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.

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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.

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Remembering the past

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Yesterday Jenny asked me to describe a favorite place I could retreat to when in pain or trying to get to sleep.  A focus to dim distractions; awake dreams.  It got me thinking how much I enjoy remembering the past.  Sixty-eight years of experiences, people, places, feelings, events.  In some ways FaceBook is part of that process.  Some Friends are from my elementary school years, high school and college.  Others Friends are from Bristol ( including relatives) where I grew.  Friends from Holy Ghost Prep where I worked for 40 years.  Friends from Yardley Borough where Diane and I have lived from 1977.  Friends from every corner of my life.

Last night I  reflected on favorite memories.  A place I could remember; a pleasant place where I could escape the present.

Meeting Diane at a party in the Hilton Hotel in Boston.  She and a friend Susan Ruby were staying there before a Spring Break trip to Nassau.  Ted Fuery and I had been invited to a BC dorm floor party.  I met a guy Chip Muldoon (Main Line Philadelphia) and we rescued Diane and Susan who were dancing with some sailors in a room near our party. Later in the evening, I met Diane at an elevator and we went out for coffee.  It was the beginning.

Two years later Diane and I were married in Brewster NY.  The reception was at her parents house.  Family came up from Bristol; friends from our colleges down from Boston.  The next day in my parents maroon Tempest, we left for a honeymoon in Canada.  We stopped at Kent Falls in CN and Diane threw her corsage into the flowing water.  We’ve stopped at Kent Falls in the past few years savoring the moment so many years ago.

Our Peace Corps training in Bisbee AZ was a fantastic experience. We were there with 100 married couples and 20 single women, PC staff (many not much older than us trainees) and about 50 Libyians —  improving their English skills and teaching us Arabic language and culture. Daily we bussed into Mexico to teach English to Mexican children.  We were learning a technique called TEFL  that we would use teaching in Libya.  The most memorable day was a Mexican Independence Day parade.  The entire village turned out.  We marched with our students.  Quite a day of drinking and partying.  In the evening Arthur Ward and I got involved with some Mexicans at a bar.  Next thing I knew I was horse backing riding across the plains.  Fortunately the horse was in charge.

In the early 1970s Diane and I rented a house in New Hope with John and Barbara Paglione.  Our version of communal living and 70s back to the earth.  Summers John and I worked on local farms.  We had a large vegetable garden, canned for the winter, made all our bread, wine, beer, jams. Our iconic road trip was to Maine to visit Helen and Scott Nearing.  If you don’t know them, they were gurus of back to the earth, organic, sustainable living.  Four fantastic active off beat years.

Looking to buy a house we moved into my family’s apartment on Mill Street.  For several years we had been trying to have a baby.  Finally on October 24, 1977, Jenny Alexandra Profy was born.  I was scheduled to be present at the birth but  last minute a Caesarean was ordered and I was banished from the room.  Jerry Alonzo was visiting and we waited together.  Happiness, joy, excitement, a rush of emotions.  Diane and I had our baby.  Interesting around the same time Paglione’s, Bonnema’s,  Alonzo’s all had a child.  For all of us, an only child.

121 N Delaware Avenue in Yardley Borough. A small riverside cottage in what was known as the River Mawr neighborhood.  The house was in the flood plain but there had been no major floods since 1955 and flood insurance was only $99 annually.  There was no real estate broker involved.  The Robinson’s acted on behalf of themselves.  Cousin Thomas handled our paperwork.  To get to the bathrooom you had to go through Jenny’s small bedroom (about 10×10).  Ours wasn’t much bigger.  One floor and a partial damp basement, an attic was accessible with a ladder from our bedroom.  But it was home.  I soon became involved in town organizations, serving on Council for eight years and active in other borough organizations like the Yardley Historical Association.  In the mid 1980s with mortgage rates above 15%, we decided to build an addition.  The 20 by 25 two story addition with basement doubled th size of the house.  Flooding in early 2000s and we decided to elevate and stay.  Yardley is home.

