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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Check Out This Neat Motor Home





We went for a drive Saturday and we stopped by the local motor home dealer near Midway. We always liked small motor homes - having owned 4 of them. Retired trailing spouses love to drive campers in their light blue jump suits.

This one is special because it is on a Chrysler Daimler chassis. It is made by Road Trek in Canada. It has a turbo diesel Mercedes engine that gets 23 MPG. It has a full bathroom - a full kitchen - a king size bed at street level - and it still can park at a regular parking meter space.

Last year you may re-call - we sold our 1995 Chevy camper for about $14,000 on the eBay. It had about 60,000 miles on it. This new camper is about the same size and has the same equipment. It costs $77,000 new.

The Chevy we sold had a 350 engine that got 10 MPG - you can buy a lot of gasoline for the difference between $77,000 and $14,000! But that is not how people are thinking right now with the gaoline price frenzy. Some folks will spend $63,000 to save $1000 a year on gasoline.

No - we have no intention to buy it - unless we hit the lottery - and that is impossible because we do not buy tickets. The lottery is a tax on people that are poor at math - or they believe some super power is going to draw their name :-)

Maybe I should just pray for the motor home.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Buying and Selling Stuff Over the Internet - http://tallahassee.craigslist.org/






http://tallahassee.craigslist.org/

Being a trailing spouse - I have way too much spare time on my hands. A lot of that time is wasted "surfing" on the Internet. I love reading the news about Tallahassee and Florida - and also the news from up North back home. But one of my favorite spots on the Internet is "http://tallahassee.craigslist.org/" It is a place where you can buy and sell things for free. Yes - free. There are no listing fees - no commissions to pay - no charges for posting pictures - free is really free there.

The web site - "http://tallahassee.craigslist.org/" - is so easy and straight forward. It is like a yard sale - and auction - and the classified ads - all wrapped up in one.

I have been buying and selling items on Craigslist for a couple of years. I have sold a motorhome - motor scooter - lawn mowers - table saws - sofas - chairs - tables - china - pool covers - coins - books - computers - clothes - quilts - blinds - you name it. I bought - cars - motorscooters - trucks - tools - paint.

To buy and sell on Craigslist.org - you need a computer and an Internet connection. If you are anywhere near the Capitol Building - you can even use the wireless conection there for free. Many times I have sat at Andrews Cafe on Adams Street - having lunch and checking Craigslist.org on the free wireless internet there with my laptop.

When posting items - you simply select "post" and then write the text of your advertisement. You then type a title for the ad and select a category. There are tons of categories - cars - tools - motorcycles - furniture - computers - electronics - household - jewelry - etc. The best part is that you can post 4 color pictures for each ad - again no charge.

"Craigslist.org" is world wide. You can shop in any city you want. An example would be - the other day I bought a brand new pressure washer in Miami. I was driving to Miami anyway to see my son - so I picked up a super deal from a very professional seller. I got the $1100 pressure washer fpr $680 - it was still new in the sealed box.

It is so easy to write the ad and place the pictures. Of course - it is "let the buyer beware" - you must understand you have no recourse if the deal goes bad.

I do not know how "Craigslist.org" makes any money - I really do not care. I just know that it is fun - addictive - there are no fees - and it works. I used ot be a big fan of "eBay" and still use that service - but this one is more elegant.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Today Was Driveway Pouring Day




One of the nicest things about having one of Tallahassee's best contractors living across the street - Bill Gwynn - is getting prompt quality work. Bill and his crew last summer built our workshop/guest house. We were so happy with the results that we had him back today for another round.

The pouring started at 8 AM and by 1 PM - everything was done. Tomorrow the forms will be removed and the grooves will be installed.

Next week - the landscapers come to grade the lot - install the irrigation system - lay the sod - and finish things off.

At 8 PM - a bunch of zealots walked across the driveway to politic against the new "coal fired" electric plant. They picked the wrong time and the wrong place to lobby the "Florida Coal Cracker."


Sunday, May 20, 2007

I Bought a New/Used iBook Laptop for Our Trip to Europe



You may recall that last July - I "lost" a new MacBook laptop computer on our trip to San Diego. You can read the story in the police log by clicking on the title above. The loss put a damper on an otherwise glorious trip.

So this year we decided to buy an inexpensive laptop to take on the trip to Europe in July.

