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New Jersey Shore: IBSP and LBI

We haven’t been to the New Jersey shore since Covid, it’s hard to remember when our confinement began. This year, 2022, for Diane’s birthday, I decided to book the Williams Cottage Inn in Beach Haven for two nights. We got two full sunny days, temperature in high 60s. And one windy, approaching rain morning. We discovered the Williams on a June 2017 trip when we stayed several nights at the Victoria Guest House on the square in old Beach Haven (now it’s for sale). We had a nice room with a private porch that trip in a second building; breakfast on the main porch; a swimming pool. We were so pleased to avoid the summer crowds. Discovered good restaurants, The Black Whale, Parker’s Garage (both crowded, loud and tourist, same owners I think). The last night we ate at Stefano’s, an Italian, white cloth, quiet; elegant dining. Also found several nice seafood lunch stops. During the days we drove to Barnegat Light, walked to the bay, sat along the ocean. One afternoon we saw “Footloose” at the Surflight Theatre; another morning at the NJ Maritine Museum; followed by a bucket of clams at Polly’s Dock. Delicious. It was our first overnight at the Jersey Shore in many years. About 8 years ago we rented for a week with the Kwait’s at Harvey Cedars. Eli was very young.

Our fondest memories of Long Beach Island are from the Mignoni’s Harvey Cedars oceanfront home. We visited every summer for decades. Years ago Larry and MaryJo Mignoni Silvi bought Mignoni’s house, tore it down and build a larger modern vacation home. We had lunch with them the year we rented in Harvey Cedars. Anytime we’re on LBI we visit the property.

Our last pre-Covid trip to the Jersey shore was September 25, 2018,  to escape the heat (95 degrees in Yardley) and to relax we drove the 1 1/2 hours to Island Beach Park.   It wasn’t as crowded as it was the previous week.  The temperature was about 85 degrees; there was a steady, gentle ocean breeze.  No flies.  Tide was coming in.  I spent most of 3 hours under our new umbrella purchased at the nearby General Store.  We packed a lunch instead of purchasing our usual sandwich, chips and fruit at Ebby’s deli, just outside the park. A small Ebby sandwich is 8 inches.

IBSP had been voted the best state park in the country by a vacation planning website, HomeToGo.  Pretty amazing.  For years now it’s  been our regular shore destination.  We were even  buying an annual NJ park pass ($70) since one weekend visit costs $20, weekdays are $12, and it’s $10 off season. Three or four trips pay for the cost of the pass.  The pass also gets us entrance into other NJ parks.

Island Beach may be a favorite but it’s not our only Jersey shore destination. We also go to Cape May, explore south of Atlantic City, and north to Asbury Park (the new hip shore destination), and Ocean Grove (possible one of the most unhip). Brigantine to visit friends and of course LBI.  

I recall one of our first trips to Island Beach in the early 1970s.  My sister, Lizanne and dog Luz were with us.  It was probably early Fall, cool and not another person on the beach as far as we could see.  We set up our new red and orange tepee-shaped North Face tent.  No sooner were we settled in and a Ranger stopped.  “Tents, not allowed” he said, but continued “But I don’t care, just don’t tell my parter I said that if he comes by.” Never saw the partner.  We spent a nice day.  Think we had a cooler of food.  Luz liked to run on the beach.

If you’ve never been there, Island Beach is 10 mile strip, the southern part of a barrier island just north of Barnegat Inlet.  If you go to the very southern end, it’s either a long walk or you have a beach driving permit.  You can see Barnegat Lighthouse across the inlet on Long Beach Island.  There are two large life guard swimming areas (we rarely go) and about 20 other ocean side small parking areas with beach access.  There are several access roads or trails on the bay side for kayaking or bird watching.  Except for the swimming beaches, the park is dog friendly.  Although they should be on a leash, if it’s a very obedient dog, and the area of the beach is empty, dogs do run free.  Our current dog, Nala, shows no interest in the water or running free in the hot sun.  She is content to sit (like me) in the shade of the umbrella or even better under a chair.

I’m writing this on the porch of the Williams Cottage on October 12, 2022, Diane’s 76th birthday.  We arrived on the Long Beach Island about 11:30 and decided to have lunch at Kyuramen.  We each had a ramen bowl with pork for me; shrimp for Diane.  I also tried a Steam Pork Bao Bun (good).  The bowls were mediocre.  Onto Barnegat Light.  We sat along the dock watching the bay fishermen (usually solo) and boats in the channel.  Island Beach in the distance.  We drove around the piers and there seemed there were more commercial fishing boats than I remember.  There were a lot of pickup trucks and cars in the lot, so some must be still out on the water.  I was told that the fleet had to fish further out; hence many larger boats.  Scallops are the largest catch.  Unfortunately Cassidy’s Fish Market at Viking Village is only open weekends off season.  Whenever I am at these piers I recall a story.  Shandley’s were an Irish-American large family that lived near us in Yardley.  The youngest boy, J.J, was Jenny’s age.  He was a bit wild and quite daring.  His first day in kindergarten the teacher asked the question, “What did you do this summer?”  J.J. piped in, “I worked on a fishing boat at Barnegat.”  At the parent teacher night, the teacher told his mother, “J.J. lied to me about working on a fishing boat.”  Pat Shandley smiled, “No he didn’t lie, he worked on a boat all summer.”  

