I’ve been thinking a lot about this: 10 days ago, when New York Gov. Cuomo declared a statewide – and first-for-the-nation – Gun Violence Disaster Emergency to create a strategy to tackle gun violence, and create a safer state, Philly’s Mayor Jim Kenney did nothing and said nothing. Nope. Nothing. He barely reacted to the news, barring his usual faceless addition to Cuomo’s realistic, yet, progressive conversation, that instead the violence epidemic was led and fed by the long lingering pandemic.
Kenney’s slow reaction times, to say nothing of his no reaction times, have become his new normal since the start of his second term, his supposedly more enlightened, “woke” term. And with all of his cold shouldering, and bad decisions, I have come to realize that Kenney is little more than Bill Green, another of this city’s more faceless mayor. Save for his stance in bringing African American leaders to city government for the first time (a first Black managing director, Wilson Goode, a first Black City Council president, Joe Coleman, a first Black public school superintendent, Constance Clayton), Green pretty much passed the buck, and avoided much of the corruption and stewing violence that was brewing to a boiling-over point. Sound familiar? It shouldn’t, though, and we can’t continue to let Kenney’s lack of response be a happy new normal. Because constant, daily violence and crime won’t get any more resolved under the next Dems who run for mayor (Helen Gym will wear blinders to gun violence, surely) if we don’t nip lethargic Bill-Green-Disease in the bud, now.
Summer of Soul success
Some numbers to share for Philadelphia-born-and-bred drummer, band leader, and now, film director Ahmir Thompson’s cinematic debut, “Summer of Soul (Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”. In its first full week (through the 4th of July holiday), and shown on over 750 screens and courtesy Hulu streaming, the “Questlove jawn” documentary earned over $1 million, and is a streaming mega-success: which is good as the social-musical doc on 1969’s Harlem Cultural Festival was acquired by Searchlight Pictures for between $12 and $15 million.
It is a far different social scene in Philly than when he first started snapping, but kudos to photographer HughE Dillon for his diligence and dedication to capturing it all, and more, for his PhillyChitChat blog – 14 years young. God bless him.
Library Company honored
This might seem a little corny, but, listen hard: 13th and Locust Street’s Library Company of Philadelphia is the first library in America and one of the coolest, private hangs in downtown Philly – more VIP than a dark, private room at NoTO, and you won’t get gauged by full bottle well vodka princes. Anyway, The Library Company just won the 2021 Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History for its smart project, Ghost River: The Fall and Rise of the Conestoga. Dag. Now, ask 15th Street’s newly-reopened Down Nightclub what awards it has won lately, or what rare local manuscripts it holds. Nahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Buffet is back
This might not be my usual tony, white linen new restaurant opening crowing, or even the sort of shout out I’d give a new taqueria or a fresh food truck. BUT. Whole Foods South Street, the home to many a holistic hipster and helmet-haired, bike-riding millennial, just got its triple aisle hot and cold buffet back. If you love weird quinoa meatballs like I do, this is our time.
The petition that Philly actor-activist Jenna Pinchbeck started in response to the Walnut Street Theatre’s fucked-up disregard to female, Black, Indigenous, Latino, Asian, MENASA, Multiracial, LGBTQIA2S+, gender non-conforming, disabled and marginalized artists – anybody not White and old – and denied fair opportunity to work at the Walnut because of their race or ethnicity, or those who have been body-shamed, sexually harassed or demeaned while working there (petition here: gopetition.com), may be working. It is rumored that the petition’s call for the removal of WST President and Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard and Managing Director Mark D. Sylvester is reawakening several one-time, longtime, far more sympathetic theater executives back to the WST fold. Stay tuned.
Ballet name change
Also in and of the arts in Philly, did you know the forever titled Pennsylvania Ballet is now called the Philadelphia Ballet? I know. WHO CARES?
Masked Philly: Lawrence Mach
In Icepack’s 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, 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 Lawrence Mach.
Mach and his partner, Michael Tan,g are Icepack and Masked Philly’s first New York City transplants as their debut Coney Shack – a beloved boroughs Southeast Asian meets Mexican meets American hot dog and taco restaurant started in Brooklyn – is just now venturing into other cities, with Philly being the first. Huzzah.
Mach was actually trying to open Coney Shack in Philly around the time COVID hit, so there wasn’t that timing. What Mach did do, while quarantined, was geared for his home, office and culinary life. “I started doing little home improvements around the house until I actually wound up redoing the entire flooring scheme for my house,” says Mach. “With a little know-how from YouTube, it came out looking like it was professionally done. I also bought a new home smoker, learned a handful of new dishes and how to work with different types of proteins in various temperatures of smoking meat. I created an awesome pork BBQ and mastered the most delicious BBQ pork ribs I ever had. I would love to put those ribs on my menu, soon, if I’m able to squeeze in a smoker at my establishment.”
Mach’s face mask is completely black, and functional – not bright, or designer emboldened – and represents, quite solemnly, in his words, “the dark times of COVID-19 with all of its loss of life and its shuttering of so many businesses.”
With Coney Shack being open now at 38th and Chestnut in U-City, Mach is excited about being in Philly with almost everything being nearly back to post-pandemic normal. “I really want to go to concerts, Broadway shows, bars and lounges, pretty much places where a lot of people can be in one place and have a good time. And of course, come to Coney Shack.”