Happy Birthday, oh – youngest child..

Today is DS3’s 20 th birthday. His vast (really vast) group of friends started posting birthday wishes on Face Book around midnight last night. We celebrated a week or so ago when we were in Scranton for the night. We sent him a birthday cake through the food service company that provides the meals at his school. A picture of the partially eaten cake will be down below.   Happy Birthday to you…

Today is Wednesday, April 24, 2013. I seem to be falling into a Wednesday night blogging routine. Monday is lacrosse , Tuesday is yoga, Wednesday is blog, Thursday, Friday,  Saturday and SUnday just fly by.  Let’s work backwards tonight. Last night was yoga. We started our second six-week session. There were a few new faces for this sessions. And I am no longer the only male in the class!  One of the ladies from the first session brought a man with her for the second session.  This is the first time in two years that I have not been the only male in the class. Monday night lacrosse saw no goals scored by me. It seemed this week that A: I was the oldest player on the field and B: The the other players were much younger and the game was played at a much faster pace.  Just one other comment about Monday night, one of the guys on defense that covered me Monday night will be playing professional lacrosse this summer. Covering me…

Sunday I rented a chainsaw and a 14 foot ladder and trimmed 4 huge branches from the oak tree in front of our house. This will allow more sunlight to reach the lawn and maybe the lawn will have one less reason not to grow.  Saturday we planted tomatoes and loaded up our flower boxes with various plants. Saturday night the temperature went down to 37 or so degrees. Some of the plants looked a little weary this evening when I was watering them. If they don’t make it, we will replace them in a few weeks when it’s warmer.  Here is a link to a video I shot on Saturday of the garden.

Thursday and Friday were just regular days here in New Jersey.   Work, beer, lacrosse on tv.  What could be better than that?

I have a few pictures to share, see the captions.  Thanks for reading!


Mid-Atlantic sunburn..

My nose is peeling tonight.  It does not really bother me, just sometimes when I am concentrating on some thing at work, I will see those little dry skin cells looking back at me. Not ewww.  But, Yea!  Saturday my DW and I went down to Annapolis to watch the Navy vs. Army college lacrosse game. We sat on the sunny side of the street (stadium). That side just happened to be the Army side as well.  We got free tickets when as we were walking up to the ticket booth a women with a fist full of tickets asked us if we needed tickets. I replied yes, and she gave me two and said to enjoy the game!  Her group bought tickets in bulk since it was cheaper to buy too many, than just enough. And, she had some people cancel out and not show up for the game.  Army won 14 to 7. We sat in the front row near the 50 yard line. Excellent seats!

Saturday night we stayed over in Baltimore and stayed at the Baltimore Hilton.  We got a decent deal on Hotwire for the hotel. We ate at a restaurant called Jimmy’s Famous Seafood.  I wanted crabs, my DW was happy for a crab cake.  We had a great dinner. The restaurant is a little bit of a hike from downtown, but worth the trip. Just yesterday, the restaurant won the Restaurant of the Year in Maryland.  The crabs were good. Small, but good. I really enjoyed them.

Sunday we traveled to Scranton to see DS2 and DS3. DS2 was performing in a concert Sunday afternoon. While he was getting ready for his concert, DS3 and I went to the turf field at Marywood and practiced lacrosse for an hour. I really enjoyed throwing the ball around with my youngest son.  Here are You Tube links to several videos I shot at the concert Sunday:

After the concert we went to Coopers Seafood House to celebrate DS3’s 20 th birthday which is coming up on April 24. DS2’s GF joined us as well. She is not as shy around us as she has been in the past. I guess she is getting used to our crazy family.  Sunday night we stayed over in Scranton traveling home Monday morning.

Monday was lacrosse, no goals for me. I walked the Allaire Trail Tuesday at lunch time. Here is a video from this Tuesday and video from the same area on January 29, 2013. There has been some, small progress getting the trail cleared after Sandy. Tuesday night was adult school yoga, always a good time.

Below are some pictures from the weekend. Enjoy!



Suddenly summer in New Jersey..

