Miracle of Science – The Return of the Road Trip

Those of you who have been following this blog, already know that its origin was way back in 2016, and was to mark Our New Adventures, as I followed Susie into retirement, and we entered the next chapter of our lives. The first blog post in February of 2016 that was entitled Road Trip (https://rnewadventures.com/2016/02/), detailed the background of our first retired road trip, a trip to Florida. After we returned from that Florida trip, we started discussing the planning for what we called Our Big Adventure, which ultimately took 9 weeks of our life, during which we traveled a grand total of 9,773.0 miles! Every night of that trip (with a couple of exceptions due to internet issues), I detailed that day’s travels, what we saw, what we ate, and what we thought. In reality, road trips are at the very core of this blog!

Over the past five years, there’s been lots of blog posts about road trips. Every winter we have journeyed at some point to Florida and have written about traveling around the state, about our 3 wonderful stays in what we consider to be our Florida home, Indian Rocks Beach, on the Gulf Coast, of trips to Disney World taking advantage of my Disney Retiree Discount, Spring Training Baseball games with our Mets, interesting places we’ve seen, and wonderful meals. This is post number 241 in this blog, and I’d have to say that being on the road has been one of our favorite blog subjects, and probably comprise a majority of our topics. But, alas, our last road trip ended very suddenly, in March of 2020 when we left Florida in a big hurry to get back to our Ocean City home, because of the Covid 19 Pandemic.

Since last March, there have been zero posts about road trips (unless you consider the blog post about Sunday Traditions that included details of our usual Sunday ride around our Ocean City environs a road trip post), but now, thanks to the miracle of our Moderna Covid 19 vaccine injections, there has already been one road trip in 2021. That took place a couple of weeks ago when we left the State of New Jersey for the first time since March 14, 2020 and joined I-95 again for the first time since last March, so we could visit our North Carolina family, hug our Grandkids and our son Bill and daughter-in-law Lori, and get back to normal! As I said at the end of that blog, Thank you Moderna!

TIME FOR A REAL ROAD TRIP

So this post is just an advisory of what’s in our immediate future. On Friday, April 16th, we will once again head down the Atlantic City Expressway towards I-95 Southbound. Our first destination later that day will once again be our son Bill’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. You see, our two Granddaughters happen to have both been born in April – albeit 5 years and 15 days apart! Our 7 year old Layla came into this world on April 2nd, 2013, and her sister Annabelle joined the family on April 17th, 2019. This Saturday, they are going to have a joint birthday party for our two Granddaughters, and we plan to be there! Layla’s birthday happened to coincide with Easter this year, but this will be the first real birthday we get to spend with Annabelle, and Susie and I are super excited about that!

THE BIRTHDAY GIRLS – 7 AND 2 YEARS EARLIER!

Okay, so that’s part one. On Sunday, April 18th, we once again head south on Interstate 95 with Sunday’s stop at a Hampton Inn in Richmond Hill, Georgia. No, we’re not stopping there because it’s called the same as a village in Queens. There is a much more important reason…there’s a Fuddruckers in a truck stop just down the road from the hotel! So, are we driving all the way to Georgia for a hamburger we haven’t gotten since the Fuddruckers on Long Island closed many years ago?

Nope, Monday morning we are up and again headed south on I-95, and will keep going till we get to the city of St. Petersburg, in the Sunshine State, Florida! Covid cheated us out of what has become our usual summer preview, by traveling to Florida in February and March, and now fully inoculated, we need to make a brief guest appearance there to keep our record up to snuff….that, and we want to see Our Boys, son Kenny and his husband Chris who now live in Downtown St. Petersburg! We want to see their new apartment IRL, we want to see where they live, and mostly we want to be able to hug these guys! It’s only a brief 3 days stay in St. Petersburg, but it’s a start!

On Thursday the 22nd, we will head back to where it all started for us in Indian Rocks Beach, the Holiday Inn! This is where we first stayed for a couple of days back in 2018, till we met our bartender friend Lindsey, and decided to stay longer. After 4 days at the Holiday Inn, we fell in love with the town, and we are looking forward to a brief (one night) stop with the boys to say hello to our Florida home! It’s not the month we stayed in IRB last year, but at least we again get to keep our streak going, with hope for 2022!

On Friday morning, we say goodbye to Kenny and Chris, and head back to I-95 and another favorite “trip to Florida” stop, Darien, Georgia! We’ll spend the night at the Hampton Inn in town for one reason and one reason only! So we can have dinner at B&J’s Steak and Seafood! The home of the best fried shrimp we’ve ever had. It’s a Friday, so we may have a long wait, but we missed our shrimp on the way home in 2020, and we want it now!

So that’s what we will be doing the next couple of weeks, and who knows..there may even be a trip to New York for Doctors’ appointments and to see our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Mike’s new condo in New Rochelle! Watch out world…Susie and I are free, and we have mileage to put on the Honda before the lease is up!!!

To be continued….Thank you Moderna!

Miracle of Science – Part Two

Back in the end of August, we saw our daughter Krissi and her husband Mike, when Mike’s sister Sara, her husband Gabe, and teenagers Maddy and Ethan rented a house in Ocean City for a week from our neighbor Neen. It was the first time we’d seen them since they surprised me and helped me celebrate my 70th birthday back in January. As we were in the height of the pandemic, Krissi and Mike didn’t stay with us, Mike’s parents Paula and Jerry stayed at a local Bed and Breakfast, we observed social distancing by visiting together in our garage and at the beach, and we exchanged the briefest of hugs. It was something, but it wasn’t what we really wanted.

Turn the clock ahead 7+ months, and now Krissi, who is an administrator at Weill Cornell Medical Center in NYC, and Mike, who sells wine and spirits with MS Walker are both fully vaccinated. Add in the fact that Susie and I are fully vaccinated too, and it’s time for a real, old fashioned weekend with our favorite daughter and our son-in-law! Last Friday, Mike dropped Krissi off with us, while he worked some clients with one of his local salesmen Bryce, which was the beginning of a weekend they spent staying in our house! Old times were back again!

