BY DAVE ALLEN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
PW: Crises of all kinds – in health, housing, and the economy – are all too easily swept under the rug, but Brian James Kirk’s story on William Brawner shows that the founder of the Haven center for HIV-positive youth has remained determined despite reduced attention to the AIDS epidemic.
On the second floor of the Allegheny Avenue warehouse—up the dusty, wooden steps and through a door marked HAVEN—teenage boys and girls watch SportsCenter on a 20-inch screen, lob basketballs at an arcade hoop and talk among themselves on a couch near the entrance.
As a sick kid himself, Brawner says he had minimal social support outside his family and he could only dream of a place like HAVEN, where he could be open about his situation.
“Let’s say you’re 14—where would you rather go?” he asks. “You want to be with your friends, hanging out, having a good time in an atmosphere that’s not all about doctors and needles.”
Today—almost three decades after the first acknowledged cases of HIV/AIDS and a decade since medications have changed the paradigm from saving lives to helping people live healthy—more than 16,000 people live with HIV/AIDS in Philadelphia, 79 percent of whom are black or Latino. And here’s where Brawner comes in: Thirty-four percent of the newly infected are under 29.
Kirk digs deep into Brawner’s childhood health problems – low T-cell counts, lower chances for survival – with testimony from medical professionals, some fromBrawner’s past and some practicing now in Philly. Brawner is open, too, about his irresponsible behavior during college and his struggles to find discipline. Though Brawner’s past is hardly flawless, his work today is all the more honorable for it. An honest, affecting piece.
CP: For the Fall Arts Preview, Shaun Brady summons up a bit of childhood magic with a profile of W. Carter Merbreier, AKA Captain Noah. An exhibit of costumes, props and characters from Captain Noah and His Magical Ark is coming to the Please Touch Museum, so the story is both a teaser for nostalgics and a primer for the uninitiated:
The Captain was born in 1967, after a call went out for any interested party to assume a morning time slot accorded to the Philadelphia Council of Churches after the previous host was killed in a car accident. “When people found out you had to provide all the props, you had to do all the research, and you got nothing for it,” Merbreier says, “I think we were the only applicants. But as I’ve said a thousand times, every good thing that’s happened to me in my life is a direct result of doing something for which I expected no reward.”
After three years, a larger time slot beckoned and the Ark became a less overtly denominational show, though Merbreier says that the only real change was ensuring that his Bible stories came from the Old rather than the New Testament.
“In those days we didn’t have to worry whether we were insulting the Muslims,” he says. “We couldn’t be blatantly religious, but by the same token we could be highly moral, and we were. To be inspirational you don’t have to be religiously hard-sell.”
Brady even sheds some light on children’s-show beefs — who knew?
“I used to get so mad at that show that was supposed to be so good that PBS put out with the yellow bird” — Sesame Street. “They had a Grouch that came out of a trash can. To the kids I ministered to, rats came out of trash cans, not funny-looking monsters.”
INSIDE THE BOOK
PW: Hitting ‘skip’ on the soundtrack to change. No kid gloves at the Athletic Rec Center. Double-secret gustation: Pennsport’s Nicholas. A different twist this week: it’s Brit Gloss, but I bet Spikol knows it’s Shaun of the Dead.
CP: Stripping down an indie-rock relic. Some Frank opinions on today’s political environment. From the world of hip-hop, a Stress assessment, plus an interview with the GZA, but no question about how his pick by the Asians in the Racial Draft is working out.
WINNER: Between Palinsanity and Fumo Fever, there’s a lot of indignation, both local and national, to go around, but I have to give the edge to PW. The only Captain I fondly recall from childhood is Kangaroo.