Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Driveway Arboretum/Dog Day Afternoon

The weather here, of late, has been spectacular!

Right now I still have the windows open. That will change as the heat of the day pours in this afternoon.

Sunday night into Monday, we were dog sitting for Christine's daughters.

What's the difference between two dogs and four dogs?

Twice as much fun.

All four dogs get along beautifully.

There's only one rule:


This mighty specimen has survived two years as a "volunteer" plant at the top of the driveway.

Come Fall I'm going to transplant it into a large planter so it can continue it's journey towards maturity.


It has survived being covered with snow and ice. It has survived drought. It has survived being stepped on (my bad on that one).

It has fought to live.

It deserves no less than our best efforts.

Monday, like I said earlier, was a perfect day.

I had the herd out on the "back 40" to enjoy the afternoon.

What's more relaxing than watching a pack of little doggies enjoying a moment in the Sun?

Unfortunately, I forgot to embrace that concept later in the day. By the time Christine arrived home, I was in a full blown "grump". I was bemoaning the fact that I had been "tied down to the house" all day.

I hate when I'm a fool. I hate when I'm wrong. I hate when I get grumpy for no good reason.

Monday, I did all three.

My deepest apologies, Christine.

"Millie" and "Butter" went home Monday night.

Yesterday I spent time with my family. Nobody can ground me faster than them.

I'll spare you folks the details for now.

Today is sunny, mildly warm, and low humidity.

I'll be taking "Billy" and "Mercedes" for a walk on the river in a bit.

In the meantime, I'm making them something special:

Crock pot cooked chicken.

These two dogs LOVE chicken. There are five thighs and three breasts in there.

That should last them about a week.

The nice thing is, the crock pot doesn't make the kitchen all hot. Not even on the hottest days of Summer(which surely will return).

Time to take the doggies for some exercise.

Until the next time, all y'all take care.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Air Traffic Mike vs. the "Food Pyramid"


There are those who argue over it worse than others argue over religion, politics, or whether President Obama is a natural born citizen.

Setting the "Tea Party" agenda aside, today's blog concentrates on food.

I will demonstrate how to cover all the basics of the "Food Pyramid" in one easy to hold and tasty fashion.

First, get a festive plate.


Food should be fun.

If you want dull looking food, go to a gas station deli and eat something out of a Styrofoam container.

Next, add some good, crusty bread. This is a fresh Italian roll. Not only does it cover the "Grains" food group with wheat flour, the bottom is loaded with corn meal.

Next, add a nice grilled hot Italian sausage. You could use sweet Italian sausage, I just prefer spicy. As you can see the "Meat" food group is now in the mix.

What would hot Italian sausage be without some nice homemade Marinara? Well, you could toss a slobber of yellow mustard on there. Most people would think, "Nice job, "Carny" " and herd their children as far away from you as they possibly could.

Mustard is fine on a number of food items.

Italian sausage is not one of them.

Of course, the tomato is scientifically a fruit. Marinara sauce takes care of the "Fruit" food group.

Sauteed peppers and onions. This combination should be in the food Hall of Fame. I have actually made sandwiches using them on a hoagie roll by themselves. The "Vegetable" and "Oils" food groups are covered in style.

What would life be without cheese?

Don't answer.

I don't want to even imagine it.

The "Dairy" food group has joined the pile.

There you have it. "Food Pyramid" on a (festive) bread plate.

My panel of judges approve.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In Other News....

Wow, what a strange mixed news morning.

Let's start with news of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. He may or may not take the stand in his own defense. That is a gutsy call by his defense team, especially in light of the NBC News interview Sandusky conducted with Bob Costas.

It's pretty clear Sandusky is not a great extemporaneous speaker. Then again, a lot of people aren't. If the prosecution gets the unaired NBC News interview admitted into evidence, it pretty much makes makes the decision for the defense. Jurors will be hearing Sandusky in his own words.

Meanwhile, "Go to your room!!!!" was apparently not an option for this upset father in Jaipur, India.

I guess India may have to consider new ceremonial sword control laws.