We stopped by the Mignoni house property.  It was the site of several large family reunions, in the early 1980s I think (photos above).    My sister Cissi and Louis rented a nearby house for a week.  My parents, Vicky and Ted, Marylee and Norval, Liz, Bill and Margie and kids, Ellen, MaryJo and Larry, Diane, Jenny and I filled up bedrooms in both houses.  Uncle Frank made clams casino, Aunt Ellen baked blue fish, corn, potatoes, and lemon meringue pies.  We sat on the beach, drank wine or gin and tonics, ate or the deck and posed for family photos.  My aunt and uncle were always generous.  We could always visit with them or use the house when they weren’t there.  Diane stayed through September and early October when she was pregnant with Jenny.  I commuted to Bucks County for work, staying on LBI long weekends.  We spent one Thanksgiving there, Diane’s parents and Hawley flew in.  We built a fire and cooked a turkey.  My cousin Bill had a boat for a number of years and would take me fishing.  

In the 1950s before Mignoni’s built their house, we rented jointly with them on the bay in Beach Haven and later each family rented an oceanside house not far from the Acme.   I have memories of crossing from the mainland on a wooden bridge, clap, clap, clap, until the causeway was built.  At least one year, probably more, when we shared a house, my father drove Profy’s delivery truck with a extra refrigerator, playpens, cribs, and beach gear.  Maybe five kids, four adults squeezed into a small bayside house.  A trip to a five and ten store to buy buckets, shovels and other beach things was a big treat.  We played in the street, hung out on the ocean beach, shopped in the Acme, played miniature golf, took a trip to the grounded Lucy Evelyn which had been turned into a tourist store,  and on a rainy day went to the movie theatre.  One year I caught a flounder. I seem to remember more from my elementary school years than high school.  Strange.  

This year, after our visit to Mignoni’s old Harvey Cedar property, we checked in to the Williams Cottage.  A Victorian, a block from the beach in the historic section of Beach Haven.  The public rooms are quite ornate, lots of old wood, antiques, a great wrap around porch.  Unpacked, we walked a two blocks to Pearl Street where there is a gazebo with benches.  It was warm but windy.  Quiet except for the surf, a few gulls and terns.  We sat and enjoyed the ocean breeze for over an hour. 

Later we sat on our private porch with wine and then had dinner at 6:30 at Tucker’s Tavern.  Many places are closed for the season; we had hopes of eating at Stefano’s but they closed October 10.  Tucker’s ambience was fine.  We started with six dozen East Coast oysters, my entree was four small tuna tacos; both were excellent.  Diane had a satisfying cod sandwich.  Betty at the Williams provided chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  


Tuesday I got up at five, following my typical morning routine I had coffee in the parlor, read email, newspaper, FB, wrote in my journal.  At nine we had a gourmet breakfast.  The prediction of clouds changed to a delightful sunny morning (and afternoon).  We got chairs and walked a block to the beach.  For a long time we were alone.  We’d been told there were whale sightings just beyond a sandbar; would we see one?  On a short walk I got talking to a couple who have been renting here for 35 years.  Quite a few years in a house owned by Pat who owns Coral Seas, a motel a few blocks away.  John and I had a good chat and in the afternoon I met Pat.  The house is pretty much filled with regulars but he took my name and number, if there was an opening.  Diane and I might entertain staying in a less expensive place like Coral Seas.  About noon, while leaving the beach I met an 80 year old local, McGwinn.  We had a  nice conversation, historic and he answered a lot of questions I had.  I was about to leave when he said, “There he is!”  He was the whale rising up just beyond the sandbar.  I watched him come up several times.  Nice.  He also told me several whales had washed up dead.  

For lunch we headed to Buckalew Tavern.  We were seated in a nice patio-like bright room. There was a large bar and several other rooms.  At 1:30 there were about six tables occupied.  We’d discussed with our Williams hosts and observed the difference between in season (June to September) and out of season; effecting the labor force (limited out of season), what’s opened, almost no seafood markets during the week, lots of restaurants and shops closed.  That’s the difference between 20,000 year round and 130,000 in season residents.  We also discovered that there are fewer Bed and Breakfasts.  Changing tastes? The economy?    Diane speculated that Airbnb rentals may be one reason.  I was told there are more large commercial fishing boats because of overfishing and they must go further out to sea.  And scallops are the main LBI catch although there is a decline in the catch this year and prices have risen.  At Buckalew’s I had a cider and lobster roll; Diane had Caesar’s salad with chicken.  I’m not having an easy time ordering my low carb/ sugar diet.  Need to get better.  Cider has more sugar than wine or beer.  

