Julia Alekseyeva emigrated to the United States from Russia when she was four years old. Her relationship with most members of her family was fraught. But her great-grandmother, Lola, reflected her own personality and they developed an especially close bond despite nearly 80 years difference in age. Lola, like many other Jews who had been marginalized and persecuted in the pre-Soviet era, had become a member of the Communist party. She later became secretary, devoted but exploited, to the NKVD, predecessor of the KGB. The years leading up to and through the war years were a time of struggle and deprivation. Lola's husband, sent off to fight, and many other family members fell victim to the Nazis. In "Soviet Daughter," a graphic biography, Alekseyeva recounts Lulu's sweeping 100 year story based on memoirs her great grandmother had secretly kept. Alekseyeva places "Interludes" between some chapters of the book which weave in her own personal history- growing up an immigrant, overcoming thyroid cancer (precipitated by Chernobyl radiation exposure) navigating her college years and discovering her sexual, Jewish and political identities. Near the end, lost in grief after the death of her beloved Lola, Alekseyeva receives a phone call. She has been accepted into the Comparative Literature Department at Harvard. Alekseyeva has also authored illustrated works on Rosa Luxembourg and Walter Benjamin. At "Book Paper Scissors! an artists' book fair at the Free Library on the Parkway, cosponsored by the Philadelphia Center for the Book, these were on display along with Soviet Daughter. Rounding out her display were Yuri Gagarin t-shirts and other t-shirts embellished with a pineapple and written across the pineapple Alekseyeva's DJ name - “Comrade Pineapple.” Watch here the author artist describe her graphic memoir about her one hundred year old Russian great-grandmother.
A New Jersey van packed with fresh Atlantic seafood did a brisk business its first time out at the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market last Saturday. They plan to come every other week, alternating with the market they do in Bryn Mawr. Justin Hetrick introduced eager new customers and your correspondent to the fresh fish operation. "We are called Local130 Seafood [A large patriotic painting on the side of the van shouts it out] We are out of Asbury Park, New Jersey. The "130" stands for the amount of New Jersey coast line. All the fish that you see here today, with the exception of halibut which comes from New England, is coming right off the coast daily. Sea scallops out of Point Pleasant. You know Barnegat Light, Long Beach Island? We are Asbury Park, only 20 minutes from Point Pleasant and we can go the day they come in off the boat and get everything fresh that day. There’s a fleet of commercial boats that run out of there. Arguably, I think it’s the third largest port in New Jersey next to Barnegat Light and Cape May. They go out in all kinds of weather to catch us the fish that we need. We are pretty lucky and blessed to have that. Nothing here is ever frozen. Nothing that we sell in the shop is frozen. We pack it fresh and we put it on ice so it keeps the temperature nice and cold without ever actually freezing it. So it’s still soft to the touch. Here are some of the information cards that I didn’t put out yet - we have skate wings, the black sea bass, sea scallops, weakfish, fluke, A lot of people know it as flounder but we like to call it fluke. The only thing I don’t have a card for today is cod.” Watch video interview of fishmonger at Chestnut Hill farmers market in Philadelphia of fish caught fresh from Atlantic Ocean here.
Habitat for Humanity of Montgomery County, PA supported by a coalition of community partners including AmeriCorps National Community Service members along with sweat equity put in by the Thompson family made a home of their own in Pottstown, PA a reality for the Thompsons. This is a short video collage of the dedication celebration.
The annual Mount Airy Village Fair centered around the Greene and Carpenter Street intersection in the Mount Airy section of Northwest Philadelphia featured a variety of vendors and organizations and exhibitors. It was full of food, music, dance, crafts, family and children's activities, contests, pets for adoption, farm animals (watch recorded Periscope broadcast here) and more on a sunny Sunday, September 11, 2016. Here are a couple of video interviews conducted by your Fair going correspondent.
June and Audrey Donaldson learned Detroit Style ballroom dancing at a dance conference in Cleveland in 2010 where they were teaching Philly bop. June relates that the style originated in a very large ballroom in Detroit called the Graystone. The dancers move smoothly and closely and incorporate the "step-in-1-2-3" of the cha-cha. The self-called "Bopologists" have been teaching Detroit style ballroom ever since and were dancing out on the street during the annual Mount Airy Village Fair in Philadelphia to promote their course through the Mount Airy Learning Tree. Watch video here.
Through the Silver Fork Club's online presence, eaters too busy to cook can browse the offerings of local chefs and have a home-cooked meal delivered to them or arrange for a pick-up. Young ambassadors at the Mount Airy Village affair offered free cooked veggie skewers to promote the service's imminent Philadelphia launch. Watch video here.
Elijah Fletcher ran away from the George Junior Republic residential school north of Pittsburgh last July because he was missing home and even missing trouble. That memorable adventure in a swamp being attacked by mosquitos ended with his return to the school. On June 3rd he was beaming at his high school graduation with his proud Dad by his side, about to begin his first job, and with a handsome college scholarship in hand. After earning a degree in psychology and sociologist, he plans to give back through work helping youth find a better life than stealing and drugs. Watch video here.
The day before Easter Sunday, Nick Hasselback and his wife, Jenna, who was due to deliver their first child four days later, marveled at Patrick Dougherty's new stick sculpture installation at the Morris Arboretum. "A Waltz in the Woods" is a handful of closely circled tall and leaning towers consisting of willow branches and saplings woven together. And then left for nature to take its course as with Dougherty's previous work at the Morris. Nick and Jenna describe themselves as woodsy people and are hatching similar, likely more modest, ideas of their own. Watch video here
Langston Darby held an icepack to his jaw before his program on “Found Objects: Unleash the Voice of the Everyday through Performance“ at the Chestnut Hill Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia. But the icepack was to ease the pain of an earlier dentist appointment and not part of his program, one of many events in the Library’s One Book One -Philadelphia celebration. This year’s selection, The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline is about the relationship of an older woman, Vivian and a young woman, Molly. Molly is a Penobscot Indian who has lived in various foster homes and gotten into trouble. Molly is assigned community service to help Vivian sort through the many keepsakes Vivian has stored in her attic. These objects evoke memories of the older woman’s own traumatic childhood experiences after she was sent on an “orphan train” from New York City to the Midwest during the Great Depression subsequent to the death of her Irish immigrant parents and siblings in a tenement fire.
Darby led our small assemblage through improvisation centering on objects- like a certain knife from our own memories and then had us feel for and pick the thing out of a “magic bag”, instructing us to let the object choose us. A sparkly dark orange artificial pumpkin chose one of us, a large black plastic knight/horse from a chess set, another. A small book chose your correspondent. Recommended reading: The Orphan Train.
At the popular and busy outdoor Clover Market in Chestnut Hill Sunday, a photographer with “Poseybooth” took photos of anyone willing to pose and of at least one unwilling dog. Poseybooth is a modern version of the ubiquitous instant photo booths of yore. But instead of a getting a wet print, those posing received their photos in digital format via text or email. The freebie souvenir appeared to make many people very happy. Watch video here.