Someone in Tapple - our local Mac Computer Club - was selling an iBook G3. It is a little white Mac. It has 30 gig of disk space - 640 megs of RAM - and an airport card. That means we can use it wirelessly to check our e-mail and to post stories on the Internet anywhere in the world. The iBook is about 3 years old - it still has some time left on its warranty - Applecare.

It is lighter and smaller than either Nancy's or my laptops.

The laptop looks brand new - but it only cost $315.

After our trip is over - it can be used by our visitors in the guest house.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Our New Driveway





We are replacing our old asphalt driveway with a new concrete one. This is the first step of our spring landscaping project. Builder Bill Gwynn is doing the construction. He lives directly across the street from us. He built our barn and guest house last summer - his crew did such a good job - that we invited them back again. We may have one of the few driveways that goes in one side of the garage and out the other - no need to back up.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Trailing Spouse Tries Coaching Baseball






Before the trailing spouse retired and followed Lulu to Tallahassee – he taught 7th graders for 33 years. During that time – he wore many hats. He was the yearbook advisor – club sponsor – field trip planner – school board president – newspaper editor - dance deejay – field day supervisor – department chairman – public relations director – but he never tried coaching a sport.

One of the things they suggest a retired trailing spouse do is volunteer and try to help others. So back in February when a “Little League” coach put something in the newspaper about needing an assistant – the trailing spouse at first thought it was a joke. But he sent an e-mail to the coach and asked him if he was serious about needing a coach – one that liked working with kids and didn’t have to have any experience as a coach. Quickly he received a return e-mail, “I am not kidding be at Winthrop Park tomorrow at 5.”

It was almost 50 years since the Trailing Spouse played “organized” baseball – but he still had his favorite glove – a Del Crandell left-handed catcher’s mitt – that his dad had specially order for him. It is his oldest personal possession – funny – because he takes great pleasure in throwing away old unused things. Do you ever get old enough to think you’ll never use your baseball glove?

That night – he and Lulu went shopping for some baseball shoes. His last pair had shiney metal spikes on them – long since outlawed. They were “hand me downs” from his dad who pitched in the church league back in the coal regions of Pennsylvania. Even though the trailing spouse is left-handed – his baseball cleats had the metal pitcher’s toe on the wrong foot. It is funny how you do not forget details like that. Finally, near closing time, they found a nice sensible pair of black sneakers at Sears in the mall.

At 5 the next day – he arrived on time to meet the team and Coach Bob. There wasn’t much of an introduction – we all joined in doing exercises. The coach had a cast on his foot and looked like he was in a lot of pain - but that didn’t stop him from pitching batting practice.

The team was made up of 11 kids ages 10 to 12. They were a well-mannered bunch and were eager to learn and play ball. A few dads gathered nearby and helped out any way they could. But after 2 hours of practice – the Trailing Spouse heard something quite unexpected, “Thanks Coach.” That stopped him in his tracks.

So from February thru May – there were 2 games a week – sometimes 2 practices too. Lots of time was given by the coaches and dads.

During the whole season – Coach Bob emphasized sportsmanship – learning – positive attitude – fun – and teamwork. During the full four months – he never heard a discouraging word – from players – coaches – or dads.

The Trailing Spouse’s body didn’t perform like it used to 50 years before. Since he had a catcher’s mitt – it was his job to warm up the pitchers. That included crouching down and trying to catch tiny baseballs well past bedtime traveling at 50 miles per hour. His knees were really sore the first night – but each day is got a little easier. Then trouble hit.

Half way through the season – feeling his oats – the Trailing Spouse took off after a fly ball down the right field line – tripped – rolled head over heels – and had a terrible pain in his side – like being impaled on a punji stick. He grimaced and nursed his side for the next hour in front of the kids – but he knew something was wrong. He went home and spent the next 2 days in bed. It was a cracked rib – and every cough or sneeze sent a super pain through his whole body. Throwing was impossible – but the season went on. It is hard to admit that your body is not as durable as it used to be. But when you have only so much energy – you must choose where to spend it.

Most of the time – the Trailing Spouse spent as a bench jockey – manning the clipboard – calling out batter’s names – and warming up the pitcher between innings. He became really good at yelling, “good pitch” – “good eye” – and “you only need one.”

The team – Talquin Electric Company Shockers – ended up 7-9. Not bad for a young team. They only had one homer – Steve Gabbard – a 10 year older – hit it. Steve’s dad – Steve, Sr. – served as the 1st base coach. You may re-call that “Steve the father” played football for Buddy Ryan’s Philadelphia Eagles. Two other father coaches showed up for almost every game and practice. Attorney Mark Miller kept the scorebook and kept reminding his son Wesley to “stay in the game.” Another dad – Rob Wilson – made time from his busy schedule to help out his son Preston’s team.

