Saturday, September 30, 2017

OXFORD: Starbucks heads west

There is now a Starbucks coffee shop in Oxford. Just groove on that for a minute as you realize how drastically Chester County has changed in the past 20 years. (I felt the same way when I saw that there was a sushi joint in Sadsburyville.)
The new Starbucks is in the Walmart shopping center on Route 10, north of town.

UNIONVILLE: Post office hours

I have a mental block about the hours when the Unionville Post Office is open. Maybe if I write them down they'll finally stick in my head. The window hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (with a lunch break from 1 to 1:45 p.m.) and 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.
I was there the other day when a very happy customer received a shipment of his special type of tea. "My drugs!" he exclaimed with delight as Mini handed him the box.

CENSORSHIP: A timely book

The past few weeks I've had the honor and pleasure of editing a high-profile book about how "hate speech" should be countered not by censorship and "hate speech" codes, but rather by MORE speech and counter-arguments. The publisher has put the book on the fast track because this is such a white-hot issue, so I've been working at all hours with the author, Nadine Strossen, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Ms. Strossen was a delight to work with, thanking me for each of my queries and corrections, taking the time to think through some tricky style choices (should we use the actual odious words or bowdlerize them?) and apologizing when she had to keep submitting updates on this quickly changing topic. She even thanked me, a lowly copy editor, in the introduction.
Not only was her writing polished and clear, but her arguments were brilliant and backed by compelling evidence that "hate speech" codes, no matter how well intentioned and carefully worded, simply don't work and are often used against the very people they are meant to protect.
The book, titled "HATE: Why We Should Resist It with Free Speech Not Censorship," is excellent, readable and much-needed and I'll be happy to add it to my CV. I hope it's a best-seller.

SPORTS: A very hot afternoon

On Sept. 27 the Tally-hos went to Oxford Area High School to watch the UHS cross-country team run against the Kennett and Oxford squads, and we were delighted that the Unionville boys finished 1-2. (These two particular athletes are good friends and usually run together throughout the entire race. Do they arrange ahead of time which one is going to win? Do they alternate?) 
It was a sweltering afternoon even for us spectators, more like early August than late September, and I was glad to see that the coaches made sure everyone was well hydrated. Even so, three athletes were overcome by the extreme heat and had to lie down in the shade after they crossed the finish line (tough competitors!). Two ambulances arrived and the paramedics checked them out.

STINKBUGS: Foul and pestilent

I'm hoping that with the cooler weather that blew in on Sept. 27, the worst of the stinkbug season is over. My Bugzooka vacuum device was busy there for a few days. As soon as I'd clear one room of the disgusting creatures, they'd be all over another wall. The low point was probably when I shook at least a dozen of them out of my bathrobe one morning.
My friend Paul Haldeman wrote to share his experience with the pests:
"During this spell of hot weather we have had large numbers of stink bugs accumulating on the outside of the screens on our porch. Around 3:00 a flock of starlings has been coming by and picking the stink bugs off the screens. The stink bug population on the screens is now almost zero. Is this common in the area?"
I can only report that it certainly has not happened at my house! 

CONCERT: Take your mom to work day

The son of a friend of mine is traveling around the country as the videographer for an up-and-coming rock band (one of the many career paths for which a UHS diploma prepares you). He invited his mother and older brother to attend the band's hometown show at the TLA on South Street in Philadelphia. They accepted -- the VIP seats and limo sealed the deal.
My friend, who last attended a rock concert back in the days of Peter Frampton, gave a hilarious account of the evening. She said even with earplugs, the noise was deafening. She was baffled by the appeal of the "mosh pit" in front of the stage, where frenzied youths were hurling themselves about and banging their heads together. Part of the fun, apparently, is diving into the arms of your peers, who then (you hope) pass you overhead, conveyor-belt style, toward the edge of the pit.
She reports that two bouncers were assigned to stand at the end of this conveyor belt, reaching up and removing the overhead fans and setting them back on terra firma. 
Concerts are not what they used to be, she and her older son concluded.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

