Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Among the Great Books -- Not!

I have been slogging through a book for a couple weeks now. I do not use the word slogging loosely. Reading this book in like walking through deep mud in loose shoes. You go so far and then must go back to find something you lost.  Whenever you pause to look around you aren't sure where you are. Still you slog on determine to find some solid ground somewhere.

So why am I reading this thing?

Because I promised a friend I would.

No, he didn't write the book. He's a much better writer than the author who did.

I really don't like critiquing other people's work. When I have engaged in doing so I look for the positives as much as possible. After all, I'm no prospect for any literary prizes myself. Still, I do know some basic dos and don'ts about the trade. Unfortunately, this author seems to get the dos and don'ts confused.

One illustration stands out that represents the entire problem with the piece. In this instance, the author has described his panic at finding his young son missing after the boy's school dismissed early because of snow. Finding his child is not at the school, he says this:

"Noting that cell phones didn't exist, we drove to grandma's house..."

This is truly amazing. This person took a moment to reflect on something not yet existing. Now it is always a little difficult to know for certain where in time this person is, but this particular instance appears to be around 1977. The first commercially available cell phone appeared in 1983, but certainly many times in the mid-seventies during a crisis, say a flat tire on a back road, our first thought was noting that cell phones didn't exist.*

Sadly, the author has a plethora of interesting material that could have been woven into a gripping read.  He would have been better served if he had been exposed to some honest critiques before publishing.
Noting that writing classes do exist, he should have driven to one.

*Technically, by the mid-1970s a cell phone did exist. It had been first used on April 3, 1973. It weighted two pounds and cost $3,995.  As stated, the first commercially sold cell phones were made in 1983 by DynaTAc (called mobile phones at the time). The battery would allow for a half-hour conversation before recharging, which took ten hours to accomplish. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

In the Danger Zone

I woke up this morning in the danger zone. I feel better.

I feel a little better, that is.

You know that time when ill that you know the fever broke, the hills crested and wellness is just around the corner.

In other words, the Danger Zone.

I'm still blowing my nose and hacking now and again. My legs are merely trembly rather than wobbly when I stand. I feel much better in comparison to yesterday, which means I am on the cusp of deceiving myself leading to disasters results such as a resurrection of my symptoms.

I felt the forward scouts of this germ invasion last Friday evening. My wife was suffering for what seems most of the month with her own battleground of coughs and sneezes. I arrogantly believed I would escape notice by the enemy, foolish man that I am. But her throes of agony awoke me late Friday evening and I left the bedroom to her, both of us hoping the NiteQuil would soon dope her to snooze land. I retreat to the computer across the hall.

Immediately I detected this slight roughness in my throat. It wasn't sore, just as they say, scratchy. Was something up? Oh, I hoped not. I did not want to be sick. That is a silly statement, I supposed. Who wants to be sick?

Besides it was inconvenient. I had commitments, I had responsibilities and I had expectations. It was only a few days until Christmas. I wanted to enjoy Christmas. I looked forward to the first Christmas Eve Service at my new church (literally new, new to me and new to itself having only begun last August).

When my eyes popped open at 4:00 AM Saturday morning I could feel that threat in my throat, a bit more insistent I thought, but perhaps once up it would fade away. Sometimes it does. I didn't have time to worry or fret about it. My daughter and I were heading out the door at 5 AM to head north to Toms River, New Jersey to aid in hurricane relief. It was to be only a half day this week.

It was cold and windy. We worked until just after 1:00. I forgot about my throat, but I did run out of steam quicker that day. I couldn't sustain much push as I tried to loose stubborn floor tiles that had to come up and off a floor. I kept wanting to stop, to gulp some water, anything but push that scraper bar into those stubborn, resistant squares beneath my feet.

My wife and I went out to dinner Saturday evening. It was a very chill evening, but I wore a light jacket, figuring I would only be running between the car and the restaurant with minimal exposure to the elements. Unfortunately, on the way home my wife asked to stop at a supermarket because she needed some additional ingredients for Christmas dinner. She had originally planned to go on Sunday, but decided as long as we were out...well you know. It was only a few things, she said, she would hurry.

