Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Burglary suspects nabbed after police pursuit

     Editorial staffers have been working to complete assignments for a company wide project and with a looming deadline, I was at work an hour early to finalize some of the photos. A short time later the scanner began to squawk and I could hear the state police in pursuit of a vehicle that was occupied by two burglary suspects. I didn't hear the road they were traveling but I got phone calls saying the suspects were near the Sunnybrook Ballroom in Lower Pottsgrove Township with police searching the area.
Trooper Edgardo Lugo handcuffs alleged burglary suspect
      I closed in on the scene and followed a patrol car onto Wilson Street and then turned onto Loop Road.  There were at least seven police units at the dead end street. Out in a field I could see an SUV with a door open and several officers nearby. Standing with his vehicle was Trooper Edgardo Lugo with one of the suspects he caught after the man tried to flee on foot. That suspect was handcuffed and placed in a partrol car. The other suspect ran off into the woods. On the ground in front of the trooper's car was a bag of jewelry spilled out on the ground.
Bag of jewelry spilled onto ground.
     Officers seached the area but were unable to locate the second man. Time for plan B. The call was made for an officer with a better nose to start tracking the area.  Pottstown K-9 officer Sgt. Mick Markovich held the leash and his partner Marko jumped from his comfortable spot inside the police cruiser. The dog was all business as he walked along the sidewalk. Marko knew this wasn't a casual stroll in the park. It was time to go to work. He gave me half a glance as he passed by heading toward the field. The team held a briefing on the situation and moved toward the SUV. The K-9 quickly got on the scent and led the team into the wooded area. Officers Mike Long and Brandon Unruh followed up from behind.
Sgt. Markovich and K-9 Marko
     I saw them pushing their way through the trees and lost sight as they walked over a hill. The next thing I hear is that Marko found the man lying in thick underbrush. Police pulled him out and arrested him also. It wasn't more than fifteen minutes and the dog completed his mission. These searches don't always end with suspects apprehended. Some days the dogs can track for miles and come up empty. But, on that day after the K-9 settled back down handler Markovich rewarded him also telling him good boy.
     These dogs like the officers on the streets are trained for these situations. They don't know what's going to be on the other end of their search, whether a desperate criminal has a weapon or not. But it doesn't stop man or beast from doing their job.
 Sgt. Markovich and Marko and officer Long tracking suspect.
     Marko is going out in style with only one more week of work remaining in his career before retiring from service. One final arrest and another notch on his collar during a rewarding eight year career. Then it's sleeping in, curled up on a blanket without having to answer the call. I wonder who it's going to be harder on. The officer leaving the dog behind at home or the K-9 looking up at Markovich wanting to keep riding along as a team.
     After finishing his last shift and officially retired Marko's meal of the day should start with a juicy porterhouse steak. He earned it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Travel - Newsies and New York City

     With the opening of 'NEWSIES', my wife Deb and I booked an overnight weekend stay in New York City to watch my first Broadway show. We traveled by motor coach arriving in the city relaxed and ready for sightseeing.
     We met up with Connecticut friends Anne and Ted Jones and dropped our bags at our hotel on 40th Street. They travel into Manhattan Island several times a year and are familiar with getting around the city. The pair were our tour guides giving me a chance to take a step back and just enjoy the day and shoot some snapshots.
View of Central Park
     I had a motive for our trip which involved my childhood. The last time I stayed in New York was with my family as an eleven year old. I wanted to compare what it was like as a boy and and how I look at things as a middle aged adult. The first thing I noticed this trip was that the blocks didn't seem as long when walking around but the skyscrapers are just as tall. Back then we took a ride on the Circle Line boat tour around Manhattan and rode the subway to Coney Island. My parents went out to a show and we stayed behind at the hotel with my older brother watching us. I can remember stuffing myself on New York style pizza. It was a rare treat for our family to get out of Pottstown and I made sure to take it all in. This time, we were seeing a Broadway show and walking around keeping the day very low key. No rushing from place to place just being in the city again was enough.
     As a boy, my parents allowed my brother Gary and me to buy some souvenirs to remember the trip. It's what I call the 'Yellow Submarine' and 'Sgt. Pepper' era of my life. Influenced by the Beatles, we each bought a Nehru jacket and a heavy medallion and chain. We thought we were the coolest dudes in town when we got back home. On this trip, the only thing I got were a couple of N.Y. lapel pins. Photographs are my souvenirs these days.
Nederlander Theater
     Once we got our bearing the four of us headed to Central Park and walked a couple miles listening to sidewalk musicians and caught up on what's new in our lives. From there we had lunch at Matt's Grill at 55th and 8th Street. Anne's cousin Terry Ferguson owns the business since 1995 along with his father Matt, the namesake of the restaurant and bar. We took our time and had a long lunch chatting with Terry and munching on a tasty pub style meal and sipping a Belgium beverage.
