Thursday, April 30, 2015

Monthly Calendar-Report for May 2015


Back for more grain. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

—The May 2015 entry of my own calendar is a westbound unit grain-train past Cassandra Railfan Overlook.
I had gone to Altoona stealth; my brother and Faudi weren’t notified.
I went to Cassandra hoping to get something like this.
I had along my scanner, and it reported the Corman grain-train was active.
A Corman SD40-T2.

R.J. Corman Railroad Group owns and operates the old Pennsy branches out of Cresson. There are coal loadouts, but also an ethanol plant up in Clearfield.
Norfolk Southern brings a unit grain-train of corn to Cresson, which Corman then takes up to Clearfield.
Unloaded Corman then returns the empties to Cresson for Norfolk Southern to pick up.
Everything has to be punctual, lest the railroads get penalized.
I had my scanner on, and was getting reports of the empty grain-train back in Cresson.
So I stayed put, and sure enough here comes a unit grain-train.
I thought it was the empties from Cresson, but Phil Faudi tells me it’s not.
Too many engines. Phil tells me it’s probably grain empties from Baltimore.
It’s a nice picture, but Shutterfly doesn’t allow what I wanted.
The image-file from my camera includes Tracks One and Two at right.
But the image-window of Shutterfly’s calendar won’t include those tracks. It’s too narrow. I was forced to crop to fit that image-window.
Three units would get the empties up The Hill, but only two are needed Cresson west.
Strangely, my brother’s camera, not a Nikon D7000 like mine, shoots a narrower image-file. It fits Shutterfly’s calendar image-window.
We’re both shooting 300 pixels-per-inch resolution, although my D7000 could shoot much tighter. But I think 300 ppi looks fine.
My brother had an earlier camera that shot 180 ppi that looked fine too.
To get Tracks One and Two on my calendar I have to back off my telephoto; I probably had it set at 80 mm, maximum for that lens.



PUT THE HAMMER DOWN! (Photo by John Dziobko, Jr.)

—The May 2015 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is GG-1 #4917 powering a northbound passenger express train out of Washington Union Terminal in Washington, D.C.
The engineman probably has his motor in the 17th notch, as much as a GG-1 would suck off that wire.
17 notches is overload, the traction-motors will overheat. But you could overload ‘em long enough to rocket a heavy train out of a station.
In 1959 I rode a southbound GG-1 powered passenger-train out of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia for Wilmington, DE. 26 cars, but in minutes we were cruising at 90+.
I’ve said it hundreds of times: the GG-1 was the BEST railroad locomotive ever built.
I saw many, and usually every time I did they were doing 80-90 mph.
A single GG-1 could put 9,000 horsepower to the railhead. Current diesels are good for 4,400 horsepower.
My first GG-1 picture (1959). (Photo by BobbaLew.)
The first time I saw a GG-1 up close was when I was at a summer-camp in northeastern MD in 1959. I would have been 15, and it was my first summer on the camp’s staff.
It was my day-off, so I hitchhiked into Northeast, MD, where State-Route 272 crossed Pennsy on a highway overpass.
I set up on the embankment under the overpass and waited.
Suddenly, HERE IT CAME, probably 100 mph.
YOW-ZAH! How can a railfan resist that?
That was my first GG-1, and I saw many more after that.
In northern DE our family lived up on the piedmont above the Delaware River’s flood-plain, which never flooded that I can remember.
Pennsy’s New York/Washington electrified line was down on the flood-plain.
As a teenager I rode my bicycle down to the Pennsy main just about every weekend. The thrill of watching a GG-1 flash by was irresistible.
Within minutes 4917 will be bombing up what is now Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. 90-100 mph towards Baltimore. It’s open track, flat and fast. And a GG-1 could really fly.
GG-1s also lasted a long time. The first GG-1s were built in 1934-35. Many were built in the early ‘40s.
The last GG-1 was retired in 1983. 139 were built, with input from Baldwin, General-Electric and Westinghouse. The lower-number GG-1s were regeared to pull freight.
I used to say to a fellow railfan who graduated in my high-school class — 1962 — “When the last GG-1 is retired we’ll know we’re getting old.”
Steam-locomotives might last 30 years, diesels might last 20 years. But the GG-1 lasted 48 years; although toward the end they were downgraded, although they might be put on an express passenger-train.
They also lasted through four railroads, first Pennsy, then Penn-Central, then Conrail, and finally Amtrak.
The best-looking GG-1s are Pennsy. Penn-Central and Conrail look awful, flat-black or Conrail-blue without the stripe.
Amtrak’s GG-1s looked a little better, but shouldn’t be silver.
Years ago my paternal grandfather lived in an apartment overlooking the Pennsy main in northern DE. A GG-1 powered express would flash through. “Must be the Congressional,” he’d say with awe in his voice; the Congressional, being a GG-1 powered express he once rode, which blew him away.
During the middle ‘90s, after my stroke, my brother took me to a commuter-station in Claymont, DE, where I once took a picture in 1959.
We waited, and finally an Amtrak express flashed through, powered by an AEM7.
I was blown away: “I am INDEED in the real world. Look at the arcs when the pantograph bounced off the wire. Just like the GG-1s.”
Quite a few GG-1s are left, although none are operable. They had transformers filled with PCB-based fluid, so have been drained, or filled with concrete or sand.
Many of the remaining GG-1s are falling apart, although the one at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, #4935, looks great.
4917 was scrapped.




