In the Library

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From the children’s collection, “Library Lion ” by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes.  Published in 2006, it was a New York Times bestseller.  Everyone knows that you must be quiet and there is no running in a library.  But what will happen when a lion has the audacity to enter Mrs. Merriweather’s  library.  When her assistant, Mr. McBee came running down the hall, Mrs. Merriweather, called, “No running.”  “But there is a lion,” said Mr. McBee, “in the library.”  But he wasn’t “breaking any rules” so Mrs. Merriweather said,  “Then leave him be.”

Can you picture Mr. McBee and Mrs. Merriweather.  He is wearing plaid pants, a yellow suit coat, poka dot bow tie, close cropped hair and large glasses.  She is wearing a blue-gray frock, with lots of buttons and a belt, sensible shoes, a bun hairdo and oval glasses that she wears on the end of her nose.

After exploring the card catalog and stacks, the lion settles down for story hour.  But when the story hour ends, the lion roars, raahhhrrrr!  Corrected, he promises not to roar and Mrs. Merriweather says he can return tomorrow.  The lion begins to do all kinds of library chores, dusting encyclopedias, licking envelopes with overdue notices, helping children get books.  He always laid down with the children for story hour.

 

One day Mrs. Merriweather “stretches a little far for a book on the top shelf.  She falls.  The lion runs down the hall and roars at Mr.McBee.  McBee gasped, “Your breaking the rules.”  The lion knew what that meant and left the library.  McBee finds Mrs. Merriweather on the floor and calls the doctor.

 

Days pass. The lion does not return.  He was missed.  McBee decides to search the neighborhood; he eventually finds the lion and brings him back to the library.  Mrs. Merriweather runs to greet him.  “No running” Mr. McBee says. Everyone learns a lesson.   “But sometimes there was good reason to break the rules. Even in the library.”

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Lions in front of the New York Public Library

I was in early elementary school when my father first took me to the Dorrance (Campbell soup family) street library in Bristol.  It was an old wood frame building; the librarian resembled Mrs. Merriweather, but had gray hair.  I was soon checking out books myself.  One strong image is finding that there was more than one “Wizard of Oz” book.  And the library’s copies were beautifully illustrated, first editions I believe.   I worked my way through the Hardy Boys, then Tom Swift, and other “boys” series.  I even tried a few Nancy Drew and Bobbsey Twins books.

I also remember the librarian guiding me in late elementary to a new area labeled Junior classics.  There were Jules Verne books, “Robinson Crusoe,” “The Swiss Family Robinson,” “Huckleberry Finn,”  and “Tom Sawyer,”‘ possible some Dickens.  New worlds to explore.

The old Bristol Free Library was replaced by the Grundy Library on Radcliffe Street in the early 1960s.

Privately funded, it is probably one of the best libraries in the County.  I used it when it first opened, and when I first started teaching, off and on since then.  They had a great selection of LPs (many of historic interest) that I would check out for classroom use.  For years I borrowed a 20 plus set of blue bound,  facsimile books in early new world history to teach about primary sources (some were in Latin or languages other than English languages).  In the 1980s the librarian contacted me.  Since I wás the only one who used the books, would I like them. They are now part of the HGP collection. I’m sure they are checked out regularly.

My High School library at Holy Ghost Prep was a disappointment.  Father Curtin, later Brother Dominic served as librarian. Someone was buying easy to read series– biographies, books about saints or books about states.  I checked out a lot of books but also bought many paperbacks because I knew the school library offerings were not great or challenging reading.  In the summer of my sophomore year I took an American literature course at Neshaminy HS.  In my senior year, Father Dave Marshall taught a good literature course.  I began to read Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Twain, and other American authors.

I loved the Bapst Library at Boston College Library.

Although required reading books were usually purchased, library  books were used for research papers.  The subject of my first paper was Hemingway.  I read every book of criticism and biography in Bapst, even doctoral dissertations.  I then traveled to Boston University to supplement BC offerings.  No question I was a library person, a book person.  Bapst with its antique furnishings, low lights, long tables was also my favorite study venue. Footnote: after reading so much Hemingway criticism, I felt everything had been written.  Fortunately my professor, John McCarthy, helped me develop a topic —  “Huckleberry Finn and the Nick Adams stories.”  A well-known Hemingway critic stole the idea a year or so later?

When we moved to Yardley, the “Old Library on Lake Alton” became a special place.

