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Feature The End of the World as Erik J. Brown Knows It

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Article Quoth, The Brother: Denzel’s Tear


Feature David Lynch


Sex with Timaree Sex in My House?


Article A Love Letter to Carousel House


Doing Good Philabundance


Event Spotlight Philadelphia Theater Week Heads Back to the Stage for Year Five

Article Buna Cafe is a Cool Ethiopian Spot on the Block

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PHILADELPHIA THEATER WEEK HEADS BACK TO THE STAGE FOR YEAR FIVE A funny thing happened on the way to this year’s fifth annual Philadelphia Theater Week, an April 1-through-10 celebration of this area’s theater companies with 85 live and virtual performances, readings, audio plays and prerecorded theatrical events. LaNeshe Miller-White, the Executive Director of the now-decade old Theatre Philadelphia – the umbrella organization concerned with curating, marketing, promoting and protecting the whole of this region’s theater companies – realized that this April’s ten-day schedule of staged and streamed theater events will be the first time that she has met the majority of her constituents in the two years that she’s had the exec job. “It’s been a wild adventure,” says Miller-White. “The job that I applied for in March 2020 was not at all the job I had when I started the job in August 2020. The world was an entirely different place by that time. The pandemic had already started when I got this job, and since that time, we’ve gone in-and-out of theaters having to stay closed and stages having to stay dark and socially distanced to say nothing of mask and vaccine mandates. With all that, there’s been no real time or wherewithal for face-to-face time, or the opportunity to be in front of the people we serve. This Philadelphia Theater Week, then, will be a first for me.” Along with staying busy as the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Theatre in the X, the West Philadelphia’s theater company making the dramatic arts and productions accessible for Black audiences and Black performers and creators, Miller-White never got the ability to truly become a physical part of her constituents and her community. Spiritual, yes, as Miller-White has pushed for all matters of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) initiatives and like-minded programming such as its Anti-Racism Action Committee and throughout her tenure. “We’ve been stuck being apart from each other throughout Covid,” she says with a laugh. “Almost all of my interactions with the many members of Philly’s theater community – from the front of house to those on stage – has been via Zoom or StreamYard. So, I’m really looking forward, then, to getting together with all of the theater community this week, from Philly and throughout the region. Finally. I can’t wait to have a drink with them.” Many, many drinks. Despite the two+ years of physical distance, the multitude of artists and admins who are umbrella-ed by Miller-White and the Theatre Philadelphia staff behind Philadelphia Theater Week, and organizing the annual Barrymore Awards – this area’s celebration and recognition of each year’s staged theater events – are enamored of the still-fresh Executive Director and the job her collaborative staff are executing. “Laneesh is fantastic,“ says Damon Bonetti, the Philadelphia Artist Collective’s co-founding Producing Artistic Director whose Morning Star (a rarely performed turn-of-the-century Russian immigrant classic from playwright Sylvia Regan) is a highlight of Philly’s Theater Week. “The first time we met Laneesh, our company partnered with her Theatre in the X, which ties in with our partnerships with companies such as Theater Ariel (with whom PAC partner for Morning Star) to explore diverse voices in the classical canon. Laneesh made it happen. She is a force… It is absolutely perfect that she is leading Theatre Philadelphia at this time.” The excitement that Miller-White feels regarding ten days of nearly 90 theater events – live, virtual and prerecorded – is palpable, considering how the 2021 iteration of Philadelphia Theater Week was all virtual, save for two outdoor events. And while the pandemic gave everyone in local theater a chance to pause and reassess issues of racism, sexism and homophobia in theater, and how a city that is nearly 50% POC and isn’t reflected in the boardrooms and organizational cores of most theater companies and arts organizations, Covid also slowed - even stopped - this city’s billion-dollar pre-pandemic annual arts economic engine. Theater companies needed to get back in action, not only to stretch



its artistic muscles and re-prove its diversity, but to refill its coffers. “As an actor who has been out of work during the whole of the pandemic, it’s great to be on stage, and I’m happy that Theatre Philadelphia and Philadelphia Theater Week is making that happen,” says Bristol Riverside Theatre actor Kimberly Vanbiesbrouck from the BRT’s Menopause, the Musical. “This Theater Week is a chance to put our best feet forward, and say “Look at us,” states Ben Grinberg of Almanac Dance Theater Circus. Currently putting the finishing touches on a “mini-festival” of his company’s seven separate signature events rolled into their Cannonball Festival and Mini-Ball. Grinberg is hoping that Philadelphia Theater Week has some “Fringe Fest magic” to its time on stage. Beyond making it happen, Grinberg states that diversity in all measure is key to what Almanac does. “And we’re all taking so many different measures to embody that,” says Grinberg focusing on their week’s events, exploring queer identity through juggling, decomposing capitalism, community trust building, and live art from those usually unheard and unseen such as sex workers. Seth Rozin, InterAct Theatre Company at The Drake’s Artistic Director, founder and the playwright behind Theater Week’s Settlements with actor Becca Khalil put Philly’s theater scene, diversity and the efforts of Theatre Philadelphia into perspective. “This city has always had such a diverse and robust theater scene,” says Rozin, who started InterAct in 1988 as a home for original contemporary plays meant to explore the currency of social, political, and cultural issues with equity and civic engagement at the top of its to-do list. “You can always find your theatrical niche, and this week is about offering audiences the opportunity to sample theater both traditional and nontraditional.” The issue of diversity comes face-to-front during Settlements when author Rozin sets up true life drama where Jewish Community Center’s resident theater in Washington D.C. commissions a new play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Jordanian-Jewish playwright. “That play in Settlements pushed the envelope as to what is acceptable to that community,” says Rozin. “I found it interesting to write about how American Jews have so much difficulty discussing Israel, and in particular, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Everyone runs to their separate corners and can’t have a civil conversation about it.” With Settlements and his conversation, Rozin shows that diversity goes beyond the black and the white. Lisa Lawrence from Crossroads Comedy – a loosely-knotted company hosting several improvisational sketch shows planned at South Philadelphia’s Theatre Exile space on Wharton Street – shared a memory of a past Philadelphia Theater Week that she’d like to see happen again in 2022. “A woman I interacted with during 2019’s Theater Week told me that she had scheduled her vacation that year to coincide with our week because she had such an amazing time during past theater weeks going from show to show,” says Lawrence. “She saw shows by herself, with family, brought friends. That is the energy that we want from a week such as this, and I’m looking forward to that woman coming back and engaging and laughing with the rest of our community.” “After the reaction I witnessed from theater makers and audiences during 2021’s Theater Week, I was pretty confident that we’d be back to action and onstage, fully, this season,” says Theater Philadelphia’s Laneesh Miller-White. “If we had to have held another virtual fest, it would’ve been OK too, but I was fairly certain that now was the time to get on stage in a big way. Everyone is ready to move forward and get out, from artists to audiences.” All events, tickets and information:









