It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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I’m sure we’ve all heard the 1963 song, made popular by Andy Williams, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  Indeed, during this holiday period, it’s hard to go through a day without hearing it on the radio, in a store while shopping, or around your house.  You know the song…..

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

With the kids jingle belling

And everyone telling you be of good cheer

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

It’s the hap-happiest season of all

With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings

When friends come to call,

It’s the hap-happiest season of all….”

 

But is it?

img_1062-1Yesterday, Susie and I spent some time at the Shoprite in Somers Point, and as we were walking out, I commented to her, “Wow…there are some really, crabby unhappy people in this place”.  Sourpuss faces, grumpy dispositions…a generally cranky population!  

As we went back into the parking lot and unloaded the wagon into our Honda, the general theme continued.  Folks were honking horns at each other, attempting to beat fellow shoppers to parking places, demanding that others move faster, and generally acting like they were the most important person on earth!  Wow…”the hap-happiest season of all”?

Then we ventured out of the parking lot and onto Route 9, and believe me, it didn’t improve there!  We saw no “kids jingle belling” and certainly never heard anyone telling us to be “of good cheer”.  What we did see was the usual crappy driving you see this time of the year.  People cutting others off, turning the wrong way down streets, driving while on their phones, and not signaling so you have an idea what their intentions are.  Generally living up to my theory that the state issues thousands of licenses that are only valid from Thanksgiving through New Years, and you best pay double attention to your fellow drivers on the road this time of year, if you want to find out what you are “Doing on New Year’s Eve!” 

How sad is it, that so many at this “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” act like it is anything but!  Are there crowds in the stores and traffic on the roads?  Yes, but it’s Christmas, what do you expect?!  I’m reminded of a woman I met standing in line a long time ago at the Fortunoff Department Store back on Long Island.  We were waiting to pick up some merchandise we’d just purchased, and frankly it was a rather long line, as we all were there for the same purpose.  After a few minutes the lady, who was in front of me, turned to me and said, “Why are the lines so long this time of the year?”  Huh?  I wanted to tell her that if she perhaps did her Christmas or Hanukkah shopping in say July, she might find less crowds, but I didn’t.  

I think too many people lose sight of what this holiday is all about.  It’s about family and friends, its about “parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow”.  It’s about, “hearts will be glowing when love ones are near, and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.”  Like the birth of a little baby in a stable in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.  Yes, we all have a lot to do, and sometimes the doing becomes stressful, and dealing with people becomes a chore, but please think of the lyrics of this song, and the real reason we celebrate.  Christmas wasn’t created by Macys or Walmart, Target, Costco,  Coca-Cola, or even the Hallmark Channel! 

It’s about that little baby, it’s about family, and friends that are like family, it’s about spending time with the ones you love, and spreading the joy of the season as much as you can, even if it’s just smiling at a stranger in the store, or holding a door for someone, or thinking of those around you.  Yes indeed, it is the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and my wish is that we all remember that everyday, and try and make it true.  I know Andy Williams will appreciate it!

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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!  

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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…

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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!  

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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!

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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!

Ocean City – Part 8

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When we bought 854 Pennlyn back in January of 2005, the building was 4 years old, and we were the 3rd owner of the first floor unit.  In the thirteen and a half years we have owned the first floor, the second floor has had 4 different owners.  This part of our story will deal with the relationship we had over the past 13 years with these folks.   Our first owners were the two young couples we spoke of in the last chapter.  They were truly absentee owners, and with the exception of a couple of winter rentals they had during our early years, they were good to interact with.  

I should tell you that when Susie and I bought 854, we found out that the former owners were the ones charged with the insurance needs of the Condo Association, and after buying, we continued with that task.  It involved a Liability and Comprehensive policy and another for Flood Insurance.  We used a local insurance agent, so all that really was involved was collecting the other owner’s share of the premiums, and getting them to the agent.  The Condo Association’s documents specified that because of some differing footprints between the 2 floors, the second floor owned 54% of the building and we owned 46%, so that was the split on expenses too, like the insurance.  Easy, right?