It had been started as a private subscription library in the mid 1800s.  By the 1970s it was part of the County system.  It was small.  Books were two deep on the shelves.  But it was always an exciting place to visit.  They were purchasing new titles but also had a lot of older volumes — sometimes dusty.  The librarians were pretty typical.  But there was nothing better than walking to the library on a snowy evening for a good winter read.  When the County built a new local library in Lower Makefield township, the “Old Library” became the home of the Yardley Historical Association.  For many years I was active with the Association and presented quite a few slide programs on Yardley history.  It’s probably one of the most painted and photographed buildings in Bucks County.

In 1974 I was hired by Headmaster Francis Hanley as librarian at Holy Ghost Prep.  A Spiritan brother, Dominic Reardon, was the librarian. The library had been moved from a room on the third floor in my student days to the former first floor gym.  It was a good size room, nicely furnished but most of the books were not labeled with clear call numbers, there were few, if any, new purchases.  Donations were accepted from other libraries, even donated card catalog cards.  I disposed of thousands.    I don’t think many books were checked out.  The library pretty much served as a study hall for classes. (Ironically, since I’ve retired some faculty tell me the library is again a silent study hall.)

Hanley wanted me to run a more open library.  Let in the lion. Sometimes it roared.   I began taking courses for a MA degree in educational media.  Libraries were becoming labeled media centers.  I established a music center (problematic as kids would talk loud with earphones); a room for AV equipment and the software (film strips, tapes, slide programs) was set up for faculty. I established a relationship with the BCIU to borrow 16 mm films.  Sometimes I would feature a film  in the library.  I also managed several other small rooms — one as an audio lab, a darkroom and eventually a video room for taping.

I served as HGP’s librarian (always taught 3 courses, so it was not full time) for several years but was appointed Assistant Headmaster in the late 1970s.  For several years the library was managed by volunteer mothers until we hired a librarian, Jan Showler.  I went on to serve as Assistant Headmaster for over ten years but was destined to return to the library.

In 1989-90 I took a sabbatical to research and write my dissertation for an Ed.D program in educational leadership. When I returned I was offered the position of librarian. Since I was writing my dissertation (another story),  it was a good fit.  Several years later the HGP library moved to the first floor of a new building, Founder’s Hall.  Arlene Buettler was hired as a part-time assistant and I would continue to teach 2, sometimes 3 classes.

The new Holy Ghost Prep library was an extremely pleasant environment.  I was teaching several courses at LaSalle and Holy Family in the evenings and I continued to teach several courses at HGP.  What I enjoyed most was exposing students to a new book, a new idea, a new question.

For me a library has always been a special place, a space to think, to read, to write, to explore new worlds. There were rules but also reasons to break the rules.  It was good to let the lion into the library.    I would finish my education career as a librarian and part time classroom teacher.

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New worlds, new ideas, even a bit of magic — all found in libraries.  You just need to look, listen, and read.                                              “Old Library on Lake Afton” Yardley.

 

 

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Trump: I’m tired.

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For some reason I broke down today.  I’ve had enough of Trump.  I’ve read too many articles about his history of lying, bankruptcies, poor business decisions, marriages, arrogance. And then his candidate pronouncements — building a wall between the US and Mexico; barring Muslin immigration; snide, ridiculous, or discriminatory comments against women, people of the Middle East, the handicapped, minorities;  suggestions that gun lovers may take on (out) Clinton.  No, I’m tired of it.  So I vented on Facebook.

I wrote several posts:

Number 1:   I was cleaning up back magazines after being away for several weeks and ran into the July 18, Time. 240 Reasons to Celebrate America (oh, this is liberal media). According to D. Trump, America is falling apart. Responsibility falls to that Black President, who wasn’t born in the United States, and you know who, Hillary Clinton.

I realize there is poverty, out of work people, terrorism, just as there is racism, anti feminism, homophobia. But these are all  constants. Unfortunately not something new.

Is America falling apart from your experience? I was in a restaurant (a bit upscale) in Wellfleet on Cape Cod last week. The tables were filled with loud, laughing families and couples enjoying lobster and other local seafood. I engaged the head waitress, “Are these people part of the failing, falling apart America?” She smiled, “I don’t think so.” I suspect some were Republicans and restaurants on Route 6 were filled (waiting in line) with many more middle class families.

I ask those decent, normal Trump supporters. Consider, is the country falling apart as Trump suggests? Is your life worse than it was 8 years ago. I know your stock portfolio must be better, if that’s important.  If life is worse, please tell me how? Tell me how President Obama is responsible? I don’t need vague political rhetoric. Be specific and relate it to Obama policy.

