Philadelphia

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.

Life, Philadelphia

Time flies! Today marks 2 months since we moved to Philadelphia. Here’s how it’s been going.

Moving day. 7 bags, ~300 lbs

HOUSE STUFF

Ryan closed on the house at the end of May, and we stayed out here for about a week at the beginning of June just to get things set up. At the time I thought that it was a bit extra, and I was wary of the additional cost, but looking back, it was definitely a good idea. The whole flurry of leaving San Francisco for good was stressful, and I couldn’t imagine having to spend those first few surreal days having to deal with Comcast, buying toilet paper, and setting up a bed.

Still, there was tons to do once we got here. Since we don’t have a car, we’ve been ordering a lot of furniture and essentials off the internet. The first few weeks were an endless stream of packages from UPS, FedEx, and the USPS. My hands got red and raw from hauling things around, building furniture, and breaking down a million boxes. I hadn’t gotten used to the house yet, so I kept bumping into things, leaving miserable bruises all over my body. The absolute worst was when I ran into our new wood/leather couch while trying to answer the door. I did this all by myself, isn’t that cool?

Anyways…everything was a bit of a mess for the first few weeks, but it’s all coming together slowly.

Staining Ikea furniture for the guest room

BOGIE (OREO MILKSHAKE TRAN-LAWLER)

Tote-a-pup

In a move that will surprise absolutely no one, on our first full day in Philadelphia, Ryan suggested that we visit the SPCA. One thing led to another, and we ended up adopting an adorable and terribly frightened puppy, one of a litter of 3. I was a bit nervous  about how the little guy would do, since he was incredibly anxious and sad looking in the shelter. But once we got him home, he relaxed and became a total love bug! I don’t blame him, I would be depressed and scared in the animal shelter too. It was nothing like the super chill and beautiful San Francisco SPCA adoption center. It was straight up THE POUND.

Bogie couldn’t go on walks until he finished his course of shots, so we were housebound for about three weeks. I never knew this was a thing, that dogs shouldn’t be walking around on the ground outside and meeting strange dogs until about 4 months. How do dog owners handle this quarantine? It’s terrible!

There were a few times that we took him out in a tote bag, but beyond that, we were in the house, watching him like a hawk and making sure that he didn’t have any house training accidents. We’ve also been crate training him, and it’s been rough. At night he would howl, scream and cry, and paw furiously at his crate like we were torturing him. Several times we had to stop since it was just too disruptive.

After too many nights of sleep deprivation I found myself getting angry. Why did we have to get a puppy? Why not an adult dog that already had its shit together (literally!). Why did it have to be crate trained? Why couldn’t he just shut up so I could sleep?

I honestly thought I was going to lose it for a few weeks. Thankfully I found the subreddit puppy101. The regret and exhaustion we were going through was so common it had a cutesy name – ‘the puppy blues’. I resolved to stick it out, and things have gotten better. Now Bogie can sleep through the night in his crate, hasn’t had accidents in the house in quite a while, and we can leave him in his crate for a few hours while we go out and explore the city. I still wish we had waited longer before committing to a dog, since I wanted to do some traveling up and down the coast, but I’m sure we’ll figure it out.

WORKING REMOTE

Working remotely full time has been pretty good. There’s the novelty of not being in an office surrounded by coworkers of course, no commute, and then the time difference. But mostly the work is the same, and surprisingly, I still get the “Sunday Scaries” – anxiety about work on Sunday night. Having a cheerful study with this little office buddy helps. 🙂

PHILADELPHIA IN GENERAL

I remembered that east coast summers were rough, but it’s been nasty. Mid 90s with on and off thunderstorms. Still, we’ve been able to get out and about. There have been a ton of outdoor events we’ve stumbled onto.

Fourth of July
East Passyunk Car Show
A curious hearse
2nd Street Festival
View from the Cherry Street Pier

Everyone has been pretty friendly/polite. I don’t know if it’s a Philadelphia thing or it’s a neighborhood thing. I haven’t made any friends yet, but I definitely make plenty of casual conversation day to day. Having a dog helps a lot on that front. Bogie is a puppy, so he gets lots of attention. One time I took him to the dog park 10 minutes away and got stopped 4 times! In one instance a girl literally laid down on the sidewalk and let Bogie jump all over her! A quarter of a block later, a couple stopped to pet him and reminisce about losing 2 dogs in the past six months. They started getting teary and wondering whether they would ever love a dog again. WHOA.

OTHER ODDS AND ENDS

Ryan got excited about composting, but we hadn’t figured out the right ‘ratio’ of organic matter, so the back yard smelled hideous for the first couple weeks. And the flies, oh the flies. At one point last weekend, I killed 11 flies in the kitchen in one afternoon. I felt like a ninja, popping them with my towel of death, until I realized every time that there was yet another fly.

Building things to keep Bogie out of the compost, and out of our neighbor’s yard!

I’ve been hitting up local developer meetups, and there’s definitely a dev scene here, but there isn’t the same free flowing startup money in it like SF. No beer, limited food. Guess I’ve been spoiled by SF and its heavily sponsored events.

Speaking of SF, I actually just got back from a quick work trip there. Being in the city felt strange, like I’d just come back from a long vacation, but I couldn’t go home because home didn’t exist anymore. I got to spend every night with friends though, and that was nice. I miss them the most.