Car Shopping – – An Update

Back in July, I wrote a blog about our recent car shopping history, and the way the pandemic had changed the way the car industry functioned. Almost five months later, it’s time for an update.

In that July blog I said that we were thinking about extending our lease on our 2018 Honda CRV. The current lease was ending very close to when I was scheduled to have my right knee replaced, and we really didn’t want the car to be an added complication. Extending the lease was very easy, as all I had to do was tap on a couple of spots on the Honda Financial website to start the process. New Jersey requires that the taxes associated with the lease be paid up front, so our first payment under the new terms included $146 to cover the tax for the 6 months. The payment stayed the same, and additional mileage was pro-rated, based on what our original lease terms were. All very easy and clean. So that’s how we entered what we expected to be the next 6 months of our car life!

The 6 month extension would take us to mid-March, and everything I’ve read or watched, had basically told us that the chip/inventory shortage was going to be with us, perhaps into 2023. My sense was that as the lease extension got to its end, we would probably be buying our 2018 CRV, and we were okay with that, for a number of reasons. The first and foremost is that we like the car a lot. It’s big enough for all our people and “stuff” transportation needs, but not so big that we feel like we’re driving a tank. The second thing in its favor is that with the exception of putting a new set of tires on her last year, we have done nothing but routine maintenance and have never had a problem. So it was dependable and we had the sense that it would not let us down. Third, we liked the color and although it wasn’t flashy, it never showed dirt! Keeping a family vehicle for 10 years was not unusual for us (Hell…the Mustang has been in our garage for going on 22 years), so keeping this 43,000 miles CRV a couple of more years would not really be a big deal. So that is the update through Monday, November 22, 2021…then things changed!

On Tuesday morning, November 23rd, we set the alarm to get up early, as we were having our new flooring delivered. Once that took place, Susie and I started working on covering things up in the Great Room area, to try and keep things as protected from dust as possible, when the old tile floor was removed the next week, as well as preparing for our upcoming Thanksgiving weekend travels (if you missed our blog about our big Thanksgiving Weekend of traveling, here’s a link https://rnewadventures.com/2021/11/30/if-its-tuesday-it-must-be-belgium/). We were in the middle of doing that, when I got an email from Brian Silvertrone, our salesman at Boardwalk Honda. His message was short but pointed…

“Good Day Sir,
Hope all is well…just want to say that we have a red
EXL in stock…it just came off the truck!”

Now, before we got excited, my first reaction was that the car was going to be ridiculously overpriced, as that’s what I’d been reading dealers were doing with any inventory they had in stock. I wrote back asking what the price on the vehicle would be, and his reply told me that I was right, several thousand dollars above what I figured should be the MSRP! We went back and forth on that, and then I asked him what the exact same lease we had last time would price out to a month. Again, he came back to me with a cost about $100 more than we’d been paying, and I wrote back that I’d like something closer to our existing payment.

Next Brian gave up written correspondence, and when my cell phone rang, I looked at Susie and said, “Should I answer it?” “Yes,” she said, and the first thing Brian said to me was, “How about if we go with the exact same monthly payment as your current lease and no money down?” As I’ve said a couple of times since, “Just like in the Godfather movie, they made us an offer we couldn’t refuse!”

Later that afternoon, after looking her over, we took possession of a 2022 Honda CR-V EXL in Radiant Red Metallic with just 2 miles on the odometer. On Thursday morning, we headed across the 9th Street bridge for our extensive Thanksgiving Weekend trek with about 25 miles on her, but the next time she crossed that bridge on Monday, the number was closer to 700! Welcome to our next 3 years!

Technology

We truly live in an incredible age, where technology is involved in so much of our daily lives.   So many things in your house, from your toaster to your clock radio is, in reality, a little computer.  Alexis plays your music and orders your toilet paper, Siri sets your appointments and plots your travel plans, and in that little phone in your pocket or purse, you have more computing power at your disposal than the Apollo missions that landed on the moon!  For folks our kids, and certainly our grandkids’ age, it is totally normal, but for those of us, who grew up in the 50s and 60s, it is far beyond anything we could have imagined, even with the aide of The Jetsons, Jules Vern or H.G. Wells!  

But, for some, the technology that we encounter in our everyday life, is above and beyond what they can handle.  Let’s take cars for example.  Our 3 year old Honda CR-V is truly a thinking car, braking if we don’t, watching the speed of others on the road when we use the cruise control, and making sure we stay within the lines on the roadway.  Through the use of various computers, cameras, and radar devices, the car warns us if someone is in our blind spot, or if someone is approaching as we back out of a parking space.  It’s just amazing what the car can do by itself, and although not by any means is it a “self driving” car, it certainly goes a long way towards that!  But, you’ve got to wonder how may folks have learned about the car, and what they have to do to take full advantage of all these marvelous tools.

