Some Things I’ve Learned in Three Weeks in Philly

View from in front of my church. The old architecture on the left is the corner of City Hall.

View from in front of my church. The old architecture on the left is the corner of City Hall.

Parts of the trolley part of the public transportation system are underground, and even though subways seem normal underground, trolleys underground seem like secret subterranean buses or giant worms burrowing through the earth.

“Jawn” is a Philly slang noun that fills in for anything, like thingamajig (or “truc” in French.) I have not yet heard it though, only seen it.

Most museums cost money?!?!?

There is a magical secret garden park thing near the Schuylkill River called Glendinning Rock Garden. (Shout out to the awesome couple that let me tag along as the husband took us along the hidden path to show his wife, who was having fun even while sweating in her abaya and scarf, the overlook where he used to hang out when he was young.)

Yes, this is in Philadelphia.

Yes, this is in Philadelphia.

Schuylkill is pronounced SKOO-cull.

You must watch the film Rocky to hope to understand Philadelphia. Fortunately for me it’s on Netflix.

Dozens of Philly public schools have been shut down in the past few years to save money. Despite the state and city’s apparent comfort with spending lavishly on fancy City Center plazas, corporate tax breaks, huge prison complexes, and the Pope (keep an eye out for a post from me on the Pope’s visit). Despite the fact that Philadelphia schools — especially those with poorer students and students of color — are already suffering and underfunded. And of course the school closures disproportionately affect Black students and low-income students. I went to the opening of a photo show memorializing the closing schools, with connected interviews with people affected by the closings.

Sometimes one of the entrances to a subway station will randomly close early. Or will become only an exit and not an entrance. Sometimes you have to go in a different entrance depending on which direction you’re going.

Justin Bieber practices law here.

Philadelphia has the worst poverty rate of the 10 largest US cities. But considering the city’s size and poverty rate, we have a relatively low rate of homelessness, and that’s probably thanks to the work of shelters and Housing First programs (according to the Sept. 2015 issues of One Step Away, Philly’s street paper). There’s still a long way to go though.

The ginger ice cream at The Franklin Fountain is amazing.

Philly buses are even worse than DC buses at telling you what stop they’re at.

I miss DC friends the most when there’s a fun event or festival or show that would be more fun with good company.

Bonus: Not something I learned, just a cool thing. I had been told about the rainbow crosswalks somewhere in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood, but naturally didn’t stumble across them until it was raining.

The rainbows come with the rain.

The rainbows come with the rain.


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