DINNER: The Hearth Kitchen

We had a terrific dinner on Saturday at the Hearth Kitchen, our first time at the newest restaurant in the Shoppes at Longwood Village. We went on the spur of the moment and didn't check out the menu ahead of time, but we had heard good reviews and observed that the shopping center's parking lot has been much fuller since the restaurant opened in June.
We found that the menu offers small plates, salads, pasta, pizzas from the wood-fired oven and a selection of creative entrees. I ordered the grilled swordfish with crushed potatoes ($28) and my dinner partner had the garlic chicken with farro (a delicious nutty-tasting grain), mushrooms and green beans ($24). For dessert we had a slice of utterly wonderful cake full of peaches, blueberries, and cinnamon crisp, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, and excellent coffee.
From our table we had fun watching the bartenders at work, stirring, shaking, straining and garnishing their pretty-looking cocktails. Our waiter was a calm, well-spoken young man who made us fresh coffee and took his time to check on us even when his other customers kept him hopping.
Our tab for two came to about $70 (we didn't have anything from the bar).
I suggest making reservations on the weekends: we arrived at about 5:30 and got one of the last unreserved tables. As we left every table was full, even the outdoor ones.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

APOLOGY: A dish served cold

An amusing friend of mine has been known to tell an occasional tall tale, but with such a straight face that it seems perfectly plausible. Knowing this tendency of his, I rolled my eyes and expressed utter skepticism the other day when he explained that "giving him the cold shoulder" originally meant showing displeasure for a guest by serving him cold mutton rather than a more palatable freshly prepared meal.
I went home, checked online and was chagrined to discover that -- he is right. That's exactly where the saying comes from.
Sorry, Bob!

KENNETT: Multicultural Night

The Kennett Y hosted "Multicultural Night" on Friday, with food, clothes, flags, music and artwork presented by Y members hailing from a dozen countries. The most exotic was probably the Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean.
Wearing my "England" soccer jersey from last year's UEFA competition, I traveled down the hallway to the festival immediately after my gym class was finished, just in time to hear a Mexican singer and watch some wonderful Indian dancers. I ate a delicious chicken dumpling (an arepas), a traditional Venezuelan dish, and a pita sandwich with nuts and mint from Iran, as well as some crunchy chickpea snacks from India. One of my gym teachers offered me some Swiss chocolate, promising that we would work off the calories during his next class.

OBEROD: A hilly morning

On Saturday we watched the Young Relative and his Unionville cross-county teammates compete in the Oberod Invitational on Burnt Mill Road at the Pennsylvania-Delaware line. The course is beautiful but notoriously challenging, with one especially steep hill dubbed "The Oberod Beast."
"These hills are outrageous!" I overheard one boy exclaim while warming up, and I heard the word "brutal!" several times at the finish line, as the spent runners guzzled water and headed to the cooling mist tent.
In the boys' race, youths from Tatnall (the host school) took first and second, but the UHS boys nabbed three of the top 10 spots. In the girls' race, again a Tatnall runner was first, but two of the UHS girls (as well as a Kennett girl) were in the top 10.
Oberod, by the way, is a a former DuPont estate that now serves as a training facility for the Wilmington-based laboratory informatics company LabWare.


MUSIC: Donna Beech recitals

Pianist Donna Beech from Kennett Square will be giving two local lecture-recitals this week to mark the release of her book "Piano Music of Ann Wyeth McCoy":  at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, at Lower Brandywine Presbyterian Church (at the intersection of Old Kennett Road and Route 52), and at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3, at the Ware Recital Hall in the Swope Music Building at West Chester University. The suggested donation is $5 for the church concert; the university concert is free.
Donna writes: "Few people know that Ann Wyeth McCoy -- sister of world-famous painter Andrew Wyeth, daughter of  American painter N. C. Wyeth, wife of painter John McCoy -- was a composer and an accomplished pianist, in addition to being a gifted painter, and that music was a very important part of the Wyeth household."
Donna's book includes 12 of McCoy's piano works, reprints of the N. C. Wyeth paintings that inspired her, and commentary linking the two genres. 

