Sunday, July 30, 2006

Happy Anniversary

It was 20 years ago today that I died and 20 years ago today that I was born.

As laid out in my post from January 25, today was the day I escaped my personal prison and started a new chapter in Northeast Philly; a new chapter that would lead to a new me.

20 years ago today I was dragging trash bags filled with my belongings through this archway at 1302 Pine Street into my father's van ... and that night I found myself sleeping on a couch in the far reaches of the city's Bridesburg section, overlooking the forgotten wastelands surrounding chemical plants and refineries.

I had cut ties with everyone I knew as well as the life I had lived since becoming an adult.

At the time that experience was nothing but exhausting and filled with sadness -- however, looking back it was probably the best move I've ever made in this game called life.

Since that moment, I've slowly learned how to handle life in a simpler way - I've detatched myself from much of the bullshit that people seem happy to swim in ... and I've allowed myself the room to just grow as a human being and to appreciate the gifts I've been given by a higher power.

I no longer worry about finding love or wealth. I find happiness in the most simpliest of things and do my best to show others how to let go and just enjoy the ride. I pride myself on not owning a cell phone or a wristwatch. I love the feeling of being unreachable - the freedom one feels when alone with their thoughts in such a busy world is quite soothing. I've learned how to reduce the ingredients in my life that cause stress - thus living an fairly stress-free life.

By learning how to detach from things, it has given me the room to develop a strong calming aura. I never yell or raise my voice in anger - I haven't in years. In fact, I rarely get angry anymore. When something begins to cause me stress - I step back, focus on the situation and either find a solution or find peace in the fact that I have no answer, and move on.

I think this skill I've developed over the past decade, along with my other gifts, have acted as a beacon for those lost and frustrated. I was telling a friend yesterday about my shoebox; a collection of letters, notes and memories that I received from people over the past two decades ... all with a similar theme: thanking me for being there at just the 'right' moment. Helping them find their path. Bringing calm and light onto a dark and confusing situation.

As I have developed an inner peace, I have also created a strong energy that many feel - especially those in need.

I have countless experiences where I will be in a public place and zero in on the one lost soul - many times before they have even spoken a word. I simply sense it within and I know that it is part of the responsibility that I have accepted by learning the art of understanding. These strangers change into close friends - sharing stories with me that haven't seen the light of day in some time - many times within the first 24 hours of our meeting each other.

In their world I go from a stranger to someone they couldn't live without in an amazingly fast time ... I help them clear a path, ignite a flame and find an exit from their darkness. During this process, which can last anywhere from a few weeks to a year or so, they always express life-long commitment to me (friends til the end); although I know better, since I am not emotionally connected.

I know my role in this process and I know that, once they are free from their constraints, they will continue forward in life - and I will move to the next lost soul.

This doesn't upset me - it doesn't cause any real emotion, quite frankly. I am at peace with this process and understand that this is part of my mission here on this plane of life. At the root of it, the process is fulfilling. And, although I enjoy being alone - there are moments when I feel lonely. But life deals a new hand -- a new distraction -- and I direct my focus on the next page of life.

It's quite a story.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Surfin' a New Wave


The past week has been new wave OVERLOAD for me!

It began when I received an email from Les Chappell in order to arrange a phone interview that I wanted to record with Lene Lovich, from their home in England ... in support of her NYC appearance over the Labor Day weekend at the Drop Dead Festival. I should be doing the interview in the coming week or so, and I'll air snippets of it on the August edition of Land of the Lost on WXPN - and feature the entire interview as a podcast on XPN's new media site, which rolls out August 1.

Then, everything fell into place for Dance Craze 2 (see below) featuring The English Beat, and members of Selector and The Specials, which I will be hosting in September at World Cafe Live ... a great venue to see such wonderful live music!

Later that month I will be hosting Bunnydrums with some "special reunion guests" at the North Star Bar.

Then, all that's left is a signature and I'll officially be able to announce that I will be hosting the return of Wall of Voodoo to the stage this December!

And, when I got home last night - I had an email waiting to ask if I'd be interested in being the host/DJ on August 8 at the TLA for the return of Gary Numan!

What a week indeed :)

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Greatest

So - beginning August 1, WXPN will once again open the voting to another 885 countdown. Two years ago we celebrated the move into our new home by asking our listeners to vote for their Top Ten All Time Greatest Songs - we compiled the votes and played back - over a three week period - the 885 All Time Greatest Songs.

