Monday, January 30, 2012

Pro Bowl 2012

The NFL Pro Bowl was last night. Poor Hawaii. The tourist agencies hope against hope that a cold, windy, snowy, blizzard blankets the mainland so that the football fans who watch the Pro Bowl in sunny Hawaii think "I wish I were there." Oh well, those circumstances did not occur this year.

We were lucky enough to travel to Hawaii 35 times since 1990. And we were there during parts of every month. Truly, it was wonderful. Perhaps the best time was August 2011 when we were fortunate enough to take our daughter and her four children, our grandchildren, with us.

Back to the Pro Bowl. Extensive research for my crime novel, "Pro Bowl Kapu" revealed that, until this All Star game was moved to Honolulu, the appearance of the football stars was iffy. But a trip to Hawaii for the athlete and his family just about guaranteed their attendance.

We were taking photos, as spectators one year. The rookies were playing a game of touch football on the Fort DeRussey beach. One of the first round draft players for the New England Patriots fell, hurt his knee, and ended his career. There have been no more of those types of games since then.

Over the years, we attended the Pro Bowl press conferences and luncheons. At one of the events, Jeremiah Trotter answered questions from the press. Edgar asked if he was resigning with the Philadelphia Eagles. He said that he wanted to but the negotiations were in the hands of his able agent. Later that month, he went to the Washington Redskins.

But the luncheons were always my favorite. No so much for the food, although the fruit was delicious, but because I was usually the only nonmale in the room and the cheerleaders sat next to me. What an interesting bunch of women. Teachers, nurses, lawyers, and even a navy aviator who was from the San Francisco Forty Niners. She graduated from Annapolis with a degree in computer sciences, then she went to Pensacola and bedcame a top gun and then she earned a Masters degree in Systems Analysis. I asked her if she was flying any planes now, "Yes, a P-3." I knew that the P-3 has the large umbrella-like structure over it that covers radar equipment. "You're a spy," I whispered. She put a finger to her lips and said, "Shush."

One year the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader sat with us. She lived in Narberth and taught school. One year, another cheerleader called us in the evening and asked if we wanted to go to dinner with her. It was late. I had been asleep and said "No, thank you." Edgar has been the envy of every man who has heard that story.

We were interviewed by members of the Hawaii press and we even appeared on CNN. The NFL demands payment from Hawaii before it will agree to hold the Pro Bowl there. The controversy revolves around the question of if the Pro Bowl brings more monehy into Hawaii than the NFL extorts. Our answer has always been shame on the NFL, but pay them.

The TV media kept to itself and looked down their collective noses at us print media people with the exception of Andrea Kremer. It must have been her Main Line experiences and background. She answered our questions and, even though the TV cameras wait for no one, she pretended to have ample time for us.

One of the afternoons, Referee Ron Winters spent a few minuts with us. He hailed from Seattle where he was a religious leader in his church We asked him about the mess on the field after a fumble and he acknowledged that the fighting and grabbing is fierce. He mentionede Brian Urlacher by name as the toughest. On his way to catching the bus, he gave me an NFL pin for my Eagles ball cap.

As one of our Pro Bowl memories, we have the time that Edgar spotted a shop lifter at the NFL event in Kapiolani Park. A kid snatched a ball cap off the table of Michael Henderson's Authentic Gear wares. Edgar pointed him out. Henderson nabbed him and convinced the young thief to turn away from crime and return the cap.

Although the hoopla is fun, we never had to attend the actual game. After 9/11, the patrons could not bring anything into Aloha Stadium except ID and a ticket. And last night's game was the typical high scoring, no defense, showcase. Funny thing, during our last experience in Hawaii with the Pro Bowl, a young man rushed over to us and said he was about to make a bet. Then he asked for our advice. "Take the points and the over," we told him. The next day we saw him and he couldn't thank us enough for "the killing" that he made.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

City Avenue Rezoning Workshop

We attended the meeting this Saturday morning, (1/28/2012) and its title really should have been: if we build it, they will come. That's a great title for a movie, but not for planning how to spend Lower Merion Township's tax dollars.

