Zombies or ‘Kenzos,’ local writer spares no one

Blog­ger Joe Quigley hits a raw nerve with blunt cri­ti­cism of his neigh­bor­hood, but hopes read­ers take it all in stride.

If noth­ing else, Fishtown res­id­ent Joe Quigley is a man who speaks his mind.

It’s something the 27-year-old does reg­u­larly with a sort of crass clar­ity on his blog, www.PhillyNeigh­bor.com. And now, he’s launched a new en­deavor — his own hor­ror nov­el, Hol­d­out.

Quigley said the site star­ted as something of an in­side joke, but has grown stead­ily in pop­ular­ity. He be­lieves the site is gain­ing trac­tion be­cause it ad­dresses is­sues that con­front river wards res­id­ents every day.

“I ba­sic­ally write what I’m think­ing,” he said. “It’s just how me and my bud­dies talk.”

Quigley, who posts un­der the pseud­onym “Chip” on PhillyNeigh­bor, said the blog is an at­tempt to show solid­ar­ity with oth­er res­id­ents and that with the site — where he posts derog­at­ively about “Ken­zos” and “junkies” — he hopes to show that not every Kens­ing­ton res­id­ent fits the com­munity ste­reo­type.

“It’s a ‘we are all in it to­geth­er’ type of deal,” he said.

He draws a clear line, not­ing that, when he talks about “Ken­zos,” he doesn’t simply mean people from Kens­ing­ton.

In­stead, he writes, it’s “The guy with the yel­low stains on his re­main­ing teeth (tooth?). Those dudes at the bar the oth­er night wear­ing identic­al collared polo shirts who kept play­ing “Dia­mond Girl” on the juke­box. Your friend from the neigh­bor­hood with sham­rock tats on his neck …”

“Any­body from Kens­ing­ton knows people like that,” Quigley said. “Heck, I’m kind of like that.”

But, Quigley said, his com­ments come from a very real place.

When he makes fun of drug ad­dicts and people selling pre­scrip­tion pills, Quigley said, he knows people in the neigh­bor­hood whose lives are im­pacted every day by those is­sues. It’s a prob­lem so evid­ent that in some loc­al circles, people see it as an “ac­cep­ted thing,” he said.

“I’ve had friends die from over­doses and who have been locked up for selling pre­scrip­tion pills,” said Quigley. “It’s al­most an ac­cep­ted thing, not to most people in the ‘hood, but, to some people for sure.”

He also takes aim at “hip­sters” — what he ste­reo­types as af­flu­ent young people mov­ing in­to the com­munity that have an af­fin­ity for fixed-gear bi­cycles and skin-tight jeans.

“They can take a punch,” he joked.

The whole site is a tongue-in-cheek en­deavor that, Quigley said, now re­ceives hun­dreds of vis­its a day, and it all star­ted as a joke with friends.

Yet, suc­cess with the web­site has been tricky, he said, be­cause of­ten, read­ers protest the in­sults and jokes.

In­deed, the pro­fane rants are far from polit­ic­ally cor­rect, bor­der­ing on ju­ven­ile street talk. Quigley, for ex­ample, has not taken note of the pub­lic ser­vice an­nounce­ment de­cry­ing the use of “re­tard” as a dis­taste­ful in­sult. 

But Quigley said he be­lieves the crass, dirty hu­mor of the site also helps him de­liv­er a mes­sage to read­ers who con­nect with that type of hu­mor.

“It gives me a chance to in­ject an idea to people who wouldn’t think about it oth­er­wise,” he said. “I would love if every­body read it. But, when I’m writ­ing, I write for the people I know.”

With a suc­cess­ful web ven­ture un­der his belt, the gradu­ate of North­east Cath­ol­ic has tapped in­to his know­ledge of the com­munity with Hol­d­out, which tells the tale of a zom­bie at­tack in the neigh­bor­hood.

“I’m a zom­bie fan,” said a grin­ning Quigley. “People are ba­dasses around here. If that really happened, I really think some of the knuckle­heads around here would be able to hold their own.”

The self-pub­lished nov­el fol­lows a fam­ily on Dauph­in Street as the mem­bers try to sur­vive the zom­bie apo­ca­lypse. Quigley said that, through the course of the nov­el, a fath­er and son who own a ware­house on the Delaware River in Fishtown find a com­mune of sur­viv­ors and hole up in the ware­house to sur­vive the zom­bie on­slaught.

“It’s not really writ­ten in the same voice as PhillyNeigh­bor,” said Quigley. “But, if you’re from around here, you’d re­cog­nize a lot of stuff [in the book] from around the neigh­bor­hood.”

He said it would be a good read for the chilly nights to pre­pare for this year’s Hal­loween, be­cause, while he hopes it’s scary, it isn’t simply a gory tale of dis­gust­ing zom­bies mak­ing meals out of friendly Phil­adelphi­ans.

“It’s more about a fam­ily than just the mon­sters pop­ping out at you,” Quigley said. “But, there’s that, too.”

The book, he said, suffered a more than year­long road to pub­lic­a­tion as a deal he had fell through and Quigley even­tu­ally de­cided to simply take the reins and print the book him­self.

The book is avail­able in print or as an E-Book, with links for pur­chase on Quigley’s PhillyNeigh­bor.com.

Also, for any­one con­cerned, there is something of a happy out­come to Quigley’s book.

“There’s a rain­bow, it’s a small rain­bow, but there is one,” he said.

Re­port­er Hay­den Mit­man can be reached at 215-354-3124 or hmit­man@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at hmitman@bsmphilly.com.

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