15 June 07: YoYoYoYoYoYo . . . Darkroom

This fabulous Friday is a happy day in the extended Philly Skyline family. From the days it was a little hole-in-the-wall shop on 15th Street to its always technologically advancing expanse at 1909 Chestnut, we've printed our photos nearly exclusively at CBOP, now Photo Lounge. (Please note: in this post, where we say CBOP, we of course mean Photo Lounge, but we'll always call it CBOP.) They're locally grown (as opposed to say Ritz Camera), but the pudding is in the proofs: their product is simply unmatched. The color, the matte paper, and the dedication to staying on top of everything digital photography related has made CBOP Philly Skyline's official photo shop.

Now in its tenth year, CBOP and its mastermind Ravid Butz (pictured above with Sherry Wiernik) are opening a few other doors, but one in particular this evening at 6 in an ivy covered nook of Logan Square: Yo Darkroom.

Yo Darkroom is . . . well, how best to describe it exactly? It's an experience, but the one word that hits closest is community. Where CBOP is a retail store where you can have your digital photos turned into 4x6, 8x10, 11x14, 20x30 and larger prints, buy a camera, buy a frame, make a photo book and so forth, Yo Darkroom is a get-your-hands-dirty-with-your-friends kind of place. It has -- well duh -- a darkroom with seven stations including the enlargers and chemicals (you bring your negatives and whatever paper you want to print on), a classroom where you can take classes which range from taking better pictures to the philosophy of photography as art, a customizable studio, and gallery space. The gallery space includes a main gallery for established and gifted photographers which will rotate out monthly and lots of wall space for all of Yo Darkroom's members. Where there is space, there shall be hung art.

Really though, it's hard to explain without being there. Tonight's the night at 113 N. 23rd St (on 23rd just above Arch, across the street from the massive, hideous parking lot that should be bold, beautiful, Schuylkill River condo towers). Go say hey to Ravid and Sherry, have some wine, and enjoy the opening with photos by In Liquid's Susan Arthur-Whitson.

* * *

Well it's Friday night and you just got paid. Really though: check out the show at Yo, then go to the Ho to flow some mo', bro. Whoa. Drew Lazor's got some pointers in this week's City Paper, should you be looking for a night out in G-Ho. And you should.

That's where we'll leave it for this week, but next week . . . next week is the one. New views, new milestones, new Skinny. Stay here, won'tcha?


–B Love

14 June 07: A Silky Silky Flag Day

Hot damn it's been a long since some Philly Skyline Events Calendar, hannit? Let's get right to it then!
  1. GET MYLES AWAY, TONIGHT AT CONSPIRACY: As you may have seen this week in the little ad jawn to the right, Conspiracy Showroom is hosting an opening for Chicago native artist Myles, who recently transplanted herself to Philly to work amongst the good folks at 1026. It's a huge installation with large paintings on canvases, wood, and even the wall at Conspiracy. You can bring your own t-shirt, bag, pants, whatev - she'll be screening her art this evening while Mr Ten Fingers spins the party people's ears. That's tonight, Thursday, from 6 to 9 at Conspiracy, 2nd & Poplar in Northern Liberties.

  2. POPKIN IN PERSON: As he alluded to in his Saints of the Secular City story (just below this one - just scroll down), Philly Skyline contributor #1 Nathaniel Popkin will be reading from his book Song of the City along with Steve Conn, who will be reading from his Metropolitan Philadelphia. It's tomorrow (Friday) night at 7 at Headhouse Books, 2nd & South in Queen Village.

  3. SILK CITY IS BACK, BITCHES! Oh me oh my, the rumors they are TRUE. As sad as we all were when Silk City closed its chocolate bread pudding doors all that time ago, they are back and cleaner badder than ever. Did you catch Philebrity's picture preview? Oh you did? Well did you see Silk's all new Myspace, with events listings etc? Oh you did? Well gee.

    We got love for Silk City too, especially tonight, its grand opening night. Doors open at 10, so just cruise down 2nd and hang a right when you're done at Conspiracy. Mr 10 Fingers is spinning tomorrow night. (5th & Spring Garden, same as ever.)

  4. THIS ITEM IS ABOUT MUSIC BUT IS NOT NECESSARILY PHILLY ORIENTED: Let's see if the li tag works within itself . . . cool!

    1. ICKY THUMP BRINGS THE PHAWKIN NOISE: Props to Valania and crew for being the first to get their hands on the new White Stripes album which does not drop until next week. It's being streamed there as we speak. And not that we would ever ever ever know this first hand, but we heard a rumor that if you're on a Mac and you're using Safari, if you go to Window→Activity and double-click the mp3's url under Address, it will download it to your desktop and therefore you can put it on yr ipod. Checka check it out: The White Stripes' Icky Thump, live on Phawker Radio.

    2. READY FOR PRINE TIME: Old folkie John Prine has been pickin' and grinnin' in the Kristofferson-Dylan vein for a good four decades. At 60 years old, he's as politically charged as ever and is most certainly not a fan of President Bush's war in Iraq. You can bet your sweet bippy that he'll have a song or two about that, as well as some of his standards like "Dear Abby" and "Common Sense". John Prine is at the Mann Center on Saturday night at 8.

    3. C'MON BABY IT'S THE WILBURY TWIST: That old geezer supergroup the Traveling Wilburys has made its way to your Philly Skyline a number of times in the past, but this week they really deserve it. Brothers Petty, Dylan, Harrison, Orbison and Lynne this week released a full retrospective including both albums and a DVD of videos, interviews and the like. It's a MUST HAVE for any fan of music, especially a fan of those artists above, and it's only twenty beans for the whole package. Check it on Amazon.

  5. TRIMMING DOWN FOR A SKINNY NEXT WEEK: As advertised, we're really gearing up for a new Skinny to be rolled out one by one starting next week. We promise it'll be worth the wait, and for now we'll direct your attention over to our Comcast Center section, which is up to date with a dozen new photos and an updated diagram.

We're so hip on this Traveling Wilburys thing that we're gonna Yank on YouTube one more time to send it home with the Wilbury Twist. John Candy, take it away!

–B Love

14 June 07: Saints in the Secular City

Nathaniel Popkin
June 13, 2007

A while back, when wisteria and tulips were vying for our attention, B Love posted a picture of a woman in front of Pennsylvania Hospital apparently praying at the feet of the statue of William Penn. The day it appeared I kept looking at the photograph -- which ostensibly was about the colors of spring's mid-Atlantic palate -- and I kept thinking about its meaning. Of course it's not at all certain that she was praying to William Penn (or if she was, if it was for a serious reason) and yet there in the photo she is in the hospital garden with her back to us, her arms quite clearly resting on the chains that protect the flowers and the statue, and her back is arched as if she is looking up to solicit help. Penn, in the form erected for him by the sculptor John Bacon the elder, is looking down. He appears to be answering.

It's a curious thing to see a person in the Quaker City praying in public. With eyes on an inner-light, our defining religion eschews the ritual of open prayer but also the use of icons. (the historian Steve Conn, in his wise Metropolitan Philadelphia, says that despite a history of pluralism, Philadelphia, more than other American city, is tied to a particular religion.) More curious, William Penn, in a religion without priests, was a scholar and erector of doctrine. He is also, in effect, the great Quaker icon. He's the founder of the greatest secular experiment in the world -- and the man who ushered in the Pennsylvania Enlightenment -- and therefore our first secular saint.

