Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Gathering

I think that the adage, "build it and they will come" applies to this day (Saturday the 13th) and this place.

Peter (and I) built it (with a little help from friends), and Jessie, Amanda, and I just offered an invitation  to gather and remember Peter.  

You came.  The weather was perfect, and all day I felt more happy than sad because I knew Peter would be so thrilled with the crowds and the music and the conversations and the food (Thank you Lynden, Mary Ann, Ori, Geoff, and all the others who helped and brought food and played music).

We have 170 names of guests collected so far but I keep remembering faces and people I spoke with and then realizing that these names weren't in the guest book.  So, if you were here but didn't sign the guest register, please let me know!  Even if we spoke that day, please remind me that you were here.

Along with the guest book, we had a beautiful Memory Tree created by our dear friend Holli Crawford Patillo.  If you didn't get a chance to write a note, feel free to send one to the address given below, and I'll get it on the tree.  This might just serve as my Christmas Tree this year. 

My only regret was not being able to be in two places at once....both in the music barn, and out among the friends who were here.  Jessie, Amanda, and I are all so blessed to have you in our lives.

The music that I did hear was spectacular, and people kept coming up to me wide-eyed over the quality of what music was coming out of the barn.

Here are a few pictures from Saturday, December 13th:  

We plan to keep the music going through the Down Yonder Fund, started to honor and continue Peter's legacy of generosity and hospitality.  

Among the creative things that have happened out here are album recordings.  Hiss Golden Messenger's Lateness of Dancers is topping the charts.  They played on Letterman on 11/18 and just toured all over Europe (  

Yep, that album was recorded right here along with Alice Gerrard's Follow The Music, which has been nominated for a grammy.

So far close to $5,000 has been donated to the Down Yonder Fund.  Peter had the opportunity to add his voice to this vision.  We have a draft of a mission statement going and it will be along the lines of:

Following the example of generosity and hospitality exhibited through the life of Peter Kramer, the Down Yonder Fund for the Arts will utilize space and resources of Down Yonder Farm to foster the development of artists of all genres through:
·         Retreats, recording sessions, classes, and performances
·         Opportunities for collaboration and
·         The sharing of art forms that bring joy and healing to people

The “Down Yonder Fund” (the official title) will enable us to keep three buildings here on the farm in use for artists – The Music Building with its “Green Room” that many of you have enjoyed in different ways, The Writer’s Cabin, where some great writers have completed their books already, and new to the list is a tiny one-person cabin for overnight stays.  In addition to providing these spaces for use, the Down Yonder Fund will enable the necessary upfitting of these spaces with adequate restroom/cooking facilities and automobile access and parking. 

We will be working on fuller descriptions of these dreams and a budget in the new year, and many of you will be involved in the visioning.  But we are accepting donations and appreciate the Shared Visions Foundation for hosting the fund for us.

We have an online giving mechanism in place that you will see to the right of this post.  You can further Peter’s Musical legacy by sending checks made out to “Shared Visions Foundation”  with “Down Yonder Fund for Peter Kramer” in the memo line.  The mailing address is Susan Gladin, P.O. Box 985, Hillsborough, NC   27278. 

I don't know how this blog will be used in the future except to give you updates on the upcoming memorial service (date to be determined after the holidays) and news about events here on the farm.  There is a newspaper article coming out about Peter, so watch for that soon.

Thank you all again,


Sunday, December 14, 2014


Friends and family,

You may have seen this on Facebook already, but here it is from the Herald-Sun newspaper, where it ran today, one week after Peter's death on December 7th.


I wrote this originally when my mother died, and it was Peter's favorite column of all that I have written over 16 years.  When I realized I had a column due two days after Peter's death I asked my editor if we could run an older one (which I've never done before), and use that to announce Peter's death.  My kind editor agreed.

I remembered this column and was thankful to find it in my files.  What I didn't remember was how much Peter factored into it.  It turned out to be the perfect gift to him today, as he has been my biggest touchstone, and always will be.

In these days following his death I am learning more about myself than I thought I could at this age (I turned 60 on Wednesday).  And Peter is calling me to my best self as he always has.

Very soon I will write about yesterday's gathering in his honor.


Monday, December 8, 2014

A Gathering for Now, a Service Later

The family of Peter Kramer invites you to join us to visit, remember, snack and maybe play some music. Please drop by the farm anytime between 1 - 4pm on Saturday, December 13th. Bring instruments and voices if you like.

