I Tried It: My Search for Philly’s Best (And Sweatiest) Dance Class

Beginner's Hip Hop at Koresh Dance Company | Photograph by Gene Smirnov

Beginner’s Hip Hop at Koresh Dance Company | Photograph by Gene Smirnov

My legs are shaking, sweat is rolling into my eyes, and for about three minutes in the middle of it all, I have to focus what little energy I have left on not barfing. True, I’m just doing some aerobic dancing in Lithe Method’s Rock Steady class, but it’s intense aerobic dancing. Aerobic dancing on Four Loko. With complex choreography. I wonder: Is this how Kevin Bacon felt working on Footloose? Probably not — Kevin Bacon wasn’t attached to the ceiling with stretchy bands for added resistance. He also wasn’t taking breaks to drop down for a hard-core arms/abs/legs series. No, this is definitely harder than anything anyone has done ever — so when I finally figure out the moves and push through the whole routine (without barfing), it’s a major high. I’m killing it. Forget Kevin: I am basically a Laker Girl.  Read more »

The Tale of Audrey Claire Taichman

Audrey Taichman at Twenty Manning Grill. Photograph by Chris Crisman; hair and makeup by Megan Ambroch.

Audrey Taichman at Twenty Manning Grill. Photograph by Chris Crisman; hair and makeup by Megan Ambroch.

THE THING ABOUT trying to tell an Audrey Taichman story is that it’s very hard to know where to start. Or, more precisely, which Audrey Taichman story to start with, because good Audrey stories are legion.

Once, Audrey’s dad took her to an orientation at a culinary school in Philadelphia at which the school’s director got up and asked the crowd: “How many of you here want to open up your own restaurant?” Audrey and a few others raised their hands. “Well, that’s not going to happen,” he said, in what was probably meant to be some real talk aimed at a room full of naive kids. Audrey looked at her dad, who grabbed her hand and said, “Let’s get out of here.” And then Audrey went and opened a restaurant. Read more »

OPINION: Is Progressivism in Philly (Still) Dead?

Teddy-RooseveltSo if you haven’t seen it yet, the April issue of Philly Mag features a great profile of Jim Kenney. The piece, written by Liz Spikol, highlights the inherent tension in a mayoral candidate with rowhome roots and an array of union endorsements who has also simultaneously become “the darling of Philadelphia’s progressive movement.”

Kenney as Progressive is a fair characterization, if you’re using the checklist that stands in as progressivism in Philadelphia these days: Pro-bike. (Check.) Pro-LGBT equality. (Check.) Feminist. (Check.) Pro-pot decriminalization. (Check.)

It’s no wonder the young liberal “beer-garden crowd” is taken with the man: These are more than just liberal ideals—they’re modern, crucial steps in the right direction for Philly. No doubt. But are they really new? Are they progressive, in the classic sense of the term? Maybe they are, if you judge by the calcified standards of the Philadelphia political realm. Read more »

Deliver Me! Inside Philadelphia’s New Convenience Economy

Photograph by Dale May

Photograph by Dale May

A couple of years back, a city-dwelling friend of mine made a bet with her husband over who would correctly predict the most Oscar winners. The loser, they decided, would be forced to do the winner’s bidding in one specific arena: The victor could demand any sort of food run at any time. Which is how, minutes after arriving home from a weeklong vacation, my friend found herself back outside, tromping testily through piles of snow on a quest for her husband’s favorite apple pie from a bakery several blocks away. It goes without saying that she regretted ever agreeing to such inconvenient stakes. Read more »

Letters From the (Real Estate) Trenches

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Illustration by Tim Durning

This past fall, after five years of renting in Fairmount, my husband and I finally decided to buy a home of our own in the neighborhood. Now, call me naive — maybe too many hours logged on HGTV? — but I honestly thought that our prequalified mortgage and 20 percent in our pockets meant we’d follow the classic script: We’d find a place, put in an offer, have our agent negotiate with the seller’s agent, and then — voilà! — be happy homeowners.

That isn’t how it went.

In fact, says realtor Karrie Gavin, that’s rarely how it goes these days in Philly. Gavin, a four-year agent with Elfant Wissahickon, prides herself on almost never losing a bidding war — and she’s been in a lot of bidding wars lately. A lot. “The inventory is very low right now, and there’s a high buyer demand,” she says. “I’m seeing a lot of things selling for above the asking price.” Penn’s Fels Institute of Government reports that home prices in fall of 2014 shot up all over the city; average days on market fell from 88 last winter to 67. The takeaway? Gird your loins, buyers: Competition is fierce, especially in hot spots like Fairmount, Grad Ho, Bella Vista, Queen Village, Passyunk Square, even Chestnut Hill and Narberth.

