Thursday, February 11, 2016

THE Y: A nontraditional audience

I was proud to be part of an amazing exercise class the other night at the Kennett Area YMCA.
Our cardio class -- one of the toughest the Y offers, if I do say so myself -- starts at 7:45 p.m., and as usual there were middle-school kids shooting hoops in the gym up until the last minute.
The instructor and I were watching them horsing around and commented that it was great to see kids being active instead of staring at a device.
Then she said, "I have an idea."
She walked over to the stereo, donned her wireless mike and announced to the dozen or so boys that they had an option: they could leave, or they could stay and participate in class.
"I can guarantee that I'll have you huffing and puffing," she challenged them.
After some sidelong looks at each other, the boys stayed -- and they gave it their all.
When the moves got a little complicated, the instructor told them how hot they'd be on the dance floor, making them smile. When the choreography called for running around, pivoting, and leaping from side to side, she assured them this would greatly enhance their basketball skills.
What great sports the boys were! And polite, too! Hats off to all of them, and to our instructor for thinking outside the box to be welcoming and inclusive. I really hope they come back, because they added an indescribable energy to class.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

RETREAT: Not talking for 140 hours?

This morning a woman at the Y was telling me, at great length and with greater enthusiasm, about a 140-hour "silent retreat" she had attended recently at a meditation center in Maryland. She said that the break from having to listen to clients worked wonders for not only her spiritual growth but also her blood pressure.
I am a big fan of peace and quiet, certainly, but I expressed strong doubt that I would enjoy such an extended period of not speaking (not to mention getting up at 5 a.m.).
"Oh! You would!" she assured me. Somehow I don't think I'm going to put it to the test.

HUNGER: A simple lunch or dinner

Jeff Yetter asked me for some publicity about "Empty Bowls," a fundraiser to benefit the Kennett Food Cupboard. Here's how it works: you buy a ticket and you get a simple lunch or dinner of soup and bread at the Red Clay Room in Kennett Square on Thursday, Feb. 25. Plus you get to take home a handmade ceramic bowl.

Lunch is from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Dinner is from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Tickets, which are $25, are available by calling the Food Cupboard at 610-925-3556 or online (

WOODPECKER: Heard and now seen

On Feb. 2, Tom Herman spotted a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) behind London Grove Friends Meeting. He said that he and his wife, Risa, "have heard him for the last 4 years and finally captured an image of him." And he was kind enough to send it to me.
Pileated woodpecker; photo by Tom Herman.

My Audubon bird book describes these large woodpeckers as "usually quite shy; presence best detected by loud call," which is a "loud, rolling kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk-kuk."

THEATER: A green ogre and a panto

This spring's Unionville High School show is "Shrek the Musical," and it will be presented on Thursday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m.; and Saturday, March 5, at both 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $12 via; or $14 for adults and $12 for students and seniors at the door. We will be at the Thursday evening show. According to the press release, "Shrek the Musical" is a one-of-a-kind, hilarious fairy tale in which curses are reversed, monsters get the girls, donkeys and dragons find love, and princesses are beautiful in all shapes and sizes." Director is Scott Litzenberg, and Justin Bowen (one of the Jets in last year's "West Side Story") stars in the title role.
In other theatrical news, after being first drenched by sprinklers and then snowed out on its original performance dates, the Kennett Amateur Theatrical Society's pantomime "Sherlock & the Beanstalk" will be held at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20, at the American Legion Hall in downtown Kennett Square. The number of seats is limited, but tickets for the cancelled shows will be honored. "The best show never seen!" trumpets the rueful press release.


At the Exxon/Pep Boys station on the southeast corner of the Route 202/1 intersection, the sign gives prices for gasoline, diesel and CNG. What is CNG, I asked my travel companion (his breadth of knowledge continually delights me). Compressed natural gas, he explained; it's a type of "green" fuel used mostly by buses and fleet vehicles.
Sure enough, later that day in Voorhees, N.J., we spotted two municipal trash trucks sporting signs saying they used CNG.
The price given at the Exxon for CNG was 0.00, which I took to mean that either they didn't have any on hand or it was free.

SIGNS: They're no good if you can't read them

With primary election season in full swing, we should be seeing a crop of campaign signs and bumper stickers. A word of advice if you have anything to do with creating them: Make sure the wording is legible from a distance! On Friday we saw a bumper sticker that said "I someone with syndrome." The letters of the syndrome name were so tightly squished that we could not make it out, even when we were close to the vehicle -- and as a science editor, I know a thing or two about disease names. We joked, irreverently, that perhaps the syndrome in question involved hyperacute eyesight.
Later that day I saw "Open House" signs on all four corners of the Willowdale intersection. What was the open house for? I'll never know: the lettering was just too small.