Total Pageviews

Popular Posts

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Philly Poet Vortex

The Local Lens
Published• Wed, Sep 18, 2013

By Thom Nickels

The applications are in for the City of Philadelphia’s next Poet Laureate. The two-year term of Sonia Sanchez, the city’s inaugural Poet Laureate, concludes at the end of 2013. The appointment of the next Poet Laureate is being processed by the City’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy (with final approval by Mayor Nutter) and the choice will be telling.

Philly is called Poetdelphia because there’s literally a poet on every street corner. There are city-based poetry magazines and zines like The American Poetry Review, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Philadelphia Poets Journal and the New Purlieu Review. Every year in April (or National Poetry Month), Larry Robin of Moonstone (once part of the now defunct Robin’s Bookstore) hosts Poetry Link in which hundreds of poets sign up for an opportunity to read their work on stage for 3 or 4 minutes. Poetry Link is an all day event. It’s a chance for the city’s poets to come together and network. As a participant in several Moonstone readings, I can tell you that there’s a huge range of poets in this city.

Here’s a sample:

There are good lady poets who sometimes come to Moonstone dressed a little bit like Emily Dickinson.

There are ‘Come to Jesus’ poets, or earnest missionary types (usually women) who list the things that Jesus has done for them lately.

There are girlfriend-boyfriend poets who write about their love for one another; female poets (dressed in black) who write about how they got even with cruel ex-boyfriends, while spurned boyfriend poets write about their "Medusa ex-girlfriend" who is "still on the loose."

There are the purely sexual poets who go right to the ‘G’ spot with words and images meant to shock; there are poets stuck in an f-word vortex; jazz poets who try to sound like Ella Fitzgerald; first time poets who blush and stutter and who are afraid to make eye contact with the audience; black activist poets who remind us of the evils of slavery; academic poets who do their best to ape Virgil’s The Aeneid or the lyric poetry of Quintus Horatuis Flaccus (Horace) but who more often than not just make the audience yawn; there are slam poets who combine their words with body motions—a wiggle or twerk here, a twisted palsy arm spasm there, before they end it all with throw back "operatic" head motions.

There are occasional prose-to-poetry poets like me.

There are retro San Francisco style Beat male poets with goatees who scream louder than they should as the cocked fedora on their head falls to the floor.

There’s the Mom-with-grown-children poet from Cherry Hill who likes to talk about her rabbi, or the angry ex-Catholic poet who will "sandblast" lists of priests and nuns. There are poets who take fifteen minutes to explain the poem they are about to read, or who take 25 minutes to read a series of poems after promising to be brief. Beware of poets who approach the podium with a portfolio of notes. These poets, you will find, are often champions at self-promotion. They’ll spend five minutes filling you in on how to buy their discounted books on Amazon.

Sometimes the display is so embarrassing in its no-holds-barred Narcissism it makes you want to give up poetry altogether.

There are poets who breathe heavily into the microphone. I call these the pause and refresh poets, the listen to my breathing poets who should really have been singers or dancers.

There are very good poets at Moonstone, to be sure, which makes Poetry Link worth the effort.

Still, the question begs: Who will replace Sanchez? As the city’s first Poet Laureate, her ability to work with mainstream audiences through the Mural Arts Project was exemplary, but will other city poets be so easily homogenized?

Consider the very talented CA Conrad, who continues to stun audiences everywhere with his Deviant-Propulsion word missiles, ("It’s True I Tell Ya My Father is a 50 cent Party Balloon"). If Conrad becomes Poet Laureate (assuming he’s applied for the position) will his style go over at a City Hall Business luncheon? After all, the Poet Laureate has to be able to relate to many different types of people, from grassroots bohemians to the Union League bow-tie wearing crowd.

It’s too bad that the Fishtown-born poet, Jack Veasey, is now a Harrisburg native. Veasey would make a good Philadelphia Poet Laureate. He’s the author of 11 books, and reads his work in different cities across the nation. In a recent interview, Veasey even talked about growing up in Fishtown.

"I had plenty to struggle against in Fishtown," he said. "The neighborhood’s old atmosphere – when it was industrial, before it became gentrified — still pervades a lot of my work. My poems are often set in gritty urban locales. I was oppressed as a kid in Fishtown – I was a target for bullies – and that gave me an outsider’s perspective, and made me identify with the underdog, which I still do. That colors a lot of my choices of subjects, and the viewpoints from which I write, when they aren’t my own."