Diane and I took several trips to Europe but Scandanavia (primarily Denmark) has a special meaning.  Jen was about 10 years old.  A friend of Ragna Hamilton let us use their Copenhagen apartment. We met Ragna for s everal days, touring the city where she grew up.  It added a new dimension to our relationship with her.  Over the years of Sunday brunches at her house, she had become a grandmother to Jenny.  We traveled around the city and Danish countryside for over a month.

In 1974, the end of the war and draft, I left my teaching position at St. Michael’s elementary school in Levittown. Father Francis Hanley offered me a position as librarian, English teacher at HGP.  Within several years I was assuming administrative duties and in his last year as Headmaster, Hanley appointed me Assistant Headmaster.  I had a wide range of administrative duties including discipline.  Many students only saw my disciplinary role (about 10% of my work.). When Jim McNally became Headmaster, we served as a team for 10 years.  Father Jim became a second “father” to me.  I enjoyed administration, working with faculty, worked on a doctorate and thought some day might be the first lay Headmaster.  In late 1980s, however, McNally and I were removed by the order in a bitter fight that split the faculty for years.

In 1989, I took a sabbatical and finished my dissertation about the Political Culture of Educational Policymaking in Pennsylvania.  Ethnographic research for months in Harrisburg was exciting.  Ed Burns, Republican chair of the House Education Committee was my sponsor.  Ed treated me like an aide.  I actually flirted with running for the state House but dropped out.  Dissertation finished in 1990, I returned to HGP as a librarian teacher and started teaching education courses at LaSalle University and Holy Family.  By the late 1990s I was teaching several graduate courses each semester at Holy Family.  Although I still enjoyed most of my high school courses and students.  Graduate teacher education was very rewarding.  I continued at HF until retirement ( adjunct courses had dried up).

Although I’ve had many positive rewarding teaching experiences, the Greater Philadelphia High School Partnership and Ayudanica service program to Nicaragua were the most engaging.  Each lasted about ten years.  The HS Partnersip was sponsored by Ted Hershberg at the University of Pennsylvania.  One of my HGP classes partnered with a City school, got to know each other, explored social issues and engaged in service learning activities in a Philadelphia neighborhood.  The most successful programs were HGP and CAPA (Phila magnet school for the creative and performing arts).  Sue Rosenthal from CAPA and I became great friends and collaborators. Ayudanica started as an HGP service project by Rob Buscaglia who served in Peace Corps Nicaragua.  I joined in year two.  Run like a PC training program we trained kids all year for a 10 day service trip to Monte Rosa a sugar cane village in Nicaragua.  Ten years we watched and participated in the growth of kids ( 6 one year, 16 in our last year).  Our main project was establishing a library and computer classes in Monte Rosa. After a number of years Ayudanica became an independent nonprofit.   Successful the years we staffed and funded the Center, I suspect Ayudanica is just a memory for many of the Nicaraguans who participated. I do stay in touch with several through FB.

For about 10 years, c 1994-2004, Nantucket, Rattlesnake Bank, a small cottage off Polpis Road became our summer vacation. We rented directly from the owner, John Whitman, and over the years did everything Nantucket had to offer, kyacking, bicycling, hiking, swimming, shopping, historic tours, fine dining, music, theatre. Lots of reading and writing.   Since we returned year after year for two weeks, we really came to know the island.  I began to talk about “Nantucket Time” a quiet, no rush, moment by moment rhythm.  I tried to hold it through September, October, …. How long could it last?

Eli and Viv were both born at Pennsylvania Hospital.  I have a strong memory of visiting Jenny early the morning after his birth.  I liked that it was in the historic Penn Hospital founded by Ben Franklin.  And so excited to have a grandson.  Two years later Viv was born.  Two grandchildren.  The most important part of my life, now and I suspect for many years to come.

