TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse

The Lighter Side of The Rittenhouse Review, with a slice of Philadelphia just for the helluvit, and because if you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere.

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December 12, 2005

One of my nephews, five-year-old T.B., at dinner last week gave me a trophy.

Actually, it�s a paper cut-out of a trophy on which he wrote:


That�s a keeper, don�t you think?

December 9, 2005
If Not, Listen to Radio Times Tonight

This morning I caught Marty Moss-Coane�s excellent program Radio Times on WHYY Radio (Philadelphia, 90.9 FM), the second hour of which was devoted to discussing and, what the heck, let�s just say so, promoting, Double Down, this season�s holiday offering from Philadelphia�s 1812 Productions, featuring Scott Greer and Tony Braithwaite.

I haven�t seen Double Down, but Green and Braithwaite were hilarious on Moss-Coane�s program. And Marty did quite well herself playing a nurse in a skit the three performed on air.

I hear from WHYY promos this evening that the station will rebroadcast this segment at 11:00 p.m. tonight.

You should make a point of catching the program, and if you can, seeing the show at the Adrienne Theatre, and maybe buying me a ticket.

(I was just kidding about that ticket part.)

December 8, 2005

John Lennon.

He was killed in New York 25 years ago today.

Yeah, we get it. We know. Enough already.

November 30, 2005

Whenever I think I can no longer be shocked, especially by young children, it happens again.

And so, again, I�m shocked.

As you know, I live in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia, a traditionally Irish and Polish working-class area just northeast of Center City that is currently making the transition -- so they tell me -- to the next hot, hip, and trendy spot in the nation�s fifth-largest city.

Perhaps. I remain to be convinced, especially when I walk about nearby streets and am forced to interact with what can be called, charitably at best, the local color, and what I�m more inclined to characterize more simply as the neighborhood�s white trash.

Case in point, with an eye toward the aforementioned kids: There�s a little boy who scampers about who I take to be around eight years old. He�s a cute kid; reasonably well dressed and groomed, by which I mean, and if you lived around here you would catch my drift quickly, he looks clean, and that�s pretty good, all things considered.

I last saw him Sunday evening when I took my dog Mildred out for a post-dinner walk, during which the following conversation ensued:

Local Boy: Hey, mister, you know what I�m doing?

Grouchy Old Man [That�s me.]: Looks like you�re stupidly skateboarding in the middle of the street.

Local Boy: No, I�m waiting for a girl. And when she comes by I�m going to get a piece of her.

Grouchy Old Man: That�s not nice! You know boys don�t hit girls.

Local Boy: I�m not going to hit her. I�m going to [expletive deleted] her!

Grouchy Old Man: Whoa! Well, that�s not nice either. Don�t even think of it! And don�t ever say anything like that again!

Eight years old!

Well, he was having none of my remonstrations, about which I cannot call myself surprised.

But then, get this, he, said �local boy,� threw a ball at me, a ball that hit Mildred!

It wasn�t much of a ball, just a soft rubber ball, but he did it on purpose, and maliciously, and I know this because it�s the second time in a month this little urchin threw something at me. The last time it was a portion of a smashed pumpkin he and a few other pieces of crap broke in front of a neighbor�s house on the night before Halloween.

The incident -- the ball throwing, not the pumpkin-piece tossing -- set me off. Not insanely, I assure you. I was just disgusted. I turned around and marched toward him and glared at him and scowled and shouted, �If you ever throw anything at my dog again, if you as much look at her the wrong way, you�ll be in more trouble than you�ve ever heard of in your life!�

Scared him?

Oh yeah.

Scared me?

That too.

Knowing this crazy neighborhood, this mannerless and misbegotten child is probably being raised by an unemployed nut who�s been on a bender since the Eagles lost. To Denver. Not exactly the type of dad, or mom, who will thank me for keeping the stupid kid in line.

I�ve got to watch my back.

November 28, 2005

Oh, boy, is this going to be good!

I�m talking about Christmas in Fishtown.

If you saw how my neighbors dressed up their houses for Halloween and then for Thanksgiving, you would be as eager as I am to see how far above and beyond the call of duty -- to say nothing of good taste -- they will go this month!

Early signs (see the south side of Norris St., east of Frankford Ave.) are promising.

November 27, 2005

You knew it was coming. It was only a matter of time. Finally, it�s here: the six-dollar chocolate bar.

November 23, 2005
Long Overdue Overheard Blogging

I overheard this snippet of conversation a few months ago while waiting for a table at a modest little eatery in the southernmost reaches of Center City.

Middle-aged Woman (after stumbling loudly toward the bar): �Oh my God! Thank God! My foot�s been killing me!� [At this point she�s using both hands to sort of pluck, I guess is the word, at her lowest appendage on, I believe, the right side of her body.] �I thought I was getting a blister under my toe, but it was just an aspirin! I had an aspirin stuck under my toe!�

Now, of course, this is all very weird, and altogether too weird to overhear, and it only gets weirder when I inform you that said middle-aged woman was wearing not shoes, but sandals, a type of footwear designed to allow, and preferred by many (though assuredly not me) because they purportedly allow, one�s feet to breathe, for lack of a better word to describe something so inherently vile. And yet still said aspirin tablet stuck to her toe, a travesty that suggests to me that her feet, aspirating within the generally liberating reach of the sandals, were entirely too, well, wet for the occasion.

November 13, 2005

All of Philadelphia, or, to be honest, but a mere sliver of the vast populace here, is all aquiver and astir about the latest cover story published by PW, the �alternative� weekly paper (Wednesdays) formerly, though generally still, known as the Philadelphia Weekly, �Die, Hipster, Die.�

They�re practically buzzing about it! (And, may I say, there�s no one so tiresome as an aficionado of marijuana who thinks he has discovered the great secrets of the universe therein and just cannot stop talking about it? Snoozzzze.)

Frankly, I don�t know what all the fuss is about.

I found the piece, by Neil Ferguson, to be tame, gentle, and altogether too fearful of offending hipsters genuine and fake, the distinction to me entirely unclear, those who are, well, PW core readers, and far too averse to putting these poseurs in their place, would there were anyone who cared.

November 9, 2005

A brief item in today�s Philadelphia Inquirer today reports that an unidentified Mount Laurel, N.J. woman was scammed out of $2,500 by her potential new roommate: �The victim, who lives on Augusta Circle, told police Friday that she had received a $4,000 check as a security deposit from someone she met on the Internet. The prospective roommate then asked the woman to forward about $2,500 to a Nigerian address to pay for airfare to the United States, police said. After sending the money to Nigeria, the woman discovered the $4,000 check was bogus, police said.�

Sounds like Mrs. Sese Seko has struck again.

November 8, 2005

Gee whiz, what�s with the geography problems -- particularly those related to South and Southeast Asia -- among youngish Philadelphians these days?

In a setting completely unrelated to the Bangladesh-Turkey confusion about which I blogged here last August, earlier today I caught this bit of a conversation between two twenty-something men:

Young Man No. 1: I don�t know if I want to commit to it. The project is in Sri Lanka.

Young Man No. 2: Sri Lanka? Where�s that?

Young Man No. 1: It�s near Malaysia and Indonesia.

Well, sort of near Malaysia and Indonesia, I suppose, if you consider 15 hundred miles, give or take a few hundred, to be �near.�

Where have we gone wrong?


This strikes me as big, and surprising, news: 734 Schuylkill Ave., Philadelphia, on the western edge of Center City, just below the South Street Bridge, in its latest incarnation a vocational education center, will be rehabbed into more than 200 condominium units by developer Sam Switzenbaum, working in conjunction with architect Robert Venturi of Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, that according to an article by Henry J. Holcomb in today�s Philadelphia Inquirer, �Heavyweight to Go Condo.�

Over to you, Inga.


There are plenty of stories in today�s Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News about the departure of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Terrell Owens, but my favorite is �Few Fans, No Sit-Ups at T.O.�s Masion,� by the Inquirer�s Keith Pompey, reporting from Moorestown, N.J., in which we hear from Owens�s next-door neighbor, Marybeth Taras.

