Reading: Journaling

I read about May Sarton, looked her up on Amazon and ordered “At Seventy: a Journal.”  It was published in 1984 and is a daily journal of Saton’s seventieth year.  Since I keep many journals, one is a daily log much like Sarton’s; and I will be 73 this July I thought reading another’s journal would be interesting.

Sarton is a poet with quite a few published books.  Several are journals.  She lives alone in York, Maine.  I was immediately struck with the number of friends in her life.  Locals but also people, mainly women, around the country.  Some come to visit her for days; and there are many lunches and dinners, frequently hosted at her house.  Usually with scotch, her preferred drink.  She also corresponds with many — friends and aspiring writer- poets who write her.  Sometimes responding in a dozen letters in a day.

Sarton does several readings during the year, at bookstores, college campuses or women’s organizations.  A main theme in the journal is the tension between activity and socializing and solitude.  She often takes a sigh of relief when she is finally alone.  A time to write, reflect and just enjoy the quiet.

Sarton has a dog and cat.  And she has a large garden, flowers and vegetables.  She does get help maintaining the garden and house.  But she is hard working and independent and does a lot herself.  There are many entries that record her love of music, the ocean, flowers and birds.

Occasionally Sarton comments on current news.  She is liberal in her viewpoint.  But most of her writing is confined to the personal and everyday.  A simple but authentic journal.


I have kept a daily journal since high school when Frank Meehan, my Junior English teacher advised me to write daily if I wanted to be a writer.  Recently during the Coronavirus stay at home, I do write almost daily.  Like Sarton most is a basic record of what I did during the previous day, starting with the weather, my health, mental state, people contact, maybe what I eat, gardening, harvesting, fire building during the season, what I’m reading, movies I watch, people I write or call, shopping, and places I visit if I leave home. I may also record hopes, dreams, and plans, what I should be doing or what I want to do. Recently I frequently comment on the news events of the day.    I don’t view this writing for publication (Sarton does) nor do I expect others to read it. For me journaling serves as a reflection, a release, organizing my thoughts about I’ve done and what I plan to do.

I keep several other journals, restaurants, movies, books, travel, reflections for my grand kids, and significant events.  Since I retired in 2014, I’ve blogged.  Most blogs take a current event, experience or read (as this one) and run it through my life.  What’s it means it me?   It’s another form of journaling but is made public.  And I hope someone will read it, find a bit of enjoyment or enlightenment.   I might look for some other published journals to read.  Any suggestions?





Reading and dreaming

I’ve been reading quite a bit during the “stay at home.”  Not that it’s unusual, reading and books have been an important part of my life since elementary school.  I majored in and taught English; worked in a book bindery; was a librarian for several decades.  There has been a mix of genres the past few months.  Some new buys; others rereads from my collection.

I just finished “The Hotel: a week in the life of the Plaza,” by Sonny Kleinfield, a New York Times reporter.  “Hotel” was published in 1989.  Some might find it dated.  But I ordered it with the idea of taking a virtual trip to NYC since we wouldn’t be going any time soon.  We’ve been in the Plaza, the 5th  Avenue luxury hotel across from Central Park, several times.  At least twice we just went in to look around, probably around Christmas when we did Rockefeller Center, Saint Patrick’s, and other Avenue institutions.  At least one visit was with Jenny who had read “Eloise.” We had lunch in the Palm Court once and drinks in the Oak room.  But we never stayed there.

Kleinfield basically lives in the Plaza for one week; the book is broken up Monday through Sunday.  He spends time with all types of hotel employees; at the main desk, with bellhops, doormen, the concierge, the laundry rooms, maids, the kitchen staff, waitresses, bartenders, maintenance and management. Over 1,000 employees.   He also mingles with and interviews a variety of guests.  There are regulars, one older woman has a rent controlled suite that she has lived in for decades.  Businessmen, tourists, celebrities and VIPs.  At the end of the week he observes the arrival of the King and Queen of Sweden.


It’s really a fascinating look into the life of a luxury hotel.  And it’s amazing what goes into it’s operation.  Everyone Kleinfield meets has a story.  The customer is always right and if something goes wrong there will probably be comps, flowers, a box of candy or a free room.  They also can be extremely demanding.   There are elegant suites that cost upward $1,000 a night and small closet like rooms that go for several hundred.  Today there are about 300 rooms and suites in the Plaza; in the 1980s there were many more but some floors have been turned into condos.


The Plaza opened in 1907.  The architect was Henry Janeway Hardenbergh. French Chateau Style.  Many movies have scenes shot in the Plaza — including  North By Northwest, The Way We Were, The Front, Home Alone 2, Sleepless in Seattle, The Great Gatsby.  The list of famous guests is long; a few stayed for extended periods —  Frank Lloyd Wright, Truman Capote, the Beatles, Enrico Caruso, Cecil Beaton, Marlene Dietrich, Christian Dior, do you remember Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s drunken dive into the fountain in front of the main entrance.