Closer to Memphis, over in the Capitol City of Nashville, a restaurant tragedy. The owner of a local restaurant lost his life in the course of a seemingly good plan. The power had gone out on Friday. In order to mitigate food losses, a lot of food had been loaded into a walk-in cooler. To keep things at safe temperature, dry ice was loaded in the cooler, and the door presumably secured.

For those who aren't quite sure what dry ice is, it is the solid form of carbon dioxide (CO2). It reverts to a gas immediately as it thaws making ideal for keeping food and stuff cold. No water to deal with like in the case with ice.

Apparently the power was restored Sunday at some point.

The owner went into the walk-in unit to check on his supplies.

The walk-in door closed and latched behind him, the latch apparently becoming stuck.

Carbon dioxide is terrific for making drinks bubbly and fizzy.

However, it does not support human life.

Newscasters always seemed to be "shocked" when asking about "Classified Information". Here's a prime example from CNN.

Wolf, Brian, and anybody else in broadcast journalism take a clue. NASA and the Armed Forces have a lot of secret stuff they can't tell you and won't.

Next time, smile at the video screen and say, "Look at the pretty little (insert a noun of your choice.)"

Now my favorite story of the day.

The Obama campaign has called on recycled another lifer veteran campaigner to assist with debate preparations.  "Hermann Munster", oops, Senator John Kerry will be playing the role of a lifetime as he takes on the role of Mitt Romney.

I have a feeling the Presidential Debate season just got a lot more interesting.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Changing Of The Guard

Last month I found out that a couple of my friends would be traveling nearby from their home in Florida.

They'd be in Washington, DC chaperoning a group of Girls Scouts. The Girl Scouts were coming from around the nation and other parts of the world in celebration of the 100th birthday of the organization.

A couple of weeks ago we firmed up on the plan. I would meet them Sunday,10 June in the morning.

I had little desire to meet them Saturday morning on the Mall. There were an estimated 250,000 Girl Scouts and temperatures in the low 90's. If you've ever been in a large crowd of people on a blistering day you know the danger of heat stroke.

So I loaded up the AirTrafficMobile  at 8:30 am and set out for Washington, DC. It's only about a 2 to 2.5 hour trip. It was going to be especially easy since I was going to park out in the suburbs and take the Metro Rail System from the New Carollton Station (upper right at the end of the "Orange Line"). The Metro system is clean, efficient, and well air conditioned.

I'd have to make one train transfer, but I had four places to do so. I opted to pick up the "Blue Line" at the Stadium-Armory Station. I saw no need to wait until the last minute.

My destination? Arlington National Cemetery.

I figured it would be a bit cooler weather, the Cemetery has plenty of shade, and lots of history.

As it turns out yesterday when I arrived to meet Skip, Melanie, and their charges, the temperatures had reached the upper 80's. Skip told me that despite having some fire trucks to shoot water on to the crowds, there were still a number of children and adults that passed out during the ceremony on the Mall.

We were in each others' company for all of about five minutes when the first crisis broke out. A young Girl Scout had become separated from her troop. She was lost in a big crowd and crying. Melanie and her Girl Scouts took control of the situation. They took the youngster to the main desk, calmed her down, worked the cellphone, and stayed with her until her Troop Leader returned to the Visitor's Center.

With crisis #1 out of the way, it was time to get out in the heat so we could have crisis #2. Some of the group, Melanie included, have loved ones buried there. Obviously, they all wanted to see their family members' graves. With maps in hand we set out on foot.

I spent the walk looking at the various stones, the service records on them, and the awards these men and women had earned in the service of our country.

For those of you who have never visited Arlington National Cemetery, here's on important fact.  It's enormous. If you're on foot, be ready for a full blown hike.

Apparently I was not ready for a full blown hike. We'd be out and about for an hour. I suddenly felt a little dizzy. Initially I ignored it. I didn't want to ruin a day at the cemetery.

A few minutes later, I realized I had stopped sweating.

Crisis #2 was now underway.