Well, another week has passed by, between blogs.  I want to take just a moment to thank everyone that read the story that I posted the last week. I understand that 2000 words is way too long for a blog post. But, it seems to be a good length for a fictional (mostly) short story. Tonight as I am writing this, we are experiencing our first thunderstorm of 2013.  Not the crazy kind of storm that we have in August and September, just some flashes, booms and so far very little rain.  The temperatures for the last two days have finally been in the 70’s. The next two days are supposed to be colder and unsettled (cloudy and rainy).

Saturday I turned over the dirt in the garden to kick off another growing season. I added cow manure to the soil and planted 19 romaine lettuce plants and 8 spinach plants.  The rest of the plants will get planted in two weeks when the weather will be more consistently above 40 degrees during the overnight hours.  We planted two flower boxes of petunias, one purple for my DW, the other yellow and black, for me.  We also planted some fresh herbs in a window box on the back porch.

Sunday, my DW and I traveled to NYC once again. This week we drove up to the train station in Secaucus, NJ and took the train one stop into New York’s Penn Station.  We walked west to around 30 th and 10 Ave where we picked up the High Line. The High Line is a 1 mile elevated linear park that runs from 30 th street south to about 14 th street. The High Line was built on what was elevated train tracks. The walk was pretty easy, the crowds always seemed to be heading towards us, like we were salmon swimming upstream. 

After our walk we traveled to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn via the subway. My DW and I are re-learning how to get around NYC.  We both grew up about 20 miles from the city and I traveled into the city many times in my late teens.  In Williamsburg we walked around and enjoyed a decent meal at a restaurant called Station. I had a funky burger and my DW had mussels with a white wine sauce.  after lunch we walked around the Bedford Ave area of Williamsburg for an hour or so. The warm weather really brought out the crowds.

I had a good night playing lacrosse Monday night. My body was tired from gardening on Saturday and walking on Sunday. I was able to score my first goal in about four weeks.  Tuesday night we went to adult school yoga. Part of the class was spent doing couples yoga.  This is fun since we get to do yoga with our partner and laugh and smile.

Here is a link to the pictures from Sunday’s walk in NYC.  I will also include a few pictures at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for reading and have good week!


Two for the price of one..

Tonight you get two posts.  Here is the new story that I have been hinting about. Thanks for reading..


The Story of Pelican Pete

The blinding white light from the spotlight illuminated the center of the stage. It was just me and the microphone. I cupped my hand over my eyes and looked to my left where the story master was sitting, just off stage. He mouthed, “You’re on, kid” in a wordless voice that only I could see. So it begins…

     “Do you believe in reincarnation?”  I asked of no one and of everyone at the same time. As I looked around at the assembled group, I hoped that I had not just blown my chance to tell my story and maybe get a seat at the big table for the rest of the year. I was the youngest of the group and this was my first time telling a story. I had been watching and listening to the men (and some women) tell their stories for the last five years. I had never before had the courage to get up and throw my hat in the ring.

     Not until tonight, that is. Why tonight? I guess I would have to blame my late grandmother’s ghost. To think that I am standing in front of this group, ready to pitch a story about reincarnation, and I am thinking about my grandmother.  She told me the story, so I am going to give credit where credit is due.

     “Ladies and gentleman,” I began, “this story is about my grandfather, Pete (Pelican Pete) McDougal. He was a fisherman by trade in his early years and a bartender in his later years.  He and his wife had three children, all boys. The children are all alive to this day, each of them in their 90’s.”  A murmur rose through the crowd at the mentioning of my uncle’s ages. Most people in these times were lucky to make it past 55 years of age. 

     As I looked around at the assembled faces once again, my heart was racing, I was really doing it!  I remembered the words that my grandmother had told me about public speaking or performing in public. She said to smile, pick someone in the crowd and tell them the story as if the rest of the room was empty.  I looked in the back of the room for the toughest looking person I could find. If I could sell them the story, the whole room would be mine.

    “Get on with the story, boy! Or sit down if you can’t figure your words out”, shouted the toughest looking guy in the room.  I nodded my head and replied in a low voice, “the story I am about to tell you is true, my grandmother lived this story.”

