The returns are in, and despite fawning media coverage that approaches adultery, the Diner en Blanc phenomenon is attracting criticism, especially from those who are inconvenienced by it.
Those inconvenienced deserve to be heard, and I am listening.
But first — where I stand.
I think Diner en Blanc is stupid, elitist, exclusionary and pointless — yet still a plus for Philly. It’s the yuppies’ Wing Bowl, which was stupid, sexist, egalitarian and pointless.
I think it’s stupid to have to schlep a meal, plus tables, dishes, flatware and other table settings to a remote location. The secrecy of the location (it changes every year, wait until they chose K & A) is elitist and exclusionary and, well, OK, I don’t like picnics anyway. With all that said, it took only a few years to build the party list to 6,000 people, which makes Philly’s event the largest in North America, I have read. We are a major cog in the Global Loon Fest.
Does our large turnout say good things about us, or does it say we lack other forms of entertainment? We surely don’t, but that’s what others may think.
It’s hard to fathom that interest in this is growing, while interest in the Mummers Parade is shriveling — and there is no dress code for the New Year’s parade. It’s also disappointing that the Naked Bike Ride grows, while the July 4th Parade is an embarrassing hodgepodge of fire trucks, shaky floats and ethnic dancers.
Blanc en Diner brings to mind Oscar Wilde’s description of fox hunting: “The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable.” Only here, the unspeakable do get to eat.
About inconveniencing others: We are just a week away from the annual Made in America concert that is staged on the Parkway, to the annoyance of most people who live nearby.
These thousands of people suffer every time there is a massive event on the Parkway, from papal visits, to July 4th concerts, to NFL Draft days.
In Center City, Broad Street gets closed down for events large and small, sometimes actually trapping people in their apartments and homes. In our residential neighborhoods, during the summer streets are closed for picnics and parties that are less elaborate than Diner en Blanc.
This year’s DeB event drew some praise from my Facebook friends, but also criticism, such as this from my bicyclist friend (yes, I have bicycle friends) Alexandria Schneider.
She writes DeB has managed to unite “pretty much the entire city against them.” That may be an exaggeration.
In 2014, she says, they closed down the Avenue of the Arts with no notice.
Other “greatest hits,” she writes:
“In 2016, they closed off the Art Museum steps, stopping tourists from getting their Rocky picture, threatened to sic the police on cyclists gathering for a ride, and left tons of trash at Eakins and the steps.
“2017, they shut down Franklin Square, and again left trash.
“2018 saw them shutting off Dilworth and Paine Plazas with crowd control barriers, and patrolling them with private security. This meant blocking off handicapped access to the Broad Street Line City Hall station, and stopping parents from bringing their kids to the Dilworth fountains on a hot day. As the cherry on top, they got noise complaints until like 11 p.m.”
Seems to me this shows a lack of adult city supervision dating back to the Nutter administration.
They do all this without notifying the neighborhoods they are invading, says Schneider. “And then their response to criticism is ‘Well you’re just pissy that you weren’t invited.’”
Just to be annoying, I asked Schneider if many of her complaints could not be directed against the Naked Bike Ride?
She gave me a qualified yes, but says the NBR doesn’t commandeer public spaces and doesn’t deny access to anyone.
True, but the “ride” cuts through many neighborhoods and bicyclists, as usual, ignore traffic signals. I call this Bicycle Privilege.
A number of them are actually naked which many Philadelphians find offensive — and is actually unlawful. Rather than arrest, the cops provide security to the riders as they defy traffic and other laws.
Back to Diner en Blanc. It is still on a growth track, which means there will be more disruptions in the future, unless and until the city decides to exercise some meaningful oversight.