Driving along Northwestern Avenue past the top of Forbidden Drive, I noticed a shirtless, mask-less, older man wearing red boxer shorts and blue boxing gloves. Next to him was a heavy punching bag hanging from a post of the wooden Wissahickon Valley welcome structure. In our video interview, the man, who gave his name as XXXXXXX, indicated he was taking a break from six to eight sets of fifty punches each and obliged me by demonstrating his technique. He would not disclose his age, residence or occupation but asked "What's your story?" which I told him in brief. XXXXX indicated he was positioned where he was, at the busy entrance way to the valley park, so as to engage people. As he approached the car, challenging me "What are you afraid of?" but not giving me time to answer about Covid-19 concerns, I would press the button to raise the car window up but for a crack, with him standing just on the other side of the window. And so our conversation continued with me lowering the window as he backed away and raising it again as he approached, railing about fear and telling me I wasn't alive, wasn't living. Unsurprisingly, he asked what I thought about President Trump. And, uncharacteristically, I abided by the maximum "If you don’t have anything nice to say..." and said nothing. XXXXX answered my silence with "I'd take a bullet for Trump." Watch video interview here.
NOTE: At the time of this interview, Philadelphia had a mandatory face mask requirement due to Covid-19 in public places where it is not possible to consistently maintain a distance of six feet from other people.
Shawnee Street resident Beth Eames was very sad to see the grand, 100-some year old sugar maple tree in her front yard succumb to disease and have to be cut down last year. So, to honor the tree, she commissioned noted local ice and wood carver Roger Wing to convert the 12 foot high remaining trunk into a work of art, only giving him the high vision prompt of "flowers." After working two straight weeks in the heat, Wing just completed carving what appear to oversize sunflowers, using a special wood-burning tool to set the flowers and stalks off against a dark background. He will return twice a year to apply a natural oil to preserve the work. Eames also had Wing carve an alcove with a seat in the trunk so that people can come by, sit and take selfies. (Why not take a selfie and post it here: https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/chtreetrunkcarving/) The current times were added motivation for Eames to do something nice for the neighborhood and give an artist good, paying work. Watch video of tree trunk sculpture and interview here.
By mid-afternoon Tuesday, most businesses along the Germantown Avenue business corridor (excluding some of the vacant ones ) had been securely boarded up in the wake of widespread protests and looting elsewhere in the city. The Weavers Way Coop market, which has a wide expanse of windows, was a notable exception. (The Coop's General Manager, Jon Roesser, explains its decision not to board up below.) When asked why he was boarding up the Wells Fargo Bank a workman replied "It's a job. Do you think I like doing this? It's sad."
Joe Pie of McNally's Tavern, was putting a new coat of dark green paint on the entrance door (No boarding up to do because the tavern hasn't had windows on the narrow facade for more than fifty years.) He said that businesses along the Avenue had been "cased" the day before and was very alarmed should any photos be posted on social media. Bohemian Pink owner Monika Schermer said her store was boarded up based on the advice of the Chestnut Hill Business Association and the 14th District Philadelphia Police. Schermer directed questions to the Business Association. Its Executive Director Phil Dawson could not be reached for comment.
Outside the Fresh Market at 7 pm, a market employee stood outside watching two workmen prepare to board up the doors. He relayed that the CVS, farther down the street, had been broken into. Talking on the phone, one of these workers could be heard saying he would be back at the store in the morning to take the boards off so the store could open for business. "Hopefully I'm going to be putting these boards on and off for a couple days."
Large, delicately lettered chalk messages have already appeared on some of the boards. "Love lives here" on one and "Community" on another. Hillary O'Carroll proprietress of Isabella Sparrow, captured in a photo in the below tweet, is behind the heartwarming words. She says she wanted to add non-political messages of love and home by writing on the the boards. The one shown above "Black Lives Matter - donate: NAACP.ORG & phillybailfund.org" she attributes to an employee of Caleb Meyer.