Taras says, with apparent conviction, �I�m ready to have a new neighbor. I'm ready to have a family live next door.� She added, �I think the team is better off without him. I think it is time for him to go.�

Only later in the article does Taras deliver her punch line, wondering aloud whether Owens can sell quickly his home in Morristown. Pompey reports: ��We would like for him to do something with the lawn,� Taras said, while looking at Owens�[s] bald lawn. �Do you think he�ll be able to sell the house with the lawn looking like that?��

By the way, Owens is asking $4.4 million for his spread.

November 7, 2005

Oh, please, is there any need for any further discussion about Terrell Owens? (See, among many other articles, �Owens� Days as an Eagle are Over,� by Jeff McLane, Philadelphia Inquirer.) Good riddance and, yeah, good luck, pal.

November 6, 2005

I think it�s time for some new contact lenses. While carousing about the web today, a headline caught my eye,. As I saw the news item it appeared, �At Least 22 Dead After Ind., Ky. Tomato.� Wow, I thought, vegetables can be so nasty! Oh, wait, it was a tornado. Never mind. Seriously, though, it sounds awful.


I can say honestly it never crossed my mind: that actors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone have had plastic surgery, perhaps more than a bit of it, as has Tom Cruise, according to Dr. Cap Lesesne in the Boston Globe.

August 18, 2005

I know someone, and I won�t say who he is, who, if reading the New York Times article to which I linked in the post below, �An Exquisite Path to an Elusive Past,� must have been very confused by this sentence contained therein:

The ordinarily unflappable staff at Versailles was nonplussed.

Now, of course, we all know that nonplussed (or its variant, nonplused) means �at a loss as to what to think, say, or do; bewildered,� but my friend persistently and mistakenly maintained, all proof, documentation, and linguistic evidence aside, that the word nonplussed meant something along the lines of unaffected, blas�, or nonchalant, perhaps even unflappable.

And so, to him, my former friend, that particular sentence must have come across as something like:

The ordinarily unflappable staff at Versailles was unflapped.

As critical as all that sounds, I know I�m not perfect. There are certain words I encounter that repeatedly send me to the dictionary, no matter how many times I encounter them. Protean, for example. That�s a word my brain simply won�t take in.

At least I know I enough not to try to use the word in a sentence. I just keep my ignorance -- my protean stupidity -- to myself.

For situations like this, should you encounter them, allow me to recommend I Always Look Up the Word �Egregious,� by Mawell Nurnberg, a work promoted, accurately, as �A vocabulary book for people who don�t need one.�


Overheard this morning at Robin�s Bookstore, an independent bookseller on South 13th Street in Center City Philadelphia, part of a conversation between two employees:

Employee No. 1: �In the e-mail he was telling me all about Bangladesh. Sounded awful.�

Employee No. 2: �Bangladesh isn�t so bad.�

Employee No. 1: �Well I told him not to go to Turkey.�

Employee No. 2: �Bangladesh and Turkey aren�t the same thing.�

Employee No. 1: �They�re not?�

Mr. McNally, please call your office. Mr. McNally.

Enough, though, with Bangladesh. How about we talk about Thailand?

I ask because it�s not only nearby, nearby Bangladesh I mean, but also because the New York Times today has an interesting piece, �An Exquisite Path to an Elusive Past,� by Holland Carter (Bonus points for the cool name, Holland!), about a new and apparently fascinating exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass., �The Kingdom of Siam: The Art of Central Thailand, 1350-1800� (through October 16), that I wish I could see.

August 14, 2005

Come on, do it.

Turn on the television set.

I rarely do so myself, but when comedian Kathy Griffin gets her own show on Bravo, in the shape and form of "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List," I'm all over it, and, I'm happy to say, enjoying every minute of it.

Can I just say, though?

I really, really want to be one of Kathy's gays. I'm good-looking enough. I'm funny enough. She merely needs my number.

Go ahead, share with her.

A brief, and worthless, New York moment from my past: I saw Griffin perform live. She's just incredible. If you can seize the opportunity to take her in -- Even if you must pay for the ticket yourself, and you know she wouldn't do that if she didn't have to. -- just do it, just really right away do it.


Playing on the tradition of the "Overheard" series intermittently published here, allow me to share a few things "seen" in Philadelphia just today and today only, presented in chronological order:

At 10th and Market Streets: The skinniest heroin addict ever, shirtless and looking very ribby, asking for spare change so he could "get something to eat." Gee whiz, pal, forget the change. Let me buy you an Egg McMuffin and force feed it to you.

At 12th and Walnut Streets: A 60-something woman passed out at a table in front of Cosi.

At 8th and Lombard Streets: About 100 women, all of them over the age of 60, exiting the Society Hill Playhouse following the first Sunday matinee performance of "Menopause: The Musical," blue hair -- Even purple! And you know what I mean. -- abounding.

At 8th and South Streets: Two of the scariest black drag queens ever, wearing the nastiest sunglasses imaginable, loitering in front of the state store, which location is closed on Sundays, much to their irritation. ("State store" is Philadelphia-ese for liquor store.)

At 10th and Spruce Streets: A woman with -- and this sight was a first for me -- four piercings on her back, just below the neck. I didn't even know they did that, and I can't for the life of me imagine how it's accomplished.

God, I love this town.

Oh, and by the way, twice today I was complimented by cashiers for my "beautiful signature," the same phrase used both times.


Overheard earlier this week at the KFC/Taco Bell on South Street, Philadelphia, a conversation between a twentyish man at one table and a twenty-something woman at another:

Twentyish Man: "Yo, you need some green?"

Twenty-something Woman: "What?"

Twentyish Man: "You need green?"

Twenty-something Woman: "Money? Do I need cash?"

Twentyish Man: "No, girl, green."

Twenty-something Woman: "Huh?"

Twentyish Man: "Green. Green, girl."

Twenty-something Woman: "What are you talking about?"

Twentyish Man: "I got some awesome green. And X. Coke. Blow."

Twenty-something Woman: "Uh, no. I think I'm okay."

I didn't catch on any more quickly than she did, but then again, I don't expect to encounter drug dealers when I'm eating a pair of Double-Decker Tacos.

August 13, 2005
Socialite Turned Activist

Ernesta Drinker Ballard, Philadelphia: socialite, debutante, horticulturalist, author, teacher, preservationist, businesswoman, skateboarding advocate, mother, wife, feminist, 1920-2005.

Some obituaries really are worth reading. In addition to the link already provided (for ��One of the great citizens� of Philadelphia,� by Rusty Pray, Philadelphia Inquirer, August 12), see �Ernesta Ballard, a 'Treasure,� Dies,� by John F. Morrison, and �A Philadelphia Icon Passes,� both in the Philadelphia Daily News.

[Note: This item is cross-posted at The Rittenhouse Review.]

August 10, 2005

This one is kind of sad.

Overheard, about two weeks ago, at the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, located in the city's Logan Square area, a conversation between two rather weatherbeaten middle-aged men washing and shaving in the men's room:

Man No. 1: "You know, this is it for us."

Man No. 2: "What is?"

Man No. 1: "This is it. We're gonna be living like this -- like pigeons -- for the rest of our lives."


They're not ladies who lunch, they're women who network.

At the Lilly Pulitzer shop, in Ardmore.

I suppose that's how's it's done on Philadelphia's Main Line.

July 9, 2005

Allow me to tap my inner nerd and say, �Cool!�

(I kind of have a thing for pandas and penguins and stuff like that.)

July 7, 2005

Overheard, yesterday, in Center City Philadelphia, a bit from the street-side half of a cell-phone conversation:

Fiftyish Woman: �I know. . . . I�m sorry. . . . I�m sorry I got you off the sofa. . . . Okay. . . . Bye now.�

And do you the strange thing is, she made that remark without the slightest tinge of impatience, weariness, or sarcasm in her voice. It�s not as if she said it in the manner of, �I�m sorry you had to pull your lazy ass off the friggin� sofa to answer the damn phone!�

Instead, it sounded like something she�s said a hundred times before.

July 6, 2005

Some of the foods your friendly (or otherwise) neighborhood (or fussy New York) chefs won�t eat (or serve): sweet potatoes, lentils, celery, large carrots, green bell peppers, bananas, oats, verbena, lemon thyme, cilantro, dill, and saffron.

June 28, 2005

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts is experiencing financial problems. Serious, but not debilitating, financial problems.

