When Technology Kicks You In The Ass

We live in a marvelous world. A world that those of us of a certain age remember from our childhood being called the “World of Tomorrow!” We walk around with a computer in our pocket called an iPhone, that’s got more power than the computers that carried astronauts to the moon. Our cars literally think, and can tell us when they need service, control our speed relative to the car ahead of us, warn us when we start to wander into another lane or even brake for us. We can watch hundreds of channels via cable TV, and with Amazon Prime , Netflix, and the like, watch any movie ever made! Alexa can turn on lights, remind us of appointments, and actually run our house. Let’s face it, most of us will never use all the power that our cell phone possesses, or truly understand everything our 2022 car can do, and not even scratch the surface of the entertainment options 2022 brings us, or truly trust our friend Alexa! As great as technology is, it has also made us so dependent on it that when it’s not there, we are at a loss. Ever forgotten your cell phone at home???

Well, as this week started, we were going through our own version of a vast wasteland down here at the beach in Ocean City. Let me tell you our tale. Last week’s weather brought a lot of wind and rain, and over the weekend, we noticed that the lights would flicker from time to time. We had this back in our old house on Long Island, and just figured it was the storm and the wind blowing our above-ground power lines around. However, all day Monday, when there was little wind and the sky was sunny and bright, we noticed that the lights were flickering. Susie first noticed it when she tried to tighten a bulb in our front bathroom, only to discover that it was burned out. She wondered if the flicker was caused by that bulb, but as the day went on, we noticed the flickering in the other bathroom, our bedroom dresser lamp, and a lamp in the living room. Okay, this was something different. I went to bed Monday night trying to figure if it was something under our control doing this (perhaps the wine refrigerator or something else), or if it was an issue outside of our control.

Tuesday morning, bright and early, I called Atlantic City Electric to report the issue. Forget about speaking to a human being, but I figured I was on track when one of the categories on the problem list was “lights flickering”. Within a couple of hours, a service man from AC Electric was here, but his news was not good! Our “Meter Socket Connector” was severely corroded, and this was our responsibility, not the electric company’s! (Of course!) A little research, and then a call to DiMarco Electric had Joe DiMarco over here Wednesday morning looking at our problem. He noted corrosion not only on the meter box, but also on the line from the street and the line from our box to the house. Within about 15 minutes he had a quote for us, which we accepted, and a little after 1:00 he rolled in with his bucket truck and crew. By the time they left around 4, we had new service lines from the street to the meter box, a new meter box, and lines from the box right into our breaker panel in our bedroom. Even better, we no longer had flickering lights! Issue one resolved!

On to our next challenge or, “What the Hell is our House Trying to Tell Us Now” challenge!! Monday morning, as we were sitting here starting our day, suddenly our internet drops out. This had been happening recently and we expected that like in the past, it would pop back on shortly. Only problem was it didn’t! Then we discovered it wasn’t the internet, but our cable tv and our DVR too! Okay, now this was an issue! A look at the Comcast app told us that the problem we had needed an on-site service call, and the first appointment we could get was on Thursday morning! Since Susie had a 9:20 appointment at Shore Memorial for a Covid test prior to her hip replacement surgery next week, we took the noon to 2:00 window. So here we were Monday, with no internet and no access to cable TV or things we’d recorded on our DVR. Luckily we still have a blue ray player in our system and a good stock of disks, so for the rest of Monday, we watched an old Abbott and Costello movie, one of the 3 Gidget movies (we’d watched the other two already), and a Pierce Brosnan movie, After the Sunset. As far as internet access, we turned to our iPhones, burning through cellular data as we kept up with the world! Day one down, 2+ more to go!

Tuesday morning I had an idea. As Comcast customers, we were entitled to use Xfinity hot spots around town. Could there be some near us? Turns out that there were, and although it was more of a pain to hook up our iPads than just using our own wifi, it worked! Then I had another idea…could I stream video on these hot spots. I did a speed test, and although they were nowhere as fast as our home wifi, it looked like it might work! We’d perfected the last couple of extended stays in Florida using my Apple MacBook Air to connect to our Xfinity account, and watch things through the computer that we had on our DVR. I also had an Apple MacBook Air to HDMI cable adapter that we’d used on these trips, along with a 20 foot HDMI cable. A quick turning around of our living room flat screen to find an open HDMI socket to plug in the cable and a connection to my laptop, and we were ready to go. I got the laptop connected to one of the hot spots, went to the Xfinity website and to the section that displays our DVR’s contents. Fingers crossed, I hit play on one of the shows we’d recored and viola…it worked!! Again, not as easy as just picking up the remote, but we were able to watch shows we wanted to see, not old movies!

Our appointment on Thursday was from 12 to 2 PM, and as typically happens, it was 1:00 before the gentleman showed up. I figured corrosion on the outside cables (like our electric problem), but it turned out to be the main connector in the wall that had gone south! The installer changed out the offending connector, and in the process, installed an upgraded modem we were entitled to. I am happy to report that we are now back in the 21st century with super speedy internet speeds, WIFI, and Cable TV! Ain’t life grand!

So there you have it. I have to tell you that earlier in the week, I really wondered what the technology Gods had against me, as the lights flickered and the cable went south. Of course, my first thought was were they connected, and if so, what had I done to screw up both. My second thought was that Susie’s surgery was just a few days away on March 1st, and we needed a whole house for her. In the end, turns out that sometimes things just happen, and with some patience (and money) you can fix almost anything! Of course, my fear almost came true when they were fixing our electricity, and during the process turned all our power off, and Susie happened to be reclined in the electric recliner! OOPS! Don’t worry, with my help she got out, but it wouldn’t have been so easy with a new hip!

Onward and upward!

