Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Before U-Haul yourself to Philly...

Now halfway through my Australian adventure, I’m slowly thinking about the fact that when I return to Philly this time I will have one less friend. Since 2000, I’ve lost one to two “Philly friends” a year to Brooklyn. If I continue to lose friends at this rate, I expect to have no friends in town by 2010. Philly’s own Plastic Little explained this move-to-NY-after-you-graduate phenomenon the best in their song “Brooklyn.”

So when I read Jessica Pressler’s article “Philadelphia Story: The Next Borough” on the NYT website from my cousin’s Sydney apartment, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of excitement about coming back home. I can’t wait to wrap my hands around a cold bottle of Yuengling (instead of Carlton Draught which is actually most Australian’s beer of choice…. not Fosters) and have a fun night out for less than $20.

At first I was surprised to read Pressler’s story where she wrote about New Yorkers, young artist-types particularly, who were leaving New York to transplant themselves in Philly for cheaper rent and a better quality of life. The trend she was writing about was the total opposite of what I was experiencing in my friend circle. But then I thought of all the new folks who I met at work and at parties (like that cool girl at the Nick Hornby reading) who came to Philly to visit a friend or a sibling, and ended up never leaving. So I guess it evens out because the people moving in replace the ones moving out to Brooklyn (not saying that friends are replaceable). Even I think of leaving sometimes, main reasons being cold weather, bad public transportation, and the thing you don’t hear most Brooklyn transplants admit to: the nearly incestuous dating pool. Maybe Pressler left out many of the bad things in her article because they aren’t bad to her (she’s lived in Boston and Prague before moving to Philly) besides, she didn’t grow up here like I did. It talks about Philly, but actually means only the gentrified neighborhoods of Center City, Old City, Fishtown and Northern Liberties.

Whenever I travel overseas and someone asks, “where do you live in America?” of course I answer “Philly” and get a blank stare. “I mean Philadelphia” I say soon after. Another awkward silence follows soon after to which I automatically respond “its this city between New York and D.C.”

THEN I get knowing-smiles and nods.

Throughout the years I’ve heard everyone, from true locals to transplants, call Philly many things… some mean and some nice. My friend Heroin Matt called it “the asshole of the universe” and The Worldly One called it “unsophisticated” but I like to think of it as unpretentious. I disagree with Pressler calling it the “The Next Borough,” it’s its own big city with a small-town community mentality, sometimes that’s good and sometimes its not. For artists, it’s more collaborative than competitive. My old yoga teacher Miko, who came from sunny California, said that she felt it had an “old energy”, and when Kari, the cute red-haired assistant on Mythbusters visited from San Francisco, she told me she loved that you can get vegan cheesesteaks from Giana’s.

It seems like every few years the mayor’s office or whoever is in power tries different tactics to get young Philly residents to stay to fight the “brain drain.” Every time the various marketing strategies pretty much fail. Youngsters leave to pursue different opportunities and maybe for a change of pace. I mean, it DOES get boring taking the same trolley to work that I took to high school. So this time instead of trying yet another marketing strategy to get Philly college grads to stay, business improvement groups are luring in outsiders. But why was a story about starting businesses and buying real estate in cheap, fat and dirty old Philly in the pretentious New York Times? Do we really WANT Philly to turn into “what Brooklyn used to be?” and most importantly, what is going to happen to all the families that have been living in their neighborhoods for generations and are slowly getting priced out of them? I’m not opposed to attracting new residents, but Philly is my home and I am opposed to a bunch of rich people who only are looking at it as an investment opportunity. The last thing this city needs is more slumlords. Remember that big “fuck you” we gave the Republican National Convention and The Real World when they came to town? Ha ha, that was funny...


At 3:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice, now you know the sentiment i got for jersey. it's a suburban purgatory at times, but its better than complete urban hell and the false eden of farm country. home is home.


At 2:25 PM, Blogger Space Cadet said...

Isn’t that Brooklyn song great? My favorite part is when he sings sadly,

“But the towers - they fell down,
so I cant tell which way is south now.”


At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're right on track and not many people are willing to admit that they share your views. lost series tv is an AWESOME place to discuss LOST.


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