Recently, the Travel Channel featured the episode of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover in Philadelphia. I know there were were a lot of viewing parties throughout the city in places that were featured on the show. While I didn’t make it out to view with my fellow Philadelphians, I had a great time watching it at home. I was proud of the city I love so much; Anthony showed the real diversity that exists in the city, proved that our food scene is far more than just cheese steaks (as someone on the show rightly pointed out, people who live here really don’t eat them all that often), and made us look like we’re more than just an angry group of people (minus the woman who gave the finger to the cameraman at opening of the show, of course) who throw snowballs at Santa Claus and beat up on tourists.
It got me thinking about why I love Philly as much as I do. Sure, there are problems. Our transit system isn’t that great, regardless of what Anthony said. Our public schools are mostly failing. There are a lot of homeless people and panhandlers. But I don’t want to focus on what’s wrong. I want to focus on what’s right.
My boyfriend grew up in Iowa and moved to the east coast about 13 years ago. He was the first person, but not the last, that I heard call Philadelphia “the biggest little city”. It’s true. It’s one of the things that I love most about the city. Because I grew up in the suburbs of Philly, then worked in one of the largest ad agencies here, and because of my involvement in the beer scene, there’s rarely a time that we go out and I don’t run in to someone I know. It doesn’t matter what part of the city we’re in – chances are I’ll know someone. Now, that might sound like my ego talking, but it’s not. It’s what makes Philadelphia feel like a community to me. The whole damn city is really just one big community! It’s so easy to get to know the people who are interested in the same things you are, if you’re willing to make the effort.
Also, it’s an extremely approachable city. It’s not as big, or as busy, as New York, which makes you feel like you can come in and really get to know the different neighborhoods and the people who live there. As much as I feel that there’s a lot of community in Philly, there are distinct neighborhoods. Each one has it’s own vibe and offers something to the people living there. I was lucky enough to live Fairmount for 5 years. It was quiet, tree-lined, and full of great culture and restaurants. Then I was even luckier to move to Bella Vista and live there for two years. It was hip, cool, and eclectic. Lots of amazing things going on in that neighborhood to this day, as the restaurants and stores continue to come in to that vibrant area.
Of course, nothing is perfect and Philly most certainly isn’t. But to me, it’s perfect in it’s imperfection.