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Dan in Friendly Lounge, 2016
Jokers are bad news. You don’t want to sit next to one in a bar. This day, I heard, again, about a man who ordered ten shots of whiskey after getting a blow job, and a man who got a bullet in his ass while humping someone’s wife. “Had he shown up a minute earlier,... Read More
Eddie and Friends
When 46-year-old Eddie found out I’d been interviewing people, he wanted to talk. “You can write a book about me!” and that’s true enough, but then again, I’ve never met an uninteresting person. Within a minute, Eddie was showing me photos of women on his cell phone. There was plenty of skin and at least... Read More
bb-at-friendly-lounge-2016x
The flame-like tree and yellow stars from Van Gogh’s Starry Night burn on B.B.’s right shoulder. Blonde, slim and 33, she bartends at Friendly Lounge twice a week. She calls everyone “darling,” as in, “Are you good, darling? You need another one?” When B.B. told me she had lived in the Tenderloin, had drifted much,... Read More
Amanda in Camden, 2016
With huge tax breaks, Camden has lured several companies to this wrecked city, so a small chunk of downtown is getting spruced up. Shirtless or in wifebeaters, tattooed junkies still lurk around the Walter Rand Transportation Center, but the Third-World clothing stands have been shooed from the shadow of City Hall. Crown Chicken has moved... Read More
Eileen Walbank, 2016
In Philadelphia, I often see Chinese push their grandchildren around in strollers, so the three-generation households are evidently still common in that community. In China itself, citizens can be fined or even jailed for not visiting their aging parents enough. That there is such a law can only mean that familial bonds are weakening, however,... Read More
Don in Friendly Lounge, Philadelphia, 2015
Showing up in Friendly Lounge, beaming Maria said to bartender Manon, “How’s my baby? Come here and give me a hug! How are your job applications?” “Nothing yet, but I have a couple of interviews coming up.” For the last six months, Manon has been trying to get hired as a school counselor. She only... Read More
Patrick in Kensington, 2016
This week, a 55-year-old tourist from Texas was killed when he fell onto the subway tracks at 13th Street Station. He and his wife had just visited the Liberty Bell. Going by the station the next day, I half expected to see some sort of memorial, but there were no flowers, cards or candles. I... Read More
Anna in Friendly Lounge, Philadelphia, 2016
Don, Friendly Lounge owner, told me this joke, “How is a South Philly guy like Jesus? One, he’s never left his neighborhood. Two, he hangs out with the same 12 guys. Three, his mother thinks he’s God.” Angelo comes in Friendly each morning to read Don’s newspaper. After half an hour, he’d say, “Don, you... Read More
Point Breeze, Philadelphia, 2015
In the early 90’s, I sometimes worked the door at McGlinchey’s. Lurching in, 6-9 Lloyd Lunz guffawed, “Yo, heavy duty bouncer action tonight!” I was only paid $30 for five hours of carding baby-faced carousers, and it was torture to be sober while everybody got trashed. One night, there was some commotion outside, so I... Read More
Empty Friendly Lounge just before noon, Philadelphia, 2016
It’s not right. I came into the Friendly Lounge at 11:45AM, parked my bony ass there for three hours, and saw nobody. In the 90’s, I heard an exasperated crack whore kvetch, “Don’t nobody want a blow job no more!” It’s gotten much worse. In 2016, it’s, “Can’t nobody afford a beer no more?” Tony... Read More
Before interviewing 33-year-old Manon, I had never talked to her. She only bartends at Friendly Lounge one day a week. The joint was completely empty when we started at noon. Folks can hardly afford a beer anymore. An hour into our conversation, Tony the cook came in to take his midday break, then a stranger... Read More
When I lived closer to Center City, I’d take out-of-town friends to McGlinchey’s or Dirty Frank’s, but since moving to South Philly more than a decade ago, I’d drag people to the Friendly Lounge, because it really is friendly. In Philly, black bars tend to be called “lounge,” but Friendly is the haunt of middle-aged... Read More
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