July 20, 2017

17 memorable stories from my 17 years living in Philly

Seventeen years ago, I filled a beat-up Toyota Corolla with most of my earthly possessions and headed northwest from Sea Isle City with Charlie Dawg to start a new life chapter in Philadelphia.

On Thursday and Friday, I’ll watch movers pack a truck in East Falls and – with my bride, son and pup named Scarlett Overkill – head northwest to become a suburbanite. (Yep. It finally happened.)

It’s a bittersweet day. I’ve lived in Philly longer than I’ve lived anywhere else.

Having worked at newspapers, websites and radio stations during my stay, I got to know it better than any municipality I’ve called home, even the one in which I grew up. (Haddon Township, represent!)

I love this city and the people who call it home, even when it – and they – are at their worst. If Philly were the Marine Corps, I’d swap “country” out of the motto and replace it with “Philadelphia.” I consider almost everyone in the 215 my extended family. That said, the best part of leaving is knowing that my new hometown won't host a Diner en Blanc-type travesty.

But here we are, becoming an all-too-predictable cliché by hopping off the big-city gerbil wheel that sees families leaving for yards, schools, space, peace and quiet.

That’s not to say I don’t want to live in Philly forever. (I would, given the right circumstances).

It’s just to say that, well, having room in the backyard for a mini soccer field and not having to cut checks for first-grade tuition courtesy of educational “lottery” failures is looking pretty darn good. (Also, I lost a three-to-one vote and had a great Realtor along the way.)

My letter/Tweet/email-writing haters shouldn’t get too excited.

I’m not gonna publicly share where exactly we’re moving other than saying it’s single-digit miles away from the city limits. I will note that I’ll still be writing on this here website about this here city. I’ll just be doing it with a suburban detachment. (Sorry. Someone has to keep y’all honest and entertained.)

This column isn’t about me, though. It’s about why I love Philadelphia so much that I may be shedding a tear right now as you read this.

Over the past few weeks, I've thought back over my time in Philly to an era where information wasn’t as readily available as it is today in pursuit of my favorite and/or most impactful stories to cover and/or read other folks cover.

Obviously, bigger-picture things occurred during those 17 wonderful years, but I’m a weird person, so the unusual stories came to mind.

Below, I’ve picked out my favorites for each year from 2000 to 2017. I invite you to share any that I might’ve missed because I’m feeling rather nostalgic as recall a time that saw me gain a wonderful wife and child, lose the best mother ever and get a sneak peak at what people will say about me when I’m dead – courtesy of almost dying.

The moral of this story? Savor every moment.

MOST MEMORABLE STORIES

2000

The McDonald’s at 29th and Grays Ferry became, in perpetuity, the ODB McDonald’s. I’m still pissed off at the people who dimed ODB out to the cops that day. Snitch-ass m'fers. There should totally be a historial marker there, btw. RIP, Dirt Dawg.

2001

June 6. Sixers up by two points late. A.I. had been held in check by the Lakers’ Tyronn Lue for some of the NBA Finals Game One night. A.I. shakes him. He hits the shot. He steps over Lue. These are the moments that statues for which statues are created, even if it was the last time they'd beat the Lakers in that series.


2002

Eddie Sheed was 11 years old. He walked into a Mantua police station and told officers that his dad was making him act as a lookout for drug sales. He was lauded as a hero, rightfully so. This story should've had a happy ending. It had anything but. Sheed would spend years in foster care. When he finally made his way home, life wouldn't be easy. In fact, it would chew him up and leave him at the point where he'd get convicted for shooting someone in West Philly and sent to prison for a long, long time. 

2003

On Feb. 28, Willie James Kent – aka “Petey Pete” – was found dead in an abandoned shell of a building on the 1500 block of N. Eighth Street.

There was no blood at the scene, but Kent's throat was slashed and chest was ripped open "like a frog in biology class," according to an investigator. Also not at the scene: Kent's heart, liver and kidneys. There were clean cuts, like whatever monster was responsible for this knew his or her way around surgical instruments.

This case still haunts me. It should haunt all of us. I hope police will somehow bring Petey Pete’s family closure, but I can't see that happening.

2004

Got to see Prince perform live at the Wachovia Center. Quite a showWatch a little bit of it here!

2005

“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” first graced the airwaves on August 4. It’s still going strong. #Blessed.

NoneBrian Hickey/PhillyVoice

Danny DeVito on the set as 'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' filmed scenes near 10th and Market Streets on Friday, July 1, 2016.



2006

I was staunchly against the smoking ban in Philadelphia bars when it was being debated. It didn’t take me all that long to be staunchly for it, though. It’s much better. Sorry for all those City Paper columns calling you out for it, Nutter.

2007

March 1. Milton Street. A casket. Fin.


2008

Many would say that the Phillies winning the World Series took this year beyond a shadow of a doubt. And you know what? That parade was an epic civic moment for a city and region that had waited a couple decades for a celebration. 

But this is my list, so I’m going to selfishly draw your attention to the Dec. 28 game between the Eagles and Cowboys. 

This, because just a week or so out of a coma, watching that game on a tiny TV at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital – and yelling at Cowboys fans down the hall – was the first moment I realized I was, like, alive.


2009

I saw the first sonogram of a baby in my bride's belly, the second best moment since holding the baby for the first time, and every moment since, but it would not carry the following year courtesy of a simple two-word phrase...

2010

#DoShot.


2011

RIP, Smokin’ Joe Frazier. I wish you could've see the statue sculpted in your honor and memory.

2012

2013

Grand Theft Police Cruisers. Woot!


2014

This will long be remembered as the year that justice found the Swiss Cheese Pervert. Let's look at a few tweets:




2015

Pope Francis’ visit, yo. Not only was everybody happy, but we got to see how awesome Philadelphia looks when the streets are closed to cars and wide open to bicycles and feet. (Runner-up: PhillyVoice.com was born on January 8 in the Year of the Lord 2015. Coincidence?)

NoneThom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Pope Francis waves from the Popemobile on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway moments before the papal Mass, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015.




2016

Sure, this game happened in Cleveland. And sure, a team from Chicago won. But whatever. I watched it in Philly. And it’s the best thing I ever watched in Philly. Go Cubs Go. Fly the W forever and ever, Amen.



2017

Anytime you have a lady yelling “lick my a**hole” outside a Center City comedy club, it jumps right to the top of the list. Kudos, Colleen Campbell.

Also, Brennon Jones providing haircuts for the homeless speaks to a depth of compassion that Philly often hides beneath a gruff exterior, but guides its every move.

Alright, folks, what did I miss?