June 30, 2003

Andy Roddick has made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, the only American in the lot. I think he can win this thing. So does John McEnroe. Roddick’s next opponent is Sweden’s Jonas Borkman.

You know what’s odd, though, is looking at the schedule of play and seeing the names of so many players I remember watching as a teenager. Except now they’re playing in the 35- and 45-and-over tournaments, many of them with the same doubles partners as in the prime of their careers: Anand Amritraj and Vijay Amritraj, Owen Davidson and John Newcombe, John Feaver and John Lloyd, Colin Dowdeswell and Buster Mottram, Bob Lutz and Stan Smith, Peter McNamara and Paul McNamee, Ross Case and Geoff Masters, Brian Gottfried and Raoul Ramirez, John Alexander and Phil Dent.

It’s like some bizarre time warp. Like I woke up 20 years later and nothing’s changed, though of course it has -- the game is quite different now. I didn’t see Ken Rosewall’s name. It would be cool if he were still playing. Fine old chap, he was.


This just in from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“Youthadelphia,” they once called it, a teeming city-within-a-city, housing 1,000 young workers and sailors coming from small towns everywhere to burgeoning Philadelphia.

It was the largest YMCA in the world in its heyday, the 1920s and `30s, the old Philadelphia Bulletin said in 1949 -- a major urban institution, and at times a hip hangout, that is difficult to imagine today.

But at 10 tonight, the Central YMCA will close forever. Built in 1906 at 1421 Arch St., it has fallen victim to failing finances and a radically changed society.

And the Village People heave a collective sigh of despair.


A new discovery for me: The sports writer Frank Fitzpatick of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Twice in recent weeks Fitzpatrick has written articles about baseball -- the history of the game, not its current incarnation -- that I not only read to the end but found fascinating. That’s never happened before. (Take that, George Will!)

One, “Off the ‘A’ List,” I already blogged about (“Blame It on the Yankees,” June 2).

The second, “Why Did They Boo Del Ennis?”, was published yesterday:

The story of Del Ennis and the abuse he endured in 11 seasons as a Phillies outfielder has come to obscure his ability, his statistics, his memory. In a city infamous for hooted hostility, he is viewed as the progenitor in a long line of fan-maligned Philadelphia power hitters that included Gus Zernial, Dick Allen, and Mike Schmidt.

Ennis was, by all accounts, a man not given to deep introspection. But the booing hurt him and, in the 37 years between his retirement and his death at age 70 from diabetes-related causes in 1996, he wrestled with the same question that still confronts his family: Why?

Fitzpatrick talks about the booing with Ennis’s widow, Liz Ennis. Fortunately, the article has a poignant ending.


It’s summer again. Time for me to start thinking of moving to Finland.

I had forgotten how much I hate the sound of my air-conditioners. And there’s no getting away from them: I work at home.

The strangest thing about the machines is that I sometimes hear music coming from them. Either that or I’m going insane. Today, it’s “Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do),” by Christopher Cross.

June 28, 2003

Remember I told you I hate Philadelphia’s “lunch carts”? Well, I’m not wild about the sidewalk vendors either. I feel reassured in that judgment now that I see Tanya Barrientos, among the Philadelphia Inquirer’s best columnists, apparently agrees with me. (“In Philadelphia, Sidewalk Sellers Don’t Have the Goods,” June 28, p. E1.)

Barrientos recently hit the pavement (that’s what “the sidewalk” is called here), and came up, well, pretty much empty-handed.

It’s not as if she didn’t try. Barrientos said she went hunting along “the prime tourist blocks between Eighth and 18th Streets and JFK Boulevard and Walnut Street.” That’s some pretty serious territory -- some 30 square blocks. If there were anything to be found, that’s where it would be. (There are still more vendors east of Eighth St., but that’s Independence Hall territory, and beautiful as the neighborhood is, the peddlers over there are particularly lacking in entrepreneurship.)

Fake Coach and Kate Spade bags got the writer’s spirits up, but not for long. Among the subsequent horrors: “garish flip-flops for five bucks.” Garish flip-flops. Please, Ms. Barrientos, there’s no need to be redundant.

“Philly is just not a good pavement-purchasing town,” writes Barrientos. “A spokeswoman for the city told me it’s partly because the licensing of vendors is stricter here than in other places, such as Manhattan.”

Could be. But I think New York has better sidewalk vendors because it’s closer to where the good stuff falls off of trucks and where the best knock-offs are made by some of the same companies that manufacture the real thing (one of the garment trade’s dirty little secrets).

