Saturday, May 27, 2017

Alone


The whole reason I do this train-chasing bit. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

“Norfolk Southern milepost 258.8, Track One, no defects.”
That’s a lineside defect-detector in Portage (PA) on the old Pennsylvania Railroad.
(Defect-detectors allowed retirement of cabooses.)
It’s broadcasting over railroad-radio, and I hear that on my railroad-radio scanner. —So does the train crew.
Track One is eastbound, so if I’m east of Portage I’ll see the train.
Similarly, as each train passes a lineside (or overhead) signal, its engineer (not “conductor,” media-flunkies) has to call out the signal-aspect on railroad-radio.
E.g. “21M” (the train-number), “west on Two” (Track Two), “UN” (the signal location): “CLEAR!” (Or “stop” or “restricting”).
I’ll hear that on my scanner too, and know where UN is. If I’m west of UN (old telegraph call-letters) I know I’ll see that train.
If it’s on Track Two, the engineer has to give direction. Track One is eastbound, Three is westbound, and Two can be either way.
Better yet, do I have time to drive farther west so I can set up and photograph 21M?
That’s what “train-chasing” is. Zag up-and-down the railroad so I can photograph trains. Maybe 100+ miles over nine hours.
“An auspicious start,” I texted my brother.
Usually my brother and I photograph trains in Altoona (PA).
I drive down from home in western NY, and he drives from near Boston, about nine hours. (Me is 5&1/2.)
I fell in my garage before starting out. I was checking the oil in my car.
A step is nearby, and it tripped me. I fell and hit my head on a metal doorsill.
It drew blood. Bleeding was heavy at first, but clotted to almost nothing.
Still my hair has dried blood in it.
My balance is awful. I hafta be hyper aware of where my feet fall to avoid tripping.
Most worrisome is tipping over, requiring a quick side-step or grabbing something.
One hand has to always be free. Load both hands, and I have no hands to stifle a fall.
Altoona is where the Pennsylvania Railroad crossed Allegheny Mountain, an impediment to trade with the nation’s interior in the early 1800s.
Allegheny Mountain couldn’t be canaled. But it didn’t go into NY, which was why the Erie Canal could be built.
Ports like Philadelphia and Baltimore worried New York City might become the premier east-coast port.
And it did!
Baltimore attacked Allegheny Mountain with a railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, chartered in 1827 and opened in 1828, the first common-carrier railroad in the nation.
PA built a combination canal and portage railroad — portage over Allegheny Mountain.
But it was so cumbersome and slow Philadelphia capitalists built a private railroad like B&O, the Pennsylvania Railroad = Harrisburg (PA) to Pittsburgh.
They brought in John Edgar Thomson from Georgia to engineer an easy route over Allegheny Mountain.
His route wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible. Helper locomotives were needed to conquer Allegheny Mountain. But a complete train could conquer the mountain with helpers.
No switchbacks or impossibly steep grades requiring train breakup.
The Pennsylvania Railroad became immensely successful. Feeder railroads from the midwest that fed Pittsburgh were merged into it.
It became one of two major conduits of trade for the east-coast megalopolis. —The other was New York Central.
The railroad is still successful, but is no longer Pennsy.
It’s now Norfolk Southern, a 1982 merger of Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway. Norfolk & Western expanded into the midwest, and in 1999 NS got the old Pennsy part of Conrail, the gumint solution to the Penn-Central bankruptcy.
Pennsy and New York Central merged in 1968, but promptly went bankrupt. Conrail was gumint’s response; rail transport was still needed in the northeast.
Conrail became successful and privatized. In so doing it became attractive to CSX Transportation — a successor to Chesapeake & Ohio. C&O had already merged other railroads in the southeast, more-or-less renaming itself “Chessie.”
(“Chessie” was a stray cat found on a C&O passenger-train.)
CSX was gonna get all of Conrail, but Norfolk Southern put in a bid.
CSX got the old NYC main across NY, and NS got the old PRR across PA.
(Conrail previously had both.)
Gumint heartily approved; competition in northeast railroading was restored.