We know this because the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday reported that the Center �eliminating 12 administrative and security jobs -- about 11 percent of the staff,� �[a] salary freeze is in effect,� �the Kimmel�s senior staff, including president Janice C. Price, took a 10 percent pay cut in the last quarter,� �the Kimmel will not present concerts in July and August,� and in the most ominous news, �[t]he gift shop is closing.�

[Emphasis added.]

June 23, 2005

This sounds like something that would happen in Philadelphia, only it didn�t:

Wanted: Stolen car. Make and model: Ford Crown Victoria. Owner: D.C. police department.

Reported stolen by: Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

(Source: �D.C. Chief�s Vehicle Snatched,� by Del Quentin Wilber.)

Don�t forget to read the follow-up report, �Ramsey Car Theft Generates Laughs, if Not Leads,� by Petula Dvorak.


As a former resident of Washington, D.C., I get a great big kick out of certain articles in my former hometown�s leading newspaper, the Washington Post, as I did today with this howler, the first paragraph from �Exploring Inroads for Tysons Foot Traffic,� by Peter Whoriskey:

Every once in a while, someone tries to cross Route 7 in Tysons Corner on foot.

Yeah, like that ever happens. I mean, really, who was she, this �someone�? Somebody�s off-the-books maid?


If you�ve traveled the Northeast Corridor, by car or by train, you�ve probably seen the sign along the Delaware River: �Trenton Makes. The World Takes.� (Punctuation added.)

It, the sign, was gone. Now it�s back. Soon, anyway.

That�s great, but I have one question: What is it, exactly, that Trenton makes these days?


Fun dog stuff is coming in Philadelphia.

The Alliance for Philadelphia�s Animals hosts the Dog Days of Summer Adoption Festival on Sunday, June 26, in Logan Square, 19th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (�rain or shine,� as they say, and they really said that), at which you can �meet adoptable dogs and cats,� �talk to animal experts,� �enjoy entertainment and activities,� and receive �pet product give-aways.�

Oh, yeah, we�ll be there. Mildred is totally into pet product give-aways.

IT�S A �D�, NOT A �T�

An open letter, or comment, to every radio and television reporter and anchor in America:

The Championships have begun. Wimbledon. Wimbledon with a �d�. It�s a �d�, people, not a �t�. Get it right, would you? And, yes, I�m talking to you, KYW.

That�s all.

June 22, 2005

If you live here, in Philadelphia, or are just hanging around in the area tomorrow, Thursday, June 23, please consider stopping by the main branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 19th and Vine Streets, beginning at 7:00 p.m., for the institution�s scheduled talk by Edith Grossman, the supremely talented translator of the latest and best English edition of the world�s first genuine novel, Don Quixote.

MMM . . . BEER . . . MAN

The great Homer Simpson says, �Mmm . . . beer.� After reading �Brewmeister Loves the Bitter and Sweet,� by Craig LaBan in last Sunday�s Philadelphia Inquirer, about Dogfish Head brewer Sam Calagione of Lewes, Del., and thereafter having been directed to Google Images by a very knowledgeable beer aficionado, all I have to say is, �Mmm . . . beer man.�

Sorry girls, and guys. He�s married.

And he�s a writer!

Brewing Up a Business: Adventures in Entrepreneurship from the Founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery.


You know you�re on a strict budget (and that�s putting it kindly) when you walk past a �salon� called �The Chop Shop,� where the top price for a haircut is ten bucks, and the manager is standing outside calling out, �Would you like a free haircut today?� and you say, �Why yes I would!�

My hair was cut by a trainee. Laurie, who is from Albania (I think), did a pretty good job, though I�m thankful the manager stopped by the station near the end of the event to kind of fix things up a little.

Bonus: The manager said I have �really great hair� and that my skull is �perfectly formed.�


Overheard this afternoon at Headhouse Square, Philadelphia:

Fifty-something Male with a Twang in His Voice: �I know, but you have to understand, this was in Texas. Everything is bigger in Texas.�

My God. People really say that?


Overheard earlier today on South 2nd Street, just north of South Street, Philadelphia, while walking past a tanning salon:

Female Twenty-ish Tourist: �Look. �Tans as low as a dollar a day.��

Male Twenty-ish Tourist: �Honey, you live in Las Vegas. If you got any closer to the sun you�d combust.�


I�m tempted to make a joke about Saddam Hussein�s declared passion for Doritos, one of only a handful of popular salty snacks that rely on monosodium glutamate for their unique taste, but I fear I would then open myself up to mockery for some of my own rather embarrassing and completely un-chic favorite foods, including Underwood Deviled Chicken and Ham, Mary Kitchen Roast Beef and Corned Beef Hash, Cool Whip, Tater Tots, and that chocolate refrigerator cake my mother used to make.

[Post-publication addendum (June 23): Reader L.M. writes:

Did you know that there is chocolate Cool Whip?! One of the pleasures of going back to Ohio, the land of grocery stores the size of airplane hangars, is standing in the frozen-food aisle and gazing upon the multitude of new frozen foods. Cool Whip alone takes up an entire section!

At the moment the M[] kitchen contains:

One can Underwood Deviled Ham: I�ve never tried it, but once a year D[] spreads it on some crackers. Ritz crackers. Not Carr�s Water Crackers. Ritz.

One can Mary Kitchen Roast Beef Hash: To be topped with poached eggs when the mood strikes.

Tater Tots: Half a bag, the other half enjoyed with Gorton�s Fish Sticks.

Chocolate cookies: The kind that you layer with freshly whipped cream and turn into the chocolate refrigerator cake my mother used to make. [Ed.: An aside: L.M.�s mother is my mother�s sister. Sometimes you just can�t shake it off.] For Euchre club. For women who arrived wearing shoes that matched their handbags. After a round of Manhattans, 7&7s, or rye and ginger.

Sure, there�s also fresh cilantro, salmon fillets, and a baguette. [Ed.: L.M. lives in New York. City.] But there just might be Jell-O chocolate pudding. [Ed.: Note �allergy alert� at link.]

P.S. I hope Saddam Hussein has some nice fresh white underwear to wipe the Dorito detritus off his fingers. It can be embarrassing for megalomaniacal dictators to have orange fingers during their interrogations.

Gotta luv that.]


Judith Martin, also known as �Miss Manners.� I mean, you�ve just got to love her.

Here�s the first letter from today�s column in the Washington Post:

My husband and I live in a particularly picturesque (and heavily touristed) part of the world. From time to time we invite friends or family members and they often stay for more than a week at a time.

Is it rude to clean (say, to scrub the guest bathroom or to do laundry using the washing machine in our kitchen) while guests are in our home?

If we don�t take care of these things, they (and we) will run out of clean towels and sheets or we will find ourselves walking on crumb-filled or sticky floors (or worse). Spot-cleaning will not suffice in many cases and we could not afford to pay someone to clean for us while we entertain elsewhere.

If our guests do not take us up on suggestions that will take them out of our house for a while (taking a walk with one of us while the other cleans, or going to a concert or for coffee elsewhere), is it permissible for us to roll up our sleeves and take care of household business (i.e. clean up after them) while they look on?

Now, the answer to this inquiry is fairly obvious, and what your gut is telling you right now likely will be similar to Martin�s response, but I doubt you can zing it like she can as demonstrated in her initial reaction:

That�s all they do while you�re down on your hands and knees scrubbing up after them -- look on? Don�t any of them ever say, �You missed a spot over there�?

By the way, Martin has a new book out on the market: Miss Manners� Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior, Freshly Updated.

June 21, 2005
Leaves Another Untended

While walking across Center City Philadelphia yesterday I noticed that a notable, almost notorious, void on South Broad Street, also (or, rather, never) known as the Avenue of the Arts, is soon to be filled.

Based on posters filling several of the recently covered windows on the ground floor of the building located on the northwest corner of Broad and Spruce Streets, the space previously occupied by Avenue B, one of tax-evading and till-tapping restaurateur Neil Stein�s several failures, has been taken by Ted�s Montana Grill.

Ted�s is an Atlanta-based chain of steakhouses, owned by Ted Turner�s Turner Enterprises Inc., and even putting aside the worst aspects of Turner�s galling personality profile, I have to say I�m not sure what we�re in for with this operation.

According to the chain�s web site, Ted�s is �an authentic turn of the century saloon� that offers �comfort food for the 21st century,� a juxtaposition of meaningless marketing lingo from which I can only infer that the �turn of the century� in question is that which took place just a few years ago.

