Here’s your all-purpose, post-Labor Day, post-Ida, fully-functioning-but-masked, vaxxed, standing as far away from you as possible, welcome back to school, welcome back to Fringe Fest, welcome to the end of unemployment checks and PPD money and welcome back to all things, sweet and sour, autumnal, sunny and stormy A.D. Amorosi Icepack column. If you’re new to town (and I ask as I always do “Why come here?”), or went to Jersey or Miami to get away from the city’s swelter and its rampant ATV noise – ha. Good luck. Bikes are driving around your house, buzzing like bees, as we speak.
La Salle goes remote
For those going back, live, to real school in real time, and braving death, you have to be ashamed of La Salle University, which, as of Tuesday, announced that it would temporarily go to an all-remote learning position amid the Delta V/ COVID-19 outbreak. Especially since the rise in current C-19 cases is coming almost entirely from its students who hung, playing hackysack, at Phish in AC, or the Green Day show at CPB where they moshed and breathed all over each other. Yuck.
So, anyway. Nothing spits in the face of the jobless and the economically broken in this time of pandemic woe and unemployment benefit ends – thanks Joe – than watching professionally wealthy New Jerseyan George E. Norcross III’s purchase of a rare copy of the Declaration of Independence for $4 million last week. This, from the same guy who made certain that almost two-thirds of $1.6 billion in tax incentives in Camden – very, very poor and blighted Camden – that he pushed for, right before the pandemic, went to his insurance business, his lobbyist brother, Phil, and their political cronies. Happy Labor Day.
It’s almost fall, and so begins the winter of his discontent and solitude that is Philly’s finest songwriter, Tim Showalter, and his awesome, brawny, brainy Strand of Oaks. Yes, he’s got a brand new, heart-pinging single, with “Somewhere in Chicago” out this week to precede his fine, new, kinda-Springsteen-ian-but-better album, “In Heaven,” all while gearing up for Camden’s XPoNential Music Fest, Sept. 17 through 19.
Yes. I agree. Cramming foamy espresso into craft brew, especially if the whole deal is local, is a worthy idea. So goes the legend of Front Street in Fishtown’s The Lab at Evil Genius Beer Company’s exclusive concoction, a vanilla cappuccino craft beer – Project Vanilla Shteam Machine – sold through 58 Sheetz Pennsylvania shops and restaurants, as well as Sept. 9’s Evil Genius Beer Company 10th Anniversary Beer Food Truck Festival.
Speaking of booze in Fishtown, the owners of a place I do not know and do not want to know, Bottle Bar East, is reportedly paying back its 70-plus employees $246,457.99 in back wages, PLUS a similar amount in damages (so $492,915.98 in total), after federal investigators determined that the BBE violated requirements of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. Meaning Bottle Bar East bosses probably stole wages and pocketed tips from bartenders, chefs, servers and dishwashers, and now have to pay it all back…PLUS.
Herreras and the Phils
Now that the fightin’ Phillies have finally found a ball-whacking leadoff hitter in Venezuelan born centerfielder Odúbel Herrera – the same Herrera that asshole elder baller Mike Schmidt once stupidly dissed for creating a “language barrier” between himself and English-speaking players – may I make mention of how the Phils have a great history with Herreras? Namely, Juan Francisco “Pancho” Herrera, the Cuban-born, tree-tall first baseman who managed to become the first Afro-Latino to play for the Phillies back in 1958. Though he passed in 2005 in Miami, Pancho was elected to the International League Hall of Fame in 2008, and is still awaiting his flowers from the United States’ Baseball Hall of Fame. So, all Herreras rule when it comes to Phillies baseball.
Who did we spy in and around Jay-Z/RocNation/Live Nation’s pleasant-as-all-get-out, not-at-all sloppy Made in America weekend at the Art Museum? Two Sixers, Matisse Thybulle and this year’s first-round draft pick, Jaden Springer, hung out. So did two Eagles, Dallas Goedert and Avonte Maddox. And while I didn’t personally see Mayor Jim Kenney (masked and unmasked was the word) as did others in attendance at MIA, I can’t help but recall the last time I spied Kenney hanging at Jay-Z’s annual soiree: wearing shorts and a rainbow tie-dyed Bob Marley shirt in VIP during his pre-woke days. Ah, memories. And while we were super surprised that Adam Sandler didn’t stop by the Made in America fest (or, for that matter, neither did Hova and his missus, Beyonce, who usually stops by the annual fest to get her Sept. 4 birthday flowers from Philly’s ever-loving crowds), the good word is that Philly rap royalty Beanie Segal and Freeway visited Sandler on-set during a day on the Sandman’s b-ball flick for Netflix, “Hustle,” filming all-around-town. We hear that Beans and Free made it into the movie – is that because they are buds with the movie’s Philly-based director, Jeremiah Zagar (“We the Animals” fame), or if, like The Weeknd in “Uncut Gems,” Sandler keeps cool ties with the hip hop/R&B community and casts the best in his films. And remember, Beans and Free have film credits from making their own movies back-in-the-day, such as “State Property,” so don’t call it a comeback.
Masked Philly: Laura Fay
In Icepack’s way 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 reopening, present-day unmasking and re-masking, worrying about Delta variants, freaking out about Fauci’s call for a potential third round of vax shots mere five months after the last, and new mask and vax card mandates – I reached out this week to Laura Fay.
Fay is just now the new owner of the Up to Eleven in Downtown Ardmore, but many of us know her as one of the founders of the Separatist Beer Project on East Passyunk Avenue. She’s not with Separatist anymore – but that’s a credit worth repeating.
The pandemic made Fay’s life stand still, as it did for all creatives. Well, and everybody else. “Being unable to go out made me realize how much I loved and missed creating new concepts and working in hospitality spaces where people can congregate and enjoy time with one another.” So what Fay did was plot – solely and singularly, with detailed floor plans, schematics and concepts – imaginary “coffee shops and restaurants which came alive through creative decks and business plans,” she said. Psychic exercise or an imagination run wild, Fay all but willed her next project into existence just by making it an “Inception”-like reality/surreal-aity in her head. “One idea I came up with was a coffee/e-bike shop called Up To Eleven that I now actually just opened in Ardmore.”
Fay’s favorite mask is a dark purple number from Petit Pli. “It really taps into my love for all things aesthetic with its unique pleated, super cool design, which is also part of its smart functionality. Also, it was gifted to me by my boyfriend whom I met during the pandemic. Never in my life would I have thought a mask would be such an exciting gift from somebody special, but the pandemic has made me learn to never say never.”
When Fay can finally take her mask all the way off, she first wants to go to Johnny Brendas, and see some live music. “I miss being in a crowded room with an awesome band, good drinks and a great vibe.” Then she wants to celebrate how the planet united to “kick COVID’s butt,” and go on an exotic trip to Bangkok or Mexico City. Until then, Fay is looking forward to riding her bike more, (“which was another thing I got into during the pandemic, a good way to be outside, socialize and exercise at the same time) and put into action the hospitality project concepts that she dreamt up. “The extreme isolation that I felt during the pandemic has made me appreciate places where we all can enjoy each other’s company, and it has motivated me more than ever to create them.”