Regardless, if you’re in Philly and enjoy snapping up sidewalk bargains, save your money. And your time. They’re not even worth a second look.


Are postage stamps returnable?

May one bring a pile of them back to a local branch of the U.S. Postal Service and get one’s money back?

Never mind why. I’m just asking.


Live! In Concert?

I can’t believe this! So, it’s, like, almost midnight, and I was just now flipping through the latest issue of the Philadelphia City Paper trying to plan the rest of my night, and I ran across an ad for the Trocadero Theatre, a performance “space” here in Philadelphia that’s, gee whiz, not more than seven or eight blocks from my house.

And who do I see is performing there tonight? Probably right now? At this very moment? Bruce Willis. Actually, “Bruce Willis and the Accelerators.” I can’t believe it. I know I miss a lot, what with not having cable TV and not subscribing to US, People, or Maxim, but this is ridiculous.

(You know, I’m going to admit a shameful secret here: I once was in a relationship with a guy who couldn’t finish the crossword puzzles in either People or TV Guide. Never in human history have three years been so thoroughly wasted as those I spent with that dunce. Well, except for that whole George Bush I as president thing, but that’s another story.)

But I digress. Look, I’m no Bruce-Willis hater. I never have been. Frankly, I’d take him over Demi Moore any day. But, seriously, readers, what is this? Is Willis in, like, a band or something? Is it for real? Is he, are they, any good? This is totally blowing me away. I need details.

Even better news: I see in the same ad that the Tom Tom Club is performing at The Trocadero on July 10.

I actually have two or three of their CDs. Isn’t that weird? There’s actually a person or band whose CDs I own that is continuing to perform, that is (are) still alive, in fact.

Maybe I should go.

No, I’d feel weird. I’d be, like, the oldest person there. Well, except for the band members, that is.

[Note: This post was previously published at The Rittenhouse Review.]

June 26, 2003

So this parrot walks into a bar and . . . Wait, that’s a different story.

Here’s a new twist on blogging: A bar with a blog. The Green Parrot, Key West, Fla., has launched The Green Parrot Bar No Snivelling Zone.

It’s an experiment, they say -- yeah, right, soon enough they’ll be as hooked as the rest of us -- with “regular updates on the latest happenings” at the Green Parrot.

Wish them the best. After all, the blog, they add, is “the closest thing to a webcam we’ll get!”

June 24, 2003

“Which Is More Disgusting?”

Following up on an earlier post, “Cual es Mas Asqueroso?” -- or, “Which is More Disgusting?” -- we asked, well, which is more disgusting, at least among regular household items: the kitchen sponge or wall-to-wall carpeting?

By a margin of almost two-to-one, i.e., 64 percent to 36 percent, TRR readers established that wall-to-wall carpeting is the more disgusting of the two common household items from which I asked you to choose.

I couldn’t agree more. Is it any wonder I love my readers?

In the inimitable words of the inimitable Jane Finch of the Daily Rant, who didn’t actually cast a vote in this survey but with whom I have discussed this matter in the past, wall-to-wall carpeting is “an abomination.”

(By the way, I counted Jane’s vote in this poll under “wall-to-wall.” Why? Because I like her. Even though her blog doesn’t link to TRR. I did not, however, count the anticipated vote of reader L.M., which I knew would have been cast in the W2W column because, well, I’m just a fair kind of guy. Not that I don’t love L.M., I do. I “luv” her.)

Anyway, as reader B.M.O. put it:

Tough choice. I ripped up some wall-to-wall last fall and threw it on the back deck. It’s been there all winter, and it’s now spring. It was fairly disgusting on the floor, what with two puppies and three kids, but rolled up and in the elements, it’s in own ecosystem now, really, and I’m not sure that I’ll be able to remove it until it freezes over, or, at least a little frost kills off some “the life”.

We don’t have a kitchen sponge, but if you mean the one for the floor, kept under the sink, I’d have to think that has pretty much got to be it. Unless one considers an unrinsed dish cloth, meant for cleaning dishes, the one that sits draped over the kitchen faucet. That’s fairly disgusting. Especially if it is used occasionally to wipe spills on the floor.

My wife and I once moved into an apartment -- our first together -- that had wall to wall carpet in the kitchen. That was pretty bad. But I still think the one that might top the list is the little terry-cloth floormats that fit snugly around the base of the toilet, especially so if the toilet is in the basement.

