Leaving Cherry Lane

IMG_3078I had thought that the last time I would be in our house on Cherry Lane
Was in the hour of emptying the refrigerator.
As I took the last piece of frozen bread to the backyard
I held the moment of tossing out crumbs for the last time,
As I had done for the birds and squirrels for 25 years.
As my mother had instructed us to do with stale ends
At our childhood house by the woods near the crick in Roslyn.
And I memorized it because one cannot toss crumbs
Outside the next house in Florida or gators will come and that is not good.
I had already made note of how I was still reflexively counting
The 12 treads up and 12 treads down
That connect the three levels of this structure
And why I counted each step because, twenty five years ago,
I might be carrying a tired or cranky baby and I must not trip.
And how I still was doing the same count, now for my own arthritic safety.
I was mindful of the efforts not to waste good, useable furnishings
We didn’t or wouldn’t want going forward
Calling back people from the tag sale,
“Yes, now it’s free. Might you still want it? No charge.”
So when, standing at the sink, I cracked 8 perfect eggs into the disposal
I felt bad about myself.

But I applied my dad’s situational ethics
That I had saved all I could, with the moving van at the driveway.

But it turned out that was not the last time in our family house
While it was still ours.
The last time was two days later and it was stone empty
And the cleaning crew had left every cabinet and drawer open
To show the next owner it had been cleared and sanitized.
And I breezed through all of the spaces of
A little house we had added onto four times.
And I recalled how the first remodeling had happened the first hour we owned it:
We bought the house feeling that opening up one wall
Would transform this old fashioned floor plan
Into something modern and functional. We were right.
One hour after getting the keys in 1992
My father and sister were there in the evening dark
Chopping a hole between the tiny foyer and a former bedroom,
Which soon became our dining room,
Making a new path for everything that would come later.

And so in my last time in our house on Cherry Lane,
I waved my hand in the air where a wall had been taken down
The first night we owned it.
I felt my dad’s presence and my sister’s labors and their capabilities
And drew in the energy they left in that space.

And I was grateful. And that was the moment it was necessary
To leave.

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A Wedding Flush with Memories

(Or, a memoir to endorse my friend Laurie’s gut instinct NOT to host a backyard wedding for her son when they are not served by a municipal sewer system…)

We could begin at the moment about 4 hours into a festive December evening in 1988 — a wedding reception/house-warming/”trim the tree” party — when over 150 people were informed the fun was suddenly over because of the unexpected flooding of (ahem) waste-water into the brand new basement.

It’s useful, however, to start with some context 19 months earlier: when the future groom brought a tantalizing roll of architectural drawings to his third or fourth date with the future bride.

Maybe it’s best to further back-up (you should pardon the expression) to the youth of the future-groom, growing up in a popular family restaurant/bar on a roadside in rural New Jersey, where the ladies’ and men’s rooms were released into occasionally-unreliable cesspools out in the woods. Not that there were options.

The restaurant was called “The Country House” with no cutesy intent. It was just that. And future groom — who we will now identify as Steve Mushinski — was born into a family of food entrepreneurs who were willing to accept the unintended consequences of occasional plumbing emergencies that happen in the hospitality industry. Yes, if you had a full bar of folks watching the region’s only color tv with a special antenna that could bring in the signal for the New York Yankees in an air conditioned joint in the Jersey pinewoods, plus you served lunches and dinners six nights a week, there was going to be the occasional “event.” And Steve, as the eldest son, was often called on to manage such emergencies.

It was around that time that Steve promised himself he would

  • never own a restaurant himself (which he did, operating The Country House while establishing his law career) and
  • never have a house without municipal sewer service.

He broke both vows to himself before he was 40.

And it was at his wedding reception/house-warming/”trim the tree” party at the age of 40 that this highly successful lawyer — in fact, named 19 months earlier as one of “Burlington County, New Jersey’s Most Eligible Bachelors”— and his new bride, the 37 year old broadcaster Liz Matt (with the ironic stage name of Lizabeth Starr) discovered together that it’s best to have a sense of humor about sewage systems. Or it would be a terrible metaphor for launching a long and happy marriage.

