Philly also has things its richer sister cities to the north and south will never have. Cheap housing. One of my favorite things to do to visitors from New York is to tell them how much my apartment costs. Normal people with grown-up jobs bike to work here and don’t think there’s anything funny about it. People who don’t really seem to care about much of anything but have big, warm, slobbering hearts. The sprawling, kaleidoscopic murals patched over evidence of decay. The unkempt wonders of Fairmount Park. Lots of pit bulls. Philly, for better or worse, is the kind of place certain types of people can go to be not terribly serious for a few years.
Sometimes people ask me what Philly is like. It has such a bad reputation, they say. And I want to say Philly is every step into the street to see if the trolley is coming, every First Friday on every summer evening, every knee-busting move to every third-floor apartment, every 2 a.m. bike ride on every hushed avenue, every Clark Park flea market, every sweaty dance at the 700 Club, every box of Crab Fries at every Phillies game, every potluck crammed with the vegetable-studded quinoa of every drifting dreamer, every poker game laced with overeducated banter, every slurred come-on at every corner bar, every encore from the terrace at the TLA. It’s every bundle of chard bought from every Amish farmer, every potpie sold at every intersection by every dressed-up ideologue, every delicacy simmered in every reduction, every roar from every bar after every touchdown.