After lunch we drove around Beach Haven.  There is an interesting mix of houses. We stopped at the bay near Parker’s Garage.  Back at the cottage we sat outside, inside, on the private porch, reading, writing, knitting.  And then a glass of red before dinner at the Black Whale.  It was crowded and loud but festive.  Food was good.  We had clams and I had fried oysters; Diane had salmon.  

Thursday morning was overcast, strong winds, after breakfast we walked to the beach and sat on a bench. Surf was higher and stronger but it was warm enough to enjoy the brisk wind.  The beach was deserted.  We packed up, said goodby and headed to the bay.  Diane found a small nature trail not labeled on the map in North Beach Haven at Nebraska.  It lead to a paved walkway along the bay with benches, a small boat access, quite nice.  Further along we stopped and sat for a while at Bayview Park.  There is actually small beach areas, badge required in season.  We were pleased to find the Surf City fish market near the causeway opened.  We bought scallops, just filleted flounder and two stuffed crabs.  A bit of LBI to take back to Yardley.  

I was glad we took this trip.  It brought back so many memories of the Jersey shore.  I called two of my sisters to jog their memories about Beach Haven vacations.  I’ll need to talk to cousin Ellen. I did find some photographs (see above). Photos from this trip. (below).


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PBS

I’ve been a fan and subscriber to Public Television for decades. Masterpiece Theatre has always been fantastic. The Duchess of Duke Street (1976) was an early favorite. And of course Downton Abbey (2010 on). Later there was Sherlock (2010 on) with Nicholas Cumberbatch and Call the Midwife (2012 on). I bought several of these on DVDs. There were many American Masters and American Experiences that I enjoyed. Over the years I’ve watched Ken Burn’s productions — Vietnam, Ali, The Roosevelt, Hemingway and Benjamin Franklin.

For several years I hadn’t watched very much on WHYY (our public television). In fact except for the news and some movies I don’t watch very much television. That’s beginning to charge. Recently while Diane is making dinner, I’ve been turning off the news (CNN) and turning on some WHYY broadcast on my I-pad. Much better.

I discovered several cooking series, Marcus Samuelsson’s No Passport Required and Lidia’s Kitchen. And on Netflix I found Chef’s Table. My favorite though is CNNs Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy. Next season starts October 2. Another discovery was Weekends with Yankee (that’s the New England travel magazine). Three seasons are available on PBS and I’ve watched almost all the episodes. I was pleasantly surprised to see places I’ve visited including Cape Cod (Chatham area), Provincetown, Art’s Dune Tour, the Griswold Inn where we stayed in Essex Ct, the Matunuck Oyster Bar in R.I. where we ate, and Barry Clifford’s Whydah pirate ship (museum visited, book read). The hosts of Weekends with Yankee are a bit corney but I’ve totally enjoyed the places they have profiled.


In the past month, I re-watched Burn’s Hemingway and Benjamin Franklin. Last night I spent some time looking over PBS programs available to watch on the app. I found plenty to watch; a good reason to limit consumption of the nightly news. What are your TV favorites?

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Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Annie Dillard published “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” in 1974 when she was in her late twenties. I’d heard of it but had never paid any attention. Then a month ago I ordered it. I was in for a pleasant surprise. It’s not an easy read but it challenges you to listen to the words, the questions, to reflect and see the world through a new lens. “Pilgrim” Annie’s first book of prose has been compared to Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” There are some similarities; but Annie Dillard has her own distinct voice.

Dillard’s Tinker Creek is in the Roanoke Valley, Virginia, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The book is divided into the four seasons and follows the narrator’s thoughts on nature, solitude, writing, and theology. In the first chapter, “Heaven and Earth in Jest” Dillard describes her house: “I live by a creek, Tinker Creek, in a valley in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. An anchorite’s hermitage is called an anchor-hold; some anchor-holds were simple sheds clamped to the side of a church like a barnacle or a rock. I think of this house clamped to the side of Tinker Creek as an anchor-hold. It holds me at anchor to the rock bottom of the creek itself and keeps me steadied in the current, as a sea anchor does, facing the stream of light pouring down. It’s a good place to live; there’s a lot to think about.”

Dillard reflects on nature, flora and fauna; it’s structure and complexity; it’s positives and negatives. In most chapters she demonstrates amazing powers of observation. I was constantly reminded of Sherlock Holmes comment to Watson, “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps which lead up from the hall to this room. . . You have not observed. And yet you have seen. Now I know there are seventeen steps, because I Have both seen and observed.” As she explores her environment, the natural world, Dillard refers to “seeing” but she is observing in amazing detail.