After 4 months – playing temperatures going from the 40s to the 90s – the season was over – but not before the Florida State Seminoles invited the team to see a baseball game and tour the locker rooms during Senior Day – the last game of the year. It was probably the last time he will see his players.

Although the Trailing Spouse has attended about 15 FSU bowl games – several ACC basketball championships – tons of Philadelphia Phillies games – none of them prepared him for seeing a sporting event from the coach’s perspective.

Coach Bob – made time for the team in every way. He holds an executive administrative position locally – has 5 kids of his own to care for – was wearing a cast on his foot from a previous injury – and had many schedules to juggle. People often say – “if you want a task done right – give it to a busy person.” It is people like Coach Bob that make Tallahassee an even better community – that is Coach Bob Gabordi.

Near the end of the season – the Winthrop Baseball Commissioner asked the Trailing Spouse if he would like to take over the team next year. Although it was fun this year – in a retired guy’s world – planning for next year is like planning for the next century – leave it up to somebody else.

Robert Frost ended his poem with,
“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.”

Monday, May 14, 2007

Students Rally Behind Teacher in Pleasant Valley

THIS STORY IS A REPRINT FROM THE MORNING CALL
May 13, 2007
Students rally behind teacher
In protest at Pleasant Valley, they dispute accusations in lawsuit.
By Daniel Patrick Sheehan Of The Morning Call
By all accounts, the roadside protest outside Pleasant Valley High School on Saturday would have warmed the heart of the man it was held to support, a history teacher named Bruce H. Smith who has a Mr. Chips-like reputation among current and former students but whose teaching methods have prompted a federal lawsuit against the district.

According to many of the 60 or so protestors toting signs supporting Smith and denouncing the suit, the veteran teacher is a marvel of classroom creativity and energy who preaches independent thinking and inspires even the most reluctant learners with his lessons.

According to the lawsuit, however, filed by plaintiffs identified as John and Jane Doe, those lessons have included exposing minors to graphic photos of nude female murder victims and inappropriate conversations about Smith's sexual exploits.

It also claims Smith directed students to his memoir, a 700-plus-page volume that includes graphic depictions of sexual encounters.

The suit says the plaintiffs asked the Monroe County district to address Smith's methods, and claims school officials retaliated against them by making their names public and allowing Smith to contact them to ''somehow excuse his offensive, sexual conduct.''

The suit names the district, school board, high school Principal John Gress and Superintendent Frank Pullo, but not Smith. It seeks injunctions against ''retaliatory conduct'' and the ''abuse and corruption'' of minors that result from Smith's lessons, plus unspecified punitive damages. The plaintiffs' attorney, Cynthia Pollick of Pittston, Luzerne County, could not be reached for comment Saturday.

School board Vice President John Sabia said directors can't discuss the suit because it is a personnel matter. Smith, Pullo and Gress could not be reached.

Students say the suit is an exercise in out-of-context distortions. Smith's lessons include frank talk and exposure to graphic imagery, they said, but in the name of teaching history without whitewashing it.

The murder photos, for example, showed victims slain in a rampage by followers of the hippie-era cultist Charles Manson. Smith also shares imagery of the Holocaust and other historical crimes, though students said he always warns them beforehand and gives them the option of leaving the room.

''He figured we could all handle this because we were all becoming adults,'' said Ashley Getz, who graduated last year. ''You shouldn't censor something so interesting.

''It's history. It happened,'' she added, shouting over the blare of car horns honked in support by passing motorists.

If Smith asked female students what they wear during pillow fights, as alleged in the suit, it was undoubtedly a sarcastic rhetorical question aimed at undercutting media portrayals of women, the students said.

Seniors Aliya Kenyatta and Maalik Cohen, both 17, said Smith is widely regarded as the best teacher in the school. ''He's always been a gentleman,'' said Cohen, adding Smith has encouraged him to follow his dream of becoming an actor.

Kenyatta said students were never given copies of Smith's explicit memoir. ''He didn't even say, 'Go and get it.' He just told us about it,'' she said.

Students who read the book called it an honest coming-of-age account and said it contained nothing more offensive than the material they are exposed to through movies and television.

The suit was first made public by The Smoking Gun, a Web site that posts court documents, police blotters, mug shots and similar items often pertaining to celebrities in trouble.

