In recent years, it became commonplace to compare legendary and controversial former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo with Donald Trump. Perhaps that was why I finally read Frank Rizzo: The Last Big Man in Big City America, the influential biography published in 1993 by Sal Paolantonio. It is a familiar part of the foundation of the Philadelphia canon so it’s long been on my list.
Efforts abound nationally to pin down just how many full-time people are in the business of reporting, editing, visualizing and otherwise sharing news in a professional journalism setting. This is a local one.
It took me to leave rural northwest New Jersey, where I grew up, and to go to Philadelphia, where I went to college, to saddle up and actually develop a small knowledge base about Western-style horse riding.
I cleaned stalls and helped out Ike Johnstone at Belmont Stables, an historic West Fairmount Park building where Johnstone hosts the Bill Picket Riding Academy, through which he teachs anti-violence and communication to North Philadelphia kids. In exchange, Johnstone taught me some rudimentary riding skills.
I’m thankful I was included in a salon-style dinner among a dozen Philadelphia city creative and philanthropic leaders at the historic Waterworks restaurant. The prompt for the conversation over dinner was the ‘maker economy.’
The discussion focused on Philadelphia but clearly the themes tie to a lot of cities around the world today: how do we build a broad future economy? The conversation was off-the-record, but there were a few topics interesting enough to be worth sharing without attribution.
Neighborhoods and cities always change. Concerns about gentrification come when that change happens with such speed that those new to a place don’t even realize a community predates them.
After a special performance of 100% Philadelphia, something like an on-stage census map with real-life residents, at FringeArts, I was part of a panel discussing the issues the production brought up. The performance has been organized around the world. In each case, 100 residents of that city were selected to represent the dynamics of that place — race, location, income, politics, etc. Throughout the show, the residents are given prompted questions and move about stage to help give an in-person sense of thoughts on issues, both local and human-wide.