Shades of green


The Gallagher girls with Nanny.

A few years ago, Viv and Eli  gave me a small planting of clover.  For a minute they perched on either side of the plant looking for a four leaf — a token of their Irish heritage?   It’s March again and Irish eyes are shining.  Diane sometimes places the Bryers Choice Irish dancer on the bow window.  I purchased it as a reminder the year my mother was killed in a hit and run on Radcliffe Street.  I like to remember that she was proud of her Irish heritage.  More so probably than Father’s interest with anything Italian.

Growing up in Bristol Borough in the 1950-60s, my sisters and I were presented with a  mix of Italian-Irish heritage.  Since Catholics attend the maternal church, we were baptized and attended Irish Saint Mark’s.  Saint Ann’s was the Italian parish.  I’m not sure why but I favored the Italian culture. Food was certainly better and we had some exposure to good Italian cooks — Aunt Mary Profy in Harriman, Mrs. Mignoni across the street, Mari’s pizza on the corner; Mom even made a decent spaghetti and meatballs.


But in the mid 1970s, I  read “Trinity” by Leon Uris.  In his sweeping, epic style, Uris traces the history of Ireland from the Great Famine of the 1840s to the Easter Rising in 1916. It touched a nerve.   Some of Mom’s family were probably Catholic farmers from a small town in County Donegal.  Unfortunately none of the Gallaghers knew their exact origin. “Trinity” however was powerful, I wrote Mother and told her the Bristol divide aside,  I would forever embraced my Irish heritage.

It was in the early 1980s, Diane, Jenny and I traveled for five weeks in Ireland.  We landed in Dublin, rented a car and headed south, then up the western coast, to Northern Ireland and back down for a week in Dublin.  The Dingle peninsula, the rocky western coast with its narrow roads, the cliffs of Moher, and the Giant’s Causeway.  The countryside was beautiful — how many, so many, shades of green.  Some nights we camped — along the coast, our tent floor covered with rocks, insurance against the winds.  Other nights we we found a small  B. and B.  Ireland was enchanting; and the food wasn’t bad.


Since I didn’t have any names or addresses of Irish relatives; not even a town, I borrowed “Gallagher” heritage from a close friend Bill Gallagher. In Ireland, we went to a small country house in Donegal asking for I think William (same as my maternal grandfather).  His wife said he was out but we could catch him in the pub come evening.  We did.  And we spent a delightful evening drinking Guinness and getting to know a William Gallagher.



I have one photograph of my grandfather William.  That image came to life on the docks of Donegal.  Some of the fisherman had to be relatives.  I knew I was in the right county.  Grandfather Gallagher was a habadasher — that’s a dealer in men’s clothes.  His business was in a large building on the corner of Mill and Cedar streets in Bristol.  The background of his wife, Hannah, for us, was also sketchy.  She was Irish; had two sisters, Lucy and Allie.  Lucy was a domestic living in the homes of her employers;  Allie lived with her daughter, Mary, on Jefferson Avenue.   William Gallagher and Hannah Deviney (?)  were married and had three daughters — Ellen (the oldest), Cecelia (my mother) and Marie.  They lived on Buckley street in Bristol’s 4th Ward, the Irish district.

Growing up we were told that grandfather William died young.  When I coughed from smoking, my mother would remind me that her father died of TB.  Hannah, Nanny as we grandkids called her, lived in an apartment over the former habadashery.  I have no idea how she supported herself and the three Gallagher girls.  Unfortunately I never asked the questions or if I did my mother never had answers.



Marie and Cis.                     Cis and Ellen

My images of the Gallagher girls from the 1920s to the 1940s come from books and movies not from real stories.   I know they went to Saint Mark’s school and attended Bristol High School.  I suspect they had jobs during the war. For a while Ellen worked in a Bristol distillery.   Ellen and Cis married Italians from the other side of the tracks,  (Frank Mignoni and my father Vince Profy).  Both boys came from business families who lived on Mill street.  The youngest sister, Marie married Irish.  I suspect Hannah didn’t like any of their choices. She had strong opinions.

I’m not sure how my parents met.  But Bristol is the classic small town.  They both lived on the same 200 block of Mill street.  Vince in an apartment behind his father’s GE appliance store; Cis above the habadashery.  Although they both went to Bristol high school; they attended different Catholic churches — Italian or Irish.  Similarly Frank, Ellen’s beau lived a block away in an apartment owned by his family.


Mother, my sister Cissi and me.

After the war, my father worked briefly in Rohm & Haas but left to work for his father’s store.  He and Cis were married at St. Mark’s in 1946.  Frank Mignoni was a realtor.  He and Ellen married.  Both couples lived on Mill street in family properties.  Small town.  They began families; worked and lived on Mill street and attended Saint Marks.  Vacations were a week in a shared Long Beach Island rental.

Growing up, St. Mark’s parish  was one sign of our Irish background.  It wasn’t really a strong ethnic parish.  Saint Ann’s several blocks away, for instance, had Italian speaking priests and celebrated Italian feast days.  Saint Marks was more subtle.  But as an alter boy I went with the priest to the Hibernian hall in the fourth Ward (remember, Bristol’s Irish neighborhood) after some evening service.  I sat at the bar with Father and picked numbered balls from a glass container — the weekly lottery.

