Welcoming in Labor Day as an annual national holiday – even though it is dedicated to the can-do spirit of America’s workforce, an Eisenhower-ian ideal if ever there was, but still sturdy – is a tricky, even sad proposition now that so many workers are missing the fruits of their labor, and so many others are questioning just what their fruited labor is worth in this a time of crisis such as COVID, of social justice and regarding Philly/Delco’s rampant, everyday street violence that wrongly keeps protection at bay from hard-working homeowners, families with children and such.
What does it mean to have pride in one’s work with such a mess surrounding you daily? Sorry if I sound like a crepe hanger here on the cusp of a long off-work holiday. Hey, though: at least they’ll be barbecues, shore trips and Made in America. Drink up.
Shout out to Chloe owners
We’re usually so busy at Icepack Central celebrating the opening of new restaurants that I hardly get the opportunity to hail heartily a culinary entrepreneur who has been in the trenches for a minute, one of Philly’s chef-ing veterans. This week, I’d like to shout out one of the most charming couples I’ve ever met (at a La Parnarda at Le Virtu, yet – spend 10 hours hardcore dining and drinking with someone cool and unique, and you’ll never forget them), Mary Ann Ferrie and Dan Grimes, the owners of Chloe, BYOB in Old City, who after nearly 21 years of innovative comfort fooding, closed up shop at 2nd & Arch, due to everything from this miserable pandemic to family health issues. “How do we sum up Chloe? Joyous, exhilarating, magnificent, insane, crazy fun, festive, delicious, blessed, exhausting, backbreaking, amazing, filled with love,” both owners wrote on Instagram on Sunday night. The Chloe folk shared a quote from Dr. Seuss that managed to be almost as charming as the couple themselves: “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” Such optimism is contagious. Someone find these two a new venue.
‘Hustle’ back in town
We knew that Adam Sandler, producer LeBron James and the cast and crew of “Hustle” would be back in Philly to finish off their Netflix baller film, because you told us, and because we believe everything that Adam Sandler says. We just didn’t think that they would be back until October. Yet, there they were – a “Hustle” film crew led by director (and Philly’s own) Jeremiah Zagar (of the beloved South Street Zagar arts family) – at Capitolo Recreation Center playground’s b-ball court for a shoot, as well as its neighboring Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, and again at another basketball court at 24th & Snyder with 76er Tobias Harris on the mat. Yes, there’s a Reddit thread about how someone yelled out, “Where’s Ben Simmons?” to which Harris responded, “I’m not his dad.” Yes, if Harris was only always that clever on the court. To the hoop with that joke. Keep an eye out in the next several weeks for more “Hustle” action in town. And don’t be surprised if Sandler, James and fams show up at Made in America for the extended holiday.
More Kurry Shacks
I can’t pretend that I know too much about owner/operator Shafi Gaffar’s Kurry Shack enterprise. But I do get that if he has enough dough and turmeric to open three brand new restaurants in three different neighborhoods around Philadelphia while readying two more Shacks to be announced later this year, I see clearly that Gaffar is a serious contender in the North Indian influenced cooking stakes. Kurry Shacks just opened in the Center City/ Rittenhouse area (2101 Chestnut), Francisville (1839 Poplar) and Old City (6 N. 3rd) last week; those in addition to the K Shack already open and recently expanded in Brewerytown, at 2015 E. Moyamensing Avenue. Impressive.
New Nothing album
This one is a ways away, but its very announcement sends chills up my spine, just as it should yours if you are an avid Nothing fan like me. Philly’s favorite dark wave/doom metal/dishy dusky shoegaze ensemble have an upcoming album, “The Great Dismal B-Sides,” that not only collects tracks left on the cutting room floor during its sessions for their neo-classic “The Great Dismal” elpee. The new album, to be released on Oct. 8 on Relapse Records, features three new songs – one of them having a local spin. That would be “The Great Dismal,” “Amber Gambler,” and a cover tune from the legendarily Philadelphian soul vocal outfit, The Delfonics, with “La La Means I Love You.” Damn, that sounds creepy. And too Tarantino-ish if you love Jackie Brown. Nothing will also play Philly on Oct. 16 at Union Transfer. I know my first song request already.
The new Arlen Specter US Squash Center – huh – dedicated to the memory of the longtime U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania just opened at the Armory. No word yet when its Magic Bullet Theory wing will open (it will however be down, and to the left) and where its changing parties dressing room will be lodged.
Don’t forget JAW
Last week, when I made mention of the Eagles practice camp, I missed mentioning wide receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside – a true superstar in the making. Shame on me. Here’s hoping he makes the squad.
Masked Philly: Lili Anel
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 and new mask and vax card mandates – I reached out this week to Lili Anel.
Famously, Anel moved from El Barrio Spanish Harlem NYC to Philleeee in 2004, never looked back and continued releasing her own patented brand of jazzy, Latino tinged folk on albums such as 2007’s “Dream Again” and 2018’s “In Spirit.” Much of her newly released album, “Better Days (Remastered)”, has everything to do with the mess that is COVID, Delta, what have you, but why rush ahead when we can find out just what the constantly touring, constantly album-dropping Anel did throughout the pandemic’s slowdown to ease her worried mind and quell boredom?
“I resumed knitting,” says Anel. “I originally learned how to knit years ago, but, like most things, you don’t use it, you lose it. I didn’t lose it completely. This time, however, I did attempt some more advanced patterns. OK I failed miserably, but I tried.”
As far as masking faces and vaxxing goes, Anel loves her facemask. “I have a friend in California who was making masks for hospital workers,” says Anel. “She made a series of masks, one with my favorite superhero, Superman. I liken COVID-19 to Kryptonite and the mask protects me. I am vaccinated. I have asthma and Alopecia (autoimmune disease that brings other issues besides hair loss). I don’t want COVID or any breakthrough mutation. I have already lost seven friends to COVID. Vaccination is the only way out of this thing.”
Back to the saga of “Better Days (Remastered).” She originally released “Better Days” right before the pandemic hit, never got a chance to tour it, and is now re-releasing it with new songs added. “I have a run of shows scheduled in the fall and I look forward to performing live once again. I have the re-release due out on Oct. 1 of ‘Better Days (Remastered),’ a remix of my end of 2019 release, ‘Better Days’ that I believe deserves a second push.’ It was beginning to gain traction when the pandemic showed up. And yes, there are Better Days ahead, so it’s appropriate.”