Last time I felt these cobblestones fit my arches,
we stopped in front of a seminary where I let you
take. my. pic.ture.
with the Virgin Mary.
It was warmer then-
before I needed this scarf wrapped around my throat,
before I swallowed this fishing hook.
Drexel University, voted ugliest campus…again.
Philadelphia has been rated ugliest, fattest, most depressed, with highest crime rate on top of carrying the shame of crap sports teams. The native me would make like a tourist and whip out the I-heart-NY tshirt and Yankee cap. I would revert to the Jersey City ‘aw’ (dramatizing words like coffee, salt and dog) and cross three lanes at a time on the parkway (otherwise known as the Jersey slide) on my way to Belmar to pick up some dudes with blowouts.
But then there’s the part of me that thinks ‘hey! Damn it, I live here!’ Sure, it’s hard coming from the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, the financial/fashion/culture capital of the world, the greatest place on earth, but I’ve learned that Philadelphia is not just the Liberty Bell, Pennsylvania not just for the Amish, and Drexel not just for engineers.
For instance, if you’re looking for a good picnic area on Drexel’s campus, you could go to…
Philadelphia has really great… uh… hm.
Or, or you could go visit...
SO WHAT if I haven’t been to anywhere in PA besides, well, Amish country!! (10 years ago with my grandparents to get us city kids out for some fresh air)
Look, if you want trees, go to Maine. You want smarts? Seattle. Want pretty people? Slut your way over to LA. If you like playing the underdog, Philly’s the place. If Philadelphia were a human personification, it would be Elliot Smith- ugly, depressed, perhaps with bad cholesterol (but not fat), and fucking brilliant. It’s got its own melody. It’s slow and sad, but damn it we all can’t be Britneys. We’re too real, man.
(with Philly’s crime rate, there’s a good chance we’ll have the same end as Elliot)
You want to hug Philadelphia, pat it on the butt and tell it “you’ll get up next time, slugger.” When Travel & Leisure magazine picked their dodgeball team, we didn’t get picked last. We weren’t *that* kid; we’re not Pittsburgh. We all know from high school that people like Philly grow up to be important (Seattle’s a yuppie, New York grew its hair out and started a band, Vegas is turning tricks and LA probably OD’ed).
I got mad L.O.V.E for Philly, fo’real- so gutter, so gritty, so hood.
So go ahead, run your tubby ass up those Art Museum stairs a la Rocky. Throw your arms up when (if) you get to the top. You’re alright in my book, Killa.
---You didn’t think I could go a whole post on Philly without mentioning Rocky, did you? And while I’m at it- Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin, Ben Franklin!
A slow waterfall of drool spilled over her lip and down her chin. I think she’s smiling. Hard to tell with cheeks that fat, that amply pad the toothless gums and tongue she’s got in there. Or rather the bubblegum tongue she likes sticking out to make a sad excuse for a raspberry. I’m glad my momentary wide-eyed gasp could be so entertaining as to cause an uncontrollable giggle.
Her head’s a perfectly round peach, fuzzy and soft. A peach with a Gerber cowlick in the front. Her mama tells me that she tried to matte it down this morning when her corn silk strands were wet and freshly washed. Should just let it curl. I like curls (naturally, given my own pin straight locks). I could recognize that Johnson and Johnson no-tears baby shampoo smell anywhere. They should make no-tears shampoo for grown ups. At what age did someone decide we didn’t need it anymore? Is it because we stop crying? Or that they assumed we don’t get shampoo in our eyes anymore? Because I have/do/will do again. I’d like to have a word with this person who made such brash assumptions.
And that’s not the only thing. I openly admit that I miss bathing in the kitchen sink. I miss the freedom of sitting nude in the same sink where the dinner greens were washed, in the same room where we met for breakfast and watched the birds. Enjoying a delicious juice out of a cup that doesn’t spill. Enjoying the feel of someone else’s hands running a soapy cloth down your back, around your neck, behind your ears, because honestly, do you really pay that much attention to the space behind your ears? Has anyone since you sat in the kitchen sink?
I miss someone watching just to make sure I didn’t slip below the water’s surface, when splashing was a cute Polaroid moment rather than making a mess. At what age did our bathing evolve into an upright position? The infamous missing link.I miss pajamas with feet, the kind with the zipper that went from the knee to the chin. My feet still get cold, don’t yours? Wouldn’t you enjoy some warm traction control in the evenings? And if you’re looking to slide down the hardwood hallway, you can just throw some socks on top. Just watch out for the small desk in the foyer- the one with Grandma’s porcelain. The desk that was under the flower still-life with its paint so thick you could run your fingers over it and imagine that this is how yelling looked in Braille. Braille, whatever that is.
When did our chubby bloated hands become these spidery appendages, our knees now with caps not dimples? Our hair lacquered and colored. Our shoulders so pale in the summer.
