Ah yes, Christmas lights! One of those holiday things that is supposed to be fun! I’ll admit that they are fun to look at, and I have experienced a feeling of satisfaction more than once upon completion of the annual Putting Up of The Christmas Lights. That in itself is misleading though, because a feeling of satisfaction can rightly come after completion of any task that you really don’t want to do (or dread even), so that is a pretty low bar! My thought there is – would it be more satisfying to dread putting up the lights and then finally vanquish them, or to relieve myself altogether of the responsibility and just not do it? Understanding that there is a cost – one choice leaves you with pretty lights in the tree outside and the other does not. Hmmmm – OK, it is getting deep in here! I’d better move on and leave the Christmas light philosophy to others, lest Mrs. Working Stiff accuse me of being negative about the holidays again!
At a time when this seemingly endless presidential election is making it look more and more each day like the destruction of the American Empire is truly at hand, I wanted to share a brief but heartwarming story. Mrs. Working Stiff and I recently took a road trip to Raleigh, NC to spend a long weekend with my brother and his wife at their cool pad in the historic Boylan Heights neighborhood of that city. The traffic around Baltimore and Washington D.C. is always an adventure, but aside from that – farther down the road we had a “nicer” small adventure.
My blog has to date been mostly a happy and lighthearted thing, sometimes silly and sometimes irreverent. I hope that it has been funny and entertaining at least on occasion, and – who knows – perhaps even informative. Today’s topic is much more serious for me though. You see, my sister Debby got really sick really fast this past late spring and into the summer, passing away on August 20th just about 11 weeks or so after first going to the hospital due to various symptoms and finding out that she was seriously ill. She was sixty-eight, the oldest of my family’s generation of siblings and cousins and was too young to die. Let me take a moment to recognize and to thank my other sister Alex, who is a nurse, and her daughter Jessica for taking such good care of Debby in her whirlwind last few months. Their hard work and devotion made it possible for Debby to remain in her own home, surrounded by family, friends, and with her nutty little dog.
Wow how time flies! Part of me feels like we are “gearing up” for summer, though in fact here it is! The Dog-Days are upon us and it is going to be in the mid-nineties today. When I was a much younger Working Stiff growing up at the Jersey Shore, it was understood that the unofficial beginning of summer was Memorial Day weekend. I guess that had to do with businesses opening up and rental rates increasing, but didn’t really make much sense, to me anyway, as a marker for the start of the summer season in part because the kids were still in school at that point. Living in Cape May and working at a busy restaurant it always seemed to me that the season really kicked into gear with the Fourth of July weekend. That’s when things really took off. That was the point at which the Monday morning following any weekend was NOT substantially quieter.
After an exceedingly drizzly and cooler-than-average spring, summer suddenly arrived about a week ago in a whoosh of hot air. Here in southeast Pennsylvania we went from early spring to mid-summer like bada-bing bada-bang and let there be 90 degrees!
When the weather gets warm the thoughts of many people, including Mrs. Working Stiff, turn to air conditioning. Our house has central air of course, but while the first floor will be pretty much whatever temperature we tell the thermostat to maintain, the upstairs is another matter entirely. A warmer matter. Our master bedroom is fairly large and has three windows facing roughly north. That room can really heat up over the course of a long sunny day. We can feel the AC coming out of the registers, but simply not with enough power to really cool the room. So, like many homes in the same development as the Chateau Working Stiff, we install a window unit for the summer. The window unit does a pretty good job of cooling the room down for sleep-time. Also, I’ve moved it back and forth between our third window and its winter home in the garage enough times now that it really isn’t an ordeal. (Let’s not sugar-coat it, it’s all relative. Anyone who has ever installed a window AC unit knows that it isn’t exactly high on the Fun-O-Meter!)
It is a warm but grey and drizzly day here at the Chateau Working Stiff and it is hard to feel motivated to work on that to-do list! Last week and last weekend though, was mostly made up of flawless spring days that hovered around 70 degrees. On Saturday, we did a spur-of-the-moment thing and took the train down into Philadelphia for an easy afternoon of lunch and strolling. Many people clearly had the same idea because the train was fairly busy and the touristy areas of the city were very much so.
Sometimes we need reminders of the good things in our own back yard. Twice in the past month or so Mrs. Working Stiff and I have stopped by a wonderful local inn for an after-dinner glass of wine and have enjoyed it very much each time.
The Joseph Ambler Inn offers comfortable lodging and fine dining in a historic “country manner” atmosphere. Made up of five historic buildings on 12 beautiful acres, it really is a charming place. The various buildings gathered there evoke a feeling somewhat of a small country village, with brick walkways and lights hanging in the trees. It is the rare weekend there, in nice weather at least, when there isn’t a wedding in progress on the grounds or in one of the several party rooms. As a matter of fact – not all that many years ago – we had our own wedding there in one of those restored buildings. (As a side note, our wedding was actually a cocktail party with a bonus. We sent out invitations for a cocktail party at the Joseph Ambler Inn, with a footnote stating that the cocktail party would be “immediately preceded by a brief wedding ceremony”!)
An old friend reminded me yesterday not to slack off on the Working Stiff blog, and I realized that I have been, though not intentionally. For much of the past few weeks I’ve been doing some concentrated study for two exams that I finally took (and passed!) last Tuesday. So now my memory is all refreshed on binary numbers vs. hexadecimal, IP address formats, and the various speeds in gigahertz of the most common Wi-Fi transmission configurations.
Now that I’ve passed the exams and I’ll soon be getting a plastic card in the mail that says so, I can begin right away to forget most of that stuff. Over the last few weeks I did also learn something really useful – how to make this fantastic oven-baked pancake!
Before the Atlantic City Expressway was completed in 1965, linking the Philadelphia metropolitan area at the west end with Atlantic City and the Garden State Parkway in the east, a driver wanting to make such a trip had fewer and slower choices. There were however, (and still are), two much older roads that roughly connect the Camden / Philadelphia area with the Atlantic City area. The White Horse Pike and The Black Horse Pike are roughly parallel with the White Horse to the north of the AC Expressway and the Black Horse to the south of it. At the eastern end where they cross the Parkway and start to find their way into Atlantic City they are about four or five miles apart, with the Expressway in between. In the west, as all three roads approach Camden and Philadelphia, they are farther apart as they merge with various other roads and disappear into the approach to the Delaware River Bridges and other points around the big city.