     After lunch we worked our way up town. Landmarks along the way were the Radio City Music Hall and the Ed Sullivan Theater home of The David Letterman Show. From there the girls couldn't help but stop at the M&M store on Broadway with the smell of chocolate drawing them in.
    Then, we stood in the heart of Times Square with the crowds hurrying by. We looked like the tourists that we were doing a 360 to see all the visuals attached to the high rises.  It's sensory overload with honking cabs zipping by, people chattering and me taking in all the New York hustle bustle.
     Next on our agenda was the 8 p.m musical at the Nederlander Theater. The Broadway show 'NEWSIES' was of interest to me as it's based around the newspaper business and newspaper boys or newsies of 1899. Carrying the Philadelphia Bulletin for a year when I was fifteen years old and now working at The Mercury gave me the link I needed and a reason to plan the trip to the city that never sleeps.
Times Square on Manhattan Island
     The storyline is a David vs. Goliath battle. Rich and influential publisher Joseph Pulitzer raises the price for the teen-aged ragamuffin newsboys to sell the paper. The newsies decide to take on Pulitzer and go on strike refusing to hawk the paper. It's a choreographed song and dance battle of wills and you can figure out who wins in the end. The packed house cheered from the completion of the first number and gave the cast a long standing ovation at the final curtain. The theme of the little guy winning hit home with many attending the show. The short running show is a big hit.
     We were all energized after and took a walk to see Times Square at night. LED screens lit the sky with a rainbow of colors. We called it a night around midnight and were up early the next day.
Flowers on memorial
     After breakfast we took a walk over to Rockefeller Center and was surprised to see people and the Easter bunny ice skating on the frozen rink in April. It was Easter Sunday and many women wore modest bonnets while others modeled extravagant flowered covered hats.
     The last stop on the trip was to the 9/11 Memorial which was completed for the tenth anniversary this past September. The memorial is free to the public but you need to go online to secure a pass for the day and time of your visit. A printed pass is your ticket onto the site and we were required to go through metal detectors before entering.
     Much of the surrounding area, the museum, along with several buildings are still under construction at ground zero. We walked along the pristine grounds and tree lined walkway toward the two cascading pools where the World Trade Center twin towers once stood. I ran my hand over some of the names etched in the memorial of those lost on September 11, 2001. There was a quiet respect shown by visitors slowly walking the memorial grounds. We stayed for an hour and drove back to Times Square to catch a bus ride home.
The 9/11 Memorial and one of the cascading pools.
     The Empire State Building came into view as we drove up town. As a boy riding the express elevator and looking out over the city was the high point of my youthful stay. Even today it's a fascinating sight to stand at the base and look up at the cities famous structure. My return trip to the 'Big Apple' is now complete.
     But, it's not the final one. Plans have already been made to meet and take a ferry ride to The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island where Deb's grandmother first entered the U.S.A.  I threw in a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge to round out our next adventure.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Don't Shoot Pretty

Larry Johnson and his son Jason.
     I have a funny little saying about taking pictures for the Mercury. I don't shoot pretty. Which means I don't snap scenery pictures for work. I may take a bunch of scenes on vacations, but while at work I try to shoot pictures with people in them. It has never been a passion of mine to drive around looking for a rusty tractor next to a barn to photograph. I'm after photos of people getting involved in their environment or an activity that will make it worthwhile to run in the paper or on the web.
     Last Saturday was a good day for outdoor snapshots of people with assignments covering opening day of trout fishing season, an Easter egg hunt in Limerick and a homecoming celebration for a soldier.
Nicole Heffner catches her first opening day trout.
     It was a perfect day for trout fishing on a chilly and misty morning. The overcast sky was bright enough for even lighting giving me an opportunity to photograph fishermen from all angles.
     I arrived at Hay Creek in Birdsboro shortly before lines were cast into the water at 8 a.m.  There's always action at the beginning. Gary Deyarman was the first one to land a trout after the official start.  Next up, Nicole Heffner hooked into a nice one and reeled the fish in. It was her first time fishing for trout on opening day and was catching more than the seasoned anglers around her. Well, maybe the fishermen weren't more knowledgeable but the guys had all the gear and look the part while getting their lines snagged in the rocks. A short time later she hooked a second one. Beginners luck? I don't think so.
Stella Podwjski
     I walked along the creek to another location as Chris Bolla hooked a huge pallamino. It jumped out of the water and skimmed along the surface as he tried to keep his line tight. He played it carefully but using only 2 pound test the big fish snapped the line and swam away. The light orange image of the trout slowly disappeared into deeper water. Bolla can actually say that the big one got away without telling a fib.
Kids scramble to collect eggs.
     Completing the fishing assignment, I drove over to the Limerick Community Park for an Easter egg hunt. While a damp clammy morning works for fishing, it's not the best for kids running around for eggs. The light rain stopped just as the signal was given and the youngsters made a dash to collect as many as they could. There were plenty to go around and happy children opened plastic eggs looking for prizes. Three year old Stella Podwjski had the best bunny ears and basket so I snapped a shot of her for the front page.
82nd Airborne Spc. James Kendal Walton get a hug.
      Next on the schedule, U.S. Army Spc. James Kendal Walton was escorted home from the Philadelphia airport by the Warrior Watch Riders after duty overseas in Afghanistan. The 82nd Airborne soldier received the welcome home with hugs, kisses and handshakes from those attending. Walton was surprised by the people who turned out to greet him and he thanked each for stopping by for his homecoming.
      The photos help to tell the stories of the day and hopefully readers will see the emotion on the faces and realize that they are more than just another pretty picture.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Tradition Born out of Necessity

      This year's NCAA men's basketball national championship game between Kansas and Kentucky was the 30th year of a neighborhood annual tradition that was born out of necessity.
     On the first year back in 1982, ESPN began covering many of the early round tournament games while that the national networks only televised the final four games and championship. The early round games were a big hit with tv fans and the tournament gained in popularity. This was in the beginning days for cable television. If you weren't connected by coaxial cable, you were stuck watching M.A.S.H or Dallas which arrived by the airwaves and the antenna bolted to your house.
     But back then, I had the cable hookup on my street and would watch many of these games. Unfortunately, my neighbor Joe Greene a die hard basketball fan, was unable to get cable because the utility wiring where he lived nearby was buried underground. At that time the company wasn't digging and laying cable on his street. When a huge first round game was shown on ESPN, Joe would call to see if I was watching and he'd stop over and we would view the games on my rec room tv. Up stairs my wife Deb would be watching The Love Boat or some other show.
     As a way of returning the favor, he had me over to his home the first year in 1982 to watch the final. That was the start of the tradition that continues to this day. The 1982 final matched up Georgetown and North Carolina. In the final moments, a young Michael Jordan sank a shot at the buzzer. It looked like he jumper five feet in the air after making that basket to win the game.
     For a couple more years we'd continue to alternate homes to watch the games until the cable company finally connected the lines to his home. By then, Joe was inviting friends and neighbors over and there would be eight or nine guys watching from his den. Early on Mike Gaffney, Rock D'Emilio, Scott Brant, Dave Uhas and other guys he played basketball with would stop by. Over the years different guys would come and go. This year it was neighbors Joe, Pat Dailey and myself watching the entire game.
     These guys still play weekly pickup games at area school gyms even though they are closing in on sixty years old. They can still run the floor just not getting end to end as fast. I gave that up years ago preferring to play volleyball. I'm impressed they are still going strong.
     My first recollections of college ball were from UCLA's John Wooden era. In the late 60's center Abdul Jabbar then named Lew Alcindor used his famous sky hook over defenders. I tried to copy that move as a kid. In 1973 another Bruin was Bill Walton with the big mane of red hair. He dominated the basket.
     Watching over the last three decades has given us many highlights. Joe and Pat can remember the players, the years and teams talking about events that I have long forgotten. They are walking hoops encyclopedias.
      The one outstanding game and my favorite has to be Villanova's two point win over Georgetown in 1986. That game had us on the edge of our seats and we cheered at the buzzer. It's considered one of the all time upsets in NCAA final history. There was even talk of driving down to the campus to partake in the celebration with the Wildcat fans. The idea was vetoed deciding it was probably better to go to work in the morning.
     We didn't think this years championship game would be as good as the semi-final between rivals Louisville and Kentucky. We were wrong. Even though Kentucky took a sizable lead, Kansas as able to chip away and made the game interesting in the end. MVP Anthony Davis had a bad shooting night but picked it up with big rebounds and a crucial blocked shots. The first half looked like a horse race with four minute stretches where the teams never stopped running the court.
     Kentucky slowed it down in the second half working the clock and closed out the Jay Hawks. I looked over at Joe and Pat during one of the timeouts in the second half while the endless commercials were on. Both had nodded off for a couple minutes. They laughed at each other when they awoke with the action back on. We hung around as the national network stretched the festivities on and on until midnight. The last thing we watch was the tournament highlights segment 'One shining moment'. That's a good way to end the annual get together.
    On the way out the door Joe said "I'll look for you and Pat next year and we'll start our fourth decade of watching The Game".