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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Tamaqua awards $599K in contracts to upgrade track across from high school

Published: Saturday, February 28, 2009 4:12 AM EST
TAMAQUA — Tamaqua Area school directors recently awarded nearly $600,000 in contracts for athletic upgrades that include making the track at the stadium across from the high school into an all-weather track.

The school board awarded three contracts worth $599,900 to Grace Industries for work that includes installing the blue all-weather track and installing vinyl fencing along Stadium Road, Superintendent Carol Makuta said.

The project includes removing the old track, resurfacing, line painting and other improvements for pole vault and high jump.

The contracts include $549,900 for track installation, $12,600 for painting the track blue and $37,400 for installing black vinyl fencing, Makuta said.

The total cost is slightly below the $600,000 that the district anticipated spending, she said.

Work will begin the first week of May and should wrap up the first week of August, she said.

The blue track surface will be a “unique” addition that school directors and administrators were pleased to incorporate into the project, Makuta said.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Harry and Lulu Visit Cuba Before Fidel Castro Dies

Note - I wrote this story right after we came back from a trip to Cuba. Just when a local newspaper considered publishing it - President Bush issued a proclamation putting a bounty on illegal Cuban visitors. I sat on this story until after Bush left office and the statue of limitations ran out.

Have you ever wanted to visit Cuba? Just thrill of forbidden fruit 90 miles off our coast emits a siren song. All the wonderful stories about the Cuba of old that our grandparents told us about beckon our spirits to this setting of The Godfather movie.

With Fidel Castro on his deathbed Lulu and I decided to make a visit to this defiant communist nation in the sun. We wanted to see what was so important that US citizens have been denied access for 50 years. Did Fidel and the communists really have a better way?

Our trip started in Fort Lauderdale. I had heard that one could go to the Bahamas - find a travel agent - and board a Cubana Air jet - and be in Havana in a half hour. On the Internet - people were saying you must take your passport along - take along a lot of cash - and your passport would not be stamped - but you would be able to tour like a king. It was worth the chance.

The trip to Nassau - the Bahamian Capital - was uneventful. Nassau is such a pretty place - even if our quest failed - a few days there would not be the end of the world. In the Bahamas - we found a Holiday Inn and got a room for the night. After parking our bags - we set out to walk the streets of town - looking for a travel agent.

On one of the back streets - we found Millenium Travel. We entered the office and told our tale to the agent. The agent said there was one flight daily from Nassau to Havana on Cubana Air. He said we should give him $300 cash and come back in 3 hours - the tickets would be there. Despite the risk of losing $300 - we had come too far to be cautious. This was a once in a lifetime trip.

We went for lunch - with different visions dancing in their heads. I was so excited and happy - I had complete trust in the stories that I read on the Internet. I wanted to see all the wonderful old cars from the 50s. Lulu was petrified. She was convinced we would get into Cuba - and never be seen again.

The 3 hours flew by - we returned for the tickets. The agent handed us two hand written tickets on a Cubana Air form. We would fly the next day. We slept fitfully wondering what came next. Nassau felt like home in comparison to what we expected.

Morning came and we took a cab to the airport. When we got to the airport - the plane was waiting and many of the passengers were carrying big packages. Everything was packaged in clear shrink wrap. Most of the folks were taking booty from the "free world" back to friends and family. It did not look much different from any other Caribbean airport scene.

We boarded a Yak 20 - a Russian jet that looked very much like a Boeing 727. As we walked up the steps Lulu trudged as if it were a funeral march. We had everything in one carry-on-bag.

When seated - a women that appeared to weigh 300 pounds - went through the life jacket and seat belt routine. Not much different than boarding a plane in Atlanta - except the host was taking up the space of maybe 200 extra pounds of luggage.

As the jet raced its engine - the entire cabin filled up with smoke. All of the other passengers did not stir over the smoke - this prevented Lulu from jumping up and down or panicing. The plane cleared the ground about the same time the cabin air cleared. It was only water vapor - but owe aged 10 years. We flew low over the shallow water - and easily picked out Bimini with its seaplanes - and Miami. One could easily see Cuba and the USA without pivoting ones head.

We landed at Jose Marti Airport and the spelling on all the signs changed to "Habana." In the terminal we went through customs. Our bag was inspected - and the our passports were returned unstamped - with the $20 bill removed from inside that I had left there. No one asked to see the $500 cash that people on the Internet said would be inspected. We were in and still alive.