I bring this up because on Saturday, after dropping my daughter at a sleep-over on Westview Street in West Mount Airy, I took Isaak, my son, over to the Wissahickon. We entered the woods from Park Drive and walked along the path until we encountered Mom Rinker's Rock. Isaak, who takes his cues from stories involving pirates, insisted on calling it Marooner's Rock. He quickly climbed to the top and made some shouts and growls that somehow were to conjure Captain Hook and Peter Pan. I walked around until I could see the visage of Penn amidst the trees. He's there, I shouted, and Isaak climbed down. Can we go up? he wondered (he calls John Bacon the elder's PA Hospital statue "the wizard" so you can understand his enthusiasm). We followed the obvious path and then shimmied a bit across the Germantown schist until we stood at the Founder's feet. And there it was, carved in the plinth of Herman Kirn's sculpture: TOLERATION. The only offering was a worn wooden heart-shaped flag circa 1976. It was muggy but the air was fragrant, moist and charged with minerals, and I couldn't take my eyes off the word. Isaak, now bored, started down, and left alone I did something almost impossibly uncharacteristic: I put my fingers to my lips, stared across the gorge, and then placed them on the letters of the word.

It was a prayer, I suppose, that Penn's vision would endure; that our grappling with the singular cause of plurality would make us a better people. In the first chapter of his book, Conn gives us a beautiful exegesis on Philadelphia and "the echoes of William Penn." By discussing his own experience in Cedar Park, he makes that word, toleration -- tolerance, in modern parlance -- meaningful. He says we uniquely carry forth the principle: in a world of many Samarras, we hold in our hand -- as Penn in the hospital statue displaying his charter -- a possible other way. If this is messianic, then it makes sense why standing atop the gorge, I was so moved. But I think more than the purely idealistic hope that Philadelphia can prove meaningful to the wider world, my religious experience was something about self-identity. I had made a pilgrimage -- and in so doing a confirmation; an act of love. Steve Conn and Richard de Wyngaert, the owner of Headhouse Books on Second Street in Queen Village, were nice enough to ask me to join them for an event Friday night at 7. Steve will read from Metropolitan Philadelphia, which Buzz Bissinger says, "makes the best case for the city I have read in a very long time." I'll read from Song of the City. I encourage you to come and join us in a discussion afterward. It should be great fun -- only one thing -- I can't promise it will be a sacred experience.

–Nathaniel Popkin

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

13 June 07: Skinny observations from on high


I've considered adding this to the FAQ or to the thank-you page of the email form, since it's the most frequent email request. Here is the most honest answer: It's coming, with almost certainty next week. What we're thinking at Team Philly Skyline is to phase it in rather than go crazy trying to do one giant update (like we did the last two times with The Skinny). To do this, we're going to do a quasi-daily feature on every single one of The Skinny projects. This quasi-daily will contain a brief background of each project covering its location, developer, architect, height (dimensions and floor count), timeline, links to official project web sites, and what the hey, our take on each one. Basically, it's The Skinny you've come to love and then be mad at for being so out of date. We're like Septa and shit: we're getting there.

Sirius Lee though, we think you'll like how we phase in Skinny 3.0, from already covered giants like Comcast Center to hopefuls like Mandeville Place and Bridgeman's View Tower to would've-beens like 17th & Vine to cultural and institutional activity like the Philly Skate Park and the Barnes Museum's eventual move. Ça va? Oui!

To phase in our phase in project, we'll roll this Hump Day Umpdate outward with a photo spree. Spree. That's a funny word; I don't think it's ever been used on Philly Skyline. It makes you think of two totally different things: a horrible shooting massacre, or the deliciously sweet candy discs you ate as a kid. That's the first thing I thought of, actually -- the hard kind, not the gross chewy kind. As kids we'd get a pack of spree and spend the change in the pinball machine in the back of Bressler's Foodmart (which sold bait & tackle).

What'd I say, an Umpdate Spree? Go!

Speaking of candy, check out the candy cane top of the second third tallest building in the city. The magic of LED lighting systems is endless possibility (and well, environmental sensibility and sensitivity). The side effect is silliness and/or allergic reactions, like many have had to Cira Centre's lighting. One Liberty Place eventually plans on going LED, but until it does, Two Liberty Place will put it to shame, even when looking like a candy cane in the middle of June.

* * *

Claes Oldenburg made his career by making ordinary things very large and, in doing so, extraordinary. Binoculars, lipstick and a typewriter eraser are among his installations that are well regarded, after being initially met with scorn and ridicule. (Like with any good art, really.) Nothing Oldenburg has done is more sacred to Philadelphians than his Clothespin, the most popular meeting point in the center of the center of the city. Inga Saffron has been on the beat to bring the story of Centre Square's plaza renovation by Daroff Design alive. The view here is from the top of City Hall -- we can see the stairway's construction already taking shape to face City Hall and the open air, as opposed to the shadows of the brutalist twin-tower setup of Centre Square.

* * *

Shifting our eyes slightly upward from the same vantage and looking toward Rittenhouse Square, we see the scaffold wrapping the top of the Rittenhouse Regency, aka Penn Athletic Club, aka Sheraton, now preferably and only: Parc Rittenhouse. This hotel-to-condo project by Allan Domb and his associates is particularly fascinating and warrants its own Phase In Skinny entry. Matter of fact we'll prioritize that one for early next week.

* * *

Looking south from City Hall, the Parc Rittenhouse is about 2 o'clock. So let's swing left to about 10:15 for another condo project, but one a great deal different from the Parc. This here is the Western Union Telegraph Building at 1111 Locust Street. The Western Union Building is an amazing four story art deco package whose friezes depict modern, worldwide technology circa the 1930s. It stood vacant and derelict for years until the team of Campanella Development, Moreland Development and Thylan Associates brought Cecil Baker Architects on board to design a bold, 21st century six story addition, creating a ten story tower modern-more-modern footprint directly across the street from the conservative new Dorrance Hamilton Building of Thomas Jefferson University.

* * *

BORING. That's what's going on here: test boring for the soon forthcoming expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. Tom Belden had a story in yesterday's Inquirer about the expansion, including a graphic explaining the land use between the existing Convention Center and Broad Street.

* * *

And then in today's Inquirer, Peter Dobrin explains why the Art Museum has had a giant steel mask on for the past month plus. The golden limestone exterior and its terracotta trim are getting a $31M cleanup. Be sure to also check out the nice slide show of photos by John Costello, who joined the restoration team on the roof for some great views.

* * *

Neil Stein: still out of jail and looking fabulous!

* * *

Chase Utley: without doubt the best second baseman in all of Major League Baseball (did you see that diving play last night?) and now, a peddler for the best butterscotch krimpets you ever did eat. Good on ya Chase -- you didn't need the extra cash after that $85M signing, you just wanted to help the local guys. Who doesn't love Chase Utley? AND HE'S SO HANDSOME!