Our time together started with hugs and kisses all around, and then a good old fashioned weekend of visiting. Rather than heading here, there, and everywhere, Krissi decided on a laid back weekend, with home-cooked meals, and lots of time for visiting! She had a hankering for some grilled food, as living in their new condo in New Rochelle doesn’t give them a grilling outlet. Luckily, Susie and I had visited Costco just the day before, so Pork Chops and Pork Tenderloin Medallions were on our Mixed Grill menu. Krissi, Susie and I hit the local Acme to get the fixings for a big salad, while Mike headed off to work with Bryce, and because they looked wonderful, some grilled asparagus were added to the menu! The weather wasn’t wonderful, so I headed down to the grill, while Susie, Krissi and Mike stayed upstairs. After all was done and said, it was a great meal, accompanied by some great wine that Mike had brought for us! Earlier in the day, Krissi also joined Susie and I in our daily exercise routine, and a new chandelier was also put up over our dining room table, by Susie, Krissi, and me, but we don’t need to talk any more about that.

Saturday was a hanging out day around the house, watching some TV and being lazy! Poor Mike was subjected to our Wedding Album when the topic of weddings came up. Then Krissi and Mike proceeded to cook us a wonderful dinner. It was a Turkey Taco Salad, with lots of wonderful vegetables. There was lots of chopping to be done, and the two of them were a perfect team! It was a great meal, and during it we watched one of their favorites on TV – The Masked Singer.

We carefully checked the weather, and although not perfect, Saturday night looked like the best chance of the weekend for some time Fire Pit time, so that’s what we did!

Sunday morning was, of course, Bagel Sunday, so orders in hand, I headed off to see my friends at Hot Bagels and More in Somers Point! As usual they were yummy!!

Again, Sunday was not a great weather day, but we were able to get out a bit with the kids and hit BF Mazzeos and Tilton Market, to both get some things for us, and for Krissi and Mike to bring home. Then it was time for Sunday Stir Stir Vodka (for Susie and I) and Gin (for Krissi and Mike). We decided that Sunday night dinner would be a hors d’oeuvres buffet of sorts, so I was called upon to make my Dad’s Stuffed Mushrooms. It was accompanied by Shrimp Cocktail from Costco, Eggplant Meatballs from BF Mazzeos, Buffalo Chicken Sausage from Bagliani’s (along with Blue Cheese Dressing from Charlies), and a charcuterie platter with delicacies from Bagliani’s and Passion Vines!

Susie and I relaxed while the kids took a walk around the neighborhood. That night we played a rousing game of “That’s What She Said,” and laughed a lot! After a good night’s sleep, about 10:30 on Monday morning Krissi and Mike headed back to their new condo in New Rochelle, where we will turn the tables and be their guests in two weeks!

It was a great weekend with our middle child (by 2 minutes) and her husband, and just another clue that our lives are returning! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again – we may even have a road trip in our future!! Thanks again Moderna!

Miracle of Science – Part One

Last Saturday, April 3rd at about 8:15 AM, Susie and I pulled the Honda CRV out of our garage and headed towards the Ninth Street bridge. Just about an hour later, at 9:12 we crossed the Ben Franklin Bridge, entered the city of Philadelphia and our neighbor state of Pennsylvania. For the FIRST time since we returned from Florida on March 14, 2020, we had left the state of New Jersey! 4 states, and about 7 hours later, we pulled up in front of our son and daughter-in-law’s house in Wake Forest, North Carolina. Grandma and Grandpa were ready to spend Easter weekend with our three precious Grandkids and their Mom and Dad!

Last year, on January 30th, 2020, on our way to Florida, for what we thought was going to be a two month stay, we stopped overnight to see Billy and his family. The next morning, when we left, headed south on I-95, we expected that we’d see them again in a couple of months later on our way home from Florida. Little did we know that on January 31st, 2020, we would see Lori, Bill and Layla, Henry and Annabelle for the last time till last Saturday afternoon. At that point we knew nothing about something called Covid-19, or what America and our family would look like during a pandemic, or that we’d lose an entire year out of our Grandchildren’s lives!

Our son’s family had been at Busch Gardens for several days, and they arrived home about an half hour after we got there. It took zero time after hugs and hello kisses for the kids to put us in Grandparent mode…and we loved it after a year away! It took Annabelle a bit to warm up, but before too long she was calling us Grandma and Grandpa, and we were so happy to once again be back in our three Grandchildren’s lives! Billy and Lori went out to shop for Easter brunch, and Grandma and Grandpa had Chinese food with the kids and then settled in for a night of playing games!. From Henry and Grandpa playing with his Nintendo Switch, and Grandma and Annabelle playing with Stickers, and Grandma and Grandpa as a willing audience for Layla’s performing, up to and including watching some show called the Haunted Hendersons, we had a great night!! When Lori and Billy came home, they thanked us for watching the kids. We thanked them for giving us several uninterrupted hours with our 3 favorite people 7 and under!

Easter morning was wonderful as we watched them hunt for Easter Eggs and try and find where the Easter Bunny had hidden their Easter baskets. Then we were almost as excited as they were as they discovered what surprises were in the eggs they found, and dove into their Easter baskets!


Then it was time to check out Easter presents from Mommy and Daddy and Grandma and Grandpa, before it was time to shower and get dressed before the rest of the family arrived!

The rest of the family included Lori’s Mom Kathy, her sister Keri and husband Bill, along with their two kids Molly and Max, and Lori’s brother Sean and his girlfriend Lauren. Lots of hugs and kisses were exchanged, and we were all thankful that everybody in the house (but the kids) had had both vaccine shots! It was wonderful to once again be with family. To eat (oh what a spread Lori and Bill put out), drink, and as they say, be merry! The kids played, the adults played, and a good time was had by all!

