30 April 07: How things change

by Nathaniel Popkin
April 27, 2007

There is The Skyline and all the little skylines. There is steel and there is brick. There are deals and there are people.

People are funny.

Forever, it seems, there has been a hardware store on Tenth Street between Manning and Locust, just behind the brutalist Jefferson Alumni Hall building. Washington Square Paint and Hardware opened in 1979 at 247, where the senior Coffee Cup is now, and a few years later moved to a handsome old-school mercantile building at 257.

You recognize the store by the brooms and trash cans displayed neatly under the awning.

I woke up this spring to find not only Washington Square Paint and Hardware but also 10th Street Hardware: two where there was one, double the caulk and all kinds of fun. Only Washington Square, whose owner John McIntyre I'd recognized from years of walking by, had moved to 243, closer to Locust. 10th Street Hardware now occupied the old Washington Square store at 257.

A little skyline has changed a little bit.

No cranes, but brooms, now marigolds and pansies. This is a story of human ambition, fairness, hope, and friendship. It's a story of two men who worked together for over two decades. Now they both want to sell you nails.

John says he fired Troy ("For his mistake," quips Troy.). Troy says they were partners. A City Paper article cites them as co-owners. But Troy's boyfriend Steven owns 257 and in response he evicted John and gave Troy the space to himself instead. Maybe John always had doubts about their partnership. Maybe he feared Troy's ambition. All I know is they are two men with bright expressions and busy stores. John tells me about his long neighborhood involvement -- he's treasurer of the McCall Elementary Home and School Association (his adopted sons -- "good Philly boys" -- are in grades two and four). Maybe he tells me this because he feels defensive about what's transpired. Troy, for the record and not wishing to sound critical of John, doesn't want to put details "in the paper."

"Come back in a month," he says.

But I don't need to. It doesn't matter. The point is that this is how the little skyline -- really most of the city -- constantly changes, on our backs, as we as human beings negotiate, get angry, fall in love, curse and fight and prance. John is able to stay on the block because long ago he'd made friends with the owners of 243, where two half-moon balconies dress the awning. The Shicks were using the first floor as a warehouse for their emporium in Chinatown. Before that, when the Horn and Hardart's bakery was just across Locust Street, his store was the H and H second-day shop.

You know this block because of what's always been there -- the Locust Bar, the 10th Street Pour House, the Greek travel agency -- and yet despite this wonderful, heavy Phil-inertia, it is always evolving. Not with thrusts of steel and glass, but pride and fear and long, long hours making do.

Now, once more on Tenth Street you can buy your patio petunias, absent since a spate of ill-fated plant stores failed a few years back. Now you don't have to drive up to Second and Girard for Benjamin Moore paint. Now take your choice, but don't -- don't -- head down to Delaware Avenue.

For Nathaniel Popkin archives, please see HERE, or visit his web site HERE.

30 April 07: The growing skyline is all up in your area

So we're watching old man Moyer damn near turn in a no-hitter at the ripe age of 44 and they go to a commercial break, and here comes the Chevy Equinox. (Reader JW emailed about this earlier, too.) Blah blah blah, yet another SUV, it's cheaper than a lot of crappy cars, and it's all you, Philadelphia! That's when they show the aerial footage of the Philly Skyline, and right in the middle of it is One Meridian Plaza, all charred and rotting and with a crane sticking out of the top awaiting demolition. One Meridian Plaza's demolition was completed in 2000, so that footage is pushing a decade old. I suppose it's better than the workphilly.com commercial, which shows a time lapse of the Gardiner Expressway passing in front of the Toronto skyline, but c'mon. There isn't any newer aerial footage available at stock video companies?

Well you can count on Philly Skyline to keep a current track on the Philly Skyline. Ergo, look who's in the news -- our big three items of interest!
  1. COMCAST CENTER: Holy moly, is that Comcast Triple Play® ever a hit. The weekend Inquirer business section reported that Comcast's first quarter net income is up a whopping 80 percent over last year. In just the first quarter, Comcast added 644,000 digital cable subscribers, 563,000 broadband internet users and 478,000 phone subscribers. Huzzah! They've even made a presence back home in Tyrone PA. That Cal Ripken must be some spokesperson.

    Anyway, the story may not pertain to Comcast Center per se, but it certainly justifies it. Here is the world's largest television cable provider, right here in Philadelphia -- not New York or Denver or Wilmington -- and they're letting everyone know they're staying put with a giant and literally awesome building. Naturally, our Comcast Center construction section was updated over the weekend, and it's got a heap more to be added.

    The large boom to the crane being built on the top of the tower was to have been hoisted up by the existing cranes yesterday morning but it proved too windy. As you read this, the boom awaits its lift on the plaza along JFK. Once it's up and operating, it will remove the other two cranes, so get your camera ready for a unique three-crane photo op.

  2. MURANO: Also in the Inquirer over the weekend was a nice feature by Suzette Parmley celebrating the 100th anniversary of (the large competitor of Comcast Center's builder LF Driscoll) Turner Construction doing business in the city. In addition to building the Murano (and very soon 10 Rittenhouse Square), Turner built Mellon Bank Center, the Bell Atlantic Tower, Lincoln Financial Field and Cira Centre, but it's interesting to consider that their century long résumé also includes the flagship Strawbridge store, Franklin Field and terminals B & C of the airport. The Inquirer's story featured a photo by Bonnie Weller looking out from an upper floor of the Murano.

    We haven't gone there yet but hope to sometime soonish. In the meantime, have a look at our Murano section HERE.

  3. RESIDENCES AT THE RITZ-CARLTON: Completing the trifecta in major media for major construction is KYW Newsradio's report that the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton is nearly halfway sold out. That's pretty impressive considering the condos start at over half a mil and they're barely above the ground.

    A handful of folks have emailed asking why construction seems to be so slow-going; it's actually not, and that news story reports that they are on schedule. The structure is extremely complex underground (where parking will be), and the first six floors (up to the lounge) are vital. After that, the building will rise at a greater pace, at which time you can expect greater frequency of updates of our RATR-C section, which is found HERE.

So goes yr MMLU. Oh hey, today begins Pridefest the Equality Forum, which this year celebrates its 15th anniversary. There's a slew of events planned, so pop over to equalityforum.com to pick your favorites. Our Gayborhood tour is in the works as we speak.

Another heads up: all this week on Radio Times, Marty Moss-Coane is hosting the mayoral candidates. Chaka Fattah was this morning's guest, and the others will be on at 10am all week.

We'll wrap this up with a Pete Mohan edition of the Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, taken amidst a Friday night that couldn't decide if it wanted to be cloudy or clear.

We're gonna go work on some wide angle Wissahickon and be back shortly with the latest Popkin piece.

–B Love

30 April 07: Springtime in the Wissahickon,
presented without comment

* * *

Consider that our end-of-CBS-Sunday-Morning moment, only in this case it's the beginning of a good lookin' Monday Morning Lookin' Up and an exciting week. And instead of Charles Osgood (or the late Charles Kuralt, who I remember watching as a kid with my grandparents), it's your pal B Love. Our own Ben Stein, Nathaniel Popkin, will be by a little later for his latest commentary.

