Michele Melcher sketch for Brandywine Roller Girls

Here’s a candidate logo for the brand-new Brandywine Roller Girls team. The team just picked their name, and are in the middle of selecting a logo. As you already know, I’m really excited about having a hometown roller derby team, so I asked Michele to do a sketch based on Archibald Willard’s Spirit of ’76 painting:

Sketch for a Brandywine Roller Girls logo by Michele Melcher

Mere moments after posting this picture to Facebook, local parade mogul and one-time next-door neighbor Todd Marcoccisaw it and asked if they would be willing to be in a parade. This made me simultaneously ecstatically happy (a logo that immediately snags a parade invitation is a GREAT logo, right?) — and extremely jealous (Todd has never asked me to be in a parade!)

Michele Melcher sketch for Brandywine Roller Girls

The Tikaro Roller Ball: Everything I could have hoped, and more!

Imagine a karate warrior, a motorcycle racer in full leathers, and a six-foot-six gorilla, all on roller skates. Now imagine that they’re mixed in with men in tuxedos, women in floor-length silk ball gowns, and girls in tutus — all on skates, under disco lights. Now add to that luchador masks, viking helmets, and a whole roller derby team in crash pads and eyeblack.

What I’m trying to convey here is that my fortieth birthday party turned out better than I could have hoped!

Kate looked smashing in my grandfather’s fox-hunting scarlet:

Roller Ball

The newly-reopened Caln Roller Rink, before it filled up with skaters in formal gowns, tuxedos, and costumes:

Roller Ball

Randy volunteered to set up a photo booth, and boy, am I ever glad he did. You can click on any of the thumbnails below to see some of the pictures he took. Look for the enormous Claymore sword he brought, which I’m pretty sure is high on the list of “things you really shouldn’t bring to a roller rink”:


The best part of the party, for me, was seeing West Chester Twitter friends meeting Guerilla Drive-In members and local bloggers, and everyone meeting family members and friends. I know perfectly well that many of my friends are creative, intelligent free spirits, but OH MAN, when they walk through the door in a cape and deerstalker hat, PLUS a snake-headed walking stick, PLUS a meerschaum pipe and magnifying glass, completely nailing the Sherlock? It restores my faith in… something, I’m not sure exactly what. But it’s something important, and having it re-affirmed so completely, by watching women fly past fearlessly in gowns and tiaras on rental skates, well, it’s just pretty damn wonderful.

Speaking of fearless, members of the nascent Chesco Roller Derby team came out, with their helmets, kneepads, and sequined shorts:


The team is in “fresh meat” stage, and are working on their skating skills. Once the team members pass their skill tests [PDF link], the team will be cleared to start having matches. The first one might be some time in March! Ever since stumbling on the Roller Derby Nationals in 2009, I’ve been hoping for a local team. In front are local West Chester Twitter-ers @kimdec and @jennruss, who just got their gear yesterday, and are 110% psyched about the sport (they’re at practice right now as I’m writing this.)

The evening ended (for us) at Doghouse Burgers in Downingtown, where we were serenaded by Terri Moss, playing Paris cafe standards and “Happy Birthday” on the accordion. Is there any more stylish way to end a party? I don’t think so.

Thanks so much for coming out, everybody! I had a wonderful time, and would like to think that I’ve continued the tradition of my Chester County ancestors, who used to hold fancy-dress galas on Lincoln Highway, stopping any cars that might come through so they could come join the festivities. With this group, any party is wonderful. I’ve already got some ideas for the next one…

The Tikaro Roller Ball: Everything I could have hoped, and more!

You’re Invited to the Tikaro Roller Ball!

A few months ago, the Daily Local News wrote about the re-opening of the Caln Roller Rink. Caln was a local landmark since 1974, and has been closed and empty for years. For a year, a passionate group of volunteers has been moving mountains to re-open the rink.

In August, we stopped by to talk to them and take some pictures. What a great place! Kate remembers seeing "Thriller" here on the big screen, which was a big premiere event: “Okay, everybody sit in the middle of the rink, HERE COMES THE MOVIE PROJECTOR!”

Just a few short weeks ago, CALN SUCCESSFULLY RE-OPENED! HURRAH! We’ve all had a great time tottering around the rink with friends and family. Here’s Lydia with her playschool friend Kylie, both beaming over their matching pink skates:

Lydia and Kylie at Caln Roller Rink

One of the most fun things about going to Caln is that, since it’s been closed for so long, everyone is learning (or re-learning) at the same time. We visited on Thursday over winter break, and some teenagers were tentatively trying crossovers and making cautious, elemental boogie motions. That Sunday, the same teenagers were scissoring through turns and putting their hands in the air during the “boom boom” parts of the song. Soon, they’ll be whizzing around the rink and flipping frontwards-to-backwards as though they’ve been skating JB Style all their life. Now’s the time to get in on the ground floor!

I said “wow, we should have a party here!” and Kate said “Yes, we should. In fact, we should have YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY HERE.” And she’s been adamant ever since: “Go now, John. Go put the deposit down. QUIT ARGUING, DO IT!” It might not seem like it (at all), but I was kind of shy about the whole thing. But she perservered, and soon my reluctance gave way to… um, the opposite of reluctance.

And so I’d like to invite you, dear blog reader — yes, I’m talking about YOU — to my fortieth birthday party at Caln Roller Rink. We’ve taken the place over this coming Saturday, January 22nd from 5-7PM.

One important thing to remember: the party is fancy-dress. Wear your cutaway tails, your military dress uniform, your beekeeper suit, your turnout gear, or your diving rig. Wear your Dior gown, your tearaway sequin skirt, your bridesmaid dress. Wear rainbow-striped knee socks and Dolfin shorts. It’s the TIKARO ROLLER BALL:

40th Birthday Party Invitation by Michele Melcher

Save the date! Sponge off your fox-hunting scarlet! Come one, come all to the TIKARO ROLLER BALL! Details here:


You’re Invited to the Tikaro Roller Ball!

Michele Melcher’s Oakbourne Water Tower Watercolor

You may have seen me gushing about the fantastic, amazing, and improbable Oakbourne Park before. Not to mention the colorful characters that can be found there.

When the Friends of Oakbourne group asked if I would be willing to make them a website, I said “absolutely, yes of course”, and I immediately commissioned Michele Melcher to do a watercolor of the water tower to use as the “hero” image.

And here it is! Oh, how I love it! From the moss-stained shingles to the flared crosspieces at the top, to the tiny garden gnome that Michele added at the bottom. Click through to see the notes I added on Flickr:

Oakbourne Tower, by Michele Melcher

Michele Melcher’s Oakbourne Water Tower Watercolor

Gotcher Bumpus!

I often get email meant for other John Youngs. My favorite accidental correspondent is Terry B_____., who accidentally sent me this letter today:

“As many of you know, I am the Union County Director of the National League of Junior Cotillions. We teach manners, etiquette and Ballroom Dance to 5th through 8th graders at Rolling Hills and Firethorne Country Clubs.
Recently I have had several Parents request the possibility of a full class on table manners and etiquette.
I would like to hold a Three Course Informal dinner at Mucci’s Bistro downtown Monroe on a Monday evening in the next few weeks before the busy Holiday rush. I am looking at Monday, November 29th as my first option. The students will be served bread, salad, entrée’, dessert and beverage.”

It’s taking all my willpower not to order fifty pounds of live white mice, plus a Burmese python in a burlap sack, to be delivered to the front door of the restaurant on Monday night. Or deliver a towering stack of Boston cream pies, clearly marked with stern signs saying “NOT FOR THROWING”, which will of course immediately result in a free-for-all pie fight.

Or I could hire a runner to securely tape a box of itching powder to the bottom of Mucci’s banquet table. A note announcing its presence could be taped inside the restroom, where middle-schoolers will retire to hide from all the ETIQUETTE TRAINING. These poor, wretched pawns will see the note, check under the table, and realize that they have become an instrument of pure, glorious chaos.

The possibilities boggle the mind.

(The phrase “Gotcher Bumpus” is from immortal free-spirit Penrod Schofield, the hero of Booth Tarkingon’s turn-of-the-century novels. The Penrod books are as relevant today as in 1910, and should be required reading for everyone.)

Gotcher Bumpus!