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House stuff — as Liz and Steve call it when lumping together everything from architectural engineering, options in HVAC systems and plumbing, the features in appliances, the subtle finishes in paint and the qualities of a good grout — has been a key topic of shared interest for a couple whose wedding reception was abruptly shuttered by a failed septic system.

Many months before Steve and Liz started dating in March of 1987, Steve and some partners developed a residential subdivision on a former soybean field bordering the 18th hole and the driving range of Burlington Country Club, a private golf course in the county seat of Mount Holly and the center of social life for the county’s business owners and professional class in a rapidly transitioning section of Philadelphia’s exurbia.

Steve reserved for himself a prime private acre near the top of the hill, with a soft tree line — a patch of former woods with wild dogwood, oaks and pines — separating his future house from the driving range. It was the plans for that future house that Steve brought in a tempting roll on the third or fourth date with Liz and asked if she was interested to see. He had no idea that house-stuff was a kind of pornography to Liz.

She herself lived in a 14-wide row house built around 1910 for the lunch-pail workers who walked to their jobs at the the Baldwin railroad works in the city of Philadelphia. Her house was recently rehabbed with modern appliances, a gleaming black refrigerator and black stove, fresh laminate in a modern color and a gorgeous light gray and mauve bathroom. Liz had no expectations of living any more grandly at any future date.

But she loved watching houses being framed, could hold intelligent conversations about fixtures and finishes and loved watching other people spend on their houses. Even when those houses were characterized by wretched excess (for example, the time she did an interview in the gilded Trump apartment on Fifth Avenue), she reminded herself that if everybody was getting paid properly for such construction, then it was at least good for the economy and with that as a given, how bad could it be?

So Liz spread out the plans for Steve’s future house on the coffee table of her row-house — a heavy tile-topped table she had bought second hand from a fourth floor walk-up in an industrial loft and had somehow lugged down many flights … a used table with a back-story and cool in a shabby chic way, like much of Liz’s furniture — and looked at this marvel of horizontal suburbia that her new boyfriend was about to build.

Liz had zero thoughts she would someday live in this house, that was as long as half of her city row-house block. She just enjoyed looking at the blue ink on the gray curly paper and thinking this guy was going to spend a ton of dough. Steve was excited about every detail of the flow of the rooms, the active and passive solar light, the subtle change of levels in the sunken living room, and above all the Jenn-Air range set up so he could cook while watching golf, football, basketball and baseball on a large built-in TV in his combination kitchen and family room.

It was a huge house for one man. And it was designed as a huge house for this SPECIFIC one man with no wife or children. The first floor master bedroom and office were separated from the two guest rooms by a span of over forty-five feet of living room and dining room and the guests would be further isolated up a flight of carpeted stairs. Whoever those future guests might be was not important. It was designed so they could have their privacy. And Steve, the homeowner, would definitely have his. It was also designed so those special guests could be invited into the kitchen designed to showcase the considerable culinary talents of this “grill man,” who grew up cooking in his family-owned restaurant.

Sometime after the date showing Liz the architectural plans, Steve drove her into the countryside, 25 miles from Center City Philadelphia, to show her the lot where he would build this great house bordering the driving range.

Liz, who had grown up in a post-war split level with many quirks and limitations but which typically had working toilets, never gave a thought to the compacted soil, covered with weeds, where this future house was now staked-out for the bulldozers.

Liz fell in love with many aspects of this most “Eligible Bachelor of Burlington County” to the point that — though she was a determined urbanite who adored her 14-foot-wide house with no parking — she chose the man and a long commute over her little plot of row-house heaven. And 19 months after first seeing those plans, Liz married Steve and moved into his fully-furnished brand new house in exurbia on the clay-compacted hill, now perfectly sodded to look pretty darn green and lush.

The wedding was held privately over Thanksgiving weekend in an Episcopal church on the Penn campus and the breakfast afterward was only for immediate family. The grand reception was planned as a “trim the tree” party to be held three weeks later on December 17, 1988 at the brand new house. Unlike the little wedding, this one would have lots of guests.

The massive 3-bay garage was converted to a winter palace by a professional decorator and resembled a fancy high school prom at a gym. The inside of the house was gloriously bedecked with dozens of huge red poinsettia and a 20 foot Christmas tree was lit with tiny white lights and hung with only red glass balls, so the ornaments brought by the guests would have no competition.