The most most famous guest:

George Cozonis, Managing Director of The Plaza Hotel, explains, “Back in the day, the 1940s, there was a very famous performer, Kay Thompson, who performed at the Persian Room of the Plaza, the most famous nightclub in NY. She later learned to write books and also star in movies. So Kay Thompson in her spare time, when she was living at The Plaza and in between performances, came up with the story of Eloise, which is a six year-old little girl who lives in The Plaza and is very mischievous and always up to something and truly loves the luxury of the hotel. She orders room service and she runs around the hotel and meets guests and runs to Central Park with her turtle and little dog. That was 60 years ago. But Eloise, age six, still lives at The Plaza. We see her every day.” A delightful book.


In 1988 Donald Trump bought the Plaza Hotel from Westin.   Kleinfield mentions Trump’s purchase in the last chapter but I found a 2016 New York Times article that gave more detail. He wanted it so much he overpaid, $390,000.    He did major renovation, some were good, others tacky.  His wife Ivana was put in charge.  Her imperial manor dove away most of the senior management.  In 1992 he married Marla Maples in the Hotel.

From Bloomberg Businessweek:

“Trump had no choice but to give up the Plaza. He was in the midst of negotiating with Citibank and his other creditors to save what he could of his empire, and he couldn’t risk it all falling apart on the basis of one hotel. So in April 1995, the deal with Kwek and Alwaleed finally closed. It valued the hotel at $325 million, or $83 million less than what Trump had paid seven years earlier. The transaction was complex, with Kwek and Alwaleed agreeing to reduce the outstanding debt on the hotel to about $25 million from more than $300 million, in exchange for each receiving a stake in the hotel of just under 42 percent. Citibank was also to stay in the deal, with a 16 percent equity stake.”

In 2018 the government of Quatar purchased the Plaza for 600,000.


I hope that someday, when we are free from the Coronavirus, we can travel again to New York City.  The Plaza has changed, the Oak Room is closed; there are expensive condos. It’s not rated the best in NYC but there is still a sense of the classic, an ikon.  We won’t stay in the 30,000 a night suite but maybe can get a room for $500, probably not overlooking Central Park, always considered the best view.

Have you been to the Plaza?  What are you reading these days?










Summer 2020 will be very different.  And it is so hard to predict.  Will cases of Coronavirus stay low or will we have new outbreaks? Will states continue to “open up” or will there be renewed restrictions.  We are cancelling our two week August rental in Cape Cod.  We can get a deposit returned if we cancel by June.  Currently short term rentals are prohibited although that may change in the next few weeks.  Our grand kids were just notified that their Pocono summer camp is cancelled.  A summer unlike summers past.

For more than 40 years I taught in schools.  My school year usually ended in May.  If I was still working, I would soon be on my summer schedule.  Most summers were a mix of some work and extended vacation/travel.  For several years in the early 70s while teaching elementary school, I worked in construction.  My uncle helped me get a job with Roy Butterworth.  I moved from sheetrock to minor carpentry in house construction under the guidance of Bristol’s Gene Cordisco. It was a good experience.  One year I operated a “summer camp” out of our Yardley house.  The students had special needs and were part of my class.  Mornings were devoted to academics; afternoons were canoeing in the canal and field trips.  I dreamed of opening my own school.

Then we moved to New Hope and rented with the Pagliones.  The first summer, John and I drove around in one of our VW bugs looking for farm work.  In the Pineville post office we met Doris Daniels who suggested we contact her husband Paul.  The next day we were on the farm shoveling mud into cow stalls, driving a tractor, bailing hay, and a variety of other farm chores.  Paul had a dairy farm and adjacent his brother Ed had egg laying chickens.  For several years we worked for both. We were “green.” Paul told us he didn’t think we’d be back after the first day.

After 4 years in New Hope, Pagliones moved to Ann Arbor, graduate school.  We moved to Bristol until we found a house to buy in Yardley.  The summer of 75, we lived with friends, the Bonnema’s had moved their pottery studio to Bethel, Maine.  We lived with them and helped a bit around the studio and at craft fairs but also spent a lot of time hiking in the White Mountains.  A great summer.

I got a full time job at Holy Ghost Prep in 1974.  For a few years, I didn’t get paid but hung out a lot at school doing work in the library.  Later as Assistant Headmaster I worked year round with a generous vacation time.  In addition to scheduling, book ordering and other administrative tasks, I started a summer program.  This lasted about 10 years.  In about 1987,  I took a sabbatical and spent the next two summers working on my dissertation.  I did a little construction work on the side.

