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Archive for July, 2013

This Explains A Lot…

Long ago my head did thwack

when I fell and hit it on a crack.

Or was the crack not there before

I hit my head upon the floor?

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The train whistles blow

beguiling me throughout the night,

and I am grateful to be awake

to hear them echoing past,

lingering on the wind.

 

When all else is silent, there is

the click of the wheels on the track,

metal on metal, synchronized

and beating like a giant heart

about to burst apart.

 

Pulsating and propelling itself forward

over the rails…on a mystical journey

to places more magical in my mind

than any reality that is more likely true,

but I want to go there.

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Three friends in a rowboat is a lot like life. If the rowboat starts to leak, someone has to bail or the boat sinks.

When I was a kid we had a cottage on Hill Island on the Susquehanna River, a stone’s throw from Three Mile Island which then was only bucolic farmland.  (I have mentioned this fact in a previous blog.) My best friends, Sue and Bonnie, also vacationed on the island…by that I mean, we were there every weekend. When the workweek ended, our families boated over Friday evening around 6:00 pm and returned to civilization Sunday nights. There were a few boys around  – it’s a big island.  But we weren’t interested in them until much later. Back then adolescents remained just that until a later, more appropriate, age. We did not distinguish between the sexes – friends were friends…never mind what they looked like.  So, on the island, we ran around from dawn till dark pretty much unsupervised. If ever we were not back by bedtime, that would be the first clue our parents had that something could be amiss.  Missed meals meant nothing because we would eat at whose ever cottage we happened to be closest to and there were no phones (no electric either) to call and ask permission.

There were several islands nearby, some inhabited, some not. Fall Island was the closest and fell into the latter category.  It wasn’t exactly tiny, but it was low and underwater, save for the trees, much of the spring. When summer bloomed and water levels receded, it was like Bali Hai, just without the natives.  It called to us.  There was a wonderful beach there with a sandy bottom and no one to enjoy it. By comparison, Hill Island had only enormous masses of seaweed. We swam there amongst the fishes and the gripping, swirling, green and brown tentacles of this algae. We bathed there too which is a somewhat disgusting memory now. Does anyone still use Ivory soap?  It floats.

Of course it happened that, one day, Sue, Bonnie and I were sitting on Hill Island wistfully staring across at Fall Island and wishing we were there. And, what was stopping us?  A boat. For lack of a boat, we were doomed to a long, sweaty, boring afternoon. What else could we do but remedy the situation? I don’t remember whose idea it was, and I wouldn’t say even if I did, but we were all on board, metaphorically and literally. It didn’t take long to find it. We were too young to legally pilot a speedboat, but the shoreline was littered here and there with rowboats that appeared reasonably sea-worthy. We picked one, turned it toward our destination and manned the oars.

I’d guess about half way to our destination, the boat started to leak. It was manageable with a little bailing and we weren’t concerned. We reached Fall Island and had a wonderful time, forgetting for a while about any possible trouble we might experience on the way back. As we began to consider shoving off, I do vividly remember thinking that Hill Island looked much further away than Fall Island had looked from our earlier perspective on Hill. No one knew where we were. As far as our families knew, we were running around in all of our usual places, which definitely never involved being on an entirely different island.  I can’t speak for Bonnie and Sue, but my mother went to her grave at seventy-seven never knowing this little story. We had no choice but to get back in the rowboat. A short ways out, the little leak became a larger one. Bonnie was bailing. All rowboats are equipped with an old coffee can for just this purpose. About half way, the leak began to gush water and our mild apprehension quickly escalated to full-blown twelve-year old panic. The water was well over our head at our precise location which we chose not to discuss at that moment. Bonnie was screaming to Sue and me, “Row! Row faster!”  We reciprocated by screaming, “Bail! Keep bailing!”  It’s not like any of us really needed these directives. Bonnie was bailing for all she was worth and we were rowing like Olympians but the boat kept riding lower and lower in the water. As we got close enough to have a fighting chance swimming for it, the water was about three inches from swamping us. We got the rowboat back, left it where we found it (pretty much devoid of water) and I hoped and prayed whoever owned it (we had no idea) did not try to take it out again.

We had a great time, once we realized we weren’t going to drown.

The point is…life is a lot like this little experience. Sometimes you need good friends to row or bail, or whatever, to keep you above water. The best ones are those who will always show up. When I had lymphoma five years ago and told I was going to die, Sue and Bonnie were at my door. Never mind that we mostly just see each other at class reunions now. We just found out a few weeks ago that Sue has pancreatic cancer and Bonnie and I are bailing as fast as we can. I hope you could say a prayer for our dear friend.

Susquehanna River

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Was in DC for the weekend and had a fun day today at the Eastern Market. Some of it is open Saturdays and Sundays and other parts are open weekdays as well. The latter would be the garden center area and the food and flower vendors inside the buildings. My daughter says the market is open year round. If you’re in DC, it’s a fun excursion and prices are great. We bought a fairly large red crepe myrtle for $27, several matted prints starting at $20 each, pretty and unique headbands were 3 for $10. There is a little bit of everything, including lots of jewelry which I resisted. I did find donut peaches for $2.99 a lb – they were 80 cents each at my grocery store. After wearing ourselves out, we had fantastic gelato and raspberry lemonade. These are the kinds of places tourists don’t usually find so I’m sharing my day and suggesting you might want to visit if you’re in DC.

