I have neighbors who like to say, “Be careful” whenever I leave my house and head into Center City. The cautionary words annoy me. They anno...
The Local Lens Published• Wed, Oct 23, 2013 By Thom Nickels When I ran into my friend Eric in Center City recently, he said he wanted ...
What does it mean to talk like a Philadelphian? Unfortunately, having a Philadelphia accent doesn’t carry the same cache as having a Boston...
Tom Trento, Director of the Florida Security Council , was in Philadelphia last year to showcase the film, “ The Third Jihad ,” and to shar...
I’m sitting with Broadway diva, Ann Crumb, in her parents’ home in Media, Pennsylvania. This isn’t just any home. Beside me is Ann’s father...
MATTHIAS BADLWIN WAS A VERY NICE MAN Will the City--and his so-called friends-- uphold that ...
She's not in films, but she could be. She's the one on the left. The guy in the middle is my nephew Kevin and his wife Tiffany i...
The global economic crisis has put many of the world’s skyscraper projects on hold. In Philadelphia, architects Gene Kohn and Bill Louie of...
In Philadelphia’s Morris House at 225 South 8th Street, I extend my hand to Julie Morris Disston, whom I am meeting for the first time. The ...
Why Not Philadelphia? By Thom Nickels, For The Bulletin 11/16/2008 Many questions have been asked about the proposed American Commerce Cen...
Friday, December 19, 2014
ICON MAGAZINE City Beat Column December 2014
We spotted people falling asleep during Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn at the Wilma, and wondered how this could be given the play’s good reviews. Things got worse when, at intermission, some audience members walked, proving that even critically acclaimed works can generate nay sayers. Can a “juxtaposition of feminist theories with messy human desires” ever be funny? How about a comic version of Kate Millet’s Sexual Politics or Simone de Beauvior’s The Second Sex; would these be immune to walk outs and audience narcolepsy? Rapture’s stellar record-- a 2013 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama--suggests that nobody should be nodding off, even if the play would have benefited from a 30 minute dramaturgical cut. The promotion around Rapture was stellar, however: postcards advertising the play could be found all over town: in
restaurant and pizza parlors, and on random city buses and trolleys. Center City
The Barrymore Awards used to go on for hours, so that by the time it was over you had Charley Horses in both legs and one, big primal urge: to tie a long scarf around your neck Isadora Duncan-style and drive off in a fast convertible. This year’s Award ceremony was much better (and shorter) than in years past, though we discovered this only after deciding not to attend. We didn’t want to sit through hours of theater minutia, like Award for Best Theater Usher Wearing Blue Contact Lenses, etc., etc. We’ll get our Barrymore act together in 2015.
We marveled at all the tall hunky Israeli furniture guys in pointy European shoes at the grand opening of the Cella Luxuria Furniture superstore at
1214 Chestnut Street.
Deputy mayor Alan Greenberger said he saw some furniture there he really liked,
while HughE Dillon worked overtime photographing the city’s furniture
subculture elite. The five floors of beds, sofas, desks and bookcases meant lots
of styles and options, from modern minimalist to warehouse-rustic to the
comfortably traditional. The Bauhaus style configurations on the first floor
included an orangutan- colored recliner that had us thinking of the beach
chaise lounges in Wildwood’s Doo Wop motels. Brulee Catering, Zavino Wine Bar
and Pizzeria and Abbey Biery Cake Design provided the food. Since the bartenders
told us that red wine was banned from the serving queue (it stains furniture),
for a fix of deep, rich color we had to turn to Kory Zuccarelli’s lavish
photography, which was featured on the walls.
Philadelphians may love
with its “meet me at the goat” ambience, but for out-of-towners like Connie
Willis (who came here to three years ago to land a job in broadcasting), the
picture’s not so pretty. Willis’ bird’s eye view of the Square from her fifth
floor apartment enabled her to see more rats than goats scurrying from bush to
bush. She was soon calling Rittenhouse Ratinhouse Square,
though she later dropped that after the furry creatures were exterminated. She
added another name soon enough, -- Rittenhouse Dog Park—because everyday from
her bedroom window she saw Chaplinesque replays of people putting picnic
blankets on sections of grass that moments before had been a dog toilet: German
Sheppards, Greyhounds, dachshunds, poodles and boxers would squat, and then
after their owners dutifully bagged, another cycle of picnickers would sit directly
over the spot, on and on all day long-- from picnic to poop to picnic and then
back to poop again. Those without blankets would relax directly on the soft, fertile
grass, never suspecting (or caring) that dogs had been there before.
