Thursday, April 12, 2012

Philadelphia's Doing Just Fine

Daniel Stone's Daily Beast article isn't painful to read because it points out Philadelphia's flaws. It isn't annoying because he refers to Urban Outfitters as an "older, legacy" company. It isn't even annoying that his familiarity with Philadelphia is limited to cheesesteaks. 

No, the thing that annoys me about Daniel Stone and the Daily Beast (which makes the Huffington Post look boringly objective) is that he used a single study (conducted by Philadelphia's own Pew) and an apocalyptic photo of our skyline to make Philadelphia sound like it was a recently Utopian reserve now barely clinging to a cliff a few miles above Hell.


I'm not even going to begin to detail the inaccuracies in his assertions. They have all been beautifully summarized in Patricia Kerkstra's Inquirer article, here. You can also find more reliable and inclusive information in the comments section of Stone's article, usually reserved for misinformed rants that sound a lot like the article itself

As pathetic as this article is, there's silver in the muck he's raking. The fact that bloggers like Stone are citing Philadelphia's woes as a way to make them feel better about their free falling investments in cities like New York and Washington means that Philadelphia, even with our problems, has arrived. 

Twenty years ago, pretentious snobs in the Silicone Valley thought that Philadelphia was a little city "somewhere in Pennsylvania." Today our purported plight is national news, leaving us scratching our heads and wondering how this is newsworthy. After all, Philadelphia today is the Bizarro World's opposite of Philadelphia in 1992. And we're humble about that. 

So many other cities are populated with people that love to claim their home is the greatest place in the world. San Franciscans can't get enough of themselves, New York is "the center of the universe," and DC is still a little town on the Potomac bankrolled by the rest of the country full of so much ego it makes Los Angeles look genuine. 

But Philadelphia is a funny place. We know we're dirty, we kind of like it. I find myself defending Philadelphia weekly from blind hatred around the world, usually ceding with, "well, I like the grit." 

We know we're dangerous, we know we're poor, and we know we have nothing to prove (except when it comes to sports). So many other places are just as poor and just as dangerous, yet they profess to be bastions of perfection and idealism. 

We embrace our flaws and maybe that's what pisses people off. We're diverse, truly diverse, and we like it. Other cities like Portland love to tout their liberal ideology of tolerance; but black, white, green, or orange, they're all upper middle class Judeo-Christians that drive Jettas. San Franciscans are free to criticize Philadelphia's socioeconomic diversity as soon as they start carrying Oakland on their shoulders. 

We put up with a lot of shit in Philadelphia, shit that douche bags like Stone could never put up with. Instead of extending us props for being the most tolerant grab bag of DNA in the country, they tell us we're poor, ugly, sick, and teetering on the brink of self-destruction. 

We truly are bad ass. Chicks dig us. Guys want to be us. And the losers at the dork table can't stand that we set the bar for cool. 

Philadelphians aren't dealing with anything we weren't dealing with 20 years ago. In fact we're doing better, but I'm a Philadelphian so I don't need no brag. If you're reading this from you iPad in Griffith Park you can go online and see, like you, we're doing fine in some places and not so fine in others. That's right, Philadelphia is a big city. 

We've got some rich people, some poor people, some smart people, some stupid people. We've got big business and small business, good business and bad business. 

What's more, compared to most major metropolitan areas we fared the recession significantly better for the simple fact that we didn't try to be New York. We weathered the recession because we ignored the balloon. After all, we're too cool to be Park Slope South.

While Miami tries to figure out what to do with their forest of uninhabited skyscrapers and San Francisco smugly ignores the fact that they hid their poor people in the suburbs, Philadelphians are pioneering the revitalization of new neighborhoods and topping global lists for parks, museums, singles, food, and everything in between

Sounds like a death spiral to me, Daniel Stone.


  1. I would add that the comments section of Stone's article includes quite a few good rebuttals--including one from Pew which openly disputes Stone's assertion that they characterized Philadelphia as a "city in decline."

  2. I love Philly. I am from South America, and find that Philly is the best city USA has.