Let’s take a simple example…talking on the cell phone in your car.  I don’t know exactly how long BlueTooth technology has been built into factory car radios, but I do know that the first one in our life that had it was our 2013 Hyundai Sonata.  We got that car in March of 2013, so for our family, being able to talk hands free on your cell phone in our car has been a real thing for over 8 years.  With all the newer cars on the road, one would expect that the instances of seeing someone with their cell phone to their ear while they drive down the road would be very small.  Unfortunately, it is not, as whenever we are out and about in the car, we still see many folks with their phone in their hand.  

So I guess the question to ask is, HOW COME PEOPLE AREN’T USING THEIR CAR’S BLUETOOTH TECHNOLOGY TO MAKE AND RECEIVE PHONE CALLS?  The simple answer is that, in many cases,  it’s too much trouble or too complicated to set up their cell phone with the car’s audio system.  That may seem like a lame excuse, but if you’re of a certain age, you will clearly remember how many folks owned VCRs on which the clock display was flashing, denoting that they’d never set the clock.  While that magic VCR could record shows at preset times on preset channels, many never were able to use that option, because of their perceived lack of technical knowledge.  It really wasn’t that hard to set the clock, but like pairing your cell phone with the car’s radio, it intimidated them!  Many people are intimidated by technology!

As time goes by, younger generations of folks will grow up with more and more technology, and everything will be so second nature to them, that technology will be an old friend.  Our 2 year old Granddaughter has no trouble finding the video she wants to watch on her Mom or Dad’s I-phone…do you think she will have any problem pairing her phone to the car radio when she starts to drive?   But for those of us who grew up when “technology” was a Polaroid photo that developed in a minute, or a new fangled digital calculator, getting used to some of these technological advances can be a challenge.  For Susie and me,  who grew up with typewriters, we often times find that when you use a word processor program like Pages that I am writing this blog with, we can look at the words on the screen multiple times, but never see the misspellings or punctuation errors till we look at a hard copy we’ve printed out!  I’ve got to assign that to a problem with new technology just being different than what we grew up knowing!

If you want to know, here’s the incident that prompted this blog.  Last week, Susie and I went out to dinner and Susie forgot her cell phone at home.  When we got back, she found a message from one of our neighbors around the corner, asking if Susie could help her with something.  She wrote back and apologized for answering so late, but explained she’d left her phone at home.  The next morning I asked if she’d heard back from our neighbor Sue.  She said, “I don’t know…let me check,” only to discover when she opened Messenger that although she’d typed out the reply, she’d never hit send!  Do you think even our 7 year old Granddaughter would do that?  Sorry, but we didn’t grow up with Smart Phones, and as much as we welcome technology into our lives, we can’t always guarantee we’re 100% in sync with it!  So there!

Frustration

Frustration can take many forms. You can be frustrated with inanimate objects!, like when your computer won’t allow you to do what you’ve done hundreds of times, or you can’t get reception on your cell phone, or when a light bulb burns out just as you sit down besides your favorite reading lamp to finish a great book. You can be frustrated with people in your life, like folks that stop in the middle of the aisle in the supermarket, or the guy driving in front of you who stops for no reason, or when somebody doesn’t understand what you are trying to explain to them. We all must contend with a certain amount of frustration in our lives, but it just seems to me that my frustration level is on the rise as of late! It’s probably just me, but it also may be the world we live in. Here’s my beef.

I guess my number one frustration today is the way our world seems to be sliding back into that horrible year 2020! We all lived through a year with little or no social contact, brought upon us by Covid-19. For sure there were folks acting like nothing was different, but for most of us who didn’t want to get sick and perhaps die alone in the hospital, we did what we had to do to stay distant and safe. Then, when the first and then the second Covid Vaccines were approved for emergency use at the end of 2020, Susie and I did everything we could to secure the vaccine. We made phone calls, stayed on line for hours and days at a time, and eventually we did it! By the middle of March, 2021 both Susie and I were fully vaccinated, having had our two shots and waited the required 2 weeks for full protection! We were ready to live our lives again!!

For the first time since we left for Florida in January 2020, by the middle of March, 2021, Susie and I were back in our two weekly haunts, Charlie’s and Angelos! Yes, masks were still the order of the day, and there was no bar service and folks were still social distancing, but we felt for the first time in a year that we were getting our lives back! We were enjoying old routines and seeing friends again! Thank God For Science!!!! We were so optimistic that the worst was over, and that Covid was retreating from our shores! America had won!

That was then, but then politics reared it’s ugly head! Suddenly the Covid Vaccines were not the savior of our country, but the scourge of mankind! Suddenly stemming the continuing speed of this insidious disease was not smart science, but rather the limitation of personal freedoms and an affront to all that was sacred to so called patriots! Suddenly wearing a mask to protect yourself and others was akin to the Nazis killing millions of Jews and others during World War Two! Suddenly the salvation of our lives that Susie and I had seen when we were fully vaccinated was slipping away. Numbers were growing, hospitalizations were growing, and people were dying. Yes, I am surely frustrated that so many Americans have answered the call to turn this crisis into a political side show. I am frustrated that they have done everything they can to drag us back to 2020! Sorry, but that is one huge frustration for me right now!

