Rivers

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A few weeks ago I woke up about six and  went to the National Weather Service River prediction page.  It had rained heavy during the night and the gauge at Trenton showed a straight line up several feet.  The prediction had been a gradual rise to about 16 feet.  Would it continue to rise? So quickly.    I check some upriver gauges but it’s hard to tell. About seven a new prediction showed the rise stopping, going down, and the over the next few days going back up slowly to about 16 feet.  More rain expected and the reservoirs in New York were spilling (which they had been for weeks).

With the sun up I noticed the low land along Morgan was flooded.  The water was from Garlits Pond, which is feed by a ditch running along the canal.  The canal may have overflowed just enough to fill the pond to overflow but not enough to flood the neighborhood.  A walk on the canal in the morning showed that’s exactly what happened.  Canal overflow was in a small 4 feet strip.

Living between the Delaware River and canal makes us very aware of weather conditions, rainfall, and potential flooding.  It can happen with the Spring snow thaw, a hurricane, breaking ice packs that are damming river water, local rain flooding the canal.  Many  in the flood plain believe that the major floods of 2004, 05 and 06 were increased due to overflows from upriver reservoirs — Cannonsville, Pepacton, and Neversink. Frequently all three are at or close to 100% capacity forced to release.  Prior to the early 2000 floods, the reservoirs were frequently at 80% capacity and could hold back some heavy rain, instead of spilling and  releasing water.

The Delaware is part of the Wild and Scenic River system.  330 miles of the main stem through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware flow free.  If I understand correctly, the three dam/reservoirs previously discussed and others are on tributaries. These dams  were created to provide drinking water for New York City.  Not wanting to be without clean water, NY wants to keep to reservoirs filled.  The Delaware River Basin Commission, which oversees the reservoirs, after the 2004-06 floods, claimed that 100% filled dams spilling water did not contribute to flooding.  Since then they have instituted minor flood control measures accepting some responsibility.

In 1965 there was a proposal to build a Delaware River dam at Tocks Island.  The federal government began to condemn land for the project.  Supporters of the dam cited the benefit of hydroelectric power and flood control.  In 1955 there was a major flood on the river.  Protests against the dam grew strong.   Abbie Hoffman, a 1960s anti-war activist,  arrived in the Delaware Valley.  Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas led a thousand people in protest.  The Tocks Island Dam was defeated by 1975.  The Delaware would continue to run free. But not all rivers run free.

E0D33988-F528-4426-AD4E-5A19522603F5I just finished rereading “ Northwest Passage: the Great Columbia River” by William Dietrich.  What a story; what a river.  Unlike the Delaware, the Columbia has been dammed, and dammed again, and again.   There are dozens of dams on the main stem and tributaries.  Why?  Some were to provide irrigation water.  And then hydroelectric power. Maybe flood control.   I recognize the dam names Bonneville and Grand Coulee.   Among the many side effects is the impact of dams on the salmon fisheries and Native Americans. Obviously not positive.  Ladders, seeding may help but the historic salmon runs on the Columbia have ended and will not return.

Ten years ago we had a trip planned to explore the Columbia River with my sister Marylee and Norvel.  It didn’t happen as planned.  Recently I’ve been thinking of my “must visit”  places.  Maybe the Columbia.  Until then I’ll continue to monitor the Delaware. No salmon; some shad.

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Home

 

A week ago we returned from two weeks on Cape Cod.  As much as I enjoy travel, returning home is always a good feeling. My granddaughter, Viv, said as much, she didn’t want to leave the Cape but would be glad to be home.  Her brother, Eli, who came to the Cape after a month at Camp Pinemere in the Poconos said, “I’ll be glad to sleep in my oun bed.”

For many, home provides warmth, comfort, reassurance, security.  Home-made is good, tasty.  Home cooked is comfort food.  Home sweet home.  There’s no place like home. Home is where the heart is.  OK, maybe smaltzy; straight out of Hallmark.  But I decided to look up some additional  “home” quotes.  A few I liked:  “A house is made of bricks and beams. A home is made of hopes and dreams.”  “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.”  “Home is where one starts from.” –T.S. Eliot.