Veasey continues: "Everybody in Fishtown in the old days had a story to tell if you let them – and I went through a period where I re-told a lot of those stories in my poetry, particularly in my book "No Time For Miracles," which came out at the end of the eighties.".

Poet Lamont Steptoe, a Vietnam Vet and African American, has a "Sanchez kind of magic," but would a Steptoe-Sanchez succession interfere with the city’s racial diversity goals? This brings us to the question: How much will politics play in the next appointment? I mean, would a vegetarian Asian female Poet Laureate with a penchant for socialist politics be a safer bet than, say, a latter-day Paul Goodman ("He was a beautiful mechanic/till his wife cut him down to size")?

Would a gay/ feminist Poet Laureate be deemed too risky, or a WASP W.H. Auden/ Robert Lowell type dismissed as "too white bread?" Or how about a safe "Mom" poet with three names who likes to write about Longwood Gardens or Palmer Cemetery? While a poet like this probably wouldn’t make waves, what would happen if she changed her style and became controversial in some way? What if she ended up sounding like Sylvia Plath?

What about an angry, revolutionary poet like a Leroy Jones, or a dense wordsmith like Hart Crane or Ezra Pound, whose words would have most Philadelphians scratching their heads?

The City is looking for a poet who can appeal to a great many people, which means not too classical, angry, political, obtuse, obscure, dense, "out there" or slam-theatrical. In Poetadelphia, this may be a hard bill to fill, although there are poets who could fill Sanchez’s shoes. Besides Jack Veasey, I can think of Daisy Fried. Novelist Joyce Carol Oates once said that Fried’s poetry is "as fluid and quicksilver as life seen close up. Here is an original voice: provocative, poignant, and often very funny." Fried is the author of three books of poetry, including, My Brother is Getting Arrested Again.

Whoever becomes the next Poet Laureate is going to have a big job on their hands. Writing poetry is dangerous business, and in general a poet ceases to be vital the minute they become a City Hall bureaucrat.

More Sharing ServicesShareShare on facebookShare on twitterShare on googlebuzzShare on email Submit Your Opinion

ICON Magazine City Beat, September 2013

We took a magical mystery tour with Jane Golden through the streets of North Philly, Germantown, Northern Liberties and Fishtown to see new work by the Mural Arts Project. After presenting us with two MAP books, Philly Painting, and Peace is a Haiku Song, Jane joined us in a van driven by Cari Feiler Bender, President of Relief Communications. Cari, who drove us to the 20-plus murals on the list, maneuvered city traffic, stop lights and traffic jams with PPD patrol car-like confidence. We headed up N. College Ave. to view the Arise and Reclaim mural then zigzagged to the Henry Ossawa Tanner: Letters of Influence mural, circled and redoubled to visit Cancer Support for Life on 22nd Street before averting another traffic jam (and two kids on tricycles) near the Moving Towards Greatness mural on the William B. Kelly School. Stepping up her pace, Cari passed stalled Septa buses and made a wide arc around jaywalkers while breezing down Cecil B. Moore Avenue, then Diamond Street and finally onto Broad and Christian where we were face to face with mural Grover Washington, Jr. With saxophones on our mind, we hit Broad and York and paid homage to the Horrace Pippin mural before heading to the tour’s mother lode, the Philly Painting Project, the multi-block stretch of painted buildings on Germantown Avenue. Regrouping at the Garden of Eden Regained mural near 7th and Dauphin, we headed for The Jewel Box mural (a Babette’s Feast for the eyes) near Howard and Berks Streets. During the tour, Jane asked us what we thought about the latest push to have her run for mayor. “It’s a flattering proposal, Jane,” we offered, “but being mayor is not who Jane Golden is. Politics is ugly, and being mayor would force you to become somebody you’re not: a rat. Art is pure; Art is good, whereas City Hall is a Macevellian hornet’s nest.” Jane gave our comments a high-five, then went on to mention an invitation she received to repaint a mural she personally created years ago in Los Angeles. Though practically a girl when she applied the final LA masterstroke, she was not too shy to knock on Jane Fonda’s door and ask if she’d be willing to speak at the mural’s dedication. An excited Fonda responded: “Of course I will. I’ve always wanted to meet you. I’ve been watching you paint the mural from the very beginning!”

