Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Sometimes I Miss Philly

You may never hear me say this again, because it doesn't happen often, but sometimes I miss Philadelphia. We only lived there for 2 years, from 1994-1996, and I never considered it 'home', so when I say I don't miss it often, I'm not saying it isn't a great city. It is. But when we lived there, I spent a lot of time being homesick for San Francisco. We would come home for Christmas, and we would both just hate the idea of going back to Philly, with its cold, cold winters, and the humid, sultry summers, so far away from our friends and family.

But after awhile, we started to get used to the place. We sometimes wonder if we had stayed, how our lives would be different. I wonder, if we had realized that we weren't going to live in SF again (at least not yet), but were going to be stuck in the 'burbs, if we would have come back to CA at all. Probably, because we have family here. But maybe we'd be living in a little house in Narberth, a suburb of Philly, with a Weeping Cherry tree in our yard.

So, what do I miss about Philly? I used to like waking up at 5am and looking out the window, seeing the snow falling. Going to sleep knowing that it would probably be melted before I really had to deal with it. And dealing meant driving on it, since we lived in a big apartment building, so we didn't have to shovel or anything like that.

I liked sitting on our balcony on the 4th of July, watching fireworks over the neighboring towns. We were 16 floors up, so we could see 3 or 4 towns' fireworks going off, without dealing with mosquitoes or crowds.

I liked going to Dmitri's for dinner. You could get really good softshell crab there. They were BYO, a term foreign to Californians, but what it meant was you got to bring your own wine, which they would chill for you and serve, without the markup that you would get at most restaurants, and no corkage fee. A lot of the smaller restaurants in Philly don't have liquor licenses, so that's how they deal with it. They didn't take reservations, so you would go in, drop off your bottle of wine, leave your name with the hostess, and go to the bar across the street for a drink. They would come and get you when your table was ready. It was great. And the crab was very yummy and crispy.

I liked taking walks in the evening, in the summer, with Maya in her stroller, and seeing the lighting bugs (fireflys) come out. I hope Maya can see that sometime.

I liked being able to drive to Washington DC or New York, go to museums there, that kind of thing. The East Coast is so much older than the West Coast, and they have so much more...culture. I used to resent it when people would say that, but it's true.

I liked having world class museums right there. We were walking distance from the Barnes Foundation, which was a house maybe 1/2 mile from our apt, with an amazing collection of art, as well as a really beautiful arboretum.

I liked the history of Philadelphia. I liked that it was the first capital of our nation. That the Declaration of Independence was signed there, that our nation's forefathers wrote the Constitution there. That you could stand in the footprints of Abraham Lincoln and JFK, in front of Independence Hall. I even liked the Liberty Bell. It was really cool to be so close to so much history, to so many things that I had studied in school, but which seemed so remote while I was studying them.

I liked the cobbled streets in Center City, and the movie theaters showing Independent Films with all of the retired folks going in the middle of the afternoon.

I also liked going to Longwoods Gardens, which was about 40 minutes from our place, but really beautiful and a nice way to while away an afternoon.

I liked driving to work in the morning, through Fairmount Park and Boathouse Row (above, with the snow), and the Art Museum (where Rocky famously ran up the steps).

I liked buying fruits and veggies from the Amish who came in and dealt with us 'English' once in awhile.

I liked going to work at the University of Pennsylvania, walking down Locust Walk to my office.

I liked Roasty Toasty pretzels with mustard, really good hoagies, lemon flavored water-ice on a hot day, and how GREEN everything was. I especially miss that when California turns brown.

I miss living close to Rosemary (Chadds Ford, near the DE border) and Janet (NYC). I miss the new friendships Ted and I made there that have fallen by the wayside, because we don't live close anymore, and it's been 10 years since we've seen those people.

There's a lot to miss. It's where we moved about a year after getting married. It's where we depended solely upon each other. It's where Maya was born.

Today is one of those days, when I kind of miss Philly. Maybe I'm ready for an East Coast New York, Philly, maybe DC. Maybe even Boston, which I've never seen, but many of my ancestors are from that general area. I could go and look at their graves or something.

Don't get me started on the things I DON'T miss about Philly, though. I could write a book.


Jessica said...

Nice post...I can see why you miss it.

I've never been to Philly but I did recently visit San Francisco for he first time - LOVED it. I was ready to pack up and move there.

J said...

Yeah, SF is definately my favorite city in the world. I love Paris and DC and NYC, too, and Amsterdam isn't bad, and neither is London...Portland is great, too. That's almost every city I've ever been to! :)

Autumn's Mom said...

I liked seeing a bit of Philly in your eyes :)

Pony Storm's Ride said...

This is definitely a powerful essay.
I live in Santa Barbara where no one is allowed to even suggest that there could be another desirable place on the entire planet. Believe me, this attitude becomes a burden, not to mention a joke.
I've never been east of Chicago, but much of what you say about Philadelphia makes it sound inviting.
For too long Philly, along with Cleveland, Detroit and Baltimore have been the butt of ridicule. Recently, I have read and heard much favorable said on behalf of Cleveland, especially.
You, or someone, ought to foreward "Sometimes I Miss Philly" to the letters-to-the-editor of the Inquirer, or the Chamber of Commerce.
You are very open minded and adaptable, J, and that makes for interesting reading.
Every city has praiseworthy qualities. Santa Barbara has about three: no billboards or flashing neon signs, well-kept trees of every variety imaginable, and, probably, the most ideal weather in the country. Otherwise it has turned into Beverly Hills North, and visitors claim the wino/panhandler population in the downtown area is the worst they've seen ANYWHERE.
I've rattled on too long, but your paean to Philadelphia aroused something important in my foggy old head.
For the sake of all of your readers, keep on writing!

J said...

Thanks, Pony Storm! That's SO nice of you. And remember, I could write a book on the things I DON'T like about Philly....just that there are days when it was a nice place, and I was remembering them yesterday. :)

Piece of Work said...

Aw, J., I love this post. I grew up outside of Philadelphia--in Wilmington, Delaware--so I can relate to a lot of these things. I'm sure I could also relate to the list of things you DONT miss.

You're right, people in California hate to admit that there is value in other parts of the country. It's annoying how ego-centric this state can be. It's a big country, after all!

And one of the things I hate most: that my kids will never catch lightning bugs on a hot summer night. Or get up in the morning after a snow and crowd around the radio, praying for a snow day.

Still, that 85 degree weather we had here the other day was pretty swell.