Illustration by Matt Chase
When I and my fellow boomers get together in our dad and mom jeans and yak about the good old days when we were growing up, I find myself at a distinct disadvantage. While I share a common cultural heritage with most of my cohort, there is one gaping hole. I never watched a lot of the television shows they watched, because those shows were what my mom called “vulgar.”
The Carol Burnett Show, Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies — all were forbidden. The Wonderful World of Disney, Bonanza, Flipper? Allowed. I know that the concept of a parent exercising such bald veto power over Petticoat Junction — or anything on a screen — is unthinkable to contemporary mothers and fathers. I’m not asking for their pity. I’m merely explaining why I grew up imbued with a sense that some items on the cultural table are more worthy than others. Read more »
Photo by Susanne Kremer
We’ve got the Pope. We’ve got the millennials. We’ve got Top Chefs. You know what all that means? We don’t need to be frenemies with the Big Apple anymore; we can truly enjoy it for what it is — one of the best cities in the world that also happens to be Philly’s most convenient urban getaway. Read more »
A view of Center City from Penn Medicine’s Center for Advanced Cellular Therapeutics, taken on a February morning at sunrise. Photograph by Chris Sembrot
Were you here in 1987? (Actually: Were you even born?) If you were, maybe you remember the thrill of One Liberty Place rising in the sky — an honest-to-God Philadelphia skyscraper at last, looking down on Billy Penn’s hat. How about the early ’60s, when Society Hill emerged from a hardscrabble neighborhood and Penn Center gave a new sleekness to downtown?
We find ourselves in one of those moments again — a period when our physical surroundings are changing quickly and drastically around us. What’s different this time is the breadth of the change, with new buildings and revitalized neighborhoods and inviting public spaces emerging all at once all across the city. We’re calling it the New Boom, and on the following pages we give you an inside look at the eight trends that are fundamentally reshaping Philadelphia — and a sneak preview of the revitalized city we’ll live in for the next half century.
Edited by Ashley Primis
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Robin Admana and Flo Gardner’s Foolish Waffles truck, left, and John Torofias’s old-style truck. Photography by Jeff Fusco
Crammed inside the galley kitchen of a converted box truck, Robin Admana forms a mass of dough into a baseball-size wad and plops it onto a sizzling waffle iron. Her little truck fills with the aroma of caramelizing sugar and fried dough as globs of batter bubble over the sides of the press. It’s not the most elegant culinary process, but a minute later, out comes an airy golden-brown creation. Read more »
Illustration by Danny Hellman; photograph by Christopher Leaman
The allegations were shocking: mass killings of dogs, sadists abusing innocent creatures, maimed and ill animals suffering in squalor. They surfaced repeatedly on Facebook, on websites with names like Justice for Chester County Animals, and in mainstream publications like the Inquirer and the Delaware County Daily Times.
A puppy mill? A dog-fighting ring? Read more »
Bruce Robinson wants Neumann-Goretti to be a preeminent college-prep school. Photograph by Gene Smirnov
Inside a near-empty auditorium at Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School in South Philly, roughly 100 adults are sitting in a sea of burnt-red seats beneath a statue of the outstretched Christ. Standing before the group, Bruce Robinson no doubt hopes a divine presence is watching over him, too. Read more »
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, 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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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 »