Puh-leeze, people! Wall-to-wall carpeting is the most disgusting invention known to humankind. Enough with this crap, already! If it’s in your home, get rid of it! If you’re thinking about it, don’t! Wood floors and extremely well tended area rugs. Even linoleum, for crying out loud! That’s the answer you’re looking for.


Below is a just a portion, thankfully, of a conversation I overheard this afternoon in the Washington West (a/k/a “Wash West”) area of Philadelphia, in front of one of the neighborhood’s several hospitals:

Woman No. 1: I been havin’ good luck with it.

Woman No. 2: Yeah?

Woman No. 1: Oh, yeah, real good luck.

Woman No. 2: How so?

Woman No. 1: It’s relievin’ the piles.

Woman No. 2: Uh-huh.

Woman No. 1: And what with the itchin’ and swelling goin’ down, I’m sleepin’ better at night too.


It’s going to be a long summer. Hell, it might as well be, since, at least in Philadelphia, we had no spring to speak of. But the impending long hot summer, at least from my perspective, has little to do with the temperature outside -- though you might want to check back with me in August on that one -- and more to do with a seasonal fashion disaster in the making.

First off: I hate sandals.

There, I said it. I hate sandals of any and all types, when worn by virtually anyone, particularly men. Men should not wear sandals. Period. (Okay, at least men over the age of, say, 24.)

But even more than I hate sandals, I hate “flip-flops.” On anyone. Female or male. Young or old. And especially when flip-flops are worn as “street wear.”

Now, to my great dismay, I see that flip-flops, which, as my friends will tell you I have referred to unceasingly for the past 20 years as “always the wrong choice,” are making a big comeback in New York, at inflated prices and in ridiculous designs, of course. (They’re also already big in Philadelphia this summer, too, though I’m not sure it’s for the same reasons.)

I’m not going to like this. I’m not going to like it one bit. I’ll deal with it, of course, but if you have any interest at all in making my summer something less than a living hell, I’d ask those who choose to adopt this latest fad to take heed of Ji Baek’s admonition, noted in the Observer, namely, WASH YOUR FEET!:

There’s nothing as embarrassing or unelegant or unsexy or wretchedly ugly and unattractive as black heels when you see people walk. Like, to me, I cringe -- like, “Oh, gross!”…Rubber flip-flops are wretched for your feet. I hate those things.

I’m right there with you, sister.


St. Hedwig Roman Catholic Church, a Polish church located at 24th and Brown Streets in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia, will hold its last mass on August 30, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 21.

Actually, St. Hedwig lost its status as a full-fledged parish in 2000. Since then the church has been a satellite site of St. Francis Xavier, but continued to draw more than 100 worshippers to its weekly Saturday masses in Polish.

According to the Inquirer, “No decision has been made on whether to lease or sell the St. Hedwig's church, rectory, school or convent, said Msgr. John Conway, the Philadelphia-South vicar who is overseeing the process. The seven Trinitarian sisters who live in the convent will depart by August.”

(By the way, St. Hedwig, canonized by Pope Clement IV in 1266, is the patron saint of: Bavaria and Silesia; brides, difficult marriages, and widows; the death of children; victims of jealousy; and duchesses.)

In the same article we learn two American Muslim organizations, the Islamic Circle of North America and the Muslim American Society, are gathering in Philadelphia over the July 4th weekend. At least 15,000 people are expected.

Eunice Stone and the Little Green Footballs gang might want to stick to the southern backwoods for the weekend.

June 20, 2003

Just one more season left for “A Bunch O’ White Chicks Sittin’ Around Talkin’ Dirty.”

There is a God. He’s a little slow sometimes, but he’s out there somewhere.

[Post-publication addendum (June 27): Whether you love the show (Huh?) or hate it (Thank you.), you’ve got to appreciate this line from the review of the season premier, which I did not watch, by the way, from Debra Auspitz of the Philadelphia City Paper: “Thank the lord, this episode was nearly entirely free of Carrie-stops-on-the-street-and-poses-like-she’s-in-some-sort-of-photo-shoot-that-only-she-knows-about moments.” Not bad. Except the whole show always seemed to me to be four great big endless “look at me” moments.]

June 19, 2003

The Best and Worst of the City of Brotherly Love

Arranged in Thoroughly Random and Unrelated Pairings

PHILADELPHIA - LOVE IT: The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. What a treasure. A treasure trove of treasures, in fact.