Locals were not allowed in the terminal - so we proceeded to an office upstairs. In that office we saw the only computer that appeared on the trip. The sole person in the office was playing Solitaire on it.

We asked the agent to get us a hotel in Havana. Lulu heard that the Hotel Nacional was nice - it was one time owned by Meyer Lansky - the mobster. The agent picked up a phone - made a call - and said that there would a room at the hotel for us and that we had to pay him $80 cash. He said a cab downstairs would take us there.

We walked downstairs and out through a paper covered glass door but were not prepared for the scene on the other side. Hundreds of people were there - cheerfully and noisily waiting. At first we thought the locals had us mixed up were rock stars - but it turned out they were waiting for family members returning with the clear bags of booty.

We found a cab and proceed the roughly 10 miles into town. The road looked similar to an Interstate highway except - it had bikes - trucks - donkey carts - walkers - and a few cars on it all traveling together at mixed speeds.

Havana was pretty and messy like almost any other tropical city. The buildings were old and in need of much repair. There was plenty of evidence of plaster patching and brightly painted colors. Most of the doors and windows were open with little glass and obviously no air conditioning. Lots of laundry was hanging from the porches in the balmy air.

Directly ahead - thru the gated entry was our hotel. It was protected by armed guards. It was the prettiest building we had seen. A man in a white military uniform opened the door and tried to pry the bag from my hand - without success. Inside - the lobby had the most beautiful shiney woodwork - that reminded us of the museums in Washington DC when we were kids in the 50's.

In our best slowest English - I asked for a room. The very pretty - trim - host - looked but had no record of our registration. We thought we were scammed at the airport. Just then the Lulu looked down on a tablet and saw our name hand written on it. Lulu pointed to it - and was immediately given a key.

We took the old cage elevator to one of the top floors. We had a view of the courtyard - the downtown skyline - and the famous wall and parkway along the coast. The furniture was old but in well-kept condition. The wall outlets had only 2 prongs - but they did offer 110 volts of power. The marble in the bathroom was very old as were all the fixtures. The air conditioning was not on - but sprung to life with a flip of the switch.

We decided to change clothes because we were soaked from the cab ride. After a shower and faithfully following the directions on the tile in the bathroom to "hang up the towels to save energy" - we went downstairs to eat and check out the hotel.

The hotel restaurant was splendid - but they no menu. We were asked what we would like to eat by a very pretty waitress. I could only think of a "Cuban Sandwich." The waitress smiled - and after ordering drinks - she proceeded to bring a beautiful spread of food. We ate and drank - some of our apprehension and worry seemed to melt away. Looking for the hook - I was expecting to be asked for all of my cash at the end of the meal. When the meal was done - we asked for the check. The waitress bent over and whispered $15 into my ear. I thought - maybe this communisim stuff wasn't that bad.

We left the restaurant and on the right was the "showroom." The famous show from The Godfather movie was getting ready to start. Tickets were available. We were in shorts - t-shirts - and sandals. We felt uncomfortable going to the show dressed so casually. That was our first mistake. Instead we chose to walk the streets of town.

We left the hotel and protected grounds - went through the front gates - and passed the armed guards. The locals were not allowed on the hotel grounds. It seemed that the military dressed guard had a rock star status because many people seemed to gush over them.

The traffic on the street was heavy. But it was like a time warp. Old cars - trucks - and buses like a scene out of a Chicago gangster movie. One expected to see Humphrey Bogart in his hat and trench coat. "Here's looking at you sweetheart."

As we walked the street toward downtown and the coast - many heads turned to take a look at us. People started walking close - trying to slow us down. The locals would start conversations in their best English using every English idiom they could muster up.

One young couple of beautiful people cut in front of us and slowed their pace to a crawl. They started talking about places in the USA. They were polite and never touched us. But the conversation would always lead to asking for a few American dollars.

While the young couple were making their pitch - an older women came up from behind us and started admonishing the young couple. She said, "Watch out they are working you - trying to get you to give them money. American money is so valuable here. A few dollars is worth a month's pay here." After she shooed them away she told us she has family in Barbados. "All I need is a few dollars so I can visit my daughter there."

We realized that our American looks were like flypaper. No one had made an effort to touch us. We later learned that if the locals touched the guests - they could be thrown in prison without a trial. This made me much braver. But after so many beggar conversations - Lulu wanted to go back to the safety of the hotel gates. We went back changed our sweat drenched clothes - and went to the courtyard where a band was playing Caribbean music. We decided to take lots of pictures from the hotel grounds - just like the astronauts quickly took samples when they first stepped on the surface - in case they had to abort.