Our oldest son is frustrated that so many people are still not vaccinated! He’s frustrated that numbers of Covid cases are rising, and that masks are being worn again. Mostly he’s frustrated that his three kids…our three Grandkids…who at 7, 5, and 2 and are too young to be vaccinated, are still living under a cloud!

If you disagree with what I’ve written above, please don’t send me your arguments, documentation, or any other propaganda about people having a personal right to do as they choose, because frankly, I DON’T CARE!! Don’t bother sending me any form of communication that will attempt to change my mind, because I won’t read it! Unfriend me on Facebook, take my number out of your phone contacts, do whatever you want, but DO NOT THINK YOU CAN CHANGE MY MIND!!!

When I was a kid, we were all scared about getting Polio and either dying or spending the rest of our lives living like a science experiment in an Iron Lung! Thanks to science (and our folks making sure we had a Polio Booster every year), that’s not something my kids have ever had to worry about. Enough of these bullshit theories that this vaccine will change your DNA, or that Bill Gates will be able to track your every move once you are vaccinated. The reality is that these vaccines will save your life. They will keep you out of the hospital, off a respirator, and out of the morgue. You will not die alone. If you think anything else, then I’m truly sorry for you and I wish you well, but frankly, you are screwing with my family’s well being, and that pisses me off!

Car Shopping

An interesting aspect of life as we move through the pandemic…car shopping.

Three years ago, Susie and I decided to trade in our five year old 2013 Hyundai Sonata Limited. It had been a great car, but because it was the car we’d used for our “Big Trip” in 2016, it had over 80,000 miles on it, and had started to cost us some repair money. Having never done it before, we investigated the world of car leasing. As we get older, we like the idea of having a new car every 3 years, and of not tying up the full purchase price of a new car, but rather only paying for the years we would be using it. We also decided that since we sometimes had been forced to ask friends to pick up things for us that didn’t fit in our sedan, we would look at the world of small SUVs. We were not looking for something the size of a Chevy Suburban and as I did my usual due diligence on what was available, I liked the Honda CR-V. Car-like, good reviews, great gas mileage, and when the seats were folded down, enough room to load our Christmas Tree and all the ornaments to get them from our storage place to our home. We now had our target.

Late spring of 2018, we decided to stop in at our local Honda dealer, Boardwalk Honda in Egg Harbor Township and take a look at a CR-V. We walked into the showroom and met a salesman named Brian Ford. After laughing that a man named Ford was selling Hondas (yea, probably the 10,000th time he’d heard that) he showed us a CR-V that was on the floor. Susie and I sat in it in almost all the seats and liked the way the car felt and thought the size would be perfect for us. We told Brian that we were still going back and forth between buying and leasing, and we promised we’d come back and see him when we made up our mind.

Over the next couple of weeks, we went back and forth. One day we were going to lease, then the next day we were going to buy. We continued the discussions like this till we decided one day it was time to put up or shut up, and the final decision was made to lease. Having never leased a car before, I read up on it on the Internet, and on Monday June 11, 2018 we went back to Boardwalk Honda to talk to Brian about the particulars. Things happened faster than we envisioned, and that afternoon we no longer owned a 2013 Hyundai, but were rather the new leasers of a 2018 Honda CR-V EX-L in Sandstorm Beige. We were scheduled to travel back to Long Island the next day, see some Doctors, and then meet Krissi and our not yet son-in-law Mike for drinks and dinner. We made the trip in a brand new CR-V with less that 20 miles on the odometer!

In the ensuing months and now years, we’ve grown to love our CR-V. It was just the right size, was comfortable to drive, got incredible mileage (30+ driving 70-80 MPH on trips – 25+ around town) and as our daughter said, “Unless you look behind you, you don’t even know your driving an SUV.” We’ve loaded and unload our Christmas things 3 times, shopped at Lowes and Home Depot, made 3 trips to Florida, and countless trips to visit our son’s family in North Carolina, to visit Krissi and Mike in New York, and our Maryland family too. It’s just been the perfect vehicle for us, and we had every intention to turn it in at the end of the lease, and start all over again! Then came the Pandemic.

Today’s cars are lightyears ahead of even those that were produced 10 years ago. Our CR-V has Adaptive Cruise Control that uses radar to judge the speed of the car in front of you and slow you down. It has Lane Keeping Assist that uses the radar and cameras to direct the car back, should you wander out of your lane. It has emergency braking, which causes the car to break itself if you do not heed the warning it gives you. It has Side Warning Sensors that warn you if there is a car in your blind spots on either the right or left side. In short, the car thinks and is there at the ready if you, the driver, don’t respond. How many chips do you think every modern day Super Car uses??? Then came the chip shortage!

A lesson that the world auto makers learned a long time ago from Toyota, was a concept called “Just in Time” parts inventory. The Japanese were famous for having parts delivered to their assembly lines when they needed them, saving the expense of storage. When the world shut down with the pandemic in March, 2020, automakers the world over cut orders on parts including chips. Many of those in the semiconductor business switched their production from the chips used by the auto industry to chips used in consumer electronics, like 5G cell phones. However, the pandemic did not derail the sale of cars as much as was expected and the auto industry faced much more demand then they’d anticipated, but unfortunately the supply of chips they needed just wasn’t available. Ford had thousands of F-150 pickup trucks (the best selling vehicle in America) built but unable to be finished due to the chip shortage. Honda, Subaru, Toyota, and Volkswagen also have individual models that have lost more than 10,000 units to the chip shortage in North America. The obvious solution would have been to just increase the capacity at the car maker’s suppliers, but given how difficult and expensive it is to build semiconductors, the reality is that just wasn’t possible!

