Friday, April 29, 2011


Is it just me, or is there an amazing similarity between the classic Scion xB (aka "Box" or "Toaster") and the Rolls Royce used in today's royal wedding?

On each vehicle the windshield is almost vertical, the passenger compartment is basically a luggage container, and except for the glass roof on the back of the Rolls (oh, and the snazzy grille), the resemblance goes on and on.

I will bet on better gas mileage for the Box, and most likely it had a lower sticker price.

Just saying.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Wil in the workshop
Last night the Box fulfilled the long-held wish of a friend of mine from the church choir. He thinks the Box is cute but weird, which, of course, it is. My friend's name is Wilmer, and some time ago I promised him a ride in the container-on-wheels.

Since we were both going to a mutual friend's house in Mechanicsburg to get assistance in making labels for some CDs, I called Wil and asked him to ride along with me to Lee's house. I picked up Wil in Harrisburg, and we crossed the river, drove through the Camp Hill by-pass and then turned right on Trindle Road.

We passed historic Peace Church, marveling at its sturdy construction and the beauty of its interior. We also admired the handsome town houses in Mechanicsburg's historic district as we drove through town.

Lee demonstrates a harp he built.
Soon we arrived at Lee's in-town plantation. The manor house faces the street, and behind it is a delightful wood-shingle-roofed carriage house, over which is Lee's impressive woodshop. He gave us a tour, where we saw several harps he has made.

Next in line is the large garden, already giving forth asparagus that Lee describes as being "like candy." Finally, on the other side of a small lane is the guest house, a little white cottage that Lee has transformed into a comfortable place for visitors and family to stay during visits. A musical group Lee is in rehearses there, too. Lee is currently building a deck on the back of that house, "just for something to do," as he puts it. The guy is amazing.

Lee has computer equipment for printing labels on CDs, so Wil and I were there to enlist his aid. I wanted to do some labels for CDs of a Powerpoint presentation on the history of Market Square Church's buildings that I had produced for showing to audiences at the church and at the Historical Society of Dauphin County. Both the pastor, who narrated at the two presentations, and I thought it would be good to have copies for the church library and to use at new member orientations. Perhaps some church members might like to have a copy, too. Thus the need for labels.

Lee makes a call for help.
Apparently, the photo I provided was not in the right format, and in spite of Lee's valiant efforts, only Wil went away with a finished product. Lee promised to try again, and I have no doubt he will be successful sooner or later.

As the sun set, Wil and I piled into the Box and headed home. I was able to show him the snazzy lighting system under the seats of the Box, but stupidly failed to show the rotating colors on the dial when you turn on the radio! The poor guy will have to ride again -- after dark, of course.


Flower display at Market Square Church
On Sunday, Easter Day, I started the day with a rehearsal at 10:00 a.m. with the choir and brass ensemble at Market Square Church. We sang through the Easter music we had prepared for several weeks and made some last-minute corrections and improvements. I guess we like to make our director, Eric, sweat it out until the last minute, when we generally turn in a top-notch performance. Easter was no exception. Of course, Eric's organ playing is quite exceptional and makes everything more interesting and exciting.

At the end of the service, I rushed down the narrow old stairs from the choir gallery (as opposed to the wide new stairs) so I could listen to the postlude as the congregation hears it. The choir is surrounded by the organ, and it's sort of like a marching band in a parade -- you hear the instruments closest to you as they pass. So I heard the pipes closest -- and even felt the air blowing through them onto the back of my neck!

My sister Rachel had placed a flower in the church in honor of me and Susanne and invited me to choose one of the many on display to take home. I knew Susanne would like the pink hydrangea to add to the other four we have on the side of the house.  As predicted, she was delighted. Many thanks to Rachel for this lovely gift.

Organ and brass play the postlude.
After church, Rachel and I stopped at Mickey D's, as usual, to grab a bite to eat and catch up (get it, ketchup) on the latest news. Then I headed for home and goofed off until it was time to leave for Baltimore, well, Perry Hall, where Matt, Marylee, and Ian awaited.

Ian was napping when we got there. We chatted until he woke up, cranky as all get out, and then ordered the traditional Easter meal of pizza, plain and pepperoni. Yum. Oh, and bread sticks. Ian wolfed down two slices. I guess napping really takes it out of you!