Yes, it was with most of the owners.  We’d get the bills, copy them to their attention, and a check would be returned in short order.  It was like that with our interactions with most of our co-owners, but as with every rule, there are exceptions.  We woke up one day, and discovered that the upstairs unit had been sold to a new owner.  Let’s just call this owner “Bob”, and like on Dragnet, the name has been changed to protect the..well, you get the idea.

img_0791Bob had a wife and three sons.  Bob, I think, was going to go into real estate and make enough money to send those three boys to college.  In addition to our upstairs, Bob also owned a rental property in Brigantene.  Sounds like just the kind of person you want to co-own a building with, right?  Well, we hoped so as our relationship started.  He had a good job with a company car, and provided us with all his contact info.  That was the good part.  The first year when the insurance bill came due at the end of May, I guess he hadn’t yet pocketed any rent money, so the check was a little slow in returning and I believe we carried him for a week or so till he made us whole.  Okay, new owner, new procedures, we were good with that.  Well, we really shouldn’t have been, because it was a pervasive part of our relationship with him.

Turns out that he had bought the two properties on a shoestring, and was stretched really thin on the money side.  That made him do stupid things.  The first of the stupid things was taking a “Senior Week” rental.

Most people in Ocean City, avoid “Senior Week” rentals like the bubonic plague!  The idea img_0789of 4 or 5 drunken high school or college seniors doing God only knows what in your beautiful beach home, is just not something that most owners can stomach.  Factor in that since “Senior Week” is in early June, and you will be getting the least rent of the entire rental season, and its a no win situation for most.  I guess that $1200 was too attractive for Bob to pass up, so he went for a “Senior Week” rental.  

While we were thankfully not there during this rental, our across the street neighbors Georgia and Vinny told us many stories.  Like the piles and piles of black bags that were filled with empty beer cans on trash day.  Or the reveler that they saw sound asleep on said pile of empty beer cans one morning.  Or the people they swear they saw sleeping in the garage, and the loud parties that they had a clear view of from across the street.  

So Bob made his $1200, but in the end, it probably cost him that and more.  There was the hole in the master bedroom wall that he had to fix (somebody put their fist through it).  Also the rugs he had to replace because of the burn holes in them, from the cigarettes that were not allowed to be smoked inside the property.   Let’s just add that after they left, there was a great deal more than the usual after-rental cleaning to erase their stay.  All in all, a mistake from beginning to end!

In addition to his bad decisions, Bob and his wife also had 3 sons who made questionable decisions.  Like the time they managed to lock our garage door, so that when we came img_0793home and hit the garage door opener, instead of opening, the door folded like an empty Budweiser can.  Or the time that they were in the house alone, and decided it would be fun to stand on the second floor front porch, and hurl glass soda bottles at our neighbor Doc’s recycling can.  Unfortunately, their aim sucked, and they left Doc with red stains and a number of shattered bottles to clean up, and never admitted they’d done it!  Oh yeah, they were lovely little boys!

I think Bob owned the place for about 3 summers, and as time went on, it appeared that his financial situation got worse and worse.  Like the summer we had to replace our original air conditioning unit.  Of course, both of our air conditioning units were installed at the same time, but for some reason he thought he wouldn’t have to follow us img_0792and install new AC.  We discovered it was because he couldn’t afford to change it, but alas his AC unit suffered the same fate as ours.  Did he replace it?  Nope, he installed a WINDOW AIR CONDITIONER in one of the living room windows.  I’m sure his renters were dismayed and probably mad when they showed up at the house they had rented that listed it had Central Air, only to find a noisy cheap window air conditioner!  There was no way that one window AC unit was going to cool the house, and in addition, the evaporation drain dripped on and ran across their front porch, and right onto ours!  This was really the beginning of the end for Bob.

I say that because in addition to our having to wait for his part of the insurance money even longer than usual that year, we found out that he’d apparently also stopped paying the mortgage.  It wasn’t long before we heard that his place was up for sale as a “short sale”, because it was on the verge of being foreclosed on by the bank.  While the new owners got the place for a reduced price, they also had a lot of work to do because Bob had been scrimping on everything!  

He’d apparently never had the air conditioning/heat plant serviced, and even was too cheap to install a couple of dollar air filter in the system.  Not only did the new owner have to update the air-conditioning, he also had to have the ducts professionally cleaned since the system was run filterless!  In addition, walls needed to be repaired and painted, carpeting needed to be replaced, and the whole unit updated, as Bob had done nothing that wasn’t absolutely necessary during his years of ownership!

