If you're on Facebook you've probably come across Huffington Post's 21 Ways Philadelphia is the Coolest City in America. If you're not on Facebook, well then you probably aren't reading this, so...
Let's take a humble step back for a minute. Although I appreciate the overwhelming praise Philadelphia is receiving right now, we're still every bit the city we were when we were its fattest, most depressed, and ugliest. However unjust the lists were when we bottomed-out ten years ago, our current praise is every bit as skewed.
If you've lived in Philadelphia for more than ten years, you probably never cared. And that's what makes you a Philadelphian. You don't even need to live here for a decade to understand why Philadelphia is the coolest city in America. The sole reason being, we don't care how cool we are.
But the media loves a puff piece. They fell in love with Seattle in the early 90s, Atlanta in the late 90s, Portland a few years ago, and now they're in love with us. The recognition is two fold. For one, it's nice to finally have "journalistic" backing for what I've been saying since I first visited Philadelphia in 1982, at six. But it also means we're going to be faced with droves of tourists and new residents pretending to claim they always knew how hip Philadelphia was.
21 Ways Philadelphia is the Coolest City in America isn't just a puff piece, it's an advertisement. It was written by Larissa and Michael Milne who also wrote Philadelphia Liberty Trail, plugged discreetly in the middle of their listicle as the definitive walking tour and "its newest attraction," despite the longstanding Constitutional Walking Tour.
Don't get me wrong. I'm sure the Milne's are lovely people, and they clearly love Philadelphia. But the hastily written article riddled with typos and inaccuracies (the world's largest duck is 6 stories tall, not six feet tall, and the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center will be the tallest building in the nation outside New York and Chicago, not between New York and Atlanta) is indicative of the media's lack of editorial integrity and willingness to run anything that equates Philadelphia with Rocky.
The truth is, I'll probably buy Philadelphia Liberty Trail. I'm a Phillyphile. A third of my 700 square foot trinity is a library of books and antiquities dedicated to and from the City of Brotherly Love. But that is exactly what annoys me about these listicles. It's not the lack of passion for Philadelphia - which I'm sure the Milne's have - but the lack of care that went into how they broadcast that passion for Philadelphia through a major online newspaper.
Al Capone's stay at Eastern State Penitentiary? How about Charles Dickens' visit to the Penitentiary in 1842? New York's "Sixth Borough?" How about being the nation's fifth most populous city? And Rocky? Oh, Rocky Balboa. How you continue to define one of the world's most astounding art museums amazes me.
Again, love Philadelphia all you want, in your way, even if it's through a 40 year old movie or fried beef. But if you're given an international publication as a platform, take a bit of care in expressing that love and think: are we to be the nation's next whirlwind love affair like Seattle, Atlanta, or Portland, or are we something inherently better? I truly believe the latter and, poorly written praise aside, think we're well on our way.
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