Me, Sher, and Ad

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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My 80 year old Doctor (I do not own the rights to this pic)

When I was 28, I moved out of Philly down to Media, PA. As with any move to a new area, eventually you get around to choosing a new doctor, dentist, eye doctor, etc.  See I said eventually and not immediately. I happened to wait up to the last minute and went scrambling for a doctor when I came down with bronchitis.  I plunged into the spare bedroom still filled with unpacked boxes frantically looking for my health benefits guides. I needed a doctor and needed one fast! Finally after what seemed like a dozen boxes, I found my benefits guide listing doctors available in the area.

Flipping page after page, I needed to find a doctor close by. I then remembered that Riddle Memorial Hospital was only a mile down the road, so I figured I would pick a doctor from there. I looked down the list and saw 'general medicine' and chose Dr. Morty Zimmerman. He sounded nice. So Dr. Zimmerman it was! I called immediately and set up an appointment later that day.

Upon arrival at Dr. Zimmerman's office, I checked it with the front desk. The woman was polite, but I do remember her giving me a strange look. Now paranoid, I asked for the restroom and checked my teeth for the remains of lunch. There was nothing. Okaaay, maybe I just imagined her odd look.

I sat down in the waiting room and a couple other people came in and sat down. I grabbed a magazine on Senior Citizen Travel and decided to plot where to spend my retirement while waiting for the doctor.  10 minutes passed. An elderly man came into the office with his walker and had difficulty transfering to a chair, so I helped.  I grabbed another magazine, AARP, and started reading about senior citizen discounts available to me once I reached 65. Wow! You can sure save alot, I thought.

Finally Dr. Zimmerman, who looked vaguely like the cartoon Mr. Magoo, came out and called my name. He must have been 80 years old! I got up and strode towards him and got a funny look. Do I look that bad? I thought. I must look really sick!

After examining me, he prescribed an antibiotic. Before he left, he turned to me and asked, "Son, how did you find me?"
"Well," I began, "I looked you up in my health benefits guide under "general medicine" for Riddle Memorial Hospital."
He laughed. "Son, I'm not under 'general medicine', I'm under 'geriatric medicine!'"
"What's the difference?" I asked,
"About 50 years," he retorted and he left the room.

I sat as I got changed and thought about it. Geriatric ... 50 years ... AARP ... senior discounts ... Holy CRAP! I picked a senior doctor!

Once changed, I walked through the waiting room now filled to capacity with senior citizens from 70 to 100. Walkers, wheelchairs, and even a couple of oxygen tanks abounded. I shook my head and laughed quietly. I couldn't believe my mistake!  But you know what, I went back to him until he passed away 4 years later. Sure I got funny looks from the other patients 50 years my senior, but he was one of the best doctors that I ever had.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holidays When You've Lost Someone

When you have lost someone in your life, a spouse, child, parent, sibling, or close friend, the holidays become extremely difficult and sad. Judy Garland's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" from the musical "Meet Me in St. Louis" comes to mind. Judy sings, "From now on we'll have to muddle through somehow."  I find the lyric so sad and poignant. Later versions changed that lyric to the more positive ""Hang a shining star upon the highest bough!"  You can thank Frank Sinatra for the more jolly line.

I actually like the sad lyric. It reminds me that there are others out there like me, that struggle to get through the holidays after losing a loved one. You try and put up a brave face but sometimes the sadness makes it difficult. Anyway, that's how I read it. I do have fun holidays though, but these days they are bittersweet.  My Mom was the focal point of our family. She gathered us kids at her house each year, whether Christmas Eve or day, made dinner, and was our Northern Star that we looked to for guidance, familial warmth and love.

If you know someone who has lost someone important in their lives, recognize that at some point, they will be sad during the holidays. I express my sadness in private, or to my sister or brother, or  OK OK, on my blog. Alright, I am pretty open about my sadness. There I said it. :o) For me, it has become cathartic to write about it. If I haven't said it, thank you for allowing me the ability to write about my feelings.