If you can’t do that, consider your support for Trump. And get a copy of Time, “240 reasons to Celebrate America.” America is  not a bad place to live. Never though I’d be waving the flag like this but with Trump it’s necessary.

Number 2:   Trump supporters! Are there any positive articles about Trump? I know you probably think the mainstream/liberal media is out to destroy him. But so many articles about his history as well as behavior and comments during this campaign paint a portrait of someone who should never be President. Republicans who can afford any potential political fallout have refused to support or have spoken out against him. This isn’t typical.

I’m not crazy about Clinton but Trump is a crazy choice for President. The country is no worse than it was before Obama’s election — it’s probably better but at least no worse.

I think, too many decent people have been sucked into the Trump vortex. Stop, listen to what’s being written and said about Donald Trump. It’s not your regular and unfortunate and partisan low blows, hype, and political nonsense.  Consider, and I hope embrace. Donald Trump is an unacceptable candidate. I don’t expect those that really like his racist and sexist comments, absurd policy pronouncements, arrogant, self centered behavior will recant.

But I know there are decent people currently in his camp than can and should reconsider.  Donald Trump is an unacceptable candidate for President of the United States.

Number 3:  Who is defending Trump? Am I missing something? I have a limited number of friends on FB. But many have association with HGP and not so long ago association with HGP ran about 90% Republican. In my last years teaching there the tide shifted a bit, my classes were maybe 60% Republican. Some of my best political discussions were with HGP young Conservative Republicans in the Library (I was the Librarian). Where are you guys? Can you explain Trump? Can you support him? Vote for him? Please tell me why!

I expected Trump would have a strong 30% base of loyal supporters.  From my liberal perspective, these were the crazies that believed in  his sell.  What bothers me is the additional percentage of good, decent people sucked into the Trump vortex  who have bought the sell — neighbors, relatives, friends.  Most disturbing is not hearing-reading why?  I want good people to explain Trump and his policies.  Help if you can.

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State of the Nation

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Many years ago, teaching an economics class at Holy Ghost Prep, I asked the class what percentage of families made $100,000?  Answers varied from 3 to 30 %.  quite a few hit the correct answer — 10%.  Then a hand went up and a student commented, “Most of the families I know make at least $100,000.”  I commented that most of the kids in the room and most of their neighbors probably fell into the 10%.  “Where are the other 90%,” the student questioned.  “Where I repeated?”

That afternoon I was driving to teach a class at LaSalle University.  I stopped at Broad and Olney.  People rushed on the streets, some moving to catch a subway, waiting for a bus; others hung on the corner.  “There’s the other 90%, I thought.”t

Last night we were having dinner at the Wicked Oyster in Wellfleet, Cape Cod.  The room was filled, tables were lively, most people were probably on vacation, summer house or weekly rental.  The hostess, an older woman, was passing our table, our eyes met.  “Excuse me,” I said, “I was thinking, how many of these people believe Trump’s analysis that the country is falling apart.”  She smiled, “Not many,” she responded.

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Trump’s dire message is suppose to appeal to white, particularly, non college educated males.  His support among women and minorities is less.  He is supported by Republicans more than Democrats; although a recent poll shows a post convention jump in support from Independents.  Keeping in mind a book we used at Holy Ghost Prep, “How to Lie with Statistics,” here are a few rough stats.

About 60% of the population is non-Hispanic white.  About 50% are women.  About 60%  of the population is non college educated.  Imagine for a moment that all non-Hispanic whites were non college educated.  30% of them would be white males, Trump’s prime supporters.  Months ago I responded to someone on Facebook, that I suspected only 30-40% of could be stupid enough (sorry, but I do think his supporters are if not stupid, very gullible, that’s a better word, a more accurate word) to support Trump. Can there really be more than 30-40% Trump supporters?

We know a percentage of non college educated are non white.  A fair number are probably Democratic.  I’m not sure about voting rates among groups.  Are college educated more Democratic (they did support Obama more) ?  Who votes more college educated or non college?  And I haven’t even considered age, religion or geographic location.  I am sure there are lots of articles, polls and research that attempt to answer these questions. And I’m sure as in all good social science research, you can find conflicting analysis.  So . . .