We were also aware of “Irish” relatives that lived in the 4th Ward neighborhood.  Grandfather William had quite a few siblings and other relatives.   There are different numbers depending on who does the ancestry.  But we associated with a few.  I recall at least one house wake (prior to a church funeral I guess).  It was at Uncle Lawrence’s. There was a casket; a lot of eating and drinking.  Somehow I was aware of what was thought to be an Irish custom.  As the afternoon proceeded, I waited for them to take the deceased from the coffin and stand him in a corner with a glass of whiskey. Came close I think.

We weren’t real close to most of our Irish family.  An ocassional 4th Ward visit, a wedding or funeral.  I was aware of a bit of Irish brogue, aunts and cousins who had red hair and freckles.  Pretty stereotyped.  There were two elderly sisters, Nin and Hester.  Not sure if they were blood relatives or friends. Aunt Annie was a hair dresser who operated out of her house.  I visited her quite a bit. She got me collecting postcards, giving me many from the early 1900s. Another Aunt Alice lived nearby.


Ocassionally with my mother we visited Aunt Allie on Jefferson.  When Aunt Lucy retired in the 1960s she moved into my grandmother’s apartment.  Hannah soon moved in with Aunt Ellen. Lucy was always interesting.  She was quite independent.  Would take the train on shopping trips to Wanamaker’s.  Always brought me a small gift.  She collected stamps and would share them with me.  Of all my Irish relatives, it was a bit of a shock, to learn about Nitter Ferry,  a homeless alcoholic, who lived along the river behind our house.

Aunt Ellen and Mom were extremely close.  Our families were in daily contact, shopped together, celebrated holidays and birthdays.  I frequently had lunch and Sunday breakfast at the Mignoni house on Radcliffe. Cis never learned to drive so depended on Ellen who had a car.  Neither Ellen or Cis were as close with sister Marie.

The Gallagher girls didn’t wear their Irish heritage on their arms.  There weren’t constant reminders.  But they were proud.    Food is often part of ethnic heritage.  Although Mom learned to make a decent spaghetti and meatballs for Father, we were served Irish stew — some beef, lots of potatoes, carrots, onions and spices.  I think we had colcannon — potatoes and cabbage.  Lots of meat and potatoes — baked, boiled, mashed.  My grandmother wasn’t much of a cook.  Don’t ever remember her ever cooking; even morning tea was more hot water and lemon than a real cup of breakfast tea.


If Mom enjoyed Irish culture — music, art and literature it may have been because of our influence.  For several years in March we went to McCarter Theatre in Princeton to see The Chieftains.  I know we took Mom and Dad one or more times.  I recall giving her a copy of Joyce’s “The Dubliners” for Christmas.  At a family dinner at the Old City pub, The Plough and the Stars, we discovered Barrie Maguire’s painting “I Will Give You Ireland.” It’s shades of green.  An old women is sewing a quilt, it’s Ireland.  My sisters and I made arrangements to buy it for Mom.

Interestingly the Profy’s eventually rented the old Habadashery for an enlarged appliance store.  For several years my parents, myself and first sister, Cissi lived in an apartment on the 2nd floor.  Nanny lived on the third floor.  At some point my father and Uncle Frank Mignoni bought out grandfather Gallagher partner’s interest in the building.  I always thought it curious how my father rented from his own partnership.

Ellen and Cis may have married Italians with strong traditional views of marriage and a woman’s place in a relationship but  both could be strong; some might say they allowed Vince and Frank to think they were in control.  From my perspective, Mother was in charge of our house.  As kids we had to listen (and sometimes fear) her.  I only remember father getting upset once.  He caught me; shook me; “don’t annoy your mother” was the message.


In the 1960s, Cis opened a dress shop.  It provided her four girls, my sisters, with fashionable clothes.  It asserted her independence.  Father’s interest in travel was limited.  To our amazement, Mom took off to Alaska with a local  group.  Later she would travel to Ireland.  Father stayed home.

Mom life was cut short on December 10, 2008.  She returned some books to the Grundy Library, a block from the apartment where she and my father lived.  She was crossing the street to visit her sister Ellen and was the victim of a hit and run driver. She was 86 years old.  Bagpipes were played at her burial, a sad reminder of her Celtic heritage.  Aunt Ellen has since passed; Marie is the last living Gallagher girl. A trace of our Irish heritage.

When I think of mom I think of how she influenced my own curiosity and independence.  Like the old woman in the painting, I see her sewing a piece of Ireland.

“May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. And rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.”








Delaware Canal Memories



For Christmas, Diane gave me “The Delaware Canal: from stone coal highway to historic landmark,” by Marie Murphy Duess.  It’s a typical History Press (2008) imprint.  There wasn’t  much new for me but refreshed many Canal memories.

I grew up near the Delaware canal and have lived near it most of my life.  Currently the canal is across a back street beyond our yard.  Since retirement,  I walk on it several days a week.  Growing up we lived in a Bristol Mill Street apartment over several store fronts owned by my grandfather.  The area behind us was part of the canal basin, the end of the line for many coal filled canal boats.  I have a foggy recollection of the basin being filled in during the early 1950s when the river was dredged to make way for iron ore ships headed for Fairless Steel, just south of Morrisville.  The area became the Mill Street parking lot.

There was a small section of the canal with water at the head of Mill street.  We played and fished it.  I also remember falling in one day.  Rather than being caught by my mother, I dried the wet clothes in a dryer in a wharehouse under our apartment.  My family owned a General Electric appliance store on Mill.  The wharehouse was filled with appliances.  I’m not sure if I used a new dryer or one that was hooked up for my mother in a small laundry room.  Whichever my fall in the canal was kept a secret.