Though we are hardly fans of the American gun culture, this does mean that we would turn down an invitation to a picnic-barbecue-rock music gun raffle just outside of Lancaster. Surrounded by hundreds of redneck revelers, tents and a large trailer dispensing free draft beer, we mingled with the crowds on a large grassy field bordered by tall trees on an over cast Saturday afternoon and listened to a band belt out Eagles tunes as people drank, danced, and bought scores of raffle tickets for expensive prizes. We talked with Betsy, on her tenth beer, who told us about her abusive ex-husband and the seven people who live in her head. We observed women over sixty years of age in mullets or long bleached blond hair; cyclists with long beards and tattoos; farmer types with pints of bourbon sticking out of their back pockets, and suburban observer types. We met Dan, a young Amish farmer, whose blond “bowl” hair cut stuck out like a beacon of light. Dan seemed to have many friends among the locals. He was on sixth beer when we worked up the nerve to ask him about the suds. “Isn’t beer a no-no for the Amish?” Smiling benignly, Dan said, “Beer is okay as long as the Elders don’t find out, but if they do, the punishment isn’t much worse than a slap on the wrist.” Dan’s brother, whose head wasn’t shaped like a bowl, downed his brews and said that he left the church some time ago but that he was not shunned. “All Amish do not shun,” he said. “My family does not shun. We are close. Don’t believe half of what you see on Breaking Amish.” As gun raffles go, trying to spot a gun was difficult. We don’t know what we expected to see--people taking turns playing William Tell?—but it was certainly more than just one (unloaded) raffle gun being carried about as a display item. If you had visited the raffle not knowing what kind of event it was, you would have walked away thinking it was a reunion of locals. While making our exit, we spotted Betsy at the free indoor clubhouse bar, on her twentieth beer, still happy as a clam. “You know,” she confessed, “I don’t even like guns. In fact, I hate guns, but I just looooove coming’ here!”

We ran into architect Al Holm and his wife Nancy at the 2013 Retirement Exhibit at Old City’s Artists’ House Gallery. Owner Lorraine Riesenbach, who oversaw more than 200 AHG exhibits, was calling it quits after twenty years of showing the work of emerging Philly artists. Riesenbach, of course, made headlines years ago when she started classes at the More College of Art at age 52. After that she became a full time student at PAFA, a brave move considering that most of the student body probably thought of her as Grandma Moses. Among the hundreds of guests was PAFA grand dame (and teacher since 1966) Elizabeth Osborne, whose work has been called “monumental, hallucinatory landscapes,” and “one of the most innovative and daring Philadelphia-based artists of the last 40 years.” In a backroom, where the hors d’oeuvres were as plentiful as they were in the front room, we bumped into Leah Stein, who started to tell us about her dance company when the crowd swelled to Wildwood boardwalk proportions, and separated us for good.

We were invited to artist Diane Burko and [husband] Richard Ryan’s home and studio on South Juniper Street for a dinner of glacial proportions. The couple’s house is pure Architectural Digest, perhaps one of the grandest spaces in Center City. The ascendant structure of it very much suits Burko’s work: landscapes depicting glaciers, waterfalls and canyons that often illustrate the effects of climate change. “I love the earth and watching it change,” Burko told a reporter during her Locks Gallery 2010 show, Politics of Snow, where she documented climate change effects on the Grinnell Glacier from 1938 onwards. Burko travels the world—the high Arctic and Antarctica—and prefers photographing glaciers from the air, which usually means she’s hanging out of airplanes or dangling precariously over cliffs. The result: time-lapse glacier portraits in which weather change deteriorations can be clearly seen. (Ironically, the closer these glaciers get to climate change death, the more beautiful and colorful they become). As for husband Richard’s multi course dinner, it was the polar opposite of a glacial melt down. We liked it when Diane explained how she had once given a dinner party for writer Edmund White after the publication of his biography, Genet. Of course, we are very glad that that dinner party was for White and not a 1980s fete for Genet, because had it been for Genet it would have meant a lot of stolen silverware.

