Tag: Philadelphia

500 Words on Philadelphia

Courtesy dionandlucja.wordpress.com

I literally grew up looking at Philadelphia’s skyline.

Granted, it was on the television. One of the local news affiliates, the one my parents preferred, had a window out on the buildings beyond. At least, I think it was a window. These were the days before green-screen was really a thing, so it was either a window or a very well-done matte painting. I remember the lights on the PSFS building flickering, though, so I think it was a window. Or maybe a screen? Regardless, I grew up looking at that.

There’s always been an allure to the city, the pulse, the teeming masses. I’ve visited New York, walked around Chicago, gotten to know Baltimore and Boston and Pittsburgh. The only city that’s made me feel more at home than Philadelphia does is Seattle. And in Philadelphia’s case, it’s familiarity. It’s proximity. It’s been home.

I know it won’t be home forever. And when I see that skyline lit up, I think of the places I’ve been within the city, the people I’ve met, beers I’ve sampled and pretzels I’ve scarfed, games I’ve played and sights I’ve seen… and yeah, I’m going to miss it.

Sure, it’s imperfect. I’m nowhere near the level of committed to its sports teams that will keep me following every move they make. I was huge into the Phillies when I was a kid, and I own a t-shirt with Mike Schmidt’s number on it, but I’m not one for the NFL or NBA, my interest in other sports has somewhat waned, and I’m a little afraid that wearing my Union blue and gold outside of Philadelphia in another stadium might incur physical harm. I’ll have to try and take in a Union game before the summer ends. Those are good times.

Philly will always have problems with crime. What city doesn’t? Get enough human beings gathered together in one place, and some will be more desperate than others. I’m not saying it’s okay or totally safe or anything, I’m just saying that a city should not be avoided because you might get hurt in it. You might get hurt walking out of Wal-Mart in the suburbs. Or cleaning your gun in your bunker. You could slip in the shower, choke on your breakfast, eat a bad taco. You can’t let fear hold you back.

I remind myself of that, too. As much as I’ll miss Philadelphia, I can’t let that feeling keep me from doing what I have to do to take the next step in my life. As good as it feels to see the skyline of Philadelphia emerge from around the hills as I drive in (that’s another thing, the traffic sucks), I need to put that skyline in my rearview mirror eventually and for good. We can’t stay where we are forever. We have to keep evolving.

I will never forget everything Philadelphia helped me do and be and create.

But soon, the City of Brothery Love will be a memory.

Flash Fiction: The Haunting on Rue de Berri

Plucked from the pages of history indeed.

Courtesy Wikipedia

“Thank you for coming, Mister Franklin.”

“It’s nothing.” The printing mogul and statesman leaned on his walking stick as he looked around the room. Like so many Parisian homes, it was as ostentatious as taste and budget allowed. A black cat looked up at him from the fainting couch as the gentleman who’d summoned him settled in an armchair near the window. It was nearly dusk, and soon the sun would disappear behind the horizon entirely.

“I am simply hoping to sleep well tonight.” The gentleman wrung his hands as he watched Franklin move around the sitting room. “The noises and broken glassware in the middle of the night are not helping my work ethic and mental well-being.”

Franklin nodded, narrowing his eyes. He set his satchel down on the side table and opened the clasp, extending his senses. “The request was somewhat unorthodox. Normally, members of the church undertake tasks such as this.” There was definitely dissonance in the house, a cold feeling that lingered at the edges of his perception. He tipped his spectacles down and looked around the room without their interference.

“I had heard you were an inventor and a man of letters, but not…”

“A wizard?” Franklin had to smile. “That’s the proper term. But I will thank you not to spread the fact around. His Majesty has enough headaches from our precocious colonies without witchcraft and wizardry becoming involved.” He withdrew a small jar of salt from his satchel, along with a small clay pot. “Now, Monsieur LeBeouf, I must ask you to remain still.”

LeBeouf nodded, and Franklin walked over to the man’s easychair. He handed his host the pot, unstoppered the jar and began sprinkling salt in a wide circle around the chair.

“Should I be doing anything with this?”

“Just hold on to it, for now.” Franklin was careful to make sure the circle was even in its construction. He did not want it to break prematurely. Once it was complete, he replaced the stopper in the jar and knelt by the chair. He traded the jar for the pot, removed the pot’s lid and spread a bit of its cool, creamy contents under his eyes, then under LeBeouf’s.

“What is this?”

“An ungent based on a composition I discovered thanks to travelers from Mexico and Jamaica. Now, please remain quiet.” Still kneeling, he touched the inner edge of the circle with his fingers, having laid the jar aside. He uttered a soft incantation, and immediately the timbre of the room changed. What had been pre-dusk light, coloring the cream walls and soft carpets with pink hues, darkened to deep, angry reds. The cat hissed and bolted from its spot to leave the room. LaBeouf shuddered, nearly dropping the jar of salt, as Franklin rose to look to the door the cat had not run through.

“You can come out. I mean you no harm.”