Sometimes we walked the canal bed and towpath through town.  A large section was filled in the 1950s to create land for the new Warren Snyder Elementary School.  There were still coal bins along the right of way, for the canal or railroad spar that ran adjacent.  Years later  students in a Canal Camp that I organized interviewed Bristol residents about their canal memories.  Carl Nelson, who was about 90 at the time, sheepishly admitted to one 5th grader that he was the contractor responsible for filling it the canal in Bristol.  He no longer thought that it was a good idea.  Beyond the school was a section of watered canal that flowed past the Grundy Mill into the Lagoon — a small town park today.

I have several clear memories of a Boy Scout canoe trip I took on the canal.  Not sure where we started but the first night we camped right on the towpath near Woodside road.  The Scudder’s Falls bridge on I-95 had just been completed (1959) but was not yet opened for traffic.  In the dark we climbed up on the bridge and walked out to the middle of the Delaware River.  There must have been some lights but I remember it was extremely erie.

The last night on the way back we camped on the towpath in Washington Crossing State Park.  It started to rain and I don’t think we had tents, so we climbed under the canoes.  The rain pinged on the the canoes but we were dry and them someone called out, “Hey guys, these canoes are aluminum, lightening you know!”  I think we stayed under them.


At New Hope we crossed into the river.  I’m not sure how far up river we traveled or where we slept the second night.  I will nerver forget the cross back into the canal on our way home.  We were dragging the canoes across a stretch of land at Chez Odette’s — the same place we had crossed the day before.  Only this time we heard a woman’s shrill voice. “Get off my property, get off, you aren’t allowed there.”  Our leaders informed us it was the French, singer-actress, Odette, who was opening a restaurant there. Even today when I drive past I can hear her scream.

The canal in the Bowman’s Tower section of Washington Crossing State Park was a favorite Sunday family picnic spot.  We would walk along the canal, climb Bowman’s hill and tower.   There was no elevator then.  Father grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.  I think picnics to this area ended after my mother was attacked by yellow jackets.  Years later I saw aa amazingly large woodpecker there.  A park employee told me, “Oh, that’s our Pileated Woodpecker.”  The first and only time I ever saw one.

In 1970 Diane and I rented a house on Canal Street in Yardley.  It was a small colonial    next to the original Borough Hall and lock-up.  We had been attending Quaker Meeting and met Sid Cadwallader who introduced us to the house and Helen Leedom who collected our rent from her desk in the lumber company at the head of the street along the canal.

Although we only lived in the house for just over a year, we have many pleasant memories.  There was one of the earliest Harvest festivals on the street. A Bucks County Guild of Craftsmen woodcarver, Maurice Ganter, set up in front of our house.  At the end of the day he gave us a small carved fish.  It still hangs in our bedroom window.  The house was charming with a workshop area ground level.  I actually ran a small summer camp for about 6 students in the room (I was teaching elementary school at Saint Michael’s in Levittown).

We had a fireplace and narrow curved steps that led to two rooms on the second floor.  We hosted at least one large party.  Diane bred and sold Labrador pups; the old library on Lake Afton was a favorite walk especially on cold snowy nights; we had a small flower garden.  Our neighbors had a canoe that we were free to use.  On our first canal trip we were attacked by young teens swimming near the Afton Avenue bridge.  I seriously thought they were going to tip the canoe.  We moved after deciding to rent a house in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.

Our Old York rental was outside of town but we frequently walked on the canal towpath.  There were several shops and a canalside restaurant that we enjoyed.  We could walk south to Washington Crossing or north to Center Bridge.  We also discovered the Black Bass in Lumberville and the Golden Pheasant in Erwinna.  For our budget these were expensive but we ate in them several times.  We also took  Many bike trips; sometimes riding for hours.

In 1977 Jenny was born, Paglione’s moved to Ann Arbor, MI and we bought 121 N. Delaware Avenue in Yardley.  Our property was river front and the canal was across the street (Morgan Avenue) from the back yard.  Our access was through an empty lot or walking a block south to the Mary Yardley foot bridge. Built to access the trolley on Main Street and critical Today during floods.  We pushed Jen in a baby carriage into town, walked and rode bikes on the towpath. Sometimes all the way to Bristol or north to New Hope.  Jen had a kids’ seat on the rear of Diane’s bike.  On one trip there was another attack near the College Avenue bridge.  This time it was several Canada Geese.


Around 1980 I answered a local Yardley News ad —  volunteers needed for Canal clean up.  I remember Rick, the Council President, in a truck as we picked up trash along the canal.  Near Lock 5 and the Railroad Bridge I pulled out an old tire, throwing it on top a pile of trash, it made a Courier Times photo op.  Meeting a number of community leaders led me to apply to council for a position.  I was initially appointed to an opening on the Cable TV Commission.  Within a year I agreed to run for Borough Council.

I served eight years on Borough Council.  My running mate was Susan Taylor who would get a position as Director of  the Friends of the Delaware Canal.  A position Susan still holds decades later.  For about 10 plus years I became active in several community organizations — the Yardley Historical Association, Community Center, Friends of Lake Afton and I served on the board of the Friends of the Delaware Canal.  There were many activities and issues.  Sometimes I helped lead the annual Canal walks; clean up days; membership programs and annual auctions. I shot a lot of canal photographs.

In the 1990s I was hired by the Friends (with a State grant) to develop educational materials about the canal.  The state educational interpreter was basically an environmental educator and the hope was that she could also be encouraged to do some historical interpretation.  For two summers myself and an elementary science teacher, Trish Rienes, piloted a week long summer camp for 4th and 5th grade students.  Trish and I spent a summer developing a variety of lessons and activities exploring the canal from Bristol to Easton.

