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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Trailing Spouse Ponders Not Taking Social Security Money

Lulu asked me today if we had gotten the "income tax rebate" from the Feds. I gave a salty "no" answer that drew a rebuke from her. Really - I was displacing my disgust with the short-sightedness of my fellow Americans. I am frustrated with this administration appeasing us by buying another round of drinks on the federal credit card - the bill that my kids will be paying for years to come. I do not need a $600 check to distract me from realizing the major problems we have in this country.

Just when I can't get more disappointed in our leadership spending like drunken national guard pilots - we get politicians from both parties suggesting that we should remove the 18 cents a gallon tax on gasoline. The gasoline tax provides $8 billion a year to repair our highways and bridges. I guess we are going to do that on the credit card too.

Both political parties are guilty of buying things on the tic. Republican called Democrats tax and spenders. Democrats call Republicans borrow and spenders. there is one common denominator - our country gets more in debt.

The biggest open sore in our national budget is the Iraq War. The next one is the interest we pay on our national debt. The Soviet Union was brought to its knees not by democracy - but by the Afghanistan War. It drained their treasury just like Iraq is draining ours. It did not take long for their house of cards to fall and I hope you do not believe our country can't fall for the same reason.

I am ashamed at the mess my generation is making for our kids. We based an entire economy on cheap fuel - it has now reached critical mass and can't be changed overnight. We built homes miles and miles away from work - stores - schools - just to make sure we only have neighbors like us. Success is determined by how big my car or house is. I am as guilty as the rest. I raised a family of four in 1000 square feet for 30 years - and now I contemplate buying a 4000 square foot home for just Lulu and I. We have 3 vehicles in the garage and only 2 drivers.

My coal miner dad who never made more than $10,000 a year in his life when he retired at 65 on Social Security. Mom and Dad were making $25,000 in retirement - their home and cars were paid for - and Dad said, "we never dreamed we would have it this good."

At age 60 I am contemplating drawing my "Social Security pension." I have more money and income than I ever had in my life. I have a healthy teacher's pension and a healthy Lulu who could work another 30 years. I really do not need Social Security. I am considering not taking my Social Security monthly payments - and try to leave a little extra in the fund for the kids of this country.

We have been poor examples raising our kids. We taught them that their education is so important - that we fund it with a lottery and casino gambling. We have shown them we can build homes we can't afford - cars that get 10 miles per gallon - and have designed a tax system that rewards older home owners at the expense of young new homeowners.

When Social Security was designed - Americans lived to be about 67 years old. There were 4 workers putting into the system for each person taking money out. Now folks live to be 78 and it there are about 2 people putting in for those taking out. This giant Ponzi scheme will collapse from its own weight. But most Americans just care that it is solvent for the next 20 years so it will cover their own retirement.
Instead of buying another Mercedes or Cadillac with the $1500 a month - I could bolster a system to protect the really needy.

I support the public school system - but my legislators seem to be more concerned with protecting their voting base by giving them real estate tax breaks. I thought Jefferson once said, "Democracy is doomed when the voters realize they can vote themselves a dole from the treasury." I was wrong - he didn't say it but he should have.

We are in a crisis. We buy oil from the Middle East - cars of Japan - food and household goods from China. We are country left of people doing each others laundry. Now we are hemmoraging billions every day in Iraq.

We need to balance the budget. We have laws to require balanced state - county - school - and city budgets. When the last president balanced the federal budget - we impeached him for lying about sex. When the next president produced record debt and a war that killed our kids and drained our treasury - we re-elected him.

We have met the enemy and it is us. The next attacker like 9/11 will fly over and dump foreclosure notices on us.

So I intend to do my part and forgo Social Security. Now all I have to do is break it to Lulu. We'll see what she thinks.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pool Update - Rough Floor is Done

Today we poured the rough floor of the pool. It is roughly 10 inches
of concrete reinforced with a bird cage of rebar. Tomorrow - they
start building the forms to pour the walls.

When complete - the entire pool will be 4 feet deep. It will have a
basketball goal and volleyball/badmitton net.