Homage to lakesters. (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—Would I wanna drive the street in this thing?
It looks nice, but not for the street.
The May 2015 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a 1929 Model-A roadster on a ’32 Ford frame.
It has a ’38 Ford FlatHead truck-engine with aluminum heads and a dual intake manifold.
Offy heads. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
A friend if mine, since deceased, had a 1949 Ford two-door custom sedan with FlatHead. It had Offenhauser aluminum heads. The motor alone was worth a fortune.
To me this calendar-car is a lakester. Wind it up and see how fast it will go on the vast dry-lakes out in southern CA.
The hood and trunk-lid are unpainted, although the hood is louvered on its sides.
Supposedly this car pays homage to early hot-rodding: dual-purpose street-drivable but also a lakester.
Sorry, but for me to drive such a thing on the street I need a windshield.




Swathed in brake-shoe smoke. (Photo by Otto Perry©.)

—This is how it used to be.
The May 2015 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is an eastbound freight descending The Hill swathed in brake-shoe smoke.
The Hill is Pennsy’s climb over Allegheny Ridge. In fact, Horseshoe Curve made it possible, an operable railroad without horrendously steep grades.
Allegheny Mountain was once a barrier to cross-state commerce in PA, and the railroad is still the same alignment laid out in the 1850s.
The westbound climb up the east slope of The Hill averages 1.75% (1.75 feet up for every 100 feet forward). Not very steep, but steep enough to encourage runaways.
And it’s happened. Trains run away down the east slope of Allegheny Mountain, then pile up in Altoona.
Safely descending the mountain has always been a challenge, more so than climbing.
But things are better than they were. Now the railroad continues their helper-locomotives beyond the summit, so they can help hold back a train with dynamic-braking.
With dynamic-braking the locomotive’s traction-motors are switched into generators. The current generated heats giant toaster-grids atop the locomotive. Generating current promotes braking action.
The train doesn’t have to burn up brake-shoes on individual cars descending.
A heavy coal-train might get two helpers up front, and four more to push.
That’s six units to help hold back the train descending. That’s six locomotives on top of the three or four that brought it to the foot of The Hill.
And a heavy coal-train is 100 or more 120-ton cars.
Dynamic-braking is a diesel-locomotive thing. I don’t know as steam-locomotives had anything like dynamic-brakes, although there were systems.
When I first visited Horseshoe Curve, it was still brake-shoes on individual cars holding back the train.
Even now you can see the brakes are activated on individual cars, but they aren’t burning up brake-shoes.
I also hear radio-transmissions of the lead locomotive engineer to the rear helper-crew to “grab me.”
I don’t think I’ve heard of a runaway on The Hill since 1968 — and soon the railroad was using dynamic-braking.
The locomotives pictured are Fairbanks-Morse “Erie-builts;” locomotives built at General-Electric’s Erie locomotive plant, since Fairbanks-Morse didn’t have its own plant set up yet.
General-Electric now builds its own locomotives at its Erie plant.
The locomotives pictured are “rare birds’” not many were built. Pennsy had ‘em because EMD could not supply Pennsy’s gigantic demand for diesel-locomotives.




