Friday, March 6, 2015

GRATEFUL: My kingdom for a loader tire

"They have no concept how much they saved my life."
I just got off the phone with West Marlborough Township road crew boss Hugh Lofting Jr., who asked me to publicly thank the Borough of Kennett Square for him.
It seems that the tires on front-end loaders, like apples, have a shelf life, and one of the tires on West Marlborough's loader blew out with the worst snowstorm of the season bearing down. That meant there was no way to load salt into the township's trucks.
"Oh my God, it was my worst nightmare," said Hugh. "We were dead in the water."
Panicked and fighting a case of strep throat, Hugh said he called around to all the farmers he could think of, but no one had the right tire. These special tires, it seems, cost almost $4,000 each, and for technical reasons you have to buy four at a time.
"Can you imagine [West Marlborough supervisor] Bill Wylie's face if I gave him that bill?" said Hugh.
Hugh lives in Kennett borough and was standing in his driveway when he saw one of the borough's plow guys coming by. Might they have a spare loader tire? he asked desperately.
Oh, yeah, we do, the fellow said.
Hugh said he went out at 6 a.m. and picked up the 2,000-pound tire, loading it into his truck by himself with the borough's backhoe. Then he persuaded a Lancaster County tech to mount the tire on the loader -- and all was well in Hugh's world again. He and his crew could go out and plow and salt and do their best for us very grateful residents.

OLD SONGS: A second opinion on the Seventies marathon

Last week, perhaps you'll recall, I wrote about how much fun I was having listening to the radio station WXPN's Seventies marathon: they were playing every No. 1 hit from the decade in chronological order. I wrote my item on Sunday morning, before tuning in to the second day of the show. Let's put it this way: the music of the early seventies was lots better than the second half.
I like to think I am a tolerant soul, but when Chicago's "If You Leave Me Now" came on, I was tempted to jump ship. Shortly thereafter, "You Light Up My Life" by Debbie Boone made it an easy decision. How on earth did it top the Billboard charts for ten weeks? How did it win a Grammy for Record of the Year? Baffling.
I was in college when it came out, and I recall a sentimental roommate of mine, Cynthia, getting into an argument about the song's merits with her considerably more cynical beau. I sided with the beau.

SPIRITS: His hopes were shattered

Burst pipes, perilous driveways, extended commutes, cancelled appointments: all common woes given the weather this week. The Cranky Friend had his own woes: only a few steps from his back door, he slipped on the ice and broke the gallon bottle of port he had just purchased.
"It's small consolation that the quart of bourbon was safe in the other bag," he lamented in an email. "I can't believe I dropped that port. It would have been so pleasant to sip as the snows swirled about. Whisky is a different thing altogether."
I replied that he was lucky not to have been injured by the glass shards. He told me I understood nothing of his pain.

DOUBLE GLAZING: The benefits of a garage

Foolishly, I left my car outside during the freezing rain last Tuesday afternoon instead of putting it in the garage. The poor vehicle accumulated a coating of ice that took quite a while to defrost. While the vents were blasting hot air onto the windshield and the embedded wires were melting the ice on the back window, I ran the side windows up and down to dislodge the ice. As I lowered the front passenger window I saw with wonder that the ice had formed a second, completely intact window behind it. I reached over to clear it and most of it collapsed -- into the car, of course.
And why, you ask, was I venturing out in an ice storm? To attend the monthly West Marlborough township supervisors' meeting, of course. Which, in the end, was postponed to a night on which I had another commitment anyway.

FORESIGHT: Just as well I didn't bet him


Last Wednesday evening I asked the Young Relative if he thought school would be cancelled the next day.
"Yes," he replied calmly. "I guarantee it."
Normally I would challenge such an assertion from the youth, suggesting, perhaps, that he put his money where his mouth is, but this time it's wise I didn't: school was cancelled not only for Thursday, but for Friday as well.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

ON THE RADIO: Top of the charts from the Seventies

I know I'm not the only one who has been glued to WXPN 88.5 this weekend listening to their Seventies marathon: they've been playing every single number-one song from that decade, chronologically. As I'm writing this (trapped inside because of the freezing rain), they're playing Paul McCartney & Wings' "Silly Love Songs" from the spring of 1976 (which topped the charts for five weeks).
What a blast from my high-school years! It's scary how I recognize every song -- sometimes within the first few notes -- and most of the lyrics, even though it's been many years since I've heard them, songs like "Delta Dawn," "Sunshine on my Shoulder," and "Love Machine." Great stuff.
And what a hoot to remember TV shows like "Welcome Back, Kotter" (could you name the Sweathogs?) and fads like streaking and CB radio.

BALD EAGLES: Conowingo photo contest winners

A few months ago I wrote about the fun I had watching bald eagles -- and the intrepid photographers taking photos of them -- at the Conowingo Dam in Maryland. On Feb. 21, Exelon, which runs the dam, announced the winners of the Conowingo Bald Eagle Photo Contest. Wilmington bird photographer Jerry AmEnde took the blue ribbon for "Grab and Run," an astonishing, beautifully composed shot of a bald eagle clutching a fish in its talons. You can see all the winners -- honestly, I don't know how the judges decided -- on the "Support Conowingo Dam" Facebook page.