Justin Bieber Went to Johnny Brenda’s and Things Are Different Now

Most relationships have a breaking point.

In a healthy relationship, you see it coming far enough in advance to prepare a short list of grievances before going your separate ways.

Volatile relationships are harder to predict, but when the time comes, it’s nothing special — simply business-as-usual-chaos, a last straw waiting to happen.

It’s the neglected relationships you have to watch out for, those fragile unions running on the fumes of nostalgia and commitment, of long-dead in-jokes and stale scripts. Those are the ones that take a grand gesture to end, something big enough to shock all parties back into the reality they’ve been ignoring.

Something like Justin Bieber hanging out at Johnny Brenda’sRead more »

Seven Theories You Might Not Know About Where the Word “Hoagie” Comes From

iStockphoto.com | Jack Puccio

iStockphoto.com | Jack Puccio

We were really hoping we’d be able to trace a Native American origin for the word “hoagie” in celebration of National Hoagie Day today, but we couldn’t. We did, however, find these seven variations, some way more dubious-sounding than others. Get yourself a nice fresh hoagie (or, depending on your place of birth, a submarine, a torpedo, a zeppelin, an Italian, a hero, a grinder, a po’boy, a wedge, a spuckie, a garibaldi, a blimpie … ) and settle in to survey these suggestions. (Note: There is no National Spuckie Day.)  Read more »

What Spring Sounds Like in Windows-Open South Philly

Dickinson Square Park | M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Dickinson Square Park | M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

There are a lot of ways to measure the arrival of spring in Philly.

Technically, it began March 20th, before the last snow of the year, weeks after that deadbeat groundhog waddled out of bed. Easter isn’t usually a bad benchmark—although that, too, was followed by snow this time around. I used to welcome it the first time my cat delivered a dead baby animal to the doorstep, but ever since Saffron retired, I go by a more optimistic milestone: the first weekend that the windows stay open.

Which is to say, finally, happy spring.

Did it feel good? In true Philly fashion, it was almost too warm. Did it look good? Let’s just say there were a lot of jean shorts and tube socks walking down my block Saturday afternoon. Did it smell good? “Sweet” and “breeze” very rarely go in the same sentence around these parts.

But damn, did it sound good. From Friday night through Sunday evening, last weekend was a pitch-perfect snapshot of the finest season in the finest city. (Brief disclaimer: I’m from here and can’t distinguish the rolling tide of the ocean from the rolling tide of I-95.)

This is what spring sounds like in windows-open South Philly:  Read more »

How Did We Become So Obsessed With Food — and So Lazy at the Grocery Store?

iStockphoto.com, juliedeshaies

iStockphoto.com, juliedeshaies

I was shopping the other night with my kid at Fresh Grocer in West Philly, which is the closest grocery store to where she lives. I like taking Marcy grocery shopping. I like Fresh Grocer — not because it’s a nice store, because it’s not, really. The layout is chaotic as hell; nothing is where you expect it to be. Wherever you park your cart even for just for a moment, just to check how much they’re asking for ground beef this week, you’re instantly in someone’s way. It’s a cultural wonderland, which means it’s chock-full of people with completely oppositional ideas of what constitutes personal space. But I like the foreign students chattering away in different languages while they block your access to the yogurt, and the laconic fish guy with the beard, and the checkout clerks who run the gamut from incredibly cheerful and excited to have a job to openly yawning at you. Plus, free parking! So long as you remember to get your ticket punched.

And I like the way the produce section tries to be all things to all those people, with 10 different varieties of apples, sure, but also lots of different greens and an array of mushrooms and dragon fruit and mangoes and bagged salad mixes and three varieties of bananas. Marcy’s more or less a vegetarian at this point in her life, but her husband is from Kenya, where any veggie that hasn’t been stewed for three hours with canned tomatoes is written off as a loss. It’s interesting to watch Marcy struggle to bridge this gap.

