Retirement Five Begins


I’m amazed. I’m beginning my fifth year of retirement. Year 1 was great; year 2 found me hospitalized;  recovery in the third.  C-diff put me down for months beginning last July.  Fortunately there’s been no recurrance. But it led to a pretty uneven, sometimes rocky year four – relapse and recovery, I’ll call it.

I could call it “The year of the wood stove.”  From October through March I built a daily fire burning over a cord of wood.  Many afternoons were spent in front of the stove with a book or late afternoon nap.  The year could also be labeled, “The year of the new dog.”  Nala came in November.  She is a medium size black rescue from Alabama (we’re not sure, Border Collie?  Labrador?).  From the beginning she was easy going, calm with minor bad habits.  She even gets along with CheCho, the cat.



With Nala it’s been “The year of walking.”  I’ve been walking fairly regularly since retirement on the canal behind our house.  A mile has been the typical walk.  Diane walks Nala locally in the early morning but likes to take a late morning or afternoon longer walk.  She drives somewhere.  I skipped most cold days in winter but with Spring weather I have gone more frequently.



We might go somewhere on the Delaware Canal. In New Jersey there is Washington Crossing State Park, Goat Hill Overlook (above Lambertville), Baldplate Mountain, Fiddler Creek, Rosedale Park (with a dog park), Mercer Meadows . . . We also go to the Delaware and Rariton Canal near Stockton, Prallsville Mill or Bulls Island.  A ranger at Bulls Island recently guided us to a huge dog part in Horseshoe Bend State Park in Frenchtown.  It’s a long ride but a nice outing. Closer to home is Core Creek and Tyler Parks.   We might do some of this walking self-motivated but it’s necessary when you have a dog.


Some days we include food shopping as part of our outing.  There is always NonSuch Farm outside Doylestown.  We sometimes do much of our weekly shopping there.  A great selection of local vegetables, fruit, dairy, meats, breads and snacks.  On a longer drive to Peace Valley Park, we will go to Tabora Farm, fantastic bakery, and good take out sandwiches to eat at Lake Galena.

In New Jersey, there is Blue Moon Acres outside Pennington.  Their micro greens are famous but the market stocks all local product from Griggstown pot pies, to cheeses, produce, honey, and preserves. They also run some classes and special events.  In Hopewell we go to the Brick Farm Market. They have a good take out deli and backery, meat and cheese counter and some local products.  Near Titusville is Gravity Hill Farm, a small market featuring their produce and plants, they also host Roots to River Farm (New Hope) and the Farm School.  Diane and I, Jenny, Eli and Viv have all taken cooking classes at the Farm School.

We also go go several seafood markets, Nassau Street, Buckingham and Heller’s in Warrington.  We took several trips to Island Beach State Park in early Spring.  It was cool and windy but we can take Nala on a Beach walk; we’ll sit in the sun for a while, then drive to Point Pleasant’s Shore Fresh Seafood Market, local flounder, local scallops.  The best.


Food adventures include our “weekly” lunches out.  The Pineville Tavern is a standard.  I recall going there in the 70s after working with John Paglione on the Daniels’ farms — milk cows, chickens and hay.  No craft beer then; did we drink Bud?  We try to find new restaurants.  The Blue Bottle in Hopewell was a great surprise.  Don’t let the plain track house fool you; the food is excellent.  We also really enjoyed finding Under the Moon in Lambertville, Spanish, some tapas.  Inn of the Hawke and Marhaba were also new in Lambertville.

We also rediscovered several local restaurants this year.  We returned to the Lambertville House and Earl’s in Lahaska (closed due to a fire). We would go back to both.  The Brick Hotel in Newtown was the subject of a TV expose.  Hard to imagine returning there but we read that the restaurant had a complete make over and new owner, Rocco’s at the Brick.  The porch was delightful on a sunny winter; food was great.  We went back with Pagliones.  In the 1970s the Washington Crossing Inn was a favorite.  But it changed hands and we stopped going.  This Valentine Day we returned to an excellent meal and great server.  Similarly, in the 1990s, Bowman’s Tavern ( a different name) was a favorite. Their wood grilled pork was one of my early retreats from a vegetarian-chicken menu.  It’s back on our list of good nearby lunch spot.


Doctor appointments and the theatre provide reasons for eating in Philadelphia.  We tend toward lunches the past few years.  Talula’s Daily is near my doctor’s office.  We’ve gone to Jones and Amada after appointments.  The Plough and the Stars and Amada after shows at the Arden Theatre.  Had a lot of Garces gift cards and thought we should use them given his financial troubles.  Our only evening meals this year were Cafe Bombay in Bristol, Mica in Chestnut Hill and several nights out at the Yardley Inn.



Our big meal out was a 50th anniversary party brunch at the Black Bass. Several sites were considered and several guest lists developed but given my medical issues, it was delayed a few weeks and just immediate family were invited.  Jenny organized everything and it was a fantastic afternoon. Fifty years; difficult to imagine.

We went to fewer theatre shows this year.  Last June during our trip to Long Beach Island we saw Footloose — an afternoon performance in the reopened Surflight theatre. Lots of slow walkers, canes and several wheelchairs as we join the afternoon theatre goers.  We also saw A Doll’s House at the Arden; but nothing at McCarter.  Our Christmas play was taking the kids to see Annie at the Walnut.  We also took them to Peter Pan and Snow White at the Arden.  Eli has been going since he was four and we realized that he is probably outgrowing children’s theatre.  Similarly he and Viv now order off the adult menu.

