Saturday, July 12, 2014
I missed my little four or five jaunt the last two mornings. This is unusual. I have missed a day here and there because of extenuating circumstances, such as a raging thunderstorm or two feet of snow in a winter blizzard, but it is really rare to miss two days in a row, even in bad weather times.
Weather had nothing to with it. Yeah, it's been hot, but I go hot or cold.
I had told the Little Woman we would go away on this just past Thursday. We would drive up into
However, when the Little Woman arose that morn she wasn't feeling well and so we decided not to go, but to postpone this journey until the next Thursday.
That was day one missed, so what happened on Friday?
I had an appointment in Wilmington at 8:00 AM. There were some things I do around the house every morning before I go hiking. This is cleaning, especially the kitchen. It also involves cleaning the several litter boxes for our cats, feeding the said animals as well as putting seed out for the birds. Given the distance I walk, I considered the timing and decided I couldn't fit everything in and make my meeting, thus I sacrificed my walk.
Therefore this morning I felt the need to take an extra long tramping through the woods to make up for the losses. I had a grand idea. I would go to where spaces are reserved for the Woodlawn Trustee Trails (now designated part of the National Monument Park). The entrance begins at these hotels along Route 202 and will eventually lead you into the paths of the Brandywine Creek State Park. I really thought I would take the high trail all the way down to the Brandywine, cross over on Adams Dam Road, follow the creek path to Tompkins Bridge Road and return through the parks along Rocky Run. That should be a hike. To allow time I left early to get myself to the trailhead even before the official opening hour of 8:00. After all, beginning at that particular spot would not be noticed by anyone who might shake a finger about my early arrival.
Apparently I was not the only schemer to think this way. When I arrived there were a lot of cars along the fence where the reserved spots are. Maybe some were guests at the hotel, but there were cars in the reserved spots, except for a couple down near the bottom, but there was an obstacle to my passage. Between me and those spots were these two bicyclists. It wasn't so much the bikers as it was the two loose dogs with them, which were standing out in the middle of the drive. I didn't want to try and maneuver about these pups with a chance of hitting any, so I pulled in a parking space in the non-reserve area to wait until the likes left.
But the one guys was working on something and they didn't leave and didn't leave and the dogs just stood the ground in the drive and then another vehicle came by me with bikes on the roof and went sown and took one of the spaces. Right behind these came another SUB with bikes on the back and then another, so I backed out and left. I really don't like to be on the trails when busy with bicyclists. I know it is a generalization, but a lot of those peddlers are rude and inconsiderate to others on the trail, not all, but enough that I would rather avoid them. As far as I am concerned every bicyclist should have to be required to wear a bell around their neck to worn people of there coming. And don't get mad at me for what I have just said. Get mad at those bicyclists who disrespect the trails and those walking.
I began by following the Hidden Pond Trail and then doubled back and took the Indian Springs route. I wandered around some areas off those routes as well, so it was a nice workout.
I didn't fall in any creeks this time, either.
Friday, July 11, 2014
Although presented as short fiction, this is a true story. The only changes made to the reality were the changing of the character's names and the season of the courthouse scene. Although set here in the chill of mid-fall, the actually faux-trail took place in the heat of summer, early August if I remember right. At the time there was a desperate attempt made to strip the students around the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel of their right to vote in the coming election. Actually there was one more fiction. In the story Frank and Jeannette register to vote the same year as the rest of the story. In truth, the real-life counterparts (gee, who could they have been) had registered a couple years before the subpoena was received by "Frank". The year of the court scene and subpoena was 1971.
TOWARD LAST NOVEMBER
New Year fireworks exploded over the river. City high glass and steel flashed with color. But City Hall hid in shadows, frozen in time; a stonemason’s nightmare festooned with gargoyles and carved angels holding swords. It dripped with ice cycles and the deserted courtyard echoed with howls from the wind.
Another election year began.
Frank visited old haunts and found ghost voices fading with the decade. There were no Beatles on the radio; no Peter Max posters on the walls. Woodstock died at Altamont. There was still Vietnam and Nixon in the White House, but venues of his generation were closing. His favorite was boarded up and no more coffee served at its tables; no more folk singers gracing its stage. There was a paper nailed to the door: “Closed by order of City Council…falls beneath community standards…gathering place for Communist sympathizers and street trash, hopheads and the indigent…”
The primary was a month away.
Jeannette had returned from a long separation neither wanted. One day he called her and she came back. He found an apartment on the west side near the universities. It had a small living room/bedroom, a kitchen; a bathroom. The paint was chipping around the tub. The kitchen sink dripped with an iambic beat and every night the roaches came out to dance.
The rent was incredibly cheap.
In late summer there was a voter drive. They registered to vote, answering questions from an elder lady. She asked their age. She asked their citizenship. She asked if they lived in the district six months. She asked their occupations and Jeannette answered secretary, but Frank paused before saying writer.
The lady gave them a little card to carry.
The subpoena came in September, not delivered into his hand, just stuffed into the mailbox. It charged him with voter fraud. As Frank stood in the apartment building anteroom reading he saw subpoenas poking from mailboxes all around him. There was none for Jeannette. There was a name and address for someone swearing Frank was not a legal resident of the district. He left the apartment building and walked to the address.
It was a vacant lot.