What issues make Trump supporters, supporters?  Immigration, well illegal immigration, how many people think about it?  How many are effected?  How many really care?  There are about 11 million (some children), under 4%,  of illegal immigrants in the US.  Most in California, Texas, New York, New Jersey  and Illinois. It would seem that people in these states would be more likely to be interested and/or effected by the issue.  Living in small town Pennsylvania, I’d have to go out of my way to feel effected (unless I listen to certain politicians or media).  Are the six illegal immigrant states Red or Blue (I’ll let you check).  I think my realization is,  I suspect that, the concerns of most of those nationally come not from personal experience or something that personally effects their  lives but from political rhetoric, media reporting and crusaders.

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I think the rhetoric, reporting, and crusading may be responsible for other hot button issues — gay marriage, violence, international fears, 2nd amendment rights.  It’s not that I’m against political discourse, media reporting or crusading.  In fact all are important to learning and democracy.  But I worry about the ability of citizens to make sense of the deluge of data, information, propaganda, and talk that is available.  How much is quality; how much is trash?  Can we tell the difference?

I think much of current commentary (like the nightly news) deals with the negative, the bizarre.  Today’s yellow journalism.  Controversy for the sake of controversy.  Feed fears.    Trump exploits these tendencies. According to his message (dare we call it a vision) we are being destroyed by foreign terrorists, Mexican aliens, Muslims, and  corrupt politicians.  The far right Christians add deviant behavior and non Christian religion.  The country is in ruin.  Unfortunately it may be easier to accept (and parrot) the negative.  Fear what is not just like us.  Racism and prejudice are acceptable.  Diversity is dangerous; conformity is comforting. The enemy is them.

I need to think about this more. But I don’t think (I hope) most of those in the Wicked Oyster last night, most people on Cape Cod, most of my neighbors in Yardley, most Pennsylvanians, and most citizens of the United States  believe based on prsonal experience and common sense analysis that the country (the world) isn’t coming to an end.  There are problems a plenty that we need to improve, correct as much as possible. But daily life, living needs to be good and affirming. For now I’m going to enjoy the sun, sand, oysters, and fellow wo-man.  Maybe more on this later.

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Father

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Facebook pages have been filled with tributes to fathers.  Some are recent college graduates with infants.  Older fathers being remembered by children or spouses. “You are the greatest . . . You taught me all I know . . . Thanks for always being there for me.”  Then there are tributes to senior fathers, grandfathers.  Some deceased, “You are always with me.” Photographs can be portraits, fathers and children, Mom and Dad, family groups.

Looking at the posts, made me pause and think about my Father.  Not Dad, Daddy,Pop, he was always Father.  Even some adult friends referred to him as Father.  I suspect he was the first of their post War group to have a child — a boy, a son, me.

My memories of Father are many random incidents that define his beliefs and character.

It’s Friday night.  Father is in Thomas Profy and Sons, GE appliance store.  An older Italian woman approaches, “Mr. Profy, I bought my refrigerator from your father thirty years ago.  I want to buy a new one.”  My father smiled, Mrs. C, I want to warn you, the new one won’t last 30 years. They don’t make them as well today.  I smiled, I’d recently read Vance Packard and discovered the phrase “planned obsolescence.”

Another night a couple was looking at several washing machine models.  From the basic stripped down model to the top of the line with many additional buttons, dials, features.  The woman hesitated, should she get the top of the ine.  Father spoke up.     “The basic model has the same motor, agitator, and washed clothes the same as the top of the line.  One big difference was the number of things that could break with all those extra features.” And repairs were expensive.  She choose the basic model.

There were always locals, street business men, friends who stopped in the store to chat.  “Mitchell,” my father asked, “how do you cut a dove tail?”  Mitchell went into a lengthy explaination.  When he left, I asked father, “Why did you ask him that, you know how to cut a dove tail”  Father looked at me, “It makes him feel good that I respect his knowledge and maybe I’ll learn something new.”

A lot of father’s time was related to work.  Weeks days from 7:30 to 5.  Several evenings a week and Saturday hours. Several times a month, Father, drove to Bridge street and took the El to Jeweler’s Row.  He was stocking his small watch and jewelry department in the appliance store (a concession from my grandfather I think to keep him in the business).  Whenever I could I went with him.  He made me feel important, “learning the ropes.”  But he also took the opportunity to expose me to the City.  The department stores.  Usually Horn & Hardart’s for lunch.  Then we headed to Independence Hall.  This was the 1950s, and the federal government was creating the National Park and restoring Indepedence Hall.  Father shared in my amazement as conservators carefully removed  over a dozen layers of paint to find the original color.  I was hooked — history, historic preservation, Philadelphia.

