Show #33: St. Paul, Minn.
Down to the subpar Chinese restaurant and defunct Fashion Bug (see above), St. Paul showcases the same gritty, concrete aesthetics as Northeast Philadelphia. I am familiar with these aesthetics because much of my youth was spent on Cottman Avenue, a world apart from what most associate with the City of Brotherly Love—that is, Benjamin Franklin, the Liberty Bell, and the Dead Milkmen. In place of these fine colonial institutions, Cottman Avenue boasts strip malls, strip malls, and, for variety, more strip malls.
Cottman Avenue's marginal retail enterprises offered untold delights to the suburban Philadelphian armed with a driver's license. Besides Black Sabbath bootlegs at used record shops and drug paraphernalia, Cottman Avenue offered Putt-Putt minigolf. As a minigolf enthusiast, I found the course adequate, if unimaginative and unchallenging. However, this Putt-Putt set the scene of an early economic lesson when, one sunny day, my mother and I saw Father DiMato, our local parish priest, playing minigolf in civilian clothes.
"Is that Father DiMato playing Putt-Putt?" I asked my mother.
"Yes," said my mother. She prepared to putt.
"But," I protested, "Father DiMato is a priest. Also, he has a reputation as an inveterate bastard. How can he play Putt-Putt with the rest of us?"
"Putt-Putt does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, or, in this case, creed," my mother explained. "As long as you have three dollars, you can play. Father DiMato does not have much in this world. He has taken a vow of poverty. All he has belongs to Christ. However, he undoubtedly has three dollars to splurge on minigolf." My mother putted. "And, if Christ is indeed on Father DiMato's side, expect him to score well under par."
The only advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your perspective) Northeast Philadelphia has over St. Paul is its indigenous "Guidos." A "Guido" is working-class Italian-American from Philadelphia who displays gold chains and a mullet hair-cut (a.k.a. "business up front, party in the rear"). I do not endorse popular use of this "Guido" racist anti-Italian slur, but remember that "Guidos" were known for their taste in fast cars and loose women. These women were sometimes called "Guidettes" by sarcastic suburban youth. Many of these "Guidettes" were attractive, sexually-frank persons. However, when in Northeast Philadelphia, remember this: if you believe a Guidette is flirting with you, do not flirt back. Guidos do not like when non-Italians from the suburbs take an interest in their women, and will express their disapproval with switchblades.