When students learned about it, they decided to hold a rally, spreading word through MySpace, Facebook and other social networking Web sites popular among young people.

''I'm an education major, and he had a big impact on me,'' said Kasey Nieves, a 20-year-old senior at East Stroudsburg University holding a sign that read ''Honk If You Love Smith.''

''Any lesson I have to make up, I think of him,'' Nieves said. ''Even kids who didn't want to learn, he could get through to them.''

Saturday, May 05, 2007

I Have Been to the Gates of Hell and Bought a Pressure Washer







I have always wanted a big professional pressure washer - heck - ever since my vacsectomy in 1978. But Home Depot wanted $1080 for the model I wanted and I was just to tight to part with the money.

Since I was going to Fort Lauderdale to see Drew at a convention - I figured I would try my luck on craigslist.org in Miami to see if anyone had the pressure washer I wanted for a bargain price. So I typed in "pressure washer miami" and up popped the exact DeWalt item I wanted for $680! Now all I had to do was find the place.

I called the guy and got the address. He said he had 4 left at that price - new in the box - and out the door. He said if I brought cash - there would be no sales tax. :-(

So I plugged the address in the GPS and away I went in my rental car. I was driving farther and farther south - heck - pretty soon I thought I would be at Fidel Castro's palace. Finaly - I arrived at the place - it looked like a fortress from hell. It was very clean - but it was surrounded by razor wire - and I had to be buzzed thru 3 electric gates to get inside.

Finally - there it was - still in the factory sealed box - the pressure washer of my dreams - the DeWalt D3750 - 4000 PSI - 4.0 GPM - 13 HP Honda engine. We had to remove it from the box to fit into the rental car - the fellas were very helpful with that. I kept looking over my should as I counted out $680 in 20s - and placed them in the slot under the bullet proof glass.

I drove away quickly - then called Doris Meneses - my friend in Homestead. She said I was only 5 miles from her office - so I set the "wayback machine" - my GPS - and got to her office. Doris has a super job as the office manager of a law firm. So we talked an hour - and then I drove to Fort Lauderdale - to share my booty with Drew.

In a couple of days I will be heading back to Tallahassee - after visiting the "gates to hell." In Dante's Inferno - there was a sign that read - "Abandon Hope - All Yee Who Enter" - I think I passed that sign 3 times.

Friday, May 04, 2007

“You Can’t Go Home Again” – A Visit to the Palma Maria near Orlando



Picture - Pete - Mary Ann - Parma - Anna - Harry

Thomas Wolfe wrote a book entitled “You Can’t Go Home Again” where he dealt with a man trying to return to his roots and childhood. If you are a Trailing Spouse from Tamaqua, Pennsylvania and living in Florida – that is not necessarily so. Last night my wife Lulu and I had a chance to visit our past without leaving Florida when we visited The Palma Maria in Casselberry, Florida near Orlando.

When we were coal cracker kids growing up in Appalachia in the 50s – 60s – and 70s – the place to “hang out” in town was the Palma Maria Restaurant. It was on Broad Street and owned by Pete and Dolly Rosinola. They were like the second mother and father to many of the kids in town - offering a nice place to eat and sit to watch the world go by. Besides the marvelous Italian food – one of the attractions was his three beautiful daughters who provided much of the service and they were not too hard on the eyes either.

I recall some of the events in town like when a string of limousines would be parked outside and celebrities like Mohammed Ali would drive for miles to sample Pete’s cooking. The dining room was Tamaqua’s own piece of “Little Italy” right out of the old country. And Pete was our “godfather.”

In 1980 – things changed – the mines and factories were closing down – and the town could no longer support many restaurants. So Pete decided to move the restaurant to the sunshine. He chose Casselberry not to far from Disneyworld – and moved everything. Not only did his spouse Dolly “trail along” – so did the four kids. In a local development – they bought a row of homes – Pete and Dolly – Anna – Palma – Mary Ann – and little Pete.

Life was very good in Central Florida for the Rosinola’s. The news media loved this little slice of Italy by way of Tamaqua. The magazines gave them rave reviews and the best ratings. And even more stars dropped by to enjoy the fine food and warm hospitality. The little restaurant has kept this close family very busy for 27 years.

Like everyone’s lives – some sadness has hit this family. Pete passed on about 17 years ago and Dolly died about 3 years ago. But their presence is evident in the Palma – by watching the 4 “kids” working and seeing all the wonderful family pictures.

