Christmases Past, Present, and Future

IMG_4840

Christmas in Mineola

On this Christmas Eve, 2018, a little Christmas reflection…..

Christmas has always been a big deal in our household.  Early in our relationship, it became obvious that it’s Susie’s favorite holiday, and one that she waits all year for.  Indeed, because of her love of the holiday, it was on Christmas Day in 1978 that I asked her to marry me, and she said yes! Talk about giving…her saying yes was the best Christmas present I’ve ever gotten!  So from our first Christmas in our apartment on Firwood Road in Port Washington, just months after we were married in 1979, we have always gone all out to decorate and celebrate the holiday!  

Every year, when the kids were small, sometime in early November, we’d journey to Lancaster, PA, for a weekend in Amish Country, and every year, that’s when the D’Elia Family started listening to Christmas music!  Indeed, our selection of Christmas music grew over the years to the point that when we cleaned out our 100 CD changer, close to half the CDs were of Christmas music.  Now we’re all digital, with music stored on the Amazon Cloud, but Christmas music still makes up a large percentage of it!

Our Ocean City house became ours at the end of January 2005, and when the next Christmas rolled around the decision was easy…we were going to decorate two houses!  That first year we got a table top tree and bought ornaments, and house decorations on the cheap from Big Lots.  It wasn’t as grand or beautiful as we did on Long Island, but we even had a small Manger we’d gotten at Big Lots, and lots of outdoor decorations.

Over the years, more and more items were added to both our Mineola house and to the Ocean City house.  A year ago, on November 9th, we sold the Mineola house, and made Ocean City our permanent residence.  That meant we now had to meld two Christmases into one.  Think that wasn’t a hard job?  Well, the fact that we had to make 3 trips with a fully loaded SUV to transport our Long Island Christmas decorations, to the shore, and the fact that our Christmas Decorations then took up fully half of our rented store room, may give you an idea about the scope of the job!  Last year, the consolidation started, and it’s continued this Christmas too!

First things first…the Christmas Tree! 

From our first 1979 Christmas, a live tree was the only way to go for the D’Elia Family.  We did the “cut your own” version, but the kids got kind of tired of that after a couple of years, and after one year of doing it ourselves, Susie and I tired of it too, so it was a yearly trip to Hicks to pick out a tree!  That lasted till we started going to Ocean City and realized when we got home the beginning of January, the tree was severely dead, and we’d missed a lot of it’s life.  The next year the first artificial tree made it’s debut in the D’Elia’s living room! 

dsc_0068

IMG_1556As I said,  for our first Christmas in Ocean City (2005), we bought a 4 foot tree at one of the craft stores, and put it by the front door, on top of our porch table, and we decorated it with ornaments we’d purchased at the Big Lots in Somers Point.   We continued for a number of Christmases in Ocean City with that table top tree and the our Big Lots ornaments.  In 2012 we bought a new artificial tree for Long Island.  It was our 2nd “fake” tree, was much more lifelike and sophisticated, prewired with lights, and all the set up we had to do was pop the three sections together and it was done and wired!  Of course, the next Christmas we decided to get a thinner version of that same tree for Ocean City.  When our last Christmas on Long Island was over in 2016, we decided to take our bigger tree to Ocean City, move some furniture in the living room for the holidays, put the big tree in a new location, and enjoy more room for presents under it!  It was worth it.

 

 

 

Mineola                                   Ocean City  

 

The Manger

Of course, the Mineola Manger won out over the Big Lots version.  The Manger scene that graces our Ocean City home now, has been with us since that first Christmas in Port Washington 39 years ago.  Bought from a long defunct Long Island department store, (A & S), with additional pieces purchased at a 5 & 10 on Plandome Road in Manhasset, it moved from a table near the front door in Mineola, to the top of a book shelf in our living room in Ocean City!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Big Lots Manger

 

 

 

Mineola                                                             Ocean City

 

Snowman Village

For a number of years, Susie put up a huge Department 56 Snow Village display in our Dining Room on Long Island, but furniture and styles changed, and the Snow Village went bye-bye.  Susie has always loved Snowmen (and women), and with a desire to go in a new direction, she did a Snowman display on the top of our entertainment center on Long Island, with a smaller version in Ocean City.  Of course, now her big production has moved to our corner cabinet in the living room, that transforms from a bar to a winter wonderland during the Christmas Season.