Those pictures above are a peak into a new Wissahickon photo essay -- just a small loop, from Bells Mill Road to the Covered Bridge and back -- which should be up maybe this evening? We'll also finally roll out Roxborough this week too. It's gonna be a good week, I can feel it.

–B Love

27 April 07: Bringing back the draft

In December 2000, many a night with overpriced Yuengling Lagers was spent by Long Island's Matt Bitonti and western PA's B Love in the dingy corridors of Aqua lounge, on Girard near 3rd. It was there that we would try talking over the dance mix of the Price is Right theme about the playoff chances of our beloved Jets and Steelers. Each team finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs so, both recent Philly transplants, we hitched on to the Eagles bandwagon. They lost to the Giants, so that football season was dead to us. But, the ensuing draft improved all three teams (Jets: Santana Moss, Lamont Jordan, Steelers: Casey Hampton, Kendrell Bell, Eagles: Freddie Mitchell, Derrick Burgess) and all three made the playoffs the following year.

The NFL Draft is a science that requires a hell of a lot of dedication that few outside its teams' payrolls own. That's why year after year in the middle of April -- when baseball's just starting and when hockey and basketball head to the playoffs -- ESPN rolls out Mel Kiper, who's been the only name synonymous with "draft expert" because he's been doing it for so long. Well, it's now the internet age and there's more info available on every single college football player than anyone can imagine. More over, Mel's draft board was knocked over so someone needed to pick up the slack.

Enter Matt Bitonti.

Matt and two of his friends are self proclaimed die hard fans of the draft, and as an extension of that fandom and participation in NFL Draft message boards, they started DraftDaddy.com in 2004 to effectively keep an online notebook of their football related thoughts. DraftDaddy gained a lot of attention later in the same year by becoming the first web site to track and keep a comprehensive list of undrafted free agents that teams bring to training camp. Matt says that "that is still a strength of the site. While fans can go to ESPN, CBS Sportsline or wherever else to track the 300+ prospects who get drafted on Saturday and Sunday, they can go to Draft Daddy on Monday to find out about the undrafted free agent signings."

Since then, DraftDaddy has taken off and has landed Matt on the likes of Foxsports, ESPN Radio, and most recently, the New York Times. I caught up with Matt in East Falls this week for a couple of lagers (Carlsberg this time), a little draft talk and the Philly Skyline view here.

B LOVE: Who will the over all #1 pick be? Jamarcus Russell? Joe Thomas? Brady Quinn?

MATT BITONTI: We are projecting the WR Calvin Johnson (from Georgia Tech) to Oakland, but we shall see if that really happens. I could very well be wrong, but that's the way it goes.

B: Who will the Eagles draft?

MB: Wow, so much for the softball questions, huh? The draft is tough to predict under the best of circumstances, and the amount of variables between 1 and 26 make projecting the Eagles pick especially hard. However we are projecting a defensive back, someone who can cover regardless of being a safety or cornerback in college. Reid has shown a propensity toward big schoolers from football factories, players such as Texas' Michael Griffin and Miami's Brandon Meriweather. Meriweather would be my guess, forced to choose one. The team could take such a player with the plan of moving Sean Considine around after Brian Dawkins hangs em up.

B: Do you think the Eagles' drafts have been successful in the last 6-7 years and that Andy Reid is the smart man his reputation suggests?

MB: I think if you look at his results, and look at the league as a whole, he has been at least mildly successful. His first really big decision was Donovan McNabb vs Ricky Williams, and say what you want about Donovan and his ability to win the big game, Reid made the right decision. I'd say he's on the whole an above average to good draft day decision maker. Not perfect but no one is when it comes to the draft.

B: Who will Penn State's Paul Posluszny go to?

MB: Poz is projected to go later in the first frame. He would be a great fit in Chicago where he can not only replace Lance Briggs but get a knockwurst named after him. Win-win situation for everyone involved.

B: Will any local (Temple, Penn, Villanova, etc) players be drafted?

MB: Probably not from those schools, but there is tight end Ben Patrick, a Duke transfer to the University of Delaware who is currently projected to not only get drafted but probably within the first day of the draft. Go Blue Hens!

Actually, there is a Temple offensive tackle, Elliot Seifert, who could factor into the late rounds. A marginal prospect but it's not inconceivable he gets drafted. They have a lot of guys who could be good in future years.

B: A lot of players' careers depend entirely on the luck of timing and the draft, your NY Jets' Wayne Chrebet for example . . . who are some others? Brian Westbrook?

MB: Luck is one way to put it. Opportunity sometimes has as much to do with a player's success as the player himself. Wayne Chrebet just happened to be in the right situation, coming to a team that needed a player like him, with a coach, Rich Kotite, who was once an undrafted free agent himself. Even having the training camp at his alma mater contributed to his getting a chance and making the most of it. Invincible star Vince Papale is another example of this phenomenon. If Chrebet went to Holy Cross instead of Hofstra and shows up to the Giants instead of the Jets camp, maybe he's just some guy in a bar wistfully spouting about how he could have been a contender.

Another factor is the culture of the team itself. If you take a player like Ed Reed of the Ravens, and instead of him showing up first day on the job met by Ray Lewis, Marvin Lewis, Donnie Henderson and one of the greatest defenses in the history of the sport he shows up to some team that was terrible, maybe he never becomes the star that he is today. Not to take anything away from this player, it's just that these players are not fully formed professionals until about 3 to 5 years after the draft, that formulation time is essential into morphing them from boy to man.

B: Is Mel Kiper still relevant? What about his hair?

MB: Mel Kiper is a valuable part of the draft and I personally have a great deal of respect for his operation. The guy isn't necessarily the greatest talent evaluator in the world but he has excellent inside sources and the quality of his information tends to increase as the draft gets closer. As for the hair, what can I say, it's great. The guy has a trademark and the fact that people make fun of that isn't necessarily such a bad thing. The hair gives people something to identify with, so when when they think Kiper they think about his trademark helmet hair. It's a pneumonic device of sorts, makes him easier to remember. He's a bit of a polarizing figure like Rush Limbaugh or Howard Stern, where the haters might pay as much or more attention than the believers. Doesn't matter to the advertisers why people are tuning in, just that they do.

B: Thanks, Daddy-o.
The NFL Draft is at Radio City Music Hall and begins at noon tomorrow. Be sure to check the DraftDaddy blog for all the latest, greatest draft info.

* * *

On to other usual Philly Skyline business: you can expect updates of our Residences at the Ritz-Carlton, Murano and of course Comcast Center construction progress sections this weekend.

There is a musical tribute this evening at the RUBA in memory of Bruce Langfeld, who died unexpectedly last month. A lot of Bruce's friends will be there playing his songs and other music they shared with him. The Penn Relays are this weekend too, so pop over to Franklin Field for a spell before heading down to the Ballpark to watch the Phils host the Marlins for three, starting tonight.

