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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Trailing Spouse Becomes The Pool Boy

Lulu loves to swim. Her dream has always been to live in Florida and have a swimming pool in her back yard. I like to think that she wants to re-create the scene from 1969 when we met . I was the life guard up in the chair and she was the pretty teenager in a bikini. So when I retired and FSU came a courtin' - the first home that the realtor showed us with a pool won Lulu's heart.

I used to like to swim - but after many years of life guarding - I got sick of it. A perfect day to Lulu is lying on a beach - be it Alligator Point or South Beach Miami - all slathered up with lotion and just watching the waves. I can take that for about 20 minutes - then I must find do something - even if it is only installing aluminum siding.

So we bought this house with the dream pool - way to big for the yard. It is 20 x 40 - with an 8 feet diving well - surrounded by a screen enclosure to keep the tons of pine needles and live oak leaves out. The pool has a gas heater - that we seldom use. Lulu had visions of heating the pool all year - after all we were living the high life in Florida now.

We moved into the Florida pool house in March of 2004. The water temperature was 60 degrees. After checking the gas meter - I flipped on the pool heater. A blast of hot air came out of the top of the heater - that smelled like money. So we went to bed with visions of the Australian crawl dancing in Lulu's head. All night long I had nightmares of dollar bills flying out of the pool. In the morning - the pool was a toasty 80 degrees. Lulu was living her dream all the way up to the my screams coming from the side of the house as I read the gas meter. It had cost me $50 for that one little 60 to 80 degree one-day episode. Probably the most expensive swim we ever had. When Lulu tried to get out of the pool - I yelled - get back in there - it is the warmest place in Florida.

Since then the reality of pool ownership has hit me. Just turning 60 - I have a desire to make less work for me - less things to maintain - less fees to pay for upkeep. My new motto is, "Less is more."

I have suffered through 4 years of pool vacuuming - pool chemicals - pool makeup water - pool filter flushing - pool screen pressure washing - pool sidewalk scrubbing - and watching out for the dreaded yellow algae.

If I had my way - I would fill the pool with dirt and plant corn. Maybe I could do like Nixon in the White House and put a bowling alley over the pool.

The liner in our pool is old - the pool was installed in 1991 - and the liner is probably the charter member. Two times we have had leaks in the liner. First time - the pool guy came and used a little electric thing to detect the hole. Last time - he could not find the leak - but was sure a new liner would fix it. So right now the pool is empty. We are deciding its fate.

If it were up to me - the pool would be gone. But Lulu makes more money than I do - so she gets more votes. The Plaza Tower Condos are looking better and better every day - especially the apartment on the 7th floor - southwest corner. But getting that past Lulu seems impossible - that and the terrible status of real estate sales in Florida.

Lulu wants to just get a new liner - and keep all of the same problems. That causes a stiffening in my chest.

On the other hand - I would like to cut down on upkeep. In a perfect world - I would have a concrete gunite pool - about 3.5 feet deep with a flat bottom. It would be easier to clean - use less water - less chemical - less upkeep. The water would warmup quicker due to it being shallower and having less volume. We also could play volleyball and basketball in the pool - rather than just sit there and look at it. But the lowest quote I could get for that solution is $15,000. My laziness for cleaning the pool is only eclipsed by the faces I make when I have to open up the deep pockets of my wallet.

A compromise would be to have the pool filled in part way by sand - and have a new liner made to my shallower specs. Lulu would still have her pool - and I would have less water that would be easier to care for - easier to vacuum - and would stay warmer. And maybe - just maybe - some day I would flip on that switch to the gas pool heater without having an anxiety attack.

What do you think? Any ideas would be appreciated? Can this marriage be saved? Send advice to -

Friday, February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day with Ethel and John

Click on Ethel in the title to see more pictures.

Nothing better than a beautiful February Day and having a few snowbirds visit. John and Ethel will spend 6 weeks in Vero Beach - but were kind enough to make the 5 hour drive north to spend some time with us.

We toured the old and new capitols. Then we had lunch at the Wakulla Lodge.

