Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Brangelina in Bethlehem?

Bethlehem celebrity gossip news??
In a town where "Celebrity" Scholastic Scrimmage and "Celebrity" bartenders are people you see shopping at Wegman's, reports of a true global celebrity appearing in the Lehigh Valley are pretty rare.

The word is that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and kids somehow avoided every cameraphone in creation and managed to have a normal family outing to Alando Kenyan restaurant on Main Street in Bethlehem. No word on whether elaborate disguises were employed. Regardless of whether it's true, it's fun to speculate about.

In Washington, political celebrities are everywhere, and every famous person visits Capitol Hill to lobby for their cause eventually. I saw George Stephanopoulous every morning at my local Washington Sports Club, reading The Washington Post on the elliptical trainer. When Michael Jordan was coaching (and later playing for) the Washington Wizards, we spotted him at restaurants all over town. A good friend worked for a company that worked for NBC News, and I once helped deliver a package to a bathrobed Tim Russert at his home.

Did anyone see them, or any other celebrities, this weekend?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Morning Call will require subscriptions to its web site

I can't say I was surprised to read that The Morning Call is going the online subscriber route. The announcement in Sunday's paper explained that starting October 10, one of the Lehigh Valley's two major newspapers will begin selling subscriptions to its web site:
"Digital subscriptions will be available at an introductory rate of 99 cents for the first four weeks. After that, digital subscribers will pay $2.49 a week or $49.99 for half a year.

Readers who already subscribe to the print edition of The Morning Call will be able to buy a digital subscription at a reduced rate of 75 cents a week or $29.99 a year.

Readers who do not subscribe will be able to view 10 free articles, blogs, videos or picture galleries each month.

Some content, including the home page, news, sports and entertainment section fronts and classified advertising, will remain free to visitors without a digital subscription.

The Morning Call joins about 55 newspapers around the country, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Dallas Morning News, and at least 15 in Pennsylvania, such as The Pocono Record and the Erie Times-News, that charge readers for some or all of their online content."
I've gotten "stuck" using the New York Times web site more than once, and I have subscribed a few times. I read the print edition of The Morning Call most days, and use the web site primarily to link to articles I think other people would enjoy reading, and as an archive. I don't plan to subscribe until I find myself getting "stuck" enough times to make it worthwhile. What do you think? Will you be affected, that is to say, are you someone who reads the newspaper's content exclusively online?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The woman you didn't say hi to in your yoga class last weekend

I recently chatted over email with a 25-year-old woman who moved to Allentown from NY back in June when her boyfriend got a new job in the area. She's a freelance illustrator and works from home.

Her first email stated:
I haven't had a lot of interaction with other people since moving, and I didn't know anyone in the area to begin with. Any suggestions for things to do, clubs to join, classes to take, etc. that would help me meet people? I joined a gym and a yoga class, but they're not quite doing the trick. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
(Does this sound like you? Or maybe sound like someone you saw in yoga class and didn't say hi to? I'm guilty of this too sometimes.) After I quit beating myself up, I asked her:
You mentioned the gym and yoga as two interests, but what else do you like to do? Would you take an art class at the community college, PSU or ArtsQuest? Or teach one? Would you join a sports team with a bunch of strangers? Do you like wine and beer? Irreverent comedy?
What age range of people and gender are you looking to meet? Couples to hang out with your boyfriend? or girlfriends? Mentors? What area do you live in?
She replied:
I'm 25. I live in west Allentown a few blocks north of Muhlenberg, though my boyfriend and I have found ourselves in Bethlehem a lot, especially when we want to go out to eat. We're both sort of foodies. It would be great to meet people we can both hang out with, though of course I wouldn't say no to girlfriends either.

I actually looked into some art classes to take and teach, so you kind of read my mind! I would LOVE to take an art class. My main issue with that is I'm not exactly rolling in money, so I'd want to make sure it would be worth my while as a class as well as an opportunity to meet people. I do have extensive art training so I don't really want to take a beginner watercolor class, for example. I would definitely be open to teaching too, if I could fit it in my schedule. There is a JCC a couple of blocks from my apartment and I went there asking about teaching opportunities, because back in high school I took a figure drawing class at my local JCC. This one didn't have an art program set up. I don't have a master's degree, so I guess it would have to be a more casual sort of class if I were to teach.

I played softball for many years, and I could definitely join an adult softball league. I could probably persuade my boyfriend to do that too, if they take people of all talent levels. I've been coaching softball and teaching pitching for the past 7 years too. I completely left that back in NY. I don't think I can make the time commitment to coach a team, but I would love to continue giving lessons if I had a place to do it.

My boyfriend and I also swing dance, and would LOVE to get back into that again. We met a lot of people that way in college. I have looked into this, and any weekly or monthly dances I've found have been in Philly. Any idea if there are any around here? We do east coast swing and lindy hop.

Thanks SO MUCH for your help!
Wow! I thought. A swing dancing, softball coaching artist working from home in the West End? How many of those amazing, multi-talented, interesting women do you know? And to think, you didn't even say hello after you did 400 sun salutations on a mat three feet from her. Armed with that information, I did a little thinking and sent back this response:
You live in such a beautiful neighborhood, and the JCC is a tremendous resource there! I am actually surprised there's no art program. Here are my thoughts:
Yoga: I'm not sure where you're taking yoga now, but the Yoga Loft of Bethlehem is pretty social. They have a lobby with couches where people hang out, especially on weekends and especially before and after special workshops.

Art classes: The Muhlenberg College arts department may be a good place for you to look into. They have so many programs in the arts. Have you looked into teaching at ArtsQuest/Banana Factory? There are also artist studios there. You could work there alongside other artists.

Dancing: The only regular dance program I know of is in Easton, at the Third Street Alliance. http://eastonmainstreet.org/ "Dancing on the Thirds - Every Third Friday, 7:00-10:00pm September 16th - Lesson: Night Club Two-Step Enjoy a one-hour lesson in Night Club Two Step with instructor Christine Kam, followed by an evening of open dancing with DJ, Carol Coffinger. Come practice all your favorite ballroom dances! Casual dress, all ages, singles and couples. (Half price admission with college ID). No reservation neccessary, just c'mon down for an evening of good fun and great excerice. It all happens at Third Street Alliance, 41 N. Third Street, downtown Easton.Questions? Call: 610.330.9942. Enjoy dinner or drinks downtown before or after the dance!"

Softball: Not being a softball player myself, I don't know too much about coaching. I do know that The Velocity Sports Performance Center offers coaching for all kinds of sports. I am sure there are lots of leagues out there, but the only one I know of where you can join a team with other random folks is the Roc Social Club. It tends to have a lot of people in their 20s and 30s, vs. the geezer leagues.
Readers, what do you think? What did I miss?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

California transplants roll call

Wow, for those of you natives who read the blog just for fun (I know you know all this stuff and find my discoveries amusing), and think that all transplants are from New Jersey (I kid you not - more than one person has said this to me), I share with you an email I received from a LV Transplant from California.

I just read your article in Lehigh Valley Style and was so grateful that you've paved the way for us transplants. I recently moved here from Berkeley, CA for my husband's job. I am an architect and green building consultant trying to find my place now in the valley. Your article and list of blogs help give me a start to connect with others who have a new perspective and looking to love this new place we want to call home.

I've kept a blog since 2004 when I first studied in Europe. It's gone through ebbs and flows of writing but being in this place and a slower pace of life, I can tell will soon lead to more words and musings. Hope it adds to your collection of transplants to Lehigh and I look forward to joining your tribe.
Roll call: Any other LV transplants from California out there? How is life suiting you here in the northeast? Are you finding the pace any different? Cuisine? Diversity?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon for Via

I spent a few hours yesterday in the back seat of a minivan, chasing my friends as they ran a relay race from Allentown to Easton in the Lehigh Valley Health Network Marathon for Via.

The day was overcast and humid, but the humidity did not dampen the spirits of the race participants. The race, a Boston Marathon qualifier, is best-known for its full 26.2 mile challenge and half-marathon distance race. My five friends comprised one of 225 relay teams, which meant picking up and dropping off a runner at five locations, and cheering like crazy. The variety of stops required some sweet minivan maneuvering by Rob, the team's official driver. I had planned to run a leg, but was sidelined for medical reasons. Since I was the only van passenger who had participated in the race before, I became the team's parking director (aka backseat driver) and cheerleader with Jamie. It was a lot of fun to share the experience with the team, marvel at some of the costumed runners (red ball gowns? a purse and boa? gotta keep your gels somewhere, he said), and talk about each leg's unique terrain.

At the finish line, I took a minute to watch the medal ceremony. It was pretty inspiring to see the faces of the people who'd finished hours earlier... people in their 70s not only completing the marathon, but keeping pace with (and sometimes smoking) runners half their age... moms and dads and dog owners who shared the moment with their loved ones... athletes who have sacrificed a lot in order to be among the best runners in the field. And although it was reported that a large number of out-of-towners participated this year, it certainly didn't sound like it from the announcements.

I hope to participate in the race next year, and give a lot of credit to my friends on Team Bobbo:
  • my (and Stella's) loyal running buddy, our captain Lindsay
  • another loyal year-round running buddy, and the runner who took on the longest leg (with the shortest legs on the team!) Dana
  • Rob, our minivan driver, Lindsay's husband and FH's best friend, who we learned is an angry runner
  • the speedy Eileen (so speedy we almost missed her at the exchange looking for parking in Freemansburg), our pinch-runner
  • and Lindsey's friend Jamie's husband Chris, who had completed the Spartan Race the previous day 
I shared this thought with Dana at the finish line - not to take the race too metaphorically or anything: it's hard to believe that in a region where people balk at driving from their home in Allentown to a business or event in Easton, that 3,000 people would pay to run the distance instead!

Friday, September 09, 2011

LVT Reader Mail

I received this kind email today from a magazine reader:
I read your article in the Lehigh Valley Style. My daughter is a sophomore at Moravian College , and I'm always looking for good places to go to when I come down to visit . I'll have to definitely go through the article again and highlight info, so the next time I could surprised her with somewhere neat to go. I ordered this magazine for my sister as well who as lived in Allentown for prob 30 years, and I don't think she knows half of what goes on down there! I think she feels one-upped when I come up with something she didn't know about. Hopefully, with your info, she can tell me a few things that she finds out!
Readers, any suggestions for a college sophomore and her mom? Must-visit places to one-up the Allentown auntie? ;)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Activities in the Lehigh Valley, advertised

As much as I love reading the news online, I still subscribe to the paper(s) every day. Since most of my online reading is done via subscribing to specific RSS feeds, I have a customized online newspaper of sorts in my Google Reader every day. Just the writers I want to read, and the topics I want to read about. And no ads.

When I am holding newsprint in my hands, I actually look at the ads. I noticed these advertisements in the last week and thought they were worth sharing. Enjoy!

Most Valuable Players, a documentary film centered around the State Theatre’s 2008 Freddy Awards (the Tonys of local high school musical theater), is airing tonight on OWN, September 8, at 9 p.m. We don't have fancy cable, so we don't get OWN. Hoping it will be shown at SteelStacks Cinema or the South Side Film Festival. (TV)

The 25th annual Easton Jazz Festival is this Friday night, September 9, at 8 p.m. at Lafayette College. Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group is playing. Tickets $20. (It makes me crazy when ads don’t include a web page URL. Despite their best efforts to hide it, I found it anyway.) (Easton)

Penn State Lehigh Valley is offering noncredit art classes for the first time, including drawing, photography, jewelry making and collage. Noncredit classes are taught by college faculty. Classes start the week of September 18. This would be a great way to meet like minded people… just sayin’. (Center Valley)

PBS Channel 39 is hosting a grand opening at its new public media and education center on the SteelStacks campus this Saturday (September 10). There’s a family fun bike ride, free concerts, and a “celebrity” Scholastic Scrimmage event. It might be kind of crazy down there since the Via 5K Walk starts at SteelStacks, at 9 a.m., too - family-friendly crowds guaranteed. (South Side Bethlehem)

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

An Amazing Race

Nothing to do? Nowhere to go? Been there, done it all?

How about a Road Rally in the Lehigh Valley?

Take part in a Fundraising Event to Benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society on Saturday, October 15th, 2011.
The starting point is to be announced. All checkpoints and final location will be a surprise!
Create a teams of 2, 3 or 4 people or register solo and get matched up with new friends.

Before September 15: $25; September 15-October 12: $30; October 13, 14 and day-of: $35

Participants will receive a goodie bag, post-race refreshments, prizes to top finishing teams and for team originality, costumes, creative challenge completion and more.
Then when you go and have a blast, make sure you tell Kim (the organizer) you read about the event on this blog!

Friday, September 02, 2011

After the Rain

Hurricane 0, Megan 1. We survived with a small amount of water on the property and are grateful not have to have been evacuated from our home via motorboat like the holdouts we saw on Action News.

With all the preparation and cleanup happening this weekend, I couldn’t help but reminisce on my last major hurricane experience. I was living in Washington, DC, working at my First Big Job at Smithsonian, responsible for the Institution’s young professional membership program. The group’s annual fundraiser was (and to my knowledge, still is) a black tie gala inside a museum.
Isabel was coming, whether we liked it or not, and if I recall correctly, she hit early in the week – Monday or Tuesday. Our gala, naturally, was the following Saturday night. Everything in the city was a wreck. Metro was operating only on certain tracks to certain stations. Buildings were closed. Power was out to thousands of city residents. Many people lost their homes to flooding, winds or both. We returned to work and had to decide whether to have this silly black tie gala.

We agonized. Should we refund tickets? Reschedule the event for another day? Forfeit our deposit on the caterer (Cap City Brewing) and band (Gonzo's Nose)? I lost sleep. I argued with co-workers and volunteers and unhappy patrons who demanded refunds. Despite the fact that our organization's executive director (pictured below, second from right) did not have power at her home and was forced to shower at the gym for weeks, and everything else in the city seemed to be cancelled, we figured we had more to lose by cancelling, so the show went on. The venue had power and all of our vendors were ready to go.

I can't say it was perfect (the T-shirts didn't make it - they were on a flooded loading dock somewhere), but it was an awesome party. Everyone needed a reason to celebrate and get out of the house. I danced to cover tunes in my ball gown and sneakers. I collected money at the silent auction. I broke up a couple making out inside one of the exhibits. It was a success.

For old time's sake, here's a photo of aforementioned boss lady and the volunteer board members of the organization getting a kick out of my emotional response to the check presentation ($100,000 - not too shabby for a rainy day). Hope everyone is safe and dry.