Friday, September 22, 2017


Ellen Struble invited me (and my pets!) to attend a Pet Blessing at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1., at the Church of the Advent, 401 North Union St., Kennett Square.
She writes: "All pets are cordially invited to receive a blessing of good health and great happiness. . . . Pets of all faiths are welcome as are their people.  Even if you don’t have a pet, you are cordially invited to enjoy the animals. Please bring your pets leashed or caged for the safety of all."


EAST MARLBOROUGH: Respect for the neighbors

A resident on Federal Walk has taken exception to the meetings of a local car club, Nex Gen Motors, in front of the vacant Superfresh store next to his neighborhood. I happened upon one of the car shows by chance back in April and wrote about it in my column, noting that many of the drivers were "showing off their cars’ acceleration by peeling out of the parking lot with high-revving engines and squealing tires."
My reader was not at all impressed with the noise and told me he plans to contact local and state police as well as the shopping center owner to express his concerns.
The club's Facebook page describes the group as "a car club that promotes RideRespect, in which our philosophy is based on the idea of respecting your vehicle as well as the ones around you."

WEST CHESTER: Planetarium programs

A longtime reader was kind enough to send me information about the Friday-night public programs that are being offered this autumn at the Dr. Sandra F. Pritchard Mather Planetarium at West Chester University.
The hour-long programs start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6 per person (children under 5 can sit on a parent's lap for free) and can be purchased at the door or online. The planetarium is in the Schmucker Science Center at the corner of Church St. and Rosedale Ave. in West Chester.
Live shows -- "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on Oct. 13 and "Once in a Blue Moon" on Nov. 3 -- "are given by a PhD astronomer and consist of an overview of what is currently visible in the night sky. In addition, each show focuses on a specific aspect of astronomy."
On the other Friday nights, students in the university's Department of Earth and Space Science will present "a live 20-minute overview of the current night sky followed by an educational and entertaining movie, roughly 30 minutes in length": Sept. 29: "Back to the Moon For Good"; Oct. 20: "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity"; and Oct. 27: "Oasis In Space." The website notes that "Parents with young children may find these presentations more suitable for their family than the live shows."
Free parking is available after 5 p.m. for those attending the programs in the lot behind the Sykes Student Union building (Lot K), located on Rosedale Ave.

WEST GROVE: A dance party!

I just got word that popular local band the Dukes of Destiny will be returning to West Grove Friends Meeting House for a dance party on Saturday, October 21. In the words of the band: "This is a place we have played for almost 20 years, starting back in the days of the wonderful Turtledove Folk Club. Nonalcoholic, it is an all-ages crowd of people who love to dance, sing along and have great fun. . . . If you have seen us here over the years you know how special this place is. If you haven't, you need to have the experience."
Tickets are $15 at the door. The music starts at 7 p.m. and goes until 10 p.m.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


During the Sunday lunch break at the Plantation Field International Horse Trials, trainers, jockeys, veterinarians and owners took part in a celebrity show-jumping competition in an attempt to win the first-ever "Real Rider Cup."
Each team had five members, and their times were totalled, with a penalty of four seconds added for each fault. In keeping with Plantation Field's focus this year on the versatility of retired racehorses, all of the horses in the competition were off-the-track thoroughbreds, and many of them were age 12 years and up.
The trainers (Leigh Delacour, Tim Keefe, Chuck Lawrence, Sanna Neilson and Joe Sharp) ended up taking the blue ribbon with the winning time of 326.98 seconds. The owners clocked in at 327.19 seconds, the jockeys 329.79 seconds, and the vets 386 seconds. Jockey Mark Beecher, the first to ride, also recorded the fastest round of the day: 49.2 seconds, and no faults.
The competition was light-hearted and entertaining. At one point the announcer misidentified renowned New Bolton Center surgeon Dean Richardson as one of the jockeys.
"Do I LOOK like a jockey?!" Dr. Dean called out with a laugh as he cantered past the announcers' booth.

