Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Strange and Blighted Land...

...Gettysburg, the aftermath of a drought!

So, the Gettysburg battlefield has been said by many, me included, to be one of the most beautiful areas in the country. Normally, that is true. Everything's usually so lush and green. The abundance of grass and trees.

But this year, things are different! It hasn't really rained here since July 11th, and even then, it wasn't much. We've had a few showers, but nothing of significance. The picture from Warren's view says it all. Quite often, it rains everywhere around Gettysburg but not here. I stood by the statue and watched an awesome display of lightning, saw the rain just a mile or so south, and thought, "Well, this might be the day." Some rain to help make things green again.

As you can see from the other two pictures, the grass is not only dead, it's gone. The battlefield's ugly! Everything's dust! The farmers in the area, well, that's a story all it's own. The corn is dying and the apples aren't getting any bigger. Gonna be a tough year for both to produce any money!

I'm glad I'm here. It's still awesome, but it just hurts to see the place like this. In my 12+ years of coming here, it's the worst I've ever seen it! I hope it rains soon!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The luck of the Irish (or, in my case, the Polish!)

I had my first run-in with the local Gettysburg authorities today. I took my friend and his girl to Dunlap's, on the west side of town, for breakfast. As we were leaving, I left out the back, to avoid Rte. 30 traffic. As I was headed up Spring St., I debated making a right on Howard Ave., but did not.

Next thing I knew, one of Gettysburg's finest had their lights flashing, and pulled me over. Officer Donna Powers said I did not come to a complete stop, but rather rolled through it. She, of course, asked me for my paperwork, which I quickly produced. As she went back to her cruiser, I saw her on the radio, and then writing. In a remarkably short time, her door opened, and she started back to my car. I said, "She didn't take nearly enough time to write a ticket. I'm getting a warning!

Both people in my car said no way! A ticket was coming. Because I had all of my paperwork in order, including address changes on license, registration, and insurance (she said most people she stops do not), and because I was extremely polite with her (again, most people are not), she did give me a warning. I thanked her, and went on my way. No arguments or complaints here! (Did I mention that I did thank her, however! Sorry, Basecat, I got away with one, but you didn't! Someone's gotta do it!)

We ended up spending a good deal of time on the field today. stood on Little Round Top at about 5pm and watched it rain just a few miles down the road, but not a drop fell in Gettysburg! Same story, different day!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

So, what are 'orbs', anyway?

Had an interesting night on the Gettysburg battlefield. I was out on the field with some friends, and we did some exploring, first in the Triangular Field, and then near Spangler's Spring. I had my new digital camera out for it's first test run, and two things worthy of note happened.

First of all, look at two of the images I took. What do you see? Orbs, or dust? I have my thoughts, and I won't speculate. Let's just say that the orbs, if that's what they are, weren't visible when I took the shots!

Secondly, earlier in the day, I put a fresh set of batteries in my camera. I took maybe 30 pictures. We were in the Triangular Field, and as I tried to take a picture, the batteries went dead, I couldn't take the shot. I put a fresh pair of batteries, from a newly opened pack in the camera, and they wouldn't work either. We left, and then went to Spangler's Spring. The newer set of batteries still did not work at Spangler's Spring, so, just for the heck of it, I put the old pair back in. Guess what happened? Things worked fine. I took about 20 pictures near Spangler's Spring with the dead batteries from the Triangular Field, more than a few of which have 'orb-like objects'. You tell me what happened? I have my thoughts, but it is freaky, nonetheless!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Yinz-ers, y'all-ers, and youse guys!

Living in a tourist area is a totally different experience from what I'm used to! Back home, we'd get the Canadians, eh! You with me, hoser?! And, it was fun at times. We had the Pennsylvania Dutch who use basically the same words, but emphasize different syllables than we do. And, of course, we'd have "Pittsburgh-ese!" A language all it's own! You could make a college level course out of it, and it alone!

Jumbo (bologna), Sah-Side (The South Side), Jynte Eagle (Giant Egle Supermarkets), Jeet Jet (did you eat yet?) Nah dju? (no, did you?), and I'm gowin' dahn-tahn, fer cryin' aht lahd! ( I'm going downtown, for crying out loud!) are just a few that come to mind.

Do I miss it? Heck yes! Nothing quite like a well-done, naturally-acquired Pittsburgh accent.

So, Living in Gettysburg cracks me up! We get the New Yorkers (fuggitaboudit!), who ask how youse guys doin'? We get those from eastern PA who drink soda instead of pop. We got New Englanders, especially people from Baaahstaaahn!, And, we get every variety of southern accent imaginable. I used to think that there was one southern accent. Boy, was I wrong. There's the "Tidewater", the "Piedmont", the "Deep South", the "Alabama" (thought Alabama was in the deep south?), and the "Tennessee", just to name a few (don't be offended if I left your's out!) Together, the variety of people and dialects is quite amusing, and it keeps me entertained. I try to guess where people are from by the way they speak, and more often than not, I'm right. I'm learnin'!

