Sunday, August 16, 2009


It gets cold at Penn State in the winter.

Yeah, I know that's an understatement and a lot of people wish they could forget about it and are a little angry that I should bring it up. But it's true. You know the chant: 'We are . . . Penn State!' Well, it started out as 'We are . . . frickin' cold!' When I was at State College back in the late 1870's, I discovered there was an alternative to walking outside and freezing my rear end off.

The tunnels.

Yes, many of the buildings at Penn State are connected by underground tunnels ( I guess that's redundant, isn't it? Are there 'overground' tunnels?) Regardless, I was saved from rain and snow by heading down into basements and finding my way around. How did I find them?

I try doors.

A closed door is a beacon for me. I'm dying to see what's on the other side. I have exasperated my family more often than I care to admit, but in this instance, it payed off. I found tunnels.

Not under Pattee, of course. People might swipe books.

So, last week, I was in downtown Philadelphia for our company conference. I was presenting about how 'green' my data center is. Of course, it was the hottest couple of days of the whole summer, so I decided to check out the Philly tunnels.

The conference was at the downtown Marriott, but spilled over into the Convention Center. You can easily get between the Marriott and the Convention Center without going outside, but I was parked in the Wanamaker Building across from City Hall. Could I do it? Oh, yes. Yes, I could!

From the parking garage of the Wanamaker, I could walk along the underground concourse right to the Convention Center and never see the light of day. And never actually SEE Philadelphia. Perfect! I could get in my car in my garage and never actually have to be 'outside' EVER! Rain? Snow?? Pfffffbbbbt! Remember that great line by Karen in Will and Grace? "Are we. . . outside?"

But it got me thinking, how far could you go underground in Philadelphia, so I checked it out. Look at this.

You can get all the way from Race Street all the way to Spruce, and from Eighth Street all the way to Eighteenth Street. Not quite river to river, but darn near. How about that? Sure, it smells like old, tired urine, but like anything else, you get used to it. It's the smell of Philadelphia! And it turns out that Philly had even bigger plans at one point but circumstances didn't let the dream come true.

Here's a different map that shows the actual open areas. There are stores and restaurants, even whole malls down there. You could live, work, eat and play . . . and never go outside.

I'll have to see if I can find something for underground Penn State. I'll bet there are tunnels I never found.

When we visited the Library of Congress recently, my daughter mentioned there was a tunnel for congress to use. Here's what that looks like.

I wonder if they smell like old, tired urine too?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Data Center Rules

There are rules for everything.

Some of you gentle readers know that I run a great big data center for a great big multinational corporation and that we do great big data processing (all sorts) for hospitals and other healthcare entities. That's a tremendous burden. Why, sometimes it's like a lotus petal crushed under an elephant, how about that! And how do we take that pressure off? Hmmm? Drinking? Hiding?

No, we have rules!

And standards and regulations and audits and documentation and tools and. . . and. . . stuff. And we like them because beside having to do them, they also help. So I have rules about who is allowed in my building, how they do their work, what they're allowed to bring with them, all sorts of rules.

But think back to before there were any rules. It was like the wild west, anyone could do anything! So when we first started building the rules, they were a bit more primitive than today's sophisticated, well-documented, well-structured, bullet-proof, ultra-well-tested policies.

So at the risk of being too sharply focused for the masses, for historical purposes, here was the first pass at some data center rules.


Rules and Regulations and Whatnot

1. The first rule of the data center is don’t talk about the data center.

2. Due to the close proximity of working areas and lack of adequate ventilation in the data center, please practice some sort of personal hygiene and grooming before entering the computer room floor.

3. Cell phone use is required at all times.

4. All photographs and videos must be taken using a dreamy, soft focus filter.

5. There is no Number 5.

6. All foods and beverages are allowed on the computer room floor, but Italian food is preferred.

7. Due to the lack of standards, all wires and cables should be managed in the ‘ninja-spaghetti’ style and should be spread out upon all working surfaces.