It was a big big house with lots of room for hospitality. Between Steve’s family, his extended family, everyone who ever ate at The Country House as a regular customer (the whole county), practically every member of Burlington Country Club across the driving range, Liz’s large family and both of their college friends, plus a few of Liz’s co-workers from the TV station, the guest list swelled to almost 300. The best guess is that at least 250 people came, and celebrated, ate and drank. And flushed.

And flushed.

And flushed.

And beneath the newly-established sod on the broad front lawn, the earth of that former soybean field yielded …but not enough. And a guest pointed out that “water” was running on the walls of the basement near the new pool table. And it was not good.

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It’s not so easy getting 150 drunken partiers who are your family and very best friends to believe you when you tell them the merriment is suddenly all over at only 11 p.m. “Can’t BE.” “This is new construction!” “Huh??” said they.  “Yeah, well, it’s news to me too, but please go home,” said Liz.

Inspecting the water oozing down a basement wall near some mystery system Liz had never noticed in the three weeks she had lived in the new house — a system which was never necessary in her formerly-sewered suburban and urban world — she was reminded of an expression her sister Marty once used as a small child to describe a toilet-training “accident”: “Your nose will tell you what your eyes can’t see.”

However it happened, toilet water was backing up and found a path dictated by the laws of physics … seeking the lowest level it could flow. And that was inside this new house.  “OK. Everybody go HOME! Now. Please.”

The groom/host was pretty drunk too. After all, it was the perfect setting to party-hardy, as he didn’t have to drive. Despite his addled brain, years of practice responding to septic emergencies at The Country House somehow kicked into gear. And soon Steve fully focused on addressing this terrible back-up. The bride/hostess was obligated to kick out every guest — most of whom she was meeting for the first time — and advise them to either use their home bathrooms or visit the diner down the road. But the “services” at this grand new house on the golf course were out of commission.

One set of guests — a college buddy of Steve’s who was already passed out in one of the guest rooms with his date — somehow missed the commotion. And, though Liz and Steve eventually collapsed with the plan to wake up early on Sunday and figure out options, the drunken guests upstairs both flushed AND took a shower in the morning before learning of the septic issue. That is, until the toilet overflowed on the college buddy’s feet. Even with a hangover, he got the message that something had changed while he was out of commission.

Finding a septic pumping company at 7 a.m. on the Sunday before Christmas is a pretty good challenge. Especially in the age of the yellow pages. Liz and Steve expected that a premium would be extracted for such service, and indeed it was.

The new lush sod was chewed up to access the septic field on that frigid Sunday before Christmas and it was pumped out sufficiently to lower the toilet water to acceptable levels inside the house. Lysol was purchased and used extensively.

An inspection of the system during the coming days revealed that the former farmer’s field would probably never percolate as projected and the entire system would need to be dug out and re-installed. Soon, a great deal of the newly-sodded front lawn was ground up by major diggers to re-engineer a system that would not fail. It cost $10K to fix that problem, in addition to the cost of the party.

Over the next year, it would be discovered that something was miscalculated in designing the septic fields for the entire development and eventually everybody’s system failed. But gradually. Over time.

But none so quickly and spectacularly as at Steve and Liz’s wedding reception/housewarming/”trim the tree” party three weeks after Liz left her reliable little row house in the city and moved 25 miles into the country with her eligible, handsome lawyer.

He swore he would never live in another house with a septic system. But he did, when Liz and Steve bought a little house to rehab in a far corner of Burlington County across the river from the city of Philadelphia. They knew that municipal sewer was scheduled to come to their new address some day, as the next door neighbor already had it.

Several emergency pumpings were indeed necessary before the township in their new house would dig up the street and permit them to make the expensive yet treasured connection to the municipal sewer system.

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Post-script:

28 years after that wedding and 25 years after moving to the little rehab, their now grown son fell in love with a house on a creek and wanted to make a bid. It had no municipal sewer hook up — just a septic system. And on the day Liz drove by to see what kind of a house he was looking at, a septic pumping company was next door doing something. Steve could not sufficiently explain the agita of thinking his only child would volunteer for the totally-avoidable hassles of living on a septic system that could fail.

Although their son was crestfallen, the parents did a happy dance when the house on the creek came under agreement just days before their son had a chance to bid.

