After the absolute messy Phillyness at May’s end – from questions of a mysterious murder hit along never-that-quiet Queen Village streets, perceived classism at Steak 48 over new dress and cost codes, the necessary shifts in bro culturalism in the local craft beer scene and a vandal’s damage at Reading Terminal Market estimated in the five figures, to Mayor Kenney’s lemony budget negotiations – a short June’s start, trimmed by a rainy Memorial Day weekend, is just what the doctor ordered. (That same doctor is the guy also ordering, nicely and politely, that those who haven’t vaxxed, do so stat, and will give them free water ice for their trouble, a pretty lumpy lowball offer for those with any semblance of MAGA moral high ground).
Folk never come back from Monday holidays with any spirit or psychic elasticity to begin with, so everyone always seems pretty dopey during this post Mem Day week. Combine the socio-politik shipwreck of last weekend, with inhaling a chaotic “Cruella,” the entirety of “The Kaminsky Method,” “Halston,” a Verzuz rematch with Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, an Aziz Ansari-less “Master of None,” a dozen reruns of “The Love Boat” (RIP Gavin McLeod), the end of the Delco-licious “Mare of Easttown” (c’mon, THAT’s how you ended it, HBO? That twist?) and Joel Embiid and the Sixers taking it to the Wizards – nearly all at once – and the media overload leaves us blamelessly lame.
Perhaps then, we’re ready to get out of our house and out of our own way and pile, en masse, elsewhere, indoors: say, the now-open-for-business, overly public space such as the Wells Fargo Center. The WFC, all $11 million HVAC renovated, as of June 2, will open the whole room up, and host rabid game and concert fans at full capacity. And here I was, honestly hoping I’d have some safe and social distance between myself and the often less hygienically inclined Deadheads when Bob Weir & Co cruise through Philly this summer – those who like to mix dirty hemp, the Skull & Roses aroma of lavender and rose and stale patchouli oil with good old unwashed sweat.
Oh, well. Masks will still be required for all WFC guests (save for the jackass one-time season tik holder who dumped popcorn on Russell Westbrook and got forever banned from WF Center), so I’m guessing Gulf War gas masks and self-serve cannabis inhalers are also cool. Watch your speed.
PS on HBO’s “Mare of Easttown”: apparently it did so well for the cabler (average of 2 million viewers per episode) that, in a Hollywood Reporter story immediately following Sunday’s finale, Berwyn-raised Easttown creator Brad Ingelsby left room for more Mare. “Kate (Winslet) and I, if we could crack a story that we were really proud of and felt like it was a deserving second chapter in Mare’s journey, then maybe. I haven’t cracked that yet; I don’t know what that is, honestly.”
Too many condos?
Rumor has it that the proposed mega Italian Market apartment building long planned to occupy both Anastasi Seafood and the grassy knoll next door, across from Connie’s Ric Rac and Casa Mexico – a Ninth Street lot owned and forever set to be developed by the New York-based builder Midwood Investment; even increased in size to seven stories in 2019, much to the neighbors’ chagrin – may be finally throwing in the towel.
Too many open South Philly condos gone unpurchased and unleased, with too many other less complicated condos in the planning stages (e.g. the ready for grease-and-Cheez Whiz apartments quickly being erected at Pat’s and Geno’s) may just be giving Midwood cold feet. Cold enough to quit the Italian Market. Or not.
Italian Market happenings
Speaking of the Ital Market, the long cherished Christian Street ravioli room, spaghetti salon and gnocchi lodge, the happily cramped Superior Pasta Company, closed its doors for good last Sunday. Atza no good, boss. Word has it, however, that SPC, a longtime renter at that address, is looking for other South Philly digs. Factor in that Peter McAndrews’ Monsu (another Midwood owned property), Judy’s Produce, Sabrina’s and Le Saveur – all within throwing distance of Superior Pasta, and you have to wonder what is wrong with that triangle.