    Back in the 1980’s my grandfather Pete took to fishing for a living. He enjoyed the outdoors and working with his hands. He had a smile on his face and a good morning for everyone he met each day. He started out working on a long line boat catching tuna and swordfish.  He used to tell stories of the largest swordfish caught in 1982. The fish was twelve feet long and weight nearly 1000 lbs. That fish held the commercial fishing record until 2010 when another boat caught a bigger one.

     My grandfather got the nickname “Pelican Pete” because of his jowls. His neck was pronounced, not unlike the neck of a pelican. Pelican Pete also had one more distinct mark on his body. On his face was a purple birthmark that looked like bird wings or butterfly wings. You would have thought looking at him that he would hide in the crowd, never looking to attract attention to himself.

      After a few years working on the long line boat, Pelican Pete bought an old gill net boat from a retiring fisherman. The boat was as old and tired as its former owner.  Pelican Pete lovingly restored the boat during his last year fishing on the long line boat. Pete named the boat Jessica I, for the daughter that he never had.

     Pete was always the first fisherman on the dock in the morning and the last fisherman on the dock at night. He worked tirelessly catching fish and providing for his family.  As the boys grew up, they started helping their father on the boat when they were not in school.  One of the boys, my uncle Simon, was especially adept at running the boat and catching fish. He wanted to drop out of high school and fish full time with his father, but both Pete and his wife would not allow it.

     After owning and fishing on the Jessica I for over twenty-five years, Pelican Pete decided to quit the sea and make a career on land. What can a fisherman do on land? Especially one with a limited education and a weather-beaten face? Pete approached the local tavern owner where he had been a customer and friend for all the years he had been a fisherman about a job behind the bar.

     “Pete”, the owner laughed, “you don’t know the first thing about bartending”!  Pete agreed but pointed out to his friend that he had enough experience in a bar and would be an honest and loyal employee if given the chance. So, he got his chance to work in the bar.  In the first week, he caught two of the bartenders stealing and stopped three fights with his massive size.  Pete kept that job until the day he died.

     Pete’s one dream was to live in Florida. Situations and complications led to that dream never coming to fruition. Pelican Pete died in his sleep at the age of 66 years old. His final wish was to be cremated and for his ashes to be spread on the outgoing tide.  His wife, three boys and a procession of almost fifty boats made the trip out of the inlet the day that his ashes were to be scattered on the outgoing tide.  Each boat got a small bag of ashes so that all of his friends were able to say good bye in their own way.

     I stopped telling the story and picked up my glass of water, drinking slowly and gauging my audience. I still had most of them. “Where’s the part about reincarnation?” Again, that same tough guy in the back of the room asked the question.  “The reincarnation part is next, actually”, I replied. I took a long hard look at him and he backed down, just a little, well, he backed down enough for me to continue.

     My grandmother continued to live in her house by the ocean as the boys had all moved away. Each of them married and had children. But none of the children wanted to be a fisherman like Grandpa Pete. This was a disappointment to their grandmother.

     About three years after Pelican Pete’s death, the oldest child stopped by the family house one day to invite his mother to make a trip to St. Augustine, Florida. The oldest son, my uncle Craig, had saved a little bit of his father’s ashes and wanted to spread them in Florida. He convinced his mother to make the trip with him. They traveled by jet from Philadelphia to Jacksonville and then rented a car and drove to St. Augustine.

     The mentioning of air travel and rental cars was met by a few polite laughs from some of the younger attendees.  I noticed their chuckles and reminded them that there was a time when people traveled by air and cars were available for rent. Those were very different times, I reminded them.

     After my uncle and grandmother got settled, they traveled to the seaport to look around and find a boat to charter. The plan was to spread the last of the ashes on the incoming tide. This way my grandfather would be spread into the inlet and down the St. Johns River.

     As they walked the fishing dock, they came across an older man who was weathered like a lifelong fisherman.  Craig approached the man and started to discuss the need for a boat. The man looked at Craig and my grandmother and said “Business is best discussed over a beer and some food.” Craig got the hint and invited the man to join them for dinner at the local seafood restaurant.

