Clark DeLeon Strikes Again

For 20 years Clark DeLeon wrote a daily column for The Inquirer, a reported slice-of-life called The Scene, which back in 1988 was the first place I turned to try to get a bead on my new town. It was reported with love and passion and lots of shoe leather, and through its vignettes and little epiphanies it delivered the big picture in a small space, reliably there in page 2 of the local section. It was required reading for locals and a need-to-be like me.

(I remember sitting in a Philly cheesesteak place that had just opened up in Louisville, Kentucky a few months before coming here and not knowing what to make of the marathon on TV that was a Mummers Day parade on tape. It took knowing Clark for me to understand why a guy would brave 12 hours in Ice Station Zebra temperatures while dressed like Liberace.)

We've kept in touch over the years, sharing a passion for certain Bruce Springsteen songs - "Meeting Across the River" into "Jungleland" - and real life, itself.

So, when Clarkie had a column idea for me, I jumped. Even if it was about him.

We met at Dirty Frank's. Clark jumped me at the door, and I was not prepared for what I saw. Still giant, barely slowed by two new knees, he filled the doorway in his red, white and blue linens. Clark's been making some extra money by giving tours of Ben Franklin's footsteps - those old Philly historical walkabouts that are worth their weight in cheesesteaks if you've got the right leader. Like Clark. 

The boy can tell a story.

Well, the one he told me the other day was about how he is teaching a "Business English" class via Montgomery County Community College, and the assignment was to write a letter to Gov. Ed Rendell about ways to save money for the cash-poor commonwealth.

The wrinkle? 

The students were inmates at Graterford, lifers mostly. And Clark DeLeon got such good work out of these guys that the Guv himself stopped by the prison to chat with Clark's students.

That's Thursday's metro column. Thanks, Clarkie.

UPDATE: Clark called this morning. Thanked me for the picture that went with the column on the paper. What picture? I asked. If you click here, you'll see a photo that illustrates an article on the new Jewish Museum. Pictured is some Revolutionary War-era patriot walking across the Park carring a canvas tote bag. It's Clark. Oh wow, man.