We are kicking off a new quiz on Tuesday night, as I’ll be hosting quizzo at the new Dock Street South on 2112 Washington Avenue! Really excited about the venue. If you haven’t been there yet, it’s awesome. We’ll have drink specials, prizes, and Grand Opening Fun on Tuesday at 8 pm. Hope to see ya there!
Not as much locally to talk about this week, as I spent a long weekend in Richmond, but still some fun stuff to talk about:
What I’m Watching: Just watched Dolemite Is My Name on Netflix, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. Highly recommend. Love movies about people who aren’t the most talented or most gifted, but simply the most determined, and if there was any one word that described Rudy Ray Moore, it was “determined”. Reminded me of another Rudy. And the acting is terrific. Eddie Murphy is at his best, and Wesley Snipes is just terrific.
What I Learned This Week: That Ballad of a Thin Man by Bob Dylan was one of the main theme songs of the Black Panthers. From an article on Red Bull Music Academy: The song’s lyrics, which describe a man who enjoys watching circus geek shows, struck a chord with (Huey P.) Newton. He saw the titular character, Mr. Jones, as an upper class white man who indulged in exploring the black ghetto on Sunday afternoons to check out the prostitutes and inhabitants of the decaying community. The fictional Mr. Jones was a voyeur of sorts, and got off on watching what Newton called a freak show...According to Newton, the circus freaks mentioned in the song, including the sword swallower and the one-eye midget, represent the disadvantaged ghetto residents who aren’t interested in serving as entertainment for Mr. Jones. They instead demand payment for a trick or some food or drink. Otherwise, they’d like Mr. Jones to shove off and go home.
What I’m Reading: Great 1985 Esquire piece on Dr J. Interesting dude, and a great article. Can’t imagine too many elite athletes today discussing the tenets of religion with a reporter.
But it wasn’t until our discussion in his office, during a laborious spiel of mine concerning the duty of the seeker to examine the varieties of religious experience, that Julius began to get pissed.
“I just can’t agree,” he said, “because even if you do manage to synthesize all these systems, what good is it going to do you? Even if you’re the smartest man on earth, even if you’re Albert Einstein, you’ll still only have a thimbleful of all the knowledge in the world. Where does that lead you? Digging and grinding on this unbelievable quest? Is there happiness in that? So it comes down to making concessions … down to knowing you’re not the wisest or the smartest, not the ultimate of anything, but knowing too that you have this powerful need to grasp something meaningful, something purposeful … you want a way, a way that makes sense for you, that you can embrace.”
The guy who wrote it, Marc Jacobson, would 15 years later do a piece on Franck Lucas that would be the inspiration for American Gangster. Also worth a read.
Where I’m eating and drinking:Xiandu Thai. I’ve really come to love this place over the past few months. My move is to get their for pickup before 7, have a Happy Hour cocktail while I wait for my takeout, and then come home a conquering hero with terrific Thai food. Get the lychee martini! This past time I got the the drunken noodles and the pineapple fried rice, but no matter what I get there it’s great. It’s my favorite Thai place in Philly.
Goofy Little Project I’m Working On: I started this awhile back, took a long break, and just started back on it. I’m a huge fan of the book Travels in Philadelphia by Christopher Morley (you can read the entire book online, though I’d suggest you get a physical copy if you really like it.) I decided awhile back to start an instagram page where I went back to places he wrote about in the late 1910s for the Philadelphia Evening Ledger and take pictures of them 100 years later. Kind of fun to see what’s changed and what’s the same after this much time.
After 16 years, we’re going out with a bang at O’Neals. Barring any popular demand to bring it back, we all think it’s been a great run but time to move on. $3.50 Mexican beers, lots of giveaways, and to celebrate 40 years in business, $4 40s. And it’s the start of Halloween Spooktacular week. Make it happen tonight!
