Thursday, December 25, 2014

POSTED: Tuesday, September 4, 2012, 1:15 PM
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)

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.
POSTED: Thursday, August 30, 2012, 2:43 PM

Fishtown’s Margaret Megill is 85 and needed a voter ID. Luckily, her daughter Margie Megill had the time and patience to help her get one. Because here’s how their day unfolded:

Margie downloads the Voter ID form from Penndot’s website and fills it out for Margaret. They drive to the PennDot center on Columbus Blvd, armed with Margaret’s birth certificate, Social Security and two bills proving Margaret’s address is legit.

At PennDot, an employee at the info desk tells them they have the wrong form. He gives them two new forms to fill out.

POSTED: Thursday, August 2, 2012, 8:12 PM

An eagle-eyed reader snapped this photo of a Philadelphia Parking Authority van parked right next to the fire hydrant on N. 16th St., between the Ben Franklin Parkway and Cherry St.

Blocking a hydrant is a $76 fine for the rest of us, and with good reason: If there's a fire, how can firefighters access the hydrant if someone is blocking it? 

Maybe the PPA-van driver has a magic ball and can see the future, and therefore knew that spot would be fire-free during the time it was occupied by the van and so figured, what the heck, why not block the hydrant?

POSTED: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 2:27 PM

Today's print edition of the Daily News contains an error in my column that makes me turn red with embarrassment.

"Fast Times At West Philly High", the documentary about the little high-school automotive club that could - airs on "Frontline" at 10pm tonight, not 8pm.

To encourage you to stay up late and watch this wondeful, 36-minute tale of kids whom everyone under-estimated but the teachers who believed in them, click on the video below. I smile every time I watch it, and, trust me, the full-length documentary is even better.

Watch Fast Times at West Philly High Preview on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

POSTED: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 11:27 PM

Vance Lehmkuhl @ 11:27 PM  Permalink | 0 comments
POSTED: Thursday, June 14, 2012, 7:45 AM
Lutheran pastor Violet Little

Regarding my column today about Pastor Violet Little's monthly church service and coffee hour for the homeless and others on the Ben Franklin Parkway, below is the full statement from City Hall spokesman Mark McDonald regarding the ban on Parkway feeding. The judge referenced by McDonald is Hon. William Yohn Jr., who's overseeing the federal lawsuit filed June 4 on behalf of Little and other religious leaders who say the ban is a violation of their First Amendment rights to to free speech and freedom of religious expression.

From McDonald:

"Upon the judge's suggestion, the City agreed to maintain the status quo and simply continue what we've been doing. We are encouraging groups to use the City Hall apron for food distribution and many groups are availing themselves of the space and having access to water, trash pick up, porto-potties, security and homeless outreach staff. We are encouraging groups to secure health permits and how to get them and to use the apron and not to use park property. We continue to educate food distribution groups about our long-term goal of expanding indoor dining. We were not and are not issuing fines."

POSTED: Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 6:46 PM
One of 24 billboards spreading the word of Aretha Swift’s urgent need. RONNIE POLANECZKY / DAILY NEWS STAFF

  There wasn’t room in today’s column about kidney patient Aretha Swift to list all of the outdoor advertising companies that donated 24 billboards to her cause – a total worth of $260,000.

For that kind of generosity, I think a shout-out is deserved. So here’s to  Adams Outdoor, Besko Media, Catalyst Outdoor Advertising, CBS Outdoor, Interstate Outdoor Advertising, Jersey Outdoor Media, Keystone Outdoor Advertising, Land Displays, OOS Investments and Tri Outdoor.

“I’ve been in the outdoor business for 20 years, and I’ve never been involved in a group effort like this. It’s really touching,” says Jerry Besko of Besko Media. “Health is number one in everyone’s life; without it, everything else means nothing.”

POSTED: Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 12:05 PM

Argh. My apologies to Bucks County’s Jerry Alampi, who I mentioned in my column today about Aretha Swift, a kidney patient whose need for a transplant is being advertised on 24 billboards.

I mentioned that Alampi’s own billboard campaign netted him a life-saving kidney this time last year. I wrote that he had “bought” the billboard that generated the TV publicity that attracted the donor who eventually gave hima kidney.

There was no purchase. Multiple billboards were donated, and the way the campaign unfolded is a wonderful story all on its own.

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

Ronnie Polaneczky Daily News Columnist
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