Sunday, August 28, 2011

funny signs in support of gay marriage

more like this here.  enjoy.

the aftermath of Irene

Lincoln Drive late this afternoon
Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm and so the winds did not get quite as bad as forecasted.  This turned out to be a good thing, since at 3434 did not lose power at all. However, there are 29,000 Philadelphians who did lose power today so I guess I should not be too quick to dismiss this storm less I offend those who may  be eating canned chili for dinner tonight via flashlight.

Manayunk and East Falls were flooded as usual.  Madison, Chloe and I walked down to the river to see how bad it was.  These pictures were taken shortly after noon today.  Apparently the river crested at 8pm this evening but I did not go back down there to check it out.

I did go to the Wiss to do an hour run and check out the trails, and I was relieved to see that the damage was not too bad on the Henry Avenue side, certainly nothing like Floyd, when several bridges were washed away and there was extensive trail damage.  I think that is partly because we have had so much rain that a lot of the dead branches were already off the trees.  Saturday morning I came upon three trees down, and that was before Irene moved in.  There was a lot of tree debris on the trails today, but they did not seem any more rutted and washed out than they did Saturday morning.

As I was turning up a trail I heard the sound of a chainsaw, and a minute later I came upon Tom Coyle and his friends from the PMBA. They had cabin fever, they told me, so they came to the park to cut out some downed trees.  How cool is that that the winds from Irene had hardly died down and they were out there doing trail work?  If you appreciate this, think about making a tax-deductible donation to help the park here.

Here are some more pics of our raging Schuylkill.  The good news is this evening was beautiful as Irene scooted up the coast, and it's going to be sunny and in the 70s and low 80s all week.  I have Annie's visit to look forward to and a 4-day weekend for Labor Day, hooray.

The Sunoco Station at Kelly and Midvale

chloe does not understand "do not cross"

Saturday, August 27, 2011

hurricane Irene punishes the wicked and innocent alike

Hurricane Irene bearing down on us
Well, I lied.  Not intentionally of course, but Irene did get in the way of Annie's visit, so she is going to come down next weekend instead.  Since we were going to have an entire weekend of rain and high winds I decided to take the day off Friday anyway because I have not had a chance to get any gardening done in the past 3 weeks with all of this rain.  I had every intention of going mountain biking yesterday, because I knew that as it was after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, the Wissahickon would be in bad shape after the amount of water and wind we were getting this weekend.  But there were just too many chores to get done before the storm including getting compost from the Fairmount Park Recycling center and spreading it in the gardens (humping heavy trashcans full of black gold in and out of the Infiniti and up my front steps) making kombucha, taking the pups to the park, and going to Home Depot to get supplies to fix my leaky shower The Depot was packed and it was 2:30 on a Friday; they told me they sold out of generators at noon.  There was hours of gardening and clean-up and Colin came over and helped me move my trees and plants in the front to a safe location out of harm's way.  Then I had long beans, Asian eggplants, cucumbers, peppers and herbs to pick, and I had to grill them up along portabello mushrooms and zucchini from the market.  One can't grill in the rain, so of course this all had to be done on sunny Friday.  The long and short of it is I never did get on my bike, or even out for a quick run.

So this morning I jumped out of bed and looked out the window and lo and behold, it had not started raining yet. I did a lap in the park before it the sky even broke.  I was a little disappointed at how tired my legs were today, considering I took Thursday and Friday off, but I did do a lot of physical labor yesterday.  There was already a good amount of  damage in the park from all of the storms we've been having this August.  I counted three large trees down, and the trails were really rutted and all the rocks were greasy; it made it tough in places to get your wheel over stuff if you couldn't dig deep.  I was worried that maybe I was not really feeling better after all, and this chronic lethargy in my legs would continue into the fall.  And because my body felt tired,  I did not feel confident riding in those conditions, and this pissed me off a bit, but I reminded myself that it would all come back, it always does.  Christ I was riding some of this stuff on a borrowed cyclocross bike with screwed up gears just last Saturday at the Cadence Cyclocross Boot Camp.  Riding the Yeti was a definite improvement.  Mainly because my wrists could not handle the lack of suspension.  As I was leaving the park I ran into Jeff Schalk and a female pro whose name escapes me, I guess they drove up from Virginia to get a ride in before the Hurricane caught up with them.

I finally got home, showered, had my chocolate recovery shake and took the dogs back to the park for a swim in the creek, which was swollen and muddy from all of the prior rain.  It started to rain before we got there, but I didn't care.  We did get a swim in, and Madison and Chloe discovered how hard it is to paddle against the current in those conditions.  At one point I was standing in the middle of the stream pushing each dog from the root of the tail through the strong currents until they got to the other side.  Then when I commenced swimming for the other bank I almost could not make it; it was that angry in the water.

So we got home, I gave us each a bath, cleaned the entire house, did seven loads of laundry, and placed candles everywhere in case we lost power.  By early this evening the wind was really whipping up and I had to go outside in my PJs at one point  to take down the large umbrella on the back patio which I thought would be protected by the 7 foot fence.  65 mph gusts are pretty extreme and I did not like the way it was flapping as if it were a helicopter rotor about to spin wildly up and out of its base.

 I assembled and pan-fried some bean and mushroom burgers and stir-fried my chinese long beans with peanuts with home-grown english cucumber and purple cherokee heirloom tomato salad and sat down to eat and enjoy a glass of pinot noir while the dogs munched on their raw chicken and beef liver approvingly.  They were pretty content as after their jaunt in the park and mandatory bath they had been lounging around chewing beef marrow bones all day while mom toiled away with the vacuum cleaner.  What I would give to be reincarnated as one of my dogs.
It's almost 11 now, and I know the worst of the Hurricane will arrive while we are sleeping.  So far my bilco doors are not leaking, but the roof in my bathroom is weeping a little. Oh well, it could be worse.  I'm just hoping if and when we do lose power it's not for long, because my fridge and two freezers are brimming with food.

Not sure if we will have power tomorrow, but if not I will have to venture out in the storm and plant my fall crops: mostly lettuce, some radishes, carrots, and beets.  If they don't get washed away the tenacious little sprouts will taste even sweeter, I imagine, because they were sewn in the swirling winds and driving rain of the worst hurricane to hit the east coast since Floyd in 1999.  I will keep you posted if anything crazy happens.  Like the worst earthquake to hit the East Coast in seven decades?  Yeah that was Tuesday.  I'll get to that post too.

Hurricane Floyd caused massive damage back in 1999.  Irene could do the same or worse.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I sure know how to pick'em

click on me to see full image please

So this was supposed to be my first weekend at mom and dad's shore house in Sea Isle City, NJ of the whole summer.  They've been asking me to come down, but I've been having too much fun in Philly avoiding dating anyone, gardening, riding but not racing my bike, and teaching dogs how to swim.  But the Big News is Annie is visiting from Connecticut and Sab, Alessandra, Florie and the 'rents have been down the shore all week, so I am really excited to go.  I even took the day off of work tomorrow so we could get down there early, since Annie has to work Sunday. And the advantage of going this weekend is of course, avoiding the Labor Day throngs of beachgoers who will be gumming up the works next weekend.

See that not-so-l'il blob over Pennsylvania today?  It just started raining here at the airport, and oh my it is pouring.  My LT intervals will have to be done inside on the trainer, with  Chloe, the dog who is terrified of thunder, at my feet. But how angry are the Gods this week anyway, throwing the East Coast a 5.8 earthquake and Hurricane Irene in the space of 5 days?  Not sure where that swirling mass of red on the satellite image is going to make landfall yet, but Saturday looks iffy for playtime at the beach.  So I guess we will see where it's tracking tonight and either head down South or else stay in Philly.  What matters most is I get a chance to catch up with a great friend.  And no earthquake or hurricane could get in the way of something so long overdue.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

fait accompli

So it only took Madison one more try to perfect her doggie paddle and pretty soon her new game became chasing me in the water. I became the prey.  And I try to swim away from her quickly, not only because I want her to get better at swimming but also because when she catches me it is painful as her claws rake down my arms in the water.  I also had cut open my heel last time on a rock or piece of glass so I drove to REI and purchased these fabulous water shoes from Teva.  Only I should have checked Amazon first, because they are cheaper there.  I can run, hike, and swim in them, and they dry in a jiffy.  They do slow me down a bit in the water and with Madi-Shark coming after me with that serious look on her face I find  it hard to swim through my laughter sometimes.  But that's not the shoe's fault.

