Kitesurfing rough waves

Kitesurfing rough waves

A couple guys in wetsuits were out in the surf kitesurfing on a late afternoon off the Seaside Park beach. The surf was rough and just the day before two swimmers had drowned in the vicinity.  I spoke with one as he was packing up his kite for the day.

15 knots of wind or more make for good surfing he said, so it was nice out there. They will go out in winds up to 40 knots. When the winds are stronger they use smaller sized kites.  The key to staying afloat is keeping the kite powered up all the time in the  power zone, an area of the sky, usually downwind, that has a lot of well, power in it.  You have to be able to maneuver the kite in two directions because you need to bring yourself back in. The kite gets inflated with air so if it lands in the water, it doesn’t sink. They use surfboards, sometimes, but today were using “twin tips” which can go in either direction. That way you can go right back out after coming in without having to make a turn.

The sportsmen showed great skill tacking back and forth and jumping waves. Sometimes they’d approach a wave at an angle that would launch them in the air for several seconds, sailing aloft at what appeared to be 10 to  20 feet above the surface before coming back down. Seaside Park, Island Beach, New Jersey. Watch video and interview here

Philly Compost Trusts in Soil

In Soil They Trust

It’s a company called Philly Compost. What they do is organic trash. So anything you can put in your mouth or anything that can compost, they take, they’ll put into a field, mix it with dirt and leaves and then resell it as compost. WHAT ARE YOU PICKING UP TODAY IN CHESTNUT HILL HERE? Today, Tavern on the Hill is a local restaurant. I’ll get two cans off of them, all their restaurant waste, lettuce heads, anything gone sour or leftover from a plate after a customer ate it … So this is the back of Tavern on the Hill. This is our logo, ‘In Soil We Trust’ WHAT DO THEY GOT IN THERE? Hopefully green bags. These green bags are compostable. There’s napkins, banana peels are great, carrots, paper. IT LOOKS LIKE THERE’S SOME CHICKEN BONES TOO. CAN YOU COMPOST THAT? Anything organic, anything that will break down is fine. We can’t take plastic, metal, Styrofoam.  WHO’S PAYING WHO TO TAKE THIS AWAY? There’s two advantages. One if I’m a restaurant and I say to my patrons “Hey, I’m reducing trash that’s going into a landfill by separating it out and composting it, that’s a benefit to the environment. The second thing is, now I’m reducing what I pay in my dumpster so my trash costs go down. DO THEY PAY YOU A FEE TO TAKE IT? They pay us, they do a monthly thing and then per can. AND IT’S LESS THAN PUTTING IN A DUMPSTER? Ideally, yes. And we pay to dump it and that guy’s making money when it’s dumped and when he sells the compost. Jason Hopler, Philly Compost.

Watch video here.

In Soil They Trust



Road kill? Not toadlets being saved by Toad Detour

Saving toadlets


"So they don't keep keep running over and don't keep dying out. Because they're so small it takes them a while and they keep on getting run over by cars" Volunteer boy.


"This week is the peak week for the toadlets to be migrating back to the woods. The toads are coming from the reservoir. That's where they were born a few months ago. The adults mated in the reservoir and this is the product of their experience. This is what would be called a reverse migration. The adults left [the reservoir] after they were done mating. And these are the babies migrating from the reservoir to the woods.The detour is set up each night from 7 to 9 pm. We have a permit for about a month." WHAT GROUP IS DOING THIS? "The toad detour. Last night we counted two thousand toadlets and there were also a few thousand that we didn't count They were all over the street. So you have to be very careful where you step."  Lisa Levinson, Toad Detour, on Port Royal Avenue and Hagys Mill Road in Roxborough, Phladelphia, near old Philadelphia Water Department reservoir. Levinson is a co-founder and the director of Public Eye: Artists for Animals, "teaching compassion for animals through the arts." Watch video here.

Hustled at Philly gas station


"I grew up in Philadelphia and when I came back- the differences between there and here – people are more friendly here even though that’s the city of brotherly love. I went to this gas station and a sign as big as this building said “Self Serve” I went to grab the pump and this big monster just knocked me out of the way and said, “Hey, man, that’s my job to pump the gas.” So I let him pump the gas. And I went in to pay and I should have known it was a bad neighborhood because there’ a guy behind bulletproof glass inside. So I’m sitting there waiting for him to finish pumping my gas so I can pay for it. He pumps it and I pay the guy and I’m looking and the guy reaches in the window and steals a pack of my cigarettes off the dashboard. I used to box so I don’t want to be afraid of anybody but I can tell you I was a little bit afraid. So I came out and I’m thinking should I say something to this guy or should I not say something. I figured my life is worth more than a couple dollars of cigarettes. I didn’t say anything. But then he grabs me and he says, “Hey, man, where’s my tip?” I had seven dollars in my hand from change so I figured, the guy just stole my cigarettes, do I have to give him a tip, too? I figured what the heck, I gave him the seven dollars. And I went around to get in my car. Here comes this other guy. He puts his head in the door so I can’t close the door. And he says, “Hey, man, where’s MY tip?” I said, “See your partner.” He said, “He ain’t no partner of mine.” Well, by this time, I pretty much about had it. So I kind of politely told him what to do with his head because I was closing that door. And when he didn’t move I started to close it. He moved his head and I drove away. That was the last time I was in Philadelphia." Tim Davis, who lived in Philadelphia until he was sixteen, now proprietor of a bed and breakfast in Washington, PA south of Pittsburgh. Watch video interview here.

