Henry the Handyman

Our condo in Delray Beach, FL. has been nice to us, in every way, including minimal maintenance and repairs, for the last six years we’ve owned it.

Until now. Well, nothing is forever.

We had renters in for the first time this past season (Jan-Mar). We’d used a management company to oversee our interests, take complaints from the renters, and solve problems in our absence without us having to. That’s the theory, anyway. We also had a maintenance contract to cover most repairs with their insurance. Again, that was the theory.

In all fairness, the maintenance company did repair the washing machine when the renters were here, no charge. Also while we were en route by car, our condo sitter, who looks in on the place once a week, said the thermostat died, and the A/C wasn’t filtering out the humidity. It was fixed by the maintenance company the next day. No charge. Hey, two for two, I’m feeling lucky!

Our luck ran out when we got down here.

The management co, who inspected the condo, said everything was okay after the renters left, and gave them their security deposit back, didn’t do a very good job. Everything LOOKED okay, but, for example, the kitchen faucet wobbled like the broken neck of a chicken.

So, my next call was to the maintenance co; they were two for two so far, right?

The service man comes, looks at the faucet, and says,

That’ll be around $180. to fix; plumbing isn’t covered. Look at the fine print on the back of your contract. You do have a contract?”

“Yes, it’s back in New Jersey.” I thanked him while declining the repair offer. At least since I had a contract with them, there was no service charge.

I’d given up on plumbing a long time ago. Everything about the trade, even the word, bothers me; you’ll see why in a minute. So I called the condo sitter for a reference, and he supplied me with Henry.

“He’s French,” he said to me. So when a tall, dark Haitian showed up with a grin from ear to ear, I thought to my self, that’s half right. However, Henry seemed to have the perfect temperament for plumbing, so in addition to the sink faucet, I made a list of things which needed to be corrected which the kitchen re modeler, after he left his wife and kid for his girlfriend and then went bankrupt, didn’t do.

So, Henry was fixing the faucet, the drain on the disposal unit which had a small leak, hookup the ice maker for the fridge, replace an electric box, and re caulked the kitchen back splash, for the next TEN hours! Henry smiled at each of the sidetracks that come with any plumbing job, and just kept attacking each of them with a laugh. I was the one getting frustrated, and I wasn’t even doing the work! If I had been doing the job, I might have ended up trashing the condo. In the end, Henry said,

Meester John, eat touk a leetle longer,eind I had to buy more parts, so IE tink $300. iensteed of $200. would be fair, NO?”

I didn’t quibble, wrote the check, and Henry was on his way. I put him in my phone book for the next time.

Henry reminded me of an immigrant experience which is common, although not always, occurring in the country. He was happy to be here. He wasn’t trying to make a fortune, just a fair living. NOTHING bothered him. Don’t worry, be happy. Thanks for reminding me, Henry!

Mike's Mercedes

I’m back.  I know I said 90 posts in 90 days, and I’ve missed a couple of days. We were traveling to Florida by car, I don’t have a laptop, and my fingers are too fat for the keyboard on my new phone.  My techie wizard son is going to find a keyboard for fat fingers.  However the trip yielded new material (they usually do), and here it is.

It turns out our good Bergen County friends, Mike and Libby, were also traveling by car to Lake Worth, FL, a couple of towns away from us in Delray Beach.

For the full effect of what happens in this story, I must digress.

A few years ago, our Rutgers Football season tickets seats were moved to a new section.  As we arrived to sit for the first game, we noticed the seatmates next to ours were the same couple who sit behind us for Rutgers Basketball games!

As I was writing “Ark” while attending the first game last season, Calvin, my new friend and impetus for the book, had seats right in front of ours!  Of all the 60,000 seats in the Stadium, how’s that for coincidence or fate?

So, back to the story, Mike and Libby left Bergen at 6am, and stopped to have lunch with their daughter in Virginia.  We left Marlboro at 8:30 am, and got stuck in horrendous traffic in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia.  We were supposed to meet Mike and Libby for dinner in Santee, SC, but arrived too late due to the traffic.

The next day, we called them from the car to note their progress. They were only 5 minutes ahead of us.  We both agreed to meet when we got down to FL. within a couple of days.

One of our traditions is to stop at the Florida welcome center to get a shot of orange juice.  I pulled into the center, looking for a parking space, which are hard to come by since everyone has the same idea.  My wife always spots the first space I miss, and gets annoyed every time.