That premise is justified based on other information gleaned from the site, specifically, the reassuring contention that Ted�s is an �eco-friendly restaurant� because �[m]enus are printed using recycled paper, no plastics are used in the restaurant[,] and soft drinks are served in recyclable glass bottles.�

Let�s get real here. This century or that, it matters not: The contention that �no plastics are used in the restaurant� is simply unbelievable. In what, may I ask, to pick merely one nit, are the eateries� cleaning supplies stored?

And worse, there is no recognition at the grill�s web site of the indisputable fact that a menu so heavily beef-based is, by definition, not friendly to the environment. (Don�t jump all over me for that; I�m a beef eater myself.)

And Ted�s purported authenticity, at least as relates to where the house claims to reach back to the start of the 20th century, ultimately is undermined by this brief aside: �Ted�s Montana Grill is entirely non-smoking.�

Uh, no cowboys here, folks.

By the way, Ted�s has, or soon will have, some four dozen outlets in 17 states, including Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Notably missing from that roll call of states is, inexplicably, Montana, a painfully obvious void just crying out to be filled.


No, I�m really, really not obsessed with Tom Cruise. Truly I couldn�t care less about his comings and goings, but lately I�ve repeatedly encountered, strictly by accident, so many strange news items about the actor that I just can�t help myself.

The latest bit appears in today�s Page Six, the New York Post�s daily gossip round-up [bolding and hyperlinks added]:

Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks are about to get socked with one heck of a bill for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes�[s] trip through France. The companies are co-producing �War of the Worlds� and are responsible for paying Cruise�s hotel tab -- which, for June 17 and 18, was upward of $30,000. The p.r. woman for the hotel said: �Tom and Katie were at the luxurious Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port in Marseille. Tom�s entourage, which included members of the Church of Scientology, took the entire third floor and parts of the second floor. Thirty-four rooms were reserved in total, and there were 40 people on his security staff. Tom stayed in our presidential suite with Katie at $1,200 per night.�

So are the 40 members of the security guard scientologists, and if not, with exactly how many peons does the little guy -- this presumably really, really tough little guy -- travel?

June 20, 2005

Hmm . . . File this one under, I don�t know, �Whoops!�?

The Associated Press reports:

More than 100 students who failed classes at the University of Kansas last semester found out who shared their misfortune. The school�s Office of Student Financial Aid sent an e-mail to 119 students Monday notifying them that they were in jeopardy of having their aid revoked. But the names of the students were included on the e-mail address list -- meaning everyone who got the e-mail could see the names of all the other recipients. University officials apologized.

Profusely, I would assume.


There was but a brief period in my life when I might have been considered an �early adopter,� a stretch roughly running from January 2000 to September 2001 during which, for example, I was one of the first people to buy a Palm VII.

That was quite a while ago, and I�ve since retreated to my customary ways.

I�m happy with that. Very secure. I don�t need everything or every new thing. It�s okay.

Or I thought it was, until I read this:

�The Queen loves music and was impressed by how small and handy the iPod is,� a royal insider told the London Sun on Friday.

�Obviously it is quite complicated to download songs, but I�m sure one of the courtiers will do it for her.�

When QEII beats you to the punch, the battle has been lost.


I overheard this brief exchange -- between an elderly woman with limited mobility and her nursing companion -- at the Philadelphia City Institute Library, a division of the Free Library of Philadelphia, on Friday, June 17:

Elderly Woman: Could you look on that lowest shelf and see if they have anything by Danielle Steele? I haven�t read anything of her since [unintelligible].

Companion: Sure. Here. There are three of them. [Shows elderly woman three mass-market pulp paperbacks.]

Elderly Woman: [Peruses the front and back covers.] Well you can�t tell what they�re about looking at them.

For crying out loud, lady, what�s to know? They were written by Danielle Steele. They�re about sex (mostly of the adulterous sort), wealthy men, designer clothing, excessive make up, and lots of alcohol.

June 17, 2005

If this whole Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes farce is being conducted according to some script, it�s easily the cheesiest story ever conceived.

The Eiffel Tower?

I mean, really.

Or should I say, really, really?

June 16, 2005

David Sedaris has a new piece in the June 13 & 20 issue of the New Yorker: �Turbulence.�

The story involves a short flight, a disagreeable seat companion, a crossword puzzle, and a cough drop, assembled into a very humorous coherence of the sort only Sedaris is capable.

June 15, 2005

Tom Cruise: �Come on, it�s just ridiculous. Something magnificent has happened to me. . . . She�s really an extraordinary woman and I�m really, really happy.� [Emphasis added.]

Katie Holmes: �There are a lot of people really, really happy for us. It�s really exciting. We are so happy. I don�t really care about the critics.� [Emphasis added.]


(Source: �Tom Cruise Insists Romance with Katie Holmes is Real Thing,� South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 15.)

June 14, 2005

Today is not only Flag Day, it�s my bulldog Mildred�s eighth birthday. Big -- and I mean that -- stuff going on. She�s already scarfed down the Greenie I�ve been hiding for the last month or so, and later today she�ll have a marrow bone.

Here�s the kicker, though, and one that demonstrates what I�m dealing with here: Late last night I caught Mildred on the PC while she was adding some of her favorites to the Rittenhouse Wish List, a note of interest to the gift-buying sort among you, though she adds that tip-box hits also are welcome (see PayPal link at the top of the Rittenhouse home page).

Happy birthday, Mildred. And many, many more.

Romeo & Juliet Don�t Die

The audience at Saturday�s matinee performance of the Pennsylvania Ballet�s rendition of Romeo and Juliet got a surprise at the conclusion of the show: �Romeo,� Zachary Hench, proposed, right there on stage and everything, to �Juliet,� Julie Dana, who accepted his most noble offer.

(Source: �Romeo and Juliet Alive and Betrothed,� by Michael Klein, Philadelphia Inquirer, June 14.)


You�ve got to love the lede graph in this article about Finland in Sunday�s New York Times:

When you live in a country of only 5.2 million people and your native tongue is unintelligible to virtually everyone outside your borders, you�d better learn to converse with the rest of the world if you don�t want to end up talking to yourself.

(Source: �After Sibelius, Finland�s Rich Bounty of Musicians�, by Richard B. Woodward, June 12.)


There�s a new kid in town. In Yaletown, that is.

Vancouver, B.C., blogger (and friend and onetime colleague) Justin Oppelaar and wife Suzanne are the proud parents of a new boy (Why do we always say �new� in such circumstances?), Tyler Stephen, born early morning on Friday, June 10.

Young Tyler weighed in at �4.459 kilograms,� which is, I don�t know, either a lot, very little, or maybe just right. Regardless, congratulations to all concerned.


Great news (if it�s true): Paris Hilton is going away. Newsweek reports Hilton says she plans to give up her public life in two years, the impending obligations of marriage and, yikes, parenthood, getting in the way.

Says the blonde excuse for a human being: �I don�t enjoy going out anymore. It�s such a pain. It�s everyone saying, �Let�s do a deal! Can I have a picture?� I�m just, like, �These people are such losers. I can�t believe I used to love doing this.��

I can�t believe anyone was paying attention.

June 13, 2005

The first thing I thought when I learned of the Philadelphia Museum of Art�s plan to raise $500 million over the next 10 years was something along the lines of, �Wait a minute. What about the Barnes Foundation, the Please Touch Museum, the (proposed) Calder Museum, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Opera Company, the Free Library, and the Kimmel Center? Aren�t they already shaking the trees in one of the most massive collective (figurately, at least) fund-raising efforts in city history?�

Well, yes, they -- and other institutions -- are pretty much engaged in just that, as Peter Dobrin explains in �Worrying About Arts Funding,� in Sunday�s Philadelphia Inquirer, an article that�s rather striking for the lack of consensus among leaders of the city�s cultural institutions as to whether all this is a good thing or a bad thing.


According to readers of AmericanStyle magazine, Philadelphia ranks ninth among the nation�s largest cities as an �arts destination.�

Ranking ahead of Philadelphia are New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, and Austin, Texas, all fairly reasonable assumptions, with the possible exception of that last one.

