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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

I've moved away, while...

Philly still labours
for lost love.
Fat chance! Jackie Atkins writes
from Cape May, New Jersey
[Writers Clearinghouse News Service]
Deep in the recess of our minds lies the memory of our hometown. For some it is a pleasant recalling of a simpler time and a happier place graced with Norman Rockwell remembrances of golden days. The men stood tall and stoic, the children honest and obedient; with women who were calmly and proud of their charges, a regular Disneyland without Mickey Mouse.
Others have to contend with a vision of Grace Metalious rendition of an America village resplendent with incest, illegitimacy and narrow mindedness. So powerful was her depiction of this hamlet that Peyton Place has become synonymous as a place with  sordid secrets.

But most people have a perception of a community somewhere in the middle. 
Through all the warts of home we are drawn to the location of our birth. Many people move back there after retirement perhaps to fulfil a circle of life fantasy and die in the place where born. Others keep the port in the storm spirit alive but go to Florida.
Brooklynites speak glowing, even sometimes in  pidgin English, of their life there. Chicagoans boast about the life in the Loop. Singers swoon nostalgically about their little cabin on the hill. This is the norm.

Then you have Philadelphia. Philadelphians hate their city, move five miles away from the place and refuse ever to step inside its border again.

Nowhere on earth has an urban area been so maligned by the very people who were live in it.

The only boosters about the City, come from another place.

As a result, Philadelphia, which boasts a rich history, outstanding museums and other cultural institutions matched in few other places in the United States, has become the butt of many jokes (first prize, one week in Philadelphia; second prize, two weeks) and unfavourable sports legends (Philadelphia: the place where Santa Claus was belted with snowballs at a football game). Philadelphians not only put up with these slurs but accept them.

WTF? What is it about the place which harbours such derision from the natives?

Cleveland is smaller and uglier with virtual no life at night, Atlanta and Houston empty out after dusk. Yet, Philadelphia is perceived as a ghost town despite having a lively centre city populous with some of the country’s best restaurants, theatres and performing arts venues.

Maybe it’s the water? Has its softness led natives to mushy thinking? While certain bakers postulate the theory that Philadelphia soft water makes for superior Italian and French breads, official it's sort of hard -- 'hard soft,' according to Water Department's website.

Huh? Here you have an example of a local agency running away from the belief that the water is soft. Something that is a positive for the city and the reason behind the world renowned hoagies and cheesesteaks is rebutted because other cities don’t have soft water. It is not the standard elsewhere. Who cares? Other cities would welcome and boast about the difference! Do you want bread like they bake in Nashville?

Possibly it is the presence of so many row homes? Has the monotony in them stunted high hopes? In the “neighbourhoods,” they stand as a testament to conformity, block after block of sameness. “Philadelphia is the city of homes” is the motto. As oppose to, Pittsburgh where they live in trailers? A two-story, three-bedroom, one-bath home with a railroad flat here. In Albertus, Georgia, it'd be called a shack. Has the lack of diversity in housing contributed to an ingrained myopia?

Perhaps it’s because the weather is not the best in the world? Poor excuse, Philadelphia is no worse than Newark or Baltimore (were citizens should be complaining). It is cold in the winter and hot in the summer. So? You can say the same thing about Atlantic City, but Atlantic City is a destination where people flock to. OK, AC has the ocean and a boardwalk. But this is meagre competition for the Art Museum and East River Drive. Even the introduction of gambling (the only year round attraction AC has) by the river hasn’t made people flock to Fishtown.

Could it be because the average Philadelphia is fat? Travel and Leisure consistently ranks Philadelphians as some of the most well endowed porkies in our major metropolises; a smear that seems to embarrass everyone. Why? Haven’t they ever been to Cincinnati?  Philadelphians bow their heads in shame instead of touting their porcine peculiarity as a sign of good eating. Is New Orleans ashamed of Paul Prud'homme and his cohorts? Fats Domino, anyone?

So ingratiated with self loathing and dislike of their surroundings native Phillyites are consistently voted (again by Travel and Leisure polling) the American city States with ugliest people. This is what they think about a metropolis that gave us these schlemiels, Bill Cosby, Will Smith, Richard Gear, and Grace Kelly? Do Philadelphians fight back? Noooo.... They just sit back and take it.

Allow other people to define you and you will become a victim.  Constant pessimism makes Philadelphia a target. Americans bully the place because no one there fights back.

I got tired of standing alone and defending this place, so after fifteen years living here, I moved.

Good riddance to nay-saying and pessimism. Hello, cockeyed optimism. No more nattering nabobs of negativity for me. I now live in a land where the sun occasionally shines. Yes, we have some rain and some doozer storms, but we don’t dwell on these. "Tomorrow," said Scarlett O’Hara, "is another day” -- some good advice from an Atlanta who saw her city burn to the ground and then inhabited by carpetbaggers, probably from Philadelphia.

(Jackie Atkinson, a theatre critic for BroadStreetReview.com, used to live in Northern Liberties. She now lives in New Jersey. Yes, New Jersey. Corefie, anyone?).