Monthly Archives: January 2014

Clean, Pure, North Philly Color

Who says there aren't any trees in North Philly? | Photo: Bradley Maule
Who says there aren’t any trees in North Philly? | Photo: Bradley Maule

Hard to believe it’s been nearly five years since Steve Weinik, Steve Ives, Chris Dougherty, and I got together for a day’s worth of riding SEPTA. (Worth noting: we’re planning a fifth anniversary of sorts, a new tour, for this June.) In Weinik’s essay, he speaks of growing up in Mt Airy and always wanting to ride the 23 bus’s full length; so he did.

Now that I live in Mt Airy, my SEPTA Zone 2 pass is good for both Chestnut Hill regional rail lines—on their schedule, of course. So if I miss a train by five minutes, it’s either wait 55 more for the next one or explore my options. Those options include taking the H bus to Broad & Erie, traipsing across the neighborhood from one train line to the other (again, assuming the schedules match up), or hopping that 23 bus. In three months living here, I’ve found that to not be the least undesirable option, but one that’s actually quite convenient—door-to-door service from the POPE in South Philly to home in Mt Airy!—and certainly eye opening.

As Weinik mentioned in his piece, the 23 bus from top to bottom—from Germantown Ave & Bethlehem Pike in Chestnut Hill to Broad & Oregon in South Philly—is a real Philly slice of life, a dissection of all that’s right & wrong, rich & poor, heartwarming & gutwrenching in this city. But what’s interesting, to me, is that in his view five years ago, the stretch of the 23 on Germantown Avenue in Fairhill was the most depressing, enunciated by his starting in ritzy Chestnut Hill and continuing on through the glistening skyscrapers downtown. But in the time since then, the Mural Arts Program—Weinik’s place of full-time employment—has taken a stretch of this route and splashed it with color that demands once-averted eyes to look. As Mural Arts’ in-house photographer, he got to watch the Dutch artists Haas & Hahn bring their favela magic to North Philly from up close. (Check his photos of the project, Philly Painting, HERE.)

At the southern end of Philly Painting’s two-block, three-story canvas, Germantown Ave follows its ancient indian trail with a slight curve to the left. At this bend, the Village of Arts & Humanities now sits in its 25th year of residence. What Lily Yeh founded as a way of breathing life into vacant land has blossomed into an award-winning organization that provides a creative outlet for thousands of kids and volunteers across Philadelphia.

Last Tuesday, Mother Nature socked it to us with 12″ of powder. That night, Steve Weinik and I did the city classic, Snow Day at the Bar, and probably stayed for one drink too many at McMenamin’s—on Germantown Avenue in Mt Airy. The next morning, with SEPTA regional rail in the snow to contend with, I opted to head to Center City instead on the 23 bus. This time, I got out at Lehigh, and I walked down Germantown Avenue to soak in the colors of Philly Painting and the Village of Arts & Humanities under a foot of snow and a crystal clear blue winter sky.

One Man’s Trash: Week 4 Report



WEEK 4: Allens Lane & Lincoln Drive to Crefeld Street

This particular week was cold. VERY COLD. Not a lot of folks out in the park following a snowfall and deep freeze. With traffic down, I spent a longer swing on Forbidden Drive than I usually do (without a bike anyway).

Still, in spite of the accumulation, there was still enough litter to not come away empty handed.

Prior to this hike, I’d never been to the Crefeld Woods section of the park. Lavender Trail represent! And there’s a nice little gate at Crefeld Street, under which the Thomas Mill Run trickles downhill toward the covered bridge, where it empties into the main Creek.


Not much, but still too much
Not much, but still too much
Quick work with the pen and pad this week
Week 4: quick work with the pen and pad

1 16oz bottle Sprite
1 24oz bottle Gatorade (fierce grape)
1 piece chartreuse ribbon
1 pack Game blunts (white grape)
1 jar lid (partial)
2 pieces random plastic

1 16oz aluminum bottle Coors Light
1 12oz can Budweiser
1 pin/crank
1 piece random metal

1 white handkerchief
1 Cannondale glove

1 piece of napkin

Dog shit piles: 4
Dog shit bags: 3
Dogs on leash: 2
Dogs off leash: 9


Thomas Mill dam and covered bridge
Thomas Mill dam and covered bridge

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⇦ WEEK 3WEEK 5 ⇨

Après-ski à Cobbs Creek

The El crosses Cobbs Creek from DelCo into Philly | Photo: Bradley Maule
The El crosses Cobbs Creek from DelCo into Philly | Photo: Bradley Maule

“Polar vortex” … “bombogenesis” … what ever happened to classic nor’easters and plain old blizzards? In three and a half years, including four winters, in Portland, I saw exactly one snowfall: a 3″ job the first month I lived there that was melted by noon the next day. (Still, it shut the city down for at least a day.) This winter? Now this is the east coast. But FU, Weather Channel, I’m not calling a winter storm a name you made up just to stir a hurricane hype into ratings. Pfft.

Anyway. Tuesday, my favorite day of the week, delivered as always with a good foot of the white stuff. Living in Mt Airy, I did the most logical thing: bundled up for a snow hike through the Wissahickon, then met Steve Weinik at the neighborhood’s official snow day bar, McMenamin’s … then woke up the next morning on the couch still in my boots and gloves, feeling like a million bucks. (Truly–man I love winter.) Come Wednesday, the snow was over and the skies crystal clear, that dare-you-to-go-outside pure, cold, clean air. Challenge accepted.

West Philadelphia Jewish Community Center, 1927-2014 | Photo: Bradley Maule
West Philadelphia Jewish Community Center, 1927-2014 | Photo: Bradley Maule

One of the nice things about being an editor of the Hidden City Daily is assigning yourself stories and photo shoots as needed. With news of the West Philadelphia Jewish Community Center demolition in full swing, I had to get out there to see the handsome circa-1927 Romanesque building before it was gone. Yet another historic building from a time long gone meets its maker. Ugh.

While the WPJCC was under construction at 63rd & Ludlow, so too was the widening of Cobbs Creek Parkway, following the old route of Grays Lane (not to be confused with Grays Avenue or Grays Ferry Avenue) (according to Robert Alotta’s Mermaids, Monasteries, Cherokees, and Custer, 1990). Morphing from street grid to meandering sylvan drive, Cobbs Creek Parkway essentially follows the path of Cobbs Creek proper, Philadelphia’s winding western border from City Line Avenue to where the stream empties into Darby Creek, near 80th Street in Eastwick. Cobbs Creek Park, a ribbon of green space with a rec center, a swimming pool, an environmental education center (housed in a Works Progress Administration building completed in 1936), a skate house supported by Ed Snider’s Youth Hockey Foundation, and a popular hike/bike trail, was established as part of the Fairmount Park system in 1904.

As with a number of other examples–Grays Ferry, Gravers Lane, Allens Lane–Cobbs Creek’s naming convention comes from simply dropping the apostrophe, although there are still those who add it back. The apostrophe originates with William Cobb, an English miller who bought land along the creek from the Swedes, who had lived here since the early 17th Century. Remnants from a mill built by Swedish Governor Johan Printz can still be seen farther down Cobbs Creek near the Blue Bell Inn.

In addition to the waterway and Parkway, the West Philly neighborhood from Market Street to Baltimore Avenue and 52nd Street to the Creek takes the name Cobbs Creek. The native Lenape name for the creek, Karakung, lends itself to Karakung Drive in Haverford and the Karakung Golf Course, through which Cobbs Creek and its tributary Indian Creek flow.