Fava Beans in the News

It�s not particularly noteworthy, but a striking contradiction nonetheless: both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times yesterday were talking about fava beans, of all things, in, respectively, �Still Favoring the Fava,� by Rick Nicholson, and �The Way We Eat: Buried Treasure,� by Amanda Hesser.


The General Store, the quirky Rittenhouse Square emporium, closed for good on Friday. The Philadelphia Inquirer again took notice, this time with a thoughtful send-off on the editorial page.

I�m just wondering . . . What will happen to the big sign out front?

June 9, 2005

Finally! People are rebelling against the persistent propagation of fragrance-free flowers, and the floral-garden-retailing industrial complex, sniffing potential profits, is catching on, reports Ken Druse in �She Smells Me, She Smells Me Not� (New York Times, June 9).

June 6, 2005

Big-time cycling race (see �U.S. Riders Sweep Top Three Spots,� by Marc Narducci, Philadelphia Inquirer):

Color yesterday�s Wachovia USPro Championship in Philadelphia red, white and blue. For only the second time in the 21-year history of the event, the top three finishers were Americans.

Chris Wherry, 31, of the Health Net Maxxis team, outlasted countrymen Danny Pate and Chris Horner yesterday to win the $40,000 first prize in the grueling 156-mile race that started and finished on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Riders overcame tough weather conditions: Temperatures neared 90 degrees and the humidity was stifling. Organizers, however, estimated that the crowd once again topped 500,000.

I�ve never been sure what cycling race spectators are watching, but a turn-out like that has to make the riders feel pretty good.

June 3, 2005

The Associated Press reports:

Wearing her engagement ring and walking at her fiance�s side, Jennifer Wilbanks made it to the courthouse on time Thursday. But she was not there to say �I do.�

Instead, the bride-to-be who skipped town before her wedding day tearfully pleaded no contest to faking her own abduction.

�I�m truly sorry for my actions, and I just want to thank Gwinnett County and the city of Duluth,� said Wilbanks, 32.

Now let us never speak of this again.

June 2, 2005

It�s not exactly a Hallmark Holiday, but the issues raised by �Leave the Office Earlier Day,� addressed effectively in �No Way Out of Work Daze� in today�s Chicago Tribune, are worth taking seriously.


Insite Advertising Inc. calls itself �the largest national indoor media company, providing clutter-free, uninterrupted, one-on-one advertising exposure.�

Yeah, it�s one-on-one all right. An Insite specialty: placing advertisements in restaurant and tavern restrooms.

I saw two of their promotional pieces yesterday, and no, it doesn�t matter whether you�re sitting or standing. They get you coming or going, so to speak.

Gee whiz, you can�t even take a leak anymore without being asked to buy something.


I know it and you know it: Check all pockets before tossing your clothes in the washing machine.

Here�s what you might not know: Be sure to check each and every pocket if by chance there might be a packet of dental floss -- I prefer Glide myself -- in one of said pockets.

You wouldn�t believe the havoc that little string can wreak on a couple of pairs of jeans and one�s pajama bottoms.

June 1, 2005

Philadelphia restaurateur par kegscellance Neil Stein made the New York Times today. Sure, the notice was brief -- in a section topped �National Briefing,� no less -- and not flattering, but somehow I suspect Mr. Stein was rather pleased nonetheless.

Coverage closer to home includes �Stein Pleads Guilty in Tax Case,� by John Shiffman in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and �Neil Stein Guilty of Tax Fraud,� by Ramona Smith in the Philadelphia Daily News.

Web readers of the Daily News will catch Smith�s textual depiction of Stein -- �tanned and fit in a gray suit with a subdued magenta-striped shirt� -- but will sadly miss the photograph that appeared in the print edition of the newspaper, about which I have but one question: What the hell is up with that stupid necklace?

May 31, 2005

Pity the poor Tasmanian devil.

Really. I mean it.

The New York Times today reports, in �In Tasmania, the Devil Now Faces Its Own Hell,�, by Sandra Blakeslee, the marsupials are facing a dreadful disease, Sarcophilus harrisii.

According to the Times: �Moving at a rate of 6 to 10 miles a year, it is 100 percent fatal. Only the west coast, isolated by mountain ranges inhospitable to devils, is disease free. Nearly half of the estimated 150,000 devils in Tasmania are now dead.�

This cannot be good.


The good news: Philadelphia�s Benjamin Franklin Parkway will play host to one of five Live 8 concerts to be held worldwide (well, not really worldwide) on July 2.

The bad news: Scheduled acts include Bon Jovi, Dave Matthews, Jay-Z, Maroon 5, P. Diddy, Stevie Wonder, Keith Urban, Il Divo, Rob Thomas, the Kaiser Chiefs, 50 Cent, and Sarah MacLachlan.

[Cross-posted at The Rittenhouse Review.]


Remember the old �society� columns that used to populate the nation�s newspapers? (Actually, the Philadelphia Inquirer still publishes one: �Social Scene,� by Pauline Pinard Bogaert, of which this is the latest.)

And do you recall how they used to refer to married women? Like this: Mrs. Preston Hayes (Bitsy) Worthington III.

In such an era �ubiquitous socialite� Paris Hilton, following her marriage to �Greek shipping heir� Paris Latsis, to whom she has become engaged, would be known as Mrs. Paris (Paris) Latsis.

Assuming the whole thing comes off. And lasts.


Executives at TV Land have convinced officials in Salem, Mass., to play permanent host to a bronze statue depicting �Samantha,� the lead character in the old television series �Bewitched.�

Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.

May 30, 2005

Can you believe �The Sound of Music� was released in theatres 40 years ago? Although I don�t remember the summer of 1965, it still seems hard to believe. Harder still is believing some people didn�t like it.


The Johns Hopkins University defeated Duke University, 9-8, in the 2005 NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championships. Hopkins won the school�s first title game in 18 years today at Philadelphia�s Lincoln Financial Field.


Anette Pharris, Nashville, Tenn., is not only stupid -- �I tried to do something special for my son.� -- she�s unrepentantly stupid: �Who are they to tell me what I can and can�t show to my own children?�

May 27, 2005

Why does KYW Newsradio anchor Steve Tawa have so much difficulty mouthing �K-Y-W�?

I�m just asking is all.

May 26, 2005
Maybe Not

Don�t mark your calendars on this one just yet.

Although a second Live Aid concert, 20 years after the first, is reportedly in the works, scuttlebutt has organizers overlooking Philadelphia in favor of New York or Washington as the American host of the event.

The Philadelphia Daily News today reports (�Live Aid 2 Won�t Be Here, Reports Imply,� by Catherine Lucey):

So far nothing official has been said by organizer Bob Geldof, of the Boomtown Rats. But BBC News reported last week that plans were under way for a show on July 2 in London. The New York Daily News Tuesday reported the same thing. [�]

The BBC said the stateside portion might be in Washington, D.C., while the News placed it possibly in New York City. [�]

The Philadelphia Daily News e-mailed Geldof�s management to ask why Philly was getting the shaft, but didn�t get a response.

New York or Washington. How original.


Sylvia Seegrist, please call your office.

May 25, 2005

Mark your calendars: The 105th Devon Horse Show and County Fair, in Devon, Pa., from May 26 to June 4.

Socialites! Lemon sticks! Tea cart! Oh, and horses, too.

[Post-publication addendum (May 26): See also �Horse Show Retakes the Reins of Fairgrounds,� by Benjamin Y. Lowe (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26).]


Can�t let this story go by without notice.

The remodeled and expanded Adventure Aquarium today opens across the Delaware River in Camden, N.J.

According to a wrap-up in the Philadelphia Daily News -- �Big Changes,� by Robert Strauss -- the aquarium, formerly known as the Thomas H. Kean New Jersey State Aquarium (a name no doubt chosen by committee), now features expanded attractions, including two hippopotami, Genny and Button (both of whom remarkably resemble my bulldog Mildred), shark feedings and opportunities to swim among the sharks, African penguins, crocodiles, and a 4-D theater. (The �4� has nothing to do with the visual experience and everything to do with the auditorium seats moving -- I think.)

A large crowd turned out this morning according to �Crowds -- and Protest -- Mark Aquarium Opening,� by Kristen A. Grahams in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

No doubt hoards seeking a glimpse of the Mildred look-alikes.

[For additional coverage, read �Sea Change on Camden Waterfront,� by Elisa Ung, Inquirer, May 22; and �Splash (and Cash?) in Camden,� an Inquirer editorial, May 24.]

