They Don't Consider That Sex

South Philly sidewalk homilies come to life at Joe's Fruit Stand.

By Mike Newall
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Jul. 5, 2006

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I recently had the opportunity to watch footage from a still-in-the-works documentary about Joe's Fruit Stand, an Italian Market produce and knickknack shop on the corner of Ninth and Ellsworth.

Shot last summer by New York filmmaker Lucas Sabean, it's the story of Frankie Brown, a depressed 29-year-old aspiring actor and writer who returns home to Philadelphia and takes a job hauling tomatoes at his father's fruit stand after a decade of ups and downs in New York.

What follows is a funny, often poetic, emotionally powerful portrayal of a tough-love father-and-son relationship. It's also a dead-on depiction of South Philly sidewalk life.

Here's a small sample loosely recreated from memory:

Outside Joe Brown's Fruit Stand. Early afternoon. Summertime.

Joe Brown, 63, fireplug build, mussed dark brown hair, glasses,
red cabana shirt, cigarette dangling from his lips, inspects a carton of red peppers.

Frankie Brown, the same stocky build, dark mussed hair and Italian looks as his father, sluggishly loads crates onto a nearby table.

Bruno, a regular customer, late 50s, graying, slicked back hair, wearing a white T-shirt and silver chain, is into one of his patented "the world has gone to shit" monologues.

Bruno: You hit a kid today, he gets on the phone, calls the police.

Joe: [Wiping his nose and shrugging.] Gets you locked up.

Bruno: Right. You get locked up. They gotta come [knocking on the table for emphasis] and lock you up. The kid will then leave the house. And the kid will go to wherever they put him at.

Joe: [Shrugging, not looking up from his peppers.] My father would've shot the cop as he walked in the fucking door.

Bruno: [Throwing his hands in the air.] Right! Nobody would even say nothing.

Joe: They're out of control because there's no guardians.

Bruno: [In a slow mocking voice and making quotation marks with his fingers.] Everything's liberal today, Joe. Everything's okay.

Joe: I'm old-fashioned. I'll break their fucking heads.

A shared moment of nostalgia before Bruno carries on.

Bruno: The girls today ... the little kids 13 and 14, they go to a party with the girls, and before they leave [his voice drops and he makes a hand gesture], the girls, they suck the kids' dicks.

Joe: [Shaking his head in shared disgust.] I know.

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