April 2012

Posted by Ellen

It was springtime, and we were young. I'm thinking it was 1984 in Decatur, Georgia, and Joe was about eighteen months old, Ted about three and a half, and I was a spring chicken myself.

Posted by Ellen

I wasn't brought up around a lot of nuns, to put it mildly, so I'm sure I don't appreciate all the levels of meaning of costume nunnery, or whatever you want to call it–the, um, habit of showing up at a party dressed up as a nun.

I sure do like it, though.

This is Sister Mary Mary, as she introduced herself, a member of an occasional order of bowling nuns. She and her sisters made an appearance the other night at North Lanes in Philadelphia for a fundraiser benefiting the Women's Medical Fund, which provides emergency financial help for medical procedures that may not be  officially sanctioned by the bosses of real nuns.

Posted by Ellen

"Video pipe specialist," says the sign on the side of Mr. D's plumbing truck. "We can see underground."

The truck and a backhoe blocked Kater Street for most of the day yesterday, but the job didn't look too video-intensive. According to the man with the shovel, who ought to know, "a couple of feet" of sewer line needed replacing under the sidewalk in front of a house. According to the new owner of the house, the problem had been picked up during a pre-sale inspection, forcing the old owner to foot the bill. "Up to a limit," said the new owner. "This just better not go over the limit."

By late afternoon, the backhoe had filled the hole, and the new owner was standing in his new doorway, roller and empty paint tray in one hand, phone in the other. "It went great," he said, while he texted one-handed. "Soon as I finish the painting we can move in."

Posted by Ellen

For all the marbles: In this picture, we are looking at (virtually the entire) capital city of which European nation?

29 April update: Vaduz, Liechtenstein. We had three winners.

Posted by Ellen

Where this building now almost stands and in the streets around it, back in the day, the neighborhood kids used to be so bold and bad that the parish priest described them as children who'd steal a chain from right out of the devil's pocket. And so this part of the neighborhood got its name, Devil's Pocket, which was home to poor people, of course, mostly Irish immigrants.

A generation or two later, a bunch of the little old houses in Devil's Pocket were torn down to build a parking garage, apparently intended for employees of the old Graduate Hospital. Most of that hospital is long gone, and now, in the spring of 2012, the wrecking ball has come for the derilict parking garage.

It sounds a little cheeky, but by this time next year, there will be fancy new condos right here in the Devil's Pocket. And the wrecking ball will toll for some other something.

Posted by Ellen

Today's news brought to our attention yet another new crime: CTLOYOHWB, changing the locks on your own house while black. When 61-year-old Jean-Joseph Kalonji and his 57-year-old wife Angelica were caught doing just that the other day in Porterdale, Georgia, they were held at gunpoint by neighbors and then jailed overnight by police.

Fortunately, this time, nobody got shot, but the terror of having strangers hold him prisoner with semi-automatic rifles pointed at his back reminded Kalonji of the violence he had fled when he came to America in the late 1990s as a refugee from Mugabe's Zaire, now Congo. Angelica Kalonji is also an immigrant, from Romania.

The couple was hoping to build a soccer field on the 11-acre property; their son Bruno is a coach in Atlanta.

Among Bruno Kalonji's young soccer players were the children of a high-powered Atlanta attorney, Don Samuel. Samuel took on the case for free, and when he showed up in town, the Kalonjis were released from jail and all charges against them (loitering and prowling) were dropped.

It's been reported that charges may be filed against the gun-toting neighbors, no doubt to take the heat off the idiots in the police department. The Kalonjis have postponed their move into their new home.

These pictures are from Angelica Kalonji's Facebook page; they show the couple's daughter with her cousins during visits to Congo (above) and Romania (below).

Posted by Ellen

This tree was the very first one that got itself planted Saturday morning by these tree-planting students; immediately after posing for this tree-planting graduation photo, the class split up into crews and planted about fifteen more trees around the neighborhood, as part of Philadelphia's Million Trees Project.

This is a gingko tree, apparently the Fairmount Park gingko variety developed in Philadelphia specifically for urban settings. It has a more columnar growth habit than other gingkos, making it useful on narrow sidewalks or in other locations where there's little room for trees with spreading canopies. Frank Lloyd Wright was said to particularly admire the Fairmount Park gingkos, which he often utilized in landscaping around houses he designed in the Chicago area.

Posted by Ellen

It's been a couple of years since our last glimpses (here and here) of some of the moms and dads who stay forever young when their children post their pictures at My Parents Were Awesome.

Above is Usawa, submitted by Chioke, and Kang, submitted by Michelle.

Posted by Ellen

The entire 3800 block of Melon Street, in the Mantua neighborhood of West Philly, got a new coat of paint last summer, thanks to the city's Mural Arts Program and a couple of dozen kids in the neighborhood who apparently are not-so-distant relatives of Tom Sawyer.

A new mural isn't going to transform a block, much less a neighborhood. A new coat of paint, even all at once on every house on the block, is unlikely to catalyze dramatic transformation. By all accounts, this was a block and neighborhood that needed a whole lot more than fresh paint. This particular paint job was part of a complex mural-arts project intended to focus attention on the problem of youth homelessness, but that problem, along with Mantua's many other social and economic afflictions, is still very much with us.

Even so, people in fancy neighborhoods aren't the only ones who deserve pleasant surroundings, handsome streetscapes. Melon Street may still be Melon Street, but there's no way this paint job made life there any worse.

Posted by Ellen

The 199-year-old dome of the Arch Street Presbyterian Church is reflected at the base of the four-year-old Comcast Center office tower, tallest building in Philadelphia and fifteenth-tallest in the United States.

The black cube-like structure at the top of the blue-glass tower is said to be a water tank containing 300,000 gallons of water. The weight of the water–thirteen hundred tons–helps keep the building from swaying in high winds. The Comcast Center's Tuned Liquid Column Damper is touted as the largest watery building-stabilization system in the world.

The 58-story tower is 974 feet high. The cable company uses about 90 percent of the building's one million square feet of office space and leases out the rest.

Comcast touts numerous energy-saving features of the tower, notably including waterless urinals, which were opposed by the plumbers' union. The dispute was resolved by an agreement that included installation of plumbing to all the waterless urinals in case they didn't work out and had to be replaced by conventional urinals.