Archbishop Charles Chaput: The Hardliner

Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Images

Photograph by Matt Rourke/AP Images

All Pat Smiley wants is a chance to meet with him, to make her case, to be heard — that’s all any of them want, really. But Archbishop Charles Chaput, the head of Philadelphia’s Catholic Church, can be a difficult man to pin down. There have been dozens of closings of Philadelphia Catholic churches since 2010. Some of these churches haven’t been well-attended for many years, and Church coffers have been in steep decline; no one disputes that the local archdiocese has serious financial problems, though no one except Church bean counters knows all the numbers. There are also other problems, of course: the sexual-abuse scandal of the last decade, on top of a Church that operates more and more at odds with contemporary culture — especially concerning the “pelvic issues,” meaning acceptance of gays and birth control and women priests and allowing male priests to marry. There is great doubt and unrest even among the remaining faithful.

Pat Smiley’s church — St. Joachim, the oldest Catholic church in the Northeast — closed two years ago. She still doesn’t really know why. Read more »

Caitlyn Jenner, Rachel Levine, and the “Joys” of Womanhood

Illustration by Juliette Borda

Illustration by Juliette Borda

“It’s called a ‘lob,’” my daughter Marcy says a little shyly, turning to model 360 degrees of her new haircut. “For ‘long bob,’ you know?” She faces me again. “What do you think?”

“It’s beautiful,” I tell her, hiding my shock at seeing her shorn of her long hair for the first time since she was — well, since she was a toddler, a quarter of a century ago. But the new ’do does suit her, framing her cheek in a swooping curve.

“I’m going back to get highlights next paycheck. They cost a hundred dollars. Just the cut was $80.” My thrifty girl sounds both amazed at and ashamed of her cosmetic and financial daring. No wonder. I’ve never spent anything like that much money on my hair. Read more »

One of Us: Bart Blatstein, Developer

Illustration by Andy Friedman

Illustration by Andy Friedman

My name is … Bart Blatstein. But that’s not my legal name. Bart is short for Barton, but I haven’t used Barton since first grade, for obvious reasons.

I am a … real estate developer with few hobbies. My golf game is so bad that my hobby is real estate development. I’m the worst golfer at my golf club. They all laugh at me.

I bought my first property … on May 15, 1978 — a very small three-story rowhouse shell in Queen Village. It was the result of me not getting into medical school. I had to pursue something.

I live in … Montgomery County, but we’re moving back to Philly next year. We’re empty nesters, and it’s time to transition. Read more »

The Curious Case of Nicky Isen

Left: Illustration by Peter Strain. Right:  The I. Brewster Gallery near 21st and Race. Photograph by Christopher Leaman

Left: Illustration by Peter Strain. Right: The I. Brewster Gallery near 21st and Race. Photograph by Christopher Leaman

The stakes are so high, everyone wears funeral smiles — gray grins, barely there before they’re gone. The courtroom falls silent when Nathan Isen walks in, looking a little sheepish. A small group of friends awaits, including Ralph Yaffe of Boyds and Scott Isdaner, whose family co-founded Pep Boys. They shake Isen’s hand, wish him luck, awkward because no one knows if this is hello or goodbye.

The third-generation descendant of a prominent Main Line family, Isen has, for more than 30 years, sold artwork to Philadelphia’s doctors, lawyers, the well-to-do and the purely aspirational. And he is here today, in federal court at 6th and Market, to be sentenced on a money-laundering charge. Read more »

Would You Wait Eight Years to Join the Lombard Swim Club?

A view of the pool on a sleepy summer afternoon. Photograph by Christopher Leaman

A view of the pool on a sleepy summer afternoon. Photograph by Christopher Leaman

“Just act like you belong and we’ll be fine.”

I’m trying to remember the last time I did something like this. I think it was 1982, when my friend Bing (yes, Bing) and I were 19 and nonchalantly sauntered up to the bouncer of some dive bar in Cherry Hill and somehow convinced him we were 21, subsequently sailing through the door into a den of smoke and thumping music. It’s been a long time since I’ve tried to crash a party.

