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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Meet Gail and Dan - Another Trailing Spouse

When blogging - you never know how far your sphere of influence reaches. Meet Dan Kurland.

Dan is about my age - and like me - he married above himself. His wife Dr. Gail Bellamy is considering working at the medical school of FSU. Dan - like me - is a professional trailing spouse.

They currently live in Charleston, West Virginia. Gail has two job opportunities - one here in Tallahassee - the other in Rockford, Illinois.

They flew into town for the weekend - for Gail to check out the job and campus - and for Dan to get the lay of the land. A realtor will be showing them houses today - but not before Harry took them on his "3 hour tour" of the town, campus, and neighborhood.

When doing research about the town - Dan stumbled onto this web page - and I think he has read every story and looked at every picture. I just had to meet anyone that had such a boring life - that his interest could be held by this drivel.

We are hoping Dan and Gail come to town - and becoming part of the Seminole Nation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Uncle Boyle Died

Nancy's Uncle Boyle died. He was 81. In your lifetime - you can count the people that you really love on your toes and fingers. Here is a picture of Nancy's thumb and index finger.

George Boyle lived in Dutch Hill on Willing Street. He treasured his job mixing concrete at the elevator in East End - first for Becker Building Supplies - then Feeser Supply - and finally for Rock Creek. He loved the job and the people he worked with. He loved watching your eyes bulge when he would drop an overload on your pickup truck - always stopping at just the right time.

There was always a gleam in his eye - what you would expect of the wonderful Irishman he was. He loved the Notre Dame Football Team more than life itself - although he never got to see them play live. Every time I see the movie "Rudy" where the father comes to the stadium for his only time - I think of Uncle Boyle. Sometimes you wait too long - I always wanted to get him to South Bend for a game - never happened - my loss.

Nancy flew up to Tamaqua today to be with Aunt Delores. Boyle and Delores did everything together. I don't think I met anyone more in love.

They had a very small weekday wedding - but the marriage lasted over 55 years. Just last week Nancy and I attended a wedding that probably cost more than $400,000 - but if you measure weddings by how good the marriage is - less must be more.

He had 3 great kids - plenty of grandkids - and even some great grand ones. His favorite day was Christmas Day when everyone came to visit. Nancy would not miss it - not a chance.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Another Trailing Spouse Heard From

It is amazing how many of us there are - trailing spice.

This is a picture of Wayne and Shirley - two of our newer neighbors. Wayne is a professor at FSU. Shirley was a law professor at Marquette University in Milwaukee. For years - they maintained two homes and were the ultimate commuter couple - he flew one weekend and she flew the next. Finally in May - Shirley retired and became a full-time trailing spouse just like me only supercharged.

They built the beautiful home on the picture - but they have been spending their summer in the trailing mode. First - they drove to North Carolina to visit their daughter. Then they drove to Las Vegas to visit their one son. Then a drive to California to see the second son. This was followed by a round trip to China via San Francisco. Now - after a few days in the wine country - a jet to Hawaii where Wayne is a guest lecturer at the University of Hawaii. After that - they have to drive back to Tallahassee from the west coast. So much for being a trailing spouse.

Wayne and Shirley also married very young. They are married 42 years and exchanged vows when Shirley was only 5 years old - as you can see she is much too young to be retired. They have a granddaughter that will be starting college in the fall.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Life Carrying a Laptop Thru Europe

It is good to be home.

We just got back from spending 18 days on the road - mostly in planes - trains - buses - boats - automobiles.

The ibook G3 that we bought for our trip worked flawlessly. We had it completely passworded - set up with two accounts for Lulu and me. If someone would steal it - all our info was safe - and the ibook would have been useless to them. We only paid $300 for the ibook from Greg - so if we lost it - not a big deal. Most of our hotels did not have free wireless - it seems they charge for everything over there - maybe it was just the tourist areas we visited. I was able to walk the streets and find free wi-fi in most cases - unfortunately - then I was limited by the power in my battery.

We spent hotel nights in Brussels - Amsterdam - Salzburg - Fussen - Nordhausen. Nancy had a 3 day conference in Brussels - so we spent 3 nights in that hotel.

