The orchid mantis and other subversive embroidery

Lopez mantis orchid - 1
The “orchid mantis” is an erect praying mantis, wearing a raspberry-colored dress with folds that look like orchid petals. For this hand-embroidered piece, Richie Lopez started to hand-stitch a dress from images he saw in an old Vogue magazine and then decided to put a bug in it. Another, showing poet Sylvia Plath knelt next to the oven was inspired by the Lana Del Ray lyrics I've been tearing around in my fucking nightgown / 24/7 Sylvia Plath” from the song “hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have.” Explains Lopez, “There’s a subversiveness about embroidery that people don’t really know about. That’s what I was doing here.” Life, death, sexuality and mysticism are subjects that intrigue Lopez and feature prominently in his work. His art also reflect his Latin heritage such as the one of a monstera plant emerging from a man’s torso, part of his “botanical boys” series and another of the “Handsomest drowned man in the world," from a short story by Gabriel García Márquez. “Oftentimes the entire medium is relegated to the domestic but there have been many people that have used embroidery as a way of expressing something that isn’t necessarily what people think embroidery is." That's what Lopez aspires to do. Watch a video interview of Richie Lopez who  finds inspiration in dark-themed literature and song for his subversive embroidery mixing fashion and biology


Wire train removes old catenary wire above train tracks

Septa catenary wire

This video depicts SEPTA’s flotilla-like “wire train” renewing the catenary wire above the tracks on the R7 Chestnut Hill East line as it works its way past the Mount Airy train station. The wires become worn after decades of use. The workers are taking down old catenary wire, dropping and sliding it into the gondola for scrap metal. The new catenary wire is already in place and running trains. Naturally, for the safety of the workers, the catenary is de-energised and grounded.

The following description is from a SEPTA blog post of July 13, 2017
“In our world, a catenary is a system of overhead wires used to supply electricity to a locomotive, streetcar, or light rail vehicle which is equipped with a pantograph. The pantagraph presses against the underside of the lowest overhead wire, the contact wire.
Current collectors are electrically conductive and allow current to flow through to the train and back to the feeder station through the steel wheels on one or both running rails. Unlike simple overhead wires, in which the uninsulated wire is attached by clamps to closely spaced crosswires supported by poles, catenary systems use at least two wires. The catenary or messenger wire is hung at a specific tension between line structures, and a second wire is held in tension by the messenger wire, attached to it at frequent intervals by clamps and connecting wires known as droppers. The second wire is straight and level, parallel to the rail track, suspended over it as the roadway of a suspension bridge is over water.
Simple wire installations are common in light rail, especially on city streets, while more expensive catenary systems are suited to high-speed operations.
The Northeast Corridor in the United States has catenary over the 600 miles (1000 km) between Boston, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. for Amtrak's high-speed Acela Express and other trains. Commuter rail agencies including MARC, SEPTA, NJ Transit, and Metro-North Railroad utilize the catenary to provide local service.
Overhead line equipment can be adversely affected by strong winds causing swinging wires. Power storms can knock the power out with lightning strikes on systems with overhead wires, stopping trains if there is a power surge. During cold or frosty weather, there is a risk of ice build-up on overhead lines. This can result in poor electrical contact between the collector and the overhead line, resulting in electrical arcing and power surges.
On the Media/Elwyn Line, we're working on replacing 17 miles of 80+ year old overhead catenary wire. We're also building/installing new catenary support poles.”


Tour of the Winterthur quarry garden (in the rain!)

Winterthur quarry garden horticulturist
Pouring rain did not deter a small group of visitors from touring the quarry garden at Winterthur, the former estate of Henry Frances DuPont. Beneath a broad umbrella and underscored by a staccato of raindrops, Jim Pirhalla, horticulturist in charge of the quarry garden, described how “HF” at the age of about 81 in 1961 decided to convert what had been a working quarry in earlier times into an ornamental garden. Stone was brought in and placed by crane to create a terrace effect against the quarry wall backdrop for pocket plantings. On our early May visit, rose-colored primula japonica in the quarry basin was blossoming profusely- peaking, Pirhalla said. He explained how water channels in the quarry bottom were created because a bog-like environment would not be suitable for such plants. The channels had to be dug out again in the 1990s after silting up. Some employees who had been with Winterthur a very long time related to Pirhalla that they had drunk quarry water in days long past. Fed by a natural spring and water funneling into the quarry from the fields, the channel water flows into Wilson run (known at Winterthur as “Clenny” run for the farmer who once worked the area) before joining the Brandywine Creek. The quarry is also an oasis for orioles, catbirds, robins, warblers, wrens and all sorts of birds, some migrating through, and even in winter, as the quarry area never freezes up; as Pirhalla related this, birdsong accompanied him. Watch video of quarry garden tour here.