Working on this project immersed me totally in the history and culture of the canal.  It was a lot of fun and I think the kids involved in the camps had a great experience.  We discovered a delightful age appropriate book, “Tune for the Towpath,” and developed a variety of reading and language arts activities.  We learned and then taught about material culture and archaeology related to the canal.  We hired an art teacher to have kids make a paper mural while riding on a canal boat in New Hope.  I interviewed a former lock tender and students interviewed senior Bristol residents related to growing up in that canal town.  We developed and took kids on canal centric walking tours of Bristol,, Yardley and New Hope.  We did environmental surveys of the canal and learned about local flora and fauna.  We visited the Canal Museum in Easton and rode on the canal boat on the Lehigh Canal.

Trish took our canal curriculum back to Pen Ryn where she taught and Bonnie Tobin, the state educator, and a few others used some of the material.  Our materials were given to the Friends but time passed and we never published the curriculum.  Some years later a formal canal curriculum was published by another educator. I used many of the ideas, activities and lessons in a college class, Teaching Social Studies in Elementary School, that I taught for many years at Holy Family University.  Hundreds of elementary school teachers learned about the Delaware Canal.

In recent years my canal related activity for the most part has settled into an easy pattern.  I’ve enjoyed introducing my grandson, Eli to fishing in the canal.  On his first time out several years ago he hooked a small sunny within ten minutes.  His sister Viv provided the worm dug from our garden.  Several years ago we turned our canoe into a fairy boat.  Eli and Viv with their father competed in the canal festival boat decorating competition. We’ve also had flooding from the canal in early 2000s.  The worse was in 2006 when canal and river met — our house was in the middle.


Since retirement in 2014, I try to walk most days and it is frequently along the canal.  I’m slower but can walk to town (Eli and Viv like trips to Cramer’s bakery) or I can head to lock 6, or Woodside road, sometimes to lock 7.  Some days I’ll take pictures to post on Facebook — changing seasons, birds and animals, water abstractions.  Since my surgery I’ve been slower but try for an hour walk.  Diane gets tired of the same route and frequently takes the dog for a drive-walk.  The canal at Washington Crossing is a favorite. For the past few years we’ve enjoyed walking the canal in Yardley during Canal O Ween when locals compete and display hundreds of carved pumpkins.  It’s pretty amazing.

A drive along the canal and river is still an outing. We celebrated our 50 anniversary last year with a family brunch at the Black Bass. We’ve bought several original Bucks County oil paintings — several are canal scenes.  And several times a year we go to the Mitchener, always enjoying Bucks County art, including canal paintings.  As much as I enjoy to explore new things, I take total enjoyment in the familiar.  Each step I take walking the canal evokes a memory.

This reminds me, I  have a box of books and memorabilia about the canal in the basement that I need to sort and hundreds of slides.  More memories.



All the President’s Men


Last night I decided to rewatch Alan Pukula’s  “All the President’s Men.”  In case your too young or forgetful to remember, it was based on the book of the same name by. Washington Post junior  reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.  They broke the Watergate story by following it from the June 17, 1972 break in at the Democratic National Headquarters to the White House, which lead to many resignations, convictions of the President Nixon’s men and the eventual resignation of Nixon two years later on August 9, 1974.  The film was made in 1976.

Watergate not only brought down Nixon but it probably changed the way we looked at the presidency and government in general.  The story seems quite relevant today in light of the Russian Probe into meddling in the 2016 election and the possible collusion and possible obstruction by candidate, now President Trump.  There are certainly differences but many parallels.  Republican Presidents, dirty tricks in elections, special prosecutors, administration denials of involvement, the President’s repeated claim of innocence.

It was fascinating to watch Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) and Woodward (Robert Redford) track down leads that led them closer and closer to the White House.  And they had to convince the Post publisher Ben Bradley (Jason Robards) that they had confirmed, reliable sources for their stories.  That’s the same Washington Post that today President Trump includes in his list of “fake” media outlets.  The green reporters also had a secret informant, “Deep Throat,” although reluctant to give new information, he was usually willing to confirm that they were on solid ground.  In 2005, Deep Throat was identified as a former FBI agent, Mark Felt.  This is the same FBI that President Trump has criticized for being soft on Hillary Clinton, unfair to him, and most recently spending to much time on the Russian probe instead of stopping school shootings.

The movie only shows the early part of the unfolding scandal.  The main Congressional investigation and exposure of the administration’s involvement in many illegal activities is summarized to a series of newspaper headlines tapped out on a typewriter (manual no less).  What followed in 1973 was a Senate Committee hearings that were televised, a special counsel, Archibald Cox, appointed to the Committee by the new Attorney General, Eliot Richardson.  Nixon’s first Attorney General who resigned to become chairman of the Committee to Reelect the President would be convicted to conspiracy, obstruction of justice and perjury.  The second Richard Kleindienst was fired due to his friendship with close Nixon aides Haldernam and Ehrlichman who also resigned, were indicted, convicted and served prison time.

In 1973-74  we lived in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.  I clearly remember coming home from work and we all of gathered around the TV watching the Senate Hearings chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina.  By the way, the  Congress had a Democratic majority.  There was a constant parade of names. Along with Mitchell, Halderman, Erlichman, we heard Dean, Colson, Hunt, McCord, Liddy, Butterfield, Magruder,   in all 40 government officials were indicted; thirty some were convicted.  The Vice President, Spirio Agnew resigned after facing charges of conspiracy, bibrery and fraud, unconnected with the Watergate Scandal.

