BY AMY Z. QUINN Today I saw Phawker’s own Jeff Deeney rockin’ the cover of this week’s Philadelphia Weekly! Of course we’re happy for him, but the story itself is sad and sickening — and I know Deeney will understand the compliment that’s in there — elaborating what happened on Hurley Street, said to be the city’s worst, before and after one of the city’s shootings this summer. It’s one of those stories about how people trying to live and raise children in Philadelphia live in a literal war zone, and how a block rots from the inside out while police do . . . well, whatever it is they do.
The big Hurley Street blowout starts with a basketball game. Hakeem and Ramon are playing pickup with the other boys on the block at a portable hoop. They usually play at the McVeigh Rec Center at D and Ontario, but tonight they?re convinced to compete at home. The Hurley Street regulars intend to humiliate Ramon and Hakeem in front of the whole block. But instead Ramon and Hakeem make their opponents look bad in front of their girls and moms. Ramon and Hakeem grab their nuts while celebrating, oblivious to the flaring tempers around them.
Maybe in another city, or even in this one but at another point in time, such neighborhood beef would have resulted in a street brawl. But this is not that city, and not that time. In North Philly, what starts small rarely stays that way.
At this point the details get sketchy.
Ramon calls his boy Spike. Spike carries a gun. Ramon tells Spike what?s going on, and asks Spike to come get his back. Ramon fears for his family. Lamar doesn’t fire the gun, but withdraws it from the window and backs away, satisfied with his taunt.
Shawn calls the cops. Shawn never calls the cops, and does so now only out of fear for the lives of her children. Within minutes there are two cruisers on the block.
For a moment things ebb. Shawn, Ramon, Hakeem and children leave the house.
They’ve decided to go to a relative’s apartment until things die down.
The cops are talking about Golden Girls reruns with the neighbors across the street, whom they know from previous calls.
The family slinks toward Allegheny Avenue, where Spike waits with his gun, offering protection from the mob that has formed behind Lamar.
Lamar tails them, calling for Hakeem’s head.
The cops don’t follow. They assume it’s more of the same old Hurley Street bullshit. They let Shawn know this as she backs away and starts to walk.
Read the rest, and be sickened. And like us, be proud of Jeff Deeney for being the keenest observer the city’s streets right now. (We hear PW is making a lot of noise about hiring him to replace STEVE VOLK. You’re welcome, Whitaker.) It’s one thing to show up when the police do, then bang on doors and find a few neighbors to tell you what went down. It’s another thing to keep a safe physical distance and write off the police reports. It’s another thing entirely to hear the broken glass crunch beneath your feet every day.