Philadelphia, We Needed the Cheesecake Factory

Photo | Brian Howard

Photo | Brian Howard

Everyone has their safe space.

Maybe you like to take a time-out at Rittenhouse Square when the office feels like it’s closing in. Or perhaps you find peace in your garden at the end of a long day. Yoga studios are popular, as are churches, temples, synagogues, mosques and other buildings where vampires aren’t welcome (or aren’t usually welcome — it all depends which season of Supernatural you’re watching).

My personal sanctuary — that little nook of the world where time seems to stop and breathing comes easy — is The Cheesecake Factory. Read more »

Why Do I Find Taylor Swift So Annoying?

It was hard not to cheer for Taylor Swift over the past couple days.

Less than 24 hours after she penned a blog post criticizing Apple’s new music streaming service, the company backtracked and confirmed that it would, indeed, pay artists full royalties during the trial period. After a few polite, eloquent paragraphs outlining her argument and the importance of compensating both struggling artists and established talent, Swift signed off with this succinct little mic drop to let them know she meant business:

 “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

Seemingly all corners of the Internet came together in support and admiration of the 25-year-old Berks County native. As for myself, I decided it was finally time to figure out why I absolutely can’t stand the woman. Read more »

Ocean City, New Jersey, the Most Magical Shore Town on Earth

Gilligan's Wonderland Pier Ferris Wheel | Edwin under a CC 2.0 license.

Gillian’s Wonderland Pier Ferris Wheel | Edwin under a CC 2.0 license.

My family has gone to Ocean City, New Jersey, every summer since I can remember.

When things were tight, we went for a long afternoon or a short weekend. Other times, we’d pack up that gigantic blue station wagon and put Fox Chase in the rearview for an entire week. Regardless, for a few hours or a few days, it was always and easily the best part of the year, the time when the Weymouths most felt like the families on TV.

It wasn’t until I was in college that we decided to take our first “real” vacation and booked a flight to Disney World. Read more »

How Pope Francis Made It Safe for Me to Come Crawling Back to Church

It was in second grade that I first suspected I didn’t belong at St. Cecilia’s.

I was only 7, but when I looked into Sister Mary’s unfeeling eyes I knew, as clearly as only 7-year-olds can, that whoever she was working for wasn’t worth my Sunday morning. I brought my concerns to my mom, hoping for a quick “Jesus Loves You!” Band-Aid to ease the impending existential crisis.

Now, I realize this was a mistake. My mother is a wonderful, empathetic, kind-hearted woman, but comforting white lies aren’t really her strong suit. Santa died early in our house, and the Easter Bunny wasn’t far behind. The Tooth Fairy, well, she never stood a chance on Hoffnagle Street. This is what it sounds like when a child asks Joan if we’re floating on, all alone, through this vast, indifferent universe:

“How do you know God is real?”

“Well, I don’t.”

“Oh. Do you think he is?”

“I’m not sure.”

“So … where do we go when we die?”

“Nobody really knows.”

“Where did Smokey go?!?”

“He’s in the flower bed, honey. Now brush your teeth – Wings comes on at 8.”

Read more »

Internet Meets Caitlyn Jenner, Immediately Sexualizes Her

vf-cover-bruce-jenner-july-2015-940x540

I was getting coffee when Caitlyn Jenner met the Internet. Not fancy coffee — regular drip, black, get that cinnamon-sugar shaker away from me — so we’re talking maybe 15 minutes away from my desk. And yet that was enough time for seemingly the entire world to chime in on the Vanity Fair cover story documenting her transition.

Many were supportive and respectful, from Lady Gaga to Rick Santorum. Others, of course, were decidedly less so. (Tell me, how does it feel to be behind Rick Santorum in the Evolution line? Or don’t you guys believe in that yet? As you were.) But lurking through it all — the Facebook comments, the coverage from major outlets, even Vanity Fair’s presentation and promotion of the story — was an ugly subtext: After less than a day of revealing her new identity, Caitlyn Jenner had already been objectified and sexualized for our entertainment.

Which makes sense. She is, after all, a woman. Read more »

Are the Duggars Pro-Family — or Just Anti-Woman?