Last year we focused on albums -- and did the same thing. This time, it's all about the artists. Beginning August 1, XPN will ask listeners to go online and enter their personal Top Ten All Time Greatest Artists ... this might be a bit more interesting since a musical artist doesn't have to be a songwriter etc. Just someone that you felt was a major influence in music.

They asked the staffers to create their own list - so it can be part of the website's promotion around the 885 Artists ... having submitted it, I decided to share it with you (and I'll explain a bit about why I chose each artist), starting with number 10:

10] DANIEL MILLER: Although his band The Normal (which was just him) had cult success with its only hit "Warm Leatherette" back in 1978 - Daniel was overwhelmed with cassettes from other musicians who thought the address on his single was a real record company (and not something he created for his own use). So tons of bands sent demos and the next thing you know musician Daniel Miller launches MUTE Records ... and is home for Fad Gadget, Cabaret Voltare, Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, Erasure, Moby, Nitzer Ebb, and more...

9] BOB WILLS: Founder of The Texas Playboys in 1934, Bob Wills is the granddaddy of Texas Swing music and was one of the first to cross over to American pop culture - he influenced Hank Williams and others and laid the groundwork for a common appeal of country music.

8] ARETHA FRANKLIN: She is the "Queen of Soul" for a reason! She brought emotion to packaged R&B in the 1960s, and developed a true Diva persona in the latter years of the 20th century, even by tackling opera. Although she's not as strong as she used to be - I always stop to watch Arethea perform.

7] JOHN LEE HOOKER: John Lee Hooker's guitar playing is closely alligned with piano boogie-woogie. He would play the walking bass pattern with his thumb, stopping to emphasize the end of a line with a series of trills, done by rapid hammer-ons and pull-offs. The song that most epitomizes his early sound is "Boogie Chillen," about being 17 and wanting to go out to dance at the boogie clubs. John represents (to me) the field of authentic blues musicians that inspired rock artists like The Rolling Stones, et al.

6] FRANK SINATRA: This man truly created the term "teeny-bopper" and for good reason: his rise to stardom in the 1940s created a new niche market for music from that era forward: teenagers. He showed what pop power can do and his way with lyrics, especially during his Capitol years, is second to none. Frank reminds me of my youth for some odd reason. I think I just heard a lot of his music as a very young child. The man demonstrated what it was to be a showman (both good and bad) and was one of the first uber-musicians to comfortably cross over into Hollywood.

5] JOHNNY CASH: When you look at the field of songwriters, you see Dylan, Neil Young, etc ... but there is something about a Johnny Cash song that makes the others pale in comparison. His compassion for those oppressed was sincere and much of Cash's music, especially that of his later career, echoed themes of sorrow, moral tribulation and redemption. That was impressive to me.

4] DUKE ELLINGTON: Part of jazz royalty, the Duke took a basic melody and made it into a symphony. His arrangements were outstanding and he rightly received a revival of sorts after his appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival on July 7, 1956. The feature 'Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue', with saxophonist Paul Gonsalves's six-minute saxophone solo, had been in the band's book for a while, but on this occasion it nearly created a riot in the audience. This performance is on what is one of my all-time favorite albums "Duke Ellington and his Orchestra at Newport" ... do yourself a favor and listen to it, and you'll see why!

3] THE BEATLES: I expect these guys to be number one or two when the dust settles on the official count - but for me, I never got them. I appreciate their music - but probably more because I could never escape it. They were by most standards, the biggest musical act of the 20th century. The songwriting was impressive and they understood the times they were in; tweaking each release to fit the mood of the people. The songwriting of Lennon/McCartney was amazing, as almost everything they wrote, stuck. Plus, they (and their management and handlers) learned how to push the envelope for mass-marketing to new levels. That alone helped make them one of the all-time greatest.

