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.
Frank Simms of North Philadelphia graduated from Overbrook High School many years ago yet now, at age 77, is still learning how to read.
He hasn’t spent a day in jail, he says, and has been working since he was six years old, doing everything from welding and bricklaying to electrical work in Philly and for periods of time in Erie and Cleveland.
At the Lovett Branch of the Free Library in Mount Airy, where he has just completed a literacy session with another woman and his tutor, Simms proudly pulls out wallet photos of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
He partly blames an early speech impediment and a school with misbehaved classmates for keeping him from learning to read properly.
Asked to read aloud from an elementary grade story handed out by his teacher, he stumbles on words but perseveres. Later in the week, he meets with another tutor in the basement of an apartment building at 12th and Fairmount pursuing his quest for literacy.
Rashid Abdul/Majid, a practicing Muslim, turns to his Arabic language books during breaks in his substitute-teaching class schedule on a recent day at Parkway Northwest High School in Mount Airy. He is currently studying Arabic, taking one class on the Arabic language- grammar and sentence structure, and another, called Tajweed, on how to recite from the Koran. A recently retired driver of 38 years with SEPTA who has been simultaneously substituting for many years, he loves to travel around the world and has visited China and many countries in Africa. During the upcoming March spring break, with his wife and son, he is taking a return trip to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Watch video interview here.
Although Rachel Wolok was exposed to Israeli dancing as a child, it was not until she had moved from Israel to the United States and was older that she had the time to learn and participate in Israeli folk dancing. Wolok has always loved seeing dancers upon the Tayelet, the famous boardwalk in Tel Aviv. Here she does Israeli dancing with the group that meets weekly at the Germantown Jewish Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Watch video here
>> MIKAELA JENSON ROSEMAN (MJR): You want me to tell you the story of my tattoos? Okay. So my left arm is pretty much a dedication to my grandfather. I have this one up here which is a line drawing of him. He served in World War II so that’s why I have the Purple Heart in there ‘cause he received one of those awards. He passed away in 2001 and then I got this one to memorialize him which is a biblical passage.
>> CLOSE UP: DO YOU KNOW IT BY HEART?
I know the passage but to be honest with you I don’t know any more the verse.
>> CU: “SEE UPON THE PALMS OF MY HAND, I HAVE CARVED YOUR NAME.” WHAT DO YOU RECALL ABOUT THAT PASSAGE?
I actually first heard about it in a class I was taking at Temple. I was a religion minor. And when I heard it I thought that it was a very good, a really good quote for a memorial tattoo. And I sort have always moderately considered adding more to my arm, like more pictures of my grandfather. He did a lot of stained glass work when he was still alive and I have a lot of that left. So I wanted to have some of those pictures maybe added. A lot of my tattoos I’d say aside from these ones are not – not that they have no point but they’re not as personally, I think, angled. And so I’ve sort of decided that since this is my arm obviously closer to my heart that I’ll have that dedicated for him.
WHAT WAS YOUR RLEATIONSHIP WITH HIM THAT YOU’D…
He was wonderful. He was born in 1907. His name was Albert Furman Jensen and he passed away in 2001. He had a very lucky, nice passing I think. And I just remember being really close with him growing up. So I remember being a kid, he had white hair, his nickname was “Whitey.” Even when he was a kid he had white hair. I just remember combing his hair at their house in Upper Darby when I was a little girl. He got Alzheimer’s later in life and he would have lucid moments as well. And so he always knew who I was, even when he was …Alzheimer’s. I remember one day I tried to microwave a thing of peanut butter And it had the wrapper on it still. It burst into flames in the microwave. And my 89 year old grandfather at the time sprinted through the house to get to the kitchen to put it out. So you know I have all these varied distinct memories of him, all really positive ones and even though it’s been a while, I was twelve. Yeah, I was eleven or twelve when he passed away. Now I’m twenty-five but I still think about him all the time.
Here’s the only picture that I have in my wallet. And this is the one that I always considered getting a portrait of him
So I have these puzzle pieces that I have on my arm that are meant to be for me and my best friend who I’ve known since I was four. I have “Love” and “Peace” on my wrist because those are ideals I’d like to live by contrary to how it usually goes. I have a fish on my neck because I was very interested in marine biology. And then on my back which you really won’t be able to see. I have wings on my back and a William Blake quote in between them that says “Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained," which is a quote from his piece, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell”
>> CU; DO YOU EVER WORRY THAT YOU’LL FALL OUT OF LOVE WITH SOMETHING YOU’VE TATTOOED ON?