Well, I did find a space next to a late model Mercedes SUV with Jersey plates.

My wife and I looked at each other, then across the lot towards the OJ greeting room, and there were Mike and Libby waving to us!

What are the chances of that?!

Small world.

Pop's Ticker

My father turned 90 last June, and I’m blessed he’s in remarkable shape.  I want to take partial credit, because I’m into anti aging supplements from my doctor,and I pass the info along to my parents (Mom’s nearly 89; more in another blog).  I kid my doctor, who has never met them, that he should consider them his “out patients.”  Of course, I run by him whatever I plan to pass on  before I do it.  It’s really just basic stuff, like vitamins C, D3, fish oil, coQ10, Calcium/Magnesium, and a Multi.  These simple few will do wonders for you, too.

It must be working, because all their other doctors say thing like “Oh, what good blood values,” or ” you don’t look your age.”  More than a few times I’ve lent credibility to their ages by producing MY medicare card.

Anyway, back to Dad.  He does have a health concern which requires monitoring.  As a kid he had rheumatic  fever which left him with a murmur, and that valve involved had to be replaced 11 years ago.  He doesn’t say much; he’s always used words at a premium.  In fact, his yearbook caption said, “silence never makes any blunders.”  So as the doctor asks his questions, I supplement Dad’s yes and no answers with any embellishment needed.

“Do you smoke or drink?” the Doc asked.

“I don’t smoke,” Dad turned to me, as we both laughed.

The Doc agreed scotch with a lot of ice was therapeutic for him. Then he said at the open doorway as we were wrapping up the visit,

“I don’t get many chances to say this to my 90 year old patients, but I’ll see you in a year.”

The three of us smiled, then I saw the rest of the staff staring in disbelief.  Looking further into the waiting area I noticed a packed room of non erect gaits, pasty pallors, and noticeable discomforts from ailing and aging.

I was reminded of my good fortune of health for my Dad.

I put on my chauffeur’s cap, and we were on the way home.

Laurie Carlson

As a Hurricane Sandy survivor, it’s easy to feel sorry for one’s self. I did, for a couple of hours.  It’s easy to forget.  To lose one’s perspective, by forgetting those who lost much more, or most, or all of everything they had.

We didn’t have power for 92 hours, which broke our personal best of 44 hours from Hurricane Irene last year.  Well, there are still those whose record meters are still running, and those whose record will never have an end to.  No power, no house, no things.  It’s hard to imagine a bounce back like that for me, the only comfort I have as an “other” not in that position, is to know it has been done many times before, some how, some way.  My hope is those who’ve met more devastation than I come to see it that way soon.

As horrible as this event seems to me, I realized this all pales in comparison to what severely disabled people go through each day, for the rest of their lives.  This brings me to a favorite fellow blogger, Laurie Carlson, whose site is linked below.

Have you ever heard of “Stiff Person Syndrome?”

Visit her site.  Look at the ledger of things she can’t do, and what sheer Will enables her to do.

If you’re so inclined, include Laurie in your prayers, as I have, and let her remind you that no storm, or whatever the cause of a temporary or permanent disability, can affect your Spirit, only your mind if you let it.

To those of you in the Rutgers community, we have Eric Legrand to inspire us, and now, please include Laurie in our orbit of stars who we won’t let fall.


Five Golden Hoops for this one!


Can you relive your past in the present with the help of some interesting ghosts? What would happen if you came face to face with the members of a basketball team, long gone in body but not in spirit as you take a journey back in time and relive the games played in the old gym where you watched so many games called The Ark. Entering the gym, the door unlocked what our narrator encounters would shake the inner core of many but not John.

Chance encounters happen when you least expect them too. Meeting a man named Calvin, talking about writing and finding his way to his old campus sends him on a dream trip that would change more than just his life in the present but those he encounters in the past. Some people retire and move away to a retirement village.

Some decide that this is their chance to change their lives and start a whole new career. Imagine wanting to be a writer, an author and still maintain your love and passion to help out your alma mater’s men’s basketball program. Sunnyside College is a small college in Delaware. Driving home close to this campus is where we find our narrator as I stated. Getting inside the Ark, or old gym he hears a voice. Thinking he might be hearing things he never expects to see the person whose voice it is in person. Slick Johnson one of the team members, in ghostly form, faces him front and home court. But, when Slick relates an incident that happened in 2008 you begin to realize that he is no ordinary ghost and what happens next will definitely give you much pause for thought as a whole team of ghosts that played in this old gym are not only alive in the past but the present too.

