Some call it Failadelphia. I get it now.
If I had to recount all of the things that went wrong during my 48-hour stay in Philadelphia, I would have to start a new website.
A long-lost friend kindly let me crash at her lofty South Philly townhouse for two nights, and in the short amount of time I was at the center of so many things going argy-bargy.
The trip started off promisingly enough. I'd just spent two nights with family I adore in Maryland. We'd shared delicious meals at home, watched the Republican debates, and they didn't bat an eye when I drank too much to help with the dishes -- which I may turn into an official tactic moving forward.
The City of Brotherly Love of 60's Pop Art.
Pulling out of their cul-de-sac, I was already bathing suit-ed up and smiling broadly as I left to pick up my friend in Philly, drive her to the Jersey Shore for an impromptu beach trip, and enjoy our day in the surf before heading back to her home. The sun was out. The windows were down. The Stones' "She's Like a Rainbow" was playing. Things were looking good.
And then I arrived in Philadelphia.
On our first night together, my friend and I wrapped up a quick cheese steak dinner to find her car getting illegally towed from its parking space under an El bridge.
This was bad. As in, they tricked us to move away from the car after we called the police and they sped off with her car bad. And there are reasons TripAdvisor doesn't suggest standing under a bridge in Fishtown on a Friday night for an hour.
My friend immediately took up the most valiant call-to-arms against a business since the days of Upton Sinclair. She waited for police to arrive. She informed herself of her legal recourse. She had a hot guy go with her to get her car out of impound. Her bases were covered, and I'm confident she'll come out the victor from this whole debacle.
But I must ask: is it libel to say that, in my opinion, the people at Siani's Salvage Towing are horrible, remorseless sons of bitches who have no shred of dignity, let alone ethics? Is it ok to stay that, in my opinion, they run an awful business based on illegal practices? And, finally, is it ok to say that, in my opinion, they should all go to hell? Is that alright? Should I not say that? I'm just asking.
The next day was my only full day in Philadelphia, and I was determined to traverse the city as much as I could. I was packed up, mapped out, comfortably shod, and ready to go.
Then I convinced myself that I was trapped in the house, as everyone had left for the day and I didn't have a means of locking up behind me. Except that a roommate was indeed home, and the front door handle did indeed lock from inside. I only lost 2 hours repeatedly harassing my friend by phone on how to handle the situation, so no harm, no foul.
One of the many stunning views around Downtown.
Finally, though, I succeeded in sightseeing. I walked throughout Philly for 8 hours, grimacing through the Mütter Museum, eating my way around the Reading Terminal Market. marveling at the art and architecture of the Barnes Foundation, weeping at the sight of the Public Library, and lasting a whopping 4 minutes at mass in the Cathedral Basilica (oh, like I'm not going to hell anyway).
That evening, tired and satisfied,, I went to my car to retrieve some crucial item, likely a hat. (I love hats.) Fumbling and stumbling along, I popped open the front door to find myself blinking stupidly at a totally unfamiliar space. Everything was in the right place -- kitchen, stairs, living room -- but looked foreign.
I looked up in shock to stare blankly at a pretty, friendly blond stranger seated across the room. "Hi there," she cocked her head at me and chirped, the way I would to a toddler who's wandered wide-eyed up to my table at a restaurant.
"Oh, god, I'm in the neighbor's house!" I cried. I actually referred to this person as "the neighbor" to her face. She laughed it off as I apologized and exited -- stepping slowly backwards as if in supplication, which seems the only way to do so in such a situation.
There were other near misses and outright hits: stumbling into awful neighborhoods with groceries in tow after being lulled into complacency by Google maps, doubling and tripling back through downtown due to indecisiveness and lazy map reading, getting turned around at night and barging into a roommate's bedroom rather than my own (again, backing out while apologizing profusely).
Philly was becoming my personal vortex of carelessness and cautiouslessness. Yet the harder I tried to get to know the city, the more it eased up on me and let me in.
And there were niceties, of course, as I was leaving and once again regretting not giving enough time to the process of learning a new place. On my way out of town, I ran into an Atlanta transplant at ReAnimator Coffee who moved to Philly 5 years ago, but recognized me and remembered some mutual friends. We were pretty jazzed about it.
See? We're jazzed!
Or rather, he was kindly willing to play along with being as jazzed about it as I was. I'm easy to jazz.
My final stop was Taco Riendo, where I jammed some heavenly tacos into my face (with the grace of a fawn gently lapping at a summery stream and looking up at the pastel hues of a pink-streaked sky at sunset, of course) before marching onward to see family in New Jersey,
To borrow from ever-prescient Sufjan Stevens: "I've made a lot of mistakes."
But I've also learned from them. I'm at the top of my game in house entering-and-exiting protocol now, and feel confident I will maintain this success rate for at least another few days.