Neighborhood Stories28 Sep 2011 04:12 pm

Just got the October 3rd edition of Sports Illustrated in the mail and while I don’t think the article is available online yet, I just had to share a few lines from the article about Cliff Lee. The story is about a city that has gone through a remarkable number of positive changes and how those changes are reflected in the performance of its baseball team. The writer uses the device of following Lee on his drive from his home in Rittenhouse Square to his work place at Citizens Bank Park. Along the way he passes by a number of neighborhoods, including a couple of places in ours truly. So in violation of probably several copyright regulations and available until SI comes along and asks me to pull it down, we present a couple excerpts from Monday’s forthcoming cover story:

Keep looking east on Washington, to where all those Laotian supermarkets and Vietnamese cellphone joints and Cambodian hair salons and Buddhist apothecaries suddenly burst out. It’s a neighborhood swarming with Asian immigrants over 50 who’ll bet like crazy on the Fightin’ Phils, says Vietnamese printer Hoang Tho, even though they haven’t the faintest clue who Cliff Lee is… and their kids, who can rattle off Cliff Lee’s brain-blowing June and August stats – 10-0 aggregate with an ERA of less than half a run

Hold on. This can’t be the South Philly that Cliff has seen Rocky Balboa jog through in movies. Mexicans too? Fanning out to work evening shifts in restaurants across the city, their numbers nearly tripling in the last decade. Philly actually growing for the first time in 60 years, according to the 2010 census, much of it due to this influx of Mexicans and Asians. Becoming an immigrant gateway again for the first time since the Irish and Italian waves of a century or more ago, a black-and-white quilt finally going Technicolor, held together by tight red thread…

Look east on Paah-shunk, as the locals pronounce it, one of the city’s rare diagonal streets and once one it busiest commercial centers until the owners of the bustling shops began cashing in and bolting for the burbs back in the 1970s. But suddenly Passyunk’s humming again with designer coffee shops, gastropubs, cantinas, outdoor tables… and look, all those tattoo-covered Cliff Guys in their 20s and 30s. Hipsters. The other demographic fueling Philly’s and the Phillies’ resurgence…

Those guys, who spurned their parents’ two-car-garage dream in search of cheap apartments where they didn’t need even one car, didn’t need to sell their souls for corporate jobs with six-figure salaries, didn’t need a big house to express their individuality because the ink on their flesh and silk-screened T-shirts did that… but who did need glue, something to connect them to their gritty new digs?…

Mark Precheur, a 35-year-old video editor, bellies up to the bar at P.O.P.E. – Pub on Passyunk East – a corner joint that’s packed on weekend nights with a young, tatted-out crowd cheering the Phils on TV and peppered here and there with a skinny guy trying  his best, shouting, “Yeahhhh! Sports!” Mark’s a Doc Guy. “Doc’s the guy I’d want operating on my brain…even with bombs going off,” he says.”

So, Passyunk Square, welcome to the big time… again. These excerpts really don’t do the whole article justice. You gotta read it. Make sure to pick up a copy when it hits the newsstands. You’ll know it. It’s the one with Cliff Lee and Ryan Madson on the cover. And keep an eye out for the black BMW heading down Broad Street at about 3pm on game day… it might just be Cliff Lee.

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