I told Skip I had to go sit in the shade and cool down. Skip told Melanie and the rest of the group to press on. After a bit of a rest themselves they did. I took my hat off. Skip made a funny face and said, "Mike, your face is really flushed.". I'd kind of figured that already. His stepson had stayed with us. Skip handed me a bottle of water from the young fellow's backpack.

I did my best to hydrate and cool off. I poured some of the water over my head. Then I felt my arms. The skin on my arms was much warmer than normal.

This was not good.

They handed me another bottle of water.

I really wasn't feeling any better, but I wasn't getting any worse.

Not wanting to keep the group separated, I thanked Skip and told him I was good to go.

By, "Good to go." I meant not everything was spinning and the "tunnel vision" wasn't too annoying.

Our goal was to meet the group up by the "Tomb Of Unknowns". We wanted to see the changing of the guard.

It was a slow trip with two intermediate stops, but we arrived in time to see it.

It is an impressive ceremony.

We were asked to remain silent. Nobody said a word.

By the end of the service, and with everybody having found their loved ones, the group headed over to the Women In Military Service To America Memorial. This stop was a blessing for me. It had ice cold air  conditioning, bottled ice water for sale, and a nice, cold shiny marble bench to sit on.

Two bottles of ice water and 25 minutes later, Crisis #2 was history.

A parting picture as we headed for the Metro.

Those who know me well know I like to do random nice things.

This day was no exception.

Heat stroke, or no, I had promised Melanie and Skip I'd take them and the group out to lunch.

A couple of the Scouts are vegetarians. Skip and Melanie had decided on the Hard Rock Cafe'. It had food to fit all the dietary needs of the vegetarians and carnivores.

We arrived there about 4:10 pm.

The place was mobbed.

The hostess informed us it would be a 90 minute wait for a table.

I was disappointed. It is located right next to Ford's Theatre, the site of President Lincoln's assassination.

Abe probably should have gone to the Hard Rock Cafe' that night instead. He likely would have enjoyed a shot from the bar rather than a shot from Booth.

We all headed around the corner a found a neat little sandwich place. The menu fit in with the vegetarians, so we opted to eat there.

By the time we finished up, it was time for me to hit the road back to South Jersey. I-95 can be crazy anytime, but even more so during the Summer months. In all, I took a one hour delay as the 1,500 cars in front of me paid homage to the van that had rear ended a charter bus.

I was glad to get out of that traffic and get moving. I was still feeling a bit washed out and had considered an overnight stay in Baltimore.

I'm glad I came home. Baltimore is nice, but I'd have still faced the drive this morning.

Skip, Melanie, and crew it was a pleasure seeing you folks yesterday. Let me know next time you get up to Washington, DC.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy Birthday

In a family full of stubborn and opinionated people he pretty much led the pack.

"Tough times don't last, but tough people do." was one of many mottoes he held true.

In times of need he was always the first to come to any one's aid.

He needed and loved his wife and children like he needed air to breathe.

Just like his father, underneath that gruff exterior was a big softy.

Just like his mother, he had boundless compassion and energy.

Just like his four brothers, he had an impish twinkle in his eye when in competition.

Just like his four brothers, he could and would "ice" an idiot in a second and with the fewest words possible.

He was as quiet as a hand grenade going off in a barrel of oatmeal.

Not surprisingly, his daughter is the same way.

Not surprisingly, his son is a gentle giant.

Both have his razor sharp wit.

His lovely wife was the perfect counter balance to his "take no prisoners" attitude.

She's the bravest woman I know.

If I had to sum her up in one sentence it would be this:

"Absolute grace."

He was born on this day, 1959.

The world and it's problems be damned.......he was here.

He passed all too soon in January 2010.

His family's and friends' worlds would never be the same.

He was loved by many, and that's more than a few.

Happy Birthday, Bruce.



Monday, June 4, 2012

Sunday Funday Family Style

Occasionally I get really lucky.

For a guy who freely admits he's "The Luckiest Guy In The World", that's saying a lot.

Yesterday was one of those "lucky" occasions.

