Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gigi's 11th. Victory on Land...the mower works.

Gigi's 11th Birthday,. I save the best for first. We had Gigi's 11th birthday party, this time at a campsite in Jetty Park (on the beach), Cape Canaveral, FL. And we must have done something right because Gigi proclaimed this was THE BEST birthday party she ever had. And that's saying alot considering the big bash we had last year at Shore Lanes Bowling Center. Here's a few pics, the rest are on my Facebook and Photobucket accounts.

Facebook Photos

Pics on Photobucket

OK, I BEAT the Lawnmower, 3-2 (and not with a sledgehammer). Well folks the score is now Hank 3, Lawnmower 2. I'm happy to say that I overcame my anxiety about dealing with small engine repair and successfully repaired our lawnmower. Not bad for a guy who might know his way around database system and a computer keyboard but just a little clueless when it comes to small engine repair.
Turns out the "pickup coil" went bad. If you ever tried pull-starting your mower about 20 times and it never turns over (but you smell gas), it means the pickup coil is not providing electric current to the one spark plug (I had just replaced the spark plug two weeks prior).
OK so I admit, I had a little help from Scott Witt, our local handy-man who gave me a nice lesson on lawn mower repair. A lesson which saved me somewhere between $100-$150 in repair fees.

Pool Maint time & PoolShark: Time to treat our pool with calcium chloride to raise the calcium hardness level of the water. For those who might not recall their chemistry, pure calcium reacts violently when it comes into contact with water. The calcium chloride crystals I have make a bucket of water very hot. Not quite boiling but hot enough.
And anyone who has a pool (in Florida like climes anyway) notice how expensive pool maintenance merchandise is getting nowadays. Oh chlorine is still not bad but a stupid part for our PoolShark pool cleaner ran me $32. I'm probably only going to get another year out of this PoolShark anyway before buying a new one but consider a new one cost $400 if you don't get it on-sale.
Now when it does go on-sale, it costs $250 after all is said & done. I say that because to get the sale price requires 3 steps. First is the in-store rebate of $50. Then there are TWO, count em, TWO mail in rebates, one of which of course is that rebate you have to send in to that company in Little America, Minnesota. I HATE those rebates, they usually manage to screw it up and it takes 10 weeks to get your rebate. In this age of computers, one would think they might have streamlined the process by now.
But of course not, the current red-tape laden process serves someone's interest, namely the company who manufactures and sells the PoolShark. Guess you could call this a "Pool shark" in more ways than one.

My First Batch of Jambalaya: Cooked up my first-ever batch of New Orleans style shrimp jambalaya. Came out quite nicely, even Kyrsten liked it (and she doesn't like the spicy stuff, great considering she didn't like my gumbo I made last time). Just finished off the last bowl today. I'll definitely have to do that again. OK so I used the Zatarain's recipie mix for my jambalaya but I added fresh uncooked shrimp (like you're supposed to).

Today, Kyrs and I will check out, for the second time, that new little seafood place on the corner of Courtenay (SR-3) and SR-520 on Merritt Island. They're having a "Grand Opening" special this afternoon. We were downright impressed with the delicious sushi we got there last time. Compares nicely with the Thai Thai restaurant in Cocoa. This time I know, only order one sushi, they're quite big.

Fire up the Scanners: Well I haven't engaged either of the photo scanners (our new HP flatbed color scanner or the Nikon 9000 ED film scanner) since I redid the computer (wiped the disk clean, the reinstalled Windows...XP of course which I like. I HATE Vista and don't feel like giving Bill Gates bookoo dollars for Windows 7).
Anyway it took a little time to get the Nikon 9000 up & running. Seems I can't locate the driver CD (don't remember it coming with one) and the Nikon web site doesn't seem to have a driver. But VueScan (my scanning software) does have one and it works beautifully.
Also this is the first time I actually tried out the scanner that came with the "all-in-one" photo printer from HP (Photosmart 309-G) we got recently. I was rather impressed, well considering I still have active my old HP 6200 scanner (10 years old now). The 309-G is a lot faster, I must say and dpi resolution is up around 4800.
But you never use anything above 600. Any paper print has a max resolution of 300 dpi so anything higher just results in huge files and eating disk space. I did try 1200, the resulting file from a 8x10 print was almost 110 MB....eeeyoowwww!!
But I'm impressed so far with the new scanner.
As a side note, Nikon hasn't released anything superior to the 9000ED, but they raised the price from the $1900 I paid in 2007 to over $2200 today. Film scanners must be in demand.
PlusTek has a nice film scanner they came out with a year or so ago but it can only accept 35mm. My 9000ED can take 135, 126, 110, 120, 220 and a host of other film types.