The University of Pennsylvania long has had a strong interest in, and has provided substantial support for the study of, archaeology. The museum, housed in a striking building in Philadelphia’s University City neighborhood on the Penn campus, was established to hold the growing collections of the worldwide expeditions organized and funded by the university.

Yes, it’s a little shabby in parts, and a majority of the floor space of the building still, if you can believe this, lacks air-conditioning, but the newly renovated classical galleries, encompassing the cultures of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Etruscans, are exhibits of the type of which most museums can only dream.

The University Museum hopes eventually to bring all of its galleries to the world-class status of the classical rooms. It’s a noble goal worthy of your contribution and encouragement.

Regardless, move thoughtfully and leisurely through the galleries and you will be amazed at the wonders before your very eyes.

PHILADELPHIA - HATE IT: Lunch Carts. Philadelphians love their “lunch carts.” I hate them. I despise them. I loathe them. I call them roach coaches.

But here they are so popular, so beloved, the Philadelphia Daily News is now sponsoring a contest to identify the city’s favorite.

Introducing the contest, the Daily News yesterday observed (“Wanted: City's #1 Lunch Truck,” by April Adamson):

With all the media attention that goes to city restaurants, diners[,] and fast-food chains, attention rarely focuses on the city’s 843 licensed lunch trucks and vendors, bastions of daytime city food fare. These intrepid restaurateurs wield knives and spatulas, risking death and divorce to work inches from one another all day long, day in and day out.

What the hell is she talking about? How could anyone not pay attention to them? They’re friggin’ everywhere, sometimes two or three at the same intersection. And Philadelphia, being an old city, is not known for its wide sidewalks (often, and oddly, referred to here, as in England, as “the pavement”); even the most spacious of walkways in Center City can be maddeningly crowded at mid-day, especially for those of us who are members of the Get the Hell Out of My Way Society. They take up too much space. They’re in my way, damn it!

In my admittedly arrogant opinion, there’s just no room for, nor need for, these atrocities. I am, no doubt, in a minority with that viewpoint. So, needless to say, I don’t have a favorite lunch cart. I do, however, have a least favorite. It sits every day at the southeast corner of 12th and Market Streets, more on 12th St., actually, a particularly narrow sidewalk at an unusually busy intersection. Throw a disorganized and disorderly line of patrons in front of this roach coach and the area becomes virtually impassable.

I don’t know the name of this eye-sore of a pushcart -- it’s probably “No. 1 Happy Happy Joy Chow Chow Wagon” or something like that -- and I won’t be entering it in the PDN’s contest. I’ll be watching for it to be nominated, though, as it’s quite popular. I often wonder about that, however, given the nasty detritus one sees each evening at the cart’s location after it’s been towed away to God knows where for the night.


On the subject of killing Sims, discussed here yesterday, Timothy R. Gray of the Pennsylvania Gazette writes in:

I may be a diabolical bastard for knowing this, but there is a way to kill any Sim, no matter how much they care to resist.

Build a swimming pool and remove the ladder after he or she starts swimming. The unfortunate Sim will eventually tire and drown.

Hey, thanks for the tip, Tim, and you really are a diabolical bastard, though I like that in a person.

Regrettably, I’m so inept at The Sims that I’ve yet to build a complete roof on any house in the neighborhood. You want me to build swimming pools? Half the houses are either on fire or abandoned.

I’m telling you, the place looks like Camden on a full-moon night in July.

June 18, 2003

Nichole Dulin of Passenger Pachyderms shares my pain. My pain when it comes to those damn Sims, that is.

Nichole writes:

I also seem to be missing that inner game-geek. My attempts to play The Sims seem to rapidly deviate from the game’s goals to my own personal missions.

For example, while “living” with a particularly useless housemate by the name of Mimi, I changed my goal from trying to get promoted and move out to trying to render Mimi non-functional.

I didn’t let her eat, sleep, have fun, talk to people, or bathe. All she did was work and cry. Until she got fired. Then all she did was cry and periodically attack my character. (Once the social rating drops to a dangerous level they get mean.)

This activity eventually resulted in Mimi’s death and a little Sim-reaper came to get her.

At this point you lose. But in my mind, I had won. The useless creator of dirty-dishes and piss-puddles had been defeated. Go me!

Who says you have to play by their rules?