COCHRANVILLE: Canine Partners open house

We were bowled over by the open house at Canine Partners for Life in Cochranville on Saturday, which was very well attended by both humans and service dogs.
We watched fascinated as Krystal, paralyzed from the waist down from a spinal cord injury, demonstrated how her service dog Teddie helps her to live independently. Teddie is trained to pick up the young woman's keys if she drops them, take her wallet to a cashier, open doors, closets and drawers and even alert her when she's about to experience a migraine or a drop in blood pressure. The love between the two was obvious and heartwarming.
Although the open house was held on the grounds of Manor Presbyterian Church, busses took visitors just up Faggs Manor Road to the CPL campus itself. The campus tour highlighted the major renovations that have been underway since March as part of the Marian S. Ware Program Services Center, including more wheelchair-accessible parking, more accessible bathrooms, additional office space, and a larger harness shop (we got to chat with Gerry Ortega, a longtime volunteer who crafts the custom-made harnesses the service dogs wear). Our guide pointed out that some of the ceiling tiles will have embossed paw prints.
(The improvements are part of an $8.5 million capital campaign, The Partnership for Independence Campaign. More than $5.4 million has already been raised, and when the rest of the funding is secured, work will begin on the Mollie and Minor Barringer Training Center.)
Unfortunately we couldn't visit the kennels because kennel cough was going around.
What an impressive organization Canine Partners is, not only in terms of the amazing services they offer but the way they pulled together such a well-run event -- with a tasty free BBQ lunch, to boot (of course we left a donation). Months of work must have been required to plan the facility tour, schedule the multitude of volunteers, set up the sound system, coordinate with the church and vendors, hire the shuttle busses, design the programs, print the cow bingo tickets, map out the parking, and manage all the other vital behind-the-scenes details.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Local cheese makes good

The Farm at Doe Run's St. Malachi cheese took second-place honors in the "Best of Show" competition at the American Cheese Society's annual conference in Denver. The cheese is made from the milk of the cows who live at Dick Hayne's farm here in West Marlborough Township. 
In its account of the winners, the Wall Street Journal described St. Malachi thusly: "A hybrid Gouda/Alpine-style cow's milk cheese, aged 11 months in the farm's stone-quarry cave, it's a nutty brown-butter bomb with a firm, crumbly paste, made by a team that's leading the evolution of the state's artisan cheese industry."
St. Malachi and other Doe Run cheeses are sold at the Country Butcher in Kennett Square.
FYI, first prize went to a cheese named "Tarentaise Reserve" from Spring Brook Farm in Vermont.

KENNETT: Picnic in the park

As regular readers know, every Wednesday evening in the summer we visit Anson B. Nixon Park for the concert series. But even though the concerts have finished for the season and the days are getting much shorter, we took a picnic supper (from the China Garden restaurant in West Grove) to the park last week and had a delightful time. After eating, we took a stroll around the lake, quacked at the ducks, watched a dad teach his son how to cast a fishing line (the boy did a great job!) and admired the tomatoes and peppers ready for harvest in the community gardens.

JENNERSVILLE: National exposure for Dansko shoes

Dansko shoes, headquartered right here in southern Chester County, got a rave review -- in a backhanded sort of way -- in the fashion magazine "Vogue." The reviewer, Emily Farra, called them "a new ugly-chic shoe to covet" and described them as "the latest patently hideous, yet wildly comfortable shoe to get the high-fashion treatment."
She writes: "I’d argue they’re less ugly than Crocs, but definitely more polarizing than Birkenstocks, which actually look chic with slip dresses and dark-rinse jeans. . . . Danskos have long been part of the eccentric-Upper-West-Side-lady equation, and I recently saw a hipster girl wearing them with vintage Levi’s and a cropped sweatshirt at a Toro y Moi concert in Bushwick."