 

 

                                         Mineola                                                              Ocean City

And that’s but a small part of the Christmas Displays at our home during the holidays.  Over the past couple of years, we have weeded through lots and lots of ornaments, bows, house decorations, Hallmark animated displays, and hundreds of Christmas items, big and small, cheap and expensive.  It hasn’t been easy.  We know that when we unloaded our storage room into our garage this year (2 trips with the CRV fully loaded), we realized we still have too much Christmas “stuff,” and perhaps this year, we will be able to part with some items.  But there are regrets….like the two snow globes we had, one from Susie’s Mom and one from my Mom.  These globes graced our living room in Mineola for many years, but sadly when we decorated in Ocean City last year, they were nowhere to be found.  Did we make a conscious decision after Christmas 2016 to let them go, or did we put them in the wrong box, and it got left behind?  We’ll just never know, but every Christmas, we will think about them, and wonder what happened to them.

There you have the story of our Christmas dilemma and how we tried to solve it.  Let’s just say, it’s a work in progress! 

 

 

As we share our Christmas this year with Family and Friends, near and far, just one last thought.  Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

IMG_1110

THE WEDDING WEEKEND

img_0818-1

I posted this the morning after the wedding on Facebook.  

“It was the wedding weekend of the decade, perhaps even of the century, as Christopher Fox and Kenneth D’Elia became one!  The love from the family and friends, the months and months of planning, the perfect location, the perfect mix, just came together and turned out exactly as they dreamed.  The talent from all their performing friends, and even from ones in law school,  just ramped up the energy level!  It was like being right in the middle of a Broadway Show, but YOU were a part of it!  Susie and I are so happy that Chris is officially our 3rd son now, and that Our Boys will go through life as partners, sharing the good, the great, and sometimes the not so great!  Love….the word for the weekend!”

#defoxes4ever

So, when we last left you, it was Wednesday and we were having a fun family day, visiting Virginia City, then stopping at the Western Reserve Casino, winning some money, and then venturing out that night for the boy’s Reno Batchelor Party.  

Thursday was our last day for pre-wedding tasks, before the group moved up to Lake Tahoe.  Susie and I started our day hitting the AAA to replace the maps we’d lost in LA, and then it was time for our second trip of the week to Costco.  A few incidentals we’d realized we needed, and 5 cases of white wine they hadn’t had at Trader Joe’s!  Then I dropped Susie off at Lucky Nails, near David and Lexi’s, so she could get good “Mother of the Groom” nails.  While she was there, I hit Walmart again, and then filled the car with gas.  We ended our separate tasks at just about the same time, and then headed over to David and Lexi’s to drop off the wine.  While Susie got busy in their kitchen and made Mac Salad Kenny had requested for the Friday night party, I headed back downtown to pick up the boys, so they could buy shirts and shoes for the wedding.  After everything was done, we had a nice early family dinner at Lexi and David’s house (you know, these people must be tired of the sight of us!), before heading back to Harrahs Reno, and the arrival of the East Coast gang!

Our daughter Krissi, her fiancé Mike, Mineola friends Manny and Kristen, Annie friend Kelly, and Jainesville Armory Friends Erica and Shayla were all arriving that night! It was late, but they wanted to gamble, so after everybody had made it from the airport to the hotel, Mom and Dad took their leave after an hour or so, and let the kids party!!  Kenny was so glad his “peeps” were in town!   

Friday morning, Kenny and Chris came by and picked up our bags, so they could be loaded in the trailer David had rented to transport luggage to Lake Tahoe.  About 10AM, Susie, Krissi, Mike and I headed up to the lake, after one more stop at Costco…this time to pick up the appetizer platters we’d ordered earlier.  It was a beautiful morning for our drive up to Tahoe, with incredible scenery. We were just down the road from the hotel, when Kenny texted us, “where are you?”  The boys had just about had it when the tent people asked them where the tent permit was?  Tent permit?  Huh?   Why didn’t you get that if you needed it?  Oh boy!  Just what they didn’t need…another wrinkle!

They needed the Fire Marshal, but he was off that day.  Phone calls were made, Megan and Shayla headed into town for a personal touch, and the rest of us hung with Kenny, keeping him as calm as could be.  He got us checked in, we unloaded the trays from Costco into the fridge in our room, and we waited for the rest of the group to show up.   When they did, there was a lot to unload, and luckily lots of bodies to help.  Decorations were scattered around the Inn, lights were strung, tables set up for the Friday night Welcome Party,  and after some accommodation from the Fire Marshall, the tent started going up!!!  YES!

Okay, now here’s one from the small world department…one of the kids on the tent company crew grew up in Ocean City, and his folks still live about 8 blocks away from us!  You just never know!  Like the time a couple of years ago, when a waitress in a Las Vegas Italian restaurant told us that she’d grown up on Delancey, around the corner from us, and that her first waitress job was at Ove’s on the boardwalk!  Yes it is indeed a small world!