Now, not only is Nichole’s missive funny in its own right, it’s particularly hilarious to me because I had problems with exactly the same character, the dreaded Mimi.

While last playing The Sims I grew to hate Mimi with a visceral hate. However, unlike Nichole, hard as I tried, I couldn’t kill Mimi off. I wanted her dead, gone, burned. And yet she remained forever on the screen, wailing and moaning and griping without let up.

I tried to please her, but with no success.

Mimi was hungry. I prepared a meal. She wouldn’t sit long enough to eat it.

Mimi was tired. I sent her to bed or had her sit down. She got up immediately.

Mimi wanted to go to the bathroom. I sent her there but she wouldn’t do her business and instead peed on the living room floor.

For me, that was the last straw. Like Nichole’s, my strategy changed. It was “Sayonara, Mimi!”

Mimi was hungry, I tried to starve her. Mimi had no money, I kept her at home away from work. Mimi wanted fun, I turned friends away at the door.

But she would not die!

I was so disappointed. Eventually, I gave up.

You know, I really am afraid to go back there.


This afternoon a menu was slid under my apartment door. A frequent enough occurrence, of course, and I normally throw such things away as I have my regular stable of delivery joints. But this one caught my eye. It’s from Number One Chinese Restaurant, located at 639 South St., Philadelphia.

Hmm…Number One Chinese Restaurant. Where have I heard that before?

Oh, I remember now, it was when I was living in New York and working in the financial district. There, downtown, at 10 S. William St., is, uh, one “No. 1 Chinese Restaurant,” as the awning in front proudly proclaimed, this despite the fact there are at least three other restaurants in Manhattan of the same name.

I swear, I walked past that place at least once a day, sometimes as many as three or four times a day, and never, not once, did I see anyone -- no one -- eating in there. And so, for me at least, the Williams St. “No. 1 Chinese Restaurant” became known as “No One Chinese Restaurant.” I mean, it must have been a front or something.

I’m tempted to give Philadelphia’s “Number One Chinese Restaurant” a try, though. Prominently displayed on the cover of the menu is the internationally recognized “No M.S.G.” sign: You know, the acronym “MSG” enclosed within a red circle accompanied by a foreboding slash through the forbidden letters.

Yeah, right. Get real. I like Chinese food as much as the next guy, but as far as the Americanized version is concerned, I think it’s kind of sad they’ve built an entire cuisine around a food additive.


Bloggers’ Terrier Attacked in Queen Village

Siberian Husky Owner Still at Large

I recently learned Philadelphia writers and bloggers Jennifer Weiner and Adam Bonin’s dog Wendell was attacked and seriously wounded by a poorly restrained and unattended Siberian husky in the city’s Queen Village neighborhood on Sunday.

As Weiner notes on her blog, SnarkSpot (Bonin’s blog is Throwing Things), the owner of the husky is something of a snake:

He shrugged [off Wendell’s obvious injuries]. “You’ve got a [expletive deleted] responsibility! When you see a dog tied up, you cross the [expletive deleted] street!”

Um, no, actually, sir, you’ve got a responsibility. If your dog goes after other dogs, you put a muzzle on it, or you don’t leave it out where it can get at other dogs.

My sympathies to Jennifer, Adam, and Wendell. An attack like this is traumatizing to a pet owner and when it’s compounded by the stupidity of the other party, it’s nothing less than enraging.

I’ve been through this before. Two years ago in New York a pit bull broke his muzzle, which I swear was no stronger than bailing twine, ran a good 10 feet, and attacked my bulldog, Mildred. All hell broke loose on the corner of 7th Ave. and 18th St., with people screaming and crying and berating the clueless owners of the pit bull. Hell, even the mailman -- and those guys usually hate all dogs -- was in their faces.

As with Wendell’s attack, the gruesome twosome blamed Mildred and me for the incident: “You see a pit bull, man, you stay back, fool.” Gee, I don’t know, I thought 10 feet was far enough, you numbskulls. (Fortunately, Mildred was unhurt. None of the bites broke through her skin. I guess all those folds really are good for something.)

Head over to SnarkSpot for a more thorough run down of this crime, including a description of the husky’s owner. If you live in the area and think you might know this creep, contact Jennifer. He needs to be identified and held responsible.

[Note: This post was published earlier today at The Rittenhouse Review.]

June 17, 2003

If you’re ugly, or just in need of a little physical enhancement, and if you’re in Philadelphia, there’s hope…but you’ll have to hurry.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports ABC’s reality show, “Extreme Makeover,” is holding auditions here today.

