Sunday Philly Funday

Philadelphia townhouses


[My apologies to architecture-nut fans: I’m still trying to sort out the “nuances” between rowhomes, townhouses, and brownstones. I’m fairly confident the above can at least be classified as townhouses but please correct me if I’m wrong.]

One of the pledges Lance and I made before moving back into Philadelphia was to make sure we appreciated it more. We’d try unique local restaurants, explore heretofore unseen neighborhoods, take long walks along the Schuylkill River Trail (yes, it took me a good two months to find out how to pronounce that.)  Moving back into the city wasn’t just about having more immediate access to the Gayborhood, though there was/is an element of that.  We wanted a high-density collection of Things To Do, within walking distance.

Before our exodus into the suburbs, we were eating lots of Domino’s, Ruby Tuesday, and watching lots of TV–we weren’t taking advantage of city living and felt like we were wasting money living in the city, and we used that as one reason to leave (as it turns out, living in the ‘burbs was just as expensive for us.)

We’re now a week into our return, and this self-imposed pledge has seen mixed results.  While we’ve already ordered from a local pizza place (La Scala’s Pronto on Spring Garden, expensive but a well-balanced pie), and I’ve taken up a chunk of the River Trail for my commute to work, we haven’t yet ventured much beyond our little chunk of the Art Museum/Fairmount neighborhood.

Yesterday morning, I was tasked with moving our car: one of the more pleasant (yippee!) realities of living in the city is what to do with your car, if you own one.  Do you pay the $150+/month to rent a space from your landlord, or do you pay $35 a year for a zoned neighborhood permit that allows you to park on the street?

I’m cheap as shit, and $35 a year sounds way better than $1800, so we bought the street-parking permit.  Unfortunately, this means that you’re not guaranteed a specific–or any–parking spot, just the opportunity to park if something’s available and not get a ticket.  Of course, this meant that no zoned street parking was available on Friday night, so I had to park at a meter (which thankfully wasn’t enforced between 8:00PM and 8:00AM) and then move the car into a zoned spot, if I could find one, the next morning.

So I’m grumbly as all hell at 7:45AM on Saturday morning, driving through the neighborhood north of our apartment building, while Lance is snuggled warm under the covers dreaming of scented body products and somesuch.  After 20 minutes, I finally find an open spot and tuck my little Ford Fiesta inside.

As I’m trekking back home, the sun’s low on the horizon and lighting up the stretch of Green Street in front of me.  I’ve always been in love with these tightly packed, design-dissonant homes, with churches and sushi restaurants and dry cleaners scattered randomly throughout.

This is a side of Philly that most tourists probably never see: streets upon streets of gorgeous, well-kept homes.  Too often, people stick to Center City or Old City or are understandably put off by what they see along the Amtrak line in and out of 30th Street Station.

Like any city, though, Philly’s got its charm along with its crap.  Too often we’re seen as the rougher, blue-collar cousin to New York, Boston, or D.C., and that’s probably true.  Philly wants to be in the big leagues with those other East Coast cities, and it’s not quite there and everybody knows it.  We’ve got a lot of shitty neighborhoods, a lot of crime and violence, and man, some huge rats.  We’re perennially behind on every trend–we just got cupcakes like two years ago!–and the customer service in this city leaves a lot to be desired.

Those were all things that were on my list of reasons to move out of the city.  And they still exist even though we’re back.  But the challenge of living anywhere, especially a city, is to either ignore, embrace, or work to improve those flaws, and find beauty where it exists.