Father always supported reading and read to me when I was very young.  The first real book I remember was “Nobody’s Boy.”  It had been a gift from Aunt Lucy but at 5 years old I wasn’t going to read it alone.   It was the story of an orphan boy who eventually finds his family.  I loved the story. Father read it several times.  Another book he read was “Uncle Wiggily” short stories.  Oh how I waited for the conclusion which set the stage for the next story.  On our trips to Philadelphia, Father introduced me to Leary’s Book store.  A devoted reader in elementary school, I was in heaven. He showed me juvenile literature — Robinson Crusoe, Swiss Family, Jules Verne, the Hardy Boys.  I always came away with a book.

Father’s life revolved around family, work,  church, and hobbies.  Summer vacation was a  week at the Jersey shore, initially sharing a house with Uncle Frank and Aunt Ellen’s clan.  I remember one year father had the store truck filled with beach gear, playpen, crib, even an extra refrigerator.  A lot of effort for a week at the beach.  He’d take me flounder fishing although he really wasn’t a fisherman.  But I  should have the experience. He didn’t like driving either but discovered a trendy store in Rancocus.  I recall quite a few family trips looking at wrought iron hardware, candles and other “neo-colonial”  house wares.  Another South Jersey destination was Batso.  Colonial iron bog foundry.  The drive was about the same as a trip to LBI.  The kids should learn some history.

Although not overly adventurous, I was impressed when Father bought a small boat.  Twelve feet sticks in my mind, on a trailer, with a tiny outboard.  We putted around Burlington Island, sometimes stopping for a picnic.  At the time I knew father was out of his waters with the boat but admired his willingness to try something new.  Small steps.  In his childhood, kids swam across the river to the island.

In a similar way he supported my involvement in the Boy Scouts by signing up for camping trips.  Like boating and driving a car, camping would not have been a favored activity but he would support me in my interests.

He was a sports person.  Track and Field.  During the 1950s, he took me to the Penn Relays at University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field.  It was an exciting time for the mile race as runners attempted and did break the 4 minute mile.  I was especially fascinated by Ron Delaney from Villanova.  In fact Mom had once dated the team’s Doctor who took me to the locker room to meet Delaney.  Somehow I lost the signed program from that visit.

In high school I played basketball.  Father set up a  backboard in the parking lot behind our Mill street apartment.   Most weekends, he would join a group of local kids on the court.  He was in his early 40s and kept up with several starters from the Bristol HS team.  We soon learned that although short he jumped high for rebounds and you didn’t want to be hit with his swinging elbows.  I guess he attended some of my games but he was a player not a screaming fan in the bleachers.

Despite his aversion to driving, he took me to Boston College in our maroon Impala.  I remember his horror at Boston traffic.  This would not be something he would do regularly.  It seemed we found my off campus housing in Newton Square, unloaded the car, hugged goodby and my parents were gone.  If we went out to dinner that night I have no recollection. I had been raised to be independent.

My Freshman grades were mediocre. And  I refused to take some test to get a deferment.  In September I was back on campus and I got a induction letter.  I wrote the Bristol Draft Board explaining that I was registered and had paid for the first semester of my Sophomore year.  I got a deferment.  Decades later one of my sisters informed me the deferment was probably was granted since Father talked to someone, not because I wrote a letter.

Fast forward to the end of the school year.  Diane and I had become engaged.  I returned to Bristol in May with wedding plans for July.  Since I was only 20, I needed parental permission. One evening after dinner, Father announced that he wasn’t signing any papers, “I was too young to get married.”  The next morning, I packed a suitcase and hitch hiked back to Boston.  By July, Father had relented and we were married in late August. I asked him about his resistance.  He responded, “I was worried” he said, “how were you going to pay for college and support a wife.  I have nothing to give you.”  “That’s OK,” I said, “you could make us some furniture.”  Father had always done house repair carpentry.  He had tools.  Why not furniture making.

That Christmas, Father drove to Boston.  He was alone.  Mom had 4 daughters to care for.  In the Impala was a pine Cobbler’s Bench coffee table and a round, fold up, dining room table — the top could roll back making a seat.  He had taken my comment literally and began making furniture.  These would be the first of his many wood working projects.  Also squeezed into the car was a piece of green wall to wall carpet.  He laid it out in the living-dining room, measured cuts, marked on the back, and cut.  When he turned it over he went wild.  His cuts hadn’t accounted for the rug being upside down.  He was furious.  Always double check measurements he reminded me.

