Saturday, September 30, 2023

Meanwhile, at the Pow Wow… Hiya!

This week, several of us from our senior center had the opportunity to attend the 44th Annual Pow Wow in Dorseyville Pa. (in Indian—I mean Indiana Township).  The day started cloudy but warm, but minutes after arriving the temperature fell 15 degrees and the rain moved in.

Luckily, one of the vendors there (a lovely woman from the Cheyenne tribe) hooked me up with this Indian serape blanket that kept me warm & dry.  It came with a note of authenticity, y’know!

I feel like a chooch that I didn’t take more photos other than the few below.  There were tents galore with Native American jewelry, blankets, bows & arrows, peace pipes, tomahawks, medicine pouches, leather goods… there was this camel leather tabletop teepee (with a fireproof base to burn sage) I must’ve picked up and set down 25 times.  I wish I’d bought it.

Strangely, the only food available at this indigenous shindig was fry bread, corn chili & buffalo burgers.  I was hoping to bring home some eats but other than some venison jerky (uh…no) there was no more to be found. 

I’m just glad we ate early, after the first break in the Indian dancing, the line for food stretched half a mile!

Speaking of dancing, I now have a slow drumbeat and ear-worm caught in my noggin:  HIYA!  Hiya hiya hiya….

Golden Age women—enter the circle and perform your dance!

Golden Age men—it is your turn to join the circle and dance!
Young warriors—gather in the circle, and dance!
Couples newly joined it is your turn to dance!  (I loved this young woman’s dress, her rows of hollow tubes played windsong)
All tribes enter the circle and dance!
And last, the fire keeper dances in the rain

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

My brother Steve, some astonishing truths and (hopefully) life goes on

Some things can be difficult to share, and this post ranks right up there.  Before I even started this, I thought it important to reach out to a couple people and get their blessing first.  I did, so here this is.

This all began a couple months ago when my brother Steve (right) asked our older brother Duke & myself if we might’ve fathered a child in the 1970s.  Say what?

Duke assured him he hadn’t, and while I kissed a girl or two back then, it hardly resulted in a baby.  What’s going on?

My brother Steve, 2017

It turned out that a woman named Ashley (aged 46, born in 1977) had recently submitted her DNA to 23andme and been notified she shared a 26% DNA match to my brother Steve.  How could that be?

According to DNA sites like 23andme and, when someone matches 25% of your DNA, they’re an aunt, uncle, niece, nephew or half-sibling.  Siblings with the same parents share 50% DNA.  That’s 25% DNA from each parent.

My sister Shawn asked if 23andme could’ve made a mistake, this woman was born & raised in the South.  It seemed hard to believe, but these DNA sites prided themselves on their accuracy and boasted success rates of 99.9998%.

Unfortunately, Ashley could provide little info besides her parents names and where they’re from, Louisiana and Texas.  Both her parents were deceased, her dad in 2012, her mom in 2014.  Steve and I began discussing the results provided to him, and we soon learned these two—my brother and Ashley—did share the same father.

We just didn’t know if it was her dad or ours.

Ashley’s dad Jack does bear a striking resemblance to my brother Steve

When I first discussed this with our sister Shawn, that Steve might have another dad, she got upset and had some pretty choice words for me.

I didn’t like what I was suggesting either, but our options were limited. 

The more we looked at things though, and came up with plausible scenarios, Shawn did come around. 

Our parents weren’t perfect, they were human like everyone else.  So what might’ve happened?

Sometime in 1965, our parents actually split up for a few months.  Mom was only 24 years old and had 3 kids—Duke, myself & Shawn.  One of my earliest memories is of Mom crying on the phone to our Grandma Morris, that she didn’t have enough food in the house to feed her kids. 

Around this time, Ashley’s dad (Jack H.) finished his stint in the Armed Forces, the same as our Dad’s brother (my Uncle Shane).  Were Uncle Shane & Ashley’s dad friends in the military?  Did Jack travel north from Louisiana to visit Shane and meet my mom who was on her own at the time?

All we know is, Mom & Dad got back together, and in March 1966 Steve was born. 

