An Encounter With CA Conrad

Or: What happens when an angry poet shows up in the Philly Mag office

Our latest issue, which came out the other day and which we’ve dubbed “The List Issue,” has generated a fair amount of buzz around town. A few people have called to say thanks for including them on a list; a few others have been in touch to say thanks for not including them on a list; and several more have weighed in complaining about being on a list. This last group would include the always- adorable Philebrity editor Joey Sweeney, who had this to say: “Fuck you, fuck Herb Lipson, and fuck the plastic surgeons who keep your sad rag afloat.” (Stay classy, Joe.)

Still, no reaction has been more interesting than that of the noted poet CA Conrad. Now, I should say that, until earlier today, I wouldn’t have known CA Conrad from Joseph Conrad, Robert Conrad or Conrad Bain from Facts of Life, but that says less about him than it does about me. He is, in fact, a published, award-winning poet from Philly who was recently awarded a Pew Fellowship. He even has his own Wikipedia page.

Unfortunately, Mr. Conrad was apparently not happy with the inclusion of the Mummers on our list of “10 Things We Need to Get Rid Of.” In fact, he was apparently so not happy that, on Wednesday night, he began posting comments on our Facebook page. And not just one comment, but multiple ones. An example:

“Dear Philadelphia Magazine: HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT THE MUMMERS SHOULD LEAVE! Your magazine proves more and more that you are ONLY FOR Phillie’s 1%!”

And another:

“Philadelphia Magazine doesn’t make things any brighter by slandering a fine working class institution like the mummers as they do in their latest issue. If you REALLY CARE about the city of Philadelphia PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE, then you need to start proving you care! APOLOGIZE FOR YOUR OUTRAGEOUS SLANDER AGAINST THE MUMERS IN THE CURRENT ISSUE!”

Thursday morning his commenting increased; he commented seven times in the span of a few seconds with similar aggression.

When the staff member who handles our Facebook page, online managing editor Erica Palan, saw the comments, she did exactly what she should have done. Posting as Philadelphia magazine, she encouraged Mr. Conrad to email us so that he wouldn’t have a word limit and that we could possibly include his reaction on our letters page. He responded:

“NO! FORGET IT! YOU NEED TO WRITE AN APOLOGY TO THE MUMMERS AND TO THE PHILADELPHIA COMMUNITY! DON’T INSTRUCT ME ON HOW TO ACT WHEN YOU DON’T SEEM TO HAVE THE DECENCY TO BE A MAGAZINE FOR ALL THE CITIZENS OF THIS GOOD CITY!”

Seven rapid-fire posts later, Erica posted this as a new status:

“We’re getting hit with lots of angry comments about an anti-Mummer line in our December issue. We’re always glad to hear from the community—even when you’re unhappy with our work—but spamming our pages is not an effective way to reach us. If you have lengthy comments to make, please share them at mail@phillymag.com for consideration for our January issue’s letters page. Users who abuse our page will be blocked.”

Mr. Conrad responded with seven comments–again, in the span of just a few seconds. The final one said:

“I SWEAR TO GOD THE MOMENT YOU BLOCK ME IS THE MOMENT I APPEAR AT YOUR OFFICE AND I GO DOWN TO THE MUMMERS MUSEUM AND BRING STRING BANDS TO PLAY ON MARKET STREET OUTSIDE YOUR MAGAZINE’S OFFICE!!!!!!!!!”

At which point, well, we blocked him.

As it turns out, Mr. Conrad was true to his word—sort of. Not much later we got a message that, though he was string-bandless, he was in fact in our reception area, demanding to see our Facebook editor. I asked Erica what the hell was going on, she explained, and I instructed the people at our front desk that we would be happy to talk to Mr. Conrad, but that he should call or email to make an appointment to see us. I did this not because we’re, like, super big deals here at Philly Mag, but because a) it gets busy in our office b) it’s just kind of rude not to call ahead c) there are a few whack jobs out there, and when someone has aggressively been spamming your Facebook page and then shows up in your office making demands about seeing people, you start to wonder if you might be dealing with one of those whack jobs.

Mr. Conrad informed our receptionist that he wouldn’t leave. When that message made it to me, I passed along my business card and again asked that he call or email to set up an appointment.

Again, he refused to leave. At which point, well, we called building security, who apparently escorted the Noted Poet from the building.

Was that the right thing to do? It’s a few hours later now, and, yeah, calling security feels like it was exactly the right thing to do. In fact, I even would have done it to Conrad Bain. We have no problem when people disagree strongly with something we write (even when—especially when– what we wrote was a wise-guy list), but we hope that they’ll keep their reactions controlled and civil. Mr. Conrad’s actions may have been harmless, but in the heat of the moment they sure felt threatening.

Earlier this evening I emailed Mr. Conrad and extended an invitation to get together and chat. He told me it was too late:

“It’s important to point out that there was no reason to mistreat me as your people did today.

“What on earth could you possibly say to me at this point after dragging me out of the office like a criminal? I’ve posted to PhillySound about you all, and need not speak to you at this point.

“You’re a bunch of creeps, but I love the Calder in the waiting room. I’m a big fan. I’m incredibly sad every time I walk past where the Calder Park once — all too briefly — stood on the Parkway.
CA”

You can read his version of what went down right here. He seems to want to make this all about the 99 percent and the tough plight of the working man in Philadelphia—which is ironic, because our December issue also contains a sympathetic piece on exactly that topic. Maybe one day CA will read it.

Anyway, he concludes his post with this lovely couplet:

“FUCK PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE, AND FUCK THEIR ELITE AUDIENCE!
But LOVE for Philadelphia, where I learned to love the world!”

CA, we felt your love all day long. Thanks for sharing. (And by the way, something about your work reminds me of the Noted Poet Joey Sweeney.)

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