The Jepps Brook History Lesson

Back in the woods the brook answers only to the terrain. It speeds up as it cascades through rocks and down briefly steep hillsides.


I was standing on the little bridge (more like a paved over culvert) that spans Jepps Brook taking pictures when Geoff Harris drove by. Twenty years ago we moved into the neighborhood he’s lived in all his life. He asked if I’d ever hiked on the lower section of the brook?

long-view-jepps-brook.jpgJepps Brook, like most of the little waterways that run through these short hills is well hidden. Across the street from me it runs through backyards. In other places it marks meandering property lines.

Back in the woods the brook answers only to the terrain. It speeds up as it cascades through rocks and down briefly steep hillsides.

I’d explored the lower brook a handful of times over the last few decades. It was during the summer when the brook runs low under a canopy of leaves. I’d never walked it in winter and certainly never with a guide who’d spent his life near it.

geoff-harris-on-jepps-pond.jpgA few days later I knocked on Geoff’s door. There was no answer, so I walked around back and down a snow covered hill to Jepps Pond. This four acre pond is visible from satellites but not from a road or anything publicly accessible.

Geoff and his grown son were on the ice with large snow shovels. They had cleared a space for skating. The ice was smooth. It was full of subsurface bubbles giving it an organic look. This was not ice rink ice!

Today the brook and pond are places of beauty and tranquility. In the past this little piece of water was the power source for mills.

icy-jepps-brook-waterfall.jpgWe walked downstream past the dam that regulates the pond. “It’s changed,” Geoff said. With construction in the area more silt flowed down the brook. A few sand bar islands had been born as the brook evolved.

Geoff pointed across the bank to some indentations on the far side. At one point channels had been dug into the rock rich soil to bring water downstream outside the natural limits of the brook. That water was directed to a wheel which powered a mill.

jepps-brook-stone-retaining-wall.jpg“Look at the size of that cornerstone.” Geoff was pointing to a pretty substantial boulder in the retaining wall. It had been moved into place a few hundred years ago with horses and block and tackle. It just boggles the mind.

It’s easy to lose sight of this area, especially in the winter when I’d rather be someplace warm. It just might be the most beautiful place in the world.


Invincible – The Movie

Invincible, the story of Vince Papale, opened this weekend. There was no chance I wasn’t going to see it. As the former owner of Section 614, Row 11, Seats 19 and 20 at The Vet, how could I not see a movie about a former Philadelphia Eagles player.

And, of course, there was Helaine. It was pretty much decided she’d see this movie when it went into pre-production. She too is an Eagles fan, plus at one time she knew Papale&#185.

Surprisingly, a lot of other people felt the same way. We went to the 3:00 PM show at Showcase Cinema in North Haven and found the theater nearly half full. That’s pretty good for a summer’s day – even one with mainly cloudy skies.

Are there that many Eagles fans? We watched a few groups of girls come in. Probably Mark Wahlberg fans.

Invincible is the story of Vince Papale, a 30 years old South Philly bartender with no college football experience who walks into a Philadelphia Eagles open tryout and makes the team. Imagine Rocky as non-fiction.

Though the movie claims to star Mark Wahlberg, it really stars Philadelphia. The city is portrayed as gritty and downtrodden. Papale’s South Philadelphia neighborhood is cramped with narrow streets and smaller homes. The Eagles are the one salvation to men who see no salvation or future in their own lives.

Wahlberg did a nice job, though I suspect the real Vince Papale was a lot more ebullient. The Papale seen on the screen was a self doubting moper.

Coach Dick Vermeil, played by Greg Kinnear, also seemed to lack the incredible enthusiasm… maybe naive enthusiasm… I saw in him as a Philadelphia resident.

It’s seldom you see a movie with a nearly wall-to-wall soundtrack of mid-70s music. This one did, and I loved each and every one.

Some of what’s portrayed, specifically Papale’s failure during his first pro game and his amazing turnaround in game two (calling a special teams audible which enabled him to make a tackle, creating a fumble, which he carried to the end zone, setting up an Eagles win against the Giants) seemed too contrived to be real. I checked, but the detailed game-by-game stats you find today just aren’t available online.

Papale is credited with one takeaway fumble in ’76 – so maybe.

It was nice to see names on uniforms and know they were really there. Harold Carmichael and Bill Bergey – these guys were big deals in Philadelphia. My bet is, back in 1976, backup quarterback Mike Boryla never thought his jersey would be featured in a movie, but it’s there too.

There was little suspense. You know he makes the team and how the movie will end.

What was there was lots of passion. That’s what made it worthwhile in the theater and what made it acceptable to be a fan in that 4-10 season.

&#185 – I was thinking Jessica Alba or possible Hillary Swank as Helaine, but somehow she must have been written out. Damn Hollywood!

Watch What You Say

The article, which I found published in a TV news oriented newsletter, was originally published in The Independent from Britain.

Asked by the studio anchor during Central TV’s evening bulletin what the weather was like at the outside broadcast location Trentham Gardens, near Stoke-on-Trent, she gave her army of fans her candid appraisal of the situation. “It’s pissing down,” she reported.

That’s never happened to me, but I’ve come awfully close.

Back in my very early days in radio, my station had a fishing report. We’d call the woman who owned the bait and tackle shop (the sponsor of the report) who would report on current conditions.

One time, as she finished, I asked a question and opened her mike. Thinking she was done, she was already midstream in a cursing tirade worthy of Ozzy Osbourne.

My problem is, when I’m presenting the weather, everything is ad libbed. It’s not stream of consciousness. There’s a method to my madness. After all, I’m telling a story with pre-chosen maps.

Still, the individual words and sentences are formed on the spot.

Am I saying things before I ‘think’ about what I’m saying? Yes. And for me, always trying to get out one more (hopefully) clever line, that could be dangerous.

The closest I’ve come was using the word “damn&#185.” It was a very cold night and I somehow said, “damn cold.”

I turned white as a sheet on the air, paused, and briefly apologized. There was not one call of complaint.

My on-air demeanor had changed so quickly, it was obvious to anyone watching that I had made a major faux pas, knew it and regretted it. There was no poker face here.

There have been other times when I’ve caught myself before saying a word. Those I work with, people who know me well, could feel where the sentence was going. I managed to self censor in time.

It’s a difficult path to take, because 21st century interpersonal speech is often open and salty. My conversational speech is full of TV inappropriate words. My TV speech is not. How my mind understands and reacts at a level I’m not consciously controlling is beyond me.

I’m glad it does.

&#185 – I know – we’ve all heard damn on TV a million times. Everyone has their own standard. To me, within the context of a newscast, it’s a totally inappropriate word. For Letterman, Leno, Stewart, maybe even Keith Olbermann – fine. Not for me.