Hey there, Weekly Phillies — I appreciate all of you who have reached out to say how much you enjoy reading the Event Calendar again. I really do; makes my typing fingers dance. Last week, in response to my search for your favorite bartender, a certain barkeep at a certain ale house received a vote of confidence but without much evidence to support the claim. This week, the receipts have come in by way of Michele Garrity, who shares with us the ballad of John Doyle* of McGillin's Olde Ale House (1310 Drury St., 19107). “Len — John Doyle is by far my favorite bartender. I started going to McGillin’s in 2002. On Christmas Eve a few years later, my Dad and I stopped in McGillin’s to have some holiday cheer. Upon seeing John, my Dad yelled ‘JOHN DOYLE!’ John came over, said hello to my Dad, and said, ‘Is this your daughter?’ My Dad said yes. [John] said, ‘She’s in here all the time.’ My friendship with John Doyle was born. John always looked out for me while I was at McGillin’s, whether it was making sure I had a drink or telling a guy I was too good for them, to take a hike. I started taking any guy I dated into McGillin’s so John and Chris Mullins would tell me what they thought. (And they never held back their opinions.) Fast forward to 2022, I have been married for almost 5 years and both John and Chris were invited to my wedding. Clearly, they approved of my husband. My friendship with John has only grown deeper over the years. About a year and a half ago I turned 40, in the middle of Covid. Instead of going to Vegas with my friends, I had some friends at my parents’ house in Sea Isle. Guess who the surprise guest was? John Doyle 🙂” Everyone enjoying a pint, a drink, a happy hour cocktail at McGillin’s — tell John that Michele sent us, and maybe he’ll dance at your wedding, too. Thanks for sharing your story (and John) with all of us, Michele. * I can’t help but think if I meet him at the bar, I’ll go “Hey, what’s your name?” and he’ll whip a hand towel over his shoulder and say “Doyle. John Doyle.” Like he’s an international bartender of mystery or something. Also, if you want a nice bite to go with your toddy and you want to feel good about it, there’s a special Women, Whiskey & More Happy Hour at the ol’ Ember & Ash (Wednesday, Mar 30th; 1520 E. Passyunk Ave. Philadelphia, PA 19147), which has made a fine go of it over there in East Passyunk despite opening during the heart of the pandemic in 2020. They’re closing out Women’s History Month with a special menu and special cocktails; now all they need is someone special like you. Proceeds will benefit Women Against Abuse, a Philadelphia nonprofit whose mission is to provide quality, compassionate and non-judgmental service to those affected by violence. WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE BARTENDER IN THE CITY AND WHY? Email me and we can tell them you sent us. Got it?mAnd now — guess what time it is? Well, actually, first there’s … WEDNESDAY MARCH 30 PHILLY THEATRE WEEK KICK-OFF Join the theatre community on the rooftop garden of the Kimmel Cultural Campus to kick off the 5th annual Philly Theatre Week! See preview scenes, songs and interactive performances from participating Philly Theatre Week companies for Theatre Philadelphia’s first in-person event since 2020! Philly Theatre Week Kick-Off; Wed March 30, 5 p.m., Hamilton Garden at the rooftop of the Kimmel Cultural Campus, 300 S. Broad St., Philadelphia, PA 19102


Southern Avenue

Marrying gospel, blues and righteous R&B, the band Southern Avenue brings their Memphis-flavored soul to Philly for one night only. The Grammy-nominated collective is on a nationwide mission to show you how to “be the love you want.” * They may be one of the coolest-looking blues bands this side of Gangstagrass. Southern Avenue; Thurs March 31, 8 p.m., City Winery Philadelphia (Main Stage), 990 Filbert St., Philadelphia, PA 19107



Nerdy By Nature

Let your geek flag fly and come as you are or in your most amazing cosplay gear. Do something awesome on stage or watch a variety of awesome like-minded folk get down; the choice is yours! Get your comics and watch some comics, musicians, creatives who are “nerdy by nature.” * The organizer is comedian Keith From Up Da Block. Go to any neighborhood in Philly and start yelling “Keith! Yo, Keith!” He coming. Nerdy By Nature; Fri April 1, 8 p.m., Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse, 2578 Frankford Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19125; BYOB; 21+ w/ ID



Philly Theater Week! Friday April 1st Through Sunday April 10th

Philly Theatre Week is back! Philly Theatre Week (PTW) is Theatre Philadelphia’s 10-day celebration of artists, organizations and audiences that have made Greater Philadelphia one of the most vibrant theatre regions in the nation. Audiences will have an opportunity to try unique events from our theatre community through a choice of dozens of in-person, virtual, outdoor and non-traditional productions, readings and much more! * I love live theater. Years ago (when the pepper outnumbered the salt on my head tenfold), I worked with Ekklesia Theater Ministry in West Oak Lane and Mount Airy teaching theater basics to children 6-15; I miss Kids In Theaterland. I performed in productions and on stages all over the city. Broadway does splendor but nothing gets LIVE like a stage of brotherly love. Philly Theatre Week, presented by Theatre Philadelphia; Friday, April 1 through Monday, April 10; for information about the multiple productions and venues, visit theatrephiladelphia.orgg Now, I can’t give you their entire PTW Guide, but these are a few of the items that I highlighted in mine. I think there are something like 70-80 productions going on this week. I’m gonna be up till 5.99 in the morning!

PTW: Community Capital: An Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience

We speak ourselves into existence. But, what happens when others of the world silence your tones to cacophony their worth? An intersectional poetic self-guided expedition of sound and unearthing through the streets of South Philadelphia curated and written by TS Hawkins* & Lois Moses. * TS Hawkins is dope AF. Community Capital: An Afrofuturism South Philly Walking Experience; April 1 thru April 10; Visit for details

PTW: The Alchemist

What do you do when your boss goes on vacation ... in the middle of a pandemic? With the master away, watch three servants play as they swindle a rogues’ gallery of ridiculous characters out of their cash and their dignity. Written for the reopening of the London theatres after the plague outbreak of 1610, “The Alchemist” is Ben Jonson’s chemistry lesson in comedy. The Alchemist, presented by Quintessence Theatre Group; Fri April 1, 7:30 p.m Sat April 2, 2:00 p.m Sun April 3, 3:00 p.m. Thurs April 7, 7:30 p.m. Sat April 9, 7:30 p.m The Sedgwick Theater, 7137 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19119

PTW: Lady Day at Emerson's

Bar & Grille

Curio Theatre Company presents Lanie Robertson's critically acclaimed play, starring beloved company member and Barrymore Award winner Ebony Pullum. The play explores the life of legendary jazz singer Billie Holiday during one of her final performances in Philadelphia Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill; Fri April 1, Sat April 2, Thurs April 7, 8 p.m.; Sat April 9, 3 p.m., 8 p.m., Curio Theatre Company, 4740 Baltimore Ave., Philadelphia, PA

PTW: Catholic Guilt

Do you also find Jesus’ naked body on the cross super sexy? We dive into that and much more such as: losing our virginity in the most holy way, the "A" word, cosmic bowling experiences leading to impure behavior, and the list goes on. Blending stand-up, improv and your sinful audience participation, “Catholic Guilt” examines the power of religion and the affect it can have on one's psyche. Catholic Guilt; Fri April 1 and 8, 8 p.m., Franky Bradley's, 1320 Chancellor St., Philadelphia, PA 19107

PTW: Settlements

When the resident theatre at a Jewish Community Center commissions a new play about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Jordanian-Jewish playwright, the Center finds itself pulled in conflicting directions. In such polarized times when extreme voices threaten to pull an institution (or a

country) off its foundation, how does one hold onto the center? Settlements, presented by InterAct Theatre Company; Fri April 1 and 8, 8 p.m.; Sat April 2 and 9, 2 p.m., 8 p.m.; Sun April 3 and 10, 2 p.m., 8 p.m.; Wed April 6, 7 p.m., The Drake Theatre, 302 S. Hicks St., Philadelphia, PA 19102

PTW: Backing Track

In this new play by acclaimed satirist R. Eric Thomas, a change is in the air for a family after an unexpected loss. Mel, mother of Avery and Jessica, tries to reclaim her place in a gentrified neighborhood while her kids learn firsthand how to balance their own lives. Praised by LinManuel Miranda as “one of the funniest writers,” R. Eric Thomas’s play contemplates what it means to start over again. Backing Track; Fri April 1 and 8, 8 p.m.; Sat April 2 and 9, 2 p.m., 8 p.m.; Sun April 3, 2 p.m.; Wed April 6, 2 p.m., 6:30 p.m.; Thurs April 7, 7 p.m.; Sun April 10, 2 p.m., 7 p.m., Arcadia Stage at Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106