Two phrases became cliche during the investigation, “follow the money,” and “what did the President know, and when?”  Final answers finally came when it was discovered that conversations in the Oval Office were tape recorded.  When special counsel Archibald Cox asked for the tapes, Nixon refused and fired Cox.  Attorney General Richardson and others resigned.  The event became known as the Saturday Night Massacre.  You may have hear the phrase used recently when Trump has considered firing special prosecutor, Robert Mueller.  I’ve wondered is Trump familiar with Watergate?  It sometimes seems he’s making the same mistakes as Nixon.

Nixon finally agreed to transcribe transcripts, but it was eventually discovered that 18 1/2 minutes were missing.  Under impeachment pressure, in August 1974, Nixon resigned.  Nixon’s and the presidents men’s downfall may have come more from “cover ups” and “lies” than the actual actions, as illegal as they may have been. As we watch the current Russian probe, it seems many of the actors have not learned this historic lesson.

Today there are three investigations, House, Senate and Special Counsel.  The House and Senate are controlled by Republicans (unlike the 1970s) who are not eager to go after the President.  Mueller’s Special Council probe has issued indictments (against Trump aides and Russians) and accepted several guilty pleas but none have directly implicated the President in collusion with the Russians or obstruction of justice.  Trump claims that’s a vindication; more likely just not a closed case.  What’s hard to believe is how firmly Trump ignores the obvious, confirmed by his intelligence agencies,  Russian meddled.  For many Democrats, liberals this just points to his guilt; his supporters claim it’s the Democrats, Clinton and Obama are always responsible.

The 1970s culture is different from today’s.  Typewriters, telephones (land lines, we call them), newspapers and cigarettes have been replaced by computers, social media, cell phones, cable TV and no smoking signs.  Although news sources have always had a partisan bent, today for instance  CNN and FOX portray two different worlds. The President and his followers adore the latter and claim the former is all “fake.”  Liberals dispel FOX as fantasy propaganda.  What does a person believe?

I won’t speculate about what the current investigation will discover.  I don’t think it’s  over as some have suggested.  I think more heads will fall.  Collusion?  Cover up?  I don’t know.  I do hope President Trump will admit Russian involvement in the election and try to do something to protect the next election.  It’s fascinating that it seems Russia’s  purpose is to sow discord; to question democratic institutions, and then to support Trump.

I read that Redford has made a film, “All the President’s Men revisited.”  Will try to watch it tonight.  Stay tuned.





A New Year – 2017 turns

IMG_3144i generally think about the year as an academic year.  Starts in September, ends in June with a vacation in between. But now that we’re retired we can think in the tradition annual year.  New Years Eve, we quietly celebrated, dinner with Taylor’s at Hamilton’s Grill. Dry Manhattans at the Boathouse somewhat in honor of Grandpop Profy — but he used sweet vermouth.  After dinner we came back to the house for a fire and nightcap.  Didn’t quite make it to midnight, January 1, 2018.

I woke up thinking,  it’s hard to believe we are 17 years into the 21st century.  For the first 21st century New Year we were in Briny Breezes, FL with Diane’s mother.  All talk was the crashing of computers – Y2K.  Didn’t happen and here we are many years later, tied to our computers, pads, phones and social media.  Last year in 2016 the weather was mild but we both had colds.  This year it was sunny’ if cold, below 10 degrees but we’re in good health — kind of.

For me 2017 was not a platinum, silver or gold year. Maybe an alloy like brass or bronze.  Medical issues and the Trump presidency were major sour balls.  I’ve tried to remember the year and have been pretty blank.  I couldn’t even remember the names of Broadway musicals we saw at the Academy of Music.  Old ticket stubs document that we saw The King and I and Cabaret in the Spring.  Also Murder on the Orient Express at McCarter; Frog and Toad at the Arden.

2017 started quietly. Things we OK.   Some days reading by the wood stove, local field trips, walks, lunches at some familiar, some new restaurants.  We began or Joe, our handyman-painter, began work on the porch and moved to the living room, kitchen, dining room, and family room.  A few areas still need to be painted but  a lot was completed.  Diane redecorated with some new furniture, a big screen TV, shades on the porch.  The house is looking refreshed.

Our first get-away in mid-March was to New England.  Spent two nights at the Deerfield Inn and took another open hearth cooking class. We roasted chickens with root vegetables, made corn flap jacks, apple-squash pie, and cranberry-ginger bread. As much fun as our first class.   The mountains were still snow covered, we drove around, maple sugaring, horned cows, classic barns, a spring snap in the air.

We drove south to Salisbury, CT.,   Diane had read about a B and B, the White Hart, decorated by Joan of Hammersmith.  A woman our age, Diane subscribes to her website, home furnishings, travel and food recommendations.  A more interesting (to me) Martha Stewart.  We had been to her store in Reinbeck, NY several times but this trip we visited all three Hammersmith stores. I think the only purchase was couch pillows.

At the end of April we headed south to the Outer Banks, a new explore for us.  Hours on the Internet and we finally located the Cyprus Moon Inn in Kitty Hawlk. Our final review on the Outer Banks was overdeveloped.  Too many shopping centers, chain restaurants, and beach front hotels.  We drove north to Duck and Corolla and south to Cape Hatteras National Seashore but were not overly impressed.  We spent one day on Roanoke Island which had some history and charm.  We had some good seafood.  But we’d never trade Cape Cod for the Outer Banks.

