Category Archives: Philadelphia

We Could Sing a Rainbow: Remembering Captain Noah

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If you were a kid growing up in Philadelphia during the 1970s, chances are you watched Captain Noah and His Magical Ark starring W. Carter Merbreier as “Captain Noah” and his wife Pat as … well, Mrs. Noah.  Along with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Sesame Street, and The Electric Company, Captain Noah was must-see TV for the elementary-school set.

(Those of you who lived in other parts of the country may know Captain Noah, too; at one point during its history the show was broadcast to 22 other markets.)

But Captain Noah was ours because Philadelphia was home to Captain and Mrs. Noah.  Carter Merbreier grew up in Delaware County, attended the University of Pennsylvania followed by seminary school at Temple. He and Pat lived in the area. Their appearance in Philadelphia’s annual 6ABC Thanksgiving Day Parade was almost as highly anticipated as that of Santa Claus, who could have passed for Captain Noah’s twin.

Captain Noah — sorry, I mean, Carter Merbreier — died today, at age 90.  Yeah, for real. If you thought this post was one of those stories that people share with R.I.Ps and sad emoticons and hashtags not realizing that the subject had left this Earth several years prior, I thought the same thing. Even The Husband, who has a keen knowledge of celebrity recognition and obscure trivia, insisted that Captain Noah had sailed away long ago.  (We realized we were probably thinking of Mrs. Noah, who died in June 2011.) I verified all this with my sources —philly.com/The Inquirer/Daily News or whatever they all call themselves these days and 6ABC, which has Captain Noah’s death categorized as Breaking News, which strikes me as both odd and amusing only because there was nothing sensational or urgent or anything remotely breaking news-like happening on the Ark.

Indeed, Captain Noah and His Magical Ark was a simple show with simple things. Stories about animals. Life lessons told by puppets. Children’s artwork. (“Send your pictures to dear old Captain Noah … .”) As a kid, I remember being amazed that you could actually put something in the mail AND CAPTAIN NOAH MIGHT GET IT AND SHOW IT ON TEEVEE!  Sometimes, a celebrity would guest star on the show and it would be the coolest thing imaginable.

Eight years ago, I took my own kids to the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. There among the exhibits was THE ACTUAL SET FROM CAPTAIN NOAH AND HIS MAGICAL ARK. I was reverent, awestruck — and yes, stunned that the set was so small. Part of me, I think, expected to see an honest-to-God real ark, like one of biblical proportions. After all, things seem so much bigger when you’re a kid, more magical.

We lose that as adults when the storms of life hit.

I remember staring at the animals, the TV cameras, the captain’s wheel. My kids were running all over the place, ignoring my insistence that they just had to come over and see the set of Captain Noah, right now, because here was my childhood, right here.  Needless to say, they were unimpressed and it occurred to me that there’s only so much of one’s experience and history that can be passed down to the generations after us.

I often think about the ways that stories and the personalities of a particular place have a way of becoming part of us as children, shaping us into the people we become later in life. I feel supremely lucky to have had the childhood that I did, and for having grown up in Philadelphia during the ’70s and ’80s.  In the span of two decades, the world has become a very different place and I wonder sometimes what cultural memories like Captain Noah my kids will carry from their early years, if any.  It makes me a little sad that they likely won’t have the collective shared history that The Husband and I share. That their memories will be more commercialized, so to speak, and less tied to an individualized, unique moment in time, a particular place or person, as compared to a generic, homogenized experience.

Given its beginnings as a religious program for children, Captain Noah and His Magical Ark probably would never be allowed on the air in today’s politically correct, hypersensitive, easily offended environment.  And today’s kids would probably be bored out of their minds. But I know I’m not the only middle-aged person who still has an enduring love and nostalgia for Captain Noah, and that has to mean something.

Maybe it’s a testament to the power of stories, of simple songs about colors and listening with our eyes to the world and being kind to one another.

Maybe those are the only things we need with us in our proverbial ark when the storms of life hit and threaten to destroy our world. 

Red and yellow and pink and green
Purple and orange and blue
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow too.

Listen with your eyes,
Listen with your ears,
And sing everything you see,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing along with me.