The next day I decided to tour the town alone. I planned to take my camera and walk as far as I could. It was morning and the locals did not approach me at all. What was the difference from yesterday - Lulu's American garb and blonde hair - the fact we were a couple - maybe I just did not looked scared anymore.

I walked in the alleys - I went into the stores. I peered into the open doors and windows. But my main occupation was the old cars.

There are lots of old cars - mostly from the 50's. All car windows were open - but the most obvious feature was all the blue oil smoke coming from the exhaust pipes. Maybe the engines were just worn out - maybe they were burning very poor fuel. The blue smoke reminded me of the vapor that filled our Cubana Air cabin the day before.

The cars usually had 7 to 8 people in them - many hanging out of the open windows. Later we found out that folks with old cars could offer sort of a gypsy cab service. They could pick up passengers and charge whatever the market would bear - Cuban pesos or American dollars. This was our first sign of capitalism.

Their mass transit system would have been outlawed just 90 miles away. Trucks with very long trailers that looked like cattle carriers had sliding doors on them to haul people. They were able to haul up to 300 people at a time. It reminded one of cattle getting off a train on the way to slaughter. But these were people - dressed in their Sunday best.

The Black Market is a way of life. There are two kinds of stores in Cuba - peso stores - and dollar stores. Peso stores have many empty shelves. They have a surplus of 50 pound bags of rice and beans. Also the shelves had plenty of rum. As I passed each store - the owner would beckon me in to spread some of that gringo wealth. The shopkeepers spoke fluent English - and not with a Southern accent.

Many people had small boards on their porches with small items on them clearly marked for sale. Simple things like a copper plumbing elbow or a door hinge were offered to the public. It is just another form of capitalism.

I watched people bartering. One man driving a 1953 Chevy tried to sell me a gallon paint can with maybe 2 inches of an odd mixture in the bottom that looked like pea soup. I quickly realized it was what he had left over from painting his car.

After a few hours of this eye opening tour - I returned to the hotel. While taking off my sweat drenched clothes I told Lulu about a visit to a tattered sign marking the doorway of a communist club meeting room. I saw playgrounds with swings and slides on concrete covered lots with groups of old folks doing a Tae Kwon Do routine.

Lulu told of her adventures at the hotel pool - with inexpensive pool drinks - and lavish service.

After two nights - we decided to leave early. Lulu wanted to cut her losses and get out of town before she was thrown in the slammer forever.

Then next morning we went down to the front desk. We asked if we could get a car - have a tour of the city - and then return to the airport. We told the desk host how we were turned off by being pestered for money.

The doorman said, "I can have a Mercedes here for you and you could tour for 3 hours." Waiting for the second shoe to drop - I asked what it would cost. He said, "$30."

He also said that for the rest of our trip no one would pester us for cash. We agreed on the price and handed him $30.

With the wave of a white gloved hand - a dark blue Mercedes sedan pulled up. It was a diesel with a 5 speed transmission. It had air conditioning and blue leather seats.

The driver's name - Felipe Lopez - was 62 years old. He spoke perfect English and was very friendly. He welcomed us aboard and asked us where they wanted to go. We said we wanted to see historic places - points of interest to tourists - hospitals - seascapes - government buildings.

He said Fidel Castro has a fleet of Mercedes sedans. He said he was one of Fidel's drivers and that Fidel sat in the very seat we were in. During times off - Felipe was allowed to use the car to earn a little cash on the side. He made it all sound so reasonable.

Felipe explained that no one would pester us from now on. The locals certainly stay clear of one of Fidel's cars. From then on - no one even took a second look at Fidel's guests. All this for $30?

Felipes took us to the museum where they had on display American planes shot down at the Bay of Pigs. We saw the tank Fidel rode into Havana when he unseated Batista. We were in factories where they were rolling real Cuban Habana cigars. We could have bought them for pennies on the dollar - but we were afraid to be arrested smuggling them home. Those cigars would have gone from the Bay of Pigs to eBay.

We sat in a park next a the statue of John Lennon. Engraved on the base in Spanish, "You may say I am a dreamer - but I not the only one." We marveled at a building with a 200 foot tall representation of Che Guevera. We saw the hospital where almost every Cuban baby is born.

