Whom do you dislike more in this scenario?
Mayor Kenney for waiting to offer Philly restaurants up to the Green zone until Sept. 8 to avoid the Labor Day rush (if you’re only letting 25 percent of a room to be filled with four-at-a-time tables, what would the difference be a week earlier?) Or Health Commish Thomas Farley for playing with our heads and only permitting 25 people – tops – into live music venues and movie theaters at a shot, without food or drink?
And by the way, what’s with the bowling? They’re opening bowling alleys and have talked about opening bowling alleys for awhile as if bowling is the key to unlocking some marvelous bizarre mystery fresh out of Lovecraft Country. Who is the bowler in this administration, how’s their address and what is their highest score?
Gentrify all you want. A downtown without a 24-hour diner is a snore. Even if you haven’t been there for years, knowing one remains open for gelatinous bright yellow pie, flapjacks and liver-and-onions at 2am in Center City is crucial. I’m talking about the close of Midtown III at 18th and Ranstead, the Tafuri family all-day, all-night restaurant and cocktail lounge on the corner. Only 2017’s closing of Little Pete’s on 17th Street rivals the sadness.
On the digital stage
Temple U’s School of Theater, Film and Media Arts is getting into the digital staging game this weekend with the online-only Aug. 28 and 29 Temple Theaters Digital Presents: The Country Wife. The weary Willam Wycherley classic is performed now in a new adaptation by Rachel Atkins, and you can check it as a Facebook event here https://www.facebook.com/events/3034566943322163
The Stable about to pop
While we’re near Temple at North Broad Street, developer Daniel Greenberg’s Clementine’s Stable Café with Chef Leo Forneas (ex of Sampan) did a soft opening for its bricked-up Brasserie and All-Day Café the other day. The Stable looks about to pop, full-time.
REGO’s new single
Philly electro R&B singer-songwriter REGO just released a single, “Killing My Friends,” that not only speaks to death and Black Lives Matter protests – its Bandcamp proceeds go to the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund, in support of BLM. Cost? $1. https://regothereshego.bandcamp.com/track/killing-my-friends
New digs for store
If you’re looking to shop Career Wardrobe Philly after this Saturday, don’t. CWP’s last day of shopping or dropping off clothes at 18th and Spring Garden for those who need to look sharp for jobs and interviews is Aug. 29. After that, CWP moves into new digs at 413 N. 4th St.
Lil Uzi Vert gig
You say you’re missing Philly’s Lil Uzi Vert during this pandemic’s live dry spell? Vert is doing a virtual performance Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. through Live Nation for $15 – his first move since dropping Eternal Atake and LUV vs. The World 2 earlier in 2020. While the initial word is that he will go live, without an audience at a-then-unnamed “historic concert venue,” we’re betting The Met Philly as that housed his last live shows.
Masked Philly: LaNeshe Miller-White
In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities what they’ve been up to beyond the pale during C-19, I reached out to actor-teacher LaNeshe Miller-White, the founder of West Philly’s Theatre in the X, and the recently appointed executive director of Theatre Philadelphia.
Recently visible online via Theatre in the X’s Juneteenth virtual tour with Iron Age Theater (as Fanny Lou Hamer), for Iron Age’s Declaration of In(ter) Dependence series (a recitation of Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America“) and a role in the chorus for X’s virtual reading of Viv is for Vengeance, Miller-White has spent her time away from the stages of Philly playing games and spending time with her family.
“Does playing Animal Crossing count? Because I have spent a plethora of hours on my family’s virtual island with our virtual characters. Decorating our island and my virtual house gave me a level of control that didn’t exist with all the uncertainties of early pandemic life. I’ve also enjoyed visiting my real life friend’s islands, one of the only ways we could actually “hang out” when this all first started. I haven’t allowed myself to get so engulfed in a video game in a long time. I truly believe Animal Crossing was a saving grace for my mental health early on.”
As far as the masks go, she and her fam adopted mask-wearing very early on in the pandemic. “It feels like one of the easiest and controllable things we can do to be safe,” said Miller White. “Before masks were mandatory, I always felt safer and less anxious if I was wearing a mask to the grocery store or the post office. At this point, they’ve also started to go beyond functional into fashion.”
Miller-White believes that it is going to be a long time before we are maskless again. “And actually, I hope masking becomes a normal part of cold and flu season in the United States. When they can come off and we can be close to each other again, I look forward to the intimacy of whispers and long tight hugs coming back.”
She’ll also busy herself with an online portrayal of Hattie Cantry for Theatre in the X around Labor Day and the new duties of ED of Theatre Philadelphia. “I can advocate for the needs of people and companies that haven’t felt included,” she said of underrepresented Black companies, BIPOC companies, and beyond.
From restaurant to grocery
Not sure how I feel about this yet: The Calmels, Charlotte and Pierre, are closing their deeply authentic French restaurant, Bibou, at S. 8th St. in August, and will re-open in September as a French boutique grocery – an “Epicerie fine – charcuterie – traiteur.” Boudins, quenelles, pate en croute … BN, chipsters, Fleur de sel, tapenade et Malabar” – said the fam via email, while closing an 11-year chapter of fine dining.
I do know how I feel about this. South Street’s 16-year-old Pumpkin BYOB, run by Hillary Bor and chef-husband Ian Moroney, has crafted C-19’s most original culinary treats, something they’ve long done anyway. Their takeout menu was innovative, hearty and nice-priced. They just started outdoor dining. I’m sure they would have made their 50-to-60-seat room, even with the 25 percent limitation in September.
Then they got this word from their landlord (something Union Transfer co-owner Sean Agnew says he fears in my cover story this week) shared with us via email: the landlord wants to “raise our already inflated rent. Our lease ended 4 months ago… and he postponed the signing of the new lease because of the pandemic. Yesterday, he said that not only was the rent going to increase the rent, but we would owe him the increase from the last 4 months.”
Bor goes on to say that she and her husband improved the landlord’s property greatly over the past 16 years (“plumbing, electrical, everything in-between”), care deeply about the community and neighborhood as they live one block from Pumpkin, and that the same landlord has two vacant, renovated apartments above the restaurant that he doesn’t rent. Bor is “frustrated, sad and scared.” Who can blame her? If you’re a landlord looking to drain great tenants dry, now is not the time. Never is there a good time, but especially not now.
I don’t usually reveal much of my personal life in this column. Not anymore. But, if I was looking for a reason to break that rule – as far as celebrations go – being married to Reese “Glamorosi” Amorosi for 20 years is that occasion. This coming Monday marks that date, and the garden-to-table cooking instructor and I couldn’t be happier, prouder or more in love.