A Theatre of Sexually-Charged Women: Well guess where my wife ended up taking me on Saturday night. You probably guessed by now, to the Sex & The City 2 movie. And what a experience as I was one of about maybe 5 guys in a theatre full of women dressed up to kill. Note to any single guys reading this. If you want to score a date, go see this movie. Have your sister or female cousin accompany you if you feel a little self-conscious.
Well I guess Iron Man 2 will have to wait.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Oh Well, taking the Long Way Home Musings.

Back in Florida eventually headed for home but first divert over to the Tampa area where MacDill AFB is located, then to Sarasota before heading back across state to Merritt Island, via Orlando. At least that's the plan right now. Kyrsten eagerly awaits my arrival. Oh she is so amazing of a girl to be married to. As the rock group Chicago put it in one of their songs, "what one good woman can do".

OWNS vs JAGUARS again: My Cleveland Browns (now being rebuilt by REAL football geniuses Mike Holmgren, Tom Heckert and Eric Mangini) will be making three trips here to Florida with games at the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccanners and Jacksonville Jaguars. I'm making plans to get tickets for the BROWNS vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game Nov 21st in Jacksonville. Last time in 2008, I took my wife Kyrsten, my mother Lois (who is a longtime Browns fan) and our little girl Gigi (Laci was too young for this). Gigi got to meet the Jaguars cheerleaders and all so it was a great time for her. Great time for me and mother too, the Browns won 23-16.
Note: last season up in cold Cleveland, the Browns pounded the Jaguars senseless for their fourth victory in a row. Lets see if they can make it 3 in a row over the Jaguars.
This time, I'll be looking for cheaper seats as I need more of them. This time Mommy Tina wants to come too. Gigi wants to bring a friend and Laci, now a little older, will probably be coming along as well. Sheesh, this could get expensive.

I'll see about getting to the ot
her games as well but my schedule may not allow for it.

CLEAN BILL OF HEALTH: Just had my annual physical and got a full clean bill of health. That's something I can Thank the Lord for. And at my age, that's a true blessing. Just look at how many people (just people I know) have health problems in their 30s and 40s. Heck Lindsay Lohan (the actress, no I don't know her) is 23 and already having problems. That's what a wild life of partying will do to you.
Then again, those who read my posting on Saundra knows that health problems can strike suddenly.
My mother in law, Marti has had a few problems recently. Not surprising she being in her late 60s but that "high motor" of hers keeps her going. We all pray that the Lord will keep her going for us.

MOTHER'S DAY: Yes, I remembere
d my mother, Lois. And the older I get, the more I appreciate her still being on this earth. In her 70s now and a widow (she's the lady in my picture above), we try to keep in touch. We live about 150 miles apart (Jacksonville - Merritt Island). Lord please look out for Mom and take care of her I pray.

One of the most amazing things about the Internet is how it has made possible finding old friends (from my high school days) and getting back in touch with them. Gotta be careful though, sitting at the computer can steal your whole day. So I budget my time on our system. Funny considering how much time I spent at computers during my college days, military service days and at NASA. But family is much more important.
That being said, its still great. Just found a few more people (one on Facebook) that I'd love to get in touch with.

Now time to go update my BLOG postings on The Big Apple as I recalled some other fun items that weren't included in the original posting. Also check up on Skatelog ( I have a few threads going over there).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dedication to Saundra, High School Girlfriend...Breast Cancer Survivor

A few days ago (May 15th, 2010) I was browsing online checking email (of course) and found a message from I’ve set myself up on but usually don’t check back that much. But on this day for some odd reason, I did and found about 9 new messages. Most were reunion announcements from schools that I didn’t attend (but track as some friends attended them).

And then, one message which froze me in my tracks.

It was from a girl named Saundra Felix, a girl that brought back a flood of (very nice) memories. Funny though, I had just thought of Saundra a few days before then and wondered how she was doing.

Obviously I clicked on the first message, a nice greeting and how are you. I then proceeded to formulate a reply. I also found Saundra’s MySpace page as well. But before sending my reply, I noticed a earlier message from Saundra. So I clicked that.

What I read stunned me, and this time not in a good way.

Lovely Saundra, a girl I remember as one of the cutest high school freshmen I’d ever met had contracted breast cancer and was going thru a breast cancer operation. Oh my God I thought to myself.

Then I noticed that Saundra hadn’t logged into her MySpace page since late 2009. Another “Oh My God”, was Saundra even still alive?

Of course I thought back to my high school days and Saundra.

