Fountain of the Three Rivers

Visited Sister Cities Park yesterday for the first time in a while for lunch with Bobby Schindler, who’s in town this week. It was a perfect summer day to sit outside and enjoy the unfolding scenes. I brought my MacBook and worked outside the office for a bit. After work, I walked back to Logan Circle and captured these scenes.

Logan Circle’s 1924 Fountain of the Three Rivers frames the foreground in the footage below, with City Hall in the distance, with a bit of its history below.

Adapting the tradition of “river god” sculpture, [Alexander] Calder created large Native American figures to symbolize the area’s major streams, the Delaware, the Schuylkill, and the Wissahickon. The young girl leaning on her side against an agitated, water-spouting swan represents the Wissahickon Creek; the mature woman holding the neck of a swan stands for the Schuylkill River; and the male figure, reaching above his head to grasp his bow as a large pike sprays water over him, symbolizes the Delaware River. Sculpted frogs and turtles spout water toward the 50-foot (15 m) geyser in the center…

Ringing the bells

Terence Sweeney shares his story of ringing out the church bells of his West Philadelphia church after many silent years:

Our lovely set of named bells ranges from big deep Adolphus (key of E) all the way down to tiny bright Gervaise (F-sharp). Adolphus is larger than a rather more famous bell here in Philadelphia, but he sings of a more perfect liberty. Each note on the scale is represented, but currently two bells—Elizabeth (G-sharp) and Edmund (C-sharp)—are out of commission, making renditions of “Immaculate Mary” or “Fly, Eagles, Fly” a little more difficult. …

Why ring at all? It has been a long time since people set their watches to the noon-day pealing, and we hear of good news and bad by means of phone alerts rather than church chimes. Perhaps we do it in order to make our own contribution to the sound of the city. Daily we hear honking, laughter, sirens, birds, trolleys clanging, and the occasional drum circle. And now we hear the sound of bells, a small reminder that our urban landscape can be a spiritual landscape.

No doubt few people know the Angelus prayer and still fewer pause to pray it at our bidding. But bells remind us of churches, of joy, of loss, and perhaps of more ultimate things. …

One pauses and one hears. Pausing and hearing can be the first step in faith. “Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist says.

So we ring out in the hope that someone might hear the call and enter. We ring out to add a touch of Christianity to these secular spaces. We ring out the death toll—rich and deep with Adolphus—hoping a college student will hear and suddenly catch on to what John Donne means when he says the bell tolls for us. We let parish children ring the bells so they can feel the reverberating joy of symbols old and new. And sometimes we ring for sheer joy. When the Philadelphia Eagles triumphed in the Super Bowl, amid the cacophony of car horns, shouting fans, fireworks, and the Eagles fight song, joyous sounds came from our bell tower. And a few weeks later, as we finally sang the Gloria on the Easter Vigil, we let them brightly sing out again for the triumph of Christ. God promises a new heaven and a new earth, so we celebrate the lasting joy of the Resurrection, but also the passing excitement of a Super Bowl.

Perhaps the new evangelization begins with such small gestures as the ringing of bells.

To “catch on to what John Donne means when he says the bell tolls for us.”

Broad Street Run

I first ran the Broad Street Run five years ago, and this morning ran it for a second time. I vaguely remember thinking I probably would only run it once, and now that I’ve run it twice I feel the same indifference about running it again. What makes it distinctive and worthwhile is that an incredible 40,000 people run this race. I know Bay to Breakers in San Fransisco has something like 100,000 people run, but that’s a shorter and quirkier run.

Walked from 21st and Walnut this morning shortly after 7am and caught the subway at Walnut/Locust for North Philadelphia and the starting line. The subway was incredibly packed—far more packed than even the most full New York subway I’ve been on. I think a lot of people coming from outside the city park in South Philadelphia and ride the subway to the starting line. Run started at 8am, and my Green corral got started close to 8:20. Conditions were great: cool without being cold, slightly overcast but neither raining nor windy. I didn’t bring anything with me and left my phone at the apartment, so tracked the run with my Apple Watch and was able to use it to text and call friends afterward who were heading down to the finishing area.

Finished slightly slower than I did five years ago. In 2013 I placed in the top 30 percent of finishers with a time of 1:22:21 and pace of 8:14. Today my finishing time was 1:25:57 for an 8:35 pace. After being on the road/in the air since April 25th, and on top of that having not run more than once or twice since November, I’m happy with the result.


