Urban therapy

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As I step out of my Chinatown apartment onto Race Street I find an energy that can only be described as Friday afternoon in Philadelphia. Cars line the streets and people fill the sidewalks. I decided to take a walk to clear my head. I’m at a crossroads in my life and have been having […]

Creative destruction in Northern Liberties

I’m self-employed, and business in the past several years has been brisk. For translators like me, multiculturalism is a picnic.   The dismal trends in the publishing industry do affect several of my main clients, though. Last winter they kept sending me plenty of work, while getting themselves thousands of dollars in arrears. Early this spring […]

A diamond in the city

We traded surprise for personal perfection. It is the path we often recommend to friends. Before unearthing the diamond, we spent four months trudging up and down Jewelers Row perched atop glass cases littered with tiny open-flapped envelopes. A dizzying display of stones awash in perfect gem-shop lighting presented for our approval and scrutiny. The […]

Beyond the culture of no culture

I sold books in Philadelphia International Airport for years. It wasn’t retail hell. It was retail limbo, and a place between places. People visited the airport on their way to a final destination. Often, there were punishing delays. Dazed passengers would ask, “Why me lord?” Some travelers hopped from jet to jet, hotel to hotel, […]

City life on City Avenue

If any of you have ever driven on City Avenue, you know it’s not a great place to have vehicle trouble. It’s surprising there hasn’t been more considering the crater-sized potholes that speckle that particularly busy thoroughfare. I suppose I should be thankful since it’s those potholes which made the story I’m about to share […]

Saxophones under the freeway

Underneath an elevated stretch of I-95 on a rainy Sunday morning, the Greater Kensington String Band is taking a break. The Mummers Parade is three days away, and the band has much work to do. Near me, a baritone sax player lights a cigarette. We’re standing in a big, open lot at Richmond and Lehigh. […]

Tee man and the marrow of it

“She’s a serial killer!” Tee Man whispered. I tried to sound convincing while simultaneously shoveling a bite of the best cheeseburger on Planet Earth (ok probably the best on South Street..same difference) into my mouth: “Maybe she is an anthropologist?” I answered. We had picked up Tee Man from the airport an hour ago and […]

A battle between sleep fighters

Friends. Just friends. We were nothing more than just friends. My just-friend had quickly become the kind of amigo that accompanied me on my walks home from Temple to 12th and Spring Garden albeit virtually via calls that interrupted him in the middle of his workday. We came to talk about everything and nothing at […]

A token of appreciation

Last year, I was among the many to grumble when SEPTA announced that they were phasing out tokens. First I grumbled something brusque, something to the effect of “about damned time” … then I grumbled something cruder and surlier over the rate hike that would ostensibly help to pay for the upgrades. This was the […]