Recently National Geographic did a feature on the rise of Philadelphia as a great city again entitled Next Great City: Philly, Really, The premise of its re-ascension is based on two undeniable facts: Philadelphia is an open city, namely it accepts and actually courts all kinds of people--artists, singles, gays, etc.--to live here and it is installing WiFi (wireless access to the internet) for all city residents to exploit and enjoy. The latter service will be made available at a low cost (free to its poorer residents) by the end of next year. This will result in Philadelphia being one of the most sophisticated cities in the US from a digital perspective, as well as enable its residents to find high-tech jobs. Of course, the cable and phone companies are displeased, but Philadelphia is a blue-collar city with sound blue-collar values, and is not in the business of making corporations millions of dollars in profit at the expense of its residents.
Don't misunderstand me: Philadelphia currently has problems. Mayor John Street's administration is mired in corruption and the subject of FBI investigation--he vociferously denies any personal wrongdoing and so far there is no evidence of any on his part--accused of rank cronyism in dealing with lucrative City contracts, some of which was used to fund the mayor's campaign for office. But despite this, the city is bustling with energy and excitement.
Last week I had an opportunity to experience this vibrancy firsthand when I participated in a reading and panel as part of Philadelphia's literary festival, 215Festival. As a warm-up to the festival, my publicist, Joan Schweighardt, arranged for me to appear on Marty Moss Coane's Radio Times show on NPR (WHYY) with authors Chris Bauman and Kevin Smokler. To my dismay, when I arrived at the station across the road from the magnificent Constitution center, they informed me that President Bush had decided to call a news conference which would devour part of the hour during which we were to appear.
Together, in the studio, poised to don our earphones at a moment's notice, Chris and I watched (Kevin was on the phone from San Francisco) with Marty as the President waxed on yet again like a broken record about Iraq, New Orleans, and his latest choice of Supreme Court justice. I keep this blog free of American politics, feeling that my objective is to entertain with stories and slices of life, but I was incensed by his pointless intrusion.
Why incensed? Well frankly, I am tired of seeing President Bush's face on the telly. The White House stated it was a rare news conference, but his presence is uniquitous these days. He's on the telly and radio as often as some advertisements I abhor. He's relentless. And the message is always the same. It's insulting to me that he continues to deliver the same meatless tripe on every occasion. Does the White House really believe that, if I am forced to endure the same message over and over, I will believe the banal spin to be true? Enough, Mr. President! I have teeth, I am intelligent, I want meat. Do not insult me with repetitive asininity.
Anyway, after half an hour, said interruption came to an end and we came on the air and there was plenty of meat for all. In the space of thirty-five minutes, Kevin, Chris and I talked about writing and the different formats that some contemporary writers are experimenting with, such as me with my blog for writing nonfiction and slices of life, and the essays that Chris and Kevin do for radio. Moreover, we talked about how some writers are even adapting their books for the screen and the theater, of which I am one now too because I've started work on a play of A Son Called Gabriel.. You can listen to the show by calling up the second hour of the Oct 4th show. If you'd rather not hear 'the interruption', just move the controls forward until you hear Marty introduce us.
In the next post, I'll talk about the 215festival event at Valanni's Restaurant and whom I met there, my brief encounter with a buxom lady in Center City, the Forum next day with Kevin and Chris at Voices and Visions, and my jaunt to the pub with Rita-Anne.
[technorati: 215Festival, NPR, White House, President Bush]