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March 2013

Mountain unicycles in hilly, rocky Wissahickon Valley

Mountain unicycle competitor

While taking a leisurely, easy bike ride along the relatively flat Forbidden Drive, my daughter and I were amazed to see a young man atop a unicycle on the opposite shore of the Wissahickon Creek, tooling up and down a hilly, narrow trail. High-schooler Peter Hildebrandt took up mountain unicycling after a knee injury ended his running career. With his high end, fat-tired, disc-brake equipped mountain unicycle, he meets regularly in the Wissahickon with other unicyle friends and enthusiasts and is preparing to compete in the 2013 North American Unicycling Convention and Championship to be held in Butler, Pennsylvania this coming July. Watch video here.


Haitian laments Haiti

Haitian laments Haiti

During a break substitute teaching at Parkway Northwest High School in Mount Airy, Renaud Dardignac speaks with your correspondent about current conditions in his homeland, Haiti.

He laments the poor road conditions and lack of electricity that persist in Haiti, where extreme poverty existed before recent natural disasters – the devastating 2010 earthquake and the battering in the fall of 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.

 

Making frequent return visits, Dardignac is witness to many people continuing to live in very unhealthy conditions and suffering from rampant unemployment. Like him, many of his country people live abroad, in the “Diaspora,” and send money back home to relatives who depend on this outside support.

Dardignac believes the Haitian government has been looted of $200 million in assistance by certain unethical parties who have taken the money abroad and that it is in these parties’ interest to keep Haiti poor so as to continue benefiting from the corruption.

In the past, Haiti has had an agricultural economy and Dardignac attributes people’s reluctance to return to farming both on lack of education and fear that their products would be stolen. He wishes that the international community, which had rallied to support Haiti in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, would invest in factories around Haiti. “[Haitians] are not lazy.  They like to work but they do not find work.”

Watch video interview here.


Singer/nose flautist and songwriter spark Cape May live music scene

Donahue Kearns singer songwriter

Singer Debra Donahue and songwriter JM Kearns sing a song Michael wrote for a wedding many years ago.  “You can’t miss if you’re aiming at me babe…”

When the couple was living in Nashville, Donahue, although she had sung all her life, did not sing at all. But when she moved to Cape May, New Jersey, she and her friend Vicki Watson started a private little hootenanny group singing girlie and old country songs. When Michael moved to Cape May two and a half years ago, their friend Barry Tischler started an open mic night at the Pilot House Restaurant and it took off like gangbusters.. Since then, four separate bands have been formed out of the group and they are playing all around town, at wineries, outdoor venues and clubs. Donahue says Cape May has become home to an “amazing community” of musicians.

Watch video interview here

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Donahue also plays a mean nose flute, treating us to a rendition of Del Shannon and Max Crook’s 1961 #1 Billboard Hit “Runaway”. She’s been playing since she picked up plastic nose flutes from Edmund Scientific, then based in Barrington, New Jersey, when she was 5 Now at 54, she’s a self-proclaimed virtuoso.  She produces sounds by breathing out her nose, letting the air pass through  a channel, passing over a fipple. Just like whistling, by adjusting the shape and size of  the inside of her mouth and volume of air, she can vary the tone. With the simple one dollar novelty item she plays with friends and can produce sounds that hauntingly mimic Celtic instruments like the recorder. She takes us out with “Flow Gently Sweet Afton”, set to the words Scottish poet Robert Burns. “If I can breathe, I can play.”


Living in Princeton U's 1860s President McCosh's House

Living in the house of 1860s Princeton University President James McCosh

David Meadow leads a short tour through his home, known to the Princeton NJ community as “the McCosh house” because it was the residence of the James   McCosh, president of Princeton University from 1868 -1888.  

In recent years, the mansion had been divided into two large condominium units and last year, Meadow and his wife Lisa Mirin have taken up residence in the larger side.

Meadow relates that McCosh had built the structure in 1887 as his retirement home. Before it was moved to its present location on Princeton’s main street, Nassau Street, in 1906, it was originally situated on Prospect street, where it had housed a student eating club [the “Quadrangle” of which novelist and Princetonian F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about in “This Side of Paradise.”] 

On Nassau it sat on a large tract of land and its owner in 1980, Architect Robert Hillier sought to tear it down for a townhouse development. The Historical Society and the community waged a battle in the local newspapers to preserve the historical house. Hillier relented, and was able to comply with regulations concerning the housing development by moving the house once again, but this time only 20 feet closer to the street.

Meadow points out the elaborate, original stained glass work, woodwork, and scrollwork in the main entrance area and along the grand stairway to the second floor. 

When the house was moved in 1980, some of the original stucco was uncovered a curious feature was revealed: The year “1888” and McCosh’s initials where McCosh presumably had scratched them into the wet stucco.

Watch video interview and tour here.


The Mount Seniors' Fun Day for Charity

Mount St Joseph's Academy Charity Day

With glittery facial make up and sporting their school’s purple and gold colors, Mount Saint Joseph Academy seniors Cassidy Peikin (left) and Michelle Handy took a lunch break at Bruno’s from the school’s annual Charity Day festivities. It’s a day of fun, the girls say, and the seniors get to dress up crazily. The day’s celebration features a talent show including skits by teachers, singing and Irish dancing which Handy performed in the morning and demonstrated in the accompanying video. This year’s donations will benefit the Make a Wish Foundation and the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation. Upon graduation Peikin plans to pursue social work and Handy, to become a therapist. Watch video here.