 

Coming home. I rembered the summer of 1975 we spent it in Bethel, ME with Garret and Melody Bonnema who had moved from Bristol and opened a pottery studio.  The area was beautiful.  Several times a week we hiked in the White Mountains.  I spent a week doing photography on a Maine island.  We had a fantastic time.  But when we returned to Bucks County we commented on how good it felt being home.  For me we were actually living in my first home — the apartment in Bristol where I grew up.

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Bristol made me a small town person.  Main Street, although in Bristol it was Mill Street.  Four blocks of a classic commercial district; we lived in a large apartment over stores owned and rented by my grandfather.  My father worked in a family business, Profy’s  GE appliances, across the street. We shopped in town, on the street. Walked to school, library and church. Total small town.  Bristol recently has been enjoying a type of Renaissance, renewed interest in the waterfront, local businesses, festivals, and the relationships that make it a “hometown.”

 

Diane and I have had several homes. If I grew up grew up in Bristol, Diane was from Brewster later Carmel, her Dad’s business was in Croton Falls.  All small towns in NY. Our first home together was a third story apartment, Commonwealth Avenue, Cleveland Circle, about two miles from Boston College in Newton, MA.  The Peace Corps was an interlude.  We returned to Bristol, rented a house on Cedar Street.  I thought Tom Wolfe was right, “you can’t go home again.” And here we were in Bristol.  We soon moved to a Yardley canal side house that belonged to Sid Cadwallader who we met at Yardley Friends Meeting.  This was more us.  But not for long.  After a year we moved to Old York Road outside of downtown New Hope.  We rented again, but this time sharing the house with John and Barbara Paglione.  Back to the earth, communes, well, an intentional two couple community.  We had a huge garden, John and I worked on farms in the summer.  We spent some time looking to buy a home together.

John decided to go to graduate school (Ann Arbor). Our New Hope home broke up.  Diane and I began looking for a house; in the interim we returned to my parents.  In the summer of 1976 we went to England telling my father to bid/ buy a house coming up for sale.  On our return, we discovered he had secured the house but, Mom was acting strange. She wanted out of the apartment; she wanted a real home.  I told my father, you buy it.  His condition was that  we would live in the family apartment.  We did.  For about a year.  A strange year.  Jenny was born.  Her first home was my childhood home.  But the local movie theatre had become an adult gay movie house.  Fights erupted between gays and straights every weekend.  “Diane it wasn’t like this when I was growing up.”  But the good news: the Grundy Foundation bought the theatre and created a legitimate local theatre.  My hometown had a renaissance         Going home again, Tom Wolfe. But we moved.  We purchased this time.

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Our new home was 121 N. Delaware Avenue in Yardley Borough, River Road in front,  the canal behind us, across a small back street and empty lot.  “Location, location, location,” they say.  We’re small town people; we’ve been here 40 years. The house was a vacation cottage.  Quite small, the interior walls and ceiling were covered in tongue in groove boards, stained.  In the early 80s we decided 121 was too small.  But mortgage interest rates were 18%. We decided on an addition.  Construction proceeded for several years, my father and I doing the finishing after the shell was built.  We brought Cordiscos from Bristol for the construction.

We knew our home was in the flood plain (we paid insurance).  Our renovations revealed mud and wracked windows.  But we never thought a lot about flooding.  Ocassionally the river rose, even flooded sections of river road, came up a bit in our backyard. Until 2004, 2005,and 2006.  Although we never took first floor water, the basement flooded, we evacuated, and lost things, electric, heating system damage.  A mess.  In 2007 we decided to elevate rather than trying to sell at a loss.  Cost was $40,000, about the same as the original cost.

Now retired in our 70s, we are in our home.  But the steps seem endless, especially when we have a car filled with grocery bags.  Maybe we’ll move, it’s on the “to do” retirement list but 121 has and still is home.

 

Since returning from Cape Cod, I’ve been thinking about what makes a house, an apartment, condo, cottage, or shack a “home.”  Somehow it’s become part of us or we’ve become part of it.  I’m, we’re intertwined, connected to 121.  Better or worse.

