I Love Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com A Great Pennsylvania Town with Shops, Theatre, History, Restaurants and Great People Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:40:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 Living on the Edges, at Playcrafters of Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/12/04/edges-song-cycle-playcraftersf-skippack-villagetheater-entertainment/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/12/04/edges-song-cycle-playcraftersf-skippack-villagetheater-entertainment/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 13:37:19 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=10040 I Love Skippack |

Sarah Shin, left, and Meredith Yannuzzi from Edges enjoying Skippack: New ideas in theater will help keep our village young.

Playcrafters of Skippack, the fine community theater in the heart of our village, refuses to take the easy way out. Instead of relying on time-tested productions that are the staple of most community theaters (think My Fair Lady or Fiddler on the Roof), Playcrafters is taking a risk for the last production in its stellar [...]

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I Love Skippack |

Sarah Shin, left, and Meredith Yannuzzi from Edges enjoying Skippack: New ideas in theater will help keep our village young.

Tyreese Kadle and Casey Clark from the cast of Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack

Tyreese Kadle and Casey Clark from the cast of Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack

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Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack

Showtimes

8 pm: Dec 5 (Fri), Dec 6 (Sat), Dec 12 (Fri), Dec 13 (Sat)

3 pm: Dec 7 and 14 (Sun)

No online ticket sales, advanced tickets, or reserved seating. Please come to the box office at the Playcrafters Barn Theater about a half hour before the performance to purchase tickets. Refreshments will be served before the show. Call 610-584-4005 to let Playcrafters know you plan to attend (optional) or if you want more information.

Playcrafters Barn Theater is located at 2011 Store Rd, in the heart of Skippack Village.

Playcrafters of Skippack, the fine community theater in the heart of our village, refuses to take the easy way out. Instead of relying on time-tested productions that are the staple of most community theaters (think My Fair Lady or Fiddler on the Roof), Playcrafters is taking a risk for the last production in its stellar 2014 season, offering fresh, cutting edge theater to our staid village with Edges: A Song Cycle, the new show opening this week.

Edges is a contemporary musical about young people and how they cope with life transitions and personal relationships, and their search for meaning and identity. It is a show that speaks to today, except that it is sung rather than spoken. It calls for minimal staging and is performed in street clothes. With its bare bones approach, Edges leans heavily on the talent of a group of young people from Skippack and the surrounding area. It will be exciting to see if young, local talent is up to the task.

For a taste, check out the video below.

Totally New

Sarah Shin, left, the 17-yeari director of Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack with Meredith Yannuzzi, one of the actors in the show.

Sarah Shin, left, the 17-year old director of Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack with Meredith Yannuzzi, one of the actors in the show.

Youth provides the spark that ignites Edges in Skippack. The show was written by two undergraduate students studying musical theatre at the University of Michigan. Sarah Shin, a 17 year old student at Perkiomen Valley High School, is directing the show as part of a required senior project.

“I saw Edges two years ago at the Philly Fringe Festival,” explains Sarah. “I thought ‘Whoa, this is totally new.’ As time went on, it stuck with me. The music is so good. It talks about issues that are relevant.”

Sarah had acted at Playcrafters in 13, Zombie Prom, Sweeney Todd, and Hair. Theater colleagues helped her submit the application required by Playcrafters to stage Edges as her senior project.

The Journey to Find Yourself

In Edges, six actors portray twenty-to-thirty somethings, each with his or her own story. Each one reveals their internal conflicts, hopes, and aspirations, thru song lyrics. Each one is negotiating the transition into adulthood in song.

Cast member Tyreese Kadle describes the show clearly and succinctly. “It’s about the journey to find yourself,” he explains.

Uncertainties and doubt loom large on the psychological horizon. It hits home. Off-stage, many of the cast members are at the same stage of life as the characters they portray. They are living through internal conflicts similar to the ones described in the lyrics in of the songs in Edges.

Casey Clark in rehearsal for Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack.

Casey Clark in rehearsal for Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack.

Casey Clark, one of the actors, says “The years immediately after college are an uncertain time. You wonder ‘how am I going to pay my rent?’ and so on. As someone who recently graduated college, I am discovering that the stakes get higher with each decision about what I want to do with my life. Edges relates to this experience.

‘The play also depicts struggles in relationships, problems of not knowing how to communicate, that target our age group,” she adds.

A Message for Everyone

Edges is a song cycle,” says Matthew Mitlas, who recently performed in Hair at Playcrafters of Skippack. “Each character has a song. The song represents who they are and what they are going thru at one point in their life.

“The music is beautiful. It offers hopeful moments; goofy, comic moments; and romantic passages,” adds Matthew. “Performers can readily connect with this music and give the energy back to the audience. It will appeal to younger people and older people as well.”

Matthew insists that, despite its focus on the internal conflicts of young adults, Edges transcends age barriers. The show’s themes of coming of age and self-discovery have a message for everyone.

Matthew Mitlas, from the cast of Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack.

Matthew Mitlas, from the cast of Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack.

“People at every age have something they want,” says Matthew. “They may want, for example, to pursue a new hobby, meet new people, or get healthier. When does mental growth stop? And when it stops, where are you?”

Thoughts from the Skippack Blogger

Edges should be warmly welcomed by everyone who loves Skippack; it is a spice that is very much needed in the thick stew that makes up our cultural life. We pack a lot into a small town: quaint shops, upscale and casual restaurants, events like Skippack Days which return year after year, our sense of community, our local music scene, and our historic roots. But it gets a bit staid. Edges brings the uncertain, edgy creative energy of youth.

Edges will help keep the Skippack Blogger young. Theater provides access to new experiences. New experiences keep us young. And as we all eventually discover, the secret of growing old is to stay young.

Keep our village young and alive to new ideas. Go see Edges: A Song Cycle at Playcrafters of Skippack.

Tyreese Kadle from Edges: A Song Cycle practicing his lines.

Tyreese Kadle from Edges: A Song Cycle.

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Pizza with, Yikes, a Politician, in Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/10/28/pizza-mike-vereb-pa-state-repi-skippack-cj-santangelo/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/10/28/pizza-mike-vereb-pa-state-repi-skippack-cj-santangelo/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 22:46:07 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9973 I Love Skippack |

Mike Vereb contemplates a question from the Skippack Blogger at Skippack Pizza

When I started my I Love Skippack blog, I vowed never to write about local politics or interview a local politician. I begrudgingly grant that politics is an ugly necessity of a democratic society, the toilet of freedom if you will. Still, too much of the writing on the Internet, from too many bloggers, concerns [...]

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I Love Skippack |

Mike Vereb contemplates a question from the Skippack Blogger at Skippack Pizza

First selfie with a politician ever: The Skippack Blogger with PA State Rep Mike Vereb at Skippack Pizza.

First selfie with a politician ever: The Skippack Blogger, left, with PA State Rep Mike Vereb at Skippack Pizza.

When I started my I Love Skippack blog, I vowed never to write about local politics or interview a local politician. I begrudgingly grant that politics is an ugly necessity of a democratic society, the toilet of freedom if you will. Still, too much of the writing on the Internet, from too many bloggers, concerns political issues; I find their words harsh, strident, lacking poetry or subtlety, lacking beauty.

Why then, you ask, is the Skippack Blogger sitting inside Skippack Pizza and interviewing PA State Representative Mike Vereb who, if he wins the upcoming election, will be the representative for Skippack at the state house in Harrisburg? Why am I doing this?

Good question.

Winning the Championship

I will tell the truth. I am doing this for a friend. I am doing it for love. I am doing it because I love my friend.

You see, my good friend and Skippack neighbor CJ Santangelo has been friends with Rep Vereb for more than twenty years. CJ is a most remarkable man and unusual friend. I know that it will make him happy to see Mike Vereb on my I Love Skippack website and Facebook page. When the path to give happiness to a friend like CJ becomes clear, I do not look to the left, I do not look to the right; I walk.

No doubt some people will not like my choice; I ask you to forgive me for favoring the irrational whims of the human soul over objective considerations.

Enjoying our pizza: The Skippack Blogger (left) with Mike Vereb at Skippack Pizza

Enjoying our pizza: The Skippack Blogger, left, with PA State Rep Mike Vereb at Skippack Pizza.

Forgiven or not, here I am with PA State Rep Mike Vereb, holding a slice of pizza and hoping to take the focus of our conversation away from local politics. This is going to be challenge as a today has been a big day in the political world in which he moves. A bill he sponsored in the PA State House has been signed into law by the governor, accompanied by ceremonies, speeches, and articles in the press. He has even been given one of the highest honors achievable in a democratic society: angry shouts from protesters.

“In my business, getting a bill passed and signed by the governor,” Rep Vereb explains, “is like winning the championship.”

From the State House to the Corn Fields

Mike Vereb’s district in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was reapportioned, as required by law, to include Skippack. He has since been learning about our corner of paradise: He tells me he has knocked on about 2,500 doors in Skippack Township.

“I try to figure out different ways to get people to talk, to open up, to say what’s on their mind,” says Mike. “There’s a lot to learn about Skippack.”

There is also a lot to learn about Mike Vereb. I ask him to tell me about some key event in his life that helped form his character.

“When I was 10 years old, I had a dirt bike,” Mike recalls. “I would race through cornfields. I would get chased by park rangers at the Norristown State Hospital for cutting thru cornfields.

“My parents were going thru difficult times. I was the baby of five children, the last one at home. It was a recipe for a disaster. As a kid, who do you have if your parents aren’t getting along? My dirt bike was my sounding board.

Mike Vereb contemplates a question from the Skippack Blogger at Skippack Pizza

Mike Vereb contemplates a question from the Skippack Blogger at Skippack Pizza.

“I was riding across the cornfield one day. Out of nowhere, there’s this police car chasing me. I go into these woods. I come across a stoney creek. I look up and there’s this big police van. ‘Oh my Lord,’ I thought, ‘it’s a road block in the woods.’

“I cross the creek. It turned out to be an organized dirt bike motocross track run by the Police Athletic League. I ended up spending every weekday during the summer there, motocross racing with the Police Athletic League. After racing, we would take our motorcycles and ride them single file on the road up to Via Veneto Pizzeria

“Everything I needed was there: friends, camaraderie, competition, a facility to race my motorcycle without getting chased by police. From there I got involved in other Police Athletic League programs.”

Mike went on to become a police officer, and serve 10 years with the West Conshohocken police force. He would later become the head of security for Comcast before entering the PA House of Representatives.

Every boy and girl growing into adulthood must find a tool, their weapon of choice if you will, for carving out a place in the world. The hope for young people is that they will find the right tool, one that suits their individual character and abilities. For Rep Mike Vereb, that tool was his dirt bike. And still today, he enjoys putting on his jeans and helmet from time to time and riding motorcycles with our mutual friend, CJ Santangelo.

At Justin’s Carriage House

Friend, community activist, and business owner CJ Santangelo reminisces about past adventures with Mike Vereb at Justin's Carriage House in Skippack.

Friend, community activist, and business owner CJ Santangelo reminisces about past adventures with Mike Vereb at Justin’s Carriage House in Skippack.

Later that evening, the conversation has moved to Justin’s Carriage House, Mike is there with CJ, talking over dinner and beers. They are recalling one of many joint community service activities from years past. About 16 years ago, around Christmas time, they would borrow a flatbed tractor trailer from Santangelo Hauling Inc, a business owned by CJ’s father. They would decorate the flatbed trailer with a tree and ride into Norristown, an area with a large poor population, to hand out gifts, with Mike Vereb dressed as Santa Claus.

Occasionally, recalls CJ, they would finish handing out gifts on a particular block and start driving away. Suddenly, a little girl would come down the steps out of her house, wrapped only in a blanket. The tractor trailer would come to a screeching halt and the tree would shake and almost topple over. They turned around to deliver her gift, possibly the only gift she would get that Christmas. Police officers who escorted the tractor trailer, hardened by years on the beat, who dealt with crime day in and day out and made tough arrests, would see this and start crying.

Watching these men enjoy their beer and dinner and get lost in conversation, I can’t help but admire their love of human connections. One may agree or disagree with a political platform, but it is hard to deny the power and energy they direct toward getting involved and creating community.

As is wont to happen over beer, the conversation starts to wander. Suddenly, the Skippack Blogger’s ears perk up. CJ is talking about my writing.

“Michael’s words always paint a picture,” I hear CJ say. “I look at something and see it as black and white, but when I read Michael’s description of the same thing, he makes me see it from a different perspective, he gives it color, brings it to life. Suddenly I’m seeing something I thought was black and white as pink and purple and all shiny and bright.”

CJ Santangelo, center, and Mike Vereb, left, share a laugh with Zenon Janicki at Justin's Carriage House in Skippack. Zenon is rather out-of-focus in this photo but nevertheless a great friend.

CJ Santangelo, center, and Mike Vereb, right, share a laugh with Zenon Janicki at Justin’s Carriage House in Skippack. Zenon is rather out-of-focus in this photo but nevertheless a great friend.

Wow. Those are words a writer lives to hear. And hearing them from CJ Santangelo is the whip cream on a hot cup of cappuccino. For writing is my dirt bike: my tool for dealing with the world, for entering the company of men like CJ Santangelo and Mike Vereb, for reaching out to the community, and to you dear reader.

And after many lost years, where did my writing finally find a home? Skippack, Pennsylvania.

 

PA State Rep Mike Vereb, left, with Mr. and Mrs. Skippack Blogger during Skippack Days, the village's largest annual event.

PA State Rep Mike Vereb, left, with Mr. and Mrs. Skippack Blogger during Skippack Days, the village’s largest annual event.

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Taking On a Challenge, in Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/10/14/univest-bank-joe-oskowitz-fallfest-obstacle-racing-skippack/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/10/14/univest-bank-joe-oskowitz-fallfest-obstacle-racing-skippack/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 03:03:36 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9899 I Love Skippack |

The tiny Tennis Center is one of many local businesses which will participate in a new event, Fallfest at Univest.

The door knocks. The phone rings. A message arrives in the email: Each encounter with a yet-unknown individual is a potential for a new beginning, a new adventure. Especially in a small town like Skippack, where a human being, a distinct soul, is at the heart of every transaction that takes place. But if there [...]

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I Love Skippack |

The tiny Tennis Center is one of many local businesses which will participate in a new event, Fallfest at Univest.

The tiny Tennis Center is one of many local businesses which will participate in a new event, Fallfest at Univest.

The tiny Tennis Center is one of many local businesses which participated in Fallfest at Univest.

Univest, Skippack’s community bank, recently held it’s first ever community-wide FallFest, to show its appreciation for our community. The event took place at the Univest Skippack Financial Center at 4285 Township Line Road in Skippack, across from CVS pharmacy, and featured many local business and services, for example:

  • Tinny Tennis Center of Skippack – child tennis demonstrations and lessons on a mobile court
  • Skippack Karate Martial Arts School & AmeriKick Training Center – demonstrations and lessons
  • Skippack Fire Company – touch-a-truck
  • Skippack Emergency Medical Services – Touch-an-ambulance

Money was raised for Hope for Emma, to help a local family with a 2 year old daughter diagnosed with severe congenital neutropenia, a condition that occurs in only 2 out of a million people. Thanks to this event, the Skippack Blogger got to meet Joe Oskowitz, the Skippack Banker.

Joe Oskowitz, the Skippack Banker

Joe Oskowitz, the Skippack Banker

The door knocks. The phone rings. A message arrives in the email: Each encounter with a yet-unknown individual is a potential for a new beginning, a new adventure. Especially in a small town like Skippack, where a human being, a distinct soul, is at the heart of every transaction that takes place.

But if there is the potential for adventure, there is also the potential for disinterest. How much can I, a community blogger, a wannabe poet masquerading as a civic booster, have to say to Joe Oskowitz, the manager of the Skippack Branch of Univest Bank? In other words, what does the Skippack Blogger share in common with the Skippack Banker?

I know nothing of banking or finance; in fact, I can barely balance a checkbook (thank you for running the household finances, Mrs. Skippack Blogger). Shouldn’t I interview instead a local musician or artist, so I can make a keen, poetic observation about life and the human condition, in Skippack Blogger style, as I promote the next great event in Skippack?

Meet the Skippack Banker

Joe, the Skippack Banker, was brought into Univest Corporation from outside the banking industry, with professional experience in big-box retail, and expertise in operations management, human resources, customer service, and sales. He exudes the infectious, optimistic high energy of the competent sales professional, along with a keen awareness of the perspective of the individual on the other side of the table.

“i like to sit down and talk with people,” says Joe, “I like to listen to people. I like to learn about their lives and their history. I like to take the things I discover, the things the person to whom I am listening gives me, the things that capture their heart, and make them part of what I am doing. I use my understanding of each individual to figure out how to best serve them, find products that suit them, and make their lives better.”

The Skippack Banker, Joe Oskowtiz, left, with the Skippack Blogger at First Friday in -- you guessed it -- Skippack.

The Skippack Banker, Joe Oskowtiz, left, with the Skippack Blogger at First Friday in — you guessed it — Skippack.

The Skippack Banker had taken on a new challenge: Hosting a new Skippack event, Fallfest at Univest, at the the Skippack branch of Univest Bank, 4285 Township Line Road in Skippack Township, near the CVS. He enlisted help from the Skippack Blogger in promoting this event.

Overheard at the Bar at Hotel Fiesole

“Joe, Skippack Banker, I gotta be honest with you. We face some obstacles in getting out the word about the event you want to promote, Fallfest at Univest,” says the Skippack Blogger (that’s me). “First, October is a month crammed full of well-known Skippack Events such as Skippack Days and Winetober Fest.

‘Second, and this is your biggest challenge: events are usually held in the heart of Skippack Village. Fallfest at Univest takes place at a close by but new location, the Skippack branch of Univest. We have to make people aware of this, first and foremost.

“I gotta tell you Joe. We have a challenge on our hands. I’d like another beer.”

The Guy Love Challenges

The Skippack Banker loves a challenge. When he is not working, raising his family, or participating in civic activities such as serving as a Cub Scout Den Leader, he trains and participates in obstacle races. Obstacle racing is a sport in which a competitor, racing on foot, thru trails and mud, must overcome obstacles, for example, climb over walls, carry heavy objects, traverse bodies of water, crawl under barbed wire, or jump through fire.

“As I was doing the race, I had to carry a 5-gallon bucket filled with rocks up a mountain at 3,000 foot elevation,” the Skippack Banker relates  with characteristic high-energy. “My hamstrings gave out on me. At that point, I fell the the ground. Some teammates came to my aid.

“Once I finished that, I go the next obstacle, which was climbing up a 100 foot rope. I climb up the rope, I ring the bell at the top, I fall into a cesspool of mud, then my calves gave out on me.”

Ouch.

The Skippack Banker Joe Oskowitz finishing an obstacle race: the only person he tries to be better than is the person he was yesterday,

The Skippack Banker Joe Oskowitz finishing an obstacle race: the only person he tries to be better than is the person he was yesterday,

The Skippack Banker’s Philosophy

Why does the Skippack Banker put himself thru this ordeal? Obstacle racing is a sport which gives the participant continual opportunities to compete against himself or herself; by improving their time, by performing better on specific obstacles, and by taking on more challenging courses.

“The words I have lived by for many years are: ‘the only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday,’” Joe confides in me.

It is the poetry of the businessman, the philosophy of the road warrior, but it is a philosophy that works. It’s a philosophy for people, like myself, who must work for a living, who must get up every morning and carry on, no matter what life throws at us.  I find myself now repeating the quotation I learned from Joe the Skippack Banker in my own mind: ‘The only person I should try to be better than is the person I was yesterday,’

Repeating this phrase in my thoughts is helping me become less anxious about my personal failings. I no longer focus on my ideal, perfect self;  the calm, confident, and competent Skippack Blogger I am far from being. Instead, I try to be a bit better than I was yesterday. My goal is always just a step beyond me now. This is giving me peace.

My conclusion: The Skippack Banker is awesome: a refreshing jolt of high-energy talent in our Main Street business community, with a heart big enough to accommodate the personal and sincere approach that makes Skippack special.

Great to meet you, Skippack Banker.

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Jazz, Blues, Punk, and Personal Triumph, in Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/09/23/matt-roman-skippack-village-winetober-music-benefit/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/09/23/matt-roman-skippack-village-winetober-music-benefit/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 12:15:25 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9753 I Love Skippack |

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Late in the evening, Skippack Village Walking toward my house, I pass the Copper Partridge, one Skippack’s fine gift shops, nestled in a patch of green at the corner of Skippack Pike and Store Road. There is a bench for me to rest and a few feet away is a fine musician playing intricate jazz [...]

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I Love Skippack |

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Matt Roman during First Friday in Skippack

Matt Roman during First Friday in Skippack

Late in the evening, Skippack Village

Walking toward my house, I pass the Copper Partridge, one Skippack’s fine gift shops, nestled in a patch of green at the corner of Skippack Pike and Store Road. There is a bench for me to rest and a few feet away is a fine musician playing intricate jazz chords, a gentleman named Matt Roman, who plays frequently in Skippack, though it can never be often enough for my taste.

He likes to called by his last name, Roman. Roman plays at the Village Wine Cellar and First Fridays, Winetober Fest, and other Skippack events.

Roman is a life-long, full-time musician. He has studied, played, and recorded with many great musicians in the United States and Europe and is a four-time Lehigh Valley Music Awards winner. He is a master of many styles and techniques:

Here in Skippack, I get my own private concert. As if anticipating my request, Matt Roman plays a gentle, mellow version of House of the Rising Sun, one of the my favorite tunes.

High Times, Hard Times

A collage of photos taken from Matt Roman's website show his performances with punk and rock bands through the years.

A collage of photos taken from Matt Roman’s website show performances with punk and rock bands thru the years.

Listening to Roman play, life seems easy and smooth. But Roman is playing tonight without his rougher, wilder edge. The notes are not always so easy or gentle. His is a journey of highs and lows, high times and hard times. Born in Allentown, PA, by the time he graduated high school, he ran with a crowd of young, hard-rocking musicians, all eager and able to party as hard as they could rock. Even harder. He also had a police record.

Roman writes about his early days on his website: “I floated from job to job, band to band, and party to party, always ending up in one holding cell or another.”

In 1994, Roman would begin a two year stint in prison. While serving his time, Roman decided to channel his mental energy and psychological strength in an opposite direction. He quit all gang activity, got in the prison drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, and started a music program and an art program while in prison.

A wise man once said, “Who is strong-minded? He who is able to overcome his own inclination.”

On his website, Roman describes what it was like to experience freedom again:  ”I was so grateful to be out, feel a breeze, smell clean air, see a tree, and feel the sun and rain. I was determined that nothing would knock me off my square and put me back there … I was determined to make music my priority; not drugs, alcohol, girls, gangs, or easy money.

“Since then, I’ve been on many stages, met famous people, been in different cities, states, and countries, and had many wonderful experiences,” Matt writes on his website. “I have met  wonderful people who became positive influences and role models in my life. I try to keep them close and value them greatly. I’m extremely grateful and lucky to have a second chance.”

Reflections of the Skippack Blogger

10661667_10204992927373973_2778959863016294730_oIf I stop long enough to listen, I sense a personal graciousness, a humility about the man, rare in our times, that makes the music Roman plays even more beautiful. Every time Roman sees me, I act the part of the Skippack Blogger: I make song requests, take photos, shoot video, ask him to move a spotlight, then ask him to stand three feet to the right, even ask him to play a song over so I can catch it better. If I ever annoy him, he is careful not to show it. He makes me feel my requests are important, that what I want to accomplish matters to him.

Tonight, while Roman plays, a little girl walks up to him and asks if she can play along. He gives her a guitar pick and she plucks as he frets the guitar. Roman cannot contain his joy; a bright smile replaces his usual serious expression. He seems to grow younger. Later, two teenage boys come by on bicycles and stop. Roman instinctively knows what they want to hear, his foot presses a pedal and he starts shredding, making his guitar strings wail. He has a passion for teaching music and is an instructor at Catherine’s Music Studio in Skippack.

It is true, on this First Friday night, not everyone who walks by stops to listen. Some just walk on, not taking heed of the beautiful music or the character, struggle, and victory over inner demons of the man who plays it.

For me, this makes Matt Roman’s story more meaningful. Because it is the same for me. I write my blog; I try to convey a positive message and hope that someone will read my words and grasp my meaning. But I almost never know if anyone has read what I have written, or if they pay attention to what I say. And I must be content in not knowing.

All of us have a story to tell, a song we send out to the world: We hope that someone will listen.

The night is getting late. Soon Matt will be packing up his guitars and equipment and going home. And it’s time for me to get home; Mrs. Skippack Blogger is waiting.

Thank you, Matt Roman, for coming to Skippack and playing. And thank you for finding an answer to your life in music instead of darkness. You and your guitar are an inspiration in Skippack. Play on.

Wait, before you go, would you mind playing House of the Rising Sun again, so I can catch it on video?

More Matt Roman in Skippack

At the Village Wine Cellar

At First Friday

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Witch Trials in Skippack: The Crucible at Playcrafters http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/08/19/crucible-theater-skippack-playcrafters-salem-witch-skippac/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/08/19/crucible-theater-skippack-playcrafters-salem-witch-skippac/#comments Tue, 19 Aug 2014 17:22:47 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9691 I Love Skippack |

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The Crucible, a hard-hitting drama about the Salem witch trials written by playwright Arthur Miller, opens this Thursday at Playcrafters of Skippack. The play is a classic of American theater, timeless in its exploration of power, the battle between social conformity and personal integrity, and how people who seek power take advantage of social prejudice [...]

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I Love Skippack |

2014-08-17 15.46.34

Suspicions are aroused in Salem, Massachusetts when several girls are discovered dancing in the forest in the middle of the night with the slave, Tituba

Suspicions are aroused in Salem, Massachusetts when several Puritan girls are discovered dancing in the forest in the middle of the night with a slave, Tituba, from Barbados.

The Crucible by Arthur Miller, at Playcrafters of Skippack

Opens Thurs, August 21.

Closes Sat, Sept 6.

Buy Tickets Online

More information 

The Crucible, a hard-hitting drama about the Salem witch trials written by playwright Arthur Miller, opens this Thursday at Playcrafters of Skippack. The play is a classic of American theater, timeless in its exploration of power, the battle between social conformity and personal integrity, and how people who seek power take advantage of social prejudice for their own advantage.

The year is 1692. The small Massachusetts village of Salem, a group of young girls fall ill, experiencing odd hallucinations and seizures. In strictly religious Puritan New England, the mysterious sickness spurs fears of witchcraft. Before long, the girls, and then other residents of Salem, begin to accuse other villagers of consorting with devils and casting spells. Old grudges and jealousies are brought out into the open. In other words, all hell breaks loose.

The Skippack Blogger’s Trial

Puritans come to town: Members of the cast of the crucible visit Skippack Village.

Puritans come to town: Members of the cast of The Crucible visit Skippack Village.

For the Skippack Blogger, the play presents a trial of my own. I love Playcrafters of Skippack, and want very much to get the word out to the world about the high quality of theater in our town. Suddenly, I realize that opening night is only a few nights away, and I have nothing prepared to promote The Crucible.

What next? Following upon our promotion of the musical Hair, I decide that the best short-term approach is a hard-hitting photo album post on Facebook. God bless social media. I ask director Curtis Cockenberg if I can take a group of actors for a photo shoot in Skippack Village. Before long I am leading a troop of Puritans thru Skippack’s main street. We attract the attention of more than a few passers by. One of my neighbors comes by with her children, the youngest in a stroller, and asks why I am hanging out with a bunch of Puritans. How do I get into these situations?

We stop by some of my favorite shops and restaurants and the covered bridge to take pictures. Photography often proves to be a bigger challenge than writing for the Skippack Blogger. Trying to coax a natural smile out of many people can be like pulling teeth. But these actors are expert at expressing emotion. Even in this awkward situation, I get great photos quickly and efficiently. We imagine how plain, stern Puritans would react to Skippack’s elegant boutiques and our luxuries like jewelry and home decorations.

The Accusation

Skippack Playcrafters Crucible

Actors without borders: A scene from The Crucible acted out in a parking lot in Skippack.

The actors agree to act out a crucial scene from the play in the parking lot by Pennsylvania Traditions, one of Skippack’s beautiful shops. They joke around, but suddenly a group gets into position, and visually recreates a scene from the play, communicating with gestures and body language a powerful moment: young women of Salem pointing to a foreign servant, accusing her of being a witch. The scene depicts at once the ability of hatred, innuendo, and lies to crush the weak and less powerful. Unfortunately, it is a drama acted out over and over again in society, and one that I suspect will be acted out as long as this earth spins around the sun. That is why the play The Crucible still matters.

Watching the actors, I am reminded of the talent and hard work that goes into each Playcrafters production. Even for my blog, these actors come thru as consummate professionals. When called upon to do so, they give it their all, drawing upon their skills and their very souls to create a picture of a different reality that teaches us about our own. And so they will for you and I, and the entire village of Skippack, in full force, when The Crucible opens at Playcrafters.

Tickets can be purchased online.

Video Clip: The Crucible at Playcrafters of Skippack in Rehearsal

Puritan girls by the covered bridge in Skippack: They may look sweet and innocent, but don't get on their bad side or you'll be hung for a witch.

Puritan girls by the covered bridge in Skippack: They may look sweet and innocent, but don’t get on their bad side or you’ll be hung for a witch.

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Love, Hate, and the Help Desk in Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/07/29/love-hate-and-the-help-desk/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/07/29/love-hate-and-the-help-desk/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:32:48 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9655 I Love Skippack |

Tom Merrick in his shop: Skippack has a help desk

Of all the types of relationships available to us in this lifetime, none is spicier or more intriguing than that that which we label as “love/hate.” Mixed emotions arouse passion; shall I kiss your lips my dear or shall I knock out your teeth? Now we may say in public, or post on an online [...]

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I Love Skippack |

Tom Merrick in his shop: Skippack has a help desk

If you are having relationship troubles, there are many wonderful places you can go in Skippack to discuss your problems with a friend -- or forget them for a while.

If you are having relationship troubles, there are many wonderful places you can go in Skippack to discuss your problems with a friend — or forget them for a while.

If you are experiencing relationship problems similar to the ones described in this blog post, call Tom’s Help Desk in Skippack at 610-584-8700.

Of all the types of relationships available to us in this lifetime, none is spicier or more intriguing than that that which we label as “love/hate.” Mixed emotions arouse passion; shall I kiss your lips my dear or shall I knock out your teeth?

Now we may say in public, or post on an online dating site, that we want a healthy relationship with a compatible partner, holding hands on the beach as waves gently touch the shore; but, if we are honest, we admit this fantasy is a bit of a bore. There is a reason the happy ending occurs at the end of a romance novel; the afterward is dull. But mix up passion, disgust, attraction, repulsion, devotion, and anger, and you’ve got a spicy, steamy cocktail. And I like it shaken, not stirred.

Believe me I know; I have been trapped in a love/hate relationship for several years. As a matter of fact, right now, even as we speak, I am staring at the object of my hatred/affection. It is the computer that sits on my desk, an iMac which I bought in 2008.

Caught in a Bad Digital Romance

My love is like a red, red rose -- she has some nice, sharp thorns. Photo taken on the patio of Brasserie73 in Skippack.

My love is like a red, red rose — she has some nice, sharp thorns. Photo taken on the patio of Brasserie73 in Skippack.

Why love/hate for my iMac?

She gives abundantly yet she is cruel, very cruel.

Lovely Love: She has given me a voice, enabling me to publish my writing myself and reach more people with her than I ever thought possible. She enabled me to create my websites and Facebook pages. She is more than a lover, she is a social secretary; through her, I have met many wonderful people. I owe her much.

Hateful Hate: Just when I need her the most, she turns cold and shuts me out, she locks up, she crashes. She does not respect my time. Tasks that should take but a few minutes end up taking hours. She teases. She tantalizes me. I constantly face the frustration of not being able to implement my ideas. Photo and video file formats are not compatible. I don’t understand the editing software. She is always able to come up with a new way to thwart me.

“No, no, no,” she tells me, the very moment I need her to say yes.

Recently, my beloved is suffering from an exhaustion of memories. I loaded up too many photos of Skippack, taken in the course of my career as the Skippack Blogger, and my beloved suffered the ill effects of a sort of digital gluttony.

Relationship Expert: Skippack’s Computer Repair Guy

Tom Merrick of Tom's Help Desk in Skippack: Brings technology expertise to our village and looks cool in his shades, especially for a computer nerd.

Tom Merrick of Tom’s Help Desk in Skippack: Brings technology expertise to our village and looks cool in his shades, especially for a computer nerd.

Thankfully, there is a new expert in our village to help with troubled relationships like mine: Tom Merrick of Tom’s Help Desk in Skippack.

Tom worked as an IT manager for large companies in Willow Grove  and Philadelphia. He found his role less than satisfying; when people came to him with computer problems he had to refer them to an overseas call center, per company policy. Tom wanted to be hands on, and help people directly

Tom opened his own computer repair shop and help desk in Quakertown in 2008. He opened his office in Skippack in 2013.

“I love the small town atmosphere in Skippack. There are so many things to do here. Even before I opened my office, I loved visiting the village and going to events. People are so friendly,” says Tom.

“I saw a need for computer help,” Tom explains. “The village was lacking in technology support.”

“But,” I ask Tom, “do you think you can help a computer problem as serious as the Skippack Blogger’s? Can you fix a relationship so broken?”

“Sure, no problem. I’ve backed your photos up to an external hard drive. The most important thing is that your information is safe. It’s just a matter a of mending the broken relationship between your computer and the storage unit.”

Eternal Hope for a Happy Ending

The Skippack Blogger, at left, at Mal's American Diner ins Skippack, with Tom Merrick, owner of Tom's Help Desk: Seeking advice for a troubled  relationship.

The Skippack Blogger, at left, at Mal’s American Diner in Skippack, with Tom Merrick, owner of Tom’s Help Desk: Seeking advice for a troubled relationship.

After I explained some of our deeper relationship issues, Tom recommended at-home counseling for my iMac and me. He will soon send a member of his technology team to analyze our difficulties and implement a solution. A customer may also bring their computer to Tom’s Help Desk in Skippack and Tom and his technologists can also work remotely, tapping into your computer thru a digital connection.

As I await the healing visit, the eternal hope again awakens in my soul that my iMac and I can enjoy a contented, peaceful, emotionally-healthy relationship; free from rancor and bitter disputes; free from curses spoken in haste and bitter mornings of regret.

But, you may wonder, do I really want the relationship healed? Perhaps I will miss the sleepless nights and endless fights, the lovely loving and the hateful hate? Perhaps I have become adrenaline addicted to the waves of frustration and the raging battles? Unlikely; I am older and wiser now. I am ready for a peaceful, mature, healthy relationship.

Besides, if I resolve my issues with my fickle one, the iMac, I will have more time for human relationships, where plenty of tempest and intrigue is still to be found.

Tom Merrick in his shop: Skippack has a help desk

Tom Merrick in his shop: Skippack now has a help desk. Tom’s Help Desk is located at 4007 Skippack Pike, call 610-584-8700.

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Hair: Skippack’s Summer Musical Event http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/07/17/hair-skippack-playcrafters-summer-musical-event-theater/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/07/17/hair-skippack-playcrafters-summer-musical-event-theater/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:02:51 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9600 I Love Skippack |

These hippie rebels do not respect the "no sitting on walls" sign in our beautiful village. No good.

Dammit. I am fighting back the tears. I am not saying I am actually crying, but I’ve been sitting in on rehearsals for Hair, the landmark anti-war, pro-love rock musical of the 1960s, which opens this week at Playcrafters of Skippack: It’s come to the final scene which shows the parting of friends, their youthful [...]

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I Love Skippack |

These hippie rebels do not respect the "no sitting on walls" sign in our beautiful village. No good.

These hippie rebels do not respect the "no sitting on walls" sign in our beautiful village. No good.

A group from the Tribe visits Skippack: These hippie rebels do not respect the “no sitting on walls” sign in our beautiful village. Not good.

Skippack’s summer musical event, Hair at Playcrafters, opens July 17 and continues thru August 2.


Dammit. I am fighting back the tears. I am not saying I am actually crying, but I’ve been sitting in on rehearsals for Hair, the landmark anti-war, pro-love rock musical of the 1960s, which opens this week at Playcrafters of Skippack: It’s come to the final scene which shows the parting of friends, their youthful circle broken, their Garden of Eden shattered. It’s ripping me apart.

What is it that gives this show so much power, performed in the Village of Skippack, more than four decades after it first opened on Broadway?

Get Ready & Get the Best

The short answer is a great director, production staff, and cast.

Members of the cast of Hair exploring the covered bridge in Skippack.

Members of the cast of Hair exploring the covered bridge in Skippack: Spontaneous fun is a key ingredient  in theater and life.

“At Playcrafters, shows are chosen almost a full year in advance of the opening date,” explains Kevin Binder, the director of Hair at Playcrafters. “Directors start work right away by selecting their production staff. Without the wonderful staff we assembled, the show wouldn’t work as well as it does.

“My assistant and I started meeting last September. I started putting together the book for show in October. That took until January,” Kevin says. He worked from several different versions of Hair published during the musical’s long history to craft a version he felt was right for Skippack’s community theater.

And then there’s the task of assembling the cast. “You hope for the best,” says Kevin. He pauses.

“And I got the best,” he says with pride. “It’s a strong, fresh-faced young cast, with a lot of people new to the Playcrafters stage.”

Practice to be Spontaneous

These high-energy young performers make up the Tribe; a group of free spirits in an uninhibited, crazy time. They sing, dance, and channel their beautiful individuality into a chaotic but magnificent whole. They get to rock. They let go. They make it look spontaneous. They show us what they can do. Young, local actors, singers, and dancers create the joy and inspiration that is the core of Hair.

In rehearsal

In rehearsal

Hair celebrates young friendship. Youth is a time of life when friendship and relationships mean everything; we watch as friends on the fringe of society party together, celebrate their identity as individuals and social outcasts, form intimate bonds, and provide a protective shell for each other against authority.

“When I was younger and saw Hair for the first time,” recalls Kevin, “I was at a point in my life where I didn’t know where to turn. Then I saw the peace, the love, the understanding, and, more important, the emphasis on accepting people for who they are, warts and all; accepting them as one.”

Discover Your Inner Hippie

An inner hippie lies buried within each of our souls. A part of us longs to rebel against authority, give the middle finger to society, the man, the corporation. A fragment of our being wants to live in a world of beautiful colors and poetic self-expression, and cast our fate to the wind.

As we grow up, we learn to suppress our inner hippie. We go out to earn a living. We make compromise after compromise. We see the hypocrisy and cruelty of society and we swallow it. Always there is another bill to pay, a car payment, a mortgage payment, a tuition payment, a reason to repress the outcry of the rebel inside.

IMG_7275

Mr. and Mrs. Skippack Blogger with our hippie threads on, right before going to see Hair at Playcrafters: Discover your inner hippie.

The magic of live theater: Going to see Hair allows us, for a couple wonderful hours, to get back in touch with our inner hippie. For a brief time, we become members of the tribe. Our world becomes “peace, love, freedom, flowers, happiness.”

Thanks to the hard work and discipline of director Kevin Binder, the Tribe, and the production staff, we get to reconnect with the free-wheeling, spontaneous flower child buried deep in our soul.

May you have a great deal of fun and find your own meaning when you see Hair at Playcrafters. Let the sunshine in.

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A Fourth of July Welcome, in Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/07/02/fourth-of-july-vietnam-veterans-dav-southest-trading-post-skippack/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/07/02/fourth-of-july-vietnam-veterans-dav-southest-trading-post-skippack/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 01:39:30 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9544 I Love Skippack |

A member of local chapters of Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America participates in the Montgomery County  Honor Guard during the Fourth of July parade in Skippack.

Frank DeSimone, a Skippack resident, and his friend Ralph Nealman, who lives in nearby East Norriton, will never forget last year’s Fourth of July parade in Skippack. Frank is commander of Chapter 25 of the Disabled American Veterans, which meets in the Skippack Township Building. Ralph is president of Valley Forge Chapter 349 of the [...]

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I Love Skippack |

A member of local chapters of Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America participates in the Montgomery County  Honor Guard during the Fourth of July parade in Skippack.

The Southwest Trading Post in Skippack

The Southwest Trading Post in Skippack

On the July 4th 2014, the Montgomery County Honor Guard, composed of members of local chapters of the Disabled Veterans of America and Vietnam Veterans of America, performed a special dedication ceremony for a new flagpole and American flag which now flies on the grounds of the Southwest Trading Post to thank Butch Kaelin, the owner of the Southwest Trading Post and the Victorian Carriage Shops, LLC, for his generous support of veterans in our community.

Frank DeSimone, a Skippack resident, and his friend Ralph Nealman, who lives in nearby East Norriton, will never forget last year’s Fourth of July parade in Skippack. Frank is commander of Chapter 25 of the Disabled American Veterans, which meets in the Skippack Township Building. Ralph is president of Valley Forge Chapter 349 of the  Vietnam Veterans of America. It was the first time members of these two closely aligned organizations marched in Skippack’s parade.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” explains Frank. “We brought our Honor Guard and invited anybody from our units who wanted to participate. We organized at the Firehouse. They put us in line. Many of us had our grandkids along the sidewalk watching.

At left, Ralph Nealman,  president of Valley Forge Chapter 349 of the  Vietnam Veterans of America. At right, Frank DeSimone commander of Chapter 25 of the Disabled American Veterans, which meets in the Skippack Township Building.

At left, Ralph Nealman, president of Valley Forge Chapter 349 of the Vietnam Veterans of America. At right, Frank DeSimone commander of Chapter 25 of the Disabled American Veterans, which meets in the Skippack Township Building.

“When we came down the slope along Route 73 and turned the corner by Store Road,” he continues, “people were packed six deep. None of us expected that many people to be in the crowd. We got a huge reception. It was very powerful. Many of us had never before been in a parade.

“Even though we came back from Vietnam decades ago, the Fourth of July parade in Skippack seemed like our first official welcome home, “ explains Ralph.

“Guys were in tears,” recalls Frank. “People in crowd were running up to Ralph, shaking his hand, giving him kisses. It was amazing.

“It completely took us by surprise. We never expected a reception like that,” says Frank. “That’s why we can’t wait for this year’s Fourth of July Parade. “

“People in Skippack are unbelievable,” adds Ralph.

Discovering Our Town

Chapter 25 of the Disabled American Veterans, referred to as the DAV, originally met in Norristown, underwent an reorganization, moved to Collegeville, and began holding meetings at the National Guard Building in Creamery. Then they moved their monthly meetings to the Skippack Township Building.

Frank DeSimone, second from right, with members of Chapter 25 of Disabled American Veterans at Community Services Day in Skippack, held concurrently with the Fall Car Show on the grounds of the Southwest Trading Post.

Frank DeSimone, second from right, with members of Chapter 25 of Disabled American Veterans at Community Services Day in Skippack, held concurrently with the Fall Car Show on the grounds of the Southwest Trading Post.

During this time, membership grew; now from 35 to 50 veterans attend each monthly meeting. Most of the members of  DAV chapter 25 are Vietnam veterans. Nearly all also belong to Valley Forge chapter 349 of the Vietnam Veterans of America.

A member of the chapter reached out to Butch Kaelin, owner of the Southwest Trading Post and the Victorian Carriage Shops, LLC, in Skippack.

Butch said, “Because you guys are new in the area, I am going to give you space on my grounds. Set up your tent here on First Friday so you can make yourself known to the Skippack community.”

Members of the DAV began participating in Skippack’s First Fridays on a regular basis. Soon, they began participating in other Skippack events, including Winetober Fest (Skippack’s fall wine festival), and Community Services Day, also managed by Butch, and held concurrently with Skippack’s fall auto show, the International Car Show.

The Montgomery County Honor Guard and a Special Dedication Ceremony

A member of local chapters of Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America participates in the Montgomery County  Honor Guard during the Fourth of July parade in Skippack.

A member of local chapters of Disabled American Veterans and the Vietnam Veterans of America participates in the Montgomery County Honor Guard during the Fourth of July parade in Skippack.

Local Units of the DAV and the Vietnam Veterans of  America participate in an honor guard, called the Montgomery County Honor Guard. Frank and Ralph underwent training at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and are certified by the Department of Defense to perform the honor guard. The main purpose of the honor guard is to give local veterans their final tribute at the cemetery.

“Frank is usually the commander who calls all the shots,” explains Ralph, “if he’s tied up, then I’m the other commander.”

“This year, since the honor guard is going to be in the July 4th parade, we want to come and thank Butch for going above and beyond in helping our men, so we bought a flagpole for him,” says Frank.

“This week,’ he continues, “I am going to buy a new flag. We’re going to come back to the Southwest Trading Post after the parade. Once the parade is over, there will be a dedication ceremony for the new flagpole and the new flag. We’ll raise the flag. The honor guard will fire a three volley salute, followed by playing of taps.”

We Will Never Let What Happened To Us Happen To Another Generation

Ralph Nealman Skippack Vietnam Veterans of America

Ralph Nealman, president of Valley Forge Chapter 349 of the Vietnam Veterans of America, in front of the Southwest Trading Post in Skippack.

Frank and Ralph want people to understand the role their organizations play in society and in history.

“When we came home from Vietnam,” explains Ralph, “we were kids; 18,19, or 20 years old. And no one supported us. Not even the other generation of veterans.”

Frank agrees: “When we went to the VFW, they laughed us out. We had the same experience with the Catholic War Veterans organization.

“Today, that attitude has changed,” Frank says. “We made it change,” he adds with strength and pride in his voice.

“As we got older, the organizations that snubbed Vietnam veterans began to see their membership fade,” Ralph continues. “They started to worry about what would become of their legacy.

“Guess what your legacy is going to be? Us!” says Ralph with power and barely a trace of bitterness

“Your legacy is always going to survive as long as Vietnam veterans are around. We are the generation that ain’t gonna forget other other veterans. We will never let what happened to us happen to another generation.”

Frank adds: “Even though we can be hard asses, we’ve forgiven these other organizations. We take part in their events. Today, the reason soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq get such a positive reception when they return home is because of us, the Vietnam veterans.”

A New Generation of Vets

Across the generations: In this photo, two members of chapter 25 of the Disabled Americans Veterans, Charlie Becker (left) and Bill Pinkerton (right) receive an award of recognition from Joe Long, president of the Student Veterans Organization of Montgomery County Community College.

Across the generations: In this photo, two members of Disabled Americans Veterans, chapter 25, Charlie Becker (left) and Bill Pinkerton (right) receive an award of recognition from Joe Long, president of the Student Veterans Organization of Montgomery County Community College.

“Today’s returning veterans are our sons, daughters, grandsons and granddaughters,” says Ralph. “Both of our organizations are trying to steer them. We hope that eventually they will form their own organizations, but for now we’re here to help.”

Frank and Ralph add that today’s young veterans are dealing with the same mental stress problems that they experienced upon returning home from overseas.

“When we came home from Vietnam,” says Ralph, “we had no idea what was going on with us mentally. And dealing with that was hard.”

They are proud of the role Vietnam veterans played in calling the public’s and medical profession’s attention to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event.

Today, members of local chapters of the DAV and Vietnam Veterans of America are working with young veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan at Montgomery County Community College and elsewhere

Says Ralph,  “Frank and I can talk to a guy and when we recognize a bad case of PTSD, we can steer him in the right direction.”  He adds that there is tremendous power in the communication and bonding that takes place between veterans.

A Message to Skippack and the World

Frank DeSimone and Ralph Nealman

Frank DeSimone of the DAV (left) and Ralph Nealman of Vietnam Veterans of American: “The love and respect we have for each other is our greatest advertisement. “

The priority of the DAV and the Vietnam Veterans of America is to help other veterans. However, when they march in Skippack’s Fourth of July Parade, they send a message to Skippack and the world.

“My job isn’t to evangelize the public,” says Frank.  “We can’t force patriotism. But when people see us marching in the parade, maybe they will understand what patriotism is.

“Ralph’s organization and my organization are truly a family. I have seen so many selfless acts. We truly love each other. When you observe a group of guys, you can tell whether or not they really love each other.

“None of the preaching we do is ever going to impact people as much as the love and respect we have for each other. That’s our greatest advertisement. That’s our message. “

And crown thy good with brotherhood.

Note from the Skippack Blogger: Thank you Frank and Ralph for your time, your service, and for your openness. Thank you also for providing another reason to love Skippack, and the United States of America.

Veterans and their friends, family, and advocates may contact Frank DeSimone of the DAV at 610-657-7754 or Ralph Nealman of Vietnam Veterans of America at 610-639-4798.

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Revolution at the Skippack Farmer’s Market http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/05/06/revolution-at-the-skippack-farmers-market/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/05/06/revolution-at-the-skippack-farmers-market/#comments Wed, 07 May 2014 01:06:47 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9284 I Love Skippack |

Jason Skippack Farmer's Mark

Often we say “one step at a time” but incremental improvements are not always sufficient; occasionally, one needs to make a drastic overhaul, a revolutionary change, a reboot from the hard drive. Such a moment has come to a great local institution; the Skippack Farmer’s Market. The question: Who among us can handle the transition, [...]

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I Love Skippack |

Jason Skippack Farmer's Mark

Jason Skippack Farmer's Mark

Jason Brown, the owner of Love Hot Dog Company, is the new manager of the Skippack Farmer’s Market.

What: The new 2014 Skippack Farmer’s Market

When: The Skippack Farmer’s Market will be held every Friday, opening at 4 pm and closing at dusk, from now until mid-November 2014.

Where: The location will remain the same as last year, along Skippack Pike, across from the WaWa, in the market lot next to Chiaro’s Pizzeria, near the intersection of Route 113; the street address is 4112 Skippack Pike.


Often we say “one step at a time” but incremental improvements are not always sufficient; occasionally, one needs to make a drastic overhaul, a revolutionary change, a reboot from the hard drive. Such a moment has come to a great local institution; the Skippack Farmer’s Market.

The question: Who among us can handle the transition, organize and manage change, storm the Bastille, deliver the produce, and revive the Skippack Farmer’s Market to its fullest potential?

Meet the Guy with the Tie-Dye T-shirt

Jason’s wife Melissa helping their two sons make lemonade; this photo was taken at the Skippack Farmer’s Marker in August 2012.

Jason’s wife Melissa helping their two sons make lemonade; this photo was taken at the Skippack Farmer’s Marker in August 2012.

Fortunately, fate and local real estate developer Dave Markel, who owns the lot where the market is held, have appointed my friend Jason Brown in charge of revolutionizing the Farmer’s Market in Skippack. Jason is the owner and chef at the Love Hot Dog Company, a mobile food service known for exotic sandwiches which serves lunch weekdays in Skippack.

The Skippack Farmer’s Market was where I first met Jason two years ago. I remember the day. His wife Melissa was helping their two young sons slice lemons for their lemonade stand. Jason was in a trailer behind them wearing a bright, colorful tie-dye t-shirt and cooking up hot dogs. My wife and I both sensed this family business would become a great resource for Skippack.

Since then, I’ve collaborated with Jason on Skippack blog posts, worked with him on the launch of the new Best of Skippack website, and spoken with him at many Skippack events, where his Love Hot Dog Company Food Truck is a welcome presence.

Jason is both visionary and go-getter. He dreams his dreams with two feet planted firmly in the earth. He gets the job done. He is keenly aware of the day-to-day demands of building and sustaining a successful locally-based enterprise.

New time: Friday Late Afternoon

Under Jason’s direction, the time of Skippack Farmer’s Market will move from Sunday mornings to Fridays afternoons, beginning at 4:00 pm.

“With a Friday time slot, we can link the market to First Fridays, which take place once a month, though we’ll be here every Friday. Hopefully, a new schedule will help bring in a new influx of people. People who want to grab some produce at the market can stop by on their way to the Jersey shore or on their way home from a restaurant or happy hour in Skippack.”

New Vendors for 2014

Bread from Corropolese Bakery, a local favorite,  will be available at the Skippack  Farmer's Market in 2014.

Bread from Corropolese Bakery, a local favorite, will be available at the Skippack Farmer’s Market in 2014.

Since opening the Love Hot Dog Company in Skippack, Jason has expanded to multiple food trucks and launched the Conspiracy Food Truck Crew, a mobile food management company, which will provide the framework for bringing food trucks owned and run by other chefs into Skippack for our Farmer’s Market. The name of the Facebook page for the new Skippack Farmer’s Market is the “Skippack Farmer’s Market & Food Truck Pod.”

“Several food trucks will be at the Skippack Farmer’s Market, and with different trucks offering different types of food each week”

In addition to food trucks, here is a partial list of vendors scheduled for the 2014 Skippack Farmer’s Market:

  • Jubilee Hill Farms; organic produce greens and speciality herbs
  • Macdougalls Irish victory cakes (only on first Fridays)
  • Jenny & Franks Artisan Gelato
  • Lavinia’s Cookies
  • A coffee roaster
  • Behmerwald Nursery (various dates)
  • Delphinium Bakery
  • Alchemy Crystals
  • Mojo’s Pop Co.; gourmet popcorn
  • Freeland Market; sausage and cured meats (returning vendor)
  • Angela’s Raw Honey
  • Corropolese Bakery; breads, tomato pies, an area favorite

A New Platform for Local Business and Nonprofits

The Skippack Blogger 9at right) hanging out with Jason Brown, the new manager of the Skippack Farmer's Market, at 4th of July Festivities in Skippack.

The Skippack Blogger (at right) hanging out with Jason Brown, the new manager of the Skippack Farmer’s Market, at 4th of July Festivities in Skippack.

“The new slogan for the Skippack Farmer’s Market is going to be ‘Cultivating our community talent,’” explains Jason. “We want to feature a different local businesses each week, especially individually-owned shops and service-providers in Skippack. We also want to feature nonprofit organizations in our area; we’d love to have organizations like the Skippack Fire Company, 4-H, Harley’s Haven Dog Rescue, Playcrafters of Skippack; and local high school clubs.

“Our goal is to create a platform for promoting organizations and services throughout the community. Featured businesses and non-profit organizations will be set up with a special location to display items and provide information.

“We will not charge local businesses or nonprofit organizations in Skippack who want to be featured in the Farmer’s Market. This will be a free service.”

A Vendor Driven Market

“Once our vendors are on board, they will have an opportunity to have a say in how things are run. I want the new market to be vendor-driven,” Jason explains. “My plan is to create a vendor board, a forum for people who sell at our market to put forward new ideas.

“It’s not my market, it’s our market. I want input from a core group of vendors who want to help it grow and make sure it remains fun and worthwhile for all who participate.

“I don’t have all the ideas we will need,” says Jason, “I need other people’s ideas and welcome them.”

Keeping it Alive, Making it Grow

Jason Brown, the owner of the Love Hot Dog Company, is an entrepreneur bring ideas to life.

Jason Brown, the owner of the Love Hot Dog Company, is an entrepreneur bringing new ideas to life. What started out as the Love Hot Dog company, which featured natural all-beef hot dogs with exotic toppings, is expanding.

“I am not getting paid to manage the Skippack Farmer’s Market,” Jason explains. “I am doing it to stop a local tradition from falling by the wayside. Farmer’s markets in surrounding communities have grown and ours hasn’t. Collegeville and many other farmer’s markets in the area are experiencing great success yet they are younger than the Skippack Farmer’s Market.”

From my talk with Jason, and from knowing him these past two years, it’s clear the farmer’s market finally has the leadership it needs. The rest is up to us. Please come out Friday afternoons and support the new Skippack farmer’s Market.

Wanted: Crafters, Vendors, Small Business Owners, Non-Profits, Sponsors

The Skippack Farmer’s Market is looking for:

  • Crafters, vendors, and small business owners who want to sell at the Skippack Farmer’s Market
  • Shops, service providers, groups, and nonprofit organizations in Skippack and the immediate surrounding area, who would like to be featured as part of the Farmer’s Market program to highlight local talent and resources (there is no cost to participate)
  • Businesses that would like to sponsor advertising, such as flyers and circulars, for the Skippack Farmer’s Market

If interested, please contact Jason Brown at info@lovehotdogco.com or call 215-783-5710.

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A Rock Star with a Big Heart, in Skippack http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/02/24/rock-star-skippack-medical-waste-c-j-santangelo/ http://www.iloveskippack.com/2014/02/24/rock-star-skippack-medical-waste-c-j-santangelo/#comments Mon, 24 Feb 2014 18:48:54 +0000 Michael Shaw http://www.iloveskippack.com/?p=9118 I Love Skippack |

At work:

C.J. Santangelo lives the Skippack variation of the rock star lifestyle, with a beautiful wife and three beautiful kids, tattoos covering both arms, a motorcycle, and a home with an awesome man cave complete with a full gym and rehearsal space for his band, the Hot Sauce Junkies. The first time I saw him, he was singing lead vocals with the Hot Sauce Junkies as part of Skippack’s 4th of July celebration in Palmer Park.

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I Love Skippack |

At work:

Ny friend & Skippack neighbor C.J. Santangelo

My friend & Skippack neighbor C.J. Santangelo

C.J. Santangelo lives the Skippack variation of the rock star lifestyle, with a beautiful wife and three beautiful kids, tattoos covering both arms, a motorcycle, and a home with an awesome man cave complete with a full gym and rehearsal space for his band, the Hot Sauce Junkies. The first time I saw him, he was singing lead vocals with the Hot Sauce Junkies as part of Skippack’s 4th of July celebration in Palmer Park.

When I was a kid, along with the rest of the crowd, I thought guys like Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and Bruce Springsteen were the greatest. Now my ideal rock star is my friend and Skippack neighbor, C.J. Santangelo.

Why is C.J. my ideal of a rock star? Because I can meet up with him in Skippack Village, spend time, and learn from him. This evening, I meet C.J. at a Skippack bar. After a warm embrace, I order a Heineken Light, and we get to talking.

Living and Giving by his Own Rules

A rock star lives by his own rules. C.J. does one better: he gives by his own rules. He is the driving force behind several full-scale, community-wide, fundraising events. As a teenager he volunteered for the Leukemia Society, but now he is a rock-star-good-samaritan: operating outside the framework of an established charitable organization.

He gets support from a dedicated group of friends and family members he calls the A-Team. The goal is simple and personal: helping a neighbor in need, in many instances, a child or adult stricken with cancer.

C.J. performing with his band the Hot Sauce Junkies at Justin's Carriage House during a Skippack First Friday.

C.J. performing with his band the Hot Sauce Junkies outside Justin’s Carriage House during a Skippack First Friday.

“After the first time you experience making a difference in someone’s life, you realize nothing on this planet is more rewarding,” he says, “hands down.”

A Network of Superheroes

C.J. describes the A-Team: “We’re a network of helpers; of humble, determined humanitarians; of superheroes; we swoop down in the middle of night. People wonder how we can be so effective.”

Last year, C.J. and the A-Team raised funds to help pay medical expenses for Jennifer Romano, a young mother of three children from Norristown diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Their efforts included an event held at the LuLu Temple in Plymouth Meeting attended by more than 800 people, many of them small business owners.

“We fought really hard for Jennifer Romano,” C.J. says. “It was a tough battle from the get go, but I had faith and belief.

C.J. with the friends and family of Jennifer Romano, may her memory be a blessing. When Jennifer realized she would not win her battle against cancer, she wanted it kept secret from the young man who tried to help her.

C.J. with Jennifer Romano (to his immediate right) and friends and family. When Jennifer realized she would not win her battle against cancer, she wanted it kept secret from the young man who tried to help her. May her memory be a blessing.

“I met Jennifer. I hugged her. I felt her energy. I said to her ‘You are going to win this.’”

Two Goodbyes

When Jennifer Romano realized she wasn’t going to win, she told her family and friends she was going to hospice and might not make it to the holidays, and made them promise not to tell C.J. She didn’t want him to be hurt. He was performing with the Hot Sauce Junkies at Justin’s Carriage House during a Skippack First Friday when a friend and member of the A-Team revealed the truth to him.

“It floored me,” C.J. recalls.

C.J.’s own father died from cancer at age 58, when C.J. was 35 years old. He said to his C.J. on his deathbed, “Don’t give up the fight. This isn’t the war. This is only one battle.”

Even a Rock Star has Limits

C.J.’s rep as a rock-and-roller doing good works is growing in the local area. More and more, people seek out his help. The high-energy go-getter is facing his limits.

“A lot of people come to me with sad stories. Everyone has hardships and bad luck. I can’t help everybody. I have a business to run. It sucks to say ‘no.’”

A man's strength is his family: C.J. proudly stands next to a family portrait which hands in his office.

A man’s strength is his family: C.J. proudly stands next to a family portrait which hangs in his office.

However, don’t expect C.J. to slow down anytime soon: “I have fun,” he says. “I make new friends. I get a chance to perform with my band, give a speech to hundreds of people, and get my name in the newspaper. I can justify it to myself because I do it for a good reason.”

He adds, “Helping others can become addicting.”

Footing the Bill

When I meet a guy like C.J., living rockstar-style, on his own terms, the question that comes to mind is “how does he foot the bill?”

C.J. owns and runs S.H. Bio-Waste LTD, a medical waste company with eight full-time employees, four trucks on the road, and more than 1,500 customers. He started out working in his family business, Santangelo Hauling & Landfill (known as CBF Hauling in the Pittsburgh area), a trash collection service owned by his father, learning about hard work and life from the back of a trash truck.

In the late 1980s, a new law was passed requiring medical waste be separated from municipal waste. Hospitals, pharmacies, diagnostic labs, and doctor’s offices would need special trash disposal service. When C.J. graduated from Bishop Kenrick High School in 1989, his father’s firm launched a medical waste division, with the intent that C.J. would own and run it. However, this business remained dormant as C.J. helped his father manage the bigger and busier trash business.

At work:

At work: S & H Biowaste Ltd is a medical waste company with eight full-time employees, four trucks on the road, and more than 1,500 customers.

A turning point came when his father sold the trash business to a corporate buyer. C.J. became an employee, working as a manager for the new company. Before long, he realized the new company and new role weren’t right for him. Work had ceased to be fun.

“I had to make a decision: grow my medical waste company or sell it for close to nothing,” recalls C.J.  “It was the only thing left of our business that I could call mine. It felt wrong to give up on the medical waste project when I had never put my heart or my personal touch into it.”

C.J. began building his own business part-time, while still working for his corporate employer.

An even more unexpected change occurred: his mother left his father after 30 years of marriage and filed for divorce. Emotionally this would be a devastating blow for a young man who greatly admired his father. It also meant the family wealth would be tied up for years.

By this time, C.J. had married a lovely young woman named Michele. They had an infant daughter named Angelina. The new medical waste business wasn’t making any money. His corporate employer asked him to sign a non-compete agreement, forcing C.J. to play his hand. His lawyer told him not to sign. No matter what they gave in return, no matter how much they paid him, they could fire him at any time, and C.J. would be left without a means to make a living.

A Rock Star is Born

From left: C.J.'s daughter Angelina and his wife Michele.

From left: C.J.’s daughter Angelina and his wife Michele.

C.J. began selling full time for his own medical waste business: visiting medical practices and trying to convince the office manager to let him service their account. Before long, C.J. realized he was on to something good.

“I loved going to work every day, I loved knocking on doors and going into doctor’s offices, talking to the office manager, and convincing her I could dispose of their medical waste for a lower cost.

” ‘C’mon,’ I would say. ‘I am a young guy. I just got married. I have a new daughter. I’m not a salesman. I am the business owner. Give me a shot.’ I wouldn’t leave until the office manager said ‘yes.’ ”

Two years after his parents separated, C.J.’s father developed the cancer that would eventually end his life.

“Looking back,” says C.J., “This was my time of transition from being a dedicated son, and constantly looking for dad’s approval, to realizing that I now had a wife and a new baby. Did I want be his superhero or their superhero? It killed me emotionally but it drove me.”

This then was the crucible that made C.J. Santangelo a rock star.

Reflections from the Skippack Blogger

One observation about C.J.: His rock-and-roll self-confidence doesn’t block out his vision into the hearts and minds of others. I see this in his charitable endeavors and in our personal interactions, as our friendship develops.

In comparison, my world often seems filled with people focused tightly on their own achievements, their hearts rarely able to stretch beyond an invisible border defined by their families and their suburban homes. In the corporate world, where I eke out my living, everyone is guarded. C.J. wears his heart on his sleeve, literally in the form of a tattoo and figuratively: Once he accepts you as his friend, there’s no holding back.

An odd thought occurs to me. If I had a friend like C.J. when I was growing up, would I have learned from him? Would I have learned how to live with self-confidence, believe in myself, find a way of living that was true to who I was?

Or did I have to wait until I paid the price for not believing in myself?

C.J. would have no patience with this type of question. He would put his arm around my shoulders and say, “You got me now. So chin up, chest out champ.”

And so I end with this thought:

A rock star is an awesome being. The rock star’s insistence on living life on his own terms reminds us to believe in ourselves and pursue our own destiny.

For more info about C.J.’s band and his business:

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