Birthday 2020

July 24, 2020.  I’m 73 this year.  And what a strange year. In the past, there were floods, family deaths, cancer, radiation damage for me and now in 2020 the Coronavirus pandemic.  Five months of “in house,” almost 150,000 deaths in the United States. President Trump craziness almost every day.  No details needed.  Weather today overcast with some rain.

But most days I’m upbeat.  Some days the sun shines (although there have been too many 90 plus days), I’ve had fistula closures leading to fevers but no need for a hospital visit (hoping), the garden is producing and we have a full freezer. Many of our outings have involved food purchases Schneiderwind Farms, Traugers, Griggstown, Solebury Orchards, NonSuch Farm.  Others involve lunch, most recently Pineville Tavern, in the past 2 months,  Black Bass, Washington Crossing Inn, Zoube in New Hope, Kasey’ in Tinicum, take out from the Yardley Inn and Caaleb’s Kitchen.

We walk most days.  For me it’s been usually local, on the canal.  Diane takes Nala on an afternoon explore walk. I should go with them more often.  I read quite a bit in the afternoon.  In the spring it was with a fire in the wood stove; now it’s with AC.  Some books like the Thurgood Marshall biography, If Walls Could Talk and Independence were rereads; others Why We Make Things And Why It Matters, Tower and Why Fish Don’t Exist are new. There are magazines each week or month. Movies on Netflix or Amazon.

We’ve seen the grandkids somewhat regularly.  All outside encounters in Yardley or Gladwyne.  Tomorrow they will visit for Villa Rosa take-out, talk, maybe a walk.  I also keep in touch with my sisters and friends, telephone, e-mail or Face Time.

I certainly miss museums, theatre, trips to Philadelphia, dining inside and probably no Cape Cod this August. But I think my being retired,  procrastination tendencies and medical limitations lead me to accept what I have.  Tomorrow will be another day, new opportunities, the possibility of new experiences, some serendipity, a bit of spice in life defined by home town, traditions, contentment in the familiar.

My biggest regret is my self limitation in what I do.  I have friends in retirement who paint, do woodwork, or some other creative or volunteer endeavors.  I thought in retirement I would get back to doing some serious photography and writing.  That I would volunteer, maybe at Mercer or Independence National Park.  I think my 2015 surgeries and subsequent medical issues have been a limitation but also an excuse.  I haven’t bought a new camera as planned and have almost stopped taking photographs.  My only writing has been journals and this blog.  I have not volunteered.

For many retirement means getting rid of “stuff.”  Organizing what you want to keep.  I haven’t been too good in this area.  I’ve listened to a few old records but not frequently enough.  I bought a converter, slides to digital, but I haven’t begun to use it.  I have collections, post cards, stamps, coins that need to go.  A cellar full of tools I won’t be using.  And of course, books and more books.  I guess I am a  I get rid of stuff, very slowly type of person.

In the end I’m thankful for getting up each morning, for family and friends.  I’m thankful for each day,  whatever happens.   73 years, still counting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Fourth of July, 2020

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It is a very different July 4th.  The coronavirus pandemic has curtailed activity for many.  The country is attempting to understand and deal with the political and civil turmoil activated by the death of George Floyd and protests led by Black Lives Matter and other civil rights groups.  It’s the fourth year of the Trump presidency, an election year, and Trump fuels a culture war that keeps the nation divided.

I want to have a good day.  I want to feel proud of the United States.  I want the sun to come out.

I’ll start by trying to forget that the President celebrated last night with a speech ignoring the pandemic and the 130,000 deaths, attacking his critics, swearing to stop the BLM movement and leftist who are destroying our country’s history by demanding the removal of statues/monuments, many of Confederates and others who contributed to the oppression of people of color.  This happened in case you missed it at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota amid fireworks, no social distancing and few masks.

I’ll also try to forgive or forget those who ignore and sometimes defy public health guidelines demanding an “opening,” a return to normal, haircuts, open bars, indoor dining, crowded beaches, gyms, political rallies, and fireworks when new cases and hospitalizations are spiking in most of the fifty states.