“Last week I found a brown, cocoon like object, light and dry, and pocketed it in an outside unlined pocket where it wouldn’t warm and come alive. Then I saw on the ground another one, slightly torn open, so I split it further with my fingers, and saw a pale froth. I held it closer, the froth took on an intricacy. I held it next to my eye and saw a tiny spider, yellowish but so infinitesimal it was translucent, waving each of its height legs in what was clearly threat behavior.” Chapter four is devoted to praying mantis, their egg cases and adult behavior when they emerge.

Dillard watches birds, a coot, a goldfinch, grasshoppers, a water bug sucking a frog dry, a muskrat, aquatic life which she brings to her microscope. She reflects on the landscape, mountains, creek, trees and various plants. Nothing seems to escape her scrutiny. Her language is poetic. She has published several books of poetry.

Dillard’s observation and reflection on the natural world leads her to theological questions. The second part of many chapters links the natural world to the supernatural. Questions of God, of goodness, and the harshness of the natural world. Dillard does not see herself as a nature writer. She is a pilgrim on a journey of discovery.

Dillard references many books that have inspired or guided her. I believe her graduate dissertation was on “Walden.” I like how she will reference an experience, something she saw, heard or smelled pages later. “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” is a book that will require a second reading. I also want to read some of Dillard’s other books. I bought “The Maytrees: a novel.” It is set in Cape Cod. Dillard’s “seeing;” and Sherlock Holmes’s “observation;” reminded me of the close attention to detail that I began calling Cape Cod “focus.” Connections.

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Rain

I woke up at six to a gentle rain. I knew it was coming. Forecast has shown rain throughout the day. I welcome it. It’s been a hot, dry, muggy summer. Garden didn’t do well and I think it was weather related. Never got the automatic water system working. Greens were fine in the Spring. But few tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplants.

It’s a relatively gentle but regular rain. I just hope there is no skylight leaking. For me there have been good and bad rains. The real bad (hurricane rains) came in 2004-05-06. We were flooded. Many times before that we just got water in the backyard. River water pushed up through storm drains or the canal overflowed. But until 2004 it never came close to the house. In fact our first two basement flooding was groundwater. The electric was cut; sump pump stopped and basement filled with water, damaging heater, electric system and ruining a full basement of stuff. The 2006 flood in contrast had water on river road; canal and river met. Our house was surrounded. Fortunately we never took first floor damage like many of our neighbors. In 2007 we elevated the house. Since then water has reached the ground level once; it came from the canal.

Today the river will rise from a summer low of 8 feet (as measured in Trenton) to about 12’. At 17’ water will begin to spill over the road at the Yardley Inn. At 18’ river road will be closed in both directions. We are an island. At 20’ it’s half way up our yard; at 23’ it’s lapping at our foundation. Twenty-five feet the canal and river road have met; our island is under water. The most severe floods are usually after two major rain storms (hurricanes possible) within days of each other. Prior to the 2004 flood; 1955 was the big flood along the Delaware.

But as I’ve said today’s rain is welcome. Cooling, soothing, relaxing. On YouTube I found “Rain falling Non-Stop at Night (No Music, No Thunder) try this for Sleeping and insomnia. Soothing Rain falling is nice to have on while Studying, Relaxing or even Meditating. Calming Rain creates a white noise effect which is useful for Tinnitus and Blocking Noise. Don’t forget it may be useful to share with family or friends too. Enjoy your Rain.”

There are many songs about rain. Many are down on rain, bad things, depressing, lost lovers, breaking up, wanting the sun to come out. The Carpenters sang:

“Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit
Nothin’ ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down”

Or B.J. Thomas:

“Raindrops are falling on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothing seems to fit
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling

… So I just did me some talking to the sun
And I said I didn’t like the way he got things done
Sleeping on the job
Those raindrops are falling on my head, they keep falling”

Jo Dee Messina has another, more positive view in “Bring on the Rain”:

Another day has almost come and gone
Can’t imagine what else could go wrong
Sometimes I’d like to hide away somewhere and lock the door
A single battle lost but not the war

‘Cause, tomorrow’s another day
And I’m thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain

It’s almost like the hard times circle ’round
A couple drops and they all start coming down
Yeah, I might feel defeated and I might hang my head
I might be barely breathing but I’m not dead, no

‘Cause, tomorrow’s another day
And I’m thirsty anyway
So bring on the rain, ooh

Credence Clearwater Revival asks an interesting question?

Someone told me long ago
There’s a calm before the storm
I know
It’s been comin’ for some time
When it’s over, so they say
It’ll rain a sunny day
I know
Shinin’ down like water

I want to know, have you ever seen the rain?
I want to know, have you ever seen the rain
Comin’ down on a sunny day?

