Like Shark Week, the Running of the Bulls, and network sweeps, if it’s August 18 through 20 in old Philadelphia, it’s time for our now annual “Get Rid of the Homeless Encampment” Rush. Initially enacted at the end of August 2015 for Pope Francis’ gihugic Mass gathering, the yearly city cleanout event – last year, around August 20 – targeted the Ben Franklin Parkway and Ridge Avenue, only to have that homeless tent city’s minion take over Kensington Avenue, again, as they have many times in the recent past, soon after. Beer. BBQ. Bongs. Baseball. Homeless sweeps – SUMMER (the city calls them “encampment resolutions” which actually sounds neatly cut-and-dried, as in, “I spoke with your brother the other day about his inflamed urethra, but we have an encampment resolution, and he’s taking care of it through his HMO”).
In 2021, Philly’s familiar orange metal signs stating no one can “camp or stay” on sidewalks and public areas after 8:30 a.m. on August 18 are just like what Bob Dylan called, “postcards of the hanging,” in his aptly titled “Desolation Row.” And just like last August, Villanova U fellow and anti-poverty activist Stephanie Sena is fighting the Kensington neighborhood’s rights to clear away the bodies – to allow unobstructed home ownership and workplaces free from blight – while also battling for the integrity of those less fortunate without homes, let alone foreseeable futures.
Sena and Kenney will offer statistics of their own like a heated duel between a manager and an umpire. Some homeless will leave. Some homeless will stay. Some homeless will take up residence in an area where no one wants them, let alone the hurt, roaming homeless themselves, who surely want homes. And we’ll see Sena next August, just in time for Sweeps 2022, battling it out with Kenney. Again.
Now, without sounding as if I’m making light of all this sadness and squalor (I’m not), while reminding readers how awful and embarrassing this repetition is for everyone involved, I’d love to not have to make this same stupid joke or take up column inches with homelessness next summer. Find a fix, make it stick, and remember that there are victims on both sides of the ledger that need healing.
St. Joe donations
I know you’re all busy, perusing the 2020 Census results, and freaaaaaaaaking the fuck out (I’m looking at you, Carlisle, PA). But, move your eyes back to our nearest suburb. Here’s something fun for all private school snowflakes in the Lower Merion area to consider: St. Joseph’s University alumni are cutting far-left-leaning students off at the knees due to “wokeism” and will withhold much-needed donation dollars, unless, well… quite frankly, I don’t know what the possibly right-wing alums actually want, save from people having very definite mind sets to not set so definitively. Anyway, no alumni ducats means no more cash for SJU student orgs such as the Actuarial Science Club, the Accounting Society or Followed By a Bear… WTF? Are these real things? Ack.
June in New Jersey
Married chefs and co-owners Christina and Rich Cusack’s Franco-philing June BYOB from East Passyunk Avenue, which closed in South Philly October of last year due to the pandemic, finally makes its long-awaited comeback in a new location. Yes. In Collingswood. OK. New Jersey, you got June. Fine. At least June is getting Gallic on Haddon Avenue.
Movies in Philly
Holy Philly saints unite: While we’re pleased as punch to hear that the stolen statue of St. Rita, snagged from behind glass from her church on Broad Street was recovered by police and returned to her shrine in South Philly (c’mon man, is church statue stealing to summer 2021 what ATM M-80 blasting was to the summer of 2020?), the Padre Pio Prayer Center at 15th and Church Street can expect a flurry of activity now that “Bad Lieutenant” director and Schooly D’s best buddy, the not so holy Abel Ferrerra, is looking at getting Shia LaBeouf for his comeback role as Pio in Ferrerra’s next flick.
Van Gogh experience
Immersive Van Gogh fans, and lovers of Doctor Who’s “Vincent and the Doctor” episode: I know that you are pissed that your blue corn silken VG “Experience” was delayed (promoters now say Aug. 26 start as opposed to the Aug. 12 weekend when it was to have commenced) and that the whole world now knows your little secret location trick (Tower Theater; and isn’t it a bummer when everyone knows but you – that’s right Diner et Blanc attendees in 106-degree heat). At least you don’t have to take part in the communal and aesthetically minded delights of an actual museum and can hang, instead, in Upper Darby. Yay you.
Masked Philly: Ken and Amy Kaissar
In Icepack’s too-long and now way overly complex and 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 re-opening, present-day unmasking and re-masking, worrying about Delta variants, freaking out about Fauci’s call for a potential third round of vax shots and new mask and vax card mandates – I reached out this week to Ken and Amy Kaissar, the two, longtime producing directors of Bristol Riverside Theatre.
Live, on-stage theatahhh has been in a stasis since C-19. Now, along with prepping for the September start of its 2021-2022 season, Ken states that Amy has been so busy making homemade masks (featured in the accompanying photo) that she’s made a real thing of it beyond the producer couple.
“She ordered a bunch of fabric with fun patterns – the E.T. pattern as well as the George Seurat ‘Sunday’ pattern – which represent our passion for high art as well as popular art – made about 50, and we started the pandemic handing them out to people in our neighborhood. We also learned how to cut each other’s hair. I didn’t mind Amy cutting my hair because she can’t really make me look any worse, but she showed real moxie by letting me cut hers. Also during our time away from BRT, during election time, we assisted the cast of ‘Hamilton’ writing letters to folks in Florida and Georgia to remind them to vote. Amy and I got out over 200 letters between the two of us. That was very rewarding.”
Neither Ken nor Amy mind the masks much, and will require them in their theater this fall. “And we love being vaccinated. We were able to relax and sleep easier once we knew we had the vaccine to protect ourselves…We’re all in this together. And we’re all only as safe as our willingness to protect ourselves and each other.”
Currently, along with finishing BRT’s Summer Music Fest with August 30-31’s The Doo Wop Project, the Kaisars are ramping up for its 35th season, and its first indoor season since they closed in March 2020.
“We start with the musical ‘Murder for Two,’ followed by ‘Skeleton Crew’ by Dominique Morisseau. At Christmas time, we’re happy to bring back our ever-popular, ‘American Christmas Songbook.’ Then we start 2022 with Lauren Gunderson’s brilliant play, ‘I and You,’ followed by the hilarious farce ‘A Comedy of Tenors,’ which Amy will direct. And I’ll close the season with one of my all-time favorite writers, Aaron Sorkin, with ‘A Few Good Men.’ Can you handle the truth?”