Sunday, May 29, 2011

Our Earthquake

It hardly seems possible but the greater Northeast Philadelphia area was hit with a 1.7 earthquake on Friday night. Dr. Pitts, from the Franklin Institute, warned that aftershocks would occur, probably unnoticeable. Now I know why one of my delicately balanced orchid plants fell yesterday. And today, while we were watching the Phillies, it's still early in the game, third inning, and the Phillies are losing 8 to 1, a collection of straw serving bowls fell with such a thunderous noise that we thought something terrible happened to our house. We are attributing both unusual tumbles to earthquake aftershocks and hope it's nothing more serious.

I would not want to live in San Francisco, or on the Big Island of Hawaii for that matter, where such aftershocks and small earthquakes are normal. I don't think I could ever adjust to the "normalcy" of having the very ground under my feet move. Several years ago, there was a similar small earthquake that was centered in Delaware. We were sitting on the third floor and, when the bookcases started to sway, we fled downstairs.

Another time, we heard what we thought was a train or a large convoy of trucks. Again, the house shook, and again, it was an earthquake. We seem to remember that it was in the vicinity of a 3 on the Richter Scale. This rumble noise woke us up in the middle of the night and it wasn't until the next morning that we learned we had experienced an earthquake.

So far, so good. No damage from the earthquakes.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Our newspaper delivery man

I love people. I love to talk to people and listent to people and hear their stories and ask for more information and hear them talk some more. That's how I know so much about the man who delivers our newspapers, reliably, every day.

His young son and the son;s mother live with him. She used to collect Aid for Dependent Children for their son, before he moved in but she no longer is eligible. He told us that as an independent contractor, he makes $1100.00 a week. But he has to pay all his own taxes, insurance, social security, etc. and it's not as much as it seems. Apparently, $57,200.00 doesn't go as far as it used to.

His mother lives near Asbury Park and her boyfriend used to be in the Secret Service with the responsibility of protecting the President. He said that the boyfriend never told him details - but I wonder. I would love to meet him and, as they say in Hawaii, "talk story."

He has stopped by our house on two different occasions and has come in, in spite of the nervous worries of our New York City friends and relativesw. One time, he couldn't find his cell phone and has to call home so his family could find it. And they did. We were eating our breakfast of oatmeal with chocolate cocoa powder and coffee. I think he still doesn't believe that that is what we were eating.

and the second time, he was distraught. turns out that his utility bills had not been paid and he needed money. We watch Judge Judy and know enough not to lend money. We told him we had 20 or 30 dollars in the wallet and could give him that. He thanked us, but turned us down. I operate on the idea that each penny counts and 20 or 30 dollars is at least a start in paying down a big bill. In the year 2011, I guess I'm in the minority in that philosophy.

Then he told us that his mother and her boyfriend had turned him down asnd that his son;s other grandparents also turned him down.

I looked up some social service and legal agencies for him and gave him the phone numbers. the next week he said that everything was OK.

He is an interesting character - tall and thin, follows the Phillies and the Eagles, tends hi garden, goes to the river at low tide to collect river rocks and takes pride in his outside decorating skills. Last summer he was amazed that we could grow corn on our tiny plot of ground. He said that he had always been told that you need at least a plot of ground that is ten by ten to grow corn. We disproved that old wives' tale. I expect him to be even more impressed this year if all the little corn shoots produce, we should have a bumper crop.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

cell phones and other things

We watched Morning Joe this morning, as usual, and were delighted to hear Mika Brezinski say, or should I say complain, that her parents both have cell phones but they keep them turned off. Hooray for Dr. Zbignew Brezinski.

I keep my cell phone turned off and my children and grandchildren don't understand. I refuse to be leashed to anyone. I'm 71 years old and I am my own boss. My adult, successful, intelligent children keep their cell phones permanently attached to their ears. We don't. Our grandchildren text a lot but never seem to answer the ring when we call. We leave messages and sometimes we get an answer, and sometimes we don't.

When we got a cell phone, we determined that it would be for our convenience - and for emergencies. It's always within easy reach when we drive but still turned off. And we use it when necessary, when we travel.

I still don't understand the attraction of twitter. Who really cares what I do every minute? Besides Edgar, of course. And he knows.

In spite of the "for your safety" laws, people still talk on their hand held phones while driving - and get warnings and still text while driving, keeping their cell phones in their laps where, they think, no one will notice. Reminds me of the time one of our grandchildren, who was 3 years old at the time, emptied some bath water on the bathroom floor and then, in response to a "What did you do?" Answered "I didn't think you would notice." But that was a 3-year old's perception, not an adult's.

One of the biggest offenders that I heard admit his indiscretions is Al Morganti, a regular on the WIP morning show. He has admitted to other wrong doings - taking statues from the manger decorations at Christmas time and putting them on the lawns of Jewish families. He laughed when he told the story. I don't see anything funny about that.

He also admitted to stealing from his Ice Hockey team by selling one sticker for $10.00 and selling the 9 others for a dollar each and pocketing the $9.00.

Morganti admits that he doesn't see the value of homework. He calls it "busy work." Does that put him in the same category as Iverson and his famous "Practice?"