There are memories:  Jenny playing, growing up with a neighborhood friend Katie.  Jen was a redhead; Katie was blonde.   Such fun strolling them into Yardley along the canal.  Jenny’s high school graduation picnic with our friends and relatives.  Dinners, and parties, in the unfinished addition.  Pickled river herring; Canal walks.  Cold days in front of our Vermont casting woodstove.  Involvement in hometown events, organizations and politics.   Even the floods hold many memories. Neighborhood spirit.

 

Homes are filled with objects that reflect and recall the past.  From the family room chair where I sit, I see the balsa wood boat, a gift from my parents on trip visiting Marylee in WA state.  There are Mercer tiles, a David Sears “Shad” painting,, a reading stand crafted by Rodney Hamilton, a wooden chest with the date of Lincoln’s assassination painted on the under side of the top, an old school desk (filled with daily journals) purchased at a Brown Brothers auction, pottery, glass, tiles, prints and paintings from many craft shows. A small ceramic donkey and cart planter that sat in my grandfather’s kitchen.  A wall clock my father constructed; a Mike Holman painting.  And this is only one room.

 

Since I’ve  been home from the Cape I’ve enjoyed garden harvests.  So many beautiful tomatoes this year; lots of peppers.  Fall seedlings are coming up.   Despite the high 90 temperatures, I’ve walked on the canal towpath.  I’ve enjoyed cooking in my kitchen; sitting, reading in my recliner; sleeping in my bed.  I’m home. I have objects and memories that sustain.  Travel is great, interesting, exciting, eye opening, but yes, you can go home, there is no place like it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Retirement Five Begins

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gardening

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Gardens were not a part of my first hand experience growing up in Bristol, PA in the 50s and 60s.  We lived in an apartment. There were of course many in Bristol with yards and gardens but not my immediate family.   My Uncle Joe Porfirio (he didn’t Anglicize his name like my grandfather) had a large typical Italian garden on Monroe Street.  Once or twice a year, his daughter Mary would host an all day Sunday Italian picnic.  I’m sure some servings came from the garden.  “Mange, mange.”  We ate and drank all day.

On Mill street across from our apartment, Mr. Mignoni had a back yard garden.  He even had a fig tree which he toppled and buried each year.  When my cousin Bill was cleaning out their house, he offered us Mrs. Mignoni’s canning equipment including dozens of jars (some 2 quarts).  We had them until I disposed of them after a Yardley flood.  There were many other Italians in Bristol with gardens; I don’t remember any in in the Irish neighborhood.

My first experience with gardening was in the early 1970s. At first it was a small flower garden when we lived on Canal Street.  Later it expanded to vegetables when we lived with John and Barbara Paglione outside of New Hope on Old York Road.  We were “back to the earth” not a commune (only 2 couples) but an intentional living community.   John and I were working on the Daniel Brothers farms in Pineville.  Of course we would have a garden.

We borrowed or rented a Roto-tiller.  The yard was big and sunny.  We planted tomatoes, peppers, squash, beans, lettuce, cucumbers. There is a photograph of Barbara with a huge bundle of beautiful beets. We tried carrots, potatoes, even corn. What we didn’t grow, we bought in quantity from local farms.  Corn — 100 ears — in a burlap bag from a local farm.   We canned enough tomatoes to last a year (Mrs. M’s jars).

When we moved to Yardley I established a small vegetable garden along the side of the house, railroad tie logs, lots of manure fertilizer.  I grew some crops for several years.  In the back Diane had an herb, flower garden.  Some things never change.  But preoccupied with work, Borough Council and other volunteer organizations, I stopped.

 

 

About fifteen years ago I started gardening again.  About the same time I began making bread, something I did regularly when we lived in New Hope.  Back to the earth, part two, maybe.  I did the required tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, maybe some lettuce.  The railroad ties were gone and no gardening for a few years.  Then I started and the garden area expanded to about 3O0 square feet.