Adorning the perimeter will be white stone coping - and blue ceramic
tile. There will be fountains/waterfalls flanking the steps. After all
that work is done - the plasterers will coat the entire pool with
a layer of Marcite plaster to give it a smooth colored finish.

Essentially we are just building a 20 x 40 x 4 foot bath tub.

Trial post from iPhone

If you see this moose lamp I can blog from my iPhone with pictures.

Pouring the Pool Floor

Today was a beautiful sunny day for pouring concrete. It took 17 yards
of concrete to pour the pool bottom. It is from 8 to 10 inches thick
covering the rebar lattice work. No longer do the workers haul the
concrete by wheel barrow - it is pumped through a hose about 3 inches
in diameter. After the concrete sets a bit - the surface is brushed to
accept the Marcite finish.

Things are moving along faster now. After 2 weeks of hand digging -
shaping - and benting rebar - it is starting to look like a pool.

The next steps are - forming up the walls - pouring the walls -
installing the stone coping perimeter - building the waters falls -
setting the tiles - and finally - coating the entire pool with Marcite

With a little luck - we will be swimming in 2 weeks.

Monday, April 28, 2008

My Buddy George Dawson Gets Second New Apple Computer in a One Week

On Friday my buddy George Dawson bought a new Apple Imac Computer directly from Apple. He wanted one with a 1000 GB hard drive for all his video work which meant he had to special order it. The computer arrived and in one word - beautiful.

Then - the other shoe drops. Apple released a new model today that is faster - bigger - stronger - cheaper. Nothing gets you madder than when you buy a computer and in a couple days it is "obsolete."

At first George thought you could not return special orders and he was willing to accept his fate. But after thinking it over - he called Apple and told them he was not happy. They said "not for long." They offered to send him a new computer and he could return the old one.

This is something to keep in the back of your mind when you buy your next computer. Apple delivers.

One can't appreciate the feeling until it happens to you. I am so proud of George for sticking to his guns.

He called me on the phone and said, "I pulled a harry."

A sweet computer just got a bit sweeter.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Lulu Carries The Banner at FSU Graduation

It is graduation day at Florida State University. After just being awarded tenure - Lulu was given the honor of leading the College of Information graduates into the Civic Center. She sent this picture from her iPhone. I hope she didn't drink too much coffee - as I type she is sitting through the 3 hour ceremony.

Man Survives 500 Foot Fall Down Coaldale Mine

COALDALE — A man survived a 500-foot fall into an inactive strip mine Friday, astounding rescuers who spent hours on a risky descent into the abyss to bring him back out. 

Police said Nathan Bowman was trespassing on coal company property around 1 a.m. Friday when he slipped and fell into the canyon-shaped Springdale Pit, an inactive mine about 700 feet deep, 3,000 feet long and 1,500 feet wide.

Bowman tumbled down a jagged slope and then free-fell several hundred feet, his descent broken by a rock ledge not far from the bottom of the pit, said Coaldale Police Chief Timothy Delaney, who helped direct the rescue effort.

"If you look at that drop, there was no way somebody could survive that," Delaney said.

Bowman, 23, of Tamaqua, was listed in serious condition on Friday night at St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem. The extent and nature of his injuries was not clear, however rescuer John Fowler said it appeared he suffered a number of fractures.

Bowman and a friend were walking around the pit on foot when he went over the side. The friend called 911, and Coaldale police and firefighters began a frantic search, according to Delaney.

State police got into the act several hours later, using a helicopter, floodlights and thermal imaging to try to pinpoint Bowman's location. 

"It got really, really dangerous," Delaney said. "My guys were fantastic, they were heroes, risking their lives in total darkness."

The search was called off at daybreak. Shortly thereafter, Delaney went to the offices of the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co., which owns the Springdale Pit, to notify officials of the situation.

"I said, 'Let's take a ride over there and show me where it occurred,"' said Fowler, 40, a project manager at the company.

Their luck was better this time.

"Within about three minutes, we found him," Fowler said. "I thought I could hear a muffled call for help. We yelled to him and asked him where he was, and he said he thought he was on a ledge."