2] LOUIS ARMSTRONG: It all started here, my friends. In 1922, Armstrong joined Joe "King" Oliver and his band in Chicago and soon was off to NYC to play with Fletcher Henderson ... the list of musicians that were influenced by Armstrong is astounding. Most consider Armstrong the Father of Jazz ... and if you stop and appreciate just how important jazz is to music in general today - it's all because of Louis Armstrong. I totally reccommend watching the 10-part Ken Burns' PBS special he did on JAZZ ... it's a great holiday gift if you're stumped on what to get someone! here's more

1] DAVID BOWIE: The Glam master himself. For me, this man is my Greatest Artist of All Time. It's not because I am a crazy fan that owns everything Bowie (which I don't) but it's because Bowie created a genre of music that became the foundation for so many other genres: glam rock, new wave, new romantic, etc. He has such a way of telling a story in song, you easily get swept up. He embraced the idea of reinventing yourself with each release (well before Madonna), and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't. He appreciated the underground by showcasing musicians like Klaus Nomi and Brian Eno. He comfortably entered the pop music charts while keeping his roots in creative rock music. He was one of the first stars to not shy away from his sexuality at a time when it was deadly to be anything but heterosexual. That gave me hope as a young gay kid. He has aged gracefully and still performs in the now -- versus riding his own successful coattails. Finally, Scary Monsters was a powerful album for me - as it came out at the same time I did (haha) and I totally identified with being a scary monster and a super creep. Bow to Bowie, for he is my number one!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Ghost In You

Where to start?

This past weekend I traveled to New York City for a few social obligations - but the highlight of my weekend was walking the streets from Penn Station down to my hotel over at 24th and 6th, with my headphones on and a special playlist I created for the weekend, celebrating NYC when I remembered it: during the early 1980s.

Tunes that held the key to open floodgates of memories as I turned each corner, both on the streets and in my mind. I crossed intersections that I had crossed hundreds of times over the past two decades ... but for some reason it was all fresh and new! With each step forward, I felt as if I was stepping back in time. At one point, I remember coming up to a traffic light and I looked across the street and saw a woman wearing the craziest outfit - straight out of 1984. It was fate ... I had found a wormhole in time and I had entered my past!!

As I walked closer, I removed my headphones and decided to cross the street - in order to pass her and see her up close, perhaps to even smile and say 'well done'. However, in doing so, I walked past a parking lot and heard my name being called from behind the cars. I looked over and it was Carlos!!

Carlos and I hung out in Manhattan too many times in the 80s! I've not seen him for twenty years! I stood stunned on the sidewalk as Carlos leaped towards me -- we hugged and laughed and, I actually felt a tear or two well up. I thought for sure he was dead and here he was - once the initial dust settled, I commented on the new wave woman that made me cross the street.

Keep in mind all this happened in a span of a minute or so - as I told him I looked up and she was nowhere to be found. Gone. I never saw her pass me and I can't imagine she just vanished - we walk up the block in search of this mysterious woman - nothing.

We both laughed and agreed that she probably didn't exist at all - and was just a spirit from the past sent down to catch my eye, so that I would cross over and connect with Carlos.

I spent the afternoon with Carlos - catching up on life and times. It was good to see him again!

The rest of the weekend was whirlwind... happy hour mixer in Chelsea, a networking b'fast the following morning and then a rush back to Philly to catch the touring Cirque performance.

But the highlight was Carlos and the mysterious new wave woman.

Thanks, wherever you are. :)

Friday, July 14, 2006

The Past is Present

Well, I suppose I'm not the only person remembering, so not to forget. Today, amidst the summer heat and humidity, I walked home to find a hand-written letter waiting for me behind my front door, along with the more traditional pile of bills and flyers.

It was addressed simply Resident and had traveled across the country from Santa Rosa, California. So, I open it and this is what it said:
To present resident,

Odd request coming out of the blue but may I stop by and 'visit' your home between September 20 and 22? Why, you might ask!?

Because I used to live in your house from 1943 to 1946 as a child of sixteen-nineteen and would like to see how my family home has changed over the past 60 years. I am making a last trip back east this fall and am eager to see the changes in the NOW Philly, which is Queens Village - when my memory goes back to the Jewish stores on South 4th street which hired us kids about 12 years of age to work on Saturdays from 10am to 9pm on the open stands outside their stores. The movie theatre (which was still there in 1984, my last visit) and South Street which I now understand is quite the place to be.

It would not be a long visit - perhaps less than an hour - but I would deeply appreciate it.
Natually, I am pretty intrigued by this person's request - simple math puts her at around 79 years of age. What touches me the most is that she knows that this is her last trip to her birthhome. Obviously, I am going to say yes - I hope she can do it on the 22nd of September, since (ironically) I'll be in California September 19-21.