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The Best Hair Stylists in Philadelphia

The stylists of Salon Vanity at work. Photograph by Joseph Balestra.

The stylists of Salon Vanity at work. Photograph by Joseph Balestra

There are many, many great stylists in this city and its ’burbs. And most of the greats can do anything you ask them to, and do it well. But the trick to true hair happiness is a little more complex, isn’t it? You don’t just want someone who’s great; you want someone intuitively attuned to your exact hair issues.

And that, reader, is what you’ll find here: 45 excellent stylists, each with a special knack for dealing with one issue or another, from cutting crazy curls to eliminating those wiry grays to helping with thinning hair, and beyond. We’ve also got the scoop on the five man-cuts that can instantly update a look, the secrets behind the city’s best heads of hair, the Center City salon that’s bringing back the perm … and more.

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Philadelphia Pop-Ups Are Why We Can’t Keep Nice Things

Illustration by Nick Massarelli

Illustration by Nick Massarelli

If any one thing cinched Spruce Street Harbor Park as the summer’s best pop-up, it was probably the hammocks — dozens of them scattered in the shade, cocooning people reading or napping or making out. The sprawling swatch of riverfront, complete with swan boats and floating barges and water lily gardens, was so picturesque that it felt more like the Hollywood set of a park than it did an actual park nestled on the southeastern edge of Philadelphia, within spitting distance of the I-95 on-ramp.

If this were a movie set, it would be for one of those cheery rom-coms, the type where the city is all twinkle and no grit. (In essence: More Nora Ephron than Woody Allen.) Just look! Down the river there’s a boardwalk lined with shipping crates that hold hot-dog vendors and games like air hockey; behind that, children play with four-foot-high chess pieces and venture barefoot into a wading fountain. Around them, dozens of park-goers are sprawled out on beach chairs or waiting in line for a Jose Garces truffle-and-cheddar burger, while park employees hand out maps and greet newcomers: “Hi there, welcome to Spruce Street Harbor Park.”

That this place appeared to draw and delight every possible demographic is no wonder, really. The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, collaborating with David Fierabend from Groundswell Design Group, did such an amazing job creating this $600,000 shaded Shangri-la that upon entering, you forgot it was very recently a boring swath of nothingness sandwiched between the Independence Seaport Museum and the USS Olympia. You forgot that behind those greeters is the rest of the city, where people sit in airless cabs, where planters are dead-bolted to front porches. And you forgot, until too late, not to fall in love with this place that will eventually vanish as quickly as it popped up, like a vaguely hipster Brigadoon. (Update, 8/27: You now have a one-month reprieve — the new closing date is September 28th.)

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I Tried It: The Hairspray That Promises to Cover My Grey Hair


Can a spray really get rid of grey?

Blondes seem to think that they have it the hardest when it comes to color upkeep, and for much of my life as a low-maintenance brunette, this actually seemed true. I was always grateful that my natural dark brown color required basically nothing aside from the occasional highlight to look its best. And then I turned 30. Suddenly, the easy, breezy days of doing nothing stopped working: Now if I go more than a few months without a little help from a professional, the grey (or as I like to call it, silver) shoots through my hair, as glaringly obvious as lightning bolts slashing through the night sky. Alas, as a working mom, the chances of getting to that professional every couple of months to address said lightning bolts are basically nil. Sigh.

Read more here.

Philly, Just Get Over Wawa Already


First, there’s the name. Wawa. A word that sounds like nonsense. Like baby talk. Like a sad trombone. Wah-wah.

Thinking, I guess, that I’m not originally from here and thus a little ignorant about such things, the Wawa lover will generally inform me, tone pious, that “wawa” is the Ojibwe word for the Canadian goose in the company’s logo.

I mean no disrespect to the tribe — neither the Ojibwe nor the Philadelphian — but no amount of etymology can change the fact that seven years into my Philly life, I’m still mortified to utter the phrase, “We’re going to Wawa for a Sizzli.”

My husband, a Philly native, will drive us 10 miles out of our way on road trips, past BPs, 7-Elevens, Sunocos, Dunkins and countless other pit stops, in order to hit up a Wawa for that Sizzli. Or, more often, for the coffee, which he swears is the best road coffee money can buy. The dark roast is above par, but it’s still just coffee. When a gallon of gas costs three times as much as the coffee you’re driving to fetch and the convenience chain of choice has closed so many city outposts that a soul can hardly even call it convenient, it’s time to question such devotion.

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Review: Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss, and Lots of Weed at the Mann Music Center


There is likely nowhere in Philadelphia better suited to host Willie Nelson than the Mann Center — if not because nothing says summer like sitting on a blanket under the stars listening to “On the Road Again,” then because the smell of weed just doesn’t waft so discreetly in, say, the Academy of Music as it does from the Mann’s, er, grass seating.

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