The effective date for the rezoning of this large piece of ground that fronts on City Avenue is April 30, 2012. But that's not a real date because if the map is not ready, according to Bob Duncan, then the date can be pushed back until the map is ready. There was no outer time limit set. One of the recurring problems in Lower Merion is storm water management and that is acknowledged but not addressed.

This is an interesting map. It shows current buildings, current roads, current pathways, and a bunch of imaginary objects. The purpose is for Lower Merion to definitively establish roadways, bike ways, pedestrian paths, open spaces, parks, etc. in the area between Conshohocken State road and the Schuylkill River. The pie in the sky idea is for people to be able to get out of their office buildings and walk the corridor. The purple areas on the map are designed for walkers and bikers. The gold areas are for new roadways. The hope is for the pathways to connect with railroad stations and bus stops. According to Bob Duncan, both Septa and the Railroad people have agreed to increase service and stops according to the needs of the people who come.

It would be nice to have evening and late evening railroad and bus service in the area to make attending Center City events easy and convenient. But so far, no additional public transportation opportunities have been committed.

The 50 or so people who attended heard that there might be an additional 2800 automobile trips a year predicted over the next 20 years and there might be 4 to 5 million dollars a year in additional real estate and other taxes. There was no prediction, or apparently even any thought given to, the number of extra police officers that would be required to maintain Lower Merion's high standard of safety.

Incentives for developers who want a higher density than proposed under the City Avenue Rezoning include public improvements, greater than those required under the zoning. It was acknowledged that if all the public spaces and connecting lines were not able to be accomplished by the developers, then the township would have to acquire the land for improvements. There was no mention of cost. The public gathering spaces would be open and would not include enclosed structures such as bowling alleys, movie theaters, skating rinks, etc.

In touting the advantages of all the connecting bike and walker pathways, one of the audience members said that the Cynwyd Heritage Trail has 150 users an hour. When pressed on what exactly those numbers meant, there was no answer. Further questioning of 150 per hour, is that every hour, 24 hours, 7 days a week, or every hour, 12 hours, 7 days a week, or just the 1 hour when the count was made - all good questions to a scientist - there was no answer at all.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nicol Williamson and Frankie Bradley's restaurant

I was sad to read that Nicol Williamson died. It brought back memories of Frankie Bradley's restaurant. It was 1965, and we saw Inadmissible Evidence which starred Nicole Williamson in his first major performance at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia. We were young, and went to Frankie Bradley's restaurant after the show for a late night corned beef special. (We would never do that now.)

On the way out of the restaurant, we ran into Nicol Williamson with an attractive lady on his arm. He was dressed all in white - pants, jacket, shirt, shoes. I can see him as vividly now as I did 47 years ago. We told him how much we enjoyed his performance. It was truly a tour de force. He graciously thanked us, signed our programs, and went into Frankie Bradley's restaurant.

Many stage performers frequented this restaurant after their performances in Philadelphia. Not to name drop, but, we saw Robert Preston, Tony Randall, Lucille Ball, Jose Ferrer, Charles Nelson Reilly, and others whose names are lost in our memories.

Frankie Bradley, a retired boxer, had a small restaurant around 13th and Juniper Streets in Center City Philadelphia. He always made us feel at home and greeted us at the door on our way in. One night, before we even sat down, the waiter told us that our order has already been placed and the kitchen should have it momentarily. One of the other patrons, a business acquaintance, had seen us when we entered and asked the staff to prepare our "usual."

We old folks have wonderful memories of the people and places that we visited, saw, and photographed. Hard to believe that the vibrant and talented young man that we saw 47 years ago is no longer here. In our minds, we still remember him as he was.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Music and Me

I started piano lessons at age 4 and appeared in my first piano recital at 4 years and 9 months. Shortly after that, I started voice lessons too. The hardest words for me to pronounce were those with an "r" in them but, I finally figured out that if I put my tongue behind my bottom front teeth, the "r" words sounded musical.

I continued piano lessons, took flute lessons in school during 4th grade, and switched to the cello in 5th grade. I studied piano at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music and, it turns out, that my piano teacher Winifred Atkinson, was the same piano teacher that Gilda Mann Ellis had. I continued cello, all through high school and was first chair in all the school musical ensembles, and in the District Orchestras. When I graduated from high school, the University of Miami offered me a "football" scholarship on the cello - room and board, transportation, spending money, 3 or 4 trips a year for my parents to visit, cello lessons, books, etc. My father had a fit; said a firm NO; and I went to the University of Pennsylvania. I played in all the orchestras and chamber music groups there, in the pit orchestras for the shows, and even in an all male Mask and Wig show orchestra as the first ever woman.