Red and yellow and pink and green,
Purple and orange and blue,
I can sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow,
Sing a rainbow too!

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Live Blogging the DNC, Day 1

 

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11:22 p.m.
“Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president and I am proud to stand with her tonight.” – Bernie Sanders

11:11 p.m.
“Think about the Supreme Court justices that Donald Trump will nominate.”

11:06 pm.
“Hillary Clinton must become the next President of the United States.” – Bernie Sanders

10:52 p.m.
Larry David should have introduced Bernie.  (h/t to The Husband)

10:48 p.m.
Is this Convention in Minnesota or Philadelphia?

9:56 p.m.
And THAT is how you give a speech.

9:55 p.m.
During the 2004 convention, when we watched Senator Barack Obama speak, I said to Bill that we were watching a future President of the United States.
We’re seeing another one right now.‪#‎CoryBookerWillRiseToTheWhiteHouseMarkMyWords‬

9:50 p.m.
PREACH IT, CORY BOOKER. What a hell of a speech this is.

9:23 p.m.
This is stepping into shitshow territory.

9:21 p.m.
I have just never liked Sarah Silverman.

9:17 p.m.
Sarah Silverman should not be on that stage.

9:13 p.m.
Um, no. Bad choice of songs there with “Billy, Don’t You Lose My Number.”
Who the hell’s idea was that???!! Seriously??!!

9:07 p.m.
“Donald Trump doesn’t hear me and he sure doesn’t speak for me.” – Anastasia Somoza, International Disability Rights Advocate

9:07 p.m.
As absolutely uncomfortable as it was to watch Trump’s mocking the reporter with a disability (and I admit, I had not seen this before now — only the coverage of it), I can only imagine how horrible it was for that reporter. And I am SO GLAD they highlighted this in prime time during the convention.

8:54 p.m.
Al Franken’s speech is comedy gold.

8:08 p.m.
Oh, my God, that kid … I’m practically in tears.‪#‎KarlaOrtizForPresident‬

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She Knew What We Did Those Summers: Remembering Lois Duncan (1934-2016)

I Know What You Did Last SummerKilling Mr. Griffin

My teenage summers were spent poolside at the Valley Club,  sharing secrets with my best friends over orders of French fries blanketed in Cheez-Wiz.  We lounged on beach towels with our Sony Walkmans blasting ’80s pop music loud enough to drown out our immature siblings’ screeches of “Marco! Polo!” in the deep end of the pool. We doused ourselves with enough Hawaiian Tropic oil that made us as bronzed as an Olympic medal.

When we weren’t in the pool or discussing Luke and Laura on “General Hospital,” we were reading anything we could get our hands on.

Maybe it was characteristic of my group of friends at the time or the pre-Internet/pre-smartphone era, but we read A LOT. Like everything and anything.

All the time.

And perhaps it was because of our rather uneventful, vanilla, goody-two-shoes suburban middle-class upbringing (and attending school with peers whose families were in much, much higher economic echelons), but we seemed drawn to darker stories with just enough thrill factor to keep us turning the pages.

Aside from Judy Blume writing about our deepest insecurities and rites of passages and V.C. Andrews’ creepy as all freaking hell Flowers in the Attic series,  young adult author Lois Duncan’s teen suspense novels are the ones that are seared into my memory from those years.

Thrillers about a car accident involving well-off teens that resulted in murder (I Know What You Did Last Summer, 1973); sinister cousins (Summer of Fear, 1976) and a high school prank intended to scare a mean teacher that goes horribly wrong (Killing Mr. Griffin, 1978) were stories as drop-dead real as anything we saw on the evening broadcast of Action News. (These were the years when people still watched the news.  And when the world had to be ending for the news to be considered “breaking.”)

Lois Duncan’s fiction was chilling and terrifying and made those of us who led a relatively sheltered and privileged life wonder if such horrendous things could really happen. Through her groundbreaking writing for teens, Lois Duncan showed us that, at least in fiction, they could. As we got older, real life would have no shortage of atrocities — one only needs to look at the past week for proof of that.

