August 18, 2007
The Money Pit
Yes, I'm off until after Labor Day. It's the first time I'm pausing the fact parade since the metro column began in late February.
Truth is, there's no fishing hole, no sandy beach, no bright green digestif overlooking a cypress grove. I'm not going anywhere. I'm staying home, working around the house and attending to things left undone for the past half year.
Oh, and I'm wondering how to pay for two college tuitions, starting the end of the month. The good thing is it's only money, as my friend Joe used to say.
(Joe grew up in Mamaronek, NY, and his dad was circulation manager of the New York Daily News, so presumably he was in a position to devalue money. Me, we'll be completely broke and in debt when this is all over. Let us eat Ramen.)
We've got quite the punch list around here: fill in holes in the blacktop, bushwhack the back 40, remove heavy limbs torn down by storms, pick up leaves ignored last fall, fix that classic 1950s toilet whose innards I spent $600 bucks to replace recently (because it doesn't stop running, and everynight I stumble through the dark to rattle the handle into silence.)
And then there's packing. Two boys headed for college, two directions at once. One of their schools has produced a helpful list of items.
There's all sorts of crap that I don't remember taking, although my dad has memories of a family station wagon pointing west 33 years ago -- so stuffed he had to use unleaded gas or else he'd scrape the muffler. Ba-dum!
One item on the list gives me pause. An ironing board.
"You get a receipt for that?" I asked my wife when I realized she'd picked up not one but two mini ironing boards. She had. She's a pro.
I cannot imagine the boys ironing anything while they are in college. I have no memory of ever ironing anything -- even when we had these bizarre rushing-the-season rituals called "formals" where we'd dress up in suits and escort young ladies to giant Chicago hotel ballrooms where 11-piece band murdered Earth Wind and Fire tunes. Maybe I rented a shirt. Maybe I bought a new one. No memory.
I have to say I had a second thought when I saw them:
They'd make cool little bars.
August 12, 2007
Ooh La La
A Boston Globe op-ed piece explores why the World Health Organization ranked France as the earth's best medical-care system. (We're No. 37!)
You thought I was going to post a picture of some French bone-sawer?
A similar system would require drastic changes here -- med school would be free, malpractice judgments would shrink, insurers would lose much of their power and have to let go those nice people who don't understand our problems when we call.
Doctors there make only twice as much as the average worker; here it's five times as much. The French are famous for their red tape. But this system is far less bureaucratic than the one we have here, says the author/professor Paul V. Dutton. And the WHO report that the French live longer, happier, healthier,
August 09, 2007
Then it's showtime: A crack addict fires up an L-shaped tube, proclaiming “L is for losers,” and gets deeply lost himself. Nail-tough neighborhood girls brag about roughing up hookers. “Nice quiet neighborhood,” says a father of ten, “if they stop finding bodies.”
Each vignette is short -- between two and three minutes -- composed with a painter's eye, and populated with a carnival of characters who David Kessler somehow gets to tell their stories.
Since January the 32-year-old filmmaker has been setting up his tripod under the El, and turning out these dark gems, which he posts to his blog, called Shadow World:
The El called to Kessler the moment he saw it; he'd been a student at the University of the Arts in the mid-‘90s. He chose it as a location for a feature film then again for his documentary on Zoe Strauss, the Philadelphia artist.
Then in January he moved into a $450-a-month studio, utilities included, seven doors down from the tracks, in a grim apartment building that bears the hand-written sign “Please knock like a human. Don't break the door.”
He hated living there, but he knew the location would offer great material — the sharp contrasts, the constant rattle, the beat-up buildings.
He had no idea he'd fall so hard for the people.
The woman wobbles down Front Street in a bright red T-shirt, worn around her midriff, and dungaree Daisy Dukes. She sees Kessler, and waves excitedly, “How are you, honey?”
“Nice to see you again,” he calls across the street.
He’s skinny, unshaven and bespectacled, wearing mud-toned slacks and shirt and a small gray fedora. The full hipster.
She launches into her woe of the moment.
“I was trying to get into the bar," she says. “But they wouldn't serve me because I had a bra top on.”
Kessler smiles empathetically. She tells him to take care.