About 10 years ago, we had to remove a large oak in the back yard. More sun; a new garden about 30×20, 600 square feet. Last year I put several 18 inch high 4×4 raised beds in the front. This year I added more.  Currently have a total of 8. Both years my neighbor, a professional gardener got leaf mold and mushroom soil to fill them. Actually in the first year she planted them to show off her gardening business.  She also installed a watering system.

 

I’ve had great harvests the past six or so years.  Sometimes 300 pounds of tomatoes.  We can or freeze.  Some are delicious heirlooms.  We eat peppers but I freeze them to use throughout the year, scrambled eggs.    Sometimes I pickle cukes and/or make sauerkraut from cabbage.   Most years we have lettuce salads daily through June. This year it will last till at least July.

This spring I planted several varieties of lettuce, kale, spinach, bok choi, radishes, swiss chard, peas,  fennel, koholrabi, and beets.  Much more green than we can eat.  My sister Liz, Jenny and friends have been helping.  Also I have tomatoes (maybe 25 plants, this year), peppers (several varieties), beans, several types of eggplants, squash, and cucumbers.  Some years we’ve had sunflowers, pumpkins, or winter squash. Actually the pumpkins and squash have some years sprouted in our compost heap.  Last summer I planted Long Island Cheese pumpkins but they took over the back garden when we went to Cape Cod in July-August.

Several years ago I planted rhubarb (died out) and asparagus, it was great last year but seemed to have died out this year.  Traditionally I haven’t paid a lot of attention to blights or bugs.  Neighbor Chris is helping me.  I just bought a sprayer and pyrethrum organic insecticide and she’s recommended a copper fungicide for tomatoes plants.  Chris has also guided me in planting less, caring more, and increasing variety.  I think it’s taking hold and improved harvests are coming.

Gardening is work. The raised beds do make it a bit easier.  There is the soil preparation and planting, weeding, harvesting and usually preserving.

But it is so rewarding.

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River Road: Bristol to New Hope

 

 

“River road”  — conjures up a shaded, tight two lane, winding road running parallel to a scenic River.  There must be hundreds of river roads. Growing up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, our River Road follows the Delaware River.  Many associate it with Yardley or New Hope.  I’ve actually followed the river from Philadelphia — past industrial buildings, parking lots, railroads, parallel to interstate 95 —  Delaware Avenue, Tacony Street, then State Road to Croydon and Bristol.

 

I grew up on Mill Street in Bristol Borough about 70 miles from Delaware Bay, 22 miles from center city, Philadelphia.  The river was our back yard.  Let’s start our River Road tour in Bristol at Mill and Radcliffe, heading upriver. On our right is the King George, a colonial era inn and tavern.   Yes, General George Washington was a guest, as well as Presidents John Adams, Madison, Tyler and Filmore.  We’ve had many family dinners at the King George.  The enclosed porches in the rear have great river views. Although I thought it overpriced for a few years, the current owners have restored the qualily at acceptable prices.  During my high school years, the parents of a close friend managed the Inn (it was called the Delaware House for many years, Americans not wanting to hear “King George).  The family lived in rooms on the second floor; an invitation to dinner and we were served by a waitress.  John’s mom and dad were working, kitchen and bar.    We liked playing pool in the historic bar.  It was there that I last saw and talked my grandfather Profy. He was having lunch.

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Next door to the King George is the Bristol Riverside Theatre. Growing up it was the Bristol movie theatre.  I saw my first films there.  By 1970 it had become an “adult” movie house catering to a gay audience.  Diane and I home from the Peace Corps were living in the family apartment two blocks away.  Weekends there were frequent disturbances between straights and gays.  As I called the police I assurrred Diane, “it wasn’t like this when I was a kid.”  The Grundy foundation bought the building in the 1980s and a great regional theatre was born drawing New York talent.  I think the first production we saw was Pearl Bucks’s “The Good Earth.”  More recently, “Lost in Yonkers” and “Workings” based on a Studs Terkel book.  Anything we’ve seen has been a solid production.

Across the street is Annabella’s Italian Restaurant.  It’s very good Classic Italian, recently featured in the “Main Street — Small Business Revolution” program.  Another place for family celebrations; in fact the Profy’s are related to the owner, Robert.