8. Only ones and zeros are allowed to be processed in the data center.

9. No ear protection is required, iPods are optional. This rule may be suspended if a soccer game breaks out or if Security is playing a Schwarzenegger action movie soundtrack over the loudspeakers.

10. There are no cages to be opened, so there are no keys.

11. If you walk your robot dog, please clean up after it.

12. All visitors and robot dogs must be kept on a leash at all times.

13. The computer room floor has been designated as a cold war era fallout shelter.

14. In the event of an emergency, raise your hands above your head, run around screaming “Help me! Help me!” and pray to your chosen deity. If you have no chosen deity, you may borrow one from Security.

15. Any explosives and hazardous materials must be kept in your pockets.

16. Management discourages the unnecessary use of guns in the data center, but we don’t care how much you use them elsewhere. Actually, we recommend you carry a gun at all times.

17. There is no crying in the data center.

18. All drugs and alcohol brought into the data center must be shared with Security.

19. Everyone is allowed free access to the computer room floor except mimes.

20. If you must chew tobacco, use just a pinch between your cheek and your gum.

21. All fires should be contained to one room at a time.

22. Anyone working in a high noise area must mmmft blufft burble.

23. If someone falls into the sub-floor, allow them three minutes to escape before replacing the tile.

24. If the data center rats stampede, try to herd them away from the refrigerator.

25. This is just a filler item so the list will total a nice round 25 items.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bora! Bora! Bora!

OK, that was a weak reference to the movie
Tora! Tora! Tora!

For our recent trip to French Polynesia, we definitely wanted to go to Bora Bora and when we started the planning we wanted to go there first and work our way back to Tahiti since that's where the international airport is. The travel agent said, "Noooo, Bora Bora should be last!" And that was a very wise recommendation.

Because Bora Bora is the BEST! Oh, my goodness, the best. Oh, yes, the best.

The central island is dominated by Mt. Otemanu and the lagoon surrounding the central island is protected by a ring of narrow islets called motus. The airport is on a motu. Our beautiful hotel, the Intercontinental Thalasso is on a motu. So you probably figured out that you get around by boat.

And when we went to dinner on the main island the restaurants provided cars to pick us up and take us back. It was all very convenient.

At the Intercontinental Thalasso, we stayed in what they called an over-the-water villa. That was ours on the second leg from the right, third villa from the end on the left.

The first thing that captures your attention when you arrive is Mt. Otemanu. In a way, it's like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, wherever you go, there it is. It would be pretty hard to get lost anyway, it's a small island.

One of the things that impressed Deb was that by the time we checked in and were driven to our place, the luggage was already there. Already there!

The first morning when we got up really early, we went out on our little personal dock and this is what we see.

We could have left right then and the whole thing would have been worth it. Look at that turquoise water and the moon (see the little bitty reflection?). Whoa!

The whole resort was spotless, it's only three years old and they're very proud of the fact that everything is air conditioned by pumping up cold seawater from thousands of feet down for use as a heat exchanger. Practically free air conditioning! Here's a shot from our deck toward the resort. Look at that water!

The temperature had some pretty dramatic variations. During the day it was 82 F. And at night it dipped down to 81 F. Whew! We didn't eat inside a closed room even ONCE the whole time we were in French Polynesia. Here's our living room.

Notice that the coffee table is actually a glass bottomed window down into the lagoon. The very first morning, Deb saw a sting ray swim past to welcome us.

Here's the view outside from the bedroom out past the foot of the bed.

And here's the view when you were at the bar. Yeah, everything was expensive because it had to be flown in - deal with it.

Here's what the outdoor bar looked like. Look at the crush of people! Even though this was high season, we were never crowded or delayed ever.

Here's the indoor bar but I never saw anyone go here. Why would anyone stay indoors??

Even though the hotel and the restaurants were spectacular, we had to check out the restaurants on the main island. We ate at the original Bloody Mary's (you remember. . . Bali Hai! Bali Hai!). But the best of them all was la Villa Mahana. We had the best table in the house and the best food on the whole trip. Gorgeous!

