I Shoulda Paid More Attention in School


I gave up cable service several years ago when they told me that the introductory offer expired, and they were going to double the price. Unlike most of the decisions I make, it turned out to be a good decision.

I don’t waste my time anymore watching mindless TV game shows, but I still get to see all the movies I want to see thanks to the wide selection of DVDs at the library. Since I quit cable, I’ve watched almost 1500 movies. As an amateur screenwriter, I consider that my film school. I can also watch almost anything else I want on

I don’t have an Internet connection in the house anymore, but I have my cell phone, and I can use that to check my e-mail or surf the Internet. I take my laptop to the library and use their WIFI when I want to download something.

I listen to the Eagles games on the radio and let my imagination work for me. It reminds me of when I was a kid listening to baseball games with and earbud in my ear and my transistor radio hidden under my pillow. If I really want to see what happened on a play it usually can be found the next day on a YouTube highlights video.

Every once in a while, though, I can’t watch what I want to watch, because one of the TV stations has exclusive rights to the program. Tonight, is one example. It’s the fifth game of the World Series and the series is tied up at 2 games apiece. I haven’t followed any Major League teams this year, because I was busy going to Lancaster Barnstormer games, but I always enjoy watching the World Series. I could just go to a sports bar, like I do for the Super Bowl, but that’s just one game. The World Series can last 7 games and I’m not interested in spending 7 nights out watching two teams I never watched all year.

So, I thought I would just have to be content watching highlight videos on YouTube, but then I got lucky. I found a Spanish ESPN broadcast. So, now I’m enjoying all the games in Spanish, Astros y Nationales. The only thing I understand is the score, as long as no team scores more than 10 runs. That’s as far as I can count in Spanish. Fortunately, all the important details, like the score, the count, and the number of outs, are in the upper left-hand corner of the screen.

The interviews are very different, too.  The Spanish players who barely say two words in English interviews, have a lot to say in Spanish.  It’s interesting to watch them, even if I don’t know what they’re saying.  Now, I guess I’ll have to go to Google translate, to find out what encerrarlo means.

YouTube has been berry berry good to me.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Walking in a Wheatland Wonderland

Last Thursday I headed to James Buchanan’s Wheatland for the 2nd of 3 lectures in their Presidential Lecture Series. James Buchanan is unfairly criticized by history and often rated as the worst President ever. The first lecture was about the foreign policy of James Buchanan and his many overlooked accomplishments in world affairs. The second lecture was about his close friendship with William Rufus King.

James Buchanan was our only bachelor President, and many stated that he was our first gay President. His close friendship with Rufus King is, they claim, the “smoking gun.”

The lectures are always interesting, but the reception beforehand can prove equally interesting. The hundred or so attendees mill about sipping free wine and voicing their opinions on the subject. At the last lecture I had an interesting discussion with a man named Tom, who was quite knowledgeable on the subject of James Buchanan. This time I had an interesting discussion with a man named Dale, who mentioned that he had also been to visit the home of former President Martin Van Buren. I knew almost nothing about Van Buren, so I was keen to learn a little bit about him. Then, we both wondered why a Connecticut professor had taken such an interest in James Buchanan. Pennsylvanians, like Pulitzer Prize winner, John Updike, could be expected to take an interest in the only President from the Keystone State, but what ever possessed Thomas Balcerski from Connecticut to take an interest in the man.

The answer came in his opening remarks. Tom was gay. So, he had a strong reason to study the life of the man who was perceived by history to be the first gay President. To our surprise, his conclusion was that James Buchanan was probably not gay, though probably not very macho, either.

My problem with the lectures is that they only last an hour, from 4:30 to 5:30, and my friends well know that I would be much happier with lectures that lasted well into the night. James Buchanan is becoming my favorite subject, even surpassing Barnstormer baseball and roller derby, though remaining maybe a level or two below Harness Racing. The other problem with the short lecture is that my bus home doesn’t arrive until 7:10 p.m. Wheatland is only a mile and a half from my apartment, so I could walk home, but nowadays, with my arthritic hip, it takes almost 2 hours to walk a mile and a half, so I might as well wait for the bus.