What I’m listening to: Ok so let’s get the nepotism out of the way; the artist known as Reef the Lost Cauze is one of my best friends in Philly. He’s the kind of guy that everyone who knows him considers one of their best friends. He’s just got that kind of energy where to know the guy is to love him. But before I knew him as a friend, I knew his music, and I truly thought him to be right up there with Black Thought among Philly MCs. He still occupies that rare air, and his latest album was his masterpiece. The Majestic is an album of heartbreak, anguish, but most of all, love. Check out this song about his second born son that he performed on XPN. He also just released a new video this week, and it’s another tour de force about family. It’s a song about his grandparents, and it pulls you in right off the bat with the blues guitar riff and the first few lines:
Well the old man is dead, his wife is in a home And just like that my childhood is gone Forever never seems that long until you're grown Never thought you'd pass away I assumed you were made of stone
It’s a beautiful paean to two of the most important people in his life, and will have you thinking about your grandparents as well. It’ll also have you interested in his album. You should listen to it, then buy it. Support local artists, but even moreso, support a classic album.
What else you should be listening to: You should be listening to the latest edition of the Philly Blunt, this one with legendary Philly mob writer George Anastasia. If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the Philly Mob, this is an excellent opportunity. He tells all and holds back nothing, talking about Skinny Joey, Frank Bruno, and why the mob isn’t as powerful as it was 40 years ago. If you enjoy the interview, do us a solid and leave us a 5-star rating on itunes. And remember: “vice is commerce”.
Where I’m eating: The Nan Zhou Hand Drawn Noodle House in Chinatown is a damn gem. Had the chicken stir fry this time and it was out of this world. Had soup the last time I was there and it was great as well. Can’t recommend this spot enough.
Where I’m getting coffee/tea: Stumbled across Bloomsday this past week while walking through Headhouse Square, and wow! What a space! It’s a wine bar as well, but I was there in the afternoon and I haven’t quite reached the point of drinking wine at 2 pm on a random Wednesday. So I got a Macha Latte (because I’m a fancy boy) and enjoyed the hell out of the scenery. Really cool space. Can’t wait to go back for wine.
Where I’m Getting a Beer: Holy shit, have you guys been to the Craft Hall yet? You probably have, because judging by the crowd there on a rainy Sunday I was the only one who didn’t know about it. It. Is. Awesome. Packed on a Sunday afternoon, and extremely kid friendly, it has a playground and on Sunday had pumpkin carving. Could have killed a whole day there if I didn’t have a damn family. Just kidding! My wife and kid loved it too, and we had to pull ourselves away. It’s in the old Yards Brewery space right next to Sugarhouse.
What I’m watching: In preparation for our interview with George Anastasia for the Philly Blunt this week, I watched this National Geographic special on the Philly Mob (which features Anastasia quite a bit). It’s a fun watch, and gives you a good background on the past 50 years of the Philly mob. Interview drops on Monday and it’s a good one.
Whose artwork I’m appreciating: Jenna, better known as @ifacepaint215. We took Avery to his friend Gabe’s birthday party last weekend. While the other kids were asking the facepainter to look like tigers and dragons, Avery said, “Make me look like a haunted house with a graveyard outside and also could we have a witch on a broom and a few ghosts escaping from the haunted house and a phantom walking in the graveyard?” Now this request came after she’d been facepainting all afternoon. But instead of doing what I would have done, which is packing everything up and quitting facepainting for good, she not only did everything he asked for but did an awesome job of it. If you need a facepainter, she’s your woman.
Where I’m grabbing a drink: Finally made it to Friday Saturday Sunday last weekend. Beautiful room, terrific drinks. How terrific? My wife got the Eggplant spritz. I hate eggplant and the damn drink was still delicious.
I got the Assassin’s Handbook, since it didn’t sound like anything I’ve ever had (what in the hell is cognac, really?). It was spicy (habanero!) and strong and tasted great on a cool Fall night. The space is beautiful, made me a feel a bit like I was in the bar in the Shining (that’s a compliment!). It’s a really fun place to grab a drink, and I’ve heard the food is great too.
