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⛸️ The 9 best places to ice skate | Morning Newsletter

And show us your holiday lights.

Seth Agwunobi, a Temple University senior, skates at Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink at City Hall in Philadelphia
Seth Agwunobi, a Temple University senior, skates at Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink at City Hall in PhiladelphiaRead moreTHOMAS HENGGE / Staff Photographer

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Yesterday was a warm one, but the blade action at the area’s best ice skating rinks is refreshingly cool. For some wintry magic, head out to one of the area’s best rinks.

And remember that phenomenal man who “met” his own oversized heart at the Mütter Museum? Your Morning Newsletter master of ceremonies Kerith Gabriel has more on that fascinating story.

You’ll see we’re playing with our Sunday format, so email me with your thoughts.

— Ashley Hoffman (@_AshleyHoffman,

Know your rinks. These are a few of the best places to go skating from our full list.

⛸️ + 🍷 The one with après-skate snacks and drinks: You can glide along the Delaware River at the Blue Cross RiverRink complex. And then you can tuck into a warming cabin for a cozy time.

⛸️ + 🏅The one where you’ll spot former Olympians: Manifest your Adam Rippon energy and skate alongside the greats at Igloo Ice Rink in Mount Laurel. It’s the perfect time to size up the pros in person before the 2022 Winter Olympics.

⛸️ + 🤳 The one that’s the city’s most scenic rink: If you can see yourself gracefully falling, it might as well be in the most aesthetically pleasing environs. That would be the Rothman Orthopaedics Ice Rink on Dilworth Plaza right outside City Hall.

⛸️ + 💡 Pro tip: We turned to our own assistant managing editor Jamila Robinson — who didn’t start skating lessons until she was 25 and still landed her first axel at 30 — for her tips on finding your flow. “The rail is not your friend,” she says. “To stay balanced, just put your hands out to the sides with palms flat like they are on a table. Also, for parents, hold one hand at the side, not behind the kids.”

Lace up with our reporter Ellen Dunkel and head to her complete guide to the best places to hit the ice and skate.

What you should know today

  1. Hospitals are filling up with a rise in COVID-19 cases, and public health officials are worried that the post-Thanksgiving spike could worsen.

  2. And Philly and Pennsylvania don’t have a clear picture of how many people still need vaccines, because of challenges in tracking people who cross county lines for their shots.

  3. Here’s how the American Airlines cutbacks on international flights next year could affect your summer travel plans.

  4. Have the best holiday decorations on your block? We’re listening.

  5. And an East Falls parent says fathers have a responsibility to advocate for policies that support families.

Inside The Inquirer with Tom Avril

Our science reporter Tom Avril has done plenty of eye-opening stories. One of his more recent ones was a profile of Robert Pendarvis, who got to visit his own oversized heart on display at the Mütter Museum.

We caught up with Tom to learn more about that story, and what he does when he’s not zoned in on all things health and science.

How did you find out about Robert Pendarvis’ oversized heart?

Months ago, I happened to see the Mütter Museum’s YouTube video, in which curator Anna Dhody opened the box that contained this unusual, oversized heart. She did not name the donor beyond his initials, R.P. But when I scrolled down through the comments, I saw that one commenter identified himself as R.P. and said he planned to come see his old heart in person. I thought to myself: “Wow, I gotta hear that guy’s story.” So I contacted Anna to see if she would ask him about speaking to me for an article, and he agreed.

How did the reporting go? Were there new and different challenges?

Rob’s medical saga stretched across decades, during which he and his wife, Sue, moved around the country, most recently in their RV. So it was a bit of a challenge tracking down Rob’s various physicians from over the years, with the added complication that each one needed to get the go-ahead from Rob before speaking to me. And by the time I spoke to Rob, he unfortunately had been to Philadelphia already. I would’ve loved to be there for the big moment when he saw the heart, but he was kind enough to speak to me at length and tell me what it was like. And of course I went to see it myself. It was wild.

What’s something you learned?

I had heard of the condition called acromegaly, in which a pituitary tumor leads to excess levels of growth hormone — the cause of Rob’s big heart. The most famous case, perhaps, was wrestler and actor Andre the Giant, who grew over 7 feet tall. What I did not realize was that, in most cases, the condition arises after patients have stopped growing, so the physical changes are more subtle. Many patients go a decade or more without a proper diagnosis, as Rob did.

What’s one thing you hope readers take away from this story?

The same thing I hope readers take away from many of our articles: Seek regular medical care, and if anything doesn’t seem quite right, keep asking questions. Rob went for years without realizing the cause of his failing heart, despite regular doctor visits for his leaky mitral valve and irregular heartbeat.

What’s your coverage area and what do you typically look out for?

My job at The Inquirer is to write about science, but obviously that’s an awfully broad topic. I look for topics that might have a direct impact on people’s day-to-day lives, as well as stories that I think people will find surprising or fascinating. I also am assigned to follow developments in cardiology and sports medicine.

What are some things you do for fun?

Earlier in the pandemic, I brewed my own beer, which I called Pennsylvania Porch Ale (“Socially Distant, Mentally Spent.”) I’m also a huge Jeopardy! and crossword puzzle fan, and I am an avid runner, recently setting a personal record in the 10-mile Broad Street Run.

Follow Tom Avril on Twitter @TomAvril1.

Pop Quiz

Can you spot the mysterious hidden element in the X-ray of a 19th-century portrait of a Mexican royal above? See if you remember the painting within a painting from this newsletter’s shout-out to reporter Stephan Salisbury’s deep dive into the truly satisfying discovery.

🎶 Sunday morning creeping like a nun. Monday’s child has learned to tie his bootlace. See how they run. 🎶