Rain photography. Wow. Many fantastic images. All these are from the internet.

Heavy rain storms are dramatic . . . thunder, lightening, pouring rain. “It’s raining cats and dogs” I recall many storms whipping up the river valley. I watched the lightening flash across the sky, light up the river. It holds our attention as long as we have protection. Of course heavy rains can cause damage, floods, down trees, power outages. If we escape damage, they can be exciting, energizing, electrifying. And when they end, is there a rainbow? Does the sun shine? Elvis sang:

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid
Of the dark
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song
Of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed
And blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never
Ever walk alone

Today’s rain continues. Quietly, slowly, into the afternoon. I’m enjoying the rain.

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Home in Yardley


It’s the end of August 2022. At 6 a.m. it was already humid, headed to the 90s. But we’ll spend the day at home after 17 days on our annual Cape Cod trip. As much as I enjoy travel, there is always a warm feeling returning home. I remember after spending several delightful summer months in Bethel, Maine with the Bonnemas, when we got home, I realized how I liked living in scenic Bucks County.

For a while this morning after a walk on the Delaware Canal, I’ll sit on our deck, cleaning up e-mail, writing, reading, just sitting back and enjoying the quiet. What I have been calling Cape Cod focus. Yesterday morning was unpack, clean up and organize. It’s done. For the rest of the week, into to Fall, I’ll enjoy home. I’ve done a lot of deck sitting and reflecting this summer. Ironically “Another Blogger” (yes that’s his handle), about the only one I read regularly, wrote recently about the joys of having and using a deck. Fortunately for me, no structures block the view in the back of the house. Of course the front has a river view but also Delaware Avenue traffic.

Hopefully this Fall there will be almost daily canal walks, rides up the Delaware River, stops at farm markets and stands. We’ll need vegetables, our garden is all but dead. Today I harvested some cherry tomatoes and a few slicing. The big surprise was a nice bowl of figs (our first real fig harvest) and more coming. They taste great in a bowl of granola. Later in the week I will clean out finished garden plants and plant some Fall seeds — lettuce, spinach, arugula . . . If they don’t come up before freezing, they sometimes winters over and shoot up in Spring.

But Fall is on my mind. I ordered a cord of firewood. Looking forward to some cool evenings around the fire pit. Probably by October I’ll be building fires in the wood stove. As it cools down I want to use my new outdoor pizza oven. Maybe grill outside. Covid has limited many activities but I am ready for some theatre and museums. Need to look at Arden and McCarter schedules. The Brandywine, Mitchener, Allentown and Revolutionary War Museum are on my list. We’ll probably resume our weekly lunch outings. Maybe I’ll accompany Diane on afternoon dog explore walks. Haven’t done it during the summer.


The Fall issue of Yankee magazine just arrived. “Great Fall Drives” is featured. I’m hoping for a New England trip. Maybe a 3 September night in Connecticut, we looked at the Ridgefield area on the way home from Cape Cod. Then in October, head to Maine, several nights on the road and several nights with friends. Maine is always on my mind.

Yes, it’s comfortable at home. We’ve lived here since the late 70s. Travel or packing up and moving can be an adventure but there is something to be said for roots and tradition. For now I’ll enjoy home.


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Murder on the Orient Express

Summer stock. Up river from us in New Hope became a draw for New York theatre people decades ago. We’ve been to the Bucks County Playhouse several time. “Facing demolition in the 1930s, the site was saved when a small band of artists, including Broadway playwright and Bucks County resident Moss Hart, helped rally the local community to renovate it as a theater. The Bucks County Playhouse opened on July 1, 1939, with a production of Springtime for Henry, featuring Edward Everett Horton.” New Hope was an artist colony, painters especially The New Hope School, some writers and theatre people.

“The BCP quickly became “America’s Most Famous Summer Theater” with a veritable who’s who of American theatrical royalty including Kim Hunter, Helen Hayes, Kitty Carlisle, George C. Scott, Colleen Dewhurst, Shirley Booth, Lillian Gish, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, James Daly, June Lockhart, Grace Kelly, Alfred Drake, Bert Lahr, Eli Wallach, Anne Jackson, Leslie Nielsen, Bea Arthur, Walter Matthau, Bob Fosse, Richard Kiley, Angela Lansbury, Jack Klugman, Zero Mostel, Dick Van Dyke, Robert Redford, Howard Keel, Bernadette Peters, Rob Reiner, Alan Alda, Tyne Daly, Mike Nichols, Liza Minnelli, John Lithgow, James Whitmore, Jessica Walter, Kevin Kline, Andrea McArdle, George Segal, Audra McDonald, and many more.  The Bucks County Playhouse remained in continuous operation until December 2010.” Since then it has reopened. We’ve seen several play there. South Pacific is the most memorable.