So what was the effect of the chip shortage? Car prices went wild! Used cars went through the roof, with year or two old cars selling for even more than they cost new! New cars were selling for above sticker price, if you could get them at all, and all the “normal” rules of the car buying business went out the window. According to our lease contract at the end of our lease, we could buy our CR-V for $18,45, but today a 3 year old Honda CR-V with 40,000 miles on it is worth over $24,000! Crazy! In checking the inventory at our local dealers on line, I found 3 or 4 of our models, rather than the 30-40 there were 3 years ago. Although I really didn’t want to buy the car, I was afraid that as our lease had less than 2 months left, I didn’t know what else we could do.

Just the other day, I decided that I best give our salesman a call, and see exactly what the situation was. I discovered that Brian was no longer a salesman, but rather the Finance Manager at Boardwalk Honda, but as an established customer, he was happy to deal with me. He confirmed that they only had a couple of CR-Vs in stock and since we are kind of particular on our color selection, what they had in stock or what they were getting delivered in their next shipment did not meet our needs. I asked him what to do, and he said that the factory has told them that they are getting more chips and expect assemblies to ramp up in the next 3-4 months, and that if we waited, they would probably have exactly what we wanted. I asked him, “So are you saying I should buy the car?” and he said, “No, just call Honda Financial and extend your lease.” Turns out I can tell them I’d like a 6 month extension of the lease, and since it’s really month to month, just terminate it when we start a new lease with a brand new CR-V. Now our only problem is, do we want an Aegean Blue or Radiant Red CR-V, and will it be a 2021 or 2022 model. Stay tuned…

Vaccine

Back in the beginning of the year, when Covid 19 Vaccines became available in New Jersey for folks over 65, Susie and I actively started searching for appointments. At that point, one of the few places you could get the vaccine in New Jersey was at the Pharmacy Department at Shoprite Supermarkets. We loaded the Shoprite Pharmacy app on our phones, Ipads, and computer, and started every day by logging into the app on multiple devices, looking for appointments. At first we were stymied by the announcement that seemed to come up by about 9AM every morning that said, “All Covid 19 Vaccine appointments are filled. Try back again tomorrow.” That was the case till about the third week of January, when our neighbor Doc Anderson told us that he’d gotten an appointment on the app the afternoon before. We’d never tried beyond the morning when that announcement came up, so now we knew to try back later in the day.

The next day, signing onto the app in the afternoon, it appeared I’d secured an appointment for the following day at 2 PM, but there was a catch. The app said that I’d get a confirmation email later in the day, and that email never came. Again I can thank our neighbor Doc, because when I told him about not getting the confirmation email and said I was probably not going to go, he said to me, “I thought you were a New Yorker? Just go there tomorrow and act confident!” (Doc grew up near Mexico, New York, north of Syracuse) So, confidently, that’s exactly what I did, and got my first Moderna Covid Vaccine shot on the afternoon of Thursday, January 21, 2021! One down, one to go.

It took Susie a couple of more days of both of us signing into the app multiple times a day, but within a few days, we got her an appointment, and on Thursday, January 28th, Susie got her first Moderna shot too! Unfortunately, we didn’t get our appointments at close Shoprites, like the one we usually frequent in Somers Point, or the one just south of Ocean City in Marmora, but we got our appointments. I went to the southern part of Cape May County to the Shoprite in Rio Grande. For Susie’s, we had to travel a bit further to the Shoprite in Glassboro, NJ. They were a little bit removed from Ocean City, but we got the shots, and when we went to my shots, we got to have lunch from Arby’s in Cape May Courthouse. Coming home from Susie’s we got to stop at our favorite Italian Market, Bagliani’s in Hammonton. While we had to travel under an hour to our appointments, the appointment that our neighbor Doc secured was at a real far flung Shoprite. It was a Shoprite that necessitated him driving about 2 and a half hours to each appointment, but remember back to early January, and how scarce Covid Vaccine appointments were, and you’ll understand why Doc had no issue with the drive.

On Friday, February 19th (delayed one day because of an ice storm), I got my second Moderna vaccine shot at the Shoprite in Rio Grande, and on Thursday, February 25th, Susie got her second Moderna shot at the Shoprite in Glassboro. At that time, the CDC was saying, “Someone is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving the final required shot,” which made Thursday, March 11th, two weeks after Susie got her second shot, our “Coming Out Day!”