On the way home we spent two nights at the Mansion House in Snow Hill, MD.  We discovered this bay side B and B several years ago.  It’s close to the wild horses of Assateague Island; Berlin is a decent small town with a few good restaurants.  Driving home we stopped in Rehoboth Beach for lunch at Dogfish (beer and spirits brought home).  We drove around the town trying to decide if we would want to rent there for a week.  A possibility.

In  June we spent one night in Brigantine visiting with Phyllis and Bill Gallagher, Tom and Kathy Corley.  Gallagher’s house is big and comfortable, on the ocean block.  It was windy and cool but nice beach walking weather.  Bill gave us a home town tour.  Unfortunately not a lot of undeveloped area.  Most of our time was sharing food and talk, lot of memories of the times when we all worked at Holy Ghost, socialized a lot, dinner parties, and family camping in State Park cabins.  Good times.  Phyllis has been doing photography, doing prints on canvas to sell.  She gave us all one as a gift.

On June 20 we returned to the Jersey shore.  We had checked out B and Bs in old Beach Haven and booked The Victoria Guest House for four nights.  It’s right on the square, a block from the ocean.  For me this turned out to be our most relaxing get away in 2017.  We enjoyed walks in the neighborhood, sitting on the ocean and bay, swimming the the pool and just hanging out on the large Victorian porches.  Our second floor room also had a small private porch.  Very nice.

We found good restaurants, the Black Whale is well known, the owners recently opened Parker’s Garage on the dock.  Ironically they also own Ship Bottom Shellfish where we had lunch and Mud City Crab House on the causeway (friends posted they were eating there, we didn’t).  The best restaurant was Stefano’s, classic Italian, white tablecloth, quiet, excellent seafood.  The others tended to be trendy and noisy.  A great find was Polly’s Clam Shack across from the Maritine Museum (quite good on a rainy morning).  A few picnic tables on a dock, teenage boys hanging out at a fishing boat, I was skeptical.  We ordered a bucket of clams; they were fantastic. Memories of buckets of clams when we lived in Boston.

Thursday afternoon we joined other seniors at the newly reopened Starlight Theatre to see Footloose.  Fun.  We didn’t drive to Barnegat Lighthouse since we had been there several weeks earlier.  Diane spent a little time at Bay Village shops but I was satisfied to read and dream on the porch.

LBI was the only summer vacation I knew growing up– a house in Beach Haven for a week.  Later there were days and weeks at Mignoni’s in Harvey Cedars.  Since then we spent one week renting in Harvey Cedars when Eli was about three, Viv a newborn. But Island Beach State Park has been our usual shore destination.  We’re glad we rediscovered LBI.

In July we drove to Geneseo, NY to visit Jerry and Kate Alonzo.  Friends since college, lots of memories.  But most exciting was seeing Jerry’s woodwork in a local show.  It was a bit of a retrospective so I was familiar with some pieces but much of it was from a collection around the theme of “justice.”  Jerry (a lawyer-judge) blends social justice imagery ( a scale for instance) words (collected from others) and nature inspirations (a river).  The day we went to the show he was giving a tour to a group of special students.  Quite impressed.  On another day we visited a lumber yard along the Erie Canal where he buys some wood.  The raw materials.  And then we saw his workshop, annex to the house they built just outside of Geneseo, a college town.

Unfortunately the day went to see the Alonzo travel trailer, it poured rain.  So heavy we couldn’t get out of the car.  Diane and I have thought about buying (or renting) one so we were disappointed.  I also started with some “issues” which would turn out to be C-diff.  Not pleasant.  The area is beautiful, still very rural, with a lot of back roads, farms, a place we want to explore more.  Another reason to return, we didn’t have time to visit the Rochester Photography Museum. Never been there.

From Geneseo we headed to Ithaca, NY.  I had looked for the “right” retreat on one one of the Finger Lakes but had come up empty.  So we used Hilton credit to stay two nights in a Hampton Suites.  The drive along the Lakes offered quite a few stops — parks, farms and wineries.  In Ithaca we went to the Cornell Ornithological Center.  It as primarily a research center with a few public exhibits.  There were also walking trail.  We explored the town and countryside a bit but the C-diff was taking a toll, I couldn’t eat much and we headed home.

I contacted my GP, Andrew Sullivan at Penn Medicine.  Although he put me on anti-biopics, there was no positive results from tests.  Symptoms continued.  Calls to him went unanswered.  I thought I was mending and in a week we headed for Cape Cod.

The Cape was a bust.  I had little appetite, although I went and sat on the beach a few times, I generally hung out at the house, sitting outside by the lake or inside with a book.  At the end of a week, we decided I needed to return home.

Several days later I was in the ER, St. Mary’s, dehydrated.  They confirmed C-diff immediately.  My stay extended to ten days.   I began a search for a new GP.  Sullivan needed to be replaced.   I met several doctors.  Nathaniel Holtzman was associated with St. Mary’s hyperbaric program.  He took an interest in my non-healing fistula wound and suggested I consider oxygen treatment that might help heal tissue damaged by radiation.  I also met an associate of Val Koganski, an internist I discovered online as a possible replacement for Sullivan.

August through December was recovery time.  For weeks I had home care nursing attending to the fistula wound, annoyed by rhe C-diff.   The home nurses stopped in November when I signed up for the hyperbaric treatment.  Medicare won’t double pay.  It doesn’t matter that the oxygen treatments didn’t  directly attend to the wound.  Diane assumed responsibility for changing dressings.  For six weeks, every weekday afternoon,  I went to a center near the Oxford Valley Mall and for two hours breathed in oxygen while sealed in a  plexiglass tunnel.  I watched CNN.