So, you ask, "Would you go back? You know, long flight. . . everything expensive?" I'll answer that with a photo of Deb. Does that answer your question?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Running Off to Tahiti

How often have you heard that?

"I'm done with this crap, I'm running off to Tahiti."

Well, I was done with this crap, so I ran off to Tahiti - and Moorea and Bora Bora. It turns out that all the things we've heard about exotic, faraway French Polynesia were all true. All of it. Exotic. Really far away. And stunningly, heartstoppingly beautiful.

I mean REALLY. It even sounds exotic, doesn't it? Moorea (pronounced Mo-orea, you gotta get that little stutter-step in there). Bora Bora - sounds like there might be cannibals, right
? Oh, no, quite civilized, actually.

My wife, Deb and I left from Philadelphia. Once we discovered there were no non-stop or direct flights from Philadelphia to Tahiti (Geez!) we decided to break the long trip up a little by stopping off in Los Angeles for a night before continuing on. That really made a lot of difference because we weren't all grouchy and poopy when we arrived. We remembered how tired we were the first couple of days in China and 'tired' is no fun.

Take a look on the map, French Polynesia is between South America and Australia, but it isn't really NEAR anything. It's in the South Pacific. As in South Pacific! As in Bali Hai. As in Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi who may have been related to Luca Brasi famous for telling the Godfather "And may their first child be a masculine child." And when you see Mount Otemanu on Bora Bora, that Bali Hai song keeps popping into your head.

We didn't spend much time on Tahiti itself, it's become a little TOO popular. Modern, a lot of traffic, certainly still gorgeous, but we wanted to get off to the other islands. I mean, look at this photograph, how long could you stay in this squalor?

That's Moorea, off on the horizon, by the way, described by some as the most beautiful place EVER. I don't know if it's the MOST beautiful, but it's sure up there in the rankings. It only takes a few minutes to fly to Moorea from Tahiti, there are ferrys as well, but once you're in Polynesia, all the security crap is suspended, you just get on the plane. What a relief, it was just like the old days before those imbecilic morons made us go through a bunch of useless security checks. Someone should add up all the wasted time and energy and charge them for it. "Hey, doofus, about those oil reserves. . ."

Doofus - definition:
Someone without a clue, living in total ignorance of the world, fashion, personal hygiene and social skills. From German doof meaning a stupid, jugheaded fool.

But I digress.

As you can see from the map to the right, this batch of islands are part of the Society Islands. Betcha didn't know that! Perhaps they should have named them the Eyewateringly Beautiful Islands, that would have made more sense.

In Moorea, we stayed at the Sofitel, which was very nice, but the highlight of this island was one of those happy accidents. We had intended to take a bus tour of the island and see all the highpoints and OOO and AHH, but there were so few people there even though this was high season, that they canceled the bus for lack of riders.

So, we rented a car and drove ourselves. THAT was great, we could stop whenever and wherever we wanted to, stay as long as we wanted. . . we should have thought of that ourselves.

Here's the Sofitel, which we found out later was the hotel Mel Gibson stayed in when they were filming
The Bounty there. Marlon Brando also filmed his Mutiny on the Bounty at Moorea, but I don't know where he stayed. He didn't tell me.

Here's Cook's Bay, presumably where Captain Cook landed (not Captain Hook, that's a different guy).

This is just across from the fields that Warren Beatty and Annette Benning ran across near the end of Love Affair. That was where he met her by the way.

Here's Deb on the top of the mountain, with Cook's Bay behind her. Notice she has a flower in her hair. She had a flower in her hair pretty much the whole time we were there. I stuck one into my ear, but it kept falling out.

All of this was merely a prelude, however, because we were going on - on to Bora Bora.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Keeping Up

I know, I haven't been keeping up with my blog.

I'm sorry.

My mental image is of Elise McKenna from the movie Somewhere in Time.