I’ve carried bags of rice that have weighed more. I think she’s sleeping now. I can’t feel her little fingertips playing with the hem of my sleeve anymore. She knows I’m not her mother, not her aunt or grandmother, not a godmother or even a neighbor. Just a friend I guess. How trusting children are. How wonderful it must have been.Then came the waterfall again, over her lip, soaked up by my shirt.
Many have called me a Grinch.
And it's probably- to some extent- true, at least from Black Friday to December 20ish (especially on Black Friday). After that I'm right on par with the holiday spirit. During this time of giving, of new gadgets and sweaters, I encourage you to not buy me anything this year. I'm getting too big for my shell and my place is overflowing with things I no longer- or ever- need. When I moved from the third to the seventh floor of my building a couple months ago, I had to carry four armfuls of collared work shirts. Three changes of bedding. Two garbage bags of shoes. My pots and Frannie's bonsai treeee.
And I hope everyone forgives me, but I'm not buying you presents either. I did my little Secret Santa thing, I have something for Daddy. Everyone else is just getting a donation in their name. And if your conscience will not let you get away with a Christmas without buying me something (which some of you are prone to do) I have a solution. I've been working 50 hour weeks for a month now and all that overtime has afforded me to donate- in at least some capacity- to the below listed organizations:
This is probably my favorite gift to give of all time. This Christmas I'd like to buy a pig, or help bee harvesters, or help Uganda farmers overcome displacement.
A non-profit camp in NYC for girls ages 8-18. The program is founded on the proposition that music can serve as a powerful tool of self-expression and self-esteem-building. Rock on, bitches.
Teaching girls to expand their natural writing talents, develop independent creative voices, and build confidence in making healthy choices in school, career and life.
Works to eliminate the affects of malaria in Africa through distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, education, and treatment.
Summer day camp for children who may be coping with the HIV/AIDS infection of a family member, the death of one or both parents, or their own HIV/AIDS infection.
That being all said, I want to encourage everyone to consider an alternative gift this year: the gift of warm fuzzies for that person who has everything anyway.
And believe me, babe, I got it all. happy holidays, my friends, and a most fabulous new years.
When I was ten, my grandparents took me and my brother to the Bronx zoo.
We were promised elephants and giraffes and tigers and so far we just got to see where the Jews all lived. Some crumbly old bakeries that sold good bread. An alley where Pop played some game with a stick and a baseball whose red stitches were coming undone, wearing something called knickers. What ugly names Pop’s friends had. A Skip and a Walter. A Peggy and a Bernice. With names like Warren and Joan, it’s a wonder they named my father and uncle something normal like John and James- “good, strong bible names.”
This trip was a disaster already. And it was hot. August-in-New-York-City hot.
City heat is the worst kind of heat. It’s the kind that slithers off the pavement and makes mirages in the distance. The kind that caused the leather seats to cling to the back of my thighs and half of my calves. Little sweat beads were forming on my freckled brown nose and my freshly-trimmed bangs were starting to stick to my forehead. (Pop always had a pocket comb though for instances like this when Grandma declared we were starting to look and smell ‘gamey’) Justin was probably in oblivion looking out the window. I still wonder what he thinks about.
Pop must have seen me pouting in the backseat, bored at seeing nothing but brick buildings and concrete sidewalks because I heard him croon out the first line of my favorite sailor song: “Jamie’s a corker.” Naturally, I liked it because it was about me and I believed in my ten-year-old heart that Pop had specifically written it just for me... and the words were easy enough:
Jamie’s a corker
She’s a New Yorker
I buy her everything to keep her in style
She’s got a pair of hips,
just like two battleships
Hey boys, that’s where my money goes.
Singing about my eyes like custard pies, my nose like a big red rose, and legs like whiskey kegs was a perpetually funny image for me and my brother. We giggled like lunatics and put specific emphasis on the comparative items.
Then finally we rolled into a most magical place- almost. The parking lot was a mile long, but once past that, there was a big dome full of trees and shrubs. My brother and I looked at this thing, this giant playground bubble, our eyes so wide that they might have fallen out of our heads if it weren’t for the smallest sliver of eyelid.
With his grubby little hand in my grubby little hand, we turned to look at our grandmother, whose nod gave us the go-ahead. We both fit into one section of the revolving door and it was like walking into a tropical Artic. It was cold and beautiful but there was nothing but trees in there. No giraffes. No hippos. What kind of zoo is this? What trickery!
In our slump of disappointment, a big red butterfly floated onto Justin’s head. I screamed so he, in a panic, threw his hands on top of his head- crushing the butterfly- its guts and red dust all over his hands, parts of its wings mingled in his messy brown hair. He wiped his hands on his jeans. It was not just the one butterfly, but hundreds, thousands, maybe even millions. Again, our eyes opened so wide that they almost really did fall out this time.
This is what it looks like when you step into the wardrobe.
Ten years later, I’m going to the academy of natural sciences. And I’ll be in a room full of butterflies, but this time I’m going to remember to occasionally blink. And I won’t so much mind if they land in my hair. I think they’ll look pretty there.