Slowly, a flutter of white cloth emerged from around the corner. The figure took silent, shuffling steps, one at at time. Her nightgown seemed to be in tatters, her flesh more pale than the surface of a pearl. She had been beautiful before her eyes had sunken and her lips turned purple. Dark bruises could be seen all over her slender neck. She glared at LaBeouf for a long moment when he came into her vision.

“Why do you linger, spirit?”

She looked at Franklin, and when the men heard her voice, it wasn’t from her mouth. It filled the room, an insistent and omnipresent whisper.

“Ask my husband.”

Franklin glanced at LaBeouf, who has apparently shrunk into his armchair. The ghost bared her teeth at him, but Franklin stepped between them.

“Tell me what happened, child.”

The ghost seemed to compose herself.

“I could not give him children. The doctors said I’d never bear fruit. He was so angry. He waited until we were home and I was exhausted, ready for bed. Then he…”

The voice felt silent. Her hands moved to her neck. Her eyes widened in fear. Franklin nodded slowly.

“I understand. And I will make this right. You will be at peace.”

The ghost’s hands fell to her side, and then she picked up the skirts of her ruined nightgown and curtsied to Fraklin. He bowed, then broke the circle. Immediately, she was gone from their sight and the color of the fading day returned to normal. LaBeouf shot to his feet.

“She lies! It’s slander!”

“She is not capable of lying, Monsieur. Spirits of the departed only lie to themselves from time to time. Spirits of other worlds, now, there you have some skilled liars.”

He began cleaning up the circle with a small brush and pan from his satchel. LaBeouf struggled to find words.

“What… what happens now?”

“Now? Now, you go to the magistrate and confess to your crime. You show him where you disposed of your poor wife’s body and you throw yourself on the mercy of the court.”

“That’s preposterous! I’ll be ruined!”

“The alternative is that you live with this secret… and your wife’s ghost… forever.”

FOREVER wafted through the room, a whisper from the spirit that was breathy sigh and deadly premonition. LaBeouf turned as pale as his wife had appeared. Without another word, he grabbed his hat and headed out the door.

Franklin sighed, shaking his head. It was times like this he missed America. He turned to find the black cat looking at him.

“I’m sorry, dear. Would you like a new home? Fresh cream every day and plenty of bookshelves on which to sit?”

“Meow,” the cat replied.

The Crossroads of Art & Technology

Good Luck
Technology really isn’t this scary. Relax.

There is an ever-growing crossroads where art and technology meet. As companies develop easier and shinier ways to put smaller and yet more expensive devices in the hands of consumers, the degree to which technology permeates those consumers’ lives grows. That technology not only makes communication and advertisement easier but also allows artists are more direct route for reaching new audiences, provided the artist in question leverages the tools available.

Art and technology have more in common, though, than just being a medium of expression and its means of distribution. Both are forms of alchemy. Both allow for the creation of something out of nothing.

This blog entry began as a blank text document. Paintings begin as blank canvases. New devices start their lives as empty documents, bits of graph paper or pages in a sketch journal. They all spring from the same source – our imaginations. And imaginations and artistic minds are much like processors, capacitors and bits of memory. The more there are in close proximity working in concert, the more powerful the outcome.

That’s why collaboration and the sharing of ideas is so important. Technology makes this easier than it has ever been, and art is still sought by audiences the world over. The more artists support and promote one another, the more successful everyone becomes as a result. And the more an artist leverages a resource like Twitter or Facebook, the more they can support and promote other artists.

So why is there a divide between art and technology?

Between social media, fundraising means and the advance of media-streaming methods, it should be easier than ever for purveyors of art, from the lowly aspiring novelist to the coordinator of major musical events such as orchestra concerts and ballet performances, to put their labors of love in front of as many eyeballs as possible. Yet some of these artists and art-friends refrain from using these accessible and free-to-use tools. Are they uncertain of the hows and whys? Unaware of their presence or power? Unimpressed by what might seem to be a passing fad?

I wish I knew the answers to these questions. To me, technology is nothing to be feared or scoffed at by the artist. This divide, which is all too real and yawning for some artists, should be seen instead as a crossroads. And as more artists embrace the technology available to them to make their lives easier and give them more time to create, and technology continues to be molded by digital artists and natives, the crossroads will continue to grow until it becomes a town square of its own.

And Philadelphia’s one of the best places for it to happen.

Sure, the west coast of the US is covered with tech talent, AAA game studios, big media moguls, what have you. And New York is the landing zone for art and fashion from the rest of the world. Philadelphia may never attract multi-million dollar corporations bent on harnessing technology or the most glamorous of glamor-making glamorhounds. What it has, does and will attract is fresh, interesting and passionate talent from all walks of life. Much like the technology I’ve discussed, it’s a crossroads for all sorts of people, from the tech-savvy to the artistic and everything in between. And you can bet that, this being Philly, when the exciting stuff starts happening and new ground gets broken as this crossroads continues to expand, somebody’s gonna be loud and obnoxious. Like the guys over at Geekadelphia or Technically Philly, for example.

In any event, I think what those of us who have technical inclinations need to impress upon artists is that the barrier for entry when it comes to valuable tools like social networks and streaming media is not as high as one might think. We need to educate, to network and to ignite imaginations. If we can do this for artists, the artists can in turn do it for the world.

