Like someone thought she was. Special

By Christopher Wink | Feb. 13, 2008

She grew up in Kensington Irish Catholic, like so many subjects of stories like this. Too many kids. Too tiny a house, standing side by side with others that fell ill with the same afflictions.

When she was young, she was like a Philly soft pretzel, she told me. Skinny and narrow and twisted and salty. She smiled at that.

She got her braces off 34 days before her 19th birthday. She met a boy 59 days before she graduated from Archbishop Ryan. He would go home with her, the 50 to the 3, 67 days before she chose for him.

Even then, when things were good enough, she’d sneak to Saint Mike’s. Sit in the back. Maybe light a candle. Something about it made her feel like someone was listening to only her. Like someone thought she was. Special. He could do that for her, too, then, she said. But not like those morning in Saint Mike’s, when the world stopped, aside from a girl in Kensington with no braces and a tight grip on the smooth, rolled edge of that pew.

She had thought about community, she told me. Get the grades, go to Temple, even. He wanted to strike out on his own, with her. Get a job. She chose for him, 138 days before she learned she was pregnant, 16 days before he did.

They had the kid. And another. One more, too. Too many kids. Too tiny a house, standing side by side with others that fell ill with the same afflictions. The neighborhood was different, problems seemed more daunting, but it wasn’t anything that hadn’t been said before.

It was sometime around then – the young one couldn’t have been more than two – when he learned he had Hodgkin’s disease, the same day she did. Aggressive. Inevitable. She couldn’t remember much of it. It took more than three years. Seems a lot longer when you say it then when you live it, even less when you remember it. He died in pain. She still lived it.

She stopped going to Saint Mike’s. Someone else could sit in the back. Light a candle. Clutch the pew in control of the wooden and stable. She got mad. And spent a lot of wasted years being mad with kids trying to learn to live in a world that she couldn’t recognize anymore.

The kids got older, though, as kids do, and she got so used to the pain and frustration that unlived dreams became childish fantasies. She was better for having avoided them.

She went to bible study a few weeks ago, she told me. You’re bound to rediscover what once meant something to you. Maybe we have everything at the start and are meant to spend the rest of it finding it again.

It was not long after that first return that she opened the book to find a verse to discuss and came, at random, to Isaiah, “defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” Widows and orphans, and, like that, something about it made her feel like someone was listening to only her. Like someone thought she was. Special.

Political ad of the century?

The embattled, corrupt, figurehead of the contemporary South Philadelphia Democratic machine, Vince Fumo, is running his reelection campaign for state senator, amid questions of his having to sell his Fairmount mansion – built more than ten years ago – to pay legal fees in defense of the usual sort of allegations of malfeasance. But, boy does he have an advertisement for you.

Philly Mayor to be featured on ABC's 'World News'

Tomorrow, new Mayor Michael Nutter will be interviewed by ABC’s Charles Gibson, host of the network’s signature newscharles-gibson-world-news.jpg broadcast, World News Tonight.

ABC will also follow Nutter to film a day in the life segment. Gibson will host World News from Old City tomorrow night, as well.

The feature comes as Nutter comes into one power of one of the largest cities in the country, determined to take on urban problems with big plans.

World News broadcasts at 6:30 p.m. on ABC 6.

Andrew Brock: Getting out of his father's shadow

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed last week, without edits, to run in last Friday’s edition.


Andrew J. Brock is finally the boss.

In December, Brock, 40, officially became president and CEO of Brock and Company Inc., a catering business based in Malvern. His promotion marks the conclusion of the 45-year tenure of man he has known his entire life his father, Lynmar Brock, Jr.

“The company has prospered for 81 years, and I’d like to see it prosper into the future,” Andrew said. “The responsibility is falling onto my shoulders.”

Brock and Company was launched in 1927 in Swarthmore by then-22-year-old Lynmar Brock Sr., Andrew’s grandfather.

He made boxed lunches in his mother’s kitchen to distribute to factories in the region. At his peak, Lynmar Sr. was sending lunches to hundreds of locations, delivered by more than 60 trucks. Because of a bout Lynmar Sr. had with Alzheimer’s, a then-28-year-old Lynmar Jr. was forced to take over the family business, losing his father in 1964. Lynmar Jr. grew the business, eventually transitioning the company from the dying boxed lunch industry to the contracted catering business. He provided for his family, which included another son, who now lives in California.

Andrew has been with the company full time since he graduated college 18 years ago, so he has seen it grow.

In 2001, the company expanded into the cafeterias of many regional private and preparatory schools. Today, they distribute to ten states and Washington, D.C.

No questions that Andrew is taking on a successful company, facing all the pressures of business, in addition to the 45-year legacy of his own father looming just down the hall. Lynmar Jr. will stay on in an advisory role.

“I’m very excited about the future,” Andrew said. “I very much value that my father is still in picture.”

Andrew’s mother is on staff, too, in leadership and administrative capacities. Andrew says he enjoys working with his family but knows there’s added pressure in being the boss’s son.

“It’s both exciting and a little daunting,” Andrew said.

