Sunday, September 30, 2007

Caribbean Cruise 2007

Now boarding on track 39 ....

I fell sick just as we left California. We flew into Miami via Dallas, where we were greeted by Carnival Cruise staff and whisked away to the Hilton nearby. That evening, Carmen and I decided to visit Little Havana. While Carmen was inside purchasing dinner, the cab driver invited me to have a Cuban coffee with him. It was dark and strong.

The next morning we got up and went through all of the security processes, but at last we were on board the Carnival Valor and what a ship. We were on deck six "Upper Deck". Our cabin had a balcony. Besides being sick (upper respiratory) I am prone to sea sickness and took my first Dramamine.

The Bahamas
The Bahamas is very charming. The city we pulled into was Nassau. Being part of the British Common Wealth, this was the only country where we had to fill out forms in order to enter their country. They drive on the left side and the whole country is beautiful with a laid back approach.

We went horse back riding. That's right, Carmen went horseback riding. Not only that but we took the horses into the ocean. Horse back riding in the Caribbean is truly beautiful. We finished the day off by having lunch at Conch Fritters. We had Conch salad, which is like ceviche, and cracked Conch, which is fried Conch. I washed it down the Klick, the local beer. For desert Carmen and I split a local delight which had a sauce made of guava.

St. Thomas

Curious thing about St. Thomas. It is part of the United States of America, yet they drive on the left side of the road. There are some down sides to St. Thomas. Since is is part of the USA, you can not buy Cuban Cigars or Rum. On the up side, you can bring back up to 5 liters per adult over 21 as long as one is purchased in St. Thomas.

It is amazing how the different islands while having the so many of the same features can be so different. They all run on Caribbean time, which is slow, but the people are different and you notice it. Besides the usual shopping, we went on a submarine ride. After breakfast we took a Dramamine and headed off for our ride on a submarine. A small boat took us out to an uninhabited island. While the ride was less than a half an hour, it was a bit choppy. While I was smart enough not to bring the sun block, I did start to wonder why I had not brought the Dramamine with me. During our boat ride, there was water, punch and a bottle of rum and you could help yourself. By the time we pulled up to the island dock, one lady had lost it. She was terribly seasick. Needless to say her and her husband never made it to submarine.

We enter the submarine, and I notice that it is rocking pretty good. I'm worried about getting seasick. I've been seasick before and it is not fun at all. The only thing worse is to know that you have spent plenty of money to get seasick! Once we leave the surface, the ride becomes very smooth. Almost as smooth at the submarines at Disneyland. Carmen is a real trouper, she is having a great time. We are seeing so many different kinds of colorful fish and coral. Next to Carmen however is a man that is not having such a good time, he gets to sick, that he ends up using three bags! We return to the Island, none worse for the wear.

San Maarten

I think San Maarten was my favorite Island. It is governed by two countries Holland and France. The common language there is English. Even the national anthem, shared by both countries, is in English. We pulled into the Dutch side and took the standard tour which ended at a private beach. We rented an umbrella and a couple of deck chairs and I began to paint on the sunscreen. Carmen loves the beach and had a wonderful time. I am always very cautious about the beach since I can get sun burnt so easily. I did go in, and did some body surfing. The water was fantastic and I caught some really great waves.

We did some shopping on each island. Besides the usual T-Shirts, Rum, Mugs ... etc., we bought and enjoyed one of my favorite things to buy in the tropics. A chilled cocoa nut. I love cocoa nut water. This is not the same as cocoa nut milk. This is before the cocoa nut has had time to rippen. It is just so refreshing, and puts you in that tropical mood.

Fun at Sea

There were several days at sea and it was all fun. Carmen got plenty of time in the sun, I studied art and played poker, after all that is how we got on the cruise to begin with. We attended an art auction and even brought home a couple of pieces. We enjoyed the pool and the hot (not too hot) tubs. There is something about siting in a pool (pool is salt water from the ocean), in a ship, in the ocean. It's like one of those dolls that you take apart and there is a smaller one inside. I enjoyed their water slide, and Carmen enjoyed watching.

There are games that go on that you can participate in. One was called Super Trivia. I did not try it until the 2nd of three days. Still we got second place even with no points for the first day. Everyone thought I was so smart. Everyone that knows me, knows I had them fooled. On the third day of the game, Carmen joined me so we both got medals for second place.

Food on cruises is legendary and our cruise was no exception. Prime Rib, Beef Wellington, Lobster, Suffle ... it was amazing, but what is more amazing is the service. Once you are assigned a table, that table, waiter, waitress and cocktail waitress are yours every night. They did such a fantastic job. I have never seen such great service in all my years of travel.

