Goodbye, January Of Crowded Rooms

February 1, 2013 |  by  |  Art & Design  | 

 

Red Table 1, 2003 by Regina Granne

Red Table 1, 2003 by Regina Granne

February, season of masks, appears to want to reveal its true self. There is no definition to the sky this morning in Bella Vista, and there is no depth but for the tumbling snow.

January in contrast could hardly disguise its brutal heart. Mummers spray graffiti was still stuck to the sidewalk when it took from Bella Vista one of its most fundamentally honest and unpretentious men, David Wycoff. David was part of a team of federal lawyers who defended men and women sentenced to death. Capital punishment is a racist and arbitrary institution. It’s on the wane in the US, in part thanks to people like David, who seek justice for everyone. His work was integral to the October ruling that stayed the execution of Philadelphian Terrance Williams.

Hundreds came to David’s extraordinary funeral, where the names of men and women he had helped save from the death penalty were read. Hundreds poured into his family’s small row house on Mildred Street to pay their respects. They tumbled up and down the stairs and into the kitchen and out onto the street. They pressed against one another, the liberal intelligentsia, the members of Society Hill Synagogue, the friends from the neighborhood, public interest lawyers, and teachers, stunned and sometimes sobbing at the mendacious soul of January.

Then the hundreds, different and yet the same hundreds, climbed crooked marble stairs to the second floor walk-up art studio and apartment of the painter Regina Granne, who died Sunday in Greenwich Village, New York. Regina was the first cousin of my mother-in-law, an artist and thinker of enormous and persistent vision. Even at her funeral she spoke forcefully through her paintings (two of which were placed at the front of the room) about feminism and war; all together she challenged how we see the world.

What do I wish to say to you, January? You don’t know it, but you reminded me that cities are still for people–and I don’t mean in an abstract way. Intimate, even iconic urban places like Bella Vista and Greenwich Village can draw us in great magnificent hordes into their tiny private spaces–in sorrow, in community, in a kind of celebration. Those spaces defy everything about our culture, I think, and for that these two defiant people, David and Regina, would be glad.

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Renovations At William Way Look To The Future While Preserving The Past

Renovations At William Way Look To The Future While Preserving The Past

September 16, 2019  |  Architecture, Preservation

Big changes are in the works for William Way Community Center thanks to a $1 million grant from the Commonwealth's Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. Stacia Friedman has the details > more

Final Plans To Transfer Philadelphia History Museum Collection To Drexel University Unveiled

Final Plans To Transfer Philadelphia History Museum Collection To Drexel University Unveiled

September 12, 2019  |  City Life, History

The Philadelphia History Museum is officially dead. The large collection of beloved city artifacts will be transferred to Drexel University. Kimberly Haas has the news > more

Hidden City Daily Celebrates Eight Years Of Publishing

Hidden City Daily Celebrates Eight Years Of Publishing

September 11, 2019  |  City Life

September marks Hidden City Daily's 8th year of publishing. To toast the occasion we look back at the past 12 months with a curated list of our top 15 stories. > more

Settlement Houses: Doing Good In The Neighborhood

Settlement Houses: Doing Good In The Neighborhood

September 9, 2019  |  History

Stacia Friedman takes a look at Philadelphia's long tradition of providing social welfare and education through settlement houses, some of which still serve communities today > more

Until Death Do Us Part: An Ode To Philadelphia Book Collecting

Until Death Do Us Part: An Ode To Philadelphia Book Collecting

September 6, 2019  |  History

In celebration of National Read A Book Day, Mickey Herr dives deep into the stacks at some of Philadelphia's most historic and obscure libraries > more

Bootleggers & Back Alley Bars: Philadelphia During Prohibition A City

Bootleggers & Back Alley Bars: Philadelphia During Prohibition A City “Soaked In Alcohol”

September 4, 2019  |  History

Speakeasies are all the rage these days. The revival finds its roots in secret cocktail lounges that opened after the 18th Amendment was ratified in 1920. Pennsylvania got a head start and outlawed alcohol in 1919. Amy Cohen takes a look back at Philadelphia during Prohibition on the 100-year anniversary of the ban > more