Philadelphia

Philadelphia… Differences

I knew that moving, wherever I went, was going to come with its ups and downs. Currently I feel like I’m in a down. I see more and more quirks of this city that frustrate me.

Things that aren’t really Philly things, just my life being different things

Movie theaters
The movie theaters are all a train ride away from the house, so I’ve only been twice in the past 5 months. That’s different for me. Ryan and I used to go to the movies all the time, and we’d walk there and back. I also haven’t been able to find a “nice” movie theater in town yet, that serves food at your seat like the Alamo, or that is in general not run down. There are a few Ritz/Landmark locations, so I’m hoping that those are nicer. When I had my Terry Gross sighting at Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it was at a dirty and nondescript theater in the middle of nowhere. In my imagination she only goes to nice indie/arthouse movie theaters…

Coffee
The coffee scene here is strong, and thankfully I have lots of really great options near my house. Unfortunately the availability of good coffee beans is nonexistent at grocery stores (except for Whole Foods).

These days I’m buying my beans at the coffeeshop (free cup of coffee with bean purchase- yesssss), and I’ve started an online coffee bean subscription. It’s a luxury, but I love it.

Groceries

One plus of being here is that we can finally get an Imperfect Produce box. There are serious porch pirate problems here, but I’ve never had a box stolen since I’m always home during delivery. I like using the service a lot, but they don’t have everything, so I have to supplement by going to the local grocery store.

The Acme is overpriced, laid out nonsensically, and has very few employees on the registers even at super busy times like Sunday afternoon. 5 months of living here, and I still don’t know where the canned tomatoes are. You basically have to walk up and down every single aisle, since they’re not well labeled.

Trader Joes and Whole Foods are far away, so I never go anymore. The Acme enrages me so much that I’ve actually started paying for grocery delivery from Amazon Fresh. Worth it. A new Giant grocery store has opened across the street from the Acme, and it seems nice, so now I’m going there as well.

Food Scene
Food delivery here usually comes with a fee (starts at $1.50, most I’ve seen so far was $12), which wasn’t the norm in San Francisco. The food itself has been hit or miss for me. The bar food is fancy and consistently good, but I’m still looking for my dream bowl of pho, and I’ve pretty much given up on finding legit tacos here.

I had a love/hate with SF restaurants too, but I was hoping that Philadelphia food and drink would be cheaper. It’s not. Food/drink and groceries are my second biggest expense. I’m paying more in rent and taxes here too, so there is a growing disappointment that I’m paying more yet this city isn’t nicer, cleaner, or a notably better experience than SF.

The only thing nicer is that I live in a big new house and have a dog (I know that both of these are HUGE and I could not do the same in SF). Oh, and there is also less human feces in the street, and less tech influence (but also that means less job opportunities for me).

Actual Philly things

The opiod epidemic

We’re a block away from the train, and it’s basically what it would be like to live a block away from the 16th street BART stop. Junkies come and shoot up in our alley, nodding off on a stoop or on the sidewalk. Sometimes they beg me for money when I’m trying to walk home. Occasionally they go through our trash bags and spread trash everywhere.

Philadelphia is planning to open the nation’s first safe and supervised heroin injection site, in my neighborhood! It’s been gummed up in a legal battle, but I think it’s a go soon. I’m not sure how to feel about the center, but I hope it does clean things up/make things safer.

The depressing stretch of Girard that leads to the train stop / bus stop / dollar store / 7 Eleven / strip club / bar / McDonalds. I try to avoid this block by taking neighborhood streets, but usually we have to walk Bogie past this hot mess intersection to get to the dog park.
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Trash
I’m running again, and it’s been a great way to get familiar with the city, but I’ve noticed that there is a general trash problem in Philadelphia. Being near the train stop makes it worse. I’ve had to pull Bogie away from needles and used tampons, and y’all know he ate a blunt already.

From some research, the trash problem seems to stem from a lack of infrastructure due to poverty (no street sweeping, fewer trash cans available), and local culture (throwing trash in storm drains, fast food leftovers out of moving cars, stashing beer cans in somebody’s potted plant, throwing trash on the ground 1 foot away from an actual trash can!!!).

People’s trash cans are the light plastic kind without lids, and every trash day it’s disheartening to see the trash guys pick up the bins, but as they’re dumping them, all sorts of loose junk falls out. They just keep going, the truck leaving a trail of garbage behind it, like a snail. And then since the cans are empty, they blow all around the street.

Philadelphia is the only major city to not have a street cleaning program. Apparently it was a casualty of some 2009 budget cuts and the aggressive car parking culture here. The city just completed a “pilot program” of street sweeping, but it seems unlikely that there will be enough money to make the service permanent across the city.

Business hours
Places are weird with their opening hours. One hair salon will be closed on Monday and Tuesday. One pho place is closed on Wednesdays, while the other pho place a few doors down is closed on Tuesdays. One hipster deli seems like it’s never open. Now I’m always checking the hours online, because I’ve been disappointed a few times.

Alcohol
I’m still learning the Pennsylvania beer and liquor laws. Grocery stores have bars within them so that they can legally sell beer, but if you want more than just a pack or two, you have to go to a beer distributor. You can also buy beer to go at bars, but I haven’t tried that yet.

One time I was in line at the grocery store behind this guy buying a bunch of beer, and the cashier made him walk three feet back from the register between purchases, so that he was technically only buying a certain amount of beer during each visit. WTH?

Liquor is purchased in a separate state run liquor store, so don’t expect a ton of fancy selection.

Many restaurants are BYOB, even the fancy pants ones.

Oh, another thing that they do here is throw cocktails in large plastic pouches with handles and a straw for maximum portability. Why? I don’t know why, but I’m for it.

Driving
Earlier this year Philly was named #2 on a list of 10 US cities with the most aggressive drivers (behind LA, duh). I don’t drive here at all, but it is dangerous to be a pedestrian or biker. I see cars, large delivery trucks, and even local city buses speeding up in order to run red lights at least once a day. Sometimes cars will just stop in the middle of the road to have a chat with someone they know standing on the sidewalk. Even buses do this. Buses have also moved out of their lane into oncoming traffic when they get stuck in traffic. I’m always really cautious when I’m on my runs or taking Bogie for a walk. Trust no car!

It’s also apparently a Philly thing to be a total asshole and park wherever you want, whenever you want, even if you’re blocking an entire street’s traffic. Most often people just pull up onto the sidewalks. Not sure why it’s a thing, but ok.

Another street phenomenon that’s new to me are the “wheelie kids” – swarms of kids/teenagers that ride the wrong way down busy streets, popping wheelies and playing chicken with oncoming traffic, nearly causing accidents. I know they’re just kids having fun, but they can be mean and mess with pedestrians. One time one of them almost swerved into Bogie and then called Ryan a pussy, or something like that. LOL.

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What happens when wheelie kids grow up? They become the dirt bike, ATV, and quad gangs. It is really… wild.

Okay, I’m starting to feel like a grouch, so I’m going to go ahead and end this tirade. I do hope that eventually some of these city quirks will become endearing, or that I at least stop actively noticing them. But do you really want to get used to trash, heroin addicts, and shitty driving? I already did that in SF, it’s sad.

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