Sadly, Lois Duncan herself experienced personal tragedy in 1989 when her daughter Kaitlyn was murdered — ironically, just a month after the publication of one of Duncan’s novels with a similar plot. For years, she devoted her life to writing about her daughter’s still unsolved murder and supporting others whose loved ones were homicide victims.

Lois Duncan died on Wednesday, June 15 at age 82, leaving a rich literary legacy of children’s books, young adult novels, short stories, magazine articles, and nonfiction. Those of us who grew up in the late ’70s through the mid-80s enjoyed what I believe was a golden age of young adult literature by writers who bravely took chances with their work and were trailblazers for many of today’s equally outspoken and daring young adult authors.

Until I read her obituary in Publisher’s Weekly, I had no idea that Lois Duncan Steinmetz was a Philadelphia native, which endears her to me even more. (Her family moved to Florida when she was young. Still, in my mind she’s a Philly girl like me, making my days of reading her novels while growing up in the Philadelphia suburbs especially nostalgic.)

I think the hallmark of a great writer is someone whose books are remembered decades after reading them. Even if some details of the plots have faded, we can immediately recall how books like Killing Mr. Griffin and I Know What You Did Last Summer always made us feel.

Deliciously chilled to the bone, even on the hottest of summer days.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #19 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

 

 

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penguins, parades, and pittsburgh pride (17/99)

Philadelphia Zoo - solo penguin

Penguin. At the Philadelphia Zoo.

So there was a little parade in Pittsburgh today. You know, a small shindig with only about –oh, 400 bazillion people attending, give or take.  That’s a bazillion people for every time the Stanley Cup has been owned by this city. According to the crazy photos, most of them seemed to spend the day hanging out in –and on — parking garages. Or packed into a several-city block radius like sardines.

But here’s the amazing thing. As of this afternoon, NOBODY GOT ARRESTED.

Not a single person.

Aside from the fact that there really are cities that actually win not one but MULTIPLE championships once in the same century, that’s unfathomable to me.  I hate to say it, but as much as I love and am loyal to my Philadelphia, I’m pretty confident that this would not have been the same news story had the Cup traveled a little further east.

Whenever I’m asked about the difference between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, I always answer the same way.

“It’s the people,” I say.  “They’re incredibly friendly here. I mean, they’re downright NICE.”

I’m always struck by this whenever I visit my hometown, as I did for several days last week.  The difference in demeanor is noticeable. While my mom and I were at the grocery store, I happened to leave my cart (and yeah, it’s a CART, not a buggy) a little too much in the aisle. Another customer came up alongside and I apologized for having the cart in her way.

No response.  Wait, I take that back.  I’m pretty sure she grunted.

In Pittsburgh, I would have been asked my thoughts on the gluten-free crackers I was holding, learned that her cousin’s daughter’s neighbor was one of my coworkers, and been invited over to her house for a BBQ this weekend.

Lest you think this was an isolated example, it wasn’t.  Similar thing happened at another store.

Almost every day brings more kudos for Pittsburgh.  We’re the Best This, the Most Livable That, and for sure, this town certainly has its issues, but for the most part these accolades are accurate. This really is a great place to live.

I doubt I’ll ever become a Penguins fan. But today?

Today I’m pretty damn proud to live in this city.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #17 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

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beautiful day (13/99)

Philadelphia - City HallPhiladelphia - Suburban StationPhiladelphia - Friends Center - WelcomePhiladelphia - Friends Center 1

My city, today.

A day of journeys, similar, yet different.

A day of moments.

A day of remembering one of our own, gone.

A day of embraces and understanding.

A day of forgiveness and acceptance.

A day of declarations of independence from shame and stigma and loneliness.

A day of healing.

A day of laughter.

A day of tears.

A day of being seen and heard.

A day of compassion.

A day of release from guilt.

A day of sisterhood.

A day of bravery, of courage.

A day of sharing, of honesty.

A day of new ideas and exciting plans.

A day of hope.

A day of generosity and gratitude.

A day of threatened storms overpowered by brilliant light.

A day of love.

A day of the very best kind.

All this, today.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #13 of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

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On Being a Flyers Girl in a Penguins World (12/99)

Flyers - Pens

Chalk it up to the push-pull effect of place that I always feel when I’m here, but there I was:

Thursday night, solidly back home among everything Philly, hitting refresh on all my social media streams for the final score of the Pens game.

Believe me, I wasn’t sure who I was either.

You see, I’m a Philly girl, born and raised. I love and am proud of my hometown.

Most of the time.

Growing up, mine was not a sports family but it didn’t really matter. If you lived in the Philadelphia of the ’70s and ’80s, it was impossible to not cheer for the Eagles, Phillies, Sixers, and Flyers. Sports events became part of our births and christenings, our graduations and weddings, all the milestones that make up a life. Athletes were local celebrities, held up as heroes; on neighborhood streets and school playgrounds, every boy I knew dreamed of being Ron Jaworski, Mike Schmidt, Julius Irving, and Bobby Clarke.

I imagine — no, I know — the youth of Pittsburgh experienced a similar phenomenon. Different names, same dreams.

I completely get it, this passion for the home team when living in a sports-crazed town. Even if you’re not a sports person, which I admittedly am not, this loyalty has a way of seeping into your soul.

This summer will mark five years since we moved to Pittsburgh. Although there are aspects of our lives where we still feel like newcomers — our friendships are peripheral, at best; we don’t have the close relationships we have (had?) in Philly; we still get lost when driving —  in many ways, this city has become home. My kids identify more with being from Pittsburgh than Philly, as this is the longest stretch of time they’ve lived in one place.  They’ve made friends here, my work is here, and hopefully The Husband will again have a job here. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

And speaking for myself, I admit I have embraced most of the Pittsburgh sports teams. I’ll always root for my Eagles, but I admit my cheers are louder for the Steelers.  Our family reluctantly abandoned the Phillies years ago in favor of the Yankees, but I’ve discovered there’s a lot to love about the Pirates.

But the Penguins.

I can’t quite get there with the Penguins.

I think it has something to do with this dichotomy I have of being from one place I love and living in another that also has a hold on my heart. Loyalty to a sports team becomes something tangible when you find your identity and sense of place shifting, as I’ve discovered can so easily happen when you move away.

Maybe that’s why I found myself compulsively checking the Penguins score last night.  Because as much as I cling to the orange and black, and as much as I felt like an imposter for doing so, a part of me craved that sense of belonging, that rootedness of being home.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is Post #12 of my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

 

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Weekend Cooking: Goodbye to Geiger’s Bakery

Geiger's

photo courtesy of Geiger’s Bakery Facebook page

Come Monday, yet another piece of my childhood will cease to exist.

Michael Klein’s brief blog post on Philly.com tells of the imminent closing (due to retirement) of Geiger’s Bakery on Frankford Avenue in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia, where they’ve been a staple of the community for 38 years.

My grandparents lived a few blocks away from the bakery; whenever we visited (which was often) my grandfather would have already “walked up the Avenue” to get us a treat. It simply wasn’t a family dinner without a Geiger’s butter cake for dessert or a sleepover at Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s without half a dozen powdered cream doughnuts waiting for us for breakfast when we woke up in the morning.

Growing up, the Geiger family themselves lived right up the street from my family. Those were the days when you actually knew every single person in your neighborhood. One of my best friends from those days reminded me of how her family used to babysit the youngest Geiger son and how his mother would bring home an unsold butter cake from the bakery for them to enjoy.

If you didn’t grow up in Philadelphia, chances are you probably don’t know what I’m talking about with this butter cake. I was shocked when we moved out here to Pittsburgh and people had NEVER HEARD of this. Suffice it to say that butter cake is the food of the gods. I mean, if they serve food in heaven — and I would like to imagine that it’s a 24/7, all you can eat, calories and carbs be damned to hell smorgasbord — then Geiger’s has earned a place on the menu.

As decadent as their butter cake and doughnuts and pound cake was, this isn’t about the food. Because all of our memories of food are really about something else. It’s a reminder of a time and a place that’s gone and of the people who shared that time and those places with us. Read the comments on the Geiger’s Bakery Facebook page and it’s person after person remembering cakes for special occasions, probably celebrated in homes that have long been sold and with loved ones who are no longer here.

Thank you to the Geiger family for making my childhood so sweet.

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend.

 

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