PAPERBOY: ‘We’re All Polar Bears Now’ Edition

paperboyartthumbnail.jpgBY 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

CP: Believe in Green, but forget about the Iggles. Paul Glover, a Temple prof and a flagwaver for the green economy, lays out an idealistic but reasonable vision for Philly. I’ll flag him for an unnecessary Rocky reference, but credit him with a smart, optimistic take on the city’s future. He looks at nearly every aspect of city life and how it can be transformed. Here’s his take on transportation, as a sample:

Challenges: Philadelphia’s rail system was ripped out for cars, which clog streets and slow emergency response.cp_2009-01-29.jpg Cars smash, kill, maim. They inhale paychecks and taxes, exhale rotten air. They compel war for oil. We’ll become stronger and sexier as pedaling bipeds.

Next steps: To risk your life for your country, ride a bike. Hop on the bus. Revive street rail with ultralight passenger cars. Restore regional freight routes. Raise transit funds with local gasoline tax. Make pathways for bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards, Segways, scooters and wheelchairs. Restore canals. Zone for mixed use, to reduce travel needs. Live near your work. Employ multitudes making mosaic sidewalks. Convert paving to playgrounds.

Local heroes: PhillyCarShare, Bike Share Philadelphia, Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, Neighborhood Bike Works and Bike Church, Critical Mass bike rides, bike shops, Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, Pennsylvania Transit Coalition, PenTrans. Even SEPTA: Trains are clunky and late, but they’re there.

World champions: Carfree Cities conferences, carfree.com, World Naked Bike Ride, Urban Ecology.

Big picture: The first cities rebuilt for proximity rather than speed will win this race.

Remember Obama on the campaign, talking about investing in green technology? This is the action that rhetoric promised. Look past the weird, disarming cover art — polar bears don’t strike me as a local concern — and dig into Glover’s rundown. Don’t let the composting toilets throw you off; it’s not whacked-out hippie stuff. It could save this city.

PW: Usually mental health issues are Liz Spikol’s beat, but this week, she turns it over to Jacob Lambert for a highly personal story. Lambert takes on the complex issues of care and hospitalization for his older brother David, who suffers from acute bipolar disorder. It’s different from a fully-reported story, but it’s still very real.

…In blocking him access to most of my life, I became inured to the unpleasant realities of his. I had a brother three times a year: on his birthday, on Thanksgiving and on Christmas; the rest of the time, I was effectively an only child.

pw1_29_09.jpgEarly last September, that changed. I was forced to confront my brother’s reality when he was released in error from Essex County Hospital Center. Following three days on the streets and benches of New York, he hopped a bus to Philadelphia—crossing state lines and, in the process, plunging my parents, my wife and me into the swirling bureaucracy of Pennsylvania’s mental healthcare system.

 

I was at home in Bella Vista when he called. Last I’d heard he’d “eloped” from the hospital and was wandering his old East Village haunts. This was nothing new; many times over the years, his ward status had been upgraded, giving him a bit of freedom—and he’d simply walk off, winding up in Manhattan, then Bellevue, then back at the hospital he’d started from.

Today, though, he wasn’t calling from a pay phone on Bleecker Street. He was on a cell phone at Seventh and Pine, saying he was browsing apartments, was owed $100,000 and would be buying me a new Mercedes. He sounded as bad as ever, and the call ended when he set down the phone to talk to a stranger.

Jacob and his family struggle to provide adequate care for David, while an interstate tangle of bureaucracy — thanks for nothing, New Jersey — keeps them from a solution and threatens to dump him out on the streets. It’s so wrenching because there are so few options, and many of the figures in the story, like the cop on South Street or the doctor at Belmont psych hospital, don’t seem to get it. Props to Jacob for telling the story straight and to PW for giving him the space to do it.

INSIDE THE BOOK

CP: The city is now more carnivorous (yes, another steak house), less fashionable (R.I.P., Shirt Corner), and less safe to be born in (“What are you doing, creating Calcutta here?”). Glad I’m not a cow, a wearer of wide lapels, or a fetus. On Saturday night, it’ll get a little weirder, too. Man, that show is gonna be sweet.

PW: Racism everywhere! In Yiddish racial slurs and lame caricatures of American Idol judges (point taken, though — Antony’s awesome). Plus, the best food on four wheels and all the college-scene stuff the spring semester has to offer. The Ivy League without grades or exams? I’ll take it.

WINNER: PW takes it, because the last thing I want to see on the cover is more snow and ice. I’m done with this shit. Wake me in late March. I’ll be in my cave.

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