The last time I stood at the bus stop waiting. This time I decided to use my time more productively. In addition to Wheatland being the home of our 15th President, it also is the location for the Tanger Arboretum. Fall is definitely a great time to observe trees, so I decided to spend the hour and a half I had before the bus came, to wander around the great variety of trees at Wheatland. I wandered over to my favorite tree, a huge sugar maple that commands the front lawn of the property. On my way I noticed great big beautiful pine cones lying on the walkway. I stooped down to pick up the prettiest ones and noticed that the wind was causing a veritable storm of raining pine cones in the area. So, I began scooping up even more. Then, I walked over to the plaque that told about the tree and read that it was a Himalayan Pine indigenous to Southwest China. I gathered a big bagful of the most beautiful specimens.

When I got home, I put the bag down in my living room. The next day I saw a very weird looking insect by the bag. I love nature, but not in my living room, so I gave it a swat. Then I brought the bag of pine cones to my kitchen and proceeded to wash them all in hot soapy water. To my displeasure, I watched the beautiful pine cones close up and lose their beauty. They now just looked like giant wet turds.

So, I removed them from the water and set them out to dry. A day later they just looked like giant drying turds. I figured I would just toss them into the garbage and go back to Wheatland and gather more. Then, an idea hit me. Google. “Google, how do I get closed pine cones to open up?” Without batting an eye, Google replied, line a cookie tray with aluminum foil, and place them on the tray. Then, preheat the oven to 200 degrees and place the tray in the oven for 30 minutes.

Thirty minutes later I had a trayful of what looked like hot steaming turds. So, I made an adjustment. These were giant, wet pine cones, not your everyday pine cones. I put them back in the oven for another hour and raised the temperature to 275 degrees. Eureka! It worked. An hour later I had a trayful of beautifully baked Himalayan Pine cones in full bloom. My next step is to turn them into Thanksgiving Turkey decorations, but that’s a project for another day.


Meanwhile, back to my day at Wheatland. After I got home, I headed over to Clipper Magazine Stadium, where they’re hosting a Kickball tournament on Thursday nights. A dozen coed teams wearing different colored t-shirts drink lots of beer and have fun kicking a big ball around the outfield. I don’t know very much about the sport of Kickball, but the bar is open, and they show Thursday Night Football on the big screen in Left field, so it’s something fun to attend.

I went to the bar to get a beer. The middle-aged man in front of me handed the barmaid his credit card and said that he wanted to run a tab for all the players in the pink shirts and all the players in the blue shirts. She took his credit card and then asked me what I wanted.

“I’d like a blue t-shirt, please?”


Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Doctor’s Orders

Last week I had my scheduled semi-annual physical at the V.A. Clinic. As usual, I also had an appointment the week before to get bloodwork results before my doctor’s visit.

Servicemen must be a very forgetful bunch, I thought. Before each appointment, I got a letter in the mail reminding me of the appointments. Then I got two text messages reminding me of the appointments. Then I got two phone calls reminding me of the appointments. When I got there, I joked that I was surprised not to get a wake-up call and an Uber cab waiting outside.

Someday I’ll learn that the V.A. Clinic is not a place for telling jokes. They deal with people who have some very serious service-related problems, grizzled war veterans, who have gone through hell on earth, and the V.A. doctors and nurses are very sensitive and serious people. They immediately gave me a brochure about how to get free transportation to the clinic, if I was unable to get there on my own. I just smiled and took the brochure.

I started going to the V.A. Clinic when I lived in New York. When I moved to Pennsylvania, they transmitted my records to Pennsylvania and gave me a copy. It made for some interesting reading. They were concerned about my drinking back then. I guess alcoholism and forgetfulness are both monitored very carefully by the V.A.

During one session in New York, I was asked how much I drank. “I do a little social drinking,” I responded. Of course, they then wanted to know just how social I was. They wanted a number they could enter into the computer. How many drinks did I have in a day?

“Two,” I decided was a good number. “Put down two.”

So, years later when I read my report, I saw that the interviewing nurse had put down, “Admits to two drinks a day.” It was obvious that she thought I was lowballing the number.

So, now I try to be very careful with my answers, and, of course, every appointment nowadays is preceded by an interview with a nurse who tries to ascertain whether or not I am suffering from PTSD, suicidal, alcoholic, or senile.

We just barely got past Hello, and she started.

“Do you ever have feelings of Depression?”

“Only when the Barnstormers lose,” I quipped without thinking.

She started to write down on her pad, “Gets depressed when the Barnstormers lose.”

“No, don’t write that,” I said.

“Doesn’t want anyone to know,” she wrote.

“I was joking.”

“Manic Depressive tendencies,” she wrote.

I reminded myself to be way more careful with my answers.

“Do you ever have thoughts of suicide?”

“No, never,” I quickly answered. I didn’t think this was the time or place to tell her that I thought euthanasia should be legalized.

“How much do you drink?”

“I have one glass of wine before I go to bed.” I thought that was a good answer, and, technically, it wasn’t a lie. I have one glass of wine before I go to bed…and one glass of wine before that, and one glass of wine before that…

“In the past year have you ever had six or more drinks in one day?”

I scratched my head and pretended to be thinking long and hard for any occasion when I might have had six or more drinks, even though I knew that every Tuesday Brewsday at Clipper Magazine stadium with $2 beers between 6:30 and 8 p.m., I always drank at least that many beers.  Why else would they provide so many cup holders?  Finally, after much fake deliberation, I answered her question like I had just thought of one occasion. “At the family reunion in Ohio, my cousins kept getting me beers. I probably had more than six then.”

“Was that the only occasion?”

I was cornered. I couldn’t think of a way to answer her even half honestly, so I opted for Plan B. I lied.

“Yes, that’s the only time I can think of.”

Then she asked me if I want her to make an appointment for me with someone who might help me with my drinking problem?

Either she didn’t believe my answers, or she actually thought that having 6 beers with my cousins one time at a family reunion was a major drinking problem. What planet was she from? Did she ever go to college?  As far as I’m concerned, as long as there wasn’t an olive in my urine specimen, I didn’t really have a drinking problem. I like to drink.  It’s not a problem.  It’s a hobby.

“No, thank you,” I told her. “I’ll just be more careful at family outings in the future.” And I’ll also be more careful when I come back in six months and have to answer these questions again.

“Well, just remember,” she said, “NEVER have more than two drinks in a day.”

“Thanks.  I’ll remember that.” And I guess I better also remember to go to the store and buy bigger glasses.

Big Glass

Peace and Love, and all of the above,







Years before Harrison Ford played the role in the movie, David Janssen was The Fugitive on TV. He was Dr. Richard Kimbel, the falsely-accused man on the run chasing the one-armed man who killed his wife. On my only vacation in California, in between duty stations in Adak, Alaska and Todendorf, Germany I saw David Janssen in a restaurant. I was with my friend Patty Patti (real name), and I didn’t go over and ask for his autograph. He was sitting by himself huddled in a booth with his collar up, looking very much like he didn’t want to be spotted by Lieutenant Gerard or anybody else. So, I left him in peace.

Each episode of The Fugitive ended with an Epilogue. He had just had another close escape from the pursuing detective, and was getting ready to head to another town in search of the elusive one-armed man.

Well, this week I have an epilogue of my own to last week’s story. I went to the ballgame last night. They were giving out souvenir Barnstormer scarves, and playing against York, their arch rivals. York is only a short car ride away, and York is about to clinch the pennant in their division. I think their “magic number” is 2. So there were probably more York fans there than Stormer fans.

York scored 6 runs in the top of the first inning and the York fans were going crazy. I felt like you might feel if the people next door were having the party of the year and you weren’t invited. Worse yet, you had to work early in the morning, and they were raising the roof. So, with the score 6-0 after just three and a half innings, my new scarf and I left.

I continued to watch the game on YouTube, though. With the exception of Tuesday nights, when I’m with all my SilverStormer friends, I usually prefer to watch the game on YouTube. Even when I’m at the stadium, I tune in to the game on my phone. Dave Collins, the “Voice” of the Barnstormers makes it very interesting with his insights into the game and Minor League Baseball.

So, I was listening to the game and the Stormers scored 4 runs in the bottom of the fourth. York scored another run in the 5th. The Stormers took the lead in the bottom of the 8th, by a score of 8-7. Scott Schuman wasn’t able to close out the game in the top of the ninth as he gave up a home run. So, the Stormers were up in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied 8-8.

Darien Sandford (a.k.a. The Flash) singled up the middle then stole second. K.C. Hobson, now relegated to batting 9th, was up at bat. This time there was joy in Mudville. K.C. launched a hit to the gap in right-centerfield and Sandford scampered home with the winning run.

I’m glad that K.C. got his chance at redemption and it worked out for him and the Barnstormers. I’ll bet that the short ride back to York was a long, long car ride for a lot of York fans.  But I bet they’ll all be back again tonight.  I won’t be, though.  The Dutchland Rollers have a rare home game, and I’ve got to go cheer them on.  I’ll still catch glimpses of the ballgame on YouTube, though.

Peace and Love, and all of the above,




K.C. at the Bat

The 2019 Lancaster Barnstormers season is mercifully coming to an end this weekend. Nothing went right this year. I know. As a season ticket holder, I was at a lot of their games. It was often frustrating, and I decided to take out my frustration by poking a little fun at the awful season. So, the other night I went to the stadium wearing a paper bag over my head, like the Unknown Comic used to do on the Gong Show, or the New Orleans AIN’TS.

I hoped that nobody would take offense. The people in Lancaster have a great sense of humor, and I hoped that they would get the joke. Luckily, they did. Jack, one of the Barnstormers employees at the gate, even took my picture (above). Then, when I got to my seat, one of the ushers came over to me, and I asked him if he wanted me to take it off. “No, of course not,” he said. “You’re much better looking with a bag over your head.” Did I mention that Lancasterians have a great sense of humor.

During the second inning the Stormers ask you to take a selfie and send it to Instagram at #whatmakesyousmile. I don’t know how that hashtag stuff works, or I would have taken a selfie.  They show these pictures during the 8th inning, and there I was in the center of the big scoreboard screen. Somebody else had taken my picture and sent it. Like I said, Lancasterians have a sense of humor. I love it here, and I especially love the Barnstormer fans.

Butch Hobson, the former manager of the team was sitting in the front row getting a good view of his son, first baseman K.C. Hobson, who walked his first three times at the plate. Butch now manages the Chicago Dogs. When he got up to go to the refreshment stand, I yelled at him, “The Chicago Dogs suck eggs.” He instinctively balled his fist and turned towards me. He quickly realized I was joking, unclenched his fist, and shook my hand.  “Come back to Lancaster, Butch.  We love you here.”

Watching the game, it reminded me of the old poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer, Casey at the Bat. It was the final game of a 4-game homestand against the Long Island Ducks, and the Ducks had won the first three games easily. So, as things were going wrong again in the fourth game, I wrote a little parody of Mr. Thayer’s poem. To my surprise, the 1888 poem didn’t require a lot of changing to make it apropos for this year’s Stormers.

K.C. at the Bat

(With thanks and apologies to the original by Ernest Lawrence Thayer)

K.C. at the Bat - 02

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Lancaster nine that day:

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,

Then Martinez ripped one up the middle, and Mercedes got on too.

A cheer rose from the Stormer fans, because they knew their team was due.


The Ducks had managed in this series to take the first three games.

They were kicking Stormer butt, not bothering to take names.

But now our team would have a chance to end the homestand on a high,

All we needed was a batter who could launch one to the sky.


Torrence tried to bunt the runners, but the ball found a glove in flight,

Sandford hit a fly to center that would have gone over the wall in right.

Then the roar of the crowd bounced off the walls and recoiled upon the flat,

For K.C., mighty K.C., was advancing to the bat.


The Stormers only had one walk-off homer the entire baseball year,

But K.C. was the one who hit it, and the crowd knew when to cheer.

Two men on, and two men out, K.C. strode confidently to the plate.

His father, Butch, was in the stands and a homer would be just great.


This place would go wild, if he could do it again, a walk-off homer to turn us loose.

The Ducks have been kicking our asses all week, and it’s time to cook their goose.

Old Butch would be proud, and maybe so glad that he came by “The Clip” tonight,

He might even come back to manage again and he could put things right.


The first pitch was a ball, it was clearly just a tiny bit inside.

K.C. fouled off the next one over on the first base side.

The next pitch was a ball, a call we saw but never heard.

Then K.C. fouled off another, this time just wide of third.


The next pitch came in and the umpire stood still. It was ball number three.

The count was full. The runners would be off as quickly as can be.

“Please give him the heat,” I yelled, knowing he’d blast it a mile.

But the pitcher threw him a curve ball and then began to smile.


Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;

And somewhere Ducks are quacking, though I’d rather they were cooking.

For there is no joy in Lancaster, today. Mighty K.C. struck out looking.


Go Stormers in 2020.


Peace & Love, and all of the above,



Here’s the original Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer:


The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ’twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.


Heavy Traffic on Memory Lane

I just got back from a week of visiting my relatives in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and Akron, Ohio. As my train pulled back into Lancaster, my old Navy Buddy, BT, was there to meet me. He stood in the waiting room like a chauffer with a big cardboard sign, “Duke of Earl.”

We spent the next two days joyfully skipping down Memory Lane. We were stationed in Adak, Alaska together and we managed to have some fun in that barren wasteland, which was so close to Russia, we could almost see Sarah Palin’s house.

Here’s a picture of the main work location for Communication Technicians on the island. BT and I worked in a more remote part of the island where we secretly tracked spy satellites to stay a step ahead of the Russians in the Cold War. The Poppy program was recently declassified so don’t go turning me in to Homeland Security for divulging government secrets.

Adak - Clam Lagoon - Mount Moffett

There were no trees on Adak when GIs landed there in World War II, so they planted a few pine trees and jokingly placed a sign, “You are now entering and leaving Adak National Forest.” When I was there the tallest tree was about chest high. BT went back to Adak as a consultant in 2015 and took a picture. The trees had grown only two or three feet in the almost 50 years since we had been stationed there.

Adak - National Forest

It wasn’t all work on Adak. We had our free time. It’s just that the weather didn’t make going outdoors very much fun. We did go out, though, anytime the weather allowed. We would joke that there were only two seasons on Adak, August and winter. Here’s a picture of a few of us in August as we were getting ready to cook a few hot dogs at our “Summer Resort,” a hut left over from World War II.

Adak - Summer Vacation Home

I’m the one behind Bruce McNutt in the red shirt. Notice that even though it was August we were still wearing coats and hats. BT told me that Bruce is no longer with us. He was killed in a car crash a few years ago. Rest in Peace, Bruce.

My second favorite photo from those days is this picture of BT on the right, apparently teaching somebody how to walk on water. They are actually floating on a n old wooden door we found.

BT walks on Water

Here’s my favorite picture of Adak. It’s kinda blurry and not an example of good photography, but it is my favorite because it was taken from the plane that got me off that island.

Adak - Best View - Leaving 02

BT and I were also stationed together in Todendorf, Germany.  I haven’t been able to find any pictures of us together back then, because those were the days before selfies became popular, and we were too busy having fun, but here’s a picture of us after the two days of reminiscing and drinking.

Earl & BT -4-08272019

BT was hardly out the door, before I got an e-mail from the drummer of the band I was in 52 years ago, The Townsmen, A.K.A, The Heard. Victor got my e-mail from John Karolefski, who was the leader of the band and now writes a blog about amusing and interesting happenings in the world of groceries. It seems that Victor would be coming to Lancaster because he had a booth at the Long’s Park Art Festival, so we made plans to meet there.

Here’s a picture of the World-Famous Townsmen as we appeared back then.

The Townsmen

John, Earl, Victor, Dennis, and Joey – The Townsmen. A.K.A. The Heard

Here’s a recent picture of John, as he appears in his Grocery blog.

John Karolefski

Here’s the picture Victor and I took at the Art Festival.


Back when we were in the band, Victor was the quiet one. That has changed. LOL. He cracked a bunch of jokes and gave me some good laughs about the old days. He remembered the songs we played and how we stretched the good ones out, because we didn’t play too many songs well. I remembered the time we played at Staten Island Community College as The Heard. It turned out that there was a Texas punk rock/grunge/garage band called The Heard and they actually had a record. When we got there, we saw posters up all over the campus promoting The Heard. So, all night, the huge, rowdy, grunge-loving crowd kept demanding to hear “our hit.” We never heard of the Texas Heard, and we certainly didn’t know their hit. So, we played our asses off doing 15-minute versions of Johnny B Goode and The House of the Rising Sun, just hoping to entertain the audience enough to not want to kill us.