Our mom was one of the most unselfish people on the planet, who lived and breathed and scrounged her whole life for her kids.  If she was alone and scared about the future, who knows what choices she made.  At the very least, Mom had something of her own that no one knew about, that she took to her grave.  I told my sister this is the scenario I’d like to think happened.

Another scenario was still possible though.  Ashley’s mother was an airline stewardess.  She was around 29 years old when she got pregnant for Ashley in 1976, was she still married to Ashley’s dad?  Was she on a flight to Pittsburgh and met our dad at some bar or club? 

Dad was 38 then, a musician who performed on the weekends.  He loved Mom, but did he have a one night stand?  

I told Shawn & Steve I’d submit my DNA to Ancestry.  I know besides mapping out your origins, it connects you to other relatives.  Ashley isn’t on Ancestry, but Steve is. 

If Ancestry said Steve was my half-sibling, the same mother but different dads, then Steve came from Ashley’s dad.

If Ancestry said Steve was my full sibling, that meant our dad fathered Ashley.

A recent photo of Ashley, who is a teacher and resides in Texas

The results are in.  According to Ancestry, my brother Steve is my half-brother.  We only share 24% DNA.  Twice the amount of a first cousin match, half the amount of a full sibling.

We have the same mother, but that’s all.  Our Aunt Terry (my dad’s sister) is on Ancestry, but only I share DNA with her.

This changes nothing, he’s still my brother.  But there are some new truths to adjust to here.

Shawn and I were talking and wondering if Mom knew.  I’m sure she suspected, but we’ll never know.  We’re sure Dad never knew, we can both recall him fawning over Steve when he was a baby.   

Shawn also brought up something interesting.  In Ashley’s dad’s obituary, it said he was a hunter and fisherman, an avid outdoorsman.  Growing up, our brother Steve was very much the same, unlike anyone else in our family.  We all wondered “where he got it”.   I think now we know.

(That’s not a joke; we’re both convinced that was ingrained in our brother’s DNA.)

Steve, thanks for letting me share your story here.  A personal blog may not be the appropriate venue for something like this, but this sort of news tends to get out quickly, and I wanted it heard honest and right. 

See you soon.

Friday, September 22, 2023

A ride on the Incline and the Grandview Saloon: Made it Ma! Top of the world!

The day before yesterday was a gorgeous day in Pittsburgh, and some of us from the center went on a little road trip to the Grandview Saloon on Mt. Washington for lunch.

Mount Washington sits high above the city’s skyline and it’s where some of the ‘burgh’s best (and most expensive restaurants) are located.  You can either take a long & windy drive up there, or ride the Duquesne Incline straight up a STEEP mountainside.

I’ve lived in the city 35 years, been to Mt. Washington probably 20 times, seen the Incline (from below) a thousand times easy, and this was my FIRST trip on it. 

Here we go!

Inside the Incline car on the way up the mountain—the car (and it’s hammered copper ceiling) is 146 years oldPearl, Margie & Colleen (Colleen coordinated the outing but insisted she wasn’t our chaperone, so live it up)

And there’s me, having a flat hair day
I took this picture out the rear of our car to capture the steepness of the hill, and caught my friend Janet & her Elton John glasses on the right
We made it to the top!  Here’s a pic of our group on the observation deck; Gary (the big guy on the right) just shouted “Isn’t this great Chuck?”  He insists on calling me Chuck.  I’m okay with it.The Incline’s Museum, which I later whined I needed to go back and get a souvenir; Colleen said “Douglas you have 10 minutes and not a second more!”
Inside the Grandview Saloon—hmm, it doesn’t LOOK like a saloon, but it sure had beautiful views of the city
The view outside our window; you can see people dining on the patio below
And finally, what I had for lunch—a Reuben platter.  I know it’s not pretty, I forgot to take the pic until I was halfway done :^)

Monday, September 18, 2023

My love-hate relationship with—and (I hate to say it) some Indians

Last Tuesday morning, I got up and stumbled into the kitchen, slid a k-cup into my Keurig K-Supreme, hit ‘10 oz’ and the big “K” button, went to the bathroom, came back into the kitchen and my coffee mug had exactly 2 oz of scalding hot… something that smelled like burnt plastic.  Uh-oh.

