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, July 11, 2015

Trail Never Again to be Taken; Taken

Tis Saturday and I have no commitments most of the day, only dinner out tonight. I set out for my morning walk and decided to visit Alapocus Run State Park for not having gone there in quite the while. The lack of visitation was only part of the decision. I also figured it might be less muddy than Brandywine Creek State Park. The biggest decider was this gadget I got about a month ago called a pedometer. I've been finally confirming my hunches on how far I walk and I had not yet tested out Alapocus.

I originally planned to park in Lot 1, just off Foulk Road before Rt 202. This was not to be. I would walk through the Can-Do Playground, around the side of the athletic field, across Lot 2, down the hill, cross the road, into the woods across the bridge and to grandmother's house we would go...wait, that's a song, not my walk. Keep everything except that remark about grandmother's.When I came to Lot No. 1 it was full of cars and people were everywhere.I am not certain, but from all appearances it may have been football tryouts for the schools happening in the field there.  I would walk through the Can-Do Playground, around the side of the athletic field, across Lot 2, down the hill, cross the road, into the woods across the bridge and to grandmother's house we would go...wait, that's a song, not my walk. Keep everything except that remark about grandmother's. Anyway, I drove on to Lot No. 2 and parked. It had an unusual number of cars taking up most of it as well, but no people milling about or kids in shoulder pads and helmets scurrying back and forth.

Finally I reached the woods and walked to the gates, then across Alapocus Drive and down to the lip of the trail I swore was never again to be taken. At that point I turned off the wider path onto a dirt trail going up the mount into the deeper woods and called, big surprise, Alapocus Woods Trail.

I don't know why, but for some reason where I entered seemed different to me. Perhaps it was only how grown up the shrubbery was since the last time I passes this way. It a bit I did pass the exit down from the Upper Reach Trail. I had expected to return that way, yet what I saw changed my mind. The exit was obliterated by a number of failed trees. Recent weather was making a lot of obstacles about the forest these days.

I hiked out to the end of Alapocus Woods Trail, then turned back, meeting a slow meandering fellow with a camera. I asked if he was shooting birds. he wasn't, said he was just snapping whatever. I told him I hadn't seen any critters yet and we parted, him ambling along and I stepping lively back as I had come. I had noticed two trails off to the right as I had come in (they were now on my left) and having never taken either before decided to explore. I went on the downhill path and eventually this ended at a road. I scuffled about a bit and finally located the upper end of the uphill path and took it back. Once back where I had first noticed these I continued in my exiting direction, but I knew I was going to turn aside to my left just a short way ahead onto PawPaw Loop.

This would go down in a wide semi-circle along a cliff and turn back up to the Alapocus Woods Trail
further down, thus the name Loop.  I eventually came out of it and just ahead was my slow-moving camera buff. "Still here," I said. He saw no critters yet and I left him to his snail-like traipsing. He's in the picture to the right, but I caught him mostly hidden behind a tree.

Suddenly I came to another side trail off to my right called The Bancroft Mills Connector.  Hmm, I thought, maybe that is what I should have entered on back when where I did felt unfamiliar. Maybe I just hadn't went along as far as before and hadn't reached my usual entry point, even though I was on the Alapocus Woods Trail; who knows, it may be a two-headed snake.

Speaking of snakes, I came across the pictured sign along the way. Better the sign, I supposed, than the Copperheads it is concerning. I have crossed paths with snakes during my years of hiking, but so far nothing very threatening; nothing poisonous.

But I digress. Where was I?

Ah, yes heading down the Bancroft Mills Connector.

I knew when I was on the Alapocus Woods Trail I went by the old Bancroft Mills. They sat down by the creek well below the lip of the cliff and I had previously snapped photos of the smoke stack that rose high into the sky, but was somewhat parallel to where I had stood. These were cloth mills founded by a Joseph Bancroft around 1831. His descendent William Poole Bancroft was responsible for preserving much of the area as parkland.

This path was gradually descending with a fair slope. The ground was rough with small rocks and

somewhat tricky to maneuver. I was do well, but then I came to what we hikers always fear, a total road block of tree fall. There were two to three large trees that had fallen next to each other right across the path and there was no way around them. One end was to thick with brush and the other side dropped off a cliff. I had a choice, retrace my steps back up the hill or try and climb across this tangle of wood.

This of course set my course. Once I clambered down off the last branch I knew there was no going back again.

I also realized now why this was called the Bancroft Mills Connector. It was going to take me down by the creek directly across from the Mills. I had been down there before and if one followed around past the mills themselves one could follow the Brandywine right into down town Wilmington.

I was not interested in going downtown. I was interested in getting back to Lot No. 2 where my car was parked. I knew how to go. I was going to have to traverse the trail I swore never to take again.

I passed under an old bridge that ran across the Brandywine into the mills, which are now a condominium.  I took a sweeping curve in the trail just beyond and there they were.

The Blue Rock Cliffs of Wilmington.

To ever return to my car parked about a mile and a half away, I had to get up those cliffs and this meant going up the trail never to be taken again.

You see, years ago, when I first made a hike into Alapocus I had not turned up Alapocus Woods Trail, but had continued right on down the Northern Delaware Greenway, down to the flat below those cliff, down to where the mills were, where the trail to Wilmington's Brandywine Park began, down where I had to turn about and go back up.

I thought that day I would die.

The trail was one thing going down, but a killer to walk back up and up and up.

And it was winter then, not a hot July day like this morning.

I had felt my lungs burning that time, fearing my heart, which was beating like my blood had turned calypso drummer slamming its fists into a Congo.

On that day when I reached the Alapocus Gates at the top of the hill I expected my next stop would be at the Pearly Gates.  I had to drape myself over a fence, where
I clung and gasped for breath. Two women joggers came up along from the other direction and asked if I needed help. I wheezed out that I just needed to catch my breath and sent them on their way.

Then I collapsed back against the fence proper me up and hoped I had done the right thing. Once I could walk again, I swore i would never go down that way again and never, ever come up that cliff road.

And now here I was in the heat of summer trudging of it once more.

This time was different. I must be in much better shape now. I reached those gates and that fence beyond, but I didn't have to cling to it like a life raft.  I wasn't even breathing hard.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Thrilling Adventures of the Theater Goer

Off for a joyful jaunt, dinner and the theater, thinking we are prepared in our dusters and bonnet, but these days you are never prepared for the hazards that pop up.

Two weeks ago we went out to dinner at Barnabas in Aston. It was a Tuesday, not our usual eating out night, and if only we had stuck to that.

The sky was darkening some by the time we arrived, but what's a little rain. We were safely within the restaurant walls in our favorite cozy corner booth, who cared what the weather was outside. Our drinks had been served, I having Iced Tea that eve and then our orders were. It was Taco night and I had looked forward to a nice large Taco Salad in its edible bowl. The soup was Tomato Florentine and I ordered that to come out first; and so it did come out first along with the first clap of thunder, and with that the place went dark, very dark. The emergency lighting seemed pretty sparse where we sat; should I say non-existent, except for a distant yellow Exit Sign. We weren't dining by candlelight; we were dining by the glow of people's cell phones. Our waiter even gallantly offered to leave his phone on our booth table, but I declined and sipped my soup in the shadows.

Outside the wind was raging and the rain was not drops. It appeared like a thick curtain hung from the eves of the eating deck just outside our windows and the traffic on Rt. 452 had slowed to more of a inching along than its usual evening crawl.  Soon after the waiter returned to inform us they wouldn't allow the kitchen to cook, did we wish to settle up. We did so, but I wasn't venturing out into that monsoon.

It didn't last long, perhaps twenty minutes, but what a furious third of an hour it was.

We left and noted traffic going north was not moving at all. I remarked how glad I was we were going
south, then I went around a bend and it wasn't so good. From there through Aston were many trees down, lying like crushed warriors half across the road. It was now one lane here and then here and then here, narrow passages around the wreckage, a grim game of in and out the windows. Considering how badly Delaware County, PA was hit that night we were fortunate to make it home. If those trees had been a bit taller we may have found ourselves trapped at Barnabys for the night; they would have this road cleared for a while.

But yesterday, just over two weeks later and on a Thursday, we were back to Barnabys again for dinner, despite forecasts that violent weather was coming our way. We had tickets for a play at the Hedgerow Theater in Media. This very old playhouse sets off a country road and only a quarter hour from Barnabys, which made eating there very convenient. And it was very pleasant yesterday, no repeat of the previous episode of Lights Out! I had the soul, which was beef vegetable this time, plus a Bronx Burger with fries. We could eat leisurely, for I had insisted we leave at twenty to five, since the curtain time for the play was 7:30. All was fine.

However, it didn't take us as long to eat as I anticipated and we were out of there by 6:15. Lois had taken the remains of her meal in a doggy bag (actually a box) and I was concern about it sitting for several hours in the high humidity and near 90 degree temperature. But we had time to kill, so let's go home, put your food in the fridge, hit the bath room briefly and then return up 452 and the roads to Hedgerow. Plenty of time to do this without rushing, or so I believed.

As we near our turn off on to Knowlton Road we could see the sky getting darker. I hoped we would be inside the theater before any storm hit and this seems certain since it was only about ten minutes from where we turned. The time was now about five to seven. All signs were pointing to success...except this sign along side the road ahead. It said Detour: Bridge Out: Road Closed.

Oh how delightful, a detour on roads I didn't know with a deadline staring me in the face.

At first it seemed not horrid. The detour was marked by bright orange markers, until we came to a fork in the road and I wasn't certain which way to go. The detour seemed to point left and so I went left, but all detour signs ended as we were deposited on some main highway that I did not recognize, and of course, this being Pennsylvania, there were no Route markers or street signs. What do we do, time is ticking.

I did a U-turn, somewhat illegal in that state, but I kind of fudged in at the mouth of a side street. I returned back to the fork and decided to continue on the right fork, something called Creek Road.

I hadn't a clue where I was going.

We came to a crossroad and there was a young fellow on a skateboard crossing. "Excuse me," I called, "do you know where the Hedgerow Theater is?"  His expression didn't give me slip hope and when he couldn't repeat the theater name properly, "Hedgewood? Hedgehog? Hodgepodge?"

A pickup pulled up behind us and the skateboarder approached that driver inquiring where Hedge something-or-other might be. I got out and walked back and the man told me to turn left, go to the highway ahead, make another left and then go five traffic lights for another left and it is down the hill."

Thank you, thank you, and we headed up to that next intersection, but cars weren't moving for some reason, especially on the left fork, for it was split turn lanes there. Two things became quickly evident. First, there had been an accident and the fellow at the front of the left turn fork was not going anywhere, for his hood was up. The second was he must have hit the light or something for the red light was stuck on red. Traffic behind us was heavy and a steady line kept going up the right fork, but somehow I managed to slip in this flow, go up and make my left out of that right.

Now we counted traffic lights and they seemed to come far apart and time is now close to twenty
after seven. I buzz by the fourth light when Lois yells "Hedgerow, left turn." Okay so the guy was off one light, this was the fourth and I was by it. I had to find a crossroad and turn about, then down that road, which turned out to be Rose Valley and one-half mile down it stood the theater.

Just past the building was the parking lot, which startled me being so filled. When we last came here in June there was barely a car (or an audience) when we arrived and I park right next to the entrance walk. This time two men were there directing me where to park.

They greeted me as Lois and I left the car and crossed toward them. I mentioned having been lost because of the detour. But we were there. I recognized the one man. He is on the left in the photo at the beginning of this post, in a duster and goggles. That photo was a scene from the previous play, "Poste Haste", about Emily Post's cross country car trip many decades ago. His name is Brock Vickers and he played her son in that play, she being Emily Post and the other passenger in that top photo as played by actress Penelope Reed. Penelope was the stage manager for this nights performance and Brock would appear as a Police Superintendent and a Delivery Man. As it were, the other man directing parking was also in this play as Mr. Bromhead, a bank executive. The actor's name is Zoran Kovcik, and besides parking attendant, he was also tripling as Set Designer. The Hedgerow is obviously one of those theaters were the actors play many rolls, not all on the stage. Penelope and Brock and a couple others would play another offstage roll this night as we will see.

We had made it on time. We had the same seats as previously, Row B, seats 6 and 7, which put us down front and center with the stage. There is a Row A, but these are chairs placed below the risers so that they can accommodate those who can't manage the steps up to the main seats or are in wheelchairs, as was one women attending with her husband who sat just below us. My photo on the left shows we are pretty close to the action with no obstructions before us.

And so the show began, with Penelope Reed giving a brief welcome and introduction and then cue the music, raise the curtain (there was no curtain), action. The action opened with a kitchen pass through, that you can see between the chair and sofa suddenly going up revealing a nearly nude woman entwined about a business suited young man. Husband and wife and the soon to be victims of this farce. The play is called, "No Sex Please, We're British."

The action takes place in the late 1950s or early '60s when Britain had very strict obscenity laws. A
package arrives containing "dirty postcards" instead of the glassware the young wife had ordered and it gets more complicated from there and very hilarious. On the right are the three main characters played by Meredith beck (nice name), Mark Swift and Carl nathaniel Smith.

I do recommend if at all possible you should go see this show. I don't think you'll be disappointed nor able to keep from laughing continuously.

So other than my concern about how I would find my way home after this was over, since the road that was closed was the only way I knew how to come and go to the Hedgerow, what could go wrong.

Well, the storm hit. Oh, you could hear it a booming and the rain pelting and the wind choosing even about the players. Two or three times the lights flickered and we had visions of fallen trees blocking even more these back roads I didn't know...and it would now be dark. Then I glanced down to the chairs below us and what do I see?

A river rising, sweeping across beneath those chairs.

At intermission there was Penelope Reed with towels and bare feet trying to stem the tide, another gentlemen manning a mop and bucket and then another actress, who would appear in Act Two as one of the call girls, also barefoot, with a
roll of paper towels lending a hand. Ah entertainment with the intermission.

At any rate, the show went on without a further hitch. The only thing now was how to get home.

My silent prayers were all answered that night; why should I have ever feared. We had met a stranger in a pickup on a backroad who knew the way, the lights stayed on during the storm and when I left into the dark of night I went straight out and hit Baltimore Pike. We were home in twenty minutes.

I love the adventure of live theater.

So, go to the Hedgerow and see "No Sex Please, We're British" during its run.

I really like this intimate theater. You get to mingle and speak to the performers and it is very laid back and warm and family like.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

This Old Man's Workout

I know I was getting weaker, but chalked it up to also getting older. (I just began my 75th year two weeks ago as I write this.) I couldn't lift what I once could, nor do such things as pushups and chin ups and a lot of other such stuff. My weight had settled into a steady 195, which I considered perfectly fine. No one was calling my fat or pudgy; in fact, most people told me I was skinny.  I'm six foot tall and lanky. I've got long hands, long legs, long arms, everything about me is long and I think that distorts the appearance of girth.

I didn't consider doing anything about this until I went to physical therapy for the curvature of my back. Sudden;y I began to gain some strength under their tutelage and exercise. After my sessions ended, I decided to continue with an exercise program kind of based on what I learned at NovaCare (the physical therapy place I went), as well as some alternations to my diet in order to avoid any cholestrilol medication being added to my daily routine. My doctor, she say, "cut down on sugar and eat more fruit." So I did, no longer having a stash of cakes, tasty pies and candy here in my office and not putting sugar on my cereal and such, as well as ingesting a lot of fresh fruit each day.

I continued my morning walks, making at least four and a half miles every day and often more and up
to nine or ten. All these things conspired since spring in bringing my weight down to 170 pounds and increasing my strength at the same time.  I have gotten rid of most of my belly fat, although there is a stubborn ridge that has stuck it out, but I hope to eventually chase it away as well.

So here is my workout routine that supplements my walking every morning. I do the workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Besides the workout and the walking, I also bought a hand/foot bike, because I was on a hand bike at PT and wanted to keep at it. I often do this while watching TV. That is me using it in the first photo of this post.


These first exercises came from the PT sessions. I begin with this stretch in a doorway. Hands and forearms flat against a door jam, I take a step forward with my right leg until I feel the pull in my shoulder area and hold this for 30 seconds. I do this 5 times, alternating my leg.

These two look similar, but are different. On the left is the chin tuck, pulling back to form a double chin. I do this tuck 20 times, holding each one for 3 seconds.

The other exercise is one to strength the back muscles along the shoulder blades. I compress those muscles for 3 seconds and 20 reps.

Another designed to strength the neck, the head tilt. I turn my head sideways and hold it there for 20 seconds, alternating to the left and to the right or 5 reps in each direction.

Now we come to some exercises they gave me at Physical Therapy to strength my core and abdomen.

First I raise my legs and press my hands against the knees, forcing each to fight the other and hold for 10 seconds. I repeat this 20 times. In fact, I do 20 reps for 10 seconds each on all these four.

The second I lie with my legs drawn up, then I raise my left leg and hold it the ten seconds, drop and repeat 20 times, I do the same with the right leg.

I follow this with a bridge, raising my rear off the floor, pressing with my abdomen muscles and holding each of the 20 reps for 10 seconds.

Finally of the four I do what looks like nothing, but I am actually forcing the small of my back flat against the floor while tensing the muscles. Again, 20 of these for 10 seconds each.

After finishing those PT four, I do 50 scissor kicks. I will slowly increase the reps on this every two or three days.

Then I do ten pushups. I couldn't manage one of these a week ago, but now I manage 10. I can't do a proper pushup, though, because of the damage arthritis has done to me. I can't bend or support much with the left wrist and several figures of my right hand are paralyzed. This prevents me going fully down to the floor with my upper body.

Now it is time to set out for my daily long walk, and I always go to Bellevue on workout day because I have added the exercise stations the park has a t intervals along the track. I can't do some of these very well yet, and a couple not at all, but I try and someday I will conquer them. The hardest part of doing these is it is out in public where others can watch you make a fool of yourself and sometimes fail. You have to get over that fear. I have.

I begin with the balance beams. A couple of weeks ago I simply fell off constantly, but now I am getting the length without slipping off. I walk it about four times and I plan to try doing it backward soon.

I admit I have failed on this one every time so far. The object is to step off a post and then go the length of this devise using you hands. I step off, hang there for a bit and drop. The last time I did get a swing going and almost grabbed the next bar. Eventually I will.

Next we hold a post with one hand and then raise out leg straight out forward, then to the rear and then the side. I am currently doing 14 reps for each leg or 28 reps total.

Now comes the log lift. There are three logs, each heavier as you go from right to left. I can raise the right log with one arm. I do 14 lifts with each arm.

The middle log I can lift my 14 times using both hands and arms.

The far left log is much heavier. I couldn't budge it more than a few inches a couple weeks ago, but now I can push it above my head five tines using both arms.  Progress.

This may appear as if I am leaning against a board. Actually I am about to push my body up so I am on my straight arms atop the board and hold that position for 5 seconds. I am currently up to six such holds.

 I'm not trying to escape a snake under my feet. I am jumping back and forth the length of a log, repeating my journey four times down and back its length.

The step ups. I do a step up with each leg in turn first on the smaller pillar, then the next highest, doing 10 step ups each leg.

The classic sit-ups. I am doing 12, but I can do more. I use to be good at these. I won the setup contest in high school, outlasting every one else in gym.

Whee! Object here is to grasp the rings and raise your feet off the ground and hold this for 3 seconds. I do 12.

Similar to the last, but a different set of look-a-like rings. You grasp these ring, plant your feet firmly on the ground and swing your hips around first 12 times to the right, then 12 to the left and then you do the hooky-poky and shake yourself about. Well, not really that last part.

Finally, before doing  serious four or five mile walk, I attempt the chin ups. A week ago I could manage a half a lift, but now, although it isn't pretty nor proper form, f am managing to get my chin above the bar four times. I'll improve.

After I am back home I can finish my routine, most of which involves light weights. These came from my Physical Therapy sessions for the most part.

The weight for the first three exercises is 5 pounds. I am holding a 2 and a 3 pound dumbbell to make this. Laying on my chest, I am raising these straight up and out from the side and holding them there for 10 seconds. (In my video I kept changing this to 5 seconds, but it is 10.) I am doing 15 reps.

The second exercise (not pictured) looks pretty much like the first, except my thumbs are out and pointed upward. This changes the muscle use and is actually a bit more difficult. It is still holding for 10 seconds for 15 reps.

The third is the same grip as the first, but I am raising the dumbbells out to the front, like Superman flying, holding each rep 10 seconds and doing 15.

This exercise is only using a 2 pound weight, but originally used no weight at all. I hold the dumbbells against my chest, then trow my arms out and back, putting pressure on the shoulder muscles. I hold them there for 5 seconds then release and repeat. I do 30 reps.

Now I will use these 65 pound bungees. In this exercise I am pulling the bungees tight in a downward moving, then holding 5 seconds before releasing and repeating 30 times.
The difference here is I am pulling straight back toward my chest, again holding it taut for 5 seconds and repeating 30 times.
 I am using two resistance bands together and doing 30 reps. I keep my upper arms pressing against my body and I stretch the bands using just the forearms. I hold each stretch 5 seconds before release.

Using the same two resistance bands I begin with my hands together before my face. Then I stretch them straight across] until taut, where I hold them for 5 seconds each rep. I do 30 reps.

Last, but not least, I spend 40 minutes on the rowing machine.

After that I can go about what ever else I care to do on those days.

Maybe it doesn't impress, but you gotta remember I am in my 75th year and was very out of shape.

I have attached a 5 minute video of my workout the other day. Obviously when I do takes longer than 5 minutes, but the video is spread up 8 times normal. Anyway, here is this old man's workout.