By 1990 with my doctorate in hand, I began teaching evenings and summers at LaSalle and Holy Family.  Some summers I’d sometimes have 3 courses.  I was still a full time librarian at HGP and would teach one or two evening college courses.  That continued until Rob Buscaglia asked me to join Auyandica, a service project to Nicaragua for high school students that he had started. For ten years I stopped teaching college in the summer.  Instead I went to Nicaragua and took other summer vacations.  When the Nicaragua project stopped in early 2000, I resumed summer teaching until a few years before I retired in 2014.


Vacation and travel have always been an important of this teacher’s summer.  In the 1970s we usually spent time at my Aunt and Uncle’s ocean front house in Harvey Cedars, Long Beach Island.  The year before Jenny was born we spent a lot of  time there into September and early October.  I commuted to work.  I have already mentioned the summer in Maine and several years we took camping trips to New England.  One year we rented a house in Searsport, Maine.  For several years in the 1980s we our get-away was anywhere from four days to two weeks sailing with Jerry and Susan Taylor on the Chesapeake Bay.  We rented a sailboat out of Rockport, Maryland.  Jerry was the accomplished sailor.

During to 1970-80s we took several trips to Europe.  The first was in 1976.  We went to England and Scotland.  Another year Ireland; and then Denmark and other Scandinavia countries. On these trips we combined some nights of camping with some in Bed and Breakfasts.  All these trips lasted about 5 weeks.  One year I went to Germany with Barbara Cavanaugh who hosted German trips for her Holy Ghost students.  I went to Munich before the group arrived and Diane came near the end of the trip.  Barbara and the kids went home; we traveled through Austria, Italy, France, Switzerland and I stayed for a few extra days in Amsterdam.

In the 1990s we discovered Nantucket.  An ad in a local Bucks County paper led us to a fantastic isolated cottage on Polpis Road outside of town.  For the next ten years, Nantucket was our two week summer destination.  It fit perfectly my idea of vacation travel.  A mix of the known and unknown; a mix of quiet isolation and serendipitous exploration. The familiar; the new.   We had hiking, bicycling, historic sites, museums, beaches, on the sound and ocean, restaurants and classic shops, bird watching, house tours, concerts and plays.  Always plenty of time for cooking and reading. Unfortunately we got a call from the owner in early 2000.  He was selling.  We looked but could never find a similar property for the price.

During three of the Nantucket years I went to Germany for three weeks on an HGP exchange program. The students lived with German families. Sandy, the German teacher organizer and I lived in the school rectory.  Most of our time was free except for a side trip when we took the kids to Munich or Berlin.  One year Diane met me in Germany and we spent several weeks in Italy.  It was my first trip to Roccavivara my grandfather’s hometown.  I retuned one Christmas with my father and in May 2015 spent two weeks there with my cousin Joey.

After Nantucket we rented in Cape May, Long Beach Island, and Cape Cod.  Then for two years we did Bed and Breakfasts for 2 or 3 nights from spring through the fall.  We stayed in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey.  Maybe 5 or more trips a year.  During the time there was a company selling B and B gift cards with a 20 or 30% discount.  I’d stock up.  Unfortunately their offers eventually stopped.


We finally decided on Orleans on Cape Cod as our regular vacation destination. In the past six or seven years we’ve rented two different houses.  The first was on Pilgrim Lake and the second on Ayres Pond.  We rented with my daughter and family which gave us a nice time with our grand kids.  The Cape was similar to Nantucket.  We like to return to familiar, favorite places but also like to explore and find something new.  There are the beaches on the bay and ocean and the kettle ponds, the National Seashore is exceptionally nice. We usually participate in several guided activities, including a boat explore.   We use various hiking trails, kayak or canoe. Restaurants, cooking seafood, galleries and shops in Wellfleet and Provincetown.  We enjoy historic and craft explores along Route 6A.  There are always games and reading at the house.

But this year I feel pretty certain we will not go to our Orleans rental on the Cape. What will we do?   It will depend on how the virus declines or increases as we get into June and July. Maybe we will feel safe to travel— multiple nights get-aways or a lucky rental.  Of course we might end up staying home, doing local walks, some day trips, gardening, cooking and take out food, in house movies, sitting and reading on the deck.  Whatever it is I will try for a mix, some familiar favorites, traditions if you will, but also find new explores, whether they be planned or serendipitous.  The best summers have alway had that mix.



Memorial Day – Tradition


I just watched a Memorial Day ceremony at the monument along the river across from the Yardley Inn.  Each year a small group gathers with flowers and flags.  There is a brief speech, a military gun salute and the playing of taps.  Watching it made me reflect on my own Memorial Days past.

Growing up in Bristol for years I marched in the Memorial Day parade. The parade started at Green Lane, down Pond Street to the cemetery on Route 13.  The route and the parade itself was long.  Troop 73 wasn’t the only youth group.  My sisters, Cissi, Vicky and Marylee marched with the Juniorettes.  There was a contingent of veterans, the high school band, military trucks, soldiers, fire company trucks and rescue squad equipment.  And the Bracken Cadets, an excellent marching band sponsored by the American Legion. In the beginning and the end were police cars.

