Friday, February 28, 2014

Holding back

Thursday evening I was driving westbound along Route 842, and between Mill Road and Byrd Road the blustery wind was blowing the snow from the open fields onto the road. At some points the road was already down to one lane.
When I got home I put up a warning on my Facebook page. This prompted a friend and neighbor to reminisce about snow fences, which he recalled from his youth. These fences, made of strips of vertical wooden lath secured fairly close together with wire, used to be unrolled by the highway department along roadsides where snow blowing onto the road was known to be a problem. Low-tech, sure, but they were very effective at keeping the drifts back.
I hadn't thought of snow fences for years. What happened to them?

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Strike a pose

Tilda at a fashion show?? I know, unlikely, unless it were being sponsored by Polarfleece or L.L Bean. In which case they'd give me an honorary front-and-center seat for sure.
But I'm hoping to make the scene at the upcoming fashion show at Unionville High School, which benefits the After-Prom Committee.
Volunteer Martha Young sent me the details:
"The theme this year is James Bond "For Your Eyes Only" and the show is being held on Friday March 21st at 7:30 at the UHS Auditorium. There will be great fashions (both casual and formal wear) all very generously donated by area merchants. The girls' hair and make-up also have been graciously donated by area salons. The models are mostly Junior and Senior students, there will be some great James Bond music sung by some very talented UHS students, silent auction items and original designs showcased by students. Please come and see "who wore what!"...100% of the proceeds goes to the After Prom, which helps to make prom a safe and memorable night for students."
Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students at the door; children 10 and under are free.
Actually, I do have one fashion observation to make. I was at a meeting the other day and noticed how most of the ladies totally jazzed up their neutral, not-specially-put-on everyday outfits by simply adding a scarf. I think my favorite was a silk patchwork scarf of bright Indian-inspired fabrics that a Wilmington woman sported.

 

Livin' la vida loca

Hey, don't forget, the latest Giant gas promotion deal ends Saturday, March 15. You will want to fill up before that Saturday, because there are always long lines on the final day. I'm already up to 553 points, to be augmented significantly with the 300 additional points they're offering via the circular coupon from March 2 through 8. And for once I'm actually able to take advantage of one of their additional deals (tissues? Sun Chips? Yes, I can buy six of those), for yet another 400 points.
Yes, I know. I sound a lot like the deranged guy in "The Tell-Tale Heart." But you know what? I'm gonna get $1.20 off per gallon! Ha! Ha!

Incredible Journey

My biking readers will enjoy this tongue-in-cheek story by a relative about his 1.5-mile-long commute to work last week.
"I don't know what possessed me to take on the challenge, cycling 1/2 mile after 1/2 mile on compacted snow and glazed ice, through the frigid temperatures and howling winds.
I was on Surly Sue, my winter bike, loaded down with graded papers and lecture notes, carrying my only source of sustenance: an insulated mug containing once-hot coffee.
I set out early, the sun peeking over the horizon. I hopped on my bike but quickly jumped back off when I realized I would have to walk the first few feet, down my unplowed driveway.
The glide down my street was treacherous--and lonely. Not a soul to be seen at first, although later I encountered one human walking what appeared to be a wolf on a leash. My only company consisted of sounds, the wind battering like iced razorblades into small areas of flesh I had inexplicably left uncovered, the snow crunching underneath my Ritchey Speedmax 700x32c winter tires, the tree branches keeping the seeming endless time of my suffering.
My attention was anchored on every passing centimeter of dangerous path. Despite that, security was only momentary, and more than once I slid unexpectedly and uncontrollably.
I endured, rotation after rotation of those sneering pedals, and eventually arrived at work exhausted, blind, ravenous, and delirious. But when the morning custodial staff saw me and exclaimed, "You didn't bike in today, did you?"--an odd question given the fact that I looked like the Abominable Snowman and was holding a bike--I felt a tinge of pride. I had faced the elements, and for one small moment, I had triumphed over winter. And I learned something, that I can endure almost any amount of adversity if I need to...for about ten minutes."

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Delay

A nonprofit group I belong to had its first meeting of the year scheduled for January 10. It was postponed due to snow and rescheduled for February 4. That meeting was again postponed for snow and rescheduled for Feb. 25. Sure enough, the morning of the 25th it was snowing, but we were all so sick of postponing that we held the darn meeting anyway. Props to our hardy board member from Bryn Mawr for hauling all the way out here to the country!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

"Foal Cam"

Amazing: you can watch the birth of My Special Gal's foal live via New Bolton Center's "foal cam." The mare is due to give birth in mid-March at New Bolton's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. You can monitor My Special Gal before the birth and even help select a name for the little one. For more information, visit the website at www.vet.upenn.edu/foalcam.

The Book Sale

A loyal reader wanted to share his high praise for the organization of this past weekend's used-book sale at Unionville High School! He said in an email:
"We attended the book sale as we usually do on the first day (Friday night) and were very pleasantly surprised to find that the “pro” buyers were very polite and non-pushy. What a difference from last year! As we waited in line for the opening bell, we heard a number of people comment on what a horrible experience they had also had with the “pros”. We conveyed our compliments for a job well done to the organizers and give them kudos to whatever they did to rein in the pros! It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience."

Stone Barn

What a sad sight to see the roof of the Stone Barn's banquet hall collapsed from the weight of the snow. The cupola is leaning severely to the north and the walls are completely out of kilter. Let's hope that the owners, the Thomfordes, can get the building repaired quickly and don't have to cancel many parties and wedding receptions. As a caterer friend said when he heard about the collapse: "What a nightmare for owners and clients!"

Township meeting

The monthly West Marlborough Township meetings are coming up on Tuesday, March 4. The planning commission meets at 7 p.m. (if they have any business to conduct; last month they didn't) and the supervisors' meeting starts afterward. Come out and hear what's going on in our township.

Bird report

Those four-and-twenty blackbirds of the nursery rhyme are frequenting my back yard. Actually, though, it's a diverse lot, with not only red-winged blackbirds but also starlings and grackles. It's amazing how quickly they can clean out a bird feeder!
There's word going around on the Internet that the frigid temperatures of the Polar Vertex have killed off 95 percent of the stinkbug population. We shall see!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Living up to their name

The temperature got up to 55 degrees this afternoon (Feb. 22), and enough snow melted that I actually saw the first snowdrops poking up. A wonderful sight! Perhaps the hellebores next?


It could be a while before the snow covering the fern garden melts, though: not only is it on the north side of the house, but on Thursday, with a low rumble, all the snow from the roof avalanched down onto it.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Shaking my head

This week's reckless motorist award goes to the driver of a white work van who passed me in Friday morning's dense fog on southbound Route 82. If you were out in that fog, you remember how limited your visibility suddenly was in the spots where the thick fog rolled across the road. It was scary.
This driver had been tailgating me since Doe Run. I stopped at the Newark Road stop sign, which you couldn't seen until you were about 10 feet away from it. Unbelievably, the driver honked at me for coming to a full stop and then passed me. On a double-yellow line. In the dense fog. I caught only the first three letters of the license plate before he or she disappeared into the fog in front of Plantation Field.
Later in the day, after the fog had cleared, a driver almost pulled out in front of me from a Line Road driveway, stopping with a jerk only at the last moment. I couldn't help but notice that the hood of his car was secured with a bungee cord; perhaps experience has taught him to be more cautious?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fig Party

On Thursday evening, Feb.  21, after Pilates class I stopped at the Kennett Square Inn for the launch party of Fig Kennett Magazine's Art & Culture Issue. It's a very attractive and well-organized magazine, full of nice graphics and lovely photos.
It was great to get out and see some different faces after this long stretch of bad winter weather: friend and neighbor Claire Murray of Inverbrook Farm and the Kennett Farmers Market; Kristin Pronto, executive director of the Garage Community and Youth Center; K.C. Kulp of The Whip Tavern; Lynn Esdale of Lynn Victoria Skincare in Chadds Ford; Matt Grieco of Grieco Funeral Homes; Francine Covelli of Nourish Juice Bar & CafĂ© in the Market at Liberty Place; and host Steve Warner of the Kennett Square Inn.
I sat down with a plate of appetizers and chatted with my pal Dave Dickens, whose business, Drowning Trout Outfitters, is featured in the magazine. The strikingly handsome photo shows him in mid-stream and mid-cast.
Mary Hutchins of Historic Kennett Square was also at the party, talking up an "Evening of the Arts" art show and sale that's going to be held from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 4 at the Genesis Building at State and Union Streets.

Typecasting

At a shindig tonight I was introduced to a fellow, and when he found out I live in Unionville he asked if I knew an acquaintance of his, a "tall, skinny, horsey girl" who also lives out here.
I laughed and told him he'd really need to narrow it down a little -- and please don't tell me she's blonde, too.
"Yeah! She is!" he said.

Heart and sole

My friend was running late for our dinner date at Perkins the other night, so I waited in the lobby. After a while I looked outside -- and there he was, waiting outside the glass door.
"Didn't you see me?" I asked. He said he had glanced in but could see only the lower part of somebody's legs. And since those legs weren't clad in the knee-high sturdy brown leather boots that he's seen me wearing all but continuously this winter, he didn't bother to investigate any farther. We had a good laugh: as it happened, I was wearing my low Bean gumshoes for a change.
I do take my boots off occasionally, honest I do, but when merely refilling the backyard bird feeders means tromping over downed branches and through a good six inches or more of snow, tall boots really do come in handy!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Love in bloom

My Valentine's Day flowers arrived on Monday, Feb. 17, and the poor things were frozen solid. The drooping buds and frostbitten leaves would have delighted Morticia Addams (well, they delighted me, too, but for sentimental rather than aesthetic reasons). The flowers, which given the globalized floral trade came from Colombia, sat in a cold warehouse over the weekend because the snowed-in delivery trucks couldn't get them delivered in time for the big day itself. The company, realizing that time was of the essence, emailed an abject apology to everyone who had ordered flowers, promised to send a replacement bouquet and even enclosed a discount coupon.
The instruction booklet that came with the flowers said they'd perk up after an hour or so in water. I'm sure that's true in most cases, but in this situation it reminded me strongly of Monty Python's classic Dead Parrot sketch, in which the deceitful shopkeeper (Michael Palin) tries to convince the outraged customer (John Cleese) that the Norwegian blue parrot he just purchased isn't really dead; it's just stunned, "having a kip," or "pining for the fjords."
My Valentine and I speculated whether any couples might have broken up over the tardy delivery. We agreed that a romance with anyone shallow enough to get upset over something so minor probably would not have a long shelf-life, anyway, and better to discover it sooner rather than later.
Update: The company, ProFlowers, was as good as its word -- in fact, better. On Wednesday, Feb. 19, TWO long boxes of flowers arrived, containing three dozen of the most spectacularly beautiful pastel roses that I've ever seen. They were impeccably wrapped and in perfect condition. And best of all, each box also contained a love note from my Valentine -- yes, they're all identical, but that doesn't matter one bit.
Between these roses and the victims of the earlier shipment I was able to salvage, every vase in my home has been deployed.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snow days

What a surprise: snow featured prominently in our activities this weekend, which seemed to center on the Chadds Ford area.
1. Have you noticed the potholes in the Route 52 bridge at Lenape? Not that potholes are really newsworthy at this time of the year, but these are numerous and deep.
2. On Saturday afternoon kids were taking advantage of the massive sledding hill on the east side of Pocopson Elementary School. That hill is so long, they could really use a tow rope to haul them back up.
3. We picked up yet another 25-lb bag of Purina Bird Luvver's Blend at the Brandywine Ace Hardware store, and we were far from the only customers stocking up. I love the whimsical birdseed names, like "Finch Feast," "Cardinal's Cuisine" and "Woodpecker's Wish." By the way, the birdseed bag illustration features a Rufous-Sided Towhee, and I saw two of them on Friday at a West Grove feeder.
4. On Sunday we stopped off at the River Museum -- they just changed their official name to the Brandywine River Museum of Art, did you notice? -- and couldn't help but notice the many snow paintings on display. In one, some hardy souls were shoveling their way out of a snowed-in mountain road. Reminded me of some Unionville friends with an extremely steep driveway. The calendar art exhibition is worth a visit, not only to see the Wyeth, Pyle, Parrish and Rockwell paintings that were used as illustrations, but also the actual calendars themselves. I was fascinated to see that people used to mark the birthdays of Thomas Edison, FDR, Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Outside the museum, the Brandywine looked especially beautiful and serene, flowing between its two snow-defined banks.

Red Sombrero

The Red Sombrero "Fresh Mexican Taqueria" in the Dilworthtown Crossing shopping center on Route 202 is opening a branch in the Longwood Crossing shopping center on Baltimore Pike, next to the Starbucks. There's a banner up in the window, and it looks like some work is being done inside to revamp the space formerly occupied by the Paradocx Winery's shop -- which moved to the Market at Liberty Place in downtown Kennett last year.

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Workaround

A kind "Unionville in the News" reader shared his "all's-well-that-ends-well" Verizon experience during the recent power outage:
"We did not lose power for more than 6 hours from the recent Ice storm – but we potentially lost our Verizon service ( Computer – Phone – TV ) for up to 9 days. But, we didn’t due to the intervention of our neighbor’s son who is a genius when it comes to most things.
After the power came back on and we were out of all Verizon services, we called on our
(charged-up) cell phone and after an understandable wait were connected to a Customer Service rep.
After explaining the situation and disconnecting / reconnecting the power supply line in the basement per his instructions, we were told that a service person would have to come out – in 9 days.      
So, then to plan “B.” Not understanding all things electronic / computerwise we sat down to figure out who would be able to figure the situation out,  and we figured who else but some one of the younger generation persuasion. So, I put in a call to Greg Jr.
He said he knew what the problem was and there was no doubt that he could fix it. WOW!
Shortly he came over and went to the basement and within 5 minutes had us up and running. And, he handed me a handwritten paper on how to fix it in the future.
Simply put, the battery had to also be disconnected – not just the power supply to everything. I.e., the battery kept the system partially working and thus it could not be rebooted until everything was disconnected.  So, what he did was to disconnect the router – the main power source to the system -- AND - the battery back-up, and then reconnect everything.
So then, I called Verizon to tell them that “we” had fixed the problem. When I told the new Customer Service person he said with considerable surprise, “You mean he was not a Verizon Technician?" I said, "No – just a neighbor kid." And, by the way I was then told that the original Verizon customer service person neglected to tell me was to disconnect the battery as is the protocol.  Apology – Apology – Apology. 
So the 9 + day wait wound up being a 4-hour wait."

 

Friday, February 14, 2014

One little hour

"What a difference a day makes," croons Dinah Washington on the wonderful, smoky jazz CD that one of my gym teachers plays occasionally. I was thinking more like what a difference even an hour makes -- in terms of Unionville road conditions, that is, when it's sunny and above freezing. En route to lunch on Friday, even some of the main roads were still icy, especially in shady areas, and I crept along at 20 mph, much to the annoyance, I'm sure, of the guy in the pickup behind me hauling hay. On the way home, the pavement was bare and almost dry. Remarkable!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Tell me more, tell me more

I'll be spending some time at Unionville High School the next few weekends.
Feb. 21 and 22 is the always wonderful annual used-book sale in the high-school gym. Hours are from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, with the $8 "bag sale" to follow from 3 to 5 p.m. Snow dates are Feb. 28 and March 1.
And at 7:30 p.m. on March 6, 7, and 8 the high-schoolers are presenting the musical "Grease" in the UHS auditorium. Doubtless umpteen kids are spending umpteen hours memorizing their lines and dance steps, practicing their songs and music, hammering and painting sets, and tracking down Fifties props and costumes. And cementing life-long friendships; just ask this veteran of many, many musicals.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Welcome to the working world

I overheard two high-school girls talking in the locker room this afternoon and I couldn't help but smile to myself at their conversation.
The one said she really needed the forthcoming snow day; she felt burned out from all her sports, schoolwork and other activities and was looking forward to staying in bed and "just meditating" (even though she knew she'd get yelled at by her mother).
She speculated what it would be like when she got a job, though, and didn't get snow days or summers off any more.
"Yeah," her friend agreed, "but, like, at least you'll be doing something you like, and getting paid for it."
The first girl said that was certainly true, and she just didn't understand why people stayed in jobs they didn't like. "But, I mean, what do I know? I'm just a 14-year-old freshman."
Another funny I heard at the Y: two burly delivery men were wheeling in dollies of weights.
"Oh, the dumb-bells are here!" exclaimed one front-desk person.
Another said to her colleague she was glad she hadn't said anything, as she always mistakenly calls the weights "dumb-boys," and the delivery men might not have taken that kindly.

In a hurry

A loyal reader added another item to the perils of driving along Baltimore Pike 1 from Longwood to the Route 1 bypass:
"I have had SEVERAL cars fly by me on my right when I am about to exit Rt. 1 for Kennett Square. There is no lane there! They just go from the Walmart turn lane right through to the exit lane! I have been surprised several times as I am about to exit and see a car where there should not be one. Very dangerous."
She's right: stay alert. (But at least I haven't seen those annoying "charity" solicitors at that crossroads for a while.)

Magic trick

I did a little yard cleanup yesterday afternoon and came inside to find a three-inch-long scrape on my leg from a jagged branch -- even though was no hole in my leggings. It reminded me of that sliced-banana magic trick; have today's kids even heard of it? Take a needle or a toothpick and insert it into a brown spot on a banana. Push it straight in just until it touches the inside of the opposite peel; don't pierce the other side. Carefully wiggle it to create a slice, and then withdraw it. Repeat at even intervals along the banana. Then gather your family or friends and peel the banana, revealing that it has magically been sliced!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Route 41

PennDOT wants your opinion on Route 41 traffic! (I know you have one. Probably several.)
As part of their "transportation improvement study on intersections along Route 41 in southern Chester County" (specifically the intersections with Route 926, Route 841, White Horse Road and Route 796), they're running an online survey at www.pa41.com. Deadline for responses is February 28. A friend who took the survey reports that the questions ask how often you use these intersections and when, and any problems you've encountered. There's also room for comments.
Hard copies of the survey are available at the Londonderry Township office (103 Daleville Road, Cochranville) and at the London Grove Township office (372 Rose Hill Road, West Grove).

 

Cold comfort

Some East Marlborough friends who were out of power from Wednesday morning through Sunday morning reported that the lights were blazing the whole time at their neighbors' house across the street, which has a whole-house generator that clicks on automatically. What was especially vexing was that the neighbors were away the whole time, on vacation in Africa.
My friend adds that this lengthy power outage was the last straw: all the families in her area are getting together to see if they can negotiate a discount if they all buy their generators from one vendor.
Another friend whose farm was out of power for an equally long period of time said she didn't really need a thermostat to tell how cold it was inside her house: her Gummi candy became as hard as a rock. When the power returned, she could tell the HVAC was really cooking when the Gummi once again became pliable.
The day after everyone got their power back on, I was amused to see in my mailbox a catalog from an Ohio hardware store that featured an assortment of Feuerhand lanterns on the front cover. "Weather Any Storm," read the copy. "Perfect for When the Power Fails." How timely.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Chocolate

It was eating room only at the Kennett Chocolate Lovers Festival Sunday afternoon in the Kennett High School gym. It attracted so many people, in fact, that the event deserves to become a business-school case study in logistics: What's the most efficient way to move hundreds of people past scores of tempting chocolate entries set out on tables? Our strategy was to pick a random spot, wait until the crowd thinned and then compare the four or five choices we could see from our vantage point. As a result, unfortunately, we got to see only a small number of the offerings.
Two of the gentlemen in my party (neither with an MBA) came up with an ingenious idea involving parallel, variable-speed conveyor belts to efficiently move people past the selections and discourage loitering.
We figured out that the amateur entries were on two sides of the rectangle of tables and the professional ones (which cost you TWO tickets) were on the end. We didn't realize until we got home and saw the photos that there were also student entries! One of my samples turned out to be one of the overall professional winners, a fabulous hazelnut marjolaine, and I also had a delicious brownie topped with a maraschino cherry.
This was the second annual fest, and one baker who is a veteran of both said this year's was much better organized than last year's, and thankfully in a much larger venue. Even with the ample parking lots at the high school, we parked across South Street at the Y pool lot and had an excellent calorie-burning hike up to the gym.
The event benefits our local United Way, which appears to have hit on a hugely popular moneymaker. Kudos to the volunteer bakers, organizers and patient tong-wielding attendants.

Offline

The fortitude shown by my friends and neighbors this past week has been remarkable. Some of them have been living in cold houses, without light, heat or hot water, for four days now and counting. On Saturday morning at Hood's we caught up with two couples, still amazingly cheerful in the face of their difficulties. One woman noted that her house was so cold that even the squirrels who had been occupying her attic had fled. Another, even though she was suffering from a major head cold, managed to make toffee on her gas burner for the Kennett Chocolate Fest.
Two days in a row this weekend we ran into a fellow who is out of power -- on Saturday at the Kennett Walmart and on Sunday at Philter. He said how thrilled he was to get a hot shower at the Kennett Y and charge up his laptop at the coffee shop.
The pioneer spirit lives on in these hardy country souls! Nonetheless, I'm predicting a boom in generator sales.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The more things change...

My latest editing project is a charming little book about almanacs in eighteenth-century America. The following words from the preface of a 1747 almanac pretty much describe "Unionville in the News": "wheresoever ... I observe any thing that is curious and uncommon, useful or entertaining, I resolve to give it a place in my almanack for the good of the publick.”

Friday, February 7, 2014

High energy

In the space of a few hours this afternoon, I managed to have two peculiar conversations with strangers.
At the jammed coffee shop, a minister (judging from his clothes) was making small talk with the barista. When she said all she wanted was for her electric power to come back on at home, he quoted the old Melanie song, "I got a brand-new pair of roller skates, you got a brand-new key."
"Oh my gosh," I said. "Remember that song?"
Pleased, he said he often quotes that lyric when he wants to make a metaphorical point. What exactly that point would be, I wasn't sure. Perhaps his parishioners have figured it out.
An hour later, in another line, I was chatting with a wiry, middle-aged guy, and he told me he plans to escape the wintry weather by going to New Orleans for his birthday, Feb. 14.
I asked him if it's ever been a problem having his birthday fall on Valentine's Day.
He thought for a moment. No, he said -- but then again he never considers a birthday properly commemorated unless the celebration goes on for longer than one day.
"Rock and roll, baby," he said with a grin. "Keeps you young."
I'm assuming he meant more than staying up past midnight to watch the Mushroom Drop on New Year's Eve.


Saki story

As I lay in bed Wednesday during the ice storm listening to the cracking of branches, I was reminded of the short story by H. H. Munro (better known as Saki) called "The Wolves of Cernogratz." The Baron and Baroness Gruebel have purchased the old Cernogratz castle in Germany, and during a Christmas dinner party a guest asks if there are any legends that came with the castle. The Baroness says there's a story that whenever anyone dies there, "all the dogs in the village and the wild beasts in the forest howl the night long."
The Baroness is quickly corrected by Amalie, the normally silent and self-effacing old governess, who reveals that she is actually a member of the now-impoverished Cernogratz family. She explains that the wolves and dogs howl only when a member of the Cernogratz family dies, not just anyone, and "as the soul of the dying one left its body a tree would crash down in the park."
The "well-fed, much too-well-dressed" Baroness doesn't believe her story about being a family member and certainly doesn't take kindly to being corrected by an underling. She vows to let the governess go after the busy holiday season, but much to her annoyance Amalie falls critically ill shortly after Christmas.
The wolves gather: "The cry of the wolves rose on the still winter air and floated round the castle walls in long-drawn piercing wails; the old woman lay back on her couch with a look of long-delayed happiness on her face."
Then "a noise of splitting and crashing was heard" as a tree fell in the park.
The Baroness hastily agrees with the prevailing wisdom that it was just the cold that caused the wolves to come out and the tree to crash down, but nonetheless writes in the old woman's obit:
"At Schloss Cernogratz, Amalie von Cernogratz, for many years the valued friend of Baron and Baroness Gruebel."

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Two wheels

The cold temperatures inhibit all but the hardiest (some would chose other adjectives) bicyclists from going out on the road. On Sunday we had just finished breakfast at Hood's and were off to run errands when I saw a lean bicyclist, wearing non-flashy togs, ahead of us on Route 82 near the elementary school.
"Hey, maybe that's my brother," I commented idly.
Sure enough, it was! Almost every square inch of him was covered, but I saw enough of his face to recognize him (after all, I've known him all his life).
I smiled and waved and got a smile and nod in return.
He later said he always keeps an eye out for my vehicle whenever he is on one of his long, hard-core weekend rides.

Well done, CVS

CVS drugstores have earned themselves a new customer: me. The company announced that by October 1 they will no longer be selling cigarettes at their stores.
Many of you know that nine years ago I lost a beloved friend, a 52-year-old man, to smoking-related lung cancer. Just maybe CVS' gutsy move will dissuade somebody from taking up this addiction -- for an addiction is exactly what it is.
A high-school friend put it well:
"CVS is really to be commended. I am not so fragile that I will smoke again, but a kid or someone who recently quit will reap great rewards from this decision. I smoked heavily for 30 years (because I was stupid). I quit cold turkey 8 years ago. A few weeks ago I was in a CVS waiting in line and I was mesmerized by the panorama of colorful cigarette packs with great logos and deals for buying multiple packs.I instantly spotted "my" brand.
Just standing there daydreaming, in the briefest moment, I was inhaling the best cigarette ever. The Nicotine hit beat any drug I ever tried. The exhale was crystalline. Ahhhhh!
Nobody hates cigarettes more than an ex-smoker."
My friend owns a catering company: "The food and beverage industry harbors tons of smokers. We work intensely to prepare and serve 1 great meal, take a moment,smoke one, and begin the process again. The adrenaline rush is fantastic but the need to repeat the rush is a terrible health problem. My staff has every corporate incentive to quit, so far, I have -0- takers."

Powerless

Scenes from the power outage:
1. A friend who shares his home with five dogs reports that his fridge is defrosting, leaving a puddle of water on the kitchen floor. A cheerful soul, he is looking on the bright side: "Hey, at least there's a puddle that has nothing to do with the dogs for once."
2. A relative spending the winter in warmer climates called Wednesday evening to report that a few sprinkles of rain fell on her outdoor water aerobics class, but the ladies carried on nonetheless.
3. I feel awful for the small business owners who were forced to shut due to the power outage. Not only were many restaurants, hair salons and such hit hard, but a friend who fixes appliances was also affected less directly. Most of his customers called to cancel their appointments: no point in him going out to diagnose a dishwasher or fridge if there's no power at the client's home.
4. Neighborly folks who are back on the grid have taken to social media to help those still out of power, offering showers, Internet access, phone charging, heat and light. "We have electric and lots of fridge and freezer space. We also have 2 open beds, a pull out couch, showers, washer/dryer, food, etc, etc, etc... Consider yourselves INVITED!" said one especially hospitable friend. Patrons seeking juice at the Bayard Taylor Library were filling up every available power strip the library could lay its hands on. I was impressed that the Y's opened their doors to all comers, members or not, who needed a warm place and a shower.
5. Coffee took first priority for many people, and the fact that so many Starbucks and Wawas were closed hit them hard. I heard stories of camping stoves and percolators being pulled out of basement storage and pressed into service. One friend who grinds his own said he was prepared to smash the beans with a hammer if needed.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Understatement

"Everybody's been busy" was how West Marlborough Supervisor Hugh Lofting described the work of the township road crew in his report at the monthly township meeting on Feb. 4.
He is a master of understatement: with January's harsh winter, the five workers put in 352.5 hours plowing and salting roads and 268.5 hours getting their trucks, graders and other equipment ready and then cleaning it up.
Much of the township meeting was taken up by stories about the adventures the road crew faced during the storms: accidents, detours, late nights, long hours and emergency calls from residents for services big and small.
"I thought you guys were terrific," said Supervisor Bill Wylie. "Thank you very much."
The township supervisors said they are considering replacing one well-used 1993 dump truck with a newer model that West Goshen Township is selling. Road crew chief Hugh Lofting Jr. said the old truck, which has more than 100,000 miles on it, is becoming increasingly less likely to pass inspection.
The township planning commission, which normally meets just before the supervisors do, did not have a February meeting because they had no business to conduct.

Small town, big money

An early-20th-century postcard of Doe Run Village here in West Marlborough showed up on eBay last week and ended up selling for $125! I got out when the bidding went over $45. It's a charming card ("neat old rural view," read the eBay seller's description): it shows two men walking along Route 82 (then a dirt road). Some of the buildings shown are still there today.
I'm told the image comes up occasionally on eBay; let's hope I don't get into the middle of such a fierce bidding war next time!

Goodbye Tim

Yesterday I heard about the death of Tim Malloy, a jovial, well-loved, well-dressed fellow from Bryn Mawr who was a popular fixture at tailgate parties at all the polo matches and point-to-point races in our area. He died just a few weeks after his mother did, and he will be missed by his sons, his family, and his many friends. "Heartbroken" is the word I'm hearing frequently.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Honorable

Last week I reported that a friend of mine bought a $100 gift card for The Orchard restaurant as a Christmas present for her son; unfortunately, the place went out of business on Jan. 1, and she wondered how to go about securing a refund. I'm happy to tell you that she phoned this morning and told me she had received a full refund.
 

Another snow day

I liked the message that superintendent John Sanville posted on the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District's website for Monday, Feb. 3:
"Even though this is our fifth snow day of the year we evaluate conditions as if it is the first storm of the season -- safety comes first -- and today based on the forecast we didn't feel that we could safely transport students or have our campuses ready. The last day of school is now June 13.... I encourage our students to not be afraid to pick up a book today!"
Hear hear! Reading while snowbound: it doesn't get much cozier than that. Though it looks like this heavy snow will be especially good for the manufacture of snowpeople.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Impact

You often read in my column about vehicle crashes at the London Grove intersection; in fact, two signs were recently installed at the township's request in an attempt to regulate traffic at the offset crossroads. On Thursday evening I was coming home and saw a vehicle that had only moments before been in an accident. The driver had been eastbound on Route 926 until he wasn't anymore: he didn't stop for the stop sign and smashed into the road bank on the east side of Newark Road. Another motorist had already stopped, and it didn't look like anyone was hurt.
I drove by the impact site on Sunday and there were still signs of the accident: bare earth and bits of front end, glass, and bumpers scattered about. One of the small trees had a pretty big gash in it.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Slow learners

This Saturday evening we went to a performance by two folksingers we've seen and enjoyed before. It's a casual venue -- more like a house concert -- and the two always encourage the audience to sing along with their old favorites. One of the fellows announced that they'd be trying out a new song, and repeated the lengthy chorus in hopes we would join in.
The second member of the duo shot him an incredulous look and said: "Ain't nobody gonna remember that!"
We managed to get through the first few lines. Maybe we'll improve next time.

Only just begun

On the front porch of a home in downtown West Grove is a big blue banner proclaiming to passersby that a certain happy couple became engaged in December: "Two hearts, one love," it adds, in red letters. I'm eager to see what they do when the wedding rolls around: more than just a standard announcement in the newspaper, I'll bet!