While on Cape Cod we usually go to children’ plays at the Academy of the Performing Arts in Orleans. This year we took the kids to The Cape Playhouse in Dennis Village. The Playhouse was established in 1925 by Raymond Moore. A nineteenth meetinghouse was moved and converted into a theatre. He also opened the Cape Cinema on the site. We saw “Murder on the Orient Express” by Agatha Christie , adapted for the stage by Ken Ludwig. I found it interesting the play was originally staged by McCarter Theatre in Princeton in March, 2017.

WORLD PREMIERE

Agatha Christie’s fiendish tale of murder and skulduggery comes to the McCarter Theatre Center in a brand new adaptation by Ken Ludwig. Starring as the inimitable Hercule Poirot is English stage and screen star Allan Corduner (Florence Foster Jenkins, Homeland), and he’s joined in the cast by Tony winner Max Von Essen (An American in Paris) and Broadway alum Alexandra Silber (Fiddler on the Roof). 

From McCarted: “First published in 1934, Murder on the Orient Express is one of Christie’s most famous works, and has been adapted numerous times for the big and small screen, with a new Kenneth Branagh movie version also currently in the works. Taking place almost entirely within the confines of the famous Orient Express as it winds its way from from Istanbul to Paris, the mystery is set in motion when an American businessman is brutally stabbed. Luckily, the world renowned detective Hercule Poirot is also on board, and sets about discovering the killer’s identity. But as Poirot discovers, nearly everyone on board the train seems to have a motive”

Coincidentally, several weeks ago I watched the 2017 film version. Kenneth Branagh played Hercule Poitrot. I enjoyed the stage play more. Christie’s book was published in 2011.

“Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Edward Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. Without a shred of doubt, one of his fellow passengers is the murderer. Isolated by the storm, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer among a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again.”

I won’t give away the Hitchcock like surprise ending in case you have never read or seen it. The acting, staging and dialogue in the Dennis Playhouse production was very good. My grandkids enjoyed it and much as I did.

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Milestones: 55 Anniversary

The following are some of our shared experiences.

On August 26, 1967 Diane and I were married at St. Lawrence O’Toole R.C. Church in Brewster, N.Y. What a long strange trip it’s been. Fifty-five years. There have been many shared milestones.

We both grew up in small towns. For Diane Brewster and Carmel, NY; for me Bristol, PA.

We both had stable, friendly families. Parents we enjoyed being with and younger siblings that remained close. Hawley, Diane’s brother; Cissi, Vicky, Marylee, Liz, my sisters.


Going to college in Boston gave us a affinity for New England. Many of our vacation trips have been to N.E.

After my graduation, we joined the Peace Corps, training in Bisbee, AZ, headed to Libya until Ganddafi took over and expelled the P.C. Unfortunately we didn’t find another program.

Post P.C. we traveled the country for several months in a Chevy wagon with volunteers Arthur and Susie Ward. Our “on the road trip.”

Back in Bristol PA, my hometown we both became teachers. For me a Catholic Elementary and then High School; for Diane Special Education.

We attended Quaker Meeting in Yardley and soon moved to a rental house on the canal in the borough. Small town.

In 1971 we rented a house with John and Barbara Paglione on Old York Road in New Hope.

We had new summer work experiences in New Hope, for several years, Diane worked at Japan Artisans in town; I worked on Ed and Paul Daniels’ farms in Pineville.

We became close friends with Rodney and Ragna Hamilton (a Holocaust survivor).

We both went back to college, an education degree for Diane from Trenton State; an MA and Ed.D for me from Temple.

Jenny was born. Fireworks for us.

For several years we chartered a 30 foot sailboat in Rock Hall, MD on the Chesapeake with Susan and Jerry Taylor.

The Alonzo’s, Taylors, Pagliones, Sears, Dyes, Corley’s, Gallaghers, became close friends from college, work and Yardley.

We bought a small house, 121 N. Delaware Ave, in Yardley borough between the Delaware Canal and Delaware river. In the 1980s we built a major addition to the house.

Jenny grew; a delight.

We continued working, Diane for the Bucks County Intermediate Unit; for me, Holy Ghost Prep.

In 1976 we made our first joint trip to Europe — England and Scotland. Ireland, Germany-Italy-Switzerland-France-Holland, then Denmark-Norway followed in trips. Then Germany-Italy. All were about five weeks.

For ten years we rented Rattlesnake Bank on Polpis Road in Nantucket. A great isolated rental cottage, beaches, biking, hiking, history, restaurants, music and speakers — Nantucket had it all.

Jenny got married to Robert Kwait.

Our grandson, Eli and grand daughter, Vivienne were born.

We enjoy quite a few 2 to 4 night get-aways from the Outer Banks, Chesapeake Bay, N.J., PA, NY and New England. Maine is a favorite.

We enjoyed food shopping at farm markets and speciality stores, gardening and cooking.