My wife and I live in some kind of parallel universe of time. If I go to the supermarket for a few things in my particular universe it means ten-fifteen minutes in and out. If my wife says she just wants to get one thing, let's say some ice cream, then time becomes a 78 rpm record played on a 331/3 turntable. If it is a half-hour its fast, but count on at least 45 minutes. She says a few things, then watch an hour pass. And so I waited in the car, huddled in the car, for nearly an hour in my too light jacket.

Surprisingly, Sunday morning I didn't feel so bad. I did sleep much longer than usual. I chalked that up to the work up in Seaside Heights.  My throat still had that scratch, but it seemed no worse. I was confident I was going to escape the war - until about noon.

I had agreed to video the sermon and I guess I was so focused on keeping my camera on the pastor's face and not his feet, that I took no notice of my deteriorating body. But after I came home I sure took note. By Sunday night I was miserable.

It did not improve overnight. I was a mess on Monday. I did not feel like moving. I was coughing until my lungs felt more outside my chest than inside. I couldn't swallow, I couldn't breathe.

My wife, meanwhile, was not really over her own bout, but she was busy preparing her dishes for Christmas. By afternoon she was tired and stressed. She certainly didn't want to make dinner. She didn't  even want to pick up something. She wanted to get out of the house and be waited on and relax. So we went out to dinner and not to the Christmas Eve Service.

It snowed fiercely as we drove to our favorite restaurant just over the Pennsylvania border a few miles. Surprise, surprise, when we arrived we discovered they were closing at 6:00 that night, Christmas Eve you know. They gave us menus, but we declined because I didn't want them held up because of us when they were ready to go home for the Holiday. We left and found a Lone Star that was open. But I was on the verge of collapse by the time we ate. I went home, chugged a NiteQuil and went to bed. I would not have been fit company at our Christmas Eve Service.

Thus I was ill over Christmas. I got no succor that day either. I got up and cleaned the whole house top to bottom to spare my wife any additional stress or bother. And now today, Thursday I do believe, two days past, I feel better. It puts me in the danger zone. As stated, I feel better; I don't feel great. But I have to fight my tendency not to wait the disease out. I am always too quick to try and take back my normalcy, to rush into the morning cleaning and scrubbing of the kitchen as is my daily habit, a chore followed by a four or five mile walk in the park.

No, I am forcing myself to do as little physical activity as possible today and let the cure take place. The enemy is on the run, I know. Give it a day or two of retreat and I will once again be fit and firm, that is if I keep my head, and body, down in the danger zone.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I'm NOT Loving It

I'm of two minds about this, which I will explain later.

Don't you just admire the razor sharp minds of the rich businessman, always looking for ways to do good. I mean what could do more good than jack up your profit by taking Thanksgiving and Christmas away from your minimum wage employees. Why should people be giving thanks to God and enjoying the company of their families when they could be out flipping hamburgers and contributing to the coffers of a big business? Why should they waste time watching the wide-eyed small fries opening their gifts from Santa when their are French Fries to fry?

It is my hope that Mr. Corporate Head slipped on a apron today and went down to the local Scottsdale restaurant to lend a hand. Surely when he calls for 18,000 to give up their Christmas we wouldn't find him sitting sipping a nice Bordeaux from his private wine cellar in front of one of his three fireplaces or perhaps watching Dicken's Christmas Carol being screened on his home theater.  Gee, I wonder how long it'd take the cashier at to save enough to buy a $2,175,000 home on a golf course. Maybe if she or he put away the overtime for working the holidays...of wait, a lot are being asked to work without any bonus pay for a holiday.

Now I said I had two minds about these food joints opening on Christmas. Some things are necessary to open all the time. My daughters worked today, Christmas, at an animal shelter because animals need to be cared for everyday. My friend worked at the hotel where he is employed today as well. Of course, in their cases, they volunteered for the duty and they also get paid a bonus for it.