Old City night scene

View from my seat outside Race Street Cafe tonight at 2nd and Race Streets, catching up with Gavin Keirans. I somehow don’t think I had been there before. Across the street is a new luxury style tower that looks out over the Ben Franklin Bridge whose illuminated pillar you can see.

It was a beautiful night, the first that’s really felt like spring. I had come from McCrossen’s Tavern in Fairmount, where I caught up with Alex Smith after work. It was really great to be able to comfortably walk from work to McCrossen’s and then across the city to Race Street Cafe.

Drexel Square, in progress

A view of 30th Street Station on the left, as I was standing on the platform of SEPTA Regional Rail waiting for a train a few nights ago. In the foreground, beyond the intersection, has been a parking lot for as long as I’ve known it. It’s in the process of redevelopment into Drexel Square, the very first part of the generational Schuylkill Yards project. Here’s a rendering of what that parking lot might look like in the future, with Maria Gialanella providing context:

Drexel Square.png

William Penn’s original plan for Philadelphia included five city squares. More than 300 years later, Drexel University, working with a Radnor, Pa.-based real estate firm, is prepared to add a sixth major square just blocks east of Penn’s campus.

Brandywine Realty Trust and Drexel University began construction Wednesday on the park, the first leg of a $3.5 billion public construction project in the area between Drexel’s campus and 30th Street Station. Known as “Schuylkill Yards,” the complex of several buildings will adjoin the Schuylkill River with the stated goal of building a research and development hub in University City.

The first phase of the new Schuylkill Yards should be complete in the fall of 2018, while the whole project will span 15 to 20 years.

“We are proud that our first project in Schuylkill Yards will deliver a green public gathering space where the community can connect, interact, and share experiences,” Brandywine President and CEO Jerry Sweeney said in a statement.

“Plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”

No satisfaction unless we pause

A photo from the Porch at 30th Street Station, where I sat on Wednesday before catching my train to Washington. It’s a pleasant place to be now, with tables, swings, and grass where there was a parking lot a decade ago or less. And of course those glass towers are still new, too.

Here’s an excerpt from Fulton Sheen’s Finding True Happiness that was shared someplace recently:

The painter stands back from his canvas to see whether the details of the seascape are properly placed. True repose is such a standing back to survey the activities that fill our days.

We cannot get a real satisfaction out of our work unless we pause, frequently, to ask ourselves why we are doing it, and whether its purpose is one [of which] our minds wholeheartedly approve. Perhaps one of the reasons why so many of our economic and political projects miscarry is because they are in the hands of men with eyes so tightly glued to what they are doing that they never stop to question whether it should be done at all. Merely keeping busy, merely getting paid, can never satisfy man’s need for creative work. …

If we direct our work towards God, we shall work better than we know. The admission of this fact is another of the tasks for which we need repose. Once a week, man, reposing from work, does well to come before his God to admit how much of what he did during the week was the work of his Creator; he can remind himself, then, that the material on which he labored came from other Hands, that the ideas he employed entered his mind from a higher Source, that the very energy which he employed was a gift…

Philadelphia criminal justice reforms

Larry Krasner, Philadelphia’s new District Attorney, seems to truly be reforming the justice system for the better. Shaun King writes:

When lifelong civil rights attorney Larry Krasner was elected in a landslide this past November to become the new district attorney of Philadelphia, to say that his fans and supporters had high hopes would be an understatement. Anything less than a complete revolution that tore down the bigoted and patently unfair systems of mass incarceration would be a severe disappointment. …

In his first week on the job, he fired 31 prosecutors from the DA’s office because they weren’t committed to the changes he intended to make. …

Next, Krasner obeyed a court order to release a list of 29 officers from the Philadelphia Police Department that were on a “do-not-call list” — meaning that they were so tainted that they would be considered unreliable as witnesses. The police officers on the list had either been charged with crimes or found responsible for misconduct in internal police probes conducted by the department’s Board of Inquiry. Among the offenses, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the police officers had lied to their fellow investigators, filed false reports, used excessive force, driven drunk, and burgled. …

All of that is big, but nothing is as essential and revolutionary as the internal five-page guiding document of new policies that Krasner sent to his staff. … The first sentence says it all: “These policies are an effort to end mass incarcerations and bring balance back to sentencing.”

Then, under the heading “Decline Certain Charges,” Krasner immediately instructs prosecutors to stop prosecuting marijuana possession regardless of the weight. Furthermore, he instructed prosecutors to stop charging those with marijuana with any paraphernalia crimes.

