Watermelon Wednesdays

About fifteen minutes from our Northampton apartment, past fields filled with little leaguers, past a lake, and down a twisty road is the Whately Chapel, facing a garden and a field of horses and cows.

During the summer, Wednesdays at the chapel are Watermelon Wednesdays. There’s music, bats, a dog, and, of course, watermelon.

Last night was Laurie Lewis and Tom Rozum, traditional, bluegrassy folks with fiddles, mandolins, and a guitar.

It was a gorgeous evening, so everyone mingled outside the chapel until showtime.

Whately Chapel

Whately Chapel

The view from inside:

concert view

concert view

After the first set, there was just enough light left to go outside, eat the watermelon, and watch bats flying out of the belfry to snack on mosquitos.

watermelon intermission

watermelon intermission

I’m not a watermelon fan, so Type E ate my share and took me to Herrells after the show.

Arts pick: isolation and sterility

pay up footies

Today’s arts pick is inspired by the 2005 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. These stretchy plastic bags transform a pair of feet into instant performance art.

The dueling symbolism of this piece thrusts a tremendous amount of tension onto the viewer and leaves many questions unanswered. The plastic medium evokes the material commonly used to store waste. Possibly the subject has been discarded by friends, peers, or a significant other and now wears the melancholy booties of isolation.

Or perhaps the opposite is true: the subject denies the realities of her environment, and she wears the sterile, white foot condoms to form a protective barrier between herself and the outside world.

Regardless of one’s interpretation, the message of the artist is a resounding plea to reject the ever-encroaching sterility and isolation of modern life.

Because it is a roving installation, Good Grief! cannot provide the exact location of this piece. However, you can become your own art by obtaining a pair of the white, plastic booties. Go see Pay Up, a fantastic Fringe show performed by Philly’s own Pig Iron Theatre Company, and the booties are yours to keep. Tickets are selling fast, so hurry.


Bedford Coffee Pot

Bedford Coffee Pot

Novelty roadside architecture is a wonderful thing about the US.  Where else can you climb a giant elephant, stumble across a huge coffee pot, or follow the siren call of neon into a local diner?  Many years ago, I was on a solo trip out West and stayed two nights in a Wigwam Motel on Route 66, just because.

I like these pieces of Americana partly because I’m obsessed with local color and giant sculptures but also because I detest driving in its modern form.  Another monotonous interstate, another exit of Exxons, Burger Kings and Comfort Inns.

A good road trip involves some amount of leaving the highway, unfolding a map or two, and turning off the GPS.  That’s how we found the coffee pot: by leaving the PA turnpike at Bedford, PA and riding the old Lincoln Highway for a bit.

Unfortunately, traveling on former thoroughfares isn’t always happy.  Old state roads and highways, long since replaced by interstates, are littered with shells of shuttered, family-run motels and gas stations, and the RoadsideAmerica blog even has a category devoted to closings.  I literally shed a tear when learning that Richman’s Ice Cream shut down last year; this year’s trip down the shore wasn’t quite the same without a stop there.

So this morning, when relaxing on the porch of the Hotel Macomber, I was excited to see Parade magazine (guilty pleasure) recommend the pursuit of novelty architecture as a summer to-do.  They selected a list—everything from the world’s largest pistachio in Alamogordo, NM to a giant pineapple in Baltimore, MD—from RoadsideAmerica.com and told readers to go forth, gawk, and blog.

Below are some of my favorite Americana encounters (more on Flickr).  Here’s to bypassing the bypass!

ne pas demouler le fromage

French cheese
This fancy French cheese came in the mail, and I don’t understand the directions. Specifically, this one important-sounding line:

Ne pas démouler le fromage

Do not demolish the cheese?

Unfortunately, my French dictionary fell into the hands of Special K when he started dating a French woman. But luckily, there’s always the Internet.

Babel Fish translation: not demouler the cheese
WorldLingo translation: not demouler the cheese
Langenburg.com: not demouler the cheese
LangToLang: nothing

Thanks a lot, Internet.

Seriously, what should I do with the cheese? Should I put it in the fridge? It’s starting to smell.

Proximity to Yards brewery

yards tasting room
One advantage of living in Fishtown is being within walking distance of Yards Brewery, located in Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood. Philly has only one remaining brewery in operation (a sad state of affairs), and Yards is it.

