Philly still ugly, my research shows



Last week, Mr. B and I went to the perennially-sold-out Ignite Philly, which has Philadelphians from all walks of life (but mostly from tech) gather in a bar and talk about stuff that makes Philly better in five minutes or less. My favorite presentations were by Philly Love Notes, Life Hacks for Living in Philly, and Austin, who’s a blind developer.  It was a really cool event that made me inspired about the changes that are going on in the city, and made me excited to live in Philly.

We’ve gone to lots of these types of events over the past coupe years.  There was BarCamp last year (where I spoke about my book), Wordcamp, Women in Tech the year before that, and many, many more. The Philly tech community is great. I love it. I was having such a rough time adjusting to Philadelphia, and getting involved in the tech scene really helped me out.

The other thing that’s awesome about Philly is that it has tons stuff to do and tons of good restaurants, some of which are on par with what’s available in New York.  Actually, considering how gross New York is and how lazy I am, I’d rather stay in Philly any day.

With all this awesome stuff going on, it makes me believe Philly is really going somewhere, and is not the pissed-on, broken-down, has-been city that we make ourselves out to be. This city has artisinal coffee! This city has hipsters! This city has a future!

The cognitive dissonance happened for me when Mr. B forced me to watch Trading Places this weekend as part of my cultural enrichment of the American 80s.  This movie takes place entirely in Philadelphia in 1983, and the terrifying part is that, after 30 years, none of the exteriors have changed so much as to be unrecognizable.

For some places, like Old City, that’s a good thing.


But 30th Street Station hasn’t changed at all, down to the 70s-era Amtrak trains.


The God-awful clothespin is still at the Municipal Services Building, and the building also could use a huge wipedown, maybe just a slight demolition and rebuild.


Rittenhouse still get sketchy after dark, and sometimes even before dark.


For a city that’s always going on about how much new stuff and innovation is going on (the Penn Nanotech Center, Drexel Expansion, Avenue of the Arts, Zahav), I was surprised at how much was actually exactly the same.

Interior Philly is slowly changing. We have good restaurants, a really cool tech and arts scene, and a marathon.

Exterior Philly, though, is a city frozen in time, from its ugly psuedo-socialist  blocky concrete government buildings, to West Philly, to Center City, which continues to be dirty in the summer, to the wasteland that is the I-95 North Corridor. I mean, Jesus.How can we be proud of a city like this:


They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and you should never judge someone by their looks without knowing their personality, but Philly’s personality says to me, I don’t care about my appearance, and fuck you.

Which is about right for Philly anyway.