Traveling man


Big deal, our mayor likes to travel. You want him to stay in City Hall and order in when he can be eating a croissant in the Canal Saint-Martin Quartier?

Look at it this way. Mayor Michael Nutter is the first mayor of our fair city to expand the possibilities of that office. After checking out his travel itinerary since 2008, folks are falling over themselves to run for mayor of Philadelphia. Ed Rendell was my personal favorite, but he thought that water ice and hoagies were the limits of the perks of office. If Nutter wants pasta with langostinos, he goes to Rome. If he wants a falafel, he visits Israel. Is it so outrageous that if he craves Chinese, he goes to China? Critics of the mayor are merely suffering from food-envy. What amazes me is how he keeps his weight down, and that is a key point in his favor. The man is disciplined.

In his defense, the mayor points out that his visits all over the world bring new business to Philadelphia. Spoiled sports complain he can’t even bring a Neiman Marcus or Bloomingdale’s to Center City. Picky. Picky. Just wait until the fall when we get a Nordstrom’s Rack at 17th and Walnut. OK, so it’s a Rack selling discount out-of-style, overstocked items and not the real deal of an actual Nordstrom’s, but you probably can’t afford Nordstrom’s anyway. You can always go to King of Prussia for the high-end stores, which is a two hours adventurous SEPTA bus ride up and back. Meanwhile if the mayor’s trips are successful, Philadelphia should, any day now, blossom into an international city. I’m picturing a Parisian salon opening next to Modell’s on Chestnut Street and a French guy sticking his head outside the door telling all the customers, “The mayor sent me.”

Some of you think Nutter could accomplish more if he stayed home, but I assure you with modern technology, His Honor is very much in touch with the pulse of Philadelphia. I have it from a good source that the mayor checks the hourly weather forecast for Philadelphia every moment he is away (note — he no longer checks Phillies’ box scores for obvious reasons).

The mayor has brought an international approach to Philadelphia (and I don’t mean illegal immigrants). Nutter is also celebrated for coming up with the idea of Philly311. For a firsthand experience of exactly what I am referring to, just dial Philly311. No matter what your problem, the City employee answering the phone thinks you’re speaking a foreign language. After two minutes, you’ll believe he or she is also speaking a foreign language. Welcome to Philadelphia, the International City. You’ll forget why you called in the first place. The following story didn’t happen, but it could have:

Caller: “I’m calling because my trash has not been picked up.”

311: “If you want to report a crash, call 911.”

Caller: “No, I didn’t say ‘crash,’ I said, ‘trash.’”

311: “Trash? What about trash, sir?”

Caller: “My trash has not been picked up.”

311: “Has your neighbor’s trash been picked up?”

Caller: “I think my neighbor is away.”

311: “You think, but sir, are you sure?”

Caller: “I’m only sure that my trash hasn’t been picked up.”

311: “When is your trash day?”

Caller: “My trash day is today.”

311: “And sir, what is today?”

Caller: “Today is the day that my trash was supposed to be picked up.”

311: “It is only 4 p.m. on Tuesday, sir, trash may be picked up until 7 p.m. tonight.”

Caller: “Should I call back tonight if my trash isn’t picked up by 7?”

311: “You may, but our office will be closed.”

After the trash is failed to be picked up by 7 that night, the caller gets back to Philly311 on Friday. He is told that a report will be filed with the Department of Sanitation and his trash will be picked up within two days. Unfortunately his trash is not picked up and the weekend intercedes. When he calls Philly311 on Monday, he is told that since his regular trash day is Tuesday, he should just wait and see whether his trash is picked up at that time. And as author Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once wrote — And so it goes. Rumor has it that in his travels he has come up with a new idea. He will require each operator at Philly311 to speak at least two languages. How do you say “sit tight” in Spanish?

If you have relatives across the ocean, they have a better chance of seeing Nutter than we do. I’m glad the pope plans to visit Philadelphia. I’m hoping he brings Nutter back with him. I don’t think the chances are too good because leather is a great buy in the market in Florence this time of year. A good way to close the budget gap is either to defeat Tom Corbett for governor in November or for the mayor to turn in his frequent flyers miles to the School District.

Some of you don’t realize our mayor served as president of the United Conference of Mayors from June 2012 to June ’13. Frankly, I was surprised that with his travel experiences, he wasn’t named ambassador to the United Nations. 

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