Masked Philly forever?

Image | Noah

I’m never one – OK, hardly one, OK, maybe one, OK, maybe often and repeatedly, and therefore, a lot – to be the guy who said, “I told you so.” But, with the fact that all of you won’t step off and step away from being on top of each other, maskless, with just a hint of common sense on your side, this pandemic’s roll won’t slow to a stop. With this type of stupidity, I’ll be running Icepack’s Masked Philly section forever. 

Look. Nothing good comes from me having to be that scold, or having to hear long, dull chatter about watching out for masks, distancing and vax vs. non-vax issues; save for the fact that so-called “safety overhaul” of Washington Avenue nearest the Italian Market (the stupid idea to slim down an already congested five lanes to three traffic lanes to make bicyclists happy) just got delayed for at least another year. Let’s spread out those flaming garbage cans and celebrate. Or that, yes, City Hall is open again, but most city services reps are not around much to help (this might not be a COVID or post-COVID problem, so let’s table this one). 

One interesting aspect of having to monitor the public’s health is this city’s search for a new health commissioner (after Thomas Farley truly fucked up by ignorantly disposing of a MOVE member’s human remains with nary a thought to contacting family or authorities). I wound up seeing an application/job description post for the Health Commissioner Search Process after Philly hired DSS Global, “an international executive search firm specializing in multicultural recruiting and diverse leadership talent,” with Mayor Kenney saying “Our next health commissioner should have extensive experience working in public health, leadership and working with diverse, underserved communities, as well as a demonstrated commitment to advancing the department’s health equity agenda. It’s an incredible opportunity to double down on everything we’ve learned from the pandemic to improve health outcomes in all corners of our city.”  

Now, I’ll second all of what Kenney is saying there. Maybe though, Mayor, let’s look for a health commish who is just a little more compassionate with human remains (and the frailty that goes with it). And please make the new health boss tell Philly to step back a few inches from each other. If not, it’s Masked Philly Forever.

Throng, then no throng

Speaking of Washington Avenue, again, for a sec, each weekend for the last several weeks, we’re seeing scads of cars, crowds and orange cones – to say nothing of a GoPuff food prep van – at the 13th & Washington parking lot once used for the old, now-vacated Sav-Mor supermarket. First, there’s a throng, then whoosh gone, with no one holding any fun takeaway food. Wtf? Is this the spookiest-ever ghost kitchen around or an outtake from “Goodfellas” where Robert DeNiro keeps telling Lorraine Bracco to go in the scary open door on the side of his vacant warehouse so he can whack her? 

‘Shazam’ filming

If you loved the original “Shazam” comic, caped hero flick set in Philadelphia, but wondered why its super powers couldn’t extend to actually filming here, fear not. The 2022-planned “Shazam sequel,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” has been filming at a handful of locations (for a start) last weekend into this week. Watch the skies.

Philly buses

This isn’t sexy news, but, did you know that Philly removed its $24 million worth of Proterra buses – initially unveiled during this city’s 2016 Democratic National Convention to promote the city’s goal of “plugging into an emissions free future” – due to “structural shortcomings?” Apparently, no one realized that they would actually be in use “over 100 miles a day” to an avid public transportation-using throng on a daily basis. (OK, maybe not so much now with SEPTA riders still COVID-scared). Plus, the batteries were too heavy and they cracked the buses’ chassis, so, also bad. I have witnessed this case being politicized, that President Biden once called Proterra a business of the future. Trust me, this goes beyond Blue or Red into plain old stupidity in design. Hell, I have driven a car in my life, and I could guess that a heavy battery would screw things up. 

Star sightings 

Funny that whole LeBron James’ “Space Jam: A New Legacy” was heading to No. 1 as the top-grossing film in America last weekend (with Philadelphians Lil Uzi Vert and John Legend as part of its soundtrack), the star of the first “Space Jam” film from 25 years ago, baller Michael Jordan, was staying at The Borgata and hanging in Margate and Atlantic City for his part in the Jimmy Johnson A.C. Championship Fishing Week. That’s decent. Plus, rapper Lil Durk, who was at the Mann for one of its first live gigs over the weekend, wound up hanging after his show at NoTo in Chinatown. 

Image | Courtesy of Eric Bresler

Masked Philly: Eric Bresler

In Icepack’s too-long 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 reopening, present-day unmasking and re-masking, worrying about Delta variants, and  freaking out about Fauci’s call for a potential third round of vax shots – I reached out this week to Eric Bresler.

Since 2012, Bresler has been the curator, boss, booker and pretty much everything else at the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Arts, better known as PhilaMOCA, at 12th & Spring Garden. While this space has been the city’s go-to, all-ages venue for left-of-center smart art, film, music and performance (think appearances by David Lynch, Lydia Lunch and solo members of Sonic Youth), PhilaMOCA was made to close in 2019 due to minor structural issues with a closure exacerbated by 2020-into-2021’s COVID quarantine. 

So what was Bresler up to all that time while MOCA was closed? 

Along with fixing MOCA up as ordered and then some (“It was all structural, so you can’t even see the money we put into it”), the recently-married MOCA man was starting his real life.

“I married my wife Karli in 2016, we bought a house in Bellmawr, N.J., in January of 2019, and we had our daughter Berry in April of 2019,” says Bresler. “It was actually nice being home a lot during the pandemic because we had an old house that is totally livable, but needs a lot of cosmetic work, so I did that on and off. It felt like a luxury being able to spend so much time with Berry as she started walking and talking. Closer to MOCA, I have been participating in the West Poplar Neighborhood Association cleanups that started in April. They’re a new neighborhood group for our side of Spring Garden, different than the political-related one that I had to deal with for our building’s rezoning.”

The mask, better still a DEVO face shield? Bresler is all for them.

“While my DEVO face shield is more of a souvenir of the pandemic than anything, I wouldn’t wear it out in public, I have put zero thought into the style of the face masks that I actually wear. I continue to wear masks for two reasons: I really enjoyed not catching a cold or flu for the past two years though that may eventually be unavoidable with the amount of traffic that we get at PhilaMOCA. Also, continuing to wear the mask has become a statement of sorts, much like not wearing one during the pandemic was.  It shows that I believe in science and I care about others. I’ll keep wearing one through the summer.”

That’s good as, suddenly, it is going to be a busy summer for Bresler as PhilaMOCA finally reopens this week with a July 22 screening of “Mausoleum,” and a July 23-24 first; Bresler, onstage, talking his way through a multimedia presentation of his time off, what the past of MOCA means, and what the future will hold. “I thought long and hard about what I might have to do if MOCA didn’t come back,” says Bresler. “It would always be a job in the arts, even if I had to wait for a great one. Luckily, that didn’t happen, and I’m proud that PhilaMOCA will be back in action.”


    • A.D. Amarosi's Headshot

      A.D. Amorosi is an award-winning journalist who, along with working for the Philadelphia Weekly, writes regularly for Variety, Jazz Times, Flood and Wax Poetics, and hosts and co-produces his own SoundCloud-charting radio show, Theater in the Round for Pacifica National Public Radio station WPPM 106.5 FM and

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