After graduation, I played with the Doctor's Orchestra for a short while and eventually made my way to the Lower Merion Symphony. I was content to sit in the back, but the cellists in the orchestra resisted and insisted that I sit first chair. After several years, and unhappiness with the conductor, two other musicians asked me if I would join them in starting a new orchestra which we did - the Merion Musical Society. We had a wonderful time, interpreting the music, playing for fun, and eventually for an audience.

Meanwhile, our children started music lessons and blossomed. Orchestras, bands, jazz bands, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Philadelphia Jazz Band, even professional musical organizations. And now, we get joy when we hear our grandchildren perform.

As I got older, I developed tendenitis in my shoulders, arthritis in my thumbs, and even broke my wrist. So much for playing. But, I was recruited to help organize and manage summer music festivals. The first was the Big Sky Music Festival, in Big Sky Montana in 1988. We enjoyed a wonderful two weeks in Montana with the fresh air, Rocky Mountain background, and interesting people. The musicians came from the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida and we had to settle emotional, musical, psychological, and intellectual problems that arose. The local newspaper reviewed the first performance and raved. The next year, the local residents thought they could handle a music festival. They were wrong. We had three soloists in 1989. All three were dynamic personalities and artists.

Then, we ventured even further West with the Max Aronoff Viola Institute in Washington State. The first year, the festival of young people, mainly high school age, with some older adults, took place in Puyallup - I still enjoy saying the name of that place. Then, it moved to St. Mary's in Toledo, Washington where Joe DiPasquale, first chair viola in the Philadelphia Orchestra both taught and performed. Besides the music, we had a private airplane ride, over Mt. St. Helen's, which had exploded several years before. The fallen trees looked like spilled boxes of toothpicks.

After a few more years, it became too difficult for us to try to manage, produce, direct, write publicity for, and police the music festivals so far away. But we remain great friends.

Even in Honolulu, we attended luaus presented by the Friends of the Royal Hawaiian Band. What fun!

Staples and the Ink Joy pens

Sundays' newspaper carried a multipage, full color circular from Staples that touted their sales. The one item that caught our attention was the packs of Papermate Ink Joy pens. We had seen the ads for the Ink Joy pens on TV and they looked spectacular. Of course, nobody ever advertises rotten bananas so we couldn't be sure until we tried them and so, we headed off to Staples in Narberth, with our ad. Foolish us! Staples caught us again. There were no pens and almost nobody to help us. Finally, I tracked down a very personable young man, showed him the ad, and asked him if he could find a package or two for us. The advertised price was $5.00 for a pack of 8 pens which regularly sold for $6.50. Not a big deal saving. But something. It's not that we lack pens. We have plenty. But, we write, and like using pens on paper, and thought this would be nifty. And, although we are old, we like trying new things.

The polite, young man said that he did not remember seeing any of them come into the store, but he would check. And he did. He looked at the computer, shook his head no, looked at the computer again, and again shook his head no. We left.

When we got home, Edgar thought we should email Staples. Looked up their contact information on the internet, found their 800 telephone number, dialed it, and handed Edgar the phone. In his usual polite and gentle way, he complained. He concluded by saying that this was a classic example of bait and switch. The polite young lady on the telephone demurred, of course. She contacted the Narberth Staples store manager and reported back to us that, although there is a record of 18 or 20 packages having come to the store, no one can find them. The manager thought that they might be misplaced, lost, or stollen but that he would call us when he found them and Staple would give us a credit for our inconvenience.

He did call once, already, to say that they don't know where the pens are and when they find them, they will call us again. In case you're wondering, we are not holding our breath.

We can breathe again. The manager called. We went to Staples and got the pens. They seem to be perfect once we took the little ball of wax off the tip.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Copy of email I sent to Rick Santorum

You know that Obama is not a Muslim, don't you? You represented Pennsylvania in the Senate. Surely, your education taught you that when confronted with a direct lie, you have an obligation to correct it. If you remember, Senator John McCain corrected a similar lie during one of his campaign stops 4 years ago. Does he remember history better than you? Is he more moral than you?