1969 Mustang Mach 1 390. (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)

—The May 2015 entry in my Motorbooks Musclecar calendar is a 1969 Mach-1 Mustang.
When I first saw this calendar-picture, I thought the car looked familiar; like it ran before.
But it hadn’t.
There have been other blue Mustangs, but not this car.
This car is also a Mach-1; I think the others were Shelby. A Mach-1 isn’t Shelby. Shelby cars are Mustangs dickered by race-driver Carroll Shelby.
A Shelby GT350 Mustang.

A 1968 390 GT Mustang, a Bullitt-car clone.

Jumping in San Fran.
Probably his best were the Shelby GT350s; although there was also a GT500 with the giant 7-liter engine. The GT350 was a fabulous hotrod.
The “Bullitt” car was a 1968 390 Mustang. I saw the movie. Steve McQueen was slewing and jumping the car all over chasing crooks in San Francisco. Who knows if McQueen was actually driving, but he was good enough.
The car would plow and slide through intersections, and jump over hills.
A 390 in a Mustang is a lotta weight. No wonder it plowed.
The chase ends when the crooks’ car, a Dodge Charger, wipes out a gas-station and explodes in flames. The Charger’s occupants, unconscious, get consumed in flames.
Supposedly this calendar-car is special: one of only two 390 Mach-1s with a sunroof. The original buyer wanted it, so Old Shel accommodated.
The Bullitt-car became so famous, Ford made its new Mustang sound like the Bullitt-car — and succeeded. And that’s with a double overhead-cam 32-valve V8, not the ancient pushrod 390.





Yet again. (Photo by Bruce Kerr.)

—8025 again.
The Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar seems to be infatuated with Heritage-Units.
Last month had the same engine, although not in the lead.
The May 2015 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is an eastbound Norfolk Southern freight with the Monongahela Heritage-Unit in the lead.
Monongahela is one of the railroads Norfolk Southern took over. Monongahela served southwestern PA and WV.
In 2012 Norfolk Southern had 20 of its new locomotives painted in the colors of predecessor railroads. I’ve seen a few myself, including Pennsy, Nickel Plate, Virginian, Illinois Terminal, and Monongahela.
The Heritage-Units attract plenty of attention. Since they’re regular locomotives, they get used as regular locomotives. There are websites for locating Heritage-Units, so railfans can photograph them.
I’m not that desirous myself, but if I get one that’s okay. I got the Monongahela Heritage-Unit last year. I’m running it as the August entry in my calendar. As far as I’m concerned it’s a better picture than this calendar-entry.
My Monongahela Heritage-Unit shot. (Photo by BobbaLew with Phil Faudi.)
But if it had been a regular Norfolk Southern locomotive, in Norfolk Southern colors, it would have been my calendar-cover.
In the calendar-picture the train is coming around the curve at Cove, PA, on the old Pennsy cross-state main.
The railroad is following the Susquehanna River at this point, which turns east before turning south again.
8025 is a General-Electric ES44AC, alternating-current traction-motors. 10 of the Heritage-Units are General-Electric, 10 are EMD.
I’ll never forget the first time my brother and I saw a Heritage-Unit, #1069, the Virginian unit, yellow and black.
The Virginian Heritage-Unit. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)
“Wait a minute,” I said. “Virginian no longer exists. It was merged into Norfolk & Western years ago.” —We had thought it was shared power.
#1069 is an EMD SD70ACe. (8025 is a General-Electric ES44AC.)
The Monongahela Heritage-Unit is kind of an add-on. Most of the Heritage-Units were built at the same time. 8025 came later, along with a few others.