LONGWOOD: Great fireworks

An ever-enthusiastic friend from Wagontown joined us on Saturday for the Longwood Gardens fireworks, which, being cheapskates, we always watch from lawn chairs in the parking lot of the Longwood shopping center. Sue said she actually enjoyed it more than watching the display from inside the Gardens, even though we nonpaying spectators don't get to hear the music and don't get to see the lower-altitude fireworks.
I especially liked the skyful of flashing red fireworks, which reminded me of an onslaught of camera flashes. This must be what's it's like to be a celebrity walking down a red carpet, a fashion model gliding down a catwalk or a "perp" being paraded before the media. Not that I'm likely to experience any of those.

STINK BUGS: They're back

Like clockwork, the stink bugs start invading my house on the same day each year: the Saturday of the Plantation Field International event. Sure enough, I spotted four of them crawling on my screen door Saturday morning and immediately sucked them up with my Bugzooka vacuum device (which I highly recommend).
But it was nothing like the memorable September of 2012, when I returned home from Plantation Field to find the west wall of my bedroom covered with dozens of the smelly arthropods.
It's still warm enough that the stink bugs can move quickly; in a few weeks they'll be logy and won't fly off.

AVONDALE: Wawa set to reopen Oct. 6

The Longwood Wawa is back in operation after its summertime facelift, much to the relief of those who rely on it for coffee, snacks, gas, and bathrooms, but now the Avondale Wawa is shut for remodeling as part of an extensive company-wide updating program. The extremely busy (I speak from experience) convenience store at Route 41 and Baltimore Pike closed on Sept. 5 and is set to reopen Oct. 6.

WEST GROVE: Mindful motion

The Light Within yoga studio will be moving at the end of September from its current location on Exchange Place in downtown West Grove just a few blocks west to the northeast corner of Evergreen Street and Guernsey Road, the former location of the Curves exercise franchise.
According to the studio's website, the new space "will provide more practice area, fewer parking issues, a much easier entrance to navigate, and many other upgrades. . . . We know many of you really love our space at 11 Exchange Place. We do too. It has been a wonderful space and will always have lots of incredible memories, but it is time for growth through change!"

Sunday, September 10, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: Another pizzeria

There's a "Papa John's Pizza" sign up in the window of the long-vacant Chester County Auto Parts store on West State Street at Lincoln Street. There's no indication when the new pizza shop might open. Currently the closest Papa John's franchise is in Lantana Square, Hockessin. 

HARLEYSVILLE: The Raw and the Cooked

On Saturday we attended the 140th annual Oyster Picnic at the Old Goshenhoppen Reformed Church in Woxall, near Harleysville, in northern Montgomery County.
On the menu were raw oysters, fried oysters, oyster stew and oyster sandwiches, along with bratwurst, burgers, smoked salmon sandwiches, side dishes like potato salad and pickled cabbage, funnel cakes, ice cream and pie. We overheard some of the organizers saying that even though they had ordered 5,000 Delaware Bay oysters, they were concerned that they might run out.
After enjoying plenty of the bivalves in the picnic grove (nice old oaks and hickories), we walked across the street to explore the graveyard and visit the church and the old log schoolhouse behind it.
A bluegrass gospel group and the Red Hill Jazz Band played in the picnic grove, and in the church there were performances by several organists and a dulcimer group that opened their set with the song "Acres of Clams," fittingly altered for the day to "Acres of Oysters."
According to an account of an early picnic, excursion trains would bring Philadelphia residents to Salford station, where farm wagons would be waiting to transport the "rusticators" to the picnic. "At the end of the day the steam train would return to the station and sound long blasts of its whistle to signal that it was time to return to the station or risk being stranded in the country."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