Realize that your loved ones who lost someone will most likely will come out of it and join back in the festivities. Give them a hug and let them know that you understand why they are sad. It will (and from experience I know) be greatly appreciated. If you yourself have lost someone, reach out to a close friend or family member who has too. Sometimes there is nothing wrong with commisery. A good cry and hug does wonders!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Worst Apartment: the Mole Hole

Back in the mid 90's when I was a partying twenty year old in Philly, I looked at my apartment as just a place to sleep. I got up, went to work, ate out, maybe came home to change, and then went out for the evening until sometimes 5 to 7 am. I was a hard partying kid. I have no regrets. It was all in good fun. I lived alone for the most part, other than for a stretch with my great roommates Greg and John, when I lived with them on Rittenhouse Square. My only other worthwhile companion was Smokey the Cat. My favorite apartment was at the Claremont apartment building at 10th and Clinton. I had a wide spacious studio apartment. I considered it a walk up as I didn't trust the elevator.  It creaked and shook between the 2nd and 3rd floors. I loved that apartment though and have fond memories of it. 

My worst apartment was the Mole Hole. I named it after I discovered the back 1/3 was partially underground. After living with Greg and John for a couple of fun crazy years, I decided that I needed to get my own place again. I had been relatively lucky with apartment hunting for my first two besides the Rittenhouse Square apartment so I figured I would just look at one or two sites. For me, it became all about location!

My entrance way was on the left side of the bright green plant. Can't see it? That's because it's barely a 2ft wide alley!

I decided that I wanted to live in the Olde City neighborhood of Philadelphia. I loved the art galleries, the old factories slowly being made into lofts, and the historical sites like the Betsy Ross House and Ben Franklin's grave. It was also far enough away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Center City Philly that I felt like I was in my own neighborhood without the hassle of running into everyone I knew.

I looked at two apartments. The first one was too expensive in the long run. I jumped on the second one at 2nd and Race Street. It was a cheap studio apartment in the the rear first floor of an art gallery owned by a middle aged Swedish couple. I gave it one walk through and decided that this was it! Soon, though, I would realize why it was so cheap. Granted the only entrance was down the brick covered dark 2 foot alleyway, but I figured I weighed 135 lbs and could easily slip down it. Also, there was no door bell to reach me in the back and large people had to walk sideways, but it was nice and secluded from the noise of the city. Oh yes, one other thing. Visitors would have to run thrown a gauntlet of dripping water down the brick alleyway. ICK!

I signed the lease almost immediately and made arrangements to move in. I brought my big sis, Sheryl, down to see my little apartment in the hippest neighborhood! It was the first time I saw her truly speechless. It was also the first time I saw her openly sob immediately upon walking into the apartment. "Can you get out of the lease!?!?!?" she quickly asked. "Uh no...," I began. She sobbed again openly. I said, "It isn't that bad!" Sheryl asked me how many I had looked at and I told her two. She said I should have looked at more, and I should have consulted her, and asked again if it was too late? I drowned her out in my mind. I was sure this was a find and convinced myself I would love it. At $235/mth rent, I would learn to love it! That was June. It would be a couple weeks before I would begin rethinking my apartment choice.

The apartment itself with three long narrow rooms, one after another. The first room was the kitchen/dining room. It had a small window, 1 ft by 1 ft which opened. That. Was. It. One the gallery side end of the building, it had a doorway blocked off by a sheet of plywood from the gallery in the front. (Months later, in an act of defiance, I would play club and disco music at high volume to disrupt my landlords' gallery openings when they wouldn't repair my tiny bathroom.) The front room was about 10 feet by 6 feet. The bathroom was right off of this room. It was small enough where you could sh*t, shower, and shave without moving from the same spot. It was that small. The toilet frequently backed up. I often found roaches crawling up from the drains. Curiously, there were none the day I looked at the apartment. I always said they were in cahoots with the landlords.

The second room was the living room. With my futon, it became the bedroom too. It was about 8 ft by 6 ft with a large 5 foot picture window. I loved the window, it looked over the little back patio but unfortunately, also created a sauna like atmosphere in the summer. The apartment often heated up to over 90'F until I started covering the window with a layer of bed sheets.

The back room, which was supposed to be the bedroom, was the most interesting. I found that as I walked further into it, it sloped downward unnaturally, like there was a sinkhole beneath it. Looking at it from the patio, the room actually slanted underground into a little hill behind the row home. Hence, the name Mole Hole was born. Also, there were no windows in this room, and the walls were just painted cinder block. Well, I figured, it will be cool in the summer! And oh it was. Nice and cool. Unfortunately, there was no heat in the room and during the winter, I actually froze water back there. Since there was also doorway closing it off, I had to hang 3 wool blankets across the doorway to keep out the cold. Even the mice and roaches didn't dare go back there.

