Ode to South Philly

My nice, quiet, elderly, next door neighbor moved out. Her son removed the last of her belongings on the last weekend of March. Her health was such that a warmer climate was necessary. I don’t blame her. If I could afford it, I’d be right behind her.

My landlord had tenants lined up to take her place. Within hours of my neighbor’s son’s departure, a family of fourteen had formed a fire brigade, and was shuffling boxes into the house. Among them was a ten year old boy with enough energy to power a small city for at least a year.

South Philly houses are built virtually on top of one another. They were originally built as housing for factory and ship yard workers. Through the years, scores of immigrants have raised families in these tiny abodes. Families whose existence is witnessed by the many Churches, Synagogues, and Buddhist Temples that seem to be established, like Starbucks, on nearly every corner.

Such close approximation forces interaction and sometimes collision. Forget about privacy. Forget about a quiet, romantic evening watching the stars. (There’s too much ambient light to observe the heavens). You can, of course, journey over to Fairmount Park, Penn’s Landing, or the myriad public squares and local parks.

There’s no such thing as a “Back Yard” in South Philly. Instead you’ll find small, paved-over plots which overlook your neighbors’ small paved-over plots, and a parade of feral cats searching for food and the occasional romantic liaison.

For a change of pace, there’s the front stoop.

Sitting on your front steps, or “Stoop“, is a tradition in most urban areas. South Philly is no different. Where else can you find out the who, what, where, and postulate on the why? Friends are made, marriages arranged, and business conducted on many a front stoop. It’s also the place where you’re most likely to overhear your neighbor’s latest quarrel.

And now, to add to the entertainment, I have the noise of a ten year old ball of energy screaming with excitement as he runs through the empty house next door.

Such is life in a South Philly row home. 🙂

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