We did a lot less traveling this year. Last June as mentioned, we spent four nights in Long Beach Island.  The Victoria Guest House was located on the common in old Beach Haven.  I recently read a Time article, “Why doing nothing is the most important thing you can do.”  Relaxation, total leisure, hanging out, is important to health and mental well being.  So often we are driven by the work ethnic.  Even “vacations” can be driven.  LBI for us was “doing nothing.” We sat on the front porch or our second floor private porch.  We wandered the neighborhood, sat on the bay or the ocean.  We swam in the Inn pool.  There were plenty of close restaurant choices.  We had dinner at well known Black Whale and Parker’s Garage. But the best meal wasz in a quieter classic Italian, Stefano’s.

On a rainy morning we went to the New Jersey Maritime Museum. Quite worth the time.  But our real find was across the street — Polly’s Dock and Clam House.  The bayside signage caught our attention but surprise, a few picnic tables on a dock with tourist fishing boats and teenage boys hanging about. A family was ordering chicken nuggets.  I was worried.  But on the limited verbal menu was a bucket of clams. Wow.  Memories of buckets we ate in Boston.  Delicious.  Unfortunately we didn’t know it was a BYOB; a cold beer would have been great.




In July we drove to Geneseo, NY to visit Kate and Jerry Alonzo.  Jerry is a Boston College friend and was the best man at our wedding.  He was also visiting us the night Jenny was born. Long, close connection.  Jerry is a semi-retired judge, woodworker.  Our first major activity was viewing a show of his work, featuring a large piece on Justice.  Jerry gave a fantastic tour of the exhibit to a class of special education students.  We walked and ate along the Erie Canal, went to a lumber yard where Jerry buys some good wood.  Drove around Rochester and walked downtown Geneseo. Visited the local Trappist Monastery where Jerry has built some pews.  We saw their new sleeping trailer but rain stopped any attempt to take if for a spin.  Diane and I thought we might buy one but aren’t sure now. Could I handle it? Meals at the house were great, Jerry is also a solid cook.  Unfortunately my C-dif started on the first night, had no idea what it was.   Although I functioned ok during the day, nights were bad and I lost my appetite.

We left for Ithaca, NY where we had reservations in a Hampton Inn.  C-diff was taking its toll.  We visited Cornell’s Ornithology Lab.  I was surprised, only a small museum and one walking trail.  More a place for research and scholarship.  We explored a bit of the Finger Lakes but my appetite was gone and was glad when we headed home.


My primary care Doc, Sullivan from Yardley Penn prescribed an antibiotic.  It didn’t work; he didn’t respond to calls.  The C-dif improved; or did it.  At the end of the month we drove to Cape Cod.  C-Dif returned with a vengeance.  I spent several days with minor beach trips, lots of sitting around the house, no appetite.  After a week Diane and I decided to drive home.

One of my surgeons ordered stool and blood tests.  I got a call.  Go to the ER.  I was dehydrated.  Went to Saint Mary’s.  My stay was ten days.  The only silver lining was my search for a new GP.  I found a functional internist, Val Koganski, not with Penn but I think the man for me.  I signed up for his conserge service. Blood work and long office visits, I’m  now taking a variety of supplements.  But I think it’s helped, restoring energy and quality life.  Will see how our relationship plays out.


Seeing Jerry Alonzo in Geneseo, in his woodworking shop, creating, showing, even selling,  makes me pause, think, what am I doing?  Maybe “nothing” isn’t really enough.  Then there is David Sears, retired teacher, painting and doing nature sculpture.  He’s carved out an new life in Maine.  Phyllis Gallagher, retired from Holy Family for several years is shooting pictures, making and attempting to sell canvas prints.  Read two of Bill Pezza’s books: “How Bristol Won” and “Homegrown.” Bill has continued to write and is an amazing town activism.  What am I doing?


We didn’t take any trips in the Fall or Winter.  I looked for B and Bs with fireplaces but the cold weather seemed to keep us in Yardley.  Finally we decided on a trip to the Brampton Inn in Chestertown, MD in May. We’d stayed there years ago; it was on my radar due to room fireplaces; and had a dog friendly collage next to the main inn.  Chestertown was a town I once thought we might purchase a second, then retirement, home.  Delaware river flooding washed away the idea.

The Brampton cottage was perfect, if expensive.  Nala could run free on the extensive grounds.  Turkeys, rabbits, deer, snakes, turtles, small birds, even an owl joined her.  We used the cottage kitchen for take out.  Breakfasts in the main house were fantastic.  Nala went to several restaurants.  The first was Shaffer’s Canal House in Chesapeake City.  Very friendly.  Soft shells in season.  On our day exploring Rock Hall (with Taylor’s we charted sail boats there in the 80s) we ate at the traditional Waterman’s Crab House.  Instead of cracking crabs, we had soft shells. A favorite since I read “Beautiful Swimmers” by William Warner in the 1970s.  Actually had them three times on this trip.  We took several drive-walk explores in the area.


Our first trip for Retirement Five was a week at Town Bank in North Cape May.  Diane found a dog friendly fenced cabin and beach.