The machine was dead.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t bring it back to life.  I knew this was coming, as the last couple weeks my cups of coffee were getting smaller and increasingly hotter.  I’ve only owned the machine 3 years, but I swear to God I wasn’t angry in the least, just sad.  Those were 3 very good years.

I got out my old K10 from storage (a mini I bought many years ago) and sighed as it creaked out 6 oz. of lukewarm, watery coffee.  I had to have another K-Supreme.  They use the same k-cups, and with 5 injection needles instead of one, produce nearly double the amount of coffee, double the strength, double the temp and in half the time too. 

I jumped on my computer, headed over to, thought “Why don’t I give my business to someone else for a change?” and went to instead.  Ah!  They had a wonderful deal going on their coffee machines—if you “bundled one”, that is bought the machine and signed up for a coffee subscription of at least 16 boxes, you’d get the machine at a BIG discount.  Well, I already have a k-cup subscription at Amazon, so I’ll cancel that and get my monthly 4 boxes here instead.  And that’s just what I did.

But when I hit the ‘Buy it Now’ button on my Keurig shopping cart, a brown banner flashed across the top of my screen.  “THIS METHOD OF PAYMENT CANNOT BE AUTHORIZED AND MAY BE FRAUDULENT.  CONTACT YOUR CARD ISSUER OR USE ANOTHER CARD.”

That’s crazy!  I just used my Visa last night at the hardware store!  I got out my second Visa card and the same thing happened.  Okay, there’s something wrong with Keurig’s website.

I went down to the bottom of the page, called the Customer Support number and an Indian woman answered.  She sounded like she was talking through a double-pane window.  I told her what happened, she said “Daht eez fine sur now to start wit thee emel of yours and name?”   I said “You want my email address and name?”  She said “Yes, daht will be perfect of you.”  

I gave it to her.  EDOUGMORRIS@GMAIL.COM.  She asked me to repeat it.  I did.  She asked me to spell it.  I did.  She said “Perfect.  Now slower.”  I spelled it very slowly.  She asked me to spell it with a word for each letter.  “E as in elephant, D as in Douglas, O as in onion…”   She asked me to do it again.

On the eighth request for my email address, I said “May I PLEASE speak to someone else?”  She said after I gave her my name and email address.  I hung up.

Now I want to state for the record, I like Indians.  I’ve never met one that wasn’t smart, friendly, polite and I worked with many in my IT career.  At UPMC, I often coordinated large data transfers with a round Indian named Sandeep, who I liked so much I had trouble hiding my affection for the man.  It was so apparent that the women in my group tried to “out” me.

(Danielle, if you’re reading this.. does Sandeep still work with Data Warehouse?  Will you tell him I said hi?)

So anyway… I waited an hour, then called Customer Support again and this time got an Indian male.  His English was so broken I had to keep interrupting him to say “I’m sorry, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”  When he began muttering in Hindi, I hung up.

I made a cup of tea, took a deep breath and called Customer Support again.  Another Indian male, but this one I could understand a little better.  When he told me to call my credit card issuer and have my account “mended”, I told him the card did not need mending—his website was broken.  He said “Very good sir, thank you.  Now your next step is to call your credit card issuer and report your invalid card will you do this for me please?“  

I hung up on him too.

I put on my shoes, went for a walk and wondered what to do next.  I came home, cleared my computer’s cache, attempted the order again and got the same “fraudulent card” message.  I called Customer Support for the fourth time, got another Indian man, asked him to PLEASE listen, he said of course and afterward he said “Mr. Morris here is what we will do.  I will cancel your account and create for you another member account.”  I said ok.  He said “While I do that, call your credit card issuer and instruct them you have a fraudulent card and require a new number.“

I said “Goodbye, I’m hanging up now.”  His last words were “WAIT MISTER MORRIS WHAT IS YOUR EMAIL!!”   

