More Fun Decoding the Philly References in ESPO’s Enormous Old City Mural — Part 2

Once again we attempt to unlock the secrets of Steve Powers' massive tribute to Philly legends

Yesterday, I began the daunting task of annotating Steve “ESPO” Powers’ newest masterpiece, the wonderfully busy assemblage of local references on Second Street in Old City. Oh, I should have mentioned that this gigantic work was created under the auspices of the Mural Arts Program. Thanks to everybody who contacted me about part 1 — I’ve added a few updates. One day I want to annotate it in all its glory, but for now I’m going to have to tackle it piece by piece. Okay, let’s get going:

    • Jocko/Microphone: Douglas “Jocko” Henderson was a longtime radio DJ, on WDAS, WHAT and other stations here, Baltimore and NYC. Questlove called him “unofficially the first MC” because of his proto-rap vocal styling. Just listen to his version of “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.” It’s nuts.
    • American Flag/Spool of Thread: Betsy Ross is sewed the first version of Old Glory here. I believe that’s what this is about.
    • Lilys: A little shout out to Kurt Heasly and his indie band of a thousand incarnations. I’d guess the Lilys are second only to the Orchestra in total number of former members. The top of the spool doubles as a CD.
    • Buford Youthword/Spraypaint Can: A street artist ESPO claims as a major influence. Buford (aka Suroc, Nick-E-Dee, and Falcon) used to take him out painting rooftops.
    • Mark the Surface/Little Hat: UPDATE: I went to the source on this one. ESPO says: “my pen name is Mark Surface.”
    • Nom de Plume/Feather/Busy Body/Silence Dogood/Anthony Afterwit: Ben Franklin is all over this mural. This part references two pseudonyms Franklin used in writing satirical essays, Busy-Body, Anthony Afterwit and Silence Dogood. Relatedly, Franklin is said to have invented “the busybody,” that multi-mirror appendage you sometimes see on Philly houses to allow somebody on the second floor to see who’s at the front door. Oh and, like a lot of colonial types, he wrote with a feather quill.
    • 611: The route, but also DJ Nigel Richards’ beloved South Street-area record store (turned clothing shop).

  • FKD/MKT: As in Frankford and Market, I assume. Where the El goes.
  • Sun Ra/Record: Cosmic jazz bandleader, rumored to hail from Saturn. His Arkestra continues the mission.
  • Coltrane: As in John Coltrane. Legendary saxophonist and one of this city’s eternal favorite things. Watch this little doc on Trane at Temple. Get schooled.
  • DJ Mustard: The L.A. DJ? If there’s a local tie, I don’t know it. Maybe he’s just here to provide some flavor to the soft pretzels below.

  • Soft Pretzels/Raised On Dough: This is how pretzels are supposed to be shaped. And weren’t we all raised on dough?
  • Philadelphia Phillis: This colonial baseball kid, and her brother Phil, were fixtures at ballgames in the early years of Veterans Stadium. People seemed to like them better as a light-up signs than mascots, though.
  • Moses: Sixers great Moses Malone who died in September. An NBA Hall of Famer.
  • Chocolate Thunder: The nickname of Sixers great Darryl Dawkins, who died in August. The dude made it rain glass.
  • Alexander Calder Mobile: Talking about the kinetic/moving sculpture/red shapes on the right connected by black lines. Calder was part of a long line of Philly artists. I’m pretty sure the Calder mobile in the Art Museum is white. I seem to recall a red one on the South side of the Parkway at one point. All the Calder mobiles were removed from the Parkway in 2009 due to lack of funding.

This is part 2 of a no-end-in-sight series. Part 1 was yesterday. We’ll continue with Part 3 tomorrow. As always, please email me if I got something wrong.