The C-diff aggravated my fistula.  So in addition to 10 days in the hospital and follow ups with my cardio Doc and surgeons, I went in for a minor fistula related surgery.  Recovery ate up the fall and then the cold winter.  The year of the wood stove.  To my surprise I only read about 25 books.  I started on the four foot stack of film books (for years I taught a course in American film and American culture).  As I had done with my photography book collection, I intended to read and then sell.  Although I reduced the stack, it still looms high.


I also continued my “re-read” program.  Memoirs and travel were favorite choices.  “Colors of the Mountain,” growing up during China’s cultural revolution.  “Bella Tuscany: the sweet life in Italy,” one of Frances Mayles enticements to visit Tuscany.  “The Hungry Ocean: a swordfish Captain’s journey.”  Linda Greenlaw, a woman boat captain; good read.  “On Mexican Time” by Tony Cohen, another couple living outside the U.S. and writing about it.  “The Last Man in America” by Elizabeth Gilbert was strange biography of Eustace Conway, nature enthusiast, frontiersman, pioneer. Then there was Michael Pollen’s “A Place of my Own” an account of his building a small private room/cottage in his backyard.  And Tony Horowitz’s “Blue Latitudes: boldly going where Captain Cook has gone before.”  There is a genre of retracing the steps of famous travelers. A good topic for another blog.  “Once Upon a Town: the miracle of the North Platte canteen” by Bob Greene did inspire a blog discussing when Trump believed “America Was Great.” He’d love Greeene’s writing.

There were some new books. A selection: “Draft No 4: on the writing process” by one of my favorite writers John McPhee.  “Paper: paging through history” by Mark Kurlansky, another book in the single object genre.  “Mr. Dickens and his Carol” by Samantha Silva was a Christmas gift novel that I enjoyed.  Another gift was “The Reporter’s Kitchen” by Jamir Kramer.  I journaled that I need to re-read it.  A very difficult read was “The Old Wierd America” by Griel Marcus.  It’s about Dylan and The Basement Tapes but not having the music made it hard to follow.  Finally about the only local history book I read was “Philadelphia: finding the hidden city” by Joseph Elliot and others.  I had hoped it was get me back making my Philadelphia explores but it hasn’t happened yet.

I watched about 40 films in retirement 4.  Most were classics; some inspired by the film books I was reading.  In june it was “The Wild Bunch” (1969) followed by “The Sweet Smell of Success”  (1957) and “On the Waterfront” (1954).  Then the 40s with “The Lady Eve” (1941) and “On the Town” (1949).  Many of the movies were watched from Turner Classics on my I-Pad; some were a Netflix disc or streaming Amazon.

Many of the movies like “The Great Santini” (1979), “Bell, Book and Candle”(1958), “White Heat” (1949),  “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” (1973), “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951), “Run Silent, Run Deep” (1958), “Back to the Future” (1985), “Spirit of Saint Louis” (1957) and “Midnight in Paris” (2011) were movies I’d seen before.

Some were new to me, like “Mozart’s Sister (2010), “Becoming Jane” (2007), “Jackie” (2016), “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), “Peyton Place” (1957), “Paterson” (2016), ” Home Alone” (1990).  Sometimes a book or stage show leads me to a movie, watched “Under the Tuscan Sun” (2003).

There was “To Have and Not Have” (1944), “Action in the North Atlantic” (1943),  and a new Bogart, “In a Lonely Place” (1959), discovered due to director Nicholas Ray.  Also watched Ray’s “Bigger Than Life” (1956).  Enjoyed “Hugo” (2011) and “Harvey” (1950).  Current politics led me to “All the Kings Men” (2006) and “All the Presidents Men” (1976).

A few are among my favorites “Beckett” (1964), “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), “A Thousand Clowns” (1965) and in December, “The Lion in Winter” (1968).  I also rewatched most of Ken Burns, “Vietnam.”  Another blog topic. “Dunkirk” (2017) was one of the only new movies I saw.




Retirement year 4 is hard to rate.  C-diff took its toll.  We didn’t travel much but enjoyed many local walks, wood stove afternoons.  I wrote about fifteen blogs, read and watched movies.  I journaled regularly. The garden last summer produced even though I didn’t have the energy to maintain it.  This year we added more raised beds and the garden has been doing great.  With help from our neighbor, Chris Thomas, I’m planting more frequently, but fewer plants, learning about insect and weather damage. Our “greens” harvest is extending into the heat of summer.  I did some baking throughout the year.  We visited with Eli and Viv fairly frequently.


So what are my goals for retirement, year 5?  I should buy a Nikon and start taking more photographs.  I need to become more independent, take my Philadelphia field trips.  We should plan a longer trip — maybe involving a plane flight, Caribbean, Southwest, Seattle?  There are house projects and organizing, selling that we (I) need to address.  I had hopes to begin volunteering somewhere; it needs investigation.  Finally continuing the grand kids contact, reading, walking, cooking, eating well — all the daily routines that make retirement great.




















Travel: Town Bank, North Cape May



It’s June 7, 2018, about 8 a.m.  I’m sitting in a unpainted, worn rough, grayed rocking chair on a deck facing Delaware Bay.  We’re staying at 219 Shore Drive in the back cottage.  It’s North Cape May, NJ — more specifically Historic Town Bank, birthplace of South Jersey, established 1635. There are nearly a dozen boats,  varying sizes and speed, most moving north up the Bay.  Gulls fly back and forth.  ” Aaake, aaake, aaake.”  Then silent.  Mockingbirds flit from chimney to tree.  There are some small black birds and mourning doves — “whooo, whooo.”  Dolphins regularly pass and there is a steady stream of walkers, joggers and cyclists on the new shore road and sidewalk.  Many are seniors like us.