The Duggars

The Duggars

In general, I try not to dissect why I care about the lives of strangers on reality TV shows. Best-case scenario, I don’t have enough going on in my own life. Worst case, I have a sneaky crush on Dr. Dubrow that’s about to surface and cause worlds of pain and confusion.

But 19 Kids and Counting has always been a little different. It’s hard to be a woman in 2015 and not be interested (or, in my case, morbidly interested) in the Duggar family, who are followers of an ultra-conservative brand of Christianity that adheres to the Biblical patriarchy movement.

After this weekend, it’s impossible not to be afraid of them. Read more »

Should Philly Get to Vote on Its Public Art Installations?

Clothespin, B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia | Doctored <em>Paint Torch</em> via <a href="http://www.phillymag.com/ticket/2015/04/01/photos-street-artist-turns-part-of-the-pafa-paint-torch-sculpture-into-a-poop-emoji/" target="_blank">Streets Dept.</a>

Clothespin, B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia | Doctored Paint Torch, Streets Dept.

I don’t have great taste in art. Or, maybe even worse, I don’t have any taste in art.

I have a couple of nice pieces courtesy of friends and family who haven’t yet realized their work is too good to give to me. But, left to my own devices, I gravitate toward the Basic Bitch Trifecta when decorating my walls: beaches, dogs and inspirational quotes. Part of me still misses my freshman dorm’s super-cheesy Audrey Hepburn print (another part of me misses it so bad that it’s in my Ikea shopping cart).

And so I’m never quite sure how to feel about some of Philly’s more abstract art. Is an oversized electrical plug art? Probably, considering it ended up in the Art Museum’s sculpture garden. How about a plastic, swirled dollop of paint? Perhaps. What if you dress up the dollop to look like the poo emoji? I’m going to go with definitely, but like I said, what do I know? Read more »

Why Dunkin’ Donuts Is Philly’s True Coffee Soulmate

The cup of coffee you carry around Philly says a lot about you. In a city where no one smiles or, God forbid, says hello, it can quickly relay a good amount of information about strangers. I like to think of it as the human equivalent of a butt sniff – or rather, the Philadelphian’s equivalent of a butt sniff.

When I see Red Hook’s cute little cup parading down Fourth Street, I can’t help but admire its drinker. Not only did she resist the best muffin in town, but she went to a locally owned café and spent a little extra to support her neighbors. She’s socially conscious and expensive smelling, but not so much better than me that she remembered her reusable travel mug. Read more »

4 Biggest Mother’s Day Social Media Missteps

As far as holidays go, Mother’s Day is traditionally in the minor leagues.

It’s an important one, yes, but it barely takes up an entire aisle in CVS. No long weekend, no dead deity, no big deal.

Unless, of course, you’re going by social media standards. Because on Facebook and Twitter, Mother’s Day is apparently a High Holy Day of Sharing (and, possibly, caring).

Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with that. After months of stalking your bar selfies and whiny status updates, your mom was probably delighted to spot herself in your new profile picture. If your partner granted you a tiny human over the past year, it’s more than appropriate to send a shout-out. You gave life to those kids and got them dressed for a family photo shoot before noon? Go ahead, lady — blow up my feed with your tiny army of brunch terrorists. You earned this.

That said, there was also some pretty questionable Mother’s Day posting this year. Do mom a favor and remember the following next time around. Read more »

5 Rules for Behaving During Philadelphia Street Festival Season

South Street Festival. Photo | South Street Headhouse District

South Street Festival. Photo | South Street Headhouse District

Somehow, I went almost three decades in this city without having to experience a neighborhood street festival.

Actually, it was easy. I grew up in the Northeast and then spent a good chunk of my 20s in West Philly, two of the most insular communities this side of North Korea. (Go on, ask your friend from Fox Chase to meet you in Center City. I’ll wait.)

But now I find myself renting in Queen Village, an apparently popular part of the city with things to offer and visitors to entertain. If last weekend’s record-breaking South Street Festival was any indication, it’s going to be a long, long summer of improvised trashcans and suspicious puddles.

Want to be a good temporary neighbor? Here’s what to remember before you go back to the ’burbs. (Want to be an even better neighbor? Make some room in that fancy crossover vehicle and bring me with you to the promised land.) Read more »

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