So it was Chloe's turn. As littermates Chloe and Madison share half of their DNA, same mother different fathers,  and although Chloe is in great shape as well, she did not not get the quite the same Super Dog genes that her sister did.  No matter.  That dog would follow Madison through the gates of Hell.  So with Mad and I already in the water and Chloe in the shallow water desperate to follow us, we clambered up on the rocks on the opposite bank. I knew Chloe would get it.  I did make myself hoarse with calling her name though.  Witnessing her dog brain try and figure out how she could get to us without sinking into that deeper water was humorous too.  First one approach, then another, but no, she would have to make the leap.  And again, we had an audience of onlookers who were rooting her.  At one point, Chloe was so frustrated that she could not follow us that she started barking at people on dog beach.  I swam over to her and was able to do what Madison would not let me do, I gently pushed her into the deeper water, keeping her supported. It freaked her out, but she was more trusting of me than her sister had been, so I finally gave her the heave-ho straight at the opposite bank where Madison was waiting.  She was paddling away, a bit smoother than Mad's first attempt, but then Chloe is part Retriever after all.  Both of my dogs have webbed feet for pete's sake.  Who knew?

And lo and behold, after Chloe finally was swimming back and forth across the creek and gleefully joining her sister in her exploration of The Other Side, who shows up but Kathy?  She was up on Forbidden Drive with her trademark radiant smile and remarked how impressed she was at how much better Mad was swimming.  Soon she made her way down the root steps and her dogs joined us in the water.

Anyway, I don't need to yammer on and on about my fur-kids, but I have to say teaching them to swim has made quite a change in all of our lives.  Not only is swimming an excellent activity for us older gals who want to mitigate the wear and tear on our joints from a well-lived life full of activity,  it also forces me to take an extra hour or more out of my jam-packed day to just do something stupid fun.  I tend to get wrapped up in my training, gardening and chores, but the last few weekends we've been out on the bike by 7am due to the heat and I'm done by 10, which is very liberating.  After my protein shake it's back out to the park for a hike and swim with Mad and Chloe.  Even better, this past weekend we got a surprise visit from Sabrina, Alessandra and Florie, so we spent the better part of the afternoon hiking in the Wissahickon and swimming at an even bigger swimming hole frequented by LOTS of ecstatic canines.  By the end of the day both Madison and Chloe were diving off rocks into the water, completely submerging themselves for a second until their heads bobbed up and they were gliding forward.  Really funny.  Afterward it was back to 3434 for a dinner on the patio with vegetables the kids picked from my garden.  Talk about a day we will cherish forever.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

one dog down, one to go

rocks at dog beach
So I started writing this post several weeks back, July 4th weekend actually, and here we are at the beginning of August.  The days have been getting surreptitiously shorter as the summer tumbles headlong towards the end of the year; so you hardly notice until someone asks you what you are doing for Labor Day weekend.  The inevitable pull of gravity draws the water in my Wissahickon creek over the rocks and down the banks to the Schuylkill river, and then onto the Delaware River which, for thousands of years, has emptied into the Delaware Bay, and then into the great Atlantic Ocean where the Coriolis effect draws those molecules of water that flowed between my toes in the creek to far away lands and back up into the atmosphere and down again, and like the passage of time, there is nothing I can do to slow it down; I can only bear witness to its passing.  I suppose that is one of the reasons I write these thoughts down. You can't stop time any more than you can stop that precious water as it slips through your toes and over the rocks and away.

My garden has been yielding its abundance, and I've started some new projects around the house, most chore-like, others with an artistic flair.  This month marks the year anniversary of Gryphon's passing, and we all still miss him a lot.  If something positive can come from losing a member of your family, it is that the surviving members get more exercise now since I am no longer the caregiver to an elderly dog.  We take brisk hour walks around East Falls or Fairmount Park every morning and in this heat they often end with a dip in the fountain at Philadelphia University or else a stroll in the Wissahickon Creek.

the fountain at Philly U
So Madison and Chloe are littermates, now 9 years old, and they had never actually learned to swim.  No, you don't need to give a dog swimming lessons like you do to a child; dogs have an innate ability to paddle, but many of them did not receive the memo about this and thus have a hard time taking that leap of faith when the water gets much past their chests.  This was the case with my two kids, and as I mentioned before, I was determined to change that.

So the day before my fateful accident, I had Madison alone in the park since I was running and Chloe is injured and can't be off-leash for a few weeks.  The three of us had already done an hour walk in the morning, but I took Madison out again so I could run with my Ipod on and not worry about some creep trying to attack me in broad daylight.  Not to mention it's just more fun to run with a well-behaved dog, especially one in as great a shape as Madison.  It was 95 degrees and humid, so after we stopped I took her down to our special spot in the creek.  As soon as I unleashed her at the opening in the fence bordering Forbidden Drive that led down to dog beach, as I call it, she raced down to the water and immediately laid down and started taking gulps of water.  I made my clumsy 2-legged pedestrian way down the roots and rocks to the water, took off my shoes and socks, lay my Ipod, headphones, and sunglasses down and waded into the creek, wincing a bit as the rocks tested my tender feet.  Soon I was in above my waist, calling Madison towards me. The water felt so good after my run.

our spot
Madison came towards me until the water was up to her chest.  We had been here before, but this time I was determined to teach her to paddle.  I coaxed her towards me and tried gently to support her body and guide her into the deeper water but she was not having this and backed away from me as soon as I slipped my arms around her. So I swam out into deep water, laying on my back and feeling the cool water wash my sweat away and Madison never took her eyes off me.  I was swimming away,  calling her, and she was barking loudly in frustration that she could not reach me.

To my right a Causcasian Earth Mother of woman in a sundress that looked like it had been on many a dog hike was standing next to an African American man with a beard. They were chatting and throwing a ball into the water for two dogs who were avid swimmers.  I asked them if they would mind if we came over there, because I wanted Madison to see their two dogs gliding effortlessly across the creek and scrambling up on the opposite bank in the spirit of freedom and exploration.

"Oh sure, dogs do learn from each other" she said, and that is how I struck up a conversation with Kathy and Karl.  Madison stared in awe at the Lagotto Romagnolo, or Italian water dog, as well as at Rose, the lab mix, and in that moment I knew her competitive spirit would take over and she would get it.   This is the dog who as a puppy could jump a 7-foot fence, who can catch and  kill all manner of animals, even birds, and who is an incredibly powerful, cunning, and graceful athlete.  She figures out how to open doors.  She is smart as a whip and a little manipulative too.  She sometimes frustrates me, but I realize that if I were a dog, I would be just like her.
where the peanut gallery stood to watch and heckle
By this time we had an audience.  As you can see from the above picture, as we were down in the swimming hole, Forbidden Drive, with it's throngs of Philadelphians walking, jogging or riding by, was directly above us.  It was almost as if we were on a stage and were people stopping to look down on us and check out what all the commotion was about.  I found myself in the odd situation of calling out from the water, explaining to strangers that although my dog was nine years old I had rescued her from a garbage dump in North Philly and she had never learned how to swim.  This amused dog owners and non-dog owners alike.  There were probably anywhere from 4 to 10 people at any given time who paused from their stroll to rest on the fence in the heat, watching the spectacle.

So I went about my own swim, paddling on my back while I spoke with my two newfound friends about the dogs they had owned over the years.  I discovered  Karl was another client of my dog chiropractor, Dr. Fries, and I told them the story of Gryphon and of rescuing Madison and Chloe and the rest of the litter.  Suddenly Kathy's eyes got wide and she had a big smile on her face.  Madison, who had been barking pitiously to get my attention during that whole time that I was ignoring her, suddenly was doggie paddling over to me in the deep water.

"That's it Madison!  Good girl Madison!"  the three of us shrieked at the same time, causing the picnickers on the other end of dog beach to look over at us.  People on the fence were clapping, shouting, laughing and offering their encouragement.  Madison had the sloppiest dog paddle going; she made big splashes as she struck the water, rather than pushing it, and it was really funny to watch.  This was a mutt from North Philly, she was no Italian water dog!  She swam right up to me as I lavished priase on her, and I soon discovered that because she could not stop paddling, her nails left big welts which over the next 24 hours would develop into long thin bruises down my arms and back. I was afraid that she would get tired, and she was headed over into the current a bit, so I started to grab her to point her in the direction of the bank and Kathy interjected, "no just leave her alone, she'll be fine."

And Kathy was right.  She also told me in a couple more tries Madison's "stroke" would become more efficient and graceful, which was what I was hoping for.

It was getting late, and Kathy and Karl said goodbye and I thanked them and told them I hoped to see them again.  And with that, I slipped my sneaks back on, gathered up my things and Madison and I strode back onto the trail, both dripping wet, headed up to Hermit Lane where the car was waiting to drive us the 2 miles back to the house, where Chloe would be anxious to join us for dinner.  What an incredible day!  I can't believe how proud I am of my dog, I mean you would have thought my kid had just won the Nobel Prize for discovering the cure for cancer.  But no, she had just proved, once again, that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

the swimming hole