Novel Destinations

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Several years ago I bought a journal at the Library of Congress to record my dream travel destinations.  Unfortunately medical issues may now limit my options and I haven’t recorded much in the journal.  But I can still dream, hope, plan and I should.  I think it’s called a bucket list.  But how, why, does a place end up on my list. I remember saying I was ready to go to Europe in 1976 (specifically England) because I wanted to do photography.  I had a reason. I think I was influenced by Lawrence of  Arabia who traveled to Italy to study architecture, churches and cathedrals.  A purpose.

I just finished reading “Novel Destinations: literary landmarks from Jane Austin’s Bath to Ernest Hemingway’s Key West,” by Shannon Schmidt and Joni Renton.  It’s one of those books about books; a genre I like.  The authors like to explore, visit sites, houses, places associated with writers.  Their travels are primarily in the United States and Europe.  Since I majored in literature at Boston College, I enjoy reading classic authors, traveling to their homes, exploring their sources of inspiration, fantastic.

It was fun to read about places we’ve visited — for instance,  Hemingway’s Spanish villa in Key West; or the Alcott house in Concord.  The replica cabin of Henry David Thoreau on Walden Pond was a special pilgrimage for me.  I recall a fairly recent stop at a Robert Frost house in Vermont on a snowy afternoon.  We’ve been to the Pearl Buck “Green Hills” farm house in Perkasie several times. Most recently to see a display of community decorated Christmas trees.  There is the Edgar Allen Poe house in Philadelphia and Washington Irving’s  “Sunnyside” on the Hudson in NY.  We’ve intentionally visited (but should spend the night) in the Algonquin Hotel in  NYC open to the literary vibes.  We’ve had drinks in the Plaza like Scott and Zelda.

It was interesting to see how many areas had walking tours of places from the authors’ lives or places related to the characters in their books. Bars, restaurants, hotels are frequently featured.    The last time we were in London, I wanted to take a Sherlock Holmes walking tour.  I’d been to the SH pub with it’s  recreated rooms; and I’d walked past 221b Baker Street.  But to just tour the city with Holmes and Watson, in a hanson cab maybe.  This should be entered in my destinations journal.

There are places closer to Yardley.  I’ve never been to the Walt Whitman house in Camden or the James Fenimore Cooper house in Burlington.  We’ve talked about visiting Nathaniel Hawthorne sites in Salem, MA and the Mark Twain house in Hartford, CT.

More ambitious would be traveling to Cannery Row, Steinbeck territory or Harper Lee’s Monroeville, Alabama, “To Kill A Mockingbird.”  And how I would love to explore Dicken’s London; Hemingway and the expatriot’s Paris, and Joyce’s Dublin.

There is still time.  I need to find that journal, dream, hope but most importantly plan.

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Different Worlds

37181242-1765-4603-9A2B-8317D09DBA16I continue to reread books.  I was  drawn this week to “Ishi: in two worlds, a biography of the last wild Indian in North America,” by Theodora Kroeber.  Ishi was the lone survivor of a California Native American tribe, the Yani.  In the early 20th century he wandered into the white  “civilized” world.  He was “adopted” by anthropologists at the University of California and for several years lived in the anthropology museum.

Ishi’s story is fascinating.  Several chapters explore how he and a small band of this tribe lived concealed in the hills.  Slowly the survivors died and Ishi was alone.  He emerges and adapts to a new life living the the museum.  White man’s customs and expectations.  He is a curiosity, exhibition specimen, but somehow seems to retain his personal, ancestral identity. Ishi shows his new white friends how to make fire, skin animals, chip arrow and spear heads.

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Ishi seems to understand and adapt to white culture.  He accepts something like a handshake because although foreign and strange to him it is the way of the new world.  I recall an encounter with a group Nicaraguan teens.  They were hanging out near their cars along Lake Managua.  I wanted to photograph them.  But how should I approach?    One boy waved to me.  I approached; took some fun photos.  We had crossed a cultural divide.

 

Another recent reread was “Gangsters, Murderers, and Weirdos” — can you guesss, “New York City’s Lower East Side,” by Eric Ferrara.  Several years ago we spent several days in NYC with John and Barbara Paglione.  One afternoon we took a tour with the author.  The Lower East Side, Little Italy, Chinatown.  Ferrara responded to our “food” interests pointing out restaurants, bakeries, groceries,  and the last pickle shop in the neighborhood.  Of course I ordered his book from Amazon.

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The Lower East Side was a different world.  Ferrara explores it through newspaper and police records.  Much of what he discovers is sordid.  Street after street; block  after block; house after house; the scene of all types of crimes; shootings; murders.  It’s an interesting read.  Most characters are not famous; although there is the ocassional well known Lucky Luciano or Meyer Lansky.  Would be a fantastic guide for a walk in the neighborhood.

So many books.  So many worlds.

 

 

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Rivers

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A few weeks ago I woke up about six and  went to the National Weather Service River prediction page.  It had rained heavy during the night and the gauge at Trenton showed a straight line up several feet.  The prediction had been a gradual rise to about 16 feet.  Would it continue to rise? So quickly.    I check some upriver gauges but it’s hard to tell. About seven a new prediction showed the rise stopping, going down, and the over the next few days going back up slowly to about 16 feet.  More rain expected and the reservoirs in New York were spilling (which they had been for weeks).

With the sun up I noticed the low land along Morgan was flooded.  The water was from Garlits Pond, which is feed by a ditch running along the canal.  The canal may have overflowed just enough to fill the pond to overflow but not enough to flood the neighborhood.  A walk on the canal in the morning showed that’s exactly what happened.  Canal overflow was in a small 4 feet strip.