The Shoe Will Be On The Other Foot

If you have followed along on our adventure, you probably already know what I am about to tell you, but for those who may have forgotten or not read those blogs, let me recap.

For a number of years, I had very bad knees. Arthritis, combined with weight, and maybe even some damage from when I jogged when Susie and I were first married (yes I did jog daily when we lived in Port Washington), combined with other factors to make my knees not happy. I went to an Orthopaedic Doctor on Long Island, but it was not till we officially moved to Ocean City in 2017 that I started getting serious about my knees. We found Dr. Zabinski at Shore Orthopaedic, just across the bridge in Somers Point. In November of 2018, we started the process with X-rays, and we set up an appointment for knee injections. That’s when Susie and I started on our low carb regime to lose weight for the surgery, and I started getting alternating Chicken Fat and Steroid shots in both knees (and if you’ve never experienced that, boy is it fun!) Then on July 11, 2019, I had my left knee replaced at Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point. The pandemic screwed up my schedule, and it was not until September 14 of last year, that I had my right knee replaced, also by Dr. Zabinski at Shore.

I impressed many (even myself) in the way I recovered from these two joint replacement surgeries, healing and getting back to normal in record time. Now, some 5 months after the second surgery, I am feeling incredibly better, having absolutely no trouble standing, walking, sleeping or doing any of the activities my knees were preventing me from enjoying. I am pain free, and I joke, bionic and doing great. Of course, one of the major factors in these joint replacements, was my partner in this life, and the woman who has been taking care of me for over 42 years, my wife Susan Lynn Johnson D’Elia, Retired Registered Nurse, Mom, and all around great lady! For the first 5 days post-op, ice on for 20 minutes, off for 40, elevating the knee for 22 hours a day, sleeping on the couch while I slept in the recliner, or feeding me everything I wanted in the days post surgery, she was there at every turn! Well, now the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s my turn to play nurse!

In less than two weeks, on Tuesday, March 1st, Susie is scheduled to have her hip replaced by Dr. Zabinski. This has been an ongoing thing she has suffered through for a number of years, and had several cortisone injections to the hip (the needle wasn’t pretty…i was there…it was about 8 inches long!) But she decided that I should get my second knee replaced before her hip. That way she figured that I would totally be able to take care of her when she was recuperating. From what the Doctor, our Physical Therapist Grady, and every other source you can look at on the internet says, the hip is easier to rehab from than the knee. Dr. Zabinski is also going through the front, rather than the rear, and that too makes it easier as the muscle isn’t cut. Like mine, she will be in the hospital in the morning and home that afternoon/evening. We don’t know yet if I will have to stay away like she did when I had my second knee done, or if I will be allowed back in to be with her pre and post surgery. Time will tell!

She’s passed all the pre-surgery tests so far with flying colors, with her last one being a Covid test that will happen next week, five days before surgery. As we are fully inoculated and boosted, and we’ve been very careful for some time, we don’t expect any issues with that either. As he did with my knees, Dr. Zabinski has her on a regime of vitamins pre and post surgery, and the only variable is ME, post surgery! I will do my best to help her through the first difficult week, but I am no excuse for her ability and her temperament. I will also be a pain in the ass, I am sure, because in some ways Susie is a lousy patient, never wanting anyone else to do things for her! That won’t change in the next couple of weeks, but I will do my best to do what she needs, when she needs it, without her resistance! The ice on and off will be a part of that first week, as will sleeping on the recliner and couch, but we will switch places. I know I won’t be as good at anything as she was, but I will do my best! She already has a list of meals that she wants post surgery, so that at least I know I can pull off with a certain level of competence that will be acceptable!

So there you have it! The bionic transition of Sue and Frank D’Elia continues! Jaime Sommers and Steve Austin got nothing on us! See you on our post surgery walks Ocean City!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As you must know, unless you have been living under a rock most of your life, February 14th is Valentine’s Day!  While you’ve probably heard a story or two of St. Valentine, several sources I checked say that the history of the day and that of it’s patron Saint is shrouded in mystery.  The Catholic Church recognizes three Saints named Valentine, all that seem to have some connection to the holiday.  Other sources suggest that Valentine’s Day had it’s root in pagan history, and that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, which was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman God of agriculture,

Whatever the source of the holiday, it means big business to many!  According to Wikipedia:

“In the United States, about 190 million Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, not including the hundreds of millions of cards school children exchange. Valentine’s Day is a major source of economic activity, with total expenditures topping $18.2 billion in 2017, or over $136 per person.”

Susie and I have spent 44 Valentine’s Days together since our first one in 1978, and over all those years, we have learned some things.  Here’s my advice to folks looking to celebrate the day….

CARDS – As a couple that has no trouble telling the other one that we love them, starting and ending every day with those sentiments, it can be hard to buy cards.  Every year, when I head to the card store, I have to weed through card after card that has sentiments like, “Although I may not say it, you know I love you,” or “Our love is so strong that I don’t have to say the words to you, but you know how I feel,” or some other words that attempt to normalize not telling your wife you love her.  My problem with Valentine’s Day is that it is loaded with folks that don’t use the words “I Love You” on any of the other 364 days of the year.  Makes it hard to find the right card!

FLOWERS – Flowers are always nice, but at what cost?  Back in the olden days, I might send Susie a bouquet at the school she worked at, or I might stop at the florist on the way home, and bring her flowers.  For a number of years, I used to send her flowers via ProFlowers and they were always lovely and reasonably priced, but all that changed.  In 2014, FTD bought ProFlowers, probably in answer to the job the e-commerce flower delivery service was doing to their business.  Well, the prices went from reasonable to outlandish very quickly.  For this Valentine’s Day, a dozen red roses (and not long stem) will set you back close to $80 with delivery fees.  Prior to 2014, I used to be able to send Susie 2-3 dozen long stem roses for that price!  The best value today…stop at the grocery store on the way home!