PTW: The Nichos Community Project

A multidisciplinary theater performance, highlighting Mexican immigrants striving to preserve their languages and traditions through workshops, research and oral histories involving Aztec dance, fandango, poetry and many more elements that preserve and elucidate

their Mexican identity. The Nichos Community Project; Sat April 2, 7:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m., Esperanza Arts Center, 4261 N. 5th St., Philadelphia, PA 19140

PTW: Study Hall: Comedy Inspired By Lectures

This long-running comedy show mixes real lectures with improv comedy as guests from all walks of life lecture on a topic they are familiar with, after which a cast of amazing improvisers will use what they learned (or didn't learn) to create hilarious scenes right before your eyes! Whether you were the class president or the class clown — you will love Study Hall! * Shameless plug — I will be one of the lecturers, along with my co-host on the Micheaux Mission podcast, Vincent Williams. We’ll be talking about Black iconography in pop culture; make something funny of that, I dare ya! Study Hall: Comedy Inspired By Lectures; Sat April 2, 7 p.m., Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19147

PTW: No Diggity: Improv Inspired By Old School Hip Hop and R&B No Diggity host Tia Kemp curates a playlist of oldschool hip hop and R&B music videos that inspire the hilarious scenes. Audience members will be quizzed on their old-school knowledge. The only show in Philly Theatre Week with “and usher and Usher!” Presented by Crossroads

Comedy Theater. * I have a dear friend who was put on this earth 40-odd years ago just so she could be alive at this moment. No Diggity: Improv Inspired By Old School Hip Hop and R&B; Sun April 3, 8 p.m., Theatre Exile, 1340 S. 13th S., Philadelphia, PA 19147


downs, minor tragedy or broad comedy that go to make up the day-to-day life of this essentially healthy and sane family of ex-emigrants. Morning Star; Mon April 4, 7 p.m., Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks St., Philadelphia, PA 19102

PTW: Sophie PTW: Drunk Sucre: A Study Lion Drunk Lion follows an In Sensual alcoholic Lion who spends Performance his days drinking into Via The oblivion in a cantina, until Humanist Gaze he meets Chris, a young Meet Sophie, as she explores her most authentic erotic sensual self as a Black Woman leveraging the erotic as power through a long-form, 45-minute burlesque performance. Part of Cannonball Festival’s Miniball, an eclectic, weeklong performance festival featuring extraordinary shows from risk-taking independent artists that run the gamut from contemporary circus, erotic performance and burlesque to clown and immersive works. * And she’s a Trekkie, too.

foreigner learning how to speak Spanish. The unlikely pair forge an intoxicated bond over life, love and alcohol. Drunk Lion; Fri April 8 and Sat April 9, 8 p.m. Venue is located in South Philadelphia near East Passyunk. Address will be delivered upon reservation; more information available at

Sophie Sucre: A Study in Sensual Performance via the Humanist Gaze; Sun April 3, 8:30 p.m., Mon April 4, 6:30 p.m., Tues April 5, 8 p.m., The Maas Building, 1320 N. 5th St., Philadelphia, PA 19122

PTW: Morning Star TThe World War comes, takes its toll and passes, bringing us up almost to today; and throughout the whole family history of Becky Felderman and her daughters, we are presented in the most entertaining and vivid fashion with the ups and





45 Years Of David

David Lynch may not be everyone’s favorite filmmaker, but he is mine, ever since I first encountered Twin Peaks on VHS as a high school student in 1999, which led to me seeking out the rest of his extraordinary body of work. Lynch’s paintings and his filmography contain worlds of opposites colliding together – beauty and ugliness, menace and comedy – often at the same time. Even though there are things in his work that are deeply strange and difficult to watch, there is also an attitude of almost childlike wonder towards the world and a meticulously observed appreciation of human behavior. Mel Brooks, who produced David Lynch’s second film The Elephant Man, sums it up best. Upon seeing Eraserhead for the first time, Brooks, interviewed for Lynch’s authorized biography/memoir Room to Dream, said that he loved the movie “because it’s all symbols, but it’s real.” Everything in Lynch’s work is there for a purpose, never “weird for weirds sake.” Watching his movies, you get the sense that even if you may not understand exactly what is happening in the moment, what you’re seeing unfold on screen is a pure expression of something deeply, truly, personally felt by the director. Interviewed by Chris Rodley for the book Lynch on Lynch, David said, “The world we live in is a world of opposites. And the trick is to reconcile those opposing things. I've always liked both sides. In order to appreciate one, you have to know the other. The more darkness you can gather up, the more light you can see too.” Describing his idyllic small-town childhood for the same book, Lynch said the world he grew up in was “Middle America as it's supposed to be. But on the cherry tree there's this pitch oozing out – some black, some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over it. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world, there are always red ants underneath. Because I grew up in a perfect world, other things were a contrast.” Nothing was a bigger contrast to the “perfect world” of Lynch’s childhood than the time he spent living in Philadelphia, from 1965-1970. After several attempts at art school, Lynch was somewhat adrift until his childhood friend Jack Fisk suggested he should join him at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The neighborhood Lynch lived in, now affectionately known as “the Eraserhood,” was blighted by abandoned factories and violent crime. He met his first wife, artist Peggy Reavey, while living in Philly, and it was here they married and had a daughter, Jennifer Lynch, who has also become an acclaimed director. In a 2012 interview for Philadelphia Weekly, Peggy Reavey recalled that David “was terrified, but at the same time he loved it. There were some scary times, but it was a very creative time, too.” It was while at PAFA that Lynch’s painting underwent a breakthrough, which led to him creating his first “moving painting,” Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times) in 1967. This was followed by the four-minute short film The Alphabet in 1968, and then the thirty-three-minute film The Grandmother in 1970, both of which were filmed in Philadelphia. The Grandmother caught the attention of the American Film Institute, which led to David Lynch moving to Los Angeles and where he would spend five years creating his first feature film Eraserhead. It became a successful midnight movie and brought Lynch enormous attention. John Waters told his Pink Flamingos audiences to go see it. Stanley Kubrick said it was his favorite film and screened it for the cast and crew of The Shining to show them the kind of mood he wanted to create. Eraserhead is a deeply personal vision that channels Lynch’s experiences of Philadelphia into an unsettling urban nightmare that ends in a scene of unexpected beauty and transcendence. When Mel Brooks saw it, he told the director, “You’re a madman! I love you!” Although it has now been over fifty years since David Lynch lived in Philadelphia, the city


