My Biracial Life: A Memoir

Clockwise from upper left: The author as an infant, at age 2, at 13, at 15, at 19, and at 24. Photographs by Christine  Osinski

Clockwise from upper left: The author as an infant, at age 2, at 13, at 15, at 19, and at 24. Photographs by Christine Osinski

It’s 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday night at the barren 24-hour Melrose Diner in South Philly. I’m there alone. The hostess is hawkeyed at the cash register, as if I’m going to steal her silverware. She eventually moseys up to my booth. “Do you have a tan, or is that your natural skin color?” she asks. Natural, I tell her. “What are you?” I give her three guesses. “Hawaiian?” Nope. “Samoan?” Getting colder. At this point, a nearby server who’s been eavesdropping on the conversation decides to join in. “Puerto Rican,” he says. Wrong. “Dominican.” Wrong again. Then, five minutes after I’ve told them my ethnicity, a third member of the waitstaff comes up to me. “Hey, I like your skin color — what are you?”

Welcome to my world. Read more »

Natalie Guercio’s Mob Rules

Natalie Guercio, whose family runs a funeral home, joined the show last season. Photo: VH1/Piotr Sikora

Natalie Guercio, whose family runs a funeral home, joined the show last season. Photo: VH1/Piotr Sikora

Natalie Guercio lives in a funeral home. Carto, on South Broad Street. Her family has owned it forever, and until recently she was full-time there, doing hair for corpses. The day after Christmas, Natalie buzzes me in and tells me to ride the elevator to the third floor, where she rooms with her young son, Nunzio, and her 86-year-old grandfather, Nunzio, the patriarch of the funeral parlor. Natalie, wearing a black tank top, is doing her makeup. Her boyfriend London is on a Starbucks run. Grandpa Nunzio paces silently around the kitchen table. Even for a funeral parlor, the place feels sleepy. Apparently this will change the next time an episode of Mob Wives airs on VH1. “You get some haters that will call in,” she says. “‘Where’s Natalie? I hate that fucking bitch.’”

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Lynne Abraham: Can a Woman Win the Philadelphia Mayor’s Race?

Photograph by Colin Lenton

Photograph by Colin Lenton

It seems an unlikely thing to be doing with Lynne Abraham.

On a cool, breezy Friday in New York in December, we’re at the Frick, looking at paintings. Vermeer’s Mistress and Maid is a favorite of hers, and we gaze intently; it depicts a servant handing her lady a letter. Abraham points out the lady’s ambiguous expression, either worry or hope over the letter’s contents, and perhaps the servant has already read it — we don’t know. “Vermeer was a great master of light,” Abraham notes. Sunlight floods the lady’s writing desk and picks out her pearl earring, bathing the moment’s tension. “What’s the message she’s getting?” Read more »

How a Northeast Native Turned 30 and Learned to Love … South Street?

Illustration by Tim Parker

Illustration by Tim Parker

In retrospect, I should have known I would turn 30 in Philadelphia.

As is customary with Northeast Philadelphia natives, I have never lived more than a half hour from the house I grew up in. I went to college here, then looked for jobs here, then puttered away my 20s right here.

All signs point to lifer.

And yet as I celebrate — or, more accurately, as I icily acknowledge as only a Northeast girl can — the dawn of my 30s, part of me is surprised to find myself doing so in Philly. Read more »

Introducing … Ask Liz: Your Philly Conundrums Solved


If the taxi I’m in gets into a fender-bender, do I still have to pay the fare? — D.W., Northern Liberties

The Public Utilities Commission, which regulates taxis in Philadelphia, doesn’t have a rule for this particular situation. But assuming you’re unhurt, you’re governed by the same rules you always are in a taxi. In other words, has the driver taken you to your intended destination? If so, pay the fare. If you’re five blocks away and the two drivers are still swapping insurance info, dust yourself off, pay what you owe, and get another taxi — or just walk, for God’s sake. Not that I do, mind you, but I hear it’s good exercise. Read more »

Philly Love Story: Steve Duross and James Langel

PM: How did you two get together?
James: It was January 2003, walking dogs early, early in the morning, 6:30. Unbrushed hair, unbrushed teeth. We didn’t get together officially for another year. It was Christmas of 2003 that we were together. We got married in September of 2005.

PM: You formed your business after you were together but before you were married. Was that a huge step?
James: I don’t think we really looked at it that way. I was going back for my MBA, and I wasn’t happy with my job at the time, and Steve was like, “Hey, this is something I really want to do. I would love to do it with you.” I said, “Okay, it sounds like a good idea.”

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