[Post-publication addendum (May 26): See also �Aquarium is a Hit -- With Most,� by Kristen A. Graham (Philadelphia Inquirer, May 26).]

[Post-publication addendum (May 28): The Inquirer returns to the Adventure Aquarium in Friday�s �Weekend� section with �Oceans of Fun in Camden,� by Hannah Davis.]


This just in from the WCAU-TV NBC 10 news room (actually, I read it in an e-mail from NBC 10):

Georgia Grand Jury Indicts Runaway Bride
A prosecutor says grand jury has indicted runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks.

Good gawd, Who cares?

Enough already with this �story.� Wilbanks�s hijinks barely merit our attention, let alone a �news alert.�


Still more evidence, if any were needed, that New York is out of control: the $13.50 hot dog.

May 24, 2005

No, this post has nothing to do with an upcoming school board meeting, nor will it detail lunch menus in nearby schools (a scary thought on its own to anyone who has seen �Super Size Me,�), but instead to point readers to two interesting items about Philadelphia schools in today�s Philadelphia Inquirer.

In �High School for International Studies Proposed,� by Susan Snyder we read [Note: Hyperlinks added.]:

The University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia School District plan to create a high school in the university�s West Philadelphia neighborhood that will focus on international studies.

The school, which would open in September 2006 at a location that has not been determined, is slated to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as part of a new network of international high schools, officials said yesterday.

Students will study world languages, take an international curriculum integrated across subjects, be connected to schools worldwide via technology, and be immersed in community service for groups with worldwide links -- which could even include international internships. [�]

Paul Vallas, Philadelphia schools chief, hailed the project as yet another potential jewel in the district�s efforts to create smaller high schools. The district also plans to open new high schools in 2006 in partnership with Microsoft Corp. and the Franklin Institute.

Many details for the new international-study high school have yet to be worked out. It could be as small as 400 students. Whether it would serve solely as a neighborhood high school or draw some students from around the city also has not been decided.

And �Thinking Big, Acting Boldly at Central High,� by Martha Woodall reports the alumni of academically rigorous and prestigious Central High School, the nation�s second-oldest public school, raised $4.5 million to create what might be the best secondary-school library in the country.

You see? The news about public schools needn�t be all bad.

May 22, 2005

A beloved institution in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood of Philadelphia before too long will be history: The General Store, located just south and west of the square on South 20th Street will be closing for good once the shop�s inventory is sold off at, at least, the now going rate of 50-percent off.

Joseph A. Slobodzian tells the story in �The General Store�s Last Markdown,� in the May 20 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The General Store is a great little shop. As Slobodzian put it, the store boasts �a kooky, eclectic inventory that is part five-and-dime, part antiques and jewelry, part boardwalk, and all neighborhood institution.�

Better, the store is owned and managed by some terrific people I have had the privilege and pleasure of meeting just recently: Milton and Reba Wiener and their daughter, Patty Fox.

I picked up a few things at the General Store a week or two ago, keepsake sort of items that for me will carry forever an added element of poignancy given their provenance.

It�s just too hard -- impossible, even -- for an establishment like the General Store, unusual and unique as it was is, to compete with the giant retailers to which consumers flock in their eternal quest to get more stuff for less money. As the Inquirer reports:

Fox, who has managed the store for 10 years, said she, her mother and her father, Milton, made the painful decision to close after this Valentine�s Day when sales trends became clear. [�]

Fox said she recently bought a small, sequined purse at Target for $4.99 and thought she�d carry it in the General Store.

�For me to buy the same thing would cost me $6 wholesale. Now how can I hope to compete?� Fox said.

Some day, though I don�t know when, we�re going to look back and wonder how and why we let such businesses go, perhaps on a day when we realize just how similar our kitchen looks compared with our neighbors�, or when we finally admit that Crate & Barrel�s unique signature style looks the same no matter where the merchandise is set down.

In the meantime, or at least until the General Store closes, why not drop in and take a look at an emporium the likes of which I guarantee you will never see in this country again.


Around here, meaning Philadelphia, we�re starting to get some serious respect lately -- and for all sorts of reasons, not least of which is the area�s growing clout in the horse-racing world, to wit: the victory in today�s 130th running of the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore of local horse Afleet Alex.

(For more about the future of the Preakness and Pimlico, see �Don�t Put Money on Tradition,� by Bob Ford in Saturday�s Philadelphia Inquirer.)

May 21, 2005

More building. And more and more buildings. The Philadelphia Inquirer�s architecture critic, Inga Saffron, brings readers up to code with Center City�s ongoing edifice complex in �As High-Rises Spring Up, Is It a Boom or a Boomerang?�

May 19, 2005

I�m not much of a cook myself, but I know how to make a few things, and I can spot a generic recipe for such things a counter�s-length away. Case in point: �Dear Abby��s recipe for pecan pie, published in response to an inquiry from reader David Harper of Fayetteville, Tenn. (see the May 18 issue of the Philadelphia Daily News).

According to �Abby,� daughter of the generator of the famous pseudonym, Pauline Phillips, the recipe is as follows:


9-inch unbaked pie crust

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

3 eggs, slightly beaten

1/3 cup butter, melted

� teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 heaping cup pecan halves

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt[,] and vanilla; mix well. Pour into unbaked pie crust; sprinkle with pecan halves.
3. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until center is set. (Toothpick inserted in center will come out clean when pie is done.) Cool. If crust or pie appears to be getting too brown, cover with foil for the remaining baking time.

You can top it with a bit of whipped cream, but even plain, nothing tops this.

�Abby� helpfully, and casually, notes that her mother �discovered� the pie -- and presumably the recipe -- forty years ago at the Phoenix Hotel, Lexington, Ky.

Perhaps a reader who is more of a baker than I could explain how this recipe for pecan pie differs from any other.

May 16, 2005

Seen in Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, daily since the first hints of spring:

Hacky sack.

I mean, really, hacky sack?

May 14, 2005

A conversation recently overheard in a tavern in the South of the Square neighborhood of Philadelphia:

Man (around 30 to 35 years of age): Yeah, so this guy just clocked me, but I was there anyway and went to the bar and ordered drinks, and I got carded!

Bartendress: What? You�re like old and married and stuff!

Man: I know, I�m 34, but it was okay because I had I.D. with me. Actually, I think it had more to do with me being covered with blood than how old I looked.

May 12, 2005

Speaking of special places in hell, and we were, save a spot, assuming he�s guilty and convicted and all that, for Jerry Hobbs, Zion, Ill.


I think there�s a special place in hell reserved for Tiffany Bennett, Philadelphia, currently facing trial on four counts each of conspiracy and endangering the welfare of children, that in the August 2003 death of her daughter, three-year-old Porchia Bennett, for which the elder Bennett�s live-in boyfriend, Jerry Chambers has been charged with first-degree murder (along with charges of raping Porchia�s 10-year-old sister), and the abuse of her other children.

There is, however, a would-be hero in this tragic story: Porchia�s grandfather, Oliver Bynum Sr., as the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on Wednesday, May 11 (�Jury in Girl�s Death Sees Note to School,� by Jacqueline Soteropoulos):

Jurors weighing the case of slain 3-year-old Porchia Bennett viewed a letter yesterday in which her mother ordered a school to keep away her eldest daughter�s paternal grandfather.

In the trial over the child�s death, the prosecutor earlier suggested to jurors that in addition to essentially abandoning her children to the man she paid to care for them, Porchia�s mother, Tiffany Bennett, tried to conceal their declining conditions from the caring grandfather.

�I, Tiffany Bennett give Kirkbride School permission to keep [the 10-year-old girl�s] grandfather away from the school during and after school hours,� stated the handwritten note, dated March 25, 2003.

Oliver Bynum Sr. told investigators he had helped raise the girl and walked her to school until Bennett ensured he no longer had contact with the child. Even then, he said, he continued to deliver lunches to the school in hopes that his granddaughter would receive them.

In case you�re not already aware, and again here quoting from the Inquirer: �Porchia was discovered dead wedged between a bed and a wall in August 2003. Investigators believe defendant Jerry Chambers threw her into a nearby radiator. . . . Porchia�s aunt, Candice Geiger, 20, is charged with third-degree murder. Prosecutors say she participated in the fatal beating. One of Porchia�s sisters, now 8, testified previously that Geiger told Chambers to throw Porchia behind the bed after the couple caught Porchia watching them having sex.�

May 11, 2005
I Did. But Won�t. And Don�t.