In 1976, Diane and I took a five week trip to Great Britan.  A house on Mulberry Street might be listed.  I told my father to make an offer, we would buy it.  When we returned he informed me that we had bought the house.  Although there had been no settlement or money involved, he was already doing some interior painting.  Problem was that Mom wasn’t talking to me.  One of my sisters explained that she felt that they should have bought the house.  I told my father to take it we could find something.  He  finally agreed but with the condition we move into the family apartment on Mill street.  We did and a year later with baby Jenny bought a house in Yardley.

Neither my father or his brothers were aggressive businessmen.  By the 1970s, suburban shopping centers and malls had drained Main Street business.  Thomas Profy and Sons GE appliances closed.  I got father a job as head of the maintenance department at HGP.  A decade or more later he retired from HGP.  The school hosted a party for Father and Eddie Beyer, a long time bus driver.  Although not a public speaker, Father agreed to say a few words.

He described how every morning he walked the halls unlocking classroom doors and turning on lights.  “I was proud,” he said. “I turned on the light, making it possible for those talented, smart teachers to teach their students.  I was contributing to their education.”  So perfectly, Father.

In his last years after Mom’s death and his increasingly fragile memory, Father remained smiling, with a twinkle in his eye, a subtle joke, and hugs for his children and grandchildren.

 

 

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Retirement: round three

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Holy Ghost Prep’s graduation was yesterday.  As the class of 2016 waited for their diplomas, I waited for wheel chair transport out of Pennsylvania Hospital.  Discharge is always slow on weekends.  Finally Trisha, my nurse for the day came with a wheel chair, “Do you want me to take you down.”  Diane headed out to get the car; Trisha and I chatted about travels, past and future.   And so began the third year of my retirement from HGP.

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Just after 1, we drove to Santucci’s at Woodhaven and Knghts Road.  Although the HGP graduates were headed home, the class of 1966 (a year after my graduation) were holding a reunion on campus. Should I stop?  No, a different plan.  I’ve had Santucci famous square pizza many times. It was frequently served at HGP on parent-teacher meeting nights.  But I’d never been to one of the family restaurants.   Joe and Philomena Santucci entered the pizza business in 1959 in Northeast Philadelphia.  Since then family members have opened Santucci’s in South Philadelphia, North Broad,  and Northeast locations.  All serve the  “original square pizza.”  I didn’t feel like a lot of tomato so Diane ordered a white mushroom and we decided to stop along the river in Bristol to eat.

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We detoured slightly in Croydon.  Somehow the night before my Internet searches discovered a new looking restaurant, High Tides, on the Neshaminy Creek.  What drew me to it was the large deck over the creek.  It looked like a nice place for lunch or just a drink.  As a kid I sometimes asked my father to drive along the creek to State Road as the way home to Bristol.  My trip to Santucci’s and detour along the Neshaminy were part of that impulse.  Retirement: round three might need to start with many short local explores; little adventures.

The waterfront in Bristol was busy with people walking dogs, kids running through the marsh path, families sitting in the sun and then there were guys that hang out in their cars facing the river.  The one next to us was watching TV.  Some day we’d go back to High Tides for a drink.  I thought our mushroom white was tasty; Diane thought it needed some basil and hot pepper. But we will return; small discoveries.

Year two of retirement just ending has been tough.  My medical problems started last June on my return from Italy.  A fistula (holes linking the bowel and urinary system was discovered.)   It was the result of radiation treatment I had at the University of Pennsylvania.  Sadly my Penn radiation was Proton, newer, promoted as safer, and one of the many cancer treatments experienced by my grandson, Eli.  For a while we were the same room although at different times for our Proton radiation.  Thankfully Eli is four years out with no identified side effects or return of cancer. But I ended up in the wrong (I’m told small) percentage.

Surgery to repair the fistula was held off till September — surgeon schedules but also the doctors gave us the opportunity to enjoy a planned vacation in Cape Cod with Jen, Rob, Viv and Eli.  My September surgery was 11 hours and within weeks had been identified as a failure.  I liked both of my primary surgeons, Joshua Blier (Colo-rectal) and Robert Kovell (Urology) but the failure was devastating. Both advised against further surgery.  It became clear that the best would be permanent colostomy and  urostomy.  My recovery was slow and I was hospitalized for two weeks; followed by weeks in a Lower Makefield facility (a nightmare).