We spoke with filmmaker Nancy Kates, whose film, Regarding Susan Sontag, had its
premier at the Jewish Museum. The effervescent Kates describes meeting Sontag
years ago at a Meet Susan Sontag Night
on the campus of the .
Kates, who had been struggling with a paper on Jackson Pollack, found the
artistic answers she was looking for in Sontag’s essays in Against Interpretation, but when she went to tell Sontag this she
says that the diva looked at her “with utter disdain,” as if she were thinking,
“I have better things to work on than helping a hapless undergrad.” Sontag, of
course, could be hot or cold. We felt the cold years ago when Sontag spoke at
the Free Library on University of Chicago Sarajevo and
greeted us with a slightly hostile bark when we attempted to speak to her at
Everybody’s an expert on architecture these days. Philly.com’s stories on proposed buildings in
and elsewhere generate
hundreds of inflammatory and passionate comments from readers who want their
opinions to count. We related this fact to Radical Traditionalist architect Al
Holm recently when he called to say that there were few registrants for an
upcoming ICAA-Philadelphia seminar at the Center
City . “How do we get the word out?”
he wanted to know. “Does anybody care?” We suggested he try and recruit the
passionate readers of Philly.com whose online comments often get censored or
deleted because they don’t know how to handle all their pent up architectural
The Local Lens
• Wed, Dec 17, 2014
By Thom Nickels
My friend Lena lives in a big, lush Center City condo building with a 30-story high view of the city. The view from her living room window is anything but dull. She’s lived there peacefully for almost two decades—until she met the woman in the hat.
The woman in the hat, a building newcomer, is a woman of smallish stature and maybe 50 years old. She’s the type of woman who would blend anonymously into any crowd. At any local supermarket you wouldn’t look twice if you saw her picking over the broccoli and red peppers. If you spotted her at Dollar General or Family Dollar you’d think she was just an ordinary neighborhood lady out shopping for cheap rolls of toilet paper and paper towels.
Unstable people don’t always look crazy. Jeffrey Dahmer looked like a movie star. Ted Bundy, another serial killer, could have been a movie double for Anthony Perkins, the man who played the lead in Hitchcock’s Psycho.
As the Scriptures say, Lucifer can also appear as an angel of light.
The lady in the hat, to the contrary, has a huggable appearance, so much so that there’d be a battle among strong contractor types to open the door for her at any Wawa convenience store.
Lena recalls the night she was sticking a fork in her microwave cooked Idaho baked potato (her dinner at the end of a long day) when she heard someone pounding on her door. The pounding had the ring of an enraged parole officer or advance SWAT team member staking out a suspect.
"Who’s there?" Lena asked, her sing-song voice showing some signs of stress. "May I help you?"
The Idaho potato, safe in its skin, went cold as Lena peered through her condo’s security peep hole. She saw the smallish woman but could only see a portion of her face because the rest of her was hidden. Obviously, she had moved out of the perimeter of the peep hole. Not a healthy sign by any means. To an overactive imagination it might suggest a dangerous scenario straight out of the movie, Gone Girl.
The voice in the hallway might have been Linda Blair’s in The Exorcist:
"You’re smoking in there… smoke is coming into my apartment. You are speed walking all night… I can’t sleep. I’m calling the police. I am going to register a complaint!"
People—neighbors—have a right to complain about noises that keeps them up at night. On my own street, for instance, one sometimes hears neighbors raising their voices when there are problems with rambunctious pit bulls. Several years ago it was an all-girl riot, which I reported on in these pages. That was when ten or more high school girls were engaged in a massive street fight of hair pulling, screams, face slaps and ‘cheerleader’ style kicks to the shins. Although the rumble ended anticlimactically when the Alpha girls who started it all sped away in Daddy’s convertible, it left neighbors here wondering if heretofore quiet Mercer Street had become ground zero for a Philly version of West Side Story.