People have to work in hospitals and nursing homes and police stations and other such places. They is no good reason on earth why a Target or a Walmart should be open on days such as this though. People don't die because they can't shop for one day.

Restaurants are a bit more tricky. I remember thinking about this when I was very poor many years ago. Those were the days I use to wander from trolley stop to trolley stop in Philadelphia looking for dropped change so I could buy lunch. I remember walking the deserted city streets on Christmas Day and seeing the restaurants and grocery stores and delis all dark and closed. I wondered where some of the lonely people went to eat on the holiday.

You have a family or friends and a home to go to Christmas is a cozy and bright day. If you are old and alone or down on your luck they may be no such place. It would at least be nice to find a cheap place to get a meal.

But the workers working such places should be volunteering for the duty and getting paid a bonus rate. So my suggestion here, as long as Mr. Corporate Head has assumed the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, is he play it out to the end, when Scrooge saw the light and sent the goose to poor Bob Cratchit. If you open on Christmas, then take the excess profit over a normal day and donate that to some local shelter. And even more, during the day bag up some of those burgers and fries and fish fillets and take them out to the homeless and the joyless and the old couple who can't get out of their apartment anymore.

But that will be difficult to achieve when you keep your heart in your pocketbook.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Pickup Truck Load of Unmitigated Gall

I come to my Blogger dashboard this fine Christmas Eve day and what do I see?

"1 Comment Waiting Moderation"

It's always nice to get a comment. It tells me someone has read my dibble and even taken the time to say something about it. I quickly open up the comment and read a semi-cryptic message from someone named Frances, with an e, the female form. I have a cousin Francis, but he isn't a she, so I rule him out. I don't have any followers or friends names Frances. Perhaps I am attracting a new audience; perhaps a new recruit to the magical land of Larry.

However, what in the world do they mean with this comment?

"It's fortunate enough that they have their own pickup trucks. Others have to go for a pickup truck rental service just to move their things."

The comment was made on a post I did quite awhile back called  Photographs of Dads and Sons and Pickup Trucks. (You can click on that title if ou wish to read it.) I'll tell you what it was about right here tough. It was about photographs of sons and dads and pickup trucks, duh!

Actually it was a nostalgic piece, perhaps just short of a tribute to my dad. It was a response to a Post by my friend Ronald on his Retired in Delaware Blog.  I was comparing simularities between his relationship with his father and my own to my dad. The only mention of pickup trucks was in the title and this paragraph at the end:

"One other thing, though, in Retired in Delaware's Post is the pickup truck. Funny now, but this is something we saw quite differently.

On the right is my dad's pickup truck (and my teenage shadow taking the photo). My friend, Ron, was humiliated by having to ride in the back of his dad's pickup. I loved riding in the back of this one. That was where I wanted to ride, me and my friend Richard.

We thought it was cool.

There are some stories about that pickup, but for another time."

So why this comment about our dad's being fortunate while others must rent pickups? Did Francis grow up poorer than Ronald and me?  Was Frances jealous of our families enormous bounty of owning a used, battered pickup truck?  I certainly realize there were families worse off than either Ronald or myself.

Or is Frances a sensitive soul concerned about the downtrodden of our world, those underprivileged souls who must put along this world in rented pickup trucks? 

I clicked up Frances' link to find out something about her and this is what I got.

That's right, an ad for Hertz rentals.

My sensitive little Frances turns out to be some pathetic troll toiling for Hertz. What is her profession? Does she sit in a corner of a Hertz back room hunched over a keyboard all day surfing the web for the key word "Pickup Truck"?  This is Hertz idea of a great marketing campaign, sending comments to any blogger who mentions such a vehicle no matter the context of the post? The brilliant mind of the corporate types on display making spam in the quest to make hay.

Shame! Shame! Shame! You know who I rent vehicles from when it is necessary? Enterprise, they come right to your door and pick you up.