Please make a very public and convincing statement that President Obama, as much as you may hate him, is not a Muslim, and is not serving as OUR President illegally.

Thank you,

Selma and Edgar Davis

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thank you

I have been selected as a most valuable blogger for 2011. Thank you's to everyone who nominated me and voted for me. I appreciate your loyalty.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

I Have a Neighbor

I have an old neighbor - she has lived here longer than we have and is older than we are. In fact, she was one of my teachers in religious school. She stressed how important it was to keep a kosher house and buy only from a kosher butcher and I annoyed my mother and pestered her and then, one day, my mother met her mother in the supermarket and her mother was not buying kosher anything. Myt mother took me out of that religious school and we never set foot in there again. That's not to say that I did not have a religiou education, because I did and so did our children. Religion is more than the Ten Commandments, although that is a start. Religion is how people act to other people, not so much their proclaimed belief in God.

Anyway, to get back to my neighbor. My children, and sometimes my husband, cannot understand why, every once in a while, I call her, just to check in. Frankly, I can't understand it either. It must be a moment of weakness or extreme boredom. To generalize, success in other people just comes naturally to them. She does not think that hard work, intense concentration, hours of review and practice enter into other people's accomplishments. Her lack of achievement is due either to anti-Semitism, a payoff, or nepotism/patronage. Forget hard work and superior ethics.

She does not know how to hold a conversation. During the course of a few words about fracking in Pennsylvania, she picks out one word, say water, and proclaims that the price of oil and gas is already too high and if fracking is held back, the prices will get only higher. When reminded that fracking may (or may not) pollute the water reservoirs for years, she goes back to the high price and ignores the environment.

Friday, January 20, 2012

"Red Tails" and the Tuskegee Airmen

The reviews of the movie "Red Tails" complain about the lack of dimensionality in the characters. What a shame! the Tuskegee Airmen exemplified pride and heroism in the history of the United States.

We interviewed three tuskegee Airmen who lived in our area, Philadelphia's Main Line. One flew 133 escort missions and never lost one bomber. He was shot down over Yugoslavia and spent about a month in a POW camp. He told us that his captors gave him no treatment for his broken hip, fed him grass soup and rotten potatoes, and every day they asked him to turn against the United States and join the enemy, the Axis. He declined. They were puzzled. They said "you are treated so badly because of your dark skin. Why do you stay?" And his answer "because I have a choice."

When he was rescued at the war's end, he was down to 70 pounds. As a result, he spent a year in a US hospital and walked with a noticeable limp. One leg was considerably shorter than the other in spite of many surgeries.

Then he got an engineering degree, worked in the GE re-entry systems, and owned many patents.

Another Tuskegee Airman taught flying to the new volunteers. We asked him if he ever had to jump out of a plane. He replied, with a big smile, "only when the plane was safely on the ground."

He waxed enthusiastically about Eleanor Roosevelt. The army did not want her to fly with any of the Tuskegee Airmen but the President's wife did what she pleased. Her confidence in their flying ability gradually made its way down the ranks.

But, not to everybody. A third Main Line Tuskegee Airman, a doctor and an officer, said that for a while, the enlisted men would not salute him or any other African American officers. All the officers refused to leave their quarters until they received the military respect that they earned and deserved. He flew a 2-engine bomber.

The Tuskegee Airmen spoke proudly and lovingly of their P-51 fighter planes.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mitt Romney - born on third base, never crossed home plate

Mitt Romney revealed that he is a lying, deceitful bully and, what's even worse, he doesn't realize it.

I saw him on TV today, describing how he met his wife in high school.

As I remember his statement, Romney said that he was at a party and saw Ann. She had another escort at the party. Romney said that he went over to John and magnanimously told him that, since he lived closer to Ann, that he would be glad to do John a favor, and take Ann home.

He disguised his agenda and lied and what's more, he smiled and laughed when he was telling the story.

This gives even more credence to what JFK said that his father told him - that all businessmen are SOB's.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A brief history of our American made cars

Until 5 years ago, we bought only American cars. We tried and tried and tried to support the U.S. car industries in spite of our experiences.