And Steve and Liz were flush with happiness.

Dating Steve – a poem, 1987

Usually I don’t like giving context about a poem before reading it.  I prefer for the title to jumpstart the connection. But this one has a place of special pride. It’s the only officially published poem of mine. It was recognized in the Philadelphia Inquirer in a 2012 Poetry month trawl for local poets’ contributions. Here’s the link for when it was in the paper.  There were a lot of pieces I could have submitted. I always liked the economy of this one.

Dating Steve – Liz Matt, written in Paris in 1987

and there is

in his eyes

some old truth

like whales know

and would share

if the risks

of spears were

not part of

what they’d learned

 

I sat at a cafe table on a spring day in Paris, thinking about the guy I had met at Downey’s Irish Bar on Philadelphia’s South St. on March 6, 1987 … a guy who really put a spring in my step. We had been dating about a month and he was more than a little unknowable.  As I post this now —  just shy of 30 years since this poem was written —  he remains that guy with the whale eyes. And here we are.   As for the structure of the poem, I decided to abandon my free verse style and limit myself to just three words, each with only one syllable, in each line.

 

 

 

 

The Playwright Speaks in a Hoarse Voice – a poem

The Playwright Speaks in a Hoarse Voice – Liz Matt, 1975-76
The playwright speaks in a hoarse voice:
Only characters in a play can tell the truth to one another
because they don’t suffer any consequences.
Oh, they may be killed off:
methodically, articulately, living blow by loving blow.
But this is a technical agony, fixed in literature.
They don’t die really.
As we do.
Can you hear what I’m truly saying out there,
all you my friends and secret loves?
Can you see yourselves?
Can you tell it’s you I’m trying to hold
from my safe and distant proscenium?
Can I penetrate, at last, this terrible propriety
and openly indulge this communion I feel?
Send me telegrams, please,
or a note through the maid, that you knew all along.
I only built this theater so you’d know.
I only built this theater so you’d come.
Author note, 40+ years after this was written and published in a private book for my closest friends at the time:  As I shuffle through the first 65 years of my creative output — stuff that fills drawers, shelves, cartons, and leatherette folders which have moved with me over and over — I’ve decided this is the forum to occasionally post things that still make me feel good. This was from a very theatrical stage of life, in my mid-20s. I was 24 when I wrote this, and working at Temple University running a record library and audio production facility we called “The Audio Suite.” It was a creative center of gravity for a lot of talented young people. My friends were actors, comedians, a talented mime, writers, and budding TV producers. I think they saw themselves, as the poem hoped. Most of them are still in my life.

Liz’s Laws of Showbiz Or, “Close the Curtain, It’s So Embarrassing”

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The clown on the right with me is a wonderful comedian and comedy historian, Tommy Moore, the Professor of Fun. 

Over a recent reunion lunch in the Victorian jewel box town of Cape May, NJ, we compared notes about when in our childhoods we each became convinced that we would work in showbiz.

When my sisters and I were little kids, putting on shows in any available space, our older brother would bray (BRAY! Like an actual donkey!) “Close the curtain, it’s so embarrassing.”  But I never did. 

I promised Tommy that I would post Liz’s Laws, which are as fundamental to me as breathing. Though these little commandments are my highly personal views about performing, I am sure there are things that Tommy and other performers can easily relate to.  It’s bred in the bone for us.

Liz’s Laws of Showbiz

  • If there’s a floor, there’s a stage.
  • If there’s a way to rig up a curtain, you can make a dramatic entrance.
  • If there’s an audience, you owe them something original.
  • If there’s a microphone, it better not howl.
  • If there’s lighting, it’s better with colored gels on it. But it’s best if the performer can choose the color.
  • If there’s a script, it better be memorized, and yet performed as if it were spontaneously erupting from the performer’s lips.
  • If there’s a whole cast of talented people, pace the show so everyone gets their moment before the audience wants to go home.
  • If my mother’s in the audience, don’t worry about it too much.
  • If there’s pay, that’s the best.

And while I have you, please click on the link for Tommy Moore, one of the most sophisticated entertainers in the USA. His goofy act may include a lot of slapstick and resemble old “baggy pants” burlesque. But it’s highly intentional and he can really work a room!  Thanks, Tommy.