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that since that Thursday we have been eating inside at two of our favorite restaurants (Charlie’s and Angelo’s) almost weekly, have hit the road again, leaving New Jersey for the first time in a year, have visited with all three of our children and their spouses, up and down the east coast, have seen our three wonderful Grandchildren in North Carolina multiple times, and have put over 3000 miles on our too long dormant leased Honda CR-V! We’ve also gotten to hug people, and be with friends and neighbors without fear. In short, we’ve gotten our lives back!! Twenty-first century science has created new ways to bring vaccines to the general public, in times that would have been unheard of 20 years ago…just another thing to be thankful for!

There are now multiple vaccines approved for use, and lots more places around Ocean City where you can get them. I just went onto the Shoprite app, and discovered that I can get a Moderna Covid 1 shot appointment at multiple times within the hour at our local Shoprite in Somers Point. The Mega Vaccine Center that they set up at the Atlantic City Convention Center is now available for walk-in shots, and I just read this morning that many states are asking for less than their allotments of vaccine, because those seeking shots has virtually dried up! I also read that in Ocean City, 58% of the population is vaccinated, while across the bridge in our mainland neighbor Somers Point, only 40% of the population is vaccinated.

We’re very fortunate that our entire family (but the Grandkids) are completely vaccinated, and the “worst” reaction seems to have been from our son Kenny who was laid low for about 36 hours. In the rest of our family, reactions have been very mild if anything happened at all, but really, I would rather have a reaction to the shot for a day or two, rather than continue to live in fear of maybe ending up in a hospital on a ventilator!

According to the CDC, those of us who are fully vaccinated can do virtually anything without fear, If we were to get Covid 19, it would be more like a bad cold than the life threatening illness it was a year ago. In their latest update, they’ve also said that those of us who are fully vaccinated can go without a mask in many circumstances! As a member of the generation that was the first to receive mass vaccinations for Polio way back in the 50s, perhaps I have more faith in science than some, but I will continue to listen to those who have dedicated their lives to the well being of the rest of us.

It’s been a tough year for everybody, and thank God we were not one of the millions of American families who lost a loved one, but life seems to get better every day. Seeing friends, eating in restaurants, and returning to normal. For example, Susie and I are looking forward to a week long visit with our two oldest Grandkids, Layla and Henry, in June. Grandma has been making lists of things to do with them since our son wondered if we’d be interested in an alone week with them. Just another reason to be thankful for the vaccine! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Thank You Science for giving us our lives back!

Miracle of Science – Part One

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics on your Sleeve

This is just our opinion, (but then this is our blog, so what better place to express our opinion), but has there ever been a time in recent history when more folks seem to be wearing their politics on their sleeves? We have never been particularly political folks, and frankly, we are more comfortable keeping our beliefs to ourselves, but boy does that get hard today when you are bombarded by others’ opinions at every turn!

Consider the Trump or Biden flags you’ve seen all over your neighborhood, or the big This Is Trump Country placards you see on porches, or the cars covered in bumper stickers extolling their candidate. Then let’s not even get into Facebook, Twitter, and all the other various Social Media around today! Oh my God! At every turn we are bombarded with what somebody’s political opinion is, as they seem to set their sights on trying to convince us that their opinions are correct! When did this happen, and were we just asleep as this great transition occurred???

We’re kids of the 50s and 60s, and remember the I Like Ike buttons, and other political paraphernalia that the dedicated have always worn, but there was always the old admonition that one should never discuss religion or politics in polite company! That seems to have gone out the window, and boy was that evident during the most recent political season!

I mean, at one time, many of us believed in Political Privacy! The Wikipedia entry for the Secret Ballot starts off with these words, “The secret ballot, is a voting method in which a voter’s choices in an election or a referendum are anonymous. This forestalls attempts to influence the voter by intimidation, blackmailing, and potential vote buying. This system is one means of achieving the goal of political privacy.”

I think one of the saddest consequences of the loss of political privacy is that many now use others political views as a yardstick to determine if they can be our friends! I’ve always tried to approach people with an open mind and base my reaction on how they interact with me, rather than somebody else’s option or label. If you want to see a great example of how you can vehemently disagree with someone’s politics but love them as a person, do some research on the relationship of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of the Supreme Courts most liberal judges, and Antonin Scalia, one of the most conservative. They were long time friends, even though they agreed on virtually nothing politically. Life and people are more than politics! Remember that old rule of etiquette…never discuss politics, religion, or money among friends! There was a reason for that!

We know these thoughts are so “Pollyanna” in the times we now live in, but boy was life easier when you didn’t have to run the politic’s gauntlet everyday! Everybody had friends that they knew didn’t believe as they did, and they knew that there were hot button topics you avoided at all costs, so you didn’t hit the start button with these folks, but that too seems to be gone. This may be like trying to put the stopper back in the bottle, or get the toothpaste back in the tube, but boy would we love to go back to the times when one’s political view was not the first thing that came up in conversation! We’d love to go back to the days when you could go through Facebook in the morning and see funny cartoons, or great food pics, or you having fun with your kids. We long to go back to the days when what you believed, and which candidate you supported was your own business and nobody else’s. We long to go back to the days when having a differing political view was not a reason to unfriend someone, either on Facebook, or In Real Life!

Here’s a look at our ideal version of Facebook!

Like I said….Pollyanna.