This is our third morning.  And we have an easy routine.  Awake about six.  Morning ablutions, pills, coffee, email, electronic paper, check stocks and weather, journal.  Just like home. Diane takes Nala, our black, part border collie, lab maybe, Alabama rescue for a short walk.  She sits with coffee in a small enclosed porch with sun and bay view.  I sit on the outside deck.


We all break for breakfast about 8 or 9.  Then take a walk.  The road and sidewalk are pristine, construction finished about a week ago.  There are some smaller older homes like our white picked fenced cottage and main house.  Many are newer, larger, brighter with landscaped lawns, second floor decks, garages.  Some are rentals.  Although a lot of people pass; it’s still off-season and there are many empty homes.


We can walk north or south on the thirty to fifty foot wide sandy beach or the sidewalk.  A newly planted low dune separates them.  Going north we pass the Harpoon restaurant, the only commercial property on the street.  Wasn’t opened until Friday and was so crowded, we couldn’t get seated.  In front of the cottage the beach is dog friendly but a block away signs warn no dogs Memorial Day to Labor Day, 11 to 4.  Traveling with Nala makes us totally attuned to dog friendly places.  The internet provides some guidance.  This morning I discovered an article, “How dog friendly is Cape May?”  The conclusion was mixed.  Although some B and Bs and restaurants with outdoor seating allow dogs, they are banned from the central mall area, the boardwalk and town beaches.  There’s a dog park but we haven’t looked for it; Nala can run free in our fenced yard.


If we decide to walk north on the sidewalk, it and the street ends in about 1/2 mile.  A property cuts down to the beach — intrigued I asked a  local who was washing his car.  He explained that Cox Creek ran there and historically fisherman drove whales up the creek to be processed.  Although the end is of the creek now flows through pipes, the property owners retained rights along the creek down to the bay.  Road ends.

This morning we walked north on the sidewalk for about 3/4 mile.  Nala had one encounter with another black pup who was runnng free on the beach but came up to see her.  The owner ran following, calling for his dogs return, apologizing to us, finally separating them.  A friendly encounter.  I posed Diane and Nala for a picture and an elderly woman on a bike stopped and offered to photographs all of us.  I accepted since we have few recent “family” pictures.  Mailed it to Jenny.


We have walked along the beach.  It’s near the end of horseshoe crab egg laying season.  Dozens of crabs can be beached.  The larger are females and some have crawled along leaving a trail; some have burrowed into the sand to lay eggs; others are stranded dry until the next high tide.  The Delaware Bay is a stop off point for birds flying north.  The crab eggs allows them to gorge and gain weight for the rest off their flight north.  Although Red Knots, Oyster Catchers and others can be seen on some beaches; so far, ours have been mostly laughing gulls.  We try to remember markings to distinguish specific species.  Otherwise the beach is pretty clean.  There were no more than a dozen people on the beach during today’s morning walk.

As we left our local historian the other morning, he asked, “you a neighbor?”  I responded, “no just renting up the street.”  He quipped, “Retired, so your not on vacation, just traveling.”  I liked the distinction.  Vacations can be so frenetic, must see, must do, only have a week, maybe two.  Travel is slower, nothing specific to see, to do.  More a serendipitous explore.  Just living.  Yes, we were traveling now.

No rush. What should we do? I look at possibilities and plan but . . . today we decided to just take our beach chairs and sit in front of the cottage.  Not a person in sight, just birds.  We sit for an hour, a bit more.  Birds, small bay waves, ships in the distance, the sun.  It’s noon, plus.  Should we go out for lunch or raid the refrigerator.


We lunch on leftovers.  The blue fish from the night before stilll tastes good.  About 1 o’clock we leave tor the Cape May National Refuge. I’d read a chapter about birding here.  It’s a 20 minute drive, south — some of these roads are becoming familiar.  Google maps lead us to a beach access point in the refuge.  Nala could have come but she’s probably happily resting.  We walk.  Mainly laughing gulls. There are a few terns, dowitchers, and maybe a ruddy turnstones with them.  All gouging on the horseshoe eggs.  We drive a few miles further to Reeds Beach, mentioned in the book.  There is an old marina, a rock jetty, lots of yellow blooming “prickly pear” cactus.  Further along are dozens of small turtles sticking their heads above water.  Several  roadways are signed, “turtle crossing.”  Not sure but possible loggerheads, found in southern Delaware Bay.  And there are more flocks of gulls.

Each day we debate, dinner out or in the cottage.  This day we decide to buy seafood and eat at the cottage.  We head back toward Cape May.  We stop at Cape May distillery.  Two years old.  I like to support local breweries, wineries and now there are distilleries.   Rum is their speciality.  I buy a bottle of “Barrel Rum,” after tasting several.  Their Blueberry was actually rated high on Yelp.  The night before we stopped at Nauti Spirits distillery and bought a bottle of vodka and Willow Creek winery provided us with a bottle of white (Wilde Cock) and red (Baccus) — expensive but the property was quite manicured, very exclusive looking.

Before buying seafood at the fish market at Fisherman’s Wharf, we stopped at Beach Plum Farm (next to Willow Creek winery).  Another upscale, expanding enterprise. There were gardens, a trail, small kitchen for breakfast and lunch, some produce and gourmet items.  We bought some jars of preserves, granola, and delicious small turnips to go with dinner.  At the Lobster House we got scallops and some clams casino.  We had a nice dinner at the cottage and watched a blue sky  sunset.