DINNER OUT – For many couples, a nice evening out at their favorite spot or perhaps a fancy new spot will be in their plans.  Been there, done that, and sorry, but it always seems to be a sh*t show!  Even places you love are screwed up that night because of all the non regulars that show up.  Let me share a story from our past life.  One Valentine’s Day a long time ago, we had a reservation for dinner at our favorite Mineola Restaurant, Piccolo’s, where we were almost like family.  As most places do on that day, Piccolo’s had sittings running about an hour and a half each, and every slot was filled.  We arrived for the second sitting to find a frantic owner’s wife, Debbie.  She was very apologetic because a couple had arrived before the first sitting and now, into the second, was still there, showing no sign of leaving and throwing their night all off kilter!  She bought us drinks at the bar, and because we were such regulars there ,understood her dilemma, but it happens a lot.  We’ve been out a number of times over our past 44 years of Valentine’s Days, and I really don’t think we have ever enjoyed the evening or the meal due to BS going on in the restaurant!  A nice comfortable meal at home is much preferred in the D’Elia Household!

So there you have it…my take on this holiday.  It may truly be a response to one of the martyred St. Valentines in the ancient church, or it may have been an easy solution to the church Christianizing a Pagan Holiday, but whatever the source, it is one of Hallmark’s favorite days on the calendar.  We don’t like going out because like the other Saint Day (St. Patrick’s Day), it’s really a time for amateurs!  Our day will revolve around a nice dinner at home and whatever else we come up with (sorry Susie..no hints here).  My best memories of Valentine’s Day came from the quiet times it was just the two of us (or the 5 of us) spending the day with those we loved the most in the world!  Whatever you do, Susie and I hope you have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Say Hello to my Little Friend

The origin of today’s story starts way back in the mid 2000s, on one of Kenny’s first professional acting jobs. The second National Tour that Kenny was on after college was the National Tour of Annie. For over two years, Kenny traveled around the country performing Annie in cities big and small, for week long engagements and for one night stands. They traveled from one end of the country to the other, and even to Canada. They performed in the 49th state (Alaska) and even got stuck there, unable to fly out, due to a volcano eruption. Kenny played lots of different rolls in the show, from a New York City Policeman to a member of FDR’s Cabinet. They traveled by bus and by plane and even in the dog “Vannie” with the animals from the show. It was a wonderful experience, and he made lifelong friends. Susie and I, along with other members of the family, were lucky enough to see him perform in places as diverse as Rhode Island and Philadelphia. He was happy doing what he’d always wanted to do, and we were happy for him.

My story starts when the second National Tour was over, and the cast and crew were heading to their various homes. A tradition of the theater, observed by actors unknown and those famous, is to leave a gig with a souvenir. Well, the one that Kenny selected was a dummy that was in one of the scenes in Annie that involved a ventriloquist. People may think this little guy looks like Howdy Doodie, but as I said to somebody on Facebook, “I knew Howdy Doodie, and believe me Sir, this guy is NO Howdy Doodie!”

He was trouble right from the start!

We were reminded of this last week when a group of Facebook memories came up for Susie and I from 5 years ago. At that time, we were in the process of preparing to make our move to Ocean City, and that meant that all the kids had to take a look at their “stuff” that was still residing at Mom and Dad’s house, and decide what they wanted to do with it! Kenny was in the process of deciding what he wanted to take to LA with him, when his little friend popped up. Yes, he was a memory, but was he the kind of memory Kenny wanted to transport across the country? Before the decision was made, we had a couple of days of fun with him, posing him in various situations, and then posting picture of him on Facebook. Here, take a look!

Comments from our Facebook friends ranged from “You guys are cracking me up!” to “I LOVE these!!” You do not know how much we have laughed over these pictures!!
“Keep ’em coming!!” all the way to “He should have his own Facebook page!” right down to, “You guys are creeping me out! STOP!!” As Susie, very aptly said at the time, “Okay. I agree. He is definitely creepy! But didn’t it give you a laugh? And there were no politics involved!!!” We had a lot of fun over the couple of days we were “visited” by him, and now thanks to Facebook memories, he’s back!

So, what you may ask, has he been up to for the last five years? Well, he has been traveling the country, bringing mirth and a bit of creepiness to all he sees! Turns out that Kenny did take him to LA, but not to reside there. Kenny and Chris, along with his sister Krissi and Mike, have been “depositing” him here and there for the past 5 years. Wrapping him as a Christmas present and sending it to his sister, his sister burying it in a bag that was going back home with Kenny, and he has just been showing up here there and everywhere when you least expect him! The latest place he traveled to was Roanoke Lake, North Carolina and the Lake House of their older brother Bill!

Last June, when the entire family was at the lake for Father’s Day weekend, he traveled there, but kept himself hidden while we all were having fun! He must have enjoyed himself though, because when we all left to head home, he decided to stick around. Unfortunately, he was discovered by our oldest Grandchildren Layla and Henry in the upstairs loft bedroom, but both of them landed on the creepy side in terms of their perception of him. Nice job Uncle Kenny or Aunt Krissi…your friend scared your niece and nephew!!

One night during our stay last October at their house in Wake Forest…Susie was helping Layla take a bath, but she needed something in her Mom and Dad’s closet. “Can you help me Grandma…that creepy doll is on the shelf and scares me.” On our last the night there, we were leaving Billy and Lori’s house when Bill ran outside and then came back in. We had no idea why, but as we got to our car we found our little friend hanging on the driver’s door handle!