     During dinner the old man seemed more interested in talking about himself and his life than listening to the story of Pelican Pete. Finally, Craig stopped the man and said, “Sir, we’re buying this meal, let’s get down to talking business”.  The old man looked at my grandmother and said, “What can I do for you?” 

     My grandmother told him the story of her husband, Pelican Pete and how they wanted to spread the last of his ashes on the incoming tide. As my grandmother described Pete, the jowls and the birthmark, the old man got a funny look on his face. “What was your husband’s name?” he asked. When my grandmother told him Pete, but everyone called him “Pelican Pete”, they both said my grandfather’s nickname at the same time.

     Craig was startled by the old man knowing his father’s nickname. “How did you know?” Craig asked. The old man answered, “Let me tell you a story, a story about Pelican Pete. The story started about three years ago when a particularly friendly pelican started hanging out at the marina. This bird had a birthmark on its chest that looked like it could have been bird wings or butterfly wing. Like I said, this bird was friendly.

     One day the bird landed on my boat while I was having a bad of day fishing. I was pulling in the empty nets and there was that pelican, sitting on the roof of the pilot house, just watching. He seemed to be smiling. I smiled back and shook my head and kept pulling the nets. All of a sudden, the nets got heavy as a school of fish swam into the netting. I caught more fish that day than I had in the previous two months. I tossed a few fish to the bird in return for his good luck.

     After I pulled the net in and the fish were all in the coolers, I headed back to the fish house to unload the boat. As I traveled in the inlet there on the bowsprit of the boat was that same pelican. He rode all the way into the inlet, just like my old dog, Pete. Funny, that was the day I named the bird, Pelican Pete.

     Each day I when I went fishing, Pelican Pete would stop by the boat in the afternoon, and watch me haul the fish. He would gladly accept his pay.   Then he would ride into the inlet, resting on the bowsprit. It was the craziest thing.  This went on for the last three years. About two weeks ago, Pete stopped visiting me on the boat. I have not seen him since.

     It got quiet in the bar, almost like everyone had been listening to our story. My uncle said, “Two weeks ago we decided to bring my grandfather’s ashes to Florida to fulfill his lifelong dream. I think that he was here ahead of us for the last three years enjoying being a fisherman once again.”

     The next day we spread those ashes right where the old man had first met Pelican Pete.

     Clap, clap, clap. The only sound in the entire room was one person, slowly clapping. I looked up from the floor of the stage out into the room to see who it was that had enjoyed the story. There in the back of the room was the toughest guy in the place, my heckler for the evening. He smiled, wiped a tear from his eye and proclaimed my story the best of the week. Then everybody stood up and clapped.

The End

A toast to Juan Ponce de Leon..

On this date, April 2, 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon, while searching for the Fountain of Youth, was the first European to visit (discover) Florida. That makes today Florida’s 500 th birthday. A toast (Guinness tonight), to the man who made it all possible.  WPEC-TV CBS 12 has a web page that can be found here about this momentous occasion.

Two days ago we celebrated Easter Sunday.  We gathered at my DW’s mom’s house to eat Easter dinner and visit with family. DS1 and DS3 were in town. DS2 was in upstate NY with his girlfriend.  DS3’s GF was also in attendance.  DS3 spent a few days at her home (Spring Break) and then they came from Long Island to our home to visit for a few days.  Monday he drove his GF to the train station so she could get home and he drove back to Scranton. DS2 drove back from upstate NY to Scranton on Monday as well. It was nice to meet DS3’s GF. She is a very nice girl.

Saturday we planted petunias in two of the flower boxes on the front porch. I was tired of the gray and colorless false spring that we are having. They looked a little tired this morning due to the low temperatures. They looked better this afternoon as the temperatures got up to about 50 degrees.  Work for me has been busy. My DW was on call this weekend and had to work Friday afternoon, Saturday morning and Sunday morning. The money will be good, but the time off is sometimes better.

Here are two pictures from Easter.  One is of the family dinner that I attended here in NJ the other is of the Easter dinner that DS2 attended in NY. Enjoy!