Living between the Delaware River and canal makes us very aware of weather conditions, rainfall, and potential flooding.  It can happen with the Spring snow thaw, a hurricane, breaking ice packs that are damming river water, local rain flooding the canal.  Many  in the flood plain believe that the major floods of 2004, 05 and 06 were increased due to overflows from upriver reservoirs — Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink. Frequently all three are at or close to 100% capacity forced to release.  Prior to the early 2000 floods, the reservoirs were frequently at 80% capacity and could hold back some heavy rain, instead of spilling and  releasing water.

The Delaware is part of the Wild and Scenic River system.  330 miles of the main stem through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware flow free.  If I understand correctly, the three dam/reservoirs previously discussed and others are on tributaries. These dams  were created to provide drinking water for New York City.  Not wanting to be without clean water, NY wants to keep to reservoirs filled.  The Delaware River Basin Commission, which oversees the reservoirs, after the 2004-06 floods, claimed that 100% filled dams spilling water did not contribute to flooding.  Since then they have instituted minor flood control measures accepting some responsibility.

In 1965 there was a proposal to build a Delaware River dam at Tocks Island.  The federal government began to condemn land for the project.  Supporters of the dam cited the benefit of hydroelectric power and flood control.  In 1955 there was a major flood on the river.  Protests against the dam grew strong.   Abbie Hoffman, a 1960s anti-war activist,  arrived in the Delaware Valley.  Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas led a thousand people in protest.  The Tocks Island Dam was defeated by 1975.  The Delaware would continue to run free. But not all rivers run free.

E0D33988-F528-4426-AD4E-5A19522603F5I just finished rereading “ Northwest Passage: the Great Columbia River” by William Dietrich.  What a story; what a river.  Unlike the Delaware, the Columbia has been dammed, and dammed again, and again.   There are dozens of dams on the main stem and tributaries.  Why?  Some were to provide irrigation water.  And then hydroelectric power. Maybe flood control.   I recognize the dam names Bonneville and Grand Coulee.   Among the many side effects is the impact of dams on the salmon fisheries and Native Americans. Obviously not positive.  Ladders, seeding may help but the historic salmon runs on the Columbia have ended and will not return.

Ten years ago we had a trip planned to explore the Columbia River with my sister Marylee and Norvel.  It didn’t happen as planned.  Recently I’ve been thinking of my “must visit”  places.  Maybe the Columbia.  Until then I’ll continue to monitor the Delaware. No salmon; some shad.

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Christmas Season Begins

Sunday we went to the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia to see, should I say to hear, Handel’s Messiah.  Yannick Nezet-Seguin was the conductor, Philadelphia Orchestra.  Diane thought we saw it with Vicky and Ted Dehne, probably decades ago.  Yesterday afternoon was a memorable performance.  Yannick is so energetic; a holiday elf; constantly in motion.

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Most of the Westminister choir pieces were familiar.  I tried to follow the story — birth, suffering, death, resurrection of Christ.  When first performed in Dublin in 1742, it was controversial; Christ’s life a source of music entertainment, didn’t seem right!  Now it’s traditional Christmas.  We had dinner in Estia.

I decided that Monday would be the beginning of the season.  Cold enough, in the 20s.  I spent several hours writing Christmas cards.  There are many choices today.  Some don’t send cards.  Then there is Facebook or email.  Many families have a photograph card printed.  For several years we designed a letter with photos from the year.  I still enjoy just writing a personal card.  As I work through the list, beginning alphabetically, Alonzo, Bonnema, Corley . . . . It’s an opportunity to remember and reflect on relatives and friends.  I usually develop some standard lines but most cards have a personal touch; something about the recipients.

 

Our card list is between 40 or 50.  We never send to friends and relatives we will see or talk with on the phone.  Cards are for relatives we don’t communicate with regularly; friends we rarely see; former collegues; ghosts from our past.  A decade or two ago I bought a photo album and mounted a selection of cards sent to us over the years.  Who saves Christmas cards?  It’s time to dig out the album.

I’ve brought up most of the boxes of decorations.  For years they were in the “hard to access” attic.  Last year Jenny suggested we put them in the basement.  Much easier. This week we should buy a tree.  Several years ago we discovered a Silver Tip fir at Terrain in Chester County.  Imported from the Sierra Nevada mountains it was expensive but had a sparse branch configuration that we liked.  Last year, no Silver Tip,  Noble Firs were offered as an alternative.  We’ll have to decide this year on a Terrain Noble or a more traditional Douglas Fir, Frazier Fir or other local variety.  There are many places in Bucks we’ve bought/ cut in the past.

Christmas lights. Diane always laments our lack of outside lights. There were years when I strung up quite a few. And years when one string hung on the balcony.  We do have nice door wreaths.  Several to be used annually.  Some of our indoor decorations are 50 years old.  In the 1970s, Snipes nursery in Morrisville sold nice wooden German Christmas decorations.  Each year we purchased something.  A tree ornaments is purchased almost every year. We often tried to relate the ornament to some significant event from the year.

Gifts.  I’ve ordered some theatre tickets and restaurant gift cards.  But no real personal presents yet.  It seems to get more difficult each year.  Diane buys most gifts.  But I like to be part of the process. Tomorrow I’ll begin to look online.  I’d prefer buying from a local, at least Bucks or Philadelphia business, but online can generate ideas.

I think we’ll have Christmas dinner here.  Kwaits, Diane’s brother, maybe my sister Liz will join us.   I should cook/ bake something special.  Still time to check cookbooks.

Christmas season has begun.  Hopefully some nice snowfalls, walks in the cold, time for memories.   A time for family, friends, and traditions.

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