Soon it was time to go to the airport. On the way Felipe told us about his travels. He said he traveled all over the Soviet Union and the USA. He said he has family in Atlanta and Chicago. Once you reach 60 in Cuba - they let you travel pretty freely if you have the money. They figure at that age - you will come back.

When we got to the airport - we hugged Felipe. He wanted no more money - but accepted a $20 tip as if he was given a lottery ticket.

The departing side of the airport was very pretty. There were lots of stores and shops selling momentos very cheaply. There were gigantic lobsters in a tank - do people really take them on a plane we thought.

The scariest part of the trip was going through the customs exit area. They separated us. We were taken to separate areas with different agents. They asked the me a few questions like, "Why are you leaving Cuba early?" and "What was your business in Cuba?"
I answered the questions truthfully and was allowed through. Then I waited for Lulu - she was not as lucky. They detained her for what seem like forever - really it was about 10 to 15 minutes. When she came out the other side she was a bit shaken. They were skeptical of her - but her answers matched my answers - and we were free to go home.

We got on the plane - relief was in Lulu's eyes. We dodged the bullet and didn't flinch when the water vapor filled our cabin at takeoff. The trip to the Bahamas seemed much shorter. After landing in Nassau - we had to pay a $50 penalty each for flying home early. We had a choice of flying home early or staying another night in Nassau for the same price. But we were too anxious to touch American soil.

After getting home - we did more research about Cuba on the Internet. Now we think we're "experts" on this place that was a mystery just 48 hours before.

We researched Cubana Air to find out that out of 354 airlines in the world - Cubana was ranked 351th with one of the worst accident rates. Next time - if there will be a next time - we would buy a package deal out of Montreal and fly on Canadian Airlines and get a generous discount on a package. Lots of Canadians vacation in Cuba all the time.

The 1950s cars in Cuba are a legend. You hear that they are perfectly restored antiques. Not so - they are buckets of rust held together with baling wire and body putty. They are brush painted with house paint. The engines are belching smoke. But they are one of the few systems of capitalism there. They are the backbone of a black market gypsy "whatever the market will bear" transportation system.

Cuba is a beautiful country. It has so many strong connections to the United States. Their Capitol Building is an exact replica of ours in Washington. At one time the United States owned Cuba but granted it freedom after the Spanish American War. If our government wants people to see communism at work - let them go there. Cuba is the poster child for reasons not togo communist.

Someday - Cuba may become part of the United States. It would a second Florida - tropical - bountiful - wonderful people - and virtually connected to us.

What is the difference between Cuba and China when it comes to communism? Nixon was praised for opening up relations with China. Maybe our President Obama will be smart enough to do it.

Just maybe when Fidel dies - more reasonable heads will prevail. "It was nice seeing communist Cuba before Fidel died."

Hopefully - President Obama will take the shroud off Cuba. If more Americans would experience how tough life is in this communist country - they would appreciate how fortunate they are to live in capitalistic USA.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Someone Offers $150 for Panther Valley Middle School - Where I Taught for 33 Years

One bid, for $150, made for Panther Valley School

A Lansford man who offered to rally volunteers to help repair the former Panther Valley Middle School has submitted the sole bid – $150 – to buy the building.

School district Business Manager Ken Marx said the school board expects to consider the bid, submitted by Adam Webber, of 356 W. Ridge St., on March 12.

School Superintendent Rosemary Porembo said school officials would discuss the bid at a Finance and Budget Committee meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday.

"We'll let the discussion go Thursday and see where we are headed," she said.

"I'm sure (school board members) want to talk with him on his intentions before they make a decision," said School District Business Manager Ken Marx.

Webber submitted his bid on Friday, just before the 3 p.m. deadline. A call to Webber's phone on Tuesday resulted in a message saying the number was not in service.

Council president Bob Gaughan was surprised there was only one bid – and that one from a borough resident.

"I would have expected some developers from the Lehigh Valley to bid on the building," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. "As we all know, it's a prime piece of property located in the center of Lansford. It also has (tax exempt) Keystone Opportunity Zone status, which to me would make the property very attractive."

Gaughan said the borough still plans to study whether it can use the 90-year-old school, at 11 E. Bertsch St., for office space, leased space and storage.

"As far as the borough is concerned, we still are going to stay the course with what our original plans were," he said. "And that is to have an engineer do a preliminary evaluation for us as to the overall status of the building.