The rest of the day was filled with folks arriving, lots of hugs and kisses, and breaking into the wedding booze supplies (5 cases each of white wine, red wine, rose wine, and champagne, a keg of Icky, and about 150 assorted cans of beer).   

As it started to get dark, the Welcome Party food started to go on the BBQ’s.  Burgers, Italian hot sausages, chicken sausages, accompanied by chips and dip.  Grandma Jerri’s Salsa (with the secret ingredient of black olives), and her Nuts and Bolts (think really good homemade Chex Mix) were a hit on the munchie table.  Remember the macaroni salad that Susie made on Thursday?  The unequaled hit of the food stuffs of the weekend!!  If Susie had a nickel for every time she told people what was in it, we could play a slot machine!

Oh by the way, the parents were in the Squirrel House, and this was the view from our room.  Not bad, huh? 

21E701FF-EC73-42C8-8DA5-1A7FE08D14A7

After food, it was time to carry some wine down to the fire pit, listen to some music that DJ Rickie provided (he did a GREAT job Friday and Saturday, drink, talk, laugh, and have a wonderful evening!  

Saturday dawned sunny and beautiful, and as the day went on, it just got warmer!  The boys had been shined on by the Wedding Gods, and their special day was Beautiful!!  A little before 1, guests were called into their places, the Wedding Party assembled in our room, and the wedding was on.  Here are some pics!

By the way, this was the backdrop for the wedding. 

img_0787

The cocktail hour started immediately following the “I Do’s”, while good friends Shayla and Megan expedited the taking of family photos.  

Then we all moved into the tent for the actual reception, including introducing the Wedding Party, the Grooms, their first dance, plus the Mom and Groom Dances.

Then it was meal time, as catered by Famous Dave’s BBQ!

After dinner, we had time for some more pics, as we assembled important people into groups. 

Then it was time to move to the dance floor…and did this group dance!!

 

Then, the talent portion of the evening, as DJ Ricky fired up the karaoke machine!  Boy, was there talent, as the boys performing and non-performing friends alike, put on an incredible show, amazing EVERYBODY!

 

Included in the “performers” was Kenny’s older brother Bill, who did a spot on Ice Ice Baby!  Who knew!!

Then the dancers took center stage again till the 10PM quiet time!  

It was a hell of a night!!

The last picture I took that night was of David and Kim Fox!  David is Chris’ Dad and Kim is David’s sister and Chris’ Aunt.  We met Kim Monday, and quickly fell in love! She is one kick ass lady who always was there for whatever you needed!  From Costco trips, to unloading the car, from laughing together, to showing you where the booze was kept.  All our OC friends fell in love too, and have made her promise to come visit!

27A049E8-0DC5-417F-B9B0-CCC0DEE1CD13

We gathered in our room with friends, rather than climb all the way down the hill to the fire pit.  Lucky for us, as the newly married couple saw the local bear in the dumpster as they were coming back to their room…right above us!  

Sunday was cooler, but still nice and the day when most folks headed hom

By the end of the day, few were left beyond immediate family, including our partners in crime for the week, David and Lexi Fox!

1471BE4B-AFEE-4EA6-A244-8B899C345BE0

How can I nicely say it, Susie and I all but moved into David and Lexi’s house the week leading up to the wedding!  We ate, drank, danced, hugged, and truly became family!  We are so happy that these people are in our lives, and that we are officially Family!  Kenny is a Fox and we are Foxes once removed!  Who’s Luckier than US??

Oh, by the way, the youngins went down again to hang Sunday night, and again there was a bear sighting.  Once in the dumpster, then the bear headed towards the Squirrel House, where we were staying, where the boys fed it the remains of a “bear claw” they were eating.  The next morning we saw the remains.  A pawed through garbage can, and a broken light up bottle, which had been used a decorations. Good night Bear!  

Okay..due to upload issues and a desire to enjoy our last days of this trip, you’ll have to wait till we get back to Ocean City for the Rest of the Story!  Can’t wait to get back to my Mac Air and our Comcast internet speed.  See you then!!!

Day Eight – Wednesday October 10, 2018

img_1207

Day Eight – Wednesday October 10, 2018

Plans went back and forth and so did start times, but eventually around noon, 2 car loads of Fox/D’Elias headed up the mountain to Virginia City.  Perched on the Eastern Slopes of Mount Davidson at 6200 feet, Virginia City sprang up as a boomtown with the 1859 discovery of the Comstock Lode, the first major silver deposit discovery in the United States, with numerous mines opening. At the city’s peak of population in the mid-1870s, it had an estimated 25,000 residents. The mines’ output declined after 1878, and the city itself declined as a result. Today, the population of Virginia City is about 855, and that of Storey County, which is the County Seat of at about 4,000.

