So far within the still-young 2022, we’ve talked about hating on the Eagles (but not its QB) and the Flyers for their losses, the Double Ks—Kenney & Krasner—for their hatred of public safety, local restaurants and Philly’s Italian population, and the whys-and-wherefores of Will Smith making his one-time comic Fresh Prince into something grave and bleak.
Know what we haven’t mentioned that might be even more crucial than all-the-above? Book banning, a mean, weirdly dated trend not solely local, but worrying even more so for its national (Nationalistic) spread. From YA authors to works on social justice and Black, Brown and LGBTQ issues, if it doesn’t suit a bigoted insular community of principals and teachers – I’m looking at you, Central York School District – it’s taken off shelves.
Of course, this all comes down to the fissure between the left, the right, and the aims of cancel culturalists everywhere. John L. Jackson, dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, told WPG-AM Talk Radio that book bans are “a microcosm of the political divisions in the country…It’s almost immaterial what the books are and what’s in them. It’s all about the readers… the folks who are organizing our contemporary political discourse.” Thanks, Professor. There are a lot of things that aren’t OK: allowing shoplifters to destroy local businesses such as Wawa because the police aren’t allowed to step in and stop them or the way that Tastykake has managed to take the buttery flavor out of its chocolate frosting for its Juniors.
Book banning, though, the freedom of speech, and the vision of free learning, is never OK. Fuck you, York, PA. I have been to your auctions and I have eaten your mock-Amish meals. This will not stand. Not from York, and certainly not in Philly if any of its school board jackwads get any bright ideas.
Speaking of the printed word (stay awake for this, you clowns), when I was a kid, and you (OK, me, you weren’t reading. Be honest.) wanted a rare and unusual book, you either went to Middle Earth Books on Pine Street, one of two Robin’s on Chestnut or 13th Street, the original Wooden Shoe on 20th near where Jose Garces’ Village Whiskey is now, and Joseph Fox Bookshop on Sansom Street. Joseph Fox’s aisles were way narrow, its ceilings were low, and its lighting bright, but not so that you, the consumer, looked healthy. Rather, you had that book worm’s glow, that blank, dampened glow and that was the joy of it: losing yourself in book after book, from Keats to Kerouac, from over-sized oddball Man Ray photo tomes to Charlie Plymel broadsides. Joseph Fox had it, or could get it (I recall my dad ordering and bringing me two UK-only Monty Python books that he got from Joseph Fox. Thanks Alfonso.). Well, Joseph Fox is closing January 29, probably due in part to fucking Covid, and probably due in part to fucking Amazon. The Fox will be missed.
Hall without Oates
Temple U. grad, Lebanon bologna enthusiast, and Pottstown, PA native Daryl Hall is releasing his first ever compilation of old solo stuff/non-John Oates related material on April 1 (not fooling) with “BeforeAfter,” a package that arrives the same day that Hall will commence his first solo tour, this time with Upper Darby’s Todd Rundgren as his special guest. And yes, the pairing of Hall & Rundgren (no, it doesn’t roll off the tongue like Hall & Oates, but the tour is like a week-long so just deal with it) will appear on home turf at The Met Philadelphia on April 9.
Let’s stick with Philly music for a sec: last week’s local cover icon, Jerry Blavat, hosted his packed, masked-up party at the Kimmel Center on Saturday night with fellow South Philadelphian Frankie Avalon, The Tymes, Darlene Love, Little Anthony, and more. Get it. Got it. Good. During a time out from the stage, The Geator with the Heater stopped the show to shout out WMMR DJs Pierre Robert and Jacky Bam Bam (or, as The Boss with the Hot Sauce called him, “Bam Bam Bam a Lam Bam”), praise them for their perseverance when it came to maintaining the spirit of rock against all odds (Jacky did just host an evening of Jackie Wilson song the other night in-between sonic slabs of Metallica and Green Day tracks), then called the two DJs “the future of Philadelphia radio” before calling himself “the past.” Heart-warming stuff, that.
West Chester. It’s no longer just the home of all things “Jackass.” Justin Weathers and Executive Chef Joseph Monnich are opening the spaghetti-western-sounding Good, Bad and Ugly as a casual fooderie, cocktail hatch and craft beer salon – Stove and Co. Restaurant Group’s first-ever bar, and a designer dive bar at that. Check out the GBU action at 158 West Gay Street this weekend.
Masked Philadelphia: Nantambu Chavis
In Icepack’s way-too-long, 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 lock down to the current re-opening, present-day un-masking 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, new mask and vax card mandates, ignored or not ignored (I mean why did I wait in line at the Convention Center if you’re not asking to see my card?), the possibility of mix-and-matching vaccines which is weird, AND NOW, YEAH OF COURSE, the whole worldwide B.1.1.529 Omicron variant scare, so welcome to ROUND THREE, I reached out this week, to Nantambu Chavis.
Icepack fans will remember Chavis from his before-the-fact mention when he got the gig as executive chef at the newly re-configuring Pen & Pencil private membership club on Latimer Street. Now managed by Raphael Tiberino and run by Bobbi L. Booker, the P&P is looking for a new vibe. And that starts with cool new cuisine.
What Chef Chavis did before the P&P, but after the pandemic kicked in, was related to his culinary schematic, but in a different, more communal fashion: he made and set up healthy meal programs for his neighbors in West Philly.
“It started with one friend who was ill – not Covid ill – who needed help with his daily routine when he came home from the hospital. Primarily with food. I started cooking for him and developed a healthier meal program in concert with his medical requirements and dietary restrictions,” Chavis said. “Portioning and packaging was a huge part of this as well. When other friends and neighbors heard about this, my diet trickled down, and I wound up doing this regularly for several people. With so many people stuck at home, inactive, I think this was a genuine benefit for them. Plus, it sparked in me another culinary interest – another way into what I usually do.”
The mask and vax? Chavis is down with both.
“The mask is utilitarian, necessary, and I order a bunch of them. I’m all for stopping the flow of this and any Covid variant – I don’t usually take strong stands over what people should and shouldn’t do with their bodies, but the evidence, the science, is there for being masked and vax to slow the spread,” he said. “Seeing locals go beyond the mandate – say, Dirty Franks where they’re guarded of their regulars and the regulars are guarded of it – I get it. Everybody is in for the good. I don’t want people to believe that their rights are being denied, but…being a part of civilization isn’t just a right. It’s a privilege. It’s just like the old saloon sign reads, ‘No Shoes. No Shirt. No Service.’ Now we just have to add ‘No Mask. No vax’ to that sign.”
As for P&P, Chavis is not only sprucing up the menu to include fine-dining-worthy items and extending the spaces dining hours, but adding events such as a regularly scheduled monthly “Supper Club” and other more socially driven meet-and-greet events for its members, guests, and “like minds,” so to booster and bolster the idea of community.
Chavis is also pushing the general population at large to understand that the Pen & Pencil isn’t just a late night hang out, but, additionally, a happy hour/early evening dining and drinking location. “I’m now part of Philly restaurant, bar, and community history,” Chavis said. “I want to help transition this club into its next 150 years. Raphael and I have lots of plans, and their implementation of those plans is what drives us. Make your plan. Work your plan.”