Here’s a link to a video by The Heard, the ones from Texas, the ones who had a record that we never heard of.


These past two weeks have been full of great memories of the past, with family and friends.  Now it’s time to go out and make some more memories to look back upon fondly with friends in years to come.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,








Buckle Up for the Bible Belt

This past weekend I went to Ohio to celebrate my Aunt Miriam’s 85th birthday. They drew straws to see who would put me up while I was in Ohio. Miriam’s son Paul and his wife Cindy lost, so I stayed at their house. I used to think the Bible Belt was just down south. To my dismay, it’s gotten wider. It now goes all the way to my Aunt’s house. She and her late husband George were both good Catholics, and like all good Catholics, they had a bunch of kids and grandkids. The party was just for family and they still had to rent out a public park to have room for everyone. It looked like one of those Christian revival meetings. I was the token Atheist.

The birthday girl and her kids.

Naturally, I couldn’t resist telling everyone at the party that they were completely wrong about God. Naturally, they couldn’t resist beating the crap out of me with their crosses and Bibles. Only kidding. They were very non-violent, but I did see a few of them taking the safety off their guns. They took turns telling me about their own personal conversations with Jesus. I told them that talking to God was fine, but that when God talks to you, that’s a sign of mental illness. They started praying for me. “Bless us, oh Lord, for the food we are about to receive, and please aim carefully if You decide to throw lightning bolts at Cousin Early.”

They gave up trying to convert me, but that didn’t stop me from telling any Jesus jokes I could remember. Did you hear about the burglar who thought the house he was robbing was empty, but then heard a voice repeatedly saying, “Jesus is watching you.” He got scared until he saw that a parrot was doing the talking. “I suppose you’re Jesus he said.” “No,” squawked the parrot, my name is Moses.” The burglar laughed. “What kind of an idiot names their parrot Moses?” The parrot replied, “The same kind of idiot who names their Rottweiler Jesus.”

Okay, this wasn’t the right audience for Jesus jokes. Who wants to talk Politics?

To my surprise, I wasn’t too much further to the left than most of them, except maybe on the issues of Gun Control, Immigration, the Death Penalty, the Economy, birth control, abortion, outsourcing jobs, separation of Church and State, the Wall, and, well, just about everything else. The only thing most of us agreed upon was that, contrary to whatever historians may say, James Buchanan was not the worst President we ever had. There was a new title holder currently residing in the White House.

Okay, so no more Jesus jokes or political talk. That still left me with me with plenty to talk about. Who wants to hear about Harness Racing, the Lancaster Barnstormers, or Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby?

Thanks for coming, Early. We’ll be sure to invite you to the next family function.

No wait, I still had my ace in the hole. After these picnics they always go back to someone’s house and sit around a bonfire in the backyard. Brother X and I tell stories about New York, and trade barbs about each other. They love that. They all just sit back laughing as we tell the most outlandish stories we can think of. It’s always the high point of the weekend, but Brother X couldn’t make the trip to Ohio this time. So, it was just me telling them my jokes as we sat around the fire. That saved Paul a lot of firewood, as everyone left quickly. I guess they all had church early in the morning.

Paul, Debbie, Linda, Aunt Jane, and a photo bomber.

I left Ohio with my Aunt Jane and two of her daughters, Debbie and Linda. (Another good Catholic, Aunt Jane has got 7 more kids back in Johnstown who couldn’t make the trip.) We went back to Johnstown so I could catch my train back to Lancaster early the next morning. Debbie and Linda had to work the next day, so I stayed overnight at Aunt Jane’s place, which turned out to be the buckle in the Bible Belt. My room looked like the Pope’s private prayer room. There were rosary beads hanging off anything that even resembled a hook. There were electric votive candles and statues of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and almost every apostle. Crucifixes were everywhere, and I think the ceiling was painted by Michelangelo. The bathroom had a holy water font.

Amazingly, I slept very well, despite the fact that the bed kept spinning around, and Jesus was watching me all night.

Pictures taken in the “Sistine Guest Room”.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,