I May Live in Pennsylvania, but I’m No Pennsylvanian

Illustration by Mario Zucca

Illustration by Mario Zucca

A few months ago, I was walking to the train station when a squirrel hopped onto a nearby metal fence and stared at me with its licorice-chip eyes. Without thinking, I said, “Hello, squirrel,” as if that was proper etiquette rather than the behavior of a three-year-old. It’s not the first time I’ve done it, either, which is embarrassing. But there’s an explanation.

Growing up in Center City, I spent a lot of time in Rittenhouse Square. The park was always full of squirrels, and I loved watching them play with each other and dig in the trash cans for that still-warm McDonald’s french fry. They were at least as cute as the guinea pigs I had at home, and certainly smarter. (No one’s ever accused a guinea pig of being too clever.) I came to see them as fellow city residents — my peers, even. Today, as an adult, I still think of them as friends. Read more »

Body Found at Ridley Creek State Park in Media

"Ridley Creek in SP Tgiving" by Smallbones via Wikipedia

Photo of Ridley Creek State Park by Smallbones. Licensed under CC0 via Commons.

Just 15 minutes from Philadelphia, Delco’s woodsy and pastoral Ridley Creek State Park draws hundreds of hikers, anglers, horseback riders, picknickers, hunters, sledders and cross-country skiers to its 2,600 acres each year. It’s a beautiful spot, but one that seemed less than idyllic on New Year’s Day, when a hiker who was walking off-trail discovered a dead body. According to police, the “skeletonized” condition of the body suggests the white female was dead for several months before she was found. Investigators note that the dead woman was tall and thin, and was probably in her late teens or early 20s.

Such a discovery naturally sets off alarm bells for families of missing persons. Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood initially told the Delco Daily Times that he believed the remains might be those of Amanda De Guio, a 24-year-old mother of two who went missing from her mother’s Drexel Hill home in June of 2014. Amanda’s mother, Joanne De Guio, told the Times that the family got a call from State Police on Friday. “We just gave a description but haven’t heard anything. We’re all very distraught. Right now it’s hard. We don’t know what to do. Until we hear a name, it’s very nerve-wracking.”

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Diversifying New Year’s Day: Inside Philadelphia’s First Puerto Rican Mummers Troupe

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All photos | Bradley Maule

Sixteen-year-old Niurka Mojica stands in the center of the circle, a mass of blondish curls piled into a bun and accented with a red flower. As three drummers pound congas, she lifts the hem of her billowing red skirt up in the air, then shakes it down to her toes. She puts her hands on her hips and thrusts her chest out. She grabs the skirt again and swivels her hips. Around the circle there are singers and percussionists and other girls shaking brightly colored skirts back and forth. A couple of masked men in satin costumes bop along to the music, as does someone holding a gigantic satin-clad puppet whose horned head almost touches the ceiling.

All of these people at Christ Church & St. Ambrose at Sixth and Venango are members of Los Bomberos de la Calle, a Puerto Rican bomba y plena group that’s part of the new Philadelphia Division of the Mummers Parade, which was formed to increase diversity among the parade’s participants. Today’s rehearsal for the parade has swelled Los Bomberos’ ranks from about 10 to 20, and even brought some people — as well as the giant puppet — from Allentown. On New Year’s Day, group founder Tony Mendez estimates there’ll be 30 or 40 people marching, all of whom will make history: It’ll be the first time in the parade’s 160 years that a Puerto Rican group — or any Latino group, for that matter — will march. Leo Dignam, of the Department of Recreation, told division members at a meeting a few weeks ago, “This will be the big story of the Mummers Parade this year.” Read more »

28 Vintage Photos of Philadelphia During the Holidays

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The holiday season always makes me nostalgic for things I’ve never actually had, like that creamy root beer float at the soda fountain in Bedford Falls, or the smell of pine from that glorious tinsel-strewn tree Bing Crosby and I decorated together. I’ve never celebrated Christmas in real life, but the Margaret O’Brien inside my soul tears up every time she hears “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in a store.

Philadelphia is especially beautiful during the holidays, with all the unsustainable twinkling lights and smiling people who tend toward the curt during other months. The SEPTA employee I buy my train tickets from was wearing a Santa hat today, its oversized white pom-pom bouncing over her face as she went to take my cash. It’s a lovely time.