For the record, I object to the banning of Huckleberry Finn and I don’t think every objectionable statue should be torn down.  Although I admit I was glad to see Frank Rizzo removed from Center City Philadelphia and the Confederate flag removed from the Mississippi state flag and NASCAR.   I’d also prefer sports teams don’t call themselves “redskins.”  And I believe schools should tell the full Columbus story and that some of the founding fathers had slaves.  But there is a place for a statue of Robert E Lee and other Confederates, as long as they aren’t used to support and promote  White Supremacy attitudes.  Washington and Jefferson were great presidents but they had their faults and made mistakes.

And for the record, like those demanding personal freedom (liberate us from . . . ), I want a return to normal but it doesn’t happen because we close our eyes and deny reality or chant “it will fade away.”    I want a barbershop haircut, love to dine out but will enjoy take out and outdoor dining until it’s safer.  I’d love to go to the beach and I’m still hoping I feel safe enough to go to Cape Cod for our August visit.  But I will accept stay at home, social distancing and wear a mask until public health officials say it’s over.  And I suspect that it won’t be soon.

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But for today, I’ll remember positives, significant events and good July 4 experiences.  It will help me celebrate my personal and my country’s independence.  Yes, we are a “great nation” with many faults.  I don’t need a reality show star, huckster, phony to tell me to “make America Great Again.”  My baseball cap is an over 20 year old faded Nantucket red.

 

I may have learned my first July 4 lesson with my father.  He had a jewelry, watch business and almost weekly traveled to Jeweler’s Row in Philadelphia.  During the summer and days off school I’d go with him. We’d drive to Bridge Street and take the El. After visiting various suppliers and shops we’d have lunch at Horn and Hardart’s on Chestnut.  I loved the automat.

Most afternoons we visited Independence Hall. During the 1950s it was being restored as part of the new National Park.  I learned about historic preservation watching workmen remove layer after layer of paint looking for the original color.  I learned about the Declaration of Independence and bought a brown parchment like facsimile in the gift shop. I learned about the delegates, the debates, the declaration (July 2) the ratification (July 4) and eventual signing (in August), Franklin’s chair with the rising sun, and quill pens, John Hancock’s signature, the first reading by John Nixon on July 8th.

We’d stand in front of the Liberty Bell which was in Independence Hall at the time, hear the story that it was just the State house bell that had cracked, been recasted, and cracked again in the 1840s but that there was no certainty about exactly when.  I learned the Bell had become a powerful symbol of American freedom, used by many groups demanding freedom and civil rights. Years later I bought a small replica of the Liberty Bell to use in teaching about American Independence.  I had a shoe box with the replica, the Declaration facsimile, a quill pen, a booklet about the Bell, map of Independence Park, and related postcards.

I don’t know if I will watch the fireworks on the National Mall in DC this year.  Lots of controversy there.  But I have fond memories of many other fireworks.  As kids growing up in Bristol, fireworks happened in the Levittown Shopping Center.  We piled into my parents aqua and white Chevy wagon and drove up Route 13, stopping along the road for the show.  This followed a barbecue/picnic at my Mignoni cousin’s house in Winder Village or on the porch/deck of our Mill Street apartment.  Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, slaw, and corn I’m sure.

In the 1970s we attended fireworks with the Pagliones over the Delaware River in New Hope-Lambertville.  We’d sit on the Lambertville side.  One of the best shows I remember was a Boston Pops concert and fireworks along the Charles River.  I think it was the fabulous 1976 concert conducted by Arthur Fiedler (it May have been his last July 4th concert).  The fireworks accompanied Tchaikovsky‘s 1812 Overture.  I think I was visiting my sister, Vicky and husband Ted who lived in Boston. What a show. What a memory.

There were years we attended a fireworks display in Philadelphia.  Some were over the Art Museum, sitting on the Parkway.  Others were over the river.  One year we took the NJ River Line with Taylors to Camden.  We then took Patco to Philadelphia for dinner and returned by taxi to Camden to watch the show.  Another year I was scheduled to sail on the Gazelle, the tall ship out of Philadelphia.  On July 4th there was a parade.  I watched from the corner of 3rd and Chestnut.  Then returned to the ship where we took part in a parade of boats followed by a fireworks display.  We shipped out the next morning and I was lucky enough to be given the wheel (an experienced crew member and river pilot stood next to me as we made our way to Delaware Bay where engines were cut and sails dropped, wow.)