Once we returned to our cabin each night, the bed would be turned down, there would be two chocolates waiting and a surprise. Our favorite was the monkey.

... and by the way

This is Emily. She is a dancer on the cruise line. She is from Glendora. What a small world.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

I flew up Friday to take care of some business concerning our house in Franklin. After that I headed over to visit with Aunt Lousise. As I pulled into her drive way a ground hog scampered ascross the grass. There was Aunt Louise. I must say that for a lady who will be Ninety years old March 3, 2008, and is recovering from cancer, she looked great. We went inside and I gave her the letters that Lila and Ceci wrote and passed on good wishes from all of the family. She really enjoyed them, truth is she loves hearing news from the entire family.

We went into the living room and sat down. There are so many memories in that house. So many connections to the past. There is a chair from Sara Bear, that table belonged to the Mc Griffs. Aunt Louise told story after story about this relative or that. It was a wonderful time. We talked about a Bear family cook book after remembering back when Lila, Ceci and I visited Nancy Serra and Aunt Ruth. Nancy, Lila and Ceci made Orange Cookies from a recipe that was hand written by Sara Bear. Aunt Louise will be looking through her recipes. She is sure she has one or more written by Sara. We might even convince her to part with her secret recepie for the chile sauce used at the Dairy Isle.

We decided to try some place different, so we drove out to Seneca and tried a little restaurant near the Bear's Den. The gentleman that bought Bear Furniture from Uncle Don and Aunt Louise, opened a second store that just sells mattresses. The food was okay. It is geared towards a younger audience. The have speciality hot dogs and all sorts of ice cream sundae's.

A 90th birthday is a very rare thing indeed. It is the same day as our anniversary. It would be nice if as many Bears as possible were able to turn out. We will need to contact her nephews Roy (who lives near her) and Rick Riddle. I can notify the west coast Bears well enough and I'm Sure Dr. Bob Bear will take care of the east coast. Then it hit me. That same year, My mom (Laura) turns 70 and my dad (Jim) turns 70 as well. Then just when you think you can relax, 2009 will Aunt Ruth's 100th birthday. Better confirm that date.

While there on business, we listed the properties in Franklin that had been owned by people with the last name of Bear. The normal people you would expect came up on the list. Uncle Ted (Chester) was listed quite a few times. We then did a list of Mc Griff, but no one came up. Then we tried Mc Cracken. There was quite a list. Wonder if any of them are related to us.

I was awoken the next morning by a terrible racket outside. There were so many sirens and emergency vehicles. It seemed they just kept coming. I was tired as I was still dealing with a three hour time zone difference. I turned on the TV worried that perhaps there had been a terrible accident, or a terrorist strike. It was neither. It was something glorious. The 298th Army Transportation Reserve from Franklin Pennsylvania was returning from over a year in Iraq. All the the buildings facing the route were decorated with signs and decorations welcoming "their" troops home. There were three buses full of reservists. They were were escorted by an long line of Vietnam Vets on motorcycles. Every police car in Franklin was there. The people lined the streets to welcome home their hero's. There wasn't a dry eye in the town.

As I left the hotel, and noticed that the Franklin Club is up for sale. It is such a beautiful building on the outside. I was inside a few years ago and it was a bit run down, but not terrible. They are asking for $300,000. I can't imagine what it would cost if it were in California. Aunt Louise said the problem was membership. As the old guard died off there weren't enough new members to keep up with things. Eventually, they even opened up the restaurant to the public, but it was too late. As I drove out to through town I notice that many of the neighborhoods seem to be improving quite a bit.

After breakfast, I picked up Aunt Louise and we went to church. The church she has always attended and was married in is in the lot adjacent to her house, but two years ago there was a terrible storm. In the morning the steple was on the ground. When they started to look at what it would take to repair the church, it became obivious that years had taken a toll on the church. It was decided they would need to tear it down and build a new one. They have been working
on plans for the new church and raising money ever since. In the mean time we went to church at the Sugar Creek Civic Center. They have two services each Sunday, because the entire congregation will not all fit at the same time.

The church service was wonderful. The members all know Aunt Louise. It seems everyone in a 100 mile radius knows her. They told me how she had told them so much about me and our family, it was very touching. So many of them knew Uncle Don and one even knew Grandma (Mary Bear). One of he friends was from Germany which gave me a rare opportunity to speak German. Just as we started one of the other ladies said we don't understand a word. That is when I explained that "Niemand heir spricht Deutsch" means that "No one here speaks German". Just goes to show that a church is a group of people, not a building.