I’m with a friend of a friend of a friend — we’ll call this person Jimmy, though for reasons that will become clear momentarily, Jimmy isn’t said person’s real name — and on this particularly steamy summer night, we’re walking into the entrance of the Lombard Swim Club, an imposing fortress of water, liquor and secrecy located between 20th and 21st streets, not far from Rittenhouse Square. If you’ve strolled this block of Lombard, you probably never even noticed the club was here. Which is precisely the point. Read more »

Best of Philly 2015

bop-2015-cover-305x400Our annual Best of Philly issue may come out in August, but every Philadelphia magazine editor and writer knows that researching this massive compendium of the very best is an all year-process. Our style editor has been known to close in on any well-dressed man she passes on Walnut Street and demand to know where he gets his suits tailored. Our food editor wakes up at the crack of dawn (or possibly doesn’t ever go to sleep) all in the name of eating another stack of fluffy pancakes. Our writers circle names in their notebooks of the people who sources continue to insist are the ones that are doing remarkable things for our city.

All of these notes, tastes, and discoveries come together to form our annual list, which, when taken as a whole, shows off the newest and best of Philadelphia in 2015. As we start to put together the list, trends — the things that truly reflect what is happening in the city now — always emerge. For example, bowls are apparently huge this year. Bowls filled with mountains of black rice, fresh-pulled noodles, and local veggies are being composed by chefs in high-end restaurants and quick-serve lunch spots alike. (In fact, nine of our food winners this year were in the bowl form. We agree that this one-dish eating is pretty awesome.) In other food news, East Passyunk is still one of the most exciting food neighborhoods. Our food writers awarded “Best Ofs” to 10 restaurants, bars, and dishes from the cluster of establishments located on these few South Philly blocks. Read more »

How Switching to Two Wheels Helped Me See Philly With New Eyes

Illustration by Tim Parker

Illustration by Tim Parker

Before you get the wrong idea, this is not a love story.

There have been plenty of those penned about the joys and merits of cycling in the city. Especially in this city, where — in case you haven’t noticed — the ever-widening, constantly creeping bike lanes are suddenly packed with everyone from die-hard daily commuters to meandering tourists on rented wheels.

But this, well, this isn’t one of those stories. Read more »

The Strings of My Heart

Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett

Illustration by Jonathan Bartlett

I was 12 years old when my big sister and my mom came to blows over Joni Mitchell. We were watching one of Mitchell’s first TV appearances in the States. Nan, who was 15, wanted very badly to see her musical idol — badly enough that she was enduring our company in the living room, in front of our black-and-white Zenith. Mitchell hadn’t gotten three bars into whatever song she was singing when Mom and I and my little sister started to giggle: at her big buckteeth, her strange diction, her peculiar solemnity. Nan was irate. “She’s a great artist!” she screamed at us, spittle flying from her mouth, and spun around to run up the stairs to her room.

“We’re only watching this because you wanted to! Get back here, young lady!” my mom shouted, grabbing Nan’s arm as she passed. The next thing I knew, they were whaling away at one another, landing ineffectual blows among the angry words and tears.

That was when I decided: I never wanted to like any music that would cause my mom to take a whack at me. Read more »

The Tragic Last Days of The Voice’s Anthony Riley

Anthony Riley at the Reading Terminal Market in February, one day after leaving rehab. Photograph by Robby Parsons

Anthony Riley at the Reading Terminal Market in February, one day after leaving rehab. Photograph by Robby Parsons

Anthony Riley had been off the map for weeks when, by some random act of providence, I bumped into him outside a greasy-slice pizza joint at Broad and South. It was one of those unseasonably chilly April evenings, the kind you complain about in spring and dream about in summer. Anthony was dressed in an olive green jacket that melted into his dark skin; his cheeks rose into a handsome smile when I said hello.

I might not even have remembered our encounter, except that it would be the second-to-last time we ever spoke. Read more »

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