Monday, May 6, 2013


It's been said a good weekend makes Monday even more of a drag.

I want to go into a little lecture about the changing nature of Main Street but I really shouldn't or at least I should keep it short. Towns and small cities that have lost their industrial base are learning to adapt by becoming centers of live entertainment. I could go on but that would make this posting too much like a Monday morning.

Fifty years from now I can see a huge re-vitalization of cities in America but until then the towns and cities that learn how to entertain people will survive and those that don't will become sinkholes of poverty and a dumping ground for every social service.

Here again I champion the arts and any other social activity that bring people physically together as a salvation for the post industrial town.  Luckily the suburbs are still excruciatingly placid places on the weekends and even a 100 inch TV is no replacement for real human contact.

One of the local towns that knows how to entertain is Phoenixville. From April to October they have an event almost every weekend.  The first Friday of every month they close down their central commercial district to motor vehicles and make it a pedestrian mall.  The restaurants and taverns that are normal packed on the weekends are overflowing  on a First Friday.  I considered myself very lucky to have found a parking space within half a mile of the event.

I've been told that Phoenixville draws about 60,000 customers a weekend and an addition 20,000 - 30,000 people when there is an event.  This is in a town of only 16,000 people with a central commercial district that's only four blocks long. Being a believer in the power of statistics in the last 10 years the population is up over 10% and the assessed value of properties up 20%.    

Even flea markets have learned that entertainment is a cost effective value added extra to bring in customers. One of the best regional flea markets is Jake's on Route 100 just outside of Bally. It a nice flea market because the tables are reasonably priced and there's a mix of professional vendors as well as people who have just clean out the basement.  Jake's hosts monthly events that boost the crowds by 25% or more.

Last Saturday they had their Guitar Show hosting over two dozen local instrument makers.

Saturday night in Pottstown the Pottstown Classic Car Club hosted their monthly car show.  The main street in Pottstown is High Street. It is broad and straight -and as one person said was originally designed for parades. Pottstown itself is one of those post industrial towns looking for a new identity.   

Once Pottstown was one of the premier cruising capitals of the Northeast. As a continuation of the custom car and hot rod culture the monthly car show draws 3-4 thousand people to see up to 500 one of a kind automobiles on display.

As the car show was ending the empty bank building on Hanover Street opened for a one night only art exhibition. Pottstown native and pop art guru, James Enders hosted it. Guest artist Will Ursprung, just back from a show in Savannah GA,  also had works on display. It was fun to see the gearheads and culture mavens mix.

Sunday it was off to Lancaster PA.  They had their Artwalk, something hosted on the first weekend of the month. For complete information you can go to .

Lancaster is another small post industrial city that until recently was in a slow spiral downward into poverty and decay.  Now Lancaster is that hip destination in the middle of Amish country -and if anything the culture in town is very different than the plain and simple of their Amish neighbors.  

The Artwalk is not a structured event but it is easily an all day event. Lancaster is a good starting point for a vacation. One day to take in the city, the next for the Amish countryside, with Philadelphia, Valley Forge and the Gettysburg battlefield each about 90 minutes away.

Maybe one of the best things this weekend was the gallery show at the Phoenix Village Art Center at 207 Bridge Street.  Two people I knew had art on display and it was more a party than an art exhibition. It was too crowded to take any decent pictures.

In the back several of my friend congregated at an empty table. At the other end of the table was a young boy, Zaffron, who was drawing up a storm. In a dozen or so pictures he told the whole story of his dragon adventures.  For an eight year old kid he has more talent than a few art school graduates I've meet.

  Zaffron and my son Evan were comparing drawings. Evan was working on his cartoon character King Raccoon.  Zaffon's parents are nearby and we're all in this free flowing conversation about almost anything under the sun though we keep coming back to Zaffron's dragons.  Zaffron's mom was born and raised in Phoenixville but his dad is from the Netherlands. I had to ask the father what kept him here in Pennsylvania? He gestured towards his wife.

"So you're saying your wife is better than Amsterdam" I said.  The man reached over to his wife, held her hand and said "that's exactly right".

In that gallery was this electric feeling that the world is awesome. Like Zaffron's drawing of two dragons arguing what to do over a man they found, the world was filled with wonder and adventure.

Now I can't expect the world to share my tastes or appreciate everything that I like -but I hope for a little bit of awesomeness in everybody's day and at least a day or two every week where you can wander and explore.

Everyday should have something awesome in it. Awesome should be a human right. Awesomisum should be next worldwide philosophical movement -who could be against it except people who want the world to be duller, grayer and boring.    



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