If the film Never Been Kissed has taught me anything, it’s that Hollywood believes the world is dumb enough to buy that both Drew Barrymore and David Arquette can pass themselves off as teenagers. It also taught me, “Write what you know.”
Okay, it didn’t teach me it so much as give me a neat little way to encapsulate why, exactly, I’m waxing philosophic on Philadelphia. A city which, arguably, no one really likes. I had a friend moving to Texas to escape it. I know. Texas. Is it really so bad?
Getting back to my point: I’m writing what I know. And what I know is this city. I live in this city, as do my family and my friends. I work in this city. My blog name is based on its name. I’m rooted here. I’m connected to it, intangibly and indelibly.
But I also have a unique perspective of the city: I didn’t grow up here. I was born here, yes, and spent my first two years on earth in the city, in a little gray house on Oxford Street. But then my dad got a job in California. So we left.
For ten years of my life, I lived in Sacramento. It was a quiet childhood in a picturesque neighborhood of rolling green lawns, picket fences, and a fresh-off-the-line SUV in every two-car garage.
Except for us. Our house had no fence. My father drove a gray 1988 Camry that had seen much better days. Our lawn was a type of green, but not that vibrant “Better Homes and Gardens” shade that everyone else seemed to have, but that sort of browny-gray-green they use in “before” pictures for fertilizer. The front of our house was marred by freakish thorn bushes that I can only assume once grew roses.
We were That House.
You know That House. The one that everyone knows and discusses in whispers. The one you cross the street so you don’t have to walk in front of it. Ideally, there would have been a mangy dog sitting in the driveway to glare at people walking by, but I wasn’t allowed to have a dog. We got a cat. He can glare pretty well. Usually at me. But I digress.
I sort of prided myself in being That House. We weren’t Californians. We were ex-pats. There was an allure to being out-of-towners that I relished. I came from the land of Will Smith. And in a time when “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” was at its most popular, that was pretty damn badass.
But then we moved back. Work, as always, brought us back to Philadelphia. I was upset. I had lost my one spark of the extraordinary. A Philadelphian living in Philadelphia is run-of-the-mill. I was no longer badass.
What I was, though, was home.
After living here over a decade, I can safely tell you that I fit in no place better than this city. I belong here. It’s work-a-day. It’s laid back. It’s a place where I can go to the store in my pajamas for some milk and not be looked at weird because, guaranteed, the person behind me is in their pajams, too, picking up bread.
I’ve been back to Sacramento. I’ve been to Los Angeles. I’ve been to Las Vegas and New York and Washington, D.C. And they’re all lovely places to visit. But I don’t belong there. There’s always a feeling of an outsider looking in. It’s the feeling of my childhood. For the first time in my life, I feel like I belong. And that’s what home is.
It’s good to be home.