Our summer vacation had us flying out to western Colorado for a stay at Mesa Winds Farms & Winery, near Hotchkus, where we were greeted by Wink, originally from New England. Tall and perpetually sunburned, Wink is part of the Valley Organic Growers Association of sustainable agriculture in western Colorado. These farms are numerous, with names like Peace & Plenty Farm, Redlands Mesa Grange, West Elk Hop Farm, and Aloha Organic Fruit. Many of them attract people like Wink and his wife Max, educated émigrés from the east coast attracted by the state’s vibrant community of farms.
Max, who could easily play Isak Dinesen in a new film version of Out of Africa, gathered us on the patio as Wink prepared a wine tasting. Colorado is relatively new to the winery racket but the western slopes have more than their fair share of pop up wineries. Going to a wine tasting has become a local sport. During the drive to Mesa Farms, for instance, we passed signs inviting travelers to come in for sips. Many of these small wineries have names like Delicious Orchards, Liliputian or Terror Creek Winery and were located along the most perilous roads that skirt along the edges of steep cliffs without the benefit of guardrails. In Colorado, if you’re stupid enough to drive drunk on a winding mountain road, the inevitable crash off a cliff is your own dumb luck.
No sooner did Wink explain the attributes of a special MW Pinot Noir than we were hit by a violent squall blowing in like an Old Testament judgment. The sunny, desert mountain scenery became Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz, forcing Wink to jump up and remove the patio canopy, which almost blew away like a hot air balloon. In a few seconds, however, it’s all over. Generally, squall winds are so intense they can blow open the doors of the nearby MW cabins.
The dead of night silence at MW Farms can be disconcerting, especially to noise-conditioned easterners. At 2 a.m. we heard a dirge-like wail that seemed to be a mix of coyote, hyena and human baby sounds. The auditory oddity forced us to turn on the bedroom light (and keep it on, then head to the bathroom window where we attempted to find the source. The pitch blackness, however, revealed nothing. Instead, our eyes were drawn to the sky, a dead ringer for Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

When it comes to tall buildings, some things in Philadelphia never change. At a Center City Residents Association (CCRA) meeting recently, many Fitler Square residents lined up to oppose Carl Draoff’s proposed 21-story One Riverside Project along Schuylkill River. “Out of place," "out of scale," "Too tall," many said, reminding us of the canned reactions and empty cliché responses we heard in 1986 when developer Willard Rouse attempted to break the city’s building height limit. The fact is, stodgy Philadelphians of a certain ilk have always opposed tall buildings. Philadelphia's buildings are still too short and squat, and its skyline fades in comparison to many other cities. What annoys us the most is the fact that Draoff’s project is nowhere near Fitler Square but actually sits on the waterfront, meaning it very much in place and totally in scale.

Monday, September 9, 2013

14 Questions with Philly Novelist Thom Nickels
The sci-fi scribe talks Luke Skywalker, Elizabeth Taylor and the "dragging vortex" that keeps sucking him back into Philly.

Posted by Josh Middleton, from G-Philly, Philadelphia Magazine

Philly-based writer Thom Nickels is back on the literary scene with two new novellas, the Hugo Award-nominated Walking on Water and After All This. The works, both binded into one neat book, follow on the footsteps of some of the writer’s latest offerings — sci-fi gems rife with paranormal, deliciously eccentric twists. The Bay Area Reporter describes Walking on Water as “a Catholic fantasy reminiscent of C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.” It concerns a Harvard student whose thoughts have the ability to alter reality. In After All This, Nickels conjures a post-apocalyptic Philadelphia, where a group of young people and a horse named Flash are among the only living beings.

Nickels will read excerpts from both stories this Wednesday at the Independence Branch of the Free Library — the same branch that houses the Barbara Gittings collection of gay and lesbian materials. I chatted with him in 2010, when he published Spore, and had such a fascinating time that I had to circle back for his new releases. Keep reading to learn why he used to write Luke Skywalker’s name on bathroom walls, how he saved a famous Philly mosaic from being sold to a Vegas casino, and about the “dragging vortex” that keeps his wandering soul coming back in Philly.

What’s your Philly connection?
I grew up in Malvern when it was mostly farms. I’ve lived in other cities — like Boston, Baltimore and Boulder, Colo. — but have always come back to Philly. They say there’s a dragging vortex in that keeps people here.

I am happiest when …
I’m working, or packing my suitcase for the next travel-writing gig. There’s a definite “up” feeling that comes after the flight when you check into a new hotel.

What’s your most bizarre possession?
I have a long typewritten letter from Clare Booth Luce to my great aunt; a large Russian icon painted by a Russian prince; typewritten thank you letters to me from Elizabeth Taylor and Susan Sontag; an old Roman coin from 300 AD, and a piece of a dried Rocky Mountain flower my great aunt picked in the Rockies in the 1920s.

Why did Elizabeth Taylor write you a thank-you letter?
I wrote her when she was in town with Richard Burton [doing] the play Private Lives … asking for an interview. … The play left town. I never heard from her. Then, weeks later, a typewritten letter arrived in the mail on Elizabeth Taylor stationary. She thanked me for taking the time to share my thoughts, [saying] “I am sorry that my schedule was such that I just was not able to make time for a visit.” With all my best wishes, etc. (Real signature, too).