“She's a prostitute,” he says as we walk. “I interviewed her yesterday. I was walking out here with my camera. She invited me to sit down next to her. She said she's been out here nine years, since her husband was killed. She walks with a limp. She was in a serious car accident. We talked about that. She has a deep scar on her leg.”
I ask whether the people he shoots ever see his work, and so far only one has that he knows of -- a man at Bada Bargains whose hobby is collecting buttons. “He loved it.”
Kessler says he often edits out things he thinks might get his subjects in trouble, and only features people he feels some connection to. “I think about this a lot,” he says. “I don't want to be seen as exploiting these people.”
At Front & Emerald a woman nearly staggers into us, staring someplace far away. Working girls idle on corners. A man hollers at a woman as they push their groceries down the street.
“It's unfortunate," Kessler says, “that I can't capture all of the smells.”
He talks how each block is a different world, one Spanish, the next one Vietnamese. When the El passes, the ground shakes. He says he no longer hears it.
His recorder, a tiny Sony Handycam, is always at the ready. He's found material at the laundry. Outside the methadone clinic. At the soup kitchen. On his doorstep.
“I want to find more joyous moments,” he says, as the El rumbles overhead. “It is getting progressively darker, with the crack and people talking about the bodies being found in the walls. It’s not what I set out to do. But that is hard to ignore.”
August 08, 2007
That's us, according to Monday's graphic in USA Today.
The stats were compiled by Outside.in. One of their representatives wrote by email that the group has been tracking blog activity in 60 or so cities around the country, watching how many posts were published in March and April.
Divide by the population, and you get a rate. They call it a "blogginess quotient." We're quite bloggy.
Using this methodology, Philly came in No. 2 -- both in the number of total posts and the rate of posting, when you figure for how many people live here.
Boston had the highest rate. New York had the most posts. Seattle was busy drinking coffee.
Pittsburgh had the third-most posts per capita, which says something good about the scrapple state.
August 06, 2007
"History Left to Rot"
TravelGolf.com trashes Cobb's Creek Golf Club's Olde Course. Senior writer Chris Baldwin says the public course, designed by Hugh Wilson, who laid out such luxe links as the Merion Golf Club's, is "history left to rot:"
If they ever treated the Liberty Bell like this, there'd be a national uproar and congressional hearings. Cobb's Creek is history that's been left to rot.
Cheap, depressing, but filled with potential, he writes of the old-school layout. He gets off a good line:
It's sometimes hard to tell the fairway from the rough here.
Talk about rough ...
August 02, 2007
Down on Donovan
Down, past Brett Favre, past Tom Brady, past Peyton Manning I went looking, scrolling through ESPN's list of the 50 best locks for the Hall of Fame.
And didn't find Donovan McNabb until reading a page called "On the Bubble."
There with Drew Brees and Steve McNair is the guy on whom Philly rests its hopes for an Eagles championship.
(And no snark about the list being only for players "active" in the NFL)
Being hurt is what's got him down.
Although McNabb is one of the elite quarterback talents of his generation, injuries and big-game shortcomings hurt his reputation. Three consecutive NFC Championship Game losses and a Super Bowl defeat -- in which his star receiver accused him of running out of gas -- might prove difficult for Hall of Fame voters to overlook. If McNabb can build substantially on his statistical résumé, which already includes 152 touchdown passes, his chances improve greatly. However, if his injury woes continue, he likely will need at least one Super Bowl ring to secure a spot in Canton.
But Brian Dawkins makes the cut.
The heart and soul of the Eagles' defense, Dawkins doesn't appear to be slowing down with age. He had one of his best seasons in 2006, cementing his reputation as one of the game's premier ballhawks by making several big plays during Philadelphia's late-season surge. Dawkins has been named to six Pro Bowls and has played in an Eagles-record 13 playoff games. He is the only player in league history to have recorded a sack, a fumble recovery and a touchdown reception in the same game.
Dawkins is the only Eagle to fly into Canton, ESPN predicts.
One lippy former Eagle gets his due -- he who cannot be named, only initialed. "
August 01, 2007
Asked for advice, I always tell rookie bloggers to go narrow -- figure out what it is that you love and then dig deep. Provide something people won't be able to find anywhere else, and you've got a blog for the ages.
Let the record reflect that I never advised "The World is Your Urinal."
Love the Rolling Stones motif, but those troughs have teeth!