So now it’s Norfolk Southern over Allegheny Mountain, but it’s still Pennsy to me. It’s Pennsy’s railroad, and I’m a Pennsy man.
And it’s still a mountain railroad. Helpers are still needed across Allegheny Mountain. Although not as much as previously = more powerful locomotives.
And it’s still immensely successful. I tell people wait 25 minutes and you’ll see a train.
Often they’re more frequent than that, like every 10-15 minutes. Often there are slow times, when track-maintenance gets performed. Usually around lunch-time.

So alone this time, and frightened.
I worried about tipping over. I use my brother as a safety-check; he just turned 60, but I’m 73.
It’s a verbal wrastling-match. My brother is very much like my mother’s siblings, prone to take charge. Occasionally that means not being able to photograph what I want. I don’t take charge; I’d rather get along.
So being alone had its advantages. I could photograph all the locations I’ve had to defer.
Often when I arrive my brother is already set up at a location I’ve photographed before.
I also am more inclined to drive directly to my motel.
But this time my iPhone’s weather-app said the next day, my train-chase day, would be rainy.

So instead I drove directly to a photo location, Gray Interlocking, south (railroad-west) of Tyrone (“tie-RONE;” as in “own”), where a controlled siding merges back into the main.
“Controlled” means the siding is signaled. It goes all the way to Altoona, allowing dispatchers to juggle multiple trains.
The main is now only two tracks east of Altoona — it used to be four (the “Broad-way,” not New York City’s street).
Gray is not photogenic; it needs to be sunlit.
Westbounds need sunlight — it was cloudy.


Seven units pass eastbound at Gray. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


A local heads west at Gray. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Looking railroad-west (approaching eastbounds) is even less photogenic.
New signaling was partially erected, but Pennsy’s old signal-bridge was still in use.

After Gray I drove down to Fostoria, a tiny assemblage of houses next to the railroad. It’s far from the main highway.
I never can get Fostoria to work, even though it has a signal-bridge with six signals. Two are for the controlled siding.
Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian showed as soon as I pulled in. No time to set up, and I still had my telephoto on.
Shaddup-and-shoot, hoping I’ve hand-held it still.


Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian through Fostoria. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

I stayed a while, and shot a few more trains.


Westbound stacker charges through Fostoria. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Nothing inspiring though — next time maybe my wide-angle in Fostoria to make those signals work.
It was now time for supper = off to the infamous “spaghetti-joint,” Lena’s Italian Restaurant in Altoona.
My brother at first poo-pooed Lena’s, but agreed it was pretty good after we tried it.
Mostly we haven’t been able to eat there — too far away at suppertime.

May 25th, my train-chase day.
Amazingly I got my new “Home-Depot” scanner, a Uniden Bearcat with non-chargeable batteries, to work.
I was expecting utter failure. I had a stroke almost 24 years ago, which makes reading a manual difficult.
Poking through the manual in my motel room I got it to work, although I only have one frequency programmed, 160.800, the railroad’s operating frequency.
The previous day was scanner-less, such that I was leaving locations just as a train appeared.
With a scanner I avoid that. If a train is coming I hear it.
I’m not sure about it — it keeps firing up the weather broadcast, even when I have it holding at 160.800.
I tried to permanently delete that, but I keep getting it.
The scanner would also fire up radio-telemetry signals = unbearable. I apparently permanently deleted ‘em.

Back to Fostoria; railroad-west looked pretty good although it lacks the signals.
When I arrived an eastbound local was cooling its heels on the controlled siding. It was waiting for something to clear. What I wanted was another eastbound.
It would block the local, but looking railroad-west at Fostoria at an approaching eastbound works. Plain — no signals — but dramatic.