Who knows where he will take up residence next!

Taking Stock Part Five

Today in the conclusion of our multi-part blog Taking Stock, we leave you with a look at some of the nuts and bolts part of our Retirement Life over the past six years.

MOVING – In August of 1986, we moved to 40 Fairfield Avenue in Mineola, NY. Our house was, at that time, 60+ years old and I was 36 and Susie was 34. Billy was a 3 year old, and Krissi and Kenny were still in Susie’s belly, as she was fully 4 1/2 months pregnant. That old house was the home we brought our new twins home to, that we watched all three of our kids grow up in, where we celebrated Christmases and Birthdays and Anniversaries and all the other celebratory days in a family’s life. It was the place our three kids went off to college from, and the place they returned to when they were done. It was the place they always could call home, and it was that for over 31 years!

When I retired in 2016, our intention was to make Ocean City our one and only home, but dealing with 31 years of memories, emotions, and “stuff” took time. Frankly, we did drag our feet, not wanting to take the time and effort to make the transition, but eventually the cost of two houses forced us to make the move. In early November of 2017, we sold our home in Mineola to a woman and her family that Susie had worked with at school. We sold it without using a real estate agent, with the closing being handled by a lawyer we knew from the St. James Restaurant. In November of 2017, the license plates on the cars went from NY to NJ, Susie and I got New Jersey driver’s licenses, and we changed our voter registration from Mineola to Ocean City. We were now residents of Jersey!

VISITING FAMILY – When our older son Bill married Lori, the two of them lived in a condo in Astoria, NY. When the prospect of little ones entering their life came about, they looked for a bigger apartment, but prices were insane. By the time our Granddaughter Layla was born, the younger D’Elias had bought a house in Deer Park, Long Island. They still lived there when a little over a year later, our Grandson Henry joined the family. So in the beginning, a trip to see Bill and his family was either a trip from Mineola to Astoria, or out on the Long Island Expressway to Deer Park.

But like so many folks, the prices and the hassle of Long Island got to be too much for them. With his job at Fox News and his Long Island Rail Road commute, he was gone from early morning to almost the kid’s bedtime on a daily basis! They needed a change, and they got a huge one, when after I retired they sold their house and moved down to Raleigh, North Carolina. Down there, Bill works for Xerox, Lori has a successful Family Counseling practice, they recently bought a brand new house and moved to Wake Forest, and they are surrounded by family. Life is different down there, and we are very happy for them! The one downside is that it’s a 7-8 hour drive in the car when we go. Their family grew when Annabelle joined the group, and that only made the desire to spend time with them even stronger. So it’s not 40 minutes in the car, but we love being with them, and do the trip as often as we can!

COVID-19 – Anybody who has not felt the effect of the pandemic on the last 2 years of their life, has obviously been living in a huge bubble! From that day in March of 2020, when we ran home from Florida because we really had no idea what the pandemic was going to bring, right up to the minute I wrote these words, Covid-19 has been a huge influence on our life! From that first day when the world shut down, we wondered if life would ever go back to normal. For months we couldn’t go out to eat, we were fearful even shopping, we sat around a lot and looked for ways to occupy ourselves. We obviously didn’t travel, and it was over a year before we got to see our grandkids again. Contact with friends and family was very limited and strange! Then there was the scramble for Susie and I to get vaccinated, in the hope we’d get some of our life back. Warmer weather came, and we learned new ways of doing things. We ate outside, wore masks, washed our hands constantly, and took great hope in whatever little bit of normality we had. We learned words like Delta and Omicron, discussed the best masks, and where to get a Covid Test! We saw friends get sick, and hoped that they would get well. We went back and forth between feeling confident and feeling scared. We watched people downplay the seriousness of the pandemic, and we watched some of these same folks succumb to it, and join the almost 900,000 fellow Americans who are no longer with us. Oh Yeah….Covid-19 DEFINITELY affected us, and in many ways robbed 2 years of our lives!

BEING BIONIC – Remember the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman TV shows from the 70s? Both shows centered around characters that had been severely injured, and through the use of ‘bionic” replacement parts, now had super human strength and abilities! The show was labeled as a Science Fiction/Action Adventure, and indeed the kind of replacement parts they talked about, were just that. But, turn the calendar ahead 50 years, and the ideas of body part replacements are common and ordinary. I know, because I have got two titanium and plastic knee implants, and while I cannot jump 2 stories, as could the Six Million Dollar Man’s Steve Austin, I can now stand and walk as good as I did 20 years ago.

My left knee was replaced on 7/11/19 and my right on 9/14/21, and counting prep and recovery, each procedure took about 3 months out of our lives. Susie, of course, was the best nurse one could ever ask for, and thanks to her and my efforts, and that of our Doctors and PT folks, both knees were textbook cases of Orthopedic Surgery! Everything worked so well, that Susie is going to join me as a bionic person. On March 1st, 2022 she will be the recipient of a new hip! Everything old is new again!!! Thanks Science!

If you’re interested, here’s a look at the procedure: https://rnewadventures.com/2019/07/15/bees-knees-2/

NEW CARS – When I retired in 2016. we were driving a 2013 Hyundai Sonata that we had bought on St. Patrick’s Day in 2013. She had been a good car, taking us on several trips to Florida and on our Big Adventure trip! However, when she was 5+ years old, and her mileage was approaching 90,000 we started spending money on various items, and decided that the wiser approach was not to keep it long term, as we usually did. We also decided that since it was going to be the only real car we had (the toy car would be the red 2000 Mustang convertible that’s still downstairs in the garage), we should look at a small SUV. Having done research, we liked the Honda CR-V, but we were still not sure if we were going to buy or try leasing for the first time. The idea of having a brand new car every 3 years was attractive to us as we’re getting older, but was very different from our usual approach of keeping a vehicle many years. In the end, we decided to try leasing, and in June of 2018 took possession of a 2018 Honda CR-V. After several Florida trips, countless trips to see our family in North Carolina, driving around our local area, and being able to load lots of stuff in the back, we were very happy with our decision! We probably would have had more mileage on her had Covid not shown up, but still we had better than 43,000 trouble-free miles. We were looking forward to leasing a new CR-V, but thanks to the chip shortage and other issues, there were none to be had. In August of 2021, we extended our lease for 6 months, but as the months passed, the situation looked no better, and we started to feel our best move was to buy the CR-V and wait out the shortage. And that’s the situation we were in till I got a text message on November 23rd from our Honda salesman. His message was short but sweet…a Red 2022 CR-V EX-L had just come off the truck…were we interested? We texted back and forth on price until my cell phone rang and it was Brian. “How bout you give us your 2018 CR-V and you take this new one at the same monthly lease payment you were making on the 2018?” I called that an offer we couldn’t refuse, and on the afternoon of November 23rd, we traded our 3 year old Sandstone Metallic CR-V for a brand new 2022 in Radiant Red Metallic! Color us happy!

THE BEACH – The first time I came to Ocean City was in 1955 when I was 5 years old. The first time Susie came to Ocean City was in 1980, just after we got married. The first time we came as a family was the Summer of 1983, when we spent a week here with our new baby, Billy. That was followed by yearly trips to Ocean City, first as a family of 3 and then as a family of 5 when Krissi and Kenny joined the clan. 17 years ago, on January 28, 2005, when Susie and I bought our house, it was the culmination of a lifetime dream of owning a house in Ocean City. Since that start 17 years ago, we spent weeks each year at 854 Pennlyn, and more and more came to know it was going to be our forever home. In November of 2017 when we sold our Mineola house, we took the last step…we now live at the beach! Retirement has meant that we can spend every day, all summer on the beach, or just sit on our front porch and watch the world go by. We can head out early and get a good spot down by the water, or we can go later in the day, and enjoy cocktail hour at the beach. In short, what used to be our vacation is now our life, and for the past six years, we have taken advantage of living at the beach! Yes, dreams do come true!T

So there you have it! A look back at 6 years of retirement, through the eyes of Sue and Frank D’Elia. It has included:

Six trips to Florida

Six Weeks of Cruising

Two Weddings

One train trip across the US

One Driving Trip across the US

A Move from New York to New Jersey

Multiple trips down to our Family in North Carolina

3 Cars


2 New Knees!

The best parts of being retired?? Well #1 is the two of us being together 24/7/365 X 6. We love being and doing things together, so what could be better than spending all day, every day, with my best friend, and the love of my life. After that, #2 is easy…doing what we want when we want. Need I say more?

Taking Stock Part Four

Part Four of our Taking Stock Blog gives you a peek at the weddings of our twins Krissi and Kenny, and a look at traveling across our country on a train. Welcome aboard!

WEDDINGS – When I retired in January of 2016, only our oldest son Bill was married. Now, six years later, we find ourselves with 3 married children. On October 13th, 2018, in Lake Tahoe, California, Kenny and Chris became one! It was a wonderful outdoor “do-it-yourself” wedding at the Tahoe Vistana Resort. A “destination” wedding in a beautiful spot, overlooking the waters of Lake Tahoe, surrounded by lots of friends and family…what could be better? We were also happy to be in Chris’ hometown of Reno for most of the week before, sharing wedding duties with Chris’ family, and getting to really know so many wonderful members of our Fox Family!! With everybody pitching in, there were multiple trips to Costco (we were those folks you always wonder about at Costco buying everything in sight), several party stores, and everything else you can think of (do it yourself). The week leading up to the grand event was a series of parties and get-togethers in Reno, and the time just got more special as more family and friends arrived in town. The actual three day wedding event on Lake Tahoe was perfect, and exactly what the boys wanted their wedding to be! It was the best!

On June 15th, 2019, Kenny’s twin sister Krissi and her fiancé Mike, joined the group and became Mr. and Mrs. Mickowicz! Our twins were born 2 minutes apart, married 8 months apart, and now our circle of married children was complete! Krissi and Mike lived in Astoria, New York (at one point, all 3 of our kids lived in Astoria) and decided that they wanted their wedding to be a local event. Towards that end, Mike’s Family traveled up from Maryland, and Susie and I (with brother Kenny in tow, on leave from a cruise contract) traveled to an interesting old school hotel called The Paper Factory in Long Island City (it was indeed a paper factory in a former life). On Friday night, we had a wonderful family dinner gathering at a close Mexican restaurant with Mike’s immediate family. Mom and Dad Paula and Jerry, sister Sara and her husband Gabe and their kids Maddy and Ethan, and Krissi’s family, including, besides us, older brother Bill, wife Lori and their kids Layla, Henry, and baby Annabelle, and twin brother Kenny! The only one missing was new brother-in-law Chris who could not join his husband Kenny because of their cruise contract. The next day, on the roof of their Astoria apartment building, surrounded by immediate family, and with the Manhattan skyline as the back drop, they exchanged vows and became a married couple. Then it was time to party, and it was off to a local Wine Bar that had been one of their first date spots, where they were joined by additional family and friends! It was an incredible celebration of their marriage, and exactly what Krissi and Mike wanted!