Soon, my friends were offering to meet me out instead of coming over. The one friend who did stay over had his car stolen from out front of the apartment. My only guests were either the landlord dropping by unannounced, sometimes surprising me in my naked glory, or my dear trusted feline companion, Smokey. Smokey had the crazy habit of catching the mice and roaches and leaving them for me on my pillow as gifts. Ah ... what a good and thoughtful kitty. Thank you Smokey! Rest in peace! My neighbors played rock music constantly until 4 am. It annoyed me only sometimes as I was usually out with friends until at least 5 am.

Well I knew I wouldn't be staying for another year, but for $235/mth rent, I sucked it up. Needless to say, my landlords and I did not part as friends. For years afterwards I could recite various Swedish curse words they yelled at me for constantly complaining about the apartment. Sheryl helped find me a great apartment at16th and Spring Garden St, just 5 blocks away from her apartment. I think she liked having me closer. I  made out with free meals.

What did I learn from this experience?  Location isn't everything. See many apartments. Get other people's opinions. Choose an apartment with a window you can actually fit through. Don't pick rodents and vermin as possible roommates. Choose an entrance way with an actual door bell and one wider than 2 feet.  Lastly, DO NOT take an apartment just because it is cheap! It is usually cheap for many reasons and none usually are desirable.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Endorsement: Swag Boutique in Philly!

I just love the hip Philadelphia boutique Swag, located in the latest trendy neighborhood, Northern Liberties!  What a great place for gifts and stocking stuffers!  My sister Sheryl and I had a great dinner one evening at Bar Ferdinand and decided to walk off the several rounds of tapas and signature drinks that we had. (Sidebar: For a great meal at reasonable prices in a fab Spanish atmosphere, check out Bar Ferdinand!  They make a wonderful Sangria too!)  If you are like me, you are always trying to find that fun affordable gift that will stand out above all others. You want your friends or family members to be talking about it long after the holidays! This is the place to get that fun, creative gift with flair.  Swag has office and housewarming gifts all about whimsy and fun, not to mention a great selection of pieces made by local artists and crafters.

A couple of my favorite items I either bought or admired include:
Nesting doll measuring cups:s
Daily Mood Pads showing 47 moods you can pick from to match your day:
Herb plants in a bag:    
Chopsticks kids:

Spilt Milk Bowl:    
Sake bomb sake decanter:

The proprietor of the boutique, Mey Shou, is very nice and goes out of her way to help you.  She runs the boutique with her husband Tom. As the website states, "Our gifts are all works of art in their own right." but it truly is a fun place to shop after lunch or dinner in NoLib. Don't live in Philly? Check out their website: It's easy to navigate, has great descriptions and pics, and reasonable shipping! I have also included a link on my blog to theirs:  They are also on Facebook at SWAG Boutique.

Swag Boutique is located at:

935 N. 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA, 19123
(267) 888-7246

This Saturday, November 26th, 2011, is American Express Small Business Saturday! AmEx is asking you to support the small businesses in your community and Swag Boutique in Philly is participating! You will not only support the local businesses but also help our economy! Make just one purchase, it doesn't have to be big. Make the pledge to shop small!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Celebrity Encounters of the Political Kind

In no particular order, these are some encounters from my past with those of the political arena that I remember for one reason or another.

I met the former governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, on the Rutgers campus at a rally for his 1988 failed presidential bid. I don't remember his speech. Don't remember his promises, Don't remember his platform. I remember his eyebrows, black and bushy. I also remember Robert Redford introducing him! Although I didn't get to shake Robert Redford's hand, I do remember his sandy blond hair and piercing blue eyes. Very handsome Hollywood leading man looks. Michael Dukakis ... eyebrows. I was more excited to see his wife, Kitty Dukakis. 

The year after Anita Hill testified in Washington D.C. against then US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, I waited on her while she was dining in the Azalea Dining Room at the Omni Hotel Philadelphia. She was very nice. Very soft spoken and polite. She was giving a speech in Philly. I feel I was in the presence of someone of a strong character who stood up for something that she believed in. Clarence Thomas would become a US Supreme Court Justice and still sits on the bench today.  Anita Hill's testimony is said to "have launched modern-day public awareness and open discussion of the issue of workplace sexual harassment in the United States with the ultimate result that the behavior is less tolerated today." (source)

Back in October of 1992, I found myself with friends down in South Philly waiting for then presidential nominee Bill Clinton to arrive. We got a bite to eat at Geno's Steaks and waited. After what seemed like hours, he finally arrived and people went nuts! Former President Bill Clinton's charisma is legendary and the crowd was just captivated by him. I remember shaking his hand and saying hello to him. He replied "Hello there son!" I just stared at him smiling and kept hold of his hand. Secret Service eventually had to separate us. The agent commanded me, "You can let go of his hand now!" and gave me a dirty look. Oops.

