The Greening of Manayunk

Once, the Indians came here to drink. Now, the yuppies do. And ex-mayor Bill Green is right in the middle of it all, merrily ringing up the register

Look. One of two things can happen to an area. Money can leave or money can come in. Which is better? It seems clear, doesn’t it? After all, a rising tide lifts all boats. And somebody has to step up to the plate and say, "I’ll go first" where angels fear to tread.

And, in a way, that’s what he was doing here on this piece of Main Street. It reminded him of the feeling he got when he was mayor — a feeling of really doing something worthwhile. And he suspected that one of the main reasons the sale finally had been made was that the old owners knew he really cared about their little town. He respected the place — the bar and the neighborhood. He understood how special it was, how few places had retained their unique character like Manayunk. And he wasn’t about to let anything ruin it.

THE ROOM IS filling with easy-listening music and appropriate laughter. You could call it a crowd now. A certain kind of crowd.

"A marvelous piece of real estate you’ve got here, Bill," says one of this crowd. "Terrific, just terrific."

At the far end of the bar these congratulations hum around jack — a Yunker to the bottom of his beer can — giving the room a swirl that has nothing to do with drink.

Like many Manayunkers who looked for new ways to turn a buck in hard times, Jack turned inventive. Years ago, a returning veteran like Jack might have taken a mill job after the service. But not anymore. Instead, Jack got into entertainment, earning a living part-time as Buddy the Clown. Buddy is more functional than your average down. He is a security clown, Buddy is, specializing in magic, juggling and personal protection. Part merrymaker and part bodyguard, Buddy is very entertaining and very endearing and very effective at taking out potential assailants. He is able to quiet a crowd of unruly children with just a few words, although it’s hard to tell if that is because the children love Buddy or admire Buddy or fear that Buddy is packing a rod. But he is good at what he does, and security clowning is not easy work.

For many years, D.G. ‘s was one of Jack’s favorite after-work spots, a place to knock back a few cold ones and soothe the tensions produced by trying to act friendly and intimidating at the same time. A place to escape from the carefree giggles of his public and ponder the murky future of security clowning.

And this evening, like many others, Jack sits at the far end of the bar, asking himself the usual questions about the usual things. But there are new questions in his head now, too. Questions like where are the skinch players, where is the bowling machine, what are those things sitting on ice that look like tiny lobsters?

And where is his crowd?

On this, the opening night of Green’s United States Hotel, the new crowd has arrived all neatly creased and pressed. Businessmen and political types. Lawyers and lawyers’ friends. Every time Jack looks around the room it has changed a little more. It doesn’t even feel like being in a joint. Feels more like being in court.


"It’s different," Jack says, turning his head on a slow pivot, cautious as he would be if he were assigned to protect the mayor himself. He says the safest thing he can think of. "It’s not D.G.’s."