I recently had a major hankering for sushi, an appetite satisfied with an ample and delicious serving of same, along with miso soup and seaweed salad, at Aoi Japanese Restaurant, 1210 Walnut St., Philadelphia, whereat I spent about $30, for one meal, solely for myself.

Would I go back?

�Yes, I would. The sushi was terrific, and the service was good,� would have been my answer had you asked me that night or any evening since then . . . until tonight.

I stopped in the same restaurant about two hours ago hoping for a similar experience, albeit probably at half the price as I had had a late lunch earlier today.

Sadly, from the perspective of everyone involved, beginning about two hours ago I spent thirty-five (35) [Ed.: 35!] minutes sitting and waiting for even one waitperson (Actually, there are only waitresses there.) to notice me, acknowledge me, wait on me, or ask me for my order.

All to no avail.

And so, after waiting, fruitlessly, or fishlessly, for thirty-five (35) [Ed.: 35!] minutes, and also after having complained about said delay to the restaurant�s manager -- a woman who apologized (�Very busy this morning. I mean, this evening.�), but who offered nothing, not even a modest discount or a three-dollar appetizer on the house for my considerable inconvenience -- I feel compelled to steer all readers of the blog, and the parent blog, The Rittenhouse Review, away, in perpetuity throughout the universe, from that which hangs out its shingle as Aoi Japanese Restaurant.

There are so many other options for sushi in Philadelphia. Please join me in patronizing those establishments instead.

May 10, 2005

I recently learned The Colonial Theatre, Phoenixville, Pa., will offer its first live theatre presentation since resuming operations six years ago. According to the company, �Visiting Mr. Green,� by Jeff Baron, will be performed on June 10, 11, and 12.

�Visiting Mr. Green,� originally produced in New York in 1997, is a dramatic comedy about an elderly man -- that would be Mr. Green -- who wanders into Manhattan traffic where he is nearly in New York City and is almost hit by one Ross Gardiner. As his sentence for reckless driving, Gardiner must visit and assist Mr. Green, a recent widower living in a fourth-floor walk-up, with household tasks once a week for six months.

The Colonial Theatre says, �What starts out as a comedy about two men who do not want to be in the same room together turns into a gripping and moving drama as they get to know each other, come to care about each other, and open up old wounds they�ve been hiding for years.�

The Colonial Theatre cast includes veteran actors Bernard A. Kaplan as Mr. Green and Edward Mastin as Gardiner. Director C.J. Young was the original Artistic Director of Central New York�s Appleseed Productions.

For tickets and additional information about the production call (610) 917-1228 or visit the company�s web site.

By way of full disclosure: Mr. Kaplan is a friend, but that�s not keeping me from seeing �Visiting Mr. Green� at the Colonial Theatre so why should it prevent you from doing the same?

March 29, 2005

I just saw an advertisement for the second season of a TBS �reality series� called �The Real Gilligan�s Island.�

Somebody, anybody, watched the first season?

March 28, 2005

I don�t put a great deal of credence in astrology writ large, but now and then I read something that makes me step back and say something dopey like, �Whoa,� as in this snippet about Virgos from Netscape�s resident astrologer:

Virgos Fear Filth

These nit-pickers sometimes compromise their own pleasure for the sake of perfection. Deep down inside, these folks are really sensualists at heart. They need to learn that it is better to feel good than to look good. Allocating a few minutes each day for fun but messy activities like baking, painting, or sculpting can cure Virgos of their fear of filth.

Excuse me for a few minutes, would you?

There�s an oven nearby in desperate need of a cleaning.

March 26, 2005

Enough already!, you say?

Me too.

Good for us!

You see, Abe Krieger, inveterate letter-to-the-editor writer to the Philadelphia Daily News, has purportedly put himself out to pasture, swearing off further correspondence with the paper.

Crazy bigot Anne Mendenhall, the field is all yours.


This is Philadelphia, unpretentious Philadelphia, the Philadelphia I love far more than the other East Coast cities I know so well -- New York, Washington, Boston, and Baltimore -- summed up in just one sentence in �Spring Guide 2005: Neighborhood Smackdown,� in the March 29 issue of the Philadelphia Weekly, more specifically from the brief therein published in the category �Uncreatively Named Neighborhood,� that pitting Graduate Hospital against the Art Museum Area, two neighborhoods with which I�m very familiar: �Poor Philadelphia�s always been bad at self-promotion. The sewers could be spewing gold, and all we�d be able to do is complain about the cleanup costs.�

Fine, and true, but were gold ever to spew from East Coast sewers, it would happen in New York or Washington. I guarantee it.


In poor taste. In very poor taste. Inexplicably poor taste.

I expect so much more than this from Will Bunch of Attytood.

Again . . . And Again . . . And Again

I got three more �you look likes� just today: Rupert Everett, George Stephanopoulos, and Jeremy Irons.

March 23, 2005

Georges Perrier of Philadelphia restaurant fame eats, at Salem County Vocational Technical School, Woodstown, N.J., and actually hands out a few compliments, including this one: �This pastry is outstanding in flavor, texture and presentation. I am very impressed.� (See �Preparing a Luncheon Fit For an Executive Chef,� by Maureen Fitzgerald, Philadelphia Inquirer, March 24).

March 22, 2005

Daniel Flynn of Doc Watson�s, 216 S. 11th St., Philadelphia, demonstrates exactly what not to do when your bar is about to be raided by the Philadelphia Police Department, the city�s Department of Licenses and Inspections, and the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement in �Center City Bar Shut Down by L&I;,� by Natalie Pompilio and Thomas Fitzgerald in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and �Doc Watson�s Pub Raided,� by Dan Gross, the Philadelphia Daily News.

March 21, 2005
What Do I Look Like, Anyway?

The other day a perfect stranger, or at least a total stranger, told me I look like Hugh Laurie.

I admit I had to look that one up.

And that�s just the latest addition to a growing list that includes, among other comparisons, Robert Downey Jr., Lou Reed, and Pat Riley.

I think each suggestion, one its own, is misguided, if only because all are older than I, but perhaps a composite picture created from the images of these four men might prove interesting. Is there anyone out there who might be able to create the look?


One Paul Kaplan writes in a recent issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer, lamenting the local effects of the proposed merger between May Department Stores Co. and Federated Department Stores Inc. (�Strawbridge�s is More Than Just a Name,� March 16):

Another merger, another loss of local culture. Some of the grand old names of retailing are about to fade into memory, names that define not only a time but a place: Marshall Field�s, nearly synonymous with Chicago; Hecht�s, with its flagship store across the street from the White House; Kaufmann�s, the retail anchor of downtown Pittsburgh; and now, our own beloved Strawbridge�s.

There�s a Hecht�s outpost �across the street from the White House�?

No such store existed when I lived in that city.

Nor is there one at such location now.

March 14, 2005

Just a few poorly chosen crossword-puzzle clues culled from various sources during the past 24 hours:

This org. has a lot of pull
Three letters

Rubber hub
Five letters

Rep.�s opponent
Three letters

Actually, the clues themselves aren�t bad; the clues viewed in conjunction with the correct answers have me scratching my head.


One day I�ll get to Iceland. The more I read about the country, the stronger grows my desire to visit, the more confident I become that I�ll enjoy the place and the people. Case in point: �Iceland Has a Word for It� (Los Angeles Times, March 14), by William Ecenbarger, a former reporter with the Philadelphia Inquirer, who recently spent time on the island:

I have come to this nation of 280,000 inhabitants, who speak to each other in a language that is incomprehensible to 19,999 of every 20,000 people on Earth, to see how they are holding up against the onslaught of English. Iceland�s linguistic patriots go to incredible lengths to preserve their language. Foreign words are ruthlessly screened out by a special agency, which also invents words for new things and ideas. There�s a word for everything in Icelandic -- or there will be shortly.

Icelanders have a strong belief in their own national greatness, and that conviction is rooted unshakably in language and words. Literacy isn�t a problem here; it�s a given. Icelanders believe that men and women should turn a verse as easily as they turn a profit, and both endeavors are considered important to one�s well-being.