–B Love

PS: Hey, look!

27 April 07: Feed the trees

It's Arbor Day and Mother Nature is celebrating with a nice washdown and a drink for the trees that are a-bloomin'.

This morning's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline (above, click to embiggen) is the evening view from East Falls' empty MCP Hospital, out across the Allegheny West area of North Philly and the Mount Peace / Mount Vernon Cemeteries directly across Ridge Avenue from the Laurel Hill Cemetery. If they were all counted as one cemetery . . . then it would be one really big cemetery.

Kinda like Citizens Bank Park has been when I've attended games this year: one big cemetery. After yesterday's first bad Cole Hamels performance of the season, the Phils are 0-4 in my presence. That's 9-8 in games I've not been to, or, a winning record. I get the hint.

It's slow going on this April showers morning, for sure, but we're gonna fuel up on some strong black coffee and come back to the view above to check in with an East Fallser whose big day is tomorrow.

–B Love

26 April 07: FIVE for FIVE, FIVE in a row, FIRE Charlie Manuel

My main man Chase Utley has woken up. Chase flipped the script from sluggish to sluggin' last night against the Nationals with a 5-for-5 spot that raised his batting average to .296. Chris Wheeler (who was born the day the US dropped the bomb on Nagasaki, by the way) kept going on about how Chase never smiles. Listen, Wheels. David Bell never smiled. Whether he was really intense or it was the drugs he took to cope with his shrunken testicle problem or he was just depressed that he was in the wrong profession (he was a .257 career batter with exactly the same amount of homeruns as double plays grounded into), who knows. But David Bell never smiled, even when he hit for the cycle in '04 and hit that walk-off homerun against Milwaukee.

Chase Utley, though . . . he's just a no nonsense man about his business. Chase Utley smiles when his order arrives at Morning Glory Diner and when he wakes up next to his wife and when he thinks of the contributions he's making to Planet Earth. David Bell doesn't even smile at puppies. So here was Chase pounding on the Nationals with a 5-for-5 performance the night after he hit a ball into Ashburn Alley. He's back. He's also leading the Majors in doubles with 13.

Ryan Howard? He's getting there. He's stuck at .213 but the stroke seems to be finding its way back. Fortunately the lineup has enough bats to pick him up until he gets going, like the obvious April star Jimmy Rollins, who's put his money where his mouth is (.295, 8HR), as well as pleasant surprises Aaron Rowand (.365, 14 game hitting streak), Carlos Ruiz (who is making the expensive signing of Rod Barajas seem like one of the dumber things Pat Gillick has done), and Pat Burrell.

Now, we've always been big defenders of Pat Burrell here at da Skyline, but we're going to use him as our latest call for the head of Charlie Manuel. While it's not in our nature to wish ill upon anyone's job stability, admitting there is a problem is the first step toward correcting it. Where we're pretty much stuck with failed elected officials like Mayor John Street and President George Bush, the Phillies have the power to pull the plug on Chuck. Why, oh why, oh why, does Uncle Chuck replace Pat Burrell late in just about every single game? Yeah yeah, it's for speed and defense. That's a bunch of crap. Pat has never made more than 7 errors over the course of a full season, and his arm is one of the best in the league (although on the Phils, Shane Victorino's is probably stronger and more accurate). Plus, in addition to batting .344, he's been the best clutch hitter on the team so far this season. Three nights ago, Cholly subbed Michael Bourn for Pat with Wes Helms up with two outs in the sixth inning. That's just retarded.

Then you have the whole move-the-ace-to-the-bullpen thing. I know, Brett Myers needed to clear his head and he has pitched well there, and Jon Lieber has looked good in his first couple starts. It's the principle of the thing. Cholly makes a lot of bad decisions with the bullpen, although last night, you can't blame him for trying to get Matt Smith some junk work, and he STILL threw like crap -- that's an 11.25 ERA, 11 walks and 1 strikeout for the guy we got for Bobby Abreu. Antonio Alfonseca and Geoff Geary have been great out of the bullpen, though, and the starting pitching has been solid, not least Jamie Moyer, and the young buck on the hill for the mid-afternoon show today, Cole Hamels.

Anyway, we said early on here that if the Phillies don't have a winning record at the end of April, Charlie should be gone. They're 9-11 with five games left in April, all against the division. Keep an eye on that.


–B Love

25 April 07: Skyline in a circle

HI EVERYBODY. Your Hump Day Philly Skyline Philly Skyline is a get-your-feet-wet edition from the Swann Fountain in Logan Circle. To get your feet wet, you have to be IN the fountain. Here at Philly Skyline, we encourage this type of behavior. In a major city where there is a severe shortage of public pools, disallowing people -- especially kids -- to cool themselves off on really hot days is the sort of senseless bureaucratic thoughtlessness that only exists in cities where snowfall can close off three hundred year old city squares with yellow police tape.

It's early though, and as yet, no Fairmount Park SUVs have propped themselves up inside the Circle. But just wait till those little kids start splashing around and wreaking havoc on an otherwise idyllic and quiet summer day. Hear that, Hallahan girls???

B Love is tied up in the back with duct tape and may or may not return tomorrow.

–Anna Nymmity

24 April 07: Springtime in Philadelphia II

Thanks for all the comments and emails re: the "Nagin was right" essay yesterday. (A quick note about that: the amount of emails we get is at a point where it's hard to return them all, so please don't feel slighted as we really are doing our best.) This follow-up to yesterday's post leaves out the trash and litter and murder: this is back to basics photo fun on the Schuylkill River.

Winter 2006-07 is going to be remembered as the one where global warming became more than a liberal/environmentalist talking point rolled out on Earth Day. It may have to do with Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth or his congressional testimony. It may have to do with people realizing what shit the Iraq War really is and the coinciding availability of secondary and alternative fuels like hybrid cars, green roofs and wind farms. Whatever the case, here in Philly we can look at this winter's weather and remember "my god, that was awful." Awful as in a total snow accumulation of six inches, awful as in overcast and 45 degrees for what seemed like six months straight. That ain't winter.

And then out of nowhere, BAM: here comes Earth Day to strut its stuff. The first genuinely spring weekend was crystal clear, 75 and sunny, and the Schuylkill River reflected this. Add the Manny Flick regatta to the throngs of joggers, cyclists, tourists and lovers and you have a utopadelphian Schuylkill experience. This set has two sides. The A side has all the standards: blossoms on Kelly Drive, rowing races, people having fun. The B side is the night experience after all the people have gone back home: the Schuylkill Bridges from Falls Bridge to Spring Garden Bridge and the skyline in the distance.

And hey, a big shout to my man Meatballs for inspiring this particular ride.

–B Love

23 April 07: Springtime in Filthadelphia

Click to enlarge this springtime Philly Skyline Philly Skyline.

If that wasn't the best weekend you've ever seen, man, I don't know where you spend your time.