Funny. While she travels here - I'll be traveling there. Her letter and first-person history of my neighborhood reminded me of a post I made back in January ... check it out!

Do You Nomi??

we're soon to be on the 23rd anniversary
of the passing of a new wave legend.

I selected some interesting clips ...
watch them in order to fully appreciate this enigma.

Let's smile together, shall we???

Rest In Peace.

oh wait ... let's end with this ... i only wish i was this cool at this young age:

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Half-Nelson Turns Full

Those that have followed along in my posts are aware of Nelson Sullivan. Nelson was a friend that took it upon himself to document the ever-growing underground scence of life below 14th Street in NYC.

It began in 1982 and Nelson took his portible videocam with him everywhere and created a unique style by figuring out hot to look on the lens of the camera, rather than through the lens - to create these sweeping flowing shots of New York City.

He never edited his tapes later, but would edit in-camera as he went along. He would accompany his filming with commentary, and was never too self-conscious to turn the camera on himself.

Nelson was with all the Club Kids of NYC from the very start - and it's all documented on videotape. He went to just about every party and he and I would cross paths constantly while out and about in Manhattan. Sadly, he died of a heart attack on the 4th of July in 1989 at the age of 41.

Though this memoirs blog project was to help me remember, it seems to have developed a life of its own. I have connected with other players from that time - people I never knew but always saw. I've also connected with people who regret having been born too late - and appreciate a first-hand tour of the past. One person I've met via this project is Robert - Nelson's archivist.

Just this weekend, Robert wrote to comment on my post from Friday - he then went on to say:
I think about all the dead too and it really upsets me that the generation after me(I'm 36) has no clue of the devastation that occurred because of AIDS.

I started a site on YouTube and I thought I would use it to show the odd assortment of clips in my collection. I uploaded Tom Rubnitz's PICKLE SURPRISE and people responded to the short. Unfortunately, no one knows who Tom is, er- was. And that's when I happened onto your site again.

I've decided to use the youtube account as a repository of what we have lost as a culture due to the all the people who aren't with us. I'm not going to spell it out to the public as I just did, but that's where I am heading.

And I would not of thought of it so quickly if you had not brought up Nelson in your blog.

No - thank you Robert, for keeping the memories alive and preserved. And, as for you my dear reader - take the time and explore Robert's YouTube site - see the freshness of the faces, the creative juices literally ooze from your screen while watching performers like RuPaul, Bunny etc. before fame had found them. This was my history and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Also - check out

Back Tracks

Yesterday I played tour guide by showing a friend - new to Philadelphia - how to enter the bike path along the Schuylkill River. Although I see the path daily as I walk to work, crossing the river via the Walnut Street bridge, I hadn't really explored the riverside since its renovation.

Fact is, although it is a river, to me it represents a sea of memories. The Schuylkill Rivier runs alongside the west end of Center City Philadelphia. Between the river and the city lies railroad tracks that carry an army of redundant metal boxes up and down the coast. When I first moved downtown, that region was truly a "no-mans" land. For those wondering, the word Schuylkill means "hidden river", which was quite fitting back in those years.

There was an overgrown plot of land that led to the tracks. Although it was a park of sorts, it was in sad shape. It was commonly known as Judy Garland Park, since the only people who really hung there were gay men of all ages. From the park you could connect to the tracks - which you could walk down until you were alongside the mighty Philadelphia Museum of Art. If you ever looked up, that is.

Everyone hung down by the tracks during the warmer months in the early 80s. The party time was the weekend - as the bars closed - everyone made their way west. Some hung on the 2000 block of Spruce Street - the Merry Go Round, as it was called - since cars would circle the block all night long - crusing for men and chatting with friends. It got so busy that the city put up traffic signs prohibiting left turns after midnight at each corner of the square.

The tracks were where you hung if you were too fucked up to head home. The tracks were where you hung if you were too young to get into the clubs. The tracks were where you hung if you were too closeted to actually be seen around a gay bar. The tracks were a community all of itself. A bunch of gay men and teens, several boom boxes of music, drugs for those that wanted it, sex for those that craved it, and a river that couldn't care less.

I left the tracks and Judy Garland Park when I left CC Philly in the mid 80s. In 1992 the neighborhood clashed with those that hung out there - and they all clashed with the police who had a heavy hand in handling the situation.