The treatment took a lot of time and I won’t know for weeks, if ever, what it healed if anything.  The daily dose of CNN was depressing. And I usually watched more CNN as the evening news.   As well as spending almost half of 2017 with new-existing medical issues, I endured the media reported lunacy of the Trump presidency.

It was a beautiful Fall.  So I walked a lot on the Canal.  Diane got a new rescue dog from Alabama, Nala.  She is a gentle, easy going, a good walker and I enjoyed her company on some walks.  Diane and I took some local field trips, a few lunches. But not enough.   We visited with and entertained the grandkids. But not enough. Our garden harvest was excellent.  Raised beds and new crops thanks to our neighbor, Chris Thomas’s help.  We ate well and preserved some.  I read a lot and watched movies in bed.  Napped and slept. But too much.

Basically 2017 wasn’t my best year.  I noticed how few photographs I took during the year.  It wasn’t the worst year but I’m looking forward to a better 2018.






Snow Birds


Yesterday was the winter solstice. Dark and cold.  Winter was never my favorite season.  And with age (70 anyway) I seem to like the cold less and less. Several retired friends  sent their Christmas cards from Florida, the sunshine state?  At least one used the term “snow birds” to describe their exodus.  Other retired friends have sold their home and “downsized” moving into a smaller house or unit in a complex.

I think about moving; and have even thought about winters in Florida.  But?   I don’t think either will happen this year.  I’ll admit I’m a small town, traditional, slow to change kind of guy.   There are things we don’t like about 121 N Delaware and could draw up a list.  Flooding is a major drawback.  And now that we’re elevated, there is stair climbing.    But as long as we can do it; exercise is good.  And there are other issues.  But for me there is a comfort in that it has been and still is “ours.”


Winter in Florida sounds interesting.  Some buy; others rent.  How long do you want to stay?  I’ve been thinking about it.  Obviously avoiding Philadelphia’s winter weather is a plus.  Meeting new people; new friends would be welcomed.  New scenery; places to explore; sounds like vacation.

Diane’s parents had a trailer in Briny Breezes, a bit north of Boca Raton, south of Palm Beach.  Diane visited several times with Jenny but for years I had no interest.  Finally I made the trip.  In the 1920s , Briny Breezes was a community of silver Airstream trailers.  Lots of fisherman.  In the 80s, when Smith’s wintered there, it was an incorporated town, with a community center on the beach, swimming pool, post office and a few shops nearby.  Most residents were retired “snow birds.”

I came to like Briny.  It’s been the location for several movies, “Folks,” and  “In Her Shoes.”  Check it out.  Last year Robert DiNero was filming scenes from “The Comedians” there.  Smith’s trailer was across the road from the community beach.  You could see the ocean from their trailer.  I loved the snorkeling.  There were good restaurants on the Intercoastal.  We explored Palm Beach and other towns; made trips to Miami, Key West and the Everglades.  I saw the “senior” guys gather for coffee in the morning, go fishing or hang out at the pool. Not bad I thought; I could retire here.

But I’m not ready to be a snow bird yet!  I actually like a nice snow fall.  It looks and feels good.  I’ll admit we have too much wet cold weather in the northeast but we also get some beautiful snowfalls.  Bucks County (and adjacent New Jersey) has a lot to offer.  We have so many  places to walk  (ourselves and Nala), starting behind the house on the canal.  There are dozens of farms, markets and speciality stores we enjoy.  Despite major development in much of the county; there are still one lane bridges and dirt roads.  Several days ago we took a delightful drive in upper Bucks to an Alpaca farm.   Lunch was a sandwich from Tabora Farm shared at Lake Galena.

We might find similar “explores” in Florida but those at home have a history, tradition.  Example: making apple butter, apple sauce and crisp from Solebury Orchards.  Example: buying lamb chops from Fairview farm in Pineville where I worked summers in the 1970s.  Example: a special dinner on a crisp night at Hamilton’s Grill in Lambertville.

In addition there are restaurants, historic sites, museums, theatres, and shops in Philadelphia and the surrounding region that are part of our life.  We even enjoy a beach trip to the Jersey shore in fall or winter.  Showy owls are visiting Island Beach State Park in the winter.

Owl on Shell Beach, Shelter Island, New York.

Most important are friends and relatives who live in the area.   Particularly our grand kids — Eli and Viv.  We want to be around as they grow up.  Last week we took them to “Annie” at the Walnut Street theatre.  In early January we will go to the Arden to see Peter Pan; probably have lunch in Old City and buy chocolate at Shane’s.  Christmas dinner will be at our house with them.  They join us on winter walks and there are usually a few “sleep overs” when mom and dad go out to dinner.  Retired or even three months in Florida seems too long.  We’d miss them.  At least for the next few, maybe ten years?

Despite my current skepticism about moving soon and retiring or wintering in Florida,  my attitude may change.  We do need to get rid of stuff — harder for me than Diane.  And we should consider, maybe look at possible places in the area.  Where would we like to live?   A project for 2018!

For the immediate, I’ll enjoy my afternoons with a glass of wine and book in front of the Vermont castings.  Keeping the home fire burning.








Several days ago I finished six weeks of daily hyperbaric oxygen treatment in the hope of mending some of the radiation damaged tissue which led to the fistula that  in two years has not totally healed. Previously I’d been hospitalized for 10 days and had weeks of recovery.  Days, weeks, months — to long with medical issues defining my days.  I feel liberated.  I don’t know if there was any healing from the hyperbaric treatments but my psychological state has been lifted.