Frank was fortunate to have a seat for the courtroom was thronged with people. Even if the rows of benches were not cushioned and uncomfortable they were still better than standing, compressed together shoulder to shoulder like fish in a tin, as was the mob in the rear and out in the hall. It was hot. The room was large with a high ceiling and if empty would have been cool on a chill October day, but humanity overwhelmed the space and body heat turned it into a furnace and due to the cold weather clothes everybody was wearing there had already been two fainters.
He hoped the process would be quick.
"Anderson", called the bailiff.
A tall, skinny kid struggled from a row and down the aisle. He stood before three judges, none real. The middle one was the political party committee chairman. The other two were ward healers. They asked Anderson some questions. The lawyer for the boy, for them all, objected, argued, was reprimanded, told to shut up, and he shut up. The boy shrugged his answers. The middle judge pointed to a table to the side. The boy nodded and took something from his wallet handing it to the person behind the table. The person looked at what she was handed, wrote in a ledger, handed the card back, and Anderson left.
"Andrews," called the bailiff. A carrot-haired boy came forward.
Frank March sighed.
"Baum," said the Bailiff.
Frank looked at faces. Most were younger than his, obviously students. There were some older. There was a guy with a long white beard, knurled and twisted hands and a bewildered look. There were some older women clustered near the door, like him, not students.
Along the front right wall sat the witnesses: two wizened men and a shriveled woman, all down on their luck and high on booze. He had never seen any of the three before. Occasionally the judges asked the three if they had seen so-and-so falsely registered and one or the other said they had. Sometimes they spoke at the same time and sometimes stumbled over the words and sometimes looked blankly off into the distance.
After questioning, each called forth went to the table, then left. The lawyer went to the bench and whispered to the man on one end. The man on the end whispered to the other two judges. There was a recess. The judges left the room. The lawyer left with them. A moment later the lawyer came back and stepped to the front of the room. He told the crowd if they had valid driver’s licenses, show the clerk and they would remain on the register and be free to go.
Frank stood in line a half hour.
A citizen with voting rights has choices. Frank thought about his as he walked to the polling place that year. Far to the north he heard sirens. There were always sirens in the city, but there were more lately. He walked from the poling place through a park empty of life. Some forgotten men claimed the concrete benches and pigeons pecked at the hardening ground. The air was chill. The sky was November gray. Another winter was coming soon, another winter in a long line of winters, and he was tired of winter. He was tired of the cold. Each year it was harder to find warmth here.
He thought it might be time to leave the city.
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
I check my balances every day. This morning I checked the balance in a credit card account of mine and the first odd thing was the balance was over the limit. Now I knew I was near the limit, but didn't think I had made any purchases that would pull it over.
I opened the detail and right at the top of the list were three strange transactions. Each had the same date and each was paid to the same name, Sunshine something or other. Miami appeared at the end of the name. Two transactions were for $100 and the other was $87 and change. I knew this was nothing I bought.
Although it was only around six o'clock in the morning I immediately called the card company and very quickly was actually speaking to a real person. I told them of the three suspicious entries, which they could see on their computer. She told me they were from a gas station. I never heard of Sunshine Gas Station. I told her it said something about Miami and she said this was the home company headquarters.
They put a hot stop on the card, closed my account for my security and issued me a new card. Of course it will take 10 business days to receive my new card. She told me the Fraud Division would investigate the transactions and look at video in hopes of identifying the crooks.
This does not make one feel very secure and there is also some inconvenience involved. At least I won't lose the money. However, that matter of trust is going to be hard to overcome.
You see, it is a matter of what I use this card for. I am a Senior on Social Security. Social Security does not pay you on a date certain. It pays you on a day, such as the fourth Wednesday of the month. This creates a cash flow problem. The fourth Wednesday can float almost a week from month to month. The fourth Wednesday can be as early as the 22 if the first Wednesday of a month is the 1, but shift one day and have Thursday be the first and your check won't come until the 28th.
However, one's bill tend to be pinned to a specific date and they don't float.
This would not be a problem except my wife and I eat out often. This was causing me a cash flow problem and I would have to take money from other accounts now and again to keep in the black. Then one day I got smart. If I pay for the meals with this credit card, I can pay the total amount at a set date when I know I have the money and the cash flow problem is solved.
But now I have that trust problem. You see, I generally only use this card to pay for our restaurant meals and we tend to only go to a couple of regular dining spots. So, how did these crooks get my card number? As much as I hate to think that there was someone dishonest on the staff of one of these restaurants where we have eaten for years, it is possible and also a common ruse. After all, at a restaurant the wait person takes your card out of your sight when you pay your chit. It would be easy to write down the number and security code during this absence from your sight. Also, someone could have a small scanner in their pocket and simply swipe your card and record the data.
Now we did have an odd thing this past week. Last Thursday we went out to our favorite spot. While we were there a vicious thunderstorm struck the area. The lights went out in the restaurant for a brief time. All the TVs lost their feeds and for a bit their computers were down. When we came to paying for the meal we were told by the wait person that they had lost the Internet. They would have to write my information. This was on July 3. The transaction date of the fraudulent transactions was July 5. I do not want to accuse anyone or anyplace, so maybe this was mere coincidence.
A few days later, just to add to the oddity, I received a call from the card company's fraud department to verify recent transitions. The ones they gave me when I asked were of this restaurant and correct amounts. I thought maybe the call was triggered by the charge from there coming in on a written format rather than electronically. I wonder about the coincidence of that call as well.
At any rate, now having lost trust in my dining institutions I am falling back to the good ol' days when I was young. I will carry cash and pay with cash rather than chance anymore credit card shenanigans. It's sad to say we come to this, but we have.