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, on Thursday, January 23, 2020, Susie and I ate our last inside meal at one of our favorite restaurants, Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern in Atlantic City. We’d been steady Thursday customers for a long time, and we were saying goodbye as we were preparing for what at that point, was planned to be two months in Florida, and were in our last week in the cold of New Jersey. We were making choices of clothes to take with us, getting the car serviced, I was making a last minute trip to the dentist, Susie was getting her last hair and nails done, and we were looking forward to spending the months of February and March in Florida, and previewing the Summer of 2020.

One year ago, we had no idea that there was something called Covid-19 that was making people sick in Wuhan, China, or that there had been a first US confirmed case in Washington State. We had no idea that we’d be dragged into a Pandemic, or that we’d be wearing masks when we went out, or that our life would be impacted by this disease that would ultimately kill hundreds of thousands of our fellow Americans. We had no idea that we wouldn’t see our Kids and Grandkids for a year, or that we’d wave at neighbors and friends, or that friends who are like family would get the disease.

One year ago today we were smug, thinking that something like a Global Pandemic couldn’t affect our lives here in the United States of America. Little did we know that it would end employment for our sons Kenny and Chris (the Entertainers), force our other children (Billy and Lori and Krissi and Mike) to work from home, and change all our lives like nothing had in our lifetimes.

The last time Susie and I ate inside a restaurant, was on March 13, 2020, at a Cracker Barrel someplace in Virginia on our way home from Florida. When Angelo’s opened their great outside dining during the summer, Thursday nights became Angelo’s Thursdays again. We saw all our regular friends, met a couple of new ones, and got to enjoy our weekly dose of the Mancuso Family and the wonderful food they create. It was great to be back at Angelo’s, but it wasn’t the same.

One year ago today, we had our last martini at the bar at Angelo’s with our bartender and friend, Michael, ate our last meal inside at Angelo’s, saw our Angelo’s Thursday friends Theresa, Patti, Rhonda, Christina, Ed, Gina, Christopher, Victor, and Trinidad. We miss the bar, the restaurant, and the people! We survive now with Angelo’s take-out, and we’re waiting for our time to get the vaccine, but we won’t eat inside till we’re protected.

Hope to see you sooner rather than later friends…we miss you!

Plus Networks

If you’re of a certain age (ie…old…like me), you’ll remember TV before Cable. Back in the days when your only option was to receive the signal over the air from a local broadcasting station. If you remember that, you’ll also remember “rabbit ear” antennas, the good that liberal use of tinfoil could have on TV reception, and how standing in a certain place in relation to the TV could also improve reception.

It may be hard to believe, but Cable TV originated in 1948, in an effort to get TV reception in the mountainous areas of Arkansas, Oregon, and Pennsylvania, yet when Susie and I got married in 1979, and moved to 1 Firwood Road in the Manorhaven section of Port Washington, Cablevision had yet to wire the neighborhood. That means that we did our best to get a signal from NYC stations via a Radio Shack powered TV antenna, that resided in the top of our coat closet.

In 1981, when we bought our first house in New Hyde Park, the area had been wired by Cablevision, and we became cable customers for the first time! Nowhere near as sophisticated as what would follow, our cable box was two boxes, tethered together with about 20 feet of cord between. One box lived at the TV, and the other changed channels, though a series of push buttons. That was the beginning of our relationship with Cable TV, a relationship that continues to the present, with our monthly subscription to Comcast’s Xfinity service, here in Ocean City.

Over the years, that cable coming from the pole to your house has brought you more than just TV shows. After years of dial-up internet, and even DSL service via the phone company, the fastest and most dependable Internet service most of us get, is via the local cable provider. As the internet speed and quality delivered to your house improved, we learned about “streaming” movies and TV shows, and the various ways you get to watch movies. One of the earliest options in that regard was a service called Netflix.

Netflix was launched in 1997 as the world’s first online DVD-rental store, and in February 2007, the company delivered its billionth DVD via the mail, but at the same time, it’s business began to change shape. The move was away from delivery of DVDs via the USPS, and to on-demand viewing via the Internet. As the sales of DVDs fell, Netflix’s digital delivery business grew.

Over the years, as many consumers tried to cut back on the costs associated with Cable TV, another term was coined…”Cord Cutting”. Defined as, “The process of cancelling a cable or satellite subscription and getting TV shows and movies by other means. This typically involves switching to video streaming services that are accessed through the internet”. If you were willing to work a little more at your TV viewing, you could save some serious money over your existing cable bill.

One of those streaming services mentioned in the definition was our old friend Netflix. In the beginning, as a “Cord Cutter” it was easy, as so much was included in your monthly Netflix subscription. It was by no means the only option, but in it’s heyday, it had millions of TV titles and movies, and was exactly what the “Cord Cutter” needed. I know that when our daughter Krissi first moved to Astoria, with a line of sight view of the broadcast antenna atop the Empire State Building, a cheap Radio Shack antenna, a cable internet feed, and a Netflix subscription was all she needed to be part of the cord cutter revolution.