But, this team has a past and it almost won the championship over forty years ago. The other school was much larger. Relating that he and his teammates play there all the time and even when live games are played they continue to play in the gym even passing through the live players creates an interesting story for this reviewer.

Can you change the course of history? What about the final score of a lost game? When John realizes that he is seeing a ghost what happens when he sees a whole team of them? What would you do if you game face to face with the original basketball team from Sunnyside College? They look the same as they did in 1971, you identify them all, describing them quite vividly, know their positions on the team and them proceed to have to figure out not only why they are still there but why you are there too?

ArkNovels.comGhosts are supposed to spook you but not these guys. As John talks with Slick and meets the rest of the team, the author describes them in such detail that the reader can visualize these players as if they were standing in front of you. Added in the conversation between Slick and John lets you know that he’ll be returning to the Ark and maybe see that championship game himself. But, what will he tell his wife Genna when he gets home? As he leaves and promises to return he replays the evening in his own mind and then quietly gets into bed without stirring his wife. The following morning he creates his story, some true some stretched as we meet Slick once again and learn more about his dreams, hopes and desires for himself even though he’s a spirit. But, returning he learns that Sunnyside is about to play Mega again and that they cannot see John as Slick states because his energy is with them.

Returning home he spends the day with his wife, enjoys the galleries, the shops and finds himself drawn to returning to the Ark when a voice beckons him to return and the need for Charlie to speak with him first. As he reenters the Ark and speaks with Charlie they both realize that there has to be a purpose for his being there and for the need for all of the players to talk to him. Added in is the fact that these men made a different on and off the court so why are they stuck in limbo and in this place with no where to really turn except the court. Playing the other team over and over again just reminds them of the original loss.

Even Charlie states it’s as if they replay the game, the tape gets you might say erased, they seem to disappear and then it starts over again. But why? Why is the one that was guided there? How can there older selves be alive in the present and John knows them from the past. Replaying the same game over and over again and stuck in the Ark and not able to rest. Will they spend eternity there? What is the answer? Next, as John tries to find time to spend with his wife and a day to himself the voice returns asking him to speak with Quincy. Somehow, he needs to find a way to separate all of this but will he trust anyone with the truth? Then, he relates to his friend Calvin an oversight involving the team. But, the answer is unbelievable and the new coach does not want to blend the past and the present and the oversight will not be overturned even 40 years later. Harry and Byron were next and one thing became clearer is that all of this was linked to Charlie in some way and the team was lost in warp time and sort of suspended in their own world of animation. Each player playing the games over and over again as if by rote but not with any real passion or love for what they did in the past and wondering how this was linked to their lives in the present. John knew it was his job to fix whatever he could to help the players find a place for themselves in one of the worlds. What kind of lives were they living in the past and how can they live in two time periods? Reaching out to the present coach and writing to the Athletic Director, John hoped to get some positive results.

Emails sent, meetings in the works and the hope of getting the alumni involved, expanding membership in the Back Court, involving the community more and even having sign up tables at football games were just some of the ideas that John and Ken came up with. But, they needed to deal with the AD and the Coach who seems to resent their efforts at first.

ArkNovels.comThen, the author introduces the players on the team in the present as John reaches out to the team in the present, the alumni and we meet Slick (Reece), Johnny Bird, Byron, Harry and the rest in present or real time and learn about their lives, second chances and much more.

As we meet the players from the past we begin to understand why John was sent and the real mission that needs to be completed. It is more than just the loss, the one game that caused them to be defeated but redemption, owing one man more than they have given and to correct something from the past to make the present better for each one of them. So, how can the 1971-team members finally find a place for themselves in any world? How will that coincide with the alternate personality or person in the present?

The final ending and result you will have to read for yourself. What is reality and what is just one man’s hope to revive the past? Read the Ark and find out what happens to the team from the past, the one from the present and how one amazing gym would hold memories for everyone that they would never forget. Just what will John write in his first novel. Maybe you just read it and he just did!

Great book filled with lessons to be learned about giving back, helping those that helped us in the past, community spirit and much more. Ark: a must read.


