September 30, 2003

The Philadelphia mayoral race, pitting incumbent Mayor John F. Street (D) against businessman Sam Katz (R), is neck and neck, according to the latest polls.

According to a brief piece in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, a poll taken for the Democrats showed Street leading Katz, 45 percent to 40 percent (Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, 500 likely voters, September 10-13, margin of error: +/- 4.4 percent)

But another poll, performed for KYW-TV, shows Katz leading Street, 46 percent to 40 percent (Temple University, 427 likely voters, September 5-16, margin of error: +/- 5 percent).

September 29, 2003

The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce about a week from now will unveil a new marketing campaign aimed at attracting business to the city.

Joseph N. DiStefano of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports the campaign includes a new slogan, replacing, I suppose, “Philadelphia: The City That Loves You Back,” about which the GPCC will reveal only one oh-so-tantalizing fact: The slogan is seven words in length.

DiStefano suggested 18 possibilities, each containing more than a kernel of truth. Among the better offerings: “The City that Never Sleeps Very Late,” “We’re Not as Bad as You Think,” “We’re Not as Bad as We Think,” “Philadelphia: Sort of Drifting Toward the Future,” “Halfway to Where You Want to Be,” and “Dim Future, Perhaps. But Oh, Our Past!”


I enjoy finding out that a person I had always assumed, based largely on appearance, to be older than I is actually the same age or younger.

Such is the case, I learned yesterday while reading the October issue of Philadelphia magazine, with WPHT-AM radio personality and Philadelphia Daily News columnist Michael Smerconish. [Ed.: The article is not online. See “Mike in the Morning,” p. 29.]

It turns out Smerconish, Philadelphia’s most insufferable talk-show host -- think big-mouthed right-winger who doesn’t hang up on callers -- is only 41.

Philadelphia published a rather flattering photo of Smerconish along with the brief article.

He looks older than 41, and much older than I, if I must say so myself. (I guess I sort of have to, since who else would?)

And I’m not just saying that because he’s bald and I’m not.


The long career of Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium, affectionately referred to here as “The Vet,” came to an end with yesterday’s final game of the Phillies season.

All in all, according to all accounts, the crowd was well behaved. The Philadelphia Daily News reports (“Vet’s Last Day Filled With Tradition,” by Ron Goldwyn):

Unlike the Connie Mack Stadium destructo [sic] in 1970, waves of uniformed police, Phillies security[,] and plainclothes officers kept the Vet virtually intact.

By 6:45 p.m., Deputy Commissioner Robert Mitchell pointed to nine theft-of-property arrests, six citations for vandalism, [and] seven ejections. The numbers were rising, but not by much. [...]

Mitchell called the arrest numbers “disappointing, but otherwise it was a great crowd, a family crowd, that came to enjoy the game.”

Indeed intoxicated fans seemed at a minimum, and security reported only one fight -- appropriately, all in the family, two cousins in the 700 level, both ejected.

The substation had a small pile of loot that included signs reading “Phillies Office” and “Section 702,” one broken blue seat, some screw drivers, [and] a light fixture. One Einstein was arrested with bleeding fingers as he tried to pull a metal fixture off a bathroom wall.

“Disappointing”? In what way? Was Mitchell, in the true spirit of the Vet, hoping for more arrests?

[Post-publication addendum: The Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer had an article about the last game at Connie Mack Stadium -- “Connie Mack Closed with Chaos,” by Larry Eichel -- from which TRR draws this quintessentially Philly reminiscence: “When the game was over, and the Phillies had defeated Montreal, 2-1, thousands of souvenir-seeking fans surged onto the field, grabbing handfuls of dirt and chunks of grass before ripping apart the outfield walls. Some of them left wearing toilet seats as necklaces.” Pretty. (Emphasis added.)]

September 28, 2003

Speaking of tough Jersey girls, and we were, enter Aleshia Giangiulio in the Hall of Fame thereof.