My friend Glenn Holsten (currently traveling the country in support of his new documentary 'Saint of 9/11') produced a public tv documentary about neighborhood reaction to the park, called 'AKA Judy Garland Park', back in 1994 - during the decade when things boiled over along the river.

Cultures clashed. Police rolled in. A darker element - even darker than the ones I had seen back in the 80s - took over the tracks. Casual drug use turned into drug deals gone wrong. Bodies were found floating alongside the riverbank - identified as gay men but murder or suicide? No one ever solved those cases. The push to clean up the riverbank was on.

So - yesterday I walked along the river, and although I was engaging in pleasant conversation with my friend on a sunny afternoon, I was haunted by memories. I saw pillers that stood to support thousands of people crossing the river daily - and that represented mental mile markers of places that I hung at at night, a quarter century ago.

We were able to walk along the river straight to Boathouse Row and back. Sculptured grounds, benches and ample lighting made this bank worthy of one to visit again. If nothing more than to say hi to the ghosts of my past.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Renaissance Begins

Today I received an email from a friend - and it was a copy of an article that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Halloween of 1982 - spotlighting the development of 13th/Locust Street ... specifically how the hopes of the neighborhood hung on the soon-to-open Hershey Hotel (now the Doubletree Hotel) at Broad/Locust. The article is a good read, especially for anyone familiar with that area:

Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA)
October 31, 1982
By George Anastasia
Inquirer Staff Writer

It has been called the "Barbary Coast" and "The Strip."

It has been a haven for pimps and prostitutes, a mecca for the underside of the city's nightlife, a place where bustout bars and strip joints flourished, where sex and drugs were bartered openly, where violent crime was a common occurrence.

Locust Street from Broad to 12th - just "two decent golf shots from City Hall," says one local businessman - has for years carried the well-earned label as the home of Center City's flesh market.

Now, in certain circles at least, it has begun to take on a new image. Quietly, subtly, but most believe irreversibly, the Locust Street strip has turned a corner.

That corner, to most observers' minds, is Broad and Locust Streets, where the 450-room, $40 million Hershey Philadelphia Hotel is under construction.

The Hershey, nearly everyone agrees, will be a catalyst for change. Over the long haul, they say, there is no way a first-class hotel can exist on the same city block with pimps and prostitutes, go-go girls and late-night discos. This is especially true when the hotel is owned by the Hershey people, makers of chocolate bars and candy kisses, operators of an amusement theme park that oozes charm and is an embodiment of the word wholesome.

Would-be developers and local businesspeople have already begun poring over maps of the neighborhood and charting a course to turn that potential into profit.

"There's an intuitive feeling that something's going to happen," said Ned Mitinger, the Philadephia Redevelopment Authority's project manager for the Washington Square West urban renewal tract, which includes a portion of the strip between 12th and 13th Streets.

But because of the uncertainties surrounding the economy and the stigma still attached to the area, any developer or business investor, Mitinger said cautiously, would "have to have imagination and be a risk taker."

Nine months ago George Dunca took the risk when he opened Il Vagabondo, a swank Italian restaurant, at 1305 Locust St. His business is adjacent to a building at 1301 Locust that houses a go-go bar and three late-night discos, the last vestiges of the old Locust Street strip.

"It was a big risk," said Dunca of his decision to leave a restaurant he was operating in Burlington Township, N.J., and move to 13th and Locust. "But I said to myself, 'Let's see what can be done.' For the first four months it was very bad. . . . I would take a reservation over the phone and I would say we were located just 200 feet from Broad Street on Locust. People would get here and they would say, 'My God, it's 13th and Locust.' "

But Dunca said things have begun to improve. He is beginning to attract the theater and hotel crowd from the other side of Broad Street. And he, like nearly every other businessman in the area, is eagerly awaiting the opening early next year of the Hershey Hotel.

"Ultimately our hotel, by its presence, will put pressure on to change things down the block," said Richard S. Verruni, director of marketing for the Hershey Hotel. "The pressure of new development will create an atmosphere that's not conducive to them conducting business as usual. . . . There's dynamite potential here. This could become the hot spot in Center City."

When that happens, Verruni said, it will make sense - as in dollars and cents - for the block to change.

"Why leave in tenants who pay maybe $300 a month when you can spruce up a business and get $3,000?" he asked.

