Thursday, July 23, 2009

your philly freedom annogram

Galileo at the Franklin Institute
With a few Westchester Amateur Astronomers, we made a pilgrimage to see Galileo’s hand-crafted telescope at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. We looked through the telescope—first time out of Italy—as the great scientist did. “Galileo, the Medici and the Age of Astronomy” included intricately carved brass astrolabes, compasses and replicas of Galileo’s observation notebooks and personal correspondence. Galileo (1564-1642) was first to discover craters on the moon, moons of Jupiter, phases of Venus similar to our moon—proving the sun, not the earth, is the center of our universe.

And Star Trek too
We also viewed the Star Trek:The Exhibition, substantially less exciting than Galileo. Of some interest—Star Trek: The Next Generation costumes worn by Picard, Worf, Guinan and Counselor Troi; a cast head of Data; and USS Enterprise model used in the original series. Much more exciting was the 60,000-ton steam engine at the Franklin which offers a ride a few yards, and the lobby’s laser tribute to and towering statue of Ben Franklin.

Philly’s Historic District
Led by our friend Bill Newell, and driven by our pals Angela and Mike Virsinger, we enjoyed touring Philadelphia’s Historic District. This meant sitting in George Washington’s pew in Christ Church, the first Episcopal Church; driving past Independence Hall, the Arch Street Quaker Meeting House and the residence of Dr. Physick, the first American surgeon; visiting the charming Elfreth’s Alley—the oldest continuously inhabited homes in the United States; throwing pennies on Ben Franklin’s grave, as custom dictates; touring the Betsy Ross (1752-1836) house—where she made flags and musket bullets for Washington, outlived three husbands and had seven kids.

Good eats
In the great Philly cheese steak eat-off, our meat connoisseurs proclaimed Pat’s King of Steaks victor over Geno’s Steaks next door. At the Reading Terminal Market, we went to Delilah's at the Terminal, whose mac n' cheese Oprah selected as the best in America; my husband Michael, Bill Newell and I agreed it was delicious. I made a beeline to Bassetts Ice Cream, the oldest purveyor in the country—so good, we ended up going there twice. If you remember being able to actually chew cold ice cream, then you will know what Bassetts is like. Oh vanilla, to thee I sing!

The Female Sower
Loretta Fay noticed women on the train sometimes pull out a piece of paper with a quote—perhaps scripture, perhaps poetry—for encouragement. That observation led to The Female Sower, Loretta’s custom purse business. After a career in textiles, Loretta offers women more than 20 fabrics to design their own purse. Inside, she affixes a printed message of the woman’s choice. Made of durable upholstery fabric, these hand- and shoulder bags can be spot-cleaned and their linings are breathtakingly beautiful. When I saw them in person, I was amazed by the quality. To express your individuality, create a personalized purse for someone special, or give a gift certificate, e-mail Loretta at

Chappaqua Rocks
An unexpected summer pleasure was the free Friday concert by Chappaqua Rocks—a genuine“school of rock.” Each group had their own band name and performed recognizable songs—from “Pinball Wizard” by the Who to “God Save the Queen” by the Sex Pistols. Pint-sized kids were wind-milling with the best of ‘em—and instructors on-stage helped with the beat and lyrics. Fourteen-year-old Evan Schwartzman (at right) expertly played drums, bass guitar and later sang the rap song “Sugar” by Serj Tankin. See last summer shows this and next Friday, 4:30 p.m. at the Music Conservatory of Westchester.

MYGRAIN at the Bitter End
How many grown-ups wish they could play the Bitter End? Success comes early for some—including MYGRAIN, a band of Chappaqua Rocks students who recently rocked the Bitter End: Dante Palmenteri on vocals (on left above), Evan Schwartzman on bass and background vocals (on left, center), Karel Ullner on rhythm guitar (on left, at far right), David Batten Lead Guitar, Cole Parham on drums and Julian Fernandez on keyboards.

Gigi and the Lend-Me-A-Hand Band in Peekskill
Fresh from headlining July 4th in Philly, Gigi and her band opened the Peekskill Waterfront Festival this week to a huge outdoor audience. Joey Elluzzi, son of Gigi drummer Guy Elluzzi and action leader Patty Elluzzi, made an awesome debut on the trombone. Lead guitarist Michael Cefola and bass player Larry Schwartzman, Gigi’s spouse, go back to Joey's age as friends! And Gigi’s mom, Granny Franny, is always a star in her own right on keyboards and vocals. Playing a mean sax is long-time friend Paul Rutkowski, who gives the band that New Orleans spice. Everyone loves the Gigi band—especially Maria, who's holding a Gigi CD giveaway on her moms blog, Maria’s Space.

Fear—does it hurt or help artists?
Find out in part 2 of my conversation with filmmaker Frank Vitale. Frank and I just completed another eye-opening discussion on the creative process. Sure you’ve got talent—but does it control you or do you control it? Look for this interview in your inbox.

‘Round the Net
As usual, I am grateful for intriguing links sent by:

· Ann-Marie Cutul at the Scarsdale Library for this literary traveler link.

· Lucy Barber, extraordinarily talented painter—praised by The New York Times—whose paintings can be now seen on her blog.

· Elaine Gregory, my sister-in-law, for this amazing video by Highland sheepherders.

· Viki Holmes and Kate Rogers, for the Not a Muse Anthology Facebook page and announcing the Haven Books booth this week at the Hong Kong Book Fair.

· Katharine McCollum, my cousin, for this great interview with Oklahoma’s poet laureate, poet/translator Jim Barnes.

· Linda Simone, award-winning poet, for this talk by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) on creativity.

· Meredith Trede, Toadlily publisher and poet, for the new revamped Toadlily site.

Wishing you summer pleasures,

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