KENNETT SQUARE: A Y member's view

I am hesitant to raise any complaint about the Mushroom Parade, which I am sure was well run and gave a lot of pleasure to a lot of community residents. But may I suggest that just a small tweak in the traffic arrangements would make a giant improvement?
Because Race Street was closed well in advance of the parade, motorists (meaning me) couldn't get to the Kennett Y. I found myself tantalizingly close to the parking lot but simply unable to access it. The friendly borough police officer guarding the Race Street/Cypress Street blockade suggested I drive around the block. I did so, in heavy traffic. But then his colleague on State Street was diverting traffic off before the Y. I asked him how I was supposed to get to the Y and he chuckled and said it was flat-out impossible. 
My suggestion is that the detour should be planned so that we Y-goers can turn onto Race Street. If that is impossible (which it's not; it has been done in prior years), the traffic planners should communicate with the Y well in advance so the Y can give us a heads up to stay home.
The parade road closures during already busy Friday afternoon rush hour also had an impact far beyond downtown Kennett Square. At 5 p.m., traffic was already backed up along Newark Road from the Route 1 bypass all the way down to the Toughkenamon intersection. (At that point I should have cut my losses and just turned around and gone home.)
An acquaintance who lives east of the borough reported that he tried multiple routes to get through town, but everything was so backed up that he ended up four-wheeling over the median strip in frustration and taking the bypass.

CHATHAM: Traffic islands to be installed

Roadwork on PennDOT's "Chatham Gateway Project" is set to begin Tuesday, Sept. 12. The contractor, Road-Con Inc., will be installing two traffic "islands" in the middle of Route 41 in an attempt to slow traffic through Chatham along the busy road. One island will be built north of the village near Mosquito Lane (near the SECCRA landfill) and the other south of the village near Penwyck Lane.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

HARRISBURG: A good PennDOT experience

So that new DMV policy you've heard about has actually come to pass, and we Pennsylvania drivers will no longer receive those little registration stickers to affix to our license plates each year.
I renewed my registration using the commonwealth's website ( and found it to be extremely user-friendly. "It's fast and easy," reads the blurb, and it actually is. They tell you at the outset the information you'll need to complete the renewal, so before even starting I was able to dig out my insurance card from my wallet and run out to the car and check the odometer. Well done, web designer! 
Another change that I didn't know about allows you to renew your vehicle registration for two years. This is actually a bargain because although you pay $37 for one year and $74 for two years, when you renew for two years you have to pay the $5 county surcharge only once. 

WEST GROVE: A 10 in Tilda's book

We had an amazing birthday dinner at Twelves in downtown West Grove the other night. This former-bank-turned-restaurant tops my list, by far, as a place to go for a special occasion meal. The setting is peaceful and conducive to meaningful conversation; the servers are genuine, amusing, unobtrusive and professional; the food is beautifully presented and every bite is astonishing. Though we were tempted by the seared crabcakes, an old favorite, I ordered the salmon with sweet corn risotto, grilled asparagus, and tomato, cucumber and crab gazpacho; my date had the grilled wild striped bass with roasted fingerling potatoes and asparagus. We shared two home-made desserts, a piece of walnut pound cake with grilled peaches and vanilla ice cream and a piece of chocolate cake with salted caramel, chocolate mousse and ganache.
Words cannot do justice to how tasty everything was. The place is just top notch and never disappoints.

UNIONVILLE: Our fur children!

My friend the Rev. Annalie Korengel asked me to help spread the word about the Fourth Annual Pet Blessing at the Unionville Presbyterian Church, 812 Wollaston Rd., on Sunday, Sept. 24 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
You can bring your pet, a picture of your pet, a stuffed animal, or even a picture of an endangered animal. There will be games, raffles, and ice cream, and donations will be collected for LaMancha Animal Rescue.
Our guinea pig Gilbert has a certificate hanging over his pen from a prior Pet Blessing at the church. This year it's going to be Clarence the Cat's turn; we adopted him from the Brandywine SPCA last October.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Strings attached

At their September meeting, the West Marlborough supervisors discussed their concerns about the strings attached to a $250,000 state grant they received to fix a bridge on lightly traveled Runnemede Road.
The supervisors agreed that the bridge, which crosses a tiny tributary to the Doe Run, needs repair, but by accepting the grant, "we might not have 100 percent control over the design," said supervisor Jake Chalfin. Chalfin, who lives along the narrow, scenic road, said the project might end up significantly widening the road and changing its "charming" character.
The supervisors agreed to discuss their concerns over engineering issues with the Chester County Conservation District, which administers the low-volume-roads grant program.
Also at the monthly meeting, supervisor Bill Wylie said the township's traffic consultant, Al Federico, is still collecting vehicle counts and hopes to have a report to submit by the October meeting. 


