Fishtown (As Seen Through Max’s Eyes)

I’m back! Not that I was gone for long. I wasn’t. I was on the road, for only a handful of days, with the Tingling Brothers Traveling Circus, with whom, on a whim, I’d taken a job as an apprentice elephant-dung shoveler. But the elephants ran into visa problems, what with Trump’s new, stringent guidelines, and had to be shipped back to India. End of job.

I apologize for not writing a story last week, and I totally understand the frustrations that my editor Edgar Reewright expressed in the piece that he posted concerning my absence (click here). Seeing that he’s not well-endowed (financially-speaking), he badly missed the paycheck that I neglected to issue to him. I’ve rectified my wrong. Edgar now is back on the books and once again is as happy as a poorly-adjusted, angry middle-aged guy might be expected to be.

With circus life behind me, for today’s sermon I shall turn my attention to the post-Tingling visit that our nephews (20-something Jesse and 30-something Max) paid to me and my wife Sandy. They were with us for a number of days, and we did so many enjoyable things together I’d have to write a 20,000-word opus to cover them. I’m not up to that, being very much low on gas. The circus gig took a lot out of me, you see. I had no idea how heavy elephant crap is. So, in order not to interfere with my current regimen of napping and thumb-twiddling, I’ll focus on merely one highlight — the time that Max and I spent in Philadelphia’s Fishtown section the day before he returned to his home in Texas. Jesse had, by then, gone back to his abode in the Big Apple. And Sandy sat out the Fishtown adventure. “Have fun, boys,” she told us. “I’m staying put. Did I mention that George Clooney will be stopping by the house this afternoon to show me how to operate that needlessly complicated Nespresso coffee- brewing machine he peddles on the boob tube?” She hadn’t.

But, f*ck Clooney. Fishtown was calling, and Max and I headed its way, arriving there around 12:30 in the PM. We wandered for close to two hours, checking out this, that and the other thing, and had a low-key kind of blast. Not everyone, I’ve discovered over the years, is into open-ended strolling such as this, which is why my meanderings often are done by my lonesome. But Max is. Which proves, I’d say, that sometimes a great mind (Max’s) and a middling one think alike.

Fishtown, for sure, isn’t a knock-your-socks-off kind of neighborhood, but it has its charms. Unlike downtown Philadelphia, which is only two miles away, there are no tall buildings or crowds of workers and tourists to gaze at. But I’m a sucker for narrow, twisting streets and for houses, churches and factories that went up between the mid-1800s and early 1900s, and for calm, gracious neighborhood parks. Fishtown’s got plenty of those items. Not to mention a supply of new housing and restaurants and taverns and music venues to accommodate the millennials who discovered Fishtown earlier this century and have been changing it for the better. But none of the newer stuff is overdone, at least not yet, which is why you don’t see all that many people on Fishtown’s streets in the afternoon. The neighborhood hasn’t lost its small-town feel, and that’s a good thing.

We began our expedition at the corner of Frankford and Girard Avenues, in front of Johnny Brenda’s, the tavern cum rock music club that set Fishtown’s rebirth in motion after Brenda’s opened in 2003. At that corner I had a brainstorm. I asked Max if he’d like to use my iPhone to take photos of whatever caught his eye as we made our way around the neighborhood. And that, if he did, I’d use some of them to illustrate a story I’d write about our day together. “Great idea,” he said, ripping the phone out of my hand. I’m going to sue him for bruising my pinky. Little had I known that Max is a photo-taking fiend. He, with his pix-snapping right index finger in tow, bopped through Fishtown happily and giddily. Dozens and dozens of shots were added to the phone’s memory that afternoon.

I culled through the images a few days later. What you see, then, on this page is Fishtown as Max saw it. He peered at lots of things, big and small, and framed them well in his photos. Store signs, well-aged streets, new home construction, a house one side of which is covered with an astonishing mass of ivy,  . . .

Max was drawn to hip color arrangements, to the nifty contrasts formed by buildings near to one another, and to the unexpected. And he asked me to make sure I included the selfie he snapped of us and Homer Simpson outside a store on Frankford Avenue. I don’t look all that good in said picture, but what the hell. Candid photography is where it’s sometimes at.

When Max next visits us, he and I probably will scout out another section of Philadelphia that’s off the touristy trail. Maybe an area that I, who despite having lived in or near Philadelphia for 40+ years of my adult life, barely know. Such as Port Richmond or Kensington. It’ll be fun. And, no doubt, will be documented by he and I.

