At Home in Philadelphia

On the day before we moved into our new house (aka My Sister's Birthday), I started compiling a list of the Top 10 Things That Will Take Some Getting Used to About Philly. I only ended up with six items; I figured that I'd come up with the remaining four over the next few days or weeks. A funny thing happened on the way to number ten, however: Philly started to grow on me.

It's partly because I *am* getting used to it, partly because I'm starting to find some good restaurants and favorite haunts, and partly because I'm staring to look at Philly as "my town" rather than eyeing it with the skepticism I usually reserve for public toilet seats. In order to put this newfound appreciation for Philly in perspective, here's my original list of six items, which for the most part still apply:

  1. The honking. People honk at the drop of a hat here. (And at the change of a light: There's a 1-2 second delay between when the cross street's light turns red and yours turns green. People honk as soon as the cross street's light turns red. If they're first in line, they just go, often getting to the other side of the intersection before the light even turns green.)
  2. The lack-of-service attitude. If you ask anyone behind a counter (or a badge) what's the first word that comes to mind when you say "service," I bet they'd respond, "huh?"
  3. They salty food. There *are* other seasonings, you know. And kick it up a notch, for pete's sake!
  4. The need to assert your rights as a pedestrian, as loudly and aggressively as you can, to avoid being mowed down (though you WILL get honked at regardless—see item 1).
  5. The accent.
  6. The smokers. I know, I know: I moved here from California, a state with a reputation for health (among other things), where there's no smoking in restaurants or bars. It's not so much the smoking in bars that's surprising here; it's the smokers on the street. These people aren't smoking to look cool—in fact, they look anything but, with cigarettes protruding from pursed lips or slack jaws as they drive, stand in line at the cheesesteak cart, or shuffle down the street. They're smoking because they have to, and they're EVERYWHERE. I find myself running to get in front of the smokers, so I don't have to walk in their exhaust trails.

And herewith, a list of things that make me feel at home in Philadelphia, mixed with recent discoveries that give me hope for the future:

  1. You *can* get good Thai food here; I had some last night at Erawan (23rd & Sansom). When the waiter asked how spicy I would like my red curry shrimp, I replied, "I can take more spiciness than the average Philadelphian, but I'm not Thai." He replied, "medium spicy, then." I'm pleased to report that "medium spicy" was measured on the Thai scale, not the Philadelphia one; the dish was right at the limit of my spiciness tolerance, and not too salty.
  2. I've found an allergist and an endocrinologist, which means I'm no longer living on borrowed time (and dwindling prescriptions). Next on the list: a good dentist.
  3. Everything except the Home Depot is in walking distance (and most trips to Home Depot require a car to lug back the lumber and paint anyway). I can walk to my doctors' offices, the bank, the post office, the drugstore, the bakery, Whole Foods, Starbucks, K-Mart, Lord & Taylor, and a whole lot of non-chain restaurants and shops. On Saturday, Al and I walked around with no particular destination, just because we could—and there was a lot more to see than there would have been in Mountain View.
  4. There's a Dmitri's at 23rd & Pine! Several people (including a culinary connoisseur friend) have recommended this restaurant to us, but we've never been because it's all the way over at 3rd & Catherine. Well, on our "aimless" walk on Saturday, we discovered that there's a Dmitri's at our end of town as well. We can't wait to try it out.
  5. There's an ice rink 15 minutes away in Pennsauken, NJ that has Friday-night pickup hockey, and the University of Pennsylvania Class of 1923 Ice Rink, which has open skating sessions just about daily, is 10 blocks away.
  6. We can take the subway to see Flyers and Phantoms games. No waiting in line for $13 parking, and no waiting in a longer line to get the hell back on the highway.
  7. The end of the kitchen remodel is in sight, which means we'll really feel like we're living in our new house (not just camping in it).
  8. Along the same lines, we finally settled on a new couch. It'll be here January 15!
  9. The flood of mail addressed to the former occupants of our address has slowed to a mere trickle.
  10. We've had visits from three friends, and from my sister and her kids. I wish we'd known about the Dmitri's on Pine when the friends came, but we found (and re-visited) a yummy Italian place called Bronzino on 17th at Rittenhouse, and we got to visit some of Philly's historical sites with the kids. (Funny how when you live in a city, you never really check out its tourist attractions unless someone from out of town comes to visit.) The yummy Italian food made me realize that instead of looking for California's specialties (Mexican and Asian-of-every-persuasion), we should learn to appreciate the excellent Greek and Italian places here. And running around town with the kids made me see Philadelphia as a more-activities-than-you-can-possibly-try-in-one-day kind of place. J and M have already made a list of all the things they want to do next time they come, and they've requested an overnight stay.
Posted by Lori in philadelphia at 10:34 PM on January 5, 2004

Comments (1)


Bah. No offense to Philadelphia, but I think you should move back. And rejoin a certain hockey team. We miss you guys!


Bah. No offense to Philadelphia, but I think you should move back. And rejoin a certain hockey team. We miss you guys!

Posted by: hoche at January 9, 2004 5:30 AM

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