April 1, 2010

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Nobody’s fool

We, the slightly diminished Chestnut Hill Local editorial team, have been eyeing this publishing date for a while. It’s not often that a weekly’s publishing date falls exactly on April 1, April Fools’ Day.

We considered our duty to play the practical joke: a headline announcing the Hill’s imminent annexation to Montgomery County or that the Local was acquired in a hostile takeover by the Weaver’s Way Shuttle. But I hesitated … I don’t want to cast any aspersions, but I’m not sure every segment of our readership would appreciate the humor. You should hear the calls I get when we forget to publish the crossword puzzle.

The tradition of April Fools’ Day, or All Fools’ Day is the fool’s errand. According to the ever handy Wikipedia, a fool’s errand is well defined as “a task that cannot be accomplished because of fate or because it is a joke. It comes mainly in two varieties: trying to find something that does not exist, or trying to accomplish an impossible task. Others who are aware of the prank will often redirect the victim to several different places.”

In the last week, we’ve seen the conclusion of several stories that bring the fools’ errand to mind.

The big news on the Hill this weekend was the announcement of the closure of the Good Food Market. Owner Jennifer Zoga announced the closure on her market’s blog on Friday. By Sunday Afternoon, I’d received three letters on the matter.

In Jennifer Katz’ front-page story this week, Zoga explains the city licensing issues that have forced her to shut the market down for good. But her remarks on the blog post announcing the closure reveal hurt feelings:

“I am closing because I don’t want to lose sight of how wonderful Chestnut Hill is just because a handful of critics are trying to make me bitter and paranoid.  It doesn’t make sense for me to feel this way.”

Ultimately, Zoga’s great idea couldn’t compete with the harsh realities of neighborhood opposition (even if it wasn’t universal) and the byzantine city zoning code that should be easier to navigate. And another building will be empty next week.

In other news, the Chestnut Hill Community Association board signed a document that effectively ends years of a bitter dispute over past managerial issues at the association. The years-long battle between two factions of board members and the failure of both sides to reach an agreement paved the way to an investigation by the state’s Attorney General, the result of which was a $5,000 slap on the wrist.

Board members who initiated the investigation might are somewhat disappointed by the results. The question is: Was justice served? There are some who will say no, but when the architects of bad practices under investigation are all long-gone from the association, what punishment should have come down on the association or the Chestnut Hill Community Fund? Any financial penalties against those organizations would have had no impact whatsoever on the bad decision-makers. The community would have felt the brunt of any penalty against the association and fund.

Were these fools’ errands? It’s hard to say that either was a waste of time, even if the end result feels like nothing gained for the time and energy spent. Both stories are, however, informative, indicative of mistakes that should be avoided in the future. And neither is, ultimately, much of a laughing matter.

Pete Mazzaccaro

Commentary: A ‘shinplaster’ starts a lifelong love of coins

In 1938, when I was six years old, my grandmother sent me a “shinplaster,” a 25-cent paper bill from Canada, in my birthday card.

It seems like a very small gift, but we were still in the clutches of the Great Depression, and no one had much money, least of all my grandmother – Emily Day Gibb – we all called her Grannie Gibb. She lived on a country road, 100 miles north of Toronto, near a little town called Gravenhurst.

So when my birthday card arrived at our home in Buffalo, and I saw the 25-cent shinplaster, I knew I had something very special. I had a little bank where I put it for safekeeping, and every once in a while I would take it out and look at it and read it and then put it back.

Well I think I held onto it for six months, and then the temptation to spend it became too great. So my mother took me to our local bank and I went  up to the window and traded it for a silver quarter.

In 1938, a 6-year-old kid could buy a lot of stuff with 25 cents. So I guess I bought candy and bubble gum and things like that and still had lots of money left. But I didn’t have my shinplaster from Grannie Gibb, so I had mixed feelings.

This little 25-cent note was the beginning of my lifelong interest in collecting coins. My collection was never worth much from a resale standpoint, but it was a source of great interest and a lot of fun.

That summer we went “up North” to see Grannie Gibb for a few days, and she gave me some very old Canadian coins, which I still have to this day.

In 1940, two of my uncles left for the war in Britain and later Europe. Archie was a transport pilot, and Jon was a commando in the 48th Highlanders. When they came back at the end of the war in 1945, they brought coins from Britain, France, and the Netherlands. So, they not only added to my collection, but gave me a little piece of history at the same time.

After 53 years, I decided that I just had to have one of those shinplasters again, so I asked my coin dealer if he could find one. He did, and it was priced at 40 times face value; I would have paid double that amount. The first one was spent; this one is for keeps.

Grannie Gibbs, Archie and Jon have long since gone to heaven, but I still have the coins that they gave to me and, more importantly, the memories.



Commentary: Help grow green branch of Garden Festival
by Amy Edelman, co-founder GRINCH

On Sunday May 2, the Chestnut Hill Garden Festival will attract 25,000 day trippers, neighbors, friends and families to Chestnut Hill for the day. In addition to old favorites like Cafette’s Caesar Salad, Paul Roller’s pork sandwiches and the pooch parade, a new branch will bud: GReenINChestnutHill (GRINCH) is composing Eco Alley. It will be a gathering of Eco friendly businesses that are committed to sustainable business practices and will include live music from Urban Drawl and new family activities like kiddie yoga.

GRINCH aims to highlight sustainable local businesses like Happy Cat Farm, Philly Electric Wheels, Philly Compost and the Big Green Earth Store whose business models are thriving and inspired by eco consciousness.

Every generation has new sets of challenges and every generation has visionaries who learn from the past and seek innovative solutions for the future. These challenges are largely due to the significant increases in populations and consumption of natural resources in the past 200 years.

 No one worried about air pollution 250 years ago because the combustible engine did not yet exist. In the “olden days,” about a 100 years ago, no one worried about consumption, waste and overflowing landfills partly because there were only 1.5 billion people on the planet. Now there are  6.5 billion people.

It is the problem of overflowing landfills and the methane gas that landfills emit that motivated Lee Meinicke and Meenal Raval to start a company called Philly Compost. For a reasonable fee, they collect food scraps (green) from local restaurants like Earth Bread and Brewery, The Wine Thief and the Night Kitchen Bakery, add leaves and other brown organic items and spin it into gold … well not gold, but something just as valuable: compost. They sell the compost to garden supply stores and landscapers who use it to enhance their gardens. Their business model is win-win.

After checking out Philly Compost you can meander over to Meenal’s husband’s business Philly Electric Bikes and ask to take a spin on Eco Alley. I can tell you it’s a fun ride and a great car alternative for older folk who want to take long bike rides. And don’t forget to sign the little ones up for a session of kiddie yoga with Krista from Shakti Yoga. Come grow Green at the Eco Alley scene.

If you are interested in getting involved in GRINCH’s sustainability efforts in Chestnut Hill or just want to support our mission monetarily, the GRINCH table at the Garden Fest will be offering memberships. You can become a follower of GRINCH at and become a fan on Facebook. For membership info contact Jen Reed at





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