Fowler, who moonlights as a state firefighter instructor, and a Coaldale police sergeant scouted a relatively safe route to Bowman and stayed with him until additional help arrived.

Two firefighters rappelled down to the ledge, loaded Bowman onto a basket, and tied themselves to it. Then all three were painstakingly hoisted up.

Bowman was lucid when he arrived at the top of the pit late Friday morning, wanting his harness loosened, asking that someone call his brother, and expressing fear about riding in a medical helicopter, said Sarah Curran Smith, a vice president at Lehigh Coal.

Bowman's survival is "pretty unbelievable," she said. "I think the universe has bigger plans for Nathan. I hope he realizes that."

Bowman faces numerous charges, including defiant trespass, according to Delaney.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pool Progress

Thursday they started building the "bird cage" a lattice of steel rebars. This is a tedious process of bending 1/2 inch thick bars and tying them together with steel wire. They are supported by small plastic towers that look a little like flower pots with holes in them. They will fill with concrete during the pouring stage and keep the rebars in the center of the concrete floor and walls.

In the photos you can see the plumbing for the two drains - the water outlets - the skimmer intakes - and the fountain supplies. The building code requires two drains to prevent anyone form being hurt by the drain suction.

Essentially - we are building one very large concrete bathtub - roughly 20 x 40 x 4 feet.

Our builder is Bill Gwynn - - he is also our neighbor. He has been building swimming pools for 30 years.

The digging and filling of the hole took a very long time. It was all done by hand. Anything that was clay had to be removed. The diving well was filled with sand and compacted to building code specifications.

Click Here to Read Doris's Inspirational Story

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Swimming Pool Progress

To Lulu - success is having an in-ground swimming pool. So when we bought this house four years ago with a pool - I thought I had fulfilled my destiny. Not so - the pool had a plastic liner that was not changed in 18 years - and it started leaking in places that could not be repaired.

Lulu loves to swim - but it usually ended up as my job to keep the pool clean. It had a deep diving well that was a back breaking job to vacuum. So one of the few things I wanted in a pool - besides a corn field - was something that would make it easier to clean.

We decided on a pool that was 40 x 20 x 4 feet. With that depth - Lulu could still swim her laps - and I could cut the water capacity by about 40 percent. Also vacuuming would be much easier. At that depth - we could also play volleyball - badmitton - and basketball. Hopefully the pool would be easier to keep warm in the spring being shallower and holding less water.

In the photo above - the pool is really almost 6 feet deep. There will be almost a foot thick concrete bottom. They will also start building the rebar lattice birdcage in - before they pour the concrete. When done - the pool will be 4 feet deep with about 7 inches of tile and coping above the water level.

The pool will have a white stone coping around the top edge - then a border of 6 x 6 blue tiles. Lulu has recently added two waterfalls to the project - one on each side of the steps.

The project has been moving slowly - all the dirt removal and sand fill are being done by hand. Hopefully - we will be swimming by the middle of May. Then we can start working on our synchronized swimming routine.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Our Friend Bonnie Premo Orlando Earns Her Degree

In 1980 - Nancy and I spent a year in Winter Park, Florida. One of our best friends was Bonnie. At the time she had two small kids that were playmates with Keith and Drew. While Nancy spent her days in the classroom at University of Central Florida - it was my job to stay at home with my sons. Bonnie was a big help during that time. We would often take turns watching the kids at the pool and playground.

That was 28 years ago when we met Bonnie. Back then she was a nurse - and for a time was the sole provider for her family.

Bonnie later moved back to Upstate New York and raised a family of three beautiful kids. She later returned to Orlando along with her Mom and Dad - and several brothers and sisters. Her Mom and Dad - Marilyn and Ike Premo - still live in Central Florida.

Bonnie married John Orlando - they bought a beautiful beach house in Ormond Beach - right by Daytona Beach. For her birthday last month - Bonnie got a brand new white Miata. Now she has a graduation tassel to hang from the rear view mirror.