We slept very well that night after a day spent with young kids. They were all wonderful and we were so glad to be back on track after a year of FaceTime calls! The next morning, after breakfast and getting dressed, we were off to see Bill and Lori’s new Lake House! The cars were packed, Layla and Henry rode with Grandma and Grandpa, and we departed Wake Forest for the hour and a half trip to Roanoke Rapids lake!

To say we were thrilled by where Lori and Billy’s life has taken them would be an understatement! What a wonderful life they have created for themselves, and their 3 incredible kids, and what remarkable memories they are going to create with this great Lake House! They’ve done, and had done, a lot of work already, but the vision is very clear and we loved it! It’s a 2 bedroom/ 2 bath house, but Lori came upon with this great idea to convert the upstairs bedroom to a bunk room, which is able to sleep 10 people in comfort! A great idea and we loved the execution of Lori’s idea by their handyman Oscar!

We totally enjoyed the rest of Monday, on the large deck overlooking the lake, on the pontoon boat on the lake, and around the fire pit that night! It was a magical time, in a magical place, with 5 people that we love so much!

Tuesday morning, after some more Grandparent/Grandkid time, it was time for Susie and I to head back to Ocean City. The traffic wasn’t the greatest around Washington, DC, but what’s new about that? We safely got home, with nothing but wonderful memories of Easter, 2021! Thanks to the Miracle of Science, and the Modern vaccine that Susie and I got back in February, we were once again able to enjoy hugs and kisses from our family, and to put memories of 2020 in the background, as we move ahead to make many more new memories in 2021 of Family Time!! Stay tuned…we’ve just begun to live again!! Thanks Moderna!

Our Adventure in New Counters!

Our house on Pennlyn Place in Ocean City was built in 2001. When we bought the place in 2005, it was just 4 years old. At that point, we’d spent 20 years living in a house in Mineola that was approaching 90 years of age. Having 4 year old electrical, plumbing, cabinets, counters, etc was a new experience for us, and one that we loved. In those early years, although we loved being at the house, finances dictated that we rent out the house for 9 to 10 weeks every summer. Although we did painting and updated the furniture, we left the basic house the same. As you probably know, in 2016 I joined Susie in retirement, and in 2017 we sold the Mineola house and officially Ocean City became our home! Now it was time to make the house ours!

We’d always wanted a wine fridge, and after doing a lot of research, we bought a new “under the counter” model. This meant that it vented from the front so it could be buried under a counter. Then we added a glass doored cabinet to the end of our existing cabinets, which would hold glasses, and reside above the wine fridge. Now, all we needed to bring the whole thing together was to extend the counter over the wine fridge and under the glass cabinet!

The wine fridge and new cabinet before it got it’s glass door

The term “Builder’s Grade” denotes the quality of items that a builder puts in a house as part of the basic build. Our countertops certainly qualified as that! Built of Formica over plywood, they were serviceable, but without the cache of stone counters. In the beginning we figured that they were the perfect thing for a house that was still being rented. Unfortunately, they were also green as was the matching fireplace surround. In order to match the greens, the furniture we’d updated in our early years of ownership stayed in the green palate, even though Susie always thought that a beach house should reflect more the nature of it’s seaside environment, and blues and beiges would be much better colors. Now it was time for another updating and for a color change!

Susie did a lot of research on the type of counters she wanted, and everything she read led to manufactured quartz. That decision done, then it was time to select who we should turn to for help with this job. Once again Susie researched, checking out all the kitchen places in both Cape May and Atlantic counties. After several days of combing reviews and ratings, the answer looked obvious to her. Merlino Marble and Granite in Oceanview, NJ had by far the best reviews. Our next question was “How much was this going to cost us?” We took pictures, drew a diagram, and measured what we needed, and then we visited their showroom to see what was what.

We met with with Matt in the Merlino showroom in Oceanview, and talked about the job. He showed us what was available and took our measurements and promised he’d have a quote to us later in the day. After looking at all the samples in the showroom, we went home with 2 samples to choose from, and told him we’d be back the next day to return the samples. Remember, at this point, we still had no idea what it was going to cost us, but we’d pretty much decided that whatever it was, we would do it. That afternoon, true to his word, Matt emailed us a quote and we were surprised by how reasonable the price was. Having selected the quartz we wanted, when we returned the next day, we also told him we wanted to add in the fireplace surround. As quartz wasn’t a good material to use around the fireplace (doesn’t like heat), we walked the yard and quickly picked out a slab of marble we liked, and that worked well with the quartz we’d selected. He once again took our measurements of the fireplace surround, and using the material we’d selected, wrote up a contract.

The next step was to have the official measuring and template done. Here we had a little issue because we had to have a wall built for the far side of our wine fridge, so that it could be integrated into the cabinets. Once that was done, however, I called Charm at the Merlino office, and she sent Chris our way to do the design work. Using a laser, and computer, as well as a good old fashioned tape measure, Chris spent about an hour and a half plotting our counter tops, the island, and the fireplace surround in his cad program. This had to be exact (the reason for both the laser and computer and the tape measure back-up), as the cuts would be made in our quartz based on the design he was preparing. We were once again impressed.

This past Wednesday morning, at about 9:30 AM, Tim, Alex, and Dan showed up and first removed our old counters (goodbye green), and then started to do the prep work for the quartz installation. We had no idea that there was so much prep that had to be done, but they explained that having a good surface made the installation that much better. They used their crane to remove the old counters, and to bring the new quartz up to our porch, and in short order, our new kitchen started taking shape. When they put the first piece in place, we were thrilled, and as the work continued, our thrill level increased. The 3 guys worked very hard, with Tim taking charge of the counters and island while Dan and Alex worked on the fireplace. About 2 and3/4 hours later, the end result was nothing short of perfection, and Susie and I are thrilled at the transformation, and how our add-on cabinet and wine fridge now look like they were there since the place was built!

The entire process, from the first day we walked into the showroom took less than a month. From working with Matt and Charm at the showroom, to having Chris over to template the whole job, to the installation of our new counters, island, and fireplace surround by Tim, Alex, and Dan, Susie and I could not be happier! Everyone at Merlino was professional, and wonderful to work with! It was a real pleasure to have this job done by Merlino Marble and Granite…all home improvement stories should have such a happy ending!