We first met when I was a senior and she a freshman as a mutual friend, Jane Weimer (wonder how she’s doing) introduced me to Saundra in the Central Cambria High School library. Before I go on though I must say that Saundra actually had caught my eye about 5 months before that meeting (early April 1976) at the nearby Cicero’s Roller Skating Rink. At the time I was attending high school at Bedford High School in Bedford, Ohio and was back in Pennsylvania visiting over the Easter holidays.

OK I admit, I was at Cicero’s with another girl at the time but then I noticed this really cute girl skating around with some friends. So cute, she pretty much stuck in my brain the whole week of my visit to Colver, PA (and Ebensburg) and over the next couple months back home in Bedford Heights, Ohio. Oh if I wasn’t already with a girl, I’d be heading over to her and her group begging for a couples skate.

Fast forward to late August of 1976 and my friend Jane introduces me to this girl…and its that beautiful girl I’d noticed at Cicero’s earlier. Her hair was now shorter and it a feathered 70s hairstyle but it was her. And so I first met Saundra.

We talked for as long as we could before hustling off to our next classes but I was sure hoping I left a good impression with Saundra. My “prayers” were answered at home when Jane called me and told me what Saundra said about me “oh that Brad is soooo cute!!). Needless to say I was smitten. So what if she was still a freshman.

Saundra and I started “going together” just a few days later. Saundra may have found this hard to believe but she is the first girl I ever walked hand in hand with thru the halls of Central Cambria High and walking her to her next class. Even today, I might still “moon” a little about that.

That and meeting her at Cicero’s, skating together all night and even slipping out of Cicero’s a little early so we could slip in goodnight kisses (Mrs. Cicero would throw you out of the rink if you dared kiss your girlfriend inside her rink).

Of course as just about all high school romances go, it didn’t last. It might have had I been more mature in those days but Lordy what a idiot I was in those day.



Now back to the present and after three days of wondering (with some sadness mixed in that a precious memory may no longer be alive on this earth, I got a new note from Saundra.

This one has a happy ending. The operations were successful and she’s now free of cancer. Thank You Lord.

Amazing how time flies and that sweet cute girl who caught my eye and imagination back in 1976 is now in her forties and a breast cancer survivor. But I Thank God that Saundra is still here and that we’re back in touch after 34 years.

So today, a special dedication from my wife (Kyrsten), my girls and I to my good friend and high school flame Saundra with a song special to my heart. OK so the song came out 12 years after I dated Saundra but it is one that still makes me cry whenever I hear it.

To You Saundra

(Link to video “We Said Hello Goodbye” by Phil Collins).

Link to Saundra's page

Link to Saundra's MySpace page

Friday, May 14, 2010

First Post 2010, Take 2: The Big Apple Disco Days

Back in late 2009 on the website, I had noted their listing of disco clubs of the 1970s and early 1980. Missing though was my old disco hangout, a Cleveland area disco known as The Big Apple” (nothing to do with NYC other than the obvious reference). So I joined the site and listed The Big Apple on the chance that other folks who used to frequent the place might comment as well.
Well now I’m stunned (in a happy way) with the responses, including the former club owner (Les Bortel, now known as Lee Bortel) and the drummer (Billy Smith) who used to drum to the music (which really added something to the experience).

Link to DiscoMusic.Com listing for "The Big Apple".

This of course takes me back to my days when I frequented The Big Apple (1977-1979) as a fresh-faced 18 year old (you had to be 18 to get into the club which dovetailed with the then State of Ohio drinking age (18 for products containing 3.2 percent alcohol or less). Oh the memories from those days. From my first visit shortly after turning 18 with a group of friends (first Night Out with The Guys) to my 1979 visit right after graduating from USMC Boot Camp (which was my last visit), that disco holds special memories. During the Fall of 1977 and Spring of 1978, The Big Apple would become a near-weekly ritual for our group. We’d go to socialize, drink a little…OK…more than a little in some cases and, of course, to meet girls.
And that's where sometimes things got a little tricky. OK so there were plenty of lovely young ladies there. But being only 18 and a new 18 at that meant that most of the ladies were a few years your senior and probably not that interested in a guy fresh out of high school. They were mostly either there with their friends or looking for a guy a few years older, and old enough to buy highball drinks. But I did manage to hold my own there, meet some nice girls and overall had a great time. But us 18 year olds found ourselves a little overmatched at first.
(I will admit I did much better back in the "minor leagues" at Skateland (more on this concept later) with the girls, most of whom were younger than me. Unfortunately none of those younger girls were allowed in The Big Apple, except on the occasional teen night (where a young guy like me had a better chance), but I never got there for teen nights (I didn't know they existed at first)).

