Monday, October 29, 2007

Speaking of Philadelphia

It's true that I have nothing to write about these days. But that doesn't keep me from writing!

F'rinstance, someone I've never actually met wrote recently. He and his partner, now in full maturity, were considering a relocation from the NYC metro area to Philadelphia. Though I whine and cry about this city (particularly about my lack of success in meeting people here; I've made more friends in NYC and DC in the past three years than I've made in Philadelphia in the last twelve) I'm a big Philly booster. I was feeling expansive at the time, and will of course sieze on all opportunities to invole myself in anything other than the work for which I am paid - so off I went.

Here's an excerpt:

Philadelphia has all the amenities of a major city; culturally, medically, intellectually. Thriving ethnic communities and a large international population (at all economic levels) bring real variety and underscore the long standing and distinctly Philadelphia feeling of being a confederacy of neighborhoods/city states with local cultures and retail districts. Produce and farmers markets are long established, easily accessible and integrated into neighborhoods; it's a cooks dream. Restaurants
are better and cheaper than NYC from the mid range to very high end, with local chef owned BYOBs in every neighborhood, and every kind of ethnic cuisine. The community of working artists and musicians from numerous highly ranked schools has not yet been priced out. You can buy a three bedroom house in a "good" neighborhood for $350- 450K, and a decent place - smaller or a little further out - for $150- 250K. At the same time It has all the wildly expensive glass condo towers and
cheesy faux colonial towne houses, brand conscious boutiques, chain businesses, and the controlled/manufactured experiences demanded by the upper middle class and relocating suburban folks.

NYC is 1 3/4 hour away and WDC 2 1/2. Both are easily AMTRAK and ($20 round trip) Chinese Bus accessible.

Philadelphia is not a gay party town - and it's no wonder, considering how tedious and unimaginative the gay establishments here really are. It seems to be a combination of little effort comming just shy of meeting low expectations. All the fun bars with good music are straight bars (generally the cool bars are very gay friendly), and are off in the neighborhoods. The Gay bars restaurants and businesses are clustered in Washington Square West. Many gays are leaving that now high rent Homo 'Hood for the South Broad St/ Dickenson vicinity. In Center City overall and most neighborhoods where middle class people would consider living, queers mill about unmolested, and even in marginal poor neighborhoods like Graduate Hospital, Kensington and Fish Town (where the art people are trailblazing) and Italian South Philly, you'd more likely find difficulty by having dark skin than being gay. Teh Gay have a clear voice/representation in city politics, with the ear of city council and Governor Rendell himself. Employment non discrimination is in effect within city limits. Overall, I think Philly is a great place for a 40 something couple, gay or straight.

Public transportation (outside of center city and the east/west corridor to University City) SUCKS; it generally stops around midnight, and runs infrequently except at rush hours.
Keep your car.

Taxes and public utility costs are near national highs/ services are uneven at best. City government departments and regulatory agencies are nightmarish chaotic labyrinths staffed by unhelpful, indifferent (and unfireable) employees who do not hesitate go on break in the middle of "helping" you.

City planning and growth is totally dictated by trade unions and developers; the wrong decision is usually made. City council is run by the patronage machine system, overtly influenced by political contributors. Pay to play is the standard practice and, incredibly, is NOT illegal.

Native Philadelphians are highly suspicious of non Philadelphians. Rather than the NYC directness and bombast you may be used to, they may appear furtive and passive agressive to outsiders - especially in the neighborhoods. Natives have an underdog mentality, and revel in the city's second tier status, which can be irritating to those who see how wonderful it actually is.

Neighborhoods are clearly racially segregated. Black/white tension can be high, especially against the recent waves of gentrification and Asian/Hispanic immigration.

So there you have it, etcetera etcetera.

If at some point I can hop off my lugubrious looping trajectory of dolours and ennui for fifteen minutes, I'll expand on some of the above. Maybe.
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