made a deep imprint on him and has reverberated through nearly every work he has made in his career. Sometimes the Philly connections are concrete: In Eraserhead, one character lives at a house numbered 2416, the address of one of the several houses Lynch lived in. One of the other places he lived was opposite a morgue, and Lynch recalled watching the body bags being washed out and then hung up to dry outside, looking like “smiling bags of death.” This exact image would show up in Twin Peaks over twenty years later, and the characters of FBI agents Dale Cooper, Gordon Cole, and Albert Rosenfeld all hail from the Philadelphia office, with several scenes taking place there. The city’s influence is also resonant in physical locations: the bleak factory neighborhood of Eraserhead, the Industrial Revolution backdrop of Victorian London in The Elephant Man, the logging industry towns featured in Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, and the wintry factory world of Łódź, Poland is a pivotal location in INLAND EMPIRE. More than all this, though, it is the mood and feeling Lynch experienced while living in Philadelphia that has echoed through his body of work – a sensation of fear and violence, a world spinning out of control populated by characters who are trying to either find their own balance or perpetuating the chaos, with sudden moments of extraordinary joy and humor amongst the darkness and oddity of life. As one character muses in Lynch’s Palme d’Or winning 1990 film Wild at Heart, “This whole world is wild at heart and weird on top,” an assessment that also feels descriptive of the city of Philadelphia and its unique, rebellious spirit. David Lynch said in the 2016 documentary The Art Life: “Philadelphia was just perfect to spark things…It was so good for me. Even though I lived in fear, it was thrilling to the live the art life in Philadelphia at that time.” Philadelphia has embraced David Lynch back: the Eraserhood has many events that celebrate the neighborhood and his association with it, and during the 2019 Philly Fringe Festival, theater company The Antidote had a sold-out hit with the devised play Red Lodge, Montana, created as a love letter to Lynch’s filmography and performed in the basement of the Bok building, which was an abandoned high school locker room. At the start of the pandemic, David Lynch began his own YouTube channel, David Lynch Theater, where he has released several film projects as well as a daily weather report and a daily lucky number. Given that Lynch resides in Los Angeles, the weather reports almost always predict “blue skies and golden sunshine!” For an artist whose canvasses and films are filled with darkness, it surprises many people that David Lynch the person comes across as serene. Lynch began practicing Transcendental Meditation in 1973 and has spoken about how it changed his outlook on life and made it easier for him to “catch ideas” and let go of negative emotions, which he has said are “the enemy of creativity.” In 2005, he created the David Lynch Foundation, a non-profit organization to bring the teachings of TM to at-risk youth, war veterans, prison inmates, and those experiencing homelessness. Especially in our current world, it’s an organization devoted to positive change. On the day that I was scheduled to interview David Lynch for this article – March 16, 2022, three days before the 45th anniversary of the 1977 premiere of Eraserhead – I watched his “Today’s Number Is…” and the number he pulled was seven. A little later I was rewatching an episode of Twin Peaks: The Return, in which a pivotal character is revealed to work at the Lucky 7 Insurance Agency. As Special Agent Dale Cooper once said, “When two separate events occur simultaneously pertaining to the same object of inquiry, we must always pay strict attention.” [The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.]







Photos Courtesy Of The Criterion Collection

JH: The first question I’d like to ask is what brought you to Philadelphia originally? DL: To go to the [Pennsylvania] Academy of Fine Arts. JH: What was Philadelphia like when you first arrived? DL: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was…a hellhole. It was filled with fear, and corruption, and it was filthy, there was soot on the buildings and there was a lot of kind of insanity and a feeling in the air that was very uneasy. But it was the greatest place for me, and I just loved it. And it was my biggest inspiration, this city of Philadelphia. JH: What do you think it was about the atmosphere of Philadelphia at the time that became so inspiring for you and your work? DL: Just what I said. The way the buildings were, the mood of the place, all these things feed into us, and our environment affects us a lot, and it sort of crept into me and like I said it made a huge impression and influence. And I always say – people say, “what was your greatest influence” and I always say, “the city of Philadelphia.” It a unique city. They say it’s a little New York but it’s way different. The way the architecture is and the wood and the colors and the proportions of the buildings, along with the mood, and the people, and the kind of corruption feeling in the air, it was just, you know, unique. Fantastic. JH: It was while you were at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, I believe, that you had the first instance of looking at one of your paintings and seeing movement there. Could you tell me a little bit about that? DL: First of all, all I ever wanted to be since I was in the ninth grade was a painter. So, I ended up at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and at that time the school had, in one of the big rooms they had proportioned off little cubicles. I mostly painted where I lived – I lived with my friend Jack Fisk and a guy named Richard Childers at 13th and Wood – but I also had a little cubicle in one of the big studio rooms at the Academy. And I was in there one night, and I was painting a picture of a garden at night. It had a lot of black and this green kind of coming out of the black, and I sat back, probably to take a smoke, looking at this painting, and I suddenly heard a wind coming from the painting, and the green started to move. And I thought, “Oh, a moving painting.” And that experience led to cinema. JH: I read in Room to Dream that when you were living in Philadelphia with your first wife, Peggy Reavey, that there was a blue velvet sofa that you had in your house that you both loved but weren’t able to take with you. Was that sofa a piece of what led to Blue Velvet for you? DL: No. I don’t even know if it was velvet, the couch, it might have been. It was absolutely beautiful. It was very long, that couch was longer than most couches and it was in pristine condition. It had this real minimal, very dark beautiful wood and not like filagree, just pure. And we got this couch at Goodwill, and in those days this Goodwill was like if you had died and went to heaven to be in this Goodwill. If I needed a shirt, I’d go there, and they had long racks of beautiful shirts organized by size and make. And I could go through and find – I found three shirts that I loved that were like brand new, starched, clean, perfect shirts. I took them to the counter and laid them on the counter and I said, “How much?” And they said, “Thirty cents.” So, you could get in this Goodwill, things that would curl your hair. Unbelievable, beautiful things, for almost nothing. I got so many fantastic lamps, and I got the furniture, just on and on and on. You’d go in there and you’d just go crazy. The wealthy out in the Main Line were giving away the stuff, and the Goodwill’s now are completely different but in those days that Goodwill was so special. That’s where that couch came from, and it was a beauty. I think it cost twenty dollars but was probably, in those days, I don’t know how much it was, but it was a very expensive couch that we got for twenty dollars. JH: You’ve spoken in the past about how Eraserhead is your Philadelphia Story, and

watching it, to me it really does capture the feel of Philadelphia, even though of course the city’s changed a lot, but there are still pockets of it that are very much that. For you – and you might not want to say this – but for you is Eraserhead set in Philadelphia or is it its own world? DL: It’s its own world, really, but inspired totally by Philadelphia. JH: When you had your exhibition a few years ago at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, was that the first time you’d been back to Philadelphia since the early days? DL: I was back once before that. But on that trip, when I had my show at the Academy, I realized once again what a great city Philadelphia is. And the people were so great. So, I was so happy to have that show there and get reacquainted with Philadelphia. It’s just…it’s a great city. JH: When you were in Philadelphia for that trip I saw you at the Free Library of Philadelphia, and you said something that has really meant a lot to me as an artist: “As a director, you owe it to yourself to stay true to the idea you fell in love with.” Philadelphia is still a city that is filled with artists of all kinds, and a city that really embraces you and your work. What advice would you have for the artists of Philadelphia today? DL: What you just said, “Stay true to the idea.” Ideas are the thing. An idea tells you what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it. We’re nothing without an idea, we wouldn’t know what to do without an idea. Even saying, “I would like some coffee,” that’s an idea, and it leads you to go get some coffee. It’s like a thought, or an idea, is so important. And when you get an idea that you fall in love with, that is a beautiful gift to you. And so, you see the idea, and if it’s a cinema idea you hear it, you feel it, you know it, you write it down, so you won’t forget it, and then you translate that idea to cinema. And you stay true to that idea, every element, you check back with the idea. “Is this right? Is this the same feeling as that idea? Am I doing it right? Is this thing right? Is this thing right?” And you keep checking back with the idea, and you let the idea guide you, and then you have the thing. Stay true to the idea and enjoy the doing. Enjoy the doing. And in this world that is so filled with stress and torment these days, a lot of times it’s difficult to find that bubble of happiness inside that allows you to enjoy the moment to moment enjoying of your work. And so, I always tell people to practice Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Learn this technique – it takes about four days, about an hour and a half a day, and you’ve got the technique for the rest of your life – and you meditate twice a day, twenty minutes in the morning and twenty minutes in the afternoon, and then go about your business and watch things get very, very, very good. You get happier, you get more intelligence, more creativity, more love, more energy, and more inner peace. And the negative things you’ve been packing up inside start to dissipate and evaporate, giving you tremendous freedom. Gold will start coming in from within, and negativity garbage will start going out, and you’ll have a great, great time in life catching ideas, and realizing those ideas, and be happy in the doing. JH: Thank you so much, Mr. Lynch. And just finally I wanted to say you have been one of the biggest influences on my artistic life. I want to thank you, in particular, for telling the story of Laura Palmer. That has meant a great deal to me and to so many other people, and thank you for all of your stories, both in cinema and on canvas. And speaking with you today has been one of the great honors of my life. Thank you so very much. DL: Bless your heart, Josh! It was good talking to you, man! All the best to you and all the best to Philadelphia! Stay weird and wonderful, Philadelphia. I think David Lynch would be very proud of us.






