Skateboarders bid a fond adieu to LOVE park mecca

A handful of boarders staged their own video productions, documenting not just their talents but also the brush with history as the legendary park entered its final days as a board-friendly tableau.


LOVE park, the legendary if off-limits skateboard mecca across from Philadelphia City Hall, is the site of exuberant boarding this weekend as scores of boarders flocked there in answer to the city’s surprise invitation on Thursday.

skateLOVE00019With the park about to close for renovations that will change its multitiered character, Mayor Jim Kenney announced that a ban on skateboarding would be lifted for five days. Word spread quickly among boarders. Friday when I shot these photos the joint was swarming with a wide range of enthusiasts, mostly in their teens and twenties but younger and older as well.

As the Inquirer noted on Friday, the boarders love the space for its many smooth edges, its stepped ascents and drops, and its granite surface that makes for easy crash-landings when boarders go down, which is pretty often, judging by the action Friday afternoon.


It was the end of days for LOVE park as the boarders knew it, so it was appropriate that Philly Jesus showed up to add his blessing to the scenario.

Eight skateboards in this photo.

With temperatures in the mid-20s, this group came prepared with its own heat source.

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2016 Ice Harvest at Tobyhanna on for Jan. 30

This just in from the organizers of the annual ice harvest at Millpond #1 in Tobyhanna, Pa.:

Ice Harvesters,

Ice cutting at Tobyhanna.

Ice cutting at Tobyhanna.

Good news! The Blizzard of 2016 missed Millpond #1!  We only had about 8” of snow.  The old timers and 20+ years of ice harvesting experience taught us that snow-cover on the ice acts as insulation, and ice formation is inhibited when there is snow on the ice. One of the veteran harvesters cleared the snow off the ice today (Sunday, Jan. 24)  to allow more ice to form. We have about 8” of ice today. With almost a week before the harvest date, we anticipate that below-freezing temperatures at night this week could give us another couple inches of ice by Saturday.

We plan to get underway at about 9 am next Saturday (January 30th) and will cut ice until mid-afternoon. If conditions are right, we should be able to put up 50 tons in the ice house.

Hope to see on Saturday!

Call the Ice Harvest Hot Line (570 894-8205) for up-to-date information.

Click map to enlarge.

Background info on the ice harvest from when I wrote about it in the mid-2000s can be found at this link.

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Mushroom festival, Kennett Square, PA

First day of the mushroom fest was fun, more shrooms than I’ve seen in one place, and we we didn’t even take the side tour to a farm.

One big tent had a cook-off in progress, and you could wander right up to the cooks and chat them up even tho they were preparing their dishes on deadline. Some of them lost electricity, quite a loss if you’re depending on the toaster oven.  Also we watched a woman do a cooking demo, she’d been on Iron Chef and had won a Pillsbury bake-off in 2012 (prize: $1 million!).

One thing missing from the main street lineup, tho, was a big Mexican worker presence. Not that there weren’t any, but we saw no exhibit acknowledging the Latino contribution.  We speculated that they might want to keep a low profile, but they’re so ingrained in that biz, I doubt if that’s it.  The town has plenty of Mexican-owned businesses.

We brought home three kinds of fungus: oyster, shiitake, maitake.

Not exactly a genteel crowd. Big, plodding and heavily baby-carriaged. I told K it seemed to be some preliminary event where the winners go to the next round — clogging the aisles of the Reading Terminal Market in Philly.


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Found: French tourist list of Philly sites

Saturday and Sunday mornings as we leave our place we usually pick up a little sidewalk trash left by weekend revelers in the neighborhood. Usually it’s just wrappers and the odd beverage container. But recently there’ve been a couple of oddities. One day I spotted something the size of a driver’s license and picked it up to discover it was a concealed-carry permit from the state of Florida.

Found on sidewalk in Bella Vista.

Found on sidewalk in Bella Vista.

A Florida permit was desirable among certain miscreants because there was an interstate agreement that allowed for a Florida gun permit to be honored in Philadelphia, even if the holder couldn’t qualify for one here because of a criminal record.  I think that loophole’s been closed, with good reason.  I turned the permit into the local police substation.

Then this past Sunday I found something more interesting to Philadelphia visitors — a handwritten list of places to visit in the city, obviously the work of a French-speaking person who’d no doubt been drawn to the ‘hood by South Street, the Italian Market, and, perhaps, the cheesesteak trade.

Here’s the list, which is a pretty good list of the traditional must-see stops:


  • Foundation Barnes
  • Liberty Bell Center
  • Independence Hall
  • Italian Market
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Magic Garden
  • Reading Terminal Market (avec amish)
  • Cheesesteak!
  • Adventure Aquarium
  • Eastern State Penitentiary (prison, Al Capone)



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Bee travel: Cool page from American University alumni mag

From the August 2014 issue of American University Magazine

From the August 2014 issue of American University Magazine

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Thunder Over the Boardwalk

Six planes that make up the Geico Skytypers flare away from each other just off the beach at Atlantic City.

