Hole in the Clouds

March 2013

Is It Spring Yet?

Mar 1, 2013

They've been getting a lot of snow this winter in Maine–a foot last weekend and a record 29.3 inches early in February from the storm they called Nemo, and more before and since and in between. This photo was taken after Nemo, in Portland's Old Port.

Some Mainers are probably happy about it.

Here in Philly, we got nothing.

Portland   Maine   streetscape   winter   snow   work  

Spring Comes to the Convention Center #1

Mar 5, 2013

If this is the first week of March in Philadelphia, then it must be time for the Flower Show. Here in the Urban Gardens exhibition, we see a green wall of collards and kale, growing in dirt packed into a latticework on the wall.

Both kale and collards are tough enough to last well into the wintertime in Pennsylvania, so something like this could theoretically eke a little green wonderfulness out of a tiny little yard like mine during the season after the tomatoes are all tuckered out. I'm sure that a green wall is way too demanding, both green-thumb-wise and carpentry-wise, for a wishful sort of lazy gardener like me, but I can already taste that pot liquor.

Meanwhile, needless to say, they're finally predicting a little snow for our city.

garden   winter   Philadelphia   flower show   vegetables  

Spring Comes to the Convention Center #2

Mar 6, 2013

We all live in a yellow submarine, absolutely including my mother and yellow flowers upon yellow flowers. The theme of this year's flower show–Brilliant, as in British–was in the air everywhere, as the lads from Liverpool sang about Strawberry Fields  and "Doing the garden, digging the weeds...." There was also a yellow submarine sort of thing out on the floor, pictured here.

Most of the cultural references were literary, however, as opposed to musical. There were Peter Rabbit cottage gardens and Harry Potter owlish gardens, and allusion after allusion to Alice and the rabbit and the queen. There was a Jane Austen dooryard with a calling card left in the door; the name engraved on it in flowery script couldn't quite be made out from behind the picket fence that kept spectators out of the flower beds.

family   portrait   Philadelphia   Sandra Horowitz   Beatles   garden show  

Once and Future Beverwijk

Mar 9, 2013

Nice looking skyline, is it not? The city is Albany, New York, which may or may not be a nice place to live or even a nice place to visit; I've never been there and yet . . . here I am squawking about it.

It's actually one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Western Hemisphere, founded in the early seventeenth century as Beverwijk, a Dutch village outside the gates of Fort Orange. Beverwijk was renamed Albany when the English took over in the mid-century, and in 1686, the city was officially incorporated under a charter that is said to be one of America's oldest governing documents still in effect.

Albany was also the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal and for many years produced beer that was shipped westward on the canal to all the thirsty pioneers out in the hinterlands.

The painting below shows Albany's North Pearl Street in approximately 1800.

New York   cityscape   art   streetscape   skyline   Albany   1800   (Photo h/t skyscrapercity.com; Artwork by James Eights)  


Mar 10, 2013

Although George Chaconas advertised "fancy fruits and vegetables" at his grocery store in Washington, D.C., also prominent among his wares are chickens with their feathers and rabbits with their fur.

Way in the background is the Washington Monument. The store was in the area now swallowed up by the government office buildings of Federal Triangle.

By 1915, when this picture was taken, Chaconas had been in the grocery business for more than a quarter century. In addition to the store, which had been in this location for about a decade, he and his family also sold groceries from a truck–the kind of vehicle referred to then as a huckster wagon–that made the rounds of the outlying neighborhoods.

Back in the 1890s, however, when he was first establishing himself in Washington, Chaconas sold his fruits and vegetables from a pushcart. On August 14, 1894, as recorded by the Washington Post, Chaconas and eleven other Greeks and Italians were arrested and fined for lingering too long and obstructing traffic with their pushcarts.

streetscape   store   P.K.   1915   immigrant   Greek American   chickens   (Image credit: Harris & Ewing via Shorpy)  

Perishing Twice

Mar 21, 2013

On a cold night in January, more than two hundred firefighters from all over Chicago battled a huge blaze in the Harris Marcus warehouse in the city's Bridgeport district. The job was complicated by extreme cold, as hydrants froze and ladders iced up; the water department was called in to de-ice the ladders with steamers.

The next day, embers in the smouldering ruin reignited, and firetrucks had to go back there and spray even more water.

cityscape   Chicago   birdseye view   Illinois   winter   ice   fire   night and day   (Image credit: Archie Florcruz)  

Pump Run

Mar 23, 2013

By 7 a.m. on June 21, 1942, the line of cars at this Texaco station, and at pretty much every gas station in America, spilled out of the lot and on down the street. Strict gas rationing to conserve fuel for the war effort was set to begin the next day, June 22, 1942.

Note the corn plants growing in the grassy spot in the lower left corner of the picture. Note also the car closest to the camera: a brand new 1942 Packard.

McDowell's Texaco was in the 5200 block of Wisconsin Avenue NW, near Friendship Heights at the edge of Washington, D.C; a parking garage now occupies the spot.

Washington   cityscape   cars   World War II   District of Columbia   1942   5252 Wisconsin Ave NW   (Image credit: Marjory Collins for Office of War Information)  

Bread of Affliction

Mar 27, 2013

They say the original matzoh-makers were in a mad rush that first night out of slavery and couldn't bake their bread with customary care and patience. Somehow, that biblical hurry led to perfect squares of matzoh with neat rows of perforations, packaged in cardboard and sold at Passover time for next to nothing by supermarkets hoping to lure in customers for other holiday purchases.

At Metropolitan Bakery in Philadelphia, however, matzoh is the focus of a new business model. It's baked with black olives or sun-dried tomatoes, and it's primitive in appearance, artisanal by reputation. Crowds of people stand in line for it, and they pay a pretty penny.

It seems that there's more than one way to make money off "comfort foods" that invoke the bad old days. Happy Passover, y'all.

food   Philadelphia   holiday   matzoh   Passover  


Mar 28, 2013

This was a winter of of moving on up for Joshua and his denmates in Portland, Maine, as they graduated from cub scouts into boy scouts. The controversy surrounding scouting these days is probably inaudible or nearly so to the kids, who like scouts of generations past happily keep their eyes on the prize: camping trips and merit badges and all that awesome quasi-Native American stuff.

Portland   Maine   children   Joshua   Boy Scouts   (Image credit: Susan Wiggin)