NOTE - Due to a shortage of parking, we ask that you park at the church on Lipscomb Grove Church Road and carpool down to the house.  We are working on getting a shuttle set up.  It is 4/10 of a mile if you care to make the walk.

A celebration to remember the life and musical legacy of Peter is being planned for the warmer weather of the Spring of 2015. Please check back for updates.

Gathering for Peter Kramer
Down Yonder Farm
Saturday, 12/13/14   |   Drop-in 1 - 4pm
Memorial celebration to follow in Spring

The Sad News

Beloved Friends and Family,

We are so sad to tell you that Peter died on Sunday, December 7th.  He chose to spend his last hours on his beloved “nap sofa,” and he took his last breaths at 1:54 p.m. with Susan, Jessie, and Amanda gathered around him there, holding him and each other.   On Friday he had told his doctor, and us, that he was tired of fighting his disease and was ready to go.  As you know from the previous reports on this blog, he lived his last days to the fullest.

He woke on Friday wanting to try to go swim at the Sportplex.  In the end, a shower had to do, but it was a glorious shower and he kept telling me how good it felt and how much he appreciated it.  Water was always important to Peter, and you all know how much he loved his pond.  In his last hours he asked to be bathed repeatedly with icy water. 

A full obituary will be in the area papers (that he loved so much) and I will post a link here when that is done.  Also, by late today we will have information about a service for him posted here that will include ways you can help if you wish to.

I think it was on our second date that Peter started telling me what music he wanted played at his funeral.  Last week I sat down with him and wrote it all down (it had evolved a bit over the nearly 34 years).  THAT event will be a bash, held when the weather is warmer.

For now, those of you who want to respond by bringing food please use this link to coordinate:  

Many of you have asked about helping with chores, and that list will be forthcoming.  Nothing is needed at this time.  

To honor Peter with donations, we are pleased to tell you that prior to his death his family created The Down Yonder Fund for the Arts to carry on Peter’s example of generosity and hospitality for artists of all kinds.  Peter had the opportunity to add his voice to that vision.  We have a draft of a mission statement going and it will be along the lines of:

Following the example of generosity and hospitality exhibited through the life of Peter Kramer, the Down Yonder Fund for the Arts will utilize space and resources of Down Yonder Farm to foster the development of artists of all genres through:
·         Retreats, recording sessions, classes, and performances
·         Opportunities for collaboration and
·         The sharing of art forms that bring joy and healing to people

The “Down Yonder Fund” (the official title) will enable us to keep three buildings here on the farm in use for artists – The Music Building with its “Green Room” that many of you have enjoyed in different ways, The Writer’s Cabin, where some great writers have completed their books already, and new to the list is a tiny one-person cabin for overnight stays.  In addition to providing these spaces for use, the Down Yonder Fund will enable the necessary upfitting of these spaces with adequate restroom/cooking facilities and automobile access and parking. 

We will be working on fuller descriptions of these dreams and a budget in the new year, and many of you will be involved in the visioning.  But we are accepting donations and appreciate the Shared Visions Foundation for hosting the fund for us.

We will have an online giving mechanism in place soon.  For now you can further Peter’s Musical legacy by sending checks made out to “Shared Visions Foundation”  with “Down Yonder Fund for Peter Kramer” in the memo line.  The mailing address is Susan Gladin, P.O. Box 985, Hillsborough, NC   27278. 

Peter received such an outpouring of love from all of you in his last months and weeks.  His doctor, James Tulsky (see earlier posts about him) told Peter that he had never seen such an outpouring.  “I want you to know this is special,” he told Peter.

Thank you all for your incredible support.  I am off to the funeral home now and we will post more later.  Thank you again and again.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Blessed are the...confused

I learned that the bible text, "Blessed are the poor in spirit," actually means, when properly translated, "Blessed are the confused."  If that is true, then I am blessed.

As with life, the trajectory of illness is not a straight path, nor is the velocity of disease progression anything approaching steady.  It is, in short, confusing.  The ground shifts right under your feet.

"You've already outlived yourself several times," the doctor tells Peter.  But here we go again...gearing up, then letting down, only to be blindsided and rushing to gear-up again.

I don't know why this is, but as I think back over the last three years, the actual dates I recall were those that brought bad news:  Initial diagnosis on 11-17-2011, surgery on 3-13-2012, recurrent diagnosis on 10-31-2013, bad news scan on 8-04-2014, and, finally, "the cancer is asserting itself" on 11-24-14.  The good scans I remember more broadly, by month instead of date - May, October, April, then another good May.  

