Walking the Dog

Do you remember Rufus Thomas’s hit ” Walkin the Dog.”

Walking the dog
I’m just a walking the dog
If you don’t know how to do it
I’ll show you how to walk the dog …

 

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The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith the Grateful Dead and many others did covers.  I remember reading once that we should walk like a dog, slowly, using our senses to be aware of everything.  Since my medical issues I’ve been forced to walk a slower pace.  I walk the dog.  I’ve long been a fan of Thoreau who wrote in “Walden” about the wilderness as a tonic for body and spirit.  And just recently discovered a Japanese practice.

“Forest bathing—basically just being in the presence of trees—became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy. Nature appreciation—picnicking en masse under the cherry blossoms, for example—is a national pastime in Japan, so forest bathing quickly took. The environment’s wisdom has long been evident to the culture: Japan’s Zen masters asked: If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, does it make a sound.”  Walking the dog.

A part of Diane’s reason for having a dog is that it forces the walk.  Although I believe in a daily walk, there were quite a few cold winter days that I skipped.  Diane had not choice; Nala, the rescue we got in the fall is her project.  For Diane a walk isn’t around the yard or even just along the canal in back of the house.  Most days she drives to a different place.  Since the weather has improved I’ve joined in fairly regularly.

 

Goat Hill Overlook outside Lambertville was a challenge for me.  Most of my walking the past 8 months have been on the canal.  It’s generally level.  I was pleased that Goat Hill didn’t present a problem.  The view of New Hope, the river and Lambertville is fantastic.  Nala loves it because the area is “dog friendly.”  Users accept and let their dogs off leash.  We discovered Goat Hill about 6 years ago. Having lived in New Hope in the 1970s and explore the countryside we were amazed that we were unaware of the trail.  Then I discovered it’s only been a public trail for a few years.  We began to hike it regularly, there is a gravel road and a cliff path through forest and rocks.  Our best trip was in late summer several years ago when we picked 12 quarts of blackberries (at $5 a pint, that’s over $100 in berries).  We ate them fresh, made preserves, pies, and juice.

 

The next day we decided to go to the 121 acre Fiddler’s Creek Preserve (Hopewell Township).  Although we live in PA, we’ve found many trails and paths across the river.  Check out the website of the NJ Trail Association.  Much of this particular land preserve was part of a lumber mill complex owned by the Titus family (Titusville is down the road).  This day we walked in a large fenced area that is being reforested with native species.  The fence is deer protection.  It’s another area where Nala can run free.  She and we love it.  Spring was been slow coming this year but we enjoyed a warm sun as we worked our way through the field.  In the same area we could have walked in a ravine along the creek.  We did this a few weeks ago when close friends, the Pagliones, were visiting.  And across the road is the Baldpate preserve.

 

On day three, we drove just above Stockton to Prallsville Mills and walked along the Delaware and Raritan canal towpath. This part of the canal is a feeder that was originally built to supply water to the main D and R that runs from Bordentown, through Trenton to Raritan.  The feeder begins at Bulls Island Recreation Area where there is a foot bridge across the river to Lumberville, PA.  We head toward Bulls Island from Prallsville but didn’t make it all the way — it’s about 3 miles.  Unfortunately on the towpath, Nala must remain on leash.  Despite a halter she will pull particularly if I am walking ahead.

If we made it to Bulls Island, we could have treated ourselves to some snacks or lunch at the Lumberville General Store across the street from the Black Bass, a favorite riverside restaurant.  We settled on the towpath and the Prallsville mill complex.  Originally this early industrial village had a saw mill, linseed oil mill, grist mill, and grain silo. Today the complex hosts art and craft shows, and a variety of community activities.  The canal from Bulls Island to Trenton is 23 miles.  Some sections are better walks than others. Then there is the section toward Bordentown and north to  Trenton.

 

The next day we decided on Rosedale Park above Pennington (Mercer County).  This is a favorite for Nala.  There is a small dog and a big dog park.  No membership or rules. But we skipped the dog park and walked around the lake (only a few cormorants) to a forest path that leads to Willow Pond.  Rosedale lake area is part of Mercer Meadows, 1600 acres with four bodies of water and miles of trails.  What’s great about walking in NJ, they seem to connect areas.  A warming sun, we find a bench and sit for a while on Willow Pond.

