‘Scoop’ on Philly

Before last week, I’d never visited Philadelphia but wanted to. I got the opportunity thanks to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, which held its annual convention there, and my boss, who footed the bill. (My wife paid her own way.)

“Official” activities showed off some hip sides of the city. We sampled dishes from Philly’s top chefs in the grand old 30th Street Station. We spent a night out in the Northern Liberties, a classic redevelopment project with bars, restaurants, arts spaces, offices, and seemingly every other building undergoing a facelift. We drove through areas that looked like San Francisco and others that looked like Washington, D.C., for better and worse in both cases.

The city is a lot cooler than we expected, heat and humidity notwithstanding. That’ll make the tourism marketers happy, but I’m not shooting for a blurb on gophilla.com. I say that after seeing a side that’s not quite like the brochures, thanks to a decidedly unofficial guide.

As Thursday turned to Friday, between the opening-night parties and the nightly nightcap in the hotel bar, I stepped out onto Market Street for a leisurely stroll. I like to do this in a new city—there’s no better way to find the real nightlife than to look for yourself.

I walked a half-block, and as I surveyed 13th Street in both directions, I heard, “What street are you looking for?”

Turning, I saw a man about my height and build, black, toting a hefty backpack, wearing a T-shirt, pants and sneakers. He was a few yards away—not in my personal space.

“None in particular,” I replied, “just looking around.”

“Let me give you a tour,” he said. “Don’t be afraid; this is the city of brotherly love. Love ya, brother!”

He introduced himself as “Scoop.” He’s a true man of the streets—he said he, his wife and son sleep near City Hall, two blocks from the Marriott and the convention center. He has a job waiting for him in New Orleans, where he’ll make $40 an hour working construction … when he can get down there.

Did he really? Who knows. He also told me he shook the mayor’s hand that night, and a few days earlier Donald Trump gave him $100 and took his family to dinner at Maggiano’s.

Even if those tales were tall, his tour tidbits were on the level.

We saw plenty of street people, though none came up or shouted out to us. Philly has more homeless now than in the ’90s, when City Hall was run by Ed Rendell—“the best mayor Philly’s ever had,” Scoop declared, explaining that civic improvement declined after Rendell stepped down. (Now Pennsylvania’s governor and adviser to Hillary Clinton, Rendell spoke at AAN’s closing-night gala.)

Scoop took me to nearby landmarks, pointed out others and told me which streets to avoid at night. We parted ways after a half-hour, but not before I gave him $20—the hourly rate he’s counting on, and money well spent.

Comings and goings: This issue’s cover story represents the farewell contribution of Monica Unhold, a two-stint intern of ours who’s graduated from Chico State and gotten a grant-funded internship at the San Diego Union Tribune.

Andrew Boost also graduated; at last word, he was weighing photography offers in San Francisco and Switzerland. Laura Hauser is in Italy this summer, and Jessica Stevens is heading to Germany. Angela Lashbrook, Chico High class of 2008, is off to a fine-arts institute this fall, when Stephanie Maynard will rejoin us.

Meanwhile, we’re thrilled to welcome back Tang Lor for a second summer internship, as well as continuing interns Bryce Benson and Brittni Zacher. New to the CN&R are UC Berkeley student Nicole McGovern and Chico State students Katie Booth, Sergy El-Morshedy and Sarah Kelly. I think that’s everyone … phew!

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