Friday, December 26, 2014

Made in America? Made Life Hell

Just got off the phone with Jim Trachtenberg, who wanted to add a different perspective to my column today about last weekend's Budweiser Made in America Festival. For 35 years, Trachtenberg has lived on the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Ave., in view of the Art Museum’s front steps. So he’s long been in the thick of every event staged on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

Made in America? Made Life Hell

The "Rocky" stage at the "Made In America" music festival is seen on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)
The "Rocky" stage at the "Made In America" music festival is seen on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP) CHARLES SYKES/INVISION/AP

Just got off the phone with Jim Trachtenberg, who wanted to add a different perspective to my column today about last weekend's Budweiser Made in America Festival. For 35 years, Trachtenberg has lived on the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Ave., in view of the Art Museum’s front steps. So he’s long been in the thick of every event staged on the Ben Franklin Parkway.

He says he has never, once, moaned about the disruptions the activities cause. Instead, he embraces them for the vitality they bring to the place he calls home.

So it means something that Trachtenberg says the festival was “obscene” for its lack of regard for area residents. The reasons he’s steamed:

  1. Friday night, neighbors were ordered to move their cars from Pennsylvania Ave., which runs parallel to the Parkway.  The spots were then promptly taken by concert vendors.
  2. The music was scheduled to begin at 2pm, but Trachtenberg says the blaring sound checks started at 8am. That means the noise, which mayor Nutter said wouldn’t be heard beyond the fabric-lined fences, boomed from 8am to 11pm, nonstop. Trachtenberg says he needed earplugs, four Xanax and two pillows over his ears to get to sleep.
  3. Trachtenberg’s house sits at the corner of Pennsylvania and Judson, a skinny little side street, which became a gigantic urinal for music fans who didn’t attend the concert but wanted to be close to the action.
  4. The concert lights shone all night long, right into neighborhood bedrooms.
  5. The festival ended Sunday night, but the noise hasn’t abated as workers toil around the clock to return the Parkway to normal. Tractor trailers and trucks have destroyed vast swaths of grass the grounds, including patches of Von Colln field, where kids will soon  play fall sports.

“You can ask anyone, I’m not a complainer,” says Trachtenberg, who shells out $10,000 a year to clean the blocks around his Fairmount home and his Northern Liberties company, Tracey Inc., a 107-year-old furniture manufacturer. Over 35 years, that’s $350,000 in free service to the city.

“I believe in the city. I believe in giving back. I'm not a whiner. But this has been a nightmare.”

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
About this blog

When my phone rings here at the Daily News, nine times out of ten the caller begins the conversation with, “Yeah, so what happened was…”.

Because this is Philly, the caller doesn’t say, “My name is Bob” – or Mary – “and I wonder if I could have a moment of your time?” Philadelphians are too direct for that. They just say, “Yeah, so what happened was…”, and then tumble into a tale they think oughta be shared with a wider audience. I love getting these calls (even the ones where it becomes clear, after 30 seconds, where the caller sowed the seeds of his own misery), because they give me chance to connect with fellow citizens in a way that no other job allows. Well, okay, no other job for which I’m remotely qualified.

That’s why my blog is titled “So What Happened Was…”. To me, it’s the quintessentially Philly way of saying, “Once upon a time.” When I hear it, I know a good story is coming. And I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Ronnie Polaneczky has been an award-winning columnist for The Philadelphia Daily News since 1999, offering a front-steps perspective on every aspect of city life, from the sublime to the stupid. In her past life, she was the editor-in-chief of Atlantic City Magazine, associate editor at Philadelphia Magazine and a fulltime freelancer published in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, MarieClaire and others. She lives with her husband, daughter and various pets in the city's Fairmount section, where she dreams of one day singing The National Anthem at an Eagles game. In addition to her column and blog, you can enjoy Ronnie's musings in podcast form here.


Read more from Ronnie Polaneczky at Earth to Philly, the Daily News blog on anything and everything "Green Reach Ronnie at polaner@phillynews.com.

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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