Tag Archives: neighborhoods

Philadelphia: The City of Neighborly Love

9 Sep

We can’t all be brothers, its rude to even assume that in Philly everyone can share that brotherly love.  I suspect that’s why tourists are shocked by the aggression on the Schuylkill or the load honks followed by a passing middle finger.

Whats not obvious to the passing eye are the tightly knit neighborhoods that make up Philadelphia.  Even the most desolate and empty streets hold together an underlying bond.  Maybe its because we’ve all had something stolen or we know what its like when something important is returned.

Yesterday, my friend Greg relayed this story:

I bought this saxophone from the music teacher i was taking lessons from.  I was bout 13 years old and I loved it.  A few years later I had my saxophone and trumpet stowed in my car outside my house in Factoryville Pa and they were stolen.  It can happy anywhere people, anywhere!

A couple of weeks later my Dad strolled into a pawn shop and saw my saxophone just laying there.  He knew it was mine because it was very distinctive and he brought her back to me.  The trumpet never came home.

Well, last week Maggie (his girlfriend) and I were coming home and moving tons of stuff out of our car to a new apartment on Sunday.  On the following Thursday I remember I’d left my saxophone on the side of the street.  Stunned in all disbelief that I had left her outside and totally unable to move, Maggie began calling Pawn shops all over Philadelphia.

I took a moment to go to the kitchen where I found Rania (roommate).  I told Rania I was upset because I had left my saxophone outside.  And then she told me she had run into a neighbor  named Dave that had asked if someone wanted a trumpet that he’d found on the street.  She pointed me in his direction and I was off!

I saw someone on the porch of the house and asked if he knew Dave.  In turn he called up loudly to the third floor. “DAAAVVEE!” Dave stuck his head out the window and gave me a look that he knew why I’d come.  He came down holding the “trumpet”  and  I thanked him.  I asked if I could give him some money and he said sure.  I asked if $50 was enough and he said sure.  He told me he’d like to hear me play sometime and I offered to play it right then, but he declined shyly.

Before I left, he told me that someone up there (point to the sky) and told him to hang onto it.  He knew how important musical instruments can be.  That’s how I got my saxophone back.  So lets celebrate Dave!


Where am I? University City or West Philadelphia

17 Dec

Let me just say it, so we can get it out of the way.  “West Philadelphia born and raised!”


When I originally visited here, and later decided to move, many of the people I spoke to all over the U.S. sang to me the Fresh Prince intro.  It’s comical, but the current events and happenings here are a bit beyond the scope of Will Smith’s 1990s.

It’s been said that West Philadelphia was once the first suburb of Philly and housed some of the wealthiest folks in the U.S.  By the looks of the neighborhood, you can bet on it.  Three to four story houses boasting old school decadence and massive space for single families.  No yards though….where do we keep the carriage?  As I moved into this historic neighborhood a disagreement began to emerge.

First piece of moving advice: know what’s going on in your neighborhood.

University City v. West Philadelphia

The University City website claims the district stretches all the way to 52nd street. (If you need a little geographical help, here’s their map).  What’s interesting is that a lot of the locals, those who live here and the visiting students, usually offer up that “University City” (increasingly synonymous to “White West Philadelphia”) effectively reaches just to 50th street at its most expansive, and not even that far to the northern and southern edges of the quadrant.  So whats 2 blocks?  The debate is around the ever encroaching line of University City, slowly sipping up a block here and there like overpriced espresso.  My best guess education and my neurotic boyfriend’s Sociology background tells me it has something to do with property values and socioeconomics.  Small stickers abound saying “University City is a marketing scheme”. And while there are other stickers that go on those ones debating land ownership, you can believe it at face value.  The price of a “University City” 2 bedroom is almost always a couple hundred more than a 2 bedroom “West Philadelphia” apartment.  And inside many of the same blocks the terms are interchangeable. The difference is that if you renovate a place and want to charge more money for it, you label it University City, which calls to the college cast and wealthier circles, which we can all at this point admit still tend to be white. Without scolding connotation, that’s a marketing scheme. Don’t get it twisted. “University City” wants you, young pale ones. But “University City” is opportunistic dress-up for an old player in the young crowd’s dance club. You’re still going home with West Phil.

When you are shopping around for apartments, houses, etc ask the locals whats been going on. Drop in on your local bookshop or strike up a conversation with a long time bar tender.  Than ask the person showing you the place how well they know the neighbors.