I closed the Keurig page, went on Amazon and ordered a K-Supreme machine (at the top).  It said it would arrive in 10-11 days, but was delivered in 4, early Saturday morning.  And all was right with the world.

And finally, I should add that this past Friday, I got an email from (how’d they get my email address?  I’m kidding) that apologized for the trouble I experienced on their website, they looked into the issue and found my account was blocked in error by their fraud software. 

They removed the block and added a coupon for 2 free boxes of coffee to my online shopping cart when I’m ready to complete my order. 

Gee fellas I’m sorry, but I took my business elsewhere.  Love your machines though!

Monday, September 11, 2023

Roadside cafes, casinos & creeks bearing houses: that’s how we do it in Pa

This past Friday after my checkup at Mercy Health Clinic that could’ve gone better (I’ve gained 11 lbs since my last visit in April, I’m officially through with my nightly slice of pie) I traveled south to my sister Shawn & brother-in-law Jim’s house for a 3 day visit.

During my stay, I went on a terrific road-trip with my friend & former classmate Diana.  We ate at a woodsy roadside cafe, went to the Lady Luck Casino to try our luck and finally to Falling Waters (pictured right), home of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famously designed weekend retreat for the Kaufmann’s, a wealthy Pittsburgh family in the 1930s.

I took 27 photos, Diana (and her much better iphone) took 50!  I obviously couldn’t share them all here, but thought these few would give you an idea of our adventure. 

Besides, if you’ve seen one Wright home you’ve seen ‘em all… I’m kidding.

The Lady Luck Casino, in Farmington Pa – it’s gigantic.  Gambaholics welcome!

“You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em.. know when to fold ‘em!”
“Winning!”  Who needs levers on these slot machines when you can just press a white button?  Diana shows us how it’s done    
Back on the road, it’s time for lunch at the Bittersweet Cafe
A very tangy coleslaw, peach iced tea and a delicious smoky pulled pork sandwich.  Pricey, but everything was fresh and delicious
We’ve arrived at Falling Waters

Taking a photo of Diana taking a photo (bottom right), of the Falling Waters retreat
Low ceilings, mammoth stone floors and very, very humid inside.  This is the original furniture from 75 years ago, and even with fresh flowers everywhere, the smell of mildew was fairly strong

We weren’t allowed in the kitchen, so I stuck my arm in the doorway and took this pic.  (At least I got the photo, we were prohibited from taking any pictures of the bedrooms or study on the second floor—why?)

Another photo of the livingroom, looking towards the dining room; the ceiling was gorgeous

And finally, back in Pittsburgh; I forgot to cash in my winnings!

I just wanted to add neither of us like to gamble; Diana & I spent a whopping $2.00 in that casino.

We just wanted to see what it looked like inside, and you know that old saying, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.  But I’ll never understand the attraction!

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Photo of the Day: Dad, here’s me and here’s you, right before we’re 62

This is me (on the left) at the start of this summer, and Dad (with his granddaughter Drew) on the right, from 24 years ago.  Both of us are just a few months shy of our 62nd birthdays here.  Dad’s was July 1999, mine is next month.

Dad’s face is a bit more worn than my own, probably from his tobacco and beer; but he was married over 40 years, and raised 6 kids.  I’m sure that will age anyone.

I can remember not too long after this photo of Dad was taken, my sister Shawn called me at the office and told me Dad had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I can still recall looking down at my shirt, feeling silly for wearing something with so many stripes and not even aware I was crying, until my coworker Lisa came over to my desk to ask what was wrong. 

Dad would be gone February 2001, 6 months after he turned 63.  

I guess I’ve just been thinking about it a bit lately, turning 62 and wondering what’s in store.  I hope it’s not cancer.  I’ve never been fond of the quote “like father like son”, now more than ever.  I feel like my life is just getting started… I wonder how my dad felt when he was my age? 

Anyway, that’s all I have to share today, I just wanted to put something new out there.  I’m heading to the senior center with my tablet (e-reader) after I post this, we’re dealing with a real heat wave and the Tiffany’s cooling system can’t handle temps 88F and higher.

I hope things are cool in your corner of the world, and thanks for stopping by.