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