Vacations tend to limited, a brief escape from the regular —  usual work.  Traveling can be, should be more footloose, longer, just living in a different place.  For years I used the expression “Nantucket time.”  For ten years (yes, it was basically a vacation) we visited the far away Island. In the first few years we did a typical tourist vacation on Nantucket. After that we “traveled” and on day one we were totally relaxed.  One of my get to sleep dreams is sitting outside our Nantucket cottage, listening,  watching song birds and listentig to chimes, enjoying a cup of coffee or glass of wine, sitting on the beach, buying local seafood and a blueberry pie, bike riding, beach sitting, historic explores.


Retired now I try to constantly be on “Nantucket time.”  At home or traveling, enjoy the everyday, the simple joys.  This week at Cape May we spent a lot of time on the cottage deck.  Ironically we were directly connected to home, up river to Yardley, about 140 miles.  One afternoon I recalled sailing on the Gazelle out of Philadelphia.  I was at the wheel that morning, guided by a pilot who left at Lewes, DE.  We continued out of the bay into the ocean, sails up, while I was still at the wheel.  Amazing. Now I’m watching the ferry head to Lewes.

Travel can involve the familiar and the unfamiliar.  This week we returned to the Lighthouse Park at Cape May Point.  We spent a week nearby about ten years ago.  Even took a bird walk with Peter Dunne, Audubon Society New Jersey, writer, birder.  This year we took a 1 1/2 mile walk through woods and marsh.  Familiar territory.  The National Refuge and Reed’s Beach were new territory. Lunch with Nala on the deck at the lobster house was familiar; Louisa’s Cafe off the square was new ground. So was the Beach Plum farm were we walked and then lunched from their kitchen.  A beautiful farm reminiscent of Stone Barn along the Hudson in NY.


Louisa’s downtown was good but our great dinner this trip was at the Black Duck on Sunset toward The Point.  It was recommended by Barbara Rillings.  My duck confit app was amazing and for a main I had pork belly and scallops, with mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli. Wow.  Diane had salmon — not local but quite good. We shared a strawberry shortcake.  For our last day at the cottage we found H and H seafood between Cape May and Wildwood.  We bought prepared shrimp for lunch (lots of our garden greens left) and flounder and clams casino for dinner.


We drove a bit in downtown Cape May.  Diane went in a shop and I bought some Cape May peanut butter.  But we were happy hanging out, walking, eating well, bird watching, and sun soaking.  On the weekend we watched the Cape May Triathlon.  Saturday, swimmers jumped off the ferry and swam past the cottage to the ferry landing, 3 miles.  Sunday although delayed due to fog, they swam, ran and biked. Probably over 1,500 entrants.  Pretty amazing.  We were at the mid point.

Monday morning we packed the car.  Walked Nala.  We drove back roads, stopping at a park and historic site. No hurry.  We weren’t on vacation; just traveling.  Time now for some home time until our next travel.


Some  more photographs.








70 years old!

Celebrating 70 years anniversary retro label with red ribbon, ve

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

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

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


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

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

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




I’ve always been a beachcomber, followed in my mother’s footsteps.  Shells, drift wood, beach glass.  I once found a note in a bottle, return to a Cuban address.  I did, with a touch of Cold War anxiety. Somewhere I have several decorative pieces of iron but the completely intact sea gull skelton was consumed by our dog, Luz.

Last week I couldn’t pass up buying several books in the NJ Maritine Museum at Beach Haven.  “Fortuna” by Carole Bradshaw caught my eye.  The cover was a photograph of a red tile washing in the waves.  The back cover read, “A shipwreck, an anchor, and a baby.  What do they all have in common?  When Carole Bradshaw found a small piece of red tile tossing around in the surf on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, she was about to find out.”  This sounded like a history adventure I would enjoy.


I immediately thought of Colin Fletcher’s “The Man from the Cave”  (1981).  Fletcher, a backpacking guru, stumbled on an abandoned camp in a remote section of Nevada.    An old wooden trunk, personal belongings in a cave, fragments of a 1916 newspaper.   Fletcher uses these historic traces to identify the camper — “Chuckawalla” Bill Simmons from Braddock, PA.  On his search he met family members and others who filled in Bill’s story including the Nevada camp.


Then there was the discovery of the identity of a 1910 North Pownal, Vermont child mill worker photographed by Lewis Hine.  Two amateur historians identified her as Addie Card.  An article in the September, 2006 Smithsonian tells their story.  After following leads in all types of records, they learned Addie’s history and even found and met with two of her adoptive descendants.

Naturally I purchased “Fortuna.”  Carole was your average beachcomber.  She and her daughter were walking the beach at Ship Bottom on Long Beach Island (LBI) in 1970.  She found several red tiles.  Years later she showed the tiles to a Manahawkin friend.  On some she could read, ARNAUD ETIENNE & Cie ST HENRY MARSEILLE.  Her friend, Lydie identified the tiles as debris from the ship Fortuna.  As a child, Lydie had seen the grounded ship.

The shoals off LBI were known as the graveyard of the Atlantic.  It was not uncommon for ships to run aground.  The Fortuna floundered in 1909.  An Italian ship out of the port of Trapani in Sicily.  The ship’s captain and owner was Giovan Adragna.  Aboard was his wife, two young daughters, and a baby born in Barbados weeks before.  His wife, Maria didn’t want to be left at home during the two year voyage.