But, throughout the individual southern accents, there is one distinctive word in common - "Y'all!" (who's plural version is "All Y'all!). People hear it and know it!

When you hear someone say "youse", you know it! Which begs the question...why does no one know what "Yinz" means? It's the same thing! I use it once in awhile, and people look at me like I've lost it. I tell my staff all the time "Yinz guys and gals rock!" Should be simple. Should be straightforward, yet they ask "What does 'Yinz' mean, again?"

If they can force our kids to learn Spanish in public schools, why can't we teach people what "Yinz!" means?, fer cryin' aht lahd!

Well, it's over!

My seven day, 53 hour work week has maybe come to an end. I say maybe, because I may have to work today for 4 hours, but I'm hoping not.

Anyway, after a few rough days of preparation, the seminar was held in my store yesterday. I had my boss (my District Manager, Dianne), her boss (my Regional Manager, Robbie) and four other store managers in my store yesterday morning. You always worry about such things when this happens..."Is the store clean enough?...Are we meeting company standards?...What did I do wrong that I don't know about?., etc., etc.

Well, after two hours of customer service learning, and a few games, the seminar ended. The other 4 managers had to to 'critique my store?' shall we say? I saw good things happening. Notes being taken. Things they saw that they wanted to take back to their store. Made me feel good.

The other store managers left, and then I thought the day would go downhill a bit. I was wrong! It just got better. I got a lot of compliments from both Robbie and Dianne on how good things looked, how great way were doing, and so forth. I got some information I can use, we made a few minor changes, and the day was good.

I was dreading it beforehand, but now I'm glad it happened. When a Regional Manager who's responsible for 36 stores throughout the country can only say "You have too many belts out.", and when the best thing he has to do is to help a PT sales associate hang shirts, it's a good day!

Now on to the weekend. I have my best friend from home and his girlfriend coming tonight to stay with me for the wekend. It'll be fun!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Not much today...

...A 9-5 shift turned into a 9-8:30 shift because of tomorrow morning's festivities, but that's about it. Then, happy hour at the G-man. More to come when my sanity returns (don't hold yer breath waitin'!)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My life in a nutshell...

...So, I came to Gettysburg as the manager of a store in the outlet mall nearby. My new district manager accepted me for the position based on a phone interview and the words of others in the company who knew me. I was here for a month before I finally got to meet her. The day she was here, we also had a surprise visit by the VP of the company, the Director of Stores, and my new Regional Manager (my DM's boss who I had also never met but had about an hour long phone conversation with). Things were well, the visit was great, and they all loved me. It's funny how when business is good, people higher up think you are wonderful, you're the cause of it all, and it all happened because they brought you there, isn't it?

For the first two months, I was at or near the top in the district in sales percentage over last year. They left me alone! The last month and a half has brought about a significant downturn in business. People aren't coming out to spend money like they were. Now, they don't leave me alone. The corrolary to the 'you're wonderful!' when you're doing good is, 'what are you doing wrong?' when you're not doing so good! Too much credit for the good, too much blame for the bad is how it seems to go.

So, everyday, I've been hearing it. "Customer Service!...Customer Service!...Make the most of every opportunity...Are your people doing it?" etc., etc. (I could ramble for hours, because I've heard it all recently, more than once in some cases!)

Robbie, the Regional Manager, recently decided to have 'Customer Service Seminars' with a lot of his managers. One of them was supposed to be in this area, in Lancaster,this week. I couldn't make it, because I have an assistant manager on vacation in Ocean City, MD. I asked her to come back a day early, and of course she resoundingly said, "NO!" I don't blame her. But, Robbie, out of the goodness of his heart, decided that he wants me at the seminar. Since I can't go to it, he's bringing it to my store on Thurs. Think of me at 8am on Thurs. with Robbie, Dianne, my DM, and at least 4 other managers from four other stores practicing our best 'Customer Service' techniques!

Ain't life grand!?!

Monday, July 23, 2007

How authentic is authentic?

So, the ongoing war between "hardcores", "Progressives", "campaigners" or whatever the term of the month is today, and the 'mainstreamers' (a derogatory term for those not hardcore) continues. We strive for authenticity in reenacting. Some more than others. On one end, The Civil War Heritage Foundation, where blue jeans and black sneakers are ok, 'as long as you're trying.' On the other extreme, the campaigners, who piss on their buttons to get 'the right patina', whatever the hell that is? I highly doubt that the civil war soldier had that patina. I tend to think he had better things to do than to piss on his own buttons! #1 that would come to mind would be 'survival'!