hen I think about Philadelphia, I associate this city with certain things. They’re things I was taught about, things that are celebrated and used in logos and on souvenirs. I could name at least five places that are known for their cheesesteaks, but I never knew that Philadelphia is home to Carousel House, the first city-funded disability rec center in the country. Construction was completed in 1987, and now, at the tender age of 35 years old, it is being demolished. All of this time, we had the first city-funded disability rec center in the country, and many are only hearing about it now as it’s set to be demolished. It feels like something that should’ve been celebrated city-wide, something that should’ve been the blueprint for all other facilities in the city. We often don’t hear or know about places unless they directly affect us or someone around us. Why are places as important as this not on everyone’s radar? I initially heard about Carousel House on a podcast episode of BEN Around Philly, hosted by Kristen Hermann, a radio DJ for BenFM. Her cousin, Xavier Ray, 15, has an L1 complete spinal cord injury and has played for Katie’s Komets for seven years. Katie’s Komets is a co-ed wheelchair basketball team for kids with physical disabilities in elementary school through high school ( After closing Carousel House for two years during the pandemic, Parks and Rec decided it would be better to demolish and rebuild, a process that is often very time consuming. Katie’s Komets no longer has a place to practice or host the 24th annual Katie Kirlin Junior Wheelchair Basketball Tournament, which has always been at Carousel House. “It’s horrible, you know. As a supervisor, I had the second-longest tenure. It’s known all over the country, especially for wheelchair sports,” said Stu Greenberg, who was the director there for 11 years and started the Junior Wheelchair Basketball league. “The Parks and Rec department was great in finding us a suitable place to hold the tournament,” said Roseann Kirlin, who started the Katie Kirlin Fund with her husband Joe, in memory of their daughter Katie and her achievements in wheelchair athletics. “They secured the High School of the Future and the staff that always worked the tournaments.” To hear how amazing Carousel House was, all you have to do is speak to anyone who was involved. “Almost every night they had a different activity — line dancing, arts and crafts, sports, you name it. The Carousel House was a place where everyone was able to live their authentic lives, where everyone was safe, supported and celebrated, and that is invaluable,” said Joe. As long as it was open, Joe and Roseann were involved. Over the years, they have provided grants to athletes to purchase wheelchairs specially designed for racing and basketball, sponsored various wheelchair sporting events and provide lodging and travel expenses for Katie’s Komets. The Parks and Rec Department said the building needed a new roof, HVAC system and dehumidification system, plus other repairs to the steel structure and the pool. “They say there was a meeting, but none of the people who were around for so long were invited,” said Joe. “It’s sad, none of us were asked to attend the meeting,” said Stu. “They made the decision without any input from anyone in that community,” said Joe. It feels like classic ableism. If you don’t know what that word means, allow Access Living to explain: “Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as ‘less than,’ and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities.” Ableism is inherent in most of society. It’s rare to find a place that is so perfectly the opposite of that, and it really does seem like Carousel House was that place. “I know every building in the district. As it stands, Carousel House is in the top 25


Photo: Michelle Ray



USEL HOUSE percent,” said Stu, who made multiple repair requests over the years. “They weren’t met because they needed capital interest.” Joe and Roseann offered to raise the money. “When we heard they were planning on demolishing, they said they needed $1 million to make the repairs without knocking it down. We offered to raise that money, but they said it was impossible,” says Roseann Kirlin. It doesn’t seem impossible at all in a day and age where a guy making potato salad raised close to $60,000 on GoFundMe. “Parents felt safe dropping their kids off for two hours at Carousel House. That’s invaluable. Parks and Rec were so proud of it and said it took them 35 years to get it right. Now they’re knocking it down,” said Joe Kirlin. Parks and Rec promised to relocate all of the programming in the interim, which they list on their website. “Parks and Rec have been helpful with finding new locations, but it was harder to find a spot for wheelchair basketball,” said Michele Ray, mother of Xavier. “They showed us some accessible places, but you have to think about parking. Carousel House had plenty of parking. You have to think about accessibility and getting the wheelchairs out. You need that space between.” Joe and Roseann chimed in that some of the spaces Parks and Rec found had rubber floors, which are unusable for wheelchair basketball, or pillars that would prevent the kids from moving freely. “Parks and Rec found us Pelbano Rec Center at 8101 Bustleton Ave., but they needed to put in a wooden floor,” says Beth Cooke, whose daughter Caroline, 14, has spina bifida and has played for Katie’s Komets for 5 years. They had their first practice at the Pelbano Rec Center on March 22nd. There will always be oversights or things we’re simply not aware of unless they affect us or someone we know. Details like the ones mentioned above seem like they should’ve been factored into the decision of demolishing Carousel House. “The kids of Katie’s Komets need storage because they can’t drag two chairs to practice every week. Carousel House had a shed for storage, but not many other places do,” said Roseann. “In the wheelchair basketball community, people do travel far. We’ll meet people who live in Montana and they’ll have to drive 6 hours to practice, where I can’t complain driving three and a half,” said Beth, who drove Caroline up to New York to go to practices during the pandemic. This dedication is what parents do when their kids love something. “What Katie’s Komets has given us … the only thing available to us in South Jersey were Challenger Sports,” said Michele. Challenger Athletics’ mission is to establish sports programs for people with both physical and learning disabilities. “The kids ended up growing and they kept playing Xavier with the little kids so he didn’t get hurt. We started looking and found the Komets and we were welcome right away. Through that, he started making friends with similar disabilities.” By the time the new building is complete, many of the current players of Katie’s Komets will be in college. Because of Carousel House, individuals were able to find their passion and community. They flourished and accomplished great things. “Twenty kids went on to college basketball and we had one Paralympian racer, Amanda McGrory, who won multiple gold medals,” said Joe Kirlin. “Xavier is a sophomore, Caroline is a freshman, and they’re starting to look for colleges. They want to play wheelchair basketball in college, lots of kids on the team do,” said Beth. “Charlotte, NC is the most accessible city in the