Anyone who has ever played a musical instrument or participated in an athletic event knows the benfit of repetition.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hawaii, try again

We made new travel plans for our great Hawaii vacation. Our last one was cancelled by the Christmas blizzard and US Airways, instead of refunding all of our money, as is required by the contract of carriage with the US Government, issued a credit that had to be used, all at once, on one time. So, we sat down with our calendar and agreed to a mid-August Waikiki vacation. Now we have to hope that there are no natural disasters to interfere with this trip.

US Airways was as unhelpful as possible. One could say that they were downright nasty. Not everyone. In fact, most of the telephone helpers were cordial, pleasant, and seemingly interested. But one person in particular, and the name that she gave was Laurie, was as officious as could be. For all I know, she is paid to get her tentacles on as much money from the unsuspecting public as possible. For instance. Our credit was more than the total of our trip - including everything. Laurie insisted that we still pay $125.00 deposit for each ticket (that's times 7) and she further insisted that the deposit could not be taken from the credit. I complained - not loud, but very firm. I said that I wanted to talk to someone who would agree with me and say that I was right. To her credit, she did not hang up on me, it just seemed that way. Eventually, Diane took over and agreed. Since our trip is less than the credit that was issued, we do not have to pay any additional fee.

But Laurie was a disaster. I wonder how much business she costs US Airways (or as one my friends calls it, useless air).

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Time and Family

Our oldest grandson will become a Bar Mitzvah on Saturday. And he is a very lucky boy. Not only is he well liked by his peers and well loved by his family, he is in the position of having all four of his grandparents alive for this event.
My father's father died when my father was six years old and my father's mother died before I was born - I am named after her. My mother's father died when I was about 3 years old and her mother died when I was 10. No chance of any of my grandparents' being around when I turned 13. But I was not Bat Mitzvah'd. We belonged to Rodeph Shalom, a very reform Jewish congregation. In fact, it was a rare occurrence for a boy to be Bar Mitzvah'd at Rodeph Shalom in the 1950's. And then, Rabbi Wice spoke to my father and suggested that I become a Bat Mitzvah. My father almost had a fit. He was so angry, we almost left Rodeph Shalom. "We joined here because the emphasis was on confirmation, not Bar and Bat Mitzvah. Never. She will never be a Bat Mitzvah." And that was that.
I was confirmed, as promised.
Neither of Edgar's father's parents were alive for his Bar Mitzvah but, his mother's mother was there and proud as could be. His mother's father died when Edgar was about 10 years old. Edgar's grandmother and his mother's sisters prepared all the food for the sumptuous Bar Mitzvah party. And Edgar remembers that it was a cold day in November and the heating system had failed in the synagogue. He was adorned in his brand new suit and shiny shoes. He was proud of his clothes and refused to wear a sweater or coat on top of them. That's what he thought. As he carried the Torah up and down the aisles of Ahaveth Israel, his father came up behind him, and threw his coat on over his shoulders. He didn't care.
Our grandson has been preceded to the Torah by his older sister, Kayla, who, as usual, did an excellent job.
We are looking forward to the grand coming together of our family and friends for this very happy occasion.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

John Jakob Raskob

Edgar was learning how to drive in the summer of 1943. His Dad, William, was a salesman of variety merchandise and travelled the eastern shore of Maryland, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. One day, travelling through Centreville, Maryland, they stopped at a Ben Franklin Store (similar to Woolworth) and Edgar was introduced to the store owne, Mr. Goldstein. Mr. Goldstein told my Dad that the FBI had visited him and told him that the store manager was a member of the American Bund and had designs on taking over the store after Germany was victorious in WWII. Mr. Goldstein did not fire the store manager because "he was too good a manager to let go."
During the course of our sales call, in came an old man, in overalls, with three young children. Turned out, these were his grandchildren. Mr. Goldstein ran over to his customer and waited on him while we watched. After completing the transactions, Mr. Goldstein asked us "do you know who that was? That was John Jakob Raskob, the former head of DuPont. He comes in here every once in a while and buys things for his grandchildren." My Dad knew who Raskob was and told me that he had raised himself by his bootstraps. His first job had been as a trolley conductor. Edgar couldn't imagine that this unassuming farmer-type had been the head of one of the world's largest corporations and remembered this whole incident when a story appeared in "the New York Post" about the Empire State building and the part that John Jakob Raskob played in its creation.
This reminded us of a story told to us by Uncle Alec. He and Aunt Florence owned a Variety Store in Atlantic Highlands. We were quite surprised one day, during a visit, to see plush, expensive, large stuffed animals perched on top of the junky jewelry, cartons of cigarettes, newspapers, and soda fountain. We asked about them and both Uncle Alec and Aunt Florence started to laugh. One of our regular customers asked us to buy them from FAO Schwartz for his grandchildren. He wanted them in the store so that there would be something in the store for him to buy for the children whenever they visited. This was not the first request from Mr. Genovese. Turns out, his wife was a regular reader and needed a lending library with current books and so started the lending library next to the chewing gum. Mr. Genovese would bring his grandchildren into the store whenever they visited, for ice cream, and whatever else they wanted. Uncle Alec would pull down several of the large stuffed animals for the children and Mr. Genovese paid a handsome bonus for those toys.
Their store was never robbed, their papers were never stolen, and nobody ever had a bad word to say about Uncle Alec and Aunt Florence.