Six planes that make up the Geico Skytypers flare away from each other just off the beach at Atlantic City.

I had an Arnold Schwarzenegger moment yesterday at the Atlantic City Air Show: As I shot video of a U.S. Navy Harrier jet hovering just offshore, the aircraft pivoted so it was facing straight and large into the camera screen and I couldn’t help but see Arnold’s piloting of a Harrier in “True Lies.” The scenes were bad news for those in Arnold’s way, but in AC the Harrier only mesmerized the thousands watching from the sand and boardwalk.

The AC extravaganza is unlike most other air shows in that it unfolds along the water’s edge as hordes frolic in the surf and many more are settled into beach chairs for the duration. Others watched from the ocean-facing windows of casinos and other businesses. This edition of the show had political overtones, given the announcement earlier in the week that the luxury Revel resort-casino would be closing within weeks and the expectation that others will be closing soon as well.

The city’s promoters have gone throttle down on efforts to convince the world that AC is more than just a gambling destination — that it’s an entertainment center in which gambling is one of many things to do.  Last month, two free beach concerts drew tens of thousands and briefly succeeded in turning media attention away from the city’s woes and toward the fun going on along the playa.

This was the 12th year for the air show and it’s the city’s biggest one-day draw. The Press of Atlantic City  quoted the city’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Tom Foley, as estimating at least 500,000 attended.  My one earlier visit to the air show was in 2009, when police estimated the turnout at more than 700,000.  At Wednesday’s show, the beach crowd seemed less dense, which for me made it more enjoyable.

Still, it was a big crowd and I was surprised on Thursday to find no mention of the show in The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Daily News, or   I hunted around online and could find no evidence of coverage. (Please — someone tell me I’m wrong.)
After all the ink spilled in the previous few days on the cruel fate looming over the shore city an hour away, and the city’s effort to become less dependent on gambling, it seems like a no-brainer to mention something of the air show’s magnitude.

I know, I know.  The staff is short and the newspapers can do only so much.  But I also know there were plenty of wire-service photographs available to the papers, and the websites don’t have the space restrictions that the print product has.

In any case, here are a few shots from Thunder Over the Boardwalk and a link to my Arnold Schwarzenegger moment.

Four planes coming toward show, the bottom two passing in the opposite direction.

Four planes coming toward show, the bottom two passing in the opposite direction.

Raiders demonstration team executed seemingly death-defying maneuvers, over and over.

Raiders demonstration team executed seemingly death-defying maneuvers, over and over.

Jim Beasley Jr. executes a dive in his Spitfire.

Jim Beasley Jr. executes a dive in his Spitfire.


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Don’t let the juvenile-mentality set see this

Niagara Falls, Ontario


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Marathon festival weekend

One measure of a city’s chops is how many out-of-the-ordinary events it can gracefully handle at one time, and this weekend Philadelphia hit a grand slam, if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor. It was an exceptional two days of well-timed fine weather and multiple festivals that put smiles on the faces of tens of thousands of residents and visitors.

South Street festival, outside Brauhaus Schmidt.

South Street festival, outside Brauhaus Schmitz.

The South Street Headhouse District Spring Festival, the Rittenhouse Row Festival, the Sister Cities Festival, the outdoor Science Carnival that was the culmination of the Philadelphia Science Festival, the Broad Street Run (40,000+ runners), the Plazapalooza festival in the Graduate Hospital district. Those were just the larger events, others went on all over the area, making their own big splashes locally.

I attended a handful and it’s noteworthy how the atmospheres were so different, yet all engaging in their own way.  Anyone looking for a spring fling next year should examine the first weekend in May and start narrowing your selections.

Some of the 40,000-plus runners in the Broad Street Run move south near City Hall.

Some of the 40,000-plus runners in the Broad Street Run move south near City Hall.


An employee of Termini Bros. dips a ricotta cheese blend from a cooler, en route to filling cannoli shells (at right) during the Rittenhouse Row festival that featured food and music.


Solar telescope attracts the attention of kids and adults alike at the Science Carnival outside the Franklin Institute.


Italian cabaret singer engaged the audience at the Sister Cities Festival in Sister Cities Park on Logan Circle, within sight of the Science Carnival.

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Street musician sues Reading Market

It’s not good when one of the city’s top tourist attractions — the Reading Terminal Market — figuratively kicks a street musician to the curb, and that’s sure what it sounds like happened to flute player Felix Wilkins, 72, according to columnist Helen Ubiñas, writing in today’s Philadelphia Daily News.