Yesterday - Bonnie was awarded her Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing. She finished with a 3.89 GPA. What an excellent example for her kids. We are never too old to learn.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Movie About Centralia - the Coal Town on Fire

Reprinted from the Pottsville Republican

Film about Centralia’s history premieres at Sovereign theater

Centralia may be the most written-about small town in the country — maybe even the world.

Books, magazine and newspaper articles have been published about it, and it even had its own superhero comic book, with the hero (CarbonKnight) created from the mine fire. In 1980, Superman paid a visit in the comic book where he blew out the fire with his superbreath. Too bad it was only a comic book.

The latest study of Centralia is an independent film documentary on the Columbia County borough and, on May 2, the Sovereign Majestic Theater in Pottsville will roll out the red carpet for the premiere of “The Town That Was,” which deals with life in the borough then and now.

The premiere showing will be at 7 p.m., with two subsequent showings at 2 and 7 p.m. May 3. For advance tickets or for more information, call the Pottsville Area Development Corp. at 628-4647. Tickets are $5.

“This is the kind of show that is of interest to our county residents. Our strong coal heritage is deeply entwined with the story present in Centralia.” said Jeff Buchanan, theater board president.

The documentary was directed by Chris Perkel and Georgie Roland, produced by Melinka Thompson-Godoy, with the music score by Paul Henning.

The film begins with home movies taken by local residents during Centralia’s centennial in 1966. Streets filled with buildings, people and vehicles show the sharp contrast between then and now. Someone driving through Centralia today and seeing the film may find it hard to believe that it is the same town.

A drive through the borough shows a few homes scattered here and there, all well-maintained. The municipal building, which houses the fire department and ambulance, still stands. The post office building is gone, as is St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church.

Grass, weeds and trees fill the rest of the town. Robins and other birds can be seen all around, and someone might even catch a glimpse of a rabbit hopping through the brush.

In the documentary, there are on-screen comments by former residents Tom Larkin, Ed Lawler and Fritz Michael, by Pioneer Tunnel mine foreman Howard Smith and others, but the documentary focuses on John Lokitis, 38, the youngest of the 11 residents remaining in the borough.

The Centralia tragedy begins in 1962 when a trash dump was deliberately set afire by the borough. The procedure had been done in the past to eliminate the trash, but in this case the fire came in contact with an open vein of anthracite coal. The underground fire continued to grow and spread, and after estimating the cost of extinguishing the fire at more than a half a billion dollars, the government decided to raze the town and relocate its residents. Most people left, but some diehards remained.

Perkel grew up in New York state and had heard something about Centralia in passing. It wasn’t until he met Roland, a Dunmore native, at film school at the University of Southern California that the two would consider making a film about the town.

“Georgie had been working at a bunch of odd jobs, including as night supervisor of a kitchen at a county prison in Pennsylvania,” Perkel said. “While working there, one of the inmates found out he was a filmmaker and began talking to him, suggesting that he should do a story on Centralia. He hadn’t thought about the town in a long time, but when he got home he called me and told me about it.”

The idea for the documentary began about six years ago, and after some research, it piqued their interest. After reading some Internet message boards, they found a message poster nicknamed “Coalcracker” and decided to contact him.

“When we got down there, we were surprised to have a 33-year-old man opening the door. We were expecting someone much older,” Perkel said. “He was truly the youngest remaining resident and the most outspoken. He went to such great lengths to maintain the town and the illusion of a community that he immediately grabbed us as the story.”

Perkel said Lokitis walked them around town, pointing out in great detail what homes and businesses used to line the now-empty streets and then returned to his home.

“We got back in the car and sat silent for a moment. We turned to each other and shared a glance. It was obvious — we knew we had to do this. We weren’t sure exactly what it was, we just knew a beautiful story was lurking in the charred remains of a town that was.”

He said when the filming began, there were 18 residents.

Near the Veterans Memorial is a time capsule buried in 1966 that is marked to be opened in 2016, the borough’s 150th anniversary.