Westbound empty coal passes the stopped local at Fostoria. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

A westbound empty coal-train passed, but nothing eastbound. Finally the local pulled out.
I took a picture, but the light was dingy.
I fiddled it here at home with my Photoshop-Elements, but can only make it look fair.
It’s a dramatic shot, but needs the sun out.
(That local at Gray is also pumped up — PE can significantly improve a picture. Content in dingy light can be jazzed.)

Next was back up to Tyrone to try a possible I noticed the day before = looking toward that beautiful old station, as a westbound passes.


21V passes passes old Tyrone station. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

(I’m not sure this building was the actual station; I’ve seen another. The building now houses Tyrone’s Historical-Society.)
But the picture doesn’t work; the railroad is too far from the building. I’ve tried various locations but only one works = includes the building. That’s Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian on Track Two. I have it as my July 2017 calendar-picture.

Next would be “UN,” where a loop was built between Two and One to get pushers back down the mountain.
UN is just past Gallitzin (“guh-LIT-zin;” as in “get”), top of mountain.
I’ve shot UN before, but recently my brother refused to move his truck. He wanted me to shoot what he was shooting, (“Ya mean I gotta come down here stealth?”)
Both Tracks Two and Three pass UN — Track One is on the other side of town. Three is westbound; occasionally eastbounds use Two.
I shot a few trains, one of which was the hotshot, 21E, the UPS train. Very high priority, east coast to west coast, but a lousy picture.


21J, all auto-racks, on Two at UN. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

I also got 60N on Three, mere seconds before an eastbound passed on Two, a double out in the wilderness.
At first I thought it couldn’t be 60N, since even numbers are eastbound. But my brother texted from Boston it was indeed 60N, which goes west over Allegheny Crossing.
It looked like 60N was a slab-train, heavy steel slabs in gondolas being transferred to a rolling-mill.
I wasn’t where I could see the contents, but it was all gondola cars — which tells me “slab-train.”
UN is like Fostoria = how can I make it look good?

Where to next? I managed all my deferred pictures and it was only 2:30.
How about Cassandra Railroad Overlook (“kuh-SANNE-druh;” as in “sand”); set up under trees out of the rain.
But as I drove to Cassandra I remembered a view I wanted to take for years, the view in my lede photo.
I shot two westbounds, sort of a mistake, but then “Y90 on One (even numbers are eastbound), 258.8; CLEAR!” Y90 was in Portage, west of Cassandra.
Then “Norfolk Southern milepost 258.8, Track One, no defects.” (That’s the rear of the train passing the detector.)
Here it comes.
258.8 has both a signal and a defect-detector.
Out of the car into the rain, slog through wet grass to my spot.
“Click-click-click-click-click!” 12 multiple shots as the train growled past. That lede is my last shot.
My camera has a viewing-screen. “YOWZAH! What a picture! Foreground, framing, the whole kibosh!”
I had a hunch!
The bridge is Cassandra Railroad Overlook.
The original railroad went through Cassandra, but in 1898 Pennsy built a bypass that took out torturous curves through the area.
It involved a big rock cut, then a long fill.
The highway into Cassandra originally came over the rock, so a bridge was needed to get the highway over the new bypass.
I’ve heard various stories. -A) Cassandra Railroad Overlook is the original highway bridge, OR -B) it’s a footbridge that replaced the highway bridge.
If it’s just a footbridge it’s very substantial: steel or iron with a concrete deck. It could support a car, although it’s only one lane wide. I doubt it could pass a ‘60s Cadillac.
Whatever, residents of Cassandra could use that bridge to cross the tracks to coal mining on the other side.
The highway now also bypasses Cassandra, and that original highway was abandoned.
But the overpass wasn’t removed.
Railfans started congregating on the bridge.
Ergo: “Cassandra Railroad Overlook,” probably the BEST train-viewing spot I’ve ever been to.
Unlike nearby Horseshoe Curve, it’s shady, so you’re not being baked.
A Cassandra resident noticed, so put in castoff restaurant tables and chairs.
He also started mowing.
The railroad threatened to remove the bridge after a chunk of concrete fell and clobbered a train.
It looks like the railroad also had to raise the bridge to clear doublestacks.
Eastbounds are climbing the west slope of Allegheny Mountain. It’s not as steep as the east slope. But helpers are used, and the locomotives are in Run-Eight = assaulting the heavens.
Supper after Cassandra at Cresson-Springs Family Restaurant in Cresson (“KRESS-in”) along the railroad. My brother-and-I have eaten there often — they recognize us.
Cresson, next to the summit of Allegheny Mountain, once had a retreat called “Cresson Springs.” Mountain air was thought to cure disease.
At this time of year, light is still good after supper, so I had one more place in mind = a wooded cutout just west of the Route 53 overpass north of Cresson.
I set up and waited, hoping for a westbound.
All I saw was a westbound helper-set (two SD40Es); not a train.
But 590 was on my scanner, eastbound on Two on the old “New Portage Railroad” grade.
New Portage was an attempt by PA to make its combined canal/portage railroad more attractive than PRR. It replaced its original inclined-plane railroad.
The attempt failed, so Pennsy got the entire system for peanuts.
That included New Portage Railroad, which gave Pennsy a second tunnel atop Allegheny summit. (A third, since abandoned, was added later.)
New Portage located right next to Pennsy on the west slope toward the summit.
So now eastbounds often use New Portage Tunnel to top their climb.
590 and Y90 (a second section of 590) go to Baltimore to export coal.
Finally 590 hove into view — Y90 is Cassandra.


Lead units of 590 eastbound at the cutout. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

590 was gigantic. Car after 120-ton car; well over 100 cars.
Three helper-sets were on the rear; there may have been more up front. But they’re 6700s. The SD40Es are 6300.
The train was so long they had to be careful as it topped the summit. Climbing the west slope was still pushing, while the east slope was pulling down.
Pulling versus pushing could break the train apart at summit.
I’ve seen double helper-sets, but never three. Wet rail and a hyper-heavy train.
Those rear helpers could help avoid a runaway as the train descended the mountain.
It’s called “dynamic-braking.” The traction-motors of a diesel-electric locomotive are turned into generators that help brake the train.
Helpers previously turned at UN back down the mountain. Now, with dynamic-braking, those helpers also get used to descend as well as climb.
After what seemed like 15 minutes, 590 was finally gone. But I never saw a westbound at the cutout.

Friday, May 26th.
Back to reality
— which is what I always say = Allegheny-Crossing is always a thrill.
Most importantly: no falls at all, and footing on railroad ballast is dreadful. (It’s my being overly careful, and perhaps better balance because of therapy.)

• “Shaddup-and-shoot” is the philosophy my brother-and-I have developed about train-photography. Just take the picture: ya never know what ya’ll get. A camera-chip holds hundreds of digital images. Yer no longer restrained by Yellow-Father (Kodak) to 24 or 36 exposures. My brother’s FABULOUS October 2017 fall-foliage picture is “Shaddup-and-shoot.”
• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered. Just tiny detriments; I can pass for never having had a stroke.
• RE: “Run-Eight.....” —Diesel railroad locomotives have eight accelerator positions that increase fuel-delivery. Run-Eight is maximum fuel delivery.
• RE: “Inclined-plane railroad......” —The state’s first attempt at portaging Allegheny Mountain was an inclined-plane railroad; grading at that time was not what it is now. In order to get over the mountain, the portage-railroad had to have inclined-planes = grades of perhaps 8% (eight feet up for 100 feet forward) that couldn’t be operated by adhesion. To get up 8% a stationary steam-engine had to be atop the plane to winch up the cars.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

