A story about a little bird named Chirpmaster Chirp … really

Chirpmaster Chirp looked a lot like this little guy.

Chirpmaster Chirp looked a lot like this little guy.

OK, you can call me nuts but yes, I did actually drive 25 miles one morning to taxi a tiny house finch from my garage to the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab Clinic.

And no, the little bird wasn’t in need of that kind of rehab. He (or she) needed to be in the hands of wildlife experts to get him (or her) grown up enough to take to the skies and be with other finches. Or whatever else house finches do.

It all began this week when my oldest son (who likes to camp out at my house on the weekends) came upstairs from our basement looking out a kitchen bay window. I raised an eyebrow of course wondering what the heck he was doing.

“Don’t you hear that?” he asked. I looked at him and said I had no clue what he was talking about and wondered what he was hearing that no one else was. Then he grabbed his younger brother and the two of them went out wandering in the side yard.

A few minutes later Dr. Doolittle and his young apprentice came back into the house proudly proclaiming that they had found a baby bird. I quickly told them to leave it alone saying that the mom was probably nearby and would take care of things. I of course had no basis of fact for anything like that but hoped they indeed would leave it alone.

But before you could say Fringillidae – the scientific name for a finch – the bird was residing in a small green tub like container usually occupied by the stump of the Christmas tree. Complete with shreds of grass, a dandelion or two and a little bit of dirt.

Thanks to Google and a readily available menu of eats for a house finch, the family dog’s supply of food was down a half-cup or so. Every two hours this bird – later nicknamed Chirpmaster Chirp – was supposed to eat. And fed with a long pair of tweezers no less. And eat he did. Chirping all the time.

CMC was a happy fellow. We will assume it was a he bird and not a she bird just for the sake of discussion. Every time I walked past the container the chirping would start and when I would look in he had his mouth open hoping for some of Bella’s dog food. I gotta think it beats worms but who am I to judge?

By Sunday night it was like we were caring for a real infant left on the doorstep. Calls for bringing him inside to temporarily reside, things of that nature which were met with a prompt “no.” Hey, I am all about helping out here but my nightmare was that CMC would take flight throughout the house and I would be left calming down a hysterical wife and daughter, something I wasn’t about to deal with.

So in the garage he stayed.

Then the search began. Let’s face it, finding places to take a baby bird is not like finding a pizza shop. Telephone calls were met with either no, no answer or a number change with no new number.

Then I remembered the Schuylkill Wildlife folks. Many, many years before this I took an injured adult bird there for some medical care. So I went online and found their website: www.schuylkillcenter.org.

I sort of remembered how to get there but I used my GPS to be sure. It is tucked back on Port Royal Avenue off of Ridge in the Roxborough section of Philly. You drive onto a gravel entrance road where at least I was met by a pair of goats. Interesting, I thought. I got out of my car and was accompanied by the goat duet to the front door of the clinic.

These guys are just amazing and they are so nice. A young man took a quick look at CMC and declared him fit as a fiddle. CMC just needs to get a little bigger. So off the little finch went to the back area of the clinic where I am certain he will be getting the best of care until his release back into nature.

So what did we learn from all of this? Well, we learned that I am still as much of a sucker for animals as always. We also learned that my kids in fact do have an appreciation for nature, animals and their welfare and a desire to help those in need and less fortunate – like CMC.

CMC even has his own case number – 1303. And we can call about him later to see how he is doing. I would say we could visit but I doubt he would remember us. Alas.

And I hope this touching story has left you in a giving way. The clinic needs stuff like tissues, bleach, paper towels, laundry detergent, latex gloves, canned and dry dog and cat food. If you could drop some off to these guys that would be great. If not, email me and I will even come pick it up.

Places like the Schuylkill Wildlife Rehab Clinic are rare. And they need our help. I never want to ever drive there with another wild creature only to find it closed or unable to care for a critter because they needed money and supplies and didn’t have it or them.

So I will always remember our little adventure with CMC. I’m sure he will grow up to be a fine adult bird. And hopefully he will teach his baby finches good things. But we need to do our part first.


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Waking up and realizing some of us ARE the news old timers

So let me try and set the scene for you.

It’s the late 1970s and the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News are still the beasts of the city. They are loved (and hated occasionally) by the city’s millions of residents not to mention the suburban readers. They are feared by corrupt politicians and poorly-performing athletes but they are still respected by most as the watchdogs for everyone in the region.

The building on North Broad Street stands tall, its white crown shining brightly at night, a symbol of gritty yet refined journalism, the kind of stuff they make movies about. There are press workers with newspaper hats manning the giant presses which back then were cranking out millions of newspapers a week. There is a certain smell of paper and ink that only those in the news business can understand. It’s like the smell of the bakery as the baker makes the donuts; everyone who works becomes familiar with the smells and sight of their everyday surroundings.

At the PNI building as it was called way back when, there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people who worked there. News people, advertising people, truck drivers. And as an employee of the Daily News back in the late 1970s, it was an honor to be there.

I got my job there quite by accident. As a grocery clerk I came to know a woman name Lea who was a telephone operator at the Daily News as well as the person who put together the daily “lucky” numbers, not unlike our own Karl Sickafus here at the DLN.

One day I asked Lea about getting a job there and before I knew it I was a part time copy boy which at the time meant I got people their lunch, delivered paychecks to City Hall and even gassed up the company Chevy Nova or three used by dozens of different writers.

But I also had the chance to work with some of the greatest journalists in Philly including the likes of Stan Hochman, Thom Greer, Chuck Stone, Pete Dexter, Bill Conlin and yes, even Howard Eskin who was doing his Vegas Vic gig back then. As a college student at the time working another job as well, I would have paid the newspaper for the experience I got.

Reporters like Joe O’Dowd, Joe Clark, Jack McGuire and others were just so great at the craft that as a young newsman you just wanted to soak up every bit of their talent, knowledge and experience they had.

I got to know O’Dowd well and used to visit him at his Havertown house and sometimes in Sea Isle City where he and his wife Alice lived most of the time after he retired. This column was meant to recall the glory days of old school journalists who had come and gone so just today finding out that Joe passed away a couple of months ago (I didn’t hear about the sad news) was like a punch in the gut.

This business of journalism is in a transition time – we all know that. But really, we have been in transition for years and years. The way we print the paper, the way we take photos for example. Long time photographer Larry McDevitt probably never dreamed of using digital photo equipment back in the day.

So dealing with the Internet and all of the other news competition these days is just another in the longline of transitions albeit this web thing has been somewhat of a head scratcher for the business end of newspapering and news web sites.

The sad part of the story, though, is the passing on of some of the greats. And it’s especially sad since as a young buck I knew them – as their copyboy and an aspiring reporter.

Within the last couple of years I have seen the passing of Hochman, Stone, Conlin – sadly O’Dowd just now – and I and other veterans here started wondering about our own legacies. As young men and women in the business we learned the craft from these journalism gems. Dexter, Daily News mainstay until he figured out he could write terrific novels, was another of the gifted writers I came to know – mostly when he limped into the newsroom around 4 a.m. He would file his columns knowing fully that the editors would have no time to tinker with it. It was classic Dexter and I would be rolling with laughter knowing that the editors were steaming. Pete would just walk away with that smile.

With the passing of some of these writers and reporters, I and my colleagues in my age bracket realize that we are now the old timers, the “cranky” newsmen and women who are here to teach the younger folks the business.

At the Daily Local we feel badly as we witness one of our own – long time reporter and editor Jim Callahan – battle nature’s worst enemy – cancer. Jim was known for his feistiness and tenaciousness approach to news – especially politics. He brought a knack of showing younger writers the ropes – a smack on the hands and a pat on the head all at the same time. They learned some of the tricks of the trade and moved on to bigger and better things leaving Jim and the rest of us another crop of young reporters yearning to win a Pulitzer.

So what will be our legacy? How will our young writers recall their days at the Daily Local? Will they credit their success and love of the craft to me, Callahan, Managing Editor Bill March and others? Or are we in a completely different era of journalism and journalists? Ah, I suppose it doesn’t really matter except to some of our egos.

We can find satisfaction knowing we did our best to gather the news and keep the flow of solid reporters coming your way. That can and should be enough.

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Hespe reminded me that life is what you make of it


So I am not sure why these two topics are coming together but they are.

Back on February 4 I traveled to Florida on a cheapo flight to visit a good friend who has lived in the Sunshine State for a number of years. My wife and I were scheduled for a late afternoon flight to Miami.

Unfortunately, on the same day we had decided it was time to put down Hespe, a border collie/huskie mix who at 18, had seen her better days. The weather had been, well, everyone knows the kind of winter we had experienced. And Hespe was struggling mightily, especially trying to navigate the ice and snow that made going to the bathroom for her a huge effort.

I felt bad for her and as much as I had put off what I knew needed to be done, I realized that it was time – especially with traveling and leaving the family behind to deal with Hespe, going out and horrendous weather.

So I made arrangements with Dr. Callow, our local vet, to take of things. Dr. Callow is what I call “old school.” She is a vet who reminds me of someone who maybe had farming in her family history. She is terrific with animals and knows how to handle just about any situation.

Call me weird, but meanwhile I also put a call into my ice hockey ref pal Doug Moister, who is also a minister. At the rink he is affectionately referred to as “Reverend Doug.” If you saw Doug you would be surprised that is a minister and/or an ice hockey referee. He is a big, burly guy with a generous beard. But underneath all of that is a great human being with a keen understanding of people and of course, religion. Amazing how he works all that into being an ice hockey official but that’s another story.

In any event, the weirdness I refer to is the call I made to Rev. Doug asking him to give Hespe a final blessing. Hespe came to us a long time ago from the SPCA in Perkiomenville. She was originally known as Anatasia but my son decided to change her name – and naturally her new name came from the name of a hockey equipment company. Odd, I know.

When we first meet Hespe she was a total maniac. She came down the SPCA hallway running all over the place as hyper as hyper could be. But she also was a beautiful dog and was friendly to us so home she went.

Over the years she had her moments like the time I put her in our bathroom to stay for a few hours while we were out. When we came home she had with her paws tore up the bathroom vinyl tile as well as part of the door molding.

Once while being walked by my wife (who was never a huge Hespe fan) a retractable leash ended up wrapped around my wife’s finger when Hespe thought she would take off after another dog. Some hand surgery and therapy later, their relationship was strained at best.

But through all of Hespe’s trials and tribulations, we still loved her, warts and all. She would do weird stuff like rub her head and nose along the cushions of the couch. And she was smart enough to know how to open doors to various rooms.

So as she seriously declined, it was painful to see such a ball of energy and weirdness descend into a canine senior citizen barely able to walk without issues and in fact, a couple weeks before her passing, she basically stopped barking – an attribute we loathed at times having to yell at her, “Hespe, stop the barking!”

On the fateful day – March 4 – I met Rev. Doug in the parking lot of a local gas station with Hespe in the passenger seat. I got out of the car with tears streaming down my cheeks. Doug knew just what to say and as I watched right next to him, he gave Hespe a blessing she deserved.

When we finished, I shook his hand and we headed to the vet’s office. However, we were way early for our scheduled appointment so I took her to the local park for a final walk or two. I got Hespe out of the car and we walked and walked. To my amazement she seemed to be feeling good and to my absolute amazement, belted out a hearty bark when she saw another dog across the way.

But in the end, her fate was to be that day and we finally ended up with Dr. Callow. I left Hespe after a loving farewell and headed home. A week or so ago we picked up her ashes that were inside a small, redwood box. Her name was engraved on a brass plate on top of the box and now she resides in our family room.

Hespe’s roommate Bella, a castaway from the Chester County SPCA was now the lone ranger in the house. It’s funny to watch Bella and she now sleeps on the rug Hespe used to call home.

So the other part of this story?

Well, earlier this month I ended up in Paoli Hospital with an unexpected surgery. I was there for six days and even now am still recovering. I suppose I know how Hespe felt getting older. After my surgery even just walking around was a chore and going up and down steps was really brutal.

Look, we all get older and sooner or later we’re all gonna go. There was a card that came with Hespe’s ashes. It talked about how our loving pets go to a special place where they are all healthy and happy and where they wait until we join them in a loving embrace, tails wagging.

Although I am in no rush for that at this moment, I get it. We are all mortal and I suppose if I have a life as rich as Hespe’s it will all be good. I hope she is happy and healthy barking the day away. And we will meet again.

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Go ahead and have your laughs on me…


Anyone who knows me knows my relationship with cars. And that relationship is that I have no relationship with cars.

There was a time when I loved to have a hot rod, a smoking car that would make people “ooh” and “ahh.”

When my dad passed away I inherited his 1971 Ford LTD convertible. Even back then that was a pretty awesome vehicle, convertible and all. Then while partying on Long Beach Island way back when the water pump went.

That was the day I learned to hate cars – to the tune of like around $400. A mechanic – I think he was wearing a black mask and had a gun – told me that was how much it was going to cost to fix it.

Done. I was done, done, done.

I have owned so many cars over the years that I honestly couldn’t tell you how many. It’s less than 50 but not by much. My boys at Kennedy Ford in Pottstown say I am onto a third computer screen when they punch up my name.

I don’t care. I buy them, run them and never fix them. Over the past several years I have had the good luck to purchase trades from a certain order of Catholic nuns. Go figure. Hey, you would hope the cars would be in great shape and they have been. I did wonder about the one car that had this rocking sound system – and it was one of the nun cars. Some progressive nun, huh?

I have owned Saturns, VWs, Chevrolets, Fords, Chryslers, Mercurys. I have owned a truck, five VW bugs from the late 1960s to the mid-1970s. I had a Dodge Charger I admit to running to 117 mph on the Pa. Turnpike when some punk thought he could outrace me. Not proud of that one.

And in total honesty I am almost 58 years old and have been driving since I was 16. I have had maybe three accidents ever and three moving violations ever. Of course one of those was a total miscarriage of justice at the hands of the West Chester Police Department and a certain district justice but I digress.

But never in my wildest dreams would I have figured I’d get stopped with the heap I am currently driving in what I can my transition car, that is, needing something to drive while waiting for something better.

In the last 12 days I have been stopped not once, but twice by local police. Now Upper Providence Police probably don’t count because they would cite Santa for driving an overloaded sleigh on Christmas Eve but hell yeh, they stopped me. Why? No clue. Still don’t know. The cop said he ran my plate. Why was that officer? Yeh, um, still waiting for an answer.

And on Route 252 a very polite Tredyffrin Township Police officer stopped me for what he said was a broken brake light.

The offending vehicle you want to know? A white, 1998 Buick LaSabre Custom. For real. Name me the last criminal you saw driving a white, 1998 Buick LaSabre Custom. I’ve become the joke of the house – probably the neighborhood. My kids snicker, my wife shakes her head and asks, “Can’t you find anything better to drive than that?”

I can’t say I disagree. And then I get caught up in the comfort of the plush, blue seats that wrap around me giving my tush something other than cold, slippery Ford Focus plastic to sit on. That Dynaride suspension only rivaled by its nearly-new tires and window stickers reminding me of its ever-present oil changes. Yup, that old man or old lady from Pottstown who owned this piece kept her in good shape.

And the trunk? Yes, the trunk. I actually can fit the ice hockey bags of me AND both of my sons in it. Hell, I could probably fit the both of them in there as well.

And before I forget, there is a retractable cup holder from the middle console that holds two cups of coffee – one for me and one for the missus – although she refuses to get into the car.

My sister said she is considering buying my chrome rims for it and my wife said she would throw in fuzzy dice. A real bunch of comedians.

But the real killer is that this car is the last one I’d ever thought would get me stopped by the police.

So go ahead and laugh Matt, Tom, Michael and John Armstrong of Kennedy Ford. Have your fun. I still counted as a sale for you and another line on the computer screen.

In a few months I will be back with my rod looking for the next in a long line of vehicles and I expect to be given in trade what a white 1998 Buick LaSabre Custom with Dynaride deserves. And a belly chuckle ain’t what I was thinking of.

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Thugs of Ferguson, thanks a lot for nothing

Ferguson Nationwide Protests

There are people in Ferguson, Missouri who are angry. A grand jury on Tuesday chose not to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for the August fatal shooting of Michael Brown, 18.

The good people of Ferguson have a right to be angry, they have a right to question the police force of Ferguson, they have a right to challenge the grand jury’s decision and they are within their rights to demand change to police department policies.

I have always stood up for the underdog, the little guy, for those whose voices need to be heard over the bullying tactics of those in charge, those with the power. I stand behind anyone who demands to be heard within the laws of our land.

However, I have a really hard time feeling anything but disgust when a television network shows the smiling faces, the laughing faces of a crowd of thugs who feel it is right and just to loot a store in the midst of Ferguson’s worst day in its history.

Within minutes it seemed, crowds of thugs and criminals took to the streets, burning buildings, smashing cars, throwing rocks, bottles or anything else they could find to hurl at anyone and no one in particular.

My question: why? I’m certain that the crowds of people out in the streets of Ferguson were demanding justice, demanding that Wilson be held accountable for the shooting death of Brown. However, a grand jury comprised of 9 white jurors and 3 black jurors heard months of testimony and chose not to indict.

That is our system of justice – right or wrong. Witnesses told their versions of the incident and even Wilson was questioned. And whether or not you care to buy it, forensics and other evidence supported the cop’s version of the fatal night.

The grand jury said no indictment.

But that wasn’t good enough for those people who decided that they would make things “right” all on their own. And to be honest and as some people on social media pointed out, many of those looting and burning and causing mayhem likely have no clue about the incident itself, the details or the real issues.

This was just a good opportunity to take to the streets and raise hell, steal, burn and destroy.

I get the anger toward the police. And destroying the police vehicles on the streets is nothing new. Those who clash with the “establishment” and “authority” often take it out on the police cars, smashing and burning.

In the end the good people of Ferguson will be paying for those new police cars since the town’s insurance company will replace them and pass on the costs to the city which in turn will raise taxes. Dumb move. But in any event, I get it.

However, please explain the logic of burning down the business of a guy who has been in Ferguson for decades, supported his town and its citizens by maybe sponsoring a baseball team, contributing to charities and the like? Exactly what is to be gained by that? If I was that businessman I’d close up shop and move to a town where I am respected and not made an irrational target of someone’s stupidity.

Stealing liquor, shoes, cash or even cakes for heaven’s sake from shop owners accomplishes exactly what? Please tell me. All this did Tuesday night was reinforce the notion that groups who protest are nothing more than animals taking advantage of a situation to their personal gain. And who can argue? Not I.

President Obama, religious leaders, even the parents of Michael Brown pleaded for people to protest peacefully, to engage in debate within the law.

But alas, it was not to be. And so Ferguson – the good people of Ferguson – you will now suffer for the ills of the idiots. There was a great opportunity to show the country – the world – that you had a point to make and that you could make it responsibly, peacefully and with meaning.

But no. And now the world sees Ferguson for unfortunately what it is – a city run by potentially overzealous cops and even more overzealous rebels who have no cause other than creating havoc.

Have at it folks and good luck with that.



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Every hockey parent — as well as others — needs to read this…

This is excellent work and something every parent of a youth athlete should read…


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Two years ago seems like just yesterday for Fox friends, relatives



Shock. Disbelief. Uncontrollable sobbing. Crying. More crying. Silence. Red eyes. Single tear. Half-smile. Smile…

It’s been more than two years since Plymouth Township Officer Brad Fox was gunned down, ambushed by a man whose name rarely gets mentioned in the stories that have followed the incident. Fox died the day before his 35th birthday. Sept. 13, 2012.

Andrew Thomas was a convicted felon already on probation and according to reports was the prime suspect in the disappearance of his fiancée. This truly was a bad guy.

Officer Fox, meanwhile, was a U.S. Marine veteran and a seven-year veteran of the force. He and his K-9 partner Nick were investigating an accident in Plymouth Township in which the suspect had fled on foot leaving behind the wreck that included a stolen vehicle.

That’s when Thomas opened fire killing Fox and wounding his K-9 partner. Thomas shot himself at the scene.

I didn’t know Brad Fox very well. I knew him as a member of the Blueliners men’s ice hockey team that plays out of Center Ice in Oaks. I didn’t know his wife Lynsay either. I have talked to her a couple of times at other fundraisers.

The couple has two children – daughter Kadence and son Brad Fox Jr. It’s not likely I will ever know them very well either.

However, after two years and a few fundraising events I feel like I know them very well; I see Fox’ surviving teammates just about every week at the rink.

Tragedy is a strange phenomenon. Sometimes it brings people together who under normal conditions would never have known each other.

Like the teammates of Brad Fox; DeSantis. Jackson.

I have officiated their games and up until the murder of Fox they were just another team of guys I got to know on the ice. They were fun and funny at times and could be a nuisance at times. Gerry DeSantis was one of Fox’ closest friends.

On the ice, DeSantis at times would drive me crazy with his antics. Loud and boisterous I think I even tossed him out of a couple of games. Hey, just another night at the rink with the players. No big deal.

For the last two years, though, I see the difference the loss of one man has on many others. I see DeSantis and the rest of the boys. There is a pain that is obvious, a loss that shows through as they walk through the rink, sometimes with their own kids.

Their faces don’t hide it very well. You can see it. You can feel it. We say hello, high-five each other, a slap on the back here and there. But deep down you know it was the cruelest of events that created this odd new bond. It’s not the kind of bond any of us ever wanted. We all would have preferred that they were the players and I was the ref.

Fate didn’t see it that way so this year we gather again at the rink to play the game we love in the hope of raising some money for Fox’ widow and his two children. The Blueliners took on the Flyers alumni in the game held Saturday night before hundreds of adoring fans. The Flyers know all too well about loss of their own team members: Pelle Lindbergh. Barry Ashbee.

It’s sad but uplifting at the same time. We know Brad Fox is gone but we know his friends, family and teammates are there for him day after day, year after year.

So what started out with tears and sobs has moved to smiles. Not happy smiles but smiles of acknowledgement of support and love. And if that’s the best we can all do then I’m sure the Fox family will take it.

Andy Hachadorian is the editor of the Daily Local News in West Chester and is both an on-ice and off-ice hockey official. Contact him at andyh@dailylocal.com, @DLNEditor on Twitter.


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