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Postcard from the End of America: Bella Vista of Philadelphia

As published at Unz Review and Smirking Chimp , 7/20/15:

I’m the first customer in the Friendly Lounge . Don, the owner, is on the phone because his cooler is acting up. “And I just got that part replaced too. When you send stuff to be made overseas, quality control just isn’t the same! Is that beer cold?”

“It’s cold enough.”

Don and his brother inherited the business from their mother. As a young man, Don worked for Mrs. Paul’s Kitchen in the Northeast. It was on Tabor Road, remember? Philadelphia used to be the frozen fish capital of the country. Packing fish sticks, filets and onion rings isn’t for everybody, so Don quit. Luckily, his mom had this bar.

Through the open door, I can see people walk to or from the Italian Market . There, they can buy discount vegetables or bags of chicken wings or ground beef. Every so often, I’d stop in Esposito’s to get my $2 loaf of scrapple. Served in both heaven’s and hell’s cafeterias, scrapple is an abjectly divine food. There are those who assume, erroneously, that they won’t have to eat any more scrapple after death, but to be human, in this or any other life, is to achieve a grimacing détente with scrapple. You can’t escape it. It’s in you. The tall guy behind the counter likes to flirt with women, so if a pretty one is in front of me, I’ll just have to wait an extra minute. Italian, he’s married to a black lady.

An old woman with a cane hovers near the bar door before entering. Its one step up is an ordeal. It’s Blanche , of course. She wears a print shirt with stars, dots and hearts, white shorts with one gaping pocket, pink socks and beige rubber clogs. On her right arm, a watch and two bandages. “I need a pretzel!” she croaks, “Will you get me a pretzel with honey mustard?”

“All right, all right,” Don mumbles as he rushes out. Half a block away is Center City Pretzel. In 2013, two gunmen tried to rob it just...

Source: Postcards from the End of America

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