BEFORE AND AFTER PICTURES

Next task is picking out and having someone install the backsplash….wish us luck!

A Member of the Family

Here’s another auto themed story for you…..

The first time Susie and I went to Las Vegas (well, first time since I was there as a 10 year old) was in 1999 to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary. Hertz was very nice on that trip and gave us a 1999 Ford Mustang as our rental vehicle. At the time, we owned a 1986 Mustang convertible, and after driving around Vegas for a week in a brand new Mustang, the bug was in my head to think about trading our 14 year old car for a new 2000 version of the vehicle!

Back in those days, there was still a Ford dealer in Mineola, so one day in October, we went to Mineola Ford to order a 2000 Mustang convertible. I probably should have suspected something was hinky with the salesman when he wouldn’t take the ’86 Mustang in trade, but was willing to personally buy it, but we went ahead and placed an order for a Laser Red Tinted Clearcoat Mustang convertible with a charcoal cloth interior and a black convertible top.

The car was being built to order, so once the factory accepted the order, there was a couple of months wait till it was built and then shipped to the local dealer. Sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I got the call that my new BLACK Mustang had been delivered! “Black,”,I said incredulously, “I ordered a Red Mustang!” I got out my order paperwork, and there it clearly showed that I had ordered a red Mustang with a black convertible top! Somehow, when the salesman (the same one I had my doubts about) put the order in, he put Black as the car color rather than Red. When I told them I didn’t want the car, they were incredulous. They said they’d try to find another one in the pipeline, see if they could trade with another dealer, and someway make me happy. Suffice it to say they didn’t do anything, other than still try and convince me to take the black car. In fact, the day I went back to the dealership to get my deposit money back, there was the car front and center in the showroom. “Don’t you want to look at your car before you leave?” the sales manager asked. “It’s not my car!” I answered as I walked out!

I was disappointed, but as we were right in the middle of the holidays, I put thoughts of a new Mustang on the back burner, until after the new year. On January 2nd, 2000 I turned 50, and 3 days later, on January 5th, 2000, Susie and I walked into Park Inn Ford in Valley Stream to place an order. We ended up at Park Inn Ford because they were affiliated with the AAA Car Buying Service, and as a member, we were guaranteed a “no haggle price”. I had spoken to a young lady at the dealership, gotten a really good price, and had come in on the evening of the 5th to write up our order. Ford was running a Free Leather Interior promotion at the time, but as our older Mustang convertible had vinyl seats, I was well aware that an open top convertible with vinyl or leather seating surfaces was like an oven on a sunny day, so I told her I wanted the standard cloth seats. “No problem,” she said, and just deducted the price of the leather from our final price quote. I stressed that the car had to be red, and we left happy. End of story, right?

Well, not exactly. The next day at work, I received a call from the son of the owner of the dealership. It turns out that the girl I was working with was very new, and when she deducted the cost of leather from the car she was quoting me, she missed that under the Free Leather Ford promotion the cost of the leather was never added to the final price, making it a $900 mistake! He asked me if I’d be willing to split the cost of the mistake with him. If I’d go up $450, he’d subtract $450 from the price of the car. He also said that he would act as my salesman for the rest of the purchase, to make sure there were no more issues (and probably to save the cost of a sale’s commission). We talked for a few minutes, and agreed to split the cost of her mistake, and a relationship was formed.

The Mustang started our relationship with the owner and Park Inn Ford, and was the first of four cars we bought from him and Park Inn Ford…sadly the dealership is no more.

Park Inn Ford

On Friday March 31st, 2000, we picked up our nice new RED Mustang convertible, so today marks her 21st year as being a part of the family! I used to say that since we ordered the car 3 days after my 50th birthday, she was my “Mid Life Crisis” car, but now that she’s still with us, I say she went from being my “Mid Life Crisis” car to my “Retirement” car. In fact, she moved to Ocean City even before we did, getting New Jersey license plates the summer of 2016, and living here since then! When this summer rolls around, it will be the 22nd summer she has been with us, and after all, isn’t summer the real time to drive a convertible!

Happy Birthday…she can legally drink more than gas as of today!

This is her winter storage spot, till it’s summer and real top down weather!

Two People I Owe

Walter and Kathy Hemerly were another married couple that worked with my Mom and Dad, as members of New York’s Metropolitan Opera Chorus. They were a fixture of my life, probably from the day that I was born, and there are several things in my life that I owe directly to them.

Number one is Ocean City. Walter was from Philadelphia, and his family owned a summer house on the 3200 block of Asbury Avenue in Ocean City. Back in the early 50s, the Met’s season was short, and the members of the chorus collected New York State Unemployment during the summer. In the summer of 1955 when I was five years old, they finally convinced my Mom and Dad to come down to Ocean City. We stayed in a guest house right next door to Walter’s family summer house, and for the next 5 years, Ocean City was where we spent our summers. Turn the clock ahead to the first year Susie and I were married, and we once again visited Ocean City, and it seemed remarkably the same as it had when I was a kid. Jump ahead to the Summer of 1983, and our first stay in Ocean City as a family with 7 month old William Ryan, and the die was cast. Since that first visit with Billy, for each of the 37 following summers, we have spent part of or all summer in Ocean City, since 2005 in our own house, and since 2017, we’ve called it home! Thanks Kathy and Walter!

The second thing I owe them is my first car!

It was a 1955 Chevrolet BelAir 2 door sedan, in green on green. It wasn’t the car pictured, but it was exactly like this one. It had a straight six cylinder engine, a three speed manual column shift transmission (referred to as 3 on the tree), non-power brakes, non-power steering, an AM radio, white wall tires, and full wheel covers, and that was it! It cost me $50 when I bought it in the spring of 1967, but I had to drive it home from their apartment in Westchester County. I had learned to drive on my folk’s new ’66 Ford Galaxie with a V/8 engine, automatic transmission and power steering, so this was going to be a big change for me. I had never driven a stick shift, but I had watched a couple of folks drive one, and was sure I was prepared. I guess I could have done more research, but I was 17 and knew all!

