Sunday, July 17, 2011

Missing The Unexpected

We're moving away from Philly very soon. I'm going to miss a lot of things about the city, things that almost anyone would miss: delicious ice cream at Franklin Fountain, community and greenery at Clark Park, the allure of Penn's beautiful campus. But I realized today, coming back from a trip on Columbus Ave, that I will miss something that I often dread: Driving down Oregon Avenue.

Yes, I just said that I will miss a trip riddled with potholes, impatient drivers, and dangerous, unmarked lane changes.

Just last week I almost died when a major four-way light (Oregon and Passyunk) malfunctioned so that all of the lights were green at once. You read that right: they were all green at once. My car was halfway through the intersection, my light was green, and cars were barreling in front of me. Shortly after, the cops showed up to direct traffic, I escaped with my life and car intact, and there were no accidents, thankfully. It was a traumatic experience and I shudder even writing about it. Everything worked out, but my goodness, it was terribly scary. I came home and ranted about how dangerous it was, how that road is the most treacherous artery road I have ever driven on, and why isn't there a cross-town expressway for Southwest-Southeast Philly.

But today I passed Tony Luke's, the Oregon Diner, and realized: Oregon Ave has high points. It and I have had our downs, but there have been ups too.

An "Up:" the local shops and pop-up seafood stands, espousing the can-do bootstrap spirit of the neighborhood.

An "Up:" The space-saving and cool backwards diagonal parallel parking system, followed by almost no one (this car is doing it right).

An "Up:" The people. As always in Philly.

It's a bold thing to say, but I believe that the way you feel about Oregon Ave is probably how you're going to feel about South Philly, if not Philly itself. It is full of idiosyncrasies, a neighborhood frozen in time. What time period I'm referring to, I really can't say - but there's a sense of tradition, of local rules that are understood by, well, locals. There is charm, caring and fun; there is also chaos, danger and strangeness. It is warm, friendly. It is cozy. Something keeps you coming back.

Not pictured: cars parked on (on!) the median strip, pedestrians jaywalking in front of cars going 35 miles an hour, potholes, Tony Luke's and the Oregon Diner.

Oregon Ave, and Philly, have been something else: fun, frustrating, dangerous, people-oriented, and unpredictable - but it's a relationship that will last. I will miss it here but it will always be in my heart.

It's been a wild ride, youse guys.


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