Saturday, July 16, 2005

The short hello and long goodbye

Each day's errands take me through the streets of Center City Philadelphia, a place I've lived for just over a year. I keep seeing new details and gaining new understandings of the complex place that will be my home for just nine more days. This photo shows Headhouse Square, where I walk to the nearest cleaners, drustore, Wawa, bar, and coffee shop. The building on the right is a Colonial-era covered market a block long. It was almost torn down in 1959 and each time I pass it that thought makes me shudder.

We never expected to make Philadelphia our long-term home. The main reason for me was I am an activist at heart who can't leave well-enough alone, especially when well-enough means things are going to hell in a handbasket. Coming off a decade-long quasi-career in Indianapolis as a social critic and agitator, I needed some rest. In Philly I'd be drawn in to an endless series of battles against political corruption, bad urban planning, horrible race relations, depressing crime, environmental degradation, and a school system where students routinely get killed. I wouldn't know where to begin in picking my fights, so I decided to leave well-enough alone this time, to accept this city as it is.

So instead of spending my free time at neighborhood meetings and writing letters to the editor, I immersed myself in Philadelphia's culture and history. I went to old graveyards and poked around in off-the-beaten-path museums, and found myself inspired by the revolutionary fervor that once held this place in thrall. I dug through history books and old maps trying to figure out how this vast and confouding urban center grew and developed. I took off to explore the lush suburbs and exurbs, from the Main Line to Chestnut Hill to New Hope, feeling myself a strange conglomeration of tourist and resident. And I loved what I saw.

Tomorrow I'm off on a four day business trip to Seattle, a city on the other coast, a city with a whole different sense of itself. In truth, more the kind of city in which I'd like to live. But I'm not going to live in a city this time. We're moving to Carbondale, Illinois. After life in Indianapolis, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia, my urban days are over for now. A college town of just 20,000 people, pretty much in the middle of nowhere should be interesting. As interesting as Philly? Getouttaheah!


At 6:35 AM, Blogger DetroitGirl said...

Somehow I know that you will find a special way to interact with your new home, just as you always have. Much love and good luck always, Gail


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