Our 1960 Chevy Be-Aire had windshield wipers that stopped every time there was a hard rain. The mechanic showed us where to hit the hood, during the driving rain, to restart them. That car was stollen and we kept hoping that the thieves would get caught in a heavy downpour.

Then, we bought a 1965 Chevy Impala that rattled as we drove out of the showroom. That car was stollen.

Next, a 1967 Plymouth Fury with an electrical system that could not be fixed. We were stranded in Atlantic City. The car failed us on the Benjamin Frankling Bridge, and finally had to be towed from our house to the junk yard. We gave up on the Agency because they could not fix it. Their story - "it's running perfectly at the shop."

Then, we bought a 1973 Ford Gran Torino station wagon. The rear window fell down before we even got out of the agency and we became experts at opening the rear panel to reattach the glass on the runner. The timing chain went twice. When the transmission failed, we bought a Horizon.

We did not have that car long enough to fully evaluate it because our neighbor rear ended our car while it was parked in our driveway. He was using our driveway to make a U-turn, hit the accelerator instead of the brake, and pushed our parked and locked car through the garage doors. That accident resulted in extensive body damage and a ruined transmission.

Next, we bought a Pontiac J-2000. That car seemed to be OK until the radio got only static on the AM stations. Again, the agency could not fix it.

We bought a Chevrolet Vega to go with our Pontiac and we became a 2-car family. Except for the rear, which the agency fixed under warranty the first time, the Vega was more or less OK. The last time, a High school neighbor went to a junkyard, pulled out the parts that he needed and fixed the rear.

We traded the Vega in for a 1988 6 cylinder Chevy Nova. Except that it leaked coolant with regularity, and there was no rear window defogger, our children seemed to enjoy driving it.

We bought a Pontiac Sunbird to replace the J-2000 and our son used that in college. Finally, in order for the J-2000 to keep running, the mechanic removed the heater.

Then we bought a Buick LeSabre that was fine until it wasn't. That was after 80,000 miles when the car would just die. It didn't matter where - in the middle of the Expressway at 60 mph or on a neighborhood street at 20. The agency couldn't fix it. So we bought another Buick LeSabre and, believe it or not 75,000 miles later, same problem - the engine would cut off without any warning. This time, the agency fixed it by removing the radio.

Enough was enough.

We bought a Nissan Altima, and after 3 years, we traded it in for another Nissan Altima. Superstition on my part. The car had been damaged in 2 accidents - nothing serious, no people injuries, but I did not want to risk a third one. That's the car we're driving now.

Prevent Concussions

Concussions in all sports appear inevitable. Uniform designers, helmet engineers, medical personnel try their best to prevent injuries. Mostly, they are successful. However, brain injuries, both minor and severe, still occur. Some are caused intentionally by ruffians on the sports field, but most are pure accident. Nevertheless, the injured athlete suffers and has to miss some practice and game participation time.

I propose that, whoever causes the concussion, on purpose or by accident, be required to miss the same amount of practice and playing time, with no pay.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Legalize Marijuana

Remember the stories, during prohibition, of how the criminals organized, made money, bought off politicians, bought off police, and formed a huge organization that made, distributed, and sold liquor? Well, just substitute marijuana for liquor today, and the same story continues, only much worse.

Just look at all the money that is wasted in the frustrating and impossible job of stopping marijuana (and probably the harder drugs too) - airplane reconnaisance to identify fields of marijuana, police who arrest the users and sellers, jails that are crowded with marijuana users and sellers, border police and patrols who search for marijuana imports - on the ground, in the air, and on the seas. What a waste. Without noticeable success. There is just too much money involved. Even the most honest of the law enforcement officers have to be tempted, once in a while, to look the other way.

Suppose that marijuana were legalized - just look at the productive jobs that would be created: pharmaceutical houses could manufacture and package marijuana that was free from poisons and safe to use. All those jobs would employ people who would pay taxes. And think of the tax revenue from the legal and legitimate sale of marijuana to the city, county, state, and federal governments. I don't want to rub anybody the wrong way but, I hope the lobbyists for the mobsters who would see a large portion of their profits dwindle, don't pressure the Congress not to enact such legalizing legislation.

Talk about job creation. Here's an easy way.