Lastly, I have met and spoke with Former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell on more than one occasion while waiting tables at various restaurants or hotels in Philly when he was mayor and then governor.  He was always genuinely friendly and happy to see me. Whenever I had ran into him or waited on him he would always act like he remembered me. I really appreciated that but knew he probably didn't, although I have served him enough hors d'oeuvres for him to. A good politician can pull off that without you even realizing it.

All of that was a good ten or more years ago. These days, the only political figure worth mentioning that I met is my self-proclaimed block captain Charlotte. She's my next door neighbor who I have often seen wandering the yards along my street, just keeping an eye on everything.  She's more interesting that 99% of the political figures out there.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Did I Make a Mistake by Voting?

I came out of the voting booth this evening feeling troubled. Should I have voted for Sigmund T. Bigglesworth (*not his real name ... duh) for the position of county coroner? I mean he was of my party, but I really didn't know who Sigmund was. I wasn't even sure what the county coroner did but I knew it had to do with investigating dead people. I know I liked Sigmund's last name, Bigglesworth. It reminded me of a character I had read in a novel. Sigmund, I really didn't know a thing about you, my friend, and yet I still gave you my vote. Did I do the right thing? Does the average voter know all they need to know about the candidates they are voting for? I think not. 

For years I have voted. I have felt very strongly in favor of it. My parents have always voted and taught us kids that it is our right, our privilege, and also our "civic duty" as they say, to vote. I truly believe that. Even if you feel you have no real voting power or your vote doesn't count, you cannot deny that there were some elections where the outcome was so close! So maybe my vote does count.

At the very least, I figure that if I am on the fence about voting, so are hundreds of other people. Therefore, if I do vote, I am hoping those others will decide to vote and with as close as some elections have been, it seems our hundreds of votes would and do count! For example, in the Washington gubernatorial election of 2004, Democrat Christine Gregoire defeated Republican Dino Rossi by only 133 votes, following two recounts, after the initial count and first recount showed Dino Rossi as the winner! (Source Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent, you cannot deny that this was a close election! Under Wikipedia's list of close election results, there are other examples.

Sure, I may only know the woman who ran for county controller because she stopped by the firehouse bar one evening dropping off beer coasters with her name on it.  By the way, classy ... not (and you didn't get my vote.) But at least by voting, I am exercising my right and staying true to my political ideologies. Oh no, you won't get my party affiliation out of me that easy.  I may surprise you though. I have been known to vote outside of my party lines if I feel the candidate is well qualified. The others, I pick based on how well I like their last name.  JUST KIDDING!

So after mulling it over on a glass or two of wine, I do believe I did the right thing by voting, if not by candidate, then by party lines. So Mr. Sigmund T. Bigglesworth, you can thank me for my vote.  And I solemnly promise to learn more about my local candidates next year. Now do your job without corruption and let's clean up this mess!

Monday, November 7, 2011

National Geographic's "7 Billion People: Are you typical?"

I love this slick video from National Geographic on our ever increasing world population and wanted to share it with my readers. Check out their others at

RIP Andy Rooney

Over the weekend, the lovable curmudgeon of a writer, Andy Rooney, passed away at the age of 92. Andy was a well known writer, humorist, and commentator on 60 minutes from 1978 to 2011. We should all be so lucky to live such a long life doing something we absolutely enjoy. I count Andy Rooney as one of my influences in writing.  My others include Erma Bombeck and David Sedaris.

After years of trying to form my writing style or find my own niche, I finally gave up. That was an epiphany for me. I realized it needed to happen and develop naturally. Instead, I started reading writers that I admired or just liked what they wrote. My style soon developed on its own. That style is influenced by Andy Rooney. I had wanted to meet him one day and figured that if I ever say him in a restaurant, I would say hi. Andy Rooney's response would probably be, "Can you go away? I am trying to eat my dinner."

Memories Lost

Mom and I during a recent Christmas Holiday
What sucks when someone close to you dies are the memories lost.   One of the things which I find particularly upsetting is that you end up starting to forget the memories of the person who has passed away. I come down on myself so much sometimes when I try and remember something that Mom did and cannot. I just don't want to forget anything about her.