 

 

A poem and a painting…and how they came together

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 11.23.52 AMI took my second year of a peer-directed writing class at the Bonita Springs, Florida library this past winter. The class challenge for this workshop was to write poems inspired by photos.

Briefly, the challenge was always to go beyond the photo. The process was masterfully guided by our leader, a Boston escapee-to-the-south, writer/educator named Mary Alice Gruppi. (Here’s a link to her blog.) A secondary challenge was posed by a student who assumed poems should rhyme.  I don’t usually write in rhyme and it was not expected by Mary Alice. But I assigned myself the challenge because I thought it would be interesting.

We did several photo/poems over the course of the 6-week workshop, but here’s the one that means the most to me. At the same time as the writing workshop, in my home studio I was constantly staring at the photo above. It was hanging on my bulletin board and I have it as my computer screen saver.  It is the guiding image for an oil painting that is still unfinished as I post this. The painting was begun in an art class last Fall — my first class in oil painting and a daunting medium to me — back near Philadelphia. Although my goal is not a copy, clearly it’s a pretty direct interpretation.*

I liked the idea of considering the same photo, and the process of making a painting based on it, in a new creative format, literature. Here’s what came out.

Trying to paint the snorkeler – v2

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I seem to manage comfortably

as the students settle readily

into each of our expected places.

Classmates now familiar faces

in the weekly workshop in oils and art.

 

My canvas on easel, locked in place,

I tape above my child’s face:

a photo from a perfect day

so long ago near Nassau Bay

to be captured here with skill and heart.

 

He floats in perfect buoyancy

in a picture shot from below, by me.

Our masks and snorkels made sight and air

available to the humans there

in that perfect Caribbean wave.

 

Though fish are near and shells abound

the photo captures none around.

There’s only him and only me

within the blue Bahamian sea.

And this is what I want to save.

 

It’s time to make an art decision:

to choose with technical precision

which colors capture flesh and glow

the plastic mask, the sand below,

the water that envelops all.

 

A lustrous mix of gold and white

depict the penetrating light

on shoulders, arms. And then some flecks

of aqua where pink skin reflects

the depths that gently rise and fall.

 

I choose a squirt of cobalt pigment

to paint the surf, perhaps a figment

of imagination, hope and drive

that skill can bring this scene alive,

communicating something felt.

 

But this tranquil image in the ocean

mocks my amateurish notion

that with brushstrokes and some oil,

inspiration and much toil

someone else’s heart might melt.

 

Classmates ask about the boy:

“Is he now grown?” “Would he enjoy

such a portrait from vacation?”

Kindly questions prove my station

as an amateur with sentimental vanity.

 

My need to capture and convey

a singular and splendid day

in water clear as sky above,

and the heartbreak in a mother’s love

has an audience of one: my memory.

Liz Matt  1/18/16 – A self-challenge to make a rhyming poem – version

 

* Somebody who saw the painting in progress asked me if I was painting it from a photo. I said: “Yes. Because I can’t hold my breath that long.”

 

 

 

The gaze – painting (and writing about) the A Roll

In most instances, these are not whole paintings but pieces of them. But this is what sits me down and makes me work: the engaged gaze. 

My son asked me if it was a “trope,” so I looked that up and the dictionary said a trope was a kind of literary shorthand. However, in contemporary TV criticism, Mr. Internet informed me that a trope is a screenwriting cliche — for example, the way an NCIS procedural episode always gets its homicidal sailor or the sailor’s murderer.

Not wishing to explain away my interests as being cliched, I prefer to redefine it in the terms of my prior life in TV production: I paint the A Roll.

When we shoot stories, we do the interview and the guest looks at me while I talk to them. I follow their eyes and their expressions while I think of the key moments I will thread together in the editing room. The interview is the A Roll.  

B Roll is all of the cut-away pictures. It’s the critical context for the rest of the story. Getting the B Roll is a job I left to talented field photographers. As the field producer/reporter, it was my job to put us in a scenario where lots of expository B Roll was available.

But in the editing room — and I LOVED the editing room whether I got to push the buttons or not — I later taught my students of production to use the A Roll when the emotional moment was just right. One should always “write to the pictures,” I told them. Use the B Roll to carry the story along and provide context, but show the A Roll when the guest’s face was the key visual at that specific moment. 