No. Never. I haven’t so far. You know some of my tattoos, on the back of my neck up here I have this little heart which has no sentimental meaning whatsoever- it was something I got because I was in New York City and I wanted a tattoo in New York City and I picked it off of the wall and I really don’t regret any of them at all. I still like them. You know for me it’s either that I remember something that happened when I got it or for the ones that like actually do mean something more personal to me, you know like in ten years I’m not going to decide all of a sudden that I don’t like my grandfather anymore, you know?
Michael Gieschen, who lost his vision due to retinitis pigmentosa, sports a tee-shirt emblazoned with a group of walkers under the words “Blinds to Go” the name of his team (blind art students from Allens Lane Art Center and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The team walked in the Foundation Fighting Blindness Vision Walk to raise funds to research and combat retinal diseases. Shown here in the Allens Lane Vision through Art class, is Gischen with the parrot fish he sculpted, poised above coral. The family has become enamored of the parrot through vacations in the Caribbean. Shown with him is daughter Kara who is helping out with the final stage of his work, applying brilliant colors, which Gischen is very particular about, naturally, as he worked as a graphic designer before losing his sight. Watch video here.
Carol Konopinski teaches the Vision Through Art class at the Allens Lane Art Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. The class which is open only to those who are legally blind has been going on for 25 years and the artists work mainly in clay but are branching out into mixed media. ---------------
This is the best day of the whole week. I live for Wednesday mornings … Hi, welcome to Vision Through Art. We’re a sculpture class for the blind and visually impaired. We have artists here who have a range of vision to no vision. And You have to be legally blind to be in here. Even though the teacher and the assistants are not, that’s OK. Someone’s got to have vision- stupid sighted people! We have a great time. It’s a super family. We’ve been going for almost twenty-five years now. We have a great group of artists and they do anything from small to large pieces. We work mainly in clay but we’re moving out into mixed-media pieces. So we’re doing a lot of really fantastic work here- working on the wheel, sculpture , papier-mâché, you name it we do it they’re game for anything…It looks like we’re going to have another day of mass chaos as usual but hey, you go with the flow and enjoy it. Chaos is good! It’s all about the creativity and the chaos… Frank’s going to be working on wedging and getting back on the wheel… Betsy’s got a piece to finish up, a little girl and a dog and then Plato is working on a piece that he’s going to make a mold of but he’s still finessing and getting the shape right so he’s being the master sculptor right now. Carol Kopinski, Teacher, Allens Lane Art Center Vision Through Art class. Watch video interview here.
Betsy Clayton sculpts very realistic human and also imaginary creatures despite being legally blind for many years at the Vision Through Art program at the Allens Lane Art Center in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia.
Wait a minute, maybe I can turn the table over and maybe it’s white on the other side. YES, IT HAS YOUR NAME ON IT. This is my piece that I think of as an undersea creature. I don’t know what I’m going to call it. I was thinking “Riders Under the Sea” or “Undersea Riders”… I used gold, red and green. At first I painted it all green and then I dabbed on colors to make it look fantastical. WHAT CAN YOU SEE OF IT? It’s a blur to me. I mean I can see that there’s color on here but I don’t know what the colors actually are or where they are. When I painted them I knew where I wanted certain colors. THEY’RE PRETTY BRILLIANT DO YOU SEE ANY OF THE COLORS? Are they brilliant? Not to me, they’re just dull. DO THEY HAVE A SHADE, THE COLORS? Green I can see. But everything looks green to me. . . The back of him is supposed to be like an octopus thing, tentacles. WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE? They have no arms you see. Because they’re really not people. They’re things that live under the sea. Creatures. I don’t know what they do under the sea. But, they like to ride the monster or whoever he is… I see leaves on the trees all winter. I do. If I look at a tree, it has leaves. HOW IS THAT, WHY? I don’t know. EVEN IF THEY’RE NOT THERE? It’s not in full leaf like it would be in summer but I see green all around the trees because I see green. That’s probably why. Betsy Clayton, Vision through Art, Allens Lane Art Center, Philadelphia.
November 28, 2012
In this video, Cara Gieschen demonstrates to a class of blind sculpture students applications on the iPad that may be useful to the vision impaired. One app speaks aloud the color the iPad's camera is focused upon. The app identifies solid colors well but hilariously identified the hair color of some grayheads in the class as greenish and purplish. Gieschen demonstrated another app, VisionSim which, upon clicking on one of several eye disease in a list, simulates what a person with that disease actually sees.
Gregory Marincola volunteers at Ryerss Farm, a “retirement” community for old and formerly abused horses, located on nearly 400 acres of land in Chester County. http://www.ryerss.com There, Marincola visits with the first horse of his wife, now deceased, a half Tennessee Walker, half Paint who was called to Ryerss from her place on the waiting list when she was 31 years old.