The battery worked fine in th elaptop except the battery gauge was way off. It would show 4 hours of time left and then quit instantly around 3 hours left. When I set the gauge to percentages - it would start at 99% and quit around 70%. It was hard to plan your use with this gauge. After a while - I took a cheap white american extension cord - clipped off the end - and put a Europe 220 volt plug on the end. Since the ibook and all my other toys ran on 220 - I did not need a converter - just the plug. Then whenever I found a signal - I looked for a 220 outlet to plug into - and I was set. All the countries we visited - Belgium - Netherlands - Germany - Austria - used the same plug that had two rounded prongs. We planned to stop in Switzerland - Luxembourg - France - but ran out of time.

We had a 15 day rail pass - you could go on any train - first class - anywhere - just walk on the train - sit down - the conductor would come to look at your pass. All trains had 220 volt outlets. I was able to run - the ibook - charge my shaver - charge my camera batteries - use my CPAP. We had a sleeper with shower on 2 overnight trains to Vienna and Brussels. Most of the time we had first class compartments that sat 6 - all to ourselves.

I learned to type my blog and email on the trains while we were moving - sometimes at 180 mph - and had full power. Sometimes - when you stopped at train stations - you could find a free wi-fi signal - and zip off your blog - pictures - and mail.

You can see many of the pictures on my blog at -

Even behind the "iron curtain" in Nordhausen - we walked to an obscure hotel about a mile form the train station at 11 PM - to our surprise - we were able to find wi-fi out of our hotel window for free. Free wi-fi makes any hotel room great.

We could use our slingbox - although sometimes it was a bit choppy running on the ibook G3 - I am not sure if it was the ibook or the signal. There were very few TV stations over there in English - and CNN World got very tiresome quickly.

We had no mishaps with the cameras. We carried 2 - Lulu and I - and immediately downloaded all the pictures to the ibook. To send the pictures home - we had to step them down form 10 megapixels to 1200 x 800.

The only problems we had on the trip - both of us got the flu - a train broke down on the way to Amsterdam - they sent another train for us and we lost 1 hour - and our plane home got delayed on the runway for 1 hour by thunderstorms. We sat in number 1 in line waiting for a hole to open up so we could fly to Tallahassee. We finally got up - and burst through the weather front at Albany, Georgia. Joel Dawson had the van waiting at the airport for us.

Thank goodness for the lockers in the train stations - we would get into a town - put our 4 bags in 1 locker - and go touring with nothing but a camera and cash. Also it is nice going from country to country using Euros - instead of having to exchange money at each country. A Euro was worth $1.35. You could use you bank card to get Euros out of any ATM machine - at a rate much better than the money changers charged.

Doing it again - we would have carried less stuff - and probably would have tried the marijuana and/or call girls in Amsterdam. :-)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My Buddy Darrell is Selling his 1956 Buick on Ebay

One of the major parts of the life of a trailing spouse is transportation. How do I get my lovely wife from here to there. Right now we are on the final leg of our European and New York City tour. No - we did not get hit by the exploding steam pipe in Manhattan - but I walked that street on Saturday.

One of my favorite movies is "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" featuring John Candy. It features the adventures of my man trying to get home for Christmas and all the trouble he has.

I have a buddy - Darrell - that loves old Buicks. It is almost a fetish - maybe it is the big bumper bulbs - but he has had several. Recently he decided to sell his 1956 on ebay. Why - because he just bought a 1955 Buick - almost a carbon copy.

You can follow the auction here - - the bid is already up to $7500. This is not for the weak of heart.

I love to buy and sell cars - trucks - scooter - campers - bicycles - go figure.

When we lived up north - Lulu used to drive to work in New York City - 150 miles each way. It was my job to make sure she always had a good vehicle. Now we are about a mile from campus and she can walk to work - but that does not prevent me from loving to buy and sell cars.

Old habits die hard.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

We Are Here Until Friday - Sayville NY

This is the Oakdale branch campus of St. John's University. It started out as the home of Issac Singer of the Singer Sewing Machine fame. Then it became an to be an exclusive private boarding school called LaSalle Academy. I recall their ads in the Boys Life magazine back in the 50s. About 10 years ago - St. John's bought it and turned it into a graduate center - a place where working people could go at night to obtain their advanced degrees. Lulu taught here many years.

