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Monday, March 9, 2009

The Bad Economy Has Officially Hit Philly…Unless You’re a Tattoo Artist On South Street

Interestingly enough, Philadelphia hasn’t been all that slammed with the housing crisis plaguing the rest of the nation. Trust me, I would know. I wander through open houses on Sundays like other people wander through the mall. Recently, my husband and I have actually been looking to move. But we’ve been known to walk into any house with a bunch of balloons just for kicks.

And since we live in a city that was built 200-plus years ago, new home construction is a rarity. If you find one, you actually get a 10-year free tax abatement for buying it (yup, that means you pay NO property taxes for 10 years just because you bought a new home. Strange, huh?). So with the lack of new McMansions, we’ve also got a lack of foreclosures.

But that doesn’t mean we’re immune to economical woes. No my friends, we’ve been hit. Hard. Cosi has closed. So has our gourmet grocery. And the three-story Kildare’s Irish Pub. Where are we supposed to go now for our $6 Guinness pints, our $4 espressos, and our $6.99/lb organic grapes (not kidding about that price).

You mean I’m expected to visit one of the seven other Irish pubs within a three-block radius of my house. Are you serious? How can our community not be able to sustain all eight? (Or course, Kildare’s has already been converted into another bar that looks exactly the same, but still. It’s not Irish).



Are you saying that a Starbucks and a Cosi can’t peacefully coexist within two blocks of each other? What about the other four coffee shops—you know the Turkish one, the loungy one, the one with hookah pipes that’s always empty, and the one in Fabric Row? It’s blatant sacrilege. Surely my neighbors and I downed enough coffee and salads to sustain them all. I know I did my part. But I guess I’ll have to buy my Chicken TBMs someplace else.



And now Chef’s Market? So their produce prices made me contemplate growing a vegetable garden in my flower boxes, but at least they gave me an alternative to Superfresh. When you needed a loaf a challah, they were there. When you suddenly decided to make Italian for dinner—who had your back with both hot and sweet sausage (which they’d gladly take out of the casing). Now I do still have an organic (read: even more expensive) grocery a few blocks away, but they’re all “green,” and tofu, and miso-like. There’s no meat counter.

The neighborhood is changing, folks.



Of course that doesn’t mean Philadelphians are staying home and refusing to spend money on non-essential items. Oh, no. You see, I also live in the land of tattoos. Within a four block radius of my house you could be inked or pierced at a number of lovely establishments (you could also buy crotchless underwear and a studded dog collar). This would explain why over 1,000 fans turned out on Saturday to see Kat Van D of Miami Ink sign copies of her latest book at the Borders on Broad St.

I think my husband and I were the only two people there who had no idea why the place was surrounding by teens with Manic Panic hair carrying cameras and clutching a coffee-table book. It took me awhile to even realize who she was, but man did she bring in the crowds. Props to her. Autograph seekers were being called to her table by letter: “Everyone with the letter ‘J,’ can now get in line. Now serving the letter J.” That same intercom man also reported that it was the store’s biggest signing in history.

So there you have it, America. The ultimate recession-proof business is apparently the life of a celebrity tattoo artist. So sign the kiddies up for art classes now. It could be the start to a lucrative new career.

POP CULTURE RANT: Jodi Picoult

I read for my first Jodi Picoult novel last week, The Pact. I really liked it. She’s definitely a page-turning storyteller, though it took me awhile to get used to the point of view switching every two pages. My one complaint? Clichés. She must have used the phrase “turn on his heel” at least four times. I know I’m guilty of them too. But for some reason that phrase was a road block every time I hit it.

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