I think that’s what I’m doing when I paint the engaged gaze. Painting the A Roll.

In February 2016, at a writing class, I wrote a poem I like about the engagement between me and my son that I am attempting to capture in the snorkeler painting, which is still in progress. I’ll put that in another post.

 

Celebration of Diversity circa 1962 – Philly

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“I remember that picture was on the last page of The Evening Bulletin, up by the comics section. My dad bought ten copies and had the picture laminated. To this day I have it with me.” – Daryl Shall, February 2016 (the boy on the right of this photo)

This photo of two Philly cub scouts at a holiday party in 1962 caught my eye over the winter of 2016, when it was posted on the Facebook site Vintage Philadelphia by a regular post-er named Bill Carpenter. For reasons I’ll explain throughout this memoir, I wanted to find these men, if that was at all possible.

I am still looking for the taller scout with the Christmas tree, identified as Stewart Ross, 3rd from West Philadelphia. But I was successful at tracking down the smaller scout with the Star of David and Menorah, Daryl Shall. I called him up and he was nice enough to chat and to reminisce.

I wanted to meet these men because I know that efforts at diversity are not some new concept that is a product of “political correctness” (which is often spoken with an eye-roll).  The Evening Bulletin took this photo because, 50 years ago, forging mutual understanding was valued. This was just two months after James Meredith became the first African-American student at Ole Miss after President Kennedy ordered U.S. marshals to Mississippi to ensure his safety.

I was just 11 years old that Christmas — right in the same age group as these cubs — and I was sure that brotherhood and equality were just around the corner. I guess that’s why I relate to this photo and wanted to find out what this holiday party meant to those in the photograph.  I also know that these two schools were geographically very far apart in the city and so I concluded that some effort was taken to bring these children together.

The caption on the photo says:  Enjoying a Christmas-Chanukah party at the John F. McCloskey Public School, Gowen Av. and Pickering St., are Stewart Ross, 3rd (left) and Daryl Shall. Cub pack 308 of the McCloskey School was host at the party yesterday for members of Pack 582 of Hamilton School, 57th and Spruce. – December 17, 1962

This is Daryl Shall’s recollection of the photo and what it means to him, in an interview he gave me in February 2016.  “I grew up in the 1960s in a real ‘Leave It To Beaver’ neighborhood, Mt. Airy, right next to Temple stadium. It was the same block where Frank Rizzo lived, and I remember a lot of police protection. I went to McCloskey elementary school from first grade to 6th, and it was pretty much all white students then.

“My mom was the den mother for my little cub scout pack. We didn’t have a lot of exposure to black kids back then. That holiday party always stuck with me. I remember it was a lot of fun. Our whole cub pack was Jewish so it wasn’t just that we were meeting African American kids from different neighborhoods. Having a party that introduced us to Christmas was just as much of a cultural difference.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 4.25.19 PM“The party was at McCloskey elementary. I was just a goofy little 8 year old kid. We both have such big smiles on our faces and it’s so nice. He was taller than me and I remember looking up to him.

“I don’t actually don’t know how the party came about. Or the picture. They kind of pulled us aside at the end of the party and I got selected.

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“What you can’t see is that I had broken my arm and I have a cast on my arm. Once you know, you can kind of see it behind the little display of the menorah and I’m balancing it on my cast and pointing at the menorah with my one good arm. Today they probably wouldn’t let little kids hold lit candles. But back then, I did it, even with a cast on my arm. That makes me laugh to think about it.

“I like the picture, in our cool little cub scout caps. I like knowing I can point to a day long ago when the newspaper made an effort to show a picture of diversity.

“I still use that picture use to prove diversity was always a part of my life. I was glad I was part of something like that. That picture means a lot to me more than 50 years later.

“After McCloskey, I went to Leeds Junior High, more racially mixed. And then to Germantown HS when I was in the minority. It was maybe 10% white. Everyone got along. When you’re not exposed to something you rely on stereotypes and prejudices and whatever. In the Germantown neighborhood at that time, there was a lot of violence. I found out that the kids in class with me were just as afraid of the violence in their neighborhood as I was. I came to understand we all had the same fears.