I made a list of old and new projects, things I want or need to do.  I’ve begun a return to my three prong schedule — daily routines and house keeping, retirement and house projects, relaxation and field trips. After the “get up and together” routine, I enjoy a breakfast– probably my favorite meal.   I’m hoping despite the cold that I will take a daily canal walk, about an hour.  Some will be with the new pup, Nala.  She is a friendly walker.

Winter potential projects range from fixing Jenny’s doll house for Viv, digitizing slides, organizing closets and drawers, “getting rid of stuff,” cleaning and painting the balcony, sanding and varnishing kitchen floors (not me but a contractor).  I want to experiment more with cooking, listen to more music, continue to read and re-read books, write and get back to photography.  Buying a new Nikon is still on the list.

For six weeks there has been no travel and few field trips. We did take take Eli and Viv to see “Annie,” had lunch out a few times, and a trip to Terrain to buy our Christmas tree, but that was about it.  Change needed.  Yesterday we took a beautiful back road ride to Harley Hill Alpaca Farm in Quakertown. Bought gloves and insoles for walking, a few gifts. Also learned quite a bit about alpacas.  Buy several, sell fur, and get a tax deduction.    Stopped at Peace Valley to walk Nala and enjoy a Tabora Farm turkey club with real farm bacon.  Diane stopped in the Lavendar shop.

Recently finished reading “Philadelphia: finding the hidden city.”  The authors have a website and sponsor “hidden city” explores.  I’ve done a few.  Buildings from the past, some in ruins, others being revitalized or reused.  Always exploring the layers of history.  My kind of thinking.  I’m hoping to return to my weekly or maybe bi-weekly serendipitous explores in Philadelphia.  I had hoped to add New York City but that may need to wait a bit.

For an overnight, I’m looking at a B and B with fireplaces in Chestertown, MD — maybe in January.  I just finished Frances Mayes, “Bella Tuscany” and Julia Child’s memoir of her years in France.  Could I handle a major trip in 2018?   I can dream.

I’ve accepted that I’m slower.  Everything seems to take longer.  This transition will be no different.  The wood stove will help.  By mid-afternoon, I’m ready to light the fire.  It’s glow and warmth spreads.  So much seems possible.


Man jump



70 years old!

Celebrating 70 years anniversary retro label with red ribbon, ve

About 2 weeks ago on July 24, I turned 70 years old. Lot of people wrote wishing me Happy Birthday, hoping I had a great day. Sorry to write, but I didn’t. Several weeks earlier I returned from a visit to Jerry and Kate Alonzo in Geneseo, NY and a few Finger Lakes days in Ithaca. I developed an intestinal bowel infection? It didn’t end the trip but I was uncomfortable. A trip to my GP, resulted in an antibiotic and tests which came up negative. But my stomach remained upset, I had limited appetite and sat in my recliner much of many days. Ten days later a second doc suggested the stomach may be off due to the antibiotics. A week later it’s almost normal. I mean I had a lobster roll for lunch today. But it’s not 100%. Can the Cape be my tonic?

I need what for years I called “Nantucket Time.” Turn off the news. Trump’s constant twitter and crazy domination of the news which I almost always disagree with takes its psychological toll. I need to forget the consistently growing list of what I need to do — doctor appointments, house projects, getting rid of  stuff. Retirement shouldn’t be stressful. The days are numbered till we reach September.

I spent a quiet Sunday at the house on Ayer’s Pond in Orleans at the elbow on the Cape. It’s secluded. Quiet. Small boats sway in a gentle breeze. Stronger wind creates halyard chimes. As the day proceeds a few make their way in sailboats, kayaks, and motor boats out the Namequoit River to Little Pleasant Bay, the Atlantic a possibility. I watch red-headed chipping sparrows hop from bushes to the feeder. They seem to be the bird of the day. Bright sun filters through pines that surround the house. I sit inside and with the breeze it gets chilly, so I move outside immediately warmed by the sun. This a the tonic I need.


I read “A Fish Caught in Time: the search for the coelacanth” by Samantha Weinberg. Coelacanth fossils 200 million or more years old had been around for years; but a live one was caught, amazing the scientific community, in the late 1930s, in the Comoros Islands off of South Africa. Identified, partially preserved, the find sparked decades of searching for live coelacanths. Millions of dollars and dozens of expeditions failed to keep a specimen alive in captivity. Museums throughout the world did eventually obtain a specimen for their collection. Missing link, evolution, pre-historic fish fired the imagination. I found it interesting that in the late 1940s, coelacanth fossils were discovered in a Triassic strata on the campus of Princeton NJ.

Environmentalists warned that over fishing might push the fish into extension. Imagine it. In a few decades, we wipe out a fish species older than dinosaurs? Fortunately this hasn’t happened. Continuing with the fish theme, I also watched a Front Line documentary,”The fish on my plate” based on the writings of Paul Greenberg. He wrote “Four Fish” and “American Catch.” Greenberg spent a year exploring the sustainability of the fishing industry giving up a land based diet for an Omega 3 based diet from the sea. Although he learns a lot about fish farming and enjoyed  many seafood meals throughout the world, his doctors found no immediate health benefits but he concluded with a plan to continue to enjoy sustainable seafood with an ocassional hamburger.

I ate small portions during the day, drank lots of water thought I was doing well but the symptoms of my intestinal disorder seemed to return at night and early morning. Nantucket time and Cape May tonic may take some time.