We both like reading history and visiting historical sites.

When the Nantucket cottage was sold we began renting in Orleans, Cape Cod on Pilgrim Lake, then Aryes Pond. About ten years now with Jenny, Rob, Eli and Viv.

We elevated our house in 2007 after three floods.

We retired in 2014.

We spent a week on an archaeological dig at Monticello, James Madison’s house in VA.

Weekly lunches at favorite and newly discovered local restaurants is a fun activity for us.

We see our grandkids in Gladwyne or Yardley almost once a week.

Tonight we are headed to a new Cape restaurant, Swan River Seafood. Until next year.






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Cape Cod Focus

For many years, I’ve written about Nantucket time. Hours, days, weeks; quiet, relaxed, no hurry, unconcerned about when or what. No need to feel I have to do something, be someplace. I discovered Nantucket time after several summer weeks on the island. I find it on Cape Cod; sometimes at home in Yardley. It’s a precious feeling.

This summer I’ve been thinking about a related mood. I call it Cape Cod Focus. It involves all five senses. Being attentive, attuned to what’s happening around you. It’s a meditative focus. A deep breath of experience. It may involve hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, tasting. It works in tamden with Nantucket time.


There was an off and on gentle rain this Tuesday morning. I watched the drops splash in Aryes Pond; they drop from the green leaves; some wash the window. The sound varies; it’s fast, hard, regular then slows; quiet intermittent, drops rustling leaves, falling on the sandy ground, feeding moss and lichen. In the distance there are crows; maybe complaining to the osprey that passes through or sits in a dead tree. Even a chain saw across the pond catches my attention. Usually an annoying sound but this morning the off and on whine makes me think about cutting firewood for the approaching fall. Light and warmth.

Several days ago about 10:30 Diane and I took our beach chairs to Tonset Road landing. There was one other family sitting on the beach. We settled in. About 25 sail and motor boats swayed, slowly, quietly in the light breeze. I stared across Nauset Harbor, beyond the boats to the long spit of Nauset Beach. To my left was Weeset Point on Stony Hill; to the left Pricilla beach at Nauset Heights. My eyes pulled back to the moored boats. Their sway was hypnotic. The other beach family chatted, grandparents talking to a young girl and younger boy. It didn’t matter what they said, what I heard was concern, interest, love. The young boy and his grandfather walked to the water’s edge. Peaceful.

We spent another day at Pleasant Bay. The experience was similar. Blue sky, warm sun, swaying boats. A little more people activity. I watched a couple on paddle boards. They circled the bay. Another launched a kayak. Out toward Nauset is a fleet of small sail boats. I sit and focus; there is a faint salt smell. Each beach is slightly different. All offer an opportunity for Cape Cod focus. Today it was Corn Hill beach in Truro. Just south of the bend in Cape Cod Bay, Provincetown, with the Pilgrim monument in the distance. The night before we sat at Pepe’s Wharf in Providence looking toward this Truro beach.

I recently read how water relaxes. “Our brain gets a break from the focused attention that much of daily life requires when we are near water. You can spend time on the water anywhere, anytime in your mind. And when the water you imagine is water you have enjoyed in real life, the positive effect will be even stronger, Dr. Nichols says. Often when I feel overwhelmed, I close my eyes and picture myself sailing years ago off the coast of Michigan with my dad and sisters. I visualize the sun sparkling on the water, the sound of the waves splashing against the boat, the voices of my family. Almost immediately, I feel calmer.” Dr. Nichols book is called “Blue Mind.” At Tonset, Pleasant Bay and other beaches I sit back watch and listen as the rhythmic waves lap the shore.

One day we sat at Fort Hill, the beginning of the National Seashore. There is a great hiking loop that passes by Hemenway Point and Salt Pond, open to day clammers at certain times. We decided not to walk but simple enjoy the scene. It overlooks a marsh area and a channel that goes through Nauset to the Atlantic.

This week while everyone went shopping in Provincetown, I sat on a bench at Macmillan Pier in Provincetown. The focus was people and vehicle watching. Lots of tourists, old timers, some on bicycles, gay couples, and transvestites advertising an evening show. Provincetown busses, bicycled tourist carts, vans, packed cars, and bicycles. Taking photos, photography helps focus, isolates and saves an image.

“By celebrating the small stuff and feeling gratitude for it, things you never noticed before will come into focus.” Jane Trumbull, Complaining isn’t a Solution!