Which is why our progress through the Fresh Grocer aisles sometimes comes to a halt while she eyes a glistening array of, say, Japanese eggplant and tries to imagine some way, any way, of preparing it that Basil might eat. Which is what she was doing that caused me (once I had found an unobtrusive spot in which to park our cart) to have the leisure to reach up onto the top shelf in the produce section for a small square package of what turned out to be beets.  Read more »

Four Tips for Philadelphians Traveling Abroad During the “Trump Spring”

Photo Cory Doctorow via Creative Commons.

Donald Eres un Pendejo, sidewalk stencil, Sunset Junction, Los Angeles, California, USA. Photo | Cory Doctorow via Creative Commons.

At this point, when Donald Trump’s face appears on a screen, I tend to feel nothing.

Sometimes it’s the “Been there, done that” variety of nothing, an unavoidable side effect of a 24-hour election news cycle. Other times, it’s the crushingly cold, “I’m so dead inside” brand of nothing that happens when Donald Trump makes a serious run for the White House. Once, it was almost a peaceful nothing, the kind that sets in right before you walk down the tunnel toward the light.

Either way: sweet, sweet nothing.

Unless, of course, I’m in Mexico when Trump makes his appearance. In that case, I panic a bit. Read more »

No Roots on July 4th?

The Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson performs during an Independence Day celebration Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Philadelphia.

The Roots’ Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson performs during an Independence Day celebration Saturday, July 4, 2015, in Philadelphia.

Say it ain’t so, Questo.

The Roots won’t be headlining the Wawa Welcome America! Festival on July 4th, according to this report from Billy Penn.

The Philly natives have played the annual concert since 2009. But new Mayor Jim Kenney is apparently doing some behind-the-scenes tinkering.

“There are exciting changes going on at WaWa Welcome America and we look forward to announcing them at a press conference in the coming weeks,” Lauren Hitt, the mayor’s spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

Read more »

11 Things You Might Not Know About Pencils

Photo | Pixabay

Photo | Pixabay

Happy 158th birthday to the pencil with attached eraser! It was on March 30, 1858, that Hymen L. Lipman received a patent for his remarkable invention — a tube of wood with graphite at one end and a rubber eraser at the other. Lipman, born in 1817 in Jamaica to Jewish parents, came to Philadelphia around 1829. The family settled here, and Lipman became a stationer, selling paper, pens, ink and the like. In 1840, he started the first envelope company in the country. Eight years later, he married Mary A. Lehman, daughter of the founder of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (precursor to the University of the Sciences).

Lipman’s pencil had an eraser that was inserted into the hollowed-out wooden pencil the same way the graphite was; users could sharpen either end. In 1862 he sold the patent to one Joseph Reckendorfer for $100,000. Reckendorfer then sued the Faber company, a German pencil maker, for patent infringement. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled that the erasered pencil was simply a combination of two previously existing objects with no new use and therefore not a proper “invention.” Here are a few more penciled-in facts you might not know about both ends of every writer’s favorite tool. Read more »

WATCH: Four Recently Born Lemurs at the Philadelphia Zoo

Four black and white ruffed lemurs were born at the Philadelphia Zoo last month — and now the zoo has released incredibly cute photos and video.

Kiaka, a 9-year-old female, gave birth to a conspiracy of lemurs — this is possibly the term for a group of lemurs — on February 21st. The father is 10-year-old Huey; it’s the first successful lemur birth at the Philadelphia Zoo. Read more »

11 Things You Might Not Know About the Founding Fathers’ Dogs

Admiral Penn from Violet Oakley's mural series at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Photo used courtesy of the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee and Brian Hunt

Admiral Penn from Violet Oakley’s mural series at the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Photo used courtesy of the Pennsylvania Capitol Preservation Committee and Brian Hunt

Today is National Puppy Day, which is proof, we guess, that every dog has its day, seeing as every dog in the world was once a puppy. We hope you have a pup with which to celebrate. If not, you should adopt one! Meantime, here are stories — some shaggier than others — about our founding fathers and their faithful canine friends. Read more »

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