So, if public humiliation is your kind of thing, or you’re just in desperate need of bridgework and a fistful of hair plugs (Mickey Kaus, please call your office.), head over to the Sheraton Rittenhouse Hotel, 18th & Locust Sts., from 3:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. today only!

June 15, 2003

I’m sure this isn’t the kind of thing most people think about very often, if at all, but the question has been burning in my mind of late:

Which common household item is more disgusting: the kitchen sponge or wall-to-wall carpeting?

I have my own opinion, but I would be interested in hearing those of readers before I reveal my hand.


Blogger Jay Caruso had one hell of a Friday the 13th and his post about his experiences Friday made me think, with sympathy, I assure you, “Finally, someone is having a day that resembles my entire life.”

Hang in there, Jay. It can't get any worse.

June 14, 2003

Six years ago today, on a small farm in Kansas, a beautiful bulldog was born. Six bulldogs, actually: three boys and three girls.

Of course, I didn't know of this wonderful event at the time. I learned about it eight weeks later when I went to visit the young brood with the hope of taking one home.

All puppies are cute, of course, but you haven't seen cute until you've seen a litter of bulldog puppies. When they're that small they look, to me anyway, like little rabbits, only more precious. That's why I call bulldog puppies "bunnies," and why I still occasionally call Mildred, one of the six in the aforementioned litter, "Bunny."

(By the way, did you know what a group of bulldogs is called? You know, like a flock of geese, a pride of lions? A puddle. A puddle of bulldogs. If you're familiar with the breed, you'll get it immediately, if not, look for a group of them together sometime. Being among their own kind brings out the bulldog's innate goofiness in ways you cannot imagine.)

Anyway -- and I think I've told this story here before, but what the hell, it's my blog -- I was introduced to this particular litter eight weeks later when they were ready to leave their mother. Although male bulldogs are typically better looking than female bulldogs (this, by the way, is true of most canine breeds), my ex and I liked the girls better, so we spent most of our time with them.

Two of the females were white and one was a beatiful brown brindle that my ex didn't care for. So quickly our choice was narrowed down to the two white puppies. It was a tough choice at first, but there was something about one of the girls that rubbed me the wrong way. Too eager, too pushy, too aggressive, and unnecessarily so, I thought.

It being about, I don't know, 110 degrees outside, the breeder asked his son to get a bowl of ice water for the pups. When he returned, the brindle puppy and the aggressive white puppy hogged the bowl -- big time -- pushing the poor little other white puppy out of the way entirely.

By the time the little girl got to the bowl it was almost empty. I felt badly for her because she missed out -- I myself was about 60 seconds away from collapsing from the heat. But she was a clever young thing. Having the bowl to herself, she finished off the remnants of the water, and then leaned her head to one side and rested it inside the bowl, pressing her face against its cold metal skin and leaving it there for a good five minutes of relief.

Seeing that, I immediately said, "That one."

"Are you sure?" the breeder asked.

"Oh, yeah. I'm sure. That one."

And "that one" is now known as Mildred.

Happy birthday, little girl.


June 11, 2003

Okay, so how sad is this?

The town (or village, hamlet, settlement, speck on the map, what have you) in which I grew up is creating a web site.

One of the links is to the town library, also known as the Worcester Free Library. So I go to the site, and what do I read but this:

Through this door, awaits many adventures and new thoughts.

What the heck? Who's running this joint?

Gee whiz, even the village idiot -- and last I knew there were many there in contention for the title -- knows enough to write, "Through this door await many adventures and new thoughts."

More of the same:

An imagination and desire to learn, are your tools.

Are my "imagination" and "desire to learn" my tools or my inspiration? And what's with that superfluous comma?

Even more:

Do you have what it takes to walk through this door?

Yeah, right, like it's so forbidding. The place takes up two rooms, no more than 500 square feet.

One room is filled with books nobody has touched in a hundred years, the other is occupied by more popular titles and, while I was growing up, the desk of the "librarian," who once with pride declared to my mother, who was asking for recommendations, "Oh, I don’t know. I haven't read a book in 40 years," she, the librarian, not my mother, subsisting on a steady diet of cigarettes and the New York Daily News.

Yes, these are my roots.


I’ve decided, or maybe I’ve just noticed, that I like redheads.

That’s all. I was just thinking about it again.

Keep it in mind, though. Just in case.