A turkey. (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—The April 2015 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a Westland Lysander.
It’s not a plane I’m familiar with, and after April’s P-51D kind of a letdown.
It looks like a turkey; not suited for combat.
I’ll let my WWII warbirds site weigh in:
“The Lysander was the first British airplane stationed in France during WWII, but was soon found to be vulnerable because of its relatively slow speed. Withdrawn from frontline service, this two-seat, high-winged monoplane would soon become famous for its nocturnal flights into occupied Europe, dropping supplies and agents behind enemy lines.
The Lysander was built by Westland as an army co-operation aircraft at the request of the Royal Air Force. The first prototype was flown on June 15th, 1936, and a contract for 144 more was signed.
The Lysander began its service in June of 1938. The Lysander also saw service with France, Turkey and Ireland. Apart from dropping spies and equipment into occupied France, the Lysander also served as a target tug, and performed invaluable service during air-sea rescue operations over the English Channel.
The Lysander was also built under license in Canada, where 225 were constructed by the end of the war. There are approximately 20 surviving Lysanders today, all but one having served with the Royal Canadian Air Force.”
Look at that landing-gear. Tires with huge open fairings below gigantic struts. It’s not retractable, of course.
Cessna 140. (Photo by Baldur Sveinsson©.)
Even a lowly Cessna 140 has more grace.
The motor is an 870 horsepower Bristol radial. It would have to be powerful to move such a big heavy airplane.
The plane is a high-winger, which makes it good for reconnaissance of what’s below, since their isn’t a wing to block your view.
I see it has English markings, which make me think “There will always be an England.”
And that bullseye would be good for target-practice.




A 4-4-2 Olds.

—The May entry of my Jim LePore Musclecar calendar is a 1971 Oldsmobile 4-4-2; four-barrel carburetor, four-speed transmission, dual exhausts.
Jim LePore (“luh-POOR”) is a widower like me, and also a car-guy.
He bought a white 2010 Camaro SS, and named it after his late wife.
He drives it little, mainly to car-shows, where he shows it.
He’s a hair older than me.
True-to-form, the 4-4-2 is a GM product, due to the calendar being published by Farnsworth of Canandaigua.
Farnsworth is a car-dealer for GM cars, Chevrolets and Cadillacs.
And Randall Buick and GMC (Randall Farnsworth is the guy’s name).
The calendar purports to be a musclecar calendar, but it’s only GM cars.
Which is okay to my humble mind. The best musclecars were made by General Motors. Fords lost their tune quickly, and Chrysler musclecars were big.
Car and Driver magazine always claimed the 4-4-2 handled better than other musclecars. Who knows how reliable that was, since their business was selling ads.
I also think the 4-4-2 was the best-looking musclecar, but they’re big. A 396 Chevelle passed my house a while ago, and I couldn’t help noticing how long its trunk was.
Musclecars also don’t handle very well. The rear-axle was cheaply suspended, and could twist due to engine-torque.
The front-suspension is A-arm, whereas now MacPherson struts are used — and handle better.
The car also uses uses a solid rear-axle with heavy integral differential, that can hop in a turn.
Even Mustang has come to independent rear-suspension. The solid rear axle wan be made to handle quite well, but that’s NASCAR.

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Geezer triumph

The classical-music radio-station out of Rochester (NY) I listen to, WXXI FM 91.5, has an “app” for getting its stream on your SmartPhone.
I have a SmartPhone, an Apple iPhone6.
The other day my niece’s daughter fired up iTunes radio on my SmartPhone. We wanted to add a station, so I suggested WXXI.
My niece’s daughter apparently got the WXXI app from Apple’s app-store.
So there it was, WXXI on my SmartPhone.
But it wasn’t 91.5. WXXI has a number of radio-stations, one of which is AM 1370, talk and news radio.
That was what was playing on my SmartPhone.
I thought my niece’s daughter had used an app she had gotten through iTunes radio. So I wondered if I could get 91.5 without getting the WXXI app. But you can’t. iTunes radio, like Sirius, has a classical music feed, but it’s not WXXI, and you can’t get WXXI. You have to have the WXXI app.
So now I attempted to get a 91.5 app.
This was the source of my confusion, that each WXXI radio-station had its own app, like AM 1370, FM 91.5, etc.
Not only that, the WXXI app displays as 1370 at Apple’s app-store.
But the single WXXI app can get all the streams. Once fired up, you select which stream you want.
Around-and-around we went. My hairdresser, who got me into a SmartPhone in the first place, tried to get a 91.5 app. You can’t; although you can get a 91.5 stream from Streemer.com.
We were supposed to be doing a haircut, yet here we were horsing all over the universe.
I departed without getting WXXI on my SmartPhone — although my hair was cut.
It just so happens I’m friends with Brenda Tremblay (“trom-blay;” as in “trombone”), morning host at 91.5. We’re both graduates of Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”), although I much earlier than she.
She’s the daughter of people who graduated Houghton a year or two before me.
So I asked if she could help me.
I got a follow-up call from a WXXI tech-guru, and began to realize the WXXI app might be “one app gets all streams,” after which I select the stream I want.
I’m not desperate. It’s not like I’m gonna play 91.5 on my SmartPhone every waking minute.
But I surmised installing it shouldn’t be rocket-science, and Brenda told me it was a “piece of cake.”
Once I ascertained it was “one app gets all,” I downloaded the app and installed it.
I then fired it up.
VIOLA! Victory for the Old Geezer.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Three years