Between and among all those dates are so many highs and lows, but the highs win out in the unfolding of our lives with our wonderful family and host of friends.   Peter lived a full and active 13 months after the recurrence in October 2013, which beat all odds for his type of cancer. 

The Proton Beam Radiation he received in Philadelphia last February (along with cousin Joel Steiker's exquisite care) contributed to this good time, but even more so did Peter's active lifestyle and myriad deep friendships and good works on behalf of others.  He came home from Philadelphia and filled the shed with the wood we are burning to keep warm right now.  He jumped back into his music and his volunteer work and his life with his family close by.

Peter has become very sick very quickly, and is in Hospice Care here at home right now.  This IS confusing.  But his dunk in the pond last week (see previous post) is testimony to the spirit that has served him (and all of us) so well.  He is asking of all of us is to take good care of ourselves and each other as we move forward.

He can't take visitors or read email right now.  Please keep up here for updates.  Thank you all.

Monday, December 1, 2014


These days it is hard to know what to write here, and then hard to remember what I have written to take off from.  The days are a bit of a blur.

Peter is very sick and very weak, but he pushes himself almost every day to do something meaningful.  One of those things is swimming.

Every time Peter has been injured (his back) or sick (especially 2012) he has brought himself back to well-being with exercise, particularly with swimming.  When two surgeons told him he'd need major back surgery he went to the pool, religiously, and never went under the knife.  As you can see by scrolling back a few posts, he was still splitting wood early this year.

Not being able to swim due to his bad shoulder (which is possibly getting radiation this week) has been hard for Peter.  But lately he's started going to the pool at the Sportsplex, and that is a healing event for him.  So we go.  I've taken him twice now, and our good friend Joe took him once.  Peter walks the laps, mostly, or kicks some on his back.  The walking that is required between the house and the pool seems harder on him than his time in the water.  That time is healing.

When Peter heard the forecast of a 70+ degree day today, an idea took root in his had.  He wanted to repeat his winter ritual of dunking himself in our pond.  I've watched him do this many times.  The water is so cold that it almost forces the air out of him as he descends the ladder.  The rule (his) says, "All the way to the top of your head."

"Just in and out," he kept saying when he presented this idea to me over the weekend.  "Two minutes total!" I checked with his doctor, sure I'd be told of potential dire consequences.  "I am not going to prohibit it," the good doctor said, "though I am sure that's not what you wanted to hear."

So the idea took hold.  I called the previously-mentioned good friend Joe Coates.  As a mechanical engineer I imagined he'd come up with a hoist to pull Peter out if needed.  Instead, he lay in bed the night before and thought of how to use his climbing rope as a safety measure.  Daughter Jessie signed on to photograph the event, and Peter's sister Karen was here from NY.  We all wore clothes suitable for swimming, though we all hoped we wouldn't have to.

I pulled out extra towels and even a wool blanket, but when he came up the ladder, the warm sun was all he needed as he sat on the deck seat and the chilly brown pond water pooled around his feet and evaporated into the bright blue sky.  Joe's rope remained a "just-in-case" measure, and no one else had to get wet.  I had the brief thought that I should go in, too.  But that thought evaporated like the pond water from Peter's skin.

Here are four of Jessie's beautiful photos, in sequence:

We drove him to and from the pond to conserve energy, and he spent the rest of the day on the sofa, much of it sleeping.

Tomorrow the trip to Duke will be tiring, but hopefully will bring him some pain relief.  We'll try to visit our friend Geoff Hathaway who is also getting treatment there.

Thanks to Joe, Karen, and Jessie for their help.  But mostly thanks to Peter for being such an inspiration.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

From some friends

The note below, from friend Jay Cunningham, is self explanatory.  What a gift for Peter.  Enjoy!

Peter and Susan,

On Sunday, November 23rd, 2014 a group of musicians collected at the Chameleon in Durham.  Linked by their friendship with Peter, they paid tribute to him and played a few songs.  Members of the groups recalled their relationship to each other and to Peter who often introduced them to each other or to certain songs that have been favorites over the years.  Many of the musicians met at Duke in the early 70s and appeared on Peter's radio show.  Some were in groups with Peter - the Flashbacks or Green River. 

In attendance (in alpha order):

Mike Bisdee - guitar
Michael Borstleman - mandolin and guitar
Billy Stevens - keyboard, harmonica, vocals, more
Toni Stevens - vocals
Jay Cunningham - guitar and vocals
Al Dawson - guitar and vocals
Charlie Ebel - guitar and vocals
Janet Stolp - guitar and vocals
Robert Truesdale - bass
Rodger Tygard - drums and bongos
Lew Wardell - bass

Videos have been uploaded to a special YouTube channel "Peter K" (kind of like "Murray the K" or "Coach K") here:  This is a public channel so you can share it friends and relatives. 