We found most of these parks, preserves, trails when we traded I-95 for back roads when driving to Princeton.  We also found several interesting restaurants and farm markets.  In Hopewell there is the Brick Farm Market, a few tables, deli and prepared foods, bakery, cheese and meat department, some packaged goods, fruits and vegetables.  They also opened a restaurant.  Blue Moon Acres in Pennington is a micro – green farm originally in Buckingham, PA.  When they expanded to Pennington, they began growing rice and the market sells “all local.”  There is produce, honey, jams, cheese and meats, some packaged goods.  Almost all local.  Walking the dog can easily turn into lunch or farm market shopping.

 

 

Our next walk took us to Bulls Island.  In the 1970s, I camped there with HGP scouts.  Today that area is closed due to a disease attacking Ash trees.  There are a lot of cyclists taking the D and R Trail toward Stockton (we were on it a few days previously).  Instead we decided on a nature trail between the river and canal.  The chilly weather warmed as the sun rose reminding us it’s spring.  The last section of the trail is cobble stones.  Why?  Interesting but hard to walk on.  It ends at a dam or wall separating the canal from the river.

At the visitor center, a ranger explains that the cobblestone path was used by a quarry.  It wasn’t totally clear but sparked a local history interest.  The center also had several brochures and maps of areas we could explore.  When I told the ranger I was walking the dog, she recommended Horseshoe Bend Park a few miles west.  There was a big, very big dog park.  We headed there.  She was right.  Walking trails, rural dog park.  What more could we ask for.  Lunch actually.

We continued on to Frenchtown, the bridge to PA and down river to  the Lumberville General Store.  Although Nala seems fine in the car after a walk we decided on an order and car picnic.  Unfortunately the sandwiches were bland, mundane.  We expect more when we are walking the dog.

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When was America great?

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President Trump constantly tells us he is “making America great again.”  It’s was  a rallying cry in the campaign and continues during his presidency.  When does he think America was great?  I didn’t think I ever heard.  I knew it wasn’t during the Clinton or Obama years.  His criticism of Bush and Reagan policies seemed to eliminate those years.  Hopefully not Nixon.  Certainly not the Kennedy years or 60s and 70s. So I googled it.  The only reference I found was a New York Times interview from March, 2016.  In the NYT article, Trump explained  America was great at the turn of the century with military and industrial expansion and in the 1940s and 1950s.  Given our 250 year history, it seems according Trump, we weren’t great very much.

I had guessed the 40s and 50s.  But why?  I immediately thought of ” The Greatest Generation” by Tom Brokaw.   My parents were part of it.  They grew up in the 1930s depression.  They sacrificed and triumphed during the 1940s war years. During WWII, there were clear cut bad guys — real bad.  We with our allies were the good guys.  We would defeat the Italians, the Germans and the Japanese.  It was a good war. America was great.

 

In the 1950s, the greatest generation married and raised families.  Interstate highways were built; steel plants expanded; Levitt and others constructed thousands of suburban houses.  Cars rolled out of Detroit; TVs and new electric appliances flooded the market.  Wages rose; the economy was good.  In his best seller, Brokow records the good lives of the greatest generation.

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It’s understandable why Trump would look nostaligacally at the 40s and 50s.  But was everything great?  During  the war, African Americans were segregated in the military.  At home conditions were unacceptable.  Civil rights for Blacks simmered as a major issue (and continues today, decades later).   After the war, women were sent back to the kitchen.  Most gays remained in the closet.  Communities worried about juvenile delinquency.  More electrical production and cars produced more pollution.  The turmoil of the 1960s didn’t just happen, it was fermenting in the 40s and 50s (and before).  There were problems during the period of Trump’s “America was great.”

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And of course in the 50s, there was the Cold War.  The United States was up against the godless Soviet Union and China. Were we always great?  In addition to interstate highways, cars and consumer goods, the federal government spent, and spent more, on nuclear weapons, ICBMs, bombers, submarines.  And then there was the Berlin Wall, Korean War and the beginnings of Vietnam.  Greatness, good times are not perfect.