New Aiden James music
Just in time for Pride Month, Aiden James – Philly’s favorite openly gay, vegan, animal loving, PAWS-supporting singer-songwriter – has his first new single out in a minute, “Elixir.” And it’s got more of a souped-up ‘80s synth vibe than his usual placid stuff. Check that uber vintage danz track right here aidenjamesmusic.com
Is this weekend, June 4, the first real First Friday Art Walk where everyone can dwell and swell in number while checking out old galleries and new art? I believe it is. With that comes the No Libs’ Business Improvement District new, self-guided Philadelphia Mural Art Crawl – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Street Art – which runs through July 5. There’s a cost-free “Let’s Roam” app on Google Play or the Apple store, with a regional map attached where day-and-night walkers can find 20-plus pieces of street art and murals. The hunt is on.
Pen & Pencil update
I may have forever ribbed the after-hours Pen & Pencil Club in the past; for its catering to journalists who never had their own money for booze or their own bags of coke back in the day; for the old hot dog water. Name it. But our friend Bobbi Booker is its current board president and our other friend, Raphael Tiberino, was made its GM and bar manager in the wake of the near-Christmas 2019 passing of its much-loved barkeep Dan Kenney. Plus, all (well, I bet not ALL) of the old cheapskate rumpled journalists have given up cocaine. (Or at least stopped asking).
So, I’ll give the new P & P some love. LOVE! Well, the nation’s oldest private daily operating press club gives Tiberino the gig, then COVID happens for however many months (and you can’t call those hot dogs “food” by any stretch of the imagination) and the private club couldn’t file for pandemic grant monies or offer to-go cocktails. Then apparently part of its ceiling collapses – and just when I was ready to fall in love with the space. Well, luckily for the club, a quickly gathered GoFundMe raised $10,000, some insurance kicked in, and the 21st Century Booker/Tiberino-era P & P should be ready to roll, live open and in-person, come June. Which reminds me…
Masked Philly: Raphael Tiberino
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, slow re-opening and ever-questionable masking – I reached out, this week, to Raphael Tiberino.
The visual artist, illustrator, muralist, co-owner with his siblings of the beloved family business, The Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum (with a hat tip to late great Joseph Tiberino) in Powelton Village and P & P bar manager, as we see above, took a step back from his new gig since COVID’s start.
“I had to,” says Tiberino of postponing his Pen & Pencil gig. “Plus, I, and the rest of the family had to close the museum as well, as all museums and galleries shuttered.” Which means, the always exhibiting Tiberino had to draw within so to speak.
What he did do during C-19’s quarantine and closure, though, along with stop drinking after November 2020’s elections, was amplify the output of his illustration and painting work, and get it all onto social media outlets such as Instagram. Raph’s single most involving work – for artist and audience alike – was his dark and deeply etched portrait of George Floyd, drawn the day after his murder. “It was just instinct to get that portrait up, to heal, to inspire.”
Considering the fam’s work regarding social justice murals at The Ellen and littered throughout the city, Raph’s Floyd portrait was part of his own history as well as that of Black and White Americas’. “I put it back up when the Chauvin trial started. People are drawn to it. That was my work for the community beyond my usual for the pandemic quarantine.”
The mask? Raphael has no problem wearing one (an artist, all those paints, resins and polymers) especially since six of his friends (“Healthy, young guys, too”) died of COVID-19, and that he himself had COVID. “I didn’t even know I had it. I was just run down after being out among too many people, celebrating, last November. It wasn’t that big of a deal, physically, for me; but I know how many other lives it brought down.”
Along with getting ready to re-open P & P (“looking at mid-June”), Tiberino, while remaining online and exhibiting, is continuing to place his George Floyd online (check the newest issue of BlackEnterprise.com) as well as planning several new work exhibitions for autumn and winter. “Plus, getting The Ellen up and running – the museum and the garden – is going to happen. After Joe’s passing, the family went their own way,” said Tiberino of muralist Gabe, art director Latif and ceramicist-sculptor Ellen. “My sister, brothers and I did our own thing, our own work – we always did that, and always will. But, that was necessary for each, and all, of us to do our thing. To grow, you know. And I think by autumn, we’ll be ready for the museum and the garden to come together, for everything to come together.”