Where I’m eating: Few places in the city where I love to eat more than Blue Corn in the Italian Market. Right next door to one of my favorite Italian places, Villa di Roma. Two first class restaurants, with no frills and no bells and whistles, just absolutely great food and drink. It’s a reminder of what a huge positive immigration has been for Philadelphia, and the importance of family in the two cultures that currently dominate the Italian Market: 15 family members work at Blue Corn, while Pip Deluca and his 5 siblings work at Villa Di Roma. You get that family feel when you walk into both. Really might be my favorite side by side restaurant combo in the city.
Got the Blue Tacos this week, and they were terrific. Can’t recommend this place enough. For what it’s worth neither can Craig Laban.
Until next week, if you enjoyed it, click like below. Be sure to follow me on Instagram, twitter, and facebook. And while you’re at it, follow the Philly Blunt on IG as well. We’re doing some incredible interviews on the show.
“Shut the f*ck up,” are the first words out of my mouth most mornings. I know that makes me sound crude and uncivilized, but when an animal the size of a breadbox is screaming in your face at 6:15 am, a time when you’d saw off your right arm with child-proof scissors for another hour of sleep, I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Sometimes I’ll grab her and toss her off my bed, which is basically a couch from a nice neighborhood.* Other times I’ll just succumb to my inevitable fate.
“MEOW!” she’ll scream from the floor.
“Shut…” this time placing the emphasis on the blue word in the sentence, “the….F*CK…up.” It has no effect.
“Meow!” Having been tossed from the trundle bed, she exacts her revenge in the hallway, knowing that my wife can now hear the meows from the other room, and if SHE has to get up an hour early on a work morning to feed the damn cat, I’LL be the bad guy.
“Meow!” A decibel higher. So I lay, one eye open, a battle raging in my mind over which is worse, losing an hour of beloved sleep or having my wife mad at me because she had to get up early. My decision is obvious, and I begin the slow slog down the stairs.
In October of 2001, my girlfriend Colby, my buddy from Hawaii Duff, and I had decided on somewhat of a lark to move to Philadelphia with essentially no money in the bank, and after a couple of weeks grew tired of sitting on camping chairs.
I lived on 6th Street, just south of South Street, in the old Levi’s Hot Dog building. It wasn’t far from where much fancier people put decent furniture out on the sidewalks on Mondays. One day, when walking home from another disastrous lunch shift at Sfizzio’s (where Zahav is now…that’s a whole other story), I came across a small sectional on the curb, and as I had a friend from work with me, decided to take it to the apartment. Initially, the small sofa was the height of luxury for guys who had spend the first two weeks in Philly in camping chairs. But it held a dark secret: it was inhabited by mice, and within a few days they had begun to attack the kitchen. It was time for a cat.
Colby and I went to the Morris Animal Refuge just before Halloween with the intent of taking home a kitten, but we saw two who were brother and sister and didn’t have the heart to tear them apart from each other. So we took home two kittens, who we named Popiko (cat in Hawaiian, we shortened it to Popo) and Malia (after a mischievous dolphin that I loved when I worked at Dolphin Quest in Hawaii) in the hopes that they would alleviate the mouse problem.
Popo was the early star, active and excitable the way a kitten should be, never catching mice but letting his presence be known. Malia, on the other hand, spent most her time chasing her own tail and staring at candles. So it came as a shock when one night Malia hopped up on our “coffee table” (technically a piece of wood placed on top of milk crates) with a mouse in her mouth. She was hailed as a conquering heroine, and the pride she found that night has carried her through to this day.
Colby and I broke up a year later, and for some godforsaken reason I demanded to keep the damn cats when I moved in with a work friend at 19th and Bainbridge in early 2003. One night that spring, a door in the back was left open, and Malia disappeared. Frantically, I made up posters and hung them on telephone poles. I then walked into the back alley calling her name.