The West Marlborough supervisors updated the wording of the township's floodplain ordinance at their Sept. 5 meeting. Before voting to approve the changes, the supervisors held a brief hearing to hear any input from residents. The only comment came from Mark Myers, who asked if the new ordinance would prohibit the installation of fences in areas designated as floodplains. Supervisor Bill Wylie said he had researched that question and concluded that fences would not be affected.
The supervisors made the changes because the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been updating its flood maps statewide and is requiring all municipalities to redo their ordinances this year for consistency. Court reporter Bill Handy commented afterward that it was probably the eighth similar hearing he had recorded recently in the county.

UNIONVILLE: Start spreadin' the news

It may seem trivial to some, but I was delighted to hear that a new community bulletin board was installed at the Unionville post office on Sept. 6. The old one was removed some months ago, and I for one really missed checking out the fliers for local events, blood drives, help wanted, houses for rent, and tack and horses for sale. And when I was trying to publicize an event it was the best possible place to thumb-tack a poster.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

BLUEGRASS: A chilly, rainy, terrific fest

We had a great time Saturday listening to old-time music and people-watching at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival, which is held each Labor Day weekend at the Salem County (N.J.) Fairground.
The music started on Friday, but we got there on Wednesday evening for two reasons: to pitch our tent and to claim our space in the main performance pavilion by setting up our folding chairs. Even though the campground had just opened, dozens of RVs were already there; you could hear people jamming, and the folks in the space next to us had already set up and lit their tiki torches (South Jersey mosquitoes don't mess around).
The entire main pavilion was already full of chairs by the time we got there, but we found a good spot in the secondary pavilion.
The most memorable performers were Tuba Skinny, an ensemble whose style was more New Orleans street jazz than traditional old-time music. The band included, yes, a tuba and other brass instruments, a clarinet and even a washboard, played with gusto by an extremely loose-jointed fellow. The audience seemed to love it, dancing around while bobbing their umbrellas up and down.
The rain, sometimes heavy, actually added to the fun. To stay dry, there were folks wearing firehouse bunker gear, nautical foul-weather gear, floor-length Western-style canvas dusters, and those nubby Mexican ponchos that were all the rage in the 1970s. A guy in a transparent orange poncho looked just like a Creamsicle.
I stared fascinated as one very tall man, wearing a desert-camo jacket and matching knee-length skirt, unfolded a pair of camo pants, threaded a belt through the belt loops and then managed to put it on while simultaneously removing the skirt.
Hat-wise, I saw people wearing clear-plastic pixie hoods, a beret, a conical Chinese-style hat, Stetsons, straw hats and ball caps. The rainbow of umbrellas included an impractical white Mary Poppins parasol, a full-sized two-tiered porch umbrella, and umbrellas with newspaper logos on them (do newspapers still give away premiums?).
The many kids at the fest, of course, didn't mind getting wet in the least. We had fun watching them jump into puddles and steer their bikes across the flooded grassy areas, the deeper the better.
Along with the rain, it didn't get above 70 degrees all day Saturday. A woman said to me in the ladies' room that she was wearing so many layers of clothes, she was sure she'd walk out of the restroom with the wrong layer pulled up and the wrong one pulled down.
My still-soggy hat goes off to the Brandywine Friends of Old-Time Music, the group who organizes this fest.

ETHICS: Who mispriced my cheese?