More photos of Winterthur here.


Walk across the Wissahickon

Crossing wissahickon
Your correspondent asked a young man he saw crossing the Wissahickon Creek from the side opposite Valley Green Inn what it was like. He says he was a little nervous at first because he didn’t know how deep the creek was or how strong the current would be. But he deliberately place one foot in front of the other and made it from the east to the west side without slipping or the water rising much above mid-calf.

“It feels good, the water’s cool…” It was only his second time there. He remembers coming years ago to the spot and spent the previous two weeks trying to rediscover it. He had hiked down from Ridge Avenue into the park. He couldn’t see the bottom so trusted his instincts. “If the ducks can do it, I can do it!” Overhearing our conversation, a regular park goer got his attention and walked him back to water’s edge to take a look at the water snakes that hang out in the rocky area at the edge.

Watch video and interview  of young man crossing Wissahickon Creek here.

 


Tabling at Brown's Shoprite for Earth Day

NN earth day tabling
On Earth Day 2021, a team from Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks, a grass roots political organization, hosted an informational table inside the Brown’s ShopRite on Fox Street in Philadelphia. Spokesperson Merle Savedow explained, “What we’re doing is try to raise the awareness of how to stop climate change and promote responsible sustainable living” Signs like “There is no planet B” adorned a tri-fold display and on the table were earth friendly products such as reusable sandwich wrappers. Grocery patrons appeared pleased to receive free reusable Shoprite shopping bags. Along with the bags, the activists offered shoppers a flyer with a checklist of earth friendly actions on one side and notice of a rally happening nearby later in the afternoon. The rally goal was to get SEPTA and the City of Philadelphia to shut down the polluting fracked natural gas plant in the Nicetown neighborhood and switch to renewable energy sources. Watch video and interview of environmental activists tabling at a neighborhood grocery here.


Urban youth equestrian program acquires pony cart for some fun

Lezlie hiner pony cart
Pony cart bikeTo save a rusted but sturdy pony driving cart from the dumpster, your correspondent and his spouse attached it to the back of our car and towed it home. A driving cart is meant for a leisure ride for two people drawn by a horse or pony. The retail value of a new one is upwards of $500. Luckily we were able to find it a new home. Lezlie Hiner is the founder of the acclaimed Work to Ride organization based at Chamonix Equestrian Center in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park. Work to Ride is an award winning horsemanship and polo program for urban youth. As long as they commit to the hard work of tending to the horses and doing stable chores such as mucking out stalls the kids can ride. Hiner plans to teach one of the program’s 33 horses how to drive the cart (after studying up herself) and doesn’t expect it to be too hard. She thinks it will be fun for the kids to take the cart out in Fairmount Park, once they get a seat attached, perhaps out along Kelly or West River Drive. She anticipates that all the kids will want a chance. Many years ago Hiner had a horse out at an old hog farm in Lafayette Hill, PA when polo-playing friends introduced her to the sport. The rest is history. After we loaded the cart into the bed of her pick-up truck, she tied it to the car’s frame with a slip knot, used in tethering horses. For your correspondent’s edification, she demonstrated it twice. “Got that?” At the time of publication, Work to Ride had posted a short video of the kids enjoying the cart- being pulled through the barn by one of them pedaling a bicycle! Watch interview here with founder of urban youth equestrian program about the pony cart.

 


Planes land in quick succession at small airport

Wings field landing airplane - 1

Last year we were driving by Wings Field, a small airport just outside of Philadelphia in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania that was founded in 1928. We noticed some people siting on lawn chairs atop a small knoll directly across the street from the one landing strip watching the action. Just a few weeks ago we decided to follow suit.