But times change, and in recent years, more and more titles have been removed from services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and others. Have you noticed the new trend in cable network’s marketing to cord cutters? I’m calling it Plus Networks, but it goes by many different names. HBO Max, Peacock, Hulu, Crackle, and the pluses…Disney+, Paramount+, Discovery+, ESPN +, etc. As more people abandoned Cable TV and just payed for an Internet connection every month, the cable networks perceived there was money to be made in streaming services. Where once you could pretty much see everything you wanted with a Netflix subscription, now you needed a phone book of subscriptions to see everything!

And how much exactly does having multiple subscriptions cost you? When I Googled that question, I found that there were literally hundreds of streaming services around. While there are a lot that seem to be very narrow focused, here’s a listing of the general services I recognized, and their cost:

Netflix ($8.99 to $15.99 per month)
Amazon Prime Video ($119 per year)
Hulu ($5.99 all the way up to $15.99 per month)
Apple TV+ ($4.99 per month)
Disney+ ($6.99 per month)
ESPN+ ($4,99 per month)
Peacock $4.99 per month)
CBS All Access – about to rebrand as Paramount+ ($5.99 per month)
Discovery+ ($4.99 per month)
HBO Max ($14.99 per month)

All of that is fine for the cord cutters among us, but what of us dinosaurs that still have a full Cable TV package?? I currently pay Comcast $286 for my Xfinity service. This includes Internet access, telephone, and cable service. I used to be able to watch HBO and other services that I paid for, via an app on my phone. I also used to be able to use the services on other Smart TVs or via an Amazon Fire or Roku device. At that point, having an Amazon Prime subscription and Netflix were icing on the cake, assuring me that I could watch virtually anything I wanted, anywhere I was. That’s now changing.

The cable channels have obviously found that there is money to be made even from people who do not pay for cable TV. Disney, CBS, NBC, and others, have decided that the profit from their programing belongs in their pockets, rather than Netflix or Amazon Prime’s, so much of the content that was available on these services originally is now available exclusively on their own streaming service. As I see it, two things are happening here. #1 – Those of us who are still paying for traditional cable TV, are now not seeing content that is being produced by the very channels that are part of our service we pay for. #2 – Folks who have already, or will soon join the Cord Cutters of the world, will no longer be able to get by with one or two generic streaming services, but will have to pay for a laundry list of new streaming services if they want to be able to approach the content that cable TV provides. How much money will they really be saving in the end?

In addition, as I guess an incentive to get people to sign up for the service, virtually every one of the new pay services is featuring “Exclusive Content” that is not available elsewhere. The CBS service features many original titles including The Good Wife continuation show, The Good Fight, and their library of Star Trek themed shows. ESPN+ advertises exclusive content including UFC events, MLB and NHL games, Boxing, International Soccer, as well as a number of original series. Over on Disney+ you get to see a virtual roster of Disney movies, behind the scenes shows, and many original series. One of the newest, Discover+, features exclusive content from their many networks including HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, and even the new Magnolia Network with Chip and Joana Gaines. Lots of things that you’ll only see with a subscription to one of the services.

And what are consumers saying? Here’s a sampling of replies on a recent Facebook post by Food Network Chef Robert Irvine, promoting a new episode of his show Restaurant Impossible that’s only available on Discovery+:

“Well, I can’t watch them because I already pay for Food Network through cable and I’m not going to pay for it again through Discovery+”

“Never missed your show, even watch reruns, but not paying extra for Discovery+”

“It sucks that what used to be part of my cable package has now moved to a new platform. No Thank You. I hope Discovery goes bankrupt.”

“Buh-bye! No Discovery+ here. The value of Food Network, HGTV, DIY and others dropped last year when fewer new shows were produced, and our cable costs still went up. Now with a subscription scheme they want even more money from us.”

“Will miss the show. Not paying extra for Discovery+ just to watch it.”

“Miss being able to watch you. Ridiculous that we have to pay for another streaming service! Not your fault, but this is asking a lot from your fans.”

and finally….

“Sorry not watching. Viewers being played big time here! Food Network or whoever is behind this Discovery+ must think we are all awfully stupid. You will lose viewers over this.”

Hmmm…they don’t sound happy.

You just knew it was a matter of time before the folks behind so many cable channels found a way to make more money off their current subscribers, and to find new customers as well. Welcome to the confusing world of home TV viewing in 2021!

2020…Year in Review – Part Three

Here’s the final part of our look back at the year that was the most different of our lifetimes!

Hurricane Isaias

Early in August, the hurricane with the almost unpronounceable name came to Ocean City to visit! There was rain and wind…a lot of wind…and a tornado was sighted just west of Ocean City and cut a path of destruction up through Marmora, our neighbor town to the west of 34th Street. It did damage in OC too, taking the steeple off a small church on 32nd Street and Central Avenue, blowing small structures over, knocking over porch furniture and destroying awnings all over town.

