Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sneaky roots

I'm in bed. It's a little past 4 am. I'm not quite asleep, these days I have a lot on my mind.* I hear the familiar sound of a siren buzzing through a 4 way stop, by the sounds of it, the stop right outside my window. I hear a scraping noise, I hear a door slam, and I hear a man's voice yell, "PUT YOUR HANDS ON TOP OF YOUR HEAD, NOW!"  I consider going to the window out of curiosity, but, as my hairdresser said as I told her this story the next day, "Yeah... look out the window and get shot in the head! Hah!", which were my thoughts exactly. I stayed under the cover of covers. Philly, philly.

Sooooo Dave and I have been planning a semi-secret move to Richmond, VA for this spring. We've been talking about it since November. In Richmond there's less crime, more hardcore, more friends, more vegan french toast, and a slower pace of life that we both enjoy. It's kind of ideal. Like a hardcore never never land. But as November gave way to December I started to lose momentum.

See, from the time I was little girl I've felt disconnected from where I am. I grew up in Maine but never felt like a Mainer, more like outsider observing the customs out of courtesy. After I turned 18 I moved all over the country and felt the same. I am an island, my only home myself.  Comfortable everywhere, settling nowhere. A rolling stone. So you would think that rolling on would be no problem, but...

After the move was decided upon, my time here in Philly took on a sudden and shocking finality. Everything I encounter on the daily became prematurely shrouded in a romantic nostalgia. I ached over the loss of the razor wire fences covered in tattered plastic bags and old diapers (which I joke constantly as being a rare botanical oddity specific to Philadelphia.) And the people smoking joints outside the laundry mat. The way that everyone looks homeless, the way the homeless people look like hipsters, they way that I can tell who's from the city and who is not by their swagger. The men in yarmulkes who flatter me with lines like, "You look so Jewish! No one would know that you're half!" The way the sun shines in the giant windows at 30th St Station at 4pm, bathing the marble floors and walls, the middle aged white ladies at Auntie Anne's Pretzels, the Mexicans at the Korean-owned smoothie stand, and the new-weave-every-other-week black ladies at the cafe, and me all in glowing golden heaven-like light.

Soon my aching started to hiss out of me like a slow leak. I started joking ("joking") to Dave about our various haunts in the city, "How can we live without ___ place?! Don't make me leave it? Let's stay?"  But still, we felt that Richmond was better for us. For so many reasons. For a million trillion reasons. It would be easy to leave once it was happening. And we could always visit. Besides, what do we really do here that we couldn't do there?

At work, I talked to a ruddy faced man who grew up in South Philly, where I live. Before I knew it, I was expounding most passionatley on what makes not only South Philly, but all of Philly great. The grime and hustle, the trash in streets, the violence in every neighborhood.... these may not be great things, but they are real things. They define this city, and unlike other places that may be ashamed, this city seems to say, "The fuck else you want?"

I love it, I told him, for being honest. Philly doesn't pretend to be anything but what it is. He slammed his hands down and shouted, "NO IT DON'T!" then he laughed, quoting me, "THIS IS PHILLY, THE FUCK ELSE YOU WANT?!" I love the people for their lack of pretension, I can forgive their lack of finesse. Where else in America can you find that? No where.

Not even in Richmond.

My friend Pierce has an unbelievable loyalty to his hometown of Toledo, Ohio. When we were in Europe, people would ask us where we were from and I'd say "America" and  at the same time Pierce would say "Toledo!" To Pierce, Toledo is the center of the world. I always though it was funny. I admired his strong connection to a place. It was like his city was himself. To speak ill of Toledo was to speak ill of Pierce.

But that's what home is, I realize now. It's the soil that nourishes the roots you grow, leaving traces of itself in you over time.

(Pierce in the Czech Republic. Note his shirt.)

Last week Dave and I were walking down a narrow South Philly St and he said, "...let's just stay here." I couldn't believe my ears. "In Philly?" He nodded. I leapt with joy and yelled, "LET'S STAY!!! LET'S STAY!!!"

So I guess I grew a sneaky little root. I don't know if Dave really wants to stay as much as he wants to leave, he agrees that it would be hard after living in a place this diverse, this bizarre, this uncomplicated, this stripped down to be anywhere else. And he loves me... and to love me you must love my city.

You can keep the safe streets of Seattle. You can have the highly educated people of Boston. Y'all can live in never never land without me. I'm bound by the beauty of raw humanity here, by the people who will tell you to fuck yourself for looking at them then help an elderly person get off the bus, by the city whose murals extend to the ghettos proving that its art is for the people, not for the tourists, by the complete disregard of all trends and phases. Philadelphia is the truest place I know, and if we become our homes, that in itself is a reason never to leave.

*Kingdom's upcoming tour and record (which I'm doing the art/design for- you can see the cover and hear our new song HERE), and a zine I'm trying to get together for tour which, it seems, will not be done in time.


  1. I'm super stoked for you, lady! I hope there can be a Legion of Doom stop in Kingdom's future. I missed you guys back in '09. Keep rad.

  2. Thanks! I really hope we can play there again. Such a cool spot, plus Ohio's always fun! :)