o me 2002 was a good year, the highlights were two weddings. The first was my nephew Steven to a beautiful young lady named Vendla. That wedding took place in Lake Placid, NY last March. Yes that's snow in the picture, there was a ton of snow on the ground and a raging snow storm the evening of the reception. Everyone was equipped with 4 x 4's so it was no problem. Why pick Lake Placid, NY in March? Two reasons Steven and Vendla are avid "outdoor" types, heck Steven has gone mountainclimbing in Africa, Alaska and Nepal, Lake Placid is just mole hills I guess. Secondly, Vendla's family and friends would be coming to the US from South Africa for the first time so the wedding had to also be an adventure for them. It was an adventure for all of us, Carole and I even went on a dog sled run across the frozen lake.
The second highlight was the wedding of my daughter Jennie to a great young man, Mark. I was really dreading her wedding, I didn't do too well when Melissa, "my baby" was married the previous year. I thought that I just couldn't mainatin my composure walking another of my daughters down the aisle to give her away. Not fair! I held it together though, I think the column I wrote, Life Experiences was some kind of catharsis that enabled me to express in words the emotions that were tearing me up for more than a week before the wedding. As my father would say when I was a kid and sick to my stomach, "Go on, get it out of your system - Trust Me." That column cleared me up just fine. You may be laughing but just you wait until you have to give away the greatest gift a man can have, a daughter.
Jennie and Mark are doing great and have their priorities in order, they purchased their first house in Madison, NJ in December. It's not a "McMansion," its a beautiful home built in 1869 that's been well taken care of and modernized over the years. It looks like it will last another +130 years. Mark is buying tools and I'm suppporting him 100%, a guy can't have too many tools!
The summer was spectacular - when it gets to be mid-June the whole family congregates each weekend on the kayaking beach at Sea Girt. I love that place, clean and well run. I also get to talk with Jim Freda of Shore Catch Guide Service, during the summer months he's the chief of the Sea Girt Lifeguard unit. These guy and gals are all pro's and its a comfort for us to know that they are constantly on duty. They also participate in various lifeguard association contests so we get to watch them practice early in the morning. Yes, we get to the beach super early some days 7:30 AM. The Sea Girt Lifeguard's have all the modern equipment like a specially equipped wave runner but I'm always amazed at how fast they can launch a rescue boat, row it over the waves and be offshore within minutes. I would try it myself but it looks like work! When Jim does it though he makes it look effortless, I think he's been at it for a few years.
I can't forget June 30th either, that was the day that Carole and I, inadvertently got trapped "marching" in the New York City Gay & Lesbian Pride Parade or whatever they call it now. I don't think I'm ever going to live that down! I figured if I "fessed up" and told the story in one of my column's here I could control "history" but the family and close friends won't let that happen. "Hey Bob doing any marching in the city lately?"
July the 4th was awesome, remember how hot it was, over 100° with clear blue skies! Of course we were at Sea Girt, every 20 minutes or so we would all jump in the water to cool off. It was really beautiful that day, the ocean was clear and clean and it felt like we were swimming in Perrier. In August my sister Micki came home from "Chicagoland" for a long weekend at the beach. It was a highlite of our summer and between Micki, my wife Carole and grand niece Kayla they must have collected enough sand dollars to open a "boutique." Of course it was nearly impossible to go to the beach or back to our hotel without the mandatory stop at Starbucks.
The grand finale of our summer was a tradition I started about 25 years ago on Lake Texoma, Texas with my daughters and nephews Bill and Steven. The annual Barbasol shaving cream fight. I buy everyone their own can of Barbasol (that's the cheapest) and pass them out to see what happens. Last year my grand-nephew Coleman was old enough to participate and he loved it just like his father all those years ago. When asked what he wanted for his birthday in in September he replied, a birthday party on the beach and a shaving cream fight. We did it again this year and if I can find the picture of Coleman's sister Kayla and include it here, you will see that the Coleman won. Well not actually, his 'thirtysomething' father Bill, is still a child at heart and caused the most havoc. By the way, use regular shaving cream, never mentholated!