“The time capsule is interesting since no one seems to know what’s inside,” Perkel said. “Will there anyone even be left there to open it at that point? I’d like to think that John will still be around to do it.”

The documentary was self-funded at the beginning, and when schedules permitted, Perkel and Roland would get together to visit Centralia together to film Lokitis and the community.

As the documentary was being filmed over the years, Perkel and Roland decided to expand the scope of the project by speaking to others outside the community on the various issues. With the expanded scope, Perkel was able to make comparisons with Centralia and other communities beyond the borough’s most famous resident, the mine fire.

“When we started expanding our circle, we learned how much the decline of the town mirrored the economic decline of the entire coal region and how the town spoke to something much bigger,” Perkel said. “Even though it was exotic with this more sensational element with regard to the mine fire, and that it was another motivating factor that you would think would lead people to leave, the decision to stay — in large part — spoke to a pathology of the region at large.

“In a lot of ways, the people who chose to stay in Centralia were motivated by many of the same things that kept people in the coal region as a whole, tied to their land and their homes and their communities despite the economic and environmental hardships that they faced with the death of the coal industry and the textile industry. And that was really interesting to us because at the beginning we had no idea that this town was anything more than just a curiosity in terms of its historical context.”

Perkel said the music score by Henning is an exceptional component of the film.

“The music is great. Paul is our composer and he’s our ace in the hole,” Perkel said. “We also met him at USC. He had done the score on one of Georgie’s short films and he’s immensely talented.”

Chris Perkel (Director)

After graduating from Columbia University with a dual degree in psychology and film studies, Chris Perkel moved to Los Angeles to earn his MFA at the University of Southern California School of Cinema-Television. His thesis documentary screened at nearly a dozen international film festivals and won the UPA innovation grant, and his first screenplay (co-written with Georgie Roland) won the Jack Oakie Writing Award and was a semi,finalist at the prestigious Austin Heart of Film Screenplay Competition. Since graduating, Perkel has distinguished himself as an editor cutting features and shows that have appeared on A&E, AMC, MTV and The Sundance Channel. “The Town That Was” is his feature directing debut.

Georgie Roland (Director)

A graduate of Cornell University, Georgie Roland studied further at The London School of Economics and at the University of Southern California Graduate Film Program. After winning awards for both writing and directing, yet disillusioned by Hollywood, he returned to his hometown in Pennsylvania and began working blue-collar jobs. Based on his experiences, he has several projects in development, including his first narrative feature to be set in Northeastern Pennsylvania, as well as a novel based on his two years of experience as the night shift supervisor in the kitchen of a Pennsylvania county prison.

He co-owns the production company, Dog Player Films, with creative partner Chris Perkel. “The Town That Was” is their first documentary feature.

Melinka Thompson-Godoy (Producer)

After graduating from Columbia University in 1998, Thompson-Godoy began a three-year tenure at the independent feature film company, Good Machine. While there, she worked very closely with award winning producer Ted Hope on such projects as “Storytelling,” “In the Bedroom” and “The Laramie Project.” Beginning as his assistant, she quickly excelled at the company, moving up to senior assistant before being promoted to production executive in 2001. As production executive she worked on several films culminating with overseeing the critically acclaimed film American Splendor from pre-production through delivery. Since leaving Good Machine Thompson-Godoy has worked in several capacities ranging from location coordinator on Focus Features’ 21 Grams, to assistant production office coordinator on Season One of ABC’s hit TV show “Lost,” to most recently working as the visual effects coordinator on Julie Taymor’s upcoming musical feature film “Across the Universe,” while continuing to develop and produce short films, documentaries and features in between projects. “The Town That Was” marks her documentary feature film producing debut.

Paul Henning (Composer)

Paul Henning graduated from the University of Southern California’s Film Scoring program in 2000. Prior to USC, he earned his bachelor of music degree in composition from Washington State University, graduating summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Since moving to Los Angeles, Henning has worked on the score orchestrations for more than 30 feature films, including “King Kong,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Swordfish,” “I Spy” and “Chocolat.” As a violinist, Henning has performed with Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) and Smokey Robinson. He grew up in Pullman, Wash. He is an avid hiker, is fluent in French, and has also studied German, Russian, Danish and Japanese. Henning has a strong interest in architecture, and has recently photographed a collection of more than 800 historical buildings in Whitman County, Wash., to help promote their preservation. “The Town That Was” is his first feature score.