On the Tailored Home store, O'Carroll's message is simply "This is home"
Comments of John Roesser, GM of Weavers Way Cooperative Association
Driving down Gtown Ave this morning, it seems we're part of a vanishing minority of businesses who've chosen not to board up; lumber yards must be rejoicing.
For starters, please know I don't question the motives of other business owners. Whatever drove them to decide to board up, I'm sure it made sense for them. I understand PPD recommends boarding up businesses as a precaution. PPD would have no reason to recommend anything different. And they are busy and hard pressed and I'm sure not just a little tired by now.
Our principal reason for not boarding up was consideration of our staff and customers. Still in the midst of the pandemic, grocery shopping is already a stressful activity (working in a grocery store is even worse). The masks and the hand sanitizer and the social distancing and the 15 person customer cap, it's all disconcerting enough. Boarding up our windows would aggravate the stress. Our Chestnut Hill store is small. Boarding up the windows would block out the natural light and make it feel even smaller. Who wants to work in a plywood box?
In making this decision I had 100% support from the Co-op's management team and 100% support from our Chestnut Hill employees (at least the 25 or so with whom I spoke on Sunday and Monday). Last night I received 100% affirmation of the decision from our board of directors who, as you know, are democratically elected by the Co-op's 10,000 member households.
Having spent much of yesterday in Chestnut Hill chatting with customers (masked and 6 feet apart!) I received thumbs up from all of them. Many expressed dismay at the acres of plywood along the avenue. One out of four households in Chestnut Hill are member-owners of the Co-op. They patronize other businesses on the avenue too.
Yesterday's demonstrations were largely peaceful. Things could change but the folks who are out protesting the murder of George Floyd and demanding the end of institutional racism are not vandals or looters. PPD is as always hard at work tracking down the bad actors who are taking advantage of the demonstrations (and undermining the demonstrator's message) by causing mayhem. It is too early to say but we can perhaps be hopeful that the worst of the looting is over.
I have to say, again not questioning the motives - or the politics - of other business owners, the sight of all those boarded up buildings along the avenue is unnerving. And it can't be good for business. I do hope the other businesses along the avenue will consider taking the boards down sooner rather than later.
It will take one hooligan, armed with a brick and a strong arm, to make us look like fools. Maybe we are fools. "
As your correspondent was taking a break from some landscaping work at the Weavers Way Farm located at W.B. Saul Agricultural high school, Gail Koskela, a large animal science teacher at the school,l asked if I wanted to see a newborn baby ewe that had seen first light just 10 minutes ago! This was the fifth lamb born this season and Koskela said they were looking for pie-themed names for the baby since the first two lambs were born on March 14th (3/14 as in 3.14, an approximation of the constant Pi) Accordingly those two were named "Pi" and "R squared." The next two lambs were christened she "Chocolate Mousse" and "Lemon Meringue." Koskela says she may have assisted the ewe sooner than she needed to but this first time mother had been pushing for a little while and Koskela didn’t want her to be become exhausted. So as the baby's legs and head began to emerge, she held on with a little tension so the mom could push it out completely. Very shortly after birth, the baby got up on its legs. The mother started licking her clean and the two were baa-baa-ing back-and-forth as seen in the video. The breed of sheep raised at the farm is selected for their confirmation and meat traits not for their wool which, in this breed, grows very slowly. Classes in the fall typically are in charge of breeding season and the spring classes learn about lambing hands-on. But because of the COVID-19 quarantine, only a few Saul students have been physically able to work with the animals. Koskela gave a little plug for the school's 24-7 "Ewe Tube" channel where everyone can follow the sheep in action, such as it is, in the spacious new blue barn. See newborn lamb and mom and video interview here.
Your correspondent accompanied his spouse for the Public Library Association Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, February 25-29, 2020 and had a blast. Here are some photos and videos captured from that time.
