Thursday, March 17, 2011


The Box arrives at the Cellar
One of the best things about your work years is meeting and coming to know the people you work with. Today, I had the pleasure of having lunch with four women with whom I worked at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in the last years of the Ridge Administration, 2000-2003. We were all members of the Executive Staff and worked directly for the Executive Director.

Gloria was the marketing manager; Edie was the legislative liasion; Marcia was director of the Pennsylvania Heritage Society; and Joan was its administrative officer. (I had known Joan and Marcia from a previous life, when I taught school and they were the parents of students I had in school, so I was pleased to get to know them better at PHMC.) I had come over from PennDOT to be the Commission's press secretary.

Gloria had come up from doing marketing for the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania -- very successfully, I might add. When she arrived, one of the bureau directors at PHMC gave her, she told us today, a pencil that had been ground down to the eraser, and said, "This is what the PHMC will do with you." A couple of years later, she may have agreed. Gloria could work miracles with no money -- and did. Still she wisened up after a while and went into the regional tourism business. Today she is retired and takes care of a large extended family and more real estate than Donald Trump.

Gloria, Edie, Marcia, and Joan -- Executives in Exile
Edie had worked for non-profits and was a member of tons of boards in the region. She came to PHMC to be legislative liaison. Her job was not to lobby, but to provide for legislators the information they needed to make their oh-so-wise decisions. Edie's talents were also used to organize and implement a number of successful programs like Charter Day, Penn Ambassadors, Founder's Award, and others.

As the administration came to a close, we all got ready to move over for the far more deserving appointees who would take our places under a new party. Edie went to the Bureau for Historic Preservation, where she spent her twilight years giving away millions of grant dollars and making new friends.

Marcia and Joan got caught up in the throes of reorganizing the Society's structure under the new Commission, and eventually decided not to swim upstream anymore. Their years of hard work and innovation had made strong the organization they left behind. They're still the busiest women I know, with calendar books that are packed with civic, church, and social obligations. All these women are world-class grandmas, too!

Inside the Cellar
I myself spent three years as press secretary, and then was set aside for a new, undoubtedly better, person. Only she didn't show up for half a year, so I spent six months as press secretary and directed the historical marker program (during which time I also spent three weeks in the hospital or at home following surgery and churning out news releases). Later I threw myself into the marker program, but there was plenty of turmoil in that division of the PHMC, which was eventually eliminated. At that time I went on the be "webmaster," or more accurately content editor. I spent two years trying to get the technical people to do their part, but when it became too frustrating, I retired. Edie followed not too long after.

When Joan and Marcia had been moved at some point to the next building down the street, we began to call them "Executives in Exile." One by one we joined that group, and so we still call ourselves that today and enjoy getting together for lunch and sometimes for dinner with our spouses.

Snoozin' at the eye doctor's office
Today the five of us went to The Cellar, a BYOB restaurant just across the Susquehanna River from downtown Harrisburg. (Gloria's spouse Denny was there too. The poor workin' stiff had to get back to work while we lingered!) Nobody B'd their own B, so we had iced tea and soda, instead. Some of the woman had the BLAT, something with Avocado (no, thanks), and two of us had humongous chicken salad sandwiches, with macaroni salad and potato chips that had been made this morning in the kitchen. All very tasty.

After we took our leave, I drove to the eye doctor's office for my post-operative exam, having had my left cataract removed yesterday. Since I was a little early, I put on the "official cataract sunglasses" and took a little snooze. With those glasses, you know, the ones that wrap around your face and block light from coming in the sides, I felt that I should be sitting in a 1975 Pontiac heading to my summer place in Boca Raton.

Susanne enters her annual trance
The doctor was pleased with the results, told me to throw away my glasses, and to come back next week for a final exam.

I came home to find Susanne sitting on the back porch for the first time this year. All of the porch furniture is still wrapped up tight, but for her, it's like Opening Day, the First Day of Fishing Season, and the launching of an ocean liner. Don't bother calling her until late October.

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