Sometimes negative experiences have silver linings.  When he was four years old, my grandson, Eli , was diagnosed with neuroblastoma.  For 18 months Eli’s treatment at CHOP  and Penn occupied the entire family.  Eli was courageous and has been an inspiration as I deal with my own medical issues.  His personality and abilities were moulded during this period.  An amazing kid, four years out, no sign of cancer.  One more year and we’ll be at the five year mark.  Thanks Eli.

Memories, the past, a short history of my life, stories and experiences to help me through tough times.

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Nantucket Time

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In the late 80s or early 90s, Diane found a small ad in a local newspaper for a small house on Nantucket. We had visited Martha’s Vineyard several years before and thought Nantucket would be an interesting vacation spot. Rattlesnake Bank, located about 12 minutes outside of town, was wonderful. It was off Polpis Road, a long clam shell drive led to a 1950s, two bedroom cottage, that would become our favorite get away for over ten years. The owner, John, was from Newtown PA and had inherited the property from an  aunt. When she bought or built in the 1950s, Nantucket was still a bit of a backwater tourist destination.

The first year, we stayed a week and did the usual tourist things. We went to beaches on the sound and the ocean. Did some birding. In town we explored Nantucket’s whaling history and took a architectural-historic walking tour. We had bicycles, so there were bike rides into town and to Sconset, the small artist colony of quaint cottages. We saw the lighthouses and enjoyed some shopping in the cobble stone streets town center — Mitchell’s Book store, Nantucket Looms, Murray’s Toggery, where you buy Nantucket “red” shorts and shirts.  We fell in love with the island, Rattlesnake Bank and the Nantucket rhythms.

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As the years passed, I began to experience Nantucket Time.  You need to be in a familiar place, no need to rush, to do, to see new things.  Move slowly, relaxed, no deadlines, go with the flow, enjoy.  Nantucket Time is like a slow flowing stream; waves gently breaking on the shore.   The wind rustling in the trees, the early morning birds.  Nantucket Time  is the sound of wind chimes, the smell of flowers, or salt spray. Nantucket Time would begin on the 2 1/2 hour ferry ride from Hyannis to the Far Away Island. By the time we reached Rattlesnake Bank, I was wound down.

We usually arrived in early afternoon, drove down Orange Street and stopped at a favorite bakery.  At the rotary, we picked up some wine and beer, then unloaded the car, beach stuff, bicycles, kyack, cameras, binoculars.  Some years Jenny brought a friend, one year Smiths visited; another year my parents.  One of the great things about renting from John was we were not confined to a standard weekly rental.  We told him the day we wanted to arrive and how many days we wanted to stay.  There were several couples he rented to like this on a regular basis.  We began to feel like Rattlesnake Bank was our second home.

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As the years passed, Nantucket Time deepened.  We had many established routines — trips to Cisco brewery and Bartlett’s vegetable farm market, Sayle’s Seafood and the Wicked Island Bakery, previously mentioned.  Each year we ate out a few nights — we sampled American Seasons, 21 Federal Street, Arno’s,  Oran Mor, one of our favorites was  Black-Eyed Susan’s.   Every year, our final dinner was at Straight Wharf.  I believe the first high end restaurant in Nantucket.  The chef for 20 years was Marian Morash, a one time assistant to Julia Child.  Each year we had her signature Bluefish pate.

Despite the fact that a fire in 1864 wiped out most of downtown Nantucket and sounded the death of  the whaling industry, there is a strong sense of history in town.  We would visit several sites every year — the African American Meeting House, the Jethro Coffin House, Whaling Museum, First Congregational Church and the Old Mill.  We took various tours — the first year it was a jeep tour, sponsored by Trustees of Reservations, to the Great Point Lighthouse.  If I remember correctly, we got a private tour of the Coatue Wildlife Refuge where the lighthouse is located.  One year we rented a jeep and made the trip ourselves.  Several years we joined Audubon groups for early morning bird walks.  Another  year a Herman Melville scholar gave a tour of sites associated with the author of Moby Dick. And we still get mailings from a hospital fundraiser annual house tour. There were beach discovery tours where Jenny collected and identified sea creatures, using small scoop and seine nets.

