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Updated: 03/01/04

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"Allan Quartermain"
by H. Rider Haggard

get up early

choo choo

Monday, 01 March, 2004

"Septa service time is 8:07 a.m. on a Monday morning. Go get 'em, tigers!"

[This from our subway engineer as we left the train at 15th Street this morning.]

I have a new "boyfriend!" I haven't met him yet, but Braeden was born to proud parents David and Kim on February 25 at 9:44 a.m., weighing in at 9 lbs, 6 oz. He came home yesterday and his big brothers Ian and Conner are trying to figure out why this noisy new guy gets so much attention.


We went down to Brigantine, New Jersey this weekend. Gary and his Mom used to own a condo "down the shore" in Atlantic City, and he would spend most of his weekends down there during the summer. He'd like to get a place down there again, but not quite sure where, so we went down to check out a few summer rentals. As it happens, his friends Adrienne and Bob have a place near where we were looking so they invited us to stay over.

We did a few errands in the City on Saturday morning, then packed up the bikes on the new bike rack and headed down. It's only about an hour from my place to Atlantic City, so we stopped for lunch and then went to Adrienne and Bob's. They've owned their place in Brigantine for 12 years and just sold it last week - Adrienne is retiring this year and they bought a place in Jupiter, Florida so needed to get rid of their shore house. It's a very nice three bedroom, two bath duplex about a block from the beach.

We walked up to the north end of the island - only about 40% of the island is built and the rest is a nature preserve - and walked on the beach. The temperature was in the 50's or so - quite nice for the end of February. Saturday night we went to Dock's Oyster House, an Atlantic City landmark, for dinner, and had a very nice time.

On Sunday morning, we went out for a bicycle ride - a bit chilly early, but it was a pretty morning. After Bob cooked us a lovely breakfast, we headed down to Longport, a nearby town, to see some condos. We saw some that were quite nice, right on the beach. We ate lunch in Margate, right near Lucy the Elephant:

Lucy the Margate Elephant

For those of you unfamiliar with Lucy:

She was built in 1881 by James V. Lafferty, a real estate developer with a knack for promotion. Standing six stories tall, weighing 90 tons, covered with 12,000 square feet of sheet tin, Lucy was more than an object of awe -- she was a functioning building, serving first as a real estate office, as a summer home, even briefly as a tavern, until unruly drunks nearly burned her down. She also gave people a reason to come to Margate City while Lafferty gave his real estate pitch.

By the late 1960s, Lucy was an abandoned wreck on the verge of collapse. Happily, the citizens of Margate banded together and raised money to restore the proud pachyderm to her former glory. Now, thousands of visitors each summer tour Lucy's innards and buy post cards in her gift shop.

[Sorry, no postcard.]

We headed back up to Brigantine and went with Adrienne and Bob's realtor to see a couple of condos up there that we had ridden past in the morning. They were nice, but a little further off the beach than the ones in Longport. In the evening, we packed up the bikes and drove over to Atlantic City again to an Italian restaurant that Gary knows called Chef Vola's. It is - literally - a hole in the wall. There is no sign for the restaurant and the phone number is unlisted. Cash only, BYOB. It is located in the basement of a house just off the Boardwalk, and it is cramped and packed with people. It was great.

We ordered two salads as appetizers for the four of us - and one would have been more than enough food. For entrees, Adrienne had the orange roughy in putanesca sauce, Bob had the veal parmigiana, Gary had rack of lamb and I had a red snapper fillet topped with jumbo lump crab meat and a champagne pesto suace - wow. Big side dishes of spinach in oil and garlic and angel hair pasta. They make their own desserts there - "cheese pies" made of ricotta and cream cheese, favored a number of ways - and homemade gelatos. Outstanding.

We waddled out to the cars - with our various doggy bags - said goodbye and drove back to Philly. Didn't get home until about 11:15, so it was a bit late for a school night.

[But worth it.]

Philadelphia is, apparently, cool now. When I first moved to Old City, I lived at Third and Arch, next to a derelict old building around the corner from the Betsey Ross House. The derelict old building has since been rehabbed into loft apartments and there is a Starbuck's on the first floor. Now, MTV's The Real World is invading my old street corner and setting up shop at the old Seaman's Church right next the BR House, across the street from Mulberry Market.

The Real World?

Production of The Real World Philadelphia is set to run from April through August. The show's 24 episodes will debut in the fall. The sure-to-be-nubile cast members - whose identities are as closely guarded as Academy Award winners - are rumored to be setting up house in Old City at the former Seamen's Church Institute.

"It proves that our cool factor has gone up," says Sharon Pinkenson, who runs the Greater Philadelphia Film Office. She began trying to recruit The Real World in the mid-'90s.

"We're pretty cool to begin with," says restaurateur Stephen Starr, at whose soon-to-open Continental West, in Center City, speculators believe the cast will work. "But what's important is that it helps Philadelphia appear to be cool on the national stage."

"We've raised the bar," says Pinkenson. "Before it was, 'Why would we go to Philadelphia?' Now it's more like, 'Why haven't we gone to Philadelphia yet?' "

That bar-raising involves more than the martini lounges in Old City and Northern Liberties where the Real Worlders will no doubt find their way.

[Noooo! Don't come up to MY neighborhood!!]

Quote du jour:

"I am always drawn back to places where I have lived, the houses and their neighborhoods."

-- Truman Capote (1924 - 1984)

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