* * *

What the hell is this? The Burlington Northern high line crossing at the far end of South Street Bridge is old and rusty and beautiful. And like the fading landmark Drexel University sign over Market Street, South Street's had a blue and red University of Pennsylvania sign, replete with its insignia. All of a sudden, as South Street Bridge's reconstruction inches closer, you blink your eyes and that Penn sign is replaced by an unexciting, black and white marketing scheme straight out of King Helvetica's 1997: "welcome to university city." Yuck.

* * *

Finally on this 'ere Umpdate, a pack of M&Ns. You may have already seen this in our Comcast Center section, but the awning over the entrance to that building is testing out letter sizes for a subtle "COMCAST CENTER" tag. (The smaller M has won out.) Save for minor sidewalk and subterranean signage, this will be the only self promotion for the new Comcast tower. Which, in so many words, confirms: there will NOT, repeat NOT, be a Comcast logo on top of the building. Thank you for taking the high road, Liberty and Comcast. Another Comcast Center update will be up later this afternoon.

* * *

That'll do it for us today, but one more quick shout to the Daily News. The DN's Mark McDonald brings us an update on the Broad & Washington proposal, the twin tower project now scaled down to 31 stories. As you'd expect, the loudest squawkers are the NIMBY types, including a fellow named Albert Hicks who I'm gonna guess is Yellow Sweater Guy from the last meeting we reported from:

But members of the Hawthorne Empowerment Coalition say the proposed 31-story towers "are too large, too high for South Philly, and nobody wants them," according to Albert Hicks, a coalition member.
This quote is pretty much bullshit, because it tends to be that the only people who speak loudly at civic meetings are the ones who are opposed to major development. Major development is not always bad, Albert. If you would rather see an eight story, 80' building at Broad & Washington, why don't you and your friends team up and buy the lot and build one? Don't take my word for it -- let's hear from Councilman Frank DiCicco:
"Let's just keep an empty lot for another 20 years - that'll make everybody happy."
No doubt, Frank.

–B Love

11 June 07: Hard Hat . . . THE TRILOGY

Three months ago, March 8, the guys at Madison Concrete took me up through the bowels of the concrete core that would eventually become an elevator shaft and emergency stairwell and we walked out into the open air of the 57th floor to survey the sunny, post-snow land -- and the work they'd been doing up there.

Three months before that, December 13, Motioneering let me tag along with them to take sway readings from the 33rd floor on a day so foggy you couldn't see the top of Mellon Bank Center right across the street. Three months from now, the first employees of Comcast will be taping up boxes full of work supplies and getting ready to move into their new offices on their move-in date, September 21.

Those are the past and the future views of the construction of Comcast Center. The most current view finds us as special guests of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, who is on site for a guided tour by Liberty Property Trust. Mind you we're in an enclosed, glass area prior to AC installation on the hottest day of the year -- a lazy, hazy 95° Friday, June 8th afternoon. Good thing there's a strip of window panels still open where the crane mounts used to be so as to allow some circulation in there. Still, we better strap on the hard hat extra tight cos it's gonna be a sweaty visit.

It's easy to see the progress made in three months time, such as glass, electrical, elevator and hvac installation, but it's wild to pick up on things you didn't notice before, like the strips of insulation behind the spandrel glass (which gives the building its dark horizontal stripes at night when lit from the inside) and giant water chillers

Look for the construction of the plaza fountain, the fittings of lower level offices (with carpet samples and everything), a model elevator foyer, the south and north side cutouts (which are purely design oriented, and which carve out the most amazing corner offices). Or, well, just enjoy the view.

A special Philly Skyline thanks goes out to the Planning Commission and Liberty Property Trust.

(Please note that the photos are currently without captions but they will be amended to include them.)

–B Love

11 June 07: One with the sun in Fishtown

And they say all the hippies meet on South Street, South Street.

While Odunde danced and pro cyclists sped and the cash poor bought art and Tony Soprano lived on and the Phillies gave up two TDs and a field goal to Kansas Freaking City, Philly Skyline spent the weekend hopping across rooftops in our new hood. Lo and behold, we came across an installation so fresh it just had to be green: a solar panel atop a private rowhome deep in the heart of Fishtown. I heard a rumor that if you generate more electricity than you use from your energy company that they have to pay you. Is that really true? Or was I sold a Brooklyn Bridge so that I go out and spend thousands of dollars to support the solar panel industry?

Whatever the case, these good folks in the F have embraced that long day sun and taken the energy building process into their own hands. Consider all this an intro to the latest look at the greenest green building Philadelphia will have seen, which is nearing its top height and which is the subject of a 49-photo essay that's right around the corner. On that notion, today's Philly Skyline Philly Skyline is the sustainable, solar panel edition.

–B Love

8 June 07: Oh Shea! or, Pat takes Rat to bat

Oh, that swing. It may be cumbersome and it may only work a fraction of the time we'd all like it to, but when it does, it is a thing of beauty. The full extension of a Pat the Bat swing is nigh sweet as a Will the Thrill from days of yore. Motion, fluid, beauty. More so when it is a 9th inning, game tying homerun off of Billy "The Rat" Wagner, previously perfect in save opportunities this season. You'd think someone who knows (and dislikes) Pat as well as Wagner does would know better than to throw a fastball down the middle on a 3-2 count. It was the best gift any Mets-hatin', blue-blooded Phillies fan could possibly get. Thank you, Wags. Thank you especially, Pat Burrell.

Wow, what a series. Two huge late rallies and a perfect bullpen. (Love that Zagurski kid.) Are these really the Phillies? Playing the first place Mets? On their own turf? Huzzah! Last June, the Mets came to Citizens Bank Park and embarrassed the Phils in a three game sweep that drained any confidence the then-second-place team had. The Mets series turned the Phillies season around last year (before Ryan Howard put the team on his back and almost single handedly put them in the playoffs). With a little luck, a Mets series will turn this year's Phillies season around for all the right reasons.

Some other observations about the Phillies-Mets rivalry from this time around . . .

  • J-ROLL CONTINUES TO PUT HIS MONEY WHERE HIS MOUTH IS: The Mets faithful continue to demonize Jimmy Rollins for his Team To Beat comments, but against the Mets, he seems to really believe it. He's batting .406 against the Mets with three homeruns, including the game winner two nights ago.

  • PAT THE BAT ENJOYS HIS ROLE AS MET KILLER: With two clutch late inning hits last night, Pat Burrell just keeps mashing the Mets. In eight seasons in the league, Pat has 37 homeruns against the Mets, the same as Chipper Larry Jones (14 seasons) and one behind Barry Bonds (22 seasons). If any Phillies fan still needs a reason to like Pat Burrell, this is it.

  • ADAM EATON ALSO ENJOYS KILLING METS: Speaking of needing a reason to like a particular Phillie, Adam Eaton finally gave me two this week. In beating the Mets on Wednesday, Eaton improved his career record against them to 5-0. Better still, he brought a fastball high and tight to David Wright, glazing his helmet, proving he's not afraid to play a little chin music against the pretty boy face of the bad guys.The Phillies have already emptied the benches with the Marlins this year, but I think everyone would like to see a good brawl with the Mets. Picture it: Burrell vs Wagner, Utley vs Wright, Victorino vs LoDuca . . . RyHo needs to stay on the bench though; Carlos Delgado is a monster.