I uploaded them in the order they were performed, so you should view them in reverse order as they appear on the You Tube channel.

Speaking for everyone who was there, this was a joy to contribute to and a good excuse to get together and share memories and friendships!

P.S.  I also uploaded a couple videos to my own channel recorded at a recent Claptones practice.  These were recorded especially for Peter to watch and enjoy! 

The Claptones are:

Al Dawson on guitar
Mike Gallimore on bass
Rick Parks on guitar
Jay Cunningham on vocals
Brian Murray on drums

Happy Thanksgiving from Down Yonder Farm


I had to look back at what I wrote in the last post.  I see that we were still hoping to make it to NY for the family Thanksgiving gathering, and that didn't happen.  Amanda, Alejandro, Jessie, Matt, and Levin did make it, though, and are all with Peter's mom, Sunny, and his sister, Karen, in Rye, NY, right now.  Sunny called this morning just thrilled with Levin's presence in her home.

All but Sunny will head into the city for the evening gathering.  If Levin wasn't a party boy before, he will be now.  He will be covered in kisses all evening I am sure.  I will really miss being there.

Peter and I are appreciating a really quiet day here.  Things have been way too busy, but now all the medical equipment has been delivered and appointments scheduled, and Peter's sister will be here on Monday.  We're moving into this next phase of life.

I see that I posted this last time:   "Talking on the phone is difficult for Peter, as it causes him to cough, and he doesn't have strength for visitors right now."  

This remains true.  But you need to know that answering calls and retrieving messages is very stressful for me now, too.  I want to concentrate my energies on taking care of Peter, and he needs more of me now.  I changed our phone messages to ask you not to call or leave messages.  Please respect that request.  If I see a message, I will assume it is urgent.

But email works!  Peter is active on his tablet when he is awake, and loves hearing from you.  So email away.  Tell him funny stories and send him pictures.  Upbeat messages are best (he says).  I am on email, too, and Facebook.

Ages ago I found this article and it was really meaningful to me, not only with Peter's illness, but it helped me with challenges that friends have gone through.  I hope it might help you in your own challenges, or in dealing with the suffering of others:  RING THEORY.

I know what the urge to help feels like when a friend is in crisis, and we appreciate all of the offers that have come from you.  My high-school friend, Michele, who lost her husband several years ago, advised me to respond by handing out tasks.

That will come, but right now tasks require some orchestration, and we don't have the energy for that.  For me, doing the things that need doing is feels good to me right now--part of the rhythm of life.  But Peter and I started a list and, when the time is right, I'll post it.  

For now, just accept our appreciation for your offers, and if you have something specific in mind, send an email.

Much love from Down Yonder Farm,
Susan and Peter

Thursday, November 20, 2014


On November 17, 2011 Peter received his original cancer diagnosis. We have had tough times, ups and downs, and fortunately lots of quality time as a family and wonderful goings-on on the farm since then.  One of those will be happening tonight (see last

The last time we wrote anything here was in May 2014, on the way home from Peter's scan in Philadelphia --with good news that the tumor had shrunk and should continue to shrink.  The doctor mentioned one tiny spot elsewhere that "was probably nothing," and we headed off to the airport where I thumbed that hasty post that described the doctor as "enthusiastic."

 And then life resumed its busy-ness.  We welcomed our first grandchild (a boy, Levin, born to Jessie and Matt Gladdek) on July 1.  Peter continued all of his volunteer activities and daily swimming.  I signed on to teach Servant Leadership again and also took on a curriculum project with the Episcopal Service Cops.

All of which brought us to the tail end of summer and the 3-month scan on August 4th (report on the 5th).  Peter was in NY visiting him mom and took the train down to Philly.  I flew in from Fayetteville, NC which (who knew?) offered a cheap flight.

We did not meet Dr. Enthusiastic this time.  The tumor had not continued to shrink as predicted, but had grown.  The "probably nothing" spot had grown, too, and three other small sites of metabolic activity had been detected.  The doctor urged chemotherapy and said that he could later "spot weld" (radiate) some of the metastases if necessary.

I can't see that I ever wrote about our first encounter with Dr. James Tulsky and Duke's Palliative Care Center.  It would have been in late 2013, after the recurrence had been diagnosed and after radiation (at Duke) was taken off of the treatment options.