U.S. Those are things we’re looking for. All of our kids go to school, and they are the only wheelchair users in the school or one of two,” said Michele. “Xavier is looking to go to school with a wheelchair community.” When Carousel House was created it was state-of-the-art, but through the years there are certain aspects that have become dated. “It wasn’t nice,” said Beth. “We were the Bad News Bears of Basketball because we’d go down and we’ll play in Baltimore or we’ll play in VA and some of their facilities are really nice,” Michele chimed in. “But I have to say we love Carousel House because it was ours.” Through Carousel House, Caroline was able to play basketball with female Paralympians. “That was a really special moment, to see my daughter playing with all women,” said Beth. Sports can be a male-dominated area, so creating these opportunities is amazing and important. Community is not something that’s built into schools, workplaces or extracurricular activities for everyone. “Sure, this building is going to be wonderful, Photo: Michelle Ray but it’s been almost a year. It’s still in the design phase and not final,” said Roseann. “The Zoom meeting last week showed us options, and all disabilities were represented to give their input.” An inevitable part of life is change, and hopefully, through that change, progress. Some of us can easily find options if one is eliminated, but it’s not true for everyone. When a decision affects the only option that exists for so many, they should absolutely be included in that decision. We must all strive for an inclusive and accessible society across the board, and make ourselves aware of the needs of others before deciding what is best for them. The entire city should be paying attention to the progress of Carousel House and the City of Philadelphia Parks and Rec system-wide inclusion plan. Additional info: Katie’s Komets is always looking for new players! If you or someone you know has a physical disability and is in elementary through high school, you can reach out to You can donate to Katie’s Komets through the NWBA Return To Play campaign here. Donations go towards tires and tubes ($75), cushions ($400), wheels ($700), registration ($1,000), wheelchairs ($4,000) and trips to Nationals ($10,000). If you have questions or want to take part in the community engagement process for the new Carousel House facility, please email If you have questions about new accessible locations to host programs and permitted activities, please email






THIS NEW WEST PHILLY ETHIOPIAN CAFE OFFERS CULINARY FAVORITES, ALONG WITH AN ATMOSPHERE THAT MATCHES THE NEIGHBORHOOD’S COLLECTIVE SPIRIT The days have started to stretch longer, and I am ready — as so many of us are — to linger in the warm evenings with the ones I love. Buna Cafe takes its name from a community-oriented coffee-making ceremony, involving three cups of meticulously roasted, ground and brewed beans. First, Arbol. Second, Tona. Third, Bereka, known as “one for the road.” I invite my husband and two friends who don’t know each other to eat with me at Buna; by the end of our meal, we leave our table with a sweetness that I know will nourish us at least until our next meeting. We are never rushed at Buna. Though one of us is later than the rest, our server tells us to take our time. We are sitting on the sidewalk on Baltimore Ave., under a wooden awning laced with string lights. I have a sense we could wait here forever. When our friend comes, we order our drinks, alongside samosas, some beef, some chicken. The pom breeze, a refreshing mix of pomegranate juice, mango nectar and fresh lime, pops with Thai basil. The home blend shai, cream stewed with black pepper, cloves, cardamom, thyme and cinnamon, carries an edge of spice, but shares the sugary quality of the pom breeze. Both accentuate, while softening, the heat from the crisp samosas. We dip our appetizers into fragrant berbere, which, in the CounterJam podcast episode “Injera Etiquette,” host Peter J. Kim calls the “culinary fingerprint of each family,” or, in this case, each Ethiopian restaurant. Our server lets us take our time as we consider what to order. In that same CounterJam episode chef Serkaddis Alemu comments that the food she ate was eighty percent “heavy vegetables and grains,” partially because of her religious background. Chef Marcus Samuelsson is in agreement, calling it a “largely vegetarian cuisine.” I defer to their guidance, ordering a vibrant vedge combo with khik, a yellow split pea; fasolia, a string bean and carrot stir-fry; and kaye shir, red beets with yellow potatoes. I choose shiro (chickpeas) over misir (red lentils), per Samuelsson’s point that shiro is the “mother” of the food, the “foundation.” Still, some of my companions or-


Photo: Jessica Yang

der the famous doro wot, with warming sauce and tender meat, and chicken tibs, which are perfumed with jalapeños and onions. We appreciate the textures on our plate, the layers of flavor, and though the food is not communal — we eat on separate plates — we enjoy reaching over the table and tasting each other’s orders.

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Photo: Jessica Yang

At last, we are ready to order dessert, and I turn to our server. He starts to list what is on offer, falters with a smile, and then shakes his head.


“Just come inside,” he tells me. “Come see for yourself.” He invites me inside less as a customer and more as a friend, and he laughs when I order one of each dessert, just how someone I really know would. The tiramisu ends the meal coolly, smooth and light with a subtle hint of coffee. The baklava provides an equal share of crunch and flake. The chocolate cake, while drier, satisfies a need for cocoa. In the end, I swear, this is how a meal should be: the flavor built not only through a deft chef’s hand, but also through the experience of the night. West Philly boasts many favorites when it comes to Ethiopian restaurants, and it is hard to ask anyone to try out a new spot. There is always someone who will tell you that they love the way a certain place prepares their collard greens or their shiro. There is community in loyalty, too. As Buna reminds us, though, there is always room for each other.

Buna Cafe, 5121 Baltimore Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143

Photo: Eshani Surya





THE END OF THE WORLD AS ERIK J. BROWN KNOWS IT When it comes to reading about the end of the world, whether we’re in a dystopia, a post-apocalyptic setting or in the pre-apocalypse, there can be something so wildly comforting to be found there, when it’s done well. I know, I know. How can reading about the end of mankind feel like a snuggly blanket? Well, from novels like Emily St. John Mandel’s acclaimed “Station Eleven” to local author Chuck Wendig’s epic “Wanderers,” stories set when the world is crumbling apart often allow us to see humanity at its best … even while facing down the worst. That’s one of the many reasons we’re drawn to stories about the end. And one of the reasons you’ll love Erik J. Brown’s debut. Because while “All That’s Left in the World” is a novel about the end of the world, it’s also a glorious story about new beginnings and finding hope.

mystery and romance in the speculative novel, creating something that’s so wildly riveting, and truly one of the best debuts publishing this year. And yes, I know it’s March. It’s that good, that I’m confident enough in saying that. We chatted a bit with Brown about his book, life in Philadelphia and the challenges working on book about a pandemic in, well, a pandemic.

PW: “All That's Left in the World” published just a few weeks ago. A wildly moving post-apocalyptic novel about a pathogen that's killed a vast amount of the population ... I have to ask, how has it been, working on a book about a pandemic given everything that’s going on? Erik: TERRIBLE! 0 out of 10, would not recommend. The book was written well before the pandemic, but my agent and I decided we would try to sell it at the beginning of 2020 and it sold on Friday March 13, 2020 — the Friday before Philly’s shutdown. Editing the book during 2020 was so challenging and there were times I was expecting my publishers to say, “This pandemic has gotten worse than we imagined, and we’re pulling the plug on your book.” And a few times I kind of wanted them to!

A local real estate agent and Temple grad, Erik J. Brown enjoys spending his non-writing days at his home in Mt. Airy, fussing over his potentially haunted house with his husband. Written long before the very non-fictional pandemic spread across our world, “All That’s Left in the World” was acquired by Balzer + Bray (an imprint of HarperCollins) in 2020 and published just this month. Set in a future not too far away, a deadly disease has killed off almost the entirety of the planet. Readers meet Andrew and Jamie, two teens struggling to survive in this brutal new world, living in fear of not just the virus, but of other people. Because if there’s anything post-apocalyptic books and movies have taught us, it’s that when the world goes south, some people will do anything to survive. Including turn on one another. The two boys are forced to flee across the countryside in hopes of finding more people like them, who are holding on and supporting one another, but along the way truths start to bubble to the surface — and not just their feelings for each other, but elements from their past that threaten to tear them apart. The result is just this really expert blend of humor and heart, set across a desolate landscape dotted with hope. Brown drops in elements of


But there are so many parts of the book that are funny and hopeful, that really helped get through the editing. I think I even managed to add more humor because I needed that while I was working on it. And now that readers are giving it a chance many have said reading it is actually cathartic.

