Tag Archives: essay

Going Back to Philly

Phila

Philadelphia was the first city I truly experienced. As a suburban Midwesterner, my jaunts into urban centers growing up consisted of family vacations to Chicago or St. Louis and trips to downtown Kansas City in which my high school friends and I would eat BBQ and then sneak into a pool on the rooftop of a Westin Hotel (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!).

Then I moved to Philadelphia the summer of 2007 for an internship. Though my job was writing for the Bucks County Courier Times, I had little desire to experience life in another suburb 1,500 miles from the one where I had spent so many years. So I subletted a place in University City with a few Penn students and commuted via SEPTA every morning.

Our apartment was….cozy. I’m pretty sure late seventeenth century day-laborers built it as part of William Penn’s original plan for Philadelphia, and it had been renovated once since then, in 1882 perhaps. It was located at 39th and Ludlow, an intersection that combined a little bit of Penn with a little bit of West Philly. Here in the mornings, it was normal to see overly-preppy Ivy League students walk to class on sidewalks splayed with tiny green vials that had contained drugs the night before.

As excited as I had been to move to a big city, I didn’t always like what I had to see. I needed some time to adjust to the people and my surroundings. Here’s a story from an earlier blog post I’ve written about that summer: Continue reading

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Forward in Boston

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I went to Boston last weekend because I wanted to see the marathon the year after.

Marathons have environments that defy logic. I’ve seen them in St. Louis, Kansas City, Dallas and now Boston. To think: An event that considers its origin the death of a Greek messenger sharing the good news of a battle is equated with a party. But it’s true. Marathons have evolved from the necessity of Pheidippides, to the straight-business approach of most of the twentieth century, to block parties full of behavior that would be considered odd in about every other circumstance. Continue reading

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Kansas City in the Summertime

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I was in the Crossroads on Thursday night. Drove down there from Johnson County with my dad.  Thunder clouds hung overhead, gray but not entirely threatening, and summer’s humidity snuck through the windows, which were cracked open an inch or two as the air conditioner blasted.

I love the Crossroads. Set a few blocks from downtown, this area has a Wild West feel. There’s enough grit and wide openness to imagine yourself in a self-sustaining enclave isolated from the glitz and rush of a city, but the tall buildings touching the sky in the distance assure you that everything you need is right here. Continue reading

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The Apocalypse by Hip-Hop

So the world might end later this week. If civilization does go all Cormac McCarthy on us, I think I owe a beer to Nas, a spliff to Busta Rhymes and whatever the thinking-man’s drug is to Chuck D. Now, I won’t actually be able to make good on this promise on December 21. I mean, I’ll be dead, probably roasted by nuclear lasers, and I don’t personally know any of these musicians. It just feels like I do. Their apocalyptic thoughts and predictions have been swirling around my head for way too damn long.

Yes, it’s true. Hip-hop musicians actually do have something in common with Glenn Beck: They preach apocalyptic messages all the freaking time. Continue reading

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On the Road

On God’s Son, Nas has a song titled “Book of Rhymes.” On this track, he supposedly rifles through an old book in which he has written a bunch of random lyrics, and he regales us with his findings. Most of the time his musings are unintentionally comical. These nonsensical short bursts (“How can I trust you, when I can’t trust me/picture me an old man, an old G”) are often followed by sound effects of him crinkling paper and throwing it into a trash bin. At one point, instead of rhyming, he begins acting like he’s stumbled upon a page featuring the phone numbers of several women. He is surprised, saying, “Oh shit, Tina. I’ve been lookin’ for this bitch’s number.” Later, he will complain about a lack of values regarding our treatment of women. In short, he pulls off the common rap achievement of sounding terribly unoriginal while also disrespecting women and then sounding hypocritical by calling others out for disrespecting women.

Nonetheless, this song has inspired me. I’ve had it stuck in my head all morning, and it’s made me want to copy its style and retell my road trip from Dallas to State College “Book of Rhymes” style, Continue reading

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