– By Amazon Customer as posted on Amazon.com

Ark is about people.

by Robert Ducker –

Ark is a building on a college campus that has for many decades housed student events ranging from freshman orientation speeches to a variety of sporting events, primarily basketball and swimming.

I can imagine that such a building has housed, even witnessed, something approaching the full spectrum of human emotion including love, hate, triumph, defeat, sorrow, regret, and joy over the years of its service to the college and the community. Yet, in the late night of most evenings this building sits quietly and without notice simply waiting for the next opportunity to serve. John Heldon introduces us to a previously unknown level of existence where events of the past refuse to fade away. A level where time and space are redefined to allow events from the past to replay undetected within the Ark regardless of what activity is happening there in the present.

Ark is about people. Ark is also about the most precious and powerful force we know, the human spirit.

Ark is a well written story of a mature guy who graduated from the college many years ago. He little knows nor expects that, at this stage in his life, he is at the threshold of an adventure so fantastic that it is impossible for him to confide in those around him.

Ark by John Heldon

Ark Novels

“In the wonderful novel by John Heldon, he writes about a facility (The Ark) that was home to a college’s outstanding basketball team. The book evokes memories for me of the seventies, which aroused the pride I had as a resident of New Jersey. John brings these memories all back into focus.” Bill Raftery, CBS and ESPN commentator.

“Heldon’s debut novel…weaves a tale with overtones of “Field of Dreams” combined with “The Twilight Zone”….”ARK” keeps you on the edge of your seat with a story line that is artfully crafted and fast paced.” Kyle Keiderling, winner of “Best Sports Biography, 2011

Top 100, sports fiction, Kindle edition, July, 2012. #46, sports fiction, Kindle edition, August, 2012. Top 100, sports fiction, Kindle edition, December 2012 “At the core of this novel is John’s compassion for the ghosts of the players, presented in a fascinating blend of past, and present…Ark holds a mirror up to our own lives and inspires us…to make a difference in the lives of others. While their glory days may have ended, ours and theirs may once again begin.” Amy, South Florida.

About the Author

John J. Heldon, Jr. is a retired entrepreneur. He grew up in New Jersey, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. He and his wife, Virginia, live in Marlboro. Ark is his first novel.

New Ark Book?

Around the writing circles here in Northern New Jersey I’m hearing rumors that Ark author, John Heldon, is close to releasing a new Ark book. I’m predicting the new book will build on the characters and the unique supernatural concepts introduced in Ark book one. I imagine that many Ark fans will share my enthusiasm and sense of anticipation for the new release.

For those not familiar with Ark author John Heldon. He was born in 1947 and raised in Bergen County, New Jersey. After attending Rutgers University, he embarked on a career in sales which led to the founding of a successful plastics fabricating business.  He retired to work and love twice as hard as a writer. “Ark” is his first novel. The second and third books  are in the works. He lives in Marlboro, NJ, with his wife, Virginia. They have one son, Geoff, and hyperactive Maltese, Lily, who keeps them young.

This video describes his book, Ark, and why it is unique.

John is driving home one night, passing close to the campus of Sunnyside College, a small, barely Division I school in Delaware. An urge to reminisce overcomes him, and he drives over to the Ark, the nickname for the old gym where he loved to watch basketball as a student almost forty-five years ago. He’s able to get inside, where he encounters a basketball team of ghosts from Sunnyside who almost won the NCAA Championship forty years before. The team is in limbo inside the Ark, replaying games against the much larger university they lost to in the finals.

He realizes these aren’t any ordinary ghosts. Their older selves are still alive, and John has met all of them over the ensuing years. In effect, in this time warp, John knows more about these ghosts’ lives, and their futures, than they do. The ghosts realize John must be there for a purpose, and he decides to find out why the ghosts are stuck in time, enduring a growing torturous loop of games without meaning.

While seeking to unravel this mystery at the Ark, John realizes redemption for the ghosts, as well as himself, depends on the actions he must help arrange with others, who aren’t, and cannot, be privy to his “real” motives.

If readers enjoyed a book like W.R. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe, or its movie adaptation, Field of Dreams, I believe they will appreciate Ark’s different slant, served slightly chilled, sprinkled with humor, and a twist at the end.


You’ll find Ark by John Heldon at Amazon.com