But wait, there's more! You see that ad above, well, tell you what I'm goin' do. You read this Post right now and I'll thrown in another Ad absolutely free, you don't pay $19.95 and you don't even have to pay shipping and handling.

I looked on that Hertz ad and saw the usual suspects down at the bottom, the Facebook, Twitter, Google+ boxes. I didn't know what the fourth box was, the blue one with IN on it. I should have known, but I didn't, even though I guess it was obvious. I just had never seen it before, so I clicked it and it opened this in LinkedIn.

Yeah,yeah, another ad from Hertz, but there was something unique and maybe a bit disturbing about it.

Look there on the right in the middle. There is a familiar face. Hertz has the unmitigated gall to put my LinkedIn profile picture on one of their ads as if I am somehow endorsing Hertz?  Who gave Hertz permission to use my image in their placards? was it Sneaky-Surfer Frances?

I don't want to hear any moaning and groaning from Hertz about this post. If they can plaster my face on their ads, then I can plaster their ads on my Post.  If Hertz ever chances upon this diatribe the only thing they need send me is an apology. I don't care about comments from dweebs like Frances, but I do take umbrage at unauthorized use of my image as a marketing tool.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Driving the Devil's Road Redux

A year and three-quarters ago Frank March drove down the Devil's Road. We told of that adventure on these pages. This included a short video that also was shared on YouTube. Just a little diversion was all it amounted to.

One has to know the Urban legend of the road. (I suppose Urban legend is a misnomer; it's pretty rural about there, but no one said "Rural legend, do they?)

The gist of it is that a cult house hides in the woods somewhere along the route. There are tales of Satanism, of KKK meetings and also that this was the dumping ground for a number of monstrous children produced by duPont family inbreeding.

There is also the side story of the skull tree, so named for the appearance of its trunk and roots. Allegedly a mother left her baby at the base of the tree to die and the roots absorbed the child and formed the skull face. Claims are made that if you stop here in the night you will hear a baby crying.

The third aspect of this whole Devil's Road folderol is the mysterious vehicles that will suddenly appear to chase away any intruder. These are usually described as black pickup trucks or SUVs.

Here is my original video.

Now these many months later the video drew a response:

"None of this is true. I live literally a few feet from the road and I have driven up and down it and walked it at all times of day. I also know most of residents that live up and down it. There is no "cult house"... it simply doesn't exist. However there is a farm half way down it with another house and gate just opposite from it. They do have their own security and cameras on the grounds. If they catch you the cops are usually called immediately. Anyone following you is probably someone screwing around. I know Ive scared my fair share of people down there. The supposed "cult house" is a house in the distance on a hill and it isnt even on Cossart rd. At the bottom of the hill where the trees bend and the skull tree is.. where its suppose to be. But at the top of the hill is just a field. Nothing more. Oh and the skull tree was filled with concrete and taken down because of vandalism."

This is how the Skull Tree looked originally .The baby supposedly left in that hole between the roots.

You can see the skull imagery by imagining that hole and the one to its left as eye sockets. The triangular hole at the base forms the nose.

This is how the tree looked after the holes were filled in with cement. 

People coming by at night wrote graffiti around the base (hopefully none of which you can read in this picture).

According to the comment I received the tree has since been taken down. It is kind of a shame actually. Legends should continue.

(Both photos taken from "Weird Pennsylvania".)

Also according to the comment, none of this is true. Yet, there is a house and there is a tree. They exist. Cults and gangs and women who desert babies all exist. I don't believe in ghosts, spooks and disembodied voices, such as the dead baby's cries being heard if you stand near that tree. But other than that there is nothing in the tales that isn't possible, if improbable.

Why did I once drive down the Devil's Road. Like the proverbial cat, to satisfy my curiousity. You don't live in this area long befoire you hear tells of "The Valley", of "Devil's Road" and of the "Cult House". It is a rite of passage for high school kids to visit the road late at night and scare each other. Even my own children did it. So, with my own bizarre taste for spooky things, I also wanted to experience it.