“I eventually went to Temple University in North Philadelphia. A lot of kids I knew didn’t want to go downtown but I liked going there and being exposed to diversity there. I graduated from Temple in 1975. Then when I went on to work for the federal government in Philadelphia and Washington.

“I made my whole career in the federal government and was always conscious of the importance of diversity. We had a lot of training in inclusiveness and I went on to give that kind of training in my work. It resonated with me back to my days In Mount Airy. I always had that cub scout picture in my head. Once you have Philadelphia in you, you can’t get it out of you. I came back to my roots a little bit.

“In 2001, I was working in Washington. On September 11, I walked home from work that day in DC and I had to walk by the Pentagon, as it was burning. I decided that I somehow wanted to be part of the recovery. After 911, I transferred over to working at TSA (Transportation Safety Administration) from working for HUD (Housing and Urban Development).

“At TSA, I got to work in the most diverse team in my life. It felt like the whole United Nations. And it was the best functioning team in my life. People coming from every perspective … that stuff actually works. It goes back to those days in Mount Airy. When you get to know people, they’re PEOPLE and not what you read about in the paper.

“I am 62 and now I’m retired. About the whole thing that people think diversity is just about Political Correctness in the federal workforce, with women in the work place, or just some words in Washington politics… I know for a fact that this stuff works. Diversity works. I like the positive message and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that people get the message.

“I like to think that all started back when I was that little guy at that party.

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Thank you to Daryl for his memories and inspiring perspective.  Thanks also to Bill Carpenter for the original posting on the Vintage Philadelphia Facebook page. I reached out to Bill and asked him why he selected it. Bill wrote back to me:

“..if you scroll thru the Vintage Philadelphia you can see all the Photos i post theres no pattern its just random photos which i find and eventually Post….If i see something i like i post it.

“I know at one point i was posting anything i could find on christmas related photos in and around philadelphia to bring back memories for everyone who grew up in philly and could reminisce don’t know if thats why i posted it or not.but a lot of times i just post photos that i like and hope people enjoy which i beleive they do for the most part –few complaints”

Finally, if anyone can help me make contact with Stewart Ross, 3rd, who went to Hamilton School in West Philly in 1962, it would be my hope to revisit this from his perspective.

Liz – 4/29/16

 

 

 

Good for me / bad for the landfills

There’s a push-me/pull-you component to learning to make paintings, if you’re the kind of person who dislikes putting things in the landfill.

I could paint my studies on cardboard and then recycle it. But then, how do I get the feel for the real experience of canvas? And — here’s the real deal... the EGO talking — what if one isn’t half-bad?

There isn’t a whole lot to love about this study of the melons except I kind of like the way I rendered the seeds. So I’m taking it to the annual Avalon, NJ yard sale and will suffer the indignity of putting it out with the trash after it is bypassed, along with some of the old ash trays and broken china cups that my sister collects and tries to sell. I will put a price of $1 on it but I will take a quarter.

New topic: the book Oil Painting for Dummies is very very good.

It begins The studio window is open

broad-street-philadelphiaI’ll start with what this is all about. Why do I call this blog-site a studio?  And why the North Broad Studio?  My brain has always been a noisy workroom and this blog-site will be the picture window into what happens there.

After decades as a feature reporter — mostly in Philadelphia commercial TV — the instinct to find and share interesting stories, or to ask questions, doesn’t evaporate with retirement from paid work.

As an instinctive poem-writer — who thinks of poems as “condensed cream of life,” to borrow a notion from Camden’s Campbell’s Soup biz  — the fundamental urge to write down my own story remains vital.

As a person who loves visual media — who enjoys the making of art by and for my own pleasure, supporting living artists as best I can by buying their work, and who can happily pass the time in a museum — this studio will display more than a few images, over time.

It’s called the North Broad Studio because North Broad St in Philadelphia is my spiritual home. It’s the location of my alma mater Temple University, where I grew into myself. My dad grew up there too, as the only child in a raucous boarding house for Temple students that my Nana ran, just a half block off of North Broad St. It’s where I saw my first parades. It’s where I learned that life is complex and that, though I am a singular soul, I definitely discovered that I am not “the default human being.” North Broad made me smarter and made me humbler.

IMG_2840And while I now live a lot of the year in Florida, it’s obvious that I will forever be north broad.  This is it.

We are begun.