Unfortunately, many people know the neighborhood from one of the city’s darkest days, May 13, 1985, when Philadelphia became The City That Bombed Itself. After years of tension and a very public eviction from Powelton Village, a standoff between police and the militant luddites MOVE at their fortified compound half a block from Cobbs Creek Park on Osage Avenue reached its hilt when a police helicopter dropped a bomb provided by the FBI, igniting an inferno that destroyed over 60 homes and killed 11 MOVE members. Of the two who survived the bomb, only one, Ramona Africa, still lives; Birdie Africa, the sympathetic 13-year-old who escaped the fire, burned, died last year in the hot tub of a Carnival cruise ship.

62xx Osage Avenue—"the MOVE block"—in 2014 | Photo: Bradley Maule
62xx Osage Avenue—”the MOVE block”—in 2014 | Photo: Bradley Maule

But the neighborhood rebuilt, and Mayor Wilson Goode denounced the action as unconscionable. Densely populated and primarily African American, Cobbs Creek takes the connectivity of the city grid to the edge, where a spacious park provides many residents with their first introduction to the natural world.

This set of photos follows that idea, the merger of city and nature, under this week’s blanket of snow. Photos were taken along Cobbs Creek, Cobbs Creek Park, and Cobbs Creek Parkway, from Market Street to Baltimore Avenue.

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• PA Community Forests: “On the Threshold of a Dream” (PDF) – a story about the Cobbs Creek Community Environmental Education Center
• PhillyH2O: “Cobb’s Creek in the Days of the Old Powder Mill” – a history of mills along Cobbs Creek written by John Eckfeldt in 1917, digitized by Adam Levine
• UPenn: West Philadelphia Community History Center – a resource created by Penn students and faculty to explore the history of West Philly’s neighborhoods

The Wintry Wissahickon

Watch your step, it's a long, rocky way down | Photo: Bradley Maule
Watch your step, it’s a long, rocky way down | Photo: Bradley Maule

As you may have gathered from my Instagram jawn (widget at right, or follow me on yon jawn @mauleofamerica — I have a @phillyskyline one too, just need to figure out how/when to roll that out), I spend a lot of time in the Wissahickon. It’s the main reason I moved to Mount Airy.

Growing up in Central PA, I spent a lot of time in the woods with my dad, and going with my folks to places like Tyrone’s Reservoir Park and Indian Lookout in Rothrock State Forest; even the “beaches” we had, at Raystown Lake and Prince Gallitzin State Park, were surrounded by forest. The Appalachian Trail passes nine miles from Shippensburg, and I much preferred it to studying. In my three and a half years in Portland, my neighborhood park, Mount Tabor, rose 400′ from the street grid and encompassed 200 acres and had several miles of trails. I may be a city person now, but I needs my trees and hills, man. (No offense, South Philly.)

Lots more from the Wissahickon to come, including a big announcement coming this week. In the meantime, in between time, a few more pics from yesterday.

Fancy a ski? Forbidden Drive | Photo: Bradley Maule
Fancy a ski? Forbidden Drive | Photo: Bradley Maule
Mt Airy Ave Bridge | Photo: Bradley Maule
Mt Airy Ave Bridge | Photo: Bradley Maule
The Monastery, built 1747 | Photo: Bradley Maule
The Monastery, built 1747 | Photo: Bradley Maule

One Man’s Trash: Week 3 Report

Three bridges, one iphone HDR jawn
Three bridges, one iphone HDR jawn

WEEK 3 (MLK Day): Ten Box to Carpenter’s Woods

Friends of the Wissahickon held a cleanup for the Martin Luther King Day of Service along the Monoshone and Wissahickon Creeks, starting at Rittenhouse Town and working downstream toward Ridge Avenue. My own haul from the cleanup included a pair of XXL Dallas Cowboys mesh shorts appropriately filled with mud and a friggin’ bike pulled from the Wissahickon Creek directly below the Henry Avenue Bridge.

Free bike, slightly used
Free bike, slightly used

However, the two bags I filled during the 2.5 hours with FOW (and the bike) were carted off by Philadelphia Parks & Recreation to be disposed of, along with the 30 or so bags collected by other volunteers. In the interest of no blank space for Week 3, I hiked home from Rittenhouse Town, picking up additional trash from Ten Box (the junction of Forbidden and Lincoln Drives) through Blue Bell Park and on to Carpenter’s Woods. And it went a little something like …




1 40oz bottle Colt 45
1 16oz bottle Minute Maid soda
1 12oz old brown bottle (no label)
4 12oz bottles Budweiser
1 10oz bottle Coca Cola (old school)
1 12oz bottle Pepsi (old school, broken)
1 tall candle jar (broken)

2 Quality to Go meal containers
5 20oz coffee cups
1 cup (broken in pieces)
1 piece random styrofoam

2 winter hats (1 Thinsulate, 1 no name)
1 shoe sole
1 sock
1 glove-mitten (glitten?)

1 tennis ball

Week 3 Haul
Week 3 Haul

1 pair Coby headphones
2 pieces cotton
1 koozie – Wings to Go
1 long dog leash
1 piece broken ceramic
1 pack Newport cigarettes
1 pack Kool cigarettes
5 cigarette butts
1 paintbrush
1 piece purple ribbon

1 wrapper Wrigley’s gum
1 tag(?), Hershey kiss
1 packet Gulliver sugar
1 pack matches
1 wrapper, Tornado (burrito?)
3 paper towels/napkins
1 hot dog wrapper

2 16oz cans Schaefer’s beer (one pull tab)
1 12oz can Kirsch(?) party(???) (pull tab)
1 25oz can Bud Ice
1 24oz can Yuengling Lager
1 24oz can Genny Cream Ale
1 old school razor blade
1 12oz can Modelo beer
1 12oz can Natural Lite
1 12oz can Rolling Rock
1 12oz can 7-Up
1 12oz can Miller Lite
2 12oz cans Budweiser
1 can Chunky Soup

3 packets ramen flavoring (2 beef, 1 chicken)
1 bag American Rock Salt
1 16oz Honest Ade (orange mango), inside bottle, 1 wrapper, Wisconsin colby cheese
1 16oz Honest Ade (cranberry lemonade), inside bottle, 1 wrapper, Twizzlers
1 16oz Honest Tea (peach white tea), inside bottle, 1 wrapper, Skittles
1 1.5litre bottle Pepsi
2 32oz bottles Gatorade (1 Riptide Rush (LOL), 1 Blueberry Pomegranate)
1 8oz bottle Kool-Aid Burst
2 16oz bottles water (no labels)
1 small runner’s water bottle
1 16oz bottle water (Crystal – Save-a-Lot brand)
1 16oz bottle water (Shop Rite)
1 16oz bottle water (Deer Park)
1 wrapper, Zone Perfect nutrition bar
1 pouch, Nature’s Nectar wild cherry
1 bag, Clancy’s potato chips (sour cream & onion)
1 wrapper, Nestle Chunky
1 wrapper, Lean Body protein bar
1 wrapper, generic ice cream sandwich
2 bags, Clancy’s tortilla chips (1 ranch, 1 nacho cheese)
5 wrappers, Nissin ramen noodles (4 beef, 1 chicken)
1 creamer cup, Irish Creme
1 wrapper, plastic spoon
1 16oz strawberry container
1 medium green plant holder
1 16oz cup, McDonald’s McCafe iced coffee
1 wrapper, Doritos
1 food container bottom half
2 random car parts (grill?)
3 red stir straws
1 iced drink lid
2 food tub lids
4 coffee cup lids
4 packets honey
1 spoon
1 wrapper Tootsie Frootsie
1 packet, Nabisco saltines
1 pack, cream cheese
1 bag, Toufayan(?) bagels (onion)
1 big clear bag
1 medium white bag
1 black 40 bag
1 pile misc plastic pieces

Dog shit piles: 1
Dog shit bags: 5
Dogs on leash: 1
Dogs off leash: 7


Ten Box parking lot, bend of the Creek at Lincoln & Forbidden Drives
Ten Box parking lot, bend of the Creek at Lincoln & Forbidden Drives

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⇦ WEEK 2WEEK 4 ⇨