a city makes a writer

philasay it with me: phil-a-del-phi-a

This past week I have been celebrating all things from my past life such as: stopping into Wawa late at night, driving in my best friend’s car, watching late night talk shows with the parents, chasing the cats, Jewish food, Beth Or services, having drinks with my sister, and winding down the streets of Philadelphia by myself.

There are so many things I miss about home, so many things I romanticize about while working (serving time?) in Jackson. But the greatest- read: loudest- romance I have is Philadelphia. There’s no place on earth that I feel more connected to than that city; the hum of cars driving past, the hardened faces of the people as they hold their winter coats tighter against the burning wind, the scent of fried food and mustard drifting from each vendor’s grill, the skyscrapers reaching up in tribute to the great history of that city. Down Chestnut I passed two homeless women arguing about the government and how the poor cannot defend themselves from corporate greed.When I stepped off the bus at Broad and Walnut, I could actually feel my body tingle.


My usual order: Spicy hot chocolate, European style, at Naked Chocolate Cafe in Center City, Philadelphia.

Philadelphia is gritty; in winter the people look tired, the wind is unbearable against your skin, the snow turns a mush gray on the sidewalks and if you’re not careful you’ll step into a huge mud/slush/garbage puddle while trying to avoid the taxi cab that almost ran you over. But Philly is real. The city is alive and the people are busy, and when I’m forced outside of Philadelphia I still can’t shake this feeling that I’m missing something.


A sign on phone poll, reads “Don’t Be A Pussy”

I was pretty overwhelmed before I left for my trip. I made a schedule on Microsoft word (sadly, that’s as tech savvy as I get). I looked up restaurant addresses online, wrote down the times they were open, contacted friends to get them on my schedule. It was exhausting. I was so excited to go back home, but I was more afraid of not using my time there wisely. What if I missed out on something, or someone?

But then I landed. I got off the train at Temple University. Everyone rushed past me, holding their bags and textbooks, no one glancing at me or wondering if I needed help with my bags down the stairs…and I knew I was back. The motion, the movement of that whirlwind, it all began. The schedule no longer mattered.


Beer week- what a place to call home.

Maybe this all sounds ridiculous to you. If that’s the case, the only explanation I have for you is that, my friend, you have not found your spot. The spot on this earth that makes you come alive. The spot that takes control of all your senses and holds on until the last ride out of town. The spot that you beg to come back to. For Camus it was France. For Thoreau it was Walden Pond. For Tonya Foster it was New Orleans. A city, a sense of place, makes a writer. And Philadelphia makes me.


One thought on “a city makes a writer

  1. Adam Levick says:

    Great post, Janine…quite moving.

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