I was spent the day in Jim Thorpe, PA sightseeing today and came across some owl figurines. I remembered how much my mother used to love and collect owls back in the 70's and 80's. She had quite a collection of figurines. I suddenly became nervous and panicky that no one else would ever know that she just loved those owls! It would be a memory remembered by my sister Sheryl and brother Adam, but alas, ultimately lost. I grew very sad.

I also remembered how recently, she loved hearing about my local trips around the area and camping:  hiking around the Northwest; my sister's trips to Europe and the Islands, and my brother's trips around the world. She lived through us and enjoyed our travels. Mom also just loved chocolate covered cherries. I know it's a rather random memory, but as the years go on, her grandkids won't know about these random memories. I don't know everything about my grandparents and wish I knew more. Unfortunately, that is the way life goes I guess.  What a sad and sobering realization. Some memories will soon be forgotten.

I mourn lost memories. It just sucks. Who will know that my mother had a crazy Beanie Baby collection? Or that she was such a party girl in Key West, Florida, who loved their festival Fantasy Fest? She would walk up and down Duval Street with all the thousands of revelers. Her favorites shot was Hot Damn cinnamon schapps.  She would always have a bottle on hand to do shots with her kids when we came to visit.

During the 70's, Mom loved macrame, cross stitch, Judy Collins, and Abba. She made am awesome meatloaf and a rockin' spaghetti sauce. She had one of the best holiday parties in Wenonah. In later years, she collected Lladro ceramic figures and holiday nutcrackers.  After her passing, Adam, Sheryl, and I found that she kept gifts we had given her from back in the early 70's. She kept everything from hand made clay ashtrays to hand made birthday cards.

Mom also was a flower child from the 60's hippie generation and before that in the late 1950's, she roamed the beatnik smokey jazz clubs of the Village in New York City. She continued to love jazz up until she passed away. Diane Krall was amongst her favorites.  And even before that, my mom used to party it up at Rutgers University campus in New Brunswick, NJ. It tickled her pink that I would end up going to Rutgers myself, her old stomping grounds. I have an awesome picture of her at a Rutgers house party with the Phi Ep Fraternity. She was so excited for me when I joined my fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi.

Thanks for indulging me about these memories of my dear mother. I often write about things that I feel we all go through or can relate too. Losing someone is difficult, even after a couple years. You want to be able to honor them after they have passed by holding onto those important memories. I feel awful when I can't remember certain things about them. I guess it's part of moving on with life. You remember the love and feelings you had. Pictures and scrapbooks fill in the remainder.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The October Nor'easter

On October 29th of this year, a nor'easter hit the northeastern US causing destruction in its path. They called it Snow-tober. Snow fell at unprecedented rates felling trees left and right which had not yet lost their leaves. Several million were without power. It was a storm causing more damage and outages than Hurricane Irene's path through the area in August of this same year.  We lost power for about 8 hours. Some areas were still without power five days later.

My area, Schuylkill County, received between 8 and 16 inches of heavy wet snow. Some areas had snow drifts of 2 feet!  By the time it was over, my yard had several trees down with at least as many bushes destroyed.  In my front yard are two large silver maple trees which lost all of the top branches from the weight of the snow on the leaves. A good 15 - 20 feet were snapped off the top of each one. In the middle of the yard, a beautiful cherry blossom tree fell over. We are going to attempted to replant it with 5 friends.

All of the butterfly bushes were destroyed. The nor'easter finished off what Hurricane Irene began. The rose bush is gone.  Forsythias were ravaged. The dogwood, lost one of three main branches off of its trunk. It had already lost two from Irene. I would estimate that 75% of the trees had some sort of damage.

This one-two punch culminates a bad year weather wise for the area. We went through a bad drought this summer followed by Hurricane Irene and then literally two weeks of heavy rains. The rains caused the flooding of almost every river and stream in Pennsylvania causing death and widespread destruction. And now, October 2011 ended with one of the earliest snow storms on record.
My focus is now just cleaning up the yard for the winter. The temperatures are back up in the 50's. The snow has melted and it will be mild for the rest of the week.

I count my blessings. No branches hit the house or deck. Sure, the yard destruction is not covered by insurance, but most will grow back or be replanted. The trees bear the scars of this storm.  A huge branch fell where my car is normally parked. I had traveled down to Philly for the night to my sisters for a Halloween party.  Granted it's a crappy car, but no one wants the headache of their car being destroyed.

Life goes on and the cleanup continues.

Followup:  With the help of three of my neighbors, John and I were able to replant the cherry tree!  It will need to be staked for the next year. Fingers crossed that it survives. At least we were able to save it for now!