Ian's first games of Chutes...
We spent the evening together and stayed over. Ian had received the classic children's game "Chutes and Ladders" for Easter, and during the evening he and I played his first game. Like most kids, he was anxious to climb the ladders, but he didn't seem to mind sliding down the chutes, either. It was  fun to observe him joining the zillions of kids who have played this no-reading-required game.

Pat's famous cake
Marylee and Matt turned in early, so Susanne and I watch some TV and enjoyed some of the goodies Marylee's mom Pat had sent for us from their family Easter luncheon. Of course, my favorite was her legendary coconut cake. A large slice kept calling to me from under the aluminum foil wrapper on the kitchen country. (Remember when we called that stuff "tin foil"?) Susanne enjoyed a bite and then moved on to the chocolate items.

Bagels for sale
In the morning I made a run to Dunkin Donuts so Susanne could have her favorite sesame bagel with light veggie spread and blueberry coffee. We had already said good-bye to Matt, who was off to work, and a short time later to Marylee and Ian, who were heading to work and school. Ian actually held still long enough to give me a hug good-bye! He is usually like greased lightning.

Before heading home, Susanne cut some lilacs from one of of the lilac bushes outside. We did some shopping at Ikea and then Pottery Barn and after that Crate and Barrel, looking for something, but I forget what. My aching feet had taken over my brain by then, and I was not fully conscious.

Little lights from IKEA
The real thing

Oh, now I remember -- Susanne bought two small sisal-type rugs for the summer, as well as some "natural" color throws for the living room (for those chilly summer nights). My purchase was some little white "domes" that light up and which you can place anywhere for a little "sparkle." I thought they would look cool spread around the porch on a summer evening. They look like little Eskimo igloos where, like Motel 6, they have left the light on for you.

The Easter hydrangea from Rachel

 Uh oh, here comes bicycle boy.

Tour de Living Room.

Next it's on to the train set-up.

 Pizza time!

Ian chooses his marker for "Chutes and Ladders."

 Getting set up takes a moment.

 Ian constructs the rest of the markers.

 One last blueberry lollipop for the day.

Susanne cut some lilacs from the backyard at Matt and Marylee's.

 First stop: IKEA

 We liked this color combination at
Crate and Barrel in Towson Town Centre.

 A drum lamp shade might be good over our new island.
 When I first saw this toaster, I thought the Box had
followed us into Crate and Barrel.

 A colorful display.

On the way home we stopped for lunch next door
to this Masonic Temple in Shrewsbury, Pa. I am 
wondering what they do in there that they
had to brick up the windows!


On Good Friday, I took a leisurely ride through an area of Susquehanna Township that I have driven through many times over the years. I drove from home on Sixth Street, when I first started teaching, to Susquehanna Township Senior High School on Elmerton Avenue from Cameron Street all the way to the school. However, I had never explored any of the roads that intersect with Elmerton Avenue.

I had gone to the market to find some whoopie pies to take to Matt and his family on Sunday. I also bought some blue Peeps for Ian, since I knew he would not get enough sugar in his Easter basket.

Then I drove out Elmerton Avenue, starting at Cameron, just like I did all those years ago. The first road I drove back was Bamberger Road, a "no outlet" sign failing to stop me. There were some pleasant houses back there and some sort of school (I forget now which one) in a very modern-looking building. I thought about a boy I had had in eighth grade, later, when I taught at the middle school. He was a big kid and teased mercilessly by the little squirts in his class. I think we'd call it bullying today. At any rate, something happened at home on Bamberger Road, and (I hope you're sitting down) his father set him on fire, killing him. I wondered where his house was and spent a moment just remembering him so he'd know he had not been forgotten.

At the end of the street there was a unique tree house -- made from a stump. Maybe this is the entrance to Alice's Wonderland, or perhaps the gate of hell! At any rate, it was clever and amusing. All of the houses at the dead end had "no turning" signs in their driveways, so I had to back up a block or two to change directions. No small animals or children were injured in my efforts to back up that far. Let's say that going in reverse is not my forte.

On the left as I drove back towards Elmerton Avenue was a decrepit-looking farm sort of peeking over a small ridge. I think some of the photographers on Beyond Second have gone in there to photograph the abandoned farmhouse. Later, when I was back on Elmerton, I looked for the entrance to the farm but was unable to find it! Those photogs must have levitated their way back to the old house.