The trip up is a winding switchback 2 lane road, with pull-offs so that you can let the crazy drivers go past you.  I had 2 today!  First a black BMW I pulled over for, then a black motorcycle that came out of nowhere, and passed me on a curve with a car coming in the opposite direction!  Around the next bend, I saw the two of them up ahead of me, looking like a chase seen in a James Bond movie!   Yikes!! 

 We were scheduled to meet at the Bucket of Blood Saloon, and when we drove up, David had reserved us a place right out front (or so he said). It’s a fun place, very reminiscent of the old western bar we’ve read about, or seen in movies and tv.  Take a look!

There were slot machines, beer, free popcorn, and a banjo player.  It was fun! 

The rest of Virginia City is made up of bars, restaurants and stores.  With its wooden sidewalk, it’s a fun place to walk around, explore, and shop. The day was beautifully sunny up there, and much warmer than any of us had expected. Fall has definitely arrived to the Reno area of Nevada. 

We thought we were going to eat lunch up there, but plans changed again, and we were headed to the Western Village Casino, and their Mexican restaurant.  So down the mountain we went, and headed in our new direction!  Unfortunately,  the Mexican restaurant wasn’t open yet, so we had to gamble. “Had to” I say!  Everybody seemed to be having luck. David and his Mom were playing and split a $300 purse.  Aunt Kim took $237 out of a Quick Hits machine.  Susie had the Quick Hits machine she was playing up to $200 and change.  I was playing the Quick Hits machine next to her and just holding my own! By “holding my own” I really mean I was feeding $20 bills into it. Well, until I wasn’t.  

Just before I was about to give up on this machine, I won the free game jackpot, which gives you a number of spins for free. I think I got 10, and although I kept getting spins that raised the multiplier on winning spins higher and higher, I never won anything to multiply!  By the 10th and last spin, which it proudly spells out THIS IS YOUR LAST SPIN, I had the multiplier level up to 8, but a total of like 12 dollars in winnings.  I was sure my 10th and final spin would be a bust, but I was wrong.  Rather that a bust, I got 7 Quick Hits, which when multiplied, translated to a hand-pay of $1608!  As they say, all’s well that ends well!

 

img_1205img_1204

Then we were off for some Mexican food.  A couple of small (ha ha!) drinks, some food and we were out of there!  We had to get home, change, and return for the Reno version off Kenny and Chris’ Batchelor Party, planned and orchestrated by sister Michelle!!

For the Batchelor Party, we Ubered over to a beautiful new bar in the Arts District called Rum, Sugar, Lime.   From what everyone told us, just a couple of years ago, this had been one of the worst areas in Reno, but it has been turned into a meca of hip bars and cute little bistros.  What a perfect place to wander the night away!

Here’s a look at Rum, Sugar, Lime as the attendees gathered. 

Then it was off to Noble Pizza for dinner, and some very good pizza, after which it was time for the mature folks to head off, and leave the youngins to their fun.  Lexi, David, Aunt Kim, Susie and I Ubered home, telling the boys and their friends to have fun and be safe.  No calls for Bail Money, so we hope all went well!

Here is a pic from Noble Pizza and after we left.

Thursday is a busy day, with last minute details that have to get done before Saturday’s magic day.  We all have our lists of tasks, but then tomorrow, we’ll once again get together at Lexi and David’s for one last party before we all head up to Lake Tahoe.  Lots of family and friends arriving tomorrow, and we’re looking forward to that too!  Kenny will be happy that his twin sister Krissi and her fiancee Mike will be here, as those two are about as close as two people can be!  Born 2 minutes apart, and getting married 8 months apart (Mike and Krissi tie the knot next June)!

As David and I have said multiple times the last few days, “Who’s luckier than us?”

Things are heating up, with the wedding just days away, so please understand if there are no updates till after the fact!

Sue & Frank…the Proud Proud Parents

Day Six and Day Seven – October 8 & October 9, 2018

Day Six – Monday October 8, 2018 & Day Seven – Tuesday October 9, 2018 

We are a Family!!!

We woke without an alarm today for the first time in what seemed liked days, as we had an empty morning, while the boys had some pre-wedding tasks to accomplish.  They’d hoped to exchange the huge Ford Expedition Hertz had given them, for something more human sized, and then they had a meeting scheduled with their Wedding DJ.  They were going to pick us up about noon, and then we were going to David and Lexi’s and get The Family Day started! 

