Icepack | Feb. 14-20

Hey, Philly, the coronavirus isn’t in Chinatown

Entrance to Chinatown in Philadelphia
Icepack notes that despite all this faults, shoutout goes to Philly mayor Jim Kenney for dining in Chinatown, in a effort to dispel concerns that the coronavirus might be present. | Image courtesy: Visit Philadelphia

There’s not a lot that makes me want to celebrate Mayor Jim Kenney, not his permissiveness toward crime and/or punishment, or his very real evasion of the homeless crisis in this city.

But give credit where credit’s due: Kenney leaped into the black hole of racism and bigotry that plagues Philadelphia’s Asian population, and ate in Chinatown to assuage the dining public’s fears of the coronavirus. 

Precious dining public – grow up. They see the wonder of salt, and find amazement in a donut, but can’t wrap their mind around where a virus originates.

Maybe the mayor is not so much of an imaginative diner (he ate at Ocean Harbor, same place Mayor John Street did in 2003 when the SARS epidemic freaked people out about heading to Chinatown), but at least he’s pushing the conversation in the right direction. 

Some are still hedging their bets, however: Shen Yun, the innovative Chinese dance company, sent out press releases about how its February tour will go on – Philadelphia, Feb. 13 through March 1 at the Merriam – with no risk to the public from the coronavirus that’s killed hundreds on the mainland. Shen Yun is an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to see it again. 

The caveat in that news release came in Shen Yun’s reminder that the troupe is based in New York, not China, and that its dancers and musicians have not been to China in eons (Shen Yun’s connection to the spiritual Falun Gong is a no-no on the mainland what with its cult-like status there), nor have they had any recent contact with people from China. You know, just in case, goes THAT message. 

“Maybe the mayor is not so much of an imaginative diner … but at least he’s pushing the conversation in the right direction.”

Restaurant closing

Without much warning, the cozily romantic, verdant M Restaurant and Bar at The Morris House Hotel is closing after 15 years, serving its last meals on Feb. 16. (Morris will remain open for biz, and booked private events for 2020 will be honored by Lynn Buono and Skip Schwarzman’s Feast Your Eyes Catering, the hotel’s new catering partner). 

This is a shame, as the bar area hosted truly cool, noir-ish, live intimate jazz gigs, the outside gardens were (are) gorgeous, and the minimalist M’s décor was usually matched by bold chefs and their cuisines, some of whom we were introduced to there, such as M’s starter exec chef, David Katz. Woe. Much woe.

Looks like Meek Mill thrives under drama, he’s got a lot right now but still crafting some of the sounds of his career. | Image: bobjim4726/Flickr

Meek’s music 

When Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill isn’t talking about prison reform or dissing Nicki Minaj’s brother amid alleged child rape accusations (and she accusing Meek of beating women), Mill is actually making some of the best work of his career. Just one week after dropping the earnestly elegiac “Letter to Nipsey” for the late, great Mr. Hussle, Meek released the motivational, poetic “Believe” with Justin Timberlake before the weekend (“Meek is at the top of his game right now,” stated JT in a press note. “The process of creating with him in the studio to help him put what he experienced to music was incredible”). 

What isn’t too widely reported is that Mill will appear as a dirt biker (WITHOUT GETTING ARRESTED FOR IT EITHER – ha) in director Angel Manuel Soto’s new movie, “Charm City Kings.” The film got a quiet debut at Sundance, is released to the public April 10, has a writing credit from Barry Jenkins (the co-writer and director of the Oscar-winning “Moonlight”) and features Meek as a character named Blax who is part of the Midnight Clique, a famed Baltimore dirt-biker gang.

‘Servant’ swap

Speaking of filming with Philly flavor, there is a rumor that during this, the upcoming second season of spooky, locally-based director/producer M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” being lensed around town for Apple TV+, that Shyamalan’s daughter Shivani will step behind the camera for an episode. Shyamalan has brought on a handful of big name internationals such as Julia Ducournau, Lisa Bruhlmann and Isa Bellaeklof for “Servant”’s second season, so the more the merrier.

Taylor’s move

Perhaps lost in the hubbub of all things Oscar and Academy Awards-related (and yay, “Parasite” despite my sadness over the locally-tinged “Irishman” not winning a thing), was the fact that Pennsylvania’s own Taylor Swift just moved her much-valued publishing dealings to the ubiquitous Universal Music Publishing Group with a new pact. 

Why is this a big deal? Because Universal Music Publishing is run by – Philadelphia Weekly readers should know this as I featured her in these pages last year – Cherry Hill native Jody Gerson, the Chairperson/CEO of UMPG. “We are honored to welcome Taylor Swift to UMPG,” said Gerson in a statement. “Using her power and voice to create a better world, Taylor’s honest and brave songwriting continues to be an inspiration to countless fans. We look forward to further amplifying Taylor’s voice and songs across the globe.”

Barcade has plans to put a new location in a once-famous downtown location for arcade gamers. | Image provided

Another Barcade

Sure, it’s exciting that Fishtown’s Barcade is doing a second location in Center City at 1210 Chestnut next to Porta. But, if you’re older than your typical Philly millennial, you’ll recall that Chestnut Street, between 15th and 18th streets, was once home to several arcade game locations that grew fabulously more dingy as time went on. 

And before you say, “well, they didn’t have a bar?” I will counter with the fact that EVERYONE WAS DRINKING there while playing PacMan and pinball – lots of Sloe gin and Mad Dog, but they were drinking. Now, if Chestnut Street would only erect a new Zounds – the gilded house of quadraphonic sound – that block would truly be cooking.

  • 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.