I’m sure there were speeches at the cemetery although I don’t remember them.   Along the route, lined with residents and kids waving flags, there were women collecting donations for veteran organizations in return the donor got a paper red poppy.  There were lots of flags in the parade and all over town  After the ceremony we marched back to the American Legion Mill Street to Radcliffe Street.  Kids were given hot dogs, soda and ice cream.  Then we headed home.


Memory fails again when I try to remember the rest of the day.  I suspect some years we had a picnic at my Aunt and Uncle’s house on Radcliffe Street.  Most holidays we got together with them.  My cousin Ellen remembers her father pulling a large galvanized tin bucket out of the garage,  filling it with ice for soda and probably some beer. Uncle always drank small green bottled Rolling Rock.   If we didn’t go to Mignoni’s, we probably had hamburgers and hot dogs or even Delmonico steaks on our second floor porch and outdoor deck.  Father had a small charcoal grill that he would fire up.

Memorial Days just before, during and just after college are a blank.  I think it’s related to the role of tradition.  When we do something  ritually  it becomes a memory.  The years we lived in New Hope with the Pagliones are a similar blank.  I don’t recall any New Hope or Lambertville parade.  No traditions; no memory.  Then we moved to Yardley in the early 1970s.

The Yardley parade became a tradition for decades.  The participants were similar to those the the Bristol parade.  It was a bit smaller.  I have strong memories of the marching veterans, some year after year.  I remember a few names, Danny, Estelle (she road in a car).  There were a lot of fire trucks from surrounding municipalities.  We’d walk to Main Street with out neighbors, the Dyes.  Blond Katie and our red headed Jenny shared a stroller in the early years.  Political figures, frequently riding in cars, threw candy to the children sitting on the curbs.  The parade started on North Main and ended at the American Legion on South Main.  There were speeches, a gun salute and taps but with the kids we didn’t walk that far but headed home once the parade passed.

For eight years in the 1980s I was on Yardley Borough Council.  And Council marched in the parade.  Some years we rode in a car or truck but other years made the decision to walk. I never got into the candy throw.  Those years I did make it to the American Legion.  In addition to local politicians from the Borough, there were Lower Makefield supervisors, county officials and probably a state representative.  There was always a guest military officer that gave the main address.  Diane and Jenny didn’t usually make the walk, so I headed home back down Main Street.  I recall a few years getting a ride from Dave Heckler, a County-State politician.  I’m sure in the afternoon we had a picnic.  With the Dyes when they lived locally; alone after they moved.

Some years we skipped Yardley for a trip to visit my sister Vicky and her husband Ted in Darien, CN.  My parents, other sisters and children all went for the weekend.  The pool was opened although usually too chilly for the adults; the kids didn’t mind.  One night we enjoyed a seafood dinner, lobster, clams, oh so good.  On Memorial Day we drove to downtown Darien for the parade.  A few years we walked to Rowayton, a village in Norwalk.  The small parade there had kids participating on decorated bicycles.  Very small town.  These years were particularly nice since frequently the entire family got together.  Years later driving to or from New England past Darien I’d remember those weekends.  Family traditions.

In more recent years I have walked over the Mary Yardley footbridge to Main Street and watched the Yardley parade.  Barbecue at home. Some years Vicky and Ted hosted the family at their house in Phoenixville.  Although their was a town parade we never went but were satisfied socializing and eating in their porch.  Our third choice has been to go to Gladwyne and see our grandkids, Eli and Viv decorate their bikes and ride in the local parade.  The Gladwyne parade is very small.  No bands. Marching veterans,  a few politicians throwing candy, fire trucks, and some antique cars, and all those kids on decorated bikes. There are a few speeches downtown where people congregate, socialize, there is some food and drinks for sale.  Again very small town.  After the parade and hanging out for a while we head home.  Always the deck grill.


There are traditional Memorial Day activities and images. For many it’s the beginning of summer.  The first big weekend at the beach.  Of course this year there is concern about crowds, social distancing, masks and the spread of Coronavirus.  And businesses, some with restrictions, are concerned about sales.  There are no parades but I suspect many communities displayed flags and had small ceremonies in cemeteries or at monuments like the one in Yardley. Immediate family, maybe friends gather for a picnic.

I’ll be home this Memorial Day.  We saw our Jenny, Rob and the grand kids yesterday.  It’s overcast so we may or may not cook on the grill.  But I pause and give thanks to those who lost their lives in defense of our country.  For that’s the main purpose of the day.  I’ll call some family members.   And I’ll remember the memories and traditions from all those  Memorial Days from my past.