Street between Street between Blue skies, smiles on every street
my view by clark deleon
On a rowhouse block in South Philadelphia so small it doesn’t even appear on most street maps — South Philip Street between
McKean Street and Snyder Avenue, right where Two Street magically transforms into Three Street — I saw a grown man cry Saturday morning. His name is Tommy and he’s got cancer. But that’s not why he was wiping away tears from his red, white and blue greasepaint-stained cheeks as he stood with his family on the top steps of their house in the middle of the block. My guess is the tears came with the hugs. But then again, it could have been the trombones. Or maybe the tubas. Or maybe it was the hundreds of guys in dresses and umbrellas dancing in front of his house.
These are the moments most people never see during the Mummers Parade — not on TV, not in real life — unless they live on Tommy’s block or unless they are mummers. It’s called a serenade and it’s something that mummers do to pay tribute to one of their own. And on this too-warm-to-be-true 70-degree January morning, under a slanting winter sun that made your eyes squint, the scene reminded me of a song I used to hear as a kid: “When you see blue skies and stars above and smiles on every street, no need to check the roadmap, Philadelphia’s at your feet.” The fact that maybe 90 percent of the several hundred strutting mummers had no idea who Tommy was or why they were dancing in front of his house, didn’t interfere with this Frank Capra Philadelphia moment. It was, as they say, what it was. And it was beeyoudeeful.
I have been marching, on and off, with the James “Froggy” Carr New Year’s Bridade, the comic club that brought wench-power back to Second Street, for more than 20 years. And during those two decades, I have learned that on parade day there is no one in charge — at least not that you can tell. We arrive by the dozens in the morning outside the Frogs clubhouse at Second and Wilder streets and begin marching down Two Street gathering wenches along the way like a snowball rolling downhill. By the time we hit City Hall this year, there were an estimated 800 of us.