A little hungry, Susie and I went to the Hash House a Go Go on the second floor of Harrahs. This is a place that has made its reputation for the size of its portions, and unfortunately, Caesars has placed it in many of its Nevada properties as a replacement for their traditional style  Coffee Shop. The menu is overwhelming but eventually I settle on a Corn Beef Scrambler, while Susie decided to go small and have Banana Pancakes.   The corned beef was very fresh and my meal was good, but we both could have eaten it!  Susie’s “pancakes” turned out to be PANCAKE…about the size of a pizza!   Needless to say, we did not join the Clean Plate Club.   

We got a call from Kenny telling us they’d had a little bit of a rough morning (they stayed in the casino last night) and would get to us about 12:30.   Turned out, they didn’t get the car switched because they needed more time, but they did have a very good meeting with the DJ, and both felt they had a much better handle on both Friday night and the actual wedding on Saturday.  Time well spent. So then we were off to David and Lexi’s!

When we got to the house, nobody seemed to be home, but it was a beautiful sunny day, and we quickly discovered everybody was around the patio table. Lexi and David have a beautiful back yard, with an incredible view looking down to Reno.  Who knows how many more glorious weather days like this we can expect, so we took advantage of the weather and the view and the company!  David’s Mom Gerry and his sister Kim had arrived earlier from Oklahoma,  and although we’d met his Mom very briefly as we exchanged cruises last time the boys were on the Liberty of the Seas, we’d never met his sister.  A couple of David’s Bloody Marys, and we started getting to know our 2 newest family member!  

img_0669 

After a bit of getting to know David’s Mom and Sister, Chris’s sister Michelle showed up, and our outside family time group grew again!

Then it was time for today’s big family event….lunch. The location was someplace we’ve heard about from Chris for years: Sushi Rose and all you can eat Sushi.  Since it was Monday, it also meant it included all you could drink Beer or Saki…some of us had both (sheepishly raising his hand)!  Really good sushi, new and interesting things, some we didn’t even know what they were, and we tried and liked them, and the beer and warm saki kept flowing. The amazing thing about this??  Just $16.95 per person!  Everything Chris told us was true, and Lexi’s daughter Victoria joined us for lunch! 

Before…

After…

img_0678

Then after a brief detour to Walmart,  (where for some inexplicable reason we let Chris buy a Selfie Stick?!) we all went to Lexi and David’s house and family time ensued!  Michelle’s husband Bobby joined us, and the Family Group grew again!

If you’d been there, you’d have had a hell of a fun time.  If you weren’t there, you missed a hell of a fun time!  

img_0715

Some remember this happening, and some don’t!

We got home thanks to Lori the Uber driver as we might have been slightly over-served!  

Kenny and Chris went to the room to change and then we were going down to the casino for a bit.  10 minutes later, Chris showed up without Kenny.  Our son had passed out on their bed fully clothed.  We went back down the Hall with Chris, and Mom tried to wake him, but to no avail, so off we went with our other son!

We had a couple of drinks, played some video poker, and then the 3 of us headed up to the rooms….Good Night Moon!

Day Seven

So, this morning Kenny shows up sans Christopher.  Kenny having slept since about 11:30 last night was in fine shape.  Christopher, however, who had returned to the casino after taking us back to our room, and found his way back to their room about 5AM, was dead to the world!!  So, the three of us decided to head to a place we’d been last year, Peg’s Glorious Ham and Eggs!  If you are ever in Reno, great breakfasts!

Susie and I decided on two things off the Hawaiian menu, Fried Spam and Eggs for Susie and Loco Moco for me, while Kenny had a Southwestern Omelet.   They were good!

Then it was time for some errands, and number one on the list was Costco!  Chris’ Aunt Kim, Susie and I, and the boys, ventured out.  It soon became obvious that poor Kim was the most under the weather of the 5 of us, (not that any of us were cranking on all 8 cylinders) plus she’d never been in a Costco before!  We shopped…oh boy did we shop!

Yes, we were those people you see in Costco and wonder, “what the f*#k are they going to do with all that sh*t???”.  From 5 cases of Prosecco, to cases of water and soda, to bags of chips, plates, napkins, buns, hamburgers….you name it, we had it!  We started with one cart….by the time we were leaving the store, we had 2 carts and 2 of their flatbed trucks!  $990 later, we started loading the cars.