  • SHEA STADIUM IS THE WORST IN ALL BASEBALL: It doesn't matter that The Vet is gone now. Shea Stadium was the worst when The Vet was around. It's way too steep, its causeways are like cattle chutes, it has a fine view of a parking lot, junk yard and Flushing, and then there was the David Wright "homerun" last night. For once, I fully agree with Charlie Manuel: the umpires may have made the right call after the replay, but that's just it: this is BASEBALL, you don't get a REPLAY.

    If Shea Stadium didn't have a sign directly above the outfield fence, which itself does not have a yellow line indicating the top of a fence (like most, but not Citizens Bank Park, do), there would be no controversy because the ball would have been over the fence, out of sight, an indisputable homerun. But since there IS a fence, the live play resulted in a triple, and the umpires changed their mind only because they saw the replay on the scoreboard. It doesn't matter that Paul LoDuca went deep on the next at-bat (and flipped his bat like he was Sammy Sosa); that Wright's ball was reversed is wrong, and it happened only because of Shea Stadium, the worst in all baseball.

  • COLE HAMELS IS STILL MOWING THEM DOWN: The one bad inning aside, Cole Hamels looked good, scattering seven other hits over seven innings. He leads the majors in strikeouts with 96 and has got to have the edge for (very) early Cy Young consideration.

  • CHRIS WHEELER IS SO GAY FOR JOSE REYES: Listening to this jackass go on and on and on about the other team's shortstop is awful. "He's just a baby!" "Man he's got range . . . that's the sort of play even Jimmy can't make." "He's just a good looking ballplayer." SHUT UP, WHEELS. And we wonder why Harry Kalas requested to not be in the booth with him.

    Chris Wheeler generally has good things to say about our own players, but there is no need for him to rave on and on and on about Jose Reyes the way he does. I've never heard one team's announcer gush about the opposing team's player. Next time the Phillies play the Mets, listen for it. At least it's not David Wright, I guess.

    Wheeler is what's wrong with the Phillies tv broadcast team. Well, he represents it, anyway. No one will ever dispute Harry Kalas' Hall of Fame credentials, but few will also argue that he lost a step when his friend Richie Ashburn died. His voice is still the best in the game, but he's slow on a lot of calls. Gary Matthews? He's not as bad as a lot of people say he is, but his role is unnecessary. Three's a crowd in one broadcast booth. (See also: ESPN's NFL broadcasts.)

    The Phillies' radio broadcasts, on the other hand, are outstanding. Scott Franzke is a superb announcer and his rapport with Larry Andersen seemed instantaneous. They're good homers and they're not afraid to lowbrow it, like when Mets fans were chanting "ass-hole, ass-hole" at some Phillies fans, Franzke asked if they were talking to LA. Or the game recently when a streaker ran the field and they joked about the security guard named Dingle who had to tend to the naked man. These guys should be calling the games on tv; the radio-to-tv delay is just annoying enough to not mute the tv and listen on the radio.

    Anyway, enough about all that for now. The Phillies are heading to Kansas Freakin City, so all together now, LET'S GO PHILS!

    * * *

    Two big can't-miss events this weekend:

    1. ART BY ARCHITECTS AT BARTRAM'S GARDEN: In a unique and thoughtful combination of ideas, Fleisher Art Memorial, AIA, Schuylkill River Park and Bartram's Garden have teamed up to host an art show of oil, charcoal, watercolor, photography, lithographs and more at Bartram's Garden, and all proceeds will support the Center for Architecture, AIA Philly's non-profit. There are boat cruises from the River Park at Walnut Street that go to the Garden.

      It's all weekend long. [BartramsGarden.org.]

    2. ODUNDE ODUNDE! For the 32nd consecutive year, the rhythm is home in G-Ho on the second Sunday in June. This Sunday, make a day of it at South Street and Grays Ferry Avenue, where a procession to the South Street Bridge ends in offering fruits and flowers to Oshun, the Yoruba goddess of the river. Authentic African wares are sold, oxtail, fried cabbage, grilled corn and other fixins are eaten, and lots and lots of music is played and celebrated.

      It's all day Sunday. [Odunde.]

    To take us from this ridiculously hot day and send it into the weekend, we'll tease our next big feature, coming to a Philly Skyline near you Monday (or maybe sooner). Note the slightly angled reflection. Oh oh OH!

    A very special thanks to Laura for making this Philly Skyline Philly Skyline happen. Click it when you're up, click it when you're down.

    –B Love

  • 7 June 07: Centers Comcast and Cira, your turn

    This has been mentioned before before, but it's worth noting again considering this afternoon's topic, a topic visited at least 3-5 times a week, or every time our Comcast Center construction section is updated. (And don't forget our Cira Centre construction section which was compiled between March 2004 and November 2005.)

    The web site you are visiting prides itself on all things Philadelphia: buildings and skyscrapers, neighborhoods and streetscapes, essays about and photos of all of the above, the Phillies, the mayor, the scene, the general Philly vibe. But if one were to trace our existence to a single event, it would be Liberty Property's announcement that they planned on building a new 750' tower called One Pennsylvania Plaza. I'd moved from my lifelong small mountain hamlet only months before then and I thought, "wow cool, I get to watch a skyscraper rise from the ground up." We don't have skyscrapers in Tyrone, PA, so this was fascinating to me -- pretty much every aspect of it. With One Pennsylvania Plaza, there was plenty to fascinate, from politics and drama to big names and big corporations to delays and finally the construction of what was now Comcast Center.

    Though we like to keep things as varied and unique as possible at Philly Skyline, it's no mistake that Comcast Center is at the center and peak of what we do here. And as Comcast Center nears its topping out and completion, we intend to keep watching, photographing and updating as it does. The other projects in The Skinny have not been forgotten, nor have the great neighborhoods of Olney and Kensington and the Gayborhood and Mount Airy that will soon showcase their goods here. Bare with us, we'll get to it all with a little patience.

    But for the moment, we're on the Comcast Center tip, and in the time since that One PA Plaza announcement and right this second, other skyscrapers like The St James, Symphony House and especially Cira Centre have risen. So we were wondering what you, friendly reader, thought about Cira Centre and Comcast Center. Like 'em? Hate 'em? Why, speak for yourself:
    1. VINCENT IN SOUTH JERSEY: Cira Centre's light show has added a whole new view around the city and it complements the Peco Building's scrolling letters well. It looks like that part of town is alive and busy, almost casino like . . . I absolutely love driving eastbound on the Schuylkill now.

      Comcast Center when finished will be a light blue pinnacle that rises above the rest and it will make the other blue buildings in our city pop - Liberty 1 & 2, Blue Cross, and Murano - when completed.

    2. ANTHONY IN OLD CITY: Absolutely love both the Cira Centre and Comcast. Cira especially. I go to Drexel and every time I walk past it I feel like I am looking at a different building depending what part of campus I'm on. All the angles are incredible and my favorite shot of all-time is on a partly cloudy day looking straight up and not knowing where the cloud ends and building begins. I think it reminds you that there's a whole lot more city if you keep going west, and I can't wait for the Ucity skyline to start taking off. Cira 2 and Drexel/Penn expansion and developing east towards the river are the most exciting potential projects the city has right now. I love all the construction and crane activity and their addition to the skyline; just makes you feel good about living here, knowing that the city is growing and expanding the people actually want to be here and invest here.