“LBI’s first lifesaving station was built in Harviey Cedars in 1848.  All U.S. Life savings Stations were built. Exactly the same.  The shape and size of the building, both inside and out, were all alike.  There was a large boat room,  a kitchen, two sleeping compartments and a storage room.”   By the 1900s, the stations were staffed  by trained, paid  professionals.

Lifesaver Horace Cranmers discovered the stranded Fortuna  on January 18, 1910 while on patrol.   The Ship Bottom crew were first on the scene followed by other stations.  Lines were unsucessfully shot from a Lyle gun.  If established the line would be used to rescue individuals in a breeches buoy.  We have a personal interest in Lyle guns since Diane’s grandfather made them during World War II.

Life savings boats were launched.  But Captain Adragna was initially reluctant to abandon the Fortuna.  The lifesavers insisted and eventually all 17 on board were rescued, including the recently born Adragna baby.  They would be brought to the Ship Bottom station where they lived until transit back to Italy was arranged.

In April 1983, Carole and her husband, Greg, discovered more tiles but also the skeleton iron frame of the Fortuna.  Then there was a cannon like ball — could it be the anchor?  Carole became convinced that it was the ship’s anchor.

She mobilized local political and historical forces. The anchor was removed from the sand; fundraising financed a memorial in front of Ship  Bottom’s borough hall.  But for Carole, something was missing.  What happened to the baby?

Letters to Sicily lead to the discovery of two of Captain Adragna’s children, Giuseppe and  Severia (the baby born on the Fortuna in 1909).  Carole travel to Sicily and then brings Guiseppe and Severia to Ship Bottom for the dediation of the anchor in honor of their father.

Fortuna was a great story.  I need to go see the anchor in Ship Bottom and a mast that is used as a flagpole at the Beach Haven Little Egg Harbor Marina.  And I’ll continue to walk the beaches looking for traces of history.


LBI in mid-June


Sitting on the front porch of the Victoria Guest House.

Teens (actually actors) on the square, the swat of a softball, screaming, laughing, and clapping.

Laughing gulls cavorting and squalking on the beach.

Young boy and girl runs toward the waves; quick retreat.

Families quietly cycle by on deserted streets.

A gentle southeast breeze cools the hot afternoon sun on the beach.

An early evening storm blows through with lashing winds and rain.

Chicken and turkey sandwiches at Barry’s Do Me a Flavor

Salty, seaweed soaked, humid air on the bay.

Sitting on bench watching the ocassional passing boat in Sunset Park, Ship Bottom.

Victorian homes, basic gingerbread, cedar shakes, whites and gray; ocassionally Cape May colors.

White wicker, chairs, rockers and couches.

Petunias, day lilies, blue and white hydrangea,

Breakfast bowls of fresh fruit and homemade French toast, orange juice, coffee.

Barneget Lighthouse standing tall.

A still, quiet, broken by a distant chirping sparrow.

Horseshoe crabs seemingly mating in the surf.

Thousands in ocean beach chairs;  two young surfers; one daring jet skier.

Sun and heat waves glisten in a small backyard pool.

Church bells at noon in the distance. Again at six.

Footloose in the  reopened Surflight Theatre.

An elegant dinner at Stefano’s — local  Barneget scallops, BYOB.

A bucket of steamed clams at Polly’s Dock Clam House on the bay.

Reading the Beachcomber and Sand Paper.

An afternoon swim in Victoria’s pool.

Reading John Baily Lloyd’s History of LBI — Six Miles at Sea or Eighteen Miles of History.

Wandering through the many exhibits in the NJ Maritine Museum.

Photographs of Ship wrecks.

Bench sitting on the ocean at dusk.

Hearing stories of hurricane Sandy.

Chatting with some fisherman on the bay.

Memories of Mignoni-Profy Beach Haven vacations, flounder fishing with cousin Bill.

Ordering new shorts from L.L. Bean.

Chilly wind when the sun slides behind clouds.

Soft Shell Crabs at the Black Whale and Mud City crab cakes at Parker’s Garage.

Pistacchio ice cream one afternoon.

Elegant dining at Stefano’s — local Barneget scallops.

Clams Casino in honor of uncle.

Lunch at Ship Bottom Shellfish and Pearl Street Market.

LBI telephone memory chat with cousin Ellen.

Flashes of Uncle Frank and Aunt Ellen’s Harvey Cedars house.

Mignoni-Profy reunions.

Older women slowly walk the beach collecting shells.

Beach House, awful dinner. Sent rubbery tuna back.

Engleside hotel; photographs of original Engleside.

Flea Market on the square.

Take home clams and scallops from Surf City Fish Market.

LBI memories.

Sitting on the front porch of the Victoria.









City in a Park


I still find books on local history hard to resist.  My most recent read is “City in a Park: a history of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park System,”  by James McClelland and Lynn Miller.  Temple University Press, 2016.  It’s a good coffee table book, lots of pictures, but unfortunately a rather bland text. The authors lack a distinctive perspective or style.  There is no strong personal story.  Still it is a good overview of Philadelphia’s Park system.