Linda Hughes (January 2nd, 1944 - April 17th, 2012. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Today, Friday April 17th, 2015, is three years since my wife died.
April 17th, 2012 was a Tuesday. I can’t remember exact details, but we had taken my wife to hospice perhaps Friday the 13th, or the following weekend.
I didn’t think it would be our last ride together. She seemed okay, although weak enough to need a wheelchair.
I should have known better. No one escapes hospice alive.
We tried everything. But her cancer kept winning. It kept coming back.
We ran out of options, and I think my wife was tired.
Her legs were starting to swell again. Not bad yet, but earlier the swelling had hospitalized her.
Only the super-deadly chemo stopped that, and we couldn’t use it any more. It can cause heart-damage.
We tried in-home hospice, but it became messy. Medications were forgotten.
So a social-worker arranged hospice about 20-25 miles from our home.
My wife’s mother, 96 at that time, flew up from Florida with my wife’s brother, 70.
They went to the hospice to see her.
My wife’s mother went ballistic. The hospice was a “dump” (it wasn’t); how could I have arranged such a thing?
As if I had any input on where the social-worker put us.
Her mother refused to leave; stayed with her the whole night. Slept in a chair.
I thought I might hafta go down there and do a Mexican Standoff, but my wife’s brother convinced her to leave. They had to fly back to Florida the next day.
I went down Tuesday afternoon with our dog, hoping the dog would perk her up.
She was asleep, so they said, barely breathing.
She didn’t look normal. They had her dressed in a frilly sleeping-gown.
They said she’d wake up, but she never did.
I put the dog back in the car, and returned to wait.
Finally I had to leave. “I got a dog in the car,” I said.
I walked out sniveling. “So long,” I said.
That night about 9 p.m. the hospice called to tell me she had died — trouble breathing.
Apparently they also called her brother and mother at Orlando Airport. Then her mother called me, crying, to say she was sorry my wife had died.
It was as if no longer was I a scumbag. We made 44+ years despite noisy predictions we wouldn’t. All-of-a-sudden it was no longer “look what the cat dragged in.”
I guess I’m no longer distraught, but I still miss my wife.
She was the best friend I ever had, and after my childhood I sure needed one.
A wreck! (Photo by Carol Button.)
I look at a picture of myself taken at my niece’s daughter’s high-school graduation-party and I look awful. That was back then, two months after my wife’s death.
I’ve done a grief-share, a bereavement-group, counseling, I take an anti-depressant, I work out at the YMCA, plus countless meetings and appointments to supposedly distract from missing my wife.
Plus as a railfan quite often I’ve been to Altoona, PA to chase trains — a pleasant pursuit, but after it’s back to reality.
I guess I’ve moved on, but I wonder how I’d be if she returned; that is, not such a challenge. My tortured childhood haunts me, particularly how I was reduced in self-worth.
My wife was propping me up, and I relied on it. I now have to generate my own self-worth.
I also am a stroke-survivor, and let my wife cover for me. So now I hafta do all the things she did for me, especially phonecalls.
So far, so good. But I miss my wife.
I went out to close the gates the other night.
There, off to the side, were the daffodils she planted.


A trigger. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

• “Carol Button” is my sister-in-law that lives here in Rochester (NY). She is my wife’s brother’s first wife, and grandmother of my niece’s daughter.
• I had a stroke October 26, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Easter, Part-Two