Has it always been like this? Well, as we discovered from doing a little historical research, the twinkling lights, SEPTA grace notes and gigantic public Christmas trees have been around for a long time. But other local holiday traditions have come and gone. Below, a selection of vintage photos from holidays past in Philadelphia, in no particular order, with no particular theme — just interesting moments in time that’ll make you nostalgic, too. Read more »

Mythbuster: Suicide Is Not More Common During the Holidays

Going "Home for the Holidays" can be chore — but it's no worse than during the rest of the year.

Going “Home for the Holidays” can be chore — but it’s no worse than during the rest of the year.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center at Penn has some good news for people who appreciate accuracy in media: Last year, for the first time in four years, there was a decrease in the number of news stories that falsely associated holiday time with suicide. Annenberg’s analysis notes that the lowest suicide rate is between mid-November and January, yet for many years the majority of news outlets tended to perpetuate the holiday-suicide myth rather than contradict it. Read more »

Of Course There’s a Philadelphia Accent in American Sign Language

A sample of the program Fisher and Tamminga will use to annotate their interviews. Credit: University of Pennsylvania

A sample of the program Fisher and Tamminga will use to annotate their interviews. Credit: University of Pennsylvania

When local writer JoAnna Loviglio described the Philadelphia accent for the Washington Post a couple years ago, she summed it up this way:

With apologies to comedian Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a Philadelphian if: you say beggle (bagel), wooder (water), tal (towel), beyoodeeful (beautiful), dennis (dentist) or Fit Shtreet (Fifth Street). Also, the name of your home town might sound like Philuffya, and you might call your football team the Iggles, you might pronounce “ferry” and “furry” the same way, and your rendering of “radiator” might rhyme with “gladiator.”

Native Philadelphians could surely add hundreds of examples to that list; personally, I was always dismayed by the way my relatives pronounced “egg” to rhyme with “plague.” And there are still words, like “hanger,” that trip me up on a regular basis because I can’t get the Philly out of them — those hoagie mouth remnants can be stubborn.

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Porngate Prosecutors Get Their Sensitivity Training

Seth Williams, left. Paul Meshanko, right.

Seth Williams, left. Paul Meshanko, right.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams released a statement today detailing the sensitivity training his staff underwent in the wake of the “Porngate” scandal — and probably none too soon. In recent weeks, a growing chorus of elected officials and activist groups have called on Williams to fire three of his prosecutors who’d been involved in the sending and receiving of pornographic, homophobic and racist emails while employed elsewhere. Williams said he wouldn’t fire the men–Frank Fina, Patrick Blessington and Marc Costanza–but he would implement training.

According to Williams, Paul Meshanko, president and CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, led the training. (According to his Facebook page, he’s the former CEO, but other sites describe him simply as CEO.) Legacy is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, but Meshanko lives just outside of D.C. He is the author of The Respect Effect: Using the Science of Neuroleadership to Inspire a More Loyal and Productive Workplace. The “neuroleadership” part of Meshanko’s theory is based on the notion that respect primes our brains to do their best work, and that the brain responds more happily—with serotonin and oxytocin—to respectful behavior in the workplace. When we are disrespected, this triggers cortisol and adrenaline and other negative mojo that unpleasantly drugs the prefrontal cortex. Read more »

Search Is On for Cheltenham High Grad Who May Be Armed

Jacob Marberger. Photos | Facebook

Jacob Marberger. Photos | Facebook

Everyone is looking for Jacob Marberger, but this is no ordinary missing persons case. Two campuses — that of his high school and college — have been on alert since November 16th, when Marberger allegedly took a gun from his parents’ home in Cheltenham and disappeared. His university, Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland, has cancelled classes and shut the campus down until November 29th. Cheltenham High was locked out on Monday. A warrant is out for his arrest, and he is said to be “despondent.”

It’s unclear when trouble started for the 19-year-old but the difficulties certainly reached their peak last month, when he was suspended from college for allegedly getting drunk and brandishing an antique gun at his fraternity house. The action resulted in his being kicked out of Phi Delta Theta, and he resigned from his student government position. Though the suspension only lasted a week and a half, he still faced the possibility that he’d be expelled. Read more »

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