendship is like whisky, the older, the better." - anonymous