Marvin Factor understands that logic and is hoping to cash in. He is a partner in the Center City law firm of Factor and McCabe, which has purchased Johnny Dee's restaurant on the southeast corner of 13th and Locust. The firm is renovating the once-notorious hangout into commercial offices.

"We intend to occupy the top two floors," said Factor. The first two floors of the four-story building will be rented as commercial space. Factor said his firm had paid $400,000 for the property and intended to spend an additional $800,000 on renovations, which, he hoped, would be completed by the spring.

"It's a growth area," he said of 13th and Locust.

It is also an area rich in history and turn-of-the-century architecture that has been overshadowed by its seamy image.

Two buildings, 1227 and 1229 Locust, which are part of a string of boarded-up properties in the 1200 block, have been nominated for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Mitinger of the Redevelopment Authority. They are next to vacant structures that once housed the Bag of Nails and the Golden 33 Club, two of the more infamous strip joints that operated on Locust Street.

Those four properties are among nearly a dozen the Redevelopment Authority owns along the 1200 block. For the last 10 years, the Authority has tried, with very limited success, to attract developers who would buy, renovate and restore the buildings.

But that may be changing. An architect and her sociologist husband have agreed with the Authority to renovate and restore six buildings from 1201 to 1211 Locust, Mitinger said. And a doctor plans to restore the brick building at 1200 Locust and convert it to an office.

But despite those seemingly positive signs, Mitinger remains only guardedly optimistic about the future. There are, he said, too many volatile elements involved to begin touting the renaissance at 13th and Locust.

One lingering element is the existence of the All in the Family go-go bar, an after-hours club called Whispers, and two late-night discos called All Night Disco and Disco 13, all in a low-slung, brown cinder block and brick building that dominates the northwest corner of 13th and Locust.

Although police and local businessmen agree that the clubs have not caused any major problems, their mere existence is considered a magnet for an element of the city's nightlife that lends the corner its seedy image.

Police officer Daniel Faulkner was killed at 13th and Locust a little over a year ago, a crime that reinforced the local perception of the corner as a high crime area. Hookers, pimps and drug dealers have worked the area and, more recently, streetwalkers have clashed with members of the city's homosexual community, which has been expanding in the Washington Square West area.

"It's like a salad out there," says Police Inspector John DiBenedetto. ''You have a little bit of everything. . . . But the bars themselves aren't the problem. It's the people who go there."

DiBenedetto, like several other city officials, said he had already seen the signs of change. He believes that in time a renaissance will take place and the strip will recapture the glitter that preceded its demise.

"Back in the 50s there were some real smart nightclubs in that area," he said. "You had the after-theater crowd. But then we got the strip joints and the bustout bars (where women working for the bar would 'work' the patrons for drinks) and things started to go downhill."

Tony Gentile, who manages the go-go bar and two discos on the corner, remembers when 13th and Locust attracted a better clientele. And he, too, thinks the area can come back.

"If this place gets cleaned up, I'm willing to do my part," he said. ''I'll bring back the bands and make these places nice. . . . But the city's gotta do its part. The Redevelopment Authority owns all that property out here. You seen it? It's a disgrace. Some of those buildings been empty for 15 years. What's the city done?"

Another developmental uncertainty for the area, in fact, is a proposal to add 131 low-cost, subsidized housing units to the neighborhood on property now owned by the Authority. The $6.5 million project, which stems from a 1978 court decision, would involve the renovation of 111 apartment units and the construction of 20 new units, many along 13th and 11th Streets near Locust.

The plan is opposed by the Washington West Project Area Committee, and local apartment owners Salvatore Guzzardi and his son Michael. The Guzzardis contend that low-income housing will further stigmatize the area. Redevelopment Authority and City Planning Commission officials, however, support architect Michael Horn's project.

The Guzzardis also are part of a group of local businessmen and investors who say they have a plan to develop most of the remaining Redevelopment Authority property in the 13th and Locust Streets area.

(note: Mike's brother Bob Guzzardi was in the news recently as the former co-owner of 12th Street Gym - he was pressured to sell his part of the gay-friendly gym after word broke that he personally has given tens of thousands of dollars to right-wing republicans, like Rick Santorum)

Michael Guzzardi talks of a high-rise condominium like the swank Academy House being built at 13th and Locust and sees the area borrowing not just an image but also a name from the nearby Hershey Hotel.