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The 1940s and 1950s as a time when America was great struck me when I recently re-read Bob Greene’s “Once Upon a Town.”  Its the amazing story of North Platte, Nebraska’s canteen during WWII.  Residents came together and fed the soldiers passing through on troop trains.  During the war years the community serviced 25 or 30 trains a day.  They fed millions.  Why? It was the right thing to do. Greene interviews people in the town and servicemen who passed through.  He writes about small town America, Main streets, mom and pop stores, traditional values.

Another Greene “when America was great” book is titled “Duty: a father, his son and the man who won the war.”  Greene’s father was a WWII veteran.  Bob only learned to understand his father and the war generation after his father died. His dad admired Paul Tibbits, the pilot who dropped the bomb on Hiroshima?  How could he drop the bomb and kill all those people Bob thought, until he met Tibbits after his father’s death.  Bob, who was critical of America, Vietnam, his father’s generation, learned to appreciate the “greatness” of Tibbits and his father.  Bob saw greatness in America.

I can agree with Trump there was a great America in the 40s and 50s.  But there were also problems and issues that weren’t all great.  Similarly in the 1960s there was greatness as Americans struggled to provide rights for all Americans.  There was greatness in our attempts to alleviate, reduce, poverty in America.  There was greatness in the 1970s when we began to liberate women from male domination. There was greatness in our growing awareness of environmental problems and possible solutions.  There greatness in our attempt at nuclear reduction and the end of the Cold War.   Of course there were issues and events in the 60s and 70s that weren’t great. And many of those problems continue today.

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My point.  Trump’s slogan that he will “make America great again” annoys me.  It recalls a golden age which never existed.  History and greatness is not black and white. There is a mix, greatness and failure.  On another level many do not see Trump’s actions as President as great.  His rolling back on environmental regulations may be good (maybe not in the long run) for business but not for environmental quality.  His attitude toward immigration isn’t very great.  His health care reforms haven’t been proven great.  His administration’s attacks on civil rights and those in poverty isn’t great.  His criticism and attacks on the courts, Congress, FBI, and Justice Department are not great.  His support for women is far from great.  It’s probably too early to totally judge his foreign policy.

In short Trump sold a dream — America was once great and he will restore that greatness. A percentage of the population believed him.  It sounded good.  Some still believe.   Others believe that he’s mining the past for beliefs and policies that are a return to many things that have not been great.  Although some like what he’s doing, I think it’s far from a majority and I don’t recall any “greatness.”  I don’t think I’m alone in that assessment.

Instead of invoking a nostalgia for a great perfect past that never existed,  we need to articulate and demand things that will build on what is great about America.  More on that later.

 

 

 

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Easter Tradition

 

 

 

 

1957, sixty years ago, I was ten years old.  Easter Sunday we came home from church and my mother noticed that a butterfly (a Swallowtail) had emerged from a cocoon on a branch in a large jar in my bedroom.  The previous fall I had placed the branch and a caterpillar in the jar.  Mom and I were quite excited.  She talked about the miracle of life.  “And,” she said, ” It happened on  Easter Sunday.

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Catholicism was an important part of our upbringing.  My four sisters and I had an Irish Catholic mother and an Italian Catholic father. For the most part we attended Catholic schools and attended church, Saint Mark’s in Bristol, every Sunday, holidays, weddings and funerals.  Starting maybe in sixth grade, I was an alter boy for about three years.  I served Sunday masses, an evening Sodality (women’s prayer group), and best of all weddings (usually weekends) and funerals (usually weekdays when we got to leave school). It was fairly lucrative since you received tips for the special events.   George Nelson and I had it sewed up for a year or two.  Easter week was quite busy with events on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday and of course Easter Sunday.

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This year I saw that Terrain at Styers, our favorite garden center in the Chester County, was closed from 1 to 3 on Good Friday, the hours Jesus is said to have sufferered and died on the cross.  In the 1950s and 1960s I remember many businesses on Mill Street in Bristol where we lived,  closed.  On the years when I didn’t  take part in a church service during those hours I had to find something to do.  One year I went to the Bristol Theatre to see “Toby Tyler.”  I recently saw it was on TV.  My Good Friday attendance at a movie was something I had to keep a deep secret — if my mother found out?  Several years in high school, I hung out in the surplus section of Spector’s Army and Navy store on Mill Street.  Time was spent looking at gear I might use camping and talking with the owner Mitchell,  a family friend, Jewish, so Spector’s didn’t close.