I got a response to my “Easter” blog implying I was negatory toward Erlton Community Baptist Church, the church of my childhood. It seems unrelated to what I was saying, that Easter seems to have declined.
Like all human endeavors, Erlton Community Baptist Church (ECBC) had pockets of madness that stood out no matter how beneficial it may have been otherwise.
And I had the awful temerity and unmitigated gall and horrific audacity to mention them.
Despite the Biblical admonition to “judge not lest ye be judged,” there were parties at Erlton Community Baptist Church all-too-happy to pass judgment.
Fortunately in my teenage church in northern DE, there was a tiny minority of members who “had a burden” for youth, and meant a lot since they didn’t pass judgment on us.
Erlton Community Baptist Church was generally pleasant, but there were members all-too-happy to badmouth we youth.
This seems to occur in all human endeavors, and ECBC is a human endeavor.
The founding pastor was great, but there were people in the church who were psychopaths.
Churches seem to engender “holier-than-thou” behavior, and ECBC had it.
It wasn’t a major problem, but they judged me.
The Sunday-school superintendent declared I was “of-the-Devil” because I dressed up as Elvis Presley for Halloween.
Of course, I wasn’t dwelling on that, just how Easter seems to have declined.
I read the Patterson blog, and pretty much agree with it.
But there were pockets of madness at Erlton Community Baptist Church.
I suspect it may have been my use of the term “zealots.” Were it not for the “zealotry” of my father, Mrs. Walton, and anyone else who contributed (I’m sure there were others), Erlton Community Baptist Church might have never been founded, and the humble Ellisburg Chapel burned to the ground.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Easter

The other day, Sunday April 5th, 2015, was Easter.
Came and went.
It seemed insignificant, at least not what it was when I was a child.
In fact, I didn’t realize last Friday was “Good Friday” until that night when the TV-news said the stock-markets were closed.
Mail was in my mailbox, I worked-out at the YMCA; it seemed like a typical Friday — not the “Good Friday” I remembered.
Although I thought later perhaps “Good Friday” was more important back then because I was going to church at that time.
It was an evangelical church, heavily into celebration of days like Easter.
Things seemed different 50-60 years ago.
Like “Good Friday” was a holiday that cancelled mail-delivery.
That’s not how it is now.
Jesus has been skonked by Columbus — even Rev. King.
My parents were hyper-religious. Our church was founded by my father and other zealots in our neighborhood.
They got an old rural chapel-building and refurbished it.
But as our suburb grew after WWII, the building was quickly outgrown.
In 1952 our church was moved to a new location for complete rebuilding and expansion.
It was jacked up on cribbing so a basement could be built underneath, and the sanctuary was doubled in length.
Erlton Community Baptist Church. (The Sunday-School annex is on the other side.)
(Photo by BobbaLew.)
The original building is still being used.
Look hard and you can see it.
The roof of the old building — toward the rear — is rippled. The new construction is straight.
It looked like the old building as refurbished. In fact, it still had a small addition off to the side.
Later Mrs. Walton, our next-door neighbor and Sunday-School Superintendent, one of the zealots, managed to get the church to build a giant two-story Sunday-School annex.
It didn’t match the church.
It was brick instead of wood, and looked like a school; its roof was flat.
Mrs. Walton also convinced me as a pants-wearer no female would ever have anything to do with me. She also told me I was “of-the-Devil” because I dressed up as Elvis Presley for Halloween.
Our church always made a big thing of Christmas and Easter. Flowers and decorations galore.
It was also the time we saw the Christmas and Easter attendees, the people who only attended church Christmas and Easter.
Like Charley Post and his father. Posty was otherwise evil, but by attending Christmas and Easter he could be saintly.
Eventually the first pastor of our church moved on, and my father got mad at his replacement.
The new pastor had been hired over my father’s objection. My father was one of the founding deacons, and was kicked off the Board of Deacons after making a scene.
The last straw was when the new pastor discontinued the poorly-attended evening services.
My father started driving my sister and I about 10 miles to another Baptist church that still held evening services.
I loathed it. I didn’t know anyone, and was expected to socialize.
That didn’t last long; our family moved to northern DE when my father got a new job.
And that was the end of that.
My father did an immense amount of research to find us a church that met his standards. How much financial support was rendered to foreign missionaries seemed key.
My father wanted to be a missionary himself, but was turned down.
So both our churches, my first as a youngster, and my second as a teen, were heavily into celebration of Christmas and Easter.
So I wonder if my perception of the decline of Easter is a reflection of my past.
That is, maybe it was similarly insignificant when I was a child, although as a church attendee it seemed significant.
But as I recall, “Good Friday” was also a holiday back then, without mail delivery.
The almighty dollar triumphed. Sunday store-closing is a thing of the past. When I was a child stores closed Sunday.
And Easter isn’t the frenzied spending spree Christmas is, so Easter no longer counts — or never did.