Hmm . . . well, if it wasn't the best weekend you've ever seen, maybe it's because you're DEAD. Newly dead, that is. As murders shot through the roof over the winter -- one report even said during the coldest days that shootings were taken inside -- everyone wondered what would happen to the ridiculous murder rate once it warmed up. Well, the first figures are in: three days of sunny and 70+, seven/nine/ten dead over the weekend (depending on your media source), 127 dead in less than four months of 2007.

In response to the seemingly neverending growth in shootings, Mayor John F Street said, "


The silence is deafening. The silence is disgusting.

* * *

Speaking of mayors, how 'bout that wacky Ray Nagin? First the dude comes to Philly because the Neighborhood Transformation Initiative is a model on which New Orleans wishes to demolish build, and while he's here he takes note of our litter problem and keeps it to himself until he returns back to the Big Easy. And? Is he wrong?

You wouldn't walk into your Aunt Priscilla's house for dinner and tell her she needs to pick up her dirty laundry and it wouldn't hurt to dust once in a while, would you?

"But Bee Love that photo is four and a half years old and is from a bad neighborhood." Okay then. (It's from G-Ho, by the way, from a 2003 afternoon walk just sampling the litter within a few block radius.)

This one, then, is a photo taken a week ago in the heart of Center City. This little trench between the Septa viaduct and JFK Boulevard is what you don't see from the street where the PA Horticultural Society maintains its beautiful landscaping of trees and flowers, but it is visible, as you can see, from every single regional rail line in the city. With some imagination, patience and ambition, this same view could be real live people interacting and going to work and sipping espresso at Philadelphia River City, but enough Logan Square neighbors were so incensed by the thought of big thinking that they formed so large army that the prevailing sentiment was that it was "too large" and "out of scale" and "it belongs in Hong Kong" . . . as though large is bad or that there is such a thing as scale on a six block stretch of land in the heart of a BIG CITY that is otherwise shared by daffodils and litter. Litter litter litter.

I don't understand why people are so offended by Nagin's comments. Philly is DIRTY. In spite of the better efforts of people who actually want a clean city, Philadelphians litter. That cop in uniform at the Penrose Diner put that toothpick in his mouth and threw the wrapper on the ground, I saw him do it. That dude driving the pickup truck tossed his coffee cup right out the window on Sedgely Ave. Those people smoking their cigs outside Dirty Franks tossed their butts right onto the curb. That hippie didn't pick up his dog's shit right in the middle of the Belmont Plateau. That lady on South Street put her recyclable bottles in a paper bag on a rainy night and by the morning it was a pile of paper and bottles that wasn't picked up.

Even sacred places like the Wissahickon are dotted with litter. This is a major, major problem here and anyone who says it's not is playing make believe. Like these 2 people from Chestnut Hill. "Very clean"? How's about next time you come downtown, instead of banging that right on Cresheim Valley Road down to Lincoln Drive, why not take the scenic route all the way down Germantown Ave?

This is all an extension of my thoughts on Virginia Tech last week: reasonable thought is missing. Which is worse: Ray Nagin saying Philly has a litter problem or Philly having a litter problem? Reasonable thought would tell that toothpick chewin' cop that even the littlest piece of trash is still a piece of trash and that it doesn't belong on the street. Just like reasonable thought would tell that thug not to blast up the street so that bullets go flying through random windows.

What will it take to make reason a way of life in Philly, in Pennsylvania, in the United States? It seems to work in Japan . . . what can we learn from them and who is going to teach it to the people that need it the most? Baltimore has big billboards that say "BELIEVE" in bold black letters . . . we have to do one better than believing though, we have to think. Believing depends on too many outside factors, on too many people. If people think first, then believing is possible. It's impossible to believe without thinking. If Philly put up billboards in bad areas that simply read "THINK" would it make a difference?

I don't know.

* * *

Speaking of public safety (were we speaking of public safety?), a request to the Streets Department:

Think maybe we can get the lights on Kelly Drive fixed? All along the river side of Kelly Drive in East Falls, nearly all the way to Strawberry Mansion Bridge, the lights are out. It was pitch black on the narrow stretch along the curve seen above last night.

With the absolute picture perfect weather over the weekend AND with the Regatta, Kelly Drive was just bananas, packed to the gills with fun lovin' people. We don't all go home when the sun goes down, though . . . it would be nice to feign a little safety by making the lamp posts that are already there work. By the way, that's safety as in "I would love to see where I'm going on this dark and curvy path" not "oh my god I bet there are four headed monsters with Berettas and full clips hiding under that bench."

* * *

Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh. Sorry for being such a Negative Nancy today; it really was a great weekend. And hey whattaya know, the Phillies are winning again! (FIRE CHARLIE MANUEL.) Photos from a full day on the Schuylkill will be up some time this week, as will the Roxborough jaunt that's been promised. You go 'head and enjoy this Monday extension of the perfect weekend, huh?

We'll round third here and take it back to Mayor Nagin for this little ode to Philadelphia.

–B Love

22 April 07: It's Earth Day . . . IN YOUR FACE, NEPTUNE!

(That's Amy Poehler's joke.)

Really, if it's still Sunday and it is before let's say 9pm, what on Earth Day are you doing in front of your computer? It's clear, it's sunny, it's 75, it's spring. Get up and get out!

. . .

But if you are still here insisting to be INside, our Comcast Center construction section is current with an updated diagram and pictures of yesterday's half of the Best Weekend Ever. You can probably bet money it'll be updated again tomorrow too.


–B Love

4/20: Dig my funky callery gallery, Mallory

Spring is such a lovely time of year, don't you think? The trees and the grass start lookin' fresh and the sun and sky be lookin' their best. Birds be singin', flowers be bloomin', a lot of brand new cars be zoomin'. Fly girls lookin' the best they can be, and the guys be dookie dookie Dan, you see.

Besides all that, I like the warm weather that has at long last decided to find us after what feels like months of purgatorial post-winter blah. Punxsutawney Phil was way off this time 'round. Never mind all that, spring really is here now and that means trees are a-blooming. Cherry blossom trees deservedly garner so much annual attention that they have festivals in their honor. But what about that other beauty bloomer with the white flowers . . . the one that creates a canopy over the Fitler Square street above, and lines a number of blocks in West Philly's Spruce Hill, and dots the suburbs?

This, my friends, is the bradford pear tree.

The bradford is just one of a number of cultivars under the parent tree, the callery (pyrus calleryana), alongside other variants like aristocrat, capital, cleveland select and others. Around here and in the northeast in general, it's almost always the bradford pear, and since it is the bradford which lines the South Street block we look out our office windows to, that's the angle we'll take here.

Is it native? Is it valuable? Is it useful? Is it a good tree? Well . . .

As with anything, there are two sides to the bradford pear. The pros are easy: they look magnificent for two weeks in the spring and two weeks in the fall. Their white blossoms are familiar to the residents of those places just mentioned, and their reds, oranges and even purples give maples a run for their money for fall foliage fantasticness. They form an aesthetic bridge between a wall of homes and the street. But the cons?