So the day we are going to pick it up, we take the train up to Westchester, meet Walter and Kathy in their apartment building’s parking lot, give them the $50, put my new license plates on the car, and off we go. Okay…it’s harder to drive a stick shift than it looks….a lot harder! I drive around their neighborhood a bit to get a feeling for the car. I stall the engine multiple times, shift into the wrong gear, and have lots of trouble pulling away from stop lights. A lot of my issues had to do with that third pedal…the clutch pedal. See, my big issue was that I now had to drive the car from Westchester County to where we lived in Queens County. Westchester is part of the mainland of the United States, Queens is part of Long Island, an island off the coast of the United States. Island equals bridge, and bridge equals toll booth. You see my problem?

I cautiously get on the highway, and I’m doing fine as long as I don’t have to stop, but here comes the Whitestone Bridge to Queens and it’s toll bridge. Luckily there wasn’t a lot of traffic and I’m able to pick a toll booth with no line. I down shift and slow down, but I’m afraid to stop for fear of stalling and not being able to start the car again, so I toss the 35 cents toll (it was a long time ago) at the toll taker, and “accelerate” away from the booth and onto the bridge! Somehow, I made it home to Jackson Heights, parked the car (not easy to ease a standard transmission into backwards movement either), and knew I had my work cut out for me really learning how to drive all over again.

Over the next couple of weeks, I drove the car as much as I could and honestly, I got pretty good at the manual transmission. I attempted to “dress up” the 12 year old Chevy, even embarking on compounding the tired paint, till I realized I was compounding through the paint to the steel of the body. I settled for applying a racing stipe on the car, and getting a couple of new tires. The AM radio worked fine, and this was before the day of FM’s dominance, so I could listen to WABC, and all the other appropriate stations for a person my age!

My friend Richard and I were spending the summer before college working at Alexanders Department Store in Rego Park, and it had become my routine to pick Richard up at 96th Street and 34th Avenue on the mornings we worked, and for the two of us to drive to and from Rego Park together. One sunny summer morning, as we were heading east along 34th Avenue, and cresting a slight hill, I was momentarily blinded by the bright sun directly in front of us, but slowly then realized that there was a car stopped in the middle of the road. I attempted to stop, but I didn’t, and hit the back end of the stopped car and pushed it for most of a block before we both stopped in front of a school yard in Corona. Turns out that in the summer of 1967, while driving a 1955 Chevy, I hit a 1951 Chevy. I will always remember the name of the driver of the car, Mr. Lemberg Nelson, and the first words he said to me as we both stepped out of the car, “Oh my neck!”

Luckily Walter had installed seat belts in the car during his ownership, so Richard and I were belted in. However, pre-shoulder belts and air bags, I hit the steering wheel with my face, right under my nose, and although I didn’t lose any teeth, I did get 8 stitches in my upper gum. Richard had a bagel in his teeth at the time of the accident, so he had a 1967 version of an air bag and got no injuries!

Unfortunately, that was the end of my 55 Chevy, as it was not worth repairing the car based on the damage and the age and value of the vehicle. I always marveled over the fact that in the summer of 1967, while driving a 1955 Chevy, I had an accident with a 1951 Chevy. A 12 year old car hitting a 16 year old car…what are the odds. Also, if you remember from earlier in my tale, I was a neophyte stick shift driver, having had less than a month’s experience driving a 3 pedal car. For the last 54 years I have never really been 100% sure, if on that fateful morning while trying to stop the car, I hit the brake pedal OR the clutch pedal, and I guess I never will.

So those are the two big things I owe to my Mom and Dad’s co-workers, Kathy and Walter Hemmerly. My first car, that lasted less than a month, and my love for Ocean City, NJ, that has lasted a lifetime! Thanks Kathy and Walter!!

Luck of the Irish

A number of years ago, the kids gave Susie and I Ancestry DNA test kits for Christmas. We dutifully followed instructions, spit into the tube, packed it all up, and sent it off. I didn’t really have any doubt what my test would find, as I knew very well that my Dad was 100% Italian and that my Mom was not only 100% Scottish, but had even been born in Scotland and had not come to America till she was 6 years old! I don’t know if they are faster today, but back in those days, there was a couple of months wait till you got the results back. When they did come back, boy was I surprised!

Yes, the Italian and the Scottish were there, but look at what else they found!! 1% European Jewish (obviously the reason for my love of Matzo), 7% Caucasus, 7% Middle East, and (drum roll please) 25% Irish!! Who knew that after all the years of having nothing more in common with Irish folk than an apostrophe in my last name, I was now 25% Irish!!

Then, just one year later, and shortly before St. Patrick’s Day, I got the following “up date” to my DNA story!

Suddenly they had re-calculated the results, and although some of my other results were similar, now they’d lumped Ireland, Scotland, and Wales in together and highlighted Scotland! Oh well, so much for me being Irish! Goodbye St. Patrick’s Day, time to get out the “Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but Italians” sweatshirt again!

Then this year’s DNA story showed up, and guess what…now I’m 27% Irish!

That’s it, I give up! Tired of the revolving door of ethnicity, think I’ll just go back to what I’ve always known…half Italian, half Scottish!

Either way, Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone…please don’t turn out like those drunken kids, who cut school to go to the parade in the city, that I used to spend my trip home from work with on the Long Island Rail Road! More celebrating, less throwing up on your shoes at the curb!

Indoor Dining and Covid

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, Susie and I were sitting in the living room of our Cousins Jeanne and Walt’s place in Barefoot Bay, Florida. The two of them had left that day for a month in Hawaii, and Susie and I were looking forward to spending the rest of the month in their house acting like we were Florida residents, before heading home to New Jersey and another knee replacement for me. Yes, we knew all about the pandemic, and the cases of Covid that had been reported in the country and even in our home state, but we were still weighing our options and deciding exactly how much it was going to affect our Florida stay.