"Maybe this should be Hersheytown or Hersheyville, something like that," he said recently.

But Mitinger cautions that the Guzzardis, who own both the Lenox and Chancellor Apartments on 13th Street near Locust, have not gotten past the ''cup of coffee" stage of discussions with the Redevelopment Authority.

Change cannot come too soon for James E. Mooney, director of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, a grand old institution that has stoically withstood the onslaught of urban decay while sharing the 13th and Locust Streets corner for decades with some of the city's seamiest entrepreneurs.

Mooney, society director since 1974, talks at length of crime and squalor in the streets just outside a Philadelphia institution that houses the largest privately supported manuscript collection in the United States.

The steps of the Historical Society, he said, have been used by the streetwalkers to conduct their business on warm spring and summer nights.

Mooney, like many others, hopes the opening of the Hershey and the other development plans and proposals for the area will eventually drive out the less attractive commerce that remains a part of the block.

But for now Mooney continues to conduct a cultural business in the midst of that wasteland. And so, he said last week, the society intends to to build a fence around the ornate pillars and steps that lead to the doors of the museum. There is no other way, he said, to keep the nightlife of 13th and Locust away from one of the city's finest cultural centers

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Great Experiment

The great experiment has ended.

Last month, as I finished my previous post - I realized that I needed to take a break from this project for one month ... although I wasn't quite sure why.

I knew that since April I had entered a funky period of my world - and was mentally in a fog, although not quite sure how the fog developed or just when the cold front would move from my line of vision and clear things out. So I decided to take a month off from this project as part of my retreat into my little corner of the world.

During the month I detached from many of my routine patterns - checking in with my collection of favorite blogs from friends and such was one of those things that fell to the wayside. Was the funk brought on by the arrival of my birthday? I thought perhaps, but it was doubtful, since I love birthdays and, as those who know me know, I celebrate mine a few times each year!

One night I decided to scan my blog bookmarks and just see what friends have been up to -- and I stumbled upon a post from my friend Freddy that hit me straight in the chest. He spoke my words, he felt my frustration and, with the entry of just a handful of words - helped shake a stalled front over my head and clear the air around me.

Before I tell you what he said, the back story: Freddy started a personal journey blog upon his discovery that he was HIV positive. The blog has been heartwarming, painful, funny and simply a must-read for me over time.

He started his entry as follows:
I haven't felt much like blogging lately. I haven't done my weekly visits to all my favorite blogs in quite a while either. I haven't been online much at all these days. Creatively, I've hit a wall, and rather than climb it, I find myself just staring at it curiously. How did you get here?
Then, went on to explain that he was wondering if he was at the end of the chapter.
I fear that if I spend too much time talking about the subject, I'll never move past it. And in a way, I think I've made my peace with most of it.
That was it! I had spent the past six months documenting memories of my past - and in doing so, reliving my life over, via my series of entries. Not only has it been an invigorating experience, it has been exhausting for me mentally. Everything I write about is gone. The Scene. The locations. The city as it was. And, most importantly, the people.

By remembering before I forgot, I also reminded myself of just how much of my past is locked up soley in my mind. I cannot sit at a table and have a few drinks with my friends from that time and tell stories of the 'good ol' days'. I can't go for a walk and visit some of the haunts of my past.

The purpose of this journal was to document an era - one that many people aren't aware of. And, those that are haven't talked much about it in years. I feel, judging from the comments I've received, that I succeeded. Those from my generation were grateful for the memory triggers I provided. Those too young to remember were amazed to learn about just how fuckin' cool Philly was back in the day.

I remembered and I will never forget. But perhaps it's time for me to move forward. Grant it, I don't wan't to stop posting memories completely. Perhaps I should shift this blog and start posting current thoughts about current things. Or, perhaps I should continue to document my life - but I'm not sure how public I want certain chapters to be.

I use Live Journal more for keeping in the loop of my friends' diaries. When I do post, its a mixture of promotional stuff and slice-of-life comments. Nothing too deep. Perhaps this blog needs to become the deep end of my mental pool.

Anyway - comments are welcomed on this post (as with all posts). For now, I just wanted to explain why I hadn't posted for the past month and to let my readers know that I'm still here.

Happy Friday :)