Also at The Big Apple, the owner (Lee Bortel) wanted patrons who showed class. So you had to dress up which meant no blue jeans, t-shirts or football jerseys (there went my old high school wardrobe). Most guys wore the silk shirts & nice pants of the day (polyester pants of course). A few dressed up in suit & tie (in retrospect I wish I had). So you had to look decent, well-groomed and all. Of course a lot of the guys got roaring drunk, thereby losing that well-groomed look late into the night.
(UPDATE, 14 May 2010: Twenty years later in 1999 during my Single Again days, I briefly frequented the clubs over at Universal Citywalk in Orlando, FL, in suit & tie of course. At first as a single, then later with my then-girlfriend (now wife) Kyrsten.
Of coruse I drew some comparisons with my days at The Big Apple, especially how the ladies outfits had changed over the years. Oh boy had they changed, some leaving little to the imagination (backless outfits, tight black pants, etc). I did wonder though what if some of these "scantily dressed" ladies traveled back thru time and tried to get into The Big Apple with these outfits on. I'm imagining that the bouncers at the door probably would deny them entrance as their outfits were too revealing. I could be wrong though, Lee Bortel could probably better address this).
Presumably, they would easily get into at Nite Moves, another Cleveland disco. I have more info on this a little later on.
I also compared the clubs at Citywalk with The Big Apple, notably thegroove. OK so thegroove benefited from a 20 year technology gap in club special effects but still in my mind The Big Apple compared quite favorably. But I'm quite biased on this.

Since I was 18, I was in-between two worlds when it came to night life. The “minor leagues” represented by my time at Skateland in Johnstown PA (I commuted a lot between Cleveland and Ebensburg, PA in those days) and the “major leagues” represented by The Big Apple. Obviously the crowds were quite different, the younger crowd at Skateland (Skateland Story on this link) and the adult crowd at The Big Apple.
Now we did see some wild times at The Big Apple, including the inevitable make-out sessions in a dark corner. But that was pretty much limited to kissing your girlfriend. Nothing at all like the "wild times" witnessd at another Cleveland area club known as Nite Moves where outright sexual behavior went on. Lee kept that from happening at The Big Apple for the most part. I never knew of any outright sex or cocaine use going on, though I'm sure some addle-headed patrons gave it a try.
For further info on the long-defunct Nite Moves, check these information links by Erin O'Brien:.

Erin O'Brien's Blog on Nite Moves

Goodbye Sister Disco, Nite Moves article by Erin O'Brien

One note, I was the only one of our group who took the additional step of learning how to dance disco. It made it a lot easier to get a girl out on the dance floor if you knew your steps as well.
From here on in, I’ll just list some of my most vivid Big Apple memories instead of a long boring history of my days at the club. And I’ll keep it as factual as I can remember and not embellish them with BS. Like for example “I walked into The Big Apple one Friday night and came out with a girl on each arm, and 3 or 4 to spare (as a Cleveland area musician put it in one of his songs).

First Night And Beginner’s Luck: My first night at The Big Apple with my friends..and guess who is the only one to score a date with a girl there. None other than yours truly. OK so it was only that night, I never saw the girl again and all that but still. And I found out how irritating it was to have drunk friends of yours constantly saying, “c’mon Brad, friends share & share alike”

The Billards Room and winning those drinks: Now for the 18-20 y/o girls it was relatively easy for them to get a “highball” drink. All they had to do was charm some older guy out of it. This was before there were stiff penalties for such.
My tactic, win a drink at a game of pool from a older patron. At home I practiced a lot on our pool table so I became a pretty decent shot. Decent enough to win a lot of pool contests in the Big Apple’s billards room and win my fair share of drinks.

NY, You Got Me Dancing by Andrea True Connection: This song was a favorite at The Big Apple for obvious reasons. What I didn’t know at the time was who sang the song, I was surprised to find out it was Andrea True as I remembered her 1976 smash hit “More More More”. Come to find out later (on Sirius radio 70s channel) that “NY, You Got Me Dancing” itself charted in late 1976 (#23 I believe), but I never heard it played on the Cleveland or Pittsburgh pop radio station.
I remember how the DJ's would hit the strobe lights when a certain instrumental refrain of the song played. Made for quite the dancing experience.
Update note: In 2003, my wife Kyrsten and I took a young couple, Carri-Anne and her boyfriend Robert, both 18, (I'd known Carri-Anne since she was 9, the daughter of a military buddy) to Universal Citywalk. On the way over, I said to the couple, "hey give this a listen, this is what I used to rock out too when I was your age". I popped in the Andrea True Connection CD and played NY, You Got Me Dancing for them. Their reaction, "you really partied to that?".