The airport was busy, especially with what appeared to be practice or training flights. About four planes landed in approximately a three three minute interval as confirmed by the time stamp on the videos we took. One red and white plane, remaining within our sight, took off and landed at least four times. Some planes overshot the runway on their approach and had to make corrections. A couple others took somewhat sharp turns to line up with the runway and descended steeply. Twice a plane came in for touchdown, likely too far near the end of runway and ascended again without landing.

These practice flights were interspersed with commuter flights. After these landings we saw cars exit the parking lot. Occasionally we exchanged congratulatory waves with the drivers who only minutes before had been airborne.

The aircraft we saw were all propeller planes of different vintage. One larger plane that appeared to seat four or more had its wing above the cockpit , evoking the Spirit of St. Louis. It was followed by a shiny sleek new model that looked like a hornet.

Watch video of airplanes landing in quick succession here. For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wings_Field

Wings Airport administration has been asked to contribute to this story and it will be updated when new information becomes available.


Moverama, movers with Krishna Hare Rama consciousness

Krishna moverama big eye

Moverama ( a concatenation of “move” and “Rama”) is a Philadelphia-based moving company with Krishna consciousness. The Hindu Lord Rama, an incarnation of the God Vishnu is central to a Sanskrit epic, the Ramayana.

Your correspondent encountered the shiny black moving truck with its unique logo down the street where they were moving in a new neighbor. One of the movers I encountered said his business partner is “into” the tradition He thought Rama might come from the earlier Vedas but there is much debate this online. The company company‘s logo is an eye and in the eye, a circle representing for the iris and pupil. In the circle is the face of the monkey God of strength, Hanuman, Lord Rama’s greatest devotee. Resting on his forward-facing palm-up hand is a green mountain with trees and a temple. The drawing references the following story from Hindu scripture:

“One of Hanuman’s greatest moments occurred when Indrajit struck with black magic in the middle of the night, severely wounding Lakshmana and knocking him unconscious. Listening to advice from the physician Susena, Hanuman headed for Gandhamadana mountain in the Himalayas to bring back the herb visalya-karani, which alone could save the lives of Lakshmana and the many vanara soldiers that had also been injured. To do this, Hanuman had to defeat an army of protective demigods, uproot the entire mountain because he couldn’t distinguish which plant was the correct one, and swiftly return before it was too late.” https://iskconnews.org/lessons-from-hanuman-lord-ramas-greatest-servant,1741/

The Moverama crew says their moving is as good as their logo is beautiful.

Watch video interview  of Krishna conscious movers here.


Hilltop Books displays Chestnut Hill Library Artifacts

Chestnut Hill library artifactsHilltop Books, the bookstore of the Friends of the Chestnut Hill Library, now has on display historical ledgers of the Chestnut Hill Library and other historical records of the Free Library of Philadelphia system. Two ledgers contain daily counts of circulation by subject area at the Chestnut Hill Branch appearing to date back as far as 1937. A large, dried-out leather edition “Registration Book Vol 1” of the “Chestnut Hill Branch” with ribs on the spine contains 1476 numbered and handwritten names and addresses and appears to date back to 1897. These, possibly, are individuals who had borrowing privileges at the branch. Among these are a number of prominent Chestnut Hill family names. The Free library of Philadelphia Annual Report of 1896 indicates it was the first such report. It appears that this book is preserved in electronic format. See the worldcat record here.

Interim bookstore manager Laura Lucas indicates that the Friends are working with the Chestnut Hill Conservancy to preserve these and other historical treasures.

Download phone camera generated Free Library of Philadelphia First Annual Report 1896.pdf (26150.8K)

Click here for a small photo album of the books.

Click here for a small video of a "page-through" of the books.

 


Making time lapse video of Cape May sunrise

Sunrise cape may interview

Two vacationing young couples from D.C. and the Philly area came out on the Cape May beach before 7 AM on the first day of spring to catch the sunrise. Because the beach faces more southerly than east, they had to position themselves out on a jetty to better see the sun peek above the horizon. One of them planted her phone in the sand to capture a time-lapse movie of the sunrise. Your correspondent had come to the beach at the same time to do the same! The friends had not yet visited Sunset Beach and your correspondent recommended an excursion there to witness a spectacular sunset from bayside on the west coast of the cape. Watch Cape May sunrise and conversation with vacationers here.