“Malia! Malia!” Finally I heard a meow, loud but coming from a distance. I looked over walls, behind alleyway detritus, until finally I decided to look up. Stunned, I saw her perched atop the second story roof of a nearby house. How she got up there will always be one of life’s great mysteries. In the meantime, I had to figure out how to get her down. I went home, grabbed a ladder, and tied a shoestring to it. I climbed the ladder to the top of a back porch, then MacGuyver-style lifted the ladder up by the string. I climbed it again, and leaning tenuously (as one does atop a ladder on a flimsy deck porch) I reached for her. I was hoping to expedite the process, knowing that at any second a neighbor could be dialing the police in reference to a man on a ladder on top of a nearby porch deck. Playfully she avoided my reach and went to rub up against a nearby chimney.
“You little bitch,” I muttered under my breath to no-one in particular. “Malia, come here.” She meowed, rubbed up against the chimney one more time, then pranced over my way. I grabbed her, dropped the ladder down one floor by the shoestring, and together we descended.
The past 18 years have gone whirring by, and she’s been there for just about all of it: multiple roommates, girlfriends, and other pets moving in and out. She has taken it all in stride. Like most cats if there’s food in the bowl come morning and again in the afternoon, the rest takes care of itself. After six years apart, Colby returned to Philly and we got back together, then got married. Malia could have cared less, though it did give her one more human to draw heat from when the weather turned cold. Once we had a kid, there were two.
Let’s not get overly romantic here: once you have a dog, a wife, and a kid, the cat takes a backseat, and becomes more of a chore than a close companion. But she went missing again in October of 2015, and I found myself once again desperately searching the back alleys of the neighborhood for her, posting flyers on telephone poles again, looking under nearby parked cars. Don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone, I suppose. After a couple of weeks of fruitless searching, my buddy Vaughn came by to help me hit up a few alleys. After an hour or so, we called it quits.
“You put up signs, you’ve spent days searching through alleys for her, you’ve done everything you can do,” he said. “Now it’s for the universe to decide.”
I would continue to walk to the wall in our back yard, call out her name, and shake the cat food, but once we past the month milestone it seemed to be little more than a pitiful habit. Until, one night, I saw something move down the alley.
“Malia!” I cried. She ignored my call and kept scurrying towards the gate at the end of the alley that emptied onto Pemberton, slid through the grates, and ran across the street.
The next night, I walked back there again. I was about 75% sure I had seen Malia the night before, but couldn’t be certain. I peered into the alley again. There she was. “Malia! It’s me! Come here!” She looked up, saw me, and sauntered back the other way.
“You little bitch,” I muttered under my breath to no-one in particular. At this point I was just annoyed. “Well she’s had her chance to come back. She knows where we are.” I stomped back into the house.
It was late October, and the next night the temperature dropped drastically. Sure enough, Malia came prancing back into the yard. The queen, after a month abroad, was ready to be pampered, fed, cleaned up after, and most importantly kept warm by her people.
Her brother died a few months ago, at age 17. He was, for about the past decade leading up to his death, an old man: feeble, sickly, and cranky. He existed to eat and ate to exist and the rest of it was bollocks. Malia is quite different. She has always enjoyed it when company comes over. She loves being rubbed on the head and adored and worshipped like the goddess she undoubtedly is in her own mind. A few months ago she decided she was sick of cat food, and simply stopped eating. She was essentially on a hunger strike, and willing to die for the cause. And so we started buying tuna fish, which she enjoyed for the next month, until she decided she was ready for cat food again.
Is there a moral here? Have I learned anything over the past 18 years, other than “Maybe shoulda gotten a dog”? I don’t know. Does there need to be? Isn’t that kind of the point of cats, that there is no point, they just confound you by hopping in front of the coffee pot, fridge, or sink, wherever it is that you’re trying to get to? That their existence is driven not by love or affection but by food and body heat, and that we spend thousands and thousands of dollars over the years to give them both? There’s probably some sort of moral about unconditional love buried in here somewhere, but my sleep deprivation has left me incapable of articulating it. I’ll just leave it to the universe to decide.
*My wife and kid sleep in the “good” bed, as he has taken over my role as “preferred cuddler” in this house, and the cat and I sleep on what I only found out three weeks ago was called a trundle bed.