They invited her back to give a workshop here. They offered us an apartment to use. The campus is right on the ocean - although the water is only 60 degrees - so not much swimming goes on here.

The picture of the boathouse is the place where Lulu used to park her motorhome when she made the 150 mile trip here from Tamaqua.

Sayville is a quaint little coastal town with lots of nice shops and places to eat. It is on the south coast of Long Island - about half way out to the Hamptons. Fire Island is off the coast here.

A funny aside - about 5 years ago - when Nancy was teaching for St. John's here - the boarding school in another building offered me a job as principal. I would have had to leave Panther Valley a year earlier - and take a dramatic cut in pension. I did not do it. Lucky for me - because the very next year - the school closed. Can I take credit for that?

Monday, July 16, 2007

It Was That Kind of Day - Philadelphia Phillies Lose Number 10,000 - The Trailing Spouse was There

On Sunday morning - I was awakened early in New York City by my cellphone. The night before was spent on an overnight train through Germany to catch our Brussels plane home - and Saturday night was a gala wedding of my friend Gary's daughter. The phone call was from my son - Keith - he is an economist for the federal government in DC.

Keith said that that my old team - The Phillies - was playing his favorite team - the St. Louis Cardinals at 6 PM. Since both of us had not seen the two new Philadelphia stadiums - we decided to meet in Philly - enjoy the day and each other's company. When your 28 year old son says he wants to spend a day with you - you do everything possible to make it happen.

Lulu was still smarting from the wedding - as I bolted from our hotel room on Broadway - I only had on shorts - a tee shirt - and sandals. I picked up the basic 3 - my wallet - camera - and cell phone. I was off and running to Penn Station. The train to Philly was $68 each way - but Lulu was back in the room searching the net for deals. She found a Chinese bus that took the trip for $15 each way - $35 round trip. I decided to try it.

At Penn Station - I found the bus outside. It looked fine - so I hopped on. At noon - I was in Philadelphia - sitting with Keith in the car. We had lunch at the famous Melrose Diner in South Philly. Thenw e went to see the Liberty Bell - Independence Hall - the Seaport - an art exhibit in the old Second National Bank. It was hot but breezy - so we stopped at the City Tavern and sample several of the colonial ales.

Then we drove to the ball park. The park hold 44,000 - much smaller than the old days. I think they build them smaller to raise ticket prices - anyway it was sold out - so I had to turn to the street for tickets. Regular prices are $15 to $60 each. The scalpers were circling me - but I would nto budge - I was not paying more than $10 a ticket. Finally abotu half hour before game time - a guy offered me two $24 tickets for $10 each - I took them.

There is a giant food court - plaza - out in left field - we headed there right away. We settled on some nice pulled pork barbacue form Greg Luzinski's Bull Pen - and checked out our seats.

The Phillies fans enjoy their reputation as being knowledgeable but miserable fans. The have only won one world series in 100 years - and have the reputation as the losing-est team in all of pro sports. The 6PM starting time - the possible 10,000th loss - and ESPN game of the week coverage had them in rare high form.

We sat down to a pair of twins that looked like WWF wrestlers. They seemed to have a little routine they go through in the season tickets seats. They were playful- then sinister - then dirty - then apologetic. A harbinger of things to come was when one of the twins just took a full 32 ounce beer and poured it on the top of the other guys bald head. He looked at me for a reaction - I just stared him in the eye and said, "That guy just wasted $8.00." We were friends for life.

The score was pretty bad - 2 to nothing - 4 to nothing - then 4 homers by the Cards. Here is the kicker - a long fly ball is coming right toward me - I could see me being pasted in the eye or the crowd trampling me. With my one-eyed vision - I am not that good at depth preception. Anyway - the balls falls short - thank goodness - and bounced into the lap of this pretty 18 year old girl. She is excited beyond believe. Looking closer - you could see had cancer - she lost her hair to treatment and fuzz was growing back. She had a "Make a Wish" tee shirt on. She was so excited she was crying. Then disaster. The crowd started chanting on national TV - for her to throw the ball back on the field - because you do not keep and oppossing team's homer balls. She refused. The crowd starting booing this young girl. But she would not relent. This all played out on national TV and the Phillies were embarrassed.