Next, Krasner instructed his prosecutors to stop charging sex workers that have fewer than three convictions with any crime and drop all current cases against sex workers who also fit that description. All sex workers with three or more convictions are to be referred to Dawn Court – a special diversionary program created in 2010 specifically for sex workers with repeat offenses, the first of its kind in the nation.

Under the heading “Divert More,” Krasner then instructed prosecutors to avoid convictions if possible and guide cases for diversion programs instead of jail and prison.

What Krasner’s memo said next was groundbreaking. First, Krasner instructed prosecutors to stop the wide-ranging practice of beginning plea deals with the highest possible sentencing and instead, begin those plea deals at the bottom end of the available range of time that can be served. And when less than 24 months is available as a sentence for a crime, house arrest or diversion programs should be used instead of incarceration.

Larry Krasner’s predecessor is serving prison time for a variety of corruption-related crimes. And in a city where even a corrupt District Attorney’s office has to maintain a list of cops likely to lie under oath and at the same time has more than 44,000 citizens on probation, it’s clear there’s something foul in the criminal justice waters. If you’re still skeptical about the need for these reforms, this should convince you:

It’s what came next that genuinely shocked me. …

Krasner instructed his prosecutors to now add up and justify the exact costs of every single person sentenced to a crime in Philadelphia. Stating that the city is currently spending an astounding $360 million per year to jail around just 6,000 people, Krasner then gave examples of all of the things that such money could be doing in the city currently. Stating that it costs between $42,000 and $60,000 per year to incarcerate a person, he reminded the prosecutors that the average total family income of a person in the city was just $41,000. The annual cost of incarceration, Krasner reminded his prosecutors, was currently more per year than the beginning salary of teachers, police officers, firefighters, social workers, addiction counselors, and even prosecutors in his office.

Krasner wrote, “If you are seeking a sentence of 3 years incarceration, state on the record that the cost to the taxpayer will be $126,000.00 (3 x $42,000.00) if not more and explain why you believe the cost is justified.”

Spending $360 million per year to jail ~6,000 people. How many of these are nonviolent offenses? How many are due to minor probation violations?

Philadelphia helped pioneer the idea of criminal justice as a penitential and reformatory process rather than just a punitive one. Krasner’s reforms seem to me to be in the spirit of those penitential ideals.

‘Keep yourself aggressive’

Doug Pederson’s Super Bowl-winning approach to coaching:

Doug Pederson never stopped being aggressive this season — not after Carson Wentz went down and not when the Super Bowl was on the line with Nick Foles under center.

Pederson’s play calling all season was deemed “unorthodox” by many, but after the Super Bowl there’s a better word for it: Ballsy.

Pederson made those calls all season long, throwing deep on running downs and running on third and long with great success. He threw a flea flicker in the playoffs against the best defense in football and it worked! He didn’t back down in the Super Bowl even though he was across the field from the greatest defensive mind of this generation in Bill Belichick.

Pederson outcoached the best coach in the history of the game, and it was never more obvious than on two fourth down plays that won the Eagles the team’s first championship in 57 years.

Pederson loves going for it on fourth down, something he’s done quite often since taking over before last season. In two years the Eagles opted to go for it on fourth down 53 times in the regular season, converting 13 in 2016 and 17 this season. Last year, only Jacksonville went for it on fourth down more than the Eagles, but no team had more conversions than the Birds. This season, only the Packers went for it more times than Philly, and no team converted more.

The Eagles opponents this season were just 4-for-18 in the regular season on fourth down, and just 2-for-6 in the playoffs. The Eagles were a perfect 3-for-3 in the playoffs on fourth down.

But it’s how the Eagles converted their fourth down attempts in the Super Bowl — and when Pederson opted to roll the dice on fourth down — that was the key to Sunday’s victory. …

Foles became the first quarterback to throw and catch a touchdown in the Super Bowl, and Pederson became a play-calling legend. …

“You really want to know what we call it,” Pederson said after the game. “Philly Special.”

“You know, I trust my players,” he added. “I trust the coaches. I trust my instincts. I trust everything that I’m doing and I want to maintain that aggressiveness with the guys. In games like this against a great opponent, you’ve got to make those tough decisions that way and keep yourself aggressive.”

Besides Foles becoming the first quarterback to catch a pass in the Super Bowl, another incredible thing about last night’s game? I think there was only a single punt in the entire game.

I saw someone share this image on Twitter last night. It’s great: