March 31, 2008
It's the new url for Blinq, which is moving from Typepad to the Inquirer's publishing system.
I am in the process of moving some of my favorite posts over to the new blog.
If you go there, you'll find a moving version of the above image. You might even win a CD.
March 28, 2008
Say Goodbye TO A.J.
The Daily Examiner has served up a tasty slice of the local snarkosphere ever since A.J. Daulerio started blogging for the Philadelphia Magazine site one year ago. It was smart, smart-assed and featured, more than anything, good reporting and writing as he developed into a wise guide to what people were typing in these parts.
He came from Deadspin. He returns to Deadspin. Which is good, because his bio could not accomodate the names of any more publications .. Maxim, Gawker, Knot, the Black Table, Huffington Post, Deadspin, Oddjack, Deadspin (he likes Deadspin). Today's his last day. He gets to continue to live in his parent's gargage.
The printable version is that this is a great opportunity for me and I get to, essentially, have the freedom to do what I want, write what I want, watch sports, and be under the employ of a really great company and a really great friend. There aren't many jobs you can make a living at under those types of conditions. It's too good to pass up.
Ok, so I want the unprintable version. Meanwhile, here's a slab of his old roast.
Not THAT Big Damned Fish!
The big damned fish we're talking about wasn't Bill Clinton.
It referred to the picture that had been there, of a giant striped bass plucked from the Schuylkill.
Maybe it's that the pictures and the display copy update at slightly different paces on the home page, so this was just a momentary thing. We love Bill around here, you know? This was nothing like "Mush From The Wimp."
March 27, 2008
Snipery in Bosnia
Go to the American Debate if you want well-considered words on Hillary Clinton's "misspeaking" about having been under fire when she landed in Bosnia in 1996.
But stay here if you want to see newly discovered video of just how battle-tested she really was back in the day.
March 25, 2008
Lance Butler an aquatic biologist with the Philadelphia Water Department, sent it to me after I was asking after the health of the Schuylkill River.
"We’ve had this major resurgence," he said. "It's loaded with different species. I can give you 45 different species of fishes we’ve surveyed from the Flat Rock Dam to the confluence of the Delaware."
So he e-mailed a shot of a big ol' striped bass they netted from the tidal waters just below the Fairmount Dam. Note the Waterworks in the background. That's a Center City fish. It weighed about 30 pounds.
The reason I was asking? A Comcast show called "City Limits" airs Friday on the Versus network in which championship angler Mike Iaconelli fishes the Schuylkill. He's done the the East River, the Potomac, The Chicago River. Here, he's got six hours to catch and release three large-mouth and two small-mouth bass as the camera rolls and the clock ticks.
If you are a YouTube fan or watch fishing on cable TV you might recognize the Philly-born Iaconelli, who moved to Runnemede, N.J., when he was five and has fished the Schuylkill for a quarter century. The videos have titles like "Never Give Up!" and "Never Leave the Boat!" He is an excitable boy. Think the Jim Cramer of anglers.
One such video begins with him screaming "Big one! Big One! Oh my God! This is a giant!" as he reels in a scrappy bass, a species he calls "a little ball of muscle." That particular catch won him the 2003 Bassmaster Classic on the Delta. He's a big fish himself.
In person he is much more low key. I met him along the Waterworks Tuesday afternoon as the sun was low over the expressway and a dozen or so young men in hoodies fished for catfish. Iaconelli was touting the virtues of urban fishing - how the remnants of the river's industrial past creates challenging nooks and crannies in which fish gather to feed or hide from predators like Iaconelli (pronounced Ike-o-nelli).
The challenge, he says, is picking among the 20 or casts he knows -- or make up new ones on the spot to sneak his bait next to the sewer outflows and bridge pilings and barge ties and entice a hungry fish.
Below us the noise from the young fishermen rises. Someone has a hooked a channel catfish, a two or three pounder. "These are city kids who love to fish, Iaconelli enthuses. "It's what I'm talking about. Look at his face. He's using a spinner rod. I went out on this river with a $50,000 speed boat that does 70 miles per hour. Here you've got kids with equipment that doesn't cost $50.
"Look at his tackle box. It's tagged with graffiti! That's urban fishing right there!"
So back to the big damed bass. A beautiful fish, but could you eat it?
Not so much, says Mike Kaufmann of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission. The state has issued a health advisory for stripers pulled from the tidal portions of the Schuylkill River. The commission recommends that no one eat more than eight ounces of the fish. A month.
Which means that baby could safely feed a few dozen of your closest friends.
March 21, 2008
Can We Handle The Truth?
One of the editors poked me with a stick yesterday; he wanted me to write about Barak Obama's speech in Philadelphia. As a result, I spent about three hours last night flopping around in bed like a fish on a dock.
It's not that I had ignored the speech. It was impossible to, seeing how everywhere I looked in the newsroom, people were watching, whether gathered around a TV, or plugged into their computers. But I was working on something else - a piece about the unmeritorious way that Pennsylvania picks its judges. Every time I started talking about judicial elections and the lack of minority representation, the conversation worked back to Obama's speech, in which he condemned the offensive remarks of his former pastor, The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, then went on with naked honesty to say things about how blacks and white see America.
"The most honest political speech I have ever heard," two people told me that day. Same exact words.
I went to sleep convinced that Obama had taken the third rail of American politics -- race -- and turned it into a balance beam from which he pronounced the most difficult truths.
And about 1 a.m. I woke up thinking we are not ready for the truth. I don't think we're ready for Obama. I thought we were. I was naive.
When my wife and I would talk about the Democrat candidates for president I kept telling her that her Hillary was unelectable. I'd recall the eight hours I spent in a room with her in 1985, as she sat in for her husband the goveror and talked to a dozen education reporters about school reform in Arkansas. I was blown away by her brilliance. And then I'd tell my wife that Hillary is just what the opposition wants. No one would energize the base like another Clinton to hate, and we'd be caught rehashing the past when the need to fix the present is so urgent.
Obama is the unelectable one, my wife, the reconstructed Southerner, would reply. Despite lip service, she argued, in the privacy of the voting booth too many white people will not be able to pull for a person of color. A few months later, I'm coming around to my wife's position.
After Obama's speech I went blog hunting, and the headline on the Politico site left me dismayed: “GOP sees Rev. Wright as path to victory.” They look at Obama. They see his angry pastor.
“It was a speech written to mau-mau the New York Times editorial board, the network production people and the media into submission,” said GOP consultant Rick Wilson, who was behind the 2002 ad that tied former Sen. Max Cleland, a Vietnam war-wounded Democrat from Georgia, to Osama bin Laden. "Beautifully calibrated but deeply dishonest." It didn't take long to spin poetry.
Hate was all around. In the words of the Clinton volunteer at a Philadelphia phone bank who told an Los Angeles Times reporter that he was voting for Hillary because "I love the Lord and I don't want a person named Al-Barack Hussein Obama to be our next president."
In the work of an aide to John McCain who was suspended on Thursday for spreading on the Internet a race-baiting YouTube video that mashes Obama's words with those of Rev. Wright, Malcolm X and the Public Enemy song "Fight The Power."
And in a posting on the BooMan Tribune, a liberal Philadelphia-based blog. The writer, an Obama supporter, had scored a seat at the National Constitution Center for Tuesday's speech, and afterward was walking through The Gallery when he sat down and searched for a wireless signal for his computer.
"An elderly white woman sat down next to me and was silent for a little while. Then she said, "That's where my tax dollars go."
I looked up at her, not knowing what she was referring to, and asked, "Excuse me?".
She nodded at a group of young early-20's black people (some with a baby carriage) walking by, and repeated herself. The people she was referring to were nicely dressed and appeared to be enjoying themselves as they window-shopped in the mall. I think I just mumbled something like "Mmmn" and returned my attention to my laptop. Then the elderly woman said, "Do you know that Hillary is coming here today?"
I nodded, "Yes. I just came from seeing Obama."
She frowned at this news and then said, "I'm very excited to see Hillary. She knows how to deal with (she swept her hand around to indicate the mall crowd) this." I excused myself.
Part of me wonders whether this anecdote was a bit of bloggy stagecraft to advance the Obama cause. But you don't have to make up something like this. It's everywhere.
It reminded me of what I heard covering Europe and the Middle East from 2000 to 2003. The Kosovars blaming the Serbs. The Serbs blaming the Americans. The Palestinians blaming the Jews, the Jews blaming the Palestinians. Each nation intoxicated by its own victimhood. Drying out is difficult when it feels so right to have been wronged. You don't have to go about the hard work of moving forward that Obama talked about in Philadelphia.
I listened again to the Obama speech Friday morning as I walked the dog. As he explained the resentments harbored by both black people and white people -- the two separate realities -- I remembered the last time I said something to set off a minor racial incident at work. I was talking to a cherished colleague, who is black, and she was mourning the number of minorities who lost their jobs at the paper during last year's layoffs because they were among the most recent hires.
At least it will be easier for them to get jobs, I said. I was trying to say something helpful. I wound up saying something hurtful. What made me think it would be easier? she asked. She didn't make eye contact with me again for days. I insisted to myself I was right. Wait a year, then we'll see. In fact, it has little to do with numbers, everything to do with perception. Each convinced we were right, each a little buzzed on our victimhood. At least we're starting to talk about this.
March 20, 2008
Fallen Tenor Giant
I spent the morning with Emily Brecker Greenberg, who I knew as the head of my local school board until I realized she was also the sister of Randy and Michael Brecker, the Brecker Brothers, whose music I've spent about 30 years listening to.
You might know him from the Saturday Night Live Band, or from solos on Paul Simon's "Still Crazy After All These Years," or James Taylor's "Don't Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, or Billy Joel's "Big Shot." He sat in with every pop star from Aerosmith to Zappa, and we haven't even started with the jazz stuff -- Miles, Mingus, McCoy, Herbie, Chick, Chet, Quincy, Jaco. Only he needed a second name, to distinguish himself from his trumpeter brother.
Emily, 60, grew up in the middle of the two in a musical household in Cheltenham. Dad, a lawyer, was a jazz pianist at heart. Emily played classical piano, but says that by 8th grade she sensed music was not going to be her career. Her teacher was not so convinced, however, and so made Emily wear leather gloves when she played electric bass with her brothers so she would't get callouses that might ruin her ivory touch.
Michael died last January from complications of leukemia. He had a rare blood disorder, and failed to find a proper bone marrow match. Emily made a promise to him, which is the subject of a column next week.
All this is to introduce this piece of music I found on the Web. A tribunte to the 6-foot-4 baby brother Emily called "Mikey." I keep playing it as I try to find the words to start the piece. It's called "Common Grounds," from a performance in Barcelona.
March 14, 2008
Did Comcast Build a Giant Memory Stick?
I kept thinking there was some sort of work stoppage, like the construction crew had bailed before finishing the job. I figured at least they were going to snap something on the top, but no.
To me it looks like a giant memory stick. The kind you shove into a USB drive.
My friend, The Perfessor, has a different view of what Philadelphia's tallest skyscraper resembles.
"Rebar. Rebar without the concrete."
Earlier he had likened it to a giant pigeon coop.
Jon Adams, a Penn law student who took that spiffy photo on the left, started off praising the building by e-mail, then noted how "alien and cold" it seemed, especially compared with that Second Empire classic on which Billy Penn stands.
Am I just a cretin? Would I not know great architecture even if I walked into it? (Ooh, my nose.)
I just sauntered around the newsroom soliciting opinions of what the tower looks like.
"That obelisk from 2001" one writer said.
"That stick that Superman throws that turns into the Fortress of Solitude," said another.
"A remote control," said a third.
March 12, 2008
Ok, so maybe you didn't set your alarm for 10:37 a.m. Sunday to hear me on WHYY-FM talking about Philadelphia's passion for the sweat suit. Maybe you didn't remember the time change. Or, maybe - if you're like my wife - you had other things to do.
No worries. Here is a link to the audio of all the Inky commentaries -- Rick Nichols on local beer hunting, Melissa Dribben on beating the financial blues, Jeff Gammage (a former college soccer player) on the splendors of Chester, Monica Yant Kinney on curious property tax rates, Inga Saffron on the latest important buildings we lost, and John Timpane on the virtues of the word youse.
Collect them all. Trade them with your friends.
March 11, 2008
Back To Youse
Basking in the free pub and ratings bounce for screening the last episode of "The Wire" at City Hall Sunday night, Mayor Nutter has announced a Big Top showing of "Back to You," the light-hearted Fox sitcom starring Kelsey Grammer and Patricia Heaton.
This must be true. It comes from The Philly Turkey, the blog with the flavorful "News Youse Can Use" tag line. So when's the mayor going to adopt the mantra of another Grammer vehicle, "Philadelphia, I'm listening"?
And in unrelated but real news, the Yankees have signed Billy Crystal to a minor-league contract.
Back to youse.
March 09, 2008
Freaks and Geeks Revisited
The dealer who sold him the trunk contends that Langmuir knew they were extremely valuable prints when he bought them in 2002 for just $3,500. The dealer says he got conned, and has sued.
(Langmuir and his once-in-a-lifetime find were the subjects of my column two weeks ago.)
The photographs and other artifacts from the life of Richard "Charlie" Lucas -- a deceased, black sideshow performer and Times Square emcee -- are to go to auction in New York next month. They are expected to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, says the New York Times.
Does Langmuir get to pocket all that dough?
No, no, says the dealer, a 50-year-old Nigerian named Bayo Ogunsanya.
"I feel victimized," says Ogunsanya, according to an AP report. Ogunsanya filed suit Wednesday in a federal court in Brooklyn. He wants a court to block the auction, nullify or sweeten the terms of the sale and award him unspecified damages.
A lawyer for buyer Robert Langmuir called Ogunsanya's suit a nice try by an old pro.
"Mr. Ogunsanya is a professional who seems to have had a case of seller's remorse and is trying to wring a few dollars out of my client," said the attorney, Peter Meltzer.
Ogunsanya had purchased the unclaimed trunk from a Brooklyn storage shed. Langmuir bought the photos in pieces, having spent a few years tracking down the set and proving that 29 of the photographs were shot and printed by Arbus, the late photographer.
The trunk turned out to have been the effects of "Charlie" Lucas, a former sword-swallower, nail-walker and African wildman. He finished his career as an emcee at the Times Square emporium called Hubert's Dime Museum & Flea Circus, whose performers Arbus photographed sometime before 1963, as she was developing her disturbing style.
March 07, 2008
Blinq Is The New Barry White
First, a decision by Justice Scalia in Republican Party v. White, as well as the concurring and dissenting views. The case was about the First Amendment rights of a judicial candidate in Minnesota.
It read to me like Tolstoy in Russian. I am way out of practice. I asked Blinq's official counsel, my brother the lawyer, for a little sympathy, and he said, "It's not easy."
No, it's not. Call me crazy, but I think I'm with Scalia on this one. We'll see what I think when they cut my logic open and splay it across the conference table.
If any of you are stuck in traffic Sunday morning, you can hear Blinq on WHYY-FM around 10:37 a.m., doing a commentary about Philadelphia being the sweatsuit capital of America. It's a radio version of a column I wrote last year. A little investigative re-purposing for the Volvo and Vivaldi crowd.
The cool part was going into the studio at WHYY to record the bit, which is shorter than a normal column, and, I hope, funnier the second time around.
I have not so much experience doing radio or commentaries, but who needs experience when they have headphones like that? You slip them on, and the rest of the world seems a light year away. Your voice deepens, and you sound like a combination of Bob Edwards and Barry White. I asked if I could take them home to my wife.
February 28, 2008
Freaks & Geeks
All he knew was that three 11-by-14-inch prints were strange:
A black man in a coat and tie, wearing a jeweled turban and tiny smirk.
A snake devouring a rat.
And, even more frightening, a tall man in sunglasses, standing on a stage, with his arms folded and tapered into sharp points where there should have been hands.
"They were clearly art shots," recalls Langmuir, 57, a white-haired, white-bearded man in owlish glasses, sitting in his workshop under a giant pastel painting of Humpty Dumpty. "I thought they were special."
Only when he brought the trove back from a Brooklyn dealer to his West Rittenhouse Street place, and spread the papers over his long desk, did he glimpse just how special.
Paging through tax documents, calendars, dream journals and correspondences to a couple named Charlie and Woogie, he came upon an entry in a 1964 address book that read:
Diane Arbus, 1311/2 Charles St., WA 4-4608.
Had he just found a mother lode of lost prints by the legendary New York photographer?
The wrong era
The man was Richard "Charlie" Lucas. Born in Mississippi in 1909, Lucas had been a sword-swallower, hot-coal walker, and African wild man in sideshows across the country. By midcentury, he was working in a Times Square emporium called Hubert's Dime Museum & Flea Circus as an inside talker - emcee for the assortment of human curiosities on display.
And that, it turns out, is where Lucas befriended a female photographer who was moving from shooting fashion to shooting those on society's fringes.
Langmuir had been drawn to African American culture since his boyhood, growing up in Delaware County at the edge of the black community called Morton. His first buying and selling was of jazz and blues 78s he found at People's TV, Tire & Record Store.
After leaving school, he jumped from adventure to adventure, joining the Merchant Marine, roaming around Europe and Russia, hopping freight trains, staying in missions, working as a roadie for Muddy Waters. He was scouting books and papers at auctions and junk stores when he settled down in 1978 at a Center City shop called the Book Mark. His business lasted a good 20 years.
He and his partner had wound down the business when he bought that circus trunk in 2003 that contained what he felt were rare Arbus prints.
At first, Langmuir says, Rosenheim said the style in the photographs seemed different from what he knew of Arbus', telling the collector, "You'll have to sell me on them."
Meanwhile, Langmuir learned there was much more to the collection. He returned to Brooklyn, and the dealer - a Nigerian named Okie - handed him a second envelope of photos. Langmuir tried to stay calm. He was burning up.
He peeked inside, and saw 19 more prints, and a note, written in the same handwriting he'd found in Lucas' address books:
"Pictures enclosed for you, Suzie and Dingo. (Went to Amusements of America Carnival in Hagerstown, MD. I saw my first geek.) Diane."
That was the Eureka! moment. Before anything else could happen, Langmuir needed to show the prints to the Arbus estate for authentication. Months more passed.
Right as his professional life was at the verge of greatness, his personal life was falling apart. His mother died. He was in the midst of a bitter divorce. He was fighting depression, and losing the battle.
Still, Langmuir pursued the last pieces of the collection. He acquired more photos, from a Florida collector and from the artist Richard Merkin in New York.
Finally, word came down from lawyers representing the photographer, who had killed herself in 1971. What Langmuir had discovered: at least 30 vintage photographs from before 1963 that Arbus, herself, had printed.
On April 8, Phillips de Pury & Co. is set to auction the photographs and Charlie Lucas' archives in New York. The collection is on exhibit in Los Angeles now. Germany is next. A New York Times article priced the pieces at hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In 2004, when a fellow collector named Gregory Gibson proposed writing a book on the discovery of the photos, Langmuir said the story was about his own spiritual journey as much as anything.
Gibson spent four years researching and writing, and says he saw Langmuir, whom he'd known for 20 years, go through an epochal change. "As much as he is a genius at discovering old paper, he turned his attention inward and discovered things about himself. It was remarkable to watch the progress of that. In a way, that might have been the most satisfying part."
Gibson's book is called Hubert's Freaks, and is set to be published in mid-March by Harcourt.
Last year, Langmuir was remarried, to a teacher. He's looking forward to using proceeds from the auction to go into schools with his wife and enliven history with real artifacts from African American history.
"I'm not going to do anything differently," he said. "I've already started to do the differentlies."
Bob Langmuir has managed to put himself back together again.
Them Changes: Buddy Miles is Dead
Buddy Miles is dead.
The drummer died Tuesday at home in Texas of conjestive heart failure. He was 60. You might know him as man assaulting the skins on "Them Changes" or from a live record with Carlos Santana.
You could hide a revolution in that hair.
February 24, 2008
Who is Ryan Seacrest?
"Who is Ryan Seacrest, and what is he doing on national television?"
The first paragraph of his web site bio shares the key stuff:
With his successful broadcasting career, it's no wonder why he was recently awarded a prestigious star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and why he was voted as one of People Magazine's "50 Most Beautiful,” as well as one of their 2005 “Most Eligible Bachelors.” With Ryan Seacrest Productions (RSP) becoming a known entity producing and hosting multiple television and radio specials, his many restaurant investments, as well as the launch of the R Line, Seacrest is redefining what it means to be an entrepreneur and a triple threat in Hollywood.
He's a known entity.
Best line about Ryan's gravitas goes to the New York Post, which blogged:
Like I said, he makes Joan Rivers look like Edward R. Murrow.
February 23, 2008
Tower Theatre. Saturday Night. John Doe opening for Wilco. Paying some real money for this one. The above version of "Impossible Germany" is from "Austin City Limits," via Aquarium Drunkard, and its pretty much definitive. Gorgeous and alone, face-to-face.
Haven't seen Wilco since a mellow incarnation at the Troc around 2000. Old `97s opened. Found myself upstairs at an after-midnight show afterward, Los Straitjackets in their Mexican wrestling masks, and I remember something about the boys from Marah sending over a Jagermeister after we sent a Slippery Nipple their way. Or was it visa versa? Lotta freaks.
February 22, 2008
Ghosts in the House
That's what I was facing Wednesday morning. For two days I'd written and rewritten this piece about the Kelly Street Chorus. The story was about a battered statue and some singers of old-timey music, with lots of quirky Philadelphia history, and I was getting nowhere.
A friend in Virginia once said that newspaper stories are like hamburger. If you handle them too much they start to rot. I was about to call in the men in hazmat suits. It just was going nowhere, paragraph after paragraph. Some nice words, no music.
I'd spent Friday night with the singers, then on Sunday interviewed a man, Ken Mobley, who'd devoted months to a wild goose chase through newspaper morgues, historical society archives, museum basements. He was after a bronze bust of the singers' first honorary conductor, Victor Herbert, the superstar of the Tin Pan Alley era. Herbert's bust used to stand in Fairmount Park. Then it disappeared.
The story was about today's Kelley Streeters' intense need to resurrect Herbert's image and story, and Mobley applied everything he new about history - he taught high school social studies - to make a most pleasing find.
But even a sentence that clear I could not write for some reason. So I did what I always do when stuck writing. I did more reporting. And in our newspaper morgue I got lost in the words of these old Inquirer columnists - Harold Wiegand, John Cummings - who championed the Kelly Streeters through the years.
There was a time, around the turn of the century, when most of the city's papers had their offices around old Kelly Street, which ran off 10th Street above Chestnut. Apparently, newspapermen used to know how to sing in addition to drink. They did both at the Dooner Hotel, where Herbert first encountered the group that honors him to this day.
After soaking this all in, I went back to my desk and started typing, and the damned thing started flying off my fingers. I'd like to thank the old newspaperman who must have entered my body Wednesday morning, and knocked this off in an hour or two. It was good for me, too.
February 20, 2008
Audio Killed The Video
We had all sorts of video queued up and ready to go to illustrate Monday's column on Josh Winheld, the 29-year-old author of a memoir of his life with Duchenne, the most-common form of muscular dystrophy. But we messed up. You could barely make out his words over the din of his ventilator.
Thanks to the Gray Lady, here's six minutes of video on Josh. The New York Times featured the Cheltenham native today in a piece on new tactics to treat those with the disease.
The Times says this about fighting Duchenne:
Rather than concentrate only on a cure, some researchers are now intent on developing drugs that may alleviate the effects of the disease.
But, absent a cure, too many doctors around the country still assume there is little or nothing that can be done for the muscle-wasting condition, parents and specialists say.
“We’re in a stone age with Duchenne,” said Dr. Linda H. Cripe, a pediatric cardiologist at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. She describes Duchenne patients as “a group of kids that pediatric medicine had forgotten, a group of lost boys.”
February 18, 2008
Thanks For Sharing
Pray he's on the phone.
I don't understand how you can conduct business when you are, well, conducting business. It just seems wrong. Especially when you are in a public restroom, and the person next door is a captive audience for an intimate scene in your life. Do you have to share so generously?
"I hope you're on the phone," I said after he followed his "I Love You" with something about the groceries. Clearly I was intruding on his world, which was only fair.
"Yes," he replied after a second's pause. "Why?"
I looked down. Black loafers. Shined. Clearly not from the newsroom.
"Because I was hoping you were talking to someone else."
"Because I was hoping you weren't talking to me."
Suddenly, he wasn't so talkative.
February 15, 2008
Big Brother Falls
From Chris, who was writing from South Dakota: "I feel a profound sadness at the loss of someone who I considered a father to me and I only hope you can possibly help other people see how he lived and how much he actually gave back to the community and those around him. Craig was a great man who thought nothing of himself and always thought about the welfare of others before considering himself."
I'd spent an evening in May with Craig and his newest little brother, Pernell Francis, as "Perry" wolfed down a meal and a half at Tony Luke's. Craig visited Perry each week, picking him up at his South Philly rowhouse, taking him to dinners, and other events in Perry's packed life. The column's here. That's Craig and Perry, together in this photo, being honored by U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah this September.
Craig was a Big Brother for 36 years, helping four young men to their feet. He'd been a borough councilman in Oaklyn, N.J. He managed a cemetery in Cinnaminson the past 16 years. He also ran a tax preparation business. He fished and read avidly. He played Santa at Big Brother Christmas parties for a decade. He was a member of the Avalon and Aqua String Bands. His wife died four years ago.
What I remember is the softness of this exchange, toward the end of the evening at Tony Luke's:
Craig: "I've gotten an extended family out of this. Not only with the ids, but with the family. You never lose track of them when they grow up. They stick with you like the mud. I've got four sons I'd never have had. I love them, and I think they love me."
Perry: "You think?"