Liberty belle

Archived, December 2006

So, today I am here.

As much as I like to play the whole “I’ve travelled extensively and lived abroad” card, it’s humbling to be in the firm’s New York office. Not because the work here is any different, nor really are the people. It’s just a lifestyle vastly different than mine at home.

As I sat at lunch at Metrazur, my colleagues were discussing the litany of shows they’d been to see. Of course, that alone hardly made me feel less cosmopolitan. After all, I could very easily see shows in Philadelphia (rather than just going to Malokai’s and the Bishop’s Collar over and over again, I guess), and I have never been one of those people who think Philadelphia is merely a quaint suburb of “The City.” (Confidential to the rest of the world: If you refer to New York City as “The City” without further clarification, go away.) It was more that they went on to further discuss their children, their mortgages, and the coats they were wearing that cost half my monthly rent. As I mentioned to another friend, I am not accustomed to a $50 lunch that does not involve a drop of drink.

The entirety of the table turned toward me at one point, and asked me what Philadelphia does for the holidays. This after their discussion of which retailers’ windows were the best (Saks seemed to blow away Bloomingdale’s, apparently), and how there are now three separate outdoor skating venues in the city. All while we sat under the holiday light display on the gorgeous dome inside Grand Central.

The gentleman across from me had just finished explaining how he and his wife ignore the fact that they’ve likely robbed their children of any sense of tradition by traveling over Christmas for the last 12 years. They stopped bothering to buy a tree years ago, he said. They go skiing in Utah instead.

I felt a little silly as I explained that the big do in town this year is that they’re lighting up City Hall like some kind of chateu. Not because it’s not lovely (it is), but because next to Rockefeller Center and the giant tree and the outdoor snowscape at Saks, it just seemed… minor. There was no sense in explaining the Wanamaker’s light show, nor the old Christmas Carol display at Strawbridge’s. No use in explaining that entire streets in South Philadelphia compete for the most audacious display.

And I’m certain these kind of little-known, local traditions go on all over the place here as well. It’s just that I happened to be seconds away from spilling truffle butter lobster bisque on the black sweater I’d bought on sale at Macy’s, contemplating the fact that I’d been out drinking until 4 on Saturday night, rather than at the theater.

It’s not that I felt silly or minor in comparison. It’s not that I find Philadelphia silly or minor in comparison. It was just sort of funny. Maybe it’s like New York is your rich old aunt and Philly is your very cool older cousin. The one who buys you liquor underage and takes you to parties. Whatever the most apt comparison, after a moment of blushing while I delicately dabbed the soup from my sweater, I got kind of pissed off and decided that despite the Sephora and the orgasmic shopping and the diverse neighborhoods and staggering variety in cuisine, I love that Philadelphia is home.

Sixth borough, my ass.


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