All posts tagged: Philadelphia

As a Motherless Child, I Was Raised by My Neighborhood

I was a child of the 70s, negotiating an evolving place in society for both my gender and my race. I was born Negro, eventually deemed Black and eventually accepted the term African American. The small South Philadelphia enclave I landed in clung stubbornly to its past, trying against all odds to assure its particular brand of denizens that all would be ok. We were assured by listening to the same music, getting baptized in Grandma’s lifelong church or hanging on corners where doo-woppers harmonized. As a girl, I would sit on my front steps as the summer days were cooled by the constant release of fire hydrant water — human-made fountains of refreshment that streamed on screaming kids and grateful adults. Cold winters were made warm by pots of food from neighbors, followed by gossipy phone calls between friends. But I was born an outsider; a permanent visitor to my ‘hood. I felt different. My arrival into this world came during a tug of war between my estranged parents. My mother, long distrustful of a …

Nightmare On Dream Street: When Your House Falls Down

The home that brought Annette’s neighborhood to a dead stop — collapsed. (Photo courtesy of Annette Earling) After 23 years of living on a street that I loved — and after swearing that I would never be frightened or intimidated into leaving — I fled my neighborhood in fear for my life and the life of my family. A month later, the house that was the focus of my fear collapsed in the middle of the night, trapping everyone on our end of the block in their homes as electric wires sparked over piles of splintered plywood. Nice job, city of Philadelphia. My story — essentially one of governmental ennui — begins about two and half years ago when a lovely young couple bought a property on our quiet, dead-end street in the center of the fifth largest city in the U.S. Honestly, you couldn’t find a better street in any town. We’re a half-block from Broad Street and some of the greatest cultural institutions in the world. We have five of Zagat’s top ten …

Boob Cakes and Free CDs: The Glamorous Life of an Intern

Sally Field’s iconic Oscar moment came after striding to the stage to accept her Best Actress Oscar when she ended her speech by practically shouting, “You like me!” My moment came not in the form of a golden statuette, but as a cake in the shape of a woman’s breasts. Two sweet, spongy mounds of yellow cake covered in fondant flesh with two pink chocolate nipples and a candy heart denoting a tattoo. “Breast Wishes” ran across the bottom in loopy script. It was my last day as an intern at alt-weekly Philadelphia City Paper. Starting my junior year of college in 1996 in the Philadelphia area with a young woman’s idealistic interest in journalism, I decided I needed practical experience. I contacted several publications in the city and was lucky that the City Paper was the first to answer. On my first day, decked out in jeans, Doc Martens, and a shiny brown shirt (Don’t judge!), I took the train into Center City and walked several blocks down 13th Street to the office. I …

After The Alt-Weekly, Where Will You Find Your Roots?

Wednesday morning! Better get up and see what you can pitch to Pat. Then you remember. After 34 years, there is no more tempting your editor with tidbits of roots music. Philadelphia City Paper has been purchased by the competition and put down. But why, why would I put in 34 years in the first place? It wasn’t the next-to-no money nor the non-existent recognition. (“Hey, are you still writing for City Paper?” asks an old friend who should know.) No, it was purely to share the joy of music that is made by the people and for the people. What is Roots music? Think the old story songs and ballads of an Appalachian town. The community of union organizers like Joe Hill, who would write barbed anti-boss lyrics to familiar tunes. Hill’s memory is being recalled this year on the 100th anniversary of death. The Freedom Singers who were invaluable aid to civil rights marches of the 60s. They, too, would take a familiar melody, gospel especially and lead the crowd in unison, adding …

Hey, This Newspaper Could Be a Sitcom

“It took me a very long time to realize that the ads in the back of the newspaper I wrote for were for prostitutes. I’m not sure what I thought these ladies were selling, I just didn’t know prostitutes were allowed to advertise. Well, whether or not they are, the truth is they do. In fact, the real boom time for alternative newspapers in the United States were the years between the deregulation of 976 numbers and the emergence of Internet porn.”          I took the above paragraph from my first novel, The Big Love. I took all of The Big Love straight from my life, and my life, in my early 20s, was like an old Meg Ryan movie complete with pleated-front khaki pants and very little actual sex. I lived in a brownstone on the most beautiful street in Philadelphia, just like Meg would have, and I worked as a columnist at The City Paper, just like Meg would have. The City Paper was a free weekly, and I got …

Swimming Upstream: Growing Up at an Alt-Weekly

Kim, while she freelanced at the Sowetan in South African. (Photo Courtesy of Kim O’Donnel) Every job is a stone upon which you step. For me, that first stone was in a creek called Philadelphia City Paper, a small but mighty body of water with a near electric current. It was publisher Bruce Schimmel’s paper then, and he had editor David Warner help him run it. Together, they encouraged me to stir the proverbial pot, to ask questions that made people uncomfortable, to speak truth to power, and to write like I meant it. We were mostly young, underpaid, overworked and totally and utterly in love with the printed thing we made week after week. I was 22. It was 1989. It was a time when you picked up the phone to talk to a source, and when out in the field you holed up in a phone booth. We filed our stories on early generation Macintosh word processors, stories that the art department (two gals who would become like sisters to me) would lay …

Fear and Listings in Philadelphia

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published in the Philadelphia City Paper July 19, 2001. As a former Listings Editor myself, I can 100% identify. — Margit Lots of people ask me, “What’s it like to be a listings editor?” I tell them it’s sort of like being shot into a cannon every day. Other people ask me, “What does a listings editor do?” I hate people. The short answer is this: All week long I get press releases and calendars from local galleries, rock venues, artists, musicians, comedy clubs, hospitals, rodeo planners, fetishists, support groups, cat lovers, etc. My crafty fleet of interns and I sort the press releases into little piles and type them into humorless little summaries. Then something magic happens when I sleep and the listings show up in the paper. But this hardly explains my job here. To help you see the world through the Listings Editor’s eyes, I decided to keep a log of a typical day in my professional life. Mon., July 9, 9 a.m. sharp. I arrive …

Next Stop: Harrassment. Why I Won’t Take Public Transportation

I didn’t need Pope Francis to tell me global warming was a thing. I’m one of those folks who doesn’t willfully shut their eyes to scientific evidence. I was even on my high school’s recycling committee way back when. (True story: My class ring has a dolphin on it majestically swimming though the center of the recycling arrows symbol.) I cannot support, however, what is probably one of the best ways for your average person to help out the Earth: taking public transportation. After spending five years enduring daily harassment on my commute to work, I would torch a planet full of dinosaurs for fuel so that I could travel in the protective, asshole-free bubble of my own car. I was born and raised in Philadelphia and lived there until I was 32 years old. That killer combo of living in a large city and being a woman means I’m no stranger to street harassment. A “Hey, baby,” here, a “That’s what I’m talkin’ about” there. Or sometimes worse. But that’s life in the big …