Giangiulio, who just turned 17, will debut as an official judge at the Antique Automobile Club of America’s meet in Hershey, Pa., next month, making her the youngest female judge in the group’s history.

Giangiulio, of Waterford Township, N.J., may be tough when she’s judging, but the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (“Camden County Teenager is No Ordinary Car Enthusiast,” by Rita Giordano) she’s a little softer outside of the ring:

[T]hough she’s helped her father work on cars -- she’s good at detailing -- Giangiulio is no grease monkey. Tall and blonde, she has a modeling portfolio, wears her nails long and polished, and was recently named Miss Teen Waterford Township. She dances and is considering a career in interior design.

Giangiulio’s dream car? A 1969 GTO.


Any takers on the location of Esquire food critic John Mariani’s choice for the best new restaurant in the country?

Well, if I’m writing about it you might be inclined to bet the restaurant is in Philadelphia, and if did, you’d be right.

It’s Lacroix at the Rittenhouse, home to chef Jean-Marie Lacroix, and it will be featured in the November issue of Esquire.

No, I’ve never been. But I like the name.


Man, those Jersey girls are tough, even when, or maybe especially when, they’re 48 years old.

The Philadelphia Inquirer today reports the latest news surrounding Jean Zelinsky, formerly of Ringoes, N.J., lately a resident of the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital (“Community Care May be in the Offing,” by Marc Schogol):

It was a holiday season no one at the New Jersey Statehouse at the time will ever forget.

Politicians, police, and members of the media were partying and preparing to depart for family festivities on Friday, Dec. 22, 1978, when a car crashed into the entrance to the building in Trenton.

The woman driver then tossed a shopping bag containing the severed head of her 78-year-old mother -- the staff of an American flag impaled in the neck -- at a state trooper.

After shouting “Merry Christmas!” the woman tried to slash her own throat but was apprehended.

The murderer, Zelinsky, was acquitted at trial by reason of insanity (paranoid schizophrenia), and apparently soon will have supervised visits outside of “Trenton State.”

September 25, 2003

Designer John Bartlett offers his unique take on “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” with, what else, but “Straight Eye for the Queer Guy.”

Pull quote:

As we perused the retro-hetero landscape of pinstriped suits, blue dress shirts, burgundy ties[,] and Hawaiian shirts, Milke explained that size matters to straight guys, too. “The first mistake gay men make is they pick a shirt one size smaller than they should be wearing,” he said, “while straight men pick the shirt one size bigger than they should be wearing.”

Highly recommended.


“The earth didn’t deserve Nikki because she was too good for the world; that’s how I saw her death.” -- Megan Haney, speaking of her friend Nikki Hallworth, a Philadelphia high school student and one of three victims, all shot in the face at close range, in a horrific crime that this city reeling.

September 24, 2003

Yet another article in today’s Philadelphia Daily News about the region’s seemingly unending “brain drain” of the closely monitored 25- to 34-year-old demographic. (“Census: Young Grads Rapidly Fleeing Philly,” by Michael Hinkelman.)

It’s a problem, granted, but Philadelphia and its environs are probably better off without some of the departed youngsters.

Take, for example, Caroline Bubnis. Please.

Interviewed by Hinkelman, Bubnis, who apparently works for a public relations firm in New York focused on the entertainment business, offered this:

“If you’re going to make it in this business, and move up, you have to come here. . . . Tonight I'm going to an album release party. I’m going to be there with the A-list people. In Philadelphia, the A-list people are few and far between.” [Emphasis added.]

With that attitude, Bubnis will fit in just fine in New York. At least for a while.

I’ve lived in both cities, and I’ll take Philadelphia over New York any day.


My new cell phone keeps chirping at me and I don’t know why.

It’s not ringing. It’s definitely chirping.

There are no messages, new or otherwise, voice, text, or e-mail.

It’s driving me crazy.

Just felt like sharing that.

I guess I could try reading the manual.

[Post-publication addendum (September 25): Never mind. It was my pager, not the phone, that was chirping.]