After lunch - we took the river cruise. We saw lots of animals including about a dozen manatee. They seem to enjoy hanging out in the 70 degree spring water - just like our snowbirds enjoy the 70 air temperature and bright sunshine.

After supper we went to the basketball game between Wake Forest and Florida State. Our friends Michelle and Paul gave us their season tickets. The Noles lost but we got the opportunity to see Sam Cassel and watch his jersey be retired and hung in the rafters.

Today - John and Ethel started their drive to Vero Beach. They also picked up Chelsea - an FSU student - to take her home for the weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Aunt Ethel and Uncle John Are Visiting

Yesterday - Lulu's Aunt and Uncle left Allentown Airport in snow - ice - slush and rain. The ground crew had to wade through 5 inches of water and even had to rock the plane to free the wheels from the ice. It was a Florida plane that shivered through the night at ABE. They were flying Allegiance Airlines - because it has a non-stop flight from Allentown to Sanford - and also it is cheap. They will be wintering in Vero Beach. But they decided to drive their rental car to Tallahassee to see us and see the Noles play Wake Forest.

Lulu loves to have visitors - this is the 33rd set we have had in our short 4 years in Florida. Almost everyone from back North that we know had come to stay a while.

So for the next few days - we will be visiting all the usual highlights that North Florida offers. So welcome to Florida - John and Ethel - even if it is only Tallahassee.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Syracuse to Tallahassee Via Philadelphia and Charlotte

Click Pictures to Enlarge-
1. The town in the gap is Jim Thorpe - once called Mauch Chunk - but renamed when the world's greatest athlete was buried there
2. The area inside the V shape mountains is Panther Valley where I taught middle schoolers for 33 years
3. The Philadelphia Phillies play here
4. The Philadelphia Eagles play here
5. The Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers play here

Click on Syracuse in title for more pictures.

This morning Drew dropped me off at the Syracuse Airport at 8 AM - the temperature was also 8 degrees and the wind was 30 miles per hour. It was so cold that the sun had a rainbow of ice crystals around it. I was flying in a small propeller driven airplane so we flew very low and I got some nice pictures. We flew over the Panther Valley where I taught school for 33 years. We also cruised over Jim Thorpe - Lehighton - Allentown - and downtown Philadelphia.

After a brief stop - I flew from PHL to Charlotte. In Philadelphia it was a balmy 20 degrees and by Charlotte it warmed up to 40. After the final leg of the trip - we landed in warm - sunny - 75 degree - Tallahassee. Lulu picked me up with the top down.

One of the nicest things about being a retired trailing spouse is the travel. You can take your time - select off peak flights - and search for bargains. Also you do not have to hurry home for classes on Monday mornings. By the way - Tamaqua and Panther Valley started school two hours late today - because it was too cold. It makes one appreciate the quiet Monday mornings in Tallahassee.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Plane Crash Near FSU Campus

PLANE CRASHES: Throngs flock to wreck site near FSU campus
A small airplane crash near West Tennessee Street and Ocala Road caused chaos Friday night with widespread power outages and traffic congestion.

The single-engine Cessna crashed about 8:40 p.m. in front of Walgreens and took down several power lines. The pilot, Hal Edward McCord, 50, was the only person on board and was listed in serious condition late Friday at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, said Beth Gabrini, hospital spokeswoman.

McCord's injuries were not expected to be life threatening, and no one on the ground was injured.

"I'm sure he did everything he could to preserve his life and the lives of others," said Tallahassee Police Department spokeswoman Danielle Davis.

The power lines that the plane clipped were yards away from a gas station that was not damaged.

"(The plane) had no fuel leak, which was a major concern," said Lt. Cody Reese, spokesman for the Tallahassee Fire Department.

Sgt. Rob Reisinger, spokesman for the Leon County Sheriff's Office, said McCord was traveling to Tallahassee from Maryland.

The Federal Aviation Administration will inspect the plane on site today, and it likely will be taken to the Tallahassee Regional Airport this afternoon.

Power outages affected the entire Florida State University campus and about 7,200 other customers. Elevators stalled. Traffic lights went out. And even the 24-hour McDonald's at Tennessee and Dewey streets had locked doors because of the power outage.