But what a brewery it is. Not only is the beer good, but the employees care about their craft and their community. See for yourself–Yards is open to the public every Saturday from noon to three. Take a tour, pick up a case, and hang out in their excellent and spacious tasting room, where the friendly staff will happily pour you many free samples (you can pack a lunch, since Yards is a BYOF facility).

My favorite part of the tour is the Laverne and Shirley room:

yards bottling line
Yards occupies the old Weisbrod & Hess Brewing Company building, creating a bright spot in a neighborhood that has seen better days. And these guys are everywhere. Yards promotes the slow food movement and regional agriculture, they’re around at all the beer festivals, they throw a BBQ after the Frankford Avenue cleanup day, and they are raising money for the Red Cross by donating kegs to local bars.

The most exciting thing I learned on a recent Yards tour is the plan to celebrate Ben Franklin’s 300th birthday by brewing up his beer recipe (Yards already reproduces the beers of Washington and Jefferson). Doesn’t it stand to reason that a highly intelligent, dirty old man would have a good beer recipe?

Nothing says New Years Eve like a platter of jerk tofu

Nothing says New Years Eve like a platter of jerk tofu

Christo and Jeanne Claude’s The Gates

The Gates

NYC: The Gates

The Gates. Pretty cool. I made the trip to NYC with Scott, who wanted to learn the SEPTA/NJ Transit ropes, and we were both impressed by the magnitude and span of Christo and Jeanne Claude’s latest work.

According to Scott, the pair originally wanted to show The Gates in conjunction with Central Park’s fall foliage. However, I’m glad that this sixteen-day event is happening in February–it’s a time of the year when Mother Nature needs a boost. The mid-winter starkness of Central Park, with its muted colors, lack of leaves, and bare, curving elm branches, makes a perfect backdrop for the miles of billowing, orange fabric.

The park was crowded, but in a good way. Everyone was excited to be witnessing the spectacle, kids were laughing at the silliness of it all, and some people turned out in their finest orange apparel. My favorite was a couple dressed in matching neon orange overalls; sadly, they were gone before I could get a picture.

The Gates will be up until February 27th. My photo album is here, and there are lots of great shots on Flickr.

The Gates

The Gates

UPDATE: Scott has posted his commentary (and movies), and his pictures are here.

UPDATE II: The NY Times has a video about the unfurling of The Gates:

  • Christo said that he chose the month of February deliberately, so maybe I should fact check Scott before quoting him.
  • Christo and Jeanne Claude’s next project is to cover the Arizona River with fabric.
  • A woman on the street says that The Gates, though a feat of engineering, is not real art “because it doesn’t communicate anything about the human experience.”

Did Jeanne Claude dye her hair to match the exhibit, or is it always that color?

2004 Punkin Chunkin

low flying aircraft
Why are men with trebuchets, catapults, and cannons shooting pumpkins at this airplane?
Because today was the final day of the nineteenth annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin.

Memo to pilots:  for obvious reasons (like huge pumpkins being hurled into the air at ridiculous speeds), there is a low-flying aircraft ban in effect during the festival.

Anyway, Scott–Mr. Blankbaby himself–and I took another cross-blog fieldtrip and trekked to Millsboro, Delaware to witness the spectacle of teams competing for the honor of the longest pumpkin throw.  The prize?  Trophies and bragging rights:  all profits from the festival are donated to charity.

These Chunkers don’t mess around–some of the pumpkins reached distances of over 4,000 feet.   To help you understand the results, I’ve compiled a list of helpful chunkin lingo:

  • Woods: If a pumpkin lands in the woods, the firing team is allowed to take another shot.  Alternately, the team can choose to search for the pumpkin; if they find it in three hours, it counts as an official throw.
  • Pie: A pumpkin that explodes prior to landing is pie and doesn’t count as an official throw.

UPDATE 11/9/04:  Scott has completed his Punkin Chunkin writeup, complete with movies!  In addition, he posted a photo album.

Continue reading “2004 Punkin Chunkin”

Friday night lights in Fishtown

Friday night lights in Fishtown

Boss-across-the-hall update: horse report

He is drowning in a .NET connection pool, which does not look like fun. But the big issue of the day is soulless office park basketball data.

Boss-across: I can’t figure out how to weight our horse statistics.
Becky: What?
Boss-across: As we play more games, the individual scores start dropping because of the way we run these reports.
Becky: What?
Boss-across: Scores can be anywhere from 0 to 1 minus the total number of players.
Becky: Oh.
Boss-across: It’s all in this Excel spreadsheet. Want to see?