So I drove on toward the school, passing buildings not there in my earlier commute, like the State Police headquarters and the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission. I wonder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania owns a lot of the vacant land out there, between the Commission buildings and the former State Hospital. I recall talk many years ago of the offices of the Historical and Museum Commission moving out there to give the State Museum, where they are still located, a lot more storage areas.

The next interesting road I came to was Martina Drive. It's a lane and a half of blacktop winding its way up and over a small ridge. My friend Marcia had mentioned once that a friend of hers had lived in a house back there that was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. I thought I might catch a glance of it.

I ignored the sign that said "Road Closed," which looked to me like it meant, "There is no barrier here, but if you have any problems on this road because of its condition, don't call us." There were several large "dips" in the roadway, but all in all, it was not too bad. I slowly snaked my way to the top of the hill, with not a building in site. It was a dead end, of course, so I turned around and headed back down. It was then that I spotted this house at the end of a steep driveway. I could see only a small portion, but it looked like it would be something one might want to explore further. Not knowing if it was still occupied, I did not drive up.

When I got back to Elmerton, I noticed something in front of the property that I had missed before: a huge sign offering 50 acres for sale. Directly across the street was a second sign offering 35 acres for sale. I guess this bit of rural Susquehanna Township will disappear in favor of more office parks or residential development.

Once I got to Progress Avenue, I felt I was back in civilization and zipped home on I-81, to find a beautiful pot of spring flowers that Susanne had bought from the folks who live behind us and have a landscaping business and plants sales on their property.

Click on any photo to enlarge it.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Market Square Church
Yesterday was Maundy Thursday. I had no real obligations until the evening, when I sang with the choir at Market Square Church. We performed Morton Lauridsen's setting of Ubi Caritas et Amor, Deus Ibi Est, the translation of which is "Where charity and love are, God is there."

I did go into the church in the morning, however, to perform some of my duties as choir librarian. I checked in on my sister Rachel, who was helping in the church office. She volunteered to walk up to the parking authority near Second and Walnut to pick up the tickets that the church hands out to folks who park in the garage for services.

I asked to go along, and while she got the tickets, I stopped in at a tourism office to check things out. It was run by the downtown improvement agency, and lo and behold, there in one of the brochure racks was a little pack of visitor brochures I had done eons ago for St. Michael Church when I was a member there. Brought back memories.

Scene of sunrise services
There the woman-in-charge invited me to her church's sunrise service in Riverfront Park, at the John Harris grave, at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. Well, I happened to know that our church is having a sunrise service in Riverfront Park, at the John Harris grave, at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday. I could just see the headlines on Monday: "Church groups arrested in mêlée over use of graves for Easter service." Naturally, I informed the pastor in charge of the service at Market Square, although I have not heard what's going to happen. It should be fun!

Our next stop was over on Fourth Street at the copy shop where the church's newsletter is produced. Rachel dropped off the original to be copied.Then we went a few doors down to Pasquale's, a sandwich and pizza place, where we got sandwiches for ourselves and for others working at the church. The women ordered chicken salad and the men had turkey. Interestingly, there was a basket of Easter eggs on the counter, made and sold by St. Michael Church. I had just seen some out in Colonial Park at the Catholic Shop! Are they stalking me?

Sniff, sniff
On the way back, Rachel stopped to smell the season's first lilacs, strangely enough looking very beautiful among some straggly plants growing around a blacktopped parking lot on Chestnut Street.

We had a nice conversation over lunch, and then I left to run down to the Historical Society to see the Webmaster about placing some information about an upcoming event on the society's Web site. While there, I walked around the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion to take some photos of the grounds in springtime. There is always something interesting there to photograph.

Soon I was on the way home, only to return to the church in time for a rehearsal before the service. After the service, there was a second rehearsal of the music for Easter. I left the church about 10:00 p.m. and after watering the palms in the front of the sanctuary, drove up to the roof of the garage and took some photos of Market Square by night, then headed home.

St. Michael Church's eggs at Pasquale's.

Looking skyward through the mansion's
magnolia tree.

Pear blossoms on the tree known to mansion owner
Simon Cameron in the 19th century.

Colorful tulips greet visitors.

 A beautiful date stone from a now-
demolished Harrisburg office building.

View of Market Square by night.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Susanne and Wanda.
This morning Susanne and I jumped into the Box and zipped up Rt. 322 to Dauphin to help my sister-in-law Wanda (who is vertically challenged) to take down old curtains and try new ones in her living room.