Well, there are more cons than you'd expect. After 20 or so years, they become top heavy and weak, thanks to a weakened crotch. (Heh heh . . . Viagra.) Because they're weak in their older age, they break easily and can cause property and/or bodily damage. The way they're planted in many city and suburban streets doesn't help either. More on that in a minute. Also, they have invasive tendencies, though not to the extent of the Norway maple or kudzu.

The bradford pear is in fact non-native and is a relative newcomer to this side of the world. Its origins are in the Nanjing area of China, from whence its seedlings crossed the Pacific en route to America in the early 1900s. However, it wasn't introduced commercially until 1963, and they were an immediate hit with gardeners and homeowners. Mike Hardy of the tree tender program at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society says, "it was the tree of choice in the 60s . . . They look nice and they grow fast. Everyone had them."

But, all it took was a few years and a nice hard ice storm to reveal their weak -- and destructive -- side. As a result of the nor'easter earlier this week, the 4600 block alone of Walnut Street in West Philly suffered the damage of three downed bradford pears.

In addition to the bradford's heavy branching habits, their plantings are done incorrectly so frequently that it's just as big a contributor to their destruction as the weather and electrical wires are. Jason Lubar of the Morris Arboretum's plant clinic reminds us that "trees are not just pretty; they work as machines. They drain rainwater off of streets and sidewalks."

With that in mind, it's easy to see why the otherwise handsome brick landscaping of tree trunks (take a look anywhere in Center City -- like, say that picture above -- for this) is detrimental to the development of an already delicate tree. When bricks are piled two-high in a square with soil and flowers within, the rain that falls goes to that soil and the flowers, and the sidewalk's rain runoff is deflected by the bricks elsewhere on the sidewalk, all of which contributes to an atrophy of the bradford's thirsty roots. A noticeably bad example of this is found near that pillar of landscaping excellence, South Philly's Home Depot, where the tree roots are not only buried under what the Hardy describes as a "mulch volcano", but they're also raised a good six inches off of the street in a traffic island.

"There's been a long standing debate over whether the bradford pear is appropriate to trade," says Todd Greenberg, the head gardener at Bartram's Garden, where there are no callery pear trees, bradford or otherwise. That has more to do with history than quality, though. Fairmount Park took over the Garden from the Bartram family in the 1850s and assumed maintenance responsibility -- including the planting of an array of species the Bartrams may or may not have approved of -- until the John Bartram Association formed in 1893 and assisted the Park. That was of course long before the bradford pear, and for historic accuracy (not to mention ecologic integrity), the JBA frowns upon the planting of non-native plants.

Greenberg offers that "flowering pears are nice, but there are other ornamental trees that are better in the long term than the short bursts of beauty [from the bradford]." The amelanchier, or serviceberry, is a fine alternative and grows here naturally. You'll find a block of serviceberry trees on 48th Street between Baltimore and Cedar Avenues. In addition to its similar white blossoms, the serviceberry bears an edible fruit in mid-fall that looks and tastes like a blueberry.

So for all the trouble the bradfords are worth, is removing them advised? "I'm definitely not an advocate of planting it," Greenberg says, "but I am an advocate of replacing bradfords with better cultivars, or preferably something native. We shouldn't go cutting down bradford pears willy nilly, but it's ideal to phase them out for something that does not have the potential for damage."

Lubar agrees, suggesting that "they are a decent tree, but they have a limited use as a street tree."

Bartram's Garden, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and the Morris Arboretum all basically agree that, while they're a beautiful tree for a couple weeks a year, they are probably more trouble than they're worth.

Is this academic purity reflected in the retail realm? Albrecht's Nursery in Narberth indicates that the bradford is one of its best sellers, and was actually out of stock as of yesterday. A representative there says that "they're great for along the street -- a 'good street tree' -- and they stand up well to pollution."

Laurel Hill Gardens in Chestnut Hill attests, suggesting it's one of their more popular trees, and that they'd even recommend it for folks looking for a flowering street tree.

Two sides to every story, indeed. Whether you align your own views with the views of those who tend trees or those who sell trees is your call. What is clear is that the bradford pear should be handled with care and caution. Plant wisely.

Some helpful links:

[Callery Pear wiki.]
[Master Gardner's Pros & Cons of Bradford Pears.]
[Bartram's Garden.]
[PA Horticultural Society.]
[Morris Arboretum.]

* * *

Trees, trees, trees. Seems like a good day to twist up some trees, doesn't it? HOLLER.

One love to the memory of my man Bob Marley.

–Could You B Love

19 April 07: We talkin' about practice, man

19 April 07: It's 4/19, do you know where your bong is?

Sirius lee people, make like the Boy Scouts and be prepared. Just don't make like the Boy Scouts and diss on the gays.

While we pay some bills this afternoon, let's have a look at the hearty, meaty Philly Skyline Calendar of Events.
  1. NEW PONY, NEW ORLEANS, NEW ORTLIEB'S: You might remember New Pony Blues Band from such chili cookoffs as the 2007 Great Chili Skyline Cookoff. (That's them playing at said event at Tritone in the base photo above, taken via cell phone by Heather.) If you were unable to attend that night, you can make up for it this evening, and for a good cause. The recently revamped Ortlieb's (which has a few old skoolers more than a little upset) tonight hosts a Philly to New Orleans benefit to raise money for the ongoing post-Katrina rebuilding. With the Anthony Lattanze Band, 8pm at Ortlieb's, 3rd & Poplar.

    [New Pony.] [Philly to New Orleans.]

  2. THAT RANK SMELL AT THE BALLPARK IS COMING FROM THE DUGOUT, NOT FROM THE LEFTFIELD SANDWICH STAND: Hey by the way: FIRE CHARLIE MANUEL! Some people (Pete Mohan) might have wondered where Philly Skyline stands in the Uncle Cholly - Howard Eskin "showdown" and the correct answer is: who gives a shit, they both suck. The more attention you pay to Eskin, the more you'll hear from him. And the longer Charlie Manuel is allowed to coach the Phillies and do things like move the ace of the pitching rotation to the bullpen, they are going to continue to lose and lose and lose. Joe Girardi (who is younger than Jamie Moyer) was last year's NL Manager of the Year and is currently unemployed . . . Cholly, oh Cholly.

    Anyway, the leftfield sammich stand: the Schmitter, the pride of Chestnut Hill, the one solid constant at Citizens Bank Park. Say what you will about the Ballpark (and we will -- that's coming soon), and definitely say what you will about a ball club you spend $500 on to watch lose over and over, you have to admit that the grub there is top notch. But don't take our word for it; instead, go check out the first ever Food Network Awards, which gives its trophy for Best Ballpark Eats to Citizens Bank Park. The Ballpark edged out Baltimore's Camden Yards (crab cakes and Boog's Barbecue), Seattle's Safeco Field (uhh, sushi and espresso? At a ballpark?) and San Francisco's AT&T Park (garlic fries and Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes).

