Philly still ugly, my research shows

 

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

Ask and ye shall receive

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In my MBA program, there are a couple of places to take night classes, but the one that’s most convenient for me is downtown, because it’s right next to work. Unfortunately, the entrance to Suburban Station, the train station right next to the school that I use to get home,  starts to unravel quickly at night. I mean, it’s already pretty gross during the day, but nighttime brings a special glow.  So, I always think about how  dirty the area surrounding Temple downtown is, and why they can’t use their pull with the city to help fix it.

Conveniently, from time to time, my school sends us surveys to fill out about the quality of our experience, both in the classroom and in the facilities so that we can complain as much as possible.

I’ve always learned both at work and in school that you should never just  come to someone with a problem; you should also have at least a couple possible ways to solve it.  But, this is just for my MBA and everyone knows part-time MBA students are pretty tired and already 100% invested in classes, and also I have NO IDEA how to navigate the sprawling City of Philadelphia political system.

So, here you go, Temple.

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Writing with others

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I usually work on my novel in this position: sitting on the train on the way to work or from work, notebook on my lap.

Despite the fact that I’m surrounded by people, it’s a really lonely way to work, as writing usually is.  The ideas come hard and the words come harder. In half an hour, I can do around 600 words, which is nothing in the scope of 90,000.

… 

How do you people drink coffee?

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There is a new coffee place that opened up a couple weeks ago downstairs in the building where I work.  My coworkers and I sometimes go out for coffee after lunch to beat the post-lunch slump, the fact that we live in Philadelphia in the winter, and just all that millennial angst in general.  I’m not a very frequent coffee drinker. I don’t like black coffee.  I drink about one cappuccino a week, so when I do drink it, it hits me hard. The world becomes an increasingly fast place for up to four hours.

… 

I’m not making any of this up

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“As far as I’m concerned, the world exists just to give me new material.”

 -My hero, Dave Barry, last night at the Philadelphia Free Library.

I first started reading Dave Barr’s syndicated column when we got the Patriot-News delivered on Sundays back when people still go the news delivered. I was maybe 8?  Everything he wrote, I thought was hilarious, even though I didn’t understand some things he wrote,  and I wanted to write funny things just like him.

He is one of the first people that made me laugh out loud when he wrote things.

Wikipedia says,

Barry has defined a sense of humor as “a measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason. Laughter is how we express the anxiety we feel at this knowledge.”

Almost everything you need to know is here:

Barry’s editors dispatched their man to New York to give the Times its comeuppance. Barry returned with a wicked 4,000-word story in which he gently pointed out that Ed Koch’s Manhattan was a carnival of urban decay and drug paraphernalia, too. Where the Times‘ storyhad been heavy-handed and sober, Barry was impish and hilarious, reporting, “[W]e immediately detect signs of a healthy economy in the form of people squatting on the sidewalk selling realistic jewelry.” The denizens of Times Square, he observed, were “very friendly, often coming right up and offering to engage in acts of leisure with you.”

Dave Barry is an American treasure and helped make me Who I Am As A Writer (which would be an excellent name for a band). I am so privileged to have seen him live.