This West Philly Artist Will Bring You a Surprise Pizza

Photo by Alex Jones

Wanna crush some ‘za but don’t feel like going outside? You’ve got several options for delivery, from schmancy chef-driven pizza through Caviar to your neighborhood pizza joint. With luck, you’ll be eating an ok-to-pretty-good (depending on your location and desired price point), still-hot pizza within an hour.

But where’s the fun in that?

Instead, you could let West Philly-based theater artist and performer Donna Oblongata bring you a pizza…sometime. Somewhere, at a location you’re likely to be (a little social media sleuthing might be involved). And there’s no telling what she’ll put on it.

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Pentridge Station Beer Garden Gets Opening Date

Ephream Amare Seyoum/Pentridge Station

Back in April, we reported that an out-of-the-way block in West Philly’s Cedar Park neighborhood might get a new beer garden and community gathering spot from a team that includes Dahlak bar and entertainment manager Ephream Amare Seyoum.

Last week, one of the organizers, Jocelyn DeGroot-Lutzner, announced to a neighborhood Facebook group that the clearing of the vacant lot on the 5100 block of Pentridge Street has begun, and Pentridge Station has an opening date.

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LGBTQ&A: Clay Cane

Clay Cane

Clay Cane is a New York City–based award-winning journalist, author, television personality, documentary filmmaker, and contributor. Cane is the creator and director of the critically acclaimed original documentary Holler If You Hear Me: Black and Gay in the Church. We chatted with the Philadelphia native on his career, identity, and debut memoir.

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Eating Crickets, River Snails and Fertilized Eggs in West Philly

Photography by SQ Productions

Photography by SQ Productions

Back in 2002, before it strutted the Vientiane name, the Phanthavong family’s Laotian operation out of West Philly functioned more like an outdoor speakeasy than a cafe. It was known as the “Blue Tent” among locals — a tarp-covered wooden structure which served as an unofficial meeting place for the neighborhood’s blooming Southeast Asian community. The family-run setup was helmed by Phoxay Sidara and Daovy Phanthavong — Laotian refugees — and their two daughters Manorack and Sunny. Hordes of families, friends and neighbors would line up outside the Phanthavong household for a taste of Daovy’s cooking and a seat under the tent where they could spend the night drinking and gambling (before dinner, Sunny proudly mentioned, “Laotians know how to party.”). But, remember, this was an “underground” business with no licenses and permits, and those can only last so long. One night, L&I knocked on the Phanthavong’s front door — they were being raided. The Blue Tent was done.

A year later, the family opened their cafe at 4728 Baltimore Avenue. And that’s how Vientiane Café got its start as the city’s premier Laotian restaurant.

Now they’re serving bugs.

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Interview: West Philly Writer/Musician Alex Smith

Oscar at rest.

Oscar at rest.

West Philly’s Alex Smith is a man of many talents. I first encountered him at City Paper where I edited and assigned his pieces on arts and music. Then I realized he was everywhere: writing fiction (alone and with his collective of likeminded visionaries in Metropolarity), making comics, playing music (in Solarized) and more. When I finally read his NSFW sci-fi adventure comic Believers — and heard Metropolarity was up for an award — it seemed like a good excuse to get inside his head.

Believers is a fast-paced and funny action comic. Do you dream of continuing the adventures of Oscar?

Thanks, I like to keep storytelling light but the stakes relatively high. I would love to continue Oscar’s adventures, however my collaborator Jacob Mazer who runs Animal Kingdom is a pretty busy person! It would mostly depend on him because I could not imagine anyone else at this time drawing Oscar, although you never know. Oscar is one of my favorite characters I’ve created because there’s such a vast amount of weird stuff I can pull from in my own life to project onto the page, as well as so many rich possibilities with pulling him into a universe of kooky demigods and space aliens he knows nothing about.

Believers isn’t like most comics — starting with its gay Black stoner main character. Do you see comics culture in general becoming more accepting of new voices and perspectives? Read more »

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