Surgery to make my appliances permanent was planned for March.  (Family joke: Cousin Philomena questioned whether the new appliances would be GE.)  Kevin Steinberg, my Penn cardiologist, (I have a heart doctor now), discovered multiple heart issues. Triple by pass heart surgery (CABG, pronounced, “Did you have your ‘cabbage’ done here?” was necessary. One carotid artery was 100% blocked  (need to monitor the second one for life) and a bit of luck, possible valve repair was determined unnecessary. But there is always the possibility of complications. This time mine came in the form of an infected abscess at the site of the original surgery.  For days I waited as the Heart team demanded no infection before surgery; Urology and Colo- Rectal decided what to do. After a week I was taken in for minor surgical drainage of the infected area. Satoshi Furukawa was my cardiac surgeon.  He radiated an eastern calm and confidence. In and out.   I was amazed after waiting for over a week for the heart surgery, I was discharged within days.  Back to recovery in Yardley with the help of Penn Care home nurses.

The heart issues came as a surprise. Particularly the severity.  Prior to, I thought my heart was fine; no recognized symptoms of heart disease.  Lesson, a bit late, see a cardiologist, have a stress test. The discovery of my heart problems have been the silver lining.  March, April, re-scheduled for the new appliance surgery at the end of May.  A typical five day stay turned into a week, then two weeks plus, until my bowels straightened out and began to function.  But yesterday I got out of bed, dressed, and headed home.  Enjoying my small adventures, explores.

My weight is 163 pounds.  Last September I weighed about 208.  I have several healing wounds and two new appliances (not GE). I realize full recovery will be months but I am determined that Retirement: round three will be better than the second.  I’ve started making the list — what I must do to recover; to live; but also what  I want to do to enjoy living.

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Now it’s time for some breakfast and house organization.

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Cinema, film, “the movies”

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Several nights ago, Diane and I watched “The Young Sherlock Holmes.”  We immediately saw traces of Harry Potter — boarding school, precocious kid, male and female sidekicks, a bad teacher, magic and mystery.  It’s a 1985 movie, pre-Harry, but most reviewers don’t believe that Rowling borrowed; just archetypal elements.  There are scenes of an Egyptian death cult obviously owing a debt to Indiana Jones. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out in 1981 and Steven Spielberg was an advisor to “Young Sherlock.” Film history can be interesting.

“Young Sherlock” is one of about 500 DVDs I have been bringing upstairs from the many boxes I brought home from Holy Ghost Prep and stored in the basement.  My collection developed when I committed to watching the AFIs (American Film Institute) best 100 American films.  In about two years I watched all of them except for the Jazz Singer which wasn’t available on VHS or DVD.  Anyone who reviews the list may want to do some additions and subtractions (actually I think the AFI has updated the list) but they are all good films worth watching more than once. As I worked my way through the list, I decided to teach a film course at HGP.  So I burned most of the films on the list — the beginnings of my DVD collection.

My serious interest in cinema (as an art form) began while I was a student at Boston College.  I was not alone.   The 1960s witnessed Americans interest in film,  foreign films, art theatres and film schools in CA and NYC.   I regularly went to films at the Brattle (one of Boston’s art theatres — Bergman, Fillini, Antonioni.  You didn’t need to hear the Swedish, French, or Italian to know these weren’t American, Hollywood movies.

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At the end of my Freshman year, driving home with my father,  I shared an idea that I might leave BC and apply to NYU.  “Why” my father asked, “your already in a college.”  He didn’t get the idea of majoring in film making.  Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg and many others from my generation were the first to attend college to learn film making. But I returned to BC and was satisfied to take several courses in film offered by the English Department (my major).

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The instructor was Mannie Grossman, a new young addition to the department who was interested in film.  The courses offered were history and critique not production.  Mannie and I became good friends (both recently married), went out to dinner and the movies. A standing joke between us was who read (prepared more for class).  The courses introduced me to early cinema — French, German and Russian films.  I carried my interest into other courses, writing screenplays, reviewing Shakespearean films, comparing novels to filmed versions.  Most professors were quite open to these alternatives to traditional English papers. Books about film history, film as art, directors, genres flooded the market.  Few existed before the 1960s.

Minor production experience came outside of class.  At BC student activity funds became available to make films.  I applied and got money to shoot a documentary film  about the Harcourt Bindery  — a shop where I worked with machinery and employees straight out of the 19th century.  My film was shot with super 8mm; sound was on a separate reel to reel tape that had to be synced when shown.  There was only one public showing during a campus wide film festival.  But it’s basically impossible to blow up Super 8 to a theatre size.  Despite that, the film was well recieved (probably due to subject matter) and I thought I may have gotten an “A” in my seventeenth century prose course because the professor liked the film.