©The REPUBLICAN & Herald 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Trailing Spouse's Vote Might Count in Pennsylvania

When Lulu and I moved to Florida a few years ago - we promised our Pennsylvania buddies that we would straighten out the election mess where the Supreme Court dubbed W the president. After many years of primary elections in Pennsylvania where the candidates were already selected before we got to vote - we now would be voting in a state that butted their primary up to first in line. Finally - I could cast a vote that mattered.

We all know what happened to my Florida primary vote. Now ironically - my old friends in the Keystone State literally hold the key to who is going to be the Democratic candidate for the presidency. Not since 1962 when John Kennedy drove through my coal cracker hometown - have the candidates paid any attention to the Pennsylvania voters.

For the past few weeks - Senators Obama and Clinton have been crisscrossing the land of my childhood and "workinghood." Names like Jim Thorpe, Allentown, Scranton, Bethlehem grace the national evening news and CNN every day. Even President Bill Clinton is parading in the Home of the Mollie Maguires - Girardville. Hillary is enjoying the miners' traditional "shot and a beer" at a local "beer garden." Barack is having perogies and kielbasa - that seem to add 10 pounds to his slim frame with the first bite.

Through a twist of fate - the Democratic Party has chosen not count my Florida primary vote and my Pennsylvania cronies are enjoying for the first time having their primary vote matter. It is going to be a knock down and drag out election. One thing you can't do is shine the spotlight on my old home state and not expect a big show.

Someone once said, "Pennsylvania is three states. You have Pittsburgh in the west - Philadelphia in the east, and Alabama in the middle." For the most part - that is true. In the west you are a Steelers and Pirates fan. In the east you love the Sixers, Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers. In the middle you were a Penn State fan. I was always convinced that Penn State had exactly 100,000 fans and every Saturday they went to State College in their motor home to a football game and paid $200 a ticket to watch Joe Paterno's glasses fog up while he ran after a referee. I lived in the east and although we traveled all over the world - but I did not get to Pittsburgh until my 40th birthday - just a few hours away.

There is no typical Pennsylvanian. They elected Gifford Pinchot governor - one of the country's earliest conservationists. Their only contribution to the White House was James Buchanan - the only bachelor in the White House. He is probably rolling over in his grave because Bush is challenging for his title as the "worst president ever." Milton Shapp was a Jewish governor there long before is was fashionable. They also refused "governize" Super Bowl hero Lynn Swann.

The people of Pennsylvania are not lemmings. They are rugged individualists. They speak their mind - and know the difference between "S and Shinola." Some folks say that Independence Hall got its name from the local people - not the famous Declaration of Independence.

Gettysburg, Valley Forge, Ben Franklin, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Richie Allen, the Mollie Maguires, and the Pottsville Maroons. These people and places characterize rebellion and independent thought. Don't forget the Whiskey Rebellion.

Yes - Pennsylvania is a little rusty now. Billy Joel sang about the mines and mills all closing down. Locals\ even passed a few laws making it against the law to hire illegal immigrants. You can't whine and complain to a Pennsylvanian and not expect them to come up with a solution. You may not like it - but you will get one. I wonder what Pennsylvania's solution will be in the Democratic Primary. One thing for sure - at these their votes will count and they will count ever vote.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Rollings Stones Shine Light on Trailing Spouse

Lulu and I met in the Summer of '69. We like to say that our first date was to see the Rolling Stones at Woodstock. But everyone know the Stones never played Woodstock. Also - Lulu's Mom refused to allow her to go to Woodstock with me. But I did ask her - and I did go. The trip from Pennsylvania to New York would have required me to violate the Mann Act - if I took Lulu.

