Friday, October 31, 2008

Miracle in South Philly

The Phillies won!  The curse is over!  My brother Ted has not thrown himself in front of a train!  Now if the Eagles can keep it together...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The 1964 Phillies (a cautionary tale)

I’m going to break from my goals tonight because of the prodding of Bob Thomas. I jetted past the summer of 1964 without acknowledging the greatest Philadelphia Phillies collapse of all time. The Phillies were the only game in town by the ‘60’s. Of course before the Phillies they had shared the city with the Athletics. For decades Connie Mack and the Athletics were the closest thing to baseball glory folks from Philly and the tri state area could brag about. The Phillies were wretched. They even played their games in the shadow of Connie Mack as their stadium was named for the old gentleman.
Connie Mack Stadium was in a ruined part of town. When we went to games my dad would dip into his pocket for a quarter for a neighborhood kid to “watch” our car. Basically extortion money.
The stadium itself was quintessential old school baseball. Dirty, decaying and cool. You were right in the game and the decrepitude of the interior only amplified the beauty of emerging from the runways into the light of day or the glare of the stadium lights. The world was green, white, and brown and the giants of our youth were right there in front of us.
Sadly none of them were on the Philadelphia Phillies. It is a sad measure of their lack of skill that most of us picked other teams to root for during the season. Terry revered the Yankees, my team was my Dad’s team, the Reds, Mick had his beloved Pirates and on and on. Christ Kenny Fell preferred the hapless Mets to the Phillies.
But to continue…in the summer of 1964 the Phillies were in first place for 73 consecutive days. They had a huge lead coming into the final days of the season. This was before wild cards and extra divisions and shit so they were going to the World Series if they could just hold on for a few more games.
They couldn’t. Along with the collapse of the Mets in 2007 there has never been a more ignominious end to a baseball season. Of course Phillie fans knew it would happen. Most loser towns (Chicago for one) accept this as a matter of course. No way their hopes will not be dashed and dashed they were.
My favorite part of this entire train wreck was watching Sally Star on tv coming apart day by day as the Phillies committed more and more bonehead blunders. By the time they’d blown the whole thing it looked as though she was going to have to spend a few weeks in the loony bin.
It wasn’t till I was long out of Wenonah that the Phillies found baseball glory and tonight they’re knocking on the door. Let’s hope the ghosts of ’64 aren’t walking down from old Connie Mack to help them along.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Margie's Luncheonette

Let's talk a bit more about Margie's Luncheonette.  Especially now that I'm in seventh grade and more and more of my friends spend time there.  The counter is at the front and is usually full in the morning with working men having coffee and a bite or not.  In the afternoon the booths were full of older elementary students and then finally after the buses from Gateway arrived; the high school students.
Margie's was both a town meeting place and a place to learn to be cool.  What to drink, what to eat, how to dress, how to talk, what music to hear, what music not to hear.  You were allowed to go there or you weren't by your parents.  A lunch at Margie's was a treat.
I remember my grandmother Glading asking where Margie was and getting a long convoluted answer.  Where she was, was not there.  The waitresses were older and smoked cigarettes and cracked wise.  The counter man was brusque with us kids but that shouldn't be surprising.  We were fools and who gives a fuck about little kids.
Margie's was where we bought models for ourselves and for birthday gifts.  Margie's was where we bought comics.  Margie's was where we got candy and school supplies and it's the only place in the world where I ever shoplifted.  Yes, it's true.  In seventh grade for about two months I stole erasers and pencils from Margie's.  Like I needed or wanted them.
We ate cheesesteaks and hamburgers and drank shakes and cokes and dreamed of being old.  Had we had a brain and looked at the men at the counter we might have thought twice about that but we were young and stupid and this was the center of Wenonah.  Which made it the center of the universe.  Almost.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Autumn in Wenonah

So high school wasn't that much fun.  So I was alienated from my long time friends.  So I rode around on my bike feeling sorry for myself and read comics and books and in general acted like a moping teenage boy.  But it was fall in Wenonah.  A wonderful time of year.  And this year, just to spice things up, we began daily touch football games in the yard behind Jane Shiflet's house.  Co-ed touch football.  With some piling on and inappropriate laying on of hands.  Things were stirring in my body.  The hormonal soup was on the stove and coming up to boiling.
After an afternoon of boys and girls ostensibly playing sports I'd head home for dinner and then sit down with my family to watch tv.  On a black and white tv.  This was the year of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Bewitched.  Gilligan's Island, Shindig, and Hullabaloo.  The next day in school we'd all talk about the shows and the bands.  Music.  We were discovering music.  Paul Revere and the Raiders.  the Dave Clark Five.  Motown!  I'd read under my covers with a flashlight for awhile then off to sleep.  Then back to Gatorland and my trials.  
But it being fall there was also Halloween.  Mischief Night.  Mick and I would guard our house from eggers and keep kids from soaping our dad's car's windows.  We'd lay in the bushes with a garden hose and soak anyone who came near.  One year Dave Porter threw an egg at a house and blinded an old lady in one eye.  My father was on the Juvenile Committee and at night he told us what had happened and how terrible it was and why we should never throw eggs on Mischief Night.  We were suitably impressed and worried.
But the next night we'd don our costumes and set out with our trusty bags for goodies.  Terry, Mick, Gary Condell, and I would walk from house to house, covering the entire half of town up to West St.  
Back then the adults would take the time to guess your name and we took great pleasure in fooling them.  What a strange thing that was, it seems almost like a Booth Tarkington tale.  The whole town walking out at night.  A town of wandering children with bags of candy.  We should probably have been scared.  But we weren't.  The only thing that brought us in was our parents calling our names, time for bed, come home, come home. And home we went to sleep and dreams.  Dreams of towns filled with wandering children dressed as monsters and ghouls, wandering in search of candy.