William Penn wanted to create a “greene countrie town.”  Fairmount and other city parks fulfilled that vision.  The beginning of the current Fairmount Park dates to the waterworks that was built in the early 1800s, on the “faire mount” that is shown along the banks of the Schuykill River on Thomas Holmes’s 1684 Plan for the City of Philadelphia.  The Plan also shows the four squares, one in each quadrant of the city, and one in the center. I discovered this plan- map from a company, Historic Urban Plans.  For years it was the only textbook for my Local History class at Holy Ghost Prep.


Center square became the site of a water pumping station.  Schuykill water was held in a reservoir on the mount, water was gravity fed to Center Square, and then it was pumped throughout the city.  Mid-century, after the Civil War, the City began acquiring land up the Schuykill, eventually on both sides, to protect the watershed from industrial development, pollution.  Philadelphia would have safe, good, clean water.   In the 1830s, a “rural garden for the dead,” Laurel Hill Cemetery was built in the watershed.  Victorians wanting to escape the heat, congestion, and filth of  the city would visit the waterworks and Laurel Hill.

Some of the land the city purchased came with country estates.  The first was Lemon Hill  (initally developed by Revolutionary War financier, Robert Morris — Morrisville in Bucks County.)  Some of these estates are now known as the country houses of Fairmount Park — Mount Pleasant, Strawberry Mansion, Woodford, Sweetbriar, Cedar Grove, Belmont, Rockland and Stenton. Some are decorated and opened to the public for a Christmas tour; we did it one year with Rob and Lisa Buscaglia. Beautiful.


A few houses stand out.  Solitude, the home of Penn’s grandson, John, is still standing in the Philadelphia Zoo.   John Bartram, the first American botanist’s house is very unique.   Several years ago we took a boat ride to Bartram’s, there was time to tour the house and gardens.  In the gift shop, we were drawn to several whimiscal botanical illustrations by MF Cardamone.  We noticed that the artist’s studio was on Righter’s Mill road in Gladwyne —  Jen and Rob live on Righter’s.  We visited the artist’s studio and purchased a print; a few weeks later, we purchased two for Jenny at a show Cardamone was having at the Academy of Natural Science.  Very neat; and local.


Many years ago we visited Rittenhouse Town, a colonial paper mill complex on the Wissahickon creek — it feeds into the Schuykill and is part of Fairmount Park.  I believe they had paper making classes.  Another place we visited many years ago was the Japanese House and Garden, Shofuso, in western Fairmount.  They hosted tea ceremonies; I should see if they still have them.  Nearby is Memorial Hall, one of the few buildings left from the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Festival.  It served as the city art museum and more recently is the Please Touch children’s museum.  We’ve taken Eli and Viv to the museum.  Maybe we should do it again  — they’re getting too old.  The only other extant Centennial building is the Ohio house, now a small cafe.  Delightful place for  lunch.


The Schuykill is known for boating, the club houses of Boathouse Row, the Schuykill Navy was the first amateur athletic association, the statue of John Kelly, who was ruled ineligible to compete in Britain’s Henley Regatta because he worked with his hands.  He went on to the Olympics. We have never attended a Schuykill regatta.  This should be high on our local field trip list.  The Smith Memorial Playground is another interesting place in the park that we have never visited.  Grandkids may have been there; We should  take them again.

On a number of trips, we’ve explored the  Wissahickon Valley part of the Park.  There is a road along  the creek, Forbidden Drive.  No cars.  Valley Green, a way station on the trail,  now a restaurant, lunch stop for walkers.  Jenny lived and went to college nearby at Philadelphia University has many memories associated with the Forbidden Drive walk.


“City in the Park” devotes several chapters to sculpture in Fairmount Park, in fact sculpture throughout the city.  Philadelphia has an ordinance that requires certain types of new construction to contribute to public sculpture.  Much of the older sculpture was memorials to the famous — George Washington, General George Meade, Benjamin Franklin, Marquis de Lafayette,  Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield, even Joan of Arc. The list goes on.

Then there are the classical inspirations.  Alexander Calder’s “Fountain of the Three Rivers” at Logan Circle; (where I shot some of Jenny and Rob’s pre-wedding pictures);   or “The Wrestlers,” in Fairmount; and “Prometheus Strangling the Vulture” at the Art Museum.

Rodin’ “The Thinker” is in front of the Rodin Museum; “Rocky,” yes, Stallone from the movie, is currently in front of the Art Museum. It is one of the most visited tourist spots in the City.  My grandson, Eli recently, celebrated something by running up the museum steps and posing with Rocky.


There are many modern, sometimes abstract, and sometimes controversial sculptures.  The most famous in Robert Indiana’s “Love.”  It’s a classic Philadelphia photo op — looking down (or is it up) the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  Across from City Hall is Claes Oldenburg’s “The Clothespin,” and at the entrance to the Benjamin Franklin bridge is Noguchi’s “Bolt of Lightning” —  Franklin, kites, lighting; very Philadelphia.

The “City in a Park”  has a chapter on the original squares that date to the Holmes 1680s plan.  Today they are called Franklin, Washington. Rittenhouse and Logan.  Originally Philadelphia Quakers would not honor individuals, so the squares were know by compass points — northeast, southwest etc.  Another  chapter is about the creation of the turn of the century, “City Beautiful” movement that created the Benjamin Franklin Parkway (modeled on the Champ Elysees).


When I read a book like “City in the Park” I am ready for local field trips. I want to explore and photograph the Park from my perspective.  It will take more than onE trip.  Maybe a summer project!  Well, summer and fall. Maybe.





