I was the first of three riders and we were all a little confused about how many potential riders there could be, how far out of our way we'd be going, who would be dropped off first and how the fare would be split if we're all starting and ending at different locations. We did conclude that we saved some money, lost some time and our driver had to work harder with all the intermediate pickups and drop offs. Watch video interview here.
Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation project coordinator Curt Helm oversaw the felling and removal of three large diseased trees at the Allens Lane Art Center. The trees were in danger of falling onto the playing fields or the other way over power lines and onto McCallum Street which bears significant vehicular traffic. Helm, with direct experience in the field, complimented the adroitness of the park's subcontractors. As the final chainsaw cuts were made to the diseased oak tree, it began to tumble. A truck with a rope attached to the tree began to pull it forward in the direction the contractors wanted the tree to fall. A couple seconds later the top branches hit the ground with a resounding crash. The two other trees to be taken down that day were ashes. Sadly, Helm reports, all the park's ash trees will eventually succumb to the emerald ash borer and, for safety reasons, will be taken down within the next five to ten years. Watch video here
Unionized Verizon telephone company workers (Communication Workers of America - CWA) conducting an informational picket outside the Chestnut Hill Philadelphia central station, which houses thirty to forty thousand landline connections, explain why they are on strike. They object to high executive pay and unwillingness to sign a contract without concessions from workers giving the company the right to reassign them to locations 50 or even a couple hundred miles away, freeze their pensions at 30 years of service and outsource their jobs to workers in the Philippines or Mexico. Watch video interview here.
Kyle Gerckin, head of the caster department at Wendell August: American Made Gifts in Grove City, PA shows how to pour pewter into a custom-made mold to create an ornament. Next to its flagship store featuring hand-hammered metal gift items, the forge, in operation since 1923, is open to the public and offers tours. According to Gerckin, the pewter mixture Wendell August buys as ingots and melts down is composed of 90 percent tin, bismuth for its bonding properties, copper and a little bit of silver. The advantage of pewter, Gerckin says, is that it looks like silver but is less expensive and easy to work with.
Nine hundred dollars is how much Kabria Johnson’s friend told Johnson she made in one day driving for the ride-sharing service Uber. Out on just her third day on the job, the pretty, twenty-one year old “Uber X “driver says she is not afraid for her safety. She knows where to hit you. And since Uber tracks the time and distance through GPS and charges the customer’s credit card, drivers don’t need to carry cash.
Johnson holds down a job in customer service with U.S. Airways and is in the process of being approved, also, by the competing ride service, Lyft. She is saving up to pay off a loan on her other car, get an apartment and buy furniture. And she’s planning a big cookout for herself and five younger siblings this coming Mother’s day which, sadly, will be their first without their Mom who died last October.
It was a smooth ride in Johnson’s newly acquired 2006 Toyota Prius with over 200,000 miles on it, but seeming in good condition, that she uses exclusively when driving for Uber. She was unfazed when another driver rolled down his window at a stop to point out that one of our tires appeared to be flat. We pulled over into a gas station briefly to get some air. Johnson says she has Triple A service and family all over the city to come to her aid if need be. As for me, her rider, Johnson smiles, if she hadn’t been able to get me to my destination, another Uber driver would likely have been summoned to scoop me up for the final leg of my journey within a matter of minutes.
Dee Servance was canvassing door-to-door on a bitter cold winter night to raise support for a paid sick leave bill in Philadelphia. As it is now, low paid workers who get sick have to miss out on needed pay or come in to work sick, neither of which is good for anyone. The bill is before Philadelphia City Council and now that members are up for re-election, Servance’s organization, Working Families, which has worked on getting the minimum wage raised and on Pennsylvania Governor-elect Tom Wolf’s successful campaign, is urging citizens to call city council members who have not yet come on board, to support the bill. The bill would require employers with 10 or more employees to allow employees to accrue one hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked. Watch video here.
Your correspondent took his wife’s car to Dr. Ralph’s Automotive Services Center in Roxborough after she discovered one morning that it had been bashed overnight. While a technician was dusting off the last traces of the repair job, body shop manager John Klimowicz began explaining the business. While high strength steel is still used in car construction, thermoset plastics are becoming more common. To point out the strength of the repair work, Klimowicz relates that the same epoxies used to weld airplane panels are employed for car panel bonding repairs. If repaired properly, according to manufacturer specifications, “you can hit it with a sledge hammer and it will not break.” As to a future when driverless cars are expected to reduce collisions? “That remains to be seen.” In the meantime, Klimowicz believes there is plenty of work for Dr. Ralph’s and for the other nine or so car repair shops tightly spaced alongside this industrial stretch of Umbria Avenue. Watch video interview here.
When Tiffany Gaal is not selling popcorn or sweeping up spilled popcorn at the 100 year-old, one screen Hiway [Movie] Theater in Jenkintown, Pa., she’s auditioning for or appearing in musical theater. After the early evening screening of “Jersey Boys,” the story of singer Franki Valli and the Four Seasons, your correspondent cajoled Gaal into singing while she was restocking the snack stand. She chose “Come with me” from the epilogue of Les Miz, the musical she is most desirous of performing in. For good measure, I got her to sing some of Valli’s hit song, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”
In the accompanying video, Andrew Heller, Gaal’s work partner at the Hiway, appears in a non-singing role.
Fifty years ago, when John Antonucci’s grandfather, Frank, immigrated from Italy and established his masonry business in North Wales, Pa outside Philadelphia, there was just a stop sign outside at the now busy intersection of Stump Road and Route 309. Frank’s son Salvatore expanded the business and now Sal’s Nursery and Landscaping has nineteen acres of nursery which is mainly a source of plant material for the company’s landscaping operation. Customers can also walk in and buy plants at retail. Sal’s specializes in upscale projects like in-ground pool, pool houses and patio installations. And, unlike the big-box stores, it offers rare varieties and very large specimens so that customers who have lost shrubs or trees say, during the recent rough winter, can match and fill in the gaps in their landscapes. On a crisp spring day, John spoke proudly about the family operation and pointed out several beautiful plants like the cluster of dark red-leafed and flowering ninebarks. (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Driving my daughter from Chestnut Hill to her job in Roxborough Saturday morning, we passed a man making his way on foot down the steep and treacherously narrow, icy shoulder of Bells Mill Road. When I again passed him on my return trip twenty minutes later, now on his ascent from Forbidden Drive, I had to offer him a lift. Robert Mongeluzzi’s car tire had been flattened by a pothole the day before and, after spending the night in Chestnut Hill, he was hoping to somehow connect with a bus and make it to his home in Merion Station. He offered to top off my gas tank as thanks but I settled for the story of his work as a trial attorney representing victims and families of the Market Street Salvation Army building collapse and other, similarly notorious and catastrophic incidents.