Pennsport native Jason Mulgrew turned the trials and tribulations of a childhood spent by Second Street into a successful blog and a book — and he’s taking no prisoners.
Oprah has her list, and the New York Times has one, as well. But anyone from South Philly has just one book to read this summer.
“The one chapter that I wrote about [The Mummers], it’s actually how my parents met. She was 17 years old. We are from Second Street, so, you know, the second half of the parade, and she sees this guy drunk, this Mummer dancing around. And he’s bleeding,” Jason Mulgrew, of Third and Ritner streets, said. “So she took a picture. Eight years later, she is going through pictures with my dad … and it was him; He had been in a bar fight and had been stabbed and he was too drunk to care.
“True South Philly Second Street romance.”
And so began the tumultuous life of the Mulgrew family, which is exactly what Jason, the eldest, chronicles in his first book, “Everything is Wrong with Me: A memoir of an American childhood gone, well, wrong.”
The 12-chapter book beginning with “A Break, a beginning” and ending with the epilogue “Hooker Hunting,” is endearing, embarrassing and downright funny.
“[The chapters] have their narrative arcs, but they are more like vignettes starting from how my parents met up until me being in junior high,” Mulgrew, who currently resides in New York City, said. “It just seemed like natural at that time. We didn’t want to get into high school ’cause that’s a whole other set of neuroses and insecurities.”
Mulgrew’s cast of characters include his parents, younger brother, Dennis, and younger sister, Megan — though the siblings play a smaller role in the written version of the author’s formative years than they would like, Mulgrew said. The last major player in this ensemble is, of course, South Philly.
“I think it couldn’t have been better, growing up there,” Mulgrew, whose extended family remains in Pennsport, said. “I think you get this unique world view. My dad was one of 10 and my mom was one of six, and we all grew up in a mile-and-a-half radius.
“I’ll bring friends home and I’m like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ to some 12-year-old, and my friend will say, ‘Who’s that?’ and I’ll say, ‘a cousin.’ Then, two blocks later, the same thing happens with some 15-year-old.”
Starting a blog in February 2004, when the word blog was still a funny sounding abstract term, Mulgrew began musing about his childhood and posted his family stories as a creative outlet.
Response to the blog was overwhelmingly positive and led to Mulgrew being named one of People Magazine’s 50 Hottest Bachelors in ’05. He also was approached to turn his postings into a book, but was determined not to fall into the same formula of his peers.
“There is no overlap,” Mulgrew said of the blog and the book. “That was really ’cause, at that time, when I was first approached, [other bloggers] were just copying and pasting.”
The best part of becoming an author has been the chance to connect to his audience. Mulgrew, who considered stand-up comedy before realizing it was “scary” and reverting to the blog, has been able to read and meet-up with readers from all over. And find out that his experience may be unique, but they are definitely not singular.
“That’s been the best part. As much as it’s a compliment when people are like, ‘I grew up in South Philly’ or ‘My parents are from South Philly and they always told me the stories and you nailed it,’ it’s the best when [people not from the area] are like, ‘Wow, I want to come to the Mummer’s Parade!’
“I brought a girlfriend home and she was from a farm in the Pacific Northwest. And she was like, ‘This is like a movie set, this can’t be real.’”
With part disparagement and part nostalgia Mulgrew mocks his roots because they are what defines him.
“No matter where I am I will be in that parade. At 6 a.m. on New Year’s Day my alarm is going off and I’m putting that makeup on,” the Froggy Carr member said. “It’s just such an engrained part of who I am, so unique to South Philly. I don’t care, I’ll be there.”
Mulgrew attended our Lady of Mount Carmel, 2329 S. Third St., before heading north to attend St. Joe’s Prep for high school. Leaving the state to attend Boston College, where he studied history, Mulgrew had aspirations other than becoming a blogger/writer.
“I wanted to be a lawyer and now I work for lawyers,” Mulgrew, who has done marketing for a New York City law firm for many years, said. “They took us [in middle school] to a law firm and it was the nicest office I had ever seen, and they had this hoagie spread for us, and I was like, ‘I can get behind this!’”
Though Mulgrew now works for law professionals, he intends on staying on his own side of the matter. Maintaining his blog with weekly posts, the fan base continues to grow.
Knot on her watch