With the exception of Bob, we have been very lucky to have good neighbors and co-owners during our 13 years in the house.  We are fortunate to have had our current co-img_0790owners John and Kim for the last couple of years.  There is never a wait for insurance money, plus they have been great partners as we update and provide upkeep for the building.  From power washing, to new fencing, to landscaping the property, we’ve handled it all as partners. Our home is better for their partnership, and we hope they remain our co-owners for many years to come.

Would we like to own a home that was all ours and not have to share with others?  Yes we would, but the reality of our situation is that there is no way we could live where we do, just 500 feet from the beach without living in a two unit dwelling.  It’s just the way it is, and for the vast majority of the time, it is just fine for us.  However, once that lottery win comes…well, that’s a story for another time!

Next…a House becomes our Home!

The Magic Kingdom

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Let me start by saying that both Susie and I have been coming to Walt Disney World, since very soon after it opened. In fact, when Susie and I started coming to WDW, the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness, the Contemporary Resort, and the Polynesian Village was all that existed.

We headed out to the Magic Kingdom this morning, arriving about 11 AM, with a fast pass for the Jungle Cruise at 11:25 AM. We have been on the Jungle Cruise probably 30-50 times over the years, and as one of the legendary rides that dates to Disneyland, and one of the original rides in WDW, there is a lot of history on that ride for us! We remember going on it when it was an E Ticket ride! It is the Magic Kingdom to us, and if we can go on it, we do!!

Well, that was one of the last rides that worked for us! We couldn’t get a fast pass for Pirates of the Caribbean because it’s closed, because some people didn’t like the red head scene, so the ride is being revamped. Don’t start me.

Then we had a fast pass for the Haunted Mansion, a ride we love and remember riding shortly after it debuted at WDW. Guess what??? Ride temporarily closed..sorry. It was closed for 5 hours…we never got on it!

So, a stupid ride (well not really a ride), but something we love was next! Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room! If this was a ride at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, we’d call it an “air conditioned/seat ride”. It’s something we do every year, and we were able to do it this year!!

So since we couldn’t get on the Haunted Mansion, we did the Hall of Presidents. It was closed last year due to the election, so this was a brand new show, and it was very different, but very good. Unfortunately, our current President looks like an ass in audio animatronics too! (And the heaviest one! He was huge!)

Then, we were off to a ride I’ve loved since the NY Worlds Fair. No, not, It’s a Small World, but Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress! I remember it as the GE Pavilion at the World’s Fair, and come on….Jean Shepard does the voice acting!!! How could that not be a favorite for me!! Guess what…the ride broke, and we sat there for 10 minutes till they got it rebooted!!

Then to our last fast pass, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, and guess what happened? It too broke down!! As were were getting to the end of the ride, it stopped and after trying to reboot it 3 times, it was discovered that our car had come off the track! It was our fault!!!! In case you’re interested, Susie beat me!

In short, the Magic Kingdom was a zoo today! There was a 45 minute wait for the WED People Mover, a ride that, but one other time, have walked right on. We didn’t wait today, but use that as a yard stick to how busy the park was. Did we have a great time today? I’m sorry to say we didn’t, and this is what we think are the reasons for that.

#1 – We have an institutional memory of this place that goes back to the 70s. Not to sound like two old farts, but we remember the “good old days”, and that’s not always good!

#2 – We are 40 years older than when we first started coming here…trust me, that makes a HUGE difference. (Our minds say yes, but our bodies say NO!)

#3 – The park is getting old! Rides like the Carousel of Progress (by my count 54 years old), the Haunted Mansion (at least 40+ years old), Pirates of the Caribbean (again 40 + years old) are showing their age, and breaking down. Hell, even the monorails are starting to look old!

#4 – There is more of everything at WDW, including people. Has the park reached it’s breaking point?

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Now don’t get me wrong, thanks to my Disney Retiree status, we don’t pay for parking and get into the parks for free, but is there a breaking point? We were talking to Tim the bartender at the Boardwalk Bellevue Lounge tonight, and he too wondered when the point will come that people will say NO to spending $160 for a park hopper and find long lines and broken rides.

Saying all the above, let me end by saying we still love this place and always will, and at these prices, how can we not come back! Tomorrow EPCOT, or perhaps a few hours by the “ Quiet Pool”. Stay tuned, and find out!