#ThrowbackThursday “Spring Fling ’86” The Birth of Penguin Place. (The William Way LGBT Community Center)

In 1986, I had the pleasure of working with some very special members of Philadelphia’s LGBT community to produce a “Spring Fling” fundraiser for what was to become Penguin Place. At the time, ours was a Community Center without walls.

Penguin Place 1

Spring Fling was held at the Mask and Wig Club (located on south Camac St.) I will never forget the Spring Fling or the months of planning that led up to it. Each of us made a special contribution. We had battling DJs, planned “spontaneous” entertainment that seemed to manifest out of nowhere (think “flash mob” but with jugglers, magicians, and musicians), and brilliant slide show presentations that were revealed on a rear projection screen behind a beautifully painted stage backdrop.

I was working as an AV technician at the time so my contribution was the rear projection screen, the slide projectors, lenses, and animation fader which I borrowed from work.

I have always regretted that I didn’t get to know Bill Way better. In our short friendship, he was very supportive and encouraged my creativity.

Shortly after Spring Fling, I left Philadelphia for a new job out west. By the time I returned, Bill had died. Penguin Place was a reality and had a permanent facility just two blocks north of the Mask and Wig Club. The New organizers had taken Way’s dream to the next level and was serving the community.

That the William Way LGBT Community Center has been in it’s permanent home at 1315 Spruce St. for nearly two decades is a testament to the work and dedication of the community.

I think about William Way and that odd bunch of people who inspired me to get involved in my community. It was a very brief moment in my life but it reflects the very best of the LGBT community. As we just saw with Marriage Equality, when we work together the possibilities are endless.

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It Came From The Freezer! …a #FoodPorn Mystery

“What are we having for dinner?”

It was a simple question, really. But I honestly had no idea. It was a busy day in the middle of a busy week. Neither of us had put much thought into food.

“Isn’t there some chili left in the freezer?”

Well, yes. It is quite possible that one of the unmarked containers in the freezer is the last of the chili. So I took what I thought was a quart of chili from the freezer and set it in the sink to start defrosting while I went about the rest of my afternoon.

freezer2pcWe spent much of our free time last week taking stock of what needs to be done around the house before winter settles in. Beyond the usual furnace check-up and window insulation, our kitchen needs painting and the bathtub faucet needs adjusting. So we’ve set aside a few days next week for the anticipated multiple trips to the home improvement store. As usual, I spent the day playing “catch-up”.

When Love got home, he inspected the container that was defrosting in the sink.

“Honey. Are you sure this is chili?

Well, no. I wasn’t entirely sure what was in the container. There are six other quart containers just like it in the freezer. Three of them are chicken stock, two are chicken noodle soup, and one is potato leek soup. All of them are a pale yellow. The one defrosting in the sink was a beef stock brown. So it was either chili or stew. — I told you guys I like to cook.

As I entered the kitchen, Love was holding the container an inch from his nose. His eyes squinted as he turned the mysterious concoction in his hand, trying to identify it’s contents. He pointed at some small shapes visible through the plastic.

“I think these are mushrooms.”

There’s only one way to find out. Let’s heat it up and give it a taste. So I emptied the slushy mixture into a sauce pan and set the heat to low while I finished up the project I was working on. Ten minutes later, Love called from the kitchen.

“I don’t think this is stew, either.”

Now I was really confused! I got to the kitchen and took a look. In the pot was a brown stock with mushrooms floating around and very little else. I could identify some chopped onions. Maybe. But nothing else. We stared at each other for a minute before bursting out into laughter. We threw the mystery sauce away and ate some leftovers for dinner instead.

I still can’t tell you what was in that container. I honestly have no idea.

Since both of us were still in the mood for chili, the next day I made a big pot of it. And if there’s any left for freezing, you can bet I’ll put a label on it.

chili3a

 

What is it about drugs that makes people stupid? …oh, right.

Can someone please explain to me the need to roll and smoke a blunt -or do any drug for that matter- on other people’s property? Seriously. Is this just a South Philly thing? …or does this happen everywhere?

I wasn’t brought up this way. I was raised to respect others. I was taught that people treat you the way you treat them. If you act like a thug, you can’t get angry when people treat you as such.

I often lament having to live within blocks of a crack house simply because we can’t afford to move. Don’t get me wrong. we live on a great block – mostly. But every once in a while reality comes wandering along with the sweet smelling cloud of ganja gas suspended above his head.

I’m not a prude. Mary Jane and I are old friends. It just would never occur to me to get blazed on the steps of a stranger’s house. It’s arrogant. It’s inconsiderate to your neighbors. It calls attention to yourself, and it’s just plain stupid. Why do it?

At the risk of sounding like the old head that I am, when I was young we smoked weed in private. We knew it was illegal, so we kept it on the down low. These days, young turks think nothing of whipping out a crack pipe while strolling down the street! What the hell, man? Get it together! Little kids live on our block! Do that shit in your own house!

Hanging out on our steps is usually enough to dissuade anyone from toking up on the street. But every now and again some idiot will think we don’t notice and light up. In those cases, just asking the person if (s)he can “please do that somewhere else” is usually enough to send them on their way. But occasionally, some little punk thinks his need to get high is more important than the rights of our neighbors.

The worst is when they try to hide on the steps of the small pentecostal church at the end of our street. Here’s where insolence rises to new heights! What the hell is wrong with people? Seriously! Have some f*king self respect!