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In the weeks prior to Easter Sunday we all got new clothes.  For my sisters it meant a dress, shoes, white gloves and flowery hat, maybe a dress coat.  For the younger girls, the coat may have been a hand me down.  I think my grandfather Profy may have financed some of these purchases.  Interestingly although my grandmothers liked to see us dressed up; neither were interested in shopping.  However Grand pop sometimes was the one to take me shopping for a new suit, shirt, tie, maybe shoes and a coat.  Although there was a good clothing store on Mill street — Edward’s.  They were Jewish.  At first I didn’t understand, grand pop would say “Buy from your own kind.”   So we drove to Trenton, the well know boys clothing  store, Donnelly’s & Sons.  “Our kind?”  I assume they were Irish.  Several years he took me to Caucci’s in Bristol Township.  They were Italian.  “More our kind.”  If my father was doing the shopping we would go to South Street in Philadelphia where the merchants were Jewish.  I also remember 2nd floor places on Chestnut where you were asked for a secret password before admittance.  They made clothes with Wanamaker labels for instance but sold the same suit without the label cheaper.  The password entrance really made it seem like a great deal.

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Another Easter tradition was going to Grants, a 5&10 cent store on Mill Street.  In the basement, near the toy section, were the baby chicks.  Some were a furry yellow but others were green, blue or pink.  Easter pets.  Can you imagine.  I think one year I got several. My recollection was they grew bigger and father said he would take them to a farm. They disappeared.  My sister said mother would never allow us to get Grants chicks and that this memory is more likely a wish or dream.  I do know as the oldest, only boy in the family I got away with things my sisters could only dream about.

During the years I was a Boy Scout, I sold Easter candy from Warner’s candy on Route 13.  We earned a percentage profit which went to the cost of our summer camp.  It was a fun project, taking the orders and making deliveries.  I sold hundreds of dollars worth.

 

 

 

Saturday evening we dyed eggs.  Probably about two dozen. The next morning the eggs and Easter baskets would be hidden around the house.  When we got up, maybe before our parents, we searched for the eggs and our basket.  In the basket would be a chocolate egg (typically coconut) a rabbit (I liked the white chocolate), jelly beans, maybe pink and yellow marshmallow rabbits and chickens (hated them), chocolate balls in colored tinfoil.  A special treat I liked was a large egg that you looked through on one end into an imaginary scene. It came out every year.

I don’t recall St. Mark’s having a Sunrise service.  More likely in our new Sunday best we went to a 8 or 9 o’clock Mass.  For some reason even though it was only about 1/2 a mile, Father would drive us.  Getting dressed up took time.  But after Mass we’d walk the 3 blocks with our cousins to my Aunt Ellen’s house on Radcliffe.  If lucky we’d be offered breakfast.  At home my grandfather Profy might visit or we’d cross the street to visit him and my grandmother.  As mom prepared dinner, other relatives might stop for a visit.  Especially if Uncle Albert, Aunt Carol and the boys were visiting from Flushing, New York.  They stayed in the Bristol Motel or in later years had a RV that they parked near the river behind our apartment. It was always a big deal when they visited.

Easter dinners were usually late afternoon.  There were tulips or an Easter Lily plant that someone, maybe us kids,  had given Mom.  Some years Nanny (my mother’s mother) might attend or her sister Aunt Lucy.  Sometimes it was the NY Profy’s.  Mom usually served ham, maybe scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, a green salad and some vegetable, peas come to mind.  I don’t remember a particular dessert — although pound cake (with ice cream) was a standard for her.  My sisters and I might dig into the Easter baskets.

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After dinner we would probably watch TV.  Ed Sullivan was a Sunday favorite for Nanny. And she would get her way.  I usually hated it.  Some years there was a biblical movie.  This year I watched some of the 1965 “The Greatest Story Ever Told.”  Easter was always a quiet holiday; low key; family orientated.  The colorful flowers, eggs, chocolate, warmer weather, and longer daylight spoke to the change of season, renewal, rebirth. We were reminded of out Catholic heritage.

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Thankfully, some of the themes, beliefs and traditions of those early years continue this Easter 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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