Friday, August 27, 2010

what I like about you, new home in west philadelphia

Tomorrow, I'll have lived in West Philadelphia for two weeks. While there are occasional moments of serious homesickness - like when I try to use the subway - I am often overwhelmed with how lovely and charming my new home is. It is almost enough to make me say "Silver what?" Almost.

How do I love you, West Philadelphia? Let me count the ways:

Pine and 44th (4)
All streets look like this here. All of them.

I love the farmers' market in Clark Park, whose barbeque chicken fresh from Amish Country has, in fact, made me forget about the Burtonsville Dutch Country Farmers' Market.

I love that my neighborhood isn't just boisterous college kids but parents pushing strollers, doctors and nurses, professors and painters, yuppies, hoods and everything in between.

I love the white-haired guy at 43rd and Baltimore who screams poetry at passing cars. And the guy I biked past at 44th and Locust today, wearing dreadlocks and Tripp pants, singing about love and Satanism in a deep bass.

34th & Walnut (2)
There are old building and new buildings, and they don't always get along, but it all seems to fit together.

I love that there can be a Gap and Urban Outfitters on one block and a record store and bookstore on another.

I love the skaters in the parking lot outside the CVS at 43rd and Locust. They're far nicer than the surly staff, and even though they have to contend with cars and bicyclists like myself, no one's kicked them out. As far as I know.

I love that people can see a bunch of black teens on a bus and don't react in horror.

I love that I can live in a house, albeit an attached house, and still be a block away from a coffee shop, two bars, three restaurants and a major bus stop.

I love that old Ethiopian men gather in the decidedly hip coffee shop on the corner to read the paper and shoot the shit for hours on end.

RX, 45th & Locust
A restaurant in the first floor of a house. I have never seen it open, though.

I love the trolleys, which run every ten minutes and don't mow people down. They share lanes with cars, which isn't an ideal arrangement, but everyone seems to get along. And the property values do just fine when trains clatter past your house.

Speaking of property values: I love that for less than the price of a one-bedroom in downtown Silver Spring, my roommate and I have two bedrooms, a formal living room, a big sunroom and a backyard.

I love my house (ca. 1904), which has survived two world wars, nineteen presidents, decades of urban decay, and a mayor who'd bomb his own city.

I love all of the other old houses too. This is, by far, the prettiest place I have ever lived. (Sorry, Georgian Towers. You did not make the cut.)

No Sidewalks, Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore
Ardmore in Montgomery County has some posh, Bethesda-y shopping areas, but sidewalks are lacking and people will look at you strange for using them.

It is not without its faults. Many shopping trips, even to Target for a rice cooker, require leaving the city, but only after driving for miles down streets still lined with busted windows and broken dreams. They take you to posh suburbs in Montgomery County, which doesn't look too different from our Montgomery County save for the diversity and the sidewalks, and I wonder how this unhappy juxtaposition has lasted for so long.

I always break down at City Avenue, where West Philadelphia meets the snoburban Main Line. I live in a miracle of integration and gentrification - Silver Spring on the Schuylkill - but it seems like a fluke compared to everything around it.


Anonymous said...

Why would you leave the city for Target? It's down by the Navy Yard in the city. Just drive down there.

Unknown said...

Only for about a few blocks do the street actually look like that picture you posted. Things start going downhill past, say, around 48th or 50th.

Cyndy said...

It is excellent that you are living in a place that is completely different from the places that you have lived so far. This is kind of obvious, but in your field especially the greater variety of places that you have a chance to actually live in, the better your perspective will become in terms of bringing improvements to other places. It is a wonderful opportunity!

Unknown said...

Hey E, I live on 48th between Springfield and Baltimore and it's one of the most beautiful streets in the neighborhood, rivalling the one pictured. There's a lot of beauty and trees past 50th into Malcolm X park and beyond 52nd even if the housing is not so uniformly maintained or as ornate.

Welcome to the neighborhood, Dan! Please try out the Trinidadian Brown Sugar Bakey near 52nd & Walnut. Order a double, it's excellent!

Dan Reed said...


There is a Target in South Philadelphia, but I haven't been to it. It doesn't seem to be much closer than the one on City Avenue.


I'm very excited about the bakery you recommended. I'm Caribbean and anxious to find the food I grew up eating in this area.

Bossi said...

Ahh, this post makes me miss my home city... I think I've shared this previously, but if you make a trek up to Manayunk / Roxborough: make sure to stop by Dalessandro's on Henry Ave at Wendover St. Best cheesesteaks in the city!