Going Native


Several years ago we were having dinner at Hamilton’s Grill in Lambertville.  In conversation we learned that Jeff Hamilton, the owner’s son,  had committed suicide.  In the 1970s, we rented a house with John and Barbara Paglione on Old York Road, outside of downtown New Hope.  Around the corner on Sugan Road was the “ruins” or  “the old mill.”  Built in 1813 by William Maris, the cotton and weaving mill was/is a local landmark.  Hamiltons lived in  the mill.

We knew that Jim Hamilton, a NYC set designer, his French wife and children lived in the mill. There were annual gala parties at the mill but we were not quite part of that New Hope social scene. I think some of our friends/acquaintances were invited.    We were aware that there were Hamilton kids, a bit younger than us.   And we were interested when Jim opened Hamilton’s Grill in Lambertville.


The Grill has become one of our favorite restaurants.  We go there for anniversaries, special ocassions, and when the spirit strikes.  For  several years we have enjoyed their Jersey dinners and Oyster nights.  Several times we’ve gone to Jim’s “cooking classes” — usually demonstration dinners in an apartment studio near the restaurant.


We’ve bought several of Melissa Hamilton’s “Canal House” cookbooks — small and seasonal.  We’ve also followed the career of Gabrielle,  In the late 1990s, with no experience in the restaurant business, she opened “Prune” in the East Village.  In 2012 she published, “Blood, Bones, & Butter the inadvertent education of a reluctant chef.”


There were some surprising admissions of drugs and thefts — but also the amazing rise of her career.  She is one of the most well know female chefs in the country. Two years ago with Paglions, we ate at Prune.  Not disappointed. Jen and Rob followed us, several months later and Jen got to meet Gabrielle.  In another small town event, our former Tinicum friends, David and Judy hosted Melissa and her partner, Christopher Hirscheimer for dinner.

But back to Jeff Hamilton.  When he was nineteen, Jeff went to Zaire to live with the Mbuti pygmies.  He had become interested in anthropology finding arrowheads on the Banks of the Delaware river.  In the prologue of “Going Native” his account of his adventures in Africa he wrote, “I began to wonder so intensely about what the life of the people who’d chipped these beautiful stone objects had been like, that I fell happy and melancholic at the same time. . . I dreamt then of the day I would live with people who are still living in remote areas of the world by hunting and gathering.”

While taking courses at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1975, Jeff met Colin Turnbull, a British anthropologist, known for his books “The Forest People” and “The Mountain People.” Turnbull had lived with pygmies in the Ituri forest then in the Belgium Congo, later Zaire.  Jeff would follow in his footsteps.

Like Jeff I found arrowheads along the Banks of the Delaware.  We both lived in river side small towns — New Hope and Bristol.  We both attended prep schools — Solebury for Jeff; Holy Ghost Prep for  me.  I may have even read “The Forest People” (1961) in college. I dreamed of traveling in Africa.  When Diane and I signed up in the Peace Corps in 1969 we were interested in sub-Saharan Africa. We were offered Arab Libya in North Africa instead.  Seven years later Jeff was living with the forest people; I was teaching, driven partially by the draft exemption.  I’m intrigued. Jeff had the independence, risk taking, sense of adventure spirit, to go to Africa alone.  That was not me.  I suspect family backgrounds had an influence.  The sub title for “Going Native” is “A young man’s  quest for his identity leads him to an African forest and it’s people.”  It was published in 1989, ten year after the experience under the name J.J. Bones.


“Going Native” was particularly interesting because of the Hamilton connection. It’s not particularly well written, and often repetitive.  Jeff lives in a village much of the time but eventually gets permission to live in the forest with the pygmies.  No photographs were allowed; although someone eventually takes a few.  He is presumably doing research for college but is usually consumed with daily life, little time is spent writing research notes.

In both village and forest, he feels the people are always taking advantage of him.  Hands always looking for a gift; sometimes stealing.  Jeff is constantly plagued with medical issues, malaria, awful skin diseases, parasites.  Not pleasant.  Life is slow; he writes a lot about boredom.  Local men spending much time sitting around, smoking, sometimes marijuana, drinking palm wine from the raffia tree.  And there are other forms of local alcohol. Jeff seems to adapt to a lot of strange foods — from termites and grubs to antelope and elephant.  At times his diet is very vegetarian; other times there is a fair amount of game available.

There are missionaries in the village but Jeff wants limited contact with them.  He also becomes annoyed with a few white tourists who passing through, stop and stay with him.  He develops a few relationships, at times has a woman cook and clean, but frequently seems lonely.  His doubts about his produtivity and the value of his research are constant.  He thinks about leaving several times but sticks it out for about 2 years.

In a strange way I was reminded of Henry David Thoreau spending two years, basically alone, in solitude, finding himself on Walden Pond.   So different but maybe not.

Jeff Hamilton

Jeff returned to New Hope become another town character.  After his death a friend wrote of him as the Marquis of Debris.  He cleaned out houses, saving treasures in an old barn until his annual auction.  Jim Hamilton, said, “I spent $80,000 on his education.  What does he do?  Collects junk.”

Jeff’s story intrigues me.  How we become who we are.  The influences on our lives.  Where we live.  Our family.  Our education.  Travel and othe special experiences. People we meet.   Why some of us become home bodies; others world adventurers and risk takers.

Our youth; our old age; our continual search for identity.