It’s not the first time Wilkins has run up against security guards and cops who don’t apparently care what the city’s public music ordinance says, and now he’s suing.  From Ubiñas’ column:

After hassling and accosting Wilkins on Jan. 19, security guards flagged down police officers driving by in a patrol wagon. When the cops put him in handcuffs, an officer kicked him on the ground. His flute was also damaged. Wilkins says he thought he was being arrested. But a few minutes later, the doors of the patrol wagon swung open and he was dropped off at LOVE Park.

“Stay here,” Wilkins says the cops told him. “You’ll make more money here anyway.”

Incensed, Wilkins walked back to the terminal and continued to play.

Three days later, Wilkins went to the Albert Einstein Medical Center emergency room with finger, shoulder and back pain, hospital records show, that he says he suffered during the arrest.

Wilkins said he was accosted at 12th and Arch on March 9 by one of the same market guards. That time he says he played the “Star-Spangled Banner” as loud as he could while the guard kicked his case and belongings into the street.

“I wanted to send a message, that this is America and I had rights,” Wilkins said.

But in case they didn’t get the message through his patriotic song, Wilkins has also filed a civil lawsuit against Reading Terminal Market and the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority. He also plans to sue at least two Philadelphia cops.

Read the Ubinas column in full here. 

Felix Wilkins playing at City Hall, October 2013.

Felix Wilkins playing at City Hall, October 2013.

It’s not unusual to see street musicians performing on the perimeter of Reading Terminal Market, especially along 12th Street near Filbert. My guess is that somebody —  the security guards or market management or both —  don’t appreciate Wilkins’ brand of busking.

He’s smartly dressed, but not one of the younger, robust musicians playing blues guitar or some more popular form of street entertainment.  He’s an older guy, a retired music teacher, and his style is more understated than what those musicians who draw a big crowd have to offer.

I suspect his performance doesn’t fit someone’s idea of what the market wants to project. He’s not cool. In the Ubiñas column, the manager of Reading Market professes to be uncertain what the city’s ordinance allows, a response that has spin control written all over it.

I ran into Wilkins last October outside City Hall, where he said he played on Fridays. We chatted and he was gentlemanly and congenial. His m.o. was to ask people what their heritage was, then play a tune that seemed to fit in.  I asked if I could shoot a little video of him and he said that would be OK. (See it above, or by clicking here.)

One listen and you’ll see that Felix Wilkins deserves better than what he allegedly got from the Reading Market security guards and the Philadelphia police.

If all this has a familiar ring to it, it might be because it recalls another Philadelphia Daily News column written in 2007 by Jill Porter, about another big tourism site, Rittenhouse Square, and the street performer Anthony Riley, who spent a night in jail when cops claimed he was violating a city ordinance.  They were wrong that time, too.

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Where’s US Airways in that ranking?

The report in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer print edition about a big drop in airline customer complaints in 2013 has a curious omission: There is no mention of US Airways — curious because US Airways accounts for more than two-thirds of the traffic at Philadelphia International Airport and you’d think Inquirer readers would have an interest in how the airline ranked.

from pad A10 of Inquirer for April 8, 2014The Inquirer used an Associated Press story with results released Monday by the Airline Quality Rating project at Wichita State University, Wichita, Kan., and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Ariz. The AP story has a best of/worst of approach, and since US Airways ranked a middling No. 7 among 15 airways whose on-time and customer-complaint records were examined, it didn’t rate a mention in the AP story.

Here’s the ranking that included US Airways, from the project’s report, which can be read here in more complete form. 

Below is the 2013 numerical ranking of the nation’s leading 15 airlines, according to the Airline Quality Rating, with the 2012 ranking in parentheses:

Virgin America (1)
JetBlue (2)
Hawaiian (5)
Delta (4)
Alaska (6)
Endeavor (new to the rankings this year; formerly Pinnacle)
US Airways (9)
Southwest (8)
American (10)
AirTran (3)
Frontier (7)
United (14)
ExpressJet (13)
SkyWest (12)
American Eagle (11)

Airline rankings will be getting a makeover as US Airways and American Airlines implement their merger, which was approved late last year. The combined airline will eventually use only the American Airlines name and US Airways will fade from the charts.

sanjuan-010But for now, detailed information on US Airways’ flight-arrival record can be found at a Bureau of Transportation Statistics site with data sortable by airport and month. It shows that considering all major airports in 2013,  the airline arrived on time in 81.2 percent of landings.  The government data for US Airways and other airlines can be found here.

The Transportation Department also produces the monthly Air Travel Consumer Report, which has data on lost baggage, oversold seats, consumer complaints, and animal-incident reports.

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