Oct 21, 2010
Looking out of my back upstairs window and across the alley into my neighbor's back upstairs window.
Oct 21, 2010
Looking out of my back upstairs window and across the alley into my neighbor's back upstairs window.
Nov 16, 2010
Sunday was warm and sunny, maybe the last pleasant day this fall. While the humans sat chatting on their stoops, Toby the dog and Samantha the cat had a little fun with each other.
Samantha is often kept on a leash when out of doors. She doesn't seem to mind the restraint, and whenever Toby stops rassling for a moment to catch his breath, she goes straight at him, begging for a little more nip and snort and tussle. He generally obliges.
Aug 2, 2011
Dec 8, 2011
I always thought they were called sycamores, but no, the people who know these things tell me that city trees that look like sycamores are actually hybrid variants called London planes. Real sycamores, we are told, are too crooked to serve well as street trees, so things are what they are, and now that the old elm trees are no longer among us, we are left with London planes as kings of the sidewalks, with their fine white bark and annoying seed balls. This one is on South 21st Street in Philadelphia, near the corner of Kater Street.
The picture was taken about a year ago, when December was decidedly more wintry than has been the case thus far in 2011. But last year's decorations are up again, and the dusk is just as dark and just as early as I remember from 2010. Season's greetings are probably in order.
Dec 22, 2011
As Debby and her daughter Lily lit the candles for the first night of Hanukah, Lily's Hanukah bear sat on the kitchen counter just beyond the right edge of this picture. Use your imagination: the Hanukah bear is a stuffed polar bear wearing a yarmulke, with a battery-powered voice. Push the button, and the Hanukah bear sings and sings about a dreidel made of clay.
After the candles were lit and the bear had sung, there were dreidels made of plastic and gelt made of chocolate, plus presents for Lily and latkes for all.
Jan 4, 2012
Charlie wanted to make sure that the cars on Kater Street proceeded in an orderly manner, so he posted a couple of signs: STOP, of course, and then a few feet down the block, GO, which he printed out in his own personal, drawn-out, lilting style of spelling.
Mar 19, 2012
I have it on very good authority that these princesses were on their way to the drug store.
Apr 1, 2012
Hard to believe, but April hasn't even really gotten started yet, and the time of blooming is already behind us, at least for the Bradford pears on Kater Street. That afterbloom is just so messy.
Apr 27, 2012
The truck and a backhoe blocked Kater Street for most of the day yesterday, but the job didn't look too video-intensive. According to the man with the shovel, who ought to know, "a couple of feet" of sewer line needed replacing under the sidewalk in front of a house. According to the new owner of the house, the problem had been picked up during a pre-sale inspection, forcing the old owner to foot the bill. "Up to a limit," said the new owner. "This just better not go over the limit."
By late afternoon, the backhoe had filled the hole, and the new owner was standing in his new doorway, roller and empty paint tray in one hand, phone in the other. "It went great," he said, while he texted one-handed. "Soon as I finish the painting we can move in."
Jul 24, 2012
Two days ago, a major water main burst around the corner from our house, collapsing the street into a sinkhole big enough to devour a couple of Mack trucks. The water gushed out unchecked for five hours, flooding the street and the sidewalks and, of course, hundreds of basements. Our house escaped with trivial damage, but some of our neighbors' homes were devastated.
The crew from the Water Department described the event as a triple calamity: ruination of a major 48-inch water main, a gas line, and steam pipes. Young guys with the crew said it was the worst incident they'd ever dealt with; an older guy said no, it was the third worst.
Jun 2, 2012
I don't know how the story began, but this young robin wound up on a neighbor's doorstep the other day. People put out a bowl of birdseed, which didn't seem to interest the bird; it just sat there all huddled on the steoop, occasionally squawking for its mother.
Mama robin was in fact close by, keeping a watch from a nearby tree. Baby and mother chattered frequently, and occasionally mom flew down with some food for the baby.
A second young robin about the same size as this one was also in the area, hopping about and flying at least a little. Perhaps this bird on the stoop had lost its mobility after a flying lesson gone awry or some other accident.
Even though mama bird had not abandoned her stricken young, the situation was dire. Alone on a city stoop, the baby was at the mercy of neighborhood dogs, cats, chilly night winds, and thunderstorms. And if it couldn't fly, it would never be able to take proper care of itself.
I don't know how the story ended, but the next day the stoop was empty.
Oct 28, 2012
Nov 9, 2012
Looked out of my upstairs window a month or so ago, and there at the edge of the roof across the street was Samantha, a gargoyling sort of cat who'd followed her mistress up a ladder onto the roof and then, of course, refused to climb back down. Cats apparently missed the memo about going down ladders tail-first.
My neighbor eventually tossed Samantha down onto a second-story deck; she landed feet first and none the worse for wear–and by all accounts eager to get back up on the roof again.
Nov 12, 2012
When you get a day in November that's t-shirt warm, it just seems right to get up on the roof. There were drainspouts to clear and trees to trim, debris to sweep up and . . . pictures to take.
Today's rooftop picture features our neighbors Carolyn and Frank; Carolyn works the pole trimmer while Frank hooks a finger in her beltloop to keep her safe.
Looking into the treetops, it became obvious that this year's fall weather has mostly been so mild that the leaves are only just now beginning to behave fallishly. But we trimmed the trees back so far that almost all the remaining leaves will eventually drop on the street or the sidewalk, not on top of the houses.
Nov 19, 2012
From the rooftops, here on Kater Street, you can see most of Philadelphia's gap-toothed skyline, such as it is. This is a city that had no tall skyscrapers at all until the late 1980s and does not yet have a critical mass of them, skyline-wise.
From a few fortunate vantage points around town, the buildings of Center City appear to clump together more or less like a proper downtown. But from most places, including the roofs of Kater Street's two-story row houses, the skyline looks raggedy and disorganized.
Actually, from the roof of our own house up toward the end of the block, you can't see the skyline at all on account of the trees–or at least that was the case last week, when we climbed up there and shot this picture. Since then, the leaves have yellowed and dropped quite suddenly, and we would imagine the view is now only partially blocked, by a lacework of tree branches.
Jan 6, 2013
Apr 8, 2013
Jun 25, 2013
Jul 7, 2013
You'd think something tropical and well-watered that only had to hold it together for a single day could bloom right through the scorching. And you'd be almost right. These flowers are still beyond awesome, at least a 20 on a scale of 1 to 10. But the heat's in charge these days, not the petals.
Air conditioning is my friend.
Jul 29, 2013
As leafy as the trees may be, when the summer sun takes aim at bricks and concrete, the light will find a way.
Sep 1, 2013
Back in June, baby Summer was a four-pound preemie whose days blurred into nights tethered to the beeps and wires of an apnea monitor.
But by mid-August, when she left Philadelphia to begin life with her adoptive family in a village 50 kilometers north of Amsterdam, Summer was fat and happy and paying attention to the world. That's what a summer on Kater Street will do for you.
Sep 21, 2013
Oct 30, 2013
Jan 6, 2014
Jan 7, 2014
Jan 22, 2014
Jan 23, 2014
Jan 25, 2014
Feb 17, 2014
Mar 23, 2014
Jun 9, 2014
Jul 4, 2014
It's an important project, replacing century-old water mains underneath this stretch of Kater Street near us. It's also been a crazy dragged-out project, beginning last fall and not quite finished yet.
In the wintertime, the digging had exposed the water main and also the connecting water lines that served houses all up and down the street. Of course the pipes froze. Repeatedly. Ice and snow interrupted the work, repeatedly, often leaving our neighbors with no water.
In the springtime, the neighbors enjoyed the noise of heavy equipment at their doorsteps, all day, every day. All but one of the trees on the block were cut down. There was mud when it rained and dust when it didn't rain, and of course no parking.
Now it's July, and the workmen have closed their hole back up and are finally preparing the block for new asphalt and curbs and sidewalks. They promise new trees next fall.
All along, the work has been hard: cold, hot, and dangerous, with people living right there in the construction site. The street is so narrow and the houses so close to the hole that the excavator has to back up all the way to the end of the block to turn around between scoops of dirt.
As hard as it is, it's critical work for our children's future. We need a whole lot more investment like this, or our problems will no longer be the first world sort of problems.
Happy birthday, America.
Jul 14, 2014
Jul 15, 2014
Jul 26, 2014
The neighbors who live along the west side of a block of 21st Street near Kater had noticed that their cold water wasn't cold any more. Right out of the tap, it was hot; one of them took its temperature and found it feverish, over a hundred degrees, which is hot enough for a nice hot shower.
They called the water department, which promised to look into it. But the guys we talked to Friday morning who'd been sent to look into it might be described as less than entirely sympathetic. "They're getting free hot water," is how one of them put it. "Free hot water, and they're not happy."
The water guys suspected a leak in the steam line that runs under the sidewalk along 21st Street, which sounds like a dangerous situation, though nobody was acting particularly worried.
The guys from the steam company, on the other hand, suspected erosion under the sidewalk in the aftermath of a water main break a couple of years ago; they believed there was no longer enough dirt down there to insulate the steam line.
For reasons we cannot fully fathom, both sets of guys were looking for evidence in the sewer lines. The crew pictured here took the low-tech approach, using shovels and eyeballs; another crew had fancier technology, basically a snake with a video camera at its head, transmitting images onto a screen set up in the back of a van.
We asked what they were seeing on the screen. "Nothing yet," they said. "Just sewer."
We asked what they were looking for. They kind of snorted. "Steam," they said.
By mid-afternoon, everybody had packed up and gone home. We're not sure if they saw any steam, but the neighbors are still getting free hot water.
Jul 22, 2014
Aug 10, 2014
Feb 22, 2015
We offer a robust winter sports program here in Kater Street. See, for example.