Category Archives: Urbanality

More Philadelphia Stories

Last night I went to a house party where I only knew one person.  I hadn’t been to the house before, so I had the address in my hand as I walked quickly through the dark. Just around the corner from where I thought the house party should be, I passed another house party in full swing: I could see rooms full of costumed people standing and laughing, plastic cups in hand.

For a moment I thought about walking in. It could just as easily have been the party I was going to, and I would know almost as many people there.

But I found the right party just around the corner. I poured myself some of the applejack cocktail I’d brought and scanned the room. By the time the one person I knew appeared, I’d already met several other guests, including a kindred spirit who also “didn’t know anyone here.” The next three people I met all knew someone else I already knew, out in the world beyond this party. We all had plenty to say to each other but before too long half of these new acquaintances and I were dancing energetically in the room set aside for that purpose, sweaty and happy. I was very glad I went.


On my way home, I passed a group of men talking loudly next to a church. As I walked by, they began talking to me, theatrically abashed and fauxpologizing. Then I realized that they weren’t having an impromptu party in the churchyard, they were having an impromptu pee in the churchyard.

“Are you serious,” I exclaimed, “there are a million bars around and they all have bathrooms you know!”

Noises of agreement and disagreement. They were just as drunk as I was, and we were all rather loud and performatively staging this referendum. One of them suggested that there was no good reason not to pee in the churchyard.

“Yes there is,” I insisted, full of italics. “I live here and I don’t want pee in my neighborhood!

Ah, touché. They conceded the point but the damage was already done, and I resumed my walk home. “You’re just going to walk away?” asked their primary interlocutor plaintively. “Yes,” I said firmly, “but I hope you all have a good night. Somewhere else. Where there are bathrooms.”


I still haven’t received my new debit card from the bank to replace the one that go shut off after the ATM fiasco earlier this month, and I haven’t made it to the bank for cash. However, my cute July haircut had grown entirely out of control, and so I found myself headed to a hair salon sight unseen purely on the strengths that it was nearby, inexpensive, and accepted my credit card.

The stylist thought I looked familiar. I couldn’t think why. He asked me if I used to hang out at Double Shots, a coffee shop in Old City. I did indeed, a long time ago when I was new to Philly and wi-fi wasn’t as prevalent as it is now. I hoofed it to Double Shots to work on my grad school homework because it was the nearest cafe with wi-fi that I knew of, and because I thought one or two of the baristas were cute. Now that I remembered the time and place, I remembered the stylist coming up to me, admiring my hair (it was very long then), showing me his book and talking about what he’d like to do with my hair (in a professional capacity, I mean). At that age, I had established a routine of cutting my hair once every three years, so I didn’t think I’d need his services.  I saw him once or twice after that, I don’t really remember. He remembered me vividly, including the fact that I occasionally dyed my hair pink.

It was strange to be remembered like this. Just recently I’d been feeling like everything that happened in my twenties was a dream, that I’d moved to Philadelphia to chase a dream, that I’d dreamed my way through the first few foggy years of grad school, alternately timid and brazen, not yet fully formed  yet full of nonsense. Not that I think the reverse is now true; I’m certainly related to that earlier version, but it’s hard to believe she existed. Did I really say that? How did I ever fall in love with such a person? Why did I think this or that was important? How could I have done such a thing? But I existed. I left imprints on the world. I had flesh and fabulous pink hair.

Well, now I have a hangover and a fresh haircut, and the reminder (that I need regularly) to be present here, in this moment.


Filed under Navelgazing, Overheard in Philly, Urbanality