I grew up in an Italian household. Wine was served with every meal. It was a normal part of life. As children, we were never made to feel left out. Our wine glasses were somewhat watered down, but we each had one. If we wanted to taste any of the “adult” beverages, all we had to do was ask. My family knew that the way to make something more desirable is to ban it, so nothing was forbidden. As a result, the mystery was taken out of alcohol. If there’s no mystery, it’s no longer special. We were free to pursue more important things.

Any child psychologist will tell you, the quickest way to get a child to do something it to tell him he’s not allowed to do it. When you remove the restrictions you take away it’s importance. I’m a firm believer in the legalization of marijuana to abate it’s importance. Decriminalization will help reduce drug related crime. Taxing it will help add much needed money to our treasury.

But when I see these kids hiding in doorways or shuffling down the street like zombies, I have to wonder if maybe I have it all wrong.

Philly Places: Headhouse Square

Headhouse Square

(2nd street between Pine and Lombard streets) Philadelphia, Pa.

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facing south to Lombard St.

Top image taken from under the Headhouse into the shed, which serves as shelter for the Headhouse square Farmers’ Market (Sundays, May through December, 10 am – 2 pm)

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Facing south from under the shed.

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Facing north to Pine St.

photos by ADignorantium

Originally posted on ADignorantium.tumblr.com

Ode to South Philly

My nice, quiet, elderly, next door neighbor moved out. Her son removed the last of her belongings on the last weekend of March. Her health was such that a warmer climate was necessary. I don’t blame her. If I could afford it, I’d be right behind her.

My landlord had tenants lined up to take her place. Within hours of my neighbor’s son’s departure, a family of fourteen had formed a fire brigade, and was shuffling boxes into the house. Among them was a ten year old boy with enough energy to power a small city for at least a year.

South Philly houses are built virtually on top of one another. They were originally built as housing for factory and ship yard workers. Through the years, scores of immigrants have raised families in these tiny abodes. Families whose existence is witnessed by the many Churches, Synagogues, and Buddhist Temples that seem to be established, like Starbucks, on nearly every corner.

Such close approximation forces interaction and sometimes collision. Forget about privacy. Forget about a quiet, romantic evening watching the stars. (There’s too much ambient light to observe the heavens). You can, of course, journey over to Fairmount Park, Penn’s Landing, or the myriad public squares and local parks.

There’s no such thing as a “Back Yard” in South Philly. Instead you’ll find small, paved-over plots which overlook your neighbors’ small paved-over plots, and a parade of feral cats searching for food and the occasional romantic liaison.

For a change of pace, there’s the front stoop.

Sitting on your front steps, or “Stoop“, is a tradition in most urban areas. South Philly is no different. Where else can you find out the who, what, where, and postulate on the why? Friends are made, marriages arranged, and business conducted on many a front stoop. It’s also the place where you’re most likely to overhear your neighbor’s latest quarrel.

And now, to add to the entertainment, I have the noise of a ten year old ball of energy screaming with excitement as he runs through the empty house next door.

Such is life in a South Philly row home. 🙂

Cardinal

It’s snowing today. It’s not sticking to the ground. It’s more of a wet snow. …okay, it’s rain. :\

A sound from the back of the house drew me to the kitchen. It was a bird call I’ve heard before, but couldn’t identify. From the volume of the twittering song, it sounded really close. But I couldn’t see it.

Like many of the houses in South Philadelphia, ours has a small, paved over area we affectionately call our “Back Yard.” This is a misnomer of course, because the only grass to be found is the bits of sprouted bird seed left over after the squirrels are finished raiding the bird feeders.

Our “back yard” has an awning which hangs over our south facing kitchen windows. The awning’s supports make a convenient perch for birds to find shelter from inclement weather. They also have the added benefit of positioning those birds right outside our kitchen window. If the kitchen lights are off, and the blinds aren’t open too wide, we have a front row seat to the soap opera that is a day in the life of the Sparrows and the Finches.

Occasionally, during sweeps week, we are graced with the presence of a member of the Cardinal family. Usually it’s the female.

Female Cardinal perched in front of the Ferris Wheel bird feeder. (yellow)

Female Cardinal perched in front of the Ferris Wheel bird feeder. (Pardon the bad focus.)

So I’m looking out the back door for this illusive bird. I’m moving slowly and quietly because I don’t want to scare it away. Love asks, “What are you doing?”

“I’m looking for the bird that’s singing. It’s in the back yard, but I can’t find it.”

“It’s the Cardinal,” he says. “I can see it from here. It’s under the awning.”

It’s not that I hadn’t thought to look out the window, I had. I just didn’t want to risk frightening it away by adjusting the blinds.

Sure enough, there he was in all his scarlet glory, happily singing away. Love opened the blinds a little wider, carefully so as not to scare the bird away. The cardinal stopped momentarily to assess the situation. He looked at us, then down at the empty feeder, back at us, then began singing again. “He’s looking for seeds.” said Love. “He’s not singing. He’s complaining that it’s raining, he flew all this way expecting to get a bite to eat, but the diner is closed.”

Mr. Cardinal looking down upon us mere mortals from his rooftop TV antenna perch. His glare is reeking of judgement. ;p

Mr. Cardinal looking down upon us mere mortals from his rooftop TV antenna perch. His glare reeks of judgement. ;p

  • The above picture was taken last year. I was pleasantly surprised to see cardinals living among us in the city. He is one of the reasons we provide seeds for birds in the winter.
  • It’s interesting to note that we don’t get pigeons at our feeder. The sparrows chase them away. Sparrows may be small, but they’re pretty aggressive.