Thankfully Dr. Tulsky, in his kind, thoughtful, and meticulous style, walked Peter through what chemotherapy-- the only option available at Duke-- could and could not do.  Peter did not choose chemo at that time.  Had he been on those toxic drugs when he developed the pneumonia in January 2014, he well may not have survived that bout.

The events of his month in Philadelphia (February 2014) are all recorded in previous blog entries, all ending with that brief post in May.


After our return from Philadelphia in August we began meeting with Dr. Tulsky again.  I should give a shout-out to our physician-friend Dr. Sharon Van Horn for putting us in touch with Dr. Tulsky just over a year ago.  Palliative Care is not an end-of-life program, but one to provide guidance and comfort to those diagnosed with serious illness. 

Dr. Atul Gawande's excellent book, Being Mortal, will tell you a lot about Palliative Care and difficult choices.  Dr. Tulsky has guided Peter through the maze of chemotherapy options and has helped him see the realities behind the sometimes vague statements from the oncologist (such as, "It might do some good").

Last week Peter enrolled in Duke's Hospice Care.  These days they recommend that patients enroll very early.  Right after signing on Peter suffered a third bout of aspiration pneumonia.  With the immediate availability of the hospice nurses and Dr. Tulsky, Peter got on the medications he needed quickly, and I have had someone to call with questions about Peter's needs and my caregiving.

"Some people graduate from Hospice," Dr. Tulsky told us.  I am praying that Peter is one of those people.  In the meantime, this is a level of care I've never seen before, an am so grateful that it is available to Peter (to us), and so much of it based in our home.


Back in September, Peter's mother, Sunny Drimmer, made the trip from NY to NC in one day (down and back) to spend a few hours with her great-grandson, Levin.  Late in October she fell ill  and was hospitalized for a time, but she is now back home in Rye, NY, with home care.  We all have plans/flights to visit her and other family members at Thanksgiving, but we’re not sure as of today if Peter can make it.


On November 8th Peter performed in the 8th Murphey School Radio Show.  Prior to that his band, Red's Rhythm had a few fun gigs, and last week he had a blast when Ryan Stolp, (son of our friends Janet and Brett) spoke to Peter's Grange meeting about his mountaineering feats. 

Until this week he was counseling patients on Wednesday nights and meeting with his VA writing group on Thursday mornings.  Now he is taking a break from all outside activities until he feels better.

But tonight (20th) we are hosting a return visit by singer-songwriter Heather Maloney here at Down Yonder Farm.  We’ve got lots of help making this happen.  Heather performed here last year with a group called Darlingside, and she immediately became one of my favorite artists.

Life has been really good to us.  We hope that Peter recovers his strength and stamina soon.  Meanwhile, a great deal of rest is called for. However, no doubt that he'll at least make an appearance at the concert tonight.

Talking on the phone is difficult for Peter, as it causes him to cough, and he doesn’t have strength for visitors right now.  I will do my best to keep this blog updated and hopefully he’ll be on the phones and out and about very soon.  

Thanks for all of your love and care.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Good news!

We are at the airport heading home.  I am typing on my phone and can't see what I am typing.  But we got good news and the doc was enthusiastic.  More details later.  Thanks for all the good wishes.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Life in a Bubble


Peter's grandmother kept a diary and tended to write most often when she was angry or upset.   We seem to be keeping to that trend...not with anger, of course, but writing here when there is something going on medically, and laying low and quiet when things are, well, normal here on the home front.

Actually things have been better than normal.  From my perspective Peter has been in better overall health - energy and stamina and spirits - since well before his diagnosis in November 2011.

He returned from Philly to get his NC dose of the interminable winter and thankfully was here with his chain saw when the unpredicted ice storm brought down so many trees.  Jessie and Matt and their friends came out to help clear it all away, and fortunately little actual damage was done.

Since then Peter has re-stocked the sheds with firewood for next year - to replace the astonishing amount I burned during the cold month while he was in Philly.  He has moved back into his routines - volunteering, seeing friends, counseling a couple of clients each week, pouring over the paper every morning, exercising most every day, and lastly, watching old episodes of West Wing with me most every night.

He kept putting off making the appointment to go back to Philadelphia for a scan, and after a few weeks I quit asking.  We like this bubble and don't want to leave it.

But now the appointment is scheduled for Monday, May 5th and we'll see the doctor on Tuesday before heading back home.  We're hoping that feeling so good translates into good news from the scan.