We have contacted Cowan Associates, which are the borough engineers, to look at the building and give us a professional estimate as to its condition."

A full feasibility study, estimated to cost about $30,000, could follow the preliminary evaluation.

This was the second time the district sought to sell the building, appraised at $97,000. The first round, in July, brought no bids.

At a public meeting called earlier this month by council to gather residents' opinions on whether it should acquire the old school, Webber urged officials to move fast to acquire the building and then seek grants to refurbish it.

Once the roof is sound, he said, the borough will be able to wait to do the inside work, he said.

Webber suggested the borough call on volunteers to help with the work, and offered his own time and expertise. He also said he could easily round up four others.

Solicitor Robert T. Yurchak said the borough could use the volunteers as long as they were covered by insurance.

The school district vacated the massive building in 2007 when it built a $17.2 million school next to its high school on Route 209 in Summit Hill. School officials have said the district could not afford to bring the building up to government standards for education or maintain it.

Council had agreed to take the building, which has 57,000 square feet of usable space.

The school board in September agreed to turn the building over after plans to sell it to a developer for the Rite Aid corporation fell through and after council threatened to take the matter to the courts. But a month later, council began having second thoughts. Council members were concerned about the downward economic spiral and the building's deterioration.

A stalemate ensued, and the school board on Jan. 15 voted to seek bids for the building's sale. School directors at a Building and Grounds Committee meeting Jan. 12 said they would also seek bids to demolish it if it's not sold.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Real Tuskegee Airmen Visited Old Dale Mabry Field Today

Tallahassee Community College sits on the site of the former Dale Mabry Field - a place where pilots trained to fly during World War II. Some Tuskegee Airmen took advanced training there in bombing and gunnery work.

Today - Lt. Edward Cooper and Col. Willie Jenkins made an appearance on the TCC campus to inspire young black men to become leaders. Although both of them did their training in Tuskegee Alabama - they recalled many of their fellow pilots going to Tallahassee for advanced training.

It was truly awe inspiring to see and hear the two gentlemen talk about segregation and discrimination during the war. They noted that they flew over Europe to defend America's freedom - only to return home on a ship. At the end of the gang plank arrows pointed left and right for white and colored.

While escorting bombers over Europe - the Tuskegee Airmen never lost a bomber to enemy fighters. When their "red-tailed" P-51 Mustangs came to the rescue - our bomber pilots became quite confident of their protection.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Someone Disagrees with My Opinion of First Class

I don't agree with you about First Class. First Class to LA, Moscow or on any long trip is sweet!! Your upgrade was critical. You just didn't realize it!

Interesting Foreclosure Numbers from US News and World Report for 2008

Not all of America is having a big mortgage problem - just a few states.

These 4 states had over half of all foreclosures in 2008 -

Nevada 14,444
California 76,761
Arizona 14,674
Florida 40,770
TOTAL 146,649

Foreclosures in the whole country - 274,399. Why do the sand states have the highest foreclosures?

This is the breakdown in foreclosures per 5000 home in the 4 sand states -

Nevada 66
California 29
Arizona 27
Florida 23

These states have the lowest number of foreclosures per 5000 homes -

Louisiana 1
Mississippi 1
Montana 0
Nebraska 0
New Mexico 0
North Dakota 0
South Dakota 0
West Virginia 0

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Harry Buys Another Craigslist Truck

Lulu thinks it is some kind of disease - buying and selling things on You may re-call I bought a truck about 3 years ago - drove it 2 years and then sold it for more than I paid for it. I ended up missing that truck and have been watching for another one. To get Lulu's approval - I found one in garnet and gold colors - her favorites.

It is a 1997 Toyota Tacoma. It has a 2.4 liter 4 cylinder engine with automatic transmission. Even though it has 134,000 miles on it - it is in remarkably nice shape. After 2 days of scrubbing - the truck was ready for pictures today.

Other nice features are - air conditioning - new tires - bench seat - AM/FM radio - cassette player - sliding rear window - and factory bed liner. Everything else is pretty plain - wind up windows - cloth seat - power steering - power brakes - overdrive transmission - air bag - tow package - and front disk brakes. The seat folds forward to reveal an area for storage. Everything is factory installed and working.

Of course the paint has several knicks and dings - this truck is 12 years old. The 4 cylinder engine has lots of power - 141 horsepower and 168 foot pounds of torque.