What I’m reading: Articles about infamous Philly Daily News columnist Pete Dexter, who now is better known for writing the novel Paris Trout and the screenplay for Mulholland Drive. This profile of him in Philly Mag in 1979 is terrific, though his life would get even more interesting two years later, when he and Tex Cobb got beat up together in Gray’s Ferry. He would quit writing for the News after that and started writing novels.
What I’m watching: my son is really into Halloween. Definitely his favorite holiday, and has been ever since he was two. Dunno what it is, but he loves mystery and horror. It started with Little Red Car (don’t watch this link unless you want a terrible song stuck in your head for, uh, roughly forever). He soon moved onto Scooby Doo, which is pretty fun to watch. But I wanted to see if he was ready to step up his horror game, so I recently showed him this cartoon of the Fall of the House of Usher. It’s read by Christopher Lee and it’s a really fun Halloween watch, whether you’re 5 or 50. He digs it, and the other night we watched a short bio of Poe. I’m really excited for him to become a Poe fan.
What I’m listening to: Sometimes I check in to see who is coming out of Camden musically. If ever there’s any hope that something good can come out of the most brutal of circumstances, it comes from forgotten towns like Camden. One of the guys I like the most right now is a young dude named Mir Fontane. As I’ve expressed on the past two editions of the Friday Five, I’m a huge fan of people who can paint a picture, and this young guy does it incredibly well. Especially powerful is a song of his that simply titled “Camden.” The cast of characters he describes in the first verse is nothing short of Dickensian:
RaVicky gettin money Cause he got a little set now Shae lost her baby So she back smokin that wet now Pooh got booked I heard he workin with the feds now Til Tony caught him slippin’ Shoulda never turned his head round (BANG!) Keisha still fuck around with Crackhead James Heard he sold a flatscreen So he could buy more caine. And Jermaine sit on the block Snd it’s a shame cause he smart His momma crying every day And say he breaking her heart The whole hood shed tears When they heard Diggs got killed It’s been two whole years And no bids got dealt A n***a that I called my homie Fucked around and changed on me Pulled the heat from off his hip And tried to make it rain on me This what y’all call hell But this what I call home And I’m gonna grind until I get it And once I get it I’m gone The white folks want the drugs, So they come and spend their bucks here Til they ain’t got no bus fare, Now them n***as stuck here
New Philly Blunt podcast dropped this week: An interview with Ange Branca of Sate Kampar. She grew up in Malaysia, but moved to Philly in her early 20s. After working in the financial sector, she got bored and decided to open her own restaurant, cooking Malaysian food unlike anywhere else in the city. A great listen if you want to hear how Philly looks to someone who not only didn’t grow up here, but grew up half a world away. You can check out Sate Kampar here on IG (and go by there and try the Rendang Daging.)
Place I’m checking out: The last one is kind of expensive but yet at the same point totally worth it. We love the fall around here: as I stated earlier my son loves the Halloween season especially, but my wife has always loved pumpkins, fall leaves, the whole thing. So on Sunday we headed to Shady Brook Farm in Yardley. It was $18 each just to enter (!) but once inside it was a great place to take a 5 year old. There was a hayride to pick apples and pumpkins, a big playground, speed pitch (I got up to 60 mph, which I was fairly happy with), inflatable castles. And for adults, they also have an outdoor bar serving pumpkin beer and so forth. We went during the Eagles game (they were playing the pathetic Jets, so I thought it would be a good one to miss) which was a strong move. I’m sure it’s much busier when the Birds aren’t on. There is also a corn maze but I have a terrible sense of direction and I hated it. At the end of the day it’s too expensive but I’m sure insurance there is a bear and when you and your family have a great day it’s hard to put a pricetag on it.
Until next week, be sure to follow me (and argue with me!) on twitter. And if you’re a sports fan, be sure to follow Shibe Sports on IG. Just did a photo shoot last weekend and gonna be posting some great photos over the next few weeks. Finally, if you enjoyed the Friday 5, be sure to click like below. Have a great weekend!
