"I wanted to give this class because I wanted to paint like Pollock with a group of people who want to paint like Pollock." This is how artist Kay Gering introduced her workshop students at a multi-generational cooperative camp in Ottsville, PA (ECRS) to the drip and splash technique of abstract expressionistic Jackson Pollock. Pollock pioneered the form in the 1940s and early 1950s. He was much more interested in the physical act of making art than the results on canvas, Gering explained. With dozens of colorful, acrylic house-paints donated by her contacts, Gering set her group out with cups, straws and sticks to create Pollock-like art on oversize white and black canvases and to over paint some smaller art reproductions. Your correspondent interviewed one participant, T, as she moved about the canvases, paint cup in hand. For her, the class had special significance. T recently attended the critically acclaimed stage production of the French produced "Pollock" in which her daughter starred as Pollock's ambitious artist wife, Lee Krasner. Watch campers, young and old, splash paint on large canvases in imitation of abstract expressionist artist Jackson Pollock.
81 year old Fiametta Rubin had been sleeping scrunched on a "horrible little mattress” when, on a recent morning walk along Evergreen Avenue, she came across a large plastic-wrapped mattress leaning up against a meter left out for trash pickup. As she tells it, a tall athletic looking man was getting out of a car and after quickly sizing him up she decided to ask him if he could help her move the mattress to her apartment down the street. He looked at her, paused, then told her to stand guard over the mattress while he went for help. Meanwhile she stood in the cold wondering if she was crazy or he was crazy or they both were. The accompanying video reveals why she was sleeping on a horrible little mattress, why the big mattress was put in the trash, how it is now serving as a bulletin board in her apartment, why she's not going to keep it, and what else she just trash-picked. Watch video of trash picking senior here.
Shirley Washington, Florrie Flood and Jocelyn Powell, volunteers for AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, were outside Bredenbeck's Bakery and Ice Cream Parlor in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia to rally support against changes to Medicare. Backed by a large sign featuring the diverse faces of its constituency (50 plus demographic), one volunteer explained their presence as a way to acquaint the community with AARP while another spoke earnestly about how prescription drug costs, higher premiums and higher deductibles negatively affect Social Security pensioners. "Health care is just outrageous." They invited your correspondent inside to sign a petition to my Congressmen and enjoy a free ice cream cone! I obliged. Watch video interview here.
During the Cold War, as a high school freshman Eileen Levenson and her classmates were marched into the nurse's office and without explanation had their blood drawn and the next week their blood type tattooed on their side torso. She later learned that the tattoo, now an interesting conversation piece and handy reminder that she's O positive, was part of a government program also conducted upon military servicemen in preparation for a possible Russian invasion. Watch video here.
Aficionados gathered on Saturday at the Water Tower Recreation Center in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia to play "pickleball" to mark the sport's half century mark. The sport, a mid-way mash-up of ping pong and tennis, was made up 50 years ago by a Washington state U.S. congressman and some friends to amuse their bored families after a shuttlecock couldn't be found to play badminton. Pickleball is becoming increasingly popular among aging baby-boomers who enjoy racket sports but find it difficult to cover the ground required on a regulation size tennis court. Dan Wheeler founded the Northwest Philadelphia meetup group which now numbers over 500 members. Watch video and interviews here.
Marjorie Shoemaker brings her "Paws of the Spirit," to nursing homes and other venues. Her passel of animals include an easygoing white Labrador retriever service dog named Archie who, she says cost $50,000 to train, two rabbits and about a dozen guinea pigs. Shoemaker demonstrated how Archie can retrieve things and assist someone who might be disabled by, for example, gently taking off a person's socks without taking off any toes! Watch video here.
The nursing home residents coo ooh and ahh as they hold and pet the rabbits and the guinea pigs. The guineas, adept vocalizers, "wheek," purr, and chut in return in this video.
Eighty-seven year old Pat Sellers, laid off from the Philadelphia Cricket Club three years ago, has started doing what she has seen young people doing to try to make ends meet. Since July she has been busking on the street. She serenades passersby on her electric keyboard with show tunes and old time favorites outside Kilian Hardware, with electricity provided by the store, in the hope they will put money in her donation bag. On a recent Sunday, the musician, striking in her poofy, coifed silver hair and smart blue and white pants outfit, tapped out songs from Les Mis and Nat King Cole. Watch video and interview here.
After 40 years in the police department Avon "Crazy Ed" Wilson now sells plants outside his home on Chew Ave in Germantown. He had seen enough murder and war in the last twenty of his police years working in CSI. Now, four years running, he's been doing "something nice" for the neighbors. He buys plants at Home Depot and Produce Junction and makes arrangements of them in pots. He will bargain with customers but not if they disparage his plants. Wilson's not out to make a profit because he has a pension but tries to break even nonetheless. With his steady customers he tells a running joke: "The thing about my plants - you can't eat 'em and you can't smoke 'em."
Minister Betty Jones Alston was paralyzed from the waist down this January due to multiple sclerosis which she was diagnosed with in 1990. She had begun dropping things and attributed it to being very busy and worn down directing a food ministry and prison ministry, but it was not so.
But she is walking again and on a recent chilly spring day, she was methodically making her way down the steep entrance steps of the J.S. Jenks School after a meeting about her grandson, a student. She placed her three-footed aluminum cane on the step below her before taking each step.
Also afflicted with lupus, Minister Alston credits her faith, positive attitude and taking control of her body for enabling her to continue to lead an active life. She also sings gospel but due to a recent illness, was not able to sing in the accompanying video.