I’d like to introduce you to my three horses that I have up here at Ryerss. I’ll show you a picture. [Pointing to photos on wall] This is my wife, Andrea, who has passed away, and this is our horse, “April,” when she was a baby. She’s like two years old there. And to the right we have Vicki, who has passed away, and our little pony Mindy, who has also moved to the other side. And, again, this is April, a bit older now; she’s still living, she’s still with me. This is their wall of fame here at Ryerss and you can see it’s all the horses that are here now, who have been through here and passed on and some of their owners. This is open to the public. They can come in here and look at the horses and get an idea what’s going on….This is Arian’s April’s Dawn, my wife’s first horse and we got her when she was two years old. We kept her at home until she reached the age of thirty-one. DID YOUR WIFE RIDE HER? Yeah… She’s strictly a pleasure horse and she’s half Tennessee Walker and a half Paint. We had put our horses on a waiting list here at Ryerss and a year after my wife passed away, I got the letter, it was time for them to come home. So this is where she lives now. Gregory Marincola, with April, at Ryerss Farm for Aged Equines, South Coventry Township, Chester County, Pa.
Garland Thompson was monkeying around with a large camera on the bench just outside the Allens Lane Art Center when, as I was about to go in, I paused to talk with him. Thompson who took his first photography class at Allens Lane 42 years ago, is a professional journalist. He had just recently purchased this, his first digital camera, and was saving the first shot to capture his grandson’s two year-old birthday celebration that same day. Soon he would be traveling to Panama from where he will report for the Philadelphia Tribune and WYRP radio in Baltimore.
YOU’VE BEEN DOING PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE… Since 1969 when I learned here at Allens Lane Art Center with a photographer named Larry Kanefsky. He taught us how to do the lab stuff as well as composition tricks and all kinds of nice stuff. OK, so this is my camera, it’s a Canon single lens reflex camera. I bought it because it is an SLR Seeing is the difficulty with a camera rather than hearing (oops, let me get the dot) You can tell I’m not real familiar with it, I just got it! (There we go) I bought this camera so I could shoot my grandson but also because I’m going to Panama. I’m going to be doing some reporting for WYPR radio in Baltimore and, among other things, I helped to convince them that radio in the Internet age is really TV, and they had to do pictures. too. So I’m going to do some stories for them and also bring back some stories for the Philadelphia Tribune, one of my old papers and, some probably who knows, some will be souvenir shots. So that’s my big thing. I bought this camera so I could get back into photography which I used to truly love ‘cause it’s so fascinating. Now I’m really quite fearful that it’ll be too absorbing. So that’s my story. YOU’RE GOING DIGITAL TODAY? I’m going digital today. AND THE FIRST THING YOU’RE TAKING WITH THIS YOU SAY IS? My grandson Joshua Monk is two this week and we’re having a celebration for his birthday. So I’m going to go, be grandpop, and shoot his pictures. HAVEN’T SHOT A SINGLE THING YET? No, I haven’t shot the first thing. I’ve been very careful to not shoot anything so that Josh is the first thing I do. Journalist and author Garland Thompson.
Epilogue: “What I like about it is it has a diopter adjust. I can actually look through this camera and not use my glasses There’s a diopter lens adjustment."
I’ve been retired now for about twelve years. And ever since I’ve been retired I’ve wanted to do something. I’m not a lay home watch soap opera kind of girl. I ran into a place called non-profit technology resources down near Spring Garden and Stan introduced me to recycling. And what I do is the donations that have come into the YWCA where I started and Malt Computer Volunteer Group, with the donations that come in, they were just sitting around. So I decided to tinker with and fix them.
As of the past four years we’re a Microsoft authorized refurbisher. We’re licensed by Microsoft to refurbish computers and install licensed products. Because we’re an authorized refurbisher, that means I’m obligated to wipe any and all hard drives. So I can assure people if they want to donate it or someone comes in and says I want to donate and I want my data, I’ll open the computer up and pull the hard drive out and hand it to them. Because when I re-image it, it has to be wiped. I have other hard drives.
You used to be able to put computers out on the sidewalk. Now you can’t do that. Also industries can’t dispose of their computer equipment the way they used to. So they donate it. They say you come get it. No you drop it off because I know they’re saving money (plus they’re getting a tax deduction} because they don’t have to pay for disposal.
My concern is since I’m a grandmom my concern is with schoolchildren, middle school through high school and college students. When I get donations of laptops, the college students are first on the list AT REDUCED PRICE? At minimal price. Especially a high school student who comes in and they’re honor roll. They get a whole PC for twenty bucks. AND HOW DO THEY FIND OUT ABOUT YOU? Usually word of mouth. Everybody knows “Miss Wynnie, the computer lady.” Wynne Hill, Summit Presbyterian Church, Mount Airy.