The rumors of the Stones - my favorite rock and roll band - playing at Woodstock were exaggerated. I ended walking through three hours of mud to see The Incredible Stringband and risked losing my recently purchased new 1969 Volkswagen - parking it near a swamp. I even lost my friend in the crowd - and returned home alone - a little bruised but still waiting for my first Rolling Stones Concert.

I didn't have to wait long. The Stones were booked into the Spectrum in Philly for November 26, 1969 - funny how exact dates come back to you 40 years later. The radio station from Philadelphia - 100 miles away - was offering a pair of front row tickets to the person that had their ticket stubs from a Blind Faith Concert that they sponsored three months before. At the time - I saved everything - and I had my stubs. It was almost too good to be true - but I was the proud owner of two front row tickets to see The Rolling Stones.

I went to the concert - and it was everything one could imagine. The fact that my parents absolutely hated them made it even sweeter. The Stones were the Ying to the Beatles Yang. They were as anti-establishment as they could be - all of them being under 5'9" - and less than 130 pounds - in button down shirts and tweed jackets that didn't match.

So today - when Lulu told me about The Rolling Stones making an IMAX movie - and it would be opening today at the Tallahassee Mall - we had to go.

Would they hold up after 40 years? Better yet - how would I hold up?

A hot date for Lulu and me is a Sunday morning movie at the AMC at the mall. The 11:15 AM show cost $4.00 - sort of the early bird special for the baby boomers. We arrived at about 5 minutes before show time. There were 14 people in the theatre. We sat up front - a favorite place for the nearsighted - where you have to turn your head left and right to see the whole screen.

Although the movie was produced in IMAX - the theatre wasn't. Still the quality of the pictures and sound were excellent - sort of like watching an HD basketball game on a regular TV. The sound was loud - but superb.

The Rolling Stones look like 4 old geezers - geez - they were 6 years old than me. That was before they started to perform. From the first chord of "Jumping Jack Flash" until the final bows after "Satisfaction" - I was in a time warp.

Sir Michael Phillip Jagger sings and dances better than ever. Forty years of the touring and the rich life did not seem to affect him at all. Last time I saw him - we were fighting to pose for the "before" picture of a Charlie Atlas ad. Now - I weighed over 200 pounds and he still looked about 130 pounds.

Martin Scoreses - the director - threw in just enough old footage to be able to advertise the movie as a documentary. They even had a song with Christina Aguilera to appeal to the present generation. But 98% of the film was shot during one concert at the Beacon Theatre on Broadway. It even opened up with a lot of smoozing with Bill and Hillary Clinton.

When Mick Jagger enters through a flaming doorway singing "Sympathy for the Devil" - you would have sworn the Gates of Hell opened and Lucifer was dancing in front of you. One of the great things about 30 foot tall head shots of Jagger singing - you could actually understand the words of the song. I guess baby boomers rely on lip reading as we get older.

In the old days - I tried to relate to Mick Jagger. I wanted to be a rebel just like him. Little did I know that he went to the London School of Economics. Both his father and grandfather were school teachers. To keep his dancers body - he exercised three hours a day. Now - I can relate better to Keith Richards - with his five or six chins and distended pot belly.

As Jagger at age 66 dances around like a school kid on steroids - I am convinced he made a visit to The Crossroads - and was enjoying it as long as he could. With over a half billion dollars in the bank - he obviously still performs because he loves it. Mean while - after about two hours in the theatre - I was fighting between going to the restroom and not missing a single second of this deja vu.

Early in the movie - they ask a teenage Jagger if he could imagine doing rock and roll when he was 60. He says, "Absolutely."

Time marches on for some of us.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Pool Work

The pool in our yard was showing its age. The plastic liner was 17 years old and it was leaking water. It was time for a re-build.

Our neighbor Bill Gwynn "Bill the Builder" did a great job doing our driveway and guest house. He is an excellent concrete man - and he said he was currently building a pool north of town. He suggested that we go to look at it. One look was enough to hire Bill. The pool he was working on was indoors and very nice. You can see it in the third picture.