Describe the perfect night in the Gayborhood in three words …
Stop, Look, Listen!

Who would you rather swing your light saber at, Captain Kirk or Luke Skywalker? And why?
My XXX rated dreams about Luke Skywalker years ago knew no bounds; in zanier moments I would even write his name with a blue felt tip pen on the wall of a men’s room stall. …. I’m coming to understand the attractions of Captain Kirk: stability, wisdom, cuddling, comfort, mind power.

For those of us who don’t have an extensive knowledge of sci-fi lit, which book would you recommend as a good introduction?
I avoid conventional sci-fi but like magic realism, such as the work of Garcia Marquez or Roland Firbank.

If your life was a sci-fi book, what would it be titled?
101 Uses of a (Sometimes) Venerable Motherboard

You’ve written about some pretty wild things. Where do you get ideas for your books?
Dreams are important to me but I think images from childhood form a solid basis. … I’ve always had a rich fantasy life which worked well in the farmlands of Chester County. Many ideas come from keeping a journal since the early 1970s. I would wager that my journal is as large as Anais Nin’s.

Where is your favorite place in the world?
In Lapland, Finland, sitting in a hot tub with a group of international journalists (all of them nude) after a group plunge into an icy river.

What do you consider to be your proudest achievement?
So far, the work I did with a friend in 1998 to establish The Arts Defense League, which essentially started the movement to fight Steve Wynn’s purchase of Maxfield Parrish’s Dream Garden mural in the Curtis Building. Wynn wanted to ship the mosaic to one of his Las Vegas casinos.

Who is your diva inspiration?
I take my inspiration where I can, because one source never has all the answers. There’s Susan Sontag, of course, but it can also be the moral character and strength of George Sand, the tough-as-steel survivor grit of Edith Piaf, the aloofness of Marlene Dietrich, the openness of Bruce Chatwin, or the mysticism of a Thomas Merton or Father Seraphim Rose.

What is your life motto?
Never be so arrogant as to say “I have no regrets.”

I feel gayest when …
I am attending a photography exhibit such as I did at the Sketch Club recently and discovered that almost all the photos on the wall were of nude women taken by heterosexual males. This is when I begin to think that the artists involved need a mind-expansion lesson. I mean, is there some unwritten rule that says male heterosexual photographers can only photograph females when it comes to nudity? Where does this limited view come from? At times like these I want the spirit of Robert Mapplethorpe to come crashing through the doors and shake things up.

Running the City with Jane Golden

The Local Lens
Published• Wed, Sep 04, 2013
By Thom Nickels

I took a magical mystery tour with Mural Arts Project Executive Director Jane Golden recently to catch a glimpse of new murals in North Philly, Germantown, Northern Liberties and Fishtown.

The last time I took a private tour with Jane was several years ago when she picked me up herself in front of my home on Mercer Street. On that tour it was just the two of us. Jane was talking and doing the driving, so she had to be careful when carousing up Lehigh Avenue to Broad Street, a stretch of road noted for its erratic and eye-popping traffic patterns. Philadelphia drivers are among the most impatient in the world: stop for a few seconds to get your bearings and you are horn-blasted into the stratosphere; linger one second too long at a traffic light and you are similarly blasted with horns, verbal epithets and raised fingers. It’s so bad on the road sometimes it’s as if the entire city is on the brink of a nervous breakdown. Of course, driving a car while simultaneously talking about each new mural featured on the tour takes tremendous traffic skills. Jane, however, managed to do this with a minimum of roadside problems.

Jane, who was not the driver on this tour, joined me as a passenger as Cari Feiler Bender, President of Relief Communications, took the wheel, meaning that Jane was free to go into detailed descriptions of the new murals.

Before the tour, I met Jane at the old Thomas Eakins House at 18th and Mt. Vernon Streets (MAP headquarters). As usual, the house was abuzz with activity and conversation. Jane and I sat down for a chat (she’s personable like that), and then she presented me with two MAP books, Philly Painting, and Peace is a Haiku Song, before we joined Cari in the van outside, Our goal was to drive to the 20-plus murals on the list as Cari maneuvered city traffic, stop lights and traffic jams with a PPD patrol car-like confidence.

Buckling our seat belts, we headed up North College Ave. to view the Arise and Reclaim mural when Cari and Jane noticed a familiar looking truck parked on the side of the road. Two guys dressed in painter pants and T-shirts came into view. They carried buckets and brushes and started putting them in the back of the truck. Cari pulled over and honked. The puzzled painters did not know what was happening. "It’s Jane Golden and Cari!" Cari said. Immediately the men relaxed and broke into a smile.