We've all taken food out of the fridge, watched tv, felt air conditioning, most likely flown in planes, eaten beef that was fed hormones, eaten produce that was fertilized with things other than manure, etc., etc. When we don our 'jaunty lil' uniforms to go play soldier, each of us thinks 'he's doin' it right.' Some more than others. That is true. Respect those who try, don't belittle them. Stay away from those who take it to extreme. They hate 'mainstreamers, yet they attend every mainstream event. I think they're not happy unless they've something 'to bitch about!' Take the 'middle of the road' approach. Realize that you'll never actually 'be there', but give it your best shot. Don't do a JEB Stuart impression if you're only 5 ft 6 in. Don't to a Gouverneur Warren impression if you're 60 plus years old and weigh 300 lbs. You owe it to those you represent to do better. You're not honoring them. You're trivializing and be-littling them. They saw and did more than we can possibly imagine. We owe them more!

If you see someone 'doing it right', praise them and thank them. If you see a farb, don't be afraid to ask them what their impression is based on. Diary? Photo? Imagination? Ask them what they think. You can make a difference. I don't want everyone to be 'hardcore, salt-pork-and-cush eaters'! That's not the objective. I just want us all to respect, honor, and show a bit of what those who went before us actually did. We owe them at least that. Without them, we wouldn't be us! Who can argue with that?

By the way, pictured with me is Joe Lesniewski, an Easy Co. (Band of Brothers, yep!) veteran from Erie PA. Joe landed in Normandy and Holland, fought in 'the Bulge', and was in both Germany and Austria. He's 'been there!' Rather than criticque and look down on reenactors, he was happy that 'we remembered and attempted to pass it on!' What more can one hope for?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shootin' the Shenandoah!

I've always been a person fascinated by water. Whether it be a lake, a river, the ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, whatever, if I was near it, I'd want to spend some time there. My recent move to Gettysburg took me away from some of the waters that I'd come to appreciate over the years, Lake Erie, Pgh's three rivers, and Lake Arthur, just to name a few, but I had been to them dozens or more times each, and they had lost their luster.

The move also put me closer to new and interesting waters, the Cheaspeake Bay near Baltimore, the Potomac River, Antietam Creek whose claim to fame comes from the battle there (it winds its way right through the middle of the battlefield), Marsh Run which snakes its way through parts of the Gettysburg battlefield, and the Shenandoah River, just to name a few. It also brought me to some interesting places, such as Point of Rocks on the Potomac, and Harper's Ferry, the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac (not quite Pgh., but it'll do in a pinch).

A few weeks ago, some friends and I were visiting Harper's Ferry. It was a Sunday, and cars were parked everywhere along the banks of the Potomac. As we neared the river, we could see literally hundreds of people rafting, tubing or kayaking there. It looked like way to much fun for people to be having, and I started to take the bait. "If they could do this, why can't I?" was my new mentality.

So, I did some research and found that kayaks are quite affordable. A few days, and $350 later, I had an 8ft. Pelican with all the gear. I figured my first great adventure would be in the Harper's Ferry area, a quick jaunt down the usually calm Shenandoah, a turn into the somewhat rougher Potomac, a loop around, and then a picnic lunch in Harper's Ferry itself. So much for the best laid plans.

It seems that the drought has brought lower water levels to both rivers, and the usually flat Shenadoah is not so flat anymore. Lots of rocks near the surface create hard time for all recreational river users, and a small run of whitewater is now present. Not dangerous for drowning, since the river at its highest is only about 4ft. deep, but rocks and skulls can result in collisions, and usually the rocks win. Throwing in a mile and a half upstream of Harper's Ferry on the Shenandoah now turns out to be not one of the best ideas I've ever had.

An hour, some knicks in my paddle, and some major rock scrape marks on my kayak's hull later put me in the confluence. Fun. A bit scary at times, but fun. Two things can be said. I never once got thrown from my boat!...and...though I lost my splash cover early on and took major water onboard, I didn't sink, and my waterproof box proved to be just that! I tried to turn around in the confluence and paddle against the current to get to Harper's Ferry, because a local pub, serviced by beautiful Russian girls served Old Dominion Lager, an awesome micro-brew. I wanted some!

Guess what? The current of two converging rivers is stronger than me and my paddle! After 3 loops, which involved beating the Shenandoah and getting close only to be taken back out by the Potomac, I gave up. I had to drag the boat and wade in.

A quick aside, and one more of the unplanned elements factored in...flotation devices of any kind (tubes, rafts, kayaks) are not allowed in Harper's Ferry. So, I couldn't walk back to my car, and then drive back to get my gear....WRONG!...ILLEGAL! Thank you, National Park Service! So, I had to wade the Shenandoah, kayak in tow, for 1 1/2 miles. Talk about slippery when wet! Those rocks were that. I've got a swollen ankle and a scrape to prove it to any doubters.

All things considered, it was a learning experience. I wasn't ready for Class III rapids, but I can't wait til I am. Gonna be fun practice! I also can't wait for my next trip! I learned a lot, and it will definitely be better...

...That being said...this trip was still...


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Well, I guess I did it!

Been reading the blogs of others, so I figured it was time to post my own. More to come later on!