That was until we got the news that MLB, the NHL, NCAA, and every other sports acronym you can think of were canceling their games. Then in quick succession, Broadway, Disney World and Universal Studios Orlando announced that they were closing, and our discussion turned to whether we wanted to be stuck in Florida, or if we wanted to be in our little beach town in New Jersey! In our minds, the very real possibility existed that states would be closing access, and that if we didn’t get home ASAP, we might not be able to travel north on I-95 to the Garden State. That was the moment we decided that it was time to bring our Florida 2020 Adventure to a close, and get back as fast as possible to Ocean City!

Early in the morning on Friday, March 13th, we closed up Jeanne and Walt’s house, turned off the water, put the garbage out, and hit the road! Within a half hour, we were on Interstate 95 heading north. We decided to not stop two nights on our way home, as we usually did, but to rather get home in just two days, driving more each day, and just spending one night in a hotel. That decision meant we would miss our usual stop for the best fried shrimp at B&J’s in Darien, Georgia, but we really wanted to be back in NJ. At about 4:30 that first afternoon, we were approaching Fayetteville, North Carolina and found a Doubletree Hotel on the Hilton app just off I-95, and made that our night’s destination. As luck would have it, there was a Cracker Barrel restaurant just across the parking lot!

The last time we ate inside a restaurant, was at that Cracker Barrel in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on Friday, March 13th, 2020! When we got home on the 14th, looking ahead, we’d wondered if we should go to our usual Tuesday night at Charlie’s Back Bar with our friend Sue, and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but the day before, on March 16th, New Jersey restaurants closed down, and we no longer had a decision to make. When outside dining opened in New Jersey in June, we did partake in meals at the “Lot at Angelo’s” and the Tent at Charlies, but once outside dining stopped, we just didn’t feel that safe eating indoors, and we went back to take-out only. For close to a year, we had not eaten inside a restaurant, that is not until last Thursday, March 11, 2021 when we joined our Mancuso Family friends at Angelo’s in Atlantic City! So what changed?

Well, on Friday, February 19th, I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro, New Jersey. According to the CDC, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th our “Coming Out Day!” What better way to celebrate than to dress in “going out to dinner clothes” and to return to a place and people we love, and a place we used to be at every Thursday night! We’d been looking forward to it for a long time (really since March 13th of last year), and I’m happy to say we were not disappointed!

We were sad that our friend Michael didn’t greet us from behind the bar as we walked in, as the pandemic has changed schedules for many, but none the less, it was great to be back inside! It was good to see that there were so many people waiting to eat when we walked in, and it was good to see our long time friends Rhonda, Theresa, and Victor were working, along with our new summer friend Suzanne and our take-out friend Wendy. Every week will be a new experience for us, and we can’t wait till we see Patti, Angelo, Ed, Trinidad, and Michael as time goes on, and more and more dining opens up! It was great to be back inside, feeling safe after a year, but we must be realistic and realize getting back to what was our normal will take a bit of time….if it ever happens. I guess the mind set has got to be, be happy for what we’ve got, and not sad for what used to be!

So now that we are fully vaccinated, what else that we’ve not done in the past 12 months is on our horizon? Well, a visit from our daughter Krissi and son-in-law Michael, who we have not seen since August, as well as a visit from our great friends Pat and Steve, who we last saw at Susie’s Mom’s funeral in February, 2020. Then, something we’ve waited so long for, Easter with our son Billy and daughter-in-law Lori in North Carolina, and getting to see our three Grandkids, who we haven’t seen in the flesh since January 30th, 2020! We’ve missed all these people (especially the three youngest members of the D’Elia Family), and can’t wait to see them, to be with them, and to exchange hugs for the first time in a year! Then down the road, there will be the fun of getting back together with our Ocean City friends, and seeing our life get closer to what it was, and maybe even a visit to Florida. My new knee and Susie’s new hip are still on our radar too!

Yes, we have indeed survived the last 12 months, but we are sad that so many other Americans didn’t! With the advancing rollout of the vaccines, we hope that no one else will lose their life due to Covid, that folks who have been financially affected by the pandemic can get back on their feet, and that America will never forget this past year, but will be able to move beyond it!

Our TV Viewing Habits, Part Two

In part one of Our TV Viewing Habits, I detailed what I’m calling our First TV of the day, and the shows that have sustained us through the past 12 months. Now let’s take a look at some of the other titles we have enjoyed along the way. All of them are limited episode series, many of them have been with us for years, but some of them were new to us when we first started watching them in the last 12 months. Here’s our list!

Lost in Space – Loosely based on the popular 1960s show of the same name, Lost in Space details the plight of the Robinson Family as they try to survive against all odds in the hostile environment of space. Of course, with the technology available today, the on screen dangers are much more real than they were back in the 60s, and although not huge SiFi fans, we did enjoy this series. We started watching it a couple of years ago, and there were 30 episodes of this series available on Netflix, that we sadly finished watching way back on March 23rd, 2020. According to sources, there will be a final season coming in 2021!

The Kominsky Method – Staring Michael Douglas, Alan Arkin, and hundreds of faces you will recognize, the series has so far produced 2 seasons with 8 episodes per season. The Netflix series, follows the exploits of Sandy Kominsky, a not so successful actor and aging Acting Coach, and his very successful best friend/agent Norman. We’d been watching the show for several years, and sadly we finished the second season on April 2 of last year. There will be a third and final season produced, but unfortunately without Alan Arkin, and the date of release is just given as “2021”.

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Based on the character created by Tom Clancy, and that has been played in the movies by people like Alex Baldwin and Harrison Ford, this version on Amazon Prime stars John Krasinski and Wendell Pierce, and debuted in 2018. There have been 16 episodes produced over its first two seasons, and sadly we finished season two back in early May of 2020. A third season has been promised, with no release date, but most likely we won’t see a new season till 2022.

Bosch – This Amazon Prime series is based on the Harry Bosch books, written by Michael Connelly, and debuted back in 2014. Always a huge fan of the Connelly books, I actually started to watch season one before I left the house in the morning, way back before I retired from WABC! After I watched the entire first season, Susie thought she might be interested in it, and we watched the entire first season together, and she was hooked. Starring Titus Welliver as Harry, the episodes follow the life of an LAPD Homeside Detective as he interacts with the politics of the LAPD as it affects his life’s creed, “Everybody counts, or nobody counts.” If you are into binge watching, this is the perfect series, as there have already been six seasons released, with 10 episodes per season. We finished watching season six mid-May of 2020, and season seven (the last season of Bosch) is likely to be released in the Spring of this year. Also, just got late news that although this is the last season of Bosch, IMDB TV has announced that it has picked up a new spin-off of Bosch, and it will follow Harry as he enters into a new chapter of his life, and will still star Titus Welliver! Can’t wait for season seven, and the spin-off!

Grace and Frankie – Let me start by saying that we have loved this Netflix series starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston since it debuted in 2015. To date, there are 78 episodes comprising six seasons, with a seventh season expected to start filming in June of this year. Sadly, season seven will be the last for this beloved series, and from what I’ve read, that seems to be more of a Netflix decision than the folks working on the show. Of course, all the actors are getting older, and honestly, perhaps its an audience that Netflix doesn’t really want, but based on all the streaming services out there, perhaps it will continue somewhere else! We finished Grace and Frankie one day after finishing Bosch last May!

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel – Like many others, we were smitten by this Amazon Prime series right from episode one back in 2017. Staring Rachel Brosnahan, Alex Borstein, Tony Shalhoub, and many others, the series follows the life of the newly divorced Midge Maisel, as she tries to make a career in the world of stand up comedy in the last 50s and early 60s. Created by Amy Sherman-Palladino (who also created the Gilmore Girls), there have so far been 26 episodes released over the course of three seasons. Although filming was delayed during the pandemic, hopefully season four will debut sometime in late 2021, which means we will have had a year and a half wait to see what happens next, as we finished season three mid-May of 2020!

Sweet Magnolias – We had started to watch this Netflix series, that follows the lives of 3 South Carolina women, best friends since high school, back during the summer, but for some reason stopped. We did, however, pick it up in the fall and watched the last of 11 episodes in December. A new show, season one ended with an incredible cliff hanger, so although it has been renewed for a second season, when exactly we will see that season is a mystery. The show, based on 11 books written by Sheryl Woods, is expected to start production on season two sometime this year.

Virgin River – This Netflix series, is based on a series of 21 books written by Robyn Carr, and deals with the changes in the life of a nurse practitioner, who moves from LA to a remote Northern California town after the death of her husband. To date, there have been two seasons of the show, with 10 episodes each. Reflecting on the age we all are in 2021, the cranky old Doctor in the series is played by Tim Matheson and his equally frankly and eccentric wife by Annette O’Toole. Season one was released in 2019, and season three, which has already been given a green light by Netflix, may be available late in 2021. We finished season two, just after the beginning of January 2021.

The Undoing – Called a modern twist on a classic “whodunnit”, staring Nicole Kidman, Hugh Grant and Donald Sutherland, this six episode miniseries on HBO really kept us guessing right up until the last moment of the last episode. We were captivated by the whole story, and had a hard time waiting till the next episode to see what was going to happen next! It was very interesting to see Hugh Grant play a much darker and sinister role than his usual fair, and how his relationship with the other characters changed during the series. Released by HBO on a weekly basis, we started in October and finished it at the end of November, 2020. Thanks to Susie’s sister Barbara for the recommendation!

Big Little Lies – Another HBO series staring Nicole Kidman in addition to Reese Witherspoon, Zoe Kravitz, Laura Dern, and in season two Meryl Streep, the 14 episodes over two seasons concern the relationship of a group of 5 mothers at a prestigious elementary school in an upper class California Beach Town. You see their lives unravel as infidelity, abuse, rape, and bankruptcy crack the surface perfection of their upper class lifestyles, and how friends turn on friends. Thanks again to Barbara for the suggestion to watch this show. As disturbing as it is, we enjoyed it and if they were to do a third season, we’d gladly watch it. We finished watching this show mid-February.

Firefly Lane – Susie and Krissi loved the book by the same name from author Kristin Hannah, so when we saw this Netflix show was being released on February 3rd of this year, it was a no brainer! Staring Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke as the main characters Tully and Kate, the book and the show deals with the lives of two very different best friends. The story line jumps back and forth between their teenage years, their college years, early work years, and their present day lives. I’m not a huge fan of Katherine Heigl, but think she’s doing a good job as the adult version of Tully Hart, the career obsessed media woman who is still dependent on her best friend Kate Mularkey to ground her in the real world. It’s a show all about relationships. There were 10 episodes in Season One, which we just finished at the end of February. It hasn’t officially been renewed for a second season, but the cliffhangers that ended season one, will make every fan want more! In fact, I downloaded the book to my Kindle, and I am now enjoying the original version of Kate and Tully’s adventure!

Good Girls – This NBC series, starting Christina Hendricks, Retta, and Mae Whitman deals with the lives of three suburban mothers, as their lives take turns they never in a million years could have predicted! The show debuted in 2018 and there are so far 34 episodes over three seasons available for viewing. Season four debuted on NBC on March 7th, so the girls will continue into new uncharted waters for at least one more season! We’ve been watching the older seasons on Netflix, but have the DVR set for the new episodes, which we will get to when we finish season three. From grocery store holdups, to smuggling, counterfeiting, and even murder, you really never know where the next episode will take the girls, as they go through their very complicated lives! We’ve just finished the last episode in season three, and recorded episode 1 in season four on the DVR! We’ve yet to decide if we watch it weekly, as any other current show, or store up a few episodes, so we cab watch them daily.