How come

“How come yer so quiet?” a friend asked.
We were at a quarterly meeting of retired Transit union-employees, mostly bus-drivers, but also mechanics.
We were discussing the Trump administration.
“Because I don’t wanna hurt feelings,” I said. “After 73 years on this planet I decided the best way to keep friends is keep my mouth shut.”
Also, my ability to carry on a conversation, an argument for example, is compromised by my long-ago stroke. It’s called aphasia, in my case difficulty getting words out.
I seem normal, but I avoid politics and religion. People get upset I don’t see things their way.
Worse yet, I’m a DEMOCRAT (Gasp!) and a BLEEDING-HEART LIBERAL. (Double-gasp!)
I cut slack after what I’ve been through — mainly my childhood.
Many Transit employees were African-American, and many of the whites were honkies. This is not to degrade honkies. Many of my best friends are honkies. I throw off surveys by answering my race is honkie.
So accusations were flying of dictatorship versus draining the swamp.
I sat quietly viewing the turmoil.
“Now you take Schumer for example. All that guy does is crave the spotlight.”
“Forcing people to get health-insurance is un-American.” (As if forced auto-insurance isn’t.)
Sorry, but a lotta what I hear is noisy blustering by Limberger-and-his-lackies. “Everything we say is TRUE.” Why can’t CONSERVATIVES question that?
What I’m more afraid of is avoiding involvement if things get hairy.
Suppose The Donald starts rounding up Muslims. I doubt he can — this nation is too used to free speech. Exterminating enemies will bomb.
The Donald is learning that already. Gumint is not a corporation. You can’t issue edicts without criticism.
Start killing media, and Congress will impeach.
What I’m most afraid of is nuclear Armageddon. Kim Jong Un is whacko. But so is The Donald with his 3 a.m. toity-tweets.
I’ll probably lose friends with this blog. Which proves I shoulda kept quiet.

• “Transit” equals Regional Transit Service, the public transit-bus operator in Rochester, NY, where I drove transit-bus for 16&1/2 years (1977-1993). My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well.
• “Limberger” is Rush Limbaugh. I call him that because I think he stinks.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

He’s on to something!


’61 Caddy Coupe de Ville.

“I hadn’t ridden in a big mid-century luxury car in a long time, and had forgotten how roomy, comfy, smooth-riding and quiet these majestic machines are.”
That’s Jim Richardson, a regular monthly columnist in my Classic Car magazine.
“He’s on to something,” I thought.
The car was a ’61 Cadillac (pictured).
In an adjacent town is a classic Continental Mark IV for sale. Am I missing something?
I enjoy the car I have now, a 2012 Ford Escape SUV. It’s great for chasing trains. It’s All-Wheel-Drive with lotsa clearance, so can handle dirt-tracks.
It’s pleasant to drive, but not a ‘60s luxury-barge.
This has happened before. Many years ago I attended a carshow that had a restored ’36 Olds four-door sedan.
1936 Oldsmobile four-door sedan.
I was smitten — the cost of being a car-guy.
Oh, to return to life as it once was, or seemed to be. Not frenzied nor rife with madness.
That Olds had actual running-boards. Wide enough to sit on. Park your butt and watch the world go by.
Ya might get 60 out of that Olds, but it would be frightening. It was made for cruising at 35.
I attended another carshow that had a stock 1934 Ford sedan.
1934 Ford sedan.
The owner made a placard of all the safety-features it lacked. No padded dash, no safety steering-wheel, no seatbelts, no air-bags, no anti-lock brakes, etc.
(Although I could do without the airbags.)
He claimed he felt safer in that thing at 60 mph than his SHO Taurus.
It had a Flat-Head Ford V8, three-speed floor-shift, and the brakes weren’t hydraulic. They were activated by cable linkage.
NOT THIS KID!
Try to stop such a thing! I bet at 60 mph it would be assaulting your entire body.
Not long ago I encountered a ’49-Ford hotrod custom owned by a retired fellow bus-driver.
My friend’s 1949 Ford hotrod. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I never drove it, but I sat in the driver’s-seat occasionally.
Its unpadded steel dash was waiting to smash my face.
The steering-column was a long one-inch rod waiting to impale my chest.
Seatbelts. Are you kidding?
It had a souped Flat-Head V8 motor, probably once capable of 100 mph.
That woulda scared me to death! And now I occasionally attain 90 mph on the Interstates passing trucks.
I set my krooze at 70 mph — and get passed. Do that in a ’49 Ford and be frightened.
Richardson says things about sofa-sized seats and arriving refreshed.
Maybe so. But I’m more inclined to think an all-day drive in a luxury-barge is still an ordeal.
You might be more comfortable, but “Are we there yet?”
Beyond that such a barge may get only 10 mpg. My E250 Ford van, a 460, got that. Regal to krooze in, but every 300 miles, 30 gallons.
A ‘60s luxury-barge might get 15, but that’s still exorbitant.
Richardson fails to mention someone else was fueling that Caddy.
But he has a point.
Cardom suffered with the demise of the luxo-barge.
Such a thing is worth considering as a collector car.
They’re not G-T-Os or Boss Mustangs, so are relatively cheap.
And usually well cared for — their original owners had the financial wherewithal.
Would I want such a car?
Probably not. I have my grandmother’s values.
A car is just transportation. I want reliability more than luxury. —Safety too.
For me two cars is ridiculous.