    Never mind all that silly stuff, our Phillies concessions will keep you fat with both Rick's AND Tony Luke's cheesesteaks, Bull's BBQ, the Schmitter, Planet Hoagie, a bunch of wooder ice stands and about half a million beer stands with Hop Devil, Flying Fish extra pale ale, Anchor Steam and all the major piss water American beers you wouldn't even buy your dad. Way to go, Citizens Bank Park . . . way to go.

    [Food Network.]

  3. THE MOST QUESTIONABLE OF MEAT PRODUCTS HAS A PARTY: Yessirree, Saturday is scrapple time at Reading Terminal Market. From 10am to 4pm, Scrapplefest affords you the fun of scrapple samples, scrapple cooking demonstrations, celebrity scrapple tastings(!), scrapple music, scrapple mascots, scrapple children, scrapple cookbooks, scrapple scrapple and scrapple scrapple scrapple scrapple scrapple scrapple scrapple scrapple scrapple .

    Scrapple scrapple, scrapple scrapple scrapple. In conclusion, scrapple.


Don't forget the ongoing Design Philadelphia conference, or the fact that it is high season for the mayoral campaign. On that note, I want to shout out my stromie, my homie, the doodoo man on WRMS, the Metro's Josh Cornfield for his excellent mayoral blog Fight for Room 215. On top of his Metro duties, Josh and friends manage to update Fight for Room 215 several times a day. Bookmark it now and read early and often leading up to May 15.

–Scrapple Scrapple

19 April 07: Sorry "Midtown Village" . . . you lose

Well this makes it official. Yesterday afternoon, city officials and leaders of the GLBT community dedicated new street signs with rainbow flags adorned to their bottoms: welcome to The Gayborhood. A few months ago, Gyro moved its operations from Old City over to 13th Street, where it hung its flag to proclaim the neighborhood be called "Midtown Village". Survey says . . . BZZZZZZZZZZ. Or should I say, B3ZZZZZZZZZ.

Like the failed B3 before it, Midtown Village was met with a "uh, what?" and then a "pffft, get the hell out of here." The Gayborhood is what everyone in The Gayborhood calls The Gayborhood. The Gayborhood is what Philly Pride calls The Gayborhood.

You know who calls The Gayborhood "Midtown Village"? Midtownvillage.org. Have a look at that web site. We're what, four months into the "Midtown Village" concept and we've still got a placeholder page with a map of what is indeed The Gayborhood describing it as a unique ENCLAVE of independent, OPEN-MINDED boutiques, restaurants, lofts and more! We are open-minded because we've moved into the enclave of the gays, wheeeeee!

The difference between Midtown Village and G-Ho is, as we've said before, The Gayborhood was already there. There was no bull whose horns needed grabbing, no lack of an identity. When you talk about The Gayborhood, you think of 13th Street at midnight. When you say Midtown Village, you think . . . I don't know, a side street of rowhomes off of Times Square.

See, down here in G-Ho, nobody could decide on "Graduate Hospital Area" (not only was it depressing to live in a neighborhood named for a hospital, it wasn't even a good hospital), "South of South" (or worse, "SoSo", which is just awful), "South Square" (which actually isn't bad but is more a supermarket than a neighborhood), or "Naval Square" (which is a private development by Toll Bros, the very republican company that built its fortune on suburban mcmansions).

There was and is no need for Midtown Village. The Gayborhood was doing just fine, thanks. And if you wanna get really persnickety about it, "midtown" is New York hipster slang for "lame" or "square" or "beat". Shouldn't a "hip", "totally deck" marketing company know that?

The lesson to be learned here is: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. The Gayborhood may be a little busted, but it ain't broke. It don't need fixin'. The other lesson here is that the only people that are going to go naming neighborhoods reside at phillyskyline.com.

This reminds us: as Equality Forum approaches (festivities kick off on April 30th), we're planning an exposé on The Gayborhood as part of our ever expanding neighborhood tours. You folks who've written in about that recently: cut us some slack, wouldja? We've got two new North Philly tours up, Roxborough is right around the corner, Olney has not been forgotten (I swear, Olney is coming), and Center City is what drives the city (and is where we spend most of our time), so it's naturally going to get more attention than the neighborhoods.

But yeah, The Gayborhood: Philly Skyline luvs ya, and is coming your way in the coming days. If you've got some requests or tips, give us a yell.

–B Love

18 April 07: A place called the Plateau is where everybody go

In last week's call to hear your favorite skyline views, we got quite an array of answers, from all the standards (South Street Bridge, the Schuylkill Expressway, the sports complex) to some non-standards (the Ben Franklin Bridge's walkway, a G-Ho roofdeck), but none came in more frequently -- and not until after Friday's post -- than the view from the Belmont Plateau.

Here at Philly Skyline, we love the Plateau (seen above from a sunrise in February) . . . the wide open field, the giant maple tree on the hill above the ballfield, the smell of barbecue in the summer, the sound of fans and families cheering during a cross country race, the future World's Tallest Flagpole.

The Plateau has always been a place valued for its views since the earliest days of Philadelphia. The Palladian style Belmont Mansion was built in the 1740s by William Peters, an Englishman who was the Penn family's land management agent. There, he hosted the most notable dignitaries of the American Revolution: Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, etc. The house today is maintained by the American Women's Heritage Society and is available for wedding receptions, proms and the like. We're gonna go ahead and guess that the plastic white fence around the patio is not something Peters -- nor his guests -- would approve of, but hey, we're not running the place.

Some thoughts on the Plateau from our readers . . .

Adrian from Bala Cynwyd:
I was surprised last week when there wasn't a mention of Belmont Plateau for best city view because it has long been my favorite, showing everything from the Art Museum to the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Otter from Fairmount:
Can't believe I didn't weigh in on the "skyline looks best from" question, or that none of the suggestions you published was Belmont Plateau. Unlike most other spots, you can light up a grill and open a beer there while the setting sun lights it up.

Jeff from East Falls:
I'm surprised to see that the skyline view from Belmont Plateau was excluded from everyone's favorite views. I'm sure there are many people who share my opinion that there is no better view. The angle of the view gives the skyline excellent balance, but more also gives the skyline depth & width. The Cira Centre is in prominence, the Art Museum and City Hall are both visible, and I believe this to be one of the only vantage points that also encompasses Ben Franklin Bridge. And one of the best parts about is that its not a glimpse of a view that you get driving in a car, or standing on the side of a busy road. You're at the Belmont Plateau, where you can enjoy the view during a picnic, or while throwing a disc or a football. This is one of my favorite places in Philadelphia by far.

No doubt.

* * *

Today marks the closing of the Philadelphia Film Festival with a screening at the Prince Theater of Waitress, preceded by the Awards Ceremony and followed by the closing night party.