Of course, on the way we had to stop at Dunkin Donuts on Rt. 39 for Susanne's favorite brew, blueberry coffee with cream. Driving through old town Linglestown, I made a little video of the latest improvements to the town center, including roadway, curbs, sidewalks, lighting, and roundabouts.

Following the scent of donuts swimming in grease, we arrived at DD. We went through the drive-through, but being only a few feet from the donut trays inside, I swear I felt my blood sugar rising.

We rode along the Susquehanna, noting how high it was after several days of rain. We saw the replica of the Statue of Liberty that has stood on an old bridge pier for several years, created by local residents. Then we entered the concrete canyon that is 322 bypassing Dauphin. We missed the exit and had to go to the next one and double back, finally arriving at Wanda's street, a pleasant and quiet street of well-kept homes.

We were greeted by Wanda and her neighbor, who were chatting on the back deck, and by Abby, the cutest little white-haired lady I know. We surveyed the big back yard and what was popping up from the ground now that spring is here. Wanda pointed out a tree in the woods at the end of the yard that had fallen over just as she was looking at it. I wonder if she can bend spoons, too.

A few backyards down the street, we could see some sheep standing around in a group. The emus that live in the field next door were nowhere to be seen.

We helped Wanda remove the old curtains and put up some new ones for evaluation. The verdict? Yep, they look great, let's keep 'em. Wanda even took a walk out front to see how they looked from the street. Tomorrow she plans to ask the local peeping Tom how they look at night.

Sheep in the field. Click to enlarge.
By now it was after noon, and we took our leave so I could take Susanne home and get ready for a trip to Mechanicsburg in the Box-turned-LECmobile to meet with a family who wants to host a French student this summer. It was a very positive interview, and afterwards I rushed home to meet my friend Jesse, who came by to dig out some hosta and lamb's ear for his flower beds. There was plenty of each left in the ground, and Jesse should have enough to divide and subdivide for years to come, until his house is consumed by the plants.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


Entry into Jersusalem - Orrente, c. 1620
Today is Palm Sunday, and the Box and I went off to the service at Market Square Church. I sing in the choir, so I had to be there early and ready for a last-minute rehearsal. I had awakened early and got out of bed at 5:33 a.m. after some tossing and turning.

I have an electronic keyboard and when I knew that Susanne was awake, I turned it on and ran through some "problem" areas of the pieces we were to sing.

The choir loft was full today because the Alleluia choir, made up of older children, joined us -- actually, we joined them! -- in a "hosanna" song by local composer Robert Lau. They did a great job, with spirited singing in tune and with a catchy rhythm. A brass ensemble had played prelude music and the adult choir sang a sort of choral fanfare to open the festivities.

The bulletin cover and palms.
When the entrance hymn rolled around, the congregation participated heartily in the waving of their palm branches during the refrain. I apologize for the sloppy beginning to the video, but you'll get the idea. You'll also see the palm plants to the right of the pulpit, which I had placed in memory of my parents. They will be there through Easter Sunday.

Later in the service, we adults sang two parts of Cherubini's Requiem in c minor, the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei. We were accompanied on the organ. I think we did pretty darn well. It's a fun piece to sing, the Requiem. Beautiful without killing the singers, if you know what I mean. People in the parking garage and men's room said the music was "great" and "magnificent."

Palms stay for Holy Week.
After the service my sister Rachel and I made our ritual pilgrimage to the McDonald's on Front Street near Linglestown Road. We jawed awhile, ate a burger, and then went our separate ways, she to prepare for a party she was to attend, and I to write this blog.

Susanne and I unloaded her treasures from the car, talked on the phone for a while with Sarah and Chloe, who called to wish us a happy fortieth anniversary, and then got ready for a special dinner at Olive Garden to celebrate. Forty years...I know...I should be made a saint. (Hey, this is my blog, so I get to write stuff like that!)

While I parked the car, Susanne went in to Olive Garden to reserve a table. There was no line, so she was seated immediately. I followed shortly after parking up against the Pier 1 next door.

Seafood pasta.
We had the usual breadsticks and salad while our orders were prepared. Susanne order seafood pasta, and I ordered eggplant parmesan. Like my quest for the perfect hamburger, in Italian joints I always test out the eggplant. This was quite good, crisp and tasty. We decided to splurge on dessert, too. I had warm apple crustata (or something akin to that) and Susanne took home something chocolate. All in all, it was a pleasant meal, even though it paled in comparison to the wonderful restaurants of Little Italy in Baltimore, where we have dined on occasion with our son Matt and his wife Marylee.