There were two excellent op-ed pieces in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer about the ongoing controversy surrounding the proposed move of the world-famous but under-appreciated and nearly bankrupt Barnes Foundation Collection from its current home in suburban Lower Merion, Pa., to "museum row" (i.e., Benjamin Franklin Parkway) in Philadelphia.

The debate unfortunately has taken on unnecessary and unwarranted racial overtones, thanks in no small measure to some injudicious and uninformed comments from the otherwise reasonable Julian Bond, chairman of the NAACP.

Bruce H. Mann of the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, in "Lincoln Has Influence But Not 'Control'," sets the record straight:

Opponents of the Barnes Foundation's petition to move from Lower Merion to the Parkway claim that part of that petition -- the proposal to expand the board of trustees -- is a racially-motivated effort by white-dominated foundations to wrest control of the Barnes from Lincoln University, the oldest historically black college in the nation.

This serious charge has given both donors and the public pause in considering whether to relocate the magnificent art treasure that is the Barnes Foundation. But the claim rests on a false premise: namely, that Albert C. Barnes gave "control" of his foundation to Lincoln. He did not. Lincoln has never had control of the Barnes Foundation, nor has it ever even attempted to exercise the control it now claims it has had all along. In fact, until now, Lincoln has respected Albert Barnes' wishes.

Shortly before he died in 1951, Albert Barnes gave Lincoln the authority to nominate -- not appoint, but nominate -- four of the five trustees of the foundation. This authority was phased in as each of the trustees appointed by Barnes himself died or resigned. The last Barnes-appointed trustee, Violette de Mazia, died in 1989.

The right to nominate trustees is not the same thing as the power to control the foundation. It is the trustees who vote to appoint their successors, and they are free to accept or reject Lincoln's nominees. If Albert Barnes had wanted to give Lincoln control over the foundation, he could have easily done so....But he did not. He gave Lincoln only the right to nominate four trustees and nothing more. Control of the foundation was given to the trustees to exercise as they saw fit, not to Lincoln....

Lincoln finds itself in the difficult position of arguing effectively that it has control that it never exercised. In the 36 years since it nominated its first trustee, Lincoln has never reviewed foundation financial records, never tried to take advantage of the foundation's resources for the education of its students, and never insisted that the trustees seek its approval or permission for its actions....

If Lincoln had "control" of the Barnes Foundation, then it certainly did not take its responsibilities seriously. Had it done so, perhaps the foundation would not be in the financial hole it has dug for itself....

The trustees of the Barnes Foundation and the foundations supporting them are trying to assure the future of the Barnes. The claim that white-dominated groups are trying to wrest control of the Barnes Foundation from Lincoln -- a control Albert Barnes never gave it -- is a red herring that threatens the future of that very foundation, wherever that future may be.

Acel Moore, in "Barnes: Ego-fest, Not Race," agrees that race is not the central issue:

Some detect a racial animus in this debate. NAACP head Julian Bond, whose father was president of Lincoln and a friend of Barnes, thinks he does. He opposes the move. I disagree with his contention that the collection should stay in Lower Merion. While I agree that race is involved, and inevitably so, I don't think it's the most pressing issue.

This isn't about a small black university vs. the massive white establishment. (In fact, it involves two boards of trustees, both of which are headed by black people.) This is about money and ego.

Yes, money and ego, and the care and tender -- the very future -- of one of the greatest private collections of art ever assembled. And it's about Philadelphia, too. Not just the city, but the greater metropolitan area. Moving the Barnes collection to Philadelphia in one fell swoop will make this city second only to New York as a destination for art lovers.

The collection is literally dying on the vine in Lower Merion and it's a disgrace that civic minded people and organizations that have pledged millions of dollars to bring the Barnes into the 21st century are being chastised -- and slurred -- for their efforts.

Albert Barnes may have been eccentric, but he was no fool. There's no reason to believe he intended for his collection -- valued at as much as $20 billion -- to slide into its current state of disrepair and neglect. It's time to move up and move on.

[Note: For the record, I am a member of the Barnes Foundation and support the effort to move the collection to Philadelphia.]

June 02, 2003

The Oakland A's of Major League Baseball are returning to their original home this week for an inter-league series against the Philadelphia Phillies.

Marking the occasion is a fascinating article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Magazine, "Off the A-list," by Frank Fitzpatrick.

The Philadelphia Athletics played their last season in Philadelphia in 1954. Within months after the season ended the A's were on their way to Kansas City, Mo.