"We’ve come to spy on you," Cari joked, aping the workaholic, dictatorial manner of a Bank of America CEO. The men, their arms covered in paint, answered in their own style of banter. Jane poked her head out the back seat window and said a few words to them. As mural refurbishers, these guys touch up those murals that have been vandalized or tagged with graffiti. When a passer-by or someone from MAP reports a mural damaged by vandalism, the work is marked for a "fix." These two guys come to the rescue and erase the graffiti, smudges, dirt and other assorted stains and blemishes that, if unchecked, would eventually attract other blemishes and work to destroy the mural over time. While these "touch up" artist guys may not have the glamorous title of a muralist (which would guarantee them a place at the podium during dedication ceremonies), without their work the murals in the city would begin to disintegrate.

Jane is really good at spotting a small tag or an equally microscopic blemish on a mural surface. I’m not talking going up to a mural with a Sherlock Holmes magnifying glass, but she can detect glitches and damages from a good distance away. Who knows how she does it, but as we were driving along, at least two or three times she said, "Oops, stop! That one’s been tagged—in the lower right corner—did you see it?" Or: "I noticed something on that one. Did you see a chip or part of the wall missing?" Then she’ll open a small notebook and mark down the name and address of the mural in question and put it on a list. It’s good to kill two birds with one stone: give a city journalist a tour and at the same time check on the health status of the murals.

Cari headed up N. College Avenue, passing two Septa buses, a PPD squad car and an ice cream truck, and then zigzagged to the Henry Ossawa Tanner: Letters of Influence mural, circled and redoubled to visit Cancer Support for Life mural on 22nd Street before averting another traffic jam (and two kids on tricycles) near 25th and Oxford and the Moving Towards Greatness mural on the William B. Kelly School. Stepping up the pace, she passed a stalled Septa bus, a PhilAbundance food line and two women pulling large shopping carts. She made a wide arc (no screeching of tires) around two slow motion jaywalkers while breezing down Cecil B. Moore Avenue, then Diamond Street and finally onto Broad and Christian where we were face to face with mural Grover Washington, Jr. With jazz and saxophones on our minds we hit Broad and York and paid homage to the Horace Pippin mural before heading to the tour’s mother lode, the Philly Painting Project, the multi-block stretch of painted buildings on Germantown Avenue.

While Philadelphia has more than 3600 murals—"…each with its own cast of characters and logistical complexities," as the booklet Philly Painting explains--, the Philly Painting mural is MAP’s largest and most difficult mural o date.

The Philly Painting booklet also reminds the reader that Philadelphia is America’s poorest city, "and the neighborhood surrounding the painting is one of its poorest."

Regrouping at the Creating Healthy Communities mural, we take a 5 minute Royal Caribbean cruise at the Tropical Landscape, Caribbean Sunrise mural before heading to the utopian Garden of Eden Regained mural near 7th and Dauphin, and then to The Jewel Box mural (a Babette’s Feast for the eyes) near Howard and Berks Streets. In a sort of a Tango like dance maneuver, Cari swings the van into Northern Liberties to the Reading the Flow & ChainlinkGREEN mural (no stopping for green tea), then it’s around to Fourth Street past Honey’s restaurant (where people are still lined up outside), around Fifth near the purple onion domes of old Russia and Saint Andrew’s church. Continuing beyond 6th Street we hit the Building America: German Immigration mural before disappearing into the environs of Old City and finally up 10th Street, where I say good-bye to Cari and hug Jane before heading to the Frankford-Market El., my mind awash in color, traffic and swirling conversation.

During the tour, Jane asked us what we thought about the latest push to have her run for mayor. "It’s a flattering proposal, Jane," I said, "but I really think that being mayor is not who Jane Golden is. I mean, politics is ugly, and being mayor would force you to become somebody you’re not: a rat. Art is pure; Art is good, whereas City Hall is a Machiavellian hornet’s nest.

"Not only that, but after being mayor, the name Golden would no longer be golden. "

Jane gave my comment a high-five, then went on to mention an invitation she received to repaint a mural she personally created years ago when she lived in Los Angeles. Though practically a girl when she applied the final LA masterstroke, she was not too shy to knock on Jane Fonda’s door and ask if the actress would be willing to speak at the mural’s dedication. An excited Fonda responded: "Of course I will. I’ve always wanted to meet you. I’ve been watching you paint the mural from the very beginning!"