Category Archives: Dispatches

Standing with a Dopeman in the Footsteps of a Strangler

The vacant lot where the Kensington Strangler murdered his first victim on Nov. 3, 2010.The vacant lot where the Kensington Strangler murdered his first victim on Nov. 3, 2010. Kensington, Philadelphia – With not much on the agenda today I thought I might make cookies, but I instead put on my Sunday best and headed north to the badlands where a man dubbed the Kensington Strangler has murdered two, but maybe upwards of four woman in recent months and has choked and raped just as many. Several people, including myself, disembarked the el at the Somerset Station. Slow walkers they all were and it seemed like an eternity passed before the line traversed the… Continue Reading

The House Where Poe Wrote

A mural of Edgar Allan Poe painted on a project housing unit in northeast Philadelphia.A mural of Edgar Allan Poe painted on a project housing unit in northeast Philadelphia. At the corner of 7th and Spring Garden Streets in northeastern Philadelphia is a non-descript home flanked by project housing and large tracts of commercial space. Between the years of 1837 and 1844, Edgar Allan Poe lived in Philadelphia, writing many of his most famous works during his time here, including The Gold-Bug, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Tell-Tale Heart. In all, he published 31 stories while living here. Poe lived at this house for less than a year in 1843.… Continue Reading

Thumbs Up for an American Past Time

HarmonicaYou’re sitting on the shoulder of a highway, on your backpack, at the edge of some town. Maybe you’ve been there several hours, thumbing each passing vehicle. You know someone will stop eventually. When they do, a rush surges through you as the brake lights flash and you hear tires hit the gravel. You run up to the car. The driver asks where you’re headed and informs how far they can take you. You scope them out. If all seems cool, you hop in and hope for the best. You’ll repeat this process as many times as it takes to… Continue Reading

Coping with Post-Travel Stillness Disorder

IMG_7792I have a job. A corporate job. I work there just six months months a year, then travel from spring into fall. The job pays well, but for the six months I’m there the company owns me. Literally. I work long hours not under the sun as I did with the carnival, but under fluorescent lights, at a desk, inside a cubicle. It’s dark when I leave for work, and dark when I return. My commute each way is roughly 90 minutes, from the time I leave one place until I arrive at the other. Soon, everyone will look ghoulishly… Continue Reading

Crime, Victims and Cultural Makeovers: I Missed You Philly!

76EastPhiladelphia, PA – Philly is short on many things but criminal intrigue isn’t one of them. Really, Law and Order should’ve come here instead of Los Angeles, a cliched backdrop for any drama. Were L&O‘s producers looking for a wellspring of seedy storylines they needed to look no farther than Philly, a city virtually untapped by television. Here, Dick Wolf would’ve quickly realized the daily police blotter is chock full of opening scenes. Take the last 24 hours for example: Yesterday a group of children find a bullet-ridden body in a Fentonville park on the city’s north side. Later,… Continue Reading

The Vagaries of Suburban Life and Corporate Work

ShoesWireHaverford Township, PA – That I made it back to Philly isn’t perfectly true. In fact, I haven’t stepped foot in the city since I’ve been back. The closest I came was last Friday evening when I ended up accidentally at 69th Street Station, in Upper Darby, just shy of the city line. But let’s back up so I can explain my route. The shuttle bus servicing Great Valley Commons – a sprawling complex of bland commercial space, big parking lots, greened up with saplings and sod – carries me to the Paoli Train Station from Malvern. There I hop… Continue Reading

Hobbled in the Mountains: Purple Thunder Narrowly Makes it Home

Car MannequinSetting out on an 850-mile road trip in a vehicle that’s been in the shop three times in just as many weeks might seem like a fool’s errand, but I needed to be back in Philadelphia by Sunday evening so I had little choice. I’d already missed an entire work week due to two fuses that, for reasons not even the mechanics can figure out, keep blowing. The week previous I made it as far as Shannon, Illinois before they popped. Sixteen fuses and $1,600 later, I was assured that all was good in the hood. And all did go… Continue Reading

A Day at the Farm

AlpineWalkWalworth County, WI – Early last week, 14 grade school students from the Four Winds Waldorf School outside of Chicago visited Turducken Farms in Walworth County, Wisconsin, for three days of agricultural and naturalist education. I was supposed to join them, tag along, get an eyewitness account of the learning that goes on here, but it rained the day of my scheduled visit. Then, the day after, I became lost when my GPS went bonkers and my calls to the farm went unanswered. By the time I turned onto the farm’s half-mile driveway, the kids were long gone. It was… Continue Reading

Old Friend Hunting

AaronEdgerton, WI – Disappearances are like this: here one moment, gone the next. So it was with Aaron, a friend since high school, who quietly absconded from Madison around 2002. No good-byes. No forwarding address. No new number. Simply gone. Poof! Just like that. All connections, severed like arties and left to bleed out. Back then, we figured the disappearance was only temporary. Aaron fell off from time-to-time, retreating to Edgerton, about 45-minutes south of Madison, where he had family. There he worked with his father, roofing houses, and patronized his aunt’s bar in the off-hours. When he tired of… Continue Reading

Sconnies and Their Brats

SensualBratMadison, WI – Twice a year, tens of thousands of people descend on Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center to gorge themselves on brats – high-fat pork sausage stuffed with spices inside an intestinal casing. Sconnies go bonkers for brats. So much so that over the course of the last four days, 209,376 of them were consumed on Willow Island alone, a new record. Welcome to Bratfest, held eight days annually over Memorial and Labor Day Weekend. Being from Wisconsin, I understand the love affair with brats.  Boil them in beer, char them on the grill, then eat them… Continue Reading
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