    3. STEVE IN MARLTON: I do believe that the Comcast Center and Cira Centre have contributed to the skyline, Comcast Center more so than the Cira Centre. Why? Cira Centre is sometimes hidden from view on certain skyline shots, whereas the Comcast Center is the new focal point of the skyline. I was growing tired of the same old skyline, and I am glad to have something new to look at every time I cross over the Delaware River into Philly. On top of the small hill in my neighborhood, we can just barely see the spires of Liberty Place peeking over the trees, with Comcast Center going up right next to them.

    4. MARK IN G-HO: I work out in the burbs, and when I tell people I live in the city, they mention one of two things: the murder rate, or 'what is that crazy new building'. If architecture can rival 400+ murders a year as a topic of conversation, then I think it's done its job admirably. I think it's a great addition to the edge of our skyline, really ties the whole thing together with its whimsical angles. I'm not a as big a fan of the lights, they just feel gimmicky.

    5. JOHN IN UNIVERSITY CITY: When I look at the skyline of Philadelphia I believe that the Cira Center and the Comcast Center are focus points of the skyline but at this point it is to soon to know the gravity of there effect. The Comcast Center will have an effect on the skyline of Philadelphia; at a mere 200 feet short of the Empire State Building it is hard for it not to, but the building is not topped off yet, its glass skin is not complete yet; its presence on the nighttime skyline is yet unknown so the total affect of the building on Philadelphia remains to be seen.

      The Cira Centre (or Cira Centre I) is complete yet its potential is not realized until other buildings that are a part of the River City Complex or Mandeville Place are complete or at least in the process of being built; the reason for this is because the building is a midlevel skyscraper; it is not very tall and its illuminating skin which is spectacular at night is isolated from most of the skyline by the space of the river and the sparceness of a skyline between 21st street and 30th street. With more projects their will be linkage and the Cira Centre will be at the for front and act as the catalyst it should be for further growth.

      Philadelphia can have all the potential in the world but if we as a city are too quiet and uncommitted to do anything it is useless and wasted. Comcast Center almost built and the Cira Centre is complete but unless its development spurs additional development, success, and ambition, they are a mute point; waiting 20 years for another boom will not suffice, especially when other cities are moving ahead without restraint.

    6. PETE IN WASHINGTON DC: Cira Centre, while awkwardly alone, is quite an achievement. I think it will get me in an accident on the Schuykill someday, day or night, I'm drawn to look at it as long as I can . . . its irregular shape means it's a different building depending on where you're viewing it from. The ever-changing light configurations complement my other favorite Philly feature (the PECO sign). I like the building a lot.

      As for Comcast . . . its height is great, the glass is great. However - is it really going to square off at the top? If so I'm not a fan . . . it's too stark a contrast to the pointed tops of every other building near its height and has a monolithic look. I'll reserve final judgement until it's finished, but I'd like it to have a couple more thinner tiers at its peak so it doesn't end so abruptly.

    7. TIM IN ROXBOROUGH: I have to say that I think the Cira and Comcast Centers are both great additions to our ever expanding skyline. Philadelphia has a ton of old world style architecture, but we are in the 21st century and what better way to show that we are then with new and exciting office buildings that give our city even more character. These two buildings, though modern in their design, still have that very unique style that's seen all around Philly. I've been to a lot of other major US cities (ones that popular magazines claim to be the "Best Cities in America") and I don't see why they are (the "best").

      Call me biased as I've lived here all my life, but I cannot tell the difference between most of them. Maybe our murder rate is a little higher, or our residents are a little less educated, but does that mean that this is not a great city? Our skyline is an important symbol of who we are and what we've accomplished as a team. I think both of the new buildings look great and I hope that 2 more are up and running by the end of Nutter's first term as mayor.

    8. MAGGIE IN WEST PHILLY: Cira Centre has been a treat for me. I used to live at 45th and Walnut, and working downtown, rode over the Walnut street bridge every time I was going home. The sparkling patterns of the Cira Centre were something I always liked to look at as I rode by.

      Now that the Comcast jawn is going up, I find myself looking up at it as I ride across the city. I spend a fair amount of time in West Philly and Fishtown, so I've been seeing a lot of different angles of the tower as it's been going up. It's really friggan big, huh? The glass sentinel.

      Riding across the South Street Bridge is the best view I get of the skyline on a regular basis, and I must say that the Cira Centre balances things out and extends the skyline in a very nice way. The Comcast tower is coming along in a similar manner. It's finding its place. There hasn't been anything about it that I've wrinkled my nose at, I guess. A few distinct shapes. I like it.

    9. PAUL IN SAN DIEGO, CA: I think both Comcast Center & Cira Centre are a welcome sight to the Philly Skyline. Cira Centre is a modern masterpiece. Its asymmetrical design and angles make it one of the most unique buildings in Philly. I moved from Philly to San Diego two years ago. The only thing that San Diego has over Philly is the near perfect weather. But as with most things in San Diego, even the weather gets boring. The skyline here sucks. The phillips head . . . the flat head . . . are these really the inspired designs of modern buildings out here? Blah. Philly has a great skyline and I hope it continues to forge ahead as it has the past few years with exciting architecture.

    10. PAUL FROM ABINGTON: Pragmatically speaking, the city needed Broadband buildings. Functional obsolescence is Philadelphia's middle name. We need buildings built after the widespread commercialization of the internet, as well as post 9/11 structures. The Liberty buildings lost power because of the difficulty in bringing enough power into that area. Not so when you build on the electrical foot print of Amtrak and Septa. Who wants to set up a server farm in an electrical weakling?

      This city is richer than one can imagine. And new blood from the blue bloods is taking the reins as well as new leadership from new wealth. With all of the money Sunoco is making, they ought to be building some civic phallic symbol of their own, but, that is not their style. Brandywine and Comcast are new to big deals and seem to get it. When you build, you are making an expression of your power, so a Cesar Pelli is mandatory and I think successfully executed. Comcast is also a crystal palace, LEED certified, smartly located on a transit hub. I am proud of both of these and would not be surprised to see a lot more investment in the city, more than what has already been announced, other than residential or institutional.

    The people have spoken. I would imagine there are those out there who dislike Comcast Center and Cira Centre, but they haven't told us, at least. (If you're out there, drop us a line!) After so many years of remaining staid, it seems that Philly -- and Philadelphians -- really embrace the progress we're making together and the symbols Cira Centre and Comcast Center make to represent that embrace.

    Cira and Comcast are brothers from another mother. They're akin in the reflective glass they use, they're each a Transit Oriented Development in an era where such is vital, and they're shining examples 21st century office space. They're Philly's first two office towers in years, and from local based rival developers. Each one impacts the collective skyline in its own way: Cira Centre stands out because, well, it stands out -- out on its own. Its rise over 30th Street Station is juxtaposition mastery in a way that New York's Grand Hyatt makeover next to Grand Central failed. The open air certainly helps Cira Centre. Comcast Center, on the other hand, really had to muscle itself up, way up, if it were to be any bit noticed. Well bubba, it's noticed. A flat roof height of 975' will do that, making even One Liberty Place look a little shorter.