Kim and the boys had a couple more stops to make, but since we had perishables, we loaded up our car with them, and off we went to David and Lexi’s.  Let’s just say we all kept a much lower profile today than yesterday, had some pizza, a couple of beers, a lot of family laughs,  and the boys and Susie and I headed back to Harrahs on the early side tonight!  A couple of drinks and a little gambling (Susie won $300 in a Penny Quick Hit machine) and now it’s approaching 12 midnight, and are approaching our bed!

36DC2C59-6C79-4670-A008-A4C74493AA34

Tomorrow we’re off to Virginia City, and tomorrow night, the boys’ Reno Batchelor Party, as planned by sister Michelle.  Who’s got the bail money!?

Good night!

Day Two – Thursday October 4, 2018

SORRY FOR THE LATE POSTING DUE TO LIMITED SERVICE

D4648BFB-94A7-4090-BE74-EBF9318BC863Good morning from the Capital Limited!  It’s 8:45 AM, Eastern Time as I write this from the couch in Room E in car 2900, as our room has been turned back into its daytime version.  According to the schedule, we should be about an hour from Chicago, with scheduled arrival there at 8:45 Central Time. Phil our car attendant, however, just announced that our arrival time will be more like 11 to 11:30 due to delays during the night.  Frankly, this is a good situation for us, as we probably won’t be able to board the Southwest Chief till about 2:15, and we’d much rather be sitting on the train, than in a station waiting room.  The view is much better from here!!  

Before I continue with today, let’s give you an idea of our sleeping arrangements last night.

Thanks Babe…as always, I owe you!  

An update…we just stopped at Waterloo, Indiana, where the schedule had us at 6:36 AM.  We stopped at 9:26, fully 2 hours and 50 minutes behind schedule. It’s scheduled to be about 3 hours and 10 minutes from Waterloo to Chicago, so if we don’t lose anymore time, we should make Chicago just before noon Central time. 

A brief look at the reason for these delays as I understand them.  Once you leave the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks the trains ride on.  Back when America was giving up on rail travel, and Amtrak was formed, most of America’s rail roads kept their freight operations going, because that was still profitable.  Fully 97% of the tracks Amtrak trains run on ARE NOT owned by Amtrak, because those tracks, and the freight trains running on them, are owned  by the lines or their heirs that gave up passenger service in the 20th Century.  So, the freight running on these lines, takes precedence over Amtrak and it’s schedules, which may necessitate an Amtrak train pulling onto a siding and waiting while a freight train rumbles past. This happened to us several times last night, and you know how long freight trains can be!  

Because the Capital Limited lacks a Dining Car, the included breakfast this morning was a box breakfast in the Sleeper Lounge. A yogurt parfait, a muffin, some fresh fruit, and a hot tea.  We heard some grumbling, but we didn’t have a problem with it, but we are looking forward to the Southwest Chief having a Dining Car AND kitchen!  Stay tuned for real meals!  Oh, another item…some folks are just so cheap!  There was a couple across from us this morning who apparently didn’t like the breakfast, and who did they take it out on?  Why the young lady working the lounge!  “Tip for that breakfast?  No way”.  Glad we’re not “those people” and never have been!  

An update….we just arrived at Chicago’s Union Station!   It’s 12 Noon Central time,  and we were scheduled to be here at 8:45 AM.    Here’s some views as we headed into the station.

We’re now in the Amtrak’s Metropolitan Club in Union Station, and it was a zoo, till they just announced two trains!  Folks are crazy.  When they put out some snacks (cheese and some veggies), you’d have thought most folks hadn’t eaten in months!!  It’s much quieter now!  This place is brand new and beautiful.  Here’s what we’ve got now. 

Talk to you next from Train 3…the Southwest Chief!

img_0591

So welcome to Room C of Car 330, on the Southwest Chief.  The room is exactly like what we had last night, but Susie and I think this train is newer.  Life will be easier today as we know what to expect, but we may miss Phil, last night’s Sleeping Car Attendant. We had not an auspicious start, as the door to our car was closed, and we had to stand and wait for somebody to show up!   We’ll see how things go, but we already asked her about wash cloths and hand towels and she said, “they’re there”…they’re not!  Fingers crossed for the next 2 nights on the train!  

At 2:47 they announced, “close all access doors” and just after 2:50 we chugged out of Union Station.  We’ve already made our first stop at Naperville, Illinois.  Quick, extra credit if you can name one of the movies, Naperville and an Amtrak train played a supporting part in?  I can think of two off hand.  Leave it in the comment section below for a grand prize!  (FYI…the “Grand Prize” is just my gratitude for reading this far!)

The Dining Car Steward has already come around and we have a dinner reservation tonight at 6:30, and we’re looking forward to see what kind of meals an Amtrak Dining Car can dish out.  Here a layout of the Dining Car if you’re interested.  

02B67AE6-FBC6-40EB-9015-EFE059CD179F

Susie has already found the ice (and the wash cloths) but we’ve yet to “officially” meet our Sleeping Car Attendant, but we are ready to enjoy the next 40+ hours on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief!  Cheers!!!

60BFB8ED-3164-464C-B99D-2583E53A571C

Now it’s just time to relax, and watch America pass by our picture window!  

Okay..I just went and got more ice, and had a very nice conversation with our Car Attendant.  Her name is Pinky, and she’s worked for Amtrak for 40 years. She lives in LA 2 blocks from the station, and her Dad lives in Chicago.  She works one week on and one week off, so twice a month she’s with her Dad overnight.  I think everything’s going to be fine, different, but fine!  

Right around 6:30, we crossed the Mississippi River, leaving Illinois and entering Iowa.  The sun was just going down, and I don’t think beautiful is an adequate description!

Shortly after that, we got called to the Dining Car for our 6:30 reservation!  We’d been looking forward to this, and if tonight’s meal was any indication, we won’t be disappointed!  Amazing what you can do with a real kitchen and a real Dining Car.  Last night’s meal was ok, but nowhere near tonight’s standard!  I said to Susie, that back in January when I booked this trip, the Capital Limited had a Dining Car.  They took the car away in the Spring to save money, but never sent me any money back!  I don’t think we got what we paid for!

F189CA6F-7E0A-4839-AE85-67C4E03565A4

And as to dinner?  We started with a glass of nicely chilled Pino Grigio, and both chose for our entree the Land and Sea.  A perfectly cooked NY Strip Steak, accompanied by a Crab, Shrimp, and Scallop Cake, with string beans and a baked potato!  It was very good!  And then to top it off, a taste of Greek Yogurt Cheesecake.  Take a look!

Then it was back to our bedroom for a round of 5000 and a perfectly chilled glass of Titos Vodka.  Pretty soon Pinky will turn our day room into a night room, and our second night on the road (the RAIL road) will begin!   

Here’s Susie in the hall outside Bedroom C.

A04DF42C-604A-43A9-82E5-6B6AFE3AF64A

So far, we are having a great time!  Since leaving Chicago, the views have been great. When the sun comes up tomorrow morning, we should be in Colorado (At least that’s where we’re scheduled to be)  and the view should be getting even better!  We know train travel isn’t for everybody, but so far, we’re really enjoying our trip!  We should see some spectacular sights tomorrow and can’t wait to share them!

See you on day 3!

9/29/79

img_2335

On the afternoon of September 29th, 1979, at the Interfaith Chapel on the C.W. Post College campus, Susie and I started what has truly been the Great Adventure of our lives, as we said our vows in front of friends and family, and became a married couple.  Thirty Nine years ago today, at a place where I graduated from and where Susie, at the same time I was going there, (although we never met), took academic classes while a student at Pilgrim State School of Nursing, she agreed to spend her life with me, and for that I have always been eternally grateful!  

I’ve always believed that our union was destined to be, and it was no accident that we were brought together by friends two years earlier.  There was a plan for our lives, and today we are still living out that script that was written in the stars!  She’s still my best friend, the one I want to be with when I’m down, the one I want to celebrate with when I’m up, the one who kicks me in the ass when I need it, and the single most important person in my life.  We don’t live our lives like others do, and that’s all right with us.  It’s our life, and we love it!

Lets face it, we’re dreamers and so far, they’ve all come true!  as of today, we have been married for 14,235 days or 341,640 hours or 20,498,400 minutes, but I can still remember that scared girl walking down the aisle of the Interfaith Chapel with her Dad  like it was yesterday.  My life has been a dream, because of the lady I’ve spent it with!  I love you now and forever Susie, and I thank God for bringing us together, and for giving us a wonderful life, filled with wonderful kids and grandkids, and friends that are like family!  

Have I been blessed??  You bet you ass I have!  

 

 

Ocean City – Part Five

Just for continuity, understand that much of part five takes place at the same time as the developments in Part Four. 

img_0769-1So, having made our decision, things were a little different when we came down to spend our 3 weeks at Denise’s house during the Summer of 2004.  We had something else to do besides go to the beach, eat out, and do some gambling in AC during our vacation.  We had to now add house hunting to our list!

Our local realtor Ray Elias had sent us listings all through the spring, and by the time we got to Ocean City in July of 2004, we were primed to start looking at properties. We met img_0773with Ray 3 or 4 times a week, traveled the island, as he showed us various houses at different price points and different parts of the island.  Although we had always rented in the South End of town (first the 3200 block of Asbury when I was a kid, then the 3900 block of Central, and now the 4900 block of Asbury), there was something we liked about the newly found area of the island called the North End.  I say “Newly Found”, because to be honest with you, in close to 50 years of coming to Ocean City, I had no recollection of ever traveling to the North End.  I know that Susie and I had never gone beyond 9th Street with our family, so this was all new to us.

I don’t know what the legal definition is, but to our mind, the North End starts just beyond 9th Street, and runs till you get to the much more residential (not as beachy in img_0772-1other words) Gardens section of Ocean City.  Ray had showed us several interesting houses, on the shorter East/West streets in that part of town, and we found them very attractive.  First of all, having rented on Central and Asbury, where you have traffic traveling the length of the island, a house on a quiet street running just a couple of blocks was an interesting prospect.  Then, those streets were also on the boardwalk…not the commercial part of the boardwalk, but an area just a couple of blocks north of Gillian’s Wonderland.  That meant a trip to the boardwalk was a walking event, not a driving and finding parking event.   That sounded good too!

The interesting thing was that during our summer hunt, we’d even looked at a couple of properties on Pennlyn Place, including the upstairs of our now good friends Jane and John!  Yes, we continued to look at other places, in other areas of town, but we kept coming back to the North End.

Kind of like Las Vegas, Ocean City had been experiencing it’s own growth in property values.  The yearly jump was quite substantial, and we even had a first hand brush with that growth.  One of the properties Ray had to show us was an empty lot and plans of a house to be built on St. James Place in the North End.  He’d showed us some of the builder’s other work, and wanted to show us the plans and the lot, but we had friends coming to town, and rather than go on Friday, we put it off to the following Tuesday.  Well, over that weekend, the calendar changed from July to August.  On Tuesday morning he came to our rental house, laid out the plans for a second floor and owner’s cottage 4 bedroom 3 bath condo, on the dining room table, and we liked what we saw. The price was at the top end of our range, but doable for such a nice property.  Before we headed to look at the lot, he called the real estate that was the broker, wanting to make sure it was still available.  Yes it was, but when he checked the price, it was $50,000 more than he quoted us, just because it was now August and not July!  Needless to say, we didn’t see that lot!

Our vacation ended and we had still not identified a house we were interested in, but we had time because the Vegas house hadn’t been sold yet.  We planned to come back to Ocean City between Christmas and New Years as we’d done for the last couple of years. 0F1B810F-3729-43BD-A467-E57096BAC502Houses were much cheaper to rent at that time of the year, and we loved the empty city that morphed into a much fuller town as New Year, and First Night approached.  Well, when looking for a rental that year, where did we find one, but right on Pennlyn Place!  It was about mid block, and a perfect place for us to house hunt from.  By now the Vegas house had been sold, so the clock was ticking.

Ray came over the day after we arrived with several houses to show us.  We loaded into the car, and traveled to a brand new property on West Avenue.  We were impressed by the newness, but had doubts about the layout of the property, and the fact that it was on West Avenue in the teens.  First of all, it was a long walk from the beach, second, it was a very commercial area of West.  It was nice, but we had our doubts.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen Ray took us to the second property of the day, and that was just down Pennlyn Place from our rental.  This property was a first floor, 3 bedroom, 2 bath, in a house that had been built just 3 years earlier.  We loved the street, loved the way the property was decorated, loved the fact that it was just down the street from the beach.  In short, we loved everything we’d seen.  It was a little more expensive than the West Ave property, and to help us,  Ray did a workup for us of what the mortgage costs of the two properties would end by being.  It turned out that there was just dollars difference per month between the two properties.  I think the kicker was that Susie and I agreed that if we bought the West Avenue property, we wouldn’t even consider vacationing there, so if we bought that, we’d continue to pay Denise to rent her home, rather than stay at ours.  The West property would just be an investment.  Those two week’s of rent would more than make up for a year’s worth of mortgage difference.  The decision was getting easier.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

854 Pennlyn before it was OURS!

It was December 28, 2004, and that was the day we saw our future home at 854 Pennlyn Place!  After looking at the place again, we had Ray make an offer, and before we left from our week’s stay on Pennlyn Place, we got the word…if everything else worked out, we would shortly own a house in Ocean City.  Our dream was that much closer to being reality!

 

To Be Continued…..

FYI….

Ray Elias…https://www.longandfoster.com/AgentSearch/AgentInfo.aspx?PersonID=10451215