Chicken attack in area high school

Graduates of Philadephia’s Northeast High School beware. More than 50 live chickens were let loose in the high school, forcing the school to close, the Philadelphia Inquirer is reporting. Not even joking.
Security cameras show a handful of “culprits” gained access to the school around 9:30 p.m. last night, along its Cottman Avenue entrance. They also spread chicken feed across the school’s floor.It appears to be an elaborate prank. A prank that, at least one secretary told the Inquirer, would be preferred than a school shooting or similar news that more often gives headlines to high schools. A farmer was summoned to round-up the birds and haul them away to Fox Chase Farm, the district’s agricultural school. Hefty fines are expected.

Check out presidential hair

All those years you spent collecting other people’s hair might not be as weird as we previously thought.23515282.jpg

For President’s Day weekend Feb. 16 to 18, The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia will be displaying a scrapbook that has locks of hair from each of the first 12 U.S. Presidents, according to the Associated Press.

This collection comes from Peter Arvell Browne, a Philadelphia attorney and scholar of natural sciences, collected thousands of samples of animal and human hair in the mid-1800s.

He wrote to the families of each president and asked for the samples, which wasn’t – they tell me – as strange as it might seem today. In the 19th Century, many families kept hair from deceased relatives.

The scrapbook will only be open to George Washington’s brown and gray hair, though photographs of the others will be on display.

Should you post an alleged rapist's photo?

The Temple News, the college newspaper for which I work, is certainly one of the better student newspapers in theunknown-person.gif country. Because of it, or perhaps in spite of it, we get criticized.

Last week, we reported on the alleged rape of two women by a student leader, with lots of friends in our university’s student government.The accused is indefinitely suspended from school and is awaiting a preliminary hearing, though there are rumors the charges might be dropped.

He has not been convicted, just accused, arrested and formally charged.We published his name, his photograph and the block on which he lives, all per usual protocol of dealing with accused sex offenders, all information given to us by the city’s special victims unit.

Yet, we’ve been overcome by letters, emails, phone calls and online comments from his friends, other student leaders and more, all criticizing our tactics. Below, I’ve included an editorial we will run in Tuesday’s edition of our paper. Read it if you’d like to hear more of our perspective, but what do you think?

How much should newspapers publish? All we know? Do we have a responsibility to our readers or to the presently innocent? Read on, or comment now.

Continue reading Should you post an alleged rapist's photo?

Bill McDowell: Designing on Philadelphia's parkway

Interview and article prepared for the Philadelphia Business Journal, as filed yesterday, without edits, to run in next Friday’s edition.

mcdowellbill.jpgOh, Bill McDowell has built in Philadelphia before.

He was chosen as senior building executive for the design and construction of the new Philadelphia home of the Barnes Foundation on the back of a career of construction in this city.Now he’s charged with helping bring one of the most celebrated art collections in the world to the city in which he was born and raised.

“I have had a lot of experience in the city of Philadelphia,” McDowell, 50, said. Like helping develop the concept for the expansion of the Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse on the campus of St. Joseph’s University, and being involved in the planning of the 30th Street Station rail yards, and heading the redevelopment of Reading Terminal Headhouse, now the front of the Pennsylvania Convention Center, as part of the city’s Redevelopment Authority in the 1990s.

“But, by far this is the most important project I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “A project like this might just come around once in a century.”With the hiring of McDowell, who works with the architects, consultants and will hire the construction team, the new building’s design has begun.“It’s full steam ahead. Not only is this a go, it’s ‘can we go any faster?” he said. “The conceptual design process will be done this year, what it will look like. The technical aspects, we will continue to work on into 2009.”The first step is to design how the building will be situated on its future site, a high profile and, to some, controversial lot on Center City’s Ben Franklin Parkway.“I always thought the parkway in Philadephia is under utilized. The creation of density is what Philadelphia needs… to move it from being primarily an auto to a pedestrian route,” he said. “But we’re interested in retaning the qualities of the current building, to see the uniqueness and its intimacy preserved.”But one of Philadelphia’s sons has had to take a professional move to the ‘burbs, by the way of Lower Merion, the current headquarters of Barnes, for now.“For work, I have a 610 area code now, it’s tough,” he said. “At least my cell phone is still 215.”

Johnny McCain is front-runner, again

President Bush has called for conservatives to rally behind the eventualmccain1.jpg Republican candidate for President, though he didn’t make explicit mention of his sometimes critic, sometimes friend John McCain.But, of late, McCain has taken on elements of the Bush persona in common primary bull rushing of political extremes.That’s how campaign finance reform, bipartisan, straight-talking bus tour-John McCain can become anti-abortion, hawkish John McCain. Ain’t nothing new.But now that Mitt Romney is out and journalists are already filling newspapers with answers why, McCain is becoming the obvious candidate. He always was the front-runner, though Mike Huckabee managed to get talked about a whole lot, because he had to be, 2008 is an election of big names as Hillary and Barack can attest.There isn’t any question that he was the only candidate that could really attract independents and moderate Democrats in a general election. Primary season is all about giving zealots a chance to rise and teasing political parties to settle on someone unelectable.