That’s my take on it, at least.

Don’t Stop Not Caring

Bard by BlueInkAlchemist, on Flickr

Last night at the Old City Creative Corridor meeting, I had the privilege of listening to Rakia Reynolds, a creative ambassador of Philadelphia. She spoke about branding ourselves as creative natives of this great town, and one thing in particular she said stuck out in my mind. I’m paraphrasing, here, but it boils down to this: “If you can find what you want to do, do what you want.”

I issue this challenge to my fellow writers. Walk into a bookstore. I mean, physically. Make the effort to get out in the world and walk amongst the shelves populated by the works of those who’ve already made their mark in our rarefied field. Take a look in your area of interest – speculative fiction, biography, self-help, instructional books on Twitter, whatever. Chances are you’re likely to find something that may, in passing, resemble what you want to do. The thing is, though, it’s not exactly what you want to do. So, go do exactly what you want to do. Then, shop the hell out of it. Sooner or later, all of the rejection and all of the negativity you feel you’re coming up against will wash away in the wake of one, just one, person giving you an enthusiastic response: “I like this idea. I am ON FIRE about it. Tell me more.”

I say ‘rarefied’ because not everybody feels they have what it takes to put words to paper in a coherent way that’s easy to read. It’s like everybody else who shares our interests knows something we don’t. And maybe, on a basic level, we know it too.

The difference is, to put it bluntly, we just don’t care.

If you start something, if you embark on a new creative endeavour, you’re going to run into static. There will be resistance. Practicality and logistics will rear their ugly heads to tell you the myriad ways in which what you want to do can’t be done. The work of others and a litany of failures will present evidence illustrating why your idea might not be a very good one. What separates the people we envy from the people we’ve never really heard of is that the people we envy didn’t let that static or their own failures stop them from reaching the heights to which they aspired.

Being great and making a difference aren’t really a matter of doing something entirely new or different. It’s a matter of being willing to fail, and making the most of success when it happens. And that willingness, that hunger to capitalize, comes from doing what you want, what you love.

As Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Jungite aut Perite

Courtesy Philadelphia Union

I’ve never considered myself a huge sports fan, let alone a football hooligan. To me, a lot of the passion has been bled out of professional sports. There’s too much emphasis on being a showman, on selling the seat tickets, on the drama surrounding the sport. I didn’t think there was all that much to get excited about. I call myself a Steelers & Phillies fan, but I’m more the kind of fan to follow up on highlights via the Interweb after a game than to drive to the stadium to buy overpriced refreshments and spend two hours waiting for something exciting to happen.

Then, my friend & co-worker Mike invited me to join him for the home opener of the Philadelphia Union.

Sometimes, it’s really cool to be wrong.

The Philadelphia Union wasn’t created by the city solely as a bid to bring in more income. It’s not just a publicity stunt. It’s something the people want. The Union wouldn’t exist without the efforts of a grass-roots fan-based organization, the Sons of Ben. These guys got together in 2007, when the rumors were hinting at Philadelphia being considered to host a new Major League Soccer team. Apparently, the League needed to be convinced that there were enough soccer fans in Philadelphia to justify a team, and that it was something Philadelphia wanted. The response from the Sons of Ben was, “Hell yes we want it!”

Sons of Ben

Now the Sons of Ben exist to support the Union. It’s odd to be in the stands of a sporting event and feel simultaneously like a hooligan and a patriot. But Philadelphia’s culture is steeped in the history of the Revolution, and the Sons of Ben are keenly aware of that, if their logo is any indication. Likewise, the Union’s slogan of “Jugite aut Perite”* – Join or Die – indicates that the history of the city and the role it plaid in our nation’s founding have not been forgotten. A lot of football clubs have “United” as a part of their name, probably because they came about as an amalgamation of various smaller clubs. Manchester, D.C., the list goes on. The Union might be a confusing name to some, but to me, it makes perfect sense and really fits the atmosphere of the club and sport.

Provided I can find a way to afford it – magicking money into existence out of the nether or something – in Union home games to come I hope to find myself in the Sons of Ben section. I met a few members last night (as well as discovering the aforementioned Mike is a member) and was impressed with how polite they were. To me, at least. The Sons of Ben make no bones about their goals – “The Sons of Ben do all we can to make sure our section, home or away, is the most exciting place to watch a game and the most intimidating thing the other team has ever seen.” That said, there’s a simple Code of Conduct members are expected to follow that show respect for the other team and the refs while still letting voices be heard. I really dig that. To me, it’s one thing to be a fan; it’s another to hold yourself to a higher standard than others who call themselves fans but do things like hurl empty beer cans and racial epithets towards the players.

Union Home Opener

I had a blast last night. I’m looking forward to doing it again. If this is what it means to be a football hooligan, I’m all for it; I just need to learn a few songs, wear more light blue and find a way to acquire a scarf. Maybe take up knitting.

EDIT: Apparently it should be “Iungite aut Perite” according to Latin-savvy academics.

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