Some Photos…

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Vendors inside market

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Lots of artwork and almost all of it was original.  Lots of one-of-a kind pieces.

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Produce outside…

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Free samples…

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On the way in…

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Actually a sun hat would have been a good idea today…

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Blue fish – you can’t just get them anywhere…  This photo reminds me I should have taken a pic of the beautiful handmade raviolis another vendor had.

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Inside the market building…

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Everything is fresh…

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These guys were great on the bongos…

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On the way down the street for amazing gelato…

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Okay, I promised you all a happy, pleasant post subject.  The following is a small excerpt from a memoir I’ve been working on sporadically.  I don’t have these vignettes in any organized fashion yet, but I think you will enjoy this reflection…

My parents were small town people.  My mother, Betty, grew up in Royalton, Pennsylvania, literally a hamlet that is still there but no longer exists on any map, having been gobbled up in my post high school years by slightly larger Middletown, of Three Mile Island fame.  Her best friend in this quaint little, unsophisticated place was Kitty Dougherty, future mother of Little Newtie, now known to the world as our former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich.  My father, Bud, used to take little Newt swimming at the Hershey Pool when Kitty or big Newt needed a babysitter or, I presume, when Newt wanted to go swimming.  When I was old enough, my father took me there as well and this is what I recall…

I had a secret love affair with this place of wonder.  I’m talking about the fabulous Hershey Pools and Sunken Gardens.  If I close my eyes, I can smell the locker rooms, sense the cavernous darkness of the interior, hear muffled voices coming and going, feel the shower cleansing me and my quite ordinary swimsuit – preparing me to enter the sunlight and paradise beyond the turnstile.  I hear lockers closing, feel the stretchy band on my wrist that holds the small key to mine.  The Hershey Amusement Park was right next door, but I would always choose the pool over anything else the entire town of Hershey had to offer.  The Park held its own delights, especially when picnicking was allowed there when I was young, but it was hot, crowded and sweaty on summer days.  It didn’t begin to touch the magic of the pools and gardens.

The two adjoining pools were huge, always pristine as you would expect and sat sheltered in a protected grotto of natural stone.  Late in the day, the sun journeyed to where the highest edifice began to shade the waters on the far side.  You could tell the time by it.  There was a large kiddie pool, a sand beach around the perimeter of all and an island of greenery on this sand that contained a sizable lighthouse.  All this was enough to captivate, but there was so much more, so much more that I truly loved.

A stream inhabited by multitudes of carp, Spring Creek, ran through the Park, alongside the pools and then bisected the Sunken Gardens.  Carp were the only thing ugly allowed in Hershey – there might have been a law.  They are hideous looking creatures, and always waylaid us when crossing the bridge from the pools to the snack bar.  Their disgusting appearance and flailing about as we sent food over the bridge rails never failed to entertain us.  Whatever we sent into the water they gobbled up indiscriminately and vied for advantageous positions.  I think they would have eaten rocks if we had chosen to toss them down.  Fortunately I had much better things to eat.  Their piggish behavior never adversely affected my own appetite for Eskimo ice cream bars. 

The snack bar was part of the building that housed what was appropriately named The Fabulous Hershey Park Ballroom (later to become The Starlight Ballroom).  This was a large wooden structure, elegant and built for big bands. My parents danced there once upon a time.  A few steps down from the snack bar, I walked the Sunken Gardens with my Eskimo delight and watched the creek meander through the shrubs and fragrant flowers.   The smell of cocoa from the chocolate factory wafted over me.

These few acres were a magical place to me, and sadly all of this is gone now…torn down in the 1970’s and usurped by the Park.  The only thing left remaining, in testament to those days, is the lighthouse.  It is a tragedy of enormous proportions, victimized by proponents of progress.  No longer can a child wiggle her bare toes in the grass of the paths and stare up in awe at glorious lilies and roses and coneflowers as her bathing suit dries in the sun.

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The Treatment

The Treatment

I see them come and I see them go,

young, old…some quick, others slow,

an unending, joyless ebb and flow.

They shuffle along their weary way

a river of human pathos on display.

 

Funereal faces pass me by,

on their personal paths to live or die.

Dozens of drugs with strange sounding names,

ambitiously racing through our veins,

Will they cure the sickness, ease the pain?

 

The grievous verdict must be appealed.

At the churches of our fathers, we all kneel.

If you look closely, behind the facades,

you will see what most can’t really hide…

is there indifference, surrender or fight inside?

*********************

I promise a cheery and funny story soon…

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Solitaire

I was playing solitaire

when a bird outside my window

cheeped, “Why?”

I answered this curious bird

and said, “I like to try and win.”

He cheeped again,

“What do you win?”

“Nothing,” says I.

He trilled at me before he flew away,

“You must be that dodo I’ve heard about.”

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