(Photos by Max Scheinin. If you click on any photo, a larger image will open in a separate window)

39 thoughts on “Fishtown (As Seen Through Max’s Eyes)

  1. The Artist's Child September 7, 2017 / 12:49 am

    Glad you survived the Elephants. I like Fishtown. It has similarities with Melbourne (same vintage). Lots of arty touches, wide streets, laneways, parks and old buildings. Love the fish and peace wrought iron fences. Your nephew did well with the photos. But why is it called Fishtown? Was there a fish processing factory or market?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 7, 2017 / 8:34 am

      Parts of Fishtown border the Delaware River. In the 1800s a lot of commercial fishing (mostly for shad, I think) took place off of Fishtown’s banks.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. S. A. Young September 7, 2017 / 7:34 am

    Great pics. Fishtown sounds like my kind of place. Thanks for sharing your day!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. joyce hamilton September 7, 2017 / 7:57 am

    I haven’t been in Fishtown in years…..maybe l will check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 7, 2017 / 8:36 am

      Morning, Joyce. You’ll like it. It’s a good place to stroll around in.


  4. vprofy September 7, 2017 / 9:08 am

    I discovered Fishtown a decade ago as part of a high school service project. We worked with the Lower Kensington CDC for several years. Enjoyed giving students a tour of neighborhood I had developed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 7, 2017 / 9:53 am

      Hello. Thanks for stopping by.

      Gentrification in Fishtown began around the time you discovered the area. Hopefully Fishtown will retain its old-time look and feel as time goes by.


      • vprofy September 7, 2017 / 10:04 am

        Right on. That’s why my tour was fun, we interacted with traditional Fishtown residents and the newcomers like Johnny Brenda’s.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Ann Coleman September 7, 2017 / 10:26 am

    Poor elephants! But Fishtown looks like a great place to visit!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Cindy September 7, 2017 / 2:49 pm

    Did you walk by the cute little bake shop called Cake Life? Their pastries are tasty–and apparently that’s not just my humble opinion. According to the Inquirer, last weekend Jay-Z ordered a birthday cake for Beyonce there. Fishtown has hit the bigtime!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 7, 2017 / 3:28 pm

      Hi Cindy. I didn’t notice it, although I might have passed it. Next time I’ll check it out!


  7. tanjabrittonwriter September 7, 2017 / 8:15 pm

    I am sorry (not really) to ask it, but I am curious to find out how Sandy’s afternoon with George went?!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 7, 2017 / 9:24 pm

      Hello. This is Sandy. We had a very nice, long afternoon. I couldn’t seem to get the hang of the coffee maker, and had to keep asking him to show me his technique over and over and over again.


  8. Alyson September 8, 2017 / 11:13 am

    I love the sound of Fishtown – The great thing about having people to stay is that you become a tourist in your own town and discover little gems you may normally overlook. I am guessing the area used to be a kind of fishing port/base back in the day. Where I come from there are lots of Fishertowns (think the little village in the film Local Hero) – Great for a day wandering amongst the week cottages and artsy shops and galleries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 8, 2017 / 11:59 am

      Fishtown used to be an area that many Philadelphians could not have located in a map. But more people know about it now. But not everybody!


  9. Aunt Beulah September 10, 2017 / 7:00 pm

    Though I find its name less than appealing, Fishtown sounds like a great town — my kind of place with its lack of crowds and slow pace. I also liked your fellow wanderer, Max. He sounds like m;y kind of nephew with his easy-going attitude, and I have a few like him.


    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 10, 2017 / 9:06 pm

      Evening, Janet.
      Fishtown is a-ok. But, unlike your neck of the woods, you won’t come across any elk there!


  10. Annika Perry September 11, 2017 / 5:07 am

    This looks like a lovely place, a mixture of the quaint old with the modern urban…I had to laugh at your poor finger as enthusiastic Max grabbed the phone! You could always sit in the relaxing park to recover. Thanks for sharing and I do enjoy virtual travel! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 11, 2017 / 6:48 am

      Hello. One of these days I plan to see a rock concert at Johnny Brenda’s, a place I mention in this story.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. dweezer19 September 25, 2017 / 7:14 am

    Definitely my kind of meandering. Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 25, 2017 / 8:20 am

      Hi. Thanks for dropping by.

      Meandering can be a lot of fun, for sure.


  12. Benn Bell September 25, 2017 / 8:04 pm

    Love Fishtown! I lived in two different houses there for over several years. One across from the Palmer Cemetery great place to live Philly’s a great City

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger September 25, 2017 / 9:04 pm

      Hello Benn. Thanks for adding your thoughts.

      When I walked thru Fishtown a few weeks ago, there’s a good chance I passed one or both of your former homes.

      You’re right — Philly is great.


  13. Browsing the Atlas October 3, 2017 / 8:00 pm

    Max’s pictures are great! I always loved seeing what my kids wrote or photographed when we went places. Totally different than what I had focused on. I only wish Max had gotten pictures of you in your short-lived circus career!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 3, 2017 / 9:18 pm

      Yeah, sadly there is no photographic record of my days with the circus!


Comments are closed.