September 23, 2003

Seldom have truer words been spoken than these: “You don’t hear a lot about Philadelphia outside of it.” -- Meredith Stiehm, creator and executive producer of “Cold Case,” a new CBS drama set in Philadelphia.

September 15, 2003

Count me out of your “performance art” piece planned for Paris today, Yoko Ono.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports:

Yoko Ono could end up stark naked on a Paris stage today as she performs her one-woman art show “Cut Piece,” in which members of the audience cut off pieces of her clothing. Ono, 70, who accompanied husband John Lennon in numerous controversial antiwar campaigns, first performed “Cut Piece” in 1964 in Japan, as a protest for peace. At the end, she stood naked before her audience.

Okay, yeah, but that was almost 40 years ago.

Always there with the bon mot, even if it doesn’t make much sense, Ono adds: “When I first performed this work . . . I did it with some anger and turbulence in my heart. . . . This time, I do it with love for you, for me, and for the world.”

September 12, 2003

Figures an astrological nut like my good friend Susan Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla would let the cat out of the bag.

Yes, tomorrow, Saturday, September 13, is my birthday. I’m turning 40. Again. Deal with that.

And on this special day, do you know what I’m thinking about doing?


Registering, as in heading to my favorite stores and setting up lists of wonderful gifts my family and friends might think to send me, for no better reason than that I simply exist.

Sure, I didn’t get married. I’m pretty sure I never will. But I know many people who have been married, people to whom I have given amazing, tasteful, and sometimes perfectly chosen, gifts.

Some of these people, by the way, are now divorced. You won’t be surprised to learn, though, that they kept the gifts.

Look, I’ve been handing out wedding gifts and, thanks to the new politically correct and oh-so-not-sexist regime that demands men, along with women, be invited to that unbearable tradition known as a “shower,” shower gifts up and down the friggin’ East Coast for the last 20 years.

And what do I have to show for it? Precious little. A few -- and I mean that -- thank-you notes stowed away in what I call my “time capsules,” but nothing more.

And so I will register. (I’m pleased to report that my unmarried cousin J.S. is with me on this.)

(Oh, and here’s a tip for couples to be, from no less an authority than Judith Martin, a/k/a “Miss Manners”: No, dear bride and groom, you do not have “a year” to send your thank-you notes. Who on earth told you that lie? The guests at your wedding, from none of whom, by the way, you have any right whatsoever to expect a gift at all, have up to one year to send you a gift, if, and only if, they choose to do so. However, your thank-you note, upon receipt of each and every gift, must be posted -- i.e., your gratitude written on paper and sent to the giver through the U.S. mail -- within no more than seven days. Look, someone just spent money on you. It wouldn’t and won’t kill you to stay up an hour later each night to write a little form-letter kind of thank-you note. Okay?)

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I really love visiting a sibling or friend and eating a nice meal prepared in the couple’s fully stocked kitchen, served on china and crystal that I myself bought and paid for, at least in part, while my everyday experience is to eat from pedestrian plates and glasses that I purchased at Strawbridge’s of all places, with funds obtained through the grand family tradition known as “The 40th Birthday Gift From Your Siblings That You’re Supposed to Spend on Something You Wouldn’t Otherwise Buy for Yourself.”

Well, it didn’t work out that way. But that, my friends, is the story of my life.

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


Every once in a while I get an e-mail from a reader asking how to pray, with most expressing an interest in the “old” devotions so many have abandoned in the post-Vatican II (and no, that is, thankfully, not a Hollywood remake) era.

With those inquiries in mind, today I offer you the Chaplet of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Come on, people, this is an easy one.

This particular chaplet can be said relying upon the rhythm and structure of the traditional rosary, and is said as follows:

The Sign of the Cross is made five times in veneration of our Savior’s Five Holy Wounds.

On the large beads is said: Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for those who seek refuge in you.

On the small beads is said: Holy Mother, save us through your Immaculate Heart’s flame of love.