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In Bristol, river road is Radcliffe street.  There is about a mile of historic houses.  My first introduction to local history, was reading Doren Green’s “Old Homes on Radcliffe Street.”  I knew families and had friends that lived in some of the homes.  It’s a book I need to reread.  One of the nicest homes is the Grundy mansion.  Joseph Grundy was the owner of a large woolen mill in town (the distinctive clock tower, a Bristol logo) and a United States Senator.  When he died in the 1960s, he established the Grundy Foundation which immediately built the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library.  Situated next to the Grundy mansion on the river, the library is a fantastic community resource for the town and county.  In addition to its collection of material, the library sponsors a variety of community programs.

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Continuing up Radcliffe we pass St. Mark’s RC Church, established in 1846 I thought the oldest Catholic Church in the county but recently learned it’s the second; the first in Ottsville.  Up the street, on the left is Cesare’s Restorante, a family classic Italian, another place where our family has had many gatherings.  Pizza is fantastic but also check out the homemade biscotti.  On the edge of the borough line at Green Lane is industrial property — ship building during WW I and airplane construction during WW I.  Nestled in the complex is the Radcliffe Cafe, a classic local breakfast hangout.

 

Leaving the Borough we continue through Bristol township, the village of Tullytown into a desolate area at a bend in the river.  US steel was located here in the 1950s; now its Waste Management with huge mounds of fermenting trash and garbage.  It’s also the location of Pennsbury Manor, William Penn’s country estate.  As a kid we would visit the historic property but interpretation was extremely limited.  I do remember that there was a brewery.  Penn made beer.  Today the State does a better job of interpretation; there are several “living history” events including Holly Nights in early December — with crackling fires, candles, carollers, and mulled cider.

There isn’t a road close to the river but it’s possible to continue north-west to Pennsylvania Avenue which goes into Morrisville Borough.  The “Trenton Makes; the World Takes” bridge is on the right.  Here Route 32 is truly River Road although the Road name will depend on the municipality.  The next bridge is the 1884 Calhoun Street bridge construcked by the Phoenixville Bridge Company.   It’s about five miles to the Yardley Inn on the corner of Afton Avenue and downtown Yardley.

 

Since 1977 we’ve lived on N. Delaware Avenue (River Road) several blocks above the Yardley inn. Founded in 1832 as the White Swan, the Inn is an award winning Bucks County restaurant; survivor of the historic floods including three in the early 2000s.   In recent years, Chef Eban Copple has started a restaurant garden, foraged wild plants like ramps, and buys local when possible.  We eat at the Inn several times a year.

In the block before the Inn is Charcoal BYOB ( formerly Charcoal Steaks and Things) the local hangout that has gotten solid reviews from the Inquirer food critic Craig LeBan. A detour on Afton to downtown Yardley is worth the trip.  Enjoy Lake Afton, fishing and ice skating. The picturesque carpenter Gothic building is the “Old Library,” now the home of the Yardley Historical Association.

There are a number of downtown restaurants including the Continental Tavern and The Vault — a micro-brewery. The Continental offers decent pub food and a lot of local history.  Possible a station on the Undergroun RR, Frank Lyons, the current owner has been conducting some pretty sophiscated archaeology.  He’s unearthed a large hidden room filled with bottles (many from the prohibition era) and other artifacts.  A serious historian, he displays many findings in the bar and restaurant.

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Yardley is also a good place to start an explore of the Delaware Canal State Park.  It began in Bristol and continues for sixty miles to Easton.

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Back on River Road we’ll pass the Yardley boat ramp.  At the next stop sign, we will be in Taylorsville, Washington Crossing Park.  There is a visitor center with a replica of Emmenuel Leutze’s painting “Washington Crossing the Delaware.”  The original became controversial during WWII since Leutze was German and the river in the painting was the Rhine.  Displayed for a few years in the park it was eventually returned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.  A copy replaces the original. There are a number of historic buildings on the 500 acre State Park, opened for tours and special activities.  Decades ago we had a colonial cooked dinner in McConkley’s Ferry Inn. Unfortunately the park service has been less ambitious in its offerings.  The big event is the reenactment of Washington Crossing the Delaware on Christmas.  We’ve attended several years.  Weather and river permitting, reenactors cross the river in reproductions of the historic Durham boats that the Colonials used.