I'm sure you know the movie. I was recently reminded by a friend of how beautiful Jane Seymour was before she lit out for the territories and became Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

Recall that Jane
is standing across the scene upstage and she screams "Riicccccccccchhhhhhaarrrddddddddddddd" at Superman.

Anyway, Jane is hollering at me because I have let work and vacation setup and other such crap get in the way of what is really important: This blog.

What? You're not buying it? You're saying that you have to prioritize those things in your life that you can do with your limited time? You're saying that 'a man has to do what a man has to do', like all the cowboys and John Cleese have said?

Well, maybe so. I don't know.

Perhaps I'm just pooped because of being in some pretty intense contract negotiations recently. Perhaps I just need a vacation. Perhaps I'll go on one.
But vacation or not, contracts or not, I miss the writing and I'm sure you remember what Scarlett said when she tried to eat that damned raw turnip.

"As God is my witness, I will make blog entries when this crappy period is over." Or something like that.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Nature, Nurture, Whatever

Nature or nurture, genetics or care - which is it?

My hobby is genealogy and as a result, I know something about my ancestors. Most lines, excluding the presidents and governors and such were just good solid farming stock. They worked hard, they had no Social Security and they lived a gooood long time. Many lived into their upper nineties. Shown here is Nimrod Harrison, Jr. and his wife Sarah C. Watkins Harrison, my great grandfather and great grandmother. In this photo in 1910, he was 71 and she was 65. He lived on for another ten years and she for twenty. And they were the slackers of the family fading away so young.

Here's their whole family in that shot, my grandfather is here, Peter Kleylein, my grandmother Hallie Harrison Kleylein, my father Leon Kleylein and my uncles Stanford Wheeler Kleylein and Nimrod Harrison Kleylein. Families got big in those days.

On my mother's side, outside of one German line, all of her folks came from Posen, Poland. Here's my grandfather Roman Damos Pawlak and grandmother Wanda Marie Pokornoski Pawlak in 1963 when he was 82 and she was 76. They still worked their dairy farm right up until the end. The man standing behind them is my uncle Edwin Pawlak, I've written about him in this blog before. My point in all this is to discuss how long I'm going to be writing this thing. I'm sure you'll be sick and tired of it if you aren't already.

My company had a kind of 'health day' at work last week. They bring in some healthcare workers to do some simple tests to warn you if you're dying, I guess. And once more I was reminded that I'd better save my money or I'll end up eating catfood because I've outlasted the cash. And, yes, my daughter has kindly told me that she won't allow me to get into the state of eating catfood but I still have this nagging doubt. It nags at me. I got it from my mother, I think.

My mother grew up during the Depression, you know, the other really bad one. And her family was poor enough already, I bet the Depression didn't help any. I can clearly remember her swiping sugar packets if we were ever in a place that had them. I guess folks had to do that if they were going to survive. But my lines DID survive, lousy healthcare, no healthcare, whatever - they had the ability to survive. And part of that, at least, can be attributed to good genes. Good strong, Depression-era-fighting genes.

So, I went to the 'health day' thing with a pretty good notion that things would turn out OK. Part of that good feeling can be attributed to the three or four full-scale, all-day physicals I've had at John Hopkins in Baltimore. In my business, you come to know which hospitals can be really trusted to give you the straight skinny. And when the Chief of Medicine at Johns Hopkins tells you you're good, then head right out and have a big greasy cheeseburger. If you're going to have a physician tell you something about your life, then have an A-student physician from a top-rated hospital do it. You know?

So once again, my blood sugar was fine, pulse 58, BP 120/82. The Nurse asked me if I had any stress in my job. OOOh NOoooo. Apparently if I didn't have the stress, I'd die of low blood pressure. The real killer, of course, is cholesterol. Mine continued it's decline and is now 148.

But that doesn't tell the whole story because my HDL, the 'good' cholesterol, is very high, out of the normal range leaving me with very low LDL (the 'bad' cholesterol). So the Nurse checked my carotid arteries to discover if they were open or not (they were), gave me a box of Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts and sent me on my way to the next spot.

At the next station, they were able to analyze the condition and age of my circulatory system. No, Bones McCoy didn't wave a whirling knob around me but that must be next because this was also non-invasive. So now I know (supposedly) that I have the circulatory system of a man twenty years younger than me. I'm not sure how he's able to get along without it, but nobody grabbed me and told me I had to give it back, so I just kept moving.

They told me my skin is bad. I know my skin is bad. I spent too much time in the sun in Miami and I'm sorry. Every time I see someone at work come in after too much sun exposure, I just want to slap some sense into them. You can't take the damage back. There it is to stare you in the face forever.

And yeah, I go to the gym, but not enough - the job interferes a bit. But gym or no gym, as long as my wife doesn't kill me, I've got a pretty good chance of living forever. Just gotta make the cash last.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Horror

Getting there is half the horror.

In my last post I went on and on about the terrible but adrenaline-filled few minutes getting to the airport for my last trip. But then came the actual journey. Now that all flights are always filled, people like me dread flying like medieval people feared the plague. I don't mean for the phrase 'people like me' to imply racial or demographic profiling, it's more like anatomical profiling.

You see, I'm tall.

And airplane seats are built for average people. I'm a lot of things, but I'm not average. As soon as I sit down, my knees are pushing into the back of the seat in front of me. I feel like I'm back at William Jennings Bryan Elementary trying to jam myself into those pre-pubescent seats. I sit down and quickly pull the twelve magazines from the seat pocket in front of me and toss them out the window. Every quarter inch helps.

Then the waiting begins.

I'm waiting for the monster to come down the aisle and sit in the chair in front of me. And it's never a little old lady who won't put their seat back. Oh, no, it's always some clown who feels he must collapse himself into the seat driving it back into my knees dislocating my femurs from my hip bone.

And I've noticed, these beasts never sit down in their seat, they fall into it as though they've just finished running a double marathon. Are they exhausted lugging themselves around all day? Or are they just unconscious about the people around them? I vote 'B'.

But who knows, things could work out. I could get an actual person to sit there, so I sit and I watch and I judge and I make bets with myself.

Uh-oh! There he comes. Man Mountain Monroe! Six years as a defensive lineman for the Dolphins. My heart sinks. He's still thirty feet away, but the old heart's in my shoes. It's him! He's going to sit in front of me and he's going to figure out some way to actually push his own seat back and crush me until I make popping noises like bubble wrap as you stomp on it.

Sure enough! As he throws himself into the seat with all the force of meteor strike, I quickly stand before he hits and it's a darn good thing I do. For as I attempt to sit, I discover I can't.

I could put my legs out in the aisle to be run over by the drink cart or I could become overly friendly with the Asian gentleman sitting next to me, but those are my only choices. So I split the difference. I put one knee jutting out into the aisle to poke anyone wandering by and the other is nestled into the thigh of my new best friend.

Sure, I've heard that people want to be tall, but like everything else in the world, there's another hidden face to all that - the forehead bruises, the extra work to find clothes that fit, oh, no, they don't tell you about that before you get recruited to go to tall school.

But, then, chicks really dig the tall guys. (Geez Louise, look at that dude's hand!)

And then as the high pitched buzzing that fear causes finally begins to drain out of my ears, I start to hear things. Bad things. Coughing. Sneezing. Hacking. Crying. Oh, wait, that's me crying. I try not to breathe, but that's going to be darned hard for two hours.

I take shallow breaths, perhaps the germs won't go all the way into my lungs. Perhaps they'll know my heart isn't in it and will take pity and infect some unimportant organ instead. I hear you can live without your spleen. Take that! Take my spleen!

If these people are so sick, what could possibly be so important that they had to fly somewhere? Well, perhaps it was a death in their family. If so, the person probably died after catching something on an airplane!

People come in to work sick and come to my office sick and they'll say awful things to me like, "Don't worry, I'm not contagious." What?!! How the hell do you know that?? And I throw them right out. But now I'm trapped, I have no control over this situation! When I squint, I can imagine I can see the little swine flu buggers floating in the air.

So I take myself to my happy place. I remember that things could be SO much worse. I could be William Shatner.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Flight of Fancy

I had to travel recently on business. Suddenly.

Travel is so exciting. It can be even more exciting when you don't have time to adequately plan. So, I was asked (!) recently to take the place of someone who had a customer visit planned. The person had gone and gotten themselves hurt (yeah, right), so I was sent in to absorb the wrath of a large and dedicated team of angry physicians.

Why me? Well, part of the fallout of working with the same customer base for thirty years is that people get to know you, remember your unusual name, you know the drill. So they felt comfortable yelling at me.

But I know how to do that, that's not the issue. It was the trip! The trip was a TRIP. I had the itinerary of the other guy, but I couldn't match the dollars because it was now about a day before I had to leave. So my trusty administrative goddess and I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to get from a large, metropolitan east coast city to a large, metropolitan mid western city at the last minute. Multiple, multiple attempts with various options including one that involved a stopover on the moon. It's not so easy, lemme tell ya.

But we got it done and I decided to go into work for a couple of hours in the morning before the flight because I HAD to get some stuff out of the way. My other work didn't just disappear because I was going to disappear. I recall my wife looked at me funny and implied she thought I was nuts, but hey, I'm a company man, it's my frickin' job, OK?

And it's a darned good thing I went in, too, because the Earth would have stopped spinning if I hadn't done what I was supposed to do. I mean, it's happened before.

So, I finished my work, picked up my travel paperwork to print off my boarding pass and happened to notice in an offhand sort of way, that the flight was going to take off in an hour and fifteen minutes! Holy crap! One of the many other flight options we had discussed had stuck in my head! The incompetence washed over me like a warm summer shower leaving me a little bedazzled by so quickly reaching Level 27 in the new Facebook game 'Incompetence Wars'.

Now, in the olden days, I would have had a hemorrhage or two and perhaps died on the spot. Ah, but not so, not any more. Now I have gone through the fires of hell and have had my mettle tested by a German colleague who was both a physician and a policeman. This crucible has burned away the impurities leaving a kind of shrunken but sturdy metallic outline of what I used to be. I survived that clown, this little thing was nothing! Nothing, I tell you!

So, I jammed my laptop and papers in my bag and hit the road. Now I certainly wasn't going to get to the airport two hours ahead of time, that was a chronological certainty. Sure I had a couple of other strikes against me, sure my luggage was still at home because I thought I would have plenty of time to pick it up on the way to the airport. Sure, I didn't have a boarding pass yet, but I did have a secret ace in the hole! Ha HAA! No, I won't tell you yet.

Once in the car, I call my wife. I ask her to try to print the boarding pass. Nope, too close to take off. She checks to see if the flight's on time. You BET IT IS! She checks for later flights, yeah, sure, but they're full. Deb says,"I wondered why you were going in to work, I couldn't see how you were going to make it." That explains why she looked at me funny, but what the heck, I give her LOTS of reasons to look at me funny, this is just one more banana in the bunch.

Now, it's thirty-five minutes from the office to get home and maybe twenty-five minutes to the airport. Then boarding pass, security, banging on the door of the plane. Pretty tight. Pret-ty tight! Deb drives me to the airport, there is no parking in this scenario, I arrive fifteen minutes before the flight leaves.

I rush in, breathless, expecting the worst... BUT, there's no one in line! The lady smiles at me at first and when she sees what flight I'm on she gives me a look that is an uncompromising blend of shocked pity and unutterable contempt.

She sums it up for me. She says, "You'd better hurry." No kidding.

I run up the escalator and into the motherless hands of... Security! I take off my coat, my shoes, my belt, my shirt and my pants and go through the portal in my socks and underwear. Hey, there could metal in that stuff! As I'm stepping through the portal, I remember I didn't take my little baggie of liquids and goo out of my suitcase. That's it! That's what will do it! My goo! My goo will screw the whole thing up.

But, no! The goo got through! The conveyor poops my suitcase out and the guard strikes me only once across the shoulder. Did you ever try to get dressed in a hurry? It's harder than you think. Shoelaces take an especially long time, so does lacing a belt. So does putting on your pants.

I get it all done, but OH MY GOSH! it's TIME! I glance at the monitor as I go by to confirm the gate and oh, look, a gift. They've moved the flight to Concourse B from Concourse C. Interestingly, we had driven by Concourse B to get to Concourse C. So, I run. I shouldn't run, I have no knees any more, but I run anyway.

Breathlessly, I arrive at the gate. The gate agent looks me over with a combination of derision and disdain. She says, "I guess this is your lucky day, we should start boarding in about a half hour."

You see, folks, this was US Airways. And US Airways was my ace in the hole. Even though the telephone agent didn't tell my wife the flight was late and even though the counter agent didn't tell me the flight was late, I knew, I knew that I could ALWAYS count on US Airways being late out of Philadelphia.

There are few things in the world that you can really count on. Mighty rivers may change their course, great nations may change their boundaries, even the sun itself will go supernova some day.

But you can rest assured that on the day the sun explodes, US Airways flights will be late leaving Philadelphia. This was just my lucky day.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

OK, NOW It's Mother's Day

The third part of a trilogy is supposed to be the best.
Yeah, right.

I saved the third entry in the trilogy about my mother for after Mother's Day. Somehow, it seemed appropriate because now we'll talk about her when I knew her. The previous two posts were about her life before her marriage and my brother and I coming into the picture.

Sophia Pawlak married Leon Kleylein on April 15, 1944 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. There don't seem to be any wedding pictures that are identified as such, but here's one where Mom has a hibiscus flower in her hair and my father has one of those short 1940's ties on. (Hmmm, I wonder if they'll come back?) Anyway, This could be it for all I know. Just for fun, let's say it is - OK, here's their wedding picture! They seem happy.

Here's another one where they seem happy. I like this one because it's so well worn that I presume they liked it as well. My father is wearing his auto mechanic's uniform and Mom is wearing the type of housedress that I remember her wearing all the time. That insignia on my father's shirt LOOKS like the old Amoco logo before they went red white and blue, but I can't quite make it out. Maybe I should use that special software that the cop shows have that clarifies an image even when there are NO PIXELS available. Oh, wait, there isn't any such software.

Here she is with my brother Dave in January of 1946. Look how handsome my brother is, my mother can't believe her eyes.

As I mentioned before, my mother was a maid all her life. She worked at the Holiday House on Biscayne Boulevard and NW 117 St. in Miami and at the LuRu Motel at Biscayne and NW 145 St. operated by Lou and Ruth Bruno (LuRu). Interestingly, the back of the Holiday House property was on the Dixie Highway (East Dixie - see previous posts) and the LuRu was situated right on what was once the Dixie Highway and the Florida East Coast railway ran behind it. She could walk to the Holiday House, but she had to take a bus to the LuRu and when we moved to Carol City, it was a long trip.

And then, here she is three years later with me at five months. She looks like she's been through the ringer, but I guess that's what happens when you have a ten pound baby.

As much as she loved my brother and me, I think she had a special love for my daughter Leah. The family never had more than two nickels to rub together, but Mom would have given everything she had to Leah with no hesitation.

I'm sorry Mom never got to meet Heather since Heather wasn't born until a year and a half after she died. I'm sorrier still that Heather didn't have the opportunity to meet her grandmother Kleylein. Imagine how hard it must be to miss memories you never had.

My mother was a good mother. Our clothes were clean, there was always enough food and neither my brother nor I ended up in prison for any considerable length of time. Sure, my parents smoked and drank beer, but so did everyone in those days, there wasn't any television to numb our brains. My brother and I learned how to work and you can blame it on genetics or culture, I don't care, it worked out for me.

Thanks, Mom.