As most of you know by now, my Cousin Beth and her father are researching the family tree. My brother Kevin hadn't seen her since her grandfather's (Kev's and my Uncle Bobby) funeral. I knew Kev and his wife would be home Sunday afternoon. I also knew that Cousin Beth wanted to go see my parent's and brother Gary's graves on one of these weekends.

Yesterday I made both happen.

Cousin Beth showed up right on time yesterday, just in time to watch Kev and I put a new dryer in Kev's laundry.

You can't pay enough for entertainment like that.

Actually, it went off without a hitch. That was the first indication that it was going to be a perfect day.

With the initial visit over with, Cousin Beth and I loaded up into the AirTrafficMobile and hit the road.

The weather was a cool, dry, sunny 75F day. I decided to take the long way to St. Mary's Cemetery. After all, there are a plethora of things to see in the immediate area. If you tried to do them all in one shot, it could easily take nearly 47 minutes.

Our first stop was Fort Mott. When I was a kid I climbed all over this place, especially places that were tagged "NO ADMITTANCE". Let's be honest, playing "Army" or "Cowboys and Indians" is a lot more fun if you have real battlefield stuff to do it on. In the Winter we'd sled down the snow covered revetments. They were the only real hills for miles around. Cousin Beth and I walked the perimeter of the various batteries coming out along the river. It was high tide and the wind was blowing up white caps. That was a very relaxing way to start the road trip.

Next we passed by the Finns Point Lighthouse. Technically it's not a "lighthouse". It's actually a "range light". "Range lights" are used for navigating. In this case it was used to navigate the channel in the Delaware River. By lining up this and another light upriver, the person piloting the boat could tell if he/she was in the channel, or left/right of the channel.

Ten minutes later we arrived at St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery. We stopped at my mother's grave first. I said a quick prayer and then proceeded to tell Beth stories about Mom. I told her about the first time Mom met her mother. Mom always liked her. Both were/are gentle souls. That's a really good trait to have when you marry a Walker. I also told Beth about her mom and dad bringing her over for my family to see when she was a baby. Context is so important in genealogy. It's one thing to tell a family story. It brings it home when it's being told at the foot of one of the principals' grave.

After a few minutes we walked down to my brother Gary's grave. One of the many reasons Cousin Beth and I hit it off right away is that we have many parallels in our lives. The loss of a sibling is one of them. I said my usual, "Prayer for Gary" (it ends with a drum roll and "Amen"). I've told Beth a number of Gary stories. He was the most naturally funny person I'll ever know. We both shared some stories about our lost siblings. I don't mean to sound glib, but only a person who has lost a brother or sister (especially when the deceased passed away so young) can truly understand the complex feelings of those left behind. My advice to her was, "Cry any time you need to. If you try to hold it back, it can do tremendous harm.".

Keep the phrase, "tremendous harm" in mind as you read what happens next.

As we left St. Mary's, I had one of "those" moments.

I am a notorious "cold leftover food for breakfast" eater. Yesterday morning I had leftover Chinese Beef and Broccoli in Garlic Sauce (extra spicy) for breakfast.

We left the cemetery and headed to town. Beth was a bit hungry. I decided Pat's Pizzeria would be a good place. Beth could get a slice and we both could grab a cold drink.

I was about to tell her where we were going when I felt the "Chinese Food For Breakfast" bubble burst in my stomach.

The Dow Bhopal disaster had nothing on this belch.

By the way Cousin Beth, you don't look bad in green.

Green was just one of the many colors that poor woman turned. Personally, I turned red. I knew it had to be bad because Beth stopped talking.

Thank God for working electric windows.

I made a joke saying, "Maybe we need to get a car mint."

Fortunately, Pat's Pizzeria was just around the block.

Beth safely escaped "The Belch" and made it into Pat's.

The slice and fresh air cheered her up.

Mea culpa, Cuz.