“To focus means to bring your attention to the center, to concentrate on one thing intently in order to gain clarity.” Cheryl Richardson, Life Makeovers

“What you focus on grows. What you concentrate on is what you see more of in your life.” Robin Sharma

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Provincetown Dunes

Diane and I have been to Race Point Beach in Provincetown several times. It’s an easy drive from Race Point Road, walk to the beach, sit and watch the seals, then drive into town by Province Land Road. In 2018 I read “The Watch at Peaked Hill: Outer Cape Cod shack life, 1953-2003,” by Josephine Breen Del Deo.   My blog review is: https://wordpress.com/post/vprofy.wordpress.com?jetpack-copy=11255. It’s the story of the Provincetown dune shacks most famously occupied by Provincetown’s bohemian community — Eugene O’Neill, John Dos Passos, Jackson Pollack, Tennessee Williams, E.E. Cummings, Henry David Thoreau, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac are among the many famous writers and artists who stayed in the shacks. I am currently reading “The Shores df Bohemia: a Cape Cod story, 1910-1960” (2022) by John Taylor Williams. When I finish I’ll write more about Provincetown’s bohemian community.

Yesterday at 2:30 we finally got to take Art’s Dune Tour to the shacks. Somehow years ago I missed that there was a dune shack walking path, a strenuous 2 mile walk to the water starting at Snail Road, off of Route 6. Parking is along the highway. Art’s Tour is a Provincetown institution, office located downtown off Commercial Street. From their website:

“Hello! My name is Rob Costa, son of Art Costa – the King of the Dunes! Our Family has had Art’s Dune Tours since 1946 – that’s over half a Century in business! My dad started this company with a 1936 Ford Woody. He has been taking thousands and thousands of people from all over the world over the dunes of the Province Lands – The Cape Cod National Seashore. People who talked to my dad cherished the wonderful stories only he can tell in his charming way. If you were downtown and talked to Art, you were chatting with a legend. For those who have been on our tours and come back every year – I want to thank you on behalf of my entire family. For those who haven’t been with us – “You Gotta Have Art’s!” Please send us a note to say hello or if you need more info, contact us by phone at: 508-487-1950. Sincerely, Rob Costa”.

The tour was fantastic; a memorable ride. Our guide, Todd, is a retired CT art teacher, who spends winters in Portland, OR and summers in Provincetown. His narration consisted of dune and shack history, Provincetown trivia, natural history and humor. We joined a caravan of about six SUVs, six passengers each. The tour lasted a bit over an hour. There was one photo stop at the top of a high dune. The sandy, at times tire gutted road winds through the dunes but does not get too close to the shacks as to not invade the privacy of those staying in them.

One shack and property is privately owned. Some have lifetime leases on agreement with the National Seashore; some are now controlled by non-profits and rented through a lottery or to artist residencies. Todd has entered the lottery several years but no luck yet. He explained he’d like to stay a week alone absorbing the dune solitude, vibes, and weather. I might look into the lottery.

I recently blogged about the Mayflower: https://wordpress.com/post/vprofy.wordpress.com?jetpack-copy=14233. Todd pointed out Plymouth Pond, which in 1620 was a sheltered harbor where the Mayflower anchored. The access was filled in making it a pond. Another interesting tidbit was a dune where a scene from the Thomas Crown Affair was filmed. In 2019: “The Meyers Manx dune buggy driven by actor Steve McQueen in the 1968 movie The Thomas Crown Affair is up for auction—and could be yours. We are talking about the same dune buggy that McQueen took Faye Dunaway for a ride in. The famous beach scene features McQueen driving at high speeds on the sand with Dunaway laughing and screaming all the way. You too could experience the same joys McQueen did when he hit the throttle in the Manx.” Need to view the movie again.

We got good views of several shacks but just the dunes were worth the trip. The trip reminded Diane and I of beach drives we’ve taken to Great Point Lighthouse on Nantucket. Once we went with Ara’s Tours; another time we rented a Jeep and drove ourselves. Definitely memorable experiences.

I was surprised to learn that the Provincetown dunes were one covered with small, wind twisted shrub pine and other trees. Now dune grass is planted, beach plum and Rosa Ragose (rose hips) are common.
Todd pointed out a large wild cranberry bog and talked about Russian immigrants gathering dune mushrooms. From the internet: “Red Cap Boletus Mushrooms at Race Point in Provincetown? Yes, insisted the handsome older gentleman with bright blue eyes and a heavy Russian accent. It’s the last week in October, right? I’m heading to the dunes of Provincetown now (probably along with all the other Polish and Russian emigrees in Massachusetts) to gather Podosinovik  Mushrooms.  I parboil them and freeze them, then enjoy them all winter long.  I serve the red cap mushrooms with vodka to any guests who come calling.  In Russian these mushrooms are called Podosinovik because the  white-stemmed mushrooms have round red caps that are the color and shape of the leaves of the Osina Tree (the aspen tree).  I’d better hurry or the gatherers will have gathered all there is to gather!”

I don’t take as many photographs as I did in years gone by. Although I have my Canon with me, I pretty must just use my I-phone. Below are some photographs from yesterday’s dune explore. As said, I’ll write more about the shacks in another blog.



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