Photo: Jennifer Buhl

PW: I've always felt like there was a lot of hope in reflecting a stark reality through fiction, and that's something you do so well here, with these teens who find love during the end of the world. Why is that sort of message important to you?

Erik: This was especially important because I’m telling a queer love story. Growing up queer is always difficult, but the last six years or so, things have been getting increasingly worse for queer people. Books with



AN ASTONISHING APOCALYPTIC DEBUT FROM A BOLD NEW LOCAL TALENT queer characters are getting banned, marriage equality could once again be going before a conservative Supreme Court, there’s legislation being passed to target trans youth and their families. Seeing this happen on a daily basis is so damaging to queer youth because everything seems so hopeless. There are millions of people fighting for them and still things seem so heavy.


I loved Beautiful World Syndicate but I think their storefront on East Passyunk was a victim of COVID closures and they haven’t reopened. However! They are still up and running on Discogs under Philadelphiamusic.

I wanted to write a story where things have gotten the absolute worst, and yet these two characters can still find each other. They can still have hope and fall in love. Even at the end of the world. And they choose to fight for each other, for a better life together. And what else are we all fighting for if not hope for a better life?

I also loved crate digging just outside the city at Vinyl Closet Records in Norristown. I bought a tongue-incheek, spoken-word Vincent Price record from them about witchcraft and demons that’s so funny, and one of the most bizarre records in my collection.

PW: “All That's Left in the World” is your debut; can you tell us a little bit about what you’re up to next?

PW: What have you read lately that you loved, that you’d want our readers to pick up?

Erik: The good news is my next book has 100% less apocalypse! I pitched it as “‘Empire Records’ in an old folks’ home.” It’s a YA based on my after-school job as a server at a retirement community in Delco. It was a wonderful job and, like the characters in “Empire Records,” we were all such different people but we became friends because of where we worked. It was such a bizarre environment filled with quirky characters. I’m excited for people to meet the fictionalized versions who are even more quirky!

PW: You went to Temple! You're a Philadelphian! Where do you go to find inspiration in the city? Erik: My neighborhood! My partner and I live in Mt. Airy and it’s such a wonderful, diverse neighborhood. It really is a special place with plenty of community support. Even during the beginning of the pandemic neighbors were sending out email chains to each other with ways to support the local shops. I’m really so proud to live here. PW: And as a self-proclaimed vinyl record collector, where in Philadelphia do you like to go to rummage? Any hot spots?


Erik: “A Little Bit Country” by Brian D. Kenney (about two gay teens falling in love at a Dollywood-esque theme park), “The Loophole” by Naz Kutub (a gay Muslim teen on a globetrotting adventure with a drunk genie and three unreliable wishes to find his missing ex-boyfriend), “Every Variable of Us” by Charles A. Bush (a West Philly basketball star’s hopes of a scholarship are ruined when she’s injured in a drive-by shooting; but she finds hope, and love, in the most unlikely place: the school’s STEM team), “Boys I Know” by Anna Gracia (an Asian-American high schooler figuring out the difference between sex and love), and “Seoulmates” by Susan Lee (a girl who spent most of her life trying to shun the Korean side of her identity while embracing the American side is reunited with her former best friend, who is now a K-Drama star).

All That’s Left in the World is out now with HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray in the U.S., and Hachette in the U.K. You can learn more about Erik J. Brown on his official website, www.

Erik: It’s been so long since I’ve been to a record shop because of COVID! Thank you for reminding me I need to get out and do that again.





Quoth, The Brother: Denzel’s Tear BY LEN WEBB AND VINCENT WILLIAMS



ruth be told, this conversation about Black iconography and what makes an image memorable is just part of one that’s been ongoing for years. The two of us, Len Webb and Vincent Williams, host a movie podcast called “The Micheaux Mission.” Named in honor of Oscar Micheaux, the father of Black cinema, our podcast tagline spells out the mission statement: “Two men, one podcast, every Black film ever made.” Every week since 2015, we watch a movie and we critique that film from the perspective of two Black men. As time has gone by, we find ourselves fixated on aspects of Black film that have transcended the work and penetrated the culture. Lately, we’ve been referring to those images as a “Denzel Tear.” And Denzel’s tear is a great place to start because, man, how powerful is that? It’s a static shot of a young Denzel Washington, baldheaded and expressionless with that one tear streaming down his face. You’ve seen it a million times within the context of memes and jokes over the past few decades. Now, if you’re a bit of a movie buff, you may know that it comes from the 1989 film “Glory,” but have you ever seen the movie? More importantly, as the years go by, does it even matter if you’ve watched it or not? For clarity’s sake: “Glory” is a fictionalized account about the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the Union’s first Black regiment in the Civil War. Denzel Washington plays Silas Trip following his escape from enslavement. In the midst of their training, Trip goes AWOL in an attempt to find supplies that have been denied to the Black soldiers by a racist quartermaster. As punishment for his supposed





desertion, Trip is lashed in front of his compatriots. While, arguably, this is the punishment for desertion, obviously a Black man being whipped by a white man in the midst of the Civil War adds a level of undeniable racialized gravity to the event. Stoically, proudly, angrily, Denzel Washington is silent throughout the whipping. The camera tightens on the character and we see one lone tear falling down his stonily visaged face. And this image is something that has reverberated over the last 30 years to the point that (checks phone) if you search “Denzel tear,” hundreds of images, articles and videos pinpoint that exact moment. So it's a very powerful image, and it’s crazy to think about it, but that image, as powerful as it is, is also the moment where Denzel Washington is no longer a working actor. This is the moment that Denzel Washington becomes a star. Certainly, he had made films before and he had already had a successful career as a television actor, but this is the moment that propels him into winning the best supporting actor Academy Award and, arguably, when he becomes a one name, iconic figure. This is the origin of the icon, Denzel. It’s the “icon” in iconography that we’re interested in. While this is the first snapshot that elevated the actor into memedom royalty, if you will, it certainly wasn’t the last. Many of us express our frustration with work and life by posting the gif of Washington as Malcolm X slamming his fist on a desk. And we certainly can’t be the only ones who thank our friends by sending a picture of “Training Day” corrupt detective Alonzo Harris and his wolfish grin with, uh, a variation of the saying, “my associate of African-American descent” written underneath. Hell, Denzel is so Denzel that a picture of the icon, outside of the context of a movie, in a sweatsuit, rocking a mustache from his role in “The Magnificent Seven,” launched a thousand “old Black man says stuff” jokes. If you’re so inclined to get into the metaphorical weeds of race and image, that last example is where it gets tricky. While it’s one thing to co-opt a picture from a fictional narrative, what is the responsibility of attaching meaning to a shot of the man when he’s not working? How does the concept of ownership inform the meeting of meme and identity? Not to get all “Black Mirror,” but is there some line that we shouldn’t cross as a culture? And what if the lines are super blurry? Less than a year ago, many of us were pretty invested in the complexities of Will Smith’s marriage to Jada Pinkett Smith and the definition of “entanglement.” It stands to reason that a couple’s marriage would be a private affair but, since the two televised an exchange on Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk,” does that mean the image of Smith, red eyed and seemingly deflated, is fair game? And how does race inform this? Ownership of the Black body has been a challenge and subject of debate since before this country was a country. Here’s another question: what did the journey into cultural iconography look like? Again, “Glory” is a film from 1989. Not to put too fine a point on it, but this is decades before the proliferation of images on social media and, hell, years before the average person utilized the internet at all. These images, whether we’re talking about the tear or the various images from “Friday,” all had to survive in the wild before they became fodder. Is there a pattern on the kind of imagery that survived that long? Conversely, without the ready-made medium of Reddit, Instagram, the role of algorithms, influencers, bots, etc., would the images that we trade in on the daily have the same resonance and staying power? And we’re interested in talking about all of these whys. Why does the moment resonate? What does it mean? Why is it important? (Yes, one of the “whys” is a “what” but you know what we mean!) Hopefully, you’ll agree that a picture can be worth (checks word count and tries not to get too distracted by the meta-ness of the words “word count” counting toward the word count …) one thousand words.