To distract myself I decided to fly up a day early and attend the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, which is nearby, just outside of Baltimore.  image - 2014 Catalog CoverThe kids and I used to go every year, even bringing sheep to show at least once.  Amanda and I came together last year.  It is a huge festival with more than I can possibly take in in one day, but I'll enjoy every second of it...a mini vacation that feels right after the long winter.

After a brief hiatus I resumed writing my bi-weekly columns in the Herald-Sun.  Since leaving my job at the beginning of February, I've had a hard time "coming down" from the busy schedule I kept.  My last two columns have been about time and our perceptions of it.  Here's a link to one:  The one coming out this Sunday is about the Sky Mall catalog on our last flight.

Speaking of leaving my job, they threw a heckova going-away party for me.  It was a fundraiser as well, and I hope that it brought in lots of $ for the next class of interns.  Here are a few pictures.  It was a real highlight to have Solita there (middle photo).  I wrote about her accident in an earlier post.  The first photo is me reacting to an embarrassing story told by Ebeth Scott-Sinclair, and the last is all the alumni who could make it to the event.

That's about it here.  I just wanted to get something posted before flying out to the festival.  Peter will join me the next day.  Thanks to all.


Friday, March 28, 2014


My sister reminded me that we haven't written a blog in a while.  I'd started one post, which I'll include below, but my aspirations for posting it with pictures and the whole shebang exceeded the time I was ultimately willing to give it.  This is in part because Peter and I have taken to watching West Wing in the evenings, and that was usually when I'd eke out time to write a blog.

But to catch you up, Peter is doing VERY well, and here's a picture to prove it:

In my file I titled this "Wood Choppin' Man" as a joke, because we often hear people say, "choppin' wood," when the better terms are "cutting" (when you're taking the tree down) and "splitting," (turning fat logs into smaller pieces)  which what Peter has been doing a lot of lately since the two March ice storms we've endured.  He's cut, split, and stacked a whole year's worth of wood or better, which is good, because we've burned about two winter's worth of wood in this one has been so darned long and cold!

Peter and I have not made the trek back to Philadelphia for a follow up scan.  I think we both want to leave well enough alone since things are so good, but I have a hunch someone from there will be calling before long.  I am hoping we can hold off until after Easter/Passover, since we're going to visit family then.

Well, so that I can get this posted, finally, I am just going to append what I had written earlier, slightly edited so you can tell that it is from today and not from two weeks ago.  Yeah, it is about the weather.  Is there anything else to talk about?


During the big snow storm that happened while Peter was in Philadelphia I found myself composing a blog while doing the various and numerous chores that kept me busy.  On my mind was the fact that I was being particularly careful, knowing that I was here alone.

That fact came home to me one afternoon as I dragged a hose out to fill one of the deep water troughs.  I have to feed the hose through a wooden fence, hook it to the trough, and then walk around, through a gate to the other side to position it for the water to flow in.

That afternoon I must have been rushed or impatient because as I reached through the fence to hook the hose to the trough, I started experimenting with wriggling through.  Could I get far enough to avoid having to trot the short way around?

But I stopped when I realized the possibility of getting stuck and spending a long and possibly fatal night halfway through a fence with my head dangling over an empty water trough (and probably nibbled on by curious equines).  With that realization came the giggles, imagining such a scene, and I really did have trouble extracting myself because I think the laughter swelled my rib cage.

But dangers are real.  Our hound dog, Schley, has a bum leg and has to be confined to a longish line.  Every time I moved her or had to walk through her space (usually carrying wood) I was aware that she seemed eager to cut my feet out from me with that line.  One afternoon I startled one of the ponies with the wheelbarrow and her hooves flew - nowhere close to me, but they were another reminder of how quickly an accident could happen.  I tried to remember to keep my phone in my pocket, though it doesn't work that well out here.

Now that Peter is home we've had several other snow/ice events followed by tastes of spring, and then more cold winds blowing in with those near-fifty-degree one-day drops in temperature.  If I didn't have to handle another horse blanket this winter I would be thrilled, but I am not holding my breath.  Yesterday, on Facebook, I posted a picture of the snow shovel in its spot on the front porch.  I am afraid to move it for fear of tempting the snow gods to pour down on us once again.  Next week is April, so hopefully...

We lost power with the big ice storm, as did many of our NC friends, and it was off four full days.  Thankfully I had filled a barrel with water at the last minute (when you live in the country, no power means no water), and as soon as the lights fell I had pans all over the woodstove, one labeled "washing" and one labeled "cooking," plus various pots of soup and even baked potatoes (it can be done).  After the ice came the summer temperatures and it was too warm for the stove, but I kept it going low for water and cooking.