AAA's Evelyn Houck rescues stranded Christmas Eve drivers

evelyn houck AAA driver mechanic.jpg

Evelyn Houck, a blond haired, blue eyed, AAA flatbed truck driver and mechanic whose home base is in Southwest Philadelphia made a call late Christmas Eve afternoon to a customer in Chestnut Hill. Houck jumpstarted the car to the delight of the customer who needed to pick her dog up at the pet store where it had been left, apparently, for a Christmas “do”. Houck expected things would get busy very shortly when some shoppers making last minute purchases at the Cheltenham Mall would return to their cars to sadly discover that they didn’t have their keys or had a flat tire or couldn’t start their car for one reason or another. This is the third consecutive Christmas Eve Houck has worked. She enjoys rescuing stranded drivers. Watch video here.

YOU’RE WORKING CHRISTMAS EVE.  Unfortunately, yes I am but you know what? At least I’m out here helping the people get on their way – [pointing to customer] saving your dog… You know everybody’s at the mall doing their Christmas shopping. So probably around 6 o’clock, that’s when the mad rush starts- getting home from the mall to their house – car didn’t start, car keys in the car locket out, flat tire, overheat, you know, all that fun stuff…I’m the only one in my shop now that’s a female doing this job but there are a couple other tow operators that work for different companies that are in this business, too.  AND HOW DO YOU GET THE HONOR OF HAVING THE FLAT BED? I love it. It gets the job done. Let me tell ya, this baby gets the job done. Cars with broken axels, ball joints, tie rod ends. Trying to get those babies up there is a hassle but ya know what? I get them up and I get them down. Rollovers, flip-overs, all those, yes, I do everything…. Some people don’t understand when they have a car, some dealerships don’t even show them where the spare tire is and they’re usually underneath the vehicle. You have to pop open the back, get underneath, and you have to see for yourself that there’s a spare. AND YOU HAD ONE TODAY? Yes, I did, and she was very happy that I didn’t have to tow her.  WAS SHE SURPRISED? Oh yes, she was very surprised that I jumped out of the truck… The big muscular guy – I get out of my tow truck and he just says one word “Gimme the jack.” It takes him twenty minutes to kindly walk back over and say, “Can you give me a hand?” I gave him a hand, showed him how to do it and now he went on his way. And now he’s probably going to call back triple A and ask for a guy now.”


Heavy traffic at "Snorkel" mail box



Despite the surge in email and corresponding drop in postal mail, "snail mail" is far from a thing of the past. Especially at holiday time, many people prefer to send greetings or gifts that their recipients can hold in hand.

In recent years, in response to the decline in letter mail, the Post Office has removed many corner collection boxes and, according to spokesperson Cathy Yarosky, periodically conducts density tests to gauge use. A box will be removed if there are fewer than 25 items deposited [daily] during the test. “It costs the Postal Service money in fuel and time for our letter carriers to drive to that mailbox and collect the small amount of mail. Removing the box is simply good business sense in that respect.”

The so-called “snorkel” box at 13 West Gravers Lane is the only one of its kind in the the Chestnut Hill collection area and very popular with drivers such as Kathleen McDevitt and Rose Malley who work nearby and swung by one afternoon to make deposits.

Customers can deposit envelopes either through the regular, pedestrian-side mouth or from a car window through the street-side extension slot. Pedestrians sometimes unnecessarily walk into the street to use the opening meant for drivers.

Letter collector Patrick McKenna arrived about 5:30 pm one recent evening shortly after a customer was seen to have trouble stuffing her envelope in; he emptied a box crammed full to the top. The box is three quarters full other times of the year, McKenna said.

McKenna was unconcerned about handling stamped packages weighing over the limit in violation of the “13 ounce rule” affixed to the box which says that due to “heightened security,” mail over the limit must be taken to a retail service counter or will be returned to the sender  For security reasons, Yarosky would not comment on what makes a 12.9 ounce package inherently less risky or how postal employees avoid risk when they handle mail weighing more than 13 ounces.


House hunting on the Hill

Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle shows houses to prospective buyers Dabravka and Moritz Ritter who are attracted to the Hill's Avenue, shops, trains and not "too suburban" feel.



Moritz Ritter: We live in center city and we are looking for 3, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, quiet street…

Dabravka Ritter:..close to the transportation.

Pam Thistle:  … because they have no car, nice walkable location


MR: Oh, we like it up here! We’re looking for something that doesn’t have too suburban a feel [laughter]DR: Germantown Avenue’s a plus, the shops and the trains


MR: Yes some things we’ll think about.PT: Just starting out, getting a feel for the neighborhood. DR: First trip.

Dabravaka and Moritz Ritter with Prudential, Fox and Roach realtor Pam Thistle.

Watch video here.

American flags and a boombox on his bike to work


Fifty-three year old Gregory Johnson of the Philmont section of Philadelphia has been riding and outfitting his bicycles ever since he was nine. I spotted him braving heavy traffic in Northeast Philadelphia on a cold fall day with American flags affixed to the rear of his bike waving high in the air and when I pulled over to chat with him saw that that his bike is outfitted with a boom box radio, toO. He was on his way to the Willow Grove Mall several miles away where he does landscaping and handyman work.

Watch video here.