Low point of the year was the annual Army Navy Football game. It was held at the Meadowlands on December 7th, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Worst loss ever for Army, a total blow out by Navy, 58 - 12. I took my nephew Stephen who is in junior high school, to get him "psyched up" about striving to obtain an appointment to West Point. No matter who you may know or even if your father is an alumnus, an aspiring candidate has to bring outstanding credentials to receive an appointment. Steven was impressed with the Corps of Cadets but not the football team!
Our whole family got together at Christmas, it is both a melancholy and joyous time for us. Melancholy because my father passed away on a Christmas Eve several years ago. The best present was given by Steven and Vendla, it made us laugh and cry. They collected over 350 family photos, scanned them and put together a video history of the family set to some incredible music. The video opened with a picture of my father and his classmates sitting on the steps of the one room school house in Forest of Dean, NY. The village of Forest of Dean is no more, the area was taken over by West Point and a reservoir was created. The village and the iron ore mine my grandfather worked at have been underwater since the mid-1930's but the school house is still standing. There were pictures of my mother as a teenager, my father on leave and my sister Micki and me as toddlers sitting on the barracks steps.
There were pictures of each "generation" of the family, grandparents through great-grandchildren and it concluded with a close-up photo of my father smiling. Before the video was played a box of Kleenex had been passed around and as the images changed and music played, many tissues were needed. To say there there wasn't dry eye in the place is an understatement, that last image of my father smiling at all of us broke our hearts.
We concluded Christmas by having a snowball fight but my nephew Bill seriously cheated, he used a snow shovel to attack us with. Damn kids! Worse though I messed up my back which took a few weeks to return to just my normal back ache. Ibuprofen is one of the great discoveries of the last century, for sure!
Micki must have read some of my complaining here on StriperSurf.com about saving money by foregoing visits to Starbucks. She gave me a couple of pounds of Ehthiopian and Italian Roast coffee, a new coffee grinder and one of those magical cards, already pre-paid for at least three months worth of visits to Starbucks! What a great sister!!
The best present we received was a surprise - the 30th of December was our wedding anniversary so my daughters Jennie and Melissa along with their husbands Mark and David invited us out to dinner. Carole and I drove up to Madison to meet them at Jennie's new home at 6:00 PM, we walked in the front door to "Surprise!" The girls had arranged a party for our anniversary, friends and family were all over the place. We had a wonderful time. Friends from Bayhead even drove up to help us celebrate even though the weather forecast was bad. Hank had just purchased a fire engine red Hummer H2 so it wasn't too tough! I didn't get an opportunity to give it a test drive, but I WILL! We need to know, right?
Fishing Success in 2002? That is best described by the day I showed up at Sea Girt in June and Jim Freda asked me if I brought a rod with me. I looked at him kinda funny, he knows when I come to Sea Girt it's "family beach day" no fishing rods or stops at Bogan's for bait are allowed. Jim proceeded to tell me that just a few hours earlier a guy had landed a 47 pound bass just yards away from the family "spot" on the kayaking beach. Jim showed me the digital picture he took, I was sick!
Most of the year was like that, I was always a few hours or a day late. The worst day though was Election Day, November 5th. There had been sporadic blitzes in Monmouth and Ocean counties over the weekend and Island Beach State Park was overwhelmed with fisherman. I fished for 14 hours but not even a skate. I did figure out why the park was packed, it was due to one of those infamous "Blitz Reports" on a B&T shop's web site. Will you guys ever learn?
My biggest fish of 2002? Just over 35 pounds on my brass scale. Caught and released from the surf on an eel, at night, at my very secret spot. I was pumped for two weeks after that but I could not maintain any consistency this year. I drove by my "spot" with "Steve In Mass" and told him about the place but that was as close as we could get the day we fished in November and got skunked except for some Taylor Blues.
2003 just has to be a better year, PLEASE!
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This Week in History -
Life's Experiences -
Dog Days -
September 11 -
A Very Good Year, but...
An American Family -
A Letter From Viet Nam