The universal symbol of Philadelphia has been riddled with bullets.
No, the Liberty Bell has not been shot. Nor has Billy Penn been gunned down, and the Phillie Phanatic wasn’t caught in the crossfire.
The cheesesteak, the sandwich that so many out of town restaurants and chains try to copycat, the first thing a visitor asks for, the simple sandwich of thin sliced chopped steak, melted cheese, and an option of wit or witout fried onions, now could come with a side of bullets.
In the summer of 2021, not once, but twice gunshots rang out at two of our city’s popular cheesesteak establishments, resulting not only in more bloodshed in a city on record pace, but also a death.
The first happened in July at Geno’s Steak, located at the cheesey grail of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue — that 24-hour haven where you can get your cheesesteak with American, Provolone or Cheese Whiz. Yes, this is where the tourists go, where Monday Night Football likes to pan a shot of the cheesesteak lines before going to commercial — and where a brawl over a football argument resulted in one person pulling out a gun and shooting to kill under the fluorescent lights of the french fry window.
Then, not even a full week into August, four people were shot at Max’s Steaks at Broad Street and Erie Avenue. While not quite of the reputation and popularity of Pat’s and Geno’s, Max’s has a big claim itself: a starring role in “Creed,” where Adonis Creed takes ___ on a date.
As Philadelphians, how can we stand for this?
I mean, I thought presidential candidate John Kerry would never be outdone for disrespecting our beloved sandwich in 2004, when he asked for swiss cheese on his during a photo op. Clearly, he was destined to lose. But our Mayor still refuses to call a State of Emergency for all this gun violence — or call out Larry Krasner, who is responsible for so much of it.
What Philadelphia icon could be next? Pop’s Water Ice across from Marconi Plaza? Philadelphia Soft Pretzels Factory in Suburban Station? Sid Booker’s Fried Shrimp on Broad? Any of the “it’s not really a massage” parlors on Cherry Street?
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A few years ago, when our Mayor was a Councilman, he got into a public sparring match with Joey Vento, the late owner of Geno’s Steaks. Vento had a sign at his cheesesteak window that stated, “When ordering, please speak English.”
Kenney went after him. The City received national attention. The Philadelphia Human Relation Commission investigated Vento’s sign and could not find him guilty of anything except expressing his First Amendment Rights.
Maybe the 2021 version should say, “When ordering, please don’t shoot anybody.”
Or how about abandoning the “Philly Cheesesteak Stance” (how politicians take their first bit to avoid getting grease on their chests) instead advise a “Philly Cheesesteak Duck and Cover”, where eaters get their cheesesteak and get the hell out of the way?
Last year, the National Guard was called into Philadelphia to help us tamper down the violence. Do you remember the riots? The fires? The cracks in the night? The “peaceful protests” that torched city police cars, shut down an interstate and left every single store in our city selling Nikes and plasma TVs empty? Remember that wonderful time? When you couldn’t find an ATM because they had all been blown up?
It was about that time that I found myself standing in line at the corner of Richmond and Orthodox in Bridesburg, at a place called Dom’s.
In front of me was a retired woman with a Yorkie. In back of me was a mailman, in uniform, taking a break from his route. A Septa bus pulled up to the corner and the driver turned off the engine and got in line behind us.
We weren’t waiting in line for cheese steaks.
There we were, black and white, waiting in line for ammunition.
Everyday citizens had to arm and defend themselves because 911 had a busy signal, and rumor was the Philly Police were told to stand down.
We were helpless and abandoned. Not only did Dom sell out of ammo, but almost every firearm he had in stock was sold that week of terror. The people of Philadelphia, and many of us were defending ourselves for the first time.
We weren’t waiting in line for cheese steaks. There we were, black and white, waiting in line for ammunition.
Philadelphia is a Tale of Two Cities.
What does “322” mean in Philly? A pretty good batting average, but a horrific body count that could actually hit 600 by year’s end (Philadelphia has not hit 500 murders in recorded history).
This has turned into a lawless City that punishes and prosecutes its police force and coddles and cradles its criminals, for the fear of being politically incorrect.
Mr. Mayor, you’re not pulling the trigger, but you’re not doing enough to stop, prevent, and counteract this Philadelphian Death March — where it’s open season on law-abiding people in all neighborhoods, families in playgrounds and bar-goers in the cheesesteak line.
Because for the first time since Pat Oliveri served his sandwich to a cabbie from a hot dog cart back in the 1930s, the fat and cholesterol aren’t going to kill us. But waiting in line for one could.
Patty-Pat Kozlowski likes it Cooper Sharp wit on a seeded roll with hot peps. She also has a license to carry a five shot Taurus revolver she nicknamed Joanie.