Other Things We Watched Along The Way:

Story of God with Morgan Freeman – We really liked season one of this, but found that season two didn’t captivate us quite as much. Part of the reason seems to be that Morgan Freeman did less of the interviews in season two, and we really liked his style with people. There is now a third season of the show, but we stopped at Episode 3 of Season two. Not sure we’ll go back.

Barry – The story of a Midwest hit man, who moves to LA and tries his hand at acting, while still fulfilling contracts for hits. It stars Bill Hader and a lot of recognizable folks, but we never made episode 4 of season one. There are 18 episodes over its two season run on HBO, and although a third season was approved, the pandemic has so far caused production to not resume. I’m gonna say that the plot just wasn’t our cup of tea.

The Imagineering Story on Disney+ – Let me start by saying we only have Disney+ because son Kenny is paying for it. Back when I worked for ABC, if I couldn’t get an ABC product for free, I had no desire to have it! As a Disney Retiree, for much the same reason, I won’t pay for it myself. This series is made up of six episodes, and its purpose is to pull back the curtain on the Walt Disney Company through interviews with historical Disney folks (we’re really called Cast Members) who were there when it happened. We’ve enjoyed the 3 episodes we’ve watched, and will get back for the rest.

Cheers – The story of the iconic Boston Bar, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name,” was on NBC for 11 seasons and 271 episodes, and although we knew about it, we’d never watched an episode during its original run. It’s a half hour show, and sometimes that’s all you are looking for. Staring Ted Danson, Rhea Perlman, Shelly Long, Kirstie Alley and so many more talented folks, we were in the middle of season 5 when we put it on hiatus. I have no doubt we will get back to it, as we haven’t seen Shelly Long leave and Kirstie Alley arrive yet!

Our TV Viewing Habits during the Pandemic – Part One

So, in the past year, I’d guess I’d have to say that we’ve watched a bit more TV then we would have, had we not spent the last year in a pandemic lockdown. Rather than “binge watch” tv series, we tend to watch one episode a day, extending our time with the show over weeks or even months. At some points during the past 12 months, we have watched more than one series at a time, and during other periods we were exclusive to one show, and any additional viewing was from our DVR. Unlike a normal TV season, last year’s season ended rather abruptly for many series, and this year’s started late with sporadic episodes for many series, so we watched more “other stuff” then we might normally have, had shows ended with their normal number of episodes, and started on schedule.

I don’t want to make it sound like we are stuck in front of our TV every hour of the day, because we don’t spend hours a day in front of the TV, but do have a rather established pattern to our viewing. The first TV we watch everyday is during our first meal of the day. During either breakfast or lunch (we eat just 2 meals a day), our habit is to watch one episode of a series we are immersing ourselves in. Our mission is to watch from the pilot episode to the last episode, getting a real look at the whole arc of the show.

Once that one episode is completed, we are done with TV till sometime after 5 PM, when we settle into our evening routine. The 5 PM hour is the usual time for us to watch “other” shows that we have added to our repertoire.

So, what have we been watching, you ask? Well, here’s a look! Let’s start with what I’m going to call our First Meal Series.

Las Vegas – The first thing that we started watching soon after coming home from Florida last March, was the show Las Vegas, starring James Cann and Josh Duhamel. Las Vegas was on NBC from 2003 to 2008 and was comprised of 106 episodes, many of which we watched when they were first broadcast. Son Kenny had found the show on an obscure cable channel back in March, and we were able to record all but the last two seasons on our DVR during a weekend Las Vegas Marathon. Wanting to complete the entire series, I found the DVDs of season 4 and 5 on Ebay and bought them. After we watched them, I was able to re-sell them on Ebay for more than I paid for them! Win/Win!

Vega$ – Desirous of keeping our first meal viewing in Sin City, the next show we went to was Vega$ staring Robert Urich as Vegas Private Eye Dan Tanna. Those of us of a certain age remember Dan driving around the sights of Vegas in his red 57 T-Bird during the 69 episodes of the show that ran on ABC from 1978 to 1981! Lots of familiar faces from that era of TV and movies, and even the occasional big guest star like Dean Martin, Shelley Winters, and Tony Curtis. The entire DVD package of all 69 episodes cost me $19 on Ebay..how could I pass it up? We’ve passed that on to my cousin.

S.W.A.T. – Big fans of the new version of SWAT that’s on CBS staring Shemar Moore, and looking to stay within Robert Urich’s body of work, we got the DVDs of his earlier 1975-76 series on Ebay. I always remembered this show, and it’s opening of the guys jumping into the the SWAT truck, but never realized it was only on for 37 episodes over the 2 years it was on ABC. For comparison, the new version has far surpassed that with 78 episodes over the past 4 seasons, and is overall a much better show. We were shocked to see so many of the same locations used over and over again, the same footage used in multiple episodes, and even the fact that they started multiple episodes with the exact same footage, but with a different story line. Really looked like they’d given up as we got to the last episodes. The DVDs of that are up for grabs!

Monk – USA Network’s legendary “Defective Detective” show staring Tony Shalhoub as former San Francisco PD Detective Adrian Monk ran for 125 episodes from 2002 to 2009. Over the years, we definitely watched it, but not with any regularity, so since we get it for nothing on Peacock thanks to our Comcast cable subscription, we figured, “Why not!” Currently we’re in the beginning of Season Two, and since we watch just one episode a day, we will have a lot more time with Mr. Monk, Sharona, Captain Stottlemeyer, and Lieutenant Disher. Enjoying it!

And that list takes us to the end of our First Meal TV viewing. Those four series have carried us through the last year, and into the future, In Part Two, I’ll give you a look into our other viewing habits, and some of the shows that we have enjoyed since last March. Of course, whenever possible, we have DVRed and enjoyed watching our usual shows. This includes all the NCIS shows, SWAT, Law and Order SVU, Magnum PI, Blue Bloods, The Neighborhood, Bob Hearts Abishola, The Good Doctor, Hallmark Movies, and several things from the Food Network.

See you next time.