Things are looking up! Paint the Cresheim Bridge! Open Call for Artists


Cresheim railroad bridge mural arts philadelphia

Before a couple dozen community members at the newly renovated Lovett Library this past Monday evening, Cathy Harris of Philadelphia Mural Arts issues a call for artists to design a mural for the rusted abandoned railway trestle over Germantown Avenue below Cresheim Valley Drive. First envisioned fifteen years ago, the project is being relaunched now that the City of Philadelphia is acquiring the former Pennsylvania Railroad trestle from PECO. Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, a project partner, provided historical information on the structure and Mural Arts founder Jane Golden encouraged attendees to "spread the word" to artists to answer the "Call for Submissions." The Deadline for submissions is April 13, 2018. Your correspondent has posted a PDF of the "Cresheim Trail Mural Project Call for Submissions" here until it becomes available online from the collaborative which also includes the Trolley Car Diner, Friends of the Cresheim Trail (FoCT), Elfant Wissahickon Realtors, Chestnut Hill Rotary, the Mount Airy Learning Tree and ChestnutHIllPa. The abandoned railroad is being converted to a trail linking Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill with Springfield Township. See reporter Sue Ann Rybak's coverage in the January 18, 2018 Chestnut Hill Local The mural’s completion is intended to coincide with the opening of the extension to the existing trail which begins at Allens Lane and Lincoln Drive. In June the public is welcomed to vote "in several community locations" to choose a winner from among a handful of proposals narrowed down by Mural Arts. After the meeting, I approached Sam Hanna who had been intently taking notes during the presentations. As a business account manager for the Center for Employment Opportunities, Hanna planned to relay what he had learned to a client. While in prison for twenty years, that client began to do art. And after getting out last year at the time of the Monday evening meeting, was at a job he had just started. Things are looking up.

(In the photo left to right -standing:  Brad Maule of Mt Airy USA, Jane Golden and Cathy Harris of Mural Arts Philadelphia, seated 2nd from left- Sam Hanna of CEO and Judy Weinstein of MALT)

Video of public meeting by  Mural Arts collaborative in call for artists to submit design for old rusty railroad bridge in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia.

Boat built in six hours, from free seas to art gallery

Mare liberum free seas punt boat mural
Chloe Wang fell in love with the lower Schuylkill River after she put in the river down by Bartram’s Gardens. The boat was an English style flat-bottomed canal "punt" that she and other Haverford College students had just built earlier in the day during a breakneck 6-hour workshop led by the Brooklyn based activist artist boat-building collaborative, Mare Liberum, That was 2015. Now she works for Bartram’s Gardens in its community boathouse program. The initiative allows people to take out kayaks and rowboats on the river for free on Saturdays from April to October. Just this year the “punt” was pulled from storage and dusted off. Wang was invited by Mare Liberum to help paint a mural on the bottom depicting the river’s tides and the non-humans that inhabit the river environment for a new exhibit on the Hudson and Schuylkill rivers at the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Painted on one side is a black silhouette of downtown Philadelphia, on the other the silhouette of the South Philadelphia oil refineries: both border the river. Your correspondent engaged Wang in the art gallery some minutes before the Center’s annual Richard James lecture, honoring its founder, which this year featured experts discussing “Water: Peril and Promise.” Watch video interview of college student who built then navigated canal boat,then painted mural on bottom for nature center gallery exhibit on rivers.

New tire laser reading at auto dealer

Tire tread laser reading hunter engineering

I finally got around to having my car's defective Takata airbag replaced and driving into the dealership, discovered that the service area had been completely renovated into a covered structure with multiple lances. Conicelli Honda in Conshohocken is one of the first in the nation to be equipped with new Hunter Engineering automated technology according to service advisor Russ Hauer. As explained by Hauer and demonstrated by Assistant Service Manager Marc Varallo, as you drive into the service area over a red plate, a laser in the device reads your tire tread depth. Simultaneously, a camera takes of a photo of your license plate; the system is tied in to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and brings up your Vehicle Identification Number so there is no need to present your car registration for manual entry. A valet takes your car and you then walk inside the waiting area where a service agent greets you and promptly presents you with a graphic printout of the condition of your tires and whether a tire rotation or replacement are recommended. See new auto tire laser reading technology and interview here.

Market will drive your groceries home

Save A Lot drives your groceries home

​Save A Lot grocery stores will drive you home after you shop and, as one sly driver pointed out, will drive your groceries home, too. The driver says he's back at his store for another trip every ten minutes. A $60 minimum purchase is required to hop aboard and your destination should not be more than 2 and a half miles from the store. Your correspondent conducted this interview at the Chew Ave and Washington Lane store, formerly home to a Bottom Dollar food store, where cherries were on sale for $1.99 a pound and tasty they were but cannot vouch for whether they were ethically sourced. Watch video here.

Moroccan Uber Driver's American Dream

Uber driver from Morocco near perfect

Adil Tijer, an immigrant from Morocco, drives a “black car” for Uber, a service which connects riders with drivers through its mobile apps. On your correspondent’s first trip with Uber, Tijer explained driver licensing, passenger insurance and Uber’s rating system. But for the occasional late night drunk, Tijer’s rating might be a perfect 5-star.  The rating system works both ways. Uber drivers get to rate their riders, too, and drivers can refuse to accept a fare. Watch video ride and interview here.

Tijer worked previously as a medical assistant and pizza deliveryman. He visits friends and family back home every year and describes his country as a democracy, tolerant of different religious practices, where the people love their king. Tijer, now an American citizen, came to the U.S. as one of the quota-set 2500 Moroccans who won the lottery some years ago and hopes to own his own store one day. He lives in Northeast Philadelphia where he says there is a sizable Moroccan community. Watch video interview here.

Travelers Aid Kiosk offers some help

travelers aid kiosk 30th street station philly

Chris Levey, a saturnine looking yet pleasant 3-day a week volunteer at the barren- looking Travelers Aide kiosk at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia says that Travelers Aide doesn’t offer all that much.  The most common question is where the bathroom is followed by where the BOLT bus location is.  People also ask about tourist destinations and Levey directs them to the Independence Hall area and offers a map.

Not infrequently Levey gets approached by people who don’t have money and need a place to stay. Men he sends to the Roosevelt Darby Center, women to the House of Passage, emergency housing shelters. They relate all kinds of stories, he says. A guy the week before said he had come for a job interview, didn’t get the job and had no money to get home.  Levey supplies these down-on-their-luckers with a token to get to the shelter.

Watch video interview here.

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.

Mounted police on patrol in Chestnut Hill

Mounted police return to Philly streets

Officers Manuel Lorenzo (left)  and Carmello Oquendo (right) were patrolling Chestnut Hill along Highland Avenue astride their mounts.  Lorenzo was riding Ruben, a black coated Dutch warmblood and former dressage horse and Oquendo was riding Ranger, a rescued Belgian draft  who had been pulling farm carriages. The policemen are two of the 12 officers riding horses from a stable of 15. They patrol throughout the City, says Oquendo,  and could be in Chestnut Hill one day and in  Old City, the next. Although there were a couple hundred in the unit in the 1950s and 60s, the hope is for the unit, re-introduced in 2010, to build back up to a more recent level of 30 riders. Although the officers can perform all regular police functions, their main purpose is deterrence and the officers equate a mounted duo’s effectiveness to that of 20 officers walking a beat.  The horses are trained to deal with different conditions, disturbances and people.  Ruben and Ranger were receptive to pats on the neck and the officers say they are good for community relations - the public loves them. The Philadelphia Police Foundation website accepts donations at to rebuild the mounted patrol. Watch short video here.