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deeneythumbnail1.jpgBY JEFF DEENEY

TODAY I SAW two 16-ft. moving trucks parked back-to-back in front of Mantua Hall, their loading ramps extended so they almost touched each other. Every day is moving day now. The building is slated to be emptied by the end of the year, and while most families have already left there are still some stragglers waiting for the Philadelphia Housing Authority to approve their new scatter-site placements. PHA is paying for the families to relocate, so the moving trucks come in pairs and when one leaves another arrives. The process is orderly, and as efficient as it can be in an aging high-rise where only one creaking elevator can be dedicated to the moving crews.

As I entered the lobby, a set of elevator doors opened. As I stepped toward it, my path was blocked by a big arm in a blue sweatshirt; a mover with tinted gold-rimmed glasses and a front tooth to match told me this one’s off limits. I took the other elevator upstairs, and by the time I arrived two hard-faced, barrel-chested men were wrestling a sofa into the other car. Their co-worker got stuck in the back behind the sofa and the boxes they quickly piled in front of it. He called out in protest as the rest of the crew gleefully buried him behind a rising wall of odds and ends. Apparently the co-worker was concerned about weight capacity — and maybe justifiably scared — because the elevators probably had their last real inspection sometime during the Rizzo administration.

“Ride it down. Quit bitchin’.”

The supervisor cackled as he repeatedly punched the down button, hoping the doors would shut before his underling could find a way out.

The shrill, intermittent symphony of ear-piercing smoke alarms going off about twice a minute on the floorselevator.jpg above and below only added to the prevailing air of urgency and evacuation. Not that anybody seemed to give a shit. There aren’t many people left to be bothered by the noise.

The people who are left were in high spirits, all smiles because they know they’re leaving soon. I passed a woman in the hallway, and she sent a faint smile toward my eye contact. I call out to her, “You about ready to get out of here?”

At this, her smile bloomed into a wide crescent.

“You damn right, I been here nine years.”

Even the Tre Six boys were upbeat; in the lobby on the way out I saw three of them engaged in good-natured rough housing, laughing as two ganged up on the other one, grabbing him by the torso and legs and managing to turn him upside down. His sagging pants nearly came off as he unsuccessfully kicked and squirmed, but he eventually relented and flashed me an inverted shit-eating grin before his hoodie bunched up around his shoulders and then covered his face. His boys were practically screaming with laughter and called for everyone to come look, come look.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeff Deeney is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in PW, City Paper and the Inquirer. He focuses on issues of urban poverty and drug culture.

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3 Responses to “TODAY I SAW…”

  1. rob Says:

    Glad to see you are posting these again Mr. Deeney. Any idea when this tower is slated to come down? I want to watch. I like to watch.

  2. deeney Says:

    According to PHA’s website:

    “PHA Executive Director Carl Greene has announced that the one of the tallest buildings in the PHA inventory, Mantua Hall in West Philadelphia, will be imploded in early 2008.”

  3. Andrew Says:

    Very nice!

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