In no particular order:

  1. Walking wet streets around 13th, Lombard, and Juniper. It is night, nearly 3:30am, and I've taken to slipping out in the night and walking. My sneakers squeak and croak as I wriggle past overhead streetlights. All around me, the night people of Center City--other insomniacs, hookers, bartenders, dog walkers--occasionally pass by me. I am cold, I am scared. It's a Tuesday night (so I guess Wednesday morning) which matters little because I don't have a job to rise to tomorrow. Part of me wants to walk forever; part of me still walks now. I climb back into bed about 30mins later, after seeing a young white man, probably my age then, buy a transgender prostitute. They disappear in the side alley diagonal from The Last Drop. It's my cue, I think, to go home.
  2. I have a pet for the first time. Her shelter name was "Queenie" but we've named her "Maggie". She is small, gray and white. I am not working and so I'm tasked with picking her up from the Eerie SPCA in North Philly. Maggie and I are in the car, not a block away when the box-carrier she's been placed in and then given to me to take her home, bursts open in the car and frantically, I watch her climb out. The car swerves outside of Roberto Clemente and I pull over. I watch her scale the interior of the car like a spelunker. She makes her way to the front seats, curls in my lap, sleeps. We drive home that way. My cat, my first own thing in Philadelphia. I carry her like a secret into our apartment. She immediately runs under an antique hutch in our cramped apartment. I sleep on our affordable pull-out IKEA. I wake up to her resting curled on my chest, like a locket.IMG_0052
  3. I am divorced and I'm laughing in a beer garden on Broad and Spruce by the Broad Street Ministry church. My head is back and I am giddy with beer. Bulbs hang from the trees and the poles all around the makeshift garden. It's a Sunday night. I am with two friends. The only thought I have is, "....after so much pain, how can I be so lucky still? I always want to laugh like this." I tell myself that at least 4 other people at the communal tables around us must feel as lucky as I do, too.
  4. My parents and I sit at the top-level of Jim's Steakhouse on a summer Saturday night. There should be 4 of us, but no matter; we 3 will do. My mom and I are talking about childhood (mine and Kristin's). My stepfather interrupts and asks if the house on Rodman Street is ours or if we're renting. "Is your credit ok for a mortgage or are you renting?" is how he asks. My mom stabs a french fry into the pool of ketchup on my tray despite having her own. I realize that this is the way that they each love me; the way they'll always love me.IMG_0053
  5. Winter along I-95 and its just snowed early this morning. I've dropped you off; away you go to Oklahoma. I've slid on a patch of snow, spun, crashed into the median. I'm facing traffic. Three cars slow down and look at me. I am dizzy and try to pick ways to settle my brain and my fear: counting snowflakes. Touching parts of my body with my mind. Guessing how long it will be until someone crashes into me. The wipers make a syrupy, rubbery sound rubbing themselves back-and-forth across the windshield. Four lanes over, Lincoln Financial Field looks like an open video game console. We exchange a few texts; me to tell you, you to panic. I'll be ok.
  6. It's all I've got, but I've quietly socked about $500 and I've not much else at this point, but it's almost Christmas and it's almost 4 years for us and so I get the most I can get--it's all I've got--at Tiffany's. I'm too embarrassed to even say what the ring is actually for, it's so plain, so simple, so unassuming. I think it's us. I tell Anita on my way home ("Are you sure?") and it feels good enough right now because it's Christmas and after 2-3 hard years in Philadelphia, we're due a Christmas miracle. "Let's at least try", I think. What's the worse that could happen?IMG_0911
  7. My second Paris, your first Paris. You are brimming with it all and we've not even taken off yet. The plane, us, the clouds, my passport--it all feels so light. Paris; we're going to Paris. There's a cloud up there that we'll pass through that I'll place my wish in: let's fall so in love with this place and with each other again that we'll never want to come back. Every picture I take while we're there; every building, every Parisian resident, every art work has you in my mental lens. You and your first Paris. These are your pictures dear. Philadelphia is damned lucky to get us back.
  8. The Phillies have won the World Series. I race out onto Broad Street and witness the celebratory carnage. At Broad/Walnut the luggage store's window storefront is shattered like a league record. Trash cans and debris are on fire everywhere. People are racing the streets screaming, drinking, laughing. Sweet slick faces are lit by the vandal fires. A crowd outside the Union League huddles and celebrates around a bonfire of some sort. High atop a light pole, a man waves his Phillies cap. He looks like a sailor who has finally spotted land. Arms, hands and voices reach up for him. This could be the beginning of a world or the end of another one.IMG_4284
  9. Entering Tattoo Mom's after a kickball game. You get into an argument with the door bouncer. Abruptly, I step in to try and calm everyone down and place a hand on his arm while putting one on your angry, slender shoulder. His arm lassos around my neck, crushing my throat. You're yelling at him, the bartender (a tussled black-and-gray haired white woman in her 40s with tattoos up and down her arm like wild ivy) yells at us to "better just leave" and the kickball players stare at us wild-eyed. In the car, as I recount and apologize to the bar owner, you're still enraged. It's a Sunday night and we're parked in a church parking lot outside Starr Garden. Years later, I walk past it now everyday on my way to work.
  10. A rooftop party in Fitler's Square. I'm with Claire, so it feels like I'm with All of Philadelphia. There's music and an enjambment of people of all stripes here. The music is largely hip-hop. I'm standing with someone; we're both remarking on the view, then the music, then mutual friends, then the view again, in that circular way that strangers talk at parties. It feels good to be alone at a party. It feels good to be alive in Philadelphia. On the rooftop, even the music feels like someone I should've already met and been friends with.IMG_1818
  11. My 3rd cat, "Sif" watches me on my couch. Maggie was a locket; Sif is a pocketknife. She is brown, black and striped. Darts in and out of shadows. She has large green eyes that want to swallow the news: Pop-pop has died. My Pop-pop has died. It's a wine-stain of a fact; a big, red spot that will diminish but never leave. Will fade, but will always retain its aftertaste. My couch feels extra lumpy and ready to enfold me. In Montepulciano, I'll have a brief moment sampling wine w/ Brett and Ingrid where I will recall this exact moment of hearing that news. Red wine, Pop-pop.
  12. Obama has won. I watch the announcement standing in our cramped apartment. I am crying, out of disbelief, out of joy, out of fear. Sean and I text this is amazing. I take the streets again, much like when the Phillies won the World Series. It's teeming with people. No fires. No pole climbing. An impromptu parade of victory. In the morning, blacks I don't know greet me, and I greet them. We're all smiling. We're all cats that have swallowed the canary. We got one. We did this. Newspapers flutter around the streets and on the El like pigeons. I cry again walking to work. Sweepers, train conductors, garbage men, street vendors, homeless men, business men, parents, professionals black people. Philadelphia today feels like one, big black smile. This could be the beginning of a world or the end of another one.

One thought on “12 Memories of a Philadelphia 2006-Now

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