I noticed the truck on while I was visiting Drew. I emailed the guy and we arranged a meeting at his home. The owner told me that he is the second owner - he has driven it for 10 years and 100,000 miles. We took a long test drive together. The owner was asking for $3300 - but I convinced him with the high mileage a more reasonable price was $2000. We exchanged cash and title - and he and his wife followed me home.

It is a very nice looking truck in its Florida State colors. I hope it performs as nice as it looks. Since I will probably only put 3000 miles on it a year - it should be fine. Toyota Trucks - particularly the 22R engine - are noted for their durability and long life.

I like to wash and scrub my truck - but I would not want to do it for a living. Wish me luck.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Why the Trailing Spouse Spent Winter Break in Syracuse?

Lulu makes a real effort to give exciting birthday presents – but this year she outdid herself. We had some frequent flyer miles from our recent trips - so she used them to connect me with “my three sons.” Nothing brings a bigger smile to my face then seeing my two boys and Jack – my only grandchild.

Son Keith lives in Washington ever since he went to Georgetown University. He could be easily bribed to Syracuse because his Hoya basketball team was playing the Orangemen in the Carrier Dome. Since my oldest son Drew is a scientist at the medical school in Syracuse – he is a captive audience. So – it would be a weekend of “three men and a baby.”

It started out innocently enough with Delta offering to upgrade my tickets to first – even though I was flying on a frequent flyer coupon. Somehow I gained enough miles to be called a “medallion” whatever that is. I always thought that first class was pretentious and I would not fall into that pride trap. After flying it – I am convinced it is a plot for businessmen to get free drinks on their company’s tab. Besides having maybe two more inches of leg and butt room – the only benefit besides them hanging up your coat – is that they attempt to get you sloshed before you take off. Whether it was AM or PM – you could see guys having drinks and stuffing little bottles of booze and Twix candy bars into their fancy brief cases as the steward called them by surname. I can’t imagine why anyone would pay for “first class” out of their own paycheck – and I would bet few do.

I arrived in Syracuse safely and just a few feet ahead of the people behind me. It was near midnight so I would have to wait until the morning to see Jack. We wouldn’t have much time to play before the Georgetown/Syracuse noon game. I had planned on spending a lot of money for tickets – they were expecting 32,000 people at the game – and I figured I was going to drop the $300 I got from the ATM machine on three good tickets. Son Drew knows how much I like getting a bargain and my smile exploded when he said his boss gave us his season tickets seats right behind the basket.

The game was great and our Hoya team made a late charge to tie the score as the clock ran out. We were pretty happy with that – but 5 minutes later the happiness was over and we lost. Most of the 32,000 in the crowd were wearing orange – so they were both relieved and happy.

For the rest of the weekend we watched other games on television – played with Jack – and caught our old hometown Hershey Bears playing a hockey game. I even had my first opportunity to be home alone with Jack.

On Monday – Son Keith had to return to Washington for work. That evening I got some really nice alone time with son Drew – the new father. It was like the old days as we were cheering on our Hershey Bears – this time in the old Syracuse War Memorial Arena - home of the NBA Champion Syracuse Nationals of 50 years ago. One moment I swore I saw Paul Newman and the Hanson Triplett’s skate out of the tunnel as they filmed the movie “Slapshot” here. Sometimes I felt my arm slipping around my son as my mind raced back 30 years to when we did a lot of things together. After being a science teacher for 30 years – I was so proud of my PhD son doing “real” scientific research now. It was all worth it.

On Tuesday – everyone had to go to work – and it was my treat to spend some bonding time with Jack. He is 8 months old now – and at the stage where you want to stop time and never let him get a day older. His smile just melts your heart and he laughs at absolutely every thing I do. Everyone was wondering if I could handle Jack for a long spell alone – and I did not want to let anyone down. During my time playing with Jack – I was getting emails and phones calls from Lulu giving me unsolicited advice. She even requested a video chat – so she can sit in Tallahassee and watch Jack bouncing around on her computer screen. He generally has toothpicks in his eyes at naptime – so that would be the real test. It all came back to me from 30 years ago – playing on the floor – being amazed at how easily he ate the big bowl of apple sauce – and using the new diapers with stickier tape and more absorbent material. After a long ride in the Jumperoo and a little time in the swing – his eyes snapped shut right before his Mommy walked in the door. It was déjà vu all over again as I heard my Mom and Dad whisper in my ear saying “how easy it was” as I mouthed how easy it was watching Jack.

