“I Closed My Door and I Lived There.”

“I was not a student anymore. I marveled at Penn’s frat row, again and again, the size of the houses, the music, the cars. The endless buildings that sprawled all over the neighborhood, all glass and chrome. I had no magic access card that could unlock buildings and gyms and special late night buses and all those classes. I was locked out, and that feeling unlocked something in me. Something like wonder. Something like hard work.”

Back in July, one of my friends posted this article by Emma Eiseneberg on his Facebook. I began reading it before rushing off somewhere, and never finished it. The short snippet I did read stuck with me though, partly because of the beautiful writing, and partly because the article starts off by talking about the Divine Lorraine Hotel on Broad Street, which I drive by every day on my way to work. Finally, today, as a treat to myself for memorizing the first paragraph of my tour (okay… almost…), I finished the article.

This piece, at least to a newbie Philadelphian like myself, gets right to the heart of what it means to live here. While yes, I am a  suburbs-dweller, most of my activities, both work and play, are in the city, so I still consider myself a regular of Philadelphia proper.

You should read the article for yourself, but it’s so fantastic that I want to highlight some of my favorite quotes, and then you should go and find them in the article.

“Passing through a room with salmon pink wallpaper that was peeling in on itself from opposite corners, I saw a small bureau, one of the only pieces of furniture I’d seen so far. I opened the top drawer. Inside was a Bible, and twelve pink cloth napkins. Dusty, but there. Still there, I thought, holding them in my hands. How many people had slept and shot up and photographed and pillaged and walked here, and still. It was so hidden. It was so open.”

“It was beautiful, not despite its dirtiness and graffiti and brokenness, or preciously, delicately, because of them. Sometimes a thing is just beautiful because it is. Because it looks good. Because it feels good on your eyeballs and in your body. Philadelphia is like that, all the time.”

“In the first months I lived [in West Philadelphia], it was winter and our big house was impossible to heat. I lay there, on an air mattress, freezing and listening to the sound of someone crying, a sound that seemed to live in the walls. Sound traveled in that house like you wouldn’t believe. Every footstep. Every clanking of spoon against coffee cup. It was impossible to tell where the crying was coming from.”

“Each morning, a Korean war vet with nothing behind his eyes waited for the trolley with me.”

“For the first time in my life I had all my books in one place. I put them up on bookshelves and took them down when I thought of something. I had a room with a door I could close and not be bothered. I started mapping out my novel on the wall with index cards and pushpins. I read Joan Didion. It’s the difference between writing and not writing. When I thought of things, I actually wrote them down.”

We’re getting there is the motto of SEPTA, the transit authority. It’s so fitting. It’s so Philly. All that money and promise, and no guarantee it’s gonna get you where you need to go.”

“Nothing I’d written or done or achieved in my life up until that point made any difference in the moment of trying to clamber on board. I’d been told, by my parents, by my supportive teachers in high school and college, that I was special, that I could do anything […] Only cities can shoot you down […] without any regard. I was not special, I realized, standing in the dark at the 40th street transit center.”

“In the spring, my housemates sat outside in the backyard with jam jars full of coffee, rubbing away chain kisses from their muscled calves.”

“I was becoming myself. I was becoming a person who wrote things and loved people and felt attached to a place. I was becoming a writer, which is the thing that is making me leave, of course. I’m leaving.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: