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

Thursday, May 4, 2017

On the Road Again and the New Alligator-Skinned Man

What’s with all these people dancing about some garden in the altogether?
These are statues by the sculptor John H. Waddell (right). The piece is called, “Dance” and it is displayed in front of the Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix.  These figures were directly across from the Hyatt where I was staying that October, 1982, so every time I went out they greeted me. This is terrible to admit, but I can’t remember exactly why I was in Phoenix. I know it was on Bank business, but exactly the purpose is no longer in my head. Here is what I actually remember about my trip to Phoenix.

I flew down on Continental with an unexpected unscheduled stop at the Denver airport, my first time in Colorado as well. I did not see much of that state though, for we were stuck in the airport for a few hours. When we landed, we did not taxi up to a terminal. A few shuttle buses rolled up to the plane. We exited down stairs pushed up to the door. The buses took as to the main terminal, where we sat around for quite a while. There had been some problem detected with the plane and after we deplaned it was driven straight to the maintenance hangar.
At long last we were re-boarded. This time directly from a terminal gate. The plane then taxied out toward a runway, but suddenly stopped. A leak in the hydraulic system had occurred, which had to be fixed before we took off. This took an hour or so and we all remained in our seats upon the plane until it was done. It got very stuffy and hot. Once they felt the plane had been made safe we continued on to Phoenix, not without some apprehension on my part, I'll tell you that.
The surroundings were not very inspiring during the cab ride from airport to my hotel. There were a number of small tumble down shacks, a number of pickup trucks on the highway and a lot of blowing dust.
I was dropped off at the Hyatt for my stay. There was a revolving restaurant atop a kind of tower that rose from the hotel. After meeting my hosts, they insisted on taking me to dinner there. The problem for me was getting up to where the restaurant sat, looking every bit like a waiting flying saucer. There was only one elevator that took you up and it was on the outside of the building. Furthermore, it was totally glass enclosed so you could see the far over the city as you went higher. I still suffered from my fear of height, so I huddled back against the elevator door that clung to the building.
I think the meal was quite good and the view was interesting since the restaurant did a constant, slow 360-revolution over and over. You got to see all the unfolding landscape; however, by the time we ordered dinner night had fallen so you mostly saw lights.

I took an afternoon stroll through downtown. It was a mere 96 degrees since this was October and we were past the peak of summertime. They say it is a dry heat, but let me tell you, when you walked on the sunny side of the street it was still hot. The shady side of the sidewalk was comfortable, I will say that, and you didn’t really sweat.
At one point on my walk it rained, came down hard, but didn’t last long. I and my clothes dried out in minutes once it stopped.
The downtown area was depressing (keep in mind this was 1982, it may be quite different today). There were a lot of closed and boarded up storefronts and desperate looking men shuffling about the streets or sitting in deserted shop entries. I was glad to get back to the hotel area. The size of the city reminded me of Wilmington.
I did manage to take a day-long bus tour during my stay. The temperature was near 100 and it was sunny. We started out through the desert, a lot of brown ground and brown bushes, here and there a cactus. However, an hour or so along we pulled into a truck stop for breakfast and the ground had turned to white. It was snowing.
Our main destination was the Grand Canyon. We stopped in a Navajo Reservation for lunch. As we drove through the roads to the restaurant and trading post we saw a lot of squalor. Every yard seemed to have the rusting bones of an old car. The Trading Post was nice enough, a expansive gift shop in reality. The restaurant sat to the rear. There were two sides to the menu. One side was “American” food; the other was Indian (the Term Native-American had not yet come in vogue). I was the only member of the tour group that ordered from the Indian menu. It was quite good, though I don’t remember what I ate. In fact, I’m not sure I knew what I ate.
After lunch we stopped at another canyon, not the Grand. Maybe it was Marble Canyon. We stopped here and the tour group wandered over to gaze down. There were no restraining walls or fences. I made several ladies on the tour nervous because I went out atop some rocks along the edge to take pictures. As I have said, I get foolishly brave when viewing the world through a camera. I know I took several rolls of film in Arizona, but all I can find amount to less than two rolls and are all of downtown Phoenix near my hotel. It is very frustrating to have lost many pictures of my travels.

Oh, just as a note, we did get to the Grand Canyon and spend some time gazing at this long, deep gash, but in all honesty I wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed. I was a bit disappointed, I guess. It didn't seem that grand. The photo on the left is my father at the Grand Canyon in 1967. Sitting up on the restraining wall is not something I would do. They probably don’t let anyone do that anymore.

I enjoyed my excursion, but it was pretty busy back home and I was definitely required to address it. As previously noted we had listed out Cobbs Street home for sale while we searched for a new house in Delaware. We contracted for a house in Claymont, contingent on our selling our current place. (The house we nearly bought is on the right as it looks today.) Certain matters surfaced there and we pulled our contract. Fortunately, we did get our full deposit returned. Ironically, we contracted on another house only two doors away. It was the same style. As it was, our Cobbs property sold and we were able to buy this home.
What an amazing difference Delaware was, not only in eliminating that long commute, but in almost everything else. This is the basic description of the home we bought: a single family home that contains 2,400 square feet and was built in 1957. It contains 4 bedrooms and 1.5 baths. The lot is 7,841 square feet. The property last sold in November 1982 for $57,000. Yeah that last buyer be us. The photo on the left is the Claymont house at the time we purchased it in November 1982.
The double house we sold in Drexel Hill is a single family home containing 1,152 square feet and was built in 1947, half the size and ten years older. It has 3 bedrooms and 1 bath. Its postage stamp lot is 2,657 square feet, 2/3 smaller than the new home we bought. We received $54,000 for the Drexel Hill Semi-detached, only $3,000 less than the much bigger lot and home we purchased. (Our half of the double house on Cobbs in on the right hand side in this photo, the part without a porch roof.)

Not only that, our property tax in Delaware was less than half of what we were paying in Pennsylvania for a much smaller place. (On the left is the Cobbs Street home at the time we sold it.) Delaware also had a much lower state income tax and no sales tax. The house on Cobbs Street had an unfinished basement that was dark, damp and spooky. 

Our new home had a finished basement with a huge recreation room (as they called in then). The kids could play down there on bad weather days; if they wanted they could even ride their bikes about downstairs.
We moved to the home November 7, 1982. Neighbors of my parents as well as mom and dad came along to help with the move. Settlement was made on November 12, on the sale of Cobbs in the morning and the purchase of Claymont in the afternoon.
I had rented a U-Haul. We initially got lost. It took us a while to find out way easily in and out of  our development. When I pulled the truck up to the front and began toting furniture down the ramp, the next door neighbor came over and offered to help. Actually, he didn't offer. He just grabbed something and carried it into the house. I have since continued that practice when new people move in next to us. He introduced himself, said he was a Deacon at a local Baptist Church and that he and his wife headed the youth group there, so we could expect to see a bunch of teenagers at his home regularly. He suggested I might like to come to his church, Bethel Baptist. Kind of interesting, since Lois and I had previously been youth leaders ourselves and I had attended as a teen, and we were married in, Bethel Methodist. (The Claymont home as it looks today is on the right.)
Things were off to a promising start.

One thing that had not been so promising was my psoriasis. I had first been diagnosed with this skin disease when I was 15, although I am certain I had it long before that. I believe I had it all the way through Junior High School, mainly in my scalp. It had been all those years fairly mild, appearing as an here and there little red, scaly patch, usually on my elbows or knees. A small patch of it on my shoulder had kept me out of the Armed Services and especially Vietnam. I only had one eruption the day I was processed for induction and I didn’t even know I had that. This is how mild it used to be.
My on and off flare ups really never bothered me. They were not large, bigger in the winter than summer and mostly hidden beneath my clothes. But in the early 1980s the disease stormed my body and by 1981 I was quite covered with the patches and I was getting new scales every day. Still, it wasn’t apparent to most people. It was up and down my legs and arms, my torso, especially my back, but hidden by my clothing. Sometimes it itched badly and in winter it was painful, feeling like a bad sunburn.
When I was driving back and forth to Metropolitan Hospital during the time Darryl was born, I noticed a Dermatologist office on one corner of Sproul Avenue. I decided to visit this doctor and see if he could do anything about this.
I was still living on Cobbs Street, so I could drive up Route 1 right to this guy’ practice on my way home from work. I called and made an appointment and thus one evening I did just that.
I walked into his office. It was a late appointment so there weren’t any other people waiting. It wasn’t long before his last patient exited and I was sent back to an office. It was just that, an office, not an examination room. He indicated a chair and he sat down behind a desk and asked me several questions, usual things like when did I first notice any symptoms, what kind of treatment had I already had.
I told him my psoriatic history and that currently I wasn’t under any treatment. Then he asked me how extensive it was. I explained my body was pretty well covered. He told me to roll up my shirt sleeve. When I did he sat up and leaned forward. His eyes kind of widened. He explained what was known about the disease, which was not a lot at that time. Science didn’t know what caused it and there was no cure. It could be controlled to some extend by the use of certain salves. However, he went on, he felt he might be able to help me. Would it be all right if he took some photographs of my condition.
I said, okay.
He took me into another room, which was an examination room. He took a camera out of a drawer, checked it over, I guess to make sure there was film and to set the aperture and speed. He motioned me to a certain spot to stand, then told me to remove all my clothing and set these on the table. Once I was completely nude he began snapping several pictures, having me turn this way and that, front shots and back shots and what have you.

I felt quiet uncomfortable.
Once he was satisfied with his gallery of photos, he told me to get dressed and we went back into the first office again. He seemed quite anxious. His eyes lit up. He pulled a medical magazine from his desk and laid it down open before me. He repeated what he had said earlier about psoriasis being incurable. He went on to say with my extensive case creams and oils would be difficult to apply consistently and could get expensive. He then pointed to the story in the magazine. It told of studies on the disease and about a new experimental drug they believed might reduce the symptoms and give the victim relatively normal looking skin. He said he wanted to try this new drug upon me, if I was willing. I would come in weekly and he would inject the drug into the patches and hopefully these would then clear up.
I told him I would think about it and I left. He said he would eagerly await my decision. I drove off knowing what he was interested in, fame. He thought if he used this experimental drug on me and my skin became clear he would gain a great reputation. There would be an article in those medical journals about him. Maybe he could even write a book and yours truly would be the nude centerfold. And of course there was that real magic word, injections. I hated needles. Fat chance I was going to become a pincushion so this guy could get a reputation.
I was still very modest about my body. I know it doesn’t sound as if I would be after some of the things I confessed to doing or being in my youth, but I was. I didn’t want anyone to see me naked. I was one of those guys who wore a shirt even at the pool. I didn’t wear a shirt when I went in the water to swim, but out of the water I didn’t lay about shirtless. I dreaded being picked as a “skin” in school gym and certainly disliked the group showers afterward. Most of my friends ran about without a shirt most days in the summer, but I wore a T-shirt. Look at Richard Wilson and I in Wildwood. Typically, he was out swaggering about shirtless in swimming briefs, while I hid my bony chest in a shirt and wore a boxer style swimsuit.

Now what I didn’t realize as I stood starkers with this Dermatologist snapping away was this was a first step toward losing that shyness. In a few years I would be stripped of such reluctance, pun intended, and as an old man, who cares? Once you have been through the kind of medical attention I have received you feel as if everyone has seen your equipment anyway.
I wondered why the psoriasis began this rampant blossoming. Not really that much is known about it today. Even less back in the 1980s. I’m not even certain any doctor ever talked about it being an immune system problem then. One thing that was mentioned a lot was that stress affected the condition. Gosh, in those early 1980s, was I under any stress?
In 1980, I had been terminated without cause from Mercy Catholic Medical and got a new job at Wilmington Trust. I had moved three times in two years and lost my long connection to a church where I was active. Then we had a surprise baby, who was greatly premature. We were told she would be severely handicapped. In 1981, my father-in-law died and the fourth move we were about to make was delated because the house flooded and was destroyed. We must not forget that at this time I was still going to evening college at Widener. My new job was more complex than those I had in the past and I actually had to invent it. I had to interact with many different people, something often difficult for me with my Social Anxiety Disorder. I was also going on business trips for the first time in my life, usually alone.
In my earlier years, writing had eased my tensions, but my writing career as it had been come to an end by 1976. That year I did a book of poetry called, “Days of Despondency” and a collection of my published essays called, “Making an Essay of Myself”, but there was little else. There was really nothing new. 
In the ‘seventies my writing was for the church. I wrote a few essays and a couple poems that were published in, “Teens on the Scene”, a magazine I was editing. I wrote a couple plays, which were performed by the youth group at other churches and nursing homes. This phase of writing was over with by 1977.

Still my drive to write remained active, except now everything was business oriented. During 1981-82 I wrote several publications and books, which Wilmington Trust published. Most were leading to a management style I was about to introduce based on the Quality Control Concepts. My publications were:

P.A.T.H. II: A Conceptual Overview
Japanese Management Style
Management: The Plan Ahead
Tire Teams & Unicycles
Business as Usual

Business as Usual was a collection of shorter pieces I had done in company publications.
Perhaps all these factors had something to do with my Psoriasis explosion. One thing was certain. Stress was not going away.

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