When I first started this column, I was going to call it “Rant.”
The word is bold, simple, active. It described the wild and impassioned manner – and subject matter – I wanted to court and spark. “Rant’ had heft, force – a sniper’s direct hit rather than a machine gun’s spray.
I changed my mind as “rant” also meant “bellowing” and “spouting off” often without rhyme or reason. And I’m also rhyming.
I bring this all up because, since Icepack’s return in PW, I’ve used this top space for things on my mind beyond gossip, griping and tiny-news. And this week, my head is spinning from the rant at the base of my brain: the weekend’s anti-Semitic meme on the Facebook page of Rodney Muhammad, president of the Philadelphia NAACP.
Mere weeks after Eagles’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson pulled his own similar stunt – sharing anti-Semitic Instagram posts, claiming to not know what they meant or stood for – comes a community leader, the head of the NAACP, with the same excuse, after posting anti-Jewish imagery AND at a time when calls for social justice are at their most incendiary and necessary heights. To call this action counterproductive is mild.
“I share the outrage of Philadelphia’s Jewish community to this offensive message, and I am extremely disappointed that Minister Muhammad saw fit to post it,” said Mayor Kenney in a statement. OK. Kenney is in.
The Philadelphia Muslim-Jewish Circle of Friends, convened by American Jewish Committee (AJC), issued this statement on Monday: “We unequivocally condemn Minister Muhammed’s actions and ask that the NAACP hold him accountable. The NAACP has worked for more than 100 years to advance the cause of racial justice, equality, and striving for an inclusive society. This action by Minister Muhammed is in direct violation of the very principles upon which the NAACP was founded.”
So where are Philly’s other so-called social justice warriors, such as Helen Gym, in denouncing this? WHERE?
High Street relocating
Not closing, but relocating, but, hey, fuck this landlord: Ellen Yin’s High Street on Market, the Siamese twin to its big sister, next-door-neighboring Fork, must leave its longtime 308 Market Street home (16 years), probably by mid-September, as its rent has increased 50 percent-plus in the past year. Oddly enough, Fork has a separate lease with a separate landlord, and THANK GOD, stays in biz forever. No word yet where High Street will go but expect pop ups.
Martino benefit gig
South Philadelphia-born guitarist Pat Martino is famed and beloved beyond city limits. After playing bluesy, complex jazz lines since the late ‘60s, on solo albums and gigs with the likes of fellow locals such as Jimmy Smith and Joey DeFrancesco, Martino was hit with an aneurysm in 1980 that left him with amnesia and no recollection of his career or how to play the guitar. He was forced to learn how to relearn everything, including his guitar skills, from zero.
Not only did he relearn, he found an even greater richness and complexity to his work.
Well, Martino is again sick, and in need of medical assistance. To that end, Chris’ Jazz Café – COVID-19 closed since March – hosts benefit livestream shows (a first for the club) on Aug. 1 and 8 for Pat’s medical aid. After this, Chris’ will commence live streaming gigs, not for charity, but for getting cash in local musicians pockets. Check chrisjazzcafe.com.
New menu for chef
If the chef name Yun Fuentes sounds familiar, it’s because he is: A Puerto Rico native who has helmed wonderful kitchens (Alma de Cuba, JG Domestic, Double Knot) and not-so-wonderful watering holes (Rosa Blanca) in the past. This time, he’s trying an American menu with a French accent at The Wayward, the Deco appointed brasserie and cocktail salon at 1170 Ludlow whose outdoor patio space is primed to pop this weekend.
Masked Philly: Charisse R. McGill
In Icepack’s continuing saga of asking mask-donning local celebrities to tell me what they’ve been up to beyond the pale during C-19, I reached out this week to Charisse R. McGill, the owner of Lokal Artisan Foods – the home of Philly’s tasty French Toast Bites, and its ancillary delights, such as French Toast Milkshakes and Bacon on a Stick (man, my whole life should be bacon on a stick), all of which are now available at Spruce Street Harbor Park for summertime nibbling.
The first-ever Black female chef-operator at the family-friendly Harbor Park spent what little C-19 downtime that she had incorporating locally sourced fresh herbs into her home-cooking, meal-making.
“I have been working hard, being challenged by maintaining my at-home herb garden that consists of BBQ Rosemary and Strawberry Mint,” she said. “It’s a rewarding challenge to give time and attention to it while keeping my business going and finding new ways to pivot. I also don’t have a green thumb – and the fact that I kept the plants alive is more of an accomplishment than it sounds.
“Outside of this project, on the work front I got out of the box and brainstormed partnerships, ways to keep business moving while keeping an eye on the future. There’s no time in my day and in my line of work to sit back – I found myself seeking and fostering new collaborations and partnerships – with Better Box and Black and Mobile. While I couldn’t be at festivals during this time, I expanded my online footprint, expanded my online sales for The Only French Toast Seasoning You’ll Ever Need ™, and laid the groundwork for summer at Spruce Street Harbor Park.”
What McGill loves about her go-to face mask – a neck-scape, locally produced by “For the Culture” – is that it’s more comfortable than masks, versatile and “adds some style to my game,” she said. “It’s definitely been a challenge, opening outside at Harbor Park to not be able to smile at customers and have them see my facial expressions. I’m a people person, and there’s something lost behind the masks and face coverings. But it only means I have to work harder to connect with them in new and different ways – including perfecting my smize.”
Along with “flashing my big smile and being able to speak clearly again,” when the masks come down, McGill looks forward to new opportunities in what was planned to be the biggest career in her professional life yet.
“It was a dark day when it was announced festivals and events won’t return until at least February 2021. But you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward. The timing couldn’t have been better to get news that French Toast Bites would be coming to Spruce Street Harbor Park. Already, I am leveraging that opportunity and preparing to launch a collaboration craft beer with Doylestown Brewing Company. You are the very first to publicly hear of this. We’ll start brewing the first batch of ‘French Toast Beer’ in August. It is yet another unexpected collaboration that will keep me moving forward and help me stay positive.”
McGill had me at bacon on a stick, so that French Toast Bites brew is a double plus.