• “Erlton” (‘EARL-tin’) is the small suburb of Philadelphia in south Jersey where I lived until I was 13. Erlton was founded in the ‘30s, named after its developer, whose name was Earl. Erlton was north of Haddonfield (“ha-din-feeld”), an old Revolutionary town.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

“Oh, Debbie.......”

My niece Debbie, who just recently turned 46, is getting a divorce from her husband of almost 22 years.
I don’t know all the gory details, or even care, but supposedly they will remain friends.
Their only child, Christina, continues to live with her mother, and I guess her husband lives somewhere else, perhaps with a new girlfriend.
Debbie is apparently seeing someone else, a guy in his 60s who is married.
This was revealed to me in a fusillade of noisy announcements by Christina, meant to make me pass judgment, and thereby embarrass Debbie.
But I can’t, other than worry about such an arrangement exploding in Debbie’s face.
I wonder about why I don’t fall into lower-register “Oh, Debbie” wailing, like her grandmother or great-aunt, deceased, might.
Her mother doesn’t seem so inclined either, or perhaps she just feels powerless.
Debbie lives with her mother, and I suspect this might be part of why her husband walked out.
I wonder why I don’t seem able to pass judgment, why I don’t hit her with my two cents.
I began to wonder if not passing judgment was endemic to my generation — which her mother is also part of.
—Like who am I to judge?
Prior generations were all-too-happy to judge. I was “of-the-Devil” and “despicable.” This was despite the Biblical admonition to “judge not.” And many of my judges were Bible-beaters.
So here I am, supposedly offering solace and advice to Debbie — she’ll take it — when I can’t pass judgment.
How am I supposed to provide roots when I don’t have any?
All I can do is hope this doesn’t explode in her face, and be there if it does.
My sister, also deceased, carried the values of my Bible-beating father like an albatross. She HAD to be married; it could be no other way. She married four times; fortunately her last was pretty good.
I don’t have values like that with which I can judge Debbie.
I just want her to be happy, and my passing judgment won’t prompt that.

Friday, April 03, 2015

With hopes I don’t lose any friendships

Sometimes I wonder if my perception of national politics reflects where I live. That is, Obama has ruined our country, and doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of his politics being reinstated.
I wonder if I’d feel this way out in Los Angeles or Seattle, or even New York City.
I am surrounded by midwestern values, belief in God and guns. I can’t make sense of that, the idea that Jesus packs a 44.
I avoid discussion of politics on this blog, since politics and religion are no-no’s.
I have too many friends that are avowedly Conservative, and I don’t want to offend them.
So Obama seems to be doomed, but maybe that’s just here.
He did get re-elected.
When I travel to PA I see bumper-stickers that say “Obama sucks.” That he’s trying to destroy the coal-industry. Like the lower price of natural-gas has nothing to do with the viability of coal.
Obama is the lightning-rod. Let’s throw the bums out, and put in a new set of bums. Then toss them out in four or eight years and replace them with another set of bums.
A while ago I got one of those conspiracy bits. It suggested a quid-quo-pro whereby Obama vetoed the Keystone Pipeline as a favor to Warren Buffett, one of his supporters.
Buffett owns Burlington-Northern Santa Fe Railroad, prime shipper of domestic crude-oil to refineries.
No mention Canadian tar-sands won’t flow through a pipeline without dilution. No mention it was tar-sands.
If it doesn’t favor the fevered agenda it doesn’t get mentioned. Grist for Rush Limbaugh, who seems to have a fevered agenda of his own.
Namely bombast and bluster always trump reason.
No matter Obama brought us back from the worst recession since the Depression, when Republicans were scrambling to placate their fat-cat friends with gigantic bailouts at taxpayer-expense.
It’s all Obama’s fault, since he has been prez for some time. And if fat-cats aren’t pigging out, they bring in Rush Limbaugh to foam and bluster and soak his gold-plated microphone.
After 71 years on this planet I have decided it isn’t a battle of the wealthy versus the little-guy. It’s the educated versus the uneducated; that the fat-cats enlist the uneducated to advance their agenda.
The educated are always depicted as snooty, hoity-toity elitists.
Fortunately the uneducated in this country are savvy enough to do quite well. We couldn’t have won WWII otherwise.
What happens when the uneducated see they’re being taken advantage of by fat-cats?