1. On Thursday, I was robbed. Some scoundrel (or, as one theory holds, out of control self-replicating AI robot) broke into my car where I had foolishly hidden my laptop... complete with my firstmonth/lastmonth/security deposit for the next place, which was on its way to the bank to get deposited. In cash. Also in the bag: my fancy-shmancy new erasible gel pen, my external harddrive (where I keep all my music, image files, text files), my headphones, my chapstick (I love that brand, too), some travel receipts from BAB, and other miscellaneous items. Not to mention, the bag itself. Gah. But Philly, my true love of cities, rushed to my aid. Not one, but two rent parties happened over the next 56 hours, complete with a silent auction and dance marathon. Dance marathon? Why yes, dance marathon- people pledged $.10 to $1 for each song I could dance. Consecutively. Without a break. The final tally? (And I do mean tally) 45 songs. Whew! Philly made back a considerable amount of the money I lost (I won't be homeless after all!), and even provided a temporary laptop (I can keep working!). I simply can't say how grateful I am, and think that in most cities, I'd have been utterly without hope. But here, in the city of arts and commraderie, I'm back on my feet, back to a normal level of poverty (a place I'm strangely grateful for this month). If I had any doubts about Philly, they're totally gone. I owe this city more than cash- I owe it my sense of optimism, my love of people, and a very strong sense of community.
I love you guys!
2. With Love: A Portrait
There are few cities in the world quite as poetic, I think, as Philly. Not the pretentious, beatnik, in-love-with-its own ideas sort of poetry, but the poetry of folk musicians (the good ones), who write about love and mundanity. It's seven fifteen on a Monday night. After mistakenly showing up three days early (but otherwise right on time) for a private lesson, I found myself wandering through Rittenhouse Square. Rittenhouse, for those of you who don't know, is a park nestled in among the giant apartment buildings and skyscrapers of central Philadelphia. Allow me to share it with you.
Temperature: probably very close to 80 degrees. I'm not sweating (when I'm sitting still). The light is indirect, but still looks sunny- sunset is quietly setting istelf up for a show.
On the way into the park, along the sidewalk, lay a single black slipper. For those of you who don't yet own Carsie's new album, Buoy, you're missing the reference, but I'll fill you in, if you promise to get it. Speaking of a heartbroken lady: "Now she lives, out in Arizona, lonely as a single shoe." Sure, you see broken, dirty sneakers on the side of the interstate... but a pretty black slipper lost downtown... now I have a soundtrack in my mind.
The tiled fountain has an elevated section which spills over a wall into a large, 1' deep pool. Standing on that divider wall, the chlorinated water rushing over her burkinstocks, a woman makes conversation with a nearby father and son. Did I mention she's tethered to a giant, woolly dog, delightedly up to his belly in refreshment?
All around the center circle of pavement is a wall, and benches, where young people and artists sit and watch. A group of african drummers (plus one coronet player) are chanting and singing to a trio of girls who shyly toss coins into a pouch. Their father comes along, and next thing, an impromptu dance party has broken out. Another pair of dogs drip by- it seems Woolly's idea is catching on.
This is what so many cities doesn't get... the value of funding murals isn't that you have painted buildings, and the value of parks isn't just a photo for touristry brochures (although to two Asian girls getting their photo taken while perched atop a concrete frog is pretty priceless). The value of funding the arts is that you get centers of joy, community, and creation. Sure, there's a rat* hiding in the bushes across the walk, and yes, someone broke into my car, and I'm cranky about it. But this city holds so much more than streets and gutters and police. This city holds a space for growth. While as nature abhors a vaccuum, art loves a space. So keep your eye on Philly- musically, dancewise, and visually, good things happen here.
So here I am, sitting at Jon and Carsie's watching (occasionally jumping into) an advanced blues lesson (if you've never taken their classes, you absolutely should!), feeling utterly validated in my choice of home scenes, feeling thankful that I've landed in what, I think, is the best scene and city a gal could hope for.
Much love, many swingouts, and multiple murals,
*a note about the rat. She's huge. Really, really huge. I mean, I kept rats for a while, and this lady is giant by well-fed standards. However, she's doing her darndest to stay well out the way (and reach) of humans. She's smart, and she's social. And frankly, everyone's got to make a living, right? She's cleaning up the garbage that disease-carrying humans leave. She's an undervalued garbage-lady. Who doesn't steal laptops. Scurry safely, little one. Scurry safely.