IMG_2751Just above the Park is David’s Library of the American Revolution.  It was founded in 1959 by Sol Feinstone, an immigrant in love with the revolutionary freedom.  The library is used by amateur and professional historians.  I’ve had several interesting days with pencil and paper reading about the Revolution in Bucks County.  They also present lectures and field trips. I took one following Washington’s route to the battle of Trenton.  During our first year of retirement, Diane and I attended a workshop on using the library for genealogical research.  Of equal interest was a presentation by the owner- founder of Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania’s s rye whispery distillery which is located in the old Grundy mill in Bristol. Fascinating history and tasty samples.

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We cross a red camelback bridge over Jericho creek, the crossroads of Brownsburg and arrive at the upper end of Washington Crossing State Park.  In the early 1900s there was a plan to create a greenway between the Crossing and Valley Forge.  What a grand plan but it never happened.  At this end of the Park is Bowman’s tower on a hill overlooking the river valley.  Growing up we would picnic in this area, climb the hill and then climb steps to the top of the tower.  Wow.  The state closed the tower for years and when it finally reopened about a decade ago there was an elevator and admission fee.  Some weekends in high school I drove an O’Boyles ice cream truck to the base of the tower and sold ice cream all day.

IMG_2740Also located in this section of the park is the Thompson Neely house, the house of decision where Washington made his decision for the Christmas crossing.  On the creek is a small grist mill — opened in 1976 for the bi-Centennial, closed for decades and only recently reopened.  Another great attraction at Bowman’s is the Wildflower Preserve, an interpretative center, trails, one of the best wild flower preserves in the country.  Diane and I frequently go to their annual native plant sale.

Growing up my close friend’s father, Doctor Romano brought us to bird banding programs at a house on the park grounds.  It was my first exposure to “birding.”  Many years later walking in the park I saw this large, yes, “woody” woodpecker.  My jaw dropped.  A park employee identified the bird, ” oh, that’s our Piliated Woodpecker.”  It’s my only sighting of one.

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Recently we had lunch at Bowman’s Tavern at the base of the hill.  It was a favorite in the 1990s (I was reintroduced to pork cooked on a wood fired oven after many vegetarian years) but as happens it changed hands and we stopped going.  We had a great meal and put it back on our list of not far from home spots for lunch.

 

 

If we take a left on Aquetong Road at the edge of the park, we will pass the home and workshops of George Nakishima.  During WWII, Nakishima, an architect, was in a concentration camp for Japanese.  A Bucks County architect sponsored him and brought him to Bucks County where he opened a furniture workshop studio.  He became one of the foremost furniture makers in the country.  I discovered Nakishima in the 1970s and have visited his studio several times.  I’ve seen one of his altars —  a huge oak table — in Saint John the Divine in New York City.  There is a studio in Old City Philadelphia that carries his work.  Although he died years ago his style and tradition is carried on by his daughter.  I am the proud owner of a Nakishima piece, an irregular polished piece of wood with holes for pens or pencils. It was a gift to our New Hope friend, Ragna Hamilton, that I inherited when she died.

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We can continue on Aquetong Road and enter New Hope from the back or return to River Road and on the New Hope.  The Aquetong route will take us past the old mill where Jim Hamilton lived in the 1970s.  Jim, a former New York set designer and owner of Hamilton’s Grill in Lambertville died several weeks ago.  For several years we rented a house nearby on Old York Road with John and Barbara Paglione.  It was our back to the earth, intentional, communal living years.  Hamilton’s Grill in recent years has been our go to restaurant for special ocassions.

There’s a lot  in the New Hope area and up river.  But we’ll end this explore here and return to this River Road trip another day.

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Delaware Canal Memories

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Snow Birds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owl on Shell Beach, Shelter Island, New York.

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

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

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

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