For two consecutive days, some attendees of the Public Library Association Annual Conference stood outside and nearby the convention center soliciting signatures on petitions in support of IMLS funding. According to one of the signature gatherers, the President has been trying to shut down the Institutes for Library and Museum Services (IMLS) for four years. IMLS is the major federal source of funding 123,000 libraries and 35,000 museums according to everylibrary.org, a political action committee for libraries.
Our guide, Texas born, North Carolina raised Caitlin, belted out facts while walking backwards to groups of prospective students and their parents at the college she attended. This prepared her well when she moved to Nashville with her partner recently to pursue a career in tourism. We heard her loud and clear as she informed and entertained us with fun facts aboard the tour bus which looped us around the city. After the tour, she obliged your correspondent for an interview touching on the serious flooding several years ago and current concern about the high level of the Cumberland River, the Woolworth's restaurant, site of sit-ins during the civil rights era and still open for business, her enthusiasm and hopes about Amazon's upcoming opening of its eastern U.S. headquarters in Nashville, line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon and paying to get insulted when served at Dick's Last Resort.
This is a collage of little videos from the Public Library Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee, February 25 -29, 2020. In order they are - the steps with PLA 2020 on the risers at the Music City Center (MCC) -dressing up for the "Wonderosity" green screen at Demco's booth at the exhibit area, MCC -Michelle Bloom singing along with her album "Big Backyard" in the exhibit area -Changing color light entrance to the children's area at the Nashville Public Library (NPL) -Petitioning the government to fund public libraries through the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) outside the MCC -"String City" History of Country Music puppet show at the NPL -Country band at the Ingram party at the NPL -Salt Lake City librarians partying at the Ingram Party, NPL -Country line dancing at the Wild Horse Saloon along with Matt McAtee -Time lapse view of street outside MCC -Country singer in MCC lobby -Revelers partying and pedaling on a Nashville Pedal Tavern -Crossing music bar packed Broadway -Music pouring out of Legends Bar on the corner of Broadway
On her album of children’s songs "Big Backyard" , Michelle Bloom motivates kids to go outside, explore to find bugs and such, and just to experience nature! She encourages families to visit the national parks - "It'a big back yard” she exclaims. Bloom was promoting her CD at the Public Library Association conference in Nashville, Tennessee and obliged your correspondent by singing along to some of her songs, producing a wonderful stereo effect.
Every day at 4:30 there's free line dance lessons at the Wild Horse Saloon on 2nd Avenue in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. Country line dancing continues for hours with a live performer. We were entertained by Matt McAtee, who says he always get asked to play his song, "I can't stand Tome Brady" and when he did, there didn't seem to be any Bostonians or Patriots football fans in the bar.
Librarians pass the time in a lobby at the Music City Conference Center in Nashville waiting for the doors to open to the ballroom to hear an interview with comedian -personality-commentator Samantha Bee at the close of the Public Library Association conference.The soundtrack is singer KC Johns and fellow musicians singing at the Legends Bar on Broadway.
Amanda Miles of South Philadelphia tightens screws on a bird box while Dave Stehman of Conshohocken cleans it out on a Friends of the Wissahickon work day at Andorra Meadow. The previous day a large volunteer crew worked on the bird boxes at Houston Meadow. FOW Field Assistant Varian Bosch who was overseeing the projects and simultaneously training new crew leaders says the boxes are occupied by bluebirds, sparrows, swallows and wrens. Each box is numbered so the birds frequenting the meadows can be tracked from season to season. Watch video of volunteers maintaining bird boxes in the Wissahickon meadows.
Historical interpreter Reba Carruth who led a group including your correspondent on the "Enslaved People of Mount Vernon Tour" says that before her time, the tour was called "Slave Life" and focused on Washington's use of slave labor. She explained that the current format makes a distinct change in terminology from "slaves" to "enslaved people" and not only focuses on Washington's dependence on them but how they were transformed when Washington breaks with tradition by bringing in skilled tradesmen from Europe and requiring them to train the enslaved people to practice these trades at the same high level as their own. Carruth gestured toward the wide swath of field sloping down from the mansion and gave a shout-out to George, a slave who had acquired the skills of a master landscaper to maintain the grounds.