The ushers came over and asked her to put the ball in her bag - still the fans booed. Finally - they brought her all sorts of souvenirs to try to make up for it on national TV - the boos got worse. Then in typical Philly "losing" fashion - they escorted her out under guard protection.

What would one expect in the City of Brotherly Love. As I left the park park - with bars of the "Theme from the Movie Philadelphia" playing in my head - I enjoyed my homecoming.

In 1978 to 1980 - Lulu and I owned a tour bus. We used to take tours to Philadelphia in the bus - taking my students - friends - and locals - on trips to ball games and historic places. Or prized possessions were 20 season box seats behind the Phillie dugout - every Sunday - a "give away" game of bats - hats - balls - bags. We thought we owned this city.

My son dropped me off at the 30th St Station - I got the biggest hug - I caught the 9:15 train to Penn Station in Manhattan - and like Cinderella was I was back in Manhattan before I turned into a pumpkin.

It is ironic - my first game to a big league game was in 1956. I took the train from my hometown in the coal regions to see the Phillies lose to Wille Mays and the New York Giants at Connie Mack Stadium. My 8 year old body was more interested in the chocolate milk in little glass bottles that they loaded onto the train in Valley Forge on the way home. It was so good - they borught it on the train just for us little league players. Almost every kids in town was on that train - a day in Philly - the smells of the ball park - almost heaven.

But this day was different - I was with my son - I was a Florida resident - a trailing spouse following my wife - Lulu - all over the globe. But some things never change - the Phillies lost number 10,000 - and I was there - with my son.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Morgan Miller - Daughter of My Friend Gary Miller - Gala Wedding

Lulu and I are just awaking on the morning after Morgan Miller's wedding. The wedding was in Rye - New York - just north of Manhattan. We are staying in at the Sheraton hotel in midtown.

The wedding was held at the boyhood home of Morgan's new husband - Josh. It was an outdoor garden wedding. It was spectacular - reminding one of scenes from "The Great Gatsby" or "The Godfather."

It started at 5PM - perfect weather - in the Garden overlooking a lake and pool.

Morgan Miller is my good friend Gary Miller's only daughter. Gary and I were classmates for 12 years at Tamaqua Schools. Morgan and her husband Josh will reside in Fort Lauderdale - about a block form Gary's home. Morgan owns a shoe salon in South Beach - Miami. Josh is the owner of a real estate and developing company.

The wedding was held at Josh's childhood home - it was decorated beautifully for the event.

The ceremony opened up with singing by the New York City Housing Authority Choir. The vows took less than 10 minutes. Then there was food - drinks -2 dance bands - celebration. It started at 5PM and was still going as we left at midnight - the band still playing. The food was spectacular - lobster - steak - oysters - duck - giant shrimp - turkey - and any drink imaginable.

It was so nice to be able to plan our stay here between Nancy's conference in Europe and the 4 day seminar at St. John's.

Here are some of the pictures - click them to enlarge

Friday, July 13, 2007

Before There Was NASA - There was Nordhausen

One of my favorite stories to tell in my Earth and Space Science
classroom was the saga of Werner Von Braun and the Nazi V-2 rockets.
It is a timeless story about how this man was such a brilliant scientist and a real genius - but he was also tainted by his
relationship to the Nazi Party. After 33 years of telling these
stories to my 7th graders - I finally got the chance to see the place
where they happened. Nordhausen. Yesterday - I visited hallowed grounds - but they moved for other reasons than I expected.

A brief history. During World War II - in an era of bombs - tanks -
and machine guns - a group of German scientists lead my Werner von
Braun - had designed - built - and mass produced guided missiles. The
V-2 rocket was able to deliver 2000 pounds of explosive a distance of
200 miles. This was during a time when the biggest gun could fire a
bullet maybe 15 miles - a real anachronism. Several 1000 rockets hit
London causing terror - killing mostly civilians.

The Germans decided to mass produce these rockets inside a mountain
in the Harz Mountain area of German - near Nordhausen - about 100
miles southwest of Berlin. This way American bombers could not
destroy the factory. The Nazis used Jewish slave labor to built the
factory - then they established a concentration camps to provide
slave workers to build the rockets.

Back to Yesterday. On the last day of our trip - and also Lulu's
birthday - We (I) decided that we must go to Nordhausen to see what
is left of the factory and area. Nordhausen was inside East Germany
for 40 plus years - that not many people could see this place first

At about 11 PM on Wednesday night - our train pulls into Nordhausen
station - and only 2 passengers get off - Lulu and me. The station
was deserted - but clean and in nice shape. It reminded me of the
start of a really bad mystery movie. We walked out into the plaza and
main street - the only activity was the very modern trolley going by.
We started down the main street looking for a hotel - several we
found looked closed. Finally - about 6 blocks in - we found an old
hotel - maybe 10 rooms - they wanted 80 Euros for the night but
quickly settled on 60. While getting ready for the next day - we were
lucky to find free internet wireless out the window - we wrote home
to our kids to tell them we made it.

Thursday morning - we caught the trolley for the 3 mile trip to the
Mittelworks Museum. We had to walk the last 1/2 mile or so - and we
were out in the country - it looked very much like New Ringgold or
Lewistown Valley back home in Pennsylvania. We couldn't see a soul
around. Then we turned the corner - there it was - a tunnel into the
mountain and the concentration camp outside.

It turns out the bigger story was the Dora Concentration camp that
housed 60,000 Jews and other people that Adolph Hitler did not like
- gays - disabled - mental patients - and gypsies. We went in the
museum to find out that the guided tour was free - problem was that
it was all in German. We took the tour because the price was right -
and it was the only way you could go into the mountain. My one year
of high school German helped a bit as did Lulu's 4 years of Verna
Britton. But the pretty young girl that could have played a "Hitler
Youth" - made every effort to translate the important information
into English for us.

Finally - our very small tour group of 8 people entered the
underground tunnel - it looked very much like the number 8 tunnel my
Dad entered every morning when he mined hard coal for 25 years in
Coaldale. Inside - it opened up into these gigantic rooms. It was
basically two giant 1 mile long tunnels going thru the mountain. In
some places it was tall enough to stand up a 50 foot tall rocket.
They used Henry Ford's assembly line model - railroad cars came in
one side empty and out the other side with finished rockets.

They made a total of 6000 rockets there - I am playing a little loose
with the number - but I re-call them killing 30,000 slaves in the

Werner von Braun was captured at the end of the war - he was sneaked
into the United States along with about 100 of his rockets. He spent
many years in White Sands, New Mexico making better rockets for the
United States - and he eventually led NASA to landing men on the
moon. He was a brilliant man - was visionary in his thoughts. Later -
it became known that he was a member of the Nazi Party and a major in
the SS.

It was a very serene and sad scene there in the Harz Mountains. It
was as beautiful setting as one might want to see - lush fields and
forests - temperature around 65 - just pretty rolling hills. Then -
you realize how many people were killed here - to make these rockets
- to wage war. The crematorium waste is still there just outside the

I love visiting Germany - many of my few ancestors that I know of -
came from Germany. I love their tidy homes and landscapes - well-
manicured towns - transportation systems - and the people. I am just
puzzled how this country could follow Adoph Hitler into that terrible
war. The people of Nordhausen knew everything that was going on in
the camp - they would even use the slaves in their homes and
businesses - free of charge. They knew that the war was over by 1943
and they could not win - and yet they continued making these "miracle
weapons" in hopes of turning the tide.

Werner von Braun went on to write many books about space travel - one
of my favorites as a child was "I Aim For The Moon." After seeing
this terrible missile factory a better subtitle would be "But I Hit
London Instead."

This factory and concentration camp has few visitors - especially
very few Germans - they do not want to be reminded of what their
ancestors did. My German ancestors were in America long before this
terrible Nazi War - but when looking around that peaceful setting -
one has to feel a little guilty for what happened there. Some of
things that humans beings do embarrass all of us.