• I’m a railfan, and have been since age-2. (I’m 73.)
• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs. My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well.
• Richardson owns a Packard and a ’55 Chevy wagon.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Flip-Flop!

“What would Linda say?” I keep asking myself, as I consider completely reversing 70+ years of eating regimen.
“Linda,” of course, is my wife, who died five years ago.
I admit being obsessed with order. It’s probably a stroke-effect. But it also comes from growing up in what I perceived a madhouse, where my father could suddenly go ballistic and start clobbering me.
I rarely knew why, but was supposed to know. It was that old saw reversed: “spare the child, and spoil the rod.”
My antidote was predictability. That required order; knowing what came next.
My stroke contributed. It left me utterly whacked. The solution was even more order.
This manifested itself in daily eating menus.
For example: tilapia/corn/broccoli on Monday, mashed-potatoes/soy-burger/soybeans on Wednesday, salmon/carrots/spinach or asparagus on Thursday.
Stewed-tomatoes/grilled-cheese sandwich, or pea soup with unbuttered toast, on Friday. Every other Saturday is hotdogs/baked beans/coleslaw or pizza. Tuesdays I eat out, and Sunday I eat something I purchased, like at Micky D’s, Taco Bell (BONG!), or a delicatessen.
This regimen is ridiculous, but I follow it religiously.
It avoids having to make up my mind at the last minute. It also allows me to plan food purchases.
My refrigerator and freezer are nearly empty. I’m not feeding a family of five. If I stocked up, stuff would rot.
More is at play here.
For 70+ years I been eating cereal for breakfast.
Not too long ago I viewed a report on the national TV news saying cereal for breakfast was backwards.
What you need is protein, and cereal ain’t protein.
The suggestion was supper in the morning, and breakfast at suppertime.
No way could I do that. Not only did it seem silly, I’d been eating cereal for breakfast for 70+ years.
My aquacise class at the Canandaigua YMCA demanded change.
Cereal for breakfast before class meant having to go to the bathroom every 10-15 minutes. It was the milk on the cereal.
So I decided to eat eggs instead, and not drink anything.
I’d eat my cereal home after class.
A few weeks ago I was to drive to south Jersey to visit a remaining aunt. I’m 73; she’s soon to be 87.
It’s a 6-7 hour drive.
I ate breakfast cereal before starting out. Within minutes I was utterly fagged out. I could hardly keep my eyes open.
This happened before. Eat cereal before driving to Altoona (PA), where I chase trains with my brother. It’s a struggle to stay awake the first couple hours.
Driving home from my aunt I faced another 6-7 hour trip.
But this time I decided to eat scrambled eggs: protein instead of carbohydrates.
No problem at all.
I asked my doctor about it.
“Of course you had trouble staying awake,” he said. “You hit your system with maximum carbohydrates. Protein, my friend, eggs.”
“What about cholesterol?” I asked.
“EggBeaters. Your cholesterol is fine anyway.”
Can I switch? Supper for breakfast, and breakfast for supper?
Don’t know as I can go that far, but eggs instead of cereal before aquacise I can handle.
Plus EggBeaters every morning, and cereal for lunch. I can do that. I live alone. No nattering-nabobs-of-negativism to criticize my eating habits.
Supper-for-breakfast and breakfast-for-supper is radical, especially to General Mills, Kellogg, etc.
But I think my wife coulda handled it.
You know what they say: “Too many Froot-Loops or Choco-Puffs and ya become a serial killer.”

• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered. Just tiny detriments; I can pass for never having had a stroke.
• “Micky D’s” is McDonald's. Every Taco-Bell ad seems to have “BONG” in it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Here they are, ****

My wife planted ‘em.


She planted ‘em. (iPhone photo by BobbaLew.)

• **** was a co-leader of a grief-share I attended after my wife died. I see her often at the Canandaigua YMCA. I also send her these blogs, including “There they are again.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Paragon of health

“Before I forget,” I said to my doctor, at my biannual health review.
“I share dinner once a week with a widower named *** ******, who like me lost his wife to breast-cancer a few years ago.
He says I should remind you his wife was always badgering you to sell her your motorhome.”
“Yep,” my doctor said. “She always wanted that motorhome.”
“So what should I worry about?”
“Nothing.” he said. “Your blood-pressure’s good, you removed that cancerous prostate, all your bloodwork looks okay.”
“My wife did all that too,” I said. “But the big-C got her.
I wanna keep waking up for my dog. She counts on it. She wants me alive.
Okay, suppose the following: I eat a breakfast of cereal before setting out on a long drive to south Jersey,”
“Where to?”
“Swedesboro.”
“Never heard of it.”
“How about Camden, across from Philly?”
“Yes.”
“Haddonfield, Cherry Hill?”
“Cherry Hill yes.”
“When I was a kid it was ‘Delaware Township.’
Then President Eisenhower visited Cherry Hill Inn, so now it’s ‘Cherry Hill Township.’
As soon as I started driving I was utterly whacked.”
“Well of course. That cereal was a challenge. Ya can’t glom carbs first thing in the morning.”
“Been doin’ it all my life.”
“Can’t do it any more. It knocks you out.”
“So coming back I ate scrambled eggs instead of cereal.
No problem at all.”
“Yer answering yer own question. Ya gotta stop that cereal; yer old enough for carb digestion to wipe you out.
Eggs, my friend, protein.”
“What about cholesterol?”
“Your cholesterol is fine. Egg-Beaters.”
“Which is what I eat anyway.”
“See me again in six months!”
Now I gotta figger a system whereby I eat protein for breakfast instead of carbs.
Attain geezerdom, and totally revolutionize your eating.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Long trip to south Jersey to visit a remaining aunt


“Ya fergot yer flash, Robert-John.” “Don’t need it!” (iPhone photo by BobbaLew.)

In 1944, when yrs trly was born, my Aunt May was 13 about to become 14.
So now at age-73, my Aunt May is soon to be 87.
My Aunt May is as ornery as me.
“Oh, a smarty-pants, eh? A wisenheimer.”
My Aunt May is a last remaining aunt; born in 1930, the height of the Depression.
Her mother, my paternal grandmother, was angry. She was 41. —My mother had my youngest sister at 44, “It’s a miracle, Bobby!”
My Aunt May was not planned. She was an accident.
Yet my grandmother allowed my grandfather to have his way with her.
The one who paid was my Aunt May, although my grandfather was thereafter banned from the boudoir. Separate bedrooms, Baby!
My grandmother loudly badmouthed Aunt May the whole time she grew up.
My Aunt May imitates her mother: “May! Whatcha doin’ that for? Cackle-cackle-cackle-cackle!”
When my Aunt May finally married: “There! Rid of her at last!”
This may be an exaggeration, but I too had a difficult childhood. Mainly it was my hyper-religious father, loudly declaring I was “disrespectful.” —That I couldn’t worship him as worthy of the right hand of Jesus.
My mother did same at first, but as I became a teenager she began to realize they were losing me.
With Aunt May it was different. “My father saved my butt hundreds of times.”
“I always loved you, May,” he told her on his deathbed.
Every year a Thanksgiving gig was held at one of my cousins, one of my Aunt May’s two children.
I never knew about it. Quite a few people came, including long-lost cousin David, only child of my Uncle Rob, my father’s younger brother.
Relatives of my cousin’s wife also attended — I barely knew her name.
After my wife died I concluded I should attend this gig, in a feeble attempt to distract by socialization.
My first attempt got snowed out by a giant blizzard. It’s a 360-mile drive; I started out, but had to turn back.
I visited perhaps a month or two later, plus two more actual Thanksgiving gigs. Met my cousin David for the first time in decades — a dead ringer for my Uncle Rob.
Each time I spent more time with Aunt May than most. We’re two peas in a pod. We swap stories of our horrible childhoods.
“You ain’t ridin’ no ‘Maid-of-the-Mist.’ $1; are you kidding? WE’RE BROKE!”
“May, whatcha doin’ that for? Who do you think you are?”
Travel for me was difficult after my wife died.
“Takes the wind outta yer sails,” says my neighbor up-the-street, who also lost his wife.
My wife’s mother in FL attained 100 years last year. I decided to try flying to FL to attend her birthday celebration.
No car rental; my wife’s only brother, who also lives in FL, would cart me around.
The whole trip took incredible nerve — three-and-a-half years since my wife died. But I pulled it off.
That was 2016; I decided this year if I could do my wife’s mother’s birthday, I should be able to visit my niece in Fort Lauderdale.
That niece is my sister’s only child. That sister is now gone, another cancer-victim like my wife. I have one sister left.
And this time I would advance to renting a car.
More success.
Since my Aunt May seems to like having me around, I decided to try a non-Thanksgiving visit.
That’s a long motor-trip to south Jersey — actually my brother in northern DE. I do south Jersey from his house.
My Aunt May, divorced from her husband, had two houses in Swedesboro (NJ), both rental properties. She lived in one.
She sold one, so now lives in the other, and I guess her son Paul moved in to take care of her.
So I’d be visiting Paul and Aunt May.
“25¢ for the Margate Elephant; what are you, nuts? WE’RE BROKE! Furthermore you’re disrespectful.”
“That tree-limb had your name on it, May. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! You had it coming.”
So now I find myself seven hours away from someone who enjoys my company.
I can make her laugh. She needs that. She’s had a hard life.
Probably my Uncle Rob could make her laugh too. Once he told me anyone named “Robert” in our family, me, him, and my grandfather, was automatically in deepest doo-doo. Me with my father, and him and my grandfather with my grandmother.
Back in the late ‘40s my sister and I were riding to the Jersey seashore in my grandparents’ Packard. A thunderstorm overwhelmed the vacuum windshield-wipers; my grandfather was driving. Suddenly “FATHER, STOP! WE CAN’T SEE!”
Uncle Rob is long-gone. So now it’s just me; 14 years younger than my Aunt May, but getting older.

• “Robert-John” is ME, Robert John Hughes = BobbaLew. My Aunt May calls me “Robert John.”
• “It’s a miracle, Bobby!” is something my mother said about anything defying simple logical explanation. It had religious connotation.
• Windshield-wipers, now driven by electric motor, used to be driven by engine manifold-vacuum. At small throttle-openings enough manifold-vacuum was present to drive the wipers. At large throttle-openings (full-throttle, for example), there was no manifold-vacuum and the wipers would stall.

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