Washington inherited slaves from his father when he was only eleven years. Washington's marriage to Martha Custis brought many more slaves to the Mount Vernon estate. But he had a fraught relationship with slavery and shortly before his death provided in his will that the 123 slaves he directly owned be freed.
As the Washington family intermarried with the Lees and Custises, families of standing both in England and the colonies, by the time of the civil war, many family members had become Confederates. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the slave cemetery down by the Potomac River had been destroyed and planted over. It was here that Carruth concluded the tour with a short service and wreath laying at a large stone memorial set amidst ongoing restoration of the cemetery. Some of us accepted her invitation to read aloud short biographies of some of the slaves known to have lived and died on the estate.
According to the official website, "Mount Vernon is owned and maintained in trust for the people of the United States by the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, a private, non-profit organization." According to Carruth, this group and others with very close associations to Mount Vernon have scrutinized and had to approve of the tour contents which now includes acknowledging that there were [sexual] liaisons between the gentry and the enslaved women, hitherto held hush. Watch video tour of George Washington's Mount Vernon and interview about the nature of the tour here.
Dancer and dance therapist Morgan Rakay defines dance movement therapy as the psychotherapeutic use of movement or integration of the mind, body and perhaps, spirit. In different contexts, it looks so different she says. When she works with children, her approach is very improvisational and she gets down on their level and responds to what's going on. She engages them in play and makes use of props, colors and music. She indulged your correspondent, a student in one of her adult dance classes through the Mount Airy Learning Tree in making a video. When I prompted her to show some movement, her inner therapist noticed that being put on the spot recalled her discomfort as a child when someone,knowing she took dance lessons, would say "Dance for us!" Watch dance teacher describer dance movement therapy and how she uses it with children.
At the Germantown Jewish Center, outside the "Little Shop" selling Judaica and gifts, Yona Diamond Dansky and Susan Weiss sat a table with their newly published picture books, inspired by their grandchildren.
While her daughter was going through treatment for cancer, illustrator Yona Dansky got the idea to write a children's book for her grandson, then 3 years old, who was affected by the household distress brought about by his Mom's serious illness. Dansky's daughter has recovered and Dansky, since retired, now tells the story of Mooshu the family beagle who was sad because he was getting less attention and had to speak up to be taken out for a walk. Finally, Mooshu cuddles in bed with her daughter, realizing it seems, that he has done nothing wrong and enters the "circle of compassion, comfort and closeness." Dansky hopes this picture book, "Mooshu Worries" will be helpful to families of young children dealing with a serious illness. Watch video interview of grandmother describing picture book about grandson and the family dog during her daughter's serious illness.
Book artist Judith Robison held a "Marie Kondo” sale of books she has created at the December holiday "Book, Paper, Scissors" book arts fair at the Free Library of Philadelphia on the Parkway, co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Center for the Book. In keeping with the advice of the famous de-cluttering author Kondo, Robison was parting with excess copies of her books. A sign read “Marie Kondo sale everything is five dollars unless you think it is worth more in which case you can pay up to $10” The bargain basement pricing drew your correspondent and a friend over to her table and we were soon taken in by the artistry, cleverness and quirkiness of Robison's work. We each scooped up several, among them an exquisite foldout book, "The Cellist of Sarajevo." In the accompanying interview, Robison describes another, as she turns its pages. "This is one of my favorites -Book Marks, which is just a play on all the ways we make marks in the books. For example, when we are little children we write in books, scribble in books and get scolded for that. Then when we're in college we take notes in books. This is the history of marginalia (and goes way back) - writing commentaries in books. This is authored books, just taking a book and playing with it from the point of view of art. And finally, this is actually my father’s bird book. He checked off whenever he saw a bird, in the index, and that’s a photograph of him with his binoculars." Watch video interview of book artist here.