Nantucket always offered a rich cultural life.  There were plays at the Congregational Church and other venues, lectures — we saw David Halberstam, Jack Welch (GE CEO), and several lectures by Nathaniel Philbrick — Nantucket historian and author.  Most years we attended a a concert or music venue — Judy Collins, Joan Baez, James Taylor, and the Boston Pops.  At the Chicken Box we saw Bob Marley’s The Wailers.

One of the appeals of Rattlesnake Bank was it’s location.  Someone told us it was one of the most secluded rentals on the island.  At the same time it was a fifteen minute walk past the Life Saving Station Museum, down a dirt road to Nantucket Sound.  This was a good place for birding — we eventually bought a scope.  And then there was the year of the John Kerry presidential election.  His wife Theresa Heinz had a Nantucket house.  We started to see a car, license plate “Heintz” at the end of the dirt road.  Construction was happening and they were destroying “our” wild berry bushes.   Were John and Theresa creating a secluded Nantucket house?    I wrote Therese Heinz who eventually wrote back informing me a staff person was borrowing her car.  John lost the election; I still wonder.

On Nantucket time, I read a lot of books.  Nantucket history, tales of the sea, Cape Cod and New England.  We also spent lazy days at the beaches  — our favorite was the uncrowded Sesachacha Pond beach,  with access to the ocean.   It was a 20 minute bike ride from Rattlesnake.  We would occasionally go to Miacomet or Nobadeer on the Ocean side. This is were the kids and surfers hung out, so Jenny liked it.  On the sound side,  Jetties, near town, was crowded with families and Dionis was usually filled with seaweed. We didn’t go to either very much.

Rattlesnake Bank was ideally located.  At the end of our drive, we could get on the bike path and head for town (about 20 minutes) or Sconset (about 40 minutes).  If we climbed the hill behind the house, we were in the Nantucket Moors, acres of preserved landscape, trails and a lookout called Altar Rock.  Down in the Sound, there were several places where we could launch our and later a second kayak that John bought.  And there were hiking trails — short and long.  Although in the first few years we felt we had discovered most of Nantucket, I was always pleased when a typographical map led us to a new water access area or wooded trail.  We became heavy on the familiar with a twist of the new.

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But Rattlesnake Bank wasn’t our home.   In the early 2000s, John called, he was selling for about 2 million, not the house, which would be moved, but the property.  Nantucket had become a upper class resort. Our Arcadia was ending.  We searched unsuccessfully for a replacement rental on Nantucket but ended up on Pilgrim Lake in Orleans, Cape Cod.  Pilgrim lake is great.  There is a lot of activity, canoeing and fishing, the National Seashore, Proviencetown, beaches, a bike trail, lots of seafood.  We’ve only been here 3 years, and we share with Jen, Rob, Viv and Eli.  Grandkids add a special flavor to summer vacations.  We are beginning to remember places —  Nauset Market, the Cottage Street Bakery, Cooke’s Seafood, Rock Harbor, Nauset Beach on the ocean and Skaket on the bay.  Eli has really gotten into fishing on the lake; and he participates in a baseball clinic every morning for one week.  College players come to the Cape to compete iand meet recruiters.  In the morning they coach young kids.  There are walks and programs at the National Seashore;, birding, and boat trips. A few historic sites — we haven’t been to the Transatlantic Cable Station Museum yet.

And of course, hopefully there can be Nantucket Time on Cape Cod.  Maybe because I am older, or we have only been here three years, maybe I have too many issues on my mind.  It’s been slow coming.   Every morning for  the past few days, I get up and say, take it slow, listen to the birds, watch the light change on the lake, don’t worry about what happens, enjoy the moment.  I think I am slowing setting the clock to Nantucket Time.

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