SEX IN MY HOU Reader Question: I’ve read a lot about talking to kids about sex, but mostly it’s aimed at people who have small children, so I’m hoping you can help. My husband and I share custody of my 15-year-old daughter with my ex. Generally, we can all get along and our daughter has no doubt she is loved by all of us. About 6 months ago, she started dating a female friend of hers. We were all fine with her dating a girl, but we were forced to have a conversation about knowingly allowing her to have intimacy in our house. They had been friends for a while and had already



had sleepovers when my daughter revealed they were dating. My husband and I agreed that it’s pretty much impossible to prevent a motivated teen from having sex, and that it’s much better to make it safe for her to be honest with us. My ex wasn’t super concerned, although they didn’t stay over at his place together much anyway. A month or so ago our daughter and her girlfriend broke up, which she took pretty hard until she started seeing a boy in the grade ahead of her. She likes him a lot and understandably wants the same privacy with him that she was allowed before. He seems like a nice boy but my husband and my ex are both very opposed to letting him stay the night.

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I don’t know what the right thing to do is here. I’d like to think we’re progressive and raising her to be honest with us and sex-positive, but I can’t get over whatever social programming it is that tells me I should treat this relationship differently. What’s the modern parent supposed to do in this situation?





Photo: Carlos De Toro





Easy slam dunk answers are rare when it comes to parenting, and sex can especially feel like a minefield. You want to be the Cool MomTM, chill in the face of the reality that your teen is queer and sexually active. While you may be completely supportive of her apparent bisexuality, that doesn’t make it any less weird to know that your kid is down the hall knocking boots, especially now that it’s with some dude you met weeks ago. When it comes to the controversy of letting kids have sex in the family home, there are significant considerations, some of which you have already mentioned: -If teens want to engage in sexual acts with each other, they will usually find a way. It’s not unusual for them to turn to semi-public spaces to get frisky. It’s usually more safe — both sexually and generally — inside a home. -The legal age of consent in Pennsylvania is 16, which you probably know is a number that is greater than 15, your daughter’s current age. -They are more likely to get busted having sex in a car or park than they would be in your home. Again — and more importantly — it’s much more dangerous for them in general. -This boy likely also has parents, who probably have their own opinions about this. Hell hath no fury like a parent who believes they should have been told about something. There is a completely cogent argument to be made either way. Plenty of adults look back at their own teenage years and realize that they would have been far better off having an open and honest relationship with their own parents about sex. They recognize that teen relationships are powerful and completely valid, even if they are brief and don’t have the full context of wisdom and experience. They also point out that it’s much easier to make sure condoms and lube are nearby when you’re banging in a bed than the back of a car and that it’s much easier to call for back up (if anything should go hinky consent-wise) if someone else is nearby. Psychiatrist Lea Lis provides pointers to parents about allowing sex in the home, including setting ground rules that all sauciness must happen behind closed doors and with respect for noise levels, and that kids should expect to maintain all their school, family and extracurricular responsibilities. I hope you’re already openly discussing consent, pleasure, STI prevention and contraception with her. As I mentioned, there is a potential legal component to all this because she’s underage. I can’t really encourage anyone to break the law, but when you agreed to let her sleep with her girlfriend, you already took a side on that issue. If you switch up the game now, there better be a very real conversation with her about why — a genuine back and forth discussion — on the rationale for your choices. Otherwise you are quite literally saying that sex with girls doesn’t count and sex with boys is a much bigger deal. Whatever happens, I think it’s fantastic that your daughter has three whole adults who love her so much. If you all work together (and with his parents as well), this can be another piece in the bridge of your open, honest relationship.



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Welcome to Doing Good, Philadelphia Weekly’s nonprofit spotlight. Every week we’re featuring an organization that’s doing good in our community. Every nonprofit gets the same five questions, and every week you get introduced to the people who are making our city better. The nonprofit spotlight is here to shine a light on the helpers, and, who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to get involved, volunteer or donate to an organization you meet here. Today we’re introducing you to one of the most well-known nonprofits in our city, Philabundance, whose mission to tackle the root causes of hunger has made a big impact in Philadelphia.

What is your mission?

Philabundance was founded with the simple belief that no one should go hungry while healthy food goes to waste. Our mission is to drive hunger from our communities today and to end hunger for good. In addition to food distribution, we reduce food waste, increase access to nutritious meals and tackle the root causes of hunger through programs such as the Philabundance Community Kitchen.

How can people get involved?

The faces of hunger are varied and plentiful, and so are the number of ways you can help make a difference in our communities. Here’s how: • Donate One dollar may provide up to two meals to help feed those in need. Philabundance can stretch your dollar further by buying in bulk and directly from manufacturers, allowing us to use your money to help even more of our hungry neighbors. • Volunteer More than 15,000 volunteers saved us $1.5 million in salaries last year. Make a direct impact by generously offering your time to get food into the hands of those who need it most. • Organize a Food Drive One pound of food provides one meal to someone facing hunger. By collecting our most-needed items, including peanut butter and tuna, you’re not just helping provide food, but providing protein-rich, healthy food. • Become a Corporate Partner When your organization supports Philabundance, you can do good, and raise

How have you made a difference?

Philabundance is a proud member of Feeding America, a nationwide network of food banks leading the fight against hunger in the United States. We all know the power of a delicious meal — one that comforts us, nourishes us and connects us with the people we love. Food is a fundamental part of our experience as humans. Sharing food binds us together, strengthens our communities and reinforces our connections with each other. When it comes down to it, food is love. And when we give food to people who need it, we’re sharing the love.

What do you wish people knew about you?

Philabundance has a culinary workforce development program at our Philabundance Community Kitchen. The 16-week life skills and culinary job training program has been transforming the lives of people with low-to-no income since 2000. PCK promotes the self-sufficiency of its students by preparing them


for and connecting them to work in the food service industry and allows them to give back by preparing needed meals for those in need. Another focus of the curriculum is on life skills, which helps students not only secure a job, but provides tools to build a career and a second chance at life. In addition, the program utilizes our production kitchen to train the students as well as provide meals to shelters, seniors and others in our area who need ready-to-eat food. PCK is also a social enterprise that has its own catering component, PCKatering, and is providing an outlet for value-added production to businesses in and around Philadelphia.

Philabundance serves five counties in Pennsylvania: Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, and four counties in New Jersey: Burlington, Camden, Gloucester and Salem.

We see this love in action at Philabundance every day. Our staff members, agency partners, donors and volunteers work together to distribute millions of pounds of food each year. We serve families, children’s programs, senior centers and kitchens across our ninecounty service area, and the people we serve know they can rely on us to provide healthy and satisfying food when they need it. Making sure that every child, family and individual in our community has access to the food they want and need is an expression of our love for our neighbors.


goodwill and visibility for your company. • Advocate 20% of people in our area may go to bed hungry tonight. Make your voice heard through letter- writing, attending events and supporting policies that increase food access for the most vulnerable people in our communities. • Help us drive hunger from our communities Whether you want to become a corporate partner, distribute food to those in need or to other agencies fighting hunger or want to help in another way, we’re always looking for more Hunger Heroes.


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