Anyway, pretty soon we were off to the Salem County Veterans Cemetery to see my father. It was at Dad's request (not knowing how soon we'd have to honor it) that he be cremated and buried here. Absolutely "No Viewing". He hated viewings. He had seen enough dead bodies during World War Two. He was on the killing end is some cases. The only reason Mom isn't here with him is that she had to be close to Gary. There was no way we were going to not honor their requests. I know Dad understands.

I took Cousin Beth out to his grave. As I quietly said a prayer, eyes closed, I heard Beth say, "Hi Uncle Dick". I opened my eyes to see her sitting down on his grave and gently moving her hand over Dad's marker.

You're damned right I started crying.

Then I started doing the "Walker snicker". It's not quite a laugh, it's not some girlish giggle, but it is definitely unique to our family.

Why *snicker* you ask?

Because I could just see my dad blushing in that way that only Dad could.

Back to the "Walker snicker" for a moment. This is for the Walker's reading this. Next time you're around a bunch of other Walkers, start the *snicker* and watch how fast they all join in.

We left the cemetery and headed back through Salem. I took her past the "Salem Oak". The "Salem Oak" is the tree under which John Fenwick signed a treaty with the local Native Americans for the land which now comprises Salem County and Cumberland County. The tree itself is estimated to be over 500 years old and stands gracefully in the Friends(Quaker) Cemetery.

Next stop, what was once the center of my parent's former home. I went by there slowly. I always do. So many memories. The beauty of life is that houses sell, memories don't. Mom and Dad made that place a home. When they were gone, it reverted to being a house. "Home" went with us in our memories and hearts.

Cousin Beth and I had been driving around for over two hours. It was time for a break. I knew just the place. We stopped down at the Riverview Inn. We plopped down where we had an unobstructed view if the Delaware River. I ordered "Moscow Mules" for us. I am an unabashed fan of the "Moscow Mule". It is the perfect Spring/Summer cocktail and well suited for waterside relaxation. I also pointed out the remnants of both the Pennsville side of the old New Castle/Pennsville Ferry and the old Wilson Line piers. We also got a chance to just sit and shoot the breeze.

Cousin Beth is a great conversationalist.

All Walkers are, but she's definitely one of the best.

One cocktail (two for me) and one gorgeous slice of Key Lime Pie (her) later, it was time to get ready for dinner at Kev's.

The menu?

Like my buddy Jay Johnson from Richmond used to say:

"Jus' a lil' sumpin sumpin."

Or as we call it:

"The Walker Brothers Surf and Turf"

- Steamed, pre-cleaned #1 Blue Claw Crabs w/garlic
- Steamed Top Neck Clams w/drawn butter
- BBQ'ed Riblets
- Air Traffic Mike's Marinated Vegetable Salad w/Feta Cheese
- Fresh Corn on the Cob
- Watermelon Margaritas ala Kev

See........jus' a lil' sumpin sumpin.

We dined poolside in Kev's backyard.

I was so happy for Beth to get reacquainted with Kevin and meet Karen. They are such good folks. I always say it and I'll say it again. Kevin is the big brother you'd want if you didn't have your own (or in some cases, even if you did).

Note to Cousin Beth: Next time we're planning the "Walker Brothers World Championship (So far as we know) Rib Competition". We're going to need more Walkers so we're going to need Cousin Rick and your Dad (spouses included, naturally) to bolster the "Judging Panel". In consideration for their time, the judges will each receive a large whole oat bran muffin and an ice cold "Pile Driver*" at the end of this meat fest.

*Pile Driver - An original Air Traffic Mike recipe featuring two ounces of Stolichnaya Vodka mixed with six ounces of orange flavored Metamucil, served over the rocks in a Zombie glass. Its motto: "This too shall pass."

Today, rest, cleaning the remaining crabs of their meat, cooking a corned beef for dinner, and herding Dachshunds.

Tough schedule, but someone's got to do it.

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Have We Met Somewhere Before?

We've all had that moment.

You KNOW you've seen THAT person somewhere before.

It's almost always an overwhelming event.

In a nutshell, that's how the last few days have been for me. Only it's been on a repeated basis.