TRAIN TRAVEL – Back in the 1950s, the Metropolitan Opera’s yearly Spring Tour around the country went by train. When I was a little kid, there were a couple of years that I went with my folks on the tour. There were short trips (like New York to Boston) and longer trips (like Boston to Cleveland), so they traveled in both coach and sleeper accommodations. In addition, my Mom’s Mom and Dad lived in Chicago, and while today we’d just hop on a plane or in the car to get there, back in the day, we used the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited to make the trip. It had ben a long time, but I had done train travel, Susie had not. Because of the way the allure of rail travel has been portrayed in movies, like Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, or the movie Silver Streak, or even the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, Susie has always wanted to take an overnight train. She’s been jealous of the memories I have, and wanted her own, and to check off another Bucket List item, we made it happen.

We decided that in association with Kenny and Chris’ wedding in Lake Tahoe, we would go one direction by train. We did research and watched a ton of YouTube videos on AMTRAK train travel to prepare ourselves, bought two first class sleeper accommodation tickets, and on Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018, we started our journey! We left Ocean City early that morning with our first destination being Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. There we boarded AMTRAK Train number 141, the Northeast Regional to Washington, DC’s Union Station. As we had first class tickets, we journeyed on this first leg in a Business Class luxury seating car. After spending some time in the Acela Club in Washington, we boarded Train #29, the Capital Limited overnight to Chicago. This was the first leg that we would be in a sleeper, and we got ourself set up in Bedroom E in Car #2900. The room contains a big couch, a comfortable chair, a huge picture window, and our own bathroom (think an RV kind of bathroom). Each car has an attendant, that at night will convert our sleeper from a day room to our bedroom. In addition, on this leg, our attendant will also take our dinner order as the Capital Limited had just had its Dining Car removed. After dinner, our room was turned into a sleeper, the big couch became the lower bunk and an upper bunk was lowered from the wall, complete with a ladder! My dear wife was gracious enough to take the upper bunk, and we fell asleep to the click clack lullaby from the rails!

At about noon the next day, we arrived in Chicago at AMTRAK’s Union Station, where we had to switch trains. Just after 3:00 PM, with us in Room C of Car 330, the Southwest Chief pulled out of Union Station. The Southwest Chief is the Amtrak successor to the famous Santa Fe Super Chief. It was dubbed the “Train of the Stars” because of the celebrities it carried between Chicago and Los Angeles in the days before air travel. The route took the train through some of the most beautiful scenery the United States has to offer, and it was right outside our bedroom window. The Southwest Chief had a real Dining Car, and three meals a day were served on china plates with white tablecloths and impecable service by true professionals, and were included in our ticket price.

Early on the morning of the third day, the train moved through the Los Angelos suburbs, and a little after 8 AM, the Southwest Chief pulled into LA’s Union Station. We’d left Ocean City on the morning of Wednesday, October 3rd, and now on Saturday morning we’d arrived in Los Angelos. It was an experience, and another check on the Bucket List of life! If you’d like more details about our trip, here’s a link to the starting blog post:

Well, tomorrow we wrap up our multi-part blog Taking Stock. Friday’s edition is loaded with looks at some very important things that have happened in our life over the last six years! Be sure to stay tuned!

Taking Stock Part Three

Welcome to Part Three of our look back at the first six years of our retirement. Today you’ll get a great seat in the back of our car as we travel close to 10,000 miles across the United States, and enjoy the good life as we cruise on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with Our Boys! Enjoy!!!

OUR BIG ADVENTURE – Susie and I had been talking about this trip for literally years! It was going to be the culmination of years of assembling a bucket list of places we wanted to see in the Western United States, including some incredible National Parks! In many ways, it also was the “raison d’être” for starting this, Our New Adventure blog. We were going to document our trip in words and pictures, for anyone who wanted to ride along, but also as a way for us to remember where we went, what we saw, and who we met. In that regard, we did very well, generally posting words and pictures each day, when the experiences were still fresh in our minds. From the time we traveled over the George Washington Bridge Westbound to I-80 West on Sunday, August 21, 2016, till we returned to the GWB via I-80 East on Saturday, October 22nd, a total of 63 days passed (nine full weeks) and we’d driven a total of 9,773 miles in our 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited. During our trek across our great country, we drove through parts of 25 States, spent time in all 4 of our country’s time zones, visited 10 National Parks or National Monuments. We stayed in a cabin on the rim of the Grand Canyon where we enjoyed sunrise and sunset over the canyon. We stayed at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge in Yellowstone park, we marveled over the Badlands, became sad learning the history at the Battle of Little Big Horn Monument, and we found the carvings of the Presidents at Mount Rushmore as big a thrill to see in person as I’d always thought it would be. We rode the cog railway to the top of Pike’s Peak, saw a Rockies game at Coors Field, drove on parts of old Route 66, enjoyed the Spam Museum, set our clock by the eruption of Old Faithful, and wondered what was true about UFOs in Roswell, New Mexico. We had the Sonata’s oil changed at Terrible’s Lube in Las Vegas (our mechanic Mike on Long Island loved that name), visited many museums, big and small, including the Idaho Potato Museum, The Oregon Trail Museum, and a wonderful little local museum in a little town called Craig, Colorado! We stayed on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas, had a wonderful day on the USS Lexington aircraft carrier in Corpus Christi, and even went on a two week cruise out of Galveston where we added the countries of Mexico, Honduras, and Jamaica to our list of destinations. Also, in 62 days of travel, we only had one day on which it rained all day…I’d have to say our travels we’re blessed!

Since I first read it in high school, I have always loved the John Steinbeck book Travels with Charlie, in which Mr. Steinbeck details his trip across America with his dog Charlie. Like Mr. Steinbeck’s trip, we will have memories forever of some of the things we saw, but sometimes it’s the little things you remember. Here’s a quote from our blog from Day 61 of our trip: “While sitting on the porch at Cracker Barrel in Virginia waiting for our table, we started talking to this gentleman. One thing led to another, and we discovered that we were both born in Physicians’ Hospital in Jackson Heights, NY a lifetime ago. Anyone who doesn’t believe we live in a small world, has never been out in it!” Exactly….a very small world!

I think I’m going to leave this part of the story, with this additional quote from our blog, this one on our last night on the road.

“Are we sad as I write this last Our Big Adventure post tonight at a hotel in Pennsylvania? You bet we are. We have so loved every day, have gotten such a kick out of driving the Sonata, with our New York license plates, in places like Las Vegas, or Yellowstone, or on Route 66, or last weekend in Galveston with Kenny and Chris in the back seat! Have so loved telling people what we have come to call, “Our Trip Story,” when they inquire what we are doing in Moab, Utah, or Corpus Christi, Texas, and now that’s all behind us.”

It was an incredible trip!

CRUISING – In the course of the past six years, Susie and I have spent six weeks on cruise ships. Both Susie and I had cruised before we were a couple, and as a couple we have a history with cruising, having been several times, including a week long cruise to Bermuda on our Honeymoon back in 1979! Now, we had added incentive! Youngest child Kenny, the actor, was working as one of the lead entertainers on Royal Caribbean Cruise ships! Kenny and his now husband Chris have done 4 contracts together on Royal. First as friends, then as boyfriends, then as fiances, and finally as a married couple, and Susie and I were fortunate enough to be with them at each level! We’ve been to Bermuda with them, to Roatan Honduras, Cozumell, Mexico, Falmouth, Jamaica, Costa Maya, Mexico, and Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. They’ve shown us their favorite spots in each port, and given us the insider’s tips. We’ve enjoyed wonderful burritos in a little hole-in-the-wall place in Cozumel that we wouldn’t have dared enter without them, and on our next visit, spent the day at a 5 star all inclusive resort! Returned several times to see wonderful people serving incredible food and drinks at a small bar/restaurant that literally hangs over the harbor in Roatan. In Costa Maya, the boys hustled us into a cab at the port, and after driving for 10 minutes, delivered us to the National Beach Club, which was like the set of every beach front movie set in the Caribbean you have ever seen. A white sandy beach with chairs and umbrellas set in groups, palm trees, crystal blue water, hammocks attached to poles in the water, tiki hut bungalows behind the beach, and an outside tiki bar! The place was run by somebody the boys had met…a young American named Evan. Evan took our first drink order, and for the rest of the day, we were waited on hand and foot, enjoying some incredible food and drink, and treated like visiting royalty by Evan, his wife and their staff! In Grand Cayman, we avoided the tourist places, and the boys took us for a wonderful lunch, overlooking the harbor with its incredible blue water filled with cruise ships. In short, we never took an excursion at any port. We had our own personal tour guides, saw the best things in each port, and were fortunate to get to spend time with some friends the boys had made along the way!!

Over these 6 weeks of cruising we’ve met and partied with Kenny and Chris’ ship family from around the world. We’ve seen the boys perform in Saturday Night Fever, seen Chris do aerial work in a Cirque Du Soleil type show, stood and watched ship’s parades with Kenny, first with Chris as Pinocchio and then on later cruises with him as the Admiral of the Fleet commanding the parade action. We’ve met wonderful ship’s staff from all around the world and gotten close to several. We’ve taken martini classes and pasta classes, eaten beautifully prepared and served meals, and have wandered the ship’s buffet. We’ve won (and lost) money in the ships casino, seen Kenny sing on the Royal Promenade for the 70’s Night, enjoyed jazz sets, played bingo, sat and watched the brave folks on the flow rider, and just had a great time. We’ve cruised alone and with my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt, and somehow we have befriended bar staffs from around the world! It’s been a great experience, all the more so because we were able to share it with Our Boys!

Everybody loves a Wedding, and tomorrow in Part Four, you are invited to two of them and then get to see what it’s like to take a sleeper train across America! See you then!!

Taking Stock – Part Two

Welcome back to our Taking Stock Blog – Looking back at six years of retirement. Today we return to Florida and complete the saga of two refugees from the winter, finding fun and warmth in the Sunshine state!! Enjoy!

2018 – On February 9th, 2018, we left from our new hometown, Ocean City, New Jersey (more on that later in this blog) and once again headed south! Two days later, we crossed from Georgia into Florida and headed west. Our purpose this trip was to explore much of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts of the state, and even head down to Key West! The highlight of this trip for us, was that we discovered what we now consider our Florida home…Indian Rocks Beach, thanks to a wonderful stay at the Holiday Inn there, and a great bartender, now friend, named Lindsey! After 4 wonderful nights there, we headed south, then east over the Tamiami Trail, to the very end of Florida. Next stop…Key West. Two wonderful days (and incredible nights) in Key West, and then headed north again. This was our trip for discovery, because next we discovered a wonderful place called the Double Tree Resort by Hilton in Hollywood Beach, Florida! We were there only two nights but vowed we’d be back! We spent 4 great nights with my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt in their Florida home in Barefoot Bay, and had a wonderful time. Then 5 nights using my Disney Retiree benefits at Walt Disney World. This time we splurged and spent 5 nights at the Boardwalk Hotel in a garden room, with Club Level access, at a 50% Cast Member discount! This year we were really spoiled with our private villa across from the Quiet Pool and access to the Innkeepers Club, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, and snacks, plus access to the concierge staff for anything we might need. Even with the discount it was $500 a night, but oh so enjoyable! We went briefly to the parks, took in a baseball game and watched the Braves play the Mets, but mostly enjoyed the pool and all the other things that the hotel offered! On the morning of day 6, we headed back towards I-95 and home…it was time to trade in our flip flops for a couple of months! On March 4th, day 24 of our trip, we pulled the Sonata into our garage, and were home! For our Florida trip 2018: 24 days on the road and a total of 3,241 miles driven, and just the best time visiting the Summer of 2018 early!