At our house, it tossed about the furniture on the porch pretty good, even upending the couch. Then there was a knock on the front door…it was our neighbor Meade telling us that our Gazebo was now next to his house! Although it was staked down in the back yard, and had seemed fine every time Susie or I had checked on it that morning, at some point a gust of wind was more than it could take! Not only did the wind take it down, but it carried it over the cottage next door, and slammed it into the side of Patty and Meade’s house! With the help from some renters, we carried it away from their house and into our garage, where Susie and I proceeded to take it apart, as the canvas was ripped, and many of the uprights were bent. In short, the Gazebo was no more!

In the entire month of August I wrote one blog! This one was about our Sunday Traditions and how we were trying to maintain them, even in this crazy year! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/08/27/delia-family-sunday-traditions/

Oasis II

After the very casual way Isaias had torn apart our backyard Oasis, we were determined that we needed to make a statement that it might be different, but was still there! We bought a couple of tables from Amazon, strung some new lights, and we were back in business! It wasn’t the same, but we were confident that our new Oasis would withstand whatever Mother Nature threw at her! Early in the fall, we even added a fire pit to the mix!

Family Visit

At the end of August, needing a release from being cooped up in their house with their two teenage children, our son-in-law Mike’s sister Sara and her husband Gabe rented our neighbor Neen’s rental property around the corner on Third Street. Once the rest of the family found out about it, our daughter Krissi thought it might be a great way to have a “Socially Distanced” visit to the old folks. Krissi and Mike got a room with points at a nearby Hampton Inn (Mike would make it a “work trip” by visiting some local liquor stores….Mike works for a wine distributor), and Mike’s folks, Jerry and Paula, got a place at a local Ocean City Bed and Breakfast!

We socially distanced in our garage, in the backyard and our new Oasis, and on the Pennlyn Place Beach! It was different, but it was great to see some family again!!

September and October

We continued our lives in our little seaside community as well as we could considering the year we were in. There was time at the beach, relaxing on our porch, our dinners out at Angelo’s and Charlie’s, and a take-out meal here and there. Rather than real life visits, there were pictures and Facetimes from Billy’s family where we got to see and interact with our Grandkids. There were phone calls and Facetimes keeping in touch with our twins in Astoria and Florida. Having been without wheels since they arrived in Florida, in the beginning of October, Kenny and Chris bought a used car…a 2014 Mazda 2. As the weather got colder, we enjoyed the heaters at Angelo’s and time at our fire pit in our backyard! We continued our weekly traditions and began to play cards every afternoon at 4 for at least an hour!

In September, it appeared I had been bitten by the writing bug again. I wrote 3 blogs! The first was about Susie’s Free Table, which she uses a couple of times a year to get rid of things we no longer want (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/07/the-free-table/ ), then one called ‘Atsa My Boat where I talk about our much earlier Nautical Activities (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/09/atsa-my-boat/ ), and finally one about our 41st anniversary called 9/29/2020 (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/09/29/9-29-2020/ ). Obviously, I may have been bitten by the writing bug again, but it was a small bite, as in October, I wrote but one blog. This one called My Dad and his Family (https://rnewadventures.com/2020/10/06/my-dad-and-his-family/)

November

In November, as the weather continued to cool off, we enjoyed our last outdoor meal at Angelo’s in AC. Going forward it was take-out or home cooking for us. As many restaurants (including Charlie’s and Angelo’s) had opened for 25% indoor dining, we were not comfortable eating inside, so we didn’t.

The boys decided to come up and spend Thanksgiving with us, and after getting negative Covid tests, they got in their little car and drove up! I wrote a rather extensive blog about their visit, our Twins’ Birthday, our Thanksgiving celebration, and putting up our Christmas Tree with Kenny and Chris. If you want to re-visit that, you’ll find it here…

https://rnewadventures.com/2020/11/29/family-holiday-traditions/

December

After the boys headed back to Florida, we continued our preparation for Christmas. Although, it was only going to be the two of us, for the first time in our married life of 41 Christmases, we did our usual. I wrote about it in a blog called Christmas 2020 Cancelled??
https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/20/christmas-2020-canceled/

Susie and I enjoyed our different Christmas, and although we missed our kids and Grandkids, I wouldn’t say we suffered in any other way. We used Facetime and saw Kenny and Chris in Florida, Krissi and Mike in New York, and Billy and Lori and the kids open gifts from Grandma and Grandpa. We stayed in our PJs all day, and watched Christmas movies. We also got to partake in one of those D’Elia Family Traditions, as we took drives to look at Santa Lights in Ocean City! https://rnewadventures.com/2020/12/22/santa-lights/

Between Christmas and New Year, and my January 2nd birthday, we continued our quest to watch as many Christmas movies as possible, to continue to eat the wrong food, and to enjoy the holiday season. All in all, different, but not bad.

And that takes us to the end of the year known as 2020! It was by no means a normal year, but our family was lucky in that we got through it better than many. As I write this, we are looking forward to a new year with a lot more promise. Hopefully the vaccine will roll out better than it has in the early stages, people will realize that wearing a mask is not an impingement of their freedom, but rather a medically smart thing to do, and before 2021 is over, we can get back to some semblance of the life we left behind!

Susie and I send our best wishes for health and happiness to you and yours, and look forward to you joining us as we march through the next 12 months!!