The 5 days flew by like lightning. Now it was time to go back home to Tallahassee and Lulu.

The airline emailed saying upgraded my tickets home to first class. Anyone who really knows me can tell you how much I hate the class structure and the snobbishness of folks that feel they are entitled to such treatment. As people passed my seat on the way to the coach seats – I wondered what they thought of the grayhead in jeans playing with his iphone. I am sure it was stenciled on my forehead “free upgrade.”

The temperature barely broke 30 degrees on my whole trip. It is strange what makes me feel good about a trip – usually a bargain or two. This time – it was the free frequent flyer airline ticket – and the free basketball tickets to a prime time game. But what really put it over the top was what greeted me in Atlanta on the way home. The airline offered me $400 to give up my seat – and take the next free flight home. After a week - I returned much richer than when I left.

What more can a man ask for – 5 days with the undivided attention of his “three sons” and a free airline ticket. Does life get any better than this? Do I have to pay income tax on the ticket?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We are at the Syracuse Dome - Keith's Hoyas are tied

Drew got some nice tickets from his boss - right behind the basket.
The white tent top makes for good lighting in the day for photos. It is 20 and windy outside - I left a balmy 76 in Tallahassee for this. But seeing grandson Jack is worth it.

Hoyas lost in overtime.

31,800 attended the game - some kind of record.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Noles beat Tar Heels

I am sitting in Atlanta airport. Lulu sent a game report. FSU girls beat the North Carolina Tar Heels! FSU led most of the game. Coach Sue coached bare footed. Short reply from Harry's iPhone.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

FSU Softball at FAMU

After one inning - FSU is ahead 2-0. This stadium is about one mile
from my house. The stadium is compact. I am sitting in the top row of
the bleachers and am about 30 feet from the batter.

Game started at 6 - plenty of time to get home for the Duke - UNC
basketball game.

Monday, February 09, 2009

A Day at the Beach in Destin - Florida

The map shows Tallahassee - Pensacola - and Destin. Many people think that Tallahassee is way out on the Florida Panhandle. After looking at the map you will realize that one can travel 200 west of Tallahassee before you hit Pensacola. Destin is about 150 miles west of our home.

Many folks are not aware that some of the best beaches in Florida and the World are found along the Florida Panhandle. The beaches are known for - the whitest cleanest sand - crystal clear green water - and a lack of crowds. Many students from the central part of the country flock to this "Redneck Riviera" during February and March. We are a little early for the spring break crowd - but the beaches are nonetheless beautiful.

Lulu loves the beach. If I would agree - she would move here and drive the plus 100 miles to work every day. Her idea of success is "really" living in your own home on the beach - not being a "renter." Every summer - Lulu's family would go to the same place on the Jersey Shore in Wildwood and rent for a week.

The video was taken in Destin last July. It shows you the pretty sand and water.

After seeing this video - I wonder how many sharks lurk where the waves are not quite as clear.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

4 Great Seats for the GT at FSU Game

For Free!!! Go Noles!!!

Thursday night was a good one for the Seminoles. The boys beat Georgia Tech - 62 to 58. The girls beat Boston College in Boston - 64-53. The girls are leading the ACC with a 7-1 record.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Cardinals Did Not Have a Chance - the Curse of the Pottsville Maroons Beat Them Again

In 1925 - the Pottsville Maroons beat the Cardinals - then in Chicago - for the NFL Championship. A week later Pottsville played Notre Dame and the league gave the trophy to the Cardinals as a penalty. At the time - the Cards refused the trophy saying that Pottsville won the title on the field - 21- 7.

Years later - in 1935 - when the Bidwell family bought the Cardinals - they claimed the title rightfully won by Pottsville. The Pottsville Maroons moved to Boston - and the folklore of coal region football faded into history.

The Cardinals moved from Chicago to Saint Louis to Phoenix - they are now called the Arizona Cardinals. The NFL has considered turning the 1925 trophy back to Pottsville - a once proud city that now is a ghost of what it once was. Once the queen city of the Anthracite Coal Regions - Pottsville is now content with being the county seat of Schuylkill County.

The people of Pottsville still meet every Sunday to watch the Eagles and Steelers represent Pennsylvania in the NFL. They claim to have placed a curse on the Cardinals. So far - it seems to have worked - the Cardinals have not won a Super Bowl since.

I am sure it is all in fun - but as I watched the Steelers marched down the field - I'll bet the Cards fans wish they returned that old trophy.