So on Sunday I was at the Giant, buying the ingredients for one of my favorite comfort-food suppers: angel-hair pasta with garlic, olive oil, basil (fresh from the garden) and Romano cheese. I was looking through the cheese case and found a wedge of Romano priced at $0.05. Yes, five cents for a good-sized triangle of cheese. There were other chunks priced at only one cent.
Now: what would you do?
Would you say, "Sweet! With all the money I spend at Giant, they totally owe me one!" Or would you say, "Let us recall Kant's Categorical Imperative from Philosophy 101. I must point out this error to the manager because if everyone took advantage of this obvious mistake, the store would suffer. Perhaps they could no longer afford to stock fancy cheese at all!"
Discuss with your family over the dinner table.
Without even running the scenario, I know I would be on the losing end of this one in my family, by a 2-1 vote, with the Young Relative's ethical position wavering, depending on whose favor he was attempting to curry on any given evening.
Who am I kidding? I'd be down 3-1 for sure.

UHS: The Oakbourne Relays

Sadly, the Young Relative's support crew is now missing its two most senior members, but we still mustered his parents, one grandmother and one aunt to cheer him on as the Unionville High School cross-country teams competed in the Oakbourne Relays tournament at Stetson Middle School on the afternoon of Sept. 1.
This was an unusual race format and a challenging one. The runners pair up, and athlete A runs a mile over a hilly cross-country course, then athlete B runs the same mile, then athlete A, then athlete B again. So basically you warm up, run a mile, and then have to stay limber while your partner runs his or her leg. The YR's times for the two legs differed by only three seconds -- excellent consistency.
We noticed that the students were extremely vocal in their support of their team-mates, especially the spirited team from Emmaus High School, whose cheers were almost deafening during both the races and the awards ceremony.
By the way, on the way home I took a detour just so I could drive over the newly reopened Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine for the first time. I am not often impressed by road projects, but wow! It looks great.

MAPS: Collecting data

Twice in recent days I've seen the white Apple Maps vans driving around in Kennett and even all the way out here in West Marlborough. Camera rigs are mounted on the roof.
According to Apple, the purpose is "to collect data which will be used to improve Apple Maps. Some of this data will be published in future Apple Maps updates. We are committed to protecting your privacy while collecting this data. For example, we will blur faces and license plates on collected images prior to publication."
My brother reports that an Apple van passed him while he was on his bike. I'll be eager to see if his chiseled legs appear in the final product.
The Apple website also lists the places  the Apple vans are visiting during each two-week period. Along with Pennsylvania and 18 other states, they are also in London, Paris, Rome and Biscay, Spain, through Sept. 10.

VAPING: Carrots are better for you

I saw a sign on a car on Concord Pike the other day: "Don't Be an E-Cig Guinea Pig," it proclaimed. As a longtime cavy fan, I was intrigued.
It turns out that the Delaware Division of Public Health is trying to persuade e-cigarette users that "vaping" is not a safe alternative to smoking because it still involves inhaling lots of toxic chemicals.

Clever, but using a guinea pig paw instead of a human hand would have been a witty touch.

Wilmington ad agency Aloysius Butler & Clark used the "guinea pig" angle (one ad shows a very cute guinea pig wearing a hoodie) in a public-service announcement for Healthy Delaware showing a bunch of teens vaping and ostracizing one of their peers as "paranoid" when he suggests their e-cigs are just as bad as the old-fashioned kind. You can watch it on YouTube.

SLUG: Don't tread on me

A spotted, eight-inch-long slug slimed its way onto my front walk the other day. Honestly, at first I thought it was a garter snake. I looked it up and learned that its Latin name is Limax maximus, and its common names are great grey slug or leopard slug. All are certainly appropriate monikers! This particular slug is a native of Europe, and the scientists who study such things seem especially intrigued by its means of reproduction, which is both acrobatic and hermaphroditic.
I snapped a photograph of the creature, with a door key next to it for scale, and posted it on social media. Leave it to my amusing friends to chime in: "Has it moved in? Looks like it's got its own key!" A taxman friend warned that if I tried to claim it as a dependent on my 1040, I could expect a knock on the door.

Image may contain: outdoor
Limax maximus on my front walkway.