Religion as tradition, not rule

Like others I knew in the middle class U.S. Northeast in the 1990s, I was raised Roman Catholic by a family who felt limited by the religion’s slowly moving moral structure. I was there for a foundation that I could return to later in my life, by my parents encouragement. For all the complaining I did then, I am thankful for that.

For the first time in years (excluding weddings, though even mine wasn’t Catholic), later this week on Christmas Eve I plan to be in a church service. But there still isn’t much there for me. I’m saddened by that.

Continue reading Religion as tradition, not rule

Whitetown USA: 1968 book on the ‘silent majority’ of poor urban whites by Peter Binzen

Sitting with Whitetown USA author Peter Binzen and PlanPhilly Editor Matt Golas.

Prideful, working class white ethnic neighborhoods in cities have been ignored and poorly represented for at least a half century, goes a major theme of Peter Binzen’s 1968 Whitetown USA dissection. [Google Books here.]

Written by a former Philadelphia Bulletin newspaper reporter with whom I was thrilled to have lunch last month, the book attacks the principle that whites are a monolithic group of privilege. Binzen, a former education reported, focuses heavily on the school system in the book to tell a tale of why working class and even upwardly mobile middle class whites were opposed to affirmative action and other social welfare programs perceived to help blacks.

The first third of the book features the similarities of Whitetowns from cities across the country: white neighborhoods often with many recent immigrants that are working class, prideful of place, protective, provincial, conservative and often seen as bigoted. The rest dives deepest into Kensington, a decaying industrial corridor then and a decayed shell today, and its adjacent Fishtown, a smaller, more residential neighborhood where I now live.

As I often am eager to do, I wanted to share some of my favorite passages and thoughts from the soft cover copy I tore through:
Continue reading Whitetown USA: 1968 book on the ‘silent majority’ of poor urban whites by Peter Binzen

Gentrification: thoughts from seven years as student and young professional in Philadelphia

Urban neighborhoods change.

We’ve known that for, what, like 150 years or something? In the past quarter-century or so, as educated (mostly, but not entirely white) professionals moved back to neighborhoods that had populations that didn’t always resemble them — in race or class or culture or all and more — there were natural clashes.

Mostly, I feel like those clashes have mostly been put in three categories, one initiated by new residents, one from more native residents and one that both share:

Continue reading Gentrification: thoughts from seven years as student and young professional in Philadelphia

SugarHouse Casino: Thoughts from a gentrifying homeowner in the neighborhood

The back of SugarHouse Casino on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2010. Its restaurant and walkway offers pleasant views of the Delaware River and Ben Franklin Bridge.

Last month, my neighborhood helped to make Philadelphia the largest city in the country with a legally-sanctioned casino.

SugarHouse Casino opened in mid-September, as scheduled.

The six-year battle to bring casinos to Philadelphia is not one I want to remark much on. If you want to hear argue for or against the existence of casinos in urban communities, you’ve come to the wrong place. Isaiah Thompson at Citypaper is downright obsessed with reporting on why casinos are in the net bad for communities.

That’s not what I’m writing here for.

By the time I bought my home in Fishtown, the neighborhood that the casino arguably resides within, SugarHouse was already coming. That argument was over with.

What was still up for debate were two issues that I did care about, if a casino was going to come to my neighborhood.

  • I wanted the casino to embrace, enhance and help develop its portion of the Delaware River waterfront, so we could start embracing this beautiful asset of ours and do so through the sensible, efficient use of commercial development.
  • I wanted table games to supplement slots machines so, in my experience, if there was going to be gambling, it might go beyond the droning, heartless slots. (Basically, I have friends who would play blackjack for a night socially; they wouldn’t dump coins in a machine).

This weekend, I enjoyed the beautiful weather by taking a leisurely stroll through the casino’s compact 45,000 square-foot innards and the compound that surrounds it. In an hour’s time, my initial reaction was that, if a casino were to come to Philadelphia and considering much of the debate and compromise that has come with it, what SugarHouse is to date isn’t so terrible.

Continue reading SugarHouse Casino: Thoughts from a gentrifying homeowner in the neighborhood

Fishtown Spirit: Community meeting coverage of soda tax, I-95 and more

Mayor Nutter Press Aide Katherine Martin addresses the April Fishtown Neighbors Association meeting.

A few times a month, I go out to civic and town watch meetings in a variety of neighborhoods. Yes, I actually find most of them to be fun — local politics on the smallest of scale.

Since moving to Fishtown, I’ve begun going to monthly Fishtown Action and Fishtown Neighbors Meetings and filing reports for the Fishtown Spirit. It’s all within a few blocks of my house and endearing to be sure. Each month, I’ll probably share those two and any other pieces I might have had in the Spirit.

As I wrote after my first piece for my small, local community news weekly, it’s my way of getting to know new people and the issues facing them in a new neighborhood.

