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Cradle of liberty?

How about freedom from fear and crime?

Photo by Ethan Wilkinson on Unsplash

The hate starts from the head. The rotted wrong begins with the root. I’m starting Icepack this week with existential dilemmas and grave gravity (and right before Independence Day, yet; Welcome America my ass) because, over the weekend, Sleepy Joe Biden’s approval ratings, as per the 2021 YouGov poll, began the quick slip from top dog to bottom feeder as everyone – not just the smartest ones – among Democrats and Republicans woke up and suddenly realized that violent crime is really bad; that legislative over-talking and merely trying to get rid of guns means absolutely nothing to the criminally inclined who aren’t really paying too much heed to laws or orders in the first place. Are you listening, Kenney, Outlaw and Krasner? 

More people are finally freaked out than previously when it comes to looking at their Citizen apps and seeing savagery all around them on a minute-by-minute basis – and they don’t want government to come up with, to paraphrase Krasner’s words, imaginative ways to regulate or prosecute crime. Any crime. 

We do love Biden and his local ties and even his druggy son seems fun at times, but we’re really looking forward to our President, my President, in the words of Joe Strummer, working on the clampdown. And if Philly really wants to celebrate its cradle of liberty origins, and its true right to freedom for all, that ALSO means freedom from fear and crime. Any crime. Now, let’s see those fireworks.

Plastic bag law

Speaking of a crime of another rhyme, Philadelphia’s ban on plastic bags begins this week. Ugh. I have a dog so I’m all about plastic bags and have been stockpiling them to the point of having a room in my home solely dedicated to neatly folded, and-or rolled, bags by the score. The strict and actual enforcement of such (because it is Philly, where NO LAW IS ENFORCED), though it goes into effect July 1, won’t happen for nearly another year. That said, imagine a place where you are hard-balled illegal on plastic bag laws, but are pretty pretty cool to shoplift or stab somebody. 

Local WOW wings

WOW isn’t just an expression of exaggeration. In New Orleans, it means their beloved World of Wings chicken jawn. As of this summer, as a ghost kitchen operating out of Jose Garces’ The Olde Bar in the OC, Garces, Ideation Hospitality and Ballard Brands make an ideal power trio serving of menu of fresh (never frozen) wings, tenders and classic American snacks showcasing WOW’s Southern signature sauces and made-from-scratch spice rubs. Plus, the Garces culinary team has their own idea of dipping sauces and snacks like Vermont White Cheddar Mac and Cheese, and loaded Shanghai tater tots. Delivery begins July 5.

Special edition album 

Anyone for Philly who bought raunchy rap mistress Doja Cat’s new album, Planet Her, when it dropped fresh on June 24 needs to cough up even more ducats for its special edition released on Sunday. Our own Eve, the First Queen of the Ruff Ryders crew and recent Verzuz competitor, has a prominent feature on the new edition of Doja’s deluxe elpee with “Tonight.”

Hotel happenings

What the what? Our city’s first micro hotel, Pod Philly, is longer the teeny tiny indie underdog respite it once was, as now they’re part of the Hilton Hotel family, and a new name, Motto. The Defined Hospitality folk from Pizzeria Beddia and Suraya bait-and-switched hotel ops in May, without going too, too corporate, as Motto manages to keeps its three Mexican-themed eateries intact, El Café, Condesa and my high rooftop fave El Techo.

Basketball moves

Here’s a fun weird Hollywood-on-the-Schuylkill fact I didn’t know until it was too late: the 76ers Joel Embiid just left CAA representation in its sports agency division. Was he looking for gigs as a fumbler or roles where he could avoid team interactivity? Anyway, we’re hearing that Embiid is seeking to create his own self-marketing team. Which is OK, but what’s the pitch? And could Sixers assistant coach Sam Cassell be looking for his own CAA deal now that he is under heavy consideration for the high-profile Wizards head coach position – which would make big sense as he was coaching for the Washington ballers before he came to Philly? 

The Geator’s birthday

After having regaled the world with the nearly-lost tales of yon teens whose love letters he missed in 1962 while streaming from WCAM-AM (last weekend’s The Lost Dedications with Ben Vaughn at WXPN, hear it at soundcloud.com), The Geator with the Heater, Jerry Blavat, gets ready to celebrate his 81st birthday with us mere mortals come July 3 at his Jersey shore nightclub, Memories in Margate, this long holiday weekend. 

Restaurant rumblings

With Saturday’s The Lawn at Loveluck Pop-up Beer Garden at Love Park from Chef Marcie Turney and Valerie Safran a success (and running through October), how far off could their re-do of the vintage space age Welcome Center, Loveluck, be? The Safran Turney Hospitality Group has held the note on the oblong flying saucer-like 200-seater from the Fairmount Park Conservancy since 2019 with the goal of going where no intergalactic culinary vessel has gone before, or with gravy. Here’s hoping that the luck of Loveluck means an autumn opening. 

Image | Courtesy of Traci Connaughton

Masked Philly: Traci Connaughton 

In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to, beyond the pale, during C-19 – from lockdown to the current reopening, present-day unmasking and worrying about Delta variants – I reached out this week to Traci Connaughton. In her guise as executive director of Without A Cue Productions (and the holder of one of the more sinister corporate mottos in “We Kill. You Laugh”), Connaughton runs a game on the beloved live, interactive “mystery theater” genre; mostly in the New Hope/Bucks County area and Cape May/the Jersey Shore, but, as of 2021, in Philly propah with a handful of diverse options for dependent death drama and communal crime comedy found at withoutacue.com.

The big move to Philly for Without A Cue was scheduled to happen for 2020, until – shots heard – COVID hit. “I developed a ton of new tech skills – first to transition my business from live performance to online, and later to homeschool my daughters,” said Connaughton. Eventually, though, we needed to come out again, and that’s when the ocean called and we packed up the family to spend the month in Cape May while I worked on developing and launching a walking tour performance series in order to get our actors back in front of an audience. I’m pretty sure the move saved my sanity, mainly because I stopped stressing over how much flour I had on hand when I also learned to bake bread. Now THAT was dangerous.”

Connaughton seemed more concerned about the mask for her daughters than for herself, but also went for a sense of fashion consciousness in her selection with her favorite mask being part of a set mom bought for her daughter over the summer. “This was the only kind I could find that fit her, and they only came in summer prints:  flamingoes, flip flops, and sunglasses,” says the Without a Cue CEO  Since she was headed back to school in person in the fall, I bought her about 20 of them to get through the whole year. I snagged this one from her stack so we could match when we went out, just like we match our flip flops at the beach. Since these are the only ones that fit her, she was wearing flamingo masks in the dead of winter. It was a nice reminder that summer was bound to come again.”

Along with waiting until the masks drop completely so to get a massage (“I know I can do that now, but I imagine a mask-free experience will be much more pleasant”), Connaughton is gearing up for her first season back to live performances – in Philly, in Peddler’s Village (a Cocktail Murder Mystery Show through Aug. 28) and a summer season in Cape May, a choose your own ending show in which the audience votes as to what the actors will do on stage in real time during the performance. “The show is called “And Then They Were Dead,” an Agatha Christie parody,” says Connaughton. “Because Without a Cue was mostly unable to perform its normal fare for an entire year, my team had the opportunity to pursue some new projects, and we are super excited to open our first stage shows again. I’m also very excited to have the first real vacation I’ve had in two years, once all of my shows are up and running.”

@ADAMOROSI

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  • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

    A.D. Amorosi is a Philadelphia-based journalist who, along with Philadelphia Weekly, writes for numerous local, national and international publications including Variety and the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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