The first trick was even finding it. I had ofter heard Beaver Valley Road mentioned, but these things weren't on Beaver Valley Road. (By the way, that's beaver, not Bieber -- one spooky thing at a time.) I learned they were on Cossart Road, but where in the world was that? It is actually a road running between Centerville and the Chadds Ford area, but don't look for a road sign saying Devil's Road or even Cossart, for they took down all the street signs, which only adds to the intrigue.

But I found it.

I admit, on the dreary, rainy day I transversed it i found it very spooky indeed. There are a lot of spooky roads in this region. I have driven Old Rt. 100 between Chadds Ford and West Chester probably more than a 1,000 times in my life and stretches of it are just as spooky as can be. It is also lined with oddly twisted trees that seem to reach for you as you pass.

I would have given less notice to Cossart Road if it hadn't been for the black pickup. Yes, just as in all the legends a black pickup suddenly appeared behind me as I reached the point of the alledged cult house. It trailed behind the rest of the way to the end of the road.

Coincidence is how I figured it in my mind. Black pickups are hardly a rarity around here. However, when i exited the road I saw the black pickup do a U-turn and go back up Cossart and that gave credence to all the wild tales.
The Commenter on YouTube said: "Anyone following you is probably someone screwing around. I know Ive scared my fair share of people down there."

You mean people living there have nothing better to do. I wasn't some kid snaking through there in the night. I was an old man driving the speed limit through in broad daylight. (Well, perhaps with the rain, slim daylight, but daylight none the less.) I've heard the residents are tired of the invaders of their peaceful road. If so I would advise them to put the street signs back up and stop scaring their fair share of people by following. All those things do is perpetuate the myth.

Besides, I prefer the myth to the reality anyway.

By the way,  M. Night Shyamalan filmed "The Village" in the fields and woods along this road, one of my favorite movies.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Moochie Departs

Little Moochie passed away early Tuesday Morning.

Only last week she was living up to her name, begging for bits of chicken at our kitchen table during dinner. And she was bounding about the house rather well for an old lady. She would leap upon the back of the sofa, climb over my shoulder and settle upon my collar bone, her head or body pressed against my face blocking any view i had of the TV.

My daughter Laurel had nicknamed her , "The Suffocator".

She came to us in one of the earliest litters left in our storage area behind the house by a rather scandalous feral mother. She was born back in 1997 and was the runt of the litter. She remained our smallest cat, except for Asta who also died this year. (We've been hit hard by Death's scythe this year.) She was never much bigger than a kitten.

Her eyes glowed in the dark, more than any other cat I've seen. It was very startling to just see these two green lights peering from a totally dark space.

We noticed she was losing some weight, but she seemed fine until last Friday. She seemed to shed more weight very quickly and was so light you felt no resistance in your hand when you picked her up, as if she was an apparition and not solid at all.

Over the weekend she grew weaker. We pull a pad on our laps and someone almost always held her those last couple of days. When I placed her in the computer room over night on Monday, she raised her head to look at me, then she lay it back down. I told my wife, "I'll be surprised if Moochie's with us in the morning."

I was right. When I got up the next day, and I get up early, I found her basically as I had left her. She was already stiff, so she must have slipped away in her sleep earlier. I believe she died peacefully. She did not show any sighs of struggle or pain.

She is survived by her brother, Canterbury, the last of that litter. She had a good long life here, much longer and better than she would have had as a feral cat, if she had even survived kittenhood outside.

I expect we will see others pass in the not distance future. This is always painful, but a price you pay when you give older cats a home, as we have come to do. With the exception of Kerouac, the starving kitten my son Darryl rescued two years ago, and Flacco, my daughter Laurel's 7-month old kitten, all our cats are well over ten years old. My mother's cat, which we took in when mom died, is 17 pushing 18. Christy Cat was old when my wife adopted her 10 years ago. My daughter says Christy is 20; I say she is 100.

We'll miss you Little Moochie, rest well.