Dance Practice: Some nights I went to The Big Apple to simply practice my dance steps and routines. Now I didn’t want to look like a dork out there by dancing by myself so if I didn’t have a partner at the time, I’d sort of “blend it” with some group of girls who were out there on the floor dancing, pretending I was with them. This worked quite well and I actually met a few ladies this way.

The Visitor From Out Of Town: That was the role I played on one Big Apple visit in late 1978 when I commuted back to Ohio from PA. Met a whole new set of people outside in line. They then invited me to their table (in exchange for what I called the price of admission, one pitcher of beer). This turned into one of the best nights I ever had at The Big Apple.

That Waitress, Who Was She: During that "Visitor from Out Of Town" visit, I distinctly remember this waitress with short blonde hair, who waited on our table. Especially because she kept giving my arm a squeeze every time she waited on us. Now I'm really not sure if she was interested in me, or just doing the flirtatious gesture as a way of getting the dollars to flow but anyway she was quite nice. I never did find out who she was. (Note to Lee Bortel, if you remember her by chance, I'll say she deserved a big raise and big tip).

My last visit after USMC Boot Camp, July 1979: Right after I graduated from USMC Boot Camp, I paid what turned out to be my final visit to The Big Apple. I had wanted to bring my new girlfriend Cheryl but she, being under 18 could not get in. And her parents at the time weren't too keen on her, age 15 dating a 19 year old (yes, I know kinda young but Cheryl was a blonde knockout. They would be far more accepting of us later when Cheryl turned 16).
So I ended up going just for old times sake. Got some nice compliments and thank yous about my being in the service from other folks there and it was nice to see the place again after the hell of USMC Boot Camp. But it just wasn’t as much fun without Cheryl being there with me. Of course I spent the rest of my 10-day leave glued to Cheryl whenever possible.

The Big Apple is long since gone (though the building may still exist) as it went thru several transformations, last I knew it was a country-western place called the Boot-Scootin Saloon but the memories remain of a very special and fun place during the days of youth (late teens, 20s) for my age group.

First Post 2010, Disco Memories, Skate Memories, Soccer time for the Girls

I know, its been ages since I updated this BLOG. But now that my lovely wife, Kyrsten has given me somewhat of a break from helping her out at the horse barn, caring for those horses, and a little inspiration from a golden romantic song I just heard on Sirius, well.... ==================== ONLY SIXTEEN by Dr. Hook: The song and the memories it brings back: Oh yes that song... Only Sixteen by Dr. Hook. Yes that song does bring back some great memories...memories of a beautiful girl who had my attention at this time back in 1976. Oh my.... She was only Sixteen (or 15 in this case)
Only Sixteen
But I loved that girl so.

She was too young
to fall in love
And I was too young to know
Song Link: YouTube: Well it was April 10th of 1976 and yours truly here, all of age 16, was visiting relatives in Colver, Pennsylvania, and checking out the teen nightlife at Cicero's Roller Rink in nearby Ebensburg. But there I was standing at the admissions window waiting in line to get in. And then she caught my eye (of course), a beautiful girl with gorgeous blond hair,feathered in the 1970s feathered style of the day, the cutest facial features topped with beautiful blue eyes, and of course as I couldn't help but notice (as some of my friends also noticed) she was quite "well-endowed" (translation...big breasts, how lucky was I in those days). Well I was a teenage guy so what could I say. As the door opened, we all poured into the rink after paying our admission. And this is where it pays off to have friends in the right places, one of my buddies overheard that girl talking to her friends and heard her mention about this guy who to her looked like a real man. Guess who she was talking about…. THE REST OF THE STORY at


Gigi and Laci go at it in soccer.

Well its soccer season and we have Gigi and Laci in the local Cocoa, FL soccer league. And they are taking to the game. In fact since they started last month, both girls have really got into the game. Laci really likes to take out her aggression on the field. We tell her, this is one place where she can be aggressive. Gigi too is getting into it. Oh but Gigi took a direct kicked ball to the tummy which did draw a few tears. But she’s OK and has a nice mark to show off for a little while.

Laci’s 6th Birthday :

We had a small birthday party for Laci who just turned 6. Amazing how time flies, when she came into our lives, she was only 3 ½. And she’s growing up fast, in fact catching up to her 10 year old sister Gigi. But we expect a big growth spurt from Gigi soon as she closes in on 11 and 12.

And I must say, both girls are just so beautiful…they both have that early Jessica Simpson look down so when they get to be teenagers, time for the old Hankster to dig up the M-16 as they’ll both be guy magnets. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here yet, that time will no doubt come.

The big party for both girls (with all their friends) comes in June. Time to get some birthday gifts.