Every evening we drove 5 miles to our friends' Joe and Geri's palatial home for a luxury shower, and twice we went out to eat with them.  Coming to their fine house from our dark home with the pan-covered woodstove made me feel like the country cousins, or perhaps even the Clampetts, heading to town for their weekly (or monthly) shower.  We could have put a tub in front of the wood stove, old-timey style, but it was good to have a real shower and lights in town.

I am grateful that we can handle a lengthy power outage, but it sure was a happy evening when the power came back on.  As full disclosure, we DID get the generator running, but it can't handle much more than a few lights and the freezer.  I am going to look into a system (solar?) that can power the well and the water heater.  Oh yes.

Well, that's it for now.  Thanks to you all.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

".....The Rainbow I've Been Praying For "


To paraphrase Barney Fife, I'm gratefully humble and humbly grateful for the treatment I received in Philadelphia. From the reception/intake staff to the radiation technologists, the nurses, the nurse practitioner, the registered dietition, and doctors, everyone was welcoming, thoughtful, and skilled. Aside from occasional dehydration, I've had no uncomfortable side-effects from the 20 radiation segments. 

I'm back to more regular exercise and look forward to weightlifting at the Triangle Sportsplex, where I was placed in the Boys' Modified Limited Junior Dare-To-Dream Division. This is a special group for adult men who can't lift anything greater that 50 ibs. on their best day.

Man in my group

Susan mentioned the rainbow we saw at the Trenton airport. The posting's title is a lyric from Johnny Nash's great 1973 recording of "I Can See Clearly Now", one of the first successful reggae recordings in the U.S.

Photo of Johnny Nash by Chris Walter , reference; n17010a,
The great Johnny Nash

I'd always wanted to be in a band that included this song in their playlist and with Red's Rhythm finally got the opportunity. On Saturday night we got to play this song and others at a benefit for a program based in Wake Forest called Mercy for America's Children ( 

MAC was started by some friends of Stacey's who adopted two boys from foster care. Their mission is to educate and support the public on adoption issues so that children will have permanent homes. It was high on the best-ever gig list, as we played three hours without a break for an enthusiastic, energetic crown who loved to dance. 

Roger Jones, Frank Hunter, Wayne Watkins (drums), Stacey Curelop, Peter Kramer, Leon Patillo, and Jay Tun

On Saturday March 1, there are a bunch of cool events to attend. For readers who have never attended the Murphey School Radio Show, check out this great TV segment that was on WUNC-TV last week: I'll be a participant in the 3 PMshow but can't make the 7 PM production, as our band had committed early on to play at Durham's Blue Note Grill the same night. So if you can't make the Radio Show, Red's Rhythm would love to see you at the BNG starting at 8:30 PM. Finally, on Saturday morning, my civic club, the Schley Grange hosts a community breakfast, a fundraiser for our various programs--all the sausage, eggs, gravy, ham, etc., that you care to eat. Please call me if you have questions about any of these events.

Susan, Jessie/Matt, Amanda/Alejandro, and I continue to be overwhelmed by the kindness and thoughtfulness of friends and family.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

"And HOME sings me of sweet things..."


Those words are from a Karla Bonoff song.  You can hear Bonnie Raitt sing it here:
  HOME - Click the "listen while you read" link.     

And home sings me of sweet things
My life there has its own wings
Fly over the mountains
Though I am standing still.

So we got home safely, though a little late, last night (2-21).  We flew out of Trenton, NJ, which is its own adventure.  At one point Peter looked at me and said, "Let's not use this airport again."  But we later discovered that if we'd used a major airport we'd likely not be waking up in our own bed this morning, as the spate of storms created cancellations everywhere.  Our pilot told us that we were lucky to get home, but we were still grumpy about the airport and didn't quite believe him then.

Ah!  There is so much to tell!  I didn't write my snow saga, and guess it will have to wait.  It seemed odd to come home to a place with no snow, as there was plenty left when I took off on Wednesday, and of course Philadelphia was covered.  Here are a couple of street scenes:

Peter is feeling very good, and, really, couldn't have done better with this course of radiation, especially considering how weak he was (from the pneumonia) at the outset.  They have given him a lot of IV fluids, and he will be battling dehydration for a while - partly an outcome of the treatment and partly from his post-surgery anatomy.  As I write this he is off at the gym already, and is playing a gig tonight with his Red's Rhythm band.

Here are some scenes we encounter as we walk to the Pearlman Center and the Roberts Proton Therapy floor inside.

After his treatment on Friday he got to ring the bell!  
BELL (or go to if the link doesn't work).