Hollywood shill JGT is serving as a hype man for Gemini Man this week, as two of this week’s rounds will be VERY LOOSELY based on the film…no questions on the film itself, since it hasn’t been released yet. But some questions loosely inspired by it. Hey, come on, Will Smith’s a local dude! I can sell out for Big Willie! Quiz starts tonight at O’Neals at 8 pm. See ya this week!
Hey gang, a very rare two quiz week, as I’ll be hosting a Halloween quiz at the Comcast Center tonight, but a regular quiz for the rest of the week. So you’ve got a shot to play twice this week. Here’s this week’s schedule:
Here’s 5 things I’m reading/listening to/watching this week.
I randomly stumbled across this buzzfeed article from 2013 this week, and HOLY SHIT is it an amazing read. It’s about how a sweet young kid became a medic during the War in Iraq and suffered severe PTSD, came home, and started robbing banks. It’s heartbreaking, and just brilliantly written. It’s a grim reminder of what a complete catastrophe the War in Iraq has been for everyone involved (except, of course, the people who made money on it).
Paper bag of lucha libre inexplicably by the door at Dirty Frank’s.
After last weeks podcast interview (with Ange Branca, co-owner of Sate Kampar, the critically acclaimed Malaysian restaurant on Passyunk), we headed down 13th street with Fergie to Dirty Frank’s. Fun crowd, and a perfect bar. Most places are aiming for the level of authenticity that Frank’s has. The beauty of Frank’s is that it’s not aiming for anything except to be what it is. Here’s a great piece that Drew Lazor did about Frank’s for Vice a few years ago. One of my favorite places in Philly to grab a drink.
Watched the 3-part Bill Gates doc on Netflix this past weekend. It’s really terrific. It was somewhat pro-Bill, but not a fluff piece by any means. He’s a really complex guy, and he’s a supreme intellect, and this doc shows both. I’ll say this: in terms of the biggest computer pioneers of our time, I think Bill Gates has a sincere desire to leave the world better than he found it. I don’t feel the same way about Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg.
I’m a big fan of lyricism, singers who can paint a picture with words, and people who tell the stories of the down and out, so needless to say my favorite genres are hip-hop and outlaw country. Last week I talked about Ka, this week I wanna shout out one of my favorite outlaw country singers, Guy Clarke. Just stumbled across him a couple of years and haven’t stopped listening since. A few of his songs that I especially love are Dublin Blues and Stuff That Works, the latter a song which reminds me a lot of one of my grandads. And just absolutely love the following verse:
I’ve got a good friend who’s seen me at my worst
He can’t tell if I’m a blessing or a curse
But he always shows up when the chips are down
That’s the kind of stuff I like to be around.
Says pretty much everything you need to know about friendship in just four lines.
This last one is just me showing off: on Thursday night I got to go to the Hershey Hotel to host an event. What a cool place! My wife and I had gone about ten years ago and had a chocolate martini at the bar, and I was excited to go back for the event. The highlights of the place are the amazing atrium (above, which incredibly was originally the parking garage), the Hershey Gardens (just past the entrance to the hotel, an awesome garden and butterfly exhibit), and the Iberian Lounge, the hotel bar that opened in 1934 and basically hasn’t changed a thing in the 85 years since. There’s a kind of cool secret at the Lounge…the road on the painting behind the bar….follows you as you walk from one side of the bar to the other. It’s an amazing optical illusion. If you have a chance, step inside for a drink and check out not only the bar but the atrium, both of which are open to the public even if you’re not staying there. Extremely cool.
Alright, that about does it for this week. Until next week, be sure to follow me on twitter, instagram, and facebook. And be sure to shoot me a line if you wanna liven up your work event, wedding rehearsal dinner, or holiday party.
Oh-ho-ho my goodness. Looks like you've reached the home of Philadelphia's only true man of leisure, Johnny Goodtimes. On this site you'll find the results of my weekly quizzoes, I'll show you some of the strangest and most interesting spots on the web, and you can read my rants and praise for this city, the people in it, and the sports teams that play here