The Fresh Prince of Philly
I arrived in Philadelphia back on July 23rd, just over 3 weeks ago. While my flight had me landing several hours late, I wasn’t all that bothered. For one, I was feeling a bit euphoric after having only been in the air for about 2 hours. After 13 years of living in California, I had gotten used to not even looking at my phone to check the time until at least 3 hours into what was almost always a 4 or 5 hour flight. It definitely feels good to be back east again.
While this really hellish heat wave had seemed to follow me from LA to Florida, it finally seemed to pass me by in Philly. Apparently, they had just had a wave that I had missed. I met my landlord just in front of the building where the loft that I am renting is located. She just happens to be a 2008 Wharton alum who now works and recruits for Deloitte and couldn’t have been happier upon realizing that she’d be renting to one of her own. We me through TheRentScene, a housing start-up founded by Wharton ’14 entrepreneur Marvis Burns. Within 48 hours of “hello” my landlord and I had come to agreement, money had been exchanged and I had signed a 22 month lease to take me all the way through my Wharton experience.
I instantly fell in love with my new place; and after a few days of wandering I felt the same about my neighborhood. I live all the way at the eastern tip (probably even beyond the tip) of the most dense concentration of Whartonites. Most of them live between the river and 15th street in Center City/Rittenhouse with a handful living in University City (most married folks looking for more space with lower rent) and an even smaller handful living out in the suburbs.
My living on the outskirts of that density is no accident. I wanted to be close enough to my classmates to socialize with them (and I am) while being tangential enough to pull away and retreat into some privacy and, dare I say it, normalcy when I felt the need to do so.
Well, things could not have turned out better. My gym is 2 1/2 blocks away from me. I live but a stone’s throw from Philly’s Reading Terminal Market, where I’ve come to do most of my grocery shopping. Fresh product, fresh fish, foul, eateries, condiments, fresh squeezed juice and even wine and cheese are all available there–all locally produced. Then for those things that I can’t get there, Trader Joe’s is a 5-7 minute trolley ride away.
While most of my classmates get to class on a slow, crowded bus headed up Walnut St. to Wharton that stops at EVERY block, I zip to class either on the train or the underground trolley, either of which is about 20 minutes door-to-door, easily eating up any advantage they might have had from living closer to campus.
I’m in walking distance from China town and city hall and can get anywhere in Center City within 15 minutes or so by foot should I choose to do so. I”m in walking distance from what is reportedly Philly’s best breakfast spot (it wouldn’t be considered that in LA, but it’ll do) and am also a 5-10 minute walk from not one, not two but three ZipCar parking lots. After leaving my jeep in California. I’ve had to become accustomed to reserving ZipCars to run any errands that cause me to go to South Philly, such as IKEA, Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Lowes.
I’ve found (the good part of) Philly to be exceptionally manageable. There are tons of restaurants and bars that I can easily walk to on any given evening. The part of this city that’s worth going to is almost startlingly accessible. When the underground tavern that at least 600 of my 850 classmates descended on for our back-to-school bash got too crowded and hot, I was able to simply walk home in about 10 minutes.
Fat Backs and Smoke Stacks
My two major qualms with Philly thus far, of course, are health related. One is that while the food is really good, it’s super heavy. This irritates me because it defacto turns almost every day into a “cheat day/fatboy day” unless you are eating food from home. I had read somewhere that Philly was America’s fattest city; now I see why. I’ve also never seen so many women with a legit guy’s beer gut in effing my life, a fact that makes the people who are just here for work or school at Penn/Drexel et. al REALLY stick out.
My second issue is the prevalence of pubic smoking. In California, we shamed all the smokers into extinction long ago. Only immigrants from France and SE Asia smoke in Cali now, and they are quarantined into dirty alleys next to bums and rotting baby diapers to do so. Now that’s my kind of city. In Philadelphia on the other hand, every man, woman and child seems to be toting a nasty cigarette and puffing that shit into the air and right in the faces of like 20 people. Smokers should have to wear helmets that keep all of the smoke inside. Since they love the stuff so much, they should get it all to themselves.