More recently our fireworks destination has been Tinicum Park in Upper Bucks. There is a concert by the Riverside Symphonia, followed by fireworks.  Most bring picnic dinners but the amazing part is the formal set ups — tables, white table cloths, crystal glasses, candles, we don’t get that elaborate but it adds to a festive family atmosphere.  This year Tinicum is cancelled.

I don’t remember specifics about July 4th barbecues or picnics.  We might watch some of the Philadelphia parade on TV ( now it’s a multi-day celebration branded WaWa Welcome America, this year it’s virtual).  We sometimes played music, the Pops Overture, or John Phillips Sousa (we had several albums).

In teaching about American Independence I always enjoyed John Adams comment in a letter to his wife, Abigail, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. —I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty.”  And then there is the  coincidence that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died in July 4, 1826.

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This year I’ll enjoy some personal reflections. Look for the Souza records.  Maybe find something to read.  This afternoon we’ll join our daughter, Jenny and the grandkids for an outside picnic.  I’ll enjoy independence and take pride in my country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Enjoying Coronavirus Stay at Home

Enjoying not surviving.  Staying positive in troubled times.  July, beginning our fifth month of “stay at home.”  No longer mandated in Pennsylvania, in Bucks,  but we are being careful.  No beaches or bars for us just yet.  As Spring turned to Summer I accepted that we would probably not travel.  For us Cape Cod in August is on hold at best.  How can we enjoy, just home.

Most mornings I take a canal walk.  As the weather has gotten hotter (90s today), I walk earlier.  I try to walk to Somers Bridge — missing a day or two of walking makes it quite hard.  Today was fine.

I looked for small pleasures — the blue sky, tall trees, the canal, reflections in the water, chirping birds, a Great Blue, shades of green, shadows and shade, backyards with  Adirondack chaired, fire pits, canoes, fellow travelers, some masked, smiling waving, good morning. I recently read “At Seventy: a journal” by Maine’s May Sarton. She reveled in the small things, flowers in the wild or garden, birds, a call or visit from friends, writing letters to admirers.  Live simply and enjoy each minute.

At home I have scrambled eggs, garden peppers and cheese on the deck.  I grab a new copy of Yankee magazine.  I can take a virtual trip to New England.  There are articles on painters and craftsmen.  The Connecticut Art Trail looks like a neat trip.  The lead article “A World Away: Maine’s spectacular Blue Hill region awaits,” draws my undivided attention.

We first visited the Blue Hill peninsula in the early seventies after reading “The Good Life.”  I wrote to Helen and Scott Nearing (back-to-the-earth prophets) asking if we could visit.  With John and Barbara Paglione and my father we drove north in two VW bugs to a small plexi-glass handyman A-frame built by Bill Lynn from Bristol.  My father snapped a classic photo of us with the Pagliones on the small deck.  Next day we drove to the Nearings.

We went back to the Blue Hills several times. Most recently, about 12 years ago.  The Kwait Brothers Band (now Cabin Dogs) we’re invited to play at a local festival.  Jenny, Rob and baby Eli camped.  Diane and I stayed in a B and B, in Brooklin, not far from the farm where E.B.White wrote “Charlotte’s Web.”  One day we drove to Stonington, stopping in Buck’s Harbor with it’s scenes from Robert McCloskey’s “Morning in Maine.” We also found the Nearing property, now “The Good Life Center” in Brooksville.  What memories, they were building the stone house above when we visited.  Next door we were amazed to see that organic farmer Eliot Coleman was still there.  I couldn’t help but introduce myself, we had visited decades ago.  Oh yes, the festival was fantastic and the Kwait Brothers were a huge success.

Amazing how one Yankee magazine article brings such a rush of memories, a virtual trip in the present and a visit to the past.  From the magazine, I also wrote down Lobster Landing, in Clinton, Connecticut — possible stop on our next trip to Cape Cod.  I discovered two books of interest, Bill Henderson’s “Tower: Faith, Vertigo and Amateur Construction” and Peter Korn’s “Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: the education of a craftsman.” I’ll probably order both, more New England escapes.

Black Bass June 27

We’ve taken fewer trips than I would like.  Several weeks ago we explored Upper Bucks, Nockamixon Lake, and had ice cream at Wow Cow.  Another day we drove around Hunterdon County, NJ above Frenchtown.  Our first outside dining was at Kasey’s near Tinicum Park.  I had a tasty pastrami.  Last week we joined my sister, Vicky and her husband, Ted at the Black Bass for lunch on their outside deck.  Once we got umbrella covering, the setting was delightful.  I had a lobster crab salad.

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Zoubi, a small French restaurant was new to us.  We had a gift certificate and initially I was concerned they might not reopen.  I was wrong, they have been there ten years and were serving weekend dinners.  There is not much indoor seating, just a small bar but there is a charming patio, plants, flowers, rusting doorway.   New Hope was crowded, lots of young couples without masks but we found street parking behind Main and avoided the crowds.  For a while we had the patio to ourselves. Very nice and Diane’s scallops and my tuna with Sobu noodles and eggplant compote were both delicious.  Cocktails, wine, beer, a memorable meal.

Tuesday nights are Lobster nights at the Pineville Tavern.  We planned take out but they said no to the lobster.  So we sat on the patio.  Unfortunately there was no corn but the lobster was tender and sweet.  I passed on the fries and doubled up on the slaw.  Another fantastic meal and although it rained hard the new tent kept us dry.  Dave Sears had recently written about the glut of Maine lobsters (China not buying) so I called him, we were trying to help.  In June we also had two takeouts from the Yardley Inn.  Both times, soft shell crabs (my favorite), asparagus and mashed potatoes.  I might add most all these meals have involved speciality cocktails and dessert — tiramisu several times.   We’ve made a list of about 12 outdoor dining spots; don’t want indoor yet.  July should be busy.

The garden keeps me busy and it’s in pretty good shape.  Still picking greens, new seeds have sprouted.  Peppers, fennel and eggplants are coming in.  Beans, cucumber and squash plants are flowering.  Green tomatoes on some plants.  With time available and a little energy,  I’ve been able to keep the weeds pulled.  I still make daily salads and have done a bit of bread baking.  Not enough.

Afternoons are still devoted to reading.  I’ll save specific titles for another time.  But I’m reading a mix fiction and nonfiction; new books and rereads from the shelves.  If I read in the morning or early afternoon, I’ve been sitting on the deck.  Sometimes it’s just sitting.  It’s not the ocean, bay, beach or special scenery but the yard looks good — a HGP grad is cutting it for me.  I’m thankful for it.  A few days ago a guy in a wheelchair who pushes up Florence Avenue most days said, “You have a nice property.”  Plain, nothing dramatic, but yes nice, particularly in “stay at home.”

I miss people contact the most.  The “hellos” on the canal are nice. Occasionally I cross paths with a local I know.  We might stop and chat a few minutes.  I make telephone calls, regularly to Jenny and my sisters.  Weekly to cousin Ellen and John Paglione.  Actually we’ve been doing Face Time Thursday nights with Pagliones.  And I sometimes check my address book and call former and current HGP friends, guys from college.  It’s like pulling a number out of a hat.  Something sparks a memory of the person, so I call.  Jen, Rob and the kids have visited and Taylor’s have come for drinks and pizza.

I try to shut out the negatives, news of the virus, Trump, politics, controversy about masks, civil rights protests.  Too much FaceBook, newspaper articles, and the nightly news, usually CNN.  But I’m addicted.  I only think about cutting back.  Need more music and movies.

Every day is a challenge.  Go slow. Enjoy.  The small things.  The rituals, traditions, friendships, with a touch of the new, some explorations, a touch of serendipity.  And I’m thankful.

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Coronavirus: second post

We’ve been home bound since early March.  Approaching three months.  It’s been an amazing time.  And although states have begun to “open up” there is a spike in infections and some return to lock down.  Social distancing, masks, and hand washing could continue for months.  Being retired our lives have changed but no where as drastically as for the millions of unemployed, those in poverty, homeless, in nursing homes. Their conditions and stories are tragic, frightening.

The national political divide is increasingly disturbing.  I want to turn off the news but feel obligated to stay somewhat informed and aware of what’s happening.  The Trump administration’s response from my perspective has been inadequate and at times ridiculous. I sometimes try to pull back and not be so critical but then Trump will do or say something that I find absurd.  His behavior and decisions are consistently driven by his vision of re-election in November.  I’ll avoid the specifics.

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Our lifestyle change does make us appreciate the basics.  It was  a chilly wet spring, so building a fire in the wood stove Continued to be a treat,  not just in February and March but as late as May.  When it’s warm and the sun shine I totally enjoy my walks on the canal.  Just sitting on the deck, the back yard or front porch is a delight.  The chirping birds and budding trees. It’s not easy but I am trying to keep up with the garden.  There are more greens from seed than we can eat.   Tomatoes, peppers and eggplants are growing big.  I was hoping Paul who cuts the grass would weed the back garden.  He did and I sowed cucumber, bean and squash seed.

Mornings until about one when we have lunch (lots of garden salads now) are devoted to the daily routines, laundry, cleaning up a bit, walking, minor projects, sometimes cooking.  In the afternoon I read, several books each month.  I’ve blogged some but not all weeks.   I do find writing, if only for myself,  a release.  Anxiety and minor depression has been limited, usually associated with the news or my feeling of helplessness.  I don’t like to be out of control.  I have read that it’s on the rise.

APTOPIX Minneapolis Police Death

Coronavirus news this past month was outpaced by the protests, rioting and looting in cities across the country over the death of Floyd George in Minneapolis.  The protests started there but spread rapidly. Philadelphia was a battleground of personal interest.  I remember the aftermath of the King assassination here.  The current pattern seemed to be that peaceful protests in the afternoon and early evening turn violent later when there were been curfews and strong police action.  There were suspicions that the right or left wing (Trump accused Antifa) was responsible for the violence.  We may never know?  So much of this recalls the 1960s and early 1970s when one tragedy, crisis, frightening and saddening event followed another.  The protests seemed to be youth, in some cities Whites  (even more)  and Blacks.  Combine outrage against police brutality, our long history of racism. the lock down, unemployment, poverty and hunger and our current nightly news hasn’t been much of a surprise. Trump’s response to the protests became increasingly militant.  Enough said.

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Its sometimes hard to believe it’s July.  Retired for six years.  Some have been better than others. It’s hard to predict what lies ahead.  Jenny decided to keep the Cape Cod reservations.  If things seem totally safe maybe we will go but as of now that doesn’t seem a strong possibility. This may be the first year we spend the total summer in Yardley.  There is plenty of cleaning, organizing, and getting rid of stuff that we need to do. We can take day trips, enjoy sitting on the deck and yard.  I do need to break from the current routine.  The beauty of summer has always been the break with routine.  I’m thinking but don’t have a good plan yet.  As Thoreau wrote, “How deep the ruts of tradition and conformity.”

I’ll try to get out of the rut and find that mix of tradition and change, the old and new, familiar and unfamiliar, that has characterized my better days, best summers and most exciting trips.  A bit of serendipity never hurt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Coronavirus, first post

View from my chair and deck.

We’ve been taking one day at a time since early March.  On March 9 I had an appointment in Philadelphia with Kovell. “Could he open the fistula?”  I didn’t want an abscess, fever, ER.  But he said he couldn’t feel anything.  Call if abscess developed.  Later that week we went to the State Store since they were scheduled to close.  And Diane made a trip to McCaffrey’s one day at six — seniors only.  That was our last trips into stores.

Diane walks Nala every day, going to Washington Crossing or some other area.  For weeks we’ve been warned to keep six foot distance and more recently to wear a face mask. NJ Parks have recently closed due to the number of people.   I was Canal walking until rain, clouds, damp chilly weather and upset stomach keep me in for a week.  Yesterday I took a short walk to the Mary Yardley footbridge.  A week off is not good.  Also enjoyed sitting on the deck in the sun several days.  Otherwise we’ve been inside.

We bagan to place some orders online.  Olive oil from Amazon, wine from Washington Crossing Vinyards, cheese from Wisconsin Cheese Company, chocolates from Sweet Ashley. Our neighbor Kurt brought us milk and later seafood from Trader Joe’s where he works.  Diane tried a Whole Foods/Amazon Prime food delivery but could never get a shipping date.  Then we discovered Shady Brook Farm was doing curbside pick up. We ordered some meat, fruits and vegetables.  The main things we didn’t get were Greggstown pot pies and sausage.  Could do a curbside with them.  Organnons on 413 and NonSuch Farms also have curbside when needed.  Also waiting for flour from King Arthur and toilet paper from Amazon.  There are a few other things we could order online.  And I’ve stocked up on pills and supplement.  We let boxes sit for a day or so and wash up after opening. That’s shopping.

I’ve made cornbread, biscuits, yogurt but haven’t baked bread yet.  I should.  Diane made a pan cake with chocolate drops.  Very tasty.  And we’ve stretched our meals, cauliflower sauce on pasta for several days, Cod in rice and vegetables several days.  We probably have food for two weeks.

Several days ago the sun came out in the late afternoon and I planted seed in two of the eight raised beds — peas, kale, lettuce, radish, fennel, arugula.  Unfortunately I forget to buy spinach.  Four of the beds got a fresh filling of leaf mulch.  I don’t know if I’ll be getting it for the others. Neighbor Chris will have some plants for sale and I think nurseries will be open or have curbside.  Paul Ahearn is expected today to cut grass.

Early on in our quarantine we accepted delivery of a new couch and chair.  Some concern about strangers in the house but we disinfected after they left. Unfortunately for me the chair is not as comfortable as the old one and I spend hours every day sitting in it.  Our other surprise visitors were from Bristol Fuel.  Our water died on a Saturday. Sunday I called and Dave Burton stopped to check on his way to Bristol.  Repair or new heater?  We opted for new and Dave returned later with a helper and installed a new heater.  More disinfection.

People contact is important.  I call my sisters every other day, Pagliones, and have made called to Franny Profy, Eleanor Osborne, Jerry Alonzo, Mike Honan, Taylor’s and emails to others.  We talk daily to Jenny and yesterday called the kids on Face Time.  Good to see them if only on an I Pad.  Might do that with others.  Unfortunately my phone took a soaking in the washing machine; still drying out. Diane used Zoom for her book club.

Afternoons I read and usually nap.  Until last week I was building a daily fire, then just on chilly days.  They provide light as well as warmth and I still might fire up if it rains or is just dismal.  Finished a biography of Edison and “Cooked” by Michael Pollen.  Finishing up “ East Hill Farm,” 1960s NY retreat of Alan Ginsberg and friends and “Circling the Sun,” a novel about Beryl Markham growing up and living in Kenya.  Brought down other books from my reread library.

Ive listened to a few records, but not enough and watched several movies — “Marianne and Leonard” and “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” during the day. “Life with Father” and “Charade” at night on the I-Pad.

We’ve watched the numbers climb.  Over 10,000 deaths in the US; 160 in PA; 17 in Bucks.  The epicenter has moved from Washington State, California to New York, particularly NYC.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has emerged as a strong Democratic voice to counter President Trump.  Stay-at-home orders exist in most states until the end of April.  Trump’s response has turned a daily press conference into a political ad.  I’ve tried to stopped watching them but read too many articles and reports.  More about that later.

On Friday April 3 I could feel the fistula developing into a abscess.  A fever wouldn’t be far behind.  I squeezed and squeezed until it broke open and began to drain. I called Koganski who said no antibiotic needed if there was no fever and it was draining. The thought of visiting the ER was frightening.

Now time for a late breakfast. Waffles and homemade apple butter and yogurt.

 

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