Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The following is a draft of Chapter 27 of my post-oil novel AMERICAN CRUDE. Comments have been disabled. If you wish to comment, please go to TheKunstlerCast at and join the discussion.


--Innocent Byproduct


After leaving the antiques shop, I started heading east for just another few blocks toward the one street which borders most of the entire eastern side of Philadelphia : Front Street . That’s the street that most non-Philadelphians think should be re-named 1st Street . But it’s called Front Street because it’s the street that services the City’s waterfront along the length of the Delaware River . We Philadelphians didn’t care that exactly one block west of Front Street ran another street named 2nd Street, and then one more block further west ran another street named 3rd, and then another named 4th, etc. The lack of an actual 1st Street in our city made no difference to us.

The section of the waterfront right near Society Hill was no longer the seedy gathering place of sailors and cutthroats from decades earlier. After a terrible twenty year period of unrelenting urban decay during the 1960’s and 1970’s, that particular stretch of the river went certifiably Yuppie by the 1980’s with riverview condos and waterside bike paths. The pier known as Penn’s Landing became the crowning jewel of the riverfront renewal efforts, transformed into an outdoor festival center and shopping mecca. Further south of that entire upscale zone, the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard still carried on in full operation. And further north, the old merchant marine piers --much diminished in size and annual volume of business-- continued in their centuries-long purpose of shipping and receiving freight. But I was more interested in the high rent district surrounding Penn’s Landing that evening.

When I arrived at Front Street I again pulled out the pink packing slip from the Kellogg telephone switchboard. The address read “ 1892 Front Street.” That was eight blocks away, so I started walking.

A healthy stroll later and I beheld 1892. It was an old warehouse nicely converted a solid thirty years earlier into waterfront studio lofts. I entered the front foyer where a set of doorbells for each unit hung on the wall. I scanned the names directory and found “J. Warren” listed as residing in Loft 12. I hesitated. Then I pressed the bell. I heard the speaker kick in, and through that speaker I heard a telephone start ringing. Finally an answering machine picked up with a man’s voice.

“Hello,” the machine’s recorded voice said, “This is James. Catherine and I aren’t in right now. Please leave a message and one of us will get back to you as soon as possible.” I gasped! That was Captain Warren’s voice --a voice I hadn’t heard in over twenty years.

And then the beep sounded off. I again hesitated -- what message could I possible leave? So I simply walked away.

-------------------End of Chapter 27--------------------