Consider this, then, a preview for the 2008 festival: a while back we mentioned a conversation with our friend Mary Patel. You probably know Mary from her regular spot as Philly's version of Eleanor Clift on 6ABC's Inside Story (Sunday mornings at 11:30), or from her weekly City Paper column Political Notebook, which has been a happy marriage of insider info and political gossip for over 12 years. You may have also caught her in Tigre Hill's film The Shame of a City.

Well, as we speak, Mary is taking her vision and ideas in her own direction, as she is the writer and director of a Flying Home Films documentary called State, intentionally scheduled for release in 2008 during a benchmark election season. State uses Mary's interviews and real footage from the campaign trail to analyze promises and general campaign communication to compare them against the hard delivery once those candidates are elected officials.

At its heart, State is an advisory promoting voter awareness. For the film, Mary interviewed Senators Bob Casey and Arlen Specter, Congressmen Barney Frank, Bob Brady, Chaka Fattah and Allyson Schwartz, former New Jersey Governor and EPA head Christine Todd Whitman, and loads of others like former Ambassador Joe Wilson and White House correspondent Helen Thomas.

But perhaps an even bigger asset to State than the role call of participants is its director of photography, Chad Jenkins. Chad's film Recovering Satellites, a documentary about the lifelong friendship of a group of Vietnam veterans, won the 2004 Stroh's Award for documentary achievement and was screened at this year's Philadelphia Film Festival. Chad has also worked for NBC, ESPN, the History Channel, PBS and more.

Chad Jenkins & Mary Patel

State most certainly takes note and illustrates the important role lots of money plays. Former Howard Dean advisor and current Tom Knox campaign consultant Joe Trippi, who appears in the film, has said that election campaigns are about money. Duh -- look at the importance of television ads during the mayoral campaign going on right now. Knox's tv ads single handedly put him at or near the top of every poll thus far while Dwight Evans has barely made a name for himself outside West Oak Lane.

While State is not necessarily a timestamp of 2006, it does make good use of the Casey-Santorum race to illustrate the campaign process. Where controversial filmmaker Michael Moore's messages have been extremely partisan, his films have raised the bar for political documentaries. "We're staying as no-sided as possible here . . . we swing both ways!" Mary jokes.

Speaking of polarizing political personalities, a major item of many recent campaigns is the affiliation of celebrities. Think David Geffen and Hillary/Obama. State intends to look at this celebrity component: does it really work? Mary and Chad have included Richard Dreyfuss, Elliott Gould and Steve Guttenberg among its celebrity participants to look for that answer.

State is in post-production and is targeted to premier during next year's Sundance Film festival, but Mary and her colleagues are always happy to speak with donors, which you can do through the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. As we count the days to the primary election, Mary hasn't offered a side, though she says Bob Brady is a good guy (if perhaps a little too politically connected), Michael Nutter is truly progressive (though a bit 'whiny'), and Tom Knox is a successful businessman. Following that last one, I asked her if she thought that Knox built his fortune on the backs of the less fortunate, and she said matter-of-factly that, especially here, toes are going to be stepped on. What she will advise, however, is to "vote for the man who promises the least . . . he'll be the least disappointing."

* * *

And now, for your daily dose o' Comcast. Did y'all hear about the fire yesterday? Apparently something flammable on the 17th floor caught a spark from a welder, creating a small and containable fire but sending a rush through those present. Thankfully it was put out quickly and no one was hurt.

Meanwhile, keep your eye on the sky at Comcast Center, as that little platform you see being built on the top of the concrete core is not only going to be used to mount the liquid column damper, but also the new crane at the top of the building which will be used to complete the crown. LF Driscoll's Jim Verzella says that once this crane is assembled, the other ones will come down, and from here out the top crane will be used to zipper up the sides of the building and install all the panels for the damper, the crown's steel and the remaining glass. Topping out is estimated for some time in late May, but it depends entirely on the weather.

Speaking of the weather -- the cold, windy, miserable weather that exemplifies the play of the professional baseball club in South Philly -- I have very little to say about my major investment that is the Philadelphia Phillies. Sitting through that mess last night was one of the most worthless ways anybody could spend their time. Thirty degrees, non-stop thirty-plus mph wind, and a flat out annihilation at the hands of our sworn enemy, the New York Mets. It was so bad, in fact, that I'll turn it over to the Daily News' Marcus Hayes:
Last night, they didn't get one clutch hit. Not one. They were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position. They scored their run on a bases-loaded walk.

They couldn't throw out a base-stealer; the Mets went 4-for-4, not counting a botched squeeze play and a pickoff.

The bullpen continued to founder, allowing five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

The club is off to its worst start since the 1997 edition went 3-10, a team that went 68-94. That team featured the likes of Kevin Stocker and Calvin Maduro.
And on a related note, congratulations are in order for friend of da Skyline DMac, whose appropriate Phillies feature Road to 10,000 Losses, was featured in yesterday's LA Times and Dan Patrick's ESPN radio show. My god, are the Phillies ever a gut wrenching disappointment two weeks into the season.

* * *

Finally today, a last minute heads up for ye if you're into taking your own hard hat tour: Kieran Timberlake architects are, as part of the Design Philadelphia conference, giving a hard hat tour of Symphony House and the adjacent (Seeking Solutions With) Suzanne Roberts Theater. It starts at 4:30 and requires a reservation, so call Carin at 215 922 6600 (x142) to see if there's still space, and remember thick-soled boots.

Also ongoing this week during Design Philadelphia is the "Canstruction" exhibit at Liberty Place. The exhibit features the creative work of local architects and developers, and it is made entirely out of cans of food which will, after the exhibit, be donated to Philabundance. It's neato torpedo, it's for a good cause, and it gives you an excuse to go hang out at Liberty Place. Canstruction runs through Sunday.

How's that for a Hump Day Umpdate?

–B Love

PS: Wayne, we have been emailing you back but AOL has either kicked the mail back to us (which it has done twice) or flagged the message as spam. Sorry that happens but it's not our fault.

17 April 07: Virginia Tech, etc

There isn't really anything myself or anyone can say about what happened at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University yesterday that would make it any less fucked up, but it's hard -- weird -- not to have thoughts on the worst mass shooting in the country's history, even if you're 400 miles away from a place you know as the college town where Michael Vick played football for the Hokies. It's horrible, it's tragic, it's stupid, and it's indicative that, for some people, there are forces at work to conquer reasonability that must exist on bad days, in bad situations, at rock bottom.

On a far smaller scale, I think it's not unlike the forces driving the shootings happening every single day here in Philadelphia. I realize the families of 32 victims of homicide would probably not appreciate their children being paralleled to people who more often than not are involved in bad things that can get people shot. I don't mean to do that . . . what I do see, though, is a problem in which people have lost their ability to reason. Killing another person in cold blood is beyond reason.

But it's happened since the beginning of time, and it will continue until the end of time. Or maybe there was no beginning of time and there will be no end of time. The only beginnings and endings are of individual lives, and I would think that each of us wants to continue ours as long as humanly possible, or at worst until we decide it's over. If rock bottom is suicide, well, I'm sorry about your luck, and I hope your afterlife is a better place than the real one you can't stand. But if that's the case, do the rest of us a favor and don't bring 32 other people who have nothing to do with your bad situation with you. It's unfair and it's unreasonable.

Reason was obviously missing from the mind of Cho Seung-hui, but it's also missing from the minds of a countable number of people in Philadelphia. A mind beyond reasonable thought is worse than any cachet of handguns or campus security problems.

* * *


* * *

Glass, steel, stone . . . and fabric?

As promised, our Murano and Residences at the Ritz-Carlton sections were updated yesterday, and by the high noon deadline we assigned ourselves. How do you like THEM apples?

Murano is now on the fifteenth floor, with glass installation up to the fifth floor. The sixth floor, whose glass paneling is set back from the wall of the building, is home to the fitness center (which includes a pool) and the hospitality area, where residents will be able to throw parties larger than their condos will hold. Notice the blank concrete wall facing the north side. This is not permanent (à la the Beaumont and 101 Walnut), but rather will abut the Murano parking garage, whose foundation is now being laid.

Residences at the Ritz, meanwhile, has unveiled the largest wrap ad ever in the city on the west wall of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. It makes a play off the much touted National Geographic article from last year (before Mayor Street allowed us to drop out of the running for the Olympics and before the severe uptick in shootings and homicides). The building itself is up to the second floor.

Once those two sections were live, we plowed through a bunch of really rainy noreaster shots of Comcast Center, which now too is up to date as of yesterday. Go check em out, why don'tcha? On a related note, as with both Residences at the Ritz-Carlton and Murano, once 10 Rittenhouse Square's construction reaches street level, we'll unravel a new section dedicated to its progress. And, believe it or not, once Symphony House is ready to cut the ribbon and open its doors, we'll take a look back at its construction, whether it looks like a Pepto Bismol bottle or not.

* * *

Following up my thoughts on the mayoral forum on Sunday at the Academy of Natural Science, I got a note from Fairmount's Ed Hertzog that elaborated quite well what I admittedly barely outlined:
I went to the event with very little concrete knowledge of any of the candidates and didn't expect to come away with too much of an opinion of them afterwards. Given the limited scope of discussion, the arts and funding, I didn't expect to learn enough about each candidate to form a whole picture of what kind of candidate each person would be. I was wrong. I learned quite a lot.

If anything, I had a bias in favor of Knox going into this. I knew that he had owned several businesses and was a self-made man that worked his way from public housing to Rittenhouse Square on his good luck, hard work, and kindly-uncle personality. As a former small business owner, I can appreciate the amount of effort he has put into his work over the past several decades that have lead him to this position in life. I never saw his wealth as a liability -- it was an assurance of his competence and management skills. In a city filled with shady deal making and corrupt connections, I thought I could feel comfortable pulling the lever for a fellow with a resume such as his.

What I learned at the forum: Apparently any idiot in America can become a millionaire.

The first question from the panel asked about the candidate's model city in the U.S. that they would seek to emulate, as far as an arts program. Knox seemed to have never even considered such a question. I am not in the government nor the non-profit sector and I am certainly not involved in the arts. Additionally, I'm not running for mayor. But, at a few points here in there in my life, like on a plane or a bus, I have read through an article or three on this or that upcoming city and what they are doing to highlight their arts and culture. Its a topic that comes up when I page through the New Yorker or maybe through a news paper that isn't printed in Pennsylvania. Apparently Knox has never had such an experience. His answer seemed to be based upon some recollection he had of driving around New York City showing people museums. This topic would have been a good way to make an impression on the audience right away but he fell flat on his face right out of the gate. It only got worse for him as the day went on.

Every point Knox made should have had this statement tacked on it at the end for the convenience of the listener: "I'm sure I'll figure out this whole government business thing once I get into office."

At the very end of the event the question of whom would be in charge of promoting arts and culture in Philadelphia came up. Will it be a cabinet level position? A managing director? A special assistant to the mayor? I believe Happy Fernandez made some reference to a Secretary, as in a "Secretary of State" sort of secretary. Knox seemed to have gotten confused and started telling some story about having a secretary when he worked at an insurance company. It was an uncomfortable diversion which only got worse when he mentioned that she was taken away from him by management because, with computers, "people can do their own work today." This was the straw the broke the camel's back. I couldn't resist anymore and was forced to ask my wife, "Is he high?"

I went into the forum having a negative view of Fattah and that didn't change. His aloof attitude, no doubt reinforced by being a federal representative, did nothing to help me want to vote for him. And what was his answer to the model U.S. city arts program that he'd want to emulate? Paris. Note to Fattah: Paris is not in the United States.

If every statement Knox made should have been suffixed with a statement regarding his probable inability to find or operate the gears of city government, Fattah's should have been prefixed with a statement regarding his inability to grasp how to fund it.

If the city government had a nickel for every solution that Fattah proposed yesterday that was in some way tied to obtaining tax funds from the suburban counties, we wouldn't have an arts funding deficit -- it could be paid for with by his hot air. Fattah doesn't seem to understand that people do not live outside of Philadelphia by random uncontrolled circumstance. People live outside Philadelphia because they don't want to live in Philadelphia. If it's not taxes, it's the crime that keeps their mailing address outside of city limits. I'm not really sure what thought process leads him to believe that taxpayers in Montgomery, Bucks, and Delaware County will want to hand over money to a city government that operates one of the most dysfunctional, expensive, underperforming, and explosively violent municipalities in the United States for the purpose of paying the Chamber Orchestra a living wage. Good luck selling that to elected officials in the surrounding metropolitan area. (And while you're at it, I have a bridge to sell you.) Additional Note to Fattah: You don't know anything about regional politics and I suspect you know even less about city government. Leave the kind citizens of King of Prussia to their parking lots. We'll take the Liberty Bell and we'll figure out how to pay for it ourselves.

Nutter, by far, is the best candidate for mayor. Why? Because he is obviously the most educated, most qualified and experienced, and most affable of the bunch.
This is just a snippet, one which has since turned slightly toward the pessimistic and realistic Philadelphian. Read the entire entry at Ed's blog HERE.

* * *

Speaking of turning toward the pessimistic and realistic Philadelphian, the always-likable Jason Weitzel of the best Phillies blog, Beerleaguer, himself snapped over the weekend, probably -- like so many of us -- mad at and embarrassed of his positive thoughts that the Phils were indeed the Team To Beat, expecting a fast start out the gate. At 3-8 in dead last place in the NL East, the Phils -- Brett Myers and Pat Gillick in particular -- brought about this nice little freakout.

And tonight we start fresh, post-noreaster, with 3-8 behind us. Freddy Garcia makes his Phillies debut against Tom Glavine, who's already beaten us despite looking beatable. LET'S GO PHILS.

If nothing else, go get yourself a free scoop at Ben & Jerry's today.

–B Love

16 April 07: ?