Eggplant parmesan.
During the evening, we enjoyed reading the comments and congratulations left on my Facebook page by family and friends near and far.

It's hard to believe it is 40 years since we tied the knot. Susanne will kill me (for the insurance money) when I tell this awful joke one more time:

"Susanne and I were happy for 24 years. Then we met!"


Susanne had read about two women who had made a business in Frederick, Maryland, of interesting home décor using shabby chic and re-purposed things, along with what I call "Victoriana." Of course, we had to go see them on the occasional weekend they open a big barn full of stuff, which was this weekend. The place is called Madison and Mabel.

It was slated to rain all day yesterday, so we figured, what the heck, how bad could it be? Driving in a nice warm car (the new one, with heated seats to boot) on good roads down to Frederick and scooting into a nice old barn to look at more things we don't need.

Mr. Fisher and helper unload the island from their truck.
Before we left, though, we got a call from the Amish fellow at the farmer's market in Grantville, who is a dealer in wooden furniture. He was ready to deliver the kitchen island he had made for us and hoped to make it to our place before the rain started. He did make it just in time, and there was not a drop on the black-painted cabinet or cherry top.

But, rain it did. Almost as soon as we left and the whole drive there and home! Because doctors advise against searching for vintage items on an empty stomach, and because Susanne loves the place, we stopped at the Shamrock Restaurant near Thurmont for a bite to it. Can you tell from the picture that the décor is, shall we say, ethnic?
Celtic crosses at Shamrock.
Susanne had some sort of seafood chowder, and I, in my never-ending search for the perfect burger, had their "All American Burger." My search is not over, but Susanne was rapturous over the chowder.

Soon we found ourselves on a country road (after the malls and fast food joints ended) passing some old farmhouses and open fields. We crossed over "English Muffin Way," which led into one of Thomas' English Muffin bakeries (the aroma was delightful, like all those nooks and crannies were being toasted right in front of you), until we came to the farm where the sale was taking place.

First booth on your right.
"Scooting into the barn" meant parking in the post office parking lot next door to the property the barn is on, and walking down a muddy, puddle-riddled lane, heavy rain being blown sideways under our umbrellas.

There were some cool things there to see and some of them had Susanne's name all over them. One was a galvanized smallish clothes hanger with little clamps on which to hang stuff. Another was a two-tiered tea table for the back porch. (Once that was added to the stuff already out there, we'd be able only to stand at the living room door and look out onto the porch.) I talked her into ordering one up from her friend Debbie, who along with her husband Bill, has bought up every old table in Dauphin County at auction with an eye to dolling them up for ladies who like such things.

The sisal plant. Who knew?
We also bought a sisal-like ("imitation") rug for the summer living room. Sisal is made from the fiber of a plant grown in the tropics. According to Wikipedia, "apart from ropes, twines, and general cordage, sisal is used in low-cost and specialty paper, dartboards, buffing cloth, filters, geotextiles, mattresses, carpets, handicrafts, wire rope cores, and Macramé."

Ours is imitation sisal, so you can actually walk on it with hollering out in pain since sisal is hard and unforgiving. Come by and tell us if it looks good on the floor.

Anyway, after poking through a second, smaller barn too cramped to move in, and some sort building that reminded me of a covered bridge, we made our way back to fetch the car for picking up the rug.

The rug awaits unrolling.
After a stop at Mickey D's for some soda and tea, we drove straight home through constant rain, sometimes very heavy, the whole way from Frederick to Linglestown.

I cleverly pulled up to the mail box to allow Susanne to extract the mail from her window on the driver's side. She got almost all of it. There is a Time magazine now halfway down the block, carried by the flow of rainwater. If you care to dry it out, it's yours to read.

 The island has cupboards and drawers
and a place to sit on the other side.

 Sort of silly if you lived on this street!

 Bimbo Bakeries? So that's where bimbos come from!

 Cool cabinet with small drawers.

 Vintage furniture and other valuable stuff.

 The second story of the barn was cavernous.

 This little kitty knew where the good seats were.

 Yet more stuff, nicely displayed.

 French stuff, often the best.

 Blue was a popular color here.

Susanne shows off the hanger thingie.