Center City high-rise "neighborhood" fights usually don’t begin with hallway rumbles but with zealous door poundings.
The woman at Lena’s door shouted her complaint several times so that all the neighbors would hear.
Lena remained nonplussed. "I… don’t… smoke….You have the wrong… apartment," she said.
"I’m calling the police," the woman screamed.
Had I been in Lena’s place, I would have been tempted to say, "The police won’t come anyway. They’re hanging out at Wawa in a group huddle." Honestly, when do the police do anything about domestic disputes?
I asked Lena why she didn’t open her door and engage the woman full blast. After all, wasn’t she afraid that a refusal to open the door would enrage the woman even more?
"How dare you talk to me through a hole!" I can easily envision someone saying.
Why not speak to the woman face-to-face? I suggested to Lena that perhaps she should have ‘humored’ the woman by inviting her inside for a bit of cold potato or a tall glass of Port. There must be some truth in that old cliché about winning an enemy over with honey.
"I knew she was crazy from the start and didn’t want to engage her," Lena said, "I didn’t want to start any kind of relationship with her."
She had a point.
The woman’s accusation of speed walking seemed peculiar to me because speed walking used to be a popular women’s sport in Center City. It was often practiced in the 1990s as a substitute for jogging. The idea behind speed walking was to make your body look like it was running when in actual fact it was just walking faster than a stroll. The quick motion of the arms in contrast to the slow motion of the legs also gave it a comedic look. When I lived at 21st and Pine there were speed walkers all over the street.
"It’s positively Chaplinesque on this street!" visiting friends would comment.
Lena is more of a sleep walker than a speed walker; she’s slow and methodical in her movements.
"I do not speed walk," she said. "I’m not a road runner of any kind. The woman is nuts. Nuts!"
The big question, of course, was when the woman would return.
That question was answered two days later when another series of door pounds woke Lena up around midnight. The screams in the hallway referred to the same complaints: smoke and speed walking, in addition to "other noises that keep me awake." This time Lena did not bother spying at her through the peephole but stayed in bed until she went away.
"Tell management now," I suggested.
A few days later, Lena entered the condo elevator and pushed the 30th floor button before noticing that the smallish woman huddled in the corner of the elevator heretofore hidden by shopping bags was the woman in the hat.
Enter stage right: A film by Dario Argento or Brian De Palma.
Staring neurotic eyes framed by shopping bags kept their focus on Lena.
"I get off at the 29th floor," the woman said in a flat monotone.
"That’s nice," Lisa said, in Disney mode but secretly sweating bullets.
When the elevator opened at 29 the woman remained in the car, and at 30 she followed Lena out but walked down the opposite hallway. Lena went to her place and bolted the door but stood by the peephole to see if anything would happen. In a second or two she could see the woman pacing back and forth in front of her door. She was pacing and looking worried as if she was trying to decide what to do.
Lena, who rarely cries, felt a swell of emotion. She says she wondered how something like this could happen to someone who minds their business, is nice to neighbors and who has few if any enemies.
The next night, she was startled to hear the sound of someone trying to unlock her door with a key. Through the peephole, she could see the woman, still in her crumbled up Katherine Hepburn hat, fiddling with the lock in hopes of getting inside.
This story has an anticlimactic end.
The next day Lena registered an official complaint with management, only to find out that the woman in the hat had also lodged numerous complaints against her, among them making smoke, speed walking, and making strange nocturnal sounds.
Rationality finally prevailed, however, and the woman was given notice that she would soon be evicted. This process, however, could take some time.
What Lena’s story illustrates is that perhaps landlords should check the mental health of a prospective renters with the same tenacity and enthusiasm with which they tackle their credit history. A bad credit report never put anyone’s life in danger, but an unstable person with money can be more dangerous than full fledged bankruptcy.