Iceland has more bookstores per capita than any other nation in the world (�better shoeless than bookless� is an unofficial national motto). Sales of a new novel in Iceland will compare favorably with sales for a similar book in Britain -- while a volume of poetry would do even better in Iceland -- with a population about 1/200th that of Britain. [�]

Icelandic schoolchildren read their national literature exactly as it was written hundreds of years ago. Modern Icelanders speak virtually the same language as their forefathers of the 10th century. Tomorrow morning�s Reykjavik newspapers will be written in the same language as the ancient sagas -- that would be like this newspaper using Chaucerian English.

In addition to commentary on the trickiness of Icelandic and a brief treatise on its history, Ecenbarger offers some interesting comments about disappearing languages (an average of two are vanishing from the Earth each month), and signs off on this sad note:

I left Iceland pessimistic. Everywhere I went, I heard English spoken. . . . In one sense, the Icelanders have no one to blame but themselves. Just as they have earnestly defended their language, they have with equal enthusiasm made sure that every schoolchild has a computer and learns English. Thus Microsoft sees no need to translate Windows into Icelandic. . . . I fear the handwriting is on the wall -- and it�s in English.

If anything, that should make it easier for me to get around in Iceland once I make it there.

March 10, 2005

Underfunded, unfortunately located, and insufficiently patronized, the African American Museum in Philadelphia has been struggling -- financially and otherwise -- for years, the institution's difficulties most publicly revealed by last year's unpaid layoffs of almost the entire staff.

Perhaps there's hope. According to today's papers, the African American Museum has adopted a six-month recovery plan that, while short on details, could mark the first step toward the museum's rebirth as an institution worthy of its name.

For more information, see "African American Museum Announces a Recovery Plan," by Frederick Cusick, in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, and "A Plan For Survival," by Earni Young, in today's Philadelphia Daily News.

[Post-publication addendum (March 14): See �Museum on the Mend,� an editorial about recent developments at the AAMP in today�s Philadelphia Daily News.]


Guilty as sin, and truly personifying sin: Philadelphia teenagers Domenic Coia, 19, Nicholas Coia, 18, and Edward Batzig Jr., 18, all three found guilty by a jury yesterday of first-degree murder, joining Justina Morley, 17, who earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of third-degree murder.

The convictions and plea relate to the incomprehensibly brutal death last year of Jason Sweeney, then 16, of the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The convicted killers' motive: $500, representing Sweeney's first-ever payday from working with his father, Paul Sweeney, as a carpenter.

The immediate aftermath of their sick spree: After killing Sweeney, the four teenagers, Batzig, Coia, Coia, and Morley, in their own words, shared a "group hug" and "partied beyond redemption," and, according to prosecutor Jude Conroy, as quoted in the Philadelphia Daily News, "They split up [Sweeney]'s $500 salary among them, buying items ranging from heroin to deodorant."

Because, well, I don't know, using heroin causes body odor?

Read more in today's Philadelphia Inquirer: "Three Teenagers Convicted in Fishtown Murder," by Jacqueline Soteropoulos. And from today's Philadelphia Daily News: "Three Guilty of Killing Jason Sweeney," by Theresa Conroy and George Miller.

If you're not familiar with this horrific case, you may read recent reports from the Inquirer and the Daily News by accessing the papers' recent articles here.

[Cross-posted at The Rittenhouse Review.]


In addition to "Dali" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, "Aida" from the Opera Company of Philadelphia (since concluded), and "Treasures Revealed" at the American Philosophical Society, TRR today draws readers' attention to another hot cultural ticket, "The Silver Garden," like "Dali" on display at the Philadelphia Museum.

Donna Williams Vance writes in today's Philadelphia Daily News, "Focus is on Flora at Art Museum":

Through July 17, works by masters like Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, Imogen Cunningham, Paul Strand, Josef Sudek, Edward Steichen[,] and Brett Weston will be on view for all to see this amazing collection of images where flowers and plants are the subjects. Joining those artists' pieces are works by internationally known photographers Tom Baril and Maria Martinez-Canas, as well as Philadelphia-area artists Andrea Baldeck and Roger Matsumoto, whose work is shown at PMA for the first time.

The artists have created a broad landscape for visitors to peruse, say curators, taking spectators to gardens and fields across the world. The approaches to photographing flowers and plants are varied and intriguing, showing some of the developmental similarities between gardening and photography.

"Both offer delayed gratification, in that the results of creative toil is usually deferred and sometimes unexpected," says curator Katherine Ware. "In the darkroom tray, a photographic image blossoms forth from the interaction of silver and chemicals as astonishingly as a bud issues from a bare twig in springtime and as magically as a stem emerges from a small, hard seed in the soil."

See you there. At some point, I suppose.


A brief item in the "Tattle" column in today's Philadelphia Daily News:

Tori Spelling and Loni Anderson in a TV show together? Can one screen contain all the blonde, all the silicone?

Anderson is going to play Spelling's mother in the NBC pilot "Notorious."

Spelling stars in the semi-autobiographical project, playing a version of herself.

And if not accountable, at least responsible.

February 28, 2005

With its 80-72 victory Saturday night over Ivy League �rival� Columbia University Lions, the University of Pennsylvania Quakers, a/k/a �The Red and The Blue,� became the first team to gain a berth in the 2005 NCAA men�s basketball championships.

Pennsylvania�s Senior Senator

Seen, but not overheard, not exactly overheard anyway: Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and his wife, Joan Specter, in Center City Philadelphia, dining with a third party at Meritage, 500 S. 20th St., Saturday, February 26.

The old guy�s looking pretty good, chemotherapy and all.

What? You were expecting fisticuffs? (Gawd, I love that word.)

What? You expected me to write something snarky?

Please, the man has Hodgkin�s disease.

Once it clears, though, it�s back to business as usual around here. I assure you.

February 24, 2005

Over at The Rittenhouse Review I�ve been blogging about the �Dal� exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

And below I posted a brief item about �A�da,� a very hot ticket given only two sold-out performances remain.

The other hot cultural ticket in town -- a bit of a misnomer since no ticket is required as admission is free -- is for the new exhibit, �Treasures Revealed,� at the American Philosophical Society, about which see �Treasures of the Philosophical Society,� by Julie Stoiber in the Philadelphia Inquirer, February 20:

For only the third time in its 262-year history, the American Philosophical Society is giving the public a peek at the cool stuff it owns, [including] . . . The only known copy of the Declaration of Independence printed on durable vellum, made by John Dunlap just days after the printer delivered the more delicate paper copies to the Continental Congress[;] [p]hotographs and data sheets from a 1933 study that tried to link a woman�s neck length to certain psychological characteristics, such as �a fondness for satire�[;] [b]lueprints for ENIAC, the world�s first electronic digital computer[;] [a]nd, perhaps strangest of all, a New Testament volume written in Chinese and bound in human skin.

And, judging from Stoiber�s article, even more great and fascinating stuff.

February 23, 2005
The Other Hot Ticket in Town

I waited too long, the delay largely the result of a persistently empty wallet, to buy a ticket to see �A�da,� the latest production of the Opera Company of Philadelphia, a show that has received mostly excellent reviews.

The Opera Company will perform �A�da� just twice more, on Friday, February 25, and on Sunday, February 27.

Both shows are sold out.

If you have a spare ticket, or know someone who does, please let me know. I�m definitely interested.

February 21, 2005

I couldn�t sleep last night, what with Susan Estrich�s latest display of stupidity occupying my mind, and so I went out for an early -- 4:00 a.m. -- breakfast at a 24-hour diner on Chestnut Street. (Insomnia or not, sometimes it�s nice to eat a few slices of bacon without a canine audience, if you know what I mean.)

Anyway, and there will be no dialogue in this installment of the �Overheard� series, what was overheard, from a rowdy table of six, can be summed up in just one word: profanity.

Call me old-fashioned, call me a prude, call me anything you want, but I am made extremely unfortable by the gratuitous use of profanity, particularly in public. I cringe when friends and colleagues allow even one word to slip while in the company or proximity of strangers, especially elderly women.

I also despise the widespread and thoughtless employment of profanities, vulgarities, oaths, and coarse language generally on weblogs, including some I like a great deal.

It�s really so unnecessary, don�t you think?