I have one on two controversial proposals in today’s issue:

City officials defended two controversial proposals to close a $150 million shortfall in the city’s 2011 budget at last week’s Fishtown Neighbors Association meeting.

During the 90 minute session that saw raised voices and broad criticism of city spending, Deputy Streets Commissioner Carlton Williams addressed a proposed $300 trash collection fee and Mayoral Press Aide Katharine Martin talked about the two-cent-per-ounce sweetened beverage excise tax. Both proposals need City Council approval and remain executive branch proposals that are vying against ongoing deliberations, including suggestions to raise property taxes and tax smokeless tobacco products.

Read the rest here, or below find other pieces I’ve done in the past few months below.

Continue reading Fishtown Spirit: Community meeting coverage of soda tax, I-95 and more

The chair that’s reserving your snowy parking spot in Fishtown

I’m no serious driver, but I’m fascinated by car culture in all its forms.

Like the severity with which parking is taken in many urban neighborhoods in even transited cities, Philadelphia certainly included. My own new neighborhood of Fishtown has all the makings of a fight to be had: long-time residents, a conflicting gentrifying population, limited parking, middle class to working class and, recently, a historic snowfall.

Where even the mayor seems to support saving street parking if you’ve cleaned out a spot and the requisite question comes of what that all means, I’m slowly developing my own opinion.

I’ve been in neighborhoods where people reserve parking year round — around a quickly expanding Temple University community with serious town-gown issues — and so these topics seem to vary. But mostly, I figure you ought to have a majority of these requisites to toss a chair of bucket to block off street parking.

  1. Snow storm or some other limited or relatively rare happenstance that dramatically limits parking
  2. You dug out the spot
  3. It’s in front of your house
  4. It’s on your block
  5. You’re elderly or infirm
  6. You have children younger than five
  7. You’re grocery shopping, moving or something else involved lugging or carrying from your car to your house
  8. It’s for fewer than 12 hours
  9. Only one per household

Fishtown Spirit: A neighborhood photographer wants more neighborhood support

A portrait of romance as captured by Keith Angelitis.

My first clip for the Fishtown Spirit ran in last Thursday’s issue, and my second ran yesterday.

Keith Angelitis just started a fire in the front room of his Frankford Avenue studio. He has a jacket on and a ball cap pulled over his ruffled brown hair. Big front windows welcome the sunlight that pours in and fills his 15-foot ceilings.

He is relaxing in a wooden chair, a prominent member of an otherwise sparsely furnished room, warmed by an old wood-burning stove. In the corner is an over-sized closet that Angelitis built during the beginning of his continuous renovation of 2452 Frankford Ave. Read more here.

Below the scoop on why I got involved with the Spirit.

Continue reading Fishtown Spirit: A neighborhood photographer wants more neighborhood support

Welcome to Fishtown

A crazy thing happened on Dec. 2. I closed on my first home, quite an end to a decade of transition from childhood to adulthood. Something worthy enough to update a bit on.

I’m in the heart of the Fishtown neighborhood of the riverward section of Philadelphia, once a place exclusively for working-class (white) families that has the hipster and artistic communities now that often lead to gentrifying. It’s two El stops, a 15-minute bicycle ride or a 40-minute walk from Old City, full of Dietz and Watson delis, modest rowhomes and pickup trucks with ladders. Now I’m there, too.

Continue reading Welcome to Fishtown

Metro: Snow reporting, records and such

Snow on Gaul
The remains of the second largest snow storm in recorded Philadelphia history on the 600-block of Gaul Street in the Fishtown neighborhood on Sunday, Dec.

Nothing newspapers love more than a big storm. I jumped into the fray with a few items for Metro on the second largest snowfall in recorded Philadelphia history in today’s paper.

The second worst snowstorm in Philadelphia’s recorded history welcomed John Hutchison to Fishtown over the weekend.

Read the rest of the main story here.

With intrepid photographer Rikard Larma, I trekked through the snowy streets of riverward neighborhood Fishtown and then up to some big box stores in Port Richmond.

A few extras below.

Continue reading Metro: Snow reporting, records and such

Six days from now

By Christopher Wink | May 08, 2008

One week from yesterday three strangers riding beside me on the 3 bus will be dead.

But I can’t know it. It hasn’t happened, and I’ve never spoken to them before and won’t in the future. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even like know they were there, except for the boy, and that was only because his iPod was playing so loud I heard the bass of his trashy hip hop.

In just six days he will die on the same day as two others he doesn’t know.

I just want to get home without listening to what’s left of the music in some teenage boy’s ears.

I work at my uncle’s deli near Wissinoming Park. Normally my boyfriend picks me up after his afternoon class at Holy Family and has dinner with my dad and me in Port Richmond, but he has some group project. So I’m on the 3 with Jimmy Quinn.

Continue reading Six days from now