I am not a food critic – but biting into my veal parmesan time warped me back to a simpler time. Dinner was wonderful – only to be eclipsed by the peanut butter and banana cream pies made from scratch right in the kitchen just a couple of feet from our table.

The place was busy and the same three beautiful girls that waited on us “back home” served us there. We arrived at 6 PM – and were a bit embarrassed at the special treatment we were getting in the center table surrounded by all these patrons. Folks were wondering who the celebrities were – but not for long as the girls told everyone who these special guests were. As business slowed down toward 10 PM – we just all gathered together to exchange gossip – really serious gossip – that only 4 transplanted Florida coal crackers could only know or care about. Imagine sitting in this central Florida mecca of dining and shopping – worrying about whether the new Walmart back home would make it. We talked about the closing of Wenzel’s Bakery – Morgan’s Knitting Mills – Atlas Powder Company – the CVS that closed after a couple of years because the ground subsided. We all hung our heads about the death of Greg Machay – the heart and soul of our youth. Yes – the same Greg that broke the girls’ hearts with his wonderful personality and was the envy of every guy in town when he upstaged The Beach Boys in concert at the Lakewood Ballroom.

At 10 o’clock – like 6 lost souls on a life raft in a sea of busyness – as we all grabbed for that one last breath of the past – reality set in – we took our “together pictures” – had some wonderful hugs - got in the rental car – and headed back to our Hyatt at the airport. Of course we were armed with a loaf of crusty homemade Palma bread to be delivered the next day to another coal cracker - our buddy Gary in Plantation, Florida.

If you are ever in the Orlando Area – your trip will not be complete without a visit to The Palma Maria. Yes – they have a web page – www.Palmamaria.com - but I have not had the heart to look at it yet. This Trailing Spouse wants to keep the memories safely locked up in that little restaurant – to be visited again soon.



Thursday, May 03, 2007

Driving to Miami

This morning I will leave on a 1 week trip to Miami.

Nancy has a convention in Orlando - and Drew has a convention in Miami. We rented a car for the 1000 mile round trip. Why put 1000 miles on our car - when you can rent one cheaply?

Drew will fly down from Syracuse representing his school at the convention.

Nancy will stay in Orlando for a few days - while I drive to Miami to see Drew. We will stay in a hotel in Fort Lauderdale and also stay with my friend Gary Miller.

While we are away - George - our neighbor and good friend - will take care of the house. Any crooks - take heed - George is an excellent shot.

One of the highlights of the trip for me is that I got an excellent deal on a new professional pressure washer from a guy in Miami.

I will be taking pictures and posting stories on the way.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

This Car Went from $200 to $4000 in 2 Years



The Trailing Spouse always wanted to be a used car saleman. So with all his spare time - he finally got the chance.

About 2 years ago - my buddy Darrell bought a 1997 Saturn that was in a wreck and the hood was all crumbled. The person sold it to Darrell for $200. Darrell is quite handy with tools - and after much effort - got the car back into pretty good operating condition. The car looked great except the hood looked like it was thru a tornado. Darrel enjoyed riding his bargain around.

After about a year - Darrell decided to buy a fancy Toyota Avalon - and asked me if I wanted to sell the Saturn. Since I have free time to do things like this as a trailing spouse - I said how much do you want for it. He said $500. I said I would sell it - clean it up myself - advertise it on the net and in the paper - pay for everything if I could keep everything over $1000 - he jumped at the offer.

After two days of vacuuming - scrubbing - waxing - polishing - washing - the Saturn looked like new - except the hood looked like someone punched it in the nose. Then I put an ad in the Tallahassee Democrat in the "cars under $2500" category. I also put an ad on the Internet - and even Craigslist.org.

The phone started ringing off the hook - at least 40 calls for the car. The first guy there was young man from Bainbridge - about 20 miles away. He drove the car and loved it. I took him for a demo ride and turned on the sound system. I was blasting a Rolling Stone tune - and the buyer looked confused. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "Cracker Music." He nodded his head and we both busted out laughing. He gave me a deposit of $100 and said he would have the rest the next day.

The rest of the day tons of people showed up to drive it - each one saying - if the deal falls thru to call them.

The next day the guy showed up with cash - $2000. He drove off with the car and the signed title with the biggest smile on his face.

Fast forward a year or so - the cable guy came to our house to check out our Internet. He asked if we remembered him - he said he bought a Saturn off of us. When asked how he liked it - he said it was the best car her ever had. He drove it almost a year and some guy "broad-sided" it while it was parked.

The insurance company paid him $4000 for the car!