Wednesday, June 10, 2009

May 2008: Philadelphia

Last May, I visited Jess, one of my best friends, in Philadelphia before her graduation. When I told people I was going to Philly, I was greeted with many a puzzled looked. “Why?” they asked. “Don’t set foot in West Philly,” they warned. “You don’t even like cheesesteaks!” they gasped. With so many pieces of advice, I didn’t know what to expect. 
My impressions of Philly were mixed. I like seeing a city on foot, so walking is my favorite mode of transportation. I didn’t heed warnings to stay away from West Philly and, lo and behold, I did not die. I was impressed by the city’s mixture of cultures; each street held a mélange of restaurants, shops, and businesses. 
But after midnight, I did feel a bit of tension on the bus ride home. Maybe it was because I was “forewarned”, but I was upset with myself for feeling this way. I wanted to like Philly, but parts of it left a funny taste in my mouth. (Maybe it was just the Cheeze Whiz). In any case, I feel like I still have a lot to learn about the City of Brotherly Love. 
From an artistic standpoint, Philly was a great time. Jess was sweet enough to find a book on mural culture in her library. I jotted down a few notes, but stumbling upon a giant piece was much more exciting. Stickers, wheatpastes, and throw-ups peeked out from behind dumpsters and chain-link fences. 
One of my favorite finds falls outside the parameters of traditional ‘street art.’ A local artist covered his entire house in a mosaic of found glass, tile, and other materials. (I need to dig up more pictures; the one on my desktop doesn’t do it justice.) Apparently, you can go inside for a fee, but I preferred to examine the structure from outside the gates. The sheer dedication and creativity required for such a project is remarkable. 
I think this house embodies my impressions of Philly. In the strangest of places, you’re bound to make the most interesting discoveries. 

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