True Tales From the Streets of Philly

There was a newspaper here in Philly long ago. The Department of Photography head was named Jack C. Kosmin got me a cool job with the paper. I was hired as a sub to shoot homeless people on the street. I had a writer with me. His name was Marty. So we set out to Skid Row. It’s 1981. Skid Row was the bowery. I wore a long trench coat, a camera, and some rolls of film in my deep pockets. I walked all over the area many times over and over. I stopped at a Barbershop. It was Bonanno Barber Shop. His brother was a very famous Mafia King. His younger brother died in Nam. So we had things to talk about when he wasn’t busy. He told me I could hang there at the shop, keep my gear there and all is safe. “No one fucks with a Bonanno”. He kept a Bottle of Amaretto on the shelf and he taught me how to hold the little cup with my finger out and just sip slowly. He said we need to let the drink just engulf our tongues, then slide down the throat so all the flavor is enjoyed.  It’s over 40 years ago and If I get some Amaretto, well, I know how to hold the cup and drink it.

I was on Race Street near 8th and I saw some people standing around. There was a man on the sidewalk and he didn’t look good at all. I know that look all too well. Some guy all scruffy looking and with torn clothes is working on the guy, A woman says, how is he Doc, is he ok? So he says, hit 4 and get a cop.  That meant go to the intersection and get on all 4 corners and hail a cop. There are no payphones at all around. He keeps the guy breathing and when the cops get there, they thank him.  We all start to go to the Church on Arch Street. They have lunch meals. for free and a place to wash up a wee bit. ‘

So, I’m chomping at the bit to get this guy’s story. We are in the food line and I can smell the fresh baked muffins. After we ate I walked outside and lit a Camel. Doc stands next to me and asks for a smoke. Then he asked me, What are you up to around here? I explained I was a Nam  Vet and making photos of life on the street. Then we started walking and talking. He said he was a WW2 Combat Medic. I was like amazed at the words he said. We bonded quickly after that.

I then said, now I know why they call you Doc. Yeah, my history follows and leads me. Doc said he had a very successful practice in Bryn Mawr and a luxurious lifestyle. He was in business with a lifelong friend and as it turned out, that guy was um, well, sleeping with Doc’s wife. He put 2 million dollars in a secured account with his daughter. The house, cars everything he left for the wife as he walked out the door. We went into a Pharmacy and Doc talked with the Pharmacist. He pulled out a script pad and wrote 3 scripts. The Pharmacist filled them and we headed back to the Church. Turns out there was a few really sick people and he was taking care of them. If Doc sent someone to the Pharmacy, they didn’t pay cause Doc pre-paid for everything. Doc treated a few people and a young girl that was pregnant,  He paid special attention to. She was off-street cause Doc paid the Church to provide quarters for her.

It was time for me to leave and I did.

6 thoughts on “True Tales From the Streets of Philly”

    1. Thanks Pavel. I like them too when I can find them.It seems my head does better when my brain is working, but that’s not all the time.

    1. David, I remember. Good to hear from you. David,. I have some Vets that use wheele chairs and are street shooters. Get it?

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