Peter's cousin Lori Ginzberg came for the ringing.  She and her partner, Joel Steiker, have been Peter's caretakers along with Lori's sister Janet and Janet's partner, John Caskey.

Lori is away Monday-Thursdays teaching at Penn State, and during two of the four weeks that Peter was in their home, Joel and Lori were also looking after Janet and John's kids, Simon and Hannah.  Of the 10 school days during that period, Philadelphia schools were closed for 5 of them due to snow, so Joel had his hands full.  Still, he made meals for everyone and managed to get a few pounds on Peter during his 4 weeks there.
Joel Steiker and Lori Ginzberg
  I think Joel and Lori might be happy to get their house back!

After Thursday's treatment Peter took me to some of the places he'd enjoyed, and these photos are from our walk to the Redding Market - an amazing food emporium that Lori and Joel visit with friends every Saturday.  En route Peter enjoyed the Hard Rock Cafe guitar sign.
 Oh, I wish Blogger would let me make a tile out of these pictures.  Perhaps one of my techie daughters will help me later.

Finally, after treatment and the bell-ringing we rested a while back at Joel and Lori's, packed up our stuff (not much!), and pointed the rental car towards Trenton.  Storms had been raging all over the east coast.  I got one of those warning calls from Greg Fishel about conditions back home, and even Philly was under a rare tornado watch.  It was still raining when we left, but the skies brightened as we neared Trenton and then, behold:

A rainbow appeared!

We took that as a good sign, even though we did later grumble over the conditions at the tiny, disorganized airport.  But we made it home, safe and sound, and boy did the dogs whine when Peter came in!


Friday, February 14, 2014

"You'll Find This Dance Is Cool to Do/C'mon, Baby Gonna Teach It To You"


Anyone who has enjoyed or suffered my rants about 60's music knows that I relate strongly to song lyrics, factoids about the singer or songwriter, and other way-back information. In my perfect world, we'd all converse in early 60's song lyrics.

When I learned that I'd be spending a lot of time in Philadelphia, it was easy to recall my first associations with that city's music. The first records I bought and listened to around 1961 were on the Philly-based Cameo-Parkway label. Their artists were young performers and groups who specialized in dance songs: Chubby Checker (the Twist, the Fly, the Limbo), the Orlons (the Wahtusi), the Dovells (the Bristol Stomp, the Hully Gully), Bobby Rydell (the Cha Cha), and Dee Dee Sharp (the Mashed Potato, the Pony). I still have all the albums from 50+ years ago (!), including 6 Chubby Checker albums. The title of this posting is from Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato Time."
A couple of years ago Susan and I were eating lunch at Elmo's on 9th Street, I ordered my usual  meatloaf and mashed potatoes. The unsuspecting waitress asked innocently, "Would you like gravy with your mashed potatoes?" I answered excitedly, "Yes, because there was a record around 1962 called 'Give Me Gravy With My Mashed Potatoes.' The Gravy was a new dance and it was Dee Dee Sharp's follow-up to her earlier hit!" Susan started to roll her eyes and the poor server started to ease away from our table, likely wondering how much time she had left in her shift, whether she should call Security, or hang in there in the hopes of getting a big tip. She chose the last option, and every one was happy, I think.
In the 70's and 80's, I enjoyed other Philly groups like the O'Jays and Delphonics. But the authorities tell me that I've exceeded the limit on music trivia, so on to hospital matters.
I'm writing at the hospital, where I'm about to receive my 15th out of 20 radiation treatments. Any one who has been hospitalized for a while knows that there are occasional "indignities" that are part of the process. They may be absolutely necessary, e.g., getting constantly pricked for blood samples or IV hookups, but they feel intrusive after a while. I'm currently an outpatient, but the worst part of sessions is having to wear the gowns required for radiation. Before your name is called, you take off your clothes above the belt. Then you put on this long, cotton gown, with the open side to the back. Over that, you then put another gown with the open side in front. 
Because my Main Advisor for All Things In Life--Susan--isn't present to direct my arms, I struggle to find a way to tie loose ends. While walking back to the radiation room, I grab a handful of robe above and below the belt in a usually successful effort to prevent the whole mess from slipping off. My lurching past other patients bears a resemblance to a zombie in the movie "Night of the Living Dead." 
Don't forget the Murphey School Radio Show on Saturday, March 1 
( ! 

  A little (bald) boy, aged 4 or so, just rang the bell. Now he's posing for photos with his grandparents. Yay for him and his family and all the good folks who have treated him.

--Peter K