DOWNTOWN Philadelphia has built up quite the reputation for Christmas attractions.
The Macy's light show and Charles Dickens Village and the Comcast lobby Christmas show as well as Christmas trees at City Hall, Love Park and the Philadelphia Art Museum are a nice accom- paniment.
Sure, it's not ice skating at Rockefeller Center or the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, but Philly has one thing that New York doesn't have when it comes to entertainment.
And that venue would be the Criminal Justice Center, also known as the CJC.
Note to the City Planning Commission: Maybe building the CJC so close to the Reading Terminal Market and Pennsylvania Convention Center wasn't such a crackerjack idea.
Or maybe we should furlough CJC activity during December, when the streets of Philadelphia are chock-full of parents and kids (probably from the 'burbs), all dressed in Eddie Bauer parkas and scarves and Lands' End hats and mittens, fresh out of Macy's holiday-light show and on their way to the Reading Terminal for lunch. . . when they stumble on the tryouts for the "Jerry Springer Show," except the obscenities aren't bleeped.
So grab your hot chocolate for this Christmas tale . . .
'Twas the month of Christmas, and the vicinity of 12th and Filbert was full of Convention Center and Reading Terminal luncheoneers, as well as the usual Christmas attraction traffickers.
UNFORTUNATELY, in the middle of this Norman Rockwell-ish landscape of busy shoppers, tourists and Center City lunchers, some bad blood spilled out from the CJC stemming from a court case involving a male who I can only identify as "Pookie," because that's what one of his girlfriends (or sisters) screamed across Filbert Street as she hollered, "Pookie should put a cap in yo' [three-letter word for lower lumbar region]!" Philadelphia street theater at its best.
My best guess is that Pookie shot somebody. I don't know if Pookie's shooting contributed to the 302 murders in this city last year, but Pookie had plenty of female companions in the courtroom as either cheerers or jeerers.
As they left the CJC, those lovely belles banged together in the middle of Filbert Street like Diana Ross and the Supremes catfighting Martha and the Vandellas on "American Bandstand."
Big Shirl, a woman I nicknamed because she had the body structure of Big Shirley from that 1980s TV show "What's Happening!" squeezed herself into a pair of jeans that could have fit Halle Berry, complete with black stiletto knee-high boots.
Big Shirl had the mouth of a Porta-Potty used by the guys building the Convention Center extension. She was the alpha dog and probably loved Pookie more than he loved her.
Her anger was aimed at another group of women (who also apparently loved Pookie) whom she shouted the F-note at more than 30 times (I know because I counted on my fingers and toes and then my teeth) as they made their way east on Filbert on opposite sides of the street.
At one point, Big Shirl strutted over to the group of girls and cocked her blinged-out hand like she was going to backhand them, much to the cheers and encouragement of all the car valets and cabdrivers watching the show.
One of Big Shirl's entourage grabbed another girl's weave - and yanked. I knew it was a weave because it came off in her hands, and she tossed it near the curb at Maggiano's Italian Restaurant and it crawled away like a hairy, two-toned beehive.
The crowd was fascinated - it was the epitome of what gaper delay really is all about.
I followed the whole production from the doors of the CJC to the Reading Terminal on my way to grab a pepperoni slice at Pizza by George.
Even the old guy in the wheelchair who panhandles on the southeast corner of 12th and Filbert begged them to stop with a "C'mon, ladies! It's Christmas time!"
The Salvation Army bell- ringer committed the mortal sin of bell-ringer duties and actually stopped his clanging as the lunchtime crowd swarmed the intersection - which was shut down because of Pookie's women's WrestleMania. (This, my fellow Philadelphians, is why we lose the Olympic Games and Super Bowl bids.)
And there on the corner, like deer in the headlights, stood a crowd of scores of excursionists, exactly the people we want to come to the city and spend the day - and their money - before the holidays. The school groups, parents with a day off, grandparents and grandkids all had a front-row seat.
I doubt the kids wanted to walk over to that lame-o "Nutcracker" after seeing this carnival sideshow.
The only kudos I can give to Big Shirley and the girls is that they had the decency to rumble in regular clothes - and not in their pajamas, like all those folks I saw shopping at the mall on Black Friday.
But the words of my mother screaming on Christmas morning as my sisters and I rumbled - in our PJs - over who got the Lite-Brite and who got the Tasty Bake Oven as she tried in vain to stop the Christmas tree from falling over still ring true: "This is why we can't have nice things!"