About 2 years ago, I sent “The Bindery” to a company to have it digitized.  Scan Digital lost the film.  I was shocked.  It’s worth mentioning, the retired teacher who bought Harcourt Bindery from my boss, Fred Young, made two documentary films with National Endowment money.  They are much more sophisticated than mine. But loss of “The Bindery” was unfortunate.

In Boston and the years right out of college, I continued to shoot film, instead of taking 35 mm photographs.  Most of it was just raw footage.  I few times I tried to tell a story.  When Diane and I were in the Peace Corps, I asked for funding and was given money to rent equipment and document our training program. PC made several copies.  Scan Digital didn’t lose this one and so I have a DVD but haven’t watched it yet.  Some time soon I need to go through my Super 8 footage and get more converted.

In the 1970s, I put down my movie camera (I’d bought a Bolieu) and started taking 35 mm photographs.  First with my father’s Argus; then with Canons purchased by HGP, finally with my own Nikon equipment.  For about 10 years I sent slides to stock companies and did a few yearbooks and weddings.  I still get an ocassional royalty check from images stock companies accepted over 40 years ago.  Unfortunately I stopped when administration and school work took up more of my time. Film was watching movies.

I never got very involved with a VHS camera.  I used one in class and gave students film making assignments, but I only brought the camera home one Christmas.  While Diane cooked dinner, Jenny and I made a PBS style home show.  I probably should get that on a DVD and also transfer several 16 mm films that Diane’s father made. One is of a car trip out west he made with a friend in the 1930s; another are clips of Diane growing up. More retirement projects.

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I taught the film course at HGP for about 8 years.  The textbook by John Belton was used in many college classes was the basis of my course title,  “American Cinema/American Culture.”  For  the first month, we reviewed the early history of film, Edison, through “Birth of a Nation.”  Most students had never seen a silent film nor a black and white film.  On the first day of class I gave them a list of about 20 important American films.  Most had seen one or two — i.e. “The Godfather,” maybe “The Graduate.”

 

imageAfter Chaplin’s “The Kid'” we turned to comedy as a genre.  “Some Like it Hot” was always a big hit.  To my surprise “Doctor Strangelove” and “Mash” would get mixed reviews.  I enjoyed comparing Astaire-Rogers in “Swing Time” with “West Side Story” and Travalta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Students were also required to watch some films at home, keep a journal and write some formal reviews. For instance, “Tootsie” might be assigned after “Some Like it Hot.”

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Although I changed films annually there were other regulars including “Mr Smith Goes to Washington,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Fargo,” and of course “Casablanca.”  One year I had time for one last film.  “Milk” was getting a lot of press.  Quiet and hesitant in the beginning, particularly with the open homosexual scenes, almost every kid in the class was cheering for Harvey Milk by the end of the film.  I kept “Milk” on the list as the last film shown in the course.  It was a fun course to teach and I never minded rewatching classic films.

Recently I’ve been watching quite a few movies.  That term “movies,” by the way,  came about because the early film makers from NYC and NJ “moved around a lot when they moved to Hollywood.  Locals took to calling them “the movies.”  It wasn’t complimentary.  Just a bit of trivia from the film course.

I currently watch streaming on Amazon and our Comcast account.  Unfortunately there is an awful lot of junk.   Streaming Turner Classics  usually offers an older film that is new to me or some classic favorite. I watch a lot of PBS streaming — the American Experience and Masterpiece.  Diane borrows CDs from the Library.  Usually I can buy into her choices which run heavy into series like “Foyle’s War'” or “Call the Midwives.”  We get one Nexflix at a time — trying to see some current hits.  And every few weeks we go to the County Theatre in Doylestown or the Ritz in Society Hill — versions of the old art cinemas.  And now I have my 500 DVDS.

Maybe I need to find a pattern or purpose in my watching or maybe watching a good film enough.  Tonight I’m going to watch “Mr.Holmes.”  I just finished the book.  Holmes has retired, is raising bees, trying to understand life and old age.  Unfortunately I can’t have popcorn anymore.

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Ayudanica — the village of Monte Rosa

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Ayudanica was started as a service project at Holy Ghost Prep by Rob Buscaglia in the late 1990s.  I got involved in year two.  Eventually we established a nonprofit returning to the village of Monte Rosa with its sugar cane refinery.  We established a library and computer center, trained American and Nicaraguan teens in running a variety of programs in the center — reading, photography, crafts, sports, intercultural activities.  We also enjoyed meeting families and exploring the village and countryside.  This is one of several photo essays I have published about the program.  Here are some shots of the center we established and around the village.

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