Instead of just replacing the plastic liner - we decided to build a new concrete pool with different dimensions. When completed - the pool will be about 20 x 40 x 4 feet. It will have a flat bottom - good for playing basketball and volleyball.

First - they have do dig the shallow end deeper. Then - they will fill the deep end with sand and compact it. This will be followed by a steel cage of re-bar. Then concrete will be shot over the cage. This will be covered with a layer of marcite plaster made of marble sand to make it smooth. A new tile border will be installed with a stone coping crown on the top.

Since this pool will be shallower - it should warm quicker and hold less water. The four feet depth should be good for swimming laps. The flat floor should be good for playing games. Also - it should be easier to keep clean.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Tallahassee's Drinking Water Ranked No. 1 in State

Tallahassee's Tap Takes the Top Spot - Today, the City of Tallahassee
won the title of "Best Drinking Water in Florida" at the 6th Annual
Drinking Water Taste Test. It is the first time Tallahassee has won
this honor.

"The City competed with more than 100 water utilities throughout the
State, so we are very proud of this recognition," said Mike Tadros,
director of Underground Utilities for the City of Tallahassee. "We are
fortunate to have such high quality drinking water, and we encourage
residents to conserve this precious resource for generations to come."

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Trailing Spouse's Trail Ends at Andersonville

Cousin Bob is a Civil War History Expert. He spends much of his free time doing historic talks and re-enactments of the Civil War. So it was a natural for us to drive a couple of hours up Route 19 to make a pilgrimage to Andersonville.

Visiting Andersonville reminds me of our trips to Dachau and Nordhausen in Germany. Near the end of the Civil War - the Confederates kept 42,000 Union prisoners inside a stockade fence here. There were no sanitary facilities - the water was infested with bacteria - and there was no protections from the elements. 12,000 rotted away from lack of food and disease. When the prisoners died - they were simply dumped into trenches like cord wood and covered over with dirt.

Prisoners arrived at the train station in town in freight cars. They were paraded about a quarter mile to a gate in the stockade. When they entered through two sets of double doors - they were greeted by prisoners that looked like walking skeletons. Any personal effects they had were stolen by the mob.

Dante wrote, "All hope abandon ye who enter here" back in the 1300s in a poem about entering hell. There could not be a more fitting epitaph to be written above those gates.

Today - Camp Sumpter is a serene and beautiful place. A peaceful spring and stream run where it was once a swamp of human waste. If one sits quietly on the rolling meadow - one can hear the cries of horror from the prisoners and catch a whiff of the stench that rose from this hell. Imagine taking a crowd of 50,000 people - like the crowd from a FSU football game - and squeezing them into a pasture the size of 4 football fields - not just for a 4 hour football game - but for over a year. Instead of having a hot dog and beer - imagine living on a couple of spoonfuls of rice a day - and drinking water from the stream that you used as a bathroom. This was Andersonville.

A few stockades have been restored to show where the locals would climb to a balcony dressed in their "Sunday best" to get a chance to gaze into this chasm of torment. One does not have to venture far to see what war does to human beings. Brother fought brother to the death. We have not learned a thing from Andersonville.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Harry and Cousin Bob Visit Jimmy Carter

Cousin Bob and Camilla Schleicher came to visit us in Tallahassee. Since Bob is such a history nut - we decided to go to Andersonville Prison and also visit Jimmy Carter's Home and Museum. We spent about 3 hours on the road - and got nice rooms at The Windsor Hotel in downtown Americus. I am typing this story from the hotel lobby.

Plains is a very quiet small town of 700 people. Jimmy Carter's birthplace and home are perfectly restored. We were the only ones there on our visit because it was close to closing time. The Carter's ran a store that was right next to their home.

Jimmy's old Plains High School has been perfectly restored and turned into a museum. This museum certainly is not as extensive as his museum and library in Atlanta. It gives you a strong appreciation from Jimmy's childhood and growing up in a country town during the depression.

Tomorrow is the big day. We are about 15 miles form the Andersonville Civil War Prison. We will spend mos tof the day there and then head back to Tallahassee.

To see 50 pictures of today's adventures - click on "Bob" in the title above.