2019 – On Saturday, January 19th, we headed south to our son and family in North Carolina. It was time for an old fashioned (late, but old fashioned) Christmas celebration with our Southern Family! We had a great weekend with Bill, Lori and Layla and Henry and a great way to start our preview of the Summer of 2019. After leaving NC, we explored Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia. Great sites, nice hotels, and wonderful Southern Food, but we discovered that January may not be the optimum time to visit because it was cold! Then it was time to head to our Florida home, Indian Rocks Beach on the Gulf Coast, and the two bedroom condo we’d rented on the Gulf for 3 weeks! That first week was cold, but we sat in the living room under a blanket and watched the beach, and explored “our” town. In week two, the weather was perfect and we spent lots of time on the beach or at the pool. We had family visits from my cousins Jeanne and Walt, Susie’s cousin Debbie, and even our daughter and Mike, who was no longer her boyfriend, but rather her fiancé! We loved being a part of IRB for the three weeks, exploring great restaurants and touristy things, and just spending time in the warmth! Can you say Snowbirds!! After 3 weeks in our condo, we headed to the Double Tree by Hilton Resort in Hollywood Beach, this time for four glorious nights! The only time we left was to drive to Palm Beach one night to have dinner with an old friend! From there, we went over to Barefoot Bay to return the visit to Jeanne and Walt. Three nights there before we returned to I-95 North and winter! On February 27th, 5 1/2 weeks after we’d left, we returned to Ocean City, and once again, no flip flops for a couple of months!

2020 – On Thursday, January 30th, we left Ocean City and headed to our son Bill and his family’s new house in Wake Forest, North Carolina! New house (they moved in just after New Years), and bigger family as baby Annabelle had joined the group the previous April! After spending the night with them, the next morning we were off to Darien, Georgia and the best fried shrimp in the world at B&J’s Steak and Seafood, a twice yearly stop! On Saturday, the 1st of February, we completed the drive to Indian Rocks Beach, and our month long stay in a beautiful 3 bedroom condo on the Gulf of Mexico at the Hamilton House. Now we were really Snowbirds!! We were joined during the month by my cousin Jeanne and her husband Walt for 4 nights, and for a week by Kenny and his husband Chris…Our Boys! We loved the feeling of being a part of IRB for the month, and cemented that feeling by every Tuesday night. Rather than being at the back bar of Charlie’s with our friend Sue as was our Tuesday routine, we spent 4 Tuesdays at the bar at Guppy’s with our new friends Taylor and Ellen. Unfortunately, in our last week there, Susie got the call that her 95 year old Mom had passed away. We left the condo a day early, drove across the state to the Ft. Lauderdale airport, and flew back to Long Island for 3 days. After the funeral, we flew back, and returned to the Double Tree Resort in Hollywood Beach, this time for six nights! Our best stay yet! Dropped the car at the valet day one, and never drove it again till we left! After 6 wonderful days of summertime temperatures spent at the pool, with daily drinks on our balcony overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and the food and fun at the Tiki Bar, we headed up to Barefoot Bay and what we’d planned to be an extended stay. Jeanne and Walt were heading out a couple of days after we arrived for a month in Hawaii, and had offered us the use of their house while they were gone. Seemed like a great way to extend our preview of the summer of 2020 a few more weeks. Unfortunately, the day Jeanne and Walt left, Covid exploded on the scene, and when Major League Baseball, Disney World, and so much else closed down, we decided it was time to run home to Ocean City! We made the trip with just one night’s stop, missed out on our return visit for shrimp in Darien, Georgia, and bypassed another visit with our North Carolina Family! So we left Ocean City on Thursday, January 30th and returned home on Sunday, March 15th, having traveled 3,302 miles in between. Not what we expected at all, having missed out on pool time, a couple of Spring Training ball games, and my first ever visit to Cape Canaveral!

2021 – Having been fully vaccinated with both of our Covid shots, in the middle of March we started venturing out. We missed our Grandkids and their Mom and Dad in North Carolina, and on Friday, April 16th, we left for North Carolina for the second time in a couple of weeks. This time for a joint birthday party for our two favorite Granddaughters! Layla’s 7th and Annabelle’s 2nd! After having a great couple of days there, we headed back to I-95, but this time southbound…we were going to Florida!!! Our Boys now lived in Downtown St. Petersburg, Florida and we were going to visit with them for a couple of days. We used Hilton Honors points for our whole trip and only paid for one hotel. We spent 3 nights at a brand new Hilton Tru Hotel literally just down the block from the boys’ apartment. They showed us the sights of St. Pete, and frankly, it seemed like the perfect spot for them. The one hotel we paid for? Since we were just down the road from Indian Rocks Beach, we had to say Hi to our Florida home, so we paid for one night at the Holiday Inn, the place where it all started for us! The boys came and joined us and we had a great time drinking and eating at Jimmy Guana’s, and listening to live music outside in April!! Then we headed home, but this year we did stop in Darien, Georgia for our shrimp at B&J’s Steak and Seafood! Back home on Sunday, April 25th. A brief visit, but our Florida record is still intact!

2022 – No extensive visits to the Sunshine State this year, as we decided that this winter would be given over to getting Susie a new hip. That’s scheduled for March 1st, and like with my new knee, there will be travel restrictions, so who knows what will come after that!

Tomorrow in Part Three, we offer you a back seat in our 9 week trip around the United States that we call Our Big Adventure, and usher you into a balcony cabin on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship in the Caribbean! See you then!