At the end, the Glory Be to the Father is repeated three times.

See? That wasn’t so hard, was it? And it didn’t take too long, did it? What, like three minutes?

And I’ll bet you feel just a little bit better too, don’t you?


Hey. Heyyyyy-oh.

Okay, so it’s not a holiday -- secular or otherwise -- but it’s Friday, September 12, and you know what that means, right?

Well, if you’re a really good Catholic you know that in the Church today is an optional memorial, as they say, to the Most Holy Name of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Marian freak that I am, I couldn’t let this day pass unnoticed, could I?

Besides, there’s always something going on, huh?

Today’s readings are Timothy 1:1-2,12-14 (First Reading); Psalms 16:1-2,7-8,11 (Responsorial); and Luke 6:39-42 (Gospel).

September 11, 2003

I knew there was a good reason I viewed with some discomfort the latest trend in jeans, namely those ultra-low-hung hip huggers.

Recently while running errands I hit the local Staples, which, by the way, is some sort of nirvana for those still aiming for that perfect home-office working environment (not quite as arousing an environment as Hold Everything, mind you, but Staples surely ranks right up there).

Just two minutes into the store, I happened upon two twenty-somethings, a man and a woman, crouched down to view the offerings on the lowest shelf.

And what to my wondering and, yes, wandering, eyes should appear, but butt crack.

Hers, not his.

Butt crack.

At least three inches of good old-fashioned plumber-carpenter-electrician-style butt crack.


[Post-publication addendum (September 12): Professor Pinkerton writes, amazingly without fear in her voice: “Haven’t you heard? Butt crack is the new cleavage.” Oh, God, I’m so afraid she’s right.]

September 09, 2003

Unlike some webloggers whose
hometowns leave them with so little to talk about, I rarely write about the weather here.

That said, it’s an unusually beautiful day in Philadelphia, the kind of day that makes one pleased to be living in the northeastern U.S., the true center of human civilization.

Not just pleased, actually, but absolutely certain one has made the right choice with respect to one’s domicile.


Believe it or not, I like to watch football, both professional and collegiate. I don’t watch very often and I don’t follow the seasons with any particular interest or enthusiasm. I just like to watch now and then.

I’ve never had a favorite N.F.L. team. My father and a couple of my brothers are New York Giants fans (with some residual, if not merely nostalgic, support for the Baltimore Colts before they moved in the middle of the night to, what was it, South Dakota or something?), just as they are New York Yankees fans, so, in my comparative ignorance, that was usually good enough for me.

Since settling in Philadelphia I’ve taken an interest in the Eagles. Not a fanatical interest, mind you: No season tickets -- I think you have to have someone in your family who knew Benjamin Franklin, or at least Frank Rizzo, to have those at this point -- and no reading reams of copy in the newspapers about next week’s game, an exercise that starts on Tuesday and ends on Sunday morning, but at least an interest.

Nonetheless, of course I had to watch last night’s game: Philadelphia vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a rematch of last year’s N.F.C. conference title game, and the first N.F.L. game to be played in the city’s new stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.

On T.V., and, yes, in a bar. A gay bar, no less. (Yes, such things occur, and with greater frequency, and larger attendance, than you might think.)

All in all, it was a pretty disappointing experience. And I say that not just because the Eagles lost to Tampa Bay again.

I say that because “Monday Night Football” is an atrocity, from the commentators, to the sexist and moronic advertisements, to the hyperactive commercialism that extends from the stadium itself (“The Chrysler-Jeep Gate”? “The Mercedes-Benz VIP Gate”?) to the replays “Sponsored by Visa,” and, particularly, to one Lisa Guerrero.

My God, Lisa, what the hell were you wearing last night? That dress! It’s so last year. And the color? Two years ago. Powder blue? In September? And that sort-of belt thing around swathed or tied around your neck? Don’t you have a best friend who will pull you aside before the show and say, “No way, girl!” And where did you do your make-up? In the cosmetics aisle at Rite-Aid?

What a disaster.