After church we visited some family sites such as the Presbiterian church that Sara Bear had attened along with her family growing up in Franklin. There was the apartment where Sara Bear lived and many of her grandchildren had visited her there. Aunt Louise showed me the gas station where Uncle Don first had his business partnership. It is still a gas station (Sheetz). A portion of the original building still stands. We visited the Mc Griff farm outside of town. It looked much better than the last time I saw it. A family with children has moved in and really cleaned it up. There is even a little playground with swings and a slide.

We finished up with a visit to the cemetery. There they were, but wait. Where was Isabel. She spent her final days in Franklin. Louise said "You had to ask that question, didn't you?". Even though it was her wishes to be buried along with her family, Jamie (her son) had her ashes scattered on a wooded area atop of a hill overlooking Franklin, the town she loved so much. Aunt Louise, thought she might have purchased a plot near the family. She wasn't sure if Jamie knew that and said she would check with the cemetery office when it is open. By the way, Ted has a marker there, but he is not buried there either. It was his wish to have his ashes scattered on the banks of the Alegany.

Did you know that Uncle Don worked briefly for the railroad? Not sure which one. He worked as a fireman on the line between Oil City and Buffalo New York. He didn't like the work. He told Aunt Louise that it was freezing. Aunt Louise's brother worked for the railroad inspecting the connections between cars. He actually retired from the railroad and pursued a career with the local Fish and Game department.

We ate lunch at Bonanza. A flood of childhood memories hit me as soon as I walked in the door. I could just see Uncle Don, bringing us in and taking us to dinner. While there we ran into her Great Niece Katie, daughter of her nephew Rick. She works there and is 16. After lunch, we went back to her house, I dropped her off at her house. Sherry will be visiting her in October. She is not sure if Ashley will be able to come or not as she has a new job. As I crossed the one way bridge out of Sugar Creek I was hit with a bit of sadness. In many ways Aunt Louise is out last link to our past. She lives alone in her home surrounded by friends and family. She has no cell phone, no Internet access, not even a computer and yet, has lived an amazing life. She still takes medicine for breast cancer. She gets a major test once a year. So far she is clean.

On the way out, I stopped briefly at Polly's (Dairy Isle). I ordered a small ice cream cone. Polly used to work for Aunt Ruth when it was the Dairy Isle and brought it from her when Aunt Ruth and Uncle Don retired. She asked permission to change the name. Aunt Ruth said she didn't think she could have run the Dairy Isle without her help. Polly passed away. They used to dip the cones in chocolate. Not today. They only had Key Lime or Berry for a coating. I reflected on all of this, threw out the rest of my ice cream cone. It just wasn't as good as when it was the Dairy Isle. I got back in the car and made my way to Pittsburgh to catch the plane home.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Lohman & Barkley

Growing up in LA Country in a little town of Glendora, our family often listened to the Lohman & Barkley show on KFI. In recent years, we have wondered what they were doing and if they would ever get together.

I remember they hosted a morning show Monday through Friday. Most of the time they played music, which no one liked, it was when they spoke. They were so creative and had so many characters such as Ted J. Baloney.

Unfortunately, they are both deceased. They are missed.

Roger Barkley died at age 61 of pancreatic cancer on December 21, 1997 at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California

Al Lohman died October 14, 2002 at age 69 of complications from bladder cancer. Bandleader Ray Conniff died at about the same time, and while Conniff's obituary in the Los Angeles Times rated an entire column, Lohman's took up nearly three pages.

You can do a search on Google for "lohman and barkeley" and there are a number of links with great information about them.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Email from Carlos

hola tio

how are you doing?

i'm doing pretty good, but sometimes my mouth is getting me in trouble... ,
i'm supossed to start baking pretty soon or at least that is what they are
telling me and i don't know if i should belive them or not because they keep
switching my schedule and instead of baking i end up cooking.

i got good news for you...
they gave me the day for my interview on dallas, is october 5th, but when i
did my paperwork they never gave me the questions i'm supossed to study, but
i'll take care of it tomorrow, and then i'll start studiyng for the test and
who knows i might be able to become a citizen before my enlistment is over.
i get to test for Staff sergeant next year around march or may, but if i
deploy i'll be testing out of cicle, so there is a lot on my mind right now

i'm also taking kickboxing classes on the gym tuesdays and thrusdays, and
working out 5 days a week for at least 2 hours and right now i feel that my
arms are going to fall off.

take care


Monday, September 3, 2007

Blog update

Okay gang, I have gone back on earlier blog postings and have added some pictures that Dad took.