    With all of this said, we present to you our Philly Skyline Philly Skyline, Philly Skyline edition, taken this morning at City Hall. It's all love here at da Skyline. We'll see you again from 975' up.

    –B Love

    6 June 07: The port, the future and your Philly Skyline

    (Click, enlarge.)

    by Nathaniel Popkin

    A couple of weeks ago, Governor Rendell announced that a deal had been struck to allow the Delaware River estuary to be dredged -- from the existing 40 foot depth to 45 feet. This is of course dangerous business. Although the shipping channel is now regularly dredged to maintain the 40 foot depth, a project of this size -- the literal churning up of toxic compounds that now lie dormant -- will cause at least short-term damage to certain fish and shellfish and bird species and possibly threaten water supplies. The project's economic validity has also been challenged and the project's federal sponsor, the Army Corps of Engineers, was forced in 2002 to prove its economic justification: a slew of high-qualified experts said, yes, deepening was a good investment. Nevertheless, we all know that numbers can be used to project or prove just about anything.

    Whether or not the project makes good economic or environmental sense remains to be seen; however we do know a couple of things: the lower Delaware is as healthy now as it has been in the past 50 years. Sometime in the late 40s, according to Steve Conn's terrific book Metropolitan Philadelphia, the river died. Happily the death of industry in the workshop of the world allowed the river to recover -- and now, though it is maintenance-dredged every year, wildlife and marine species, including the feted shad, are on their way back. Second, we know that the Port is on the upswing, containerized cargo tonnage up 14% last year, for example. The folks that run the place are in the unique position of being entrepreneurial, aggressive bureaucrats and right now they're drumming up business wherever they can find it. Philly is the largest importer of Chilean and other South American fruit, and has huge business in cocoa beans, clementines, paper products, and meat and other food from the South Pacific. Lines to Europe have opened -- and ones to the Far East are on the way. All those ugly warehouses and some of the great old white stone finger-piers are filled with products. Peak in on your way to the Ikea.

    All that said, Ed Rendell is pretty crafty when he decides how to throw around money and political capital and so last month's announcement should be read as a message. I recall the terrible uproar over the building of the convention center -- clearly it was a lousy bang for the buck, a waste of public money, a gift to unions and big contractors. While all that may be true, Rendell's support for the Convention Center (which he didn't build but took credit for finishing) and subsequent investment in hotels was almost purely symbolic. It was a message, an act of faith, a sign. Billions upon billions in public and private investment have followed. Would it have happened without Ed's initial "shot in the arm?" Hard to say exactly, but Ed's dollars were the first in. So it is now with the Port, which has hopes to expand north and south of Packer Avenue (south onto "Southport," really that gorgeous tip of the Navy Yard, arguably the best waterfront land in Philadelphia and recently home to an Eagle's nest). Ed's got early money in on this one and the agreement to dredge is meant as a sign to the shipping industry that Philly's for real: invest, bring your steamship lines, come and see how nimble our longshoremen can be. Moreover, there's $300 million in infrastructure upgrades in the package, not much to build anything ambitious but enough to send a signal.

    B. Love and I visited Packer Avenue Marine Terminal Wednesday morning with Port's Director of Communications, Joe Menta. We had a good time, chatting about breakbulk cargoes and container cranes and ships that must wait for high tide. We smiled at the security officers. We stood under the Walt Whitman Bridge. Longshoremen worked -- unloading mystery containers from the Hamburg-Süd ship and steel off another. Steel in a temporary warehouse was being loaded on to CSX freight cars. It was a powerful contemporary industrial scene, as you can see.

    Click to launch photos.

    –Nathaniel Popkin

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

    6 June 07: Just think . . . what if you could just . . .
    just blink yourself away

    5 June 07: Caught looking

    Another game, another loss. Our consolation is a Barry Bonds 0-for-4 with 2 Ks yesterday and 0 HR on the series. Not much of one, really, since the Phillies are under .500 again and now eight back of the Mets (and 1-7 in games I've attended, the one win being a huge come-from-behind win off of Derrick Turnbow and the Brewers).

    Civic duty calls so there will be no other posts today, alas, but please note that our Comcast Center, Residences at the Ritz-Carlton and Murano construction sections are all up to date. Be back tomorrow (hopefully!).

    –B Love

    4 June 07: Hawaii High Five

    Mahalo, Shane Victorino! Somebody up there -- or out there, in the middle of the Pacific -- loves Phillies fans so much that He is tired of seeing them suffer through Freddy Garcia's bust season and the constant stream of bullpen meltdowns led by Ryan "meltdown master" Madson. No sir, not this time. On a day tailor made for him with a hula doll and a Hawaiian theme at the ballpark, native pineapple man Victorino came away the hero with his first ever walk-off homerun to give the Phils an 9-8 victory over the San Francisco Giants.

    The Phils will try to turn this momentum into a series win at this afternoon's BPS. Some things to consider: Jon Lieber needs this game this afternoon, as he'd been pitching great up until he was rocked last time out against the D-bags. Barry Bonds is expected to play, having rested yesterday, and Lieber is the one who served up Bonds' mile-long blast on ESPN last year. Perennial all-star Barry Zito is on the hill for the G-Men. And, for what it's worth, I'll be there and the Phillies are 1-6 in games I've been to this year. Let's go Phils (cut B Love some slack)!

    * * *

    Hooboy, driving home on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Schuylkill Expressway (pictured in the base image at the top of this post) during the remains of Tropical Storm Barry: NOT RECOMMENDED. Three hours of intense driving-rain-driving-weather goes hand in hand with Master of Puppets on volume 10. Yowza!

    It's Monday morning, yo, let's see what's up . . .
    1. CENTERS OF GRAVITY (BA DOP BA): Can't feel both feet on the ground . . . that's a feeling one might get when listening to Yo La Tengo's I Can Hear the Heart Beating As One (which holy crap is ten years old now), OR when standing directly below Cira Centre and/or Comcast Center on a bright sunny day with blue skies and puffy clouds reflecting in those buildings' glass as they float on by. After more than a decade with a static composition, the Philly Skyline is changing and growing from angles all over town, but none more so than the ones which include these two focal points. What do you think of them: do they bring our skyline up to date with post-post-modern expressions of opulence? Are they too over the top or unnecessary? Do they represent a New Philadelphia to you? If you haven't done so already, let us know. We'll follow this up later this week (we're shooting for an Umpdate) and share readers' thoughts.

      While on these topical Centers, Cira and Comcast, it's worth noting that the rumors of each getting a baby sibling have been getting louder. The long time plans for Comcast Center (née One Pennsylvania Plaza) have always included a second phase, Two Pennsylvania Plaza, 16 stories tall and a visual partner to the art deco Suburban Station building. With Comcast Center now 95% leased and the Comcast corporation still growing, the second phase seems more when than if.