Fitzpatrick writes:

The slow and pathetic disintegration of the Philadelphia Athletics began at the exact moment second-baseman Max Bishop's pop-up ended a ninth-inning, Game 7 rally and gave the St. Louis Cardinals the 1931 World Series.

Never again able to assemble a contender, owner/manager Connie Mack aged badly. Future Hall of Famers were dispersed in continuous fire sales. Mack's successors, a pair of ineffectual sons, squabbled. Little was spent on scouting or the farm system. Stadium concession rights were surrendered to raise capital. Ballpark maintenance was neglected....

Trapped by debt, lack of interest, and the maneuverings of the powerful New York Yankees, the Macks had sold the A's in November [1954] for $3.5 million to Arnold Johnson, a Chicago insurance executive....

[T]wo months later, only a few sportswriters and photographers stood outside what had once been baseball's grandest showplace to witness the sad end of a team that had once been baseball's grandest franchise.

Fitzpatrick makes the poignant, and apt, connection between the loss of the A's franchise and the recent history of Philadelphia:

[T]he flight of the A's was, in some ways, a watershed event in the city's history.

When Philadelphia became a one-team town, it marked an official surrender, an acknowledgment that the nation's first great city could no longer compete with bustling two-team towns such as Chicago and New York.

"Mayor [Joseph] Clark just never got it," says Bruce Kuklick, a University of Pennsylvania history professor who has written a history of Shibe Park/Connie Mack Stadium, To Every Thing a Season. "He had no understanding of what having two baseball teams could mean to a city. Look at the rivalry between the Cubs fans on the North Side of Chicago and White Sox fans from the South Side, and everything that entails. Look at how much having teams in both leagues adds to the atmosphere in New York.

"Philadelphia lost all that when the A's left and, in many way, it's never gotten it back."

In the days after the move, very few prominent Philadelphians recognized that the loss of the Athletics, in terms of the city's image, was no less devastating than the ongoing loss of factories and jobs to a place that once prided itself as "the nation's workplace."...

"I think it was a great mistake to let the Athletics get away," John B. Kelly, the wealthy and politically active patriarch of one of Philadelphia's most famous families, said at the time. "Philadelphia has been subject to a lot of criticism around the country for being slow and now we've proven [sic] it. Instead of being a third-class city, now we're a sixth-class city. Not having two big-league baseball clubs will mean a definite letdown."

To those folks, and many other Philadelphians, the A's abandonment permanently scarred the city. They had come to believe that, somehow, Connie Mack's Athletics had been a bulwark against a city's decline. When that finger was removed from the dike, the depressing deluge began.

It's not such a far-fetched notion. The city's population peaked around this time at 2.1 million (it's now around 1.5 million). Coincidence? Yes, in the strictest sense of the term, but yes, also, in a way that raises at least a few questions, particularly in a city with a perpetual inferiority complex.

Fitzpatrick also notes the Yankees played a nefarious role in the demise of the Philadelphia A's:

So when it became clear that the Yankees, unhappy with the share of ticket receipts they pocketed on visits to Philadelphia and eager to see the ballpark they happened to own in Kansas City put to profitable use, were going to push league owners to support an Athletics' relocation, their doom was certain.

In the middle of the 1954 season, as rumors of a pending sale leaked out, Philadelphia-area businessmen began scrambling to find the money to keep the A's here. But the Yankees, whose owners, Del Webb and Dan Topping, wielded considerable league influence, were adamant.

On Oct. 28, American League owners turned down an offer from a consortium of local merchants. A week later, Johnson's bid was approved.

Figures. It's not enough to push one of Philadelphia's baseball teams to the middle of nowhere, they had to bring a whole city down too.

Losing the A's not only hurt Philadelphia, it took a life, that of Howard "Yits" Crompton, the longtime equipment manager for the A's. Fitzpatrick explains how in a heartbreaking end to an already sad story.

June 01, 2003

Below is a snippet from a conversation I overheard last week while walking down the street in Philadelphia.

Woman No. 1: I don't care what nobody says, I like underwear. I like wearing underwear.

Woman No. 2: Mmm hmm…yep.

Woman No. 1: And I like it to match my clothes.

Woman No. 2: Mmm hmm…yep.

Woman No. 1: When I take my clothes off, I like to see that my underwear is matchin' my clothes.

Woman No. 2: Mmm hmm…yep. I heard that.