PAPERBOY: Slow-Jamming The Alt-Weeklies

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!


CP: This week, money talks, with a rundown of the jobs, salaries and stories of the city’s municipal workers. Why plunge into something like you might see in Parade magazine (where it’s called something like What Do People Make?, with the paltry earnings of a few average schmoes side by side with moneybags like Oprah and Reese Witherspoon)? Doron Taussig says at the outset that “public opinion about city workers ranges from ‘selfless public servants’ to ‘lazy good-for-nothings,’ but a lot of those opinions, it seems to us, aren’t based on much.” Plus, contract negotiations are coming and some of the highlighted people and their departments may face cuts or go on strike. For former addict-turned-Department of Behavior Health aide Richard Drain (yearly salary: $26,792), that might be too much to bear.

He finally went into the shelter system, started attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and was accepted cp_2009_04_30.jpginto a clerical workshop at Horizon House. Eleven years ago, he came to DBH, where he does typing, filing, keeps the printer and fax machine stocked with paper, etc., and takes pictures for an in-house department newsletter.

He’s also a “certified peer specialist” and a facilitator for the Wellness Recovery Action Plan, which means part of his time with DBH is spent visiting facilities, doing outreach, talking to addicts and recovering addicts to persuade them that “recovery is possible.” Some people, he knows, aren’t ready for the message. But he talks to them anyway. “You have to plant the seed,” he says. And he’s had some gratifying success. He’s seen guys he went to jail with — hard-core users — come around.

Drain owns a home in Southwest Philly, and lives there with his wife, and sometimes his 12-year-old son. The boy recently began exhibiting some of the behaviors Drain did at the same age — thumbing his nose at authority, etc. “Which is not good,” Drain says. His other children, though, the ones he sent away in their youth, are doing well — all are college graduates. He loves his job, and doesn’t do it for the money — he’d never consider leaving, he says — though he sometimes gets frustrated with his pay. A lot of his outreach is done after-hours. “When everyone else went home and got comfortable,” he says, “we’re just getting back to work.”

Drain is by far the lowest-salaried worker featured, and Taussig says that the people who came forward for the piece tended to be upper-level employees with managing positions and higher salary, like Lauren Medley.

Lauren Medley is more or less a lifer in the health care industry. She began training at her vocational high school in the Northeast, served as medical supply in the Army during Desert Storm (she was stationed in Germany), and then worked for the city as a lab tech for several years. She found the work boring, though, so she went to nursing school part-time at Holy Family University. It took seven years. She left the city briefly, but came back for the predictable hours and the pension benefits.

Today she works as a nurse supervisor at Health Center 2 in South Philly. Her job involves triage — taking vital signs, height and weight measurements and complaints — as well as administering medication, injections, and drawing blood. There’s also teaching. Many health center patients have high blood pressure or diabetes, and so nurses provide instruction about diet habits.

Overall, it’s an interesting sampling of bite-size stories, but it made me wonder why CP couldn’t put the clampdown on a few more entry-level workers.

PW: A rainbow-hued edition of the Queer Issue. There’s no single cover story, but instead a series of thoughtful short features. Tara Murtha profiles Dan Anders, an uncommon candidate for the Court of Common Pleas. Steven Wells looks at the bisexual‘s place in society and in the GLBT movement and, in the piece that’s generating some controversy, Joel Mathis’ take on the North Philly-filmed, YouTube-based Scorpion Show. It starts out simply enough, capturing the show’s vibe and the two co-hosts’ high-energy banter. But at about the midway point, Mathis takes on the elephant in the room:

pg_1.jpgSoon, though, viewers began to ask: Are Skorpion and Makael gay?

Simmons and Mclendon say they hate the question—but it’s unavoidable when episodes of the show have addressed topics such as: Does having sex once with a man make you gay? Is a man gay if he likes his ass played with during sex? And why do gay relationships so often end badly?

Off camera, Simmons has been out of the closet for eight years; Mclendon says he won’t discuss his private life. On camera, the two have responded to the questions with a popular short video asserting their straightness in a hilarious display of head-wagging, finger-snapping and Beyoncé-loving faux machismo.

“Do we look gay?” Mclendon asks, and then in unison the pair snap. “Helloooooo?”

“No, we’re not gay. We like cootchie,” Mclendon confides, leeringly, to the camera.

Commenters – 102 of them, so far – have taken exception to Mathis’ approach and his emphasis on Skorpion and Makael’s sexuality. It makes me wonder: Were viewers really speculating about this, or did the article just need a gay-friendly hook to land a spot in the Queer Issue? Simmons’ desire to become “a black Perez Hilton” may invite questioning, but it might not play all that well in Simmons’ neighborhood. PW seems to have kicked open a hornet’s nest — and landed a spot in a Skorpion Show video.


CP: High-pressure applications… to high school? Beats dropping out. Midnight movies return: Dogs and cats, living together! Mass hysteria! Time stops in South Philly. Thumbs up to “non-mainstream beauty,” thumbs down to Grease-quoting headlines.

PW: Philly: enlightened, Harrisburg: not so much. August: A few months early, but right on time. Old-school, subversive cinema: take that, anti-gay censors! “…playing trombone for the Jonas Brothers TV show theme song”: Dude is living out my dream.

WINNER: Nice breadth of coverage, amusing headlines, a Steven Wells piece I actually really like… apart from the noise over the Skorpion show, everything’s coming up PW!

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