      Cira Centre, on the other hand, rose out of Amtrak's rail yards relatively quietly . . . it's also been somewhat of a gauge of the burgeoning almost-Center-City business sector. And what a gauge it has been. Whispers have suggested that Brandywine Realty needs only an anchor tenant to build a second Cira Centre, and the PBJ's always awesome Natalie Kostelni has shed light to some new info: the working name is Cira South, it's 40 stories tall, it's got 1.7M sq ft of leasable space, and it will rise at the site of the current Post Office Annex (the dingy little modern building facing the Schuylkill River at 30th & Walnut). Eyes & ears are peeled for more on Cira South.

    2. OPUS AIMS LOW FOR CITY'S MOST EXPENSIVE GRASS LAWN: While we're here recycling the Natalie News, we'll turn our attention to the green grass growing at 20th & Market. Once upon a time, the Blue Cross Tower was supposed to be the Blue Cross Towers, twin pointy blue towers across the street from Commerce Square's own twin towers.

      That of course did not happen, and ever since, Center City's been waiting to see who would bone up and build on this very buildable and prime lot. In late 2005 it seemed like Opus East would be the one to finally do that, with an affordable 38 story condo tower whose design was first improved and then approved by Center City Residents Association, who held several meetings with Opus, whose development team included its own in-house architects.

      Two years later, that design has been scrapped and the trailer that moved into the grass lawn is long gone. Now, Natalie K reports for the PBJ, Opus is looking at a much humbler condo option of 14 stories and even more conservative design. No one will say that it should remain a grass lawn (one that isn't even used for putting or frisbee at that), but does it not disappoint that tall and slender has been replaced by short and squat? At least it retains the important street life along Market and 20th Streets. [PBJ.]

    3. STEVEN U, BIG U AND YOU: As teased a couple weeks ago, the good folks at Plan Philly got a way exclusive look at the lonesome lovely lady of South Philly, the SS United States. PBS is producing a documentary on the Big U with the support of the SS United States Conservancy, and Plan Philly's Steven Ujifusa tagged along with the director and film crew as they boarded the old cruise liner last weekend. His intricately detailed report includes a number of his own pictures and is found HERE.

      Related reading: last week we revisited a City Paper story from five years ago, so we'll do the same for the Weekly while on the SSUS tip. PW's executive editor Sara Kelly toured the pre-Norwegian ship in September 2001, and her story is HERE.

    That's what's Lookin' Up on this first Monday Morning in the new hood. On second thought, we're not gonna call Fishtown the new hood. Fishtown is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the whole city, and in terms of its relevance in the scope of the city as William Penn saw (and therefore we see) it, it's arguably the oldest. We're just the new guy in the old town. We'll send it home with a Philly Skyline Philly Skyline that uses that notion: a new sundown photo with Comcast Center on the old Avenue Girard. While the Girard Avenue skyline has become familiar, there's a better view that will soon become a PSPS cornerstone. Anybody got an extra 12 foot ladder you wanna donate?

    –B Love

    1 June 07: Dear G-Ho,

    There's something I've been meaning to tell you. It's just that . . . well, have a seat. We need to talk.

    Remember back in January 2001 when we first met? We had a lot of learning to do, and baby, we learned. We grew together. We laughed under the chili pepper lights as we ate ten cent wings and drank five dollar pitchers while dudes rolled blunts and played pool on the busted table in the back of Cloud 9 / Route 66 / Copa West / Atlas on Thursday nights. Then we puked cried on Friday morning.

    Tuesday nights at South Street Blues were rowdy rowdy too -- after all, Tuesdays were stripper nights, the best way to spend the change from an eight dollar six-pack purchased with a ten dollar bill. Oh man, and Mike at Omega? We had some laughs too, eating that nasty gooey pizza and coming home with a little more than pizza. (RIP, Mike.)

    Pinky was always there for us, too. Brad Love and Warren Kaos would reminisce over mid-90s Love & War DJ sets while killing a western omelette and a short stack respectively, and would smell like each all day after leaving.

    Remember that first Happy Meal down at B&B's? Course you do, love, it was a Friday night with Nate Wiley and the Crowdpleasers. Or was it a Thursday drag night? Doesn't matter, they all run together into one really long night. When that really long night went in need of sustenance, we just crossed the street. Benny's got an upgrade when Dave and Rick took the reigns and found the devil inside at Tritone. Gator gumbo, buffalo burgers, loco pierogies, that ridiculous birthday bash in the back yard (thanks honey), cold porter and Slo & Shakey Mondays.

    Can't forget those summer afternoons down at Judy Garland, either. B Love and Mark running the rock against those punk South Philly kids . . . those Sunday afternoon pickup softball games with those goofballs who took themselves too seriously -- Yaron and Miles and Tyrone and them . . . oh, and that one touch football game in the main field where Stevens accidentally tackled me and my pants came down, ha ha . . . and bumping into the pulchritudinous pulitzer plantin' farmgirl was always a pleasure . . . Jeez, that little park went from shady overgrown weeds with hookers to a City and State wide recognized river park, dinnit?

    I'm pretty sure all those memories ended with a pint or ten at the ol' poopdeck at 22nd & Lombard, too.

    Doobies always has and always will treat us well. Rich and Mitch and Mark and Papaya and Shannon and Steven and Dano and Mayuko and Patti . . . and all our friends, Eric and Burke and Donal (RIP) and Paulie and Lorenz and Devin and Kevin and Richard and Ben . . . and all the David Bowie you could never possibly listen to. We didn't even try; we went with Dr John and the Jayhawks instead, with a side of Bushmills on the rocks as a friend to that cold Chesterfield.

    Of course we'd make sure to hit the 7-Eleven on the way home for damage control. Usman, The Man With Three Thumbs and The Chosen One never hesitated to remind us that the next morning's 32 oz Gatorades were 2 for $3, did they?

    Oh man, and remember that first summer? Oh-one was the one! We were getting our feel for one another and the Sixers were rollin'. Sittin' out on the roof on Fitzwater Street, staring at the skyline and watching the PECO Building scroll on about "Beat LA!" and laughing about that three AI hit and how he stepped over Tyronn Lue. Money! Out on the roof, we even saw the lights of the Good Year Blimp and it read "G-Ho's a pimp."

    You are a pimp, G-Ho, you big ol' pimp. You went from that place the cabbie had to ask twice to be sure about to the real estate million dollar blowout. You went from a historical squatter house to a Toll Bros gated community. You went from Pandora's Box to Yello'bar. You went from South Street Blues to La Va. You went from Route 66 to Ten Stone. You went from ten cent wings to a cheesesteak made of filet and brie. You polished up, G-Ho. It's not that we wanted you dirty, but we liked you raw.

    We kept telling you about that litter and just when we got it together, you'd go and blast a bag open and the wind would blow it on down the street.

    But I ain't mad at cha, cos right up at the end of South Street was our little getaway, our private-in-public respite, our QT turret on the South Street Bridge.

    We'd listen to the bangs and we'd watch the concrete crumble and we'd cringe when the highway was closed, but we did it together, and we reveled in our surroundings. We'd watch that hidden river roll on and we'd hold our nose when the trash trains went by. We'd count the Toros and Bobs on the blue girders and we'd laugh at the out-of-towners who didn't know they could make that left onto or off of 76 at the green light, as well as all the angry locals honking behind them. We'll be sad to see SSB go. Wait, no we won't, we'll be relieved beyond words, but we'll strive to make sure it's the best bridge it can be. Whatever bridge it is, they won't take our favorite view in the whole world away from us.

    * * *

    The time, it goes so fast these days, doesn't it? It's been six and a half happy years. All our Fitzwater kitties are grown up.

    Adam and Jen got themselves not one, but two steals down on Christian Street's Doctors Row. Heck throw in swiping Jess from Tritone for The Sidecar and they got three steals. Keep an eye on them Ritters, they're fast ones. We were living so fast the night of my 30th birthday I'm surprised I woke up the next morning.

    So many images covered in dust in the back of our love. Mr Jim and his super secret recording studio on Fitzwater Street. "Today's Special, Fish." Lazaro's combo pizzas the size of a spaceship. The first time we walked up the Sixth Sense block of St Albans Street. The lecture-with-love from the good guys at Bike Therapy trying to get me to take better care of my mountain bike. (F a fixie.) Bobon's Madonna party upstairs at L2 that migrated and went past sunrise. Wondering why an energy company had so many burnt out bulbs on its building's so-called Crown Lights. ("How many PECO employees does it take to change thirty light bulbs?") The big idea that one of these days, the part of Grays Ferry Avenue between Grace Tavern and South Street would be dug up and made into a park, since the street is so pointless there and the little Odunde triangle with the watering trough and pretty cherry tree is so underused.

    The cat bollards on Van Pelt Street from our usual route to Rittenhouse. That white Westfalia van that would be parked on South Street for weeks on end. (The nice lady that drives it that totally gets it.) The dude who'd ride his bike the wrong way down South Street singing "WOOO, WOO WOO" all the way. The Toilet Reader's delivery every Wednesday with its bad pagination and silly clip art and occasional awesome stories. Ed Bronstein's corrugated metal house, the architectural highmark of the entire neighborhood. The horse hitch on 24th whose loop I'd always flip, pretending I was Dennis the Menace and Mr Wilson would come out shaking his fist.

    Memories, memories. Odunde Odunde! There isn't quite anything like Odunde right here, and it is ours. Second Sunday in June, 31 years running, with art and music and good vibrations and good percussion on Catnip's stoop and more oxtail and fried cabbage and fresh squeezed lemonade than anyone could possibly handle.

    And what about all our friends? It's like Barb Failer said, this is a tight knit community and everyone looks out for each other. It's all love, neighbors. Warren Kaos. Reverend Anderson "and his wife" Abigail. (Pay me back my security deposit, bitches!) John and Susan. Rach and Bobon. Nathon and Joey and Butter. The McFadden girls. Paulie the Suit. Alaina, Heather and Joyce (and Nicole). Tony and Quinn. The UPS lady with the blonde hair. The Fedex guy that looks like Emeril. Jack that looks like Moby. Tom and Queenie. Mr Jim. Chiara at Ten Stone. Mr Rudy and his political discussions at the laundromat.

    Chris and Nicole. Inga. Sara. The Illadelph. Ruby Legs. Radovan and Wendy. Kahn and the tall Haitian dude. Ruth and Justin and Beth from Tastebuds. Cholly Penniman. John and Harry at Darling's. The Das Efx guy and his crazy ass panhandling. Adam and Jen and Jess and Mack. Mike the Manager and Greg the Greeter.

    The late Bruce Langfeld and Rick Dobrowolski. Our beautiful neighbors in Fitler Square and Rittenhouse Square. RitFit, if you will. All these people and more -- these are the people in your neighborhood. And we love them all.

    Y'know, this big long lovefest hasn't even gotten at our silly name calling. South Philly. Too vast. Graduate Hospital Area. Not only morbid, but it wasn't even a good hospital! South of South. Yeah, you and Bella Vista and Queen Village and Hawthorn and everything else in South Philly. SoSo. Celebrate mediocrity! Naval Square. Not just a private development, but one by Toll Bros. 30th Ward. What is this, Houston? That works twice a year, on election day. Jubilee Village. Uhhh, what? Anderson Yards. Awww, they have a Friendster. (Not even Myspace . . . in 2007.) How cute! South Square. Not bad, but maybe in another era. Devil's Pocket. Great name, but a very specific, small subsection of the hood. Avenue of the Arts. Eh, that's all the way over on Broad Street, and ours is the bum end of A of the A. Southwest Center City. Ugh, so vanilla. Rittenhouse South. Just stop.

    We've come to love our G-Ho, just like Craig LaBan and the Weekly and City Paper and Foobooz and Philebrity and PWD and all our other friends have. What better legacy for that old crusty hospital to leave the neighborhood than a derivative of its very name. So good, so fun. G-Ho. Love love love you, G-Ho. That's why what I'm about to say here is so painful . . . It's just that . . . I've got to say goodbye now. See, it's not you, it's me. I'll cherish everything we've been through together, but I've got to move on. We've got to move on. We can still be friends. I mean, I'll have to check out that new Beauty Shop Cafe, and when the days grow cold, Radovan's sarma will warm my soul. And well, when I finally hit that Powerball, I'll be back to buy the old milk pasteurizing plant turned Tenet parking garage turned next idle Toll Bros property at 24th & Bainbridge.

    Until then, farewell, G-Ho. I'm moving to Fishtown.

    All my love,
    R. Bradley Maule
    G-Ho, January 2001 - May 2007

    PS: I've left you a little something to remember our time together. If you're walking south on the east side of 24th Street and you happen upon South Street, well . . . Look up. Philly Skyline.

    31 May 07: Centers of gravity

    The City Paper issue from exactly five years ago has a story worth a read for some Philly Skyline perspective. Daniel Brook's May 30, 2002 article Skyline Drive profiled two proposed skyscrapers, Cira Centre and One Pennsylvania Plaza. The story references the newly opened Kimmel Center as an architectural achievement (my what a difference five years makes) and implies it raises the bar and need for new architectural statements in modern Philadelphia. Check out that story HERE.

    One Pennsylvania Plaza shed its golden kasota stone for a duelling glass component, raised the roof and landed Willard Rouse's worst kept secret for an anchor tenant, Comcast, thereby lending its name to the project. It seemed unlikely five years ago that two significant office towers would rise in this city -- a certain adored architecture critic even told me around that time that she'd be surprised if we got more than The St James -- but here we are in 2007 with residential cranes all over town and two new skyscrapers of the office variety. The skepticism we're so used to and expected of is slowly being chipped away, though there are plenty of realities (see murder, Front & Chestnut, Septa in general) to keep our Utopiadelphian balloon tethered.

    Back to these two towers of interest: What do you think? Have Cira Centre and Comcast Center contributed improvements upon this Philly Skyline of ours? Send us your thoughts and we'll share the best of 'em next week. The Centers Comcast and Cira: love em, hate em or ignore em, drop us a line.

    * * *

    We'd again like to thank you for your patience this week. Yesterday's technical difficulties aside, it's not for no reason that production is low this week. We have a pretty major announcement to make and it will explain everything. Things is good, just like the view from 17th & Oregon in South Philly. Every day is a block party on the 2600 block of South Colorado Street. Click, enlarge, and feast on Sow Filet.

    –B Love