Hundreds of people gathered near the site. The plane was a single-engine, propeller plane with the tail identification of N52495. It crashed nose first and landed almost vertically into the ground.

"We heard a big boom and then there was a big flash," said Madison Wells, 18, who was visiting Tallahassee from Santa Fe Community College. "We saw people running. It was crazy."

Bobbie Weston, a Tallahassee resident, was eating at Crystal River restaurant with her 16-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son and saw sparks in the air and then saw the plane hit the ground.

"I was thinking I'm glad it didn't happen here," she said. "I got scared. I know I won't be riding on any planes anytime soon."

Power was returned to the FSU campus about 11 p.m., spokeswoman Browning Brooks said.

By 10:50 p.m. most city customers' power was restored, according to a news release from the city of Tallahassee. Several hundred customers, however, were still without power late Friday night.

Kathy Froom, of Stuart, was concerned for her daughter Kaitlin, who was trapped in an elevator at FSU. About 10 p.m., Froom said her daughter was trapped in the elevator on the seventh floor of Smith Hall. She's a freshman music major. One other student was in the elevator with her.

"She's panicking and has been in there for quite a long time already," Froom said. "I'm concerned about her. She's trying to stay calm. She's getting upset. I'm concerned that there's not more help on campus for them."

Brooks said the students were rescued from the elevator. Students were informed of the crash when dorm lights went out, and text messages via the university's emergency system were sent to all. Extra FSU patrol officers rode around the dark roads.

Leon County Sheriff's Deputy Lee Majors was flying in a helicopter on routine patrol and said he saw the plane go down.

He said he was directly above the plane when it hit the power line. Majors said another officer noticed the plane over the Tallahassee Mall, and it sounded abnormal.

The pilot radioed a distress signal to the control tower three seconds before he crashed, saying he had a "dead stick," meaning his engine had failed, Majors said.

Word of the crash spread throughout the area, leaving most shaken by the news.

Charles Clark, 20, a member of the FSU track team, was in his apartment at Ashley's Place off Tennessee and Basin streets at the time of the crash.

"I thought we didn't pay our electricity bill," Clark said.

He got a phone call from his girlfriend, saying that a plane had crashed.

"I thought something happened with my team," Clark said. The track team was flying to New York for the New Balance Invitational.

Katharyn Van Petton, 21, an FSU student from Tampa who lives at Polo Club Apartments on High Road was in her bedroom when she heard what sounded like a plane overhead. But it sounded close. Then she heard a thud.

"I didn't know what to think," she said. "You never think that stuff like this is going to happen. I had to come down here and see because I wouldn't have believed it. I go grocery shopping all the time at Publix. I go to Walgreens to get my medicine. This is unbelievable."

The following reporters contributed to this story: Julian Pecquet, Nic Corbett, TaMaryn Waters, Angeline J. Taylor and Anthony Anamelechi.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

"Lulu The Leading Spouse" Comments on Harry's 60th Birthday

The Trailing Spouse is turning 60 today and it’s a good time to reflect. In pondering a theme for this guest column, I was inspired by a female comic I saw on HBO recently. Her routine had the theme of “Men Don’t Change.” What are the changes (and non-changes) in my trailing spouse over the thirty-eight years since I’ve known him? The first thing that comes to mind is wardrobe. Harry is still wearing short-sleeved button-down oxford shirts that are usually bought in lots of six. One change is that he saves the time spent going to a store and orders from L.L. Bean. There was a period in the seventies when they just could not be found and we spent numerous shopping trips in frustration, having to resign to the polyester blends with long pointed collars that were “in” at that time. That probably won’t happen again in today’s online marketplace where you can find anything. Cars, tools, and electronic gadgets still figure prominently in occupying his time, but the focus isn’t on having the newest first but rather on getting the “best deal.” It’s somewhere between a hobby and an obsession.

Beyond the superficial of toys, clothes, and hair (which also hasn’t changed – luckily for him), there are personality traits that haven’t changed. Probably his best trait is that he is still an independent thinker. In the 80’s the school newspaper did a feature on him “Rebel With a Cause.” I somehow forgot what the cause was, but no matter, it was something he believed in at the time and there have been many causes throughout the years. In his twenties he sued the local school board for violation of the Sunshine Law and won, serving as his own attorney. A few years later he served on the same board and was elected president. I’m probably where I am today due to the fact that he took two sabbaticals for me to get my master’s degree and doctorate while he played “Mr. Mom” never caring what others thought. It was pretty radical in the 80’s.

Our first date might have been going to Woodstock but my parents wouldn’t let me. But in typical Harry fashion, he told me later that Woodstock was a sloppy, muddy, mess and he couldn’t wait to get home. He’s never romanticized it. Nor has he ever romanticized teaching – simply saying it was a way to make a living for our family. But he was probably the best teacher in his district. He’d rather eat a hamburger and shake than go to a gourmet restaurant and attend a Tallahassee Little Theater play rather than a Broadway show. I know I’ll always get a straight answer and an honest opinion.

So, Happy Birthday Harry and don’t change!


Saturday, February 02, 2008

NFL To Reconsider Pottsville Maroons Fate - Movie Script is Complete


An unprecedented week of publicity for the Pottsville Maroons came to a close Friday with a conversation between “Breaker Boys” author David Fleming and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about opening a new line of dialogue within the NFL about the legendary football team.

Fleming said he briefly spoke to Goodell in Phoenix, Ariz., site of Sunday’s Super Bowl XLII.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Fleming said. “I told him the town (Pottsville) just wants to tell their story.”

On Wednesday night, HBO’s “Inside the NFL” ran a segment about the Maroons and the curse on the Arizona Cardinals franchise, which lays controversial claim to the 1925 NFL title.

On Thursday, a new issue of ESPN the Magazine hit shelves, featuring a new Fleming article detailing the woes of the Cardinals, who have won only one playoff game since 1947.

Fleming said Goodell planned to read “Breaker Boys” during the offseason and Goodell told him the NFL is “always open” to hearing the discussion.

“In four months, the book (“Breaker Boys”) has reached the commissioner of the NFL, the president of the United States, Hollywood and London,” Fleming said.

In December, Fleming received a letter from President George W. Bush, who called the book “illuminating.”

In October, Patrick Rizzotti, who is a partner of Fortress Features, Los Angeles, said a script about the team was finished and could go before the cameras as early as spring.

Samuel Munson, who runs in the UK, said international support for the Maroons is growing.

“Anyone who tends to be into their NFL history tends to be a fan of them,” Munson said in an e-mail to the REPUBLICAN & Herald. “I’ve yet to encounter somebody who’s heard the story and doesn’t have some kind of goodwill towards them.”

“Breaker Boys: The NFL’s Greatest Team and the Stolen 1925 Championship” was released Oct. 9 and renewed public interest in the famous football team.

The Maroons defeated the Chicago Cardinals 21-7 in what was widely considered the NFL title game in 1925.

Six days later, the Maroons played an exhibition game against the famed Notre Dame four horsemen squad, a non-NFL team, and were stripped of the title shortly after.

The Cardinals, who have since moved to Arizona, claimed the title in 1933 when the Bidwill family bought the franchise.

At an October NFL owners meeting in Philadelphia, Goodell told the REPUBLICAN & Herald he hadn’t thought much about the Maroons since a 2003 vote closed the possibility of new discussions on the 1925 title.

Fleming said Goodell told him he was “caught off guard” by questions about the Maroons at that time.

During Friday’s conversation, Fleming said Goodell was “incredibly friendly and informed” about the topic.

Ian Lipton, a member of Lasting Legacy of Pottsville, said there will be a push aimed at NFL owners this spring.

“We’re hoping to get that (Maroons discussion) on the agenda for the owners meeting in May,” Lipton said.

Lipton also said a debate between Fleming and a representative of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Maroons’ adversary Joe Horrigan, is still very possible.

“We have to wait until after the Super Bowl and after the Pro Bowl,” Lipton said.

©The REPUBLICAN & Herald 2008