Let me start by giving you some background.

There have been many times I've written about my family here on the blog. Some of them are still with us, others have been called on by the Lord.

Most of the time I'm sentimental about them.

There has been the occasional rant, but mostly fond memories.

A few weeks ago I received an email from my cousin Rick. He informed me that our second cousin Beth and her father Doug were working on the "Family Tree". Rick told me that he'd given Cousin Beth my email address.

I had no problem with that. The prospect of hearing from Beth and her father made me happy. I hadn't seen Cousin Doug since my mother's funeral. Heck, I hadn't seen Cousin Beth since she was a toddler.

The way I figured it, we were all overdue.

Cousin Beth and I exchanged a few courtesy emails regarding "Family Tree" matters. In one of those I invited her to join Christine and I at Delaware Park for the opening day of the 2012 thoroughbred horse race season.

Christine and I picked her up at her apartment.

It was QUITE clear we were kin. She favors her father, who favors his father, who favors his father and my father.

That's a lot of favors.

Beth and I traded family stories. Christine passed the time cashing in winning race tickets. It was a nice day and gave us the chance to make some plans to work together on the genealogy project.

That night I reported back to my Cousin Rick about the afternoon. He was pleased about the whole thing. He invited Christine and I down for a visit later in the week. He had something for me to see. I said, "Sure." and the date was set.

What he had for me to see nearly knocked me off my feet. It was boxes and boxes of old family pictures, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and programs from various family members both immediate and extended.

"Do you think you, Beth, and Doug could come down soon?", he asked. Continuing on he said, "I think this might help."

I called Beth as soon as I got back to Christine's house. We coordinated a date good for Beth, Rick, and I.

That was this Wednesday past.

WE spent two hours going through three very large boxes. We were able to fill in a number of blanks going back four generations via photographs.

Cousin Beth and her father had already done an impressive job on the information research already. They had taken several trips.They reviewed old church records. Scoured county records. Went to old addresses. Traipsed through old cemeteries.

It was a rock solid foundation of names, dates, locations, and in many cases pictures of tombstones.

My hat's off to Cousin Doug and Cousin Beth. Awesome job!!!!

Now Beth and I (courtesy of Cousin Rick) had some of the faces. She scanned the pictures and took them home to edit.

Yesterday they were posted.

Here's a few:

Henry Hampton Phillips. This fellow is my great grandfather. He lived from 1878 until 1930. Henry was an oyster schucker by trade in/near Cambridge, Maryland.

This handsome young fellow is my paternal grandfather, Richard Blocksom Walker circa 1902. Besides being a USN veteran from World War One, he was an executive for the Sinclair Oil Company (now called BP). "Pop Pop", as us grandchildren called him, passed away the day of my Confirmation in the Catholic Church.

This lovely couple is my paternal grandparents. Priscilla Walker (nee Phillips) and the now grown Richard Blocksom Walker. If I had to guess the year it would be right around 1942. Both my father, and his brother Henry Robert "Bobby" Walker were serving in World War Two. We have other pictures, not yet posted, showing them on furlough (prior to deployment). "Nonnie" and "Pop Pop" look very similar in the pictures with their boys.

Dad and Uncle Bobby weren't the only family members serving in the war. The beautiful bride on the left is Alice Elizabeth Elliot (nee Walker). She's my Dad's younger, and Uncle Bobby's older, sister. The man on the right is Lt. Joseph Richard Elliot. This picture was taken at the Chapel at West Point. Uncle "Dick" served in the Army Air Force, flying P-38 fighter aircraft. Sadly, he would perish in 1945 shortly before to end of the war in Europe.

Honestly folks, this has been a moving experience for me and we're just getting started.

I'm finding people I never knew.

I'm rediscovering people I haven't seen in a long time.

I'm getting to see and talk to people I have always loved, but have been too far removed from for too long.

Cousin Doug, Cousin Rick, and Cousin Beth.....I thank you with all my heart.

Love, Mike

Until the next time, all y'all take care of yourselves.

Air Traffic Mike, ret.