Very few artists or art pundits in America would consider Philadelphia sultry until recently. Oddly enough, mainstream media in the States has created a dupe image of Philadelphia: obese, hairy, ugly, and about as sultry as the Super Bowl. Yet, for those of us born in the 70s and 80s who lived through the Aughts in Center City and West Philadelphia, our perception of Philadelphia will always be skewered by the sexualized over and undercurrents which animated, charged, and lit the Philly arts scene on fire with sexual energy during that time. Many of us were annoyed by the misperception the media created of a fat, ugly, asexual Philadelphia; but we were disarmed on that level. I have said elsewhere, and it bears repeating, that if the city of Philadelphia has a sun sign it is Gemini. It is another way of saying this: Philadelphia from within looks and feels vastly different than Philadelphia seen in a cursory way or from a distance. The sultriness around our scene was warmer and more human than the scenes we had all read about in New York and L.A.: we weren’t motivated by money or dope deals as such, or the desire to create and maintain images of/for ourselves. The hot blood that ran through McGlinchey’s, Dirty Frank’s, the Good Dog, and all our other hang out venues had some actual romance in it; we all went so far as to care about other people. The Gemini twist, as ever for Philadelphia, is that if the seeds we plant ripen correctly, Philadelphia may go on record as one of the hottest scenes in the history of the arts, thus overturning a century of bad press, neglect, abuse, and widely spread misinformation, and a corrupt arts-dissemination system with it.
Art and life have a way of comingling which can be difficult to finesse for an author. Because I dared to place her image on the cover of this book/pdf, I might as well announce what will be obvious to those who knew me and the Philly scene during the Aughts: the female protagonist of "Trish" is modeled on Philadelphia painter Mary Harju. The life I built with Mary (and with the Philly Free School) was highly unusual; we were artists without being rich kid dilettantes or drug decoys; lovers without being mutually exclusive; Penn students and graduates who went out of our way not to be academic; and human beings who tossed and turned on our own emotional waves without trying to fake balance or calm. It was a scattered life we had, and a haphazard one; but the love and affection we shared was genuine. In fact, if I have ever had a Laura or a Beatrice, it is Mary. The difference, of course, between myself and Plutarch and Dante, is that Mary and I consummated our relationship very fast. The heat we had for each other never quite let up, either. The picture on the cover here was snapped at a party thrown at Mary’s house (4325 Baltimore Avenue) in the early Aughts. That house was an experience in itself— it was filled, always, with artists, musicians, and other bohemians. On certain nights, everyone in the house would be intoxicated on something or other. Many nights I spent there, I felt as if the entire house had ascended into deep space, into some other, more germane part of the universe than West Philadelphia. I have memories of floating down hallways and stairs. Mary